Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Jerusalem - The health of PLO leader and Palestinian Authority Chairman Machmud Abbas s failing, and he is under observation and treatment in a hospital in Amman-reported yesterday Al-Quds Al-Arabi, sparking a wave of rumors pertaining to the Palestinian president’s health.
About a month ago the 75 year-old Abbas fell in his home and sustained light injuries.
Official Palestinian media outlets were quick to report that the president had only slipped, however it was later learned that the fall was caused due to dizziness and weakness from which he suffers.
It has further been learned that the PA chairman’s health has taken a turn for the worse, which is manifested mostly in weakness and dizziness, and due to these symptoms he is under medical observation in Jordan’s royal hospital.
Al-Quds Al-Arabi, which sees print in London, reported yesterday that Abbas has secretly undergone treatment at least six times in the past few weeks. That said, the paper was not able to say the precise malady from which the PA chairman was suffering. Among other things, the paper suggested that Abbas was suffering from high blood pressure as well as a severe inflammation of one of his organs.
The paper further reported on rumors circulating that the PA chairman has been suffering from a heart ailment. Al-Quds Al-Arabi reported that Abbas’s hospitalization in Jordan’s royal hospital took place in great secrecy, under a heavy cloak of security, which also related to the medical documents detailing his condition.
Abbas’s associates in Ramallah did not deny the reports yesterday. “In the past two or three weeks he has seemed far more exhausted, and his work pace has fallen,” they said. “In the past three weeks he has gone three times to Amman, in order to undergo medical tests.”
The same associates added that Abbas’s weakness may be due to the growing pace of his diplomatic efforts, and particularly the many trips he has taken overseas, during which he visited Latin America, Libya, Russia, Germany and the Far East.
Abbas is now in Egypt after having gone for a meeting with Hosni Mubarak. Abbas arrived in Sharm el-Sheikh, where the Egyptian president is recuperating from his own surgery a few weeks ago in Germany, and wished him a speedy recovery.
“We hope to see Abu Mazen healthy and fully functioning,” said sources in Ramallah yesterday and noted the fact that in the current situation of Palestinian politics, there was no visible alternative to the current chairman - neither in his political path nor in his international associations. His aides added that the PA chairman’s health was usually good, and that he suffers from no chronic diseases.
See this report in the Philadelphia Bulletin
See this report at Israel Behind the News
Jerusalem - This week, Israel celebrated its 62nd birthday. Israel Independence Day always lends itself to the people of Israel gaining some needed perspective.
When the state was established, the population of Israel was 806,000.
At its 62nd Independence Day, Israel has ave grown to 7,587,000 people.
Moreover, on the eve of its 62nd Independence Day, Israel leads the entire Western world in economic growth.
Data published by the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics indicates that the Jewish population is currently 5,726,000 (75.5 percent of the entire population), the Arab population is 1,548,000 (20.4 percent), and the others, including immigrants and their descendants who are not registered as Jews at the Ministry of the Interior, number approximately 313,000 (4.1 percent).
Since Israel Independence Day of last year, 159,000 babies were born and 37,000 people have died; 16,000 people immigrated to Israel and were joined by approximately 9,000 citizens, who come to Israel for reasons of family reunification. In all, the population has grown by approximately 1.8 percent over the past twelve months.
If, in 1948, there was only one city in Israel that had more than 100,000 inhabitants- The Tel Aviv-Jaffa municipality - today, there are fourteen such cities, of which six have more than 200,000: Jerusalem, Tel Aviv-Jaffa, Haifa, Rishon Lezion, Ashdod and Petah Tikva.
In the last quarter of 2009, growth in Israel reached 4.8 percent-more than twice and even three times the rate of growth in most countries of the Western world. In the business sector, growth even reached five percent during that quarter, close to the rate of growth on the eve of the economic crisis that broke out in mid-2008.
Statistics published by the Central Bureau of Statistics indicate that the standard of living in Israel is increasing significantly. Per-capita expenditure increased by five percent at the end of 2009, which says that Israelis spent more money in order to buy cars (an increase of 4.7 percent in annual terms), and electrical appliances and entertainment (an increase of 6.3 percent). Spending on clothing and shoes, medications, housing and travel abroad rose in the fourth quarter of 2009 by 2.5 percent in annual terms. During the same period, there was an increase of 47.3 percent in exports and services from Israel.
Estimates of economists at the International Monetary Fund are that Israel’s rate of economic growth is ranked third in the world, behind China and India and ahead of Turkey and the United States.
See this report in the Philadelphia Bulletin
See this report at Israel Behind the News
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
Following the volcanic eruption in Iceland, I found myself stranded in Europe on Israel Memorial Day. Along with tens of thousands of other Israelis waiting in airports across the ash-clouded continent, I had the strong desire to get back home, in time at least to celebrate Israel's Independence Day.
My journey first began at the railway station at the Hague in Holland, where I had been recently visiting at the Israeli Embassy and Parliament House and contacting key people during a Sderot awareness campaign set to counter the Gaza narrative, the topping of the Palestinian public relations campaign.
The eve of Israel Memorial Day for me this year began in Amsterdam, on a night train to Munich, traveling on the same railroad tracks that the Jews of Holland traveled to their deaths 65 years ago. At 9 am, the train arrived to Munich, where I had a three-hour standby until the next train departed to Verona, Italy.
As a veteran traveler, I did not miss the opportunity to visit around the city of Munich. To be in Germany, the country where the design for the destruction of the European Jewry took root, on the same day as Israel's Memorial Day for fallen soldiers and terror victims, was a deeply strange and ironic experience. I recognized even more strongly the importance of the Israel Defense Forces and all those soldiers who died to secure the state, so that Jews would have a homeland to protect them from the ugly waves of anti-Semitism and violence that had culminated in the Holocaust.
Around the same time that the memorial siren went off in Israel, I somehow found myself in front of the building that served as the Nazi headquarters where the signing of the infamous Munich Agreement between Adolph Hitler and Neville Chamberlain had taken place. The attempts for a ceasefire with Germany and the world's willingness to blindly believe in such a ceasefire, brought to mind events of today. The continued attempts of leading world powers to stop Iran's building of an atomic bomb either through economic sanctions, international pressure, or diplomatic dialogue strikes an all too familiar chord. The same appeasing approach that was used with Hitler that allowed for the killings of millions including Jews, is a process that the world is repeating yet again--this time with Iran.
Indeed the Netherlands Jewry paid a heavy price for the appeasement plan as 90 percent of the Jews were massaccred in Nazi death camps.
I recall the words of Professor Bernard Lewis, one of the most respected post-war historians on Islam and the Middle East today. Lewis compared radical Islam on one side to the Nazism and Communism put together. "Today we [the world] are in a much worse situation than in 1940. Then we knew who are enemies were and who we were...today, however, we do not know who we are or who our enemies are."
This can be attributed to the fact that we live in an age where the term 'radical Islam' and jihadists are not deemed politically correct when describing terror acts committed by Muslims. Case and point: the White House administration under President Barak Obama has banned the term 'radical Islam' from their lexicon. Pres. Obama's former mentor and spiritual leader, Rev. Dr. Jermiah Wright has frequently referenced Israel as an apartheid state, calling Israel " a dirty word." Terms like 'terrorists' and 'Nazis' are used freely and unquestionably used by critics and Israel-haters to demonize the Israeli government and the IDF.
Standing in front of the Munich monument to the victims of Nazi terror, in the same city where Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat's terrorists murdered 13 Israeli athletes, it is clear that today's western world does not fully understand the meaning of terrorism.
The obligation to define terrorism in the 21st century is left to us, those Israelis living on the Sderot-Gaza border, who have been subject to the silent terror of constant rocket attacks coming from Gaza, on our families and communities.
Palestinian terrorism uses civilians on both sides of the border to advance the goals of the radical Islamic leadership in control of Gaza. How many political leaders and media networks are actually aware that 97 percent of the rocket attacks from Gaza are launched from within civilian populated areas where Palestinian women and children live, as assessed by the Israeli Air Force?
There is a well-oiled propaganda machine set on diverting the attention of the Israeli public and international community from the real problems that radical Islam has brought to the people of Gaza and the rest of the Middle East region, including a culture of hate and celebration of death. At the same time, this propaganda battle is working to delegitimize the state of Israel's right to militarily protect its citizens. Thanks to million-dollar public relations campaigns led by left-wing organizations like B'tselem and Breaking the Silence, irreparable damage has been done to Israel's image and state of security. One of the most extreme cases was brought to light when IDF soldier, Anat Kam provided left-wing Israeli journalist, Uri Blau with top-secret information which he then used to publish articles in the Ha'aretz newspaper criticizing IDF operations against Palestinian terrorists threatening Israeli civilians.
By attempting to de-humanize Israeli soldiers and the Israeli military establishment, human rights organizations and left-wing news media completely overlook the psychological challenges and moral dillemas that IDF soldiers deal with when fighting against terrorists stationed amongst civilians. During Operation Cast Lead, IDF soldiers encountered Hamas soldiers dressed as doctors, paramedics, and even as women. The central headquarters of Hamas officials are located in bunkers beneath the Sheba hospital in the center of Gaza, with the sole purpose of using human civilians and patients as shields. How is a soldier to act in such a situation--when the enemy stores its weapons and fires from within civilian areas like mosques and schools?
Indeed many countries involved with battling terror today have sought the help of IDF to learn to employ methods of battle that will cause the least amount of harm to civilian populations caught under the crossfire of terrorists who take cover in areas where families and children are located. A recent UN report that cited that 5,978 civilians were killed by NATO forces in 2009 because of such terrorist strategies.
In light of all this, the facts of Israel's reality needs to come out. We must continue to show the world our support of Israeli soldiers who serve and fight for the only democracy in the Middle East. We must continue to justify our right to live in a country that seeks peace with security with hostile borders and neighbors.
This article is dedicated to the memories of two Israeli soldiers who were killed in Gaza six years ago, Eitan Neuiman z"l, Aviad Deri z"l, graduates of the pre-military academy program that I studied in. They were killed because they did not wish to harm the lives of Palestinian civilians as they were fired upon during a search of weaponry hidden by terror organizations in civilian homes.
What other army in the world would sacrifice its best fighters to avoid harming innocent civilians during battle?
As someone who serves in the IDF reserve duty, I know that the depiction of Israeli soldiers as monsters, is a gross distortion of reality. The IDF is probably one of the few armies in the world who sings songs of peace and reconciliation. It is an army whose soldiers are faced with moral dilemmas every day, and yet at the same time are taught to value life of all people above all else. Standing in Munich on such a solem day, only reinforced my belief in the morality of the state of Israel and in our military establishment which has saved countless Israeli lives following the Holocaust.
Noam Bedein is a photojournalist, lecturer and and founder/director of Sderot Media Center: www. SderotMedia.org.il. He has conducted briefings and tours for government officials, diplomats, foreign press, and students from around the world.
See this report in the Philadelphia Bulletin
See this report at Israel Behind the News
Monday, April 26, 2010
How to Communicate Concern Over US Middle East Policy to Members of the US Congress who oversee US State Dep't Middle East Policies
The time has come for those who advocate for Israel to communicate directly with members of two major US Congressional committees which oversee US middle east policy:
The Middle East Subcommittee of the US House Foreign Affairs Committee
The Neat East Subcommittee of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee
It also behooves those who advocate for Israel to send carefully written letters to the staffers of these committees.
Letters to members of the US Congress should ask the US Congress to
carefully reconsider support for the Fatah dominated PA and for UNRWA, because:.
1. The Fatah dominated Palestinian Authority is anything but peace partner, especially since Fatah declared its commitment to continued war against Israel at the Fatah summit which occurred last August.
2. The Fatah dominated Palestinian Authority conveys a consistent message of continued virulent incitement against the state and people of Israel.
Palestine Authority Incitement Reports:
3.The Fatah dominated Palestinian Authority education system inculcates the next generation of Palestinian children to liberate all of Palestine.
4. UNWRA, funded to the tune of 30% of its budget by the US government, continues to confine descendants of Palestinian Arab refugees to the squalor of "temporary" refugee camps,under the specious premise and promise of the right to return to Arab villages from 1948,while fueling the camp residents with a zeal to recover "their lands" within Israel.
“UNRWA in Gaza & Terror Groups:The Connection” at http://israelbehindthenews.com/reports.html
5. The Fatah-dominated Palestinian armed forces are now armed and trained by the American military with the idea that the Palestinian armed forces will quash Palestinian terrorist organizations. The PA armed forces have made it clear that they have no intention of quashing any Palestinian terrorist groups.
Saturday, April 17, 2010
peaking in the official memorial service Holocaust Memorial Day, which occurred on Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the nations of the world: “If we have learned anything from the Holocaust, then it is that we must not remain silent or deterred when confronted with evil.” In a speech that addressed events in Iran, and although the prime minister had decided not to attend the nuclear conference hosted by President Barack Obama, Mr. Netanyahu called on all enlightened nations to rise to the task, to condemn Iran’s destructive intentions forcefully and to employ real force to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. The Israeli prime minister said that the world had gradually come to resign itself to Iran’s declarations about its intention to destroy Israel and that there were no signs of the kind of international determination required to halt Iran’s increasing strength. “Iran’s leaders are in a rush to develop nuclear weapons and openly declare their intention to destroy Israel,” said Mr. Netanyahu. “But in face of these repeated declarations that they will wipe the Jewish nation off the face of the earth, we see, in the best of cases, flaccid disapproval, which too is slowly withering. No harsh condemnation, no raised voices. Business continues as usual. And there are even those who attempt to place the blame on Israel. Today, 65 years following the Holocaust, we can say in earnest: it is the absence of outrage that is most outrageous.” Israeli President Shimon Peres also touched upon Iran’s nuclear efforts: “The U.N.’s ears must be attentive to the threats of annihilation made by one of its members against another, otherwise the foundation of the U.N.’s charter will be rendered obsolete,” said the president. “It is both our right and duty to demand that the nations of the world not repeat apathy that cost the lives of millions.” President Peres also said that weapons of mass destruction in the hands of those capable of mass destruction and with voices encouraging mass destruction" were the combination most lethal to world peace. He said that they made the world an uncontrollable environment. He said that some of the Iranians were shamed and mortified by the dictatorship that had taken them over, and that also Arab countries were aware that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s anti-Israel incitement was aimed at obscuring his real aim" Iranian hegemony over the entire region.
See this report in the Philadelphia Bulletin
See this report at Israel Behind the News
The Philadelphia Bulletin: Former Israeli Army Clerk Indicted After Turning Classified Documents Over To Media
by David Bedein
Jerusalem - Every day, dozens of documents arrive at the hub of the Israeli Army’s Central Command office - summaries of classified meetings, secret presentations, secret situation assessments and secret investigations.
For a period of at least three years, between 2004 and 2007, all of these documents were seen by one clerk, Anat Kam.
At her desk, Anat Kam perused documents that the director of the Israel Security Agency describes as “the fantasy of every intelligence organization.”
Ms. Kam stored 2,200 of these documents in a discrete file on her Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) computer. These documents included operational orders, orders from the Israeli Army General Staff, summaries of meetings of the IDF General Staff’s forum, troop deployments, IDF emergency assessments, battle drills, intelligence about arms and the operating doctrine for IDF troops.
Seven hundred of these documents were defined as “secret” and “top secret.”
Before her discharge from the Israeli Army, Anat Kam transferred this massive collection of security documents to her personal computer.
In September 2008, after Ms. Kam secured a job on the Internet edition of the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, she provided these documents to senior reporter Uri Blau, who covers military and security affairs for the paper.
After Ms. Kam handed over the documents to Mr. Blau, she carefully explained to him the significance of each document that she handed over, including clarifications about the names of operations and their objectives, along with IDF codes and dates.
Mr. Blau used some of the Kam documents in reports that he published in Haaretz’s weekend supplement-reports that were given to the army censor at first and printed only after they were approved. One of these reports published in September 2008 under the headline “Classified IDF Documents: Chief of Staff and IDF Upper Echelons Approve Killing of Wanted Men and Innocent People - Despite High Court Ruling.”
Israeli Security officials read Mr. Blau’s report and were amazed at the “secret documents that had reached Haaretz and began to suspect that the reporter had other classified papers in his possession.
Mr. Blau had initially told Israeli security officials that he had 50 such security documents, and that he would agree to hand them back, so long as there would be no recrimination from the Israeli law enforcement authorities against him. However, in December, when Israeli security officials discovered that Ms. Kam had given him 2,000 documents, Uri Blau fled Israel for London, out of fear of being arrested by Israeli security.
The Israeli security establishment has a number of options available as to what they will do with Mr. Blau, if he refuses to return to Israel.
The first would be to issue an international arrest warrant for Mr. Blau, by means of the Israel Police’s representatives in Europe, with the assistance of Interpol.
The other option is to send out a Mossad hit squad team, as Israel did in the case of Mordechai Vanunu, who was kidnapped overseas in 1986 and brought back to Israel for trial in the matter of highly classified documents that Mr. Vanunu had pilfered and published in The Times of London, concerning the Israeli nuclear facility in Dimona.
Meanwhile, the Israeli security investigation of Anat Kam continues, focusing on her ideological connections to people who protest Israeli security policies.
Israeli security officials are also looking into the possibility that Kam may have shared some of the Israeli security documentation in her possession with her brother in law, Sam Sokol, who is the permanent stringer and translator for The Washington Post’s Jerusalem bureau.
Mr. Sokol used to work for Haaretz
The Israeli District Attorney has meanwhile indicted Anat Kam, saying that she acted out of “ideological motives, with intent to harm state security,” the penalty for which is more than ten years of imprisonment.
A high-ranking Israeli security official says that the exposure of these documents by Ms. Kam “harmed the State of Israel’s security substantially. There aren’t even words to describe the damage that could be caused.”
See this report at Israel Behind the News
The following is a translation of a column by the editor of Maariv, Ben Dror Yemini, which appeared in the paper April 15, 2010 in Hebrew can be found HERE
(Steven Plaut's translation)
A Conference to be Held Today will include Speakers from the Radical Left who support the Hezb'Allah and the Hamas. University response: "We are just maintaining academic freedom and independence."
The Law School of Tel Aviv University will hold today (Thursday April 15) a conference under the title, "Voices from Gaza," composed purely of far leftist speakers. It will be based on "video conferencing." Some of the speakers are well known as supporters and defenders of the Hezb'Allah and the Hamas in the United States. Some will appear in live video broadcast from Gaza.
The conference chairman in Israel is Prof. Uri Hadar (Tel Aviv University, psychology) a signatory on almost all the petitions of the radical Left. These include statements supporting Azmi Bishara and Tali Fahima, as well as support for people refusing to serve in the Israeli army. Maariv has learned that numerous officials in the University are outraged at the holding of this conference but fear voicing their opinion in public.
Recently the Board of Governors of the University has been holding a fierce debate over the radical faculty members there who support the boycott against university. Similar conferences to this triggered rage in the past among donors to the university. But this time it appears a red line was crossed. Because this time the conference was based purely on radical leftist speakers, even though the University is trying to claim otherwise.
From the American side the conference will be hosted by (Hamas apologist and groupie) Sara Roy from Harvard University. Roy has become the chief spokesperson for the fantasy that the Hamas is moderate and pragmatic. She claims unsurprisingly that it is Israel that is completely responsible for the crisis in Gaza, ignoring the Hamas' refusal to accept the conditions of the "Quartet" something that would end the blockade of Gaza and completely ignoring the anti-Semitic character of the Hamas. (http://frontpagemag.com/2009/11/18/collaborators-in-the-war-against-the-jews-sara-roy/ )
The Hamas could not dream of a better spokesperson! She is Jewish, daughter to parents who survived the Holocaust, and teaches at the prestigious Harvard. But even in the academic world it is impossible to disguise Roy's un-academic political character. Tufts University refused to publish one of her articles because it was so one-sided (again- Yemini relying on above Plaut expose). In that article she tried to dispute arguments in a book with which she disagreed.
Another American in the conference is Richard Norton. He does for the Hezb'Alloh everything that Roy does for the Hamas. The two even published an article together that explains that the Hamas is just seeking peace and so everyone needs to talk with it.
And there is another one not much different, one Robert Blecher, holding the same positions as the two spokeswomen for the jihad. These jihadi movements, he claims, are not what we thought. Terror? Murder? Oppression of women? Fuggedaboutit! The Jihad does not need its own PR staff when American universities have such "academics." They do the job just fine!
So here we have supporters of refusal to serve in the Israeli army and groupies of Azmi Bishara, on the one hand, meeting with American apologists for terror organizations and people from Gaza complaining about Israeli war crimes. There have been a lot of conferences at Israeli universities dressed up as academic events. But today's Tel Aviv University conference, which is hosted by its Department of Philosophy (home to Anat Kamm, Anat Matar and Adi Ophir SP), as well as the Minerva Center and the Israeli Center for Poetics and Semiotics, breaks new records.
As noted, some officials at the University are outraged at the holding of this conference, but their timid fears of going public are having the reverse effects. Large numbers of donors now see the University as a bastion of the extremist Left, even though such people are in the minority.
The problem is not in the fact that such conferences are being held, composed of radicals and extremists, but rather in the fact that there is no chance in hell that a conference could be held there from the other side of the political spectrum, composed purely of people holding rightist views on politics and policies. That is why the claims about "academic freedom" sound so hypocritical and shallow, because this "freedom" is reserved for one group only.
Maariv itself asked the University spokesman's office for a response. We asked: "Is Tel Aviv University now a propaganda platform for the Hamas? Are there no other points of view, besides those who support the Hamas, that the University regards as worth being aired? Will the University hold a conference titled `Voices from Sderot,' in which all the speakers are from the Israeli radical Right?"
The response from Tel Aviv University was this: "The Minerva Center for Human Rights (sic), The Center for Poetics and Semiotics, and the Department of Philosophy at Tel Aviv University are hold a joint event organized by Harvard University and MIT in which live video broadcasts will be shown. Three professionals (sic) from Gaza will be interviewed in these from the fields of economics, mental health and civics. These are expected to present their point of view about the state of life in Gaza. After the video broadcast a discussion will be held among the Israeli researchers (sic) attending the conference. As in all other events, Tel Aviv University maintains independence and academic freedom of all those engaged in research under its auspices."
To complain to the heads of Tel Aviv University write:
President, Professor Joseph Klafter
Tel Aviv University
P.O. Box 39040
Tel Aviv 69978
Tel: 972-3-6408254 972-3-6408254
Rector: Prof. Dany Leviatan
Tel Aviv University
P.O. Box 39040
Tel Aviv 69978
Contact the American Friends Offices of Tel Aviv University:
Other "Friends of" Groups: http://www.tau.ac.il/friends-eng.html
The original Hebrew article can be found in Maariv
See this and more relevant articles at Israel Behind the News
Dr. Mohammed Wattad, an Arab Israeli Muslim who is a senior lecturer at Zefat College’s School of Law and editor of the International Journal on Medicine and Law told an audience here that Israel is not an apartheid state.
The very articulate Dr. Wattad spoke at the University of Manitoba during Israel Apartheid Week [IAW], but virtually none of the IAW organizers and supporters came to hear his lecture.
Dr. Wattad said that “As an Israeli citizen, I belong to a political entity...I have no other home than the State of Israel. I am a proud Israeli citizen but that doesn’t mean I can’t criticize it...At the same time I am a proud Arab national. I like Arab culture, people, etc... Whenever something wrong happens to the Arab world, I feel it. These are not contradictory things.”
He added, “Don’t tell me Israel can’t define itself as Jewish and democratic... This doesn’t mean that Israel is innocent in all of this [conflict], but there are others here that also aren’t innocent.”
Dr. Wattad, who was sponsored by the Jewish Students Association/Hillel pointed out that “Israeli Arabs, for example in the Galilee, decided upon the State of Israel’s birth to stay and take citizenship, to be an Israeli citizen or not...That was their choice...”
In 2007, Dr. Wattad, was the recipient in Italy of the an award for the ‘‘Best Oralist for Legal Arguments” given by the International Institute of Higher Studies in Criminal Science. At the University of Manitoba he spoke about the difference between discrimination and apartheid.
“Is there discrimination in Israel? Yes-there is discrimination against women, elderly, Arabs, Russian Jews, Christians,...But the same goes for Canada. Is it good-No? But it means we have to deal with the problem from within.... The existence of discrimination in a state does not mean it is an apartheid state...There is a big difference between apartheid and discrimination,” he said.
“In an apartheid regime, there is no possibility of judicial review, because the judges are appointed by the regime and all serve one ideology. This is not the case in Israel...There is a very strong, independent Supreme Court in Israel. In an apartheid regime [unlike in Israel] there is no place to go to argue against the government,” Dr. Wattad added.
He further noted for example that in the case of Israel’s security “fence”, there were “‘more than 163 judgments of the Supreme Court where they decided that the fence had to be re-routed/rebuilt.” He also said that Egypt also has a fence between it and Gaza.
Regarding Israel’s national anthem ‘Hatikvah’, Dr. Wattad, is of the view that the Hebrew words “nefesh yehudi” (the Jewish soul/spirit) ought to be changed to be inclusive of Arabs, Christians and non-Jewish citizens. He proposes that the words in “Hatikvah” be changed to refer to “an Israeli spirit” rather than a “Jewish spirit.”
According to Dr. Wattad, the “big problem is the right of return. Is it a right of return to West Bank and Gaza or a right of return to Jaffa and Haifa? One possible solution is for Palestinians to receive an apology in addition to compensation. After World War II, the Jewish people got an apology from the Germans as well as money (reparations). It was very important that they got an apology which was an acknowledgement of collective responsibility.”
In Wattad’s view, after Hosni Mubarak’s reign is over, Egypt could end up falling into the hands of the Moslem Brotherhood.
“I am not so sure that as an Israeli it is good to have democracy in other Arab countries, such as Egypt, given what the majority believes,” he said.
Regarding Hamas, Dr. Wattad said that a “big opportunity was lost,” saying that Hamas started launching missiles, when instead they ought to have used their ‘golden opportunity to build a state.”
As for Hezbollah’s Hassan Nassrallah, Dr, Wattad noted that he caused the death of a large number “of Israeli Arabs” who were hit by missiles in the Second Lebanon war.
Dr. Wattad, who is a member of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, said that according to the Knesset website, “Israeli government protocols show that East Jerusalem was not intended to become part of Israel.”
When asked about the campaign to boycott Israeli academics, Wattad responded that it was as “idiotic”, saying that academic institutions should be “a marketplace of ideas,” and that academic boycotts means that even “left-wing Israelis aren’t able to speak or write.”
When asked whether he thought an economic boycott of Israel would be effective, Wattad answered that they would be “useless” because “Who of the Arab states will boycott Israel economically?... They will help Israel out,” he said.
He noted that notwithstanding the official position of Arab states, they ‘are doing business with Israel,” such as in Dubai.”
“The biggest gas pipeline in Israel is jointly owned by Israel and Iran and has been that way since it was established.”
He further noted, that in the case of war with Iran, Saudi Arabia will allow Israel to use its airspace.”
Dr. Wattad believes that a ‘real chance for peace was lost” when former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was murdered. He also is of the view that Rabin’s murderer Yigal Amir ought not to have been given the right to pro-create while he was in jail.
Dr. Wattad asked if there was an Arab person present in the audience, but there wasn’t.
He noted that usually when he speaks there are a lot of Arab students in the audience who are “against the idea that an Arab Muslim guy is speaking for Israel.”
However, he clarified that he says what he says because “I believe it to be so,” and he is aware that what he says can be “provocative.”
Dr. Wattad is one of the founders of Zefat’s Legal College in Northern Israel. He told the Winnipeg Jewish Review that the new public college is “a baby.’
He said that “It’s something to be part of building it. When you work at a place like this, you can lead.”
According to Dr. Wattad, this past year only 70 out of 200 students who applied were accepted, but 20 were dismissed by the college during the year for not coming to enough classes. “We are strict,” he said.
See the original article in the Winnipeg Jewish Review
See this and more stories at Israel Behind the News
Tel Aviv, Israel: Look, many in the media say, this is an important revelation. The IDF, they claim, violated High Court of Justice orders, and conducted targeted killings while violating judicial guidelines. The IDF, they continue to assert, committed war crimes, and there is no journalist out there who would have remained silent, were he or she to receive document proof of this. So let us put aside the thousands of documents that have nothing to do with the leaks and which contain military information without any journalistic value. And let us put aside the fact that the IDF was forced to alter its military plans due to the stolen information. And let us also put aside the fact that the possession of such material constitutes a criminal offense, which an Israeli paper is aiding.
Let us deal with the heart of the matter, this time. This is what Ha’aretz is demanding. Are indeed documents, which prove that the IDF violated High Court of Justice orders, being revealed and brought to the public? The headline, at the time, was “The chief-of-staff and IDF leadership authorized killings of wanted and innocent men.” The expression “innocent” appears almost 20 times in the article in which the documents were published. The impression is that the IDF has been committing war crimes. This is the impression Ha’aretz intentionally attempts to create.
Well, we should rise to the challenge, and examine what exactly these documents show. The main argument, which the paper attempted to promote, was that the High Court of Justice ruled that targeted killings were illegal. There is indeed a ruling, but nowhere is there any ruling that forbids targeted killings. The High Court of Justice did not go down this path, and wisely so. It was no other than Aharon Barak who made the determination in 2006: that it is impossible to determine a priori that all targeted killings are forbidden by international law, just as it is impossible to determine a priori that all targeted killings are permissible according to international law. This is very clear statement that is somewhat at odds with the impression received when reading Ha’aretz back then, when the documents appeared in Uri Blau’s article, and certainly today, as the paper attempts to hide behind the guise of exposing the truth.
The documents, it should be noted, deal with the need either to arrest or target an Islamic Jihad cell - clearly terrorists, who have committed acts of murder and planned other attacks. They consistently roamed the land with rifles and bomb belts. Any army of a democratic nation would regard their assassination as something both legitimate and desirable. This would not involve any troubles of conscience. According to Ha’aretz, however, it was appropriate to arrest these righteous cell members rather than harm them. However, the documents seem to indicate that the IDF did rigorously abide by the High Court of Justice’s ruling. Not a trigger-happy hand, but rather an indecisive one, perhaps one that reconsiders too much, that considers and then stops to reconsider again.
The documents themselves reveal four matters. First, that OC Central Command Maj. Gen. Yair Naveh orders an arrest rather than an assassination. Only if these turn out to be the Islamic Jihad members that, as stated earlier, are walking around with bomb belts and rifles, and only if events develop into a situation that both necessitates and allows this - should they be assassinated. Second, it appears that the implementing force received an additional order: if there are women or children in the area, assassination must be avoided and only arrests carried out. Here then, argues the sanctimonious Ha’aretz, is the proof that there was an alternative to assassination and that arrests were possible. Nonsense. This proves one thing only: that when there are innocent civilians on the premises, particularly women and children, IDF troops take on themselves a far greater risk. Third, it shows that the IDF places restrictions on the implementing force, in all things concerning the possible harming of innocent civilians. In the course of the meeting conducted by Gen. Naveh it was decided that only if there were as few as two unidentified men in addition to those that are wanted, could the operation take place. In a second meeting, this time under Gen. Tal Russo, it was decided to restrict this further and allow that only one innocent individual may be accidentally struck. The matter reached the chief-of-staff, and there too, Ashkenazi ordered that the operation against the arch-terrorists from Islamic Jihad take place only “if there is no more than a single unidentified individual” on the scene. Not even two. In other words, if there are women and children - the operation is off. And if there are two unidentified figures - the operation is off. And it should be stressed - there is certainly no order to take out the unidentified figure. However, if there is only one unidentified individual - the operation shall proceed. Does this violate the High Court of Justice’s rulings? Let us examine this. In the ruling, Barak states that “collateral damage in which innocent women and children are harmed shall be legal only if it abides by proportional standards.”
Let us suppose, for the sake of argument, that we are talking about the accidental killing of two innocent civilians, compared to the striking of five murderers belonging to a terrorist cell. Is this proportional? Well, the man who was charged with targeted killings in the Pentagon, Marc Garlasco was interviewed on “60 Minutes,” and he told interviewers that when it came to the assassination of a senior Iraqi terrorist, the guidelines were to kill as many as 30 innocent individuals, in order to take the man out. Ha’aretz has failed to explain what it regards as proportional. Nor will it ever explain. This is because its target - the IDF, the State of Israel, has been marked in advance.
The vilified Goldstone argued at the time that he had examined matters and come to the conclusion that the US army conducts itself in strict accordance with international law. This is indeed so, for them it is one to 30 innocent men, and in Israel - permission is only given if there is one unidentified figure on the scene. And no, there is no order take him or them out. There is a huge gulf between Israel and the United States. This Garlasco, incidentally, took responsibility for the killing of some 200 innocent civilians, as part of pursuits after wanted terrorists, all while no terrorist was actually struck. These are the ratios. This is the proportionality. No international arrest warrant was issued against Garlasco. On the contrary, Garlasco himself became a senior member of Human Rights Watch.
Fourthly, it appears that in order authorize every operation against Islamic Jihad members, many deliberations in many different echelons take place. In these deliberations it was determined that innocent civilians shall not be harmed. That arrests should be preferred over assassination. That women and children must be protected. That proportionality must be rigorously defended. And these were not merely debates, the OC Central Command himself could not approve the operation, and the authorization of the chief-of-staff was required. Can this complex process, of wavering, of debate after debate, of orders to safeguard the lives of women, children and innocent civilians, of clear definition of proportionality - be called a war crime, or “murder”? In fact, the entire debate is purely theoretical. In the course of the mission discussed by Ha’aretz, two terrorists were killed, Ziad Tzubahi Mahmad Malaisha and Ibrahim Ahmad Abed-El Latif A'abad. The two, not only according to the IDF, but also according to a statement published by Islamic Jihad, were killed as they attempted to resist arrest, while they were armed with M-16s and conducting a battle with IDF troops. Islamic Jihad regards them as fallen troops. Ha’aretz creates the impression that they were victims of war crimes.
In the very same article Ha’aretz presents the views of mostly three legal experts, Motta Kremnizer, David Kremnizer, and Moshe Hanegbi. They conclude, each in his own way, that the IDF has violated IDF orders, and insinuate war crimes. Based on what? What evidence do they present? Any search will be in vain. Ha’aretz turned to three legal experts whose opinions it knew in advance. They would not have allowed themselves to be bothered by the facts. The aim was to implicate the IDF. The legal experts, all identified with Meretz, and perhaps even left of this, brought home the bacon. However, there was another opinion. Following the report, two attorneys, Michael Shepherd and Avigdor Feldman, approached the attorney general and demanded that the matter be investigated. The attorney general at the time, Meni Mazuz wrote in a reply: “the military sources in the IDF General Staff received constant legal council, were aware of High Court of Justice guidelines, stressed and executed this in every state of planning and approval of the mission.”
However, neither will Ha’aretz allow itself to be bothered by the facts. After all, legal advice is not an exact science. Therefore, the paper chose to approach legal experts who would recite exactly what they sought to hear. These, in turn, certainly did their job. True, there is a contrary decision out there. But this is rendered unworthy in view of the fact that it does not abide by the views of the paper’s commissars.
One could, of course, add that the number of targeted killings in recent years stands at approximately zero. There were targeted killings during the second Intifada, aimed against arch-murderers, and also innocent civilians were killed. However, following the 2006 High Court ruling, the number of assassinations did indeed decline, and the number of innocent civilians killed in the process fell to zero.
And now, in order to justify the view it has long held, Ha’aretz attempts to create the opposite impression, one of mass targeted killings and harming of innocent civilians, contrary to the High Court’s ruling. Anyone reading the paper, and sadly this is a paper that reaches many, may get the impression that the IDF is deeply engaged in the criminal act of assassination. Nothing could be further from the truth. The demonizing, and delegitimising of Israel got some help these past days thanks to Ha’aretz. The paper has the right to hold its views. It has a right to run any story it pleases. However this present affair should be called by its name: a libel manufactured by Ha’aretz.
Ben Dror Yemini, Senior Writer at the Maariv Newspaper in Israek, was born in Tel-Aviv , Israel in 1954, on the eve of Passover. Hence the name, Ben Dror: the son of freedom..
He studied Humanities and History in Tel Aviv University , and later on he studied Law. After his university studies, he was appointed advisor to the Israeli Minister of Immigration Absorption and then became the spokesman of the Ministry.
In 1984, he began his career as a journalist and essayist and published the book "Political Punch" which deals in a critical way with politics and society in Israel. He worked as a lawyer and was a partner in a law firm. Since 2003 he is the opinion-editor of the daily newspaper Maariv and also published many articles and essays in other journals.
In recent years he researched and published "Industry of lies " about publications against the State of Israel and its Jewish character, which he considers false. In this framework, he published a series of research articles about the Israeli-Arab conflict in which he examined the issues of genocide, refugees, Palestinian and Arab capital, the status of Israeli Arabs , Multiculturalism , and the status of women. All these articles included a comparative study about each topic.
According to Yemini, "the modern Anti-Zionism is a politically correct Antisemitism ". He argued that the same way Jews were demonized, Israel is demonized, the same way the right of Jews to exist was denied, the right for Self-determination is denied from Israel, the same way Jews were presented as a menace to the world, Israel is presented as a menace to the world. In his comparative studies, he presents the huge gap between the myths against Israel, from one hand, and the real facts, from the other hand.
See this and more at Israel Behind the News
Friday, April 16, 2010
The SAZF and Judge Richard Goldstone
16 April 2010
The SAZF wishes to clarify that discussions were held with the Sandton Synagogue regarding the forthcoming barmitzvah of the grandson of Judge Richard Goldstone, and agreement was reached between the parties that no comments would be made until after the celebration.
Contrary to distorted media reports and false blog accusations, the SAZF states unequivocally that at no time was there any suggestion raised by any party that Judge Goldstone should be “barred” or “banned” from entering the synagogue.
Issued on behalf of:
Chairman: South African Zionist Federation
Private Bag X6
Cell: 082 600 6465
Dividing Jerusalem and putting the Old City under international
administration will bring conflict - not peace.
Israel has to control the Jordan Valley in any deal with the Palestinians.
American guarantees that a Palestinian state would remain demilitarized can’t
be relied upon.
A security pact signed by the United States can’t take the place of territory
vital for Israel’s security.
It is naïve to think that withdrawing to the ’67 lines will bring Israel an
These are among the “dots” that polls, such as the recent survey carried out
for IMRA by Maagar Mochot, consistently indicate the overwhelming majority
of Israelis agree on.
And that’s important.
Because while withdrawal advocates may enjoy the support of most of the
media as well as financial assistance from foreign governments and their
surrogates, the dots back their opponents.
And it is considerably easier to enter a policy debate when all that’s left
to do is connect the dots that the public already acknowledges.
That’s not just the situation in Israel.
Here is what American Jews answered last month when asked the most
fundamental of questions in an poll commissioned by the AJC:
Do you agree or disagree with the following statement? “The goal of the
Arabs is not the return of occupied territories but rather the destruction
Agree 75% Disagree 20% Not Sure 5%
Outright rejection of the working premise of “withdrawal brings peace”
That’s not to say policy advocates should be complacent. If anything, they
should be encouraged by the results to make the effort to get the public to
connect the dots.
The video excuses stone throwing, not mentioning that stones are lethal weapons.
"Credibility" of this video:
Produced by Bitselem. Funded by The New Israel Fund and European governments - in cooperation with Time Magazine.
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
Like every person who reads the Jewish Forward, I received an email solicitation on April 1, 2010, from Daniel Sokatch, chief executive officer of the New Israel Fund (NIF). If I want to save Israeli democracy from the threat of the ultra-orthodox and the settlers, the solicitation informs me, I should sign an email petition for Prime Minister Netanyahu.
No, it wasn’t an April Fool’s joke, and I immediately thought about who would save Israel from Daniel Sokatch and the NIF.
The NIF and the NGOs it funds are under attack in the Israeli Knesset. Sokatch wants American Jews to pressure the Israeli government to call off its investigation of the relationship between the NIF‘s NGO recipients and the infamous Goldstone Report. This is an uphill struggle for NIF, since the loudest calls for investigation are from Kadima, the Israeli centrist party.
As someone who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and has experienced firsthand the effects of Sokatch’s work here as the former CEO of the Jewish Community Federation, I strongly believe most of the members of this Jewish community would eagerly sign a petition that would encourage the Israeli government to pursue its investigation with all deliberate speed. If NIF is innocent of the accusations made against it, let it be exonerated within the democratic process it supports.
Sokatch was hired as CEO of the San Francisco Jewish Community Federation because some community leaders believed that a person with an ultra-progressive agenda could mobilize donors who shared his views. These community leaders also believed that exposure to the real world of pluralistic community politics would mature a person with well-honed leadership skills who was perceived as highly intelligent and talented, but politically naive.
None of that happened. There really aren’t a lot of George Soroses out there, even in Berkeley, and people who spend their time railing against capitalism never seem to become terribly successful businessmen. But the biggest disappointment to some was that Sokatch, despite his obvious talents, seemed stuck in his ultra-progressive ideology.
Sokatch left his position at the Jewish Community Federation after only fourteen months. He might have been on his way to different pastures anyhow, but what seemed to seal his fate was last year’s San Francisco Jewish Film Festival. Directed by Peter Stein, a man with an Israel-bashing agenda sustained by a compliant board, the festival showcased the crudely crafted documentary Rachel - a piece of vicious anti-Israel propaganda. The film lionized Rachel Corrie, the International Solidarity Movement militant who recklessly got in the way of an Israeli bulldozer.
Stein malevolently added insult to injury by giving the stage to Cindy Corrie, Rachel’s mother, who added to the propaganda value of the film and took a few softball questions from Stein that would have embarrassed even Larry King.
A substantial segment of the film’s audience was comprised of Israel-bashers who hurled anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic epithets at those who challenged the so-called “documentary.” Free speech did not escape the heckler’s veto that day.
Local Zionists demanded that the Jewish Community Federation, which contributes money to the film festival, do something about the outrage. Instead, Sokatch - who was also on the board of the festival - defended it.
A YouTube video of the event, narrated by popular San Francisco radio personality John Rothman, made the email rounds and further underscored the outrage. The video showed in graphic detail the crude behavior of the progressive Hitler Youth that had descended on the festival. Lawrence White, a prominent local physician, echoed the sentiments of many when he squarely placed the blame for the rift in our community on Daniel Sokatch for continuing to defend the showing of Rachel.
The film festival was not Sokatch’s only legacy. Recently, the Associated Students of the University of California at Berkeley passed a divestiture resolution against Israel. The resolution was sponsored by Students for Justice in Palestine, routinely described as the most vicious anti-Israel, if not anti-Semitic, group on campus. The progressive Jewish student group, Kesher Enoshi, has worked hand-in-glove with Students for Justice in Palestine. For years, the pro-Zionist students have argued unsuccessfully that Kesher Enoshi had no place at Hillel because of Hillel’s pro-Zionist mandate.
The Jewish Community Federation is a substantial contributor to Hillel. Sokatch, as CEO of the Jewish Community Federation, was a supporter of both Kesher Enoshi and their place in Hillel. The NIF’s view of Kesher Enoshi was summed up to me by one of NIF’s local officers:
They are a group of wonderfully passionate people who are working out how to support Israel in a way consistent with their values. We should encourage their connection to Israel, which is all too rare.
The wonderfully passionate group with a connection to Israel worked with Students for Justice in Palestine to pass the divestiture resolution, and tried to overturn the student president’s veto of the resolution.
NIF’s support recently manifested elsewhere in the San Francisco Bay area, with Dalit Baum and theCoalition of Women for Peace (CWP) - an NGO supported by NIF. Baum, an Israeli, spoke in February at an event sponsored by the Students for Justice in Palestine. At the door, attendees were asked to sign a pledge that they would boycott Israeli goods. Subsequently, they were given a glossy brochure that asked for donations for the CWP, which were to be sent to the NIF’s Washington office.
The brochure soliciting contributions lists eleven CWP allies, such as Machsom Watch, which interferes with Israeli soldiers at checkpoints; Women in Black, which demonstrates against Israel’s right to self-defense; New Profile, which encourages desertion from the Israeli Defense Forces; and Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, a group that sponsors lectures by Anna Baltzer.
She argues that violence against Israel is a natural reaction to Israeli oppression of Arabs.
Investigative journalist Lee Kaplan, who attended the meeting, notes that Baum boasted of causing Israelis to lose billions in export and investment revenue, and that her campaign is directed not just at the territories but at Israel itself.
If you object to giving money to groups that propose to cripple the Jewish state economically and interfere with its security, and network with other such groups, then it might be appropriate to send Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu an email telling him that there is no greater antiseptic for a democratic society than the sunlight of public exposure, and no group should be immunized from it.
Investigate the New Israel Fund.
Abraham H. Miller is Emeritus Professor of Political Science and Former Head of the Intelligence Studies Section of the International Studies Association.
See the original article at Pajamas Media
See this article at Israel Behind the News
Saturday, April 10, 2010
The Philadelphia Bulletin: Senior Palestinian Official Complains: Current Israeli Army Deployment Makes It “Impossible” To Attack
This week, Jerusalem Post Palestinian Affairs correspondent Khaled Abu Toameh, provided a telling and important statement from a senior Palestinian official. Nabil Shaath, one of the founders and most influential leaders of the Palestinian Authority and the Fatah, said to Abu Toameh, on the record, on April 5, that Palestinian Authority security forces have every right to launch an attack against Israel (using their American weapons) but that they can’t because the deployment of IDF in Palestinian areas makes this unworkable. In the words of Mr. Shaath, “The option of an armed intifada under the current circumstances, where Israel fully occupies the West Bank and is besieging the Gaza Strip, is impossible.” For example, the Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo has not been shelled in more than six years from the nearby Palestinian village of Beit Jalla, since the Israeli army has quietly returned its patrols and surveillance of Beit Jalla, to prevent these very attacks.
See this report in the Philadelphia Bulletin
See this report at Israel Behind the News
fficials in Jerusalem rejected the possibility that the Obama administration might present an American peace plan and try to impose it on the parties, The Washington Post reported. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said last night that he would oppose any attempt to impose a solution on Israel. “It won’t work,” Mr. Netanyahu said to his aides. “Thus far, the administration’s approach has been that he assists, and doesn’t impose, and that indeed is the correct approach.” The Washington Post quoted senior U.S. administration officials who said that President Obama was seriously considering announcing in the autumn a new American peace plan for the Middle East that would be based on the Clinton plan with certain changes. “Everyone knows the basic outlines of a peace deal,” one senior official was quoted as saying, while a second official said that “90 percent of the map would look the same.” “The salient characteristic of this past year has been the rise of radical Islam and its armament,” said Mr. Netanyahu yesterday in response to accusations as if his policies were responsible for the diplomatic deadlock in the region. Mr. Netanyahu refrained from casting blame either on Obama or on prominent European leaders, but that seemed to be his implied intention when he said: “The world has to decide whether it is fighting against the phenomenon of radical Islam or whether it is adapting to it. That has ramifications on the peace process.” Mr. Netanyahu made his statements at a press conference he held in Jerusalem to sum up the first year of his term in office. “This march by radical Islam hasn’t been stopped until now. There are some people who cast responsibility for that on Israel, but anyone who examines the matter in depth knows that that is not the case. The Palestinians, with the support of others, have refused to engage in the peace process.” Regarding construction in Jerusalem, Mr. Netanyahu said it was important to “keep perspective. This isn’t my policy but that of all Israeli governments.” He said that it wasn’t the policy that had changed but “the government in the United States has changed. I won’t say that there aren’t differences of opinion. There are some things that we agree about and some that we don’t.” The BBC has quoted a high-ranking U.S. official yesterday who said that if the issue of Israel construction in East Jerusalem should come before the U.N. Security Council for discussion, the U.S. would not cast a veto, but would consider abstaining in the vote. According to the British television network, a senior official in the Obama administration said this to the prime minister and foreign minister of Qatar during a meeting in Paris last week. In past decades the U.S. has regularly cast a veto on resolutions against Israel in the Security Council. However, such a resolution has not come before the council yet for discussion.
See this report in the Philadelphia Bulletin
See this report at Israel Behind the News
Monday, April 5, 2010
Dear Secretary Clinton:
We are writing to reaffirm our commitment to the unbreakable bond that exists between our country and the State of Israel and to express to you our deep concern over recent tension. In every important relationship, there will be occasional misunderstandings and conflicts. The announcement during Vice President Biden's visit was, as Israel's Prime Minister said in an apology to the United States, "a regrettable incident that was done in all innocence and was hurtful, and which certainly should not have occurred." We are reassured that Prime Minister Netanyahu's commitment to put in place new procedures will ensure that such surprises, however unintended, will not recur.
The United States and Israel are close allies whose people share a deep and abiding friendship based on a shared commitment to core values including democracy, human rights and freedom of the press and religion. Our two countries are partners in the fight against terrorism and share an important strategic relationship. A strong Israel is an asset to the national security of the United States and brings stability to the Middle East. We are concerned that the highly publicized tensions in the relationship will not advance the interests the U.S. and Israel share. Above all, we must remain focused on the threat posed by the Iranian nuclear weapons program to Middle East peace and stability.
From the moment of Israel's creation, successive U.S. administrations have appreciated the special bond between the U.S. and Israel. For decades, strong, bipartisan Congressional support for Israel, including security assistance and other important measures, have been eloquent testimony to our commitment to Israel's security, which remains unswerving. It is the very strength of this relationship that has, in fact, made Arab-Israeli peace agreements possible, both because it convinced those who sought Israel's destruction to abandon any such hope and because it gave successive Israeli governments the confidence to take calculated risks for peace.
In its declaration of independence 62 years ago, Israel declared: "We extend our hand to all neighboring states and their peoples in an offer of peace and good neighborliness, and appeal to them to establish bonds of cooperation and mutual help with the sovereign Jewish people settled in its own land." In the decades since, despite constantly having to defend itself from attack, Israel has repeatedly made good on that pledge by offering to undertake painful risks to reach peace with its neighbors.
Our valuable bilateral relationship with Israel needs and deserves constant reinforcement. As the Vice-President said during his recent visit to Israel: "Progress occurs in the Middle East when everyone knows there is simply no space between the U.S. and Israel when it comes to security, none. No space." Steadfast American backing has helped lead to Israeli peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan. And American involvement continues to be critical to the effort to achieve peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
We recognize that, despite the extraordinary closeness between our country and Israel, there will be differences over issues both large and small. Our view is that such differences are best resolved quietly, in trust and confidence, as befits longstanding strategic allies. We hope and expect that, with mutual effort and good faith, the United States and Israel will move beyond this disruption quickly, to the lasting benefit of both nations. We believe, as President Obama said, that "Israel's security is paramount" in our Middle East policy and that "it is in U.S. national security interests to assure that Israel's security as an independent Jewish state is maintained." In that spirit, we look forward to working with you to achieve the common objectives of the U.S. and Israel, especially regional security and peace.
HOWARD L. BERMAN
Chairman, Committee on Foreign Affairs
Ranking Republican Member, Committee on Foreign Affairs
Chairman, Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia
Ranking Republican Member, Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia
See this and related postings at Israel Behind the News
U.S. President Barack Obama's decision to confront Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Israeli construction activity in East Jerusalem has been greeted by a hail of praise, especially from people impatient to proceed with peace negotiations with the Palestinians. The belief seems to be that meeting this issue head-on will accelerate progress toward an agreement ending a conflict that has festered for generations. The historical record suggests a different conclusion.
The assumption that a faceoff over construction in Jerusalem will advance negotiations has not been subjected to much scrutiny. But the last two decades show that progress has occurred not when this issue was put first, but when it was finessed and left for the final status negotiations on Jerusalem.
Consider this: If, 17 years ago, U.S. President Bill Clinton or Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat had insisted that Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin freeze all settlement construction, including in Jerusalem, before Arafat would sit down with Rabin, there would have been no Oslo agreements. By Rabin's own account, in comments before the Knesset, Israel's parliament, he had to fudge the issue.
"I explained to the president of the United States," he said,"that I wouldn't forbid Jews from building privately in the area of Judea and Samaria... I am sorry that within united Jerusalem construction is not more massive."
The same year as the famous handshake on the White House lawn, 1993, the Rabin government completed the construction of more than 6,000 units in the Pisgat Zeev neighborhood of East Jerusalem, out of a total of 13,000 units that were in various stages of completion in areas of the city that had been outside Israeli lines before 1967.
So Arafat did sit down with Rabin, even while Israel's construction in Jerusalem continued. And, on Sept. 13, 1993, the Oslo peace accord was signed -- by the same Mahmoud Abbas who refuses to sit down today. And on October 14, 1994, Rabin, who built homes for Jews in East Jerusalem, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
Altogether, Israel completed 30,000 dwelling units in the West Bank, Gaza, and Jerusalem in the four years of Rabin's government. Even the Jan. 9, 1995, announcement of a plan to build 15,000 additional apartments in East Jerusalem neighborhoods beyond the 1967 borders (especially Pisgat Zeev, Neve Yaacov, Gilo, and Har Homa) did not stop negotiations, which resulted in the Oslo II accord of September 28, 1995. Israeli construction continued while Abbas and Rabin signed an historic accord.
And what was the American policy toward Rabin's construction of Jewish homes in East Jerusalem? Mild annoyance.
On Jan. 3, 1995, the State Department spokesman said mildly, in response to the Rabin government's announcement of expanded construction, "The parties themselves... have to judge whether it presents any kind of a problem in their own dialogue. The important thing is to continue to meet." The spokesman added on Jan. 10, 1995, "We admit that settlements are a problem, but we... enjoin the parties to deal with these issues in their negotiations."
Clinton's Middle East peace advisor, Martin Indyk, told the U.S. Senate on Feb. 2, 1995, that Rabin's government had recently "given approval for something like 4,000 to 5,000 new housing units to go up in settlements around the Jerusalem area." But, he said, Clinton had decided to stay out of it. "To take action now that would in one way or another... would be very explosive in the negotiations, and frankly, would put us out of business as a facilitator of those negotiations." Had Clinton taken Obama's approach, it might well have exploded the negotiations and brought the Oslo process to a halt.
Nor was this example of construction in Jerusalem while diplomacy made progress an isolated exception. Two years after Oslo II, in January 1997, Abbas and Arafat sat down with another Israeli prime minister, Netanyahu, to sign the Hebron Protocol, which provided for the withdrawal of the Israeli armed forces from 80 percent of the very sensitive area of Hebron in the West Bank. Arafat and Abbas had no illusions that Netanyahu intended to freeze Israeli construction in East Jerusalem. In fact, Netanyahu had announced that he would proceed with the building of Har Homa, a controversial Israeli suburb conceived by Rabin. Nor, another 18 months later, did the Palestinians' fierce objections to Har Homa stop them from joining the Wye Plantation negotiations from October 15-23, 1998. These talks led to an agreement known as the Wye River Memorandum, in which Netanyahu, under considerable pressure from President Clinton, agreed to pull the Israel Defense Forces out of an additional 13 percent of the West Bank. This move was fiercely opposed by Netanyahu's right flank, and it led to his downfall in January 1999 when the hard-liners in his coalition defected.
Had Clinton demanded Netanyahu freeze construction in Jerusalem and Arafat made it a precondition for negotiations, neither the Hebron nor Wye agreements would have been signed.
The Labor government that was elected in the wake of Netanyahu's ouster continued the pattern of building in Jerusalem while moving forward in negotiations with the Palestinians. At the Camp David Summit (July 11-25, 2000), then Prime Minister Ehud Barak went past Israel's past "red lines" and the Palestinians most of the West Bank and a capital in Jerusalem, along with land swaps. But, at the same time that he was taking these unprecedented steps, Barak was accelerating the construction of Har Homa and other Jerusalem communities across the pre-1967 line. While the talks accelerated, Barak also moved ahead with the Ras al-Amud neighborhood on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. President Clinton said he " would have preferred that this decision was not taken." But Clinton added that the United States "cannot prevent Israel from building in Har-Homa." Haim Ramon, Rabin's minister for Jerusalem affairs, said "I would like to make it clear that the government has no intention of stopping the building at Har Homa."
Here again, had Clinton taken Obama's position and issued an ultimatum demanding that all construction in Jerusalem stop, and had Arafat made that American demand a precondition to begin negotiations, the Camp David Summit of 2000 and the Taba talks in January 2001 would not have occurred.
The next Israeli government, headed by retired general Ariel Sharon, did not seek any breakthroughs in negotiations with the Palestinians. But Sharon ordered the most dramatic territorial concession in Israel's history since 1967: the withdrawal of all Israeli soldiers from every square inch of Gaza along with the abandonment of 21 settlements in Gaza and four in the West Bank, in the "unilateral disengagement" of August-December 2005. Sharon pulled 8,000 Israeli settlers from their homes against fierce opposition from his right flank.
President George W. Bush played a key role in making Sharon's withdrawal from Gaza possible by softening U.S. policy on the settlement issue. To offset the concession that Sharon was making, and counter opposition to it from Israel's right, he wrote a letter to Sharon on April 14, 2004, acknowledging that, "In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli populations centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949.... It is realistic to expect that any final status agreement will only be achieved on the basis of mutually agreed changes that reflect these realities." One implication of the letter was that the United States would treat Israeli construction in communities that all parties knew will remain part of Israel in any future two-state agreement, like the Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem, differently from settlement activity on controversial areas in the interior of the West Bank.
Elliott Abrams, the White House advisor who negotiated the Bush administration's compromises on the natural growth of settlement, explained the significance of the step Bush took last June in the Wall Street Journal: "There were indeed agreements between Israel and the United States regarding the growth of Israeli settlements on the West Bank.... The prime minister of Israel relied on them in undertaking a wrenching political reorientation... the removal of every single Israeli citizen, settlement and military position in Gaza.... There was a bargained-for exchange. Mr. Sharon was determined to... confront his former allies on Israel's right by abandoning the 'Greater Israel' position.... He asked for our support and got it, including the agreement that we would not demand a total settlement freeze."
There were expressions of unhappiness by Palestinian leaders and European diplomats about the Bush policy of giving a green light to limited construction in Jerusalem and certain settlement blocs. But the Bush administration defended it as a realistic policy that moved the peace process forward.
Four months after the disengagement from Gaza, on Jan. 4, 2006, Sharon went into a coma. His deputy, Ehud Olmert, became prime minister. Olmert sought a resumption of negotiations with the Palestinians. Following the Annapolis Summit in November 2007, Abbas, who had taken over as president of the Palestinian Authority and head of the PLO after Arafat's death in November 2004, agreed to begin intensive negotiations with Olmert. While Abbas expressed his unhappiness with continued Israeli construction in East Jerusalem and the settlement blocs, he did not make cancelation of these projects a precondition for talks. In fact, Olmert said, "It was clear from day one to Abbas... that construction would continue in population concentrations -- the areas mentioned in Bush's 2004 letter.... Beitar Illit will be built, Gush Etzion will be built; there will be construction in Pisgat Zeev and in the Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem... areas [that] will remain under Israeli control in any future settlement."
These negotiations produced significant results: on Sept. 16, 2008, Olmert offered Abbas 93 percent of the West Bank, partition of Jerusalem, and a land swap. Abbas's deputy Saeb Erekat boasted to a Jordanian newspaper that he and Abbas had achieved considerable progress with the Olmert government between the November 2007 Annapolis talks and the end of 2008 in as many as 288 negotiation sessions by 12 committees -- all while Israeli construction continued.
The record is clear and consistent: The United States has never liked Israeli construction in East Jerusalem, and frequently stated that it complicated the peace process. But until Obama, no U.S. president had made its cancelation a precondition for negotiations, and until Obama, Palestinian leaders including Abbas did not make it a precondition either. For 19 years -- from the Madrid conference of October 1991 through the Olmert/Abbas negotiations that ended in 2008, negotiations moved forward while Jerusalem construction continued. Madrid, Oslo I, Oslo II, the Hebron Protocol, the Wye River Memorandum, Camp David, Taba, the disengagement from Gaza, and the Olmert offer to Abbas -- all these events over the course of two decades were made possible by a continuing agreement to disagree about Israeli construction of Jewish homes in Jewish neighborhoods outside the pre-1967 line in East Jerusalem.
Today, for the first time in 19 years, we have an aministration unable to produce Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. Abbas is following Obama's lead in demanding an unprecedented precondition that Israel cannot satisfy. This is the same Abbas who negotiated with seven previous Israeli prime ministers -- Shamir, Rabin, Peres, Netanyahu (in his first term), Barak, Sharon, and Olmert, without the precondition that he now demands of Netanyahu. We have a crisis. Netanyahu is doing something that every past Israeli prime minister of the left and right has done, but Obama is doing something that past American leaders considered unwise. It is the U.S. behavior that has changed.
At this moment, Obama's decision to confront Netanyahu about construction in Jerusalem wins wide praise. Whether Obama's policy will still look good in six months, when people realize he has mired the negotiations in quicksand, remains to be seen.
Obama would do better to take the advice of his own Mideast envoy, George Mitchell, who wisely told PBS host Charlie Rose, "For the Israelis, what they're building in is in part of Israel. Now, the others don't see it that way. So you have these widely divergent perspectives on the subject. Our view is, let's get into negotiations, let's deal with the issues and come up with a solution to all of them including Jerusalem.... The Israelis are not going to stop settlements in or construction in East Jerusalem.... There are disputed legal issues.... And we could spend the next 14 years arguing over disputed legal issues or we can try to get a negotiation to resolve them in a manner that meets the aspirations of both societies."
Steven J. Rosen served for 23 years as foreign-policy director of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and was a defendant in the recently dismissed AIPAC case. He is now director of the Washington Project at the Middle East Forum.
See the original article in Foreign Policy
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Those who cannot remember the past are condemned, it seems, to direct the Middle East policy of the Obama administration.
Since the Oslo Accords of 1993, 17 years of efforts under three American presidents and six Israeli prime ministers have taught five clear lessons. Each of them is being ignored by President Obama, which is why his own particular "peace process" has so greatly harmed real efforts at peace. Today the only factor uniting Palestinian, Israeli, and Arab leaders is distrust of the quality, sagacity, and reliability of American leadership in the region.
The patching-up efforts of the last two weeks were impressive, but perversely: They showed how much damage had been done and how little the administration cares about reversing it. Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, against whom Obama was said to be "boiling with rage" after the Jerusalem housing announcement, got the complete slate of Washington meetings: Clinton, Gates, Biden, Obama. But the meetings were virtually secret: The White House did not permit a single photo to be taken of the Oval Office session, an unprecedented snub. Same at State: no ceremony, no press conference.
For her part, Secretary Clinton told the giant AIPAC meeting, "Our credibility in this process depends in part on our willingness to praise both sides when they are courageous, and when we don't agree, to say so, and say so unequivocally." Several recent Palestinian actions, she said, were "provocations" that are "wrong and must be condemned." That was nice, but saying it to a Jewish audience in a kiss-and-make-up session in Washington fools no one, not after her famous 43-minute telephone call to Netanyahu. These "provocations. . . that must be condemned" (note the passive voice) did not after all elicit a timely call to Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas condemning them, nor did she use the Quartet meeting in Moscow on March 19 for that purpose. And general administration protestations that the United States is committed to Israel's security and that relations are "rock solid" now carry little persuasive power; they sound like Obama's (and for that matter Clinton's) campaign rhetoric, and everyone knows how useful a guide to administration policy all of that proved to be.
What are the lessons the Obama team is ignoring?
1. Israel's flexibility is dependent on its sense of security.
Martin Indyk, Bill Clinton's ambassador to Israel, put it this way in his memoirs: "The record. . . suggests that American presidents can be more successful when they put their arms around Israeli prime ministers and encourage them to move forward, rather than attempt to browbeat them into submission." During the George W. Bush years, the leader of the Israeli right, Ariel Sharon, decided to abandon the idea of a "Greater Israel," impose constraints on settlement construction in the West Bank (no new settlements, no outward expansion of settlement territory), and remove every settlement in Gaza and four small ones in the West Bank. His closest advisers say all of this was possible for him only in the context of unwavering American support for Israel's security steps - including the targeting and killing of Hamas terrorists and the refusal to deal with a terrorist leader like Arafat. What was the turning point for Sharon? Bush's June 24, 2002, speech, where he abandoned Arafat, denounced Palestinian terrorism, and said thorough reforms were the only possible basis for Palestinian statehood. Reassured, Sharon began to act.
Contrast this with the Obama administration, where Israel has been "condemned" - the toughest word in the diplomatic dictionary - for a housing project. Instead of seeking practical and politically feasible limits to settlement activity, the Obama approach has been to say every brick cemented to another was "illegitimate."
Israelis know that these American denunciations of Israel liberate Europeans and others to crank up their own, and so it has been this past year: Israel has been increasingly isolated and criticized internationally. Once we used "condemn," it was impossible (even if we were trying, which we were not) to keep it out of Quartet and EU statements. Add a few other international assaults (the Goldstone Report on the Gaza war, for instance) and American acts of distancing (the president visits Cairo and Riyadh but skips Israel, for example), and Israelis are in no mood for additional risktaking. Who, after all, will have their back if things get rough? Hillary Clinton told AIPAC that "the status quo is unsustainable," as if just about anything we can get on paper would be better. Such phrases do not inspire Israeli confidence that their country's security is anywhere near the top of the administration's list. All this should be elementary, but it seems to have escaped the Obama White House.
2. The failure to set standards for Palestinian conduct hurts the cause of peace.
In the Bill Clinton years, the foreign leader who visited the White House most often was Yasser Arafat - 13 times. Who can blame Arafat for failing to take seriously criticism of his "alleged links" to terrorism when the invitations kept on coming? For years, American officials of both parties have said the "incitement must end," but they have imposed no penalty for its failure to end. When in March the Palestinian Authority (PA) named a square for a terrorist involved in an attack in 1978 that killed 38 Israelis, including 13 children, Obama, Biden, and Clinton were silent. Lower-ranking officials tut-tutted. In Palestinian society, the veneration of this terrorist, Dalal Mughrabi, is widespread; Fatah, not Hamas, is the one celebrating Mughrabi. PA radio and television incite hatred of Israel and Jews with regularity, as Palestinian Media Watch and MEMRI document every month.
In recent weeks the Obama administration has stated that both sides have responsibilities to meet, but it made no serious demands of the PA. Had there been early and regular insistence that incitement end, the Mughrabi incident would never have taken place. The price for such negligence is being paid in both Israeli and Palestinian society: Every such action and every vicious broadcast helps persuade Israelis that Palestinians do not truly seek peace and helps raise a new generation of Palestinians who see Jews as enemies to hate, not neighbors with whom to reach an accommodation. This infantilization of Palestinian society, moreover, moves it further from the responsibilities of statehood, for it holds harmless the most destructive elements of West Bank life and suggests that standards of decency are not necessarily part of progress toward "peace."
A tough demand that all the incitement end now - no more terrorist squares, a clean-up of Palestinian broadcasting, the replacement of offending school textbooks - would both help Palestinian moderates undertake these actions and reassure Israelis that President Obama shares at least some of their concerns about the ability of Palestinians to negotiate and sustain a peace deal. The silence thus far, the unconvincing and rote handling of this issue, leaves the impression that Obama simply wants a deal signed and doesn't much care about what happens after that. Like his distancing himself from Israel and his apparent lack of concern for Israeli security, this undermines any chance of successful peace talks.
3. Israeli withdrawals do not lead to peace unless law and order can be maintained by responsible security forces.
Israelis learned this the hard way in South Lebanon and Gaza, and it is unquestionably the greatest factor leading them to oppose a similar withdrawal from the West Bank. The Labor party leader Ehud Barak is not viewed in Israel as a hardliner; when he was prime minister he offered Arafat a dramatic peace proposal in 2000. But when, as defense minister, he met with President Bush in 2008 he handed over, and raised repeatedly in later meetings with Secretary Rice, a list of Israel's security needs in the West Bank. He and Netanyahu (and the vast majority of Israelis) are of one mind on this: Terrorism from Gaza is a security challenge for Israel, but terrorism from the West Bank threatens Israel's survival. There has been considerable progress in training Palestinian security forces, but no one believes they can yet maintain order without the presence of the IDF and Shin Bet. Those who say, as George Mitchell - Obama's special envoy to the Middle East - and the Quartet have, that there can be a peace deal in 24 months are saying that fundamental security issues can be finessed or forgotten. Of course they can if your goal is a piece of paper - or, perhaps better put, a paper peace. If you want a real and lasting peace, you must have the answer to the question: What will fill the vacuum when Israeli forces leave? Today the answer is chaos or Hamas, and any prediction that in 24 months these matters will be resolved shows a lack of seriousness. Palestinians who value law and order and seek to build a decent society, as well as Jordanians who worry what forces will be across the river from them, cannot be so cavalier. This brings us back to lesson one: If the United States is intent on a deal in 24 months no matter what, Israelis will understand that we are not going to protect their security and that we'll complain when they assert the need to do it themselves.
4. The Israeli-Palestinian dispute is not the center of world, Arab, or Muslim politics.
George Mitchell once acknowledged that when he talks to Arab leaders they raise Iran first, but no one in the administration wants to allow mere facts to interfere with their ideology. George W. Bush was as close as any American president ever has been to Israel, but had excellent relations with the Moroccan, Algerian, Emirati, Omani, Bahraini, Kuwaiti, Saudi, and Jordanian rulers - all except the Egyptians, who were annoyed that he thought they should have free elections. Paying attention to what Arab political leaders say publicly about Israel is foolish, for their real views consist of tough-minded assessments of the balance of power in the region. What they want most of all is calm; they do not want their streets riled up by Israeli-Palestinian violence. Palestinians are not at the center of their hearts or they would visit the West Bank and bring plenty of cash with them. What preoccupies them is survival and Iran. If they take any lesson from the current coldness between the United States and Israel, it is that the United States is not a reliable ally. If we can ditch Israel, they know we can far more easily ditch them.
The most perverse misunderstanding along these lines is the thought that supporting Israel is risking American lives in Iraq and Afghanistan and in the war on terror. Vice President Biden is reported to have told Netanyahu that "this is starting to get dangerous for us. What you're doing here undermines the security of our troops who are fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan." White House denials suggest that the quotation is not exact, but there has also been no flat-out denial of the sentiment. David Axelrod, the political hack who appears to be a key foreign policy strategist and spokesman for the president, was asked on one of the Sunday shows if he agreed that settlement construction puts U.S. troops' lives at risk. He replied, "It is important for our own security that we move forward and resolve this very difficult issue." Not exactly a resounding "no." General David Petraeus, the CENTCOM commander, told the Senate that "clearly the tensions in these issues have an enormous effect on the strategic context in which we operate in the Central Command area of responsibility." Once again, not a "No way" or a "Get real." Petraeus had a chance to say the Pakistanis are not thinking hard about West Bank settlement construction when they watch the Taliban and developments in Waziristan, and he failed to do so then or in later explanations. How hard would it have been for him or some other official to remind everyone that Osama bin Laden became a terrorist to overthrow the government in Riyadh, not the one in Jerusalem? The struggles between modernizers and traditionalists, Sunni and Shia, secularists and Islamists are tearing the Islamic and the Arab world apart. They would continue to do so if Israel no longer existed.
Israelis listening to official American remarks hear an amateurish interpretation of Arab politics, which as Lee Smith reminded us in his recent book (quoting bin Laden himself) is basically about backing the strong horse. Arab leaders want to know what we will do to stop Iran; they want to know if their ally in Washington is going to be the top power in the region. Israelis wonder where the "uh oh, this will make Islamic extremists angry" argument stops. Does anyone think al Qaeda or the Taliban would be mollified by a settlement freeze? The Islamists are not interested in "1967 issues" related to Israel's size, but in "1948 issues" related to Israel's existence. If henceforth we mean to engage such people rather than to defeat them, Israel's existence - not its settlement policy - comes into play.
If this is not the Obama view of the world, the administration should say so quickly and very clearly. Otherwise his administration can fairly be said to be revisiting our own "1948 issues." The argument that Israel would be a great burden and ruin our place in the Arab world was proffered then by George Marshall - and rejected by Harry Truman. In his memoirs, Clark Clifford wrote at length about the State Department's efforts to stop Truman from recognizing the new State of Israel. Clifford quoted Marshall's deputy Robert Lovett as saying on May 14, 1948 - the day Israel declared its independence and Truman offered recognition - "There will be a tremendous reaction in the Arab world. We might lose the effects of many years of hard work with the Arabs. We will lose our position with Arab leaders. It will put our diplomatic missions and consular representatives in personal jeopardy." After 60 years of American leadership and military dominance in the Middle East, it should be as disturbing to Americans - not least to Democrats who venerate Truman - as it is to Israelis that traces of this approach are emerging again in Washington.
Netanyahu answered these poor arguments in his address to AIPAC:
"Our soldiers and your soldiers fight against fanatic enemies that loathe our common values. In the eyes of these fanatics, we are you and you are us. To them, the only difference is that you are big and we are small, you are the Great Satan and we are the Little Satan."
5. The 'peace process' retards peace.
A single-minded concentration on "the peace process" hurts the cause of peace and moderation throughout the region and does little to build the necessary institutions of Palestinian society. It's obvious that nearly two decades of negotiations have not produced peace. Instead this focus has had two deleterious effects.
First, it means we care more about getting Syria, Egypt, or others to endorse some negotiating plan than we do about their own internal situations. The people, the politics, the alliances of such countries become unimportant, as we focus on whether their rulers will deign to sit at some table we've laid. Human rights and democracy issues evaporate.
Second, we use all our chips for the negotiating sessions, instead of applying them to the hard work of nation building. We ask Arab states to reach out to Israel (which they will not do) when we should be demanding that they reach out to the Palestinians (which they might). We explode, and damage U.S.-Israeli relations, over a tiny construction announcement because it might slow "proximity talks" Mitchell has cooked up. We use American influence with Israel not to promote economic growth in the West Bank, but to try and impede Jewish (never Arab) construction in Israel's capital city. This set of priorities is perverse and will not lead to peace. Instead, a pragmatic approach that seeks to create in the West Bank a decent society and a state that will maintain law and order should be our goals.
The last week of March brought talk of "reconciliation" between the Obama administration and the government of Israel. Relations are so strained that we, too, appear to need our own set of "proximity talks" now. But reconciliation is not a simple matter, as the Catholic Church knows. In that faith, it is a sacrament consisting of three elements: conversion, confession, and celebration. Conversion is the internal realization of wrongdoing, confession is the external admission of it, and celebration follows when (and only when) the sinner has converted, repented, confessed, and returned. Given the Obama administration's view of Israel and the Middle East, celebration seems a long way off.
Elliott Abrams (born January 24, 1948) is an American lawyer and politician who served in foreign policy positions for two Republican U.S. Presidents, Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. He is currently a senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.
During the Reagan administration, Abrams gained notoriety for his involvement controversial foreign policy decisions regarding Nicaragua and El Salvador. During Bush's first term, he served as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director on the National Security Council for Near East and North African Affairs. At the start of Bush's second term, Abrams was promoted to be his Deputy National Security Advisor for Global Democracy Strategy, in charge of promoting Bush's strategy of advancing democracy abroad. His appointment by Bush was controversial due to his conviction in 1991 on two misdemeanor counts of unlawfully withholding information fromCongress during the Iran-Contra Affair investigation.
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