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Saturday, November 24, 2007

Middle East 'Experts' Surprised by Arab League attendance at Annapolis

Arab Commentators: Egg on the face?

From Adel Darwish 

Arab Commentators are left with egg on their faces by Saudi Arabia's 11th hour change of heart on the decision to attend Annapolis conference after early signals indicated that they were likley to stay away.  

Saudi Arabia change of heart yesterday  ( Friday November 23) and agreeing to  attend the next week American sponsored conference on the Middle East in Annapolis has left many Arab commentators with an egg on their face, to say the least.

It was no problem for the usual suspects ( Arab Nationalists & Baathists  Islamists jihadists, Marxists and the general anti-Semitic and anti American) who have always objected to any  form of dialogue or meeting with the Israelis that would get any Muslim or whoever they consider to be Arab to recognise Israel. Their reaction was expected.  But the Saudis changing their mind at the 11th hour created a dilemma for many of commentators who in principles didn't object  dialogue with Israel, reject terrorism and support Palestinian Israel agreements. Many of those commentators, writing for Saudi or Saudi sponsored newspapers, have been critical of the conference and warning that it would achieve nothing, but a photo opportunity.

Some argued that America has lost credibility as an 'honest broker' that can neutrally mediate between the Palestinians and the Israelis because 'Washington has always supported Israel' which is a stock Arab view for half a century; and those were not as embarrassed as others who's criticism of the conference stemmed of their belief that their comment must always reflect what they perceived as the Saudi position.

Believing  that Saudi Arabia didn't think much of the proposed conference,  commentators lined up  to condemn the conference as an 'American Israeli plot' to undermined the Saudi initiated 'Arab peace plan' adopted in the Arab League  (AL) Beirut summit, and continued to say so until Friday afternoon.

Obviously their words of wisdom were scribed a day or two before Saudi Foreign Secretary Prince Saud Alfaisal announced yesterday that his nation would after all attend the conference.

Same also goes for Arab nationalist commentators who, for years, have been cheerleaders for AL Secretary General Dr Amr Musa's anti-Israeli rhetoric as the latter  also announced, in the same press conference like Prince Saud, yesterday, that AL will attend the conference as a whole to give peace a chance and test the Jewish state's commitment.

It will be interesting to see how those commentators will manage to scrape the egg off their faces!  

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Reading the Bush Adiminstration on Israel and Palestinain Issues

Two views of Bush administration policy going into Annapolis. From the Washington Post:
Rice said publicly this week that her goal is to wrap up a peace deal by the end of the Bush presidency. But people who have spoken to Bush in recent weeks say he has made it clear that he has no intention of trying to force a peace settlement on the parties. The president's fight against terrorism has given him a sense of kinship with Israel over its need for security, and he remains skeptical that, in the end, the Palestinians will make the compromises necessary for a peace deal.
That sounds about right. From Caroline Glick, news that the sky is falling:
The mood is dark in the IDF's General Staff ahead of next week's "peace" conference in Annapolis. As one senior officer directly involved in the negotiations with the Palestinians and the Americans said, "As bad as it might look from the outside, the truth is 10 times worse. This is a nightmare. The Americans have never been so hostile."
Really?? How does Glick know the mood in the IDF's General Staff? Is it true that Americans have never been so hostile? Would any Israeli say that? Americans were not as hostile during the Suez crisis of 1956? Not during the Ford administration reevaluation? Are you sure about that Caroline? How about when James F-- the Jews Baker was running things? Were the Americans more friendly then?
And from Washington Post again:
Within the Arab world, Bush has been seen as fervently pro-Israeli. In 2004, to facilitate Israel's departure from Gaza, Bush gave Sharon letters that conceded key points on settlements and Palestinian refugees to the Israelis, without corresponding concessions for the Palestinians.
And from Caroline Glick again:
 It [the draft declaration] also shows that the US firmly backs the Palestinians against Israel.
How could the draft declaration possible show that? Where is there any evidence of US comments on the draft?
Caroline Glick is fortunate. She found an employer who is willing to pay for a woman to be hysterical. 
Ami Isseroff


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"Jewish Groups" support Annapolis? - not quite.

The following JTA Item is a bit deceptive. It claims that AIPAC and the ADL support the Annapolis peace conference. I wish it were true. What is true is only that the leaders of these groups wrote Op-Eds in favor of the Ananpolis meetings. That is not the same thing at all as the organization meeting and making a decision to support the meeting and the peace process.
It is better than nothing.
Ami Isseroff
Two major pro-Israel groups endorsed U.S.-convened Israeli-Palestinian peace talks as promising.
Published: 11/22/2007
Two major pro-Israel groups endorsed U.S.-convened Israeli-Palestinian peace talks as promising.
"The upcoming Middle East peace meeting in Annapolis could become a launching pad for substantive Israeli-Palestinian negotiations leading to a breakthrough between the two parties," Howard Kohr, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee's executive director, said in an op-ed distributed this week to Jewish media. The talks, to which over 40 nations have been invited, begin Monday in Washington and move to Annapolis, Md. on Tuesday.
Kohr conditioned his optimism on financial and political support for the process by Arab nations.
"Arab leaders should also attend the upcoming Annapolis meeting and provide Abbas with the political backing he will need to fight terrorism and make the tough compromises necessary to reach an agreement with Israel," he wrote. "To facilitate Arab-Israeli peace efforts, the Arab states must also begin to prepare their own people by recognizing Israel's right to exist, ending their economic boycott of the Jewish state and supporting peace."
The Anti-Defamation League's national director, Abraham Foxman, said Israel could rely on the Bush administration's established record of good will not to push the Jewish state into a corner.
"Despite the anxiety surrounding Annapolis, I have confidence that the administration will pursue a course that will take into account the need for progress, but in such a manner as not to jeopardize Israel's vital interests nor to present Israel's stance in a negative light," Foxman said in another op-ed delivered to Jewish media.

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Peace with Justice - for Jews from Arab Lands

As the Annapolis conference approaches, and the peace process heats up, all the claims of all sides should be given equal weight and consideration. About 800,000 Jews were expelled or fled Arab countries since the creation of the state of Israel. They left behind a huge amount of property, of which they were robbed by Arab governments and by greedy officials who required "baksheesh" - bribes.
Arab countries have deliberately exaggerated the number of Palestinian Arab refugees. The number, somewhat inflated to start with, has grown over the years to 6 million and now to 11 million. They have been very forward about property claims as well as the "right" of return of these refugees. They claim that this is the only way to achieve peace with "justice." It is a strange claim, since the Germans of Sudetensland did not get such "Justice" and the Muslims who fled India and the Hindus who fled Pakistan did not seek, and did not get, such "Justice." But if the Arabs and their anti-Zionist supporters insist on this claim, we must also seek justice for Jewish refugees from Arab countries.
Jewish organizations who are lobbying for various viewpoints regarding the Annapolis conference should not forget this issue.
The details are in the story below.
Ami Isseroff
Expelled Jews hold deeds on Arab lands
Etgar Lefkovits , THE JERUSALEM POST  Nov. 16, 2007
The government needs to bring up the issue of hundreds of thousands of Jews who left their homes in Arab countries following the establishment of the State of Israel as part of any future peace agreement with the Palestinians, the president of the World Organization of Jews from Arab Countries said Thursday.
About 850,000 Jews fled Arab countries after Israel's founding in 1948, leaving behind assets valued today at more than $300 billion, said Heskel M. Haddad.
He added that the New York-based organization has decades-old property deeds of Jews from Arab countries on a total area of 100,000 - which is five times the size of the State of Israel.
Most of the properties are located in Iraq, Egypt and Morocco, Haddad said.
The Baghdad-born Haddad fled Iraq in 1951, and, after a brief stop in Israel, made his way to the United States where he went on to become a prominent New York ophthalmologist.
In an interview, he said that it was imperative for Israel to bring up the issue of the Jews who fled Arab countries at any future peace talks - including those scheduled to take place in Annapolis in the coming weeks - since no Palestinian leader would sign a peace treaty without resolving the issue of Palestinian refugees.
Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians - with estimates ranging from 400,000 to 750,000 - left Israeli-controlled territory in 1948 and 1949, and they, along with their millions of descendants, make up one of the prickliest issues to be dealt with by Israeli and Palestinian negotiators as part of any resolution to the conflict.
Haddad said that the key to resolving the issue rested with the Arab League, which in the 1950s passed a resolution stating that no Arab government would grant citizenship to Palestinian refugees, keeping them in limbo for over half a century.
At the same time, the Arab League urged Arab governments to facilitate the exit of Jews from Arab countries, a resolution which was carried out with a series of punitive measures and discriminatory decrees making it untenable for the Jews to stay in the countries.
"No Jews from Arab countries would give up their property and home and come to Israel out of Zionism," Haddad said.
He said that the Israeli government was "myopic" not to utilize this little-known information, which he said should be part of a package financial solution to solving the issue of Palestinian refugees.
An Israeli ministerial committee on claims for Jewish property in Arab countries, which is currently headed by the Pensioners Minister Rafi Eitan, has been virtually dormant since it was established four years ago.

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Friday, November 23, 2007

Wishful thinking on settlements

It is time for the Jerusalem Post and Israeli public opinion to understand that from the point of view of the United States government, the only good settlement is a peace settlement.
Ami Isseroff 
Sense on settlements
, THE JERUSALEM POST  Nov. 22, 2007
In its bid to join the pre-Annapolis jockeying, the Knesset voted this week on two measures relating to settlement blocs and outposts. The first, sponsored by Kadima MK Yoel Hasson, supported settlements in high-density Jewish population areas in the West Bank. It passed 39 to 18 with the support of coalition MKs, except for the Labor Party. Labor instead supported another measure, along with Meretz, which called for the evacuation of 105 unauthorized outposts. That measure was defeated 42 to 14.
All of this was somewhat predictable and largely superfluous. Yet Hasson said something unusual for a supporter of the settlement enterprise. "If we had invested energy in another city like Ariel and another Ma'aleh Adumim, and not placing another 20 caravans here and 30 caravans there, maybe the settlement blocs would be much bigger," he declared in the plenum. It is these blocs "that will determine Israel's permanent borders."
This sort of thinking is somewhat refreshing given that the debate over settlements tends to be dominated by those who favor or oppose all of them. Both the Left and the Right, each for its own reasons, have been extremely reluctant to distinguish between "good" and "bad" settlements.
Yet Hasson characterizes the view of many Israelis correctly when he says, "There is majority support among the public and in the Knesset to preserve the settlement blocs. ... Even the Palestinians understand there are places that Israel will not evacuate under any circumstances. There should be no argument with respect to continued development of these areas, particularly along the lines of natural growth."\
Actually, this sort of centrist position recalls the original distinction employed by the Labor Party between "security" and "ideological" settlements. Under the plan named after Labor defense minister Yigal Allon, Labor governments worked toward the goal of defensible borders - as stipulated by UN Security Resolution 242 -- by establishing 21 settlements along the Jordan Valley and the eastern slopes of the north-south ridge bisecting the West Bank.
While the Labor Party has largely abandoned this position and become anti-settlement across the board (as indicated by this week's Knesset vote), the logic of its original distinction remains. In principle, a line can be drawn between settlements designed to secure Israel territorially without blocking the creation of a Palestinian state, and settlements that are designed precisely to block any sort of two-state plan.
Both of the absolutist positions on settlements have been discredited and abandoned by the Israeli majority. While most Israelis are extremely skeptical that the Palestinians will be ready for peace anytime soon, most agree that it is Israel's interest not to rule over the Palestinians in the territories. The two-state concept has shifted from anathema until the late 1980s to a mainstream view today.
At the same time, almost no Israeli can imagine going back to the 1967 lines and dismantling the settlement blocs. Further, following the aftermaths of the unilateral withdrawals from Lebanon and Gaza, there is little stomach for continuing with that model.
Illegal outposts, however, are another matter. Israel is committed to removing them, and there is widespread agreement that such commitments, along with the need to follow the rule of law, need to be addressed regardless of the peace process or the near-complete lack of confidence in Palestinian intentions or capabilities.
Given this, it makes sense that the absolutists on both side consider the logic implicitly endorsed by the Israeli consensus. This would mean "exchanging" the outposts for expansion of consensus settlements.
For this plan to work, of course, one of the absolutist parties, the United States, would have to at least implicitly change its position. While President George Bush made a nod in the direction of recognizing settlement blocs in his letter to Ariel Sharon in April 2004, officially the US remains opposed to all Israeli settlements.
It is time for the US, then, to discover the distinction made by the Labor Party in the 1970s and by the Israeli consensus today. There is a significant difference between settlements that hamper a two-state plan and settlements that actually encourage such an outcome, by imposing a territorial impetus for the Palestinians to end their war against Israel sooner rather than later.
More explicit recognition by the US of settlement blocs would also help the process by giving Israelis confidence that a two-state plan will truly take Israel's requirement of defensible borders into account. There will be no return to the pre-1967 lines, so stubbornly sticking with a "zero settlement" policy makes a two-state plan less realistic, not more so.

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Israeli left silent on Annapolis

Left gets left behind on road to Annapolis

Sheera Claire Frenkel , THE JERUSALEM POST  Nov. 22, 2007
Among the representatives expected to sound their voices at the Annapolis peace summit next week are officials from the European Union, United Nations, and dozens of Middle Eastern states. While the participation of several key players - including Saudi Arabia and Syria - remains in question, there is one voice that has remained notably silent.
The Israeli left-wing parties - Labor, Meretz, and the Arab parties - have been unable to organize as a significant lobbying voice, said Knesset members Thursday, who added that the silence has left Prime Minister Ehud Olmert free to orchestrate Annapolis as he sees fit.
"Instead of being a real step forward for the peace process, Annapolis has become a conference on the status quo," said MK Ophir Paz-Pines (Labor). "Annapolis has been watered down of any real issues."
Paz-Pines, who was a member of the Labor Party when then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak took part in the 2000 Camp David summit, said that the left wing "lost its wind" after the breakdown of the talks and the second intifada.
Annapolis, he added, doesn't seem to have enough muscle to revive it.
"I'm really not sure that there is a left in Israel today - or a peace camp for that matter," said Paz-Pines. "There has been a freeze for seven years, since Camp David. When there is no peace process there is no peace camp."
Paz-Pines said that while he hoped that Annapolis would renew the Israeli public's interest in the peace process, he remained doubtful that any type of formal agreement would be forged there.
The sentiment that Annapolis is being conducted 'for the sake of a photo shoot and a handshake' has grown stronger in recent weeks as Israelis and Palestinians have failed to reach even a preliminary agreement on the declaration meant to kick-off the summit.
According to a draft version of the document published Thursday, several significant rifts loom over the terms of the peace process - including the timeline for its implementation. Overall, the Israeli side is pushing for the summit to remain open-ended, while the Palestinians want assurances of specific issues to be discussed.
"The closer that we have gotten to Annapolis, the more clear it has become that this is not a serious peace effort. Clinton, Geneva, Oslo, have already established the same issues they are going to Annapolis to discuss. Nothing has been implemented," said MK Zehava Gal-On (Meretz). "The Left is divided over how to treat Annapolis. Some want to ignore it by not going, others are simply scowling from afar."
An upcoming party leadership race is complicating matters for Meretz, which as the most left-wing party in the Knesset has traditionally driven the peacenik agenda.
"Meretz Party members are already thinking about the leadership race and are gearing their comments around it," said one senior Meretz member. "They don't want to come out strongly in favor of Annapolis in case it becomes a disaster and harms their chances in the election."
The Arab parties, meanwhile, have been feeling increasingly snubbed by the government. While previous prime ministers have used Arab lawmakers as go-betweens during peace negotiations, the Olmert government has experienced a tumultuous relationship with the Arab MKs.
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni drew harsh criticism from Arab MKs with her comments last week that in a future two-state solution, Israeli Arabs might feel more at home in a Palestinian state than in their current homes.
"These comments were completely disrespectful and showed a complete lack of understanding for the Israeli Arab community," said MK Nadia Hilou (Labor). "At a time when the government is going to Annapolis for so-called peace talks, they make racist and hateful declarations towards the peaceful Arab groups living in their midst."
Hilou, who has frequently met with the Fatah leadership in the West Bank, said that she would have gladly assisted the government in the summit if she had been consulted.
"Instead of using their resources, they are ignoring us," she said. "We could be voices of support and assistance, and instead we are silent."

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JCPA endorses Annapolis, stirs debate

JCPA has redeemed the honor of the American Jewish community:
A week ahead of the Annapolis peace meeting, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs went somewhere other Jewish organizations have feared to tread: it hailed America's efforts and welcomed its prospects for peace.
"We commend the United States and President Bush for taking a proactive role on this matter," Steve Gutow, executive director for the JCPA, the public affairs arm for national Jewish organizations, said in the release. "The [JCPA] expresses its sincere hope that this gathering marks the beginning of a renewed process that leads to two states living side-by-side in security and peace."
It is not an earthshattering statement of yearning for peace, but it is right and proper. The rest of the organized American Jewish community has been mum. Even that somewhat lame statement drew fire from extremists.
Ami Isseroff
US Jewish groups mum ahead of summit

hilary leila krieger, jerusalem post correspondent , THE JERUSALEM POST  Nov. 23, 2007
A week ahead of the Annapolis peace meeting, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs went somewhere other Jewish organizations have feared to tread: it hailed America's efforts and welcomed its prospects for peace.
"We commend the United States and President Bush for taking a proactive role on this matter," Steve Gutow, executive director for the JCPA, the public affairs arm for national Jewish organizations, said in the release. "The [JCPA] expresses its sincere hope that this gathering marks the beginning of a renewed process that leads to two states living side-by-side in security and peace."
The statement highlighted an ideological divide among Jewish groups - as it was hailed on the Left, criticized on the Right - as well as the dearth of such statements from other mainstream Jewish organizations.
Before the JCPA statement was issued on Monday, officials from many organizations said it was difficult to take a stand with so little known about the conference and its scope. Yet as the date and invitees fell into place, few groups stepped forward with positions.
One official at a Jewish organization said the deeper issue was one of skepticism about where the process was headed.
"We are silent or muted because we don't want to contribute to the inevitable failure of Annapolis - that either nothing will come of it or Israel will be put at a strategical disadvantage," he said, not wanting his name to be used because of the sensitivity of the subject.
The unnamed official said, though, that whatever the reservations, "noboby in the organizational world wants to be [seen as] being critical or second-guessing the Israeli government... or the Bush administration." He added that not only is it awkward to attack an initiative pushed by both the US and Israel, but that "the conventional wisdom is that this thing is doomed to be a failure and we don't want it blamed on Israel or the American Jewish community for being intransigent or unwilling to go the last mile for peace."
But Ori Nir, spokesman for Americans for Peace Now, a left-wing organization which has emphatically backed the peace process, said such an attitude makes for a self-fulfilling prophesy.
"This can't be a reason for staying aloof," he said. "If you decide you want this to succeed, you weigh in and try to make a difference." He said of the silence that "morally, it's flawed" since the mainstream groups purport to support a two-state solution and that is what the Annapolis conference is aimed at creating.
Nir, who spent years covering Washington for Israeli and Jewish media outlets, called the silence around the Annapolis conference "bizarre" and "an anomaly."
"It's a very big deal and there's just silence. There's just nothing coming out of Jewish groups... it's not even featured on their Web sites," he said. "Usually there's a buzz, there's something."
Ofira Seliktar, a professor of political science at Gratz College who has tracked the American Jewish community's response to Israeli initiatives such as the Oslo peace process and the disengagement from Gaza, said this "total silence" stems in part from the shortcomings of these previous efforts.
"The middle-of-the-road people are not really sure what's good, what's bad. There's a tremendous amount of ambivalence, now even more than during Oslo," she said. And, she noted, "the American Jewish community is very deeply split," so the people who aren't in the middle of the road but are on either side are the loudest.
Seliktar added that how Annapolis will handle many details concerning final-status issues - Jerusalem, borders, refugees - is still unknown, adding to the uncertainty and the desire many have to delay taking a stand.
The JCPA felt it had waited long enough by Monday, with rumors flying fast and furious that the conference would take place the next week.
"When things crystallized for the meeting next week, we thought it was timely to issue such a statement," said Martin Raffel, associate executive vice chairman of the JCPA.
Not everyone thought it was so timely. The Orthodox Union, one of the 14 national organizations the JCPA represents, was among those on the Right not pleased by the statement.
"We did not see it in advance and we have expressed our displeasure with that process failure at the JCPA," said Nathan Diament, director of the Institute for Public Affairs of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations. The OU has been taking action to pressure the Israeli government not to relinquish Jerusalem, from corresponding with the Prime Minister's Office to encouraging synagogues to focus their Torah study on the holy city.
"You'd have to be under a rock not to know that the OU would be upset with that statement," said one senior official at a different JCPA member organization, who added that the statement was much more controversial than those usually issued without consultation by the JCPA.
But Raffel said that the JCPA doesn't consult with the 14 national members and 100-plus local federation chapters that it represents before making statements, especially since the issue had come up without argument at a recent task force meeting.
"There is nothing unusual with the statement that we issued. We support and have always supported active US involvement with these issues," he added. "We support Israel's efforts to achieve peace and security for the people of Israel." In terms of the qualms many organizational members have, he said, "We know that it's difficult and we know it's complex and we know the chances for success might not be high - but it's better to try than to do nothing.


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Who you callin' a ....?

Isi Leibler lashed out at American Jewish critics of Israel. Seymour Reich and Marvin Lender reply. Everybody is right and everybody is wrong. It is certainly right to criticize policies of the Israeli government that people think are wrong. It is certainly wrong to do it in the way that many of the "Zionist" organizations have been doing. It is one thing to criticize things that Israel actually does. It is quite another to market a film of Azmi Bishara, the Israeli Arab traitor, as "Zionist Hasbara," as UPZ did. It is also off limits to call Israel an "Apartheid State" and urge that it should be treated like Apartheid South Africa as Ameinu did. It is also inexcusable for Israel Policy Forum to time and again use false statistics about terror to advance the absurd thesis that Israeli "intransigence" was responsible for the failure of the peace negotiations in 2000. Disseminating untruths, popularizing the views of spies and traitors and urging international ostracism of Israel on specious grounds cannot possibly be constructive. They are not part of legitimate Zionist debate.
Ami Isseroff  
Who are you calling 'Jews against Zion'?
seymour d. reich and marvin lender ,
As American Jews who have served in many national leadership positions in the community, including the chairmanships of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and of the United Jewish Appeal, respectively, we share Isi Leibler's concern over the indifference to and even alienation from Israel on the part of many American Jews under 35, as expressed in his November 12th Post column, "Sending our youth the wrong signals."
This is a very serious problem that Jews in Israel and the Diaspora must confront together (and are in many instances), and not blame each other for the current situation.
However, we completely disagree with Mr. Leibler's approach. It is not only misguided and misinformed; it actually exacerbates the problem. In fact, what many under-35 Diaspora Jews say push them away from Israel is the type of criticism Leibler levels at "Diaspora Jewish leaders" who provide "communal platforms" for controversial Israeli or Jewish speakers who take issue with (or "delegitimize," in Leibler's parlance) the way the "Jewish state behaves."
Hearing contentious or disturbing ideas, or opposing views, does not lead to the indifference or alienation we are all concerned about. On the contrary. The under-35 Jews in the Diaspora welcome the same open, vigorous debate over the way Israel behaves that is displayed daily in Israel's newspapers and body politic. They are turned off by attempts to squelch such debate - especially when characterized as "anti-Israel" or "anti-Zionist" - and may become disaffected with Israel and the Jewish community as a result. That sends them the wrong signal.
Mr. Leibler's gratuitous attack on Israel Policy Forum, which we currently serve as president and chair respectively, is particularly offensive and deplorable. If we were "Jews against Zion" (Leibler's repugnant description), would Rabin, Sharon, Peres, Netanyahu, Barak, Olmert, Livni, Ramon (to name just a few Israeli leaders, current and past) speak at IPF events or meet with IPF leaders? We think not.
SINCE ITS inception in 1993, IPF has been working with US administrations and Israeli governments, with members of Congress and the Knesset, on both sides of the aisle, and with many other interested parties, to support and encourage efforts to achieve a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, to attain long-term security for Israel and to end the shedding of Israeli and Palestinian blood. IPF is now energetically backing the current attempt by Secretary of State Rice to convene an Annapolis conference and follow-up meetings aimed at forging an Israeli-Palestinian agreement.
Along with Prime Minister Olmert and Secretary Rice, and many others, we at IPF understand that, in Palestinian President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad, Israel has negotiating partners who have demonstrated their commitment to reaching an accord with Israel.
Supporting these critical activities is "pro-Israel." Supporting peace and security for Israel through negotiated agreements is "pro-Israel." Supporting this process is not only vital to Israel's well-being, but is also in America's interest. Opposing these efforts and believing that the status quo can remain forever is unrealistic in today's complicated world, especially in the Middle East, and dangerous to Israel.
Why would increasing the risk to Israel and placing more Israeli lives at risk be considered a "safer" policy and more "pro-Israel" than working to promote Israel's peace and security through negotiations, if that is at all possible?
This, not incidentally, is the point of view of the majority of Israelis and American Jews, particularly those under 35 and even more predominantly among those on college campuses. Advocating this position and facilitating honest and open debate on Israel-related issues - activities which IPF embraces and Leibler spurns - is the best way to build a connection between Diaspora youth and Israel.
Reich is president of the Israel Policy Forum and past chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. Lender is chair of the Israel Policy Forum and past national chairman and president of United Jewish Appeal.

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Why are American Jewish groups almost mum about Annapolis?

It should be noted that this is not exactly so. The JCPA has made a statement, and both Abe Foxman of ADL and Howard Kohr of AIPAC have written op-eds in favor of Annapolis. But large group has give its official blessing, and the JCPA statement stirred opposition from the Orthodox Union.

Jewish organizations should rally behind Annapolis push for peace

Ori Nir

The call for American Jewish organizations to support the current peace efforts came from an unexpected direction: Israel's Chief Rabbi Yonah Metzger. For years closely associated with the right-wing National Religious Party, Metzger recently asked representatives of American Jewish groups in Washington to "influence the American administration" to do their utmost for the success of the Annapolis peace conference.

He even had a specific idea: American Jewish organizations should use their political influence to arrange for Israeli and Palestinian religious leaders to be present in Annapolis, at the time of the conference, to give the conferees spiritual support.

Israel's chief rabbi was accompanied by the head of the Palestinian Muslim courts as well as by other Jewish, Muslim, and Christian leaders. They all made pleas similar to Rabbi Metzger's, which were very moving. So moving, in fact, that their interlocutors -- representatives of American Jewish organizations -- were too embarrassed to tell the distinguished clerics that America's large national Jewish groups are not even expressing public support for Annapolis. Let alone actively working to make it succeed.

Most American Jewish groups are either silent — or worse, are seeking excuses to avoid supporting this peace effort.

Americans for Peace Now and several other dovish groups publicly endorsed the Annapolis process. But except for them, hardly any Jewish organization has lauded the Bush administration's renewed interest in Israeli-Palestinian peace. Hardly any group has commended Prime Minister Ehud Olmert for his bold statements of commitment to seeking a final settlement with the Palestinians.

When asked by reporters to explain the silence, leaders of the largest national Jewish organizations -- people who are normally happy to voice an opinion on almost anything -- say that it's too early, that the current process is too short on specifics.

Well, it's not. The Annapolis conference is around the corner and its goals, as laid out by Prime Minister Olmert and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, are quite simple:

The idea is to turn the two-state solution from a vision into a reality by relaunching bilateral Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. Unlike past efforts, however, this one will hopefully be supported by Arab countries and other international stakeholders.

It also offers a "political horizon" for Israelis and Palestinians: a joint commitment, in advance, to address all outstanding "core issues" of the conflict, including borders, the future of Jerusalem, and the future of Palestinian refugees. You can either support this initiative or oppose it. But how can American friends of Israel stay indifferent to it?

Some say that the Annapolis process is not likely to succeed. They may be right. A reasonable dose of skepticism is certainly healthy. But skepticism ought not be an excuse to deny support for this effort. Most mainstream Jewish organizations, as a part of their mission statements, claim to support the policies of the democratically elected government of Israel. By failing to support Israel's current peace policy, these Jewish groups are not only being untrue to their principles. They are also taking part in turning justified skepticism into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

It is not surprising to see the ultranationalist, dogmatic groups rise in opposition to the peace efforts. The American Jewish extreme right always has resisted and always will resist Israel's efforts to rid itself of its occupation of the west bank.

But where are the centrist, non-messianic, mainstream Jewish groups that say they support Israel's quest for peace?

Earlier this month, in a speech that warmly endorsed the Annapolis process, Prime Minister Olmert called on regional and international leaders to "be open to hope and face the genuine and clear risks and difficulties so that the process may move ahead."

Jewish community leaders are well advised to heed the pleas of Israel's political and spiritual leaders.

Ori Nir is the spokesman for Americans for Peace Now.


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Hamas in the peace process

We can't say the Hamas isn't participating in the peace process, right?

Militants increase attempts to stab Hebron Border Police in run-up to summit
By Haaretz Staff and Channel 10 10 daily feature for November 22, 2007.
Hebron Border Police have reported a sharp rise in incidents of attempted, and successful, stabbing attacks by Palestinians on its forces in the last two weeks.
The security establishment believes the increased number of terror bids in Hebron, a city holy to both Jews and Muslims, comes from a desire to foil next week's Middle East peace summit at Annapolis
Video here

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The latest Israeli olim - and patriots

We need to extend the hand of friendship urgently. Quote:
In the village, meanwhile, volunteers, some of them residents, aided by students from elsewhere, came forward to help the refugees lead something of a more normal life. They were invited into homes to take showers. They were invited to use telephones, getting in touch with worried relatives in Sudan and elsewhere for the first time in weeks.
One day, the residents noticed a large Israeli flag flying from the roof of the nursery school where the refugees were living. No one knew who in the village had put it there. A debate developed over the flag. Some residents objected, saying that we should not give the refugees the impression that the government was helping them. One of the students, an anarchist, took umbrage on ideological grounds.
Later, we learned that it was the refugees who put up the flag.
Ami Isseroff
A kinship of genocide 
By Bradley Burston
They came with no notice. We knew nothing about them. Only that they were refugees from the worst place on earth. And that if we did not offer them a place to hide, police would come and take them to a holding area in the desert, close to the point from which they could be deported, back to the Sinai which they'd taken great pains to cross, then perhaps back to the Sudan which they'd fled for their lives.
We were a good place to hide: an Israeli village even Israelis have never heard of, close enough to Jerusalem to transport them with relative ease and safety, shielded from public view by mountains and a single access road poorly marked, with a nursery school building lying vacant for the summer.
There was something else, as well. The village is home to many whose parents were Holocaust survivors, people who know something about helping others hide from genocide.
There were 20 Sundanese, mostly young couples, some of them with infants and small children. They came with little more than clothes. Arabic speakers, they knew no Hebrew and no English, and had grown to be suspicious of anyone who spoke Arabic.
The government could not decide what to do with the Sudanese who looked to Israel to shelter them. This government, which has made inertia its watchword, lost no time in adding refugee Sudanese to the mountain of issues on which it has decided not to decide.
For the Sudanese, indecision was not an option. Murderous gangs had rendered lethal their home in Sudan. Egypt, which had agreed to take in refugees, gunned down dozens of them, many of them children, when they held a demonstration at a UN office in Cairo two years ago. The long crossing of the Sinai was the way out. But when the refugees reached the border of Israel, the army did not know what to do with them. The refugees were taken to city centers, where city governments did not know what to do with them.
The government, unable to choose between embracing them as kin in the extended family of genocide survivors, or, as strangers in a suspicious land, spitting them back into the desert, opted for a non-policy that combined insensitivity and waste. Police round-ups combed city parks for the Sudanese camping there. They were taken to a "residential facility" located near Ketziot prison neat Sinai. In an alternative to finding them housing in Israel, the government would spend NIS 10 million on the facility.
In the village, meanwhile, volunteers, some of them residents, aided by students from elsewhere, came forward to help the refugees lead something of a more normal life. They were invited into homes to take showers. They were invited to use telephones, getting in touch with worried relatives in Sudan and elsewhere for the first time in weeks.
One day, the residents noticed a large Israeli flag flying from the roof of the nursery school where the refugees were living. No one knew who in the village had put it there. A debate developed over the flag. Some residents objected, saying that we should not give the refugees the impression that the government was helping them. One of the students, an anarchist, took umbrage on ideological grounds.
Later, we learned that it was the refugees who put up the flag.
In the end, we learned much more from the refugees that lived with us for a short span of weeks this past summer. We learned that if they are allowed to remain in Israel, they will enrich this nation with their dignity and their diligence. Their children will enliven this country with their good humor and intelligence and open curiosity.
For the present, the United Nations has granted the families protection from arrest and detention. But only a small fraction of the hundreds of Sudanese refugees in Israel have received UN documents. The others must watch their backs, for police raids that could result in deportation.
There was a time when the leaders of this country deserved the name. But our expectations have sunk so low as to reinforce their inaction.
It now seems all but inconceivable that Menachem Begin's first official acts as prime minister was to take in 66 Vietnamese refugees who had found shelter on an Israeli ship after their makeshift had begun to sink. Over the next two years, hundreds more were granted permanent residency and resettled in Israel.
There was a time when Begin was Olmert's role model. Perhaps that time should be now.

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Israeli psychiatrist tries to spy for Hamas

Tel Aviv District Court on Friday indicted a Major in the Israel Defense Forces reserves over espionage charges for offering information to Iran, Russia and Hamas.
David Shamir, a psychiatric doctor, confessed to the charges which also stated he asked for money in return for his services.
According to the indictment, Shamir, 45, was exposed to classified information during his service as an IDF reservist, including the Medical Corps' emergency plans, the manner of IDF medical teams' deployment, the situation of their command centers and programs for evacuating civilians during missile attacks.

Shamir allegedly made contact with the Iranian Foreign Ministry in April 2007, offering his services as an Israeli officer and civilian.
In August 2007, Shamir reportedly sent faxes from his home in Israel to Iranian Consulates in London and Turkey, again offering his assistance to Iran. Shamir received no response and again offered his services in October 2007.
The indictment states that Shamir contacted the Hamas-run Al-Azhar University in Gaza this past November and expressed his desire "to take part in the struggle."
Shamir also allegedly contacted the Russian intelligence service FSB, and inquired about the recruitment process for spies, expressing his desire to serve the organization.
Shamir has been charged with contacting a foreign agent and obstruction of justice. 
He should see a psychiatrist. 
Ami Isseroff  

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Israel gov't tells court of limited Gaza power supply cut

The Ha'aretz headline says:
Last update - 01:24 23/11/2007    
Maybe, and maybe not. The actual news is that this proposed plan is in an affidavit to the Israeli Supreme Court presented by Attorney General ("State Attorney" is the literal translation) Menachem Mazuz:
Israel to begin gradually reducing the power supply to the Gaza Strip on December 2, in response to the ongoing Qassam rocket fire at Israeli communities along the Strip, Attorney General Menachem Mazuz told the High Court of Justice on Thursday.
According to the State Prosecution, the defense establishment has finalized preparations meant to ensure that the power reduction does not cause humanitarian harm Gaza.
Haaretz does not explain that the plan is subject to approval by the court.
Ami Isseroff

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Israeli positions on Palestinian and Arab peace negotiations

The Israel Foreign Ministry has prepared a most useful summary of Israeli positions on the peace process and answers to other Frequently Asked Questions, such as "What is Zionism?" The following are the positions regarding peace with the Palestinians and Arabs. Other positions, such as those of the ZOA and of self-appointed "Israel advocates" do not represent the positions of the Israeli government or the Zionist movement.
Ami Isseroff

How can peace be achieved?

Israel has always been willing to compromise and all Israeli governments have been willing to make major sacrifices for the sake of peace. However, peacemaking requires concessions as well as confidence-building measures on both sides. Just as Israel is willing to address the rights and interests of the Palestinians, Israel has legitimate rights and interests that need to be addressed. Peace can only be achieved through negotiations to bridge gaps and resolve all outstanding issues.

Israel believes that it can make peace with a moderate Palestinian leadership that rejects terrorism. When in the past, Israel met Arab leaders, like President Sadat of Egypt and King Hussein of Jordan, who spoke the language of peace and were willing to take concrete steps for coexistence, Israel reached agreements with them and peace was achieved. Israel is willing to stand in peace with all the moderate states of the region.

For negotiations to be possible and for them to have a chance to succeed, Palestinian terrorism and incitement, supported by countries such as Iran and Syria, must be brought to an end. Extremist Palestinian elements, such as Hamas, are unwilling to recognize Israel's very right to exist, and continue to violently act against Israel, against the moderate Palestinian leadership and against the peace process. As such, they have no place at the negotiating table.

Dismantling the terrorist infrastructure is not only the first step in the Roadmap, it is also at the foundation of any peace process. Peacemaking requires the creation of a positive atmosphere, one that is free of terrorism and incitement, and one that promotes efforts to achieve mutual understanding. Israel has on many occasions taken steps to help improve Palestinian living conditions and the rehabilitation of the Palestinian economy. Israel has made - and is willing to make in the future - goodwill gestures towards the moderate Palestinian camp - such as easing movement by removing road barriers, transferring tax revenues and releasing prisoners. Israel is ready to take many such steps provided that Israeli security is not harmed and that the Palestinians do not respond with terrorism.
Attempts by the Palestinians and the Arab countries to compel Israel to accept unreasonable Palestinian demands will not bring the parties any closer to peace. It is very important that the Arab states do not support hard-line Palestinian positions, making it ever more difficult for the Palestinians themselves to make the necessary compromises.
Positive steps taken by the Arab countries would help generate a constructive atmosphere, as would re-energizing the multilateral contacts which seek to promote regional cooperation. Forward movement and cooperation on issues that affect the lives of all who live in the region would contribute psychologically to tackling the difficult political issues that need to be addressed and resolved.

UN Security Council resolutions 242 and 338, which all parties in the region have accepted, provide an important outline for conducting negotiations on a permanent settlement. Israel has also supported implementation of the measures of the Roadmap. But the Roadmap will work only if the Palestinians fulfill their obligations, something they have not truly begun to do, especially when it comes to dismantling the terrorist infrastructure and ending incitement, as required in the first phase of the Roadmap.
Finally, peace must mean the resolution of all claims and the end of the conflict. Once a peace agreement is reached, a new leaf must be turned and the relationship between Israel and the Palestinians, as well as Israel's relationship with all its neighbors must be put on a new footing, one characterized by dialogue and cooperation, rather than by antagonism and confrontation. 
t What is Israel's position on a Palestinian state?
Time after time, Israel has stated its desire to see two states - the State of Israel and a Palestinian state - living side by side in peace and security (as expressed in US President Bush's vision of 24 June 2002). Israel believes that a true resolution of the conflict will see two national states, a Palestinian state for the Palestinian people and a Jewish state for the Jewish people. Israel has no desire to rule over the Palestinians, and believes that a truly democratic Palestinian state fully at peace with Israel will promote the long-term security and well-being of Israel as a Jewish state.
Israel has no qualms regarding the establishment of a Palestinian state, per se. The only issue is what kind of Palestinian state should be established. Will it be a democratic state of law and order, which eschews terrorism, violence and incitement and therefore be a state with which Israel can live in peace? Or will it be an anarchic state that is continuing on the path of violence and terrorism, which will not only endanger Israel but the stability of the region as a whole? 
Israel cannot abide the establishment of a terrorist state along its borders. Efforts towards establishing a Palestinian state must take Israel's rights and vital interests into account, especially on matters of security, so that there can be peace and stability in the region.

Israel's goal of being a democratic Jewish state, living in harmony with its neighbors, led it to embrace the vision of two states for two peoples as resolved by the United Nations' partition plan in 1947. Israel realized that the peoples of the Middle East are neighbors whose futures are inevitably linked. No peace will last that fails to take this into account.

It has taken nearly 60 years, and far too many wars, for this vision to be recognized by Israel's immediate neighbors, the Palestinians. Events following the Hamas takeover of Gaza suggest that the time has never been more appropriate to finally realize this vision.

The establishment of Israel answered the historic national aspirations of the Jewish people - whether those living in the Holy Land, fleeing the horrors of the Holocaust or expelled from Arab lands. The future Palestinian state must fill a similar purpose for Palestinians. It must be the embodiment of the national claims of all the Palestinian people - of those in the West Bank and Gaza, of those refugee camps in neighboring Arab states and of those living throughout the rest of the world.

Israel has a vested interest, shared by moderates throughout the region, in the creation of a stable, prosperous, and peaceful Palestinian state. As demonstrated by its disengagement from Gaza in 2005, Israel is ready to take painful steps to advance this goal. However, it must know that its partners are ready also for historic compromise that will bring lasting peace. 
t How does Israel view the Roadmap?
The Roadmap is a performance-based plan that was formulated by the members of the Quartet - the United States, the European Union, Russia and the UN. On May 25, 2003 the Government of Israel accepted the steps set out in the Roadmap in the hopes that this initiative could help achieve a negotiated peace with the Palestinians. However, the Palestinians did not live up to their obligations under the first phase of the Roadmap, primarily the "unconditional cessation of violence."
Israel attaches importance to President Bush's June 24, 2002 vision for achieving peace, as expressed also in the Roadmap. In that speech, President Bush emphasized that achieving the vision of two states living side-by-side in peace requires, as a critical first stage, Palestinian reform and an end to Palestinian terrorism.
Israel's acceptance of the steps of the Roadmap is yet another expression of Israel's willingness to extend its hand toward peace. Indeed the Government's decision reflects a readiness to make profound compromises in order to end the conflict, provided these compromises did not endanger Israel's security in any manner. Furthermore, subject to security conditions, Israel wants to contribute to the improvement of Palestinian life and the rehabilitation of the Palestinian economy.
However, the Roadmap itself and Israel's willingness to move forward require that the Palestinians also live up to their obligations at each and every phase. Of critical significance is the requirement in the first phase of the Roadmap that the Palestinians undertake an "unconditional cessation of violence" by dismantling the terrorist infrastructure, confiscating weapons, and arresting and disrupting those involved in conducting and planning violent attacks on Israelis anywhere. The Palestinians also have to end incitement.
By its own acceptance of the Roadmap, the Palestinian Authority undertook an obligation to end terrorism and incitement in the manner required by the Roadmap.
However, Israel chose not to wait for the conclusion of the first phase of the Roadmap to begin a dialogue with the moderate Palestinian leadership. Still, the execution of any agreement reached between Israel and the Palestinians depends on implementation of the Roadmap.
t What are the three circles of the peace process?
In the political process, it is possible to recognize three distinct circles of actors, each one of which is designed to support the other. The first innermost circle contains the direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians; the second consists of the Arab world; while the third, the most external one, is that of the international community.
In the innermost circle of the Israeli and the Palestinians, which is the core of the conflict, the main obstacle to peace is the extremist elements that refuse to abandon the path of violence and commit to a peaceful resolution. On the other side stand the moderates, with whom it may be possible to reach an agreement if they are willing to compromise, but who also face a questionable ability to implement any agreement.

Israel's strategy is one of differentiation, i.e. dealing differently with Hamas-controlled Gaza than with the more moderate Palestinian Authority headed by PA President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. The new PA government has seemingly accepted the three conditions of the international community - the renunciation of violence, respect for previous agreements and acceptance of Israel's rights to exist - making it a potential partner for peace. Therefore, Israel is searching for tools for bolstering the moderate elements, which include financial assistance, security matters, the easing of living conditions and the creation of a "political horizon," a vision of what the Palestinians can achieve if they renounce violence and terrorism.
In the middle circle stands the Arab world, which now must take sides on this issue. However, it is no longer a matter of choosing between Israel and the Palestinians, rather the choice is between the side of the moderate Palestinian Authority and the side of extremist terrorist elements. The Arab world should support the pragmatic elements in the new Palestinian government and reject the extremist Hamas organization. If it does so, then the Arab world can play a significant role in the peace process.

In the past, there was a lack of involvement of constructive regional actors to assist in Israel-Palestinian peace-making. The Arab League proposal represents an opportunity for positive regional engagement.
The third circle - that of the international community - has already begun to play a positive role when the Quartet (the US, UN, Russia and the EU) adopted its three conditions for recognition: renunciation of violence, respect for previous agreements and acceptance of Israel's right to exist (Israel believes this should include Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state). It further showed its commitment by supporting the Annapolis meeting. The international community should choose to stay on the right side of the conflict between extremists and moderates, by maintaining the illegitimacy of Hamas, promoting relations with the new government formed by Mahmoud Abbas and also by giving the Palestinians an economic horizon, in addition to the political horizon that Israel can provide.
t How has the Hamas takeover of Gaza affected the chances for a Palestinian State?
Israel left Gaza in the summer of 2005 in order to create an opportunity for peace. It removed its armed forces, dismantled civilian settlements, yet left greenhouses for the Palestinian farmers in the hope this could be the beginning of a peaceful Palestinian state. But, instead of a flourishing peace, Israel received a hostile territory on its border: Israeli towns adjacent to Gaza are the targets of almost daily Kassam rocket attacks, terror attacks are frequently attempted and the terrorist infrastructure is growing at an alarming pace.
Despite this ongoing Hamas terrorism, Israel will maintain an ongoing dialogue with Palestinian moderates, in order to send the message to the Palestinians that if the moderates are the representatives of their national aspirations, they can achieve a state of their own.
Israel's guiding principle is that of differentiating between the moderates and the extremists, between those who are willing and ready to advance the peace process and those whose ideology is based on extremism and religious fanaticism and who treat even their own people with the utmost brutality. Israel hopes that the former will prevail, yet ultimately, the choice must be made by the Palestinians themselves.
While Hamas terrorists continue to target Israelis, they have also brought tragedy to Palestinians. As events in Gaza have shown, while the terrorists may claim to be advancing Palestinian rights, they have succeeded only in undermining them.
It is self-evident that the future Palestinian state cannot be a terrorist state. For this reason, the international community has insisted that the path to Palestinian statehood goes through acceptance of the Quartet principles, including the renunciation of terrorism, the implementation of the Roadmap obligations and recognition of Israel's right to exist. These are the foundational principles for lasting peace.
The role of the Arab world in this context is critical. In the past, the involvement of constructive regional actors in assisting the process of Israeli-Palestinian peace-making was lacking. The recent landmark Arab League peace initiative presents just such an opportunity for positive regional engagement.
Nevertheless, there should be no illusions. The enemies of coexistence, led by Iran and its sponsorship of Hizbullah and Hamas, are trying to do all in their power to sabotage any prospect for peace. The Teheran regime, in its declared intention to "wipe Israel off the map," has perverted Islam into a totalitarian political manifesto merely masquerading as a religion. It is determined to perpetuate a resolvable conflict into a future of despair. Syria, as well, is undermining Israeli-Palestinian reconciliation, through its support of terrorist groups such as Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, whose operational headquarters are located in Damascus.
There is no insurmountable conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. Rather, there is a common denominator in the desire for peace, supported by all moderate states in the region that understand that the real threat to peace comes from the extremist states that support terrorism.
There are moderates in the Palestinian Authority who could be Israel's partners for peace, who believe a future Palestinian state should be based on democracy and understanding - as opposed to the extremists, whose basic totalitarian idea is to deprive others of their rights.
While Israel will continue to defend its population against Hamas terrorism, it is ultimately the role of the moderates among the Palestinians to confront Hamas.

t Could a Hamas-Fatah unity government be a partner for peace?
When the Hamas government first came into power, Hamas' statements advocating violence, opposing a two-state solution, and denying Israel's right to exist, as well as its direct involvement in terrorism, served to prompt the international Quartet (comprised of the US, Europe, Russia and the UN) to set three conditions for any Palestinian government to attain international legitimacy and cooperation. These basic conditions are: recognizing Israel's right to exist, renouncing terrorism and violence, and accepting previous agreements and obligations, including the Roadmap.
The international community has demanded that any Palestinian government must be committed to these three conditions and that "it should contain no member" who has not committed to them. Therefore, a unity government, which would include the extremists of Hamas, could not be a partner to peace.
The conditions set out by the Quartet, which Hamas continues to reject, are not obstacles to peace, but rather the basic tests by which the international community can determine whether a Palestinian government is capable of being a side to peace negotiations.
Were any government which refuses to meet these basic principles for peace to receive international legitimacy and support, this would be a grave setback for prospects of peace, and a betrayal of the genuine moderates, on both sides of the conflict, who truly believe in a two-state solution to the conflict and seek to make it a reality.
The goal of any peace process, i.e. 'two states living side by side in peace and security' can never come about if one side continues to advocate the use of terror. For this reason, the Quartet has repeatedly insisted that any Palestinian government renounce terrorism and violence. 
t What should be the role of the Arab world?
Israel desires peace with all Arab countries. It does, however, differentiate between the moderate Arab states, which have the potential for peaceful relations with Israel and the extremist states, which have no interest in peace.

The moderate Arab states have the potential to make an important and positive contribution to the peace process as well as change the face of the region for the better.

Still, the policy of confrontation with Israel has to be replaced by a policy of dialogue. As progress is being made in the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, the need for this change is ever more apparent.

While there are no illusions that the Arab states will agree with Israel on the specific issues in dispute, they should agree that resolving those issues will involve compromises from both sides. Israel cannot be expected to accept ultimatums or "take-it-or-leave-it" propositions. Israel will not abide by ultimatums which state that peace can be achieved only if Israel were to accede to all Arab demands and conditions; Israel's rights and interests cannot be totally ignored, nor can the need for compromise to resolve outstanding issues be neglected.

On the other hand, the extremist states of the Middle East must stop supporting terrorist activities. They must cease incitement and antisemitic propaganda against Israel which do nothing but generate further hatred and provide a fertile ground for terrorism.
Palestinian and other terrorist organizations in the Middle East receive support, including funds and arms, from the extremist Arab countries. Some Arab states, among them Syria and Iran, back the most violent and dangerous terrorist organizations, such as Hizbullah. Syria hosts the headquarters and training bases of several Palestinian terror organizations, including Hamas and Islamic Jihad. This support must stop so that terrorism can be brought to an end. Only then will peace efforts have the chance to succeed.
In recent years, the most extreme forms of anti-Israel incitement have been allowed to flourish in Arab countries, recalling earlier periods of the Arab-Israel conflict. There has been a proliferation of antisemitic propaganda in mosques and in schools, in the state media and in academia. This racist material, similar to that used in ages past against the Jewish people - such as blood-libels and the so-called "Elders of Zion" - generates further hatred and provides a fertile ground for terrorism.
International forums, like the United Nations, should not be misused, as they are year-after-year by the Arab countries who press for adoption of the same one-sided anti-Israel resolutions, instead of looking for a fresh and constructive manner to resolve differences.
President Anwar Sadat of Egypt and King Hussein of Jordan showed real leadership in making peace with Israel. The moderate countries of the Middle East, can contribute by leading the way to peace through cooperative relations with Israel.

t Does Israel have partners for making peace in the Arab world?
The Middle East is the scene of a struggle between extremists and more moderate elements. The continuous rise of extremist factions is having both a negative and a positive impact on the peace process.
On the one hand, the extremists (who often represent religion-based viewpoints), are a major source of destabilization in the Middle East as a whole, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in particular. Iran, which supports terrorist organizations, is not only a threat to Israel, but to world peace. Groups such as Hamas, Hizbullah and Islamic Jihad continue on the path of violence and reject all efforts towards resolving the conflict.
On the other hand, this rising extremist menace has caused more moderate Middle Eastern states to recognize the common threat the extremists, and especially Iran, pose. This has led to the creation of partnerships that would have been inconceivable only a few years ago and to the rejuvenation of the political process between Israel and much of the rest of the Middle East.
Israel is ready and able to work towards peace with the other moderate elements in the Middle East, in the hope that together we can keep the extremists in check and the political process on track.

t How does incitement harm peace?
There is a direct connection between anti-Israeli or antisemitic incitement and terrorism. The extreme anti-Israeli indoctrination that is so pervasive in Palestinian society nurtures a culture of hatred that, in turn, leads to terrorism.
The Palestinian education system, media, literature, songs, theater and cinema have been mobilized for extreme anti-Israeli indoctrination, which at times degenerates into blatant antisemitism. This incitement to hatred and violence is pervasive in Palestinian society, particularly in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. It exists in nursery schools and kindergartens, youth movements, schools, universities, mosque sermons, and street demonstrations. Incitement creates a culture of hatred and violence, which in turn provides fertile ground for terrorism and murder.
Incitement against Israel has many faces. It begins by totally ignoring the very existence of the State of Israel. Maps in schools and universities do not bear even the name of Israel, nor a large number of its cities and towns. Beyond that, inciters extol the names and deeds of the suicide bombers, name football teams after them, and hold the terrorists up as models to be emulated. Incitement includes antisemitic cartoons that use the same kind of motifs and imagery that were used against the Jews during the Nazi era.
This phenomenon bodes ill for the next generation, educated to worship symbols of death and destruction. Children, such as those in Hamas-controlled Gaza, who have been taught from the earliest age to hate, kill and destroy are a tragedy for their own people and a potential danger for others.
The question that must be asked is what kind of future does the industry of incitement offer the next generation, which is growing up learning to hate. Will that young generation be capable of thinking in terms of peace, of good neighborliness, of tolerance and compromise? Can Palestinian society create the new state of mind that is needed for peace, which is much more than just signing a peace treaty?
The many attempts to bring an end to the Arab-Israeli conflict are known, not coincidentally, as the peace process. The transition from a state of war to a state of peace is not the result of just a one-time diplomatic act of signing an agreement. Rather it is a process that continues over time, a process that demands mutual efforts to change positions, values, and the perception of the former enemy. It requires a transition to a new paradigm, the creation of a new state of mind.
One cannot ignore the intensity of the emotions that exist on both sides of the conflict in the Middle East. Feelings of deep anger and frustration exist on Israel's side as well. But there is a huge difference between feeling anger and frustration, on the one hand, and promoting a culture of hatred, on the other.
Unlike a large part of Palestinian society, Israeli society sees peace as the noblest of goals, its highest of aspirations on both the individual and national level. The desire for peace, for calm and for the normalization of day-to-day life is at the very center of Israel's being and culture. The many thousands of songs, books, artistic works, and articles that have been written about peace in Israel, since the very establishment of the state, are too numerous to mention. Peace is an important core value, the greatest dream of every mother and father, the embodiment of the Zionist idea which envisages Israel living in peace and cooperation with all its neighbors.
There is no legitimate reason why Israeli children learn about peace and coexistence in their schools, while at the same time Palestinian children are learning to honor the suicide bombers and jihad. Those who desire peace should educate for peace, and not promote hatred and murder.
The Palestinians' vehement anti-Israel rhetoric has had a crippling impact throughout the region on efforts for peace. The intense coverage of the Palestinian perspective of events and incitement from Palestinian spokespersons have enflamed anti-Israeli sentiments in Arab countries, even influencing many pro-peace Arab states to downgrade their ties with Israel. Palestinian incitement causes violence in the short term, while in the long term it reduces the chances for peace and reconciliation between Israel and its neighbors.

t Why is Israel a Jewish state?

The State of Israel is a Jewish state, first and foremost, in view of the right of the Jewish people to a single independent state of their own, and by reason of the historic and biblical connection between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel (Eretz Israel). There is no other land in which the Jewish people can lay claim to their own independent sovereign state. There is no other state in which the Jewish people can fully carry out their lives in accordance to their own customs and beliefs, language and culture, goals and plans for their future.

Although for 2000 years, the Jewish people yearned and prayed for the day when they could reestablish their own national home, this right could be fulfilled only following the modern national reawakening of the Jewish people towards the end of the nineteenth century. This revival of Jewish nationalism led to the establishment of the Zionist movement. It received important initial recognition in the Balfour Declaration of 1917 which stated that the British Government viewed "with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people." That recognition was officially endorsed by the League of Nations, the precursor of the United Nations, in 1922.

On 29 November 1947, the UN General Assembly passed Resolution 181 calling for the termination of the British Mandate in Palestine, and the creation of a Jewish state and an Arab state in that territory. The idea -  still valid today - is that there should be two nation states for two peoples. While the Jewish population celebrated this landmark resolution, the Arab countries rejected the UN decision and started a war to destroy the Jewish state-to-be. On 14 May 1948, David Ben Gurion declared the "establishment of a Jewish State in Eretz Israel, to be known as the State of Israel." In this way, the Jewish people finally could exercise their right to self-determination in their own land.
Israel was founded to provide a much-needed homeland for the Jewish people, who had been persecuted in other lands over the ages. The Declaration of Independence states explicitly that "The State of Israel will be open for Jewish immigration and for the Ingathering of the Exiles."

In accordance with its Declaration of Independence, the State of Israel was founded as a democratic state based upon the principles of the separation of powers, freedom, and complete equality before the law for all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race, gender or nationality. These principles apply today.

As Israel is self-defined as both a Jewish and a democratic state, it guarantees the rights of its non-Jewish citizens. There is a large Arab minority in the State of Israel, constituting nearly 20 percent of its population. The Arab population of Israel enjoys full civil and political rights, including freedom of expression, religion and worship. They vote in Israel's elections and Arab representatives are elected to Israel's parliament. Israeli Arabs serve as judges, mayors, and civil servants. Currently an Arab-Israeli citizens serves as a government minister, a second is Deputy Foreign Minister. In addition to Hebrew, Arabic is an official language of the state. Although problems still exist with regards to the full integration of the Arab minority, particularly in the economic sphere, these problems are equivalent to those faced in many Western democracies with large minority populations.

t Do the Palestinians have a justifiable "claim of return"?
At the same time that the Palestinians are calling for a state of their own, they also demand a "right to return" to land inside Israel's pre-1967 lines. However, no such claim exists under general international law, the relevant UN resolutions or the agreements between Israel and its Arab neighbors.

Under present demographic-geographic conditions, the influx of a large number of refugees into Israel is most certainly not practicable. Given that the present population of Israel is approximately 7 million (of whom about one-fifth are Arab Israelis), the influx of millions of Palestinians into the State of Israel would threaten the existence of Israel as a Jewish state, obliterating its basic identity as the homeland of the Jewish people and a refuge for persecuted Jews. Consequently, the demand to live in Israel is nothing more than a euphemism for the demographic destruction of the Jewish state.

Finally, the Palestinian claim of unlimited immigration to Israel is a political ploy made by those who do not want Israel to exist. It is disingenuous that the Palestinians are simultaneously appealing for a state of their own while calling for the right to freely immigrate to yet another state, Israel. By continuing to demand a right that would, in effect, negate the basic identity of Israel, the Palestinian leadership is undermining prospects for peace. The result of any peace process should be two nation states for two people, as envisioned by the United Nations in 1947, in the partition plan.

The Palestinian refugee problem has remained unsolved for approximately 60 years, causing suffering and instability throughout the Middle East. However, alongside the current social and humanitarian aspects of this issue, it is important to examine the causes of the problem and the reasons why it has been perpetuated for six decades.
The immediate source of the refugee problem was the Arabs' rejection in 1947 of UN General Assembly Resolution 181 - which would have partitioned the British Mandate area into an Arab state and a Jewish state - and the ensuing war they started in the hope of destroying Israel. Many Palestinian Arabs who lived in areas where the fighting took place abandoned their homes, either at the request of Arab leaders, or due to fear of the fighting and the uncertainty of living under Jewish rule. A refugee problem would never have been created had this war not been forced upon Israel by the Arab countries and the local Palestinian leadership.
Israel does not bear responsibility for the creation or the perpetuation of the Palestinian refugee problem. Thus it cannot declare, even as a gesture, responsibility for the problem.
Sadly, during this period there were innumerable refugees fleeing wars and conflict in many parts of the world. Almost all of these were resettled and their lives rehabilitated. The sole exception remains the Palestinians, deliberately kept as refugees for political aims.
The fate of the Palestinian refugees stands in sharp contrast to that of the many Jews who were forced to flee Arab countries in the wake of the establishment of Israel, leaving behind a great deal of property. Despite the difficulties, the hundreds of thousands Jewish refugees were absorbed as citizens of the State of Israel.
The Arab countries, with the sole exception of Jordan, have perpetuated the refugee problem in order to use it as a weapon in their struggle against Israel. The refugees continue to live in crowded camps, in poverty and despair. Few attempts have been made to integrate them into the numerous Arab countries in the region. These refugees, their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren remain today in number of Arab countries with no political, economic or social rights. This policy was pursued in order to gain international sympathy for the Palestinian cause, at the expense of the Palestinians themselves.
The international community also has played a role in perpetuating the Palestinian refugee problem. It has averted efforts to resettle the refugees, as is the international norm. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, responsible for finding permanent homes for all refugee groups around the world, does not do so for the Palestinians. Instead, a special agency was set up to handle Palestinian refugees. This organization, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNWRA), operates solely to maintain and support the Palestinians in refugee camps.
The international community has yielded to political pressure from Arab regimes and in effect granted the Palestinians an exception from the internationally accepted definition of a refugee under the 1951 UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1967 Protocol which make no mention of descendants. According to this exception - which has never been granted to any other population - all the generations of descendants of the original Palestinian refugees are also considered refugees. This means that the vast majority of Palestinian refugees who demand to immigrate to Israel have never actually lived within the borders of Israel. Moreover, the exceptional definition of refugees in the Palestinian case includes any Arab who lived in the area that became Israel for just two years before leaving. These exemptions have inflated the number of Palestinian refugees and allowed it to expand over the years from the hundreds of thousands to the millions.

The Palestinians falsely assert that their claim is based on UN resolutions, most specifically paragraph 11 of General Assembly Resolution 194 (December 1948). Nonetheless, the General Assembly is not a law-making body and General Assembly resolutions on political matters do not create legally binding obligations.
When referring to General Assembly Resolution 194, a number of additional points are relevant:
The Arab states originally rejected Resolution 194, and therefore cannot base current claims on that discarded Resolution.

This Resolution was an attempt by the UN in 1948 to bring the sides to negotiations by making recommendations regarding a number of key issues (Jerusalem, borders, refugees, etc.), aimed at the achievement of a "final settlement of all questions outstanding" between the sides. Only one section of 194 (paragraph 11) discusses refugees. That paragraph does not contain a single reference to any rights, but rather merely recommends that refugees should be permitted to return. It is illogical to demand implementation of a single sentence independently of the rest of the resolution.
Additionally, the resolution sets specific preconditions and limits for return, foremost amongst them that the refugees must be willing to live in peace with their neighbors. The support among the Palestinian population for the wave of terrorism that began in September 2000, as well as at other times in the past, has so far precluded this possibility.
The resolution specifically uses the general term "refugees" and not "Arab refugees", thereby indicating that the resolution is aimed at all refugees, both Jewish and Arab. It should be remembered that following the establishment of Israel in 1948, at least an equal number of Jewish residents of Arab states and Arab residents of Israel were forced to become refugees
The resolution stipulates that compensation for refugees who chose not to return, or whose property was damaged or destroyed, should be provided "by the governments or authorities responsible". The demand for compensation does not specify Israel by name, and it is clear that the use of the plural (governments) precludes any Palestinian claim that implementation of the resolution should fall exclusively on Israel.
UN Security Council Resolution 242 of 1967, supplemented 194 and reinforced Israel's position by again omitting any reference to a "right of return," or even to General Assembly Resolution 194. Instead, 242 confines itself to affirming the necessity "for achieving a just settlement of the refugee problem."
In summary, the Palestinians, after originally rejecting the resolution, have now selectively claimed elements of Resolution 194 that offer political and rhetorical benefits. At the same time, other material aspects of the issues involved have been ignored.

In international law, the principle of return is addressed in relevant human rights treaties. However, the principle only deals with individuals (not an entire people) and as a rule, governments have limited the right to reenter a state to nationals of that state.
None of the agreements between Israel and its Arab neighbors mention a claim of return. In the course of the peace process, the Israelis and Palestinians themselves have agreed that the question of refugees, along with other issues, could be considered as part of a permanent settlement between the sides. Israel stands by this commitment.

t What is the status of Jerusalem?
Jerusalem is a holy city for the three monotheistic faiths: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. It is the religious status of Jerusalem which endows such great significance to this city and all that happens within it. Israel recognizes and guarantees the rights of all worshippers and protects their holy shrines in the city, as indeed it does in the country as a whole. At the same time that Jerusalem has a special status due to its religious import; Jerusalem is also the capital of the State of Israel.
Jerusalem is the "heart and soul" of the Jewish people's spiritual identity and national yearnings. On every occasion that the Jews have been an independent people in the Land of Israel, Jerusalem has been their capital. Jerusalem served as the Jewish people's historic capital since King David made it so in 1004 B.C.E. Jerusalem remained the capital until its destruction at the hands of the Romans in 70 CE and the subsequent loss of Jewish independence.
Jewish independence was renewed in 1948, with the establishment of the State of Israel. Shortly thereafter, the Knesset (Israel's parliament) determined that Jerusalem would be the capital of the State of Israel. Following this decision, government institutions were located in Jerusalem, including the President's Residence, the Government ministries, the Knesset and the Supreme Court. In 1980, the Knesset legislated the "Basic Law: Jerusalem, Capital of Israel", which enshrined its decision in law.
Most states have not respected Israel's sovereign right to determine its own capital city, and have refused to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The reasons for this are essentially political, and are contrary to principles of international law. Israel should enjoy the same basic right as any other country in determining the choice of its capital.
Throughout the centuries, no other nation, other than the Jewish people, made Jerusalem its capital. While important to other faiths, Judaism is the only religion which places Jerusalem at the center of its belief. 
t What is the status of the territories?
Control over the West Bank and Gaza passed to Israel in 1967 in a war of self-defense. For nearly a quarter of a century afterwards, the Palestinians rejected every Israeli overture, missing opportunity after opportunity to peacefully resolve the dispute through negotiation. In 2005, Israel then decided to leave Gaza unilaterally, passing control over this territory to the Palestinians themselves in the hope that they would use it to establish the base of a peaceful future Palestinian state. Sadly, Israel's hopes were dashed.
As long as the future status of the West Bank is subject to negotiation, Israel's claim to this disputed territory is no less valid than that of the Palestinians. This territory held the cradle of Jewish civilization during biblical times and Jewish communities existed there over thousands of years. Modern-day Israel has deep ties to the many historical sites located in the West Bank. Yet Israel's claim to this territory is based not only on its ancient ties, religious beliefs and security needs; it is also firmly grounded in international law and custom.
Israel's presence in the West Bank and Gaza Strip dated back to 1967 and the Six Day War. It is important to remember that Israel's control of the territories was the result of a war of self-defense, fought after Israel's very existence was threatened. It has continued due to the intransigence of Israel's Arab neighbors, who steadfastly rejected Israel's many offers of peace, including its post-Six Day War message that it would exchange most of the territory in return for peace. In 1979, Egypt and in 1994, Jordan both signed peace treaties with Israel. But the Palestinians have yet to do so.
It has been asserted that Israel's presence in the territories violated UN Security Council Resolution 242 of 1967, one of the cornerstones of the peace process. This allegation ignores both the language and the original intent of 242. The framers of this resolution realized that the pre-1967 borders were indefensible, and deliberately chose to use the term withdrawal "from territories" (and not "from all the territories" as the Palestinians claim) in order to indicate the need to change any future borders.
Moreover, Resolution 242 (and Resolution 338 of 1973) places obligations on both sides. The Arab regimes cannot demand that Israel withdraw while they ignore their own responsibilities and the need for negotiations. They deliberately overlook the fact that 242 calls for the "termination of all claims or states of belligerency" and the "right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force."
Israel's presence in the territory is often incorrectly referred to as an "occupation." However, under international law, occupation occurs in territories that have been taken from a recognized sovereign. The Jordanian rule over the West Bank and the Egyptian rule over the Gaza Strip following 1948 resulted from a war of aggression aimed at destroying the newly established Jewish State. Their attacks plainly violated UN General Assembly Resolution 181 from 1947 (also known as the Partition Plan). Accordingly, the Egyptian and Jordanian seizures of the territories were never recognized by the international community. As neither territory had a prior legitimate sovereign, under international law these areas could not be considered as occupied and their most accurate description would be that of disputed territories.
Palestinian spokespersons not only claim that the territory is occupied, they also allege that occupation is - by definition - illegal. However, international law does not prohibit situations of occupation. Rather, it attempts to regulate such situations with international agreements and conventions. Therefore, claims that the so-called Israeli "occupation" is illegal - without regard either to its cause or the factors that have led to its continuation - are baseless allegations without foundation in international law.
Palestinian efforts to present Israel's presence in the territory as the primary cause of the conflict ignore history. Palestinian terrorism predates Israel's control of the territories (and even the existence of the State of Israel itself). The Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) was founded in 1964, three years before Israel's presence in the territories began. Moreover, Palestinian terrorism has often peaked during those periods when a negotiated settlement was closest at hand, whether at the height of the Oslo process in the mid-1990s or after Israel's unprecedented peace proposals at Camp David and Taba in 2000.
There are those that claim that if only the clock could be turned back to 1967 (i.e. a full Israeli withdrawal from all the territories) the conflict would be resolved, and no border issues would need to be resolved. It is important to remember that in 1967, there was no such entity as a Palestinian state and that there was no link between Gaza and the West Bank. Yet still its Arab neighbors threatened Israel with destruction. What Israel is now being asked to create a totally new construction, whose product must be the result of direct negotiations between the two parties.
The West Bank can best regarded as disputed territory over which there are competing claims that should be resolved in peace talks. The final status of this disputed territory can only be determined through negotiations between the parties. Attempts to force a solution through terrorism are ethically indefensible and only serve to encourage further violence and terrorism. 
t Are Israeli settlements legal?
Israeli settlements in the West Bank are legal both under international law and the agreements between Israel and the Palestinians. Claims to the contrary are mere attempts to distort the law for political purposes. Yet whatever the status of the settlements, their existence should never be used to justify terrorism.
The Palestinians often claim that settlement activity is illegal and call on Israel to dismantle every settlement. In effect, they are demanding that every Jew leave the West Bank, a form of ethnic cleansing. By contrast, within Israel, Arabs and Jews live side-by-side; indeed, Israeli Arabs, who account for approximately 20% of Israel's population, are citizens of Israel with equal rights.
The Palestinian call to remove all Jewish presence from the disputed territories is not only discriminatory and morally reprehensible; it has no basis either in law or in the agreements between Israel and the Palestinians.
The various agreements reached between Israel and the Palestinians since 1993 contain no prohibitions on the building or expansion of settlements. On the contrary, they specifically provide that the issue of settlements is reserved for permanent status negotiations, which are to take place in the concluding stage of the peace talks. The parties expressly agreed that the Palestinian Authority has no jurisdiction or control over settlements or Israelis, pending the conclusion of a permanent status agreement.
It has been charged that the provision contained in the Israel-Palestinian Interim Agreement prohibiting unilateral steps that alter the status of the West Bank implies a ban on settlement activity. This position is disingenuous. The prohibition on unilateral measures was designed to ensure that neither side take steps that would change the legal status of this territory (such as by annexation or a unilateral declaration of statehood), pending the outcome of permanent status talks. The building of homes has no effect on the final permanent status of the area as a whole. Were this prohibition to be applied to building, it would lead to the unreasonable interpretation that neither side is permitted to build houses to accommodate the needs of their respective communities.
As the Israeli claim to these territories is legally valid, it is just as legitimate for Israelis to build their communities as it is for the Palestinians to build theirs. Yet in the spirit of compromise, successive Israeli governments have indicated their willingness to negotiate the issue and have adopted a voluntary freeze on the building of new settlements as a confidence-building measure.
Furthermore, Israel had established its settlements in the West Bank in accordance with international law. Attempts have been made to claim that the settlements violate Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, which forbids a state from deporting or transferring "parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies." However, this allegation has no validity in law as Israeli citizens were neither deported nor transferred to the territories.
Although Israel has voluntarily taken upon itself the obligation to uphold the humanitarian provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention, Israel maintains that the Convention (which deals with occupied territories) was not applicable to the disputed territory. As there had been no internationally recognized legal sovereign in either the West Bank or Gaza prior to the 1967 Six Day War, they cannot be considered to have become "occupied territory" when control passed into the hands of Israel.
Yet even if the Fourth Geneva Convention were to apply to the territories, Article 49 would not be relevant to the issue of Jewish settlements. The Convention was drafted immediately following the Second World War, against the background of the massive forced population transfers that occurred during that period. As the International Red Cross' authoritative commentary to the Convention confirms, Article 49 (entitled "Deportations, Transfers, Evacuations") was intended to prevent the forcible transfer of civilians, thereby protecting the local population from displacement. Israel has not forcibly transferred its citizens to the territory and the Convention does not place any prohibition on individuals voluntarily choosing their place of residence. Moreover, the settlements are not intended to displace Arab inhabitants, nor do they do so in practice. According to independent surveys, the built-up areas of the settlements (not including roads or unpopulated adjacent tracts) take up about 3% of the total territory of the West Bank.
Israel's use of land for settlements conforms to all rules and norms of international law. Privately owned lands are not requisitioned for the establishment of settlements. In addition, all settlement activity comes under the supervision of the Supreme Court of Israel (sitting as the High Court of Justice) and every aggrieved inhabitant of the territories, including Palestinian residents, can appeal directly to this Court
The Fourth Geneva Convention was certainly not intended to prevent individuals from living on their ancestral lands or on property that had been illegally taken from them. Many present-day Israeli settlements have been established on sites that were home to Jewish communities in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) in previous generations, in an expression of the Jewish people's deep historic and religious connection with the land. Many of the most ancient and holy Jewish sites, including the Cave of the Patriarchs (the burial site of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob) and Rachel's Tomb, are located in these areas. Jewish communities, such as in Hebron (where Jews lived until they were massacred in 1929), existed throughout the centuries. Other communities, such as the Gush Etzion bloc in Judea, were founded before 1948 under the internationally endorsed British Mandate.
The right of Jews to settle in all parts of the Land of Israel was first recognized by the international community in the 1922 League of Nations Mandate for Palestine. The purpose of the Mandate was to facilitate the establishment of a Jewish national home in the Jewish people's ancient homeland. Indeed, Article 6 of the Mandate provided for "close settlement by Jews on the land, including State lands not required for public use."
For more than a thousand years, the only time that Jewish settlement was prohibited in the West Bank was under the Jordanian occupation (1948-1967) that resulted from an armed invasion. During this period of Jordanian rule, which was not internationally recognized, Jordan eliminated the Jewish presence in the West Bank (as Egypt did in the Gaza Strip) and declared that the sale of land to Jews was a capital offense. It is untenable that this outrage could invalidate the right of Jews to establish homes in these areas, and accordingly, the legal titles to land that had already been acquired remain valid to this day.
In conclusion, the oft-repeated claim regarding the illegality' of Israeli settlements has no legal or factual basis under either international law or the agreements between Israel and the Palestinians. Such charges can only be regarded as politically motivated. Most importantly, any political claim - including the one regarding settlements - should never be used to justify terrorist attacks on innocent civilians.

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Towards Annapolis: Dore Gold comments on shifting policies

Towards Annapolis: Is U.S. Policy Changing on Israel's Rights in a Peace Settlement?
Dore Gold
After being sworn into office in 2001, the Bush administration informed the Israeli government that the Clinton proposals "were off the table." The Bush Letter of April 14, 2004, received by Israel as a quid pro quo for the Gaza Disengagement, introduced new elements into the Israeli-Palestinian peace process that completely superseded the Clinton proposals.
Prime Minister Sharon explained the significance of the Bush Letter to the Knesset on April 22, 2004: "There is American recognition that in any permanent status arrangement, there will be no return to the '67 borders. This recognition is to be expressed in two ways: understanding that the facts that have been established in the large settlement blocs are such that they do not permit a withdrawal to the '67 borders and implementation of the term 'defensible borders.'"
There is a serious question about the exact standing of the Bush Letter on the eve of Annapolis. Secretary of State Rice stated on November 13, 2007: "I believe that most Israelis are ready to leave most of the - nearly all of the West Bank, just as they were ready to leave Gaza for the sake of peace." Yet all serious public opinion polls actually show strong Israeli support for retaining strategic areas of the West Bank, like the Jordan Valley.

It has been frequently stated, particularly in Washington, that, "We all know what the final outcome of an Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement will look like," an assertion usually followed by some reference to the Clinton proposals and the talks at Taba. Such statements try to introduce inevitability into the expected parameters of a peace settlement, even though they are based on a whole series of failed negotiating attempts seven years ago that cannot possibly bind the State of Israel, and completely ignore the fact of opposition by the General Staff of the Israel Defense Forces to the Clinton proposals as endangering Israel's security.
It is critical for Israeli diplomacy to protect the Bush Letter against those who seek to undercut and replace it with a new set of Israeli-Palestinian documents. Israelis have learned from their experience with Gaza what can happen to their most vital security interests if they are not safeguarded at the same time that far-reaching territorial concessions are made.
The Changing Purpose of the Annapolis Meeting
It still needs to be explained why the Bush administration decided to launch the Annapolis Peace Conference when so many seasoned observers doubt that it is possible to make any real diplomatic progress between Israel and the Palestinians at this time. The question is even more compelling when the risks of diplomatic failure are measured against the chances of real diplomatic success.
President Bush originally planted the seeds of the Annapolis Conference on July 16, 2007, when he announced that he was calling for convening "an international meeting" that would "review the progress that has been made toward building Palestinian institutions." The meeting was supposed to deal with Palestinian political reform. Finally, Bush proposed that the planned Middle Eastern meeting would "provide diplomatic support for the parties in their bilateral discussions and negotiations."1 The idea was that the international community would assist the Palestinians in multiple areas to help advance the creation of a Palestinian state.
Since that time, however, the whole idea of the Annapolis meeting changed completely. The focus of diplomacy shifted to the issuance of an agreed Joint Statement by Israel and the Palestinians that would begin to outline, in greater detail than before, the contours of a future Palestinian state by detailing aspects of its borders, the nature of a solution to the Jerusalem issue, and the future of Palestinian refugees. Perhaps it was thought that dramatic Israeli concessions in the Joint Statement would induce pro-Western Arab states, like Saudi Arabia, to at tend the planned peace conference even at the level of foreign minister. What would follow the peace conference would be intense, bilateral negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians based on the Joint Statement so that the foundations of a Palestinian state could be established within a little over a year.
This newer and more ambitious agenda for Annapolis has run into serious problems on the eve of the meeting. First, from drafts of the Joint Statement that were leaked to Ha'aretz, it is clear that the Palestinians are only willing to talk about "the two-state solution," but refuse to adopt proposed Israeli language that would add that Israel is the "homeland for the Jewish people and Palestine is the homeland for the Palestinian people." Second, it also appears that the idea of detailing the parameters of a peace settlement by touching on the most contentious "core issues" of Jerusalem, borders, security, and refugees has been dropped entirely. Clearly, the diplomatic gaps between th e parties on these critical issues were unbridgeable at this time.
The Bush Letter vs. the Clinton Proposals
 Given these difficulties, one of the options for the U.S. has been to put down its own paper about what would constitute a fair peace settlement in lieu of the Joint Statement. President Bill Clinton did exactly the same thing in January 2001, when his efforts to broker an Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement failed. After being sworn into office, the Bush administration informed the newly formed Israeli government of Ariel Sharon that the Clinton proposals "were off the table." Moreover, the Bush administration introduced new elements into the Israeli-Palestinian peace process that completely superseded the Clinton proposals.
 On April 14, 2004, Prime Minister Sharon presented his Gaza Disengagement plan to President Bush and received as a quid pro quo a presidential letter with a set of U.S. guarantees about the shape of a future Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement. Sharon appeared before the Knesset on April 22, 2004, and explained the significance of the Bush Letter:
 There is American recognition that in any permanent status arrangement, there will be no return to the '67 borders. This recognition is to be expressed in two ways: understanding that the facts that have been established in the large settlement blocs are such that they do not permit a withdrawal to the '67 borders and implementation of the term "defensible borders."
 The Bush administration did not specifically insist that any additional territory added to Israel would require a land swap whereby Israel forfeits its own previous territory in order to obtain defensible borders. A year later, Sharon detailed his concept of "defensible borders" to Ha'aretz on April 24, 2005, emphasizing that the Jordan Valley was of supreme military importance.
The Bush Letter did not intend to impose the outlines of a peace settlement in lieu of future Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. However, it laid out an updated vision of the U.S. position on a final peace settlement if the U.S. were actually asked to provide these details by the parties, especially if negotiations stalemated. The Bush Letter, moreover, did not represent a sharp break with past U.S. policy; it was fully consistent with UN Security Council Resolution 242. Former President Ronald Reagan used the language of "defensible borders" in September 1982 and it was adopted by former Secretary of State Warren Christopher in January 1997 in his letter of assurances to former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
 There is a serious question about the exact standing of the Bush Letter on the eve of Annapolis. Buried in the address by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice at the United Jewish Communities General Assembly in Nashville on November 13, 2007, was a surprising sentence: "I believe that most Israelis are ready to leave most of the - nearly all of the West Bank, just as they were ready to leave Gaza for the sake of peace."2 It is doubtful that Rice was reflecting on the results of any serious Israeli public opinion poll, which actually show strong Israeli support for retaining strategic areas of the West Bank, like the Jordan Valley . And given Israel's bitter experience from unilaterally leaving the Gaza Strip, it is difficult to draw analogies from Israeli positions on Gaza prior to the August 2005 disengagement and Israeli positions, at present, toward withdrawal from the West Bank. It is likely that she carefully chose her language as a trial balloon, couching a new possible U.S. position on borders as a general statement about Israeli public opinion.
Having decided to convene the Annapolis meeting, the Bush administration is under enormous pressure to make sure it succeeds. The situation that has been created provides the Arab states with enormous leverage over Washington to revise its positions on the core issues in order to obtain their attendance at a high enough level. Even if the U.S. does not issue its own statement in lieu of the Joint Statement, a revised U.S. position could come in the form of a presidential address or even private communications from Washington to Arab capitals that erode the Bush Letter and empty it of much of its original content.
Do We All Really Know What a Final Peace Settlement Will Look Like?
There have been other pressures on the Bush administration to abandon the Bush Letter, as well, from many parts of the foreign policy community. In the last few years, it has been frequently stated in high-level academic conferences as well as by pundits that, "We all know what the final outcome of an Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement will look like," and this assertion is usually followed by some reference to the Clinton proposals and the follow-up talks at Taba.3 The power of this idea cannot be overstated, particularly within the confines of the Capitol Beltway in Washington.
Such statements try to introduce inevitability into the expected parameters of a peace settlement, even though they are based on a whole series of failed negotiating attempts seven years ago that cannot possibly bind the State of Israel. Moreover, those taking this position completely ignore the fact that the Clinton proposals were viewed by the General Staff of the Israel Defense Forces in 2000 as too far reaching and endangering Israel's security, and their position was presented, at the time, by Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Shaul Mofaz.4 Moreover, among the Palestinians, the current head of the negotiating team, Abu Ala, stated back in 2001 that even after further Israeli concessions at Taba, beyo nd the Clinton proposals, the extent of Israeli flexibility was inadequate and that never before had there been "a clearer gap between the two sides."
 Nonetheless, this theme that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict could be easily solved seems to have permeated some of the elites who have responsibility for the peace process at present. Speaking at the Saban Forum in Jerusalem on November 4, 2007, the Quartet Envoy, former Prime Minister Tony Blair, revealed a similar view to those who believe the outcome of negotiations is already known, when he said:
Truthfully, if you took any group of well-educated Israelis or Palestinians and said to them, describe on two sheets of paper the rough solution to the core final status issues - territory, right of return, Jerusalem - they could probably do it roughly along the same contours of a solution.5
The Bush administration recognizes that even if after Annapolis, Israel and the Palestinians reach the outlines of a permanent status government, Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority leader, is too weak to implement it. For that reason, many in Israel call a document of this sort "a shelf agreement," that can only be taken down and used when conditions permit. But how can Israel commit itself to any future borders when the situation in the entire region is so uncertain in the years ahead, since no one can predict what will be the situation in Iraq and whether an empowered Iran will emerge that is armed with nuclear w eapons.
At present, it is critical for Israeli diplomacy to protect the Bush Letter and provide countervailing arguments against those who seek to undercut and replace it with a new set of Israeli-Palestinian documents. Israelis have learned from their experience with Gaza what can happen to their most vital security interests if they are not safeguarded at the same time that far-reaching territorial concessions are made. The Philadelphi Corridor, between Palestinian Gaza and Egyptian Sinai, has become an open thoroughfare for smuggling massive amounts of weapons and trained terrorist operatives. An Israeli pullout from the Jordan Valley separating the West Bank from Jordan, would yield similar results, but on a much larger scale and undermine Jordanian stability, as well.
*   *   *
1 "President Bush Discusses the Middle East," The White House, President George W. Bush, July 2007,
2 Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, "Address to Delegates at the United Jewish Communities (UJC) General Assembly," U.S. Department of State, November 13, 2007,
3 "U.S. Grand Strategy in the Middle East," Council on Foreign Relations, June 5, 2003,; Jackson Diehl, "The Deal on the Table," Washington Post, October 22, 2007,; Bernard Avishai and Sam Bahour, "Making the Inevitable Happen," Los Angeles Times, November 18, 2007, htt p://,0,7447082.story?track=rss.
4 Yediot Ahronot, December 29, 2006.
5 "Keynote Address by Quartet Representative Tony Blair," Saban Forum 2007, Brookings Institution, November 4, 2007,
*   *   *
Dr. Dore Gold, Israel's Ambassador to the UN in 1997-99, is President of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and author of The Fight for Jerusalem: Radical Islam, the West, and the Future of the Holy City (Regnery, 2007).
This Jerusalem Issue Brief is available online at:
Dore Gold, Publisher; Yaacov Amidror, ICA Chairman; Dan Diker, ICA Director; Mark Ami-El, Managing Editor. Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (Registered Amuta), 13 Tel-Hai St., Jerusalem, Israel; Tel. 972-2-561-9281, Fax. 972-2-561-9112, Email: In U.S.A.: Center for Jewish Community Studies, 5800 Park Heights Ave., Baltimore, MD 21215; Tel. 410-664-5222; Fax 410-664-1228. Website: © Copyright. The opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect those of the Board of Fellows of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.
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Thursday, November 22, 2007

Will Israel make it to 120?

These are the real issues that will determine Israeli survival - not real estate in the West Bank.

 From 1948 to 2008
 By Dan Ben David  
According to recent IMF data, living standards in Israel - as reflected in GDP per capita - are expected to rise this year by 3.3 percent. This will be the fourth straight year with such high growth rates. However, these years reflect a recovery period that comes on the heels of a severe recession. As can be seen in the graph, the four consecutive years of fast growth since 2003 are indicative of nothing more than a return of Israel's economy to the problematic long-run growth path that has characterized it between the 1973 turning point and the outbreak of the intifada in 2000.
This slow-growth, long-run path reflects a relative decline in Israeli living standards, compared with the leading Western countries. For example, countries like the G7 nations, who were wealthier than us in the mid-1970s, have grown faster since then (2.1 percent per year in the G7 versus 1.7 percent in Israel) - despite the past four years. The further behind Israel's living standards fall, the more attractive life abroad becomes for many Israelis whose skills and training are in demand overseas.
This is not some abstract or distant theoretical issue, but a very real crisis already in full swing. The emigration rate from Israel by physicians is even greater than that of high-tech professionals. The high outbound rate of physicians is exceeded by the emigration rate of university professors, which is greater than that of every other group in the country.

How severe is the situation in Israeli academia? While the number of European professors in the United States falls between 1 percent and 4 percent of the total number of professors in their respective home countries, the number of Israeli professors in the U.S. is 25 percent of the number remaining in Israel. Nothing in the Western world remotely compares to this rate of emigration.
This problematic path results from very low employment rates and low labor productivity rates, despite a high-tech sector that is thriving on a global scale. Israel's education system, which has become the worst in the Western world, is one of the main reasons for the decline. In addition, there are large population groups that are increasingly disengaging from Israeli society. For example, the majority of the ultra-Orthodox and Israeli-Arab populations are not employed, nor do they participate in preserving or defending their way of life. If, just one generation ago, the children of these groups made up one-fourth of primary school pupils, today they comprise half of the children in the lower grades.
The State of Israel is on a growth path that is unsustainable in the long run - especially when taking into consideration poverty and inequality trends that have been steadily increasing since the 1970s. An unsustainable path means we can expect a clear and inevitable break in the path in the future, whether this results from intentional, well-informed government policies or a tremendous social explosion that may lead to the country's salvation the hard way - or to its demise.
In 1948 we attained independence. This coming year, 2008, Israel will celebrate its 60th birthday. The country has come full circle during its first six decades. Against all odds, extraordinarily strong foundations were built in defense, education, science and health during the first decade of the newly born country. These seedlings, planted and nurtured by our parents - who sacrificed so much to ensure their survival and growth - endowed Israel with a large amount of subsequent breathing space that allowed us to weather the dysfunctional leadership, the distorted national priorities and the cultural deterioration that has characterized so much of the past three decades.
We have squandered the degrees of freedom bestowed on us by our founding fathers. So next year - 2008, just like 1948 - marks the beginning of a decade in which our generation will or will not exhibit the wherewithal to implement the policies that determine if the country will reach its 120th birthday.
The writer teaches economics in the Department of Public Policy at Tel Aviv University.

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Syria not coming to Annapolis?

The London-based Arabic-language newspaper Al-Hayat reported Thursday that Syria has already decided not to attend the upcoming U.S-sponsored Middle East peace conference to be held in Annapolis, Maryland next week.
"Syria has decided not to attend the Annapolis conference next week, because the issue of the Golan Heights is not mentioned on the agenda of the meeting," Army Radio quoted the Arabic-language publication as saying.
According to the report, Syria is waiting for the outcome of a meeting of Arab foreign ministers, to be held in Cairo on Thursday, before officially announcing its intention not to attend next week's summit.

Syria has declared in the past it would only take part in the peace conference if the Golan Heights, which Israel captured from it in the 1967 Six-Day War, is on the agenda.
Syria received an official invitation to the summit on Wednesday. Charge d'Affaires Michael Corbin, the highest ranking U.S. diplomat stationed in Damascus, delivered the invitation letter to the foreign ministry's chief of protocol, the diplomats in the Syrian capital told reporters.
"The Syrians are getting what they want even if the Golan is not explicitly mentioned. The letter talks about United Nations resolutions and the Arab peace initiative, which Syria supports" one of the diplomats said.
"There will even be a session in the conference on comprehensive Middle East peace. Syria will be seen as deliberately trying to spoil Annapolis if it does not show up," the diplomat said.
You get the idea - the rest is here.

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Jews want to be around gentiles

Last update - 09:28 22/11/2007    
 Study: Young U.S. Jews most comfortable when surrounded by non-Jews 
 By Gabriel Sanders, The Forward

 In a groundbreaking study released last spring, social scientists Steven M. Cohen and Ari Kelman reached a novel and, for some, startling conclusion: Far from being indifferent to Jewish cultural life, young unaffiliated Jews are actually quite interested in attending Jewish events - provided they are being offered outside the walls of Jewish venues. Young Jews, the two provocatively argued, are most comfortable being Jewish when surrounded by non-Jews.
The study has prompted some Jewish cultural programmers to rethink their outreach efforts, with many synagogues and Jewish community centers now looking to off-site bars and clubs in their quest to lure the young and unaffiliated.
One nascent institution, however, seems to have missed the memo. When it opens its doors in June 2008, San Francisco's Contemporary Jewish Museum will have as one of its target audiences the very demographic that Cohen and Kelman describe. Indeed, in the Bay Area, with its deeply assimilated Jewish community, the cultural preferences of the young and unaffiliated can perhaps be applied to the Jewish community as a whole. And yet, here is an ambitious new institution loudly proclaiming its Jewishness while at the same time trying to cater to both ambivalent Jews and the museum-going public as a whole. A miscalculation? Maybe. Then again, perhaps the museum's organizers have understood Cohen and Kelman's message more completely than anyone else.
When Connie Wolf, the Contemporary Jewish Museum's director, discusses the institution she's building, her governing theme is novelty. "We're taking the best of what's out there," she told the Forward, "and creating a new paradigm." In Wolf's telling, the CJM is doing nothing short of erecting a new species of Jewish institution.
The museum, she said, will be distinct on a number of counts. For one, it will be a museum without a permanent collection. "This," Wolf said, "allows us to be more nimble and responsive." The institution, Wolf stressed, will be alone among Jewish museums in having the word "contemporary" in its name. It will also be distinguished by its centrality. Unlike in New York, where the two Jewish museums are on Manhattan's periphery - one uptown, one downtown - the CJM will be smack in the middle of the city's cultural district, perfectly situated to draw in curious passersby.
But most distinctive of all will be the museum's Daniel Libeskind-designed building. When the museum, which was founded in 1984, selected Libeskind to design its future home in 1998, the architect was not yet the superstar he is today. His Berlin Jewish Museum - now the most visited museum in all of Germany - was just being completed, and the Twin Towers still stood where the Freedom Tower will one day rise. But even by Libeskind's standards, the San Francisco museum is unique. While it will bear the jagged edges that have become the architect's trademark, the CJM, unlike the buildings for which he is best known, is not mournful in spirit. It is, quite literally, a celebration of life.
Libeskind's overarching concept for the museum was a realization of the two letters - chet and yood - of the Hebrew word chai - life. The concept serves as an apt metaphorical counterpoint to the building's site: a 1907 power station built in the aftermath of the city's 1906 earthquake. The plant's facade has been preserved as part of the museum's design. "The Museum," Libeskind wrote in an architect's statement last month, "will make visible the relationship between the new and the old, innovation and tradition, celebrating the City's past and reinvigorating it for the future. It will transform the physical energy associated with the legacy of the Power Substation to the power of human communication and imagination. History does not come to an end but opens to the future; history is a dynamic ground.
Interestingly, Libeskind's language bears a striking resemblance to that of Cohen and Kelman, who, like the architect, see novel intersections of past and present, Jewish and non-Jewish, as the key to a dynamic Jewish future.
"From our interviews with Jewish young adults," Cohen and Kelman wrote last year, "we learned how engaged, but unaffiliated Jews seek cultural experiences that offer alternatives to an institutional world they see as bland, conformist, conservative and alien. Instead, they are drawn to events that promise to cross boundaries between Jews and non-Jews, Jews and Jews, Jewish space and non-Jewish space, and distinctively Jewish culture with putatively non-Jewish culture, effecting a "cultural hybridity."
But will Wolf's and Libeskind's visions of a bold new synthesis translate into a viable new institution? Some observers of the museum scene see reasons for optimism.
"What they are doing is very bold, very interesting," said Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, a professor of performance studies at New York University who has written extensively on Jewish museums. "While others are running to clubs and hiding the fact that they are Jewish, [Wolf] wants to create an institution whose aesthetics are of such high quality, you don?t have to be embarrassed.'
For the museum to be able to draw a broad audience and succeed, Kirshenblatt-Gimblett said, its Jewishness has to be, in some sense, beside the point. "If it is a Whitney- or MoMA-class operation, it will stand regardless," she said.
Arguing in a somewhat different vein, Kirshenblatt-Gimblett noted that if Libeskind's building should become an architectural icon like Frank Gehry's Guggenheim in Bilbao, the art that it houses may, in the end, not matter all that much.
"The key is to have a museum that you have to visit, even if you're not interested in what they're showing," she said. "You don't go to Bilbao to see contemporary art. No one asks, "What's on at Bilbao? What's on is the Gehry building."
In a sense, the new synthesis the CJM is trying pull off has already been playing out, in microcosm, across town at the four-year-old Jewish Community Center of San Francisco.
Asked if the CJM's vision of Jewish-themed programming for a general audience is workable, the JCC's executive director, Sandee Blechman, offered an enthusiastic "yes."
"We've been doing just that," she said. "We've proven that a Jewish community organization can be both a vibrant hub of Jewish community life and be important to the community as a whole. And by being the latter, we can be even more successful as a Jewish organization."

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Al Qaeda threatens US, Israel on eve of Annapolis

We don't know that this is true, but we don't know that it isn't!
DEBKAfile Exclusive: Al Qaeda marks the forthcoming Middle East  conference with new threats to the US and Israel
November 21, 2007, 11:10 PM (GMT+02:00)
 "Annapolis won't save the Metropolis" (an apparent reference to  Manhattan, New York) is the heading over the threat to attack the US, published Wednesday Nov. 21 on al Qaeda's main web sites, DEBKAfile's counter-terror sources report. Sites in Gaza linked to al Qaeda warned Tuesday  night, Nov. 20, that a cell is already inside Israel and primed for mass attacks.Our sources report that Israeli security chiefs initially made light of the warning – until the threat against the United States appeared 24 hours later. The two warnings were clearly coordinated.

"A soldier in the Army for the Destruction of the Metropolis" signs the ten-page issue addressed to the United States. They lead off with a large photo of the second airliner to strike the New York Trade Center on Sept. 11, followed by an  illustration of the crumbling "Tower of Babel."

The writers pronounce the Annapolis conference an act of betrayal by Palestinian leaders Abu Mazen and Mohammed Dahlan, then ask caustically, "How is winter in  Afghanistan going for the Americans? This is a reference to the escalation of al Qaeda attacks on US forces in Afghanistan. "Make no mistake," the bulletin continues. "The Metropolis is the target of our next attack."

"To this day, the United States does not understand how the Tower of the Metropolis  collapsed or how the Tower of Babel was destroyed. They think it was an act of terror but it was really a divine act of grace for the Muslims."

DEBKAfile's sources disclose that the message from Gaza claims for the first time  that al Qaeda has planted cells inside Israel, which include American and Australian operatives, some of whom are Hebrew-speakers. They are described as trained in the use of all kinds of explosives and under orders to execute attacks  that will be attributed to Palestinians on the eve of the conference in Maryland.

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Israel is not an apartheid state: Disappearance of Bishop Tutu

"..where is Desmond Tutu when my people call out for freedom? Slaughter and genocide and slavery are lashing Africans right now. Where are you for Sudan, Bishop Tutu? You are busy attacking the Jewish state. Why?"
Disappearance of Bishop Tutu
By Simon Deng
Friday November 16, 2007
Late last month, I went to hear Bishop Desmond Tutu speak at Boston's Old South Church at a conference on "Israel Apartheid." Tutu is a well respected man of God. He brought reconciliation between blacks and whites in South Africa. That he would lead a conference that damns the Jewish state is very disturbing to me.
The State of Israel is not an apartheid state. I know because I write this from Jerusalem where I have seen Arab mothers peacefully strolling with their families even though I also drove on Israeli roads protected by walls and fences from Arab bullets and stones. I know Arabs go to Israeli schools, and get the best medical care in the world. I know they vote and have elected representatives to the Israeli Parliament. I see street signs in Arabic, an official language here. None of this was true for blacks under Apartheid in Tutu's South Africa.
I also know countries that do deserve the apartheid label: My country, Sudan, is on the top of the list, but so are Iran, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. What has happened to my people in Sudan is a thousand times worse than Apartheid in South Africa. And no matter how the Palestinians suffer, they suffer nothing compared to my people. Nothing. And most of the suffering is the fault of their leaders. Bishop Tutu, I see black Jews walking down the street here in Jerusalem. Black like us, free and proud.
Tutu said Israeli checkpoints are a nightmare. But checkpoints are there because Palestinians are sent into Israel to blow up and kill innocent women and children. Tutu wants checkpoints removed. Do you not have doors in your home, Bishop? Does that make your house an apartheid house? If someone, Heaven forbid, tried to enter with a bomb, we would want you to have security people "humiliating" your guests with searches, and we would not call you racist for doing so. We all go through checkpoints at every airport. Are the airlines being racist? No.
Yes, the Palestinians are inconvenienced at checkpoints. But why, Bishop Tutu, do you care more about that inconvenience than about Jewish lives?
Bishop, when you used to dance for Mandela's freedom, we Africans all over Africa joined in. Our support was key in your freedom. But when children in Burundi and Kinshasa, all the way to Liberia and Sierra Leone, and in particular in Sudan, cried and called for rescue, you heard but chose to be silent.
Today, black children are enslaved in Sudan, the last place in the continent of Africa where humans are owned by other humans. I was part of the movement to stop slavery in Mauritania, which just now abolished the practice. But you were not with us, Bishop Tutu.
So where is Desmond Tutu when my people call out for freedom? Slaughter and genocide and slavery are lashing Africans right now. Where are you for Sudan, Bishop Tutu? You are busy attacking the Jewish state. Why?
Simon Deng, a native of the Shiluk Kingdom in southern Sudan, is an escaped jihad slave and a leading human rights activist.
Originally at Jewish Advocate


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Doing wrong by doing good: A message for Tikkunistas

 When Tikkun Olam backfires

By Charles Jacobs - Thursday November 22 2007

Tikkun Olam – healing the world – is a wonderful Jewish social action concept that should help all victim of injustice. But it doesn't. As it currently functions, Tikkun Olam does incalculable damage to certain oppressed people by systematically ignoring them.

There is a confused version of Tikkun Olam that promotes the notion that Jews have to act in a way that always shows how selfless we are. I call these folks "tikkunistas." The hidden, unstated principle of tikkunistas is that Jewish responsibility toward others is to be undertaken only when it is utterly selfless, yielding no practical value to Jews. If doing good for others results in some benefit for the Jewish community, then such acts are felt by tikkunistas to be impure.
If every group of abused people whose condition, if exposed and fought, might provide some practical gain to the Jews is to be ignored, then the hidden tikkunista selection principle harms an awful lot of folks.
Take for example the Baha'i. The Baha'i faith, founded in Persia in the 19th century, is utterly peaceful. It stresses the unity of God and of mankind, and the unity of all religions. The goal of Baha'i is for you to know God in a world of universal peace. If you've not met a Baha'i, you've missed a wonderful, warm, peaceful, experience.

But the 300,000 Baha'i in Iran are demonized and persecuted as Muslim heretics. Not too long ago, the "moderate" regime of Ayatollah Rafsanjani forbade any self-identifying Baha'i from attending universities or holding high-profile jobs, forcing them to deny their faith if they wished to receive an education. Today's "extremist" regime of Ayatollah Khameni – and Ahmadinejad – has moved to crush the Baha'i once and for all. Baha'i are being expelled from universities and from many occupations: publishing, car rentals, tourism, even jewelry manufacture. And because they are "unclean" to Muslims, Baha'i are forbidden to work in restaurants or food services.

Arrests of Baha'i are surging; people are having to hand over deeds to their property to meet high bail demands. Some accused of proselytizing are lashed and jailed. Baha'i are unsafe even in death: government bulldozers are destroying Baha'i cemeteries.

Who campaigns hard and seriously for the Baha'i? Not the tikkunistas. Iran today is Israel's sworn enemy and so exposing Islamist oppression of the Baha'i would be politically beneficial to Jews. That would ruin the effort to exhibit Jewish innocence, selflessness and purity, which is the core of the tikkunista impulse. And so the Baha'i are ignored. Indeed, large populations in the olam (world) are not to be healed. Who is abandoned? Every group oppressed by enemies of the Jews. Ask the apostates, women, gays, Christians and other non-Muslims, or Muslim reformers if, under Islamic regimes, they witnessed a campaign from this quarter.
Is it truly selfless to abandon victims of oppression who happen also to be enemies of your enemies? Or is it the ultimate selfishness – this drive to proclaim one's innocence. If you rush to defend Kosovars and whales, but ignore the jihad-genocide of South Sudan's Christians, maybe it's not about justice. Maybe it's all about you.

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Discouraging service in the IDF - a suicidal policy

Israeli laws regarding military service and education are more or less suicidal. A typical soldier who serves in the IDF for over three years will then need to spend NIS 40,000 or more on tuition and support himself or herself while going to university to study subjects such as medicine, biology, chemistry, engineering or law. An ultraorthodox anti-Zionist Yeshiva student who opts out of military service will get a free education in the Talmud and full support for life. Of course, Talmud cannot be exported and doesn't grow anything. But it is a way to make a living at the expense of "the State" - meaning the rest of us.
Not surprisingly, there are more and more Yeshiva students, and more and more ultraorthodox, and more and more demands to spend money on ultraorthodox education, which does not prepare students for any practical occupations outside of religious life.
A proposal to fund university education of army veterans - an Israeli GI bill, or a proposal to underwrite GI home mortgages or any other such proposal will automatically be shot down by a coalition of Arab and ultraorthodox MKs who will use their leverage to ensure that the bill is never passed.
Ami Isseroff
Last update - 17:48 21/11/2007    
 IDF personnel chief: Soldiers not adequately rewarded for IDF service 
By Yuval Azoulay, Haaretz Correspondent  The head of the Israel Defense Forces Personnel Directorate said Wednesday that soldiers serving in the IDF are not being adequately rewarded for their service.
Speaking at a conference marking the first anniversary of the death of Major General Abraham Rotem at the Bar Ilan University in Ramat Gan, Major General Elazar Stern lamented the fact that Israelis that served in the IDF are not given priority in university acceptance procedures.
According to Stern, in 1994 there was a law stipulating that a soldier who completed a full military service would receive priority when applying to academic institutions. "During that year," Stern said, "the president of the Technion [Israel Institute for Technology] asked me if I'm aware of the fact that most of the students enrolled in the institution's medical program were Arab."

Referring to the fact that Arab citizens generally do not serve in the IDF, Stern continued "we wanted to give equal opportunities but ended up hurting equality -- we ended up giving priority to those who didn't serve their country."
Stern added that "a senior [in high school], with intense studying, can get a good score on the psychometric [standardized university entry] exam, I don't want to talk about how grades are given in that [Arab] sector, but what happens ultimately is that we're short dozens of potential doctors in the IDF's academic track, whose spots are taken by others, and the law giving priority to soldiers who serve, we've overturned."
Stern said he believed that in ten years, 25 percent of youth eligible for conscription will not enlist due to religious beliefs (as opposed to 11.5 percent today). "The Haredi Nahal unit (an infantry battalion for ultra-Orthodox soldiers) has pulled the rug out from under the Haredi excuse for not serving." Stern added that in the Haredi Nahal, "has provisions like you don't even see in Bnei Brak. There aren't any women for kilometers. The food is Glat Kosher, they are forced to attend prayer, and there is a cloth on the fence so that they can't see a female soldier from a 300 meter distance, even if she's dressed properly."

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UK Academics discuss annihilation of Jewish state

Of course, this is not a new idea. The original perpetrator of this "solution" was the Nazi Grand Mufti, Hajj Amin El Husseini. He proposed to set up a death camp near Nablus to solve the Jewish question in Palestine. The PLO took up the "one state" banner in 1968, making clear that in the Palestinian "secular democratic state" all Jews who had arrived after 1917 would be expelled from Israel.
Tragicomically, the conference was partly the intitiative of an Israeli:
Yonni Eshpar, a young graphic designer from Tel Aviv who was among the conference's initiators, said that he put the event together because "Israel is a discriminatory and racist country and I am interested in seeing to my children's future." The group's main goal, Eshpar said, was to initiate a discussion of the one-state option.
Explaining why he wanted to include residents of the Palestinian Authority in his proposed "state of all its citizens," Eshpar said, adding "They are the citizens of this land. They were there before us. Besides, the nation-state system has concluded its historical role all over the world, from Singapore through Denmark to Israel."
It is reminiscent of the Dutch Jews, who were forced to finance their own destruction by buying round trip tickets to Auschwitz. They never used the second half of the ticket. Nobody except Eshpar perhaps can really believe that the nation state system has concluded its historical role. If it has, then why does he want a Palestinian state at all?
One day, it may be possible to have a confederation of Israel, a Palestinian State and Jordan, somewhat like the European Union. But that solution is based on amicable relations between equal partners. The solution discussed in London was much more like the European Reich of Adolf Hitler.
Ami Isseroff
Over a decade after the Israeli right in effect abandoned the vision of a Greater Israel, the radical left in both Israel and Britain has come to favor the idea with a few essential changes.
On Sunday, London saw the conclusion of a conference on the so-called one-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. While pro-Israel groups accused the organizers of staging a provocation aimed at bashing Israel's image, academics from Israel and the Palestinian Authority discussed possible models for the formation of a single state ranging from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River, and maybe even further east.
The conference, which attracted many academics as well as local activists from Palestinian solidarity groups, students and Arab activists, was perhaps the latest stage in a series of projects that have given London its image as one of Europe's most anti-Zionist capitals.
Indeed, the British left's attitude toward Israel has been characterized by warrants for the arrest of Israel Defense Forces officers, boycotts of Israeli products on the part of various trade unions, condemnations of Israel as an apartheid state by churches, and the recent academic boycott initiative.
The latest two-day event, at the University of London's School of Oriental And African Studies (SOAS), attracted no less than 300 people. The participants discussed establishing either a binational state or a "state of all its citizens", or a secular democracy that would include the entire population of the Palestinian Authority plus all the Palestinian refugees.
They also entertained the notion of an Israeli-Palestinian confederation and other creative solutions.
Among the notable guests were Palestinian civil rights activist Omar Barghouti, Israeli historian Ilan Pappe and one of the instigators of the academic boycott, Professor Haim Bereshit. The panel members discussed the status of Palestinians and Israelis in the would-be unified state, relying on historic precedents like South Africa and Northern Ireland.
The conference was organized by the London One State Group  an association of about a dozen Israeli, Palestinian and Jewish students who are studying or have studied in London. The funding, they say, came from ticket sales.
Along with the lofty talk about political theory, visitors could hear radical views on Israel, which was regularly described as "a colonialist power" and "an apartheid state."
In the small conference hall, Zionism was not only a dirty word, but an immoral, inexcusably cruel utterance. "I don't believe the Jewish lie," one Arab representative said.
Yonni Eshpar, a young graphic designer from Tel Aviv who was among the conference's initiators, said that he put the event together because "Israel is a discriminatory and racist country and I am interested in seeing to my children's future." The group's main goal, Eshpar said, was to initiate a discussion of the one-state option.
Explaining why he wanted to include residents of the Palestinian Authority in his proposed "state of all its citizens," Eshpar said, adding "They are the citizens of this land. They were there before us. Besides, the nation-state system has concluded its historical role all over the world, from Singapore through Denmark to Israel."
Pro-Israel groups say that this initiative should not be taken seriously. "Our internal polls have shown that the majority of British people support the Balfour Declaration and the existence of the Jewish state," said Lorna Fitzsimons, CEO of the pro-Israeli organization BICOM, the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre.
According to Fitzsimons, the one-state initiative which has recently gained popularity in academic circles should not be associated with the academic boycott of Israeli educational institutions.
"How do you propose to deal with the crimes the Israelis are perpetrating in the Occupied Territories?" a female Palestinian student asked panel members at the end of the conference's first day. "Should Israeli military commanders be put on trial for war crimes? Should truth and reconciliation committees be set up?"
It was then that an Israeli student remarked: "Excuse me, but you sound just like the far right in Israel. Are the Israelis not entitled to self-determination? Do Israelis only understand force? This kind of discussion hampers progress, because it fails to recognize the other side.

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Israel: Flowers and Strawberries can be exported from Gaza

Last update - 14:41 21/11/2007    
 Israel okays renewal of flower, strawberry exports from Gaza 
By Amiram Cohen, Haaretz Correspondent
The government has decided to permit the renewal of flower and strawberry exports from the Gaza Strip to Europe from agricultural export terminals inside Israel.
Agriculture Minister Shalom Simhon and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, both of Labor, approved the move after Palestinian farmers and Israeli exporters appealed to the High Court of Justice against Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Simchon and Barak.
The exports came to a halt after the security cabinet declared the Gaza Strip a 'hostile entity' in response to ongoing militant Qassam fire on the western Negev.
Simchon is to send the details of the decision to Palestinian Authority Agriculture Minister Mahmoud Habash.
The export of flowers and strawberries from the Gaza Strip to the European Union is carried out with the cooperation of Israeli exporters and European buyers, and amounts to roughly NIS 100 million each year. Of that sum, NIS 45 million comes from the sale of carnations.
The Gaza greenhouses that grow carnations were set up with the aid of the European Union and the Dutch government, which recently demanded Israel immediately reverse its blockade of the exports.
Since Hamas took control of Gaza in June, Israel has blocked almost all exports from the area, severely hurting the Gazan economy. All exports from Gaza must travel through Israel.
Gaza's 40,000 farmers have repeatedly pushed for the renewal of exports. Simchon's announcement that the Palestinians will be able to export all of their flower and strawberry crops will be worth at least $14 million to farmers, the Palestinian Chamber of Commerce said.
On Tuesday, farmers fed flowers to their cattle rather than let them go to waste.
Israel will in the near future ease trade with Gaza further, Simchon said.
The international aid group Oxfam warned Wednesday of an increasing risk to public health in Gaza due to a reduction in fuel supplies. About 225,000 people in Gaza do not receive adequate amounts of drinking water because water pumps are not operating at full capacity, Oxfam said in a release.
Abbas has asked Israel to ease its restrictions on impoverished Gaza. Abbas still claims to rule Gaza, though he has little influence there.
The matter of calves raised in Israel for Gazan Palestinians has still not been solved. Since agricultural trade between Israel and Gaza stopped, Israeli veal farmers have been losing roughly NIS 2 million per month, as they continue to hold 2,000 calves intended to be sold for slaughter in Gaza.

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The Annapolis conference - and the invited parties - and what might be accompled

How many were invited to the Annapolis Middle East Peace Conference? 49 parties.  
Who was invited? (or who was not invited). See below. The list includes such countries as Slovenia, which surely has a vital stake in the Middle East. Australia, an ally of the US in Afghanistan, which presumably does have a stake in the Middle East, was not invited. Notably absent from the list are Monaco and Micronesia as well as Andorra. Almost everyone else was invited. It is hard to understand why Brazil was invited, for example, but not Argentina. Iran, which is also a Middle Eastern country, is conspicuous by its absence.

  • The United States, host, to be represented by President George W. Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
  • Israel, to be represented by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni.
  • Palestinians, to be represented by Palestinian Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and senior officials.

    Members of the international diplomatic quartet on the Middle East other than the United States:
  • The United Nations, to be represented by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
  • European Union presidency, to be represented by Portuguese Foreign Minister Luis Amado.
  • European Union Commission, to be represented by EU External Affairs Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner.
  • European Union High Representative for foreign affairs Javier Solana.
  • Russia, expected to be represented by Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
  • Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, the quartet special representative to the Middle East.

    Members of the Arab League committee tasked with pursuing a Saudi initiative for a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace deal. Of these, only Egypt and Jordan have full diplomatic with Israel:
  • Arab League, to be represented by Secretary-General Amr Moussa.
  • Algeria
  • Bahrain
  • Egypt
  • Jordan
  • Lebanon
  • Morocco
  • Qatar
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Sudan
  • Syria
  • Tunisia
  • Yemen

    Other members of the Arab League:
  • Iraq
  • Mauritania
  • Oman
  • United Arab Emirates

    Permanent members of the UN Security Council not included in above categories:
  • Britain
  • China
  • France

    Members of the Group of Eight industrialized countries not included in above categories:
  • Canada
  • Germany
  • Italy
  • Japan

    Members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference not included in above categories:
  • Indonesia
  • Malaysia
  • Pakistan
  • Senegal
  • Turkey

    Other nations:
  • Brazil
  • Greece
  • India
  • Norway
  • Poland
  • Slovenia
  • South Africa
  • Spain
  • Sweden

    Financial institutions invited as observers:
  • International Monetary Fund
  • World Bank
  • Labels:

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    Is the US to blame for human rights failures in the Middle East?

    Jeff Robbins argues that the US is unfairly blamed for the human rights problems of the Palestinians Arabs. :
    It is increasingly de rigueur around the world and, for that matter, in certain segments of the Democratic Party, to place responsibility for all international crises on the U.S. government. Unsurprisingly, therefore, when it comes to the Arab-Israeli conflict, it has attained the level of high fashion to ascribe the persistent absence of peace to a lack of adequate U.S. "engagement" in resolving it.
    If the Bush administration were truly "engaged," the argument goes, the chances for Middle East peace would be greatly improved. Next week's meeting in Annapolis, Md., between Israel and at least certain of its Arab interlocutors has the look and feel of more of the same. Yesterday the State Department sent out "formal invitations" to the event, but it remains unclear who will attend besides Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. If history is any guide, the meeting will yield unsatisfactory results, Israel will be blamed for failing to make the requisite concessions, and the Bush administration will be widely and sharply criticized for its "failure to engage."

    This analysis, simple and neat, and for so many so satisfying, would seem at odds with the historical record. The problem is that all too often, those who blame the U.S. for failing to deliver Mideast peace are some of the world's most culpable enablers of Mideast violence--and those who are themselves actually responsible for erecting the fundamental roadblocks to a resolution of the conflict.
    This is so obvious as to almost go without saying--except that the penchant for placing the blame on the U.S. is so widespread and so addictive that it goes largely unsaid. It was, of course, the Arab bloc, including the Palestinian leadership, that decided to reject the U.N.'s 1947 partition of Palestine into two states, Arab and Jewish, living side by side. Instead it invaded the nascent Jewish state rather than coexist with it, spawning the conflict that has so burdened the world for the last 60 years.
    This was not a decision made by the U.S.
    We are also not responsible for the Arab world's choice not to create a Palestinian Arab state in East Jerusalem, Gaza and the West Bank from 1948 to 1967, when it easily could have done so--before there were any Jewish settlements there to serve as the public object of Arab grievance.
    Worth reading. However, it is worth remembering, that all things considered, the United States is forced into a position where it must take some responsibility for the Middle East conflict, and moreover, it forced itself into that position because it was deemed to be in the best interests of the United States. The US is not responsible for the Arab world's decisions. But the US is responsible for its own decisions. Two divisions - 30,000 soldiers - of the US army in 1948, stationed on Israel's borders, would have been sufficient to stop an Arab invasion. No Arab government in 1948 woud have dared to cross a line guarded by the United States Army. Perhaps only the USSR would have dared to do so. As there was no disagreement between the US and USSR on this issue, it would have been an easy matter to station even 4 or 5 divisions in the Middle East. It would have even been an easy matter for the British to leave a token force on the Egyptian and Jordanian borders. Instead, the British actively encouraged, aided and even led the Transjordan Arab legion and helped them to subvert the UN partition plan. The United States did nothing whatever to stop the British.
    The truth is apparently, that nobody considered the UN partition plan and the internationalization of Jerusalem to be realistic and workable solutions. The world decided on a "solution" as a political gesture, but did not have the responsibility to deal with the problem. Likewise, had the US lived up to its word and opened the straits of Tiran in 1967, there would have been no war then either. Had the US acted as an active guarantor of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, there would have been no violence in 2000, and the occupation of Palestinian territory would have ended by now. However, in each case, the United Nations and the United States chose to engage, mediate and negotiate with bandits and aggressors, instead of acting to implement justice and maintain order. Indeed, the US should have been engaged, but not in the sense meant by anti-Israel critics.
    Ami Isseroff

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    Omert at press conference with Mubarak

    Remarks by PM Ehud Olmert at press conference with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak
    (Communicated by the Prime Minister's Media Adviser)

    PM Ehud Olmert and Egyptian President Mubarak meet in Cairo (Photo: GPO)
    Following are Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's remarks yesterday (Tuesday), 20 November 2007, at his press conference with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Cairo:

    Mr. President, Mr. Prime Minister and ministers of the Egyptian Government, dear friends,
    Exactly 30 years ago today, the late President Anwar Sadat appeared before the Israeli Knesset in what came to be an historic turning point that changed the face of the Middle East.  I was then a young MK who sat in the Knesset plenum and was moved to watch the President of Egypt and the Prime Minister of Israel. I saw history changing before my eyes. Today, the Israeli Prime Minister visiting the Egyptian President is already routine and perhaps this is the biggest and most important achievement, which began with Egyptian President Anwar Sadat's historic visit, which you supported Mr. President, when you were Anwar Sadat's Vice President.
    My visit here today is taking place under our harsh witnessing in Israel of continued terrorism in the territories. Last night, an Israeli was shot and killed by terrorists and naturally this is part of the efforts by terrorist elements to disrupt the attempts to reach a diplomatic dialogue but it is also proof that very great efforts are still needed by the Palestinian Authority (PA) to fight terrorism more effectively.
    I naturally consulted with President Mubarak regarding the meeting that is expected to take place next week in the US, in Annapolis. The goal of the Annapolis meeting is to put into motion serious, continuous and thorough negotiations between Israel and the PA that will lead us to deal with all substantive issues on the agenda of our relations with the PA ahead of agreement on a solution of two states for two peoples - a Palestinian state for the Palestinian people and the State of Israel, the national home of the Jewish people.
    I thank you Mr. President for your involvement and for the efforts that you are making in order to ensure that the meeting that will be held in Annapolis next week receives impressive backing by influential elements in both the region and throughout the world, with you first and foremost among them. Naturally, we share the hope that the negotiations that will be held following the Annapolis meeting will - in the end - lead us to that just, fair and stable solution between ourselves and the Palestinians, a solution which is the realization of the vision of two states for two peoples. 
    Naturally, during our meeting, we also dealt with bilateral issues. The President and I agreed on the continuation of trade relations and on the expansion of our bilateral trade agreement, which has recently been renewed.
    Naturally, we also dealt with subjects that are very disturbing to Israel vis-a-vis security issues. Israel is determined to block terrorism from the Gaza Strip. Israel will act with all its strength to prevent the continued infiltration of Hamas terrorists into the Strip as a base of operations against Israel. Naturally, we have a common interest on these issues and we exchanged ideas, thoughts and opinions on how to deal with these issues in such a manner that will ensure greater stability and the cessation of terrorism in the south.
    In conclusion Mr. President, it is always pleasant to be your guest at Sharm e-Sheikh; it is also pleasant to visit you in Cairo. I very much enjoy your hospitality, friendship and company. Thank you very much.
    Q: President Mubarak defined the Annapolis meeting as the start of the negotiations. What will occur if the talks fail? How will it be possible to establish a Palestinian state when Gaza has been conquered by Hamas?
    PM Olmert: The definition of Annapolis as an event to launch the start of serious and fundamental negotiations is correct and I think that as is his custom, President Mubarak views the matters in a realistic, balanced and cautious light, as is necessary, and I agree with him. I think that the Annapolis meeting cannot fail for the simple fact that its very taking place is a success. The fact that one of the most important leaders of the world, certainly the leader of such an important Arab country, President Mubarak, is backing and encouraging the Annapolis meeting is proof of the success of its being held.
    The negotiations themselves will not be simple. Did you think that after 60 years we would sit down and resolve every problem within a week or two? There will be harsh disagreements, crises and arguments but I am optimistic that if we act cautiously and responsibly, there is a chance that we will - in the end - reach an agreement. As I said, I very much hope that it will be possible to reach this agreement during 2008.
    It must be clear, and both we and those who are issuing the invitations to Annapolis, i.e. the US administration, agree that the agreement will not be implemented before the Roadmap commitments are honored in full. These commitments apply to the Gaza Strip as well. According to the self-evident Palestinian view, since Gaza is due to be part of the Palestinian state, if this is so, terrorism must be fought in the Gaza Strip as well.
    Q: Where do we stand, one week before the Annapolis conference? Will the conference lead to an agreement? We are talking about the Roadmap but where are we vis-a-vis the Arab peace initiative and Israel's insistence that other Arab sides participate in this conference?
    PM Olmert: We are currently one week before Annapolis. In another week, I hope that we will all meet in Annapolis. As the President said, as I have said and as many have said, Annapolis is not designed to be a negotiations conference. The negotiations will take place after the conference.
    I want it to be clear and it is very important to me that the entire Arab world also knows what I am about to say. The negotiations will take place on all of the most fundamental problems in order for us to be able to implement the vision of two states for two peoples. We will not evade any problem. We will not skip over any issue with which the Palestinians are concerned and which stands between us in order for us to reach a solution. We will not allow them to skip over any of the important issues that vex us, with the war on terrorism first and foremost, not statements about the war on terrorism but the war on terrorism. 
    Now I would like to say a word about the Arab peace initiative. Israel relates with great appreciation to the Arab peace initiative and attributes great importance to it as part of the effort to reach a comprehensive peace agreement in the end. I have no doubt that in the coming year, this initiative, the Arab peace initiative, will certainly make an important contribution to the negotiations process between us and the Palestinians.
    Q: Mr. Prime Minister, do you see Egypt as at least partially responsible for the terrorist strengthening of Hamas in the Gaza Strip?
    PM Olmert: The President of Egypt is a friend of Israel and he has a standing invitation to be our guest and when he comes he will be a very honored guest. We held a very serious discussion on issues related to activity in the south and we set joint patterns of activity between our countries' security and intelligence elements in order to prevent the continued infiltration of terrorists into the Gaza Strip.
    Q: You spoke about the Palestinians' need to maintain Israel's security according to the Roadmap commitment. What about Israel's commitment to the suffering Palestinian people? Every day on television, I see awful acts towards Palestinian women and children.
    PM Olmert: Naturally, I very much regret any instance in which a Palestinian civilian is hurt as a result of Israeli action. We have no intention that this should happen. I would like to remind you that last night is only one example, that an Israeli citizen was murdered by Palestinian terrorism and this is a phenomenon that we are not prepared to countenance, and we will never countenance it.
    Every day Kassam rockets are fired from inside the Gaza Strip in order to hit Israeli citizens in the south of the country. Israel completely left the Gaza Strip. There is no Israeli presence in the Gaza Strip. But for two years there has been a relentless firing of Kassam rockets in order to hit Israeli civilians living in their homes and at their places of work. Nobody can justify this and nobody can countenance it.
    I am convinced that the vast majority of the Palestinian public, like that of the Arab public in general, takes exception with the murderous Hamas terrorism perpetrated from the Gaza Strip. Moreover, the Palestinians have commitments to us and we demand that they be honored in full. We also have commitments to the Palestinians and we intend to fulfill all of our Roadmap commitments just as the Palestinians are obligated to do.

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    Tuesday, November 20, 2007

    The Annapolis conference - as scheduled

    As an AP article in the Washington Post tells us: Invites Set for Mideast Conference. The conference is set for a week from today, November 27. That settles the hash of those who spread rumors that it was to be postponed, though one doubts that any of them will say, "Gee, I was wrong."
    At this point, it is not clear what may be accomplished at this conference, and what the "flavor" will be. We may get an idea from the invitation list: 
    The U.S. has already said the 13 nations that make up the Arab League's "follow-up committee" on a broad Arab-Israeli peace settlement are to be invited.
    Aside from the Palestinians and Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa, the committee members are Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia and Yemen...
    Others expected to be invited include the members that, with the United States, make up the so-called Quartet of Mideast peacemakers _ the United Nations, European Union and Russia. Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair will also be asked to attend in his capacity as the quartet representative to the Palestinians.
    Invitations may also go to select European states with a past role or interest in Mideast peacemaking such as France, Germany and Britain, along with G8 economic powers that were not covered by other invitations, such as Canada, Japan and Italy.
    A gathering that will include the Secretary General of the UN, EU representatives, thirteen Arab states and Russia is not likely to be overly friendly to Israel. In large part, this meeting was catalyzed by the reaffirmation of the Arab peace initiative at the recent Arab League peace summit. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice took the Arabs at their word, and they were taken - aback. Now they are going to meet on Friday to decide on their attitudes to the conference. What if they all decide they aren't coming??  
    Unfortunately, this has all the earmarks of "not serious." One would expect that a serious attempt to tackle the Middle East conflict would take months of serious preparation, with invitations sent well in advance. UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon was at his diplomatic best:
    "I think this international conference in Annapolis will be a good beginning of a credible process to resolve all these issues," Ban told reporters in New York on Monday. "At the same time, I'd like to see that the participants ... base their expectations on a more practical and realistic assessment."
    In other words, don't expect anything. 
    Ami Isseroff

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    Anti-Semitism in Australia and how to fight it

    In Australian Jewish world, Jeremy Jones discusses the right-wing and Muslim campaign of racist violence against Australian Jews. His position is somewhat peculiar, but the situation he paints is grim:  
    ... As the 1980s continued, the Australian Jewish community saw incitement against it from a temporarily resurgent extreme right wing, and from the most visible Muslim personality in Australia, Sheikh Taj a-Din al-Hilaly. Despite the similarity of rhetoric from the gutter racists of the neo-Nazi fringe and the imam, the latter had more than a few apologists in the media and his own religious community. This was far more of a concern than the comments he made to a public forum at Sydney University.
    In a short period in the 1990s, no less than a quarter of Sydney's synagogues were subjected to arson attacks, and Jewish organisations since that time have been logging reports of abuse, intimidation, assault or vandalism on a daily basis.
    ...The easiest place to pick up overtly antisemitic literature in Australia at present is at a self-titled Islamic bookstore....
    Terrorism, as many speakers noted, needs to be addressed on a number of levels. Security, policing and intelligence gathering are important parts of the equation.....
    This presentation raises many issues. Jones is certainly wrong about the easiest place to get overly anti-Semtic literature. The easiest place to pick up overtly anti-Semitic literature in Australia or anywhere else in the world, is the Internet. It is free and ubiquitous. Practically everyone except Jones seems to have an Internet connection. Even third world kids will be connected to the net through $150 notebook computers. The Jewwatch Web site tops the list of Web sites returned by the Google search engine for keyword Jew. The Australians can certainly be "proud" of their contribution in this field. The foul Ziopedia originates in Australia. Biblebelievers Australia has the Protocols of the Elders of Zion at its Web site.
    What is to be done? Jones tells us:

    Terrorism, as many speakers noted, needs to be addressed on a number of levels. Security, policing and intelligence gathering are important parts of the equation. To combat the activities of those who seek to recruit, inspire and direct individuals to acts of extremist violence, including terrorism, requires additional elements, such as counter-education and positive interfaith and inter-communal relationships placed before them as ideals.
    I am not sure it is "terrorism" - it is racist violence. Where can we draw the line? When young hoodlums called me a "Jew bastard" in Brooklyn, it was not "terrorism." Was lynching of civil rights workers in the Southern USA terrorism? Attaching the word "terrorism" to this violence is not necessarily helpful.
    Jones' suggestions are peculiar in a number of ways, because of what is missing from them, and because of his continuing bizarrely naive optimism. A band-aid will not cure cancer. Interfaith activities are not going to help much. The people who read the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and the followers of Sheikh Hillal are not likely to participate in interfaith dialogue.
    Jones considers only Australian authorities and Australian solutions. But the Muslims come from abroad and are supported from abroad. The hate originates in the Middle East. The problem of Internet hate is also an international issue. This suggests that the problem must be dealt with at an international, as well as a national level. In the best of all possible worlds, the UN would be doing it, but they won't. The Jews however, have international resources as well, and the state of Israel that must assume the responsibility of protecting Jews wherever they are, and we have strong American organizations as well. "Kol Yisrael areivim zeh la zeh" - all of Israel are responsible for each other. Google, Wikipedia, Dmoz and other Internet institutions that help propagate hate literature should be targeted in a concerted campaign. Hate groups may have freedom of speech, but that doesn't mean that they must be given prominence by linking to their Web sites. Without those links and listings, almost nobody would see the hate sites. The Internet is open to Jews and those who hate racism as well, and we can make Web sites and Web pages that compete with the hate literature.
    Beyond that, Jones and other Australian Jews have to consider the significance of the fact that Sheikh Hillal got so much local support. A few hoodlums can be combatted by police action. A large segment of public opinion is a more stubborn danger, and there comes a point when you have to consider whether all the authorities and their representatives are really on your side. Complaining to police about anti-Semitic violence might be less than optimally effective if the officer who takes your complaint is a reader of Ziopedia or a follower of Sheikh Hillal.  If Australian Jews really are feeling the heat, perhaps it is better for them to come to Israel where they are wanted, rather than staying where they are not wanted.
    Jones' article: The Fear Factor

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    Monday, November 19, 2007

    Saudi opposition to Iran

    From MEMRI:
    Special Dispatch-Iran/Saudi Arabia/Persian Gulf
    November 20, 2007
    No. 1769
    Saudi Columnists Call on Gulf States to Form Anti-Iran Front 
    Following recent threats against the Gulf countries by leading Iranian officials, several Saudi columnists have criticized the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member countries' passivity in the face of the danger posed by Iran.
    The columnists also called for a joint GCC front against Iran, under which a joint defense plan would be drawn up, a Gulf military industry developed, and a joint military force established. They added that the Gulf countries must close ranks before it is too late. 
    We Must Not Remain Silent in the Face of Iran's Threats to Our Sovereignty
    In the Kuwaiti daily Al-Siyassa, Saudi columnist Abdallah Al-Mutairi wrote that the Gulf countries must not remain silent in the face of Iran's threats, but must instead formulate a joint defense plan:
    "Since the beginning of the Iranian nuclear crisis between Iran and the international community as represented by the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. Security Council, the E.U., and the U.S., Iran has been making efforts to respond by means of direct and indirect threats to the GCC countries.
    "The most recent threat came from Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who declared his country's intent to 'fill the security vacuum that will be created in Iraq when the U.S. forces withdraw.'
    "[We also learned] about the escalation [in Iran's position] from statements by IRGC naval commander Ali Razmjou to the Fars news agency, to wit: 'If the enemies want to launch a military attack, the IRGC has a force that can turn the Gulf into a hell for them.'
    "Likewise, we all remember the editorial by Hossein Shari'atmadari,(1) advisor to Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and editor of the Kayhan newspaper, in which he stressed that Bahrain was a region belonging to Iran and that there are documents proving full Iranian sovereignty over the three islands (Greater Tunb, Lesser Tunb, and Abu Moussa). We also cannot forget [Shari'atmadari's] comment that among the Gulf states there are illegitimate regimes that are the product of imperialism.
    "Further, we cannot forget the statements by Ali Shamkhani, top military advisor to the leader of the Iranian revolution [i.e. Khamenei] and former defense minister, who threatened to wage all-out war against the countries of the region if the U.S. attacked Iranian nuclear facilities.
    "We cannot be silent in the face of all these threats and warnings, and in the face of the Iranian threats to the Gulf states' sovereignty and security and of [Iran's] interference in their affairs. We must hasten to come up with serious and unified security measures that the Gulf states can take, and must start preparing a joint defense plan, in order to confront Iran's aspirations in the region, and in order to create a minimal balance of power in the Gulf. Such efforts must be emphasized by conducting large-scale joint [military] maneuvers, with participation limited to the GCC countries.
    "It would be unwise to remain silent in light of Iran's irregular behavior, and to try to make excuses for [Iran's statements] by saying it was just a slip, or that these statements were aimed at the U.S. as part of the verbal war between Iran and the U.S.... In the face of the Iranian cudgel that is constantly being brandished at us, we must direct all of the Gulf's cudgels at it, and must not respond [only] via diplomatic means..."(2)
    Let Us Act Before the Day Darkens Upon Us
    Saudi columnist Yousef Al-Kwaylit wrote in the Saudi daily Al-Riyadh that in the face of Iran's threats to the Gulf countries, the GCC must prepare a strategic plan to include joint military industrial projects and the establishment of a joint military force:
    "The GCC countries are taking one step forward and several steps backward on matters connected to security coordination... The circumstances require that we understand, in all seriousness, whether we are in one boat about to sink, or whether we are about to be rescued from what is going to happen on our borders.
    "We must be bold in making fateful decisions, taking into account that we are not on the same military level as our neighbor [Iran]. We must reexamine the history of the Iraq-Iran wars, and the deterioration in security taking place today that heralds a dangerous war between the U.S. and Israel vs. Iran, whose ramifications will be destructive for all.
    "The meetings of the GCC heads have become a routine occurrence, but the results of these meetings are unconvincing, since their strategic plans give no precedence to launching a military industrial project. Nor are there any attempts to become self-sufficient in supplying ourselves with the spare parts, ammunition, and light and medium weaponry that we need [in order to] form a basis for advanced industry. [We must act in this direction] as long as we have abundant funds, as long as we have minds and manpower, and as long as we have the capability to import experts and technology without restriction.
    "The Gulf's location, geography, and strategic importance to the entire world have made it a bargaining chip for countries in the region and outside it. The Gulf's oil resources, revenues, and vital position as a passage between land masses have made it a fragile and dangerous region. The British, who were present in the region in the past, the Americans, who are present there now, and the Soviets, who wish [to gain a foothold there] have all set their own interests [above those of the Gulf states].
    "That is why today we are standing on unstable ground, even though we ourselves have no interest in the power struggles that threaten our security. The GCC member countries must talk among themselves, as openly as possible, about the future of their military and political security, and must stand fast in the face of the regional and international forces that are holding them hostage.
    "The worrying question is: Why aren't [the Gulf countries] taking any interest in establishing their own joint [military] force, despite the many options for establishing such a force? Have we forgotten how Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait? Have we forgotten the Persian shah's threats to invade Bahrain, and the reiteration of those same threats by a senior Iranian official just a few weeks ago? Have we forgotten the dispute between Iran and the UAE over the [three] islands?
    "The matter has still not reached frightening proportions, but we must be cautious... and in light of the warnings, we must understand where our responsibility lies – before the day darkens upon us."(3)
    (1) See MEMRI Inquiry and Analysis Series No. 379, "Tension in Iran-Bahrain Relations After Kayhan Editor Claims Bahrain Is Inseparable Part of Iran," August 3, 2007,
    (2) Al-Siyassa (Kuwait), September 7, 2007. 
    (3) Al-Riyadh (Saudi Arabia), November 1, 2007.
    Source: MEMRI

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    Momentous discovery: Hitler didn't like Jews

    Well, not quite, but surely you will agree that this headline is less than earthshaking news:
    Oh My! You Don't SAY!! For that, they needed a conference?
    Ami Isseroff

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    Peace Now's folly: Lieberman is not like Ahmadinejad

    Peace Now is running an unfortunate campaign - "Lieberman is like Ahmadinejad." He isn't. Ahmadinejad is thinner, and he is not Russian. Seriously, Ahmadinejad is a religious fanatic who wants to destroy me as well as Peace Now. He is a genocidal Holocaust denier.  That is not a small detail. Peace Now has taken themselves outside the Jewish camp. They forgot that we are all in the same boat here - Mr. Ahmadinejad's Fat Boy will irradiate Peace Now people as well as settlers. Opposition to the Annapolis meeting is not the only criterion on which to judge people.
    Ami Isseroff

    Gil Hoffman , THE JERUSALEM POST  Nov. 19, 2007
    Peace Now unveiled a campaign early Monday comparing Strategic Affairs Minister Avigdor Lieberman to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
    The organization plastered hundreds of posters depicting the two men in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Lieberman's West Bank community of Nokdim, under the slogan: "Opponents of Annapolis are opponents of peace!"
    Peace Now secretary-general Yariv Oppenheimer said early Monday that Lieberman was strengthening the possibility that Iran will obtain nuclear weapons by opposing the Annapolis summit.
    "Whoever makes Annapolis fail is playing into the hands of Ahmadinejad, Hamas and all the extremists." Oppenheimer said. "That's what Lieberman is doing by emptying Annapolis of all its content and ensuring its failure."
    Lieberman's spokesman responded by calling the Peace Now campaign "incitement."
    "It infuriates me that that the same Peace Now that justifiably protests when there are posters depicting (slain prime minister Yitzhak) Rabin and (President Shimon) Peres in a kafiyeh is now dressing Lieberman as Ahmadinejad," the spokesman said.
    The extremists on the left in Peace Now are no different than (Kach activist Baruch) Marzel and extremists on the right"
    As the Labor Central Committee was set to meet on Monday, opponents of Labor chairman Ehud Barak said that Annapolis would fail, not because of Lieberman but because of Barak's failure to make his presence felt, which was strengthening Lieberman's influence.

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    Annapolis still on track to noplace

    This Washington Post story tells us that everything is proceeding exactly as expected - total chaos.
    Mideast Conference Nears, With Few Plans
    'No One Seems to Know What Is Happening,' Arab Envoy Says
    By Glenn Kessler
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Monday, November 19, 2007; A01
    A few days after Thanksgiving, President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice plan to open a meeting in Annapolis to launch the first round of substantive Israeli-Palestinian peace talks during Bush's presidency.
    But no conference date has been set. No invitations have been issued. And no one really agrees on what the participants will actually talk about once they arrive at the Naval Academy for the meeting, which is intended to relaunch Bush's stillborn "road map" plan to create a Palestinian state.
    The anticipation surrounding the meeting has heightened the stakes for other countries seeking invites. If Turkey comes, Greece wants a seat. So does Brazil, which has more Arabs than the Palestinian territories. Norway hosted an earlier round of peacemaking in Oslo, so it wants a role. Japan wants to do more than write checks for Palestinians.
    "No one seems to know what is happening," one senior Arab envoy said last week, speaking on condition of anonymity to avoid appearing out of the loop. "I am completely lost."
    The envoy recounted the calls he made in recent days to dig up information and said he had reserved rooms for his country's foreign minister and other officials. He added with exasperation: "It is a very peculiar thing."
    Even a senior administration official deeply involved in the preparations confided, before speaking off the record about his expectations: "I can't connect the dots myself because it is still a work in progress."
    The delay in officially announcing the meeting, which Bush said in July would take place "this fall," is largely the result of the complexities of the five-decade conflict between Israel and its Arab neighbors. Rice is holding back an announcement as long as possible in order to entice as many Arab nations -- particularly Saudi Arabia -- to attend at a senior level.
    Many diplomats involved in planning the meeting say it is simply intended to validate talks that are already proceeding between Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas over the contours of a Palestinian state.
    The conference is intended to be brief, lasting a day or so. The substance of a final statement may well be bland -- there is no agreement on a text yet.
    But Rice hopes the two sides will agree to press ahead on the road map plan on two simultaneous tracks. Under this new approach, the Israelis and Palestinians would negotiate hard toward a permanent settlement of the conflict, which all sides hope will be seen as a major breakthrough, while at the same time taking practical steps to ease tensions on the ground.
    Rice has made repeated trips to the region this year to breathe new life into a peace process that had become dormant. She has sought Arab participation in order to give Abbas greater credibility among Palestinians, particularly because the militant group Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip in June.
    But Saudi officials are driving a hard bargain. They initially insisted that they would not attend a conference that was not substantive and did not deal with the core issues of creating a Palestinian state. Olmert, however, has balked at agreeing to a joint statement with Abbas that might be viewed in Israel as making concessions ahead of actual hard bargaining.
    So Saudi Arabia and other Arab states began to seek a comprehensive package of Israeli steps, including a freeze on settlement growth, the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners, the easing of roadblocks and travel restrictions and a halt to the construction of its security barrier in and around the West Bank.
    Rice has pushed both sides to adopt confidence-building measures before the meeting in an effort to build momentum and to convince Arabs that their participation is worthwhile. Israel appears poised to announce a freeze on settlement growth and other measures sought by the Saudis. The Palestinians, meanwhile, have deployed police in the West bank city of Nablus in a modest effort to show they are tackling security concerns.
    Asked whether Saudi Arabia had made a settlement freeze a condition of its attendance, a senior Israeli official dryly said, "It has not been put to us this way." But he noted that under Israel's interpretation of the road map, a settlement freeze is to come only after the Palestinians take concrete steps to fight terrorism.
    Aaron David Miller, a former State Department official and author of the soon-to-be-released book, "The Much Too Promised Land," an account of U.S. efforts to foster peace, said invitations were issued two weeks before the last major international conference on the Middle East, held in Madrid in 1991. He said invitations were issued weeks ahead of another Middle East negotiation session, the 1998 Wye River conference in Maryland.
    "I'm not sure any of that speaks to whether it is a consequential event or not," Miller said, suggesting that the proposed talks in Annapolis are mostly necessary to let the world know that substantive peace talks are already taking place.
    "Abbas and Olmert have already had more serious discussions on the core issues than any Israeli prime minister and Palestinian president in history," he said. At Annapolis, "Rice will change the channel on the TV that for the last seven years has brought some pretty awful images."
    The invitation list has created its own headaches. Administration officials were split over whether to invite Syria, but Rice prevailed in that dispute by suggesting that the United States instead invite an entity called the "follow-up committee" of the Arab League, which happens to include Syria along with nearly a dozen other Arab states. The solution put the burden on Syria to accept without making it look like a diplomatic cave-in to conservatives.
    An Arab diplomat said last week the list of invitees could easily reach 50 nations once all diplomatic considerations are addressed.
    Every day last week, reporters pestered the State Department's spokesman, Sean McCormack, for an update on the invitations. Each time, he demurred. "Once the invitations are issued, I would expect that most, if not all, of the invitees will reply, 'Yes, we're coming,' " he said Friday. "I think they'll be able to get here."

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    Why we hate Olmert

    Ehud Asheri (see Olmert Hate) writes:
    Anyone who has ever tried to put in a good word for Ehud Olmert knows the drill. In the best case, he receives questioning glances, as if his mind had slipped a gear. In the less-best case, he is considered an incorrigible coddler protecting a deceitful prime minister for political reasons. In the worst case he is branded a garden-variety sycophant, bought by the regime for some unknown favor. In all these cases one gets the sense that to support the prime minister, however insubstantially, is to commit an act of moral turpitude.
    The polls confirm this perception. Even after the operation in Syria (which was supposed to rehabilitate his military image) and the disclosure of his cancer (which was supposed to provoke empathy), more than 75 percent of Israelis are dissatisfied with Olmert and think he is unfit to be prime minister. Israel has never had a prime minister who is less well-liked and whose rivals march well ahead of him in the popularity parade.
    To find the deepest reason for the Olmert hatred, one must search the depths of mass psychology, in the general sense of the crumbling of the state's authority, the lack of vision - all the factors that make up a leadership crisis. Israelis may be content on the personal level, but they are depressed on the national one. They have no direction. Author David Grossman put it well: "The people leading Israel today are unable to connect Israelis to their identity .... [to] give some meaning to the exhausting and despairing struggle for existence."
    Olmert is a victim of this dynamic, but he also contributes to it through his personal and political behavior. As a leader, he personifies the Israeli identity crisis - he lacks a clear vision, he is not built for greatness, he conducts small, shady business deals and is beholden to the techniques of survival. It isn't as if there are other great lights at hand, but when we look at him we see ourselves instead of who we could be. That's why we don't like him.
    I confess that I believe it too. I don't hate Olmert. I despise him because he is a shopkeeper - a beancounter. He would not call up the reserves in the Lebanon war because he wanted to save money. He is the Jew who, when confronted by a bandit who says "Your money or your life," says "Take my life, I need my money for my old age."
    But I know that a lot of people hate Olmert because he threatens their precious settlements. If they had a beancounter and a crook in charge who liked settlements, they would love him. They had no problem with Sharon's "moral turpitude" as long as he was for Greater Israel. They only discovered that it is not nice to take bribes when Sharon announced the disengagement plan.
    And I also remember the other Prime Ministers who were hated. Remember when Rabin had an approval rating of about 25%? And there was one other guy who was a shopkeeper, a coward, hesitant and so on. He had no charisma. He stuttered. He made deals.  Remember him? He was Levy Eshkol, whose quiet leadership made possible a military victory that changed the history of the Middle East.
    Olmert unfortunately doesn't seem to be a Levy Eshkol, does he? But having a beancounter PM is not the worst possible thing. The worst case scenario is that we will have a beancounter as PM and LIKE him.
    Ami Isseroff  

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    Continued (Permanent Link)

    Sunday, November 18, 2007

    Hamas arrests Mohamed Al Dura's father

    For Palestinians, this is like arresting Mother Teresa.
    Hamas detains Mohammed al-Dura's dad

    Associated Press , THE JERUSALEM POST  Nov. 18, 2007
    Hamas security briefly detained on Saturday the father of a Palestinian boy who became a national symbol when he was allegedly killed during intense fighting in Gaza seven years ago.
    Jamal al-Dura, 44, said he was held for four hours in a central Gaza police station and interrogated for allegedly shooting in the air during a family wedding. Al-Dura, a Fatah supporter, denied the accusations and said he can't carry guns because of his medical condition.
    On Sept. 30, 2000, al-Dura and his son, Mohammed, 12, were reportedly caught in a furious exchange of fire between IDF troops and Palestinian gunmen. A French TV crew seemed to capture the two cowering behind a wall, and the boy falling after he was fatally shot. The father was badly wounded.
    The scene was broadcast around the world and became a symbol of the second intifada.
    The IDF has ruled out the notion that al-Dura was killed by Israeli fire and a court case in France is set to resume on February 27 to determined what actually happened.
    At the police station, Hamas asked al-Dura to sign a piece of paper to pledge he will abide by the law, al-Dura said. He refused.
    "I am a law abiding citizen," al-Dura said. "I am a respected man around the world and here. This is an affront to me and to them," al-Dura said in reference to Hamas.
    Hamas security said al-Dura was called in for questioning on a firing incident and was released

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    Palestinians renege on understandings

    So what else is new? A similar phenomenon was observed in May of 2000, when Palestinians reneged on earlier agreements before going to the Camp David meetings.
    'Palestinians have backtracked on all understandings'

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Staff , THE JERUSALEM POST  Nov. 18, 2007
    The Palestinians have backtracked on all understandings that were reached on a joint Israeli-Palestinian statement to be presented at the Annapolis peace conference, senior diplomatic officials were quoted as saying Sunday.
    According to the sources, the Palestinians have "returned to square one, to [a point that] preceded the beginning of the negotiations."
    The possibility that each side would present a separate statement was being weighed, officials said, claiming that the conference was only meant to be a venue for launching negotiations in the presence of representatives from dozens of countries.
    Israeli and Palestinian negotiating teams were slated to reconvene Sunday, and on Monday Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is scheduled to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
    Senior government officials said Saturday night that negotiations themselves would not take place at Annapolis, but rather that the negotiating process would begin "immediately" afterward. No date or venue was given for these negotiations, although they are expected to be carried out by the same teams which have been negotiating the statement to be unveiled at Annapolis.
    Senior officials in the Prime Minister's Office declined to respond to various Palestinian reports that "failure" at Annapolis would lead to Abbas's resignation or could possibly spark another round of terrorist violence.
    "The meeting at Annapolis is the beginning of a process," one official said. "It is the first time in seven years that the sides are openly having a dialogue that we hope will lead to a final settlement of some sort. Annapolis is the stepping-off point, and in that sense it is an important landmark, although the event itself is essentially a show of international support for the bilateral track."
    Herb Keinon contributed to this report.

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    Dichter: Egypt strengthening Hamas at the expense of PA

    Egypt allowing Hamas to amass arms'

    Rebecca Anna Stoil , THE JERUSALEM POST  Nov. 18, 2007
    Thirty years after Egyptian President Anwar Sadat's historic visit to Israel, Public Security Minister Avi Dichter accused Egypt on Sunday of knowingly permitting smuggling that strengthens Hamas. He called on the Quartet to intervene and force Egypt to stop the steady stream of men and materiel through the porous Rafah border.
    "Egypt understands the situation and they know that the continuation of smuggling is strengthening Hamas and weakening the PA," Dichter said in a phone interview. "After Oslo and especially after the intifada, when smuggling started to be the trend, everybody thought that Egypt was going to play its role….but Egypt is doing practically nothing," he complained.
    Dichter emphasized that Israel had given ample chances to Egypt to prevent smuggling across the Rafah border - even allowing Egypt's Border Brigade - a paramilitary police unit under army command - to be positioned along the sensitive area. At times, upwards of 5,000 Egyptian troops had been stationed along the Egyptian side of the Philadelphi Corridor but - according to Dichter - to no avail.
    "Egypt could deploy to stop the smuggling within an hour," said the former Shin Bet chief, who specialized in the Gaza sector. "What we previously perceived as weakness or inability to act may be Egyptian policy," he explained - adding that the smuggling seemed to serve no one's interest other than that of Hamas.
    Weapons, drugs and what Dichter described as Iranian-trained terrorists were smuggled across the border, mostly through tunnels dug deep in Rafah's sandy soil.
    But 30 years after the two countries opened neighborly discourse, Dichter said that he did not believe that Israel could do anything to convince the Egyptians to change their lax policy toward border infiltrations.
    "Israel doesn't have strong leverage against Egypt, but other countries such as the US or coalitions such as the Quartet should use the leverage that they have to convince Egypt to stop the smuggling," Dichter suggested. He emphasized that he hoped the topic would be discussed at the upcoming summit in Annapolis. "I hope it will be discussed because it has a lot to do with the stability of the entire area," he said.
    In lieu of acting to stop the smuggling through talking to Egypt, Dichter said that there were three directions through which Israel could confront Hamas's growing capabilities in Gaza.
    First, he said, Israel must create a deterrent factor to raise the cost of engaging in terror acts against Israel such as the Kassams fired at the Western Negev. Second, the further enhancement of Hamas's capabilities should be blocked. "If not by Egypt," warned Dichter, "then it must be done by Israel." Dichter described these first two steps as "immediate," whereas he termed the third step - "to harm and reduce Hamas's capabilities" - as "the most complicated."
    "The problem isn't just about Israel's security, but also that of the PA and of Egypt itself…. Hamas did in the Gaza Strip what Abbas said that he wanted to do throughout the PA. Gaza is united under one leadership: Hamas; one law: Islamic law; and one gun: Hamas's army that they are building there."

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    Continued (Permanent Link)

    How do we create a Jewish renaissance?

    Two models of Jewish conferencing
    Haviv Rettig , THE JERUSALEM POST  Nov. 18, 2007
    NASHVILLE - The UJC's General Assembly ended in the middle of last week, sending what must have been a record-breaking flood of Jews through Nashville's small airport as everyone rushed to get home to their scattered communities, whether in Los Angeles, Maine or Tel Aviv. The GA is a huge conference - held this year at the Gaylord Opryland Resort with a total price tag of $2.3 million and some 3,500 attendees - that marks the annual haj for American Jewish communal institutions.
    Two weeks ago, I attended a more intimate affair, the KolDor Third Global Conference on the shores of the Galilee.
    The scale was different - about 100 participants in an elegant but simple hostel - and the purpose was diametrically opposite. The GA was about self-reflection for the multi-billiondollar Jewish federation system in America; KolDor was about reorganizing the structure of Jewish life, which is slowly shifting away from the old pillars of the community institutions, by embracing some newfangled ideas about flat networks and entrepreneurship.
    The average age at the KolDor conference, which organizers calculated at 29-33, might have been 20 years younger than at the GA.
    Some 550 American Jewish communities are united under the rubric of the UJC, wielding billions of dollars in the service of America's poor Jews and non-Jews and in support of Israel. KolDor, a network focused, not unlike high-tech companies such as Nokia, on "connecting people," has no clear membership roster or precisely defined hierarchy, and perhaps 400 individual members worldwide. Thus, a comparison between KolDor and the UJC is not meant to imply equal importance or similar purpose, only to bring into sharp relief what each - the restless information-age agitators of Jewish life and the gargantuan social welfare networks and institutions of American Jewish communities - brings to the table.
    Perhaps it is the strange vantage point of an English-speaking Israeli newspaper, an outsider to both American Jewish institutions and US-centered Jewish entrepreneurship on the dot-com model, but it was striking to me how solipsistic self-reflection seemed to dominate both events, and how neither organizational model has learned to use the critical resources offered by the other. While KolDor gushed breathlessly with innovation and the UJC offered obsessive discussion of its own structure, neither seemed to know quite what to do with the other.
    Networking creativity Bertrand Russell once complained that philosophy never gets credit for anything because whenever it invents something useful the new creation is given its own distinct name. When philosophers think clearly about numbers, it's soon called mathematics; about mind, cognitive science; about society, it becomes sociology, political science, or ethics. The net result is that philosophy is assumed to have produced nothing, even when the basic project, the rational uncovering of truth for its own sake, may be given much of the credit for producing the modern age in which we live.
    Russell's complaint comes to mind in the wake of KolDor's late-October conference.
    In itself, the conference was not especially remarkable. It mixed the feel of a youth group convention - singing at meals, multiple-bed hostel rooms - with the ambition of a think tank - sessions included discussion of worldwide Jewish education policy, models of Brazilian environmental education, and a mental exercise involving an autonomous Jewish region within Israel that would "redo" the institutions of a Jewish state modeled on what one participant called "Zionist peoplehood," rather than mere Zionism. The conference was heavily Anglo and conducted in English, since almost half the participants came from outside Israel and many did not speak Hebrew.
    Yet, unlike the confusion surrounding the star-studded Jewish People Policy Planning Institute conference in Jerusalem in June - an establishment get-together looking for new strategies for Jewish life that couldn't decide whether it was merely a "planning body," as institute president Yehezkel Dror insisted, or, as some bitter participants had expected, a mechanism for directing implementation - the KolDor conference was clear from the beginning.
    No policy paper emerged from the KolDor event, and no actionable reform plan for Jewish institutions was suggested. There wasn't even a mapping-out of the problems of the Jewish world - standard practice ahead of your average Jewish-survival discussion group.
    Yet when conference organizers said the event was a success, their reasoning wasn't as far-fetched as you might think. Since KolDor isn't about conferencing, but about "the power of the network," it was never the gettogether that mattered, but rather the people - young, clever and eager - who are supposed to discover each other and develop relationships that will produce new ideas and initiatives that can rejuvenate Jewish life.
    Until the KolDor conference, I didn't know about Aharon Horwitz's MavenHaven, or Ahava Zarembski's Yesod. (If you're curious, take a page out of KolDor's tech-savvy way of doing business and Google them.) The expertise, ideas and criticisms of Horwitz, Zarembski, Mavoy Satum's Inbal Freund and many others - MK Ze'ev Elkin is a KolDorian, too - are the resource that KolDor brings to the table.
    As with philosophy, KolDor doesn't look like it's accomplishing much. It's even a step farther away from its achievements than philosophy - it does not seek to create new ideas, but rather to streamline the cross-pollination that can produce them. True to its origins in the business-think of the dot-com age, it is a minimalist mechanism for spreading around what turned out to be quite a lot of content. In my brief personal experience with it - I've already connected with and learned from many of the folks I met at the conference - it works.
    Building the dock but missing the boat As for the UJC, the General Assembly concluded last week with a quiet rush for the airport. There was little talk among the average participant of what they learned or gained from the event. Many representatives of visiting organizations complained that the 2.5-day schedule was too packed to allow participants to wander the exhibit hall, so dozens of organizations went to the expense of sending presentation booths to Nashville for little gain. For most, the time was too short even for networking.
    But the main complaint was more substantive - that the GA dealt with organization and structure and not with the educational message and content Jewish communities need in order to give direction to their Jewish programming.
    The GA focused on the UJC's internal structure because of a conscious decision taken by the UJC leadership. In a JTA opinion piece published ahead of the conference, UJC president Howard Rieger and chairman Joe Kanfer listed the issues they saw facing the federation system, and for solutions focused mostly on encouraging new forms of donating.
    "We face an aging, shrinking donor base," they write, since "young Jews are not being shaped by the same existential issues [such as the Holocaust, the Six Day War and the like] as their parents and grandparents."
    Also, "we live in an era of increased mobility" in which Jews "do not have the same long-term local communal ties as before." Young Jews are also less likely "to unflinchingly trust large institutions with their philanthropic dollars" than older donors. Thus, for example, "with the newly created Center for Jewish Philanthropy, we will take a new donorcentered approach, offering a menu of new philanthropic choices tailored to the varied interests of donors."
    These sorts of problems and solutions, UJC leaders feel, are the breadand-butter of the GA. With all due respect to the opinionated young people of the KolDor variety, some UJC leaders told the Post in private, American Jewry will need billions in endowments if the welfare services (the second-largest network of services in the country) and community institutions will survive while the Jewish community ages at an abnormal speed as the younger end of the spectrum leaves. Keeping the multibillion-dollar social safety net running and helping an ever-growing number of elderly and needy is a serious business, one worthy of serious and professional consideration, they believe.
    Thus, the hot-button questions at the GA included how to grow, manage and structure some $13 billion in federation-controlled endowments, how to measure success for federation programs, how to encourage larger donations from the superrich and attract more targeted donations for specific causes, and how to run a centralized but effective community welfare net with shrinking donor funds.
    The problem with the focus on structure and fundraising is not that these are unimportant. The billions of dollars at stake aren't a luxury; they are the food, clothing and Jewish education for many hundreds of thousands of Jews across America and the world. The problem is that this focus seems to show that communal leaders have surrendered to demographic trends, to estimates by the likes of Hebrew University demographer Sergio DellaPergola that the American Jewish population is locked into a direction that will leave it elderly and half its current size in a few short decades.
    Though some UJC leaders, including Howard Rieger himself, deny that there is a race to secure sustainable funds - endowments and wills - before the worst of the demographic predictions come to pass, others in the UJC organization and in the federations themselves say this is a major part of the cause for the growing trend to endow and to encourage the giving of "legacies" through wills.
    This is all well and good. But there is a glaring omission from this agenda that is obvious - as we wrote going into the GA last Sunday, what is missing is any deep discussion of the question of peoplehood: "In America, 'peoplehood' is the growing realization that the American way of identifying [religiously] will not keep young Jews Jewish, even if the openness and creativity of the American cultural landscape brings Jewish themes to primetime comedy, Jewish self-help to Barnes & Noble and Jewish mysticism to Madonna. Rather, they must be shown the value of belonging communally to a Jewish people, no matter its location or the language it speaks. And 'peoplehood' is also a question of content. What is the meaning of that sense of belonging? Where do you find the common cultural ground for a Jewish world in which all Jews, even Russian atheists and Australian haredim, have a stake?"
    Currently, that cultural content is lacking, with Israelis and Americans - each some 40% of the Jewish people - growing farther apart as they define themselves in increasingly disparate ways.
    According to surveys, America's and Israel's young Jews already care much less about each other or about the broader Jewish people than in past years, and their knowledge of each other's community is declining steadily.
    Against this, the KolDor model can be used to develop the response to the cultural dissolution itself. It has an energy quite unlike anything at the GA. But the eclectic free-flow of the KolDor network can do nothing on the ground of any scale.
    Meanwhile, the GA has a fascination with its own structure but is not seriously engaged in crafting a message for American Jewish life. Some in the UJC system argue that the umbrella organization's mandate is limited, and does not include facilitating a Jewish cultural renaissance. But culture, not political lobbying or suave marketing, may be the most sustainable means of engagement with a new generation.
    Perhaps the back-to-back experience of KolDor's conference and the GA shows an American (and world) Jewry at a crossroads, with some young innovators offering the establishment a path that goes beyond survival or continuity to - one can dream - a resurgent transnational Jewish culture. Yet, to make the KolDor model relevant, the establishment will have to embrace its culture-creating capacity and give it the benchmarking, implementation abilities and professionalism of the larger institutions.
    If this isn't done, the American Jewish community may continue to raise lots of money, but it will become an old-age home. In Israel, we may find a Hebrew-speaking nation running a country that has little to do with the world Jewish community.
    At this GA, while some interesting things were said about endowments and programming benchmarks, the opportunity for a serious discussion about cultural renewal was missed.
    Source: Two models

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    How civilian casualties happen: Palestinian terrorists use Schoolchildren as human shields

    Human Shields:

    Palestinians Exploit Their Own Schoolchildren

    by Carlos


    November 16, 2007 - Palestinians have made a specialty of murdering civilians, yet still wish to portray Israel as a sponsor of terrorism. They have found an effective method: deliberately putting their own civilians, even their children, in mortal danger.
    The Israeli army captured on video a group of terrorists near an elementary school in Gaza preparing to launch mortar shells. They would launch the shells from a yard next to an elementary school, then flee the site, leaving the school squarely in the path of any possible Israeli retaliation. According to Israeli military officials, the Israeli army identified the school and withheld fire.

    One Israeli army officer expressed the dilemma:
    "They don't think twice about firing Qassam rockets near crowded public areas, even though they're fully aware that they're endangering innocent civilians. We're constantly faced with very difficult and complex dilemmas, how best to defend Israel's citizens and strike at these terror cells while at the same time avoid civilian casualties on the Palestinian side. The terror organizations are well aware of our sensitivity to these issues and they take full advantage of the situation. This is as cynical as their use of the civilian population gets."
    This tactic of using one's own civilians as human shields is of course nothing new. Hezbollah used it to great effect in the war of summer 2006. Now Palestinians are practicing it so they can shell Israeli cities while still portraying themselves as victims.
    Those who defend the Palestinians ask, "What choice do they have? Where else can they go? Gaza is so tiny. They have to fire those rockets from somewhere." I guess this makes sense if one really does not want to abrogate the inalienable right of Palestinians to murder Israeli civilians. Still, couldn't they at least find a vacant lot somewhere not right next to a school? Wouldn't it be smart to take reasonable safety precautions when firing deadly weapons?
    Islamic extremists are only too willing to confer martyrdom on their own people. The Taliban do the same thing in Afghanistan, against the U.S. There is much resentment against the U.S. among the Afghan people, because so many civilians have been killed. Asked by Scott Pelley of 60 Minutes how often air strikes are cancelled at the last minute, Air Force Colonel Gary Crowder replied: "Thousands and thousands of times a month. We look very, very often, we tracked some of the insurgent leaders we will track for days and days on end. And we are prepared to strike them at any moment. But we can never get all of the criteria necessary to meet our rules of engagement." Added Marc Garlasco of the Pentagon: "I don't think people really appreciate the gymnastics that the U.S. military goes through in order to make sure that they're not killing civilians."

    Continued (Permanent Link)

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