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Saturday, November 14, 2009

Inside story or Israbluff: What Obama and Netanyahu discussed at the Whitehouse and how Ha'aretz knows

Nobody knows what President Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu discussed at the White House, but Ha'aretz and some others are trying really hard to make the case that the US is applying pressure on Israel to make peace. Netanyahu requested a meeting with Obama and went out of his way to keep the appointment, because he likes getting bawled out. In an unconscious parody, Haaretz offered this "proof" that Obama was pressuring Netanyahu to make peace during their meeting last week.
Many words have been written in the Israeli media about the meeting between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House last week, but not one word of its content has been leaked, to the journalists' great distress. Nonetheless, after the White House released a photograph of the two leaders in the Oval Office private dining room, one can in fact discern that the U.S. president stressed to the Israeli premier the historic importance of advancing peace in the Middle East.
In the photo, which was released on Friday, the pair are sitting around a dinning table, speaking and smiling as if the relations between their two countries had never been strained. A painting hangs on the wall beside the two leaders, which if Netanyahu did not see it, or saw it and did not understand its significance, then Obama, who recently won the Nobel Peace Prize, must have taken the trouble to explain to him its historic importance.
In the picture, which was painted in 1865 by the artist George Peter Alexander Healy, Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the United States, is seen conferring with William Sherman, Ulysses Grant and David Porter, the commanders of the Union army. During conversations the four men held on the River Queen steamboat on March 27 and March 28 of that year, just over a week before the end of the U.S. Civil War, they discussed the conditions of the peace treaty they would offer the defeated Confederate forces. The accord, even if it had many deficiencies, brought about the reunion of the North and South, the economic recovery of the South, the abolition of slavery and the emancipation of African Americans.
 Obama's message to Netanyahu, if there really was such a message, is quite clear: If you end the blood feud and make a peace of the brave, you will be remembered in history as a great leader, like Lincoln (the former president most esteemed by Obama).
Ha'aretz offers this as serious analysis, not a joke. Nobody checked how long the painting had been hanging there. Ha'aretz also forgot to mention the main condition of the peace agreement that ended the US Civil War: unconditional surrender of all the Confederate forces. As can be seen in the digitally enhanced enlargement below, Barack Obama is clearly laying it on the line to Bibi, right? Well if you can't see that, you don't have the right sort of imagination probably. I don't either, I guess. You have to be a Ha'aretz reporter. To me, a person of limited imagination, it looks like Bibi is talking enthusiastically and Barack is listening politely.   
Netanyahu-Obama meeting
At least, in this version of their account of the meeting, Ha'aretz admits that nobody really has any idea what was discussed. Previously, they had a somewhat different story as I noted (see here) which qouted an "expert:"
But Dr. Stephen Cohen, President of The Institute for Middle East Peace and Development Partners in Peace, called the meeting "a non-meeting."
"They just talked past each other. I don't see how they can save Abbas by just saying that they want to save Abbas," said Cohen, who is also the author of the recently published book Beyond America's Grasp: A Century of Failed Diplomacy in the Middle East.
How does he know? Was he there? I don't see anyone in that photo besides Obama and Netanyahu, do you? And why would Benjamin Netanyahu  ask for a special meeting with Barack Obama in order to save Mahmoud Abbas? Would Abbas do that for Netanyahu? What does Abbas need saving from? He is president for as long as he wants to be president after all.
Ami Isseroff:

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US rebuffs Iran call to break ties with Israel

The Iranian government must've known that the US would rebuff their call to break ties with Israel - to choose between Iran and Israel. But the maneuver was not just buffoonery. By eliciting the respons that Iran knew it would elicit from the US, it helped establish its own credentials among extremists - particularly domestically, and helped further its propaganda claims about the US being in the control of "Zionists."
Ami Isseroff
Nov. 14, 2009
The United States pushed back on Friday against Iranian efforts to cause a schism in US-Israel relations and stressed its commitment to continue pressing toward peace talks despite recent difficulties.
"Israel is a very, very close friend of the US, and we don't think we have to choose between Israel or any other country. We want to have productive, meaningful relations with all countries in the region," State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said in response to a question about Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's call for such a reorientation last week.
Also on Friday, the assistant secretary of state for public affairs, P.J. Crowley, emphasized that the US is continuing to push for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations to resume as soon as possible, despite calls from some quarters for Washington to step back since its program of relaunching talks had yet to bear fruit.
Crowley acknowledged that the US had "hit a bumpy road recently" in that effort, and the Obama administration was in the process of "assessing where we are" and potentially coming up with "some news ideas of how to close the gap that does exist."
But he rejected the idea of shifting away from holding talks.
"We haven't given up our objective, which is to get the parties back into negotiations as soon as possible, and to begin the earnest work of working on the very specific, complex and substantive details to arrive at a just resolution, a final agreement, and formation of a Palestinian state," Crowley said at a briefing for foreign journalists.
He also pointed to it being a delicate moment for the Palestinian Authority but didn't indicate that would mean a shift in policy.
PA President Mahmoud Abbas has lost much of his popular support in recent weeks, in part because he succumbed to US pressure to delay consideration of the UN's Goldstone Report, which accused Israel of committing war crimes in Gaza last winter, though he ultimately reversed himself.
Abbas has threatened not to run again in elections that he had slated for January unless the US pushed Israel for a total settlement freeze, though a Palestinian election body recently recommended against holding elections then since Hamas has refused to participate.
Asked about the prospects for elections, Crowley said, "I'll leave it to President Abbas to decide, based on that recommendation, whether an election can be held or whether it needs to be postponed."
The threat not to run again - which wouldn't take effect if elections are not held - has been seen as an Abbas gambit to regain momentum and legitimacy, after the Arab and Palestinian anger at his Goldstone stance was intensified by the US seeming to withdraw earlier demands it had made of Israel for a total settlement freeze.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton praised Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu recently for making "unprecedented" steps to restrain settlement activity under a partial freeze worked out between the two countries. The comments boosted Netanyahu but unleashed fury in the Arab world.
Israeli officials credit sensitivity in that climate to the decision not to hold a public photo opportunity or press conference following Netanyahu's meeting with US President Barack Obama on Monday. An official photograph was belatedly released on Friday, but it showed the two men sitting at a table enjoying a meal rather than shaking hands or standing side-by-side smiling, as is traditional.
Crowley said on Friday he had no further developments to announce, but did say that "we're not going to impose a US solution on the parties" despite increasing call from some sectors of the Arab world to do so.
He added, however, that "there may come a point in the future where we will offer our ideas on the best way forward."
This article can also be read at

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Jew Zionist conspiracy tricks Jordanian trade unionists into acting like humans

Jordanian trade unionists are blaming a tricky Jew-Zionist plot for stamping their passports with Israeli visas when they visited the West Bank (AKA Judea and Samaria). This very serious breach of inhumanity and nastiness can get them expelled from their labor unions, even though Jordan has a peace treaty with Israel. One of the hapless trade unionists stated:
"This is a conspiracy by the occupation to make it appear that the engineers are normalising relations with Israel," he said, noting that the union leadership refused to take part in the event for fear of similar action.

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Palestinians may seek UN recognition of Palestinian state

Last update - 11:16 14/11/2009       
PA negotiator: We may seek UN recognition of Palestinian state
By Avi Issacharoff, Haaretz Correspondent, and Haaretz Service
The Palestinian Authority is considering seeking recognition from the United Nations Security Council of a Palestinian state along 1967 lines with East Jerusalem as its capital, senior negotiator Saeb Erekat told Palestinian newspaper Al-Ayyam in a report published Saturday.
Erekat said that the Palestinian Authority has already received support for the idea from other Arab states and added that Russia and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon have also apparently expressed support for the plan.
Erekat also said that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is trying to garner additional support for the proposal during his current visit to South American countries.
The U.S. said it would not pressure Israel and the Palestinians to resume direct peace talks unless both sides are ready, senior U.S. officials were quoted as saying in a report published Saturday by London-based Arabic-language newspaper A-Sharq Al-Awsat.
"The U.S. will not back down from its policy that refuses to negotiate over negotiations," one official was quoted as saying, adding that Washington won't pressure the two sides into direct talks for fear that they will fail.
Another official told the newspaper that U.S. envoy George Mitchell continues to lay the groundwork for peace talks in the Middle East, which the official said are of utmost importance to the Obama administration.
"No one expects results overnight," said the official. "We don't want to press for negotiations before all sides are ready."
The U.S. earlier in the week said it does not accept continued Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank, a senior U.S. state department official said, adding that Jerusalem's commitment to restrain settlement activity is not enough.
In an address to the Middle East Institute, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs William J. Burns on Tuesday said that the Obama administration does not "accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements."
"We consider the Israeli offer to restrain settlement activity to be a potentially important step, but it obviously falls short of the continuing Roadmap obligation for a full settlement freeze," he said.
Palestinian officials had said in talks with U.S. diplomats earlier this week in Ramallah that nothing short of an Israeli commitment to a complete settlement freeze would bring Abbas to reconsider his recently made threats of resignation.

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Friday, November 13, 2009

Cookies for Netanyahu at the White House

An important, nay earth shaking, bit of news about the portentuous meeting of Netanyahu and the great father in Washington:
The photograph shows the two leaders in conversation leaning over a table endowed with cookies in the Oval Office private dining room.
:For such an important meeting, and such an important photo, you would think they would at least tell us what sort of cookies there were, and how many they ate, wouldn't they? This is the stuff of good news reporting - getting all the details that matter.  Does  Benjamin Netanyahu eat when he is nervous? They guy is too fat and should watch his weight, one would think. He certainly must've been nervous.
For those worried that the lack of photo opportunity was an intentional slight, the release of a photo four days after the fact removes all doubt.
This is quite interesting:
But Dr. Stephen Cohen, President of The Institute for Middle East Peace and Development Partners in Peace, called the meeting "a non-meeting."
"They just talked past each other. I don't see how they can save Abbas by just saying that they want to save Abbas," said Cohen, who is also the author of the recently published book Beyond America's Grasp: A Century of Failed Diplomacy in the Middle East.
How does he know? Was he there? Was the meeting leaked to him? Or is he just making it all up"  Why would Netanyahu want to save Abbas, and from what must Abbas be saved?
Ami Isseroff
Last update - 21:10 13/11/2009       
Four days late, U.S. releases photo of Netanyahu-Obama meet
By Natasha Mozgovaya, Haaretz Correspondent
The White House finally released on Friday a photograph of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's meeting Monday with U.S. President Barack Obama, after speculation that the lack of a photo opportunity was an intentional slight.
Commentators have suggested that the Obama administration had wished to "humiliate" Netanyahu by not issuing an official photograph of the talks, in order to highlight dissatisfaction over the premier's unwillingness to make further concessions on West Bank settlement construction.
The photograph shows the two leaders in conversation leaning over a table endowed with cookies in the Oval Office private dining room.
The meeting lasted roughly an hour and 40 minutes, of which about an hour was devoted to a tense tete-a-tete between Netanyahu and Obama. Senior officials from both sides were present for the rest.
White House officials said privately that they had wanted a low-profile meeting, so as not to create high expectations and in light of the problems in the Palestinian Authority.
Palestinian President last week announced that he would run in the upcoming Palestinian presidential elections, citing his frustration with the lack of progress in the peace process with Israel.
Meanwhile, a White House official has called the meeting "very straightforward and a good positive discussion of all the key issues' lacking any drama or big expectations."
But Dr. Stephen Cohen, President of The Institute for Middle East Peace and Development Partners in Peace, called the meeting "a non-meeting."
"They just talked past each other. I don't see how they can save Abbas by just saying that they want to save Abbas," said Cohen, who is also the author of the recently published book Beyond America's Grasp: A Century of Failed Diplomacy in the Middle East.
"There is a way of making him a realistic candidate, but it's very far from what he'll be hearing from Netanyahu and Obama this time."
Cohen said he believes Netanyahu must be faced with the choice between settlement growth and the maintenance of Israeli nuclear ambiguity.‬
"This old-style method of Senator [George] Mitchell going back and forth trying to move one inch a week didn't take us anywhere," he added, referring to Obama's special envoy to the Middle East.

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IDF Chief of Staff Ashkenazy - Hezbollah has missiles with 300 KM range

IDF Spokesperson 10 November 2009 , 14:54

On Tuesday morning (Nov. 10), the Chief of the General Staff, Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, informed the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that Hezbollah has dozens of thousands of missiles in its possession, a small percentage of them able to reach a range of 300 km. The Chief of the General Staff said that during the relative quietness in recent months at the northern border and on the borders of the Gaza Strip, Hamas and Hezbollah are constantly rearming themselves with missiles and rockets.

Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi also mentioned that two new anti-aircraft artillery batteries of the Iron Dome missile defense system, which is designed for the interception of Katyusha and Qassam rockets, will begin operating in 2011.

The Chief of the General Staff also spoke about the Goldstone report: "We already investigated ourselves even before Goldstone showed up." He emphasized that during the investigations carried out by the IDF on behalf of the behavior of IDF forces during Operation Cast Lead, until this day not one soldier has been found guilty of purposefully killing an innocent civilian. He added that honest mistakes were made; also causing IDF soldiers to be killed.

Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi also pointed out that the IDF made it possible for Palestinian organizations to submit complaints on incidents that occurred during Operation Cast Lead  More than one hundred complaints were submitted, and the Military Police Corps opened investigations on 45 incidents, also questioning Palestinian witnesses.

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IDF sees increase in volunteers for combat.

Jump in desire to serve in combat units to 73%
Dr. Aaron Lerner - IMRA  13 November 2009

Percent of draftees with combat profile who ask to serve in combat units by November draft cohorts:
'05-69.6%  '06-70% '07-66.3% '08-67.2% '09-73%

Of the November 2009 draft cohort the percent who are not serving:
11.5%  Yeshiva study
2% Medical deferment
5% Psych deferment
4.5% Criminal record/draft dodgers
4% Live overseas

Source: IMRA - Independent Media Review and Analysis

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

The F-35 problem again

Israel is not enthusiastic about buying the F-35 as the next generation workhorse aircraft of the IAF. It is too expensive and too slow. Its stealth capabilities are very important in evading sophisticated enemies or for surprise bombing missions such as attacks on nuclear reactor sites in certain countries, as well as for destroying the Russian Surface to Air Missile air defense systems typically in use in enemy air forces,  but it is too slow and heavy to be a match for the Mig 31 in a dogfight and has an inferior ceiling. Because it is underpowered, its rate of climb statistics (classified) cannot be good. Add to that the prohibition on Israeli maintenance and other problems that were supposedly solved in the past, but seem to keep repeating themselves, and the aircraft becomes truly problematic. It is not a replacement for the F-16 or F-15, which are nimbler aircraft.

Ami Isseroff

Israel wants production role in F-35

Nov. 13, 2009

While Israel is interested in purchasing the fifth-generation stealth Joint Strike Fighter from Lockheed Martin, it will likely hinge its order on US acceptance of its demand that Israeli defense industries be allowed to participate in the aircraft's production, senior defense officials said Thursday.

On Monday, Defense Minister Ehud Barak met with US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and discussed potential Israeli involvement in the production of the JSF, also known as the F-35. In the past, Israeli aerospace companies have been integrated into the production of aircraft purchased by the IAF.

During their meeting, as well as a meeting last week between Defense Ministry director-general Pinhas Buchris and officials from Lockheed Martin, the Israeli officials stressed that they would be reluctant to purchase the aircraft immediately if Israeli companies were kept out of the deal.

Officials said, though, that if the price of the aircraft were reduced from the expected $130 million, Israel would be more willing to compromise in following through with its initial plan to purchase the aircraft in the coming months. If that happens, the JSF will begin arriving in Israel in 2014.

In the coming weeks, officials said, the Defense Ministry will receive an official letter from the Pentagon detailing the price of the aircraft and also finalizing some of the outstanding issues between the sides regarding the integration of Israeli defense suites into the plane, as well as allowing Israel to independently maintain the aircraft without needing to send it to Europe for repairs.

In July, the Defense Ministry submitted an official letter of request to the Pentagon to purchase its first squadron of 25 F-35 stealth fighter jets, but officials have said that the target date for a contract at the beginning of 2010 would likely not be met. As a result, the arrival of the aircraft - initially predicted to begin in 2014 - would likely be postponed by at least one or two years.


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Moving the peace process to Russia?

The article states:
Another senior Palestinian official was quoted as telling AFP on condition of anonymity that among the topics discussed was the idea of organizing a Middle East peace conference in Moscow, an idea Russia has been pushing for months.
If the result of Israeli diplomatic maneuvering is that the peace process is transferred from the hands of the United States to Europe, it can be a very bad "own goal."  An international peace conference in Moscow is not going to be better for Israel than USA mediation.
Ami Isseroff.

Sarkozy urges Abbas to renew peace talks with Israel
By The Associated Press and Haaretz Service
French President Nicolas Sarkozy urged Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday to renew stalled peace negotiations with Israel, shortly after meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Paris.
A statement from Sarkozy's office said the French president underlined to Abbas the urgency of a resumption of the Middle East peace process.
Sarkozy appeared to be positioning himself as a Middle East peace mediator. He called Abbas on Thursday after meeting Netanyahu the night before.
The statement said Sarkozy laid out in light of his recent international contacts the conditions that would allow a quick return to the talks. The statement did not say what those conditions would be.
An Abbas aide, however, told AFP that Sarkozy made "important suggestions" during a phone conversation with Abbas.
"President Sarkozy had very important suggestions on how to move the peace process forward," Nabil Abu Rudeina told the French news agency.
He did not elaborate, but reportedly said Sarkozy had shared details of his meeting with Netanyahu and the two agreed to talk again in a few days.
Another senior Palestinian official was quoted as telling AFP on condition of anonymity that among the topics discussed was the idea of organizing a Middle East peace conference in Moscow, an idea Russia has been pushing for months.
During a speech in Ramallah on Wednesday, Abbas reiterated his position that negotiations will not be resumed as long as settlement construction is not halted entirely.
He also recapped the principles that will guide the Palestinians during negotiations: a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders, Jerusalem as its capital, the release of prisoners, and the right of return for refugees in line with the United Nations Resolution 194.
Following Netanyahu's meeting with Sarkozy on Wednesday, the two leaders said in a joint statement that they agreed to make every effort to revive the peace process.

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Palestinian workers and unions don’t support Israel Boycott

Palestinian workers, unions don't support BDS campaign

By admin
In an extraordinary series of blog postings, British trade unionists visiting Israel and Palestine have learned that Palestinian workers and their unions are not enthusiastic supporters of the campaign for boycotts, divestments and sanctions (BDS) targetting Israel.

In fact, they were told bluntly that the BDS campaign is bad news for Palestinians.

USDAW National Executive member Mike Dixon wrote:

"There was a discussion about the boycott and it is clear that Palestinians don't want it – all they want is equal pay and a living."

The communications director for the Advance union added:

"Listening to people from both communities on the subject of the proposed international trade union boycott, it is evident that all parties oppose this action.  In a meeting with the Jerusalem Municipality workers, one view from the Palestinian contingent was that a boycott would be more detrimental to the Arab workforce than any other. The reason for this was that in the event of economic sanctions, it would cause a detrimental impact on the employment levels of their community."

The entire blog should be required reading for trade unionists in Britain and elsewhere.

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Is this how Obama messed up?

This is a remarkable analysis:
By tying the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to improving Muslim-U.S. relations, Obama has forced Israel into the position of answering for U.S. failures in the Muslim world and making the sacrifices necessary to mend that relationship. Obama has placed immense pressure on Israel to halt settlement building. Where is the equal pressure on the Palestinian Authority to ensure Israel's security? Obama's far greater pressure on the Israelis has emboldened Arab intransigence and moved the Middle East farther away from the prospect of peace.
It may not be the whole story, but it is certainly odd to assume that peace between Israel and the Palestinians would somehow fix things up in Afghanistan or Iran, and that seems to be how the Obama government is playing it.
Ami Isseroff
Eight months into President Barack Obama's administration, his Middle East peace "road map" is crystal clear. First, he dialed down the pressure on Iran, whose nuclear weapons program presents an existential threat to Israel. Second, he shifted the blame for Islamic extremism to Israel and solely blamed it for the Palestinian's plight. Then he unilaterally ratcheted up the pressure on Israel to cease building settlements and to ease its self-defense blockade of Gaza. Now, Obama has upped the ante even further, framing lasting peace in the Middle East as requiring Israel to retreat to its 1967 borders. Although he blandly claims that there are "no preconditions" to relaunching negotiations, in truth he has doomed the peace talks before they even start. Obama has set up Israel as the fall guy for negotiations that will ultimately fail and is the architect of that failure.
When Obama was elected -- with 78 percent of the Jewish vote -- there was concern about what his administration would mean for the 60 years of unwavering support America had provided Israel. Unlike his Republican opponent, John McCain, or his predecessor, George W. Bush, both longstanding supporters of Israel, Obama had no such track record and was championing a different course, one of détente with such hard-line regimes as Iran and Syria. Jews took heart when then-President-elect Obama selected a Jew, Rahm Emanuel, as his chief of staff, and Hillary Clinton, previously a staunch supporter of Israel from her days as senator from New York, as his secretary of state.
An examination of the first 250 days of President Obama's administration convincingly demonstrates that the earlier concerns were well founded and the mitigating cabinet appointments mere window dressing. From his first telephone call as president to a head of state -- Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian National Authority -- and his first one-on-one television interview with any news organization -- Al Arabiya TV -- to his bowing to Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, then embracing the Muslim world at Cairo University and, most recently, rebuking Israel in an address to the United Nations General Assembly, Obama has shown far more concern for strengthening ties with authoritarian regimes on the Arabian Peninsula than to maintaining the historically close alliance with the region's only true democracy.
His Cairo speech scaled back his support of Israel in favor of establishing new diplomatic channels in the Arab world. He also equated the suffering of the Palestinians with the loss of 6 million Jewish lives in the Holocaust. Worse yet, Obama's affirmation of the Arab propagandist idea that Israel was created as a response to the Holocaust greatly undermined its legitimacy as a state and ignored Jews' forced diaspora and Judaism's historical ties to the Middle East that predate all other religions.
Instead of seeing Israel as the oasis and model for democracy that it is in the Middle East, Obama views the country and its conflict with its neighbors as "this constant wound ... this constant sore, [that] does infect all of our foreign policy." It is as if the president has blinders on: in effect repeating the red herring that blames the atrocities of 9/11 on America's support of Israel, in July 2008, Obama stated:
The lack of a resolution to this problem [the Israeli-Palestinian conflict] provides an excuse for anti-American militant jihadists to engage in inexcusable actions, so we have a national security interest in solving this.
Sound familiar? Former President Jimmy Carter, author of the canard, "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid," asserts, "lack of progress in the Middle East is one of the main causes for animosity, hatred and even violent acts against America." Both presidents conveniently neglect the fact that Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda, perpetrators of multiple attacks on America, never cared or linked any of their actions to the Palestinian cause until after 9/11. Islamic extremists are at war with the spread of Western culture, and the United States is the chief exporter of Western beliefs, so it is a pipe dream to assume that America can achieve détente with "anti-American militant jihadists" by, in effect, offering up Israel as a sacrificial lamb.

In his United Nations address, Obama called for Israel to establish "a viable, independent Palestinian state with contiguous territory that ends the occupation that began in 1967." Like Bush before him, Obama referred to the territories Israel won in the Six-Day War -- a preemptive defensive strike against armies from nine Arab countries massing on its borders -- as "occupied territory" but, unlike Bush, Obama's proposal has Israel retreating from its own land, returning to indefensible 1967 borders and trusting in the peaceful intentions of its neighbors. Bush didn't go nearly that far, citing in his 2004 "road map" that "in light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli population centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949."
Obama went even further, linking America's continuing support for the Jewish state's very security with his demand that it surrender the territory, stating, "The United States does Israel no favors when we fail to couple an unwavering commitment to its security with an insistence that Israel respect the legitimate claims and rights of the Palestinians." Of all the countries in history that have won wars, only Israel is being denied the fruits of its victory in 1967.

Obama appears to have adopted as policy the controversial agreement Carter reached with Hamas last year to establish a Palestinian state in the territories won by Israel 42 years ago. Additionally, and again in sharp contrast to the Bush Administration, which opposed a Palestinian national unity government, Obama has communicated his support, through Special Envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell, for the formation of a Hamas-Fatah coalition government. Obama has even gone so far as to request Congress amend the Omnibus Appropriations Act of 2009 to enable the United States to continue to provide financial aid to any Palestinian government if the President determines that it is in the interests of national security.
As the United States, the European Union and other countries have classified Hamas as a terrorist organization, America under Obama would appear to have strange new bedfellows. Perhaps the president has forgotten that Hamas' charter (Article 7) advocates the killing of all Jews by Muslims, its leaders are Holocaust deniers, that his own FBI director, Robert Mueller, in testimony before the U.S. Senate, cited "the FBI's assessment that there is a ...threat of a coordinated terrorist attack in the U.S. from Palestinian terrorist organizations, such as Hamas," that Hamas has never accepted Israel's right to exist and is committed to "obliterating" it (preamble to Hamas charter), and that, according to Defense Secretary Robert Gates last January, Hamas and another terrorist organization, Hezbollah, have joined with Iran in fomenting "subversive activity" in Latin America. Or perhaps he believes America's stated policy of not negotiating with terrorists -- established by President Ronald Reagan in 1981 and reaffirmed by Obama as a presidential candidate in April 2008 -- should be scrapped.
The United States is proving to be a fair-weather ally, abandoning Israel in the face of an impending existential threat from a nuclear Iran. Obama's self-declared "evenhanded" approach to solving the Middle East "problem" would appear to consist of continually pressuring Israel to give up its secure borders while simultaneously enabling grave threats to Israel's very existence, refusing to engage the United States in taking action to halt Iran's nuclear weapons program. Last May, the president connected the dots thusly:
To the extent that we can make peace... between the Palestinians and the Israelis, then I think it actually strengthens our hand in the international community in dealing with a potential Iranian threat.
This idealistic view misses the point -- Iran isn't interested in a two-state solution. In the words of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, "Israel must be wiped off the map," is a "stinking corpse," "is on its way to annihilation" and "has reached the end like a dead rat." Not a lot of room to negotiate there.
Nor is there room to negotiate Iran's nuclear weapons program. As Obama belatedly acknowledged on Sept. 26 regarding the country's newly disclosed nuclear power facility, "the size and configuration of this facility is inconsistent with a peaceful program." Iran desires global power and to spread the religious and political ideology of the Islamic Revolution, so what's left to negotiate? Access to nuclear energy for peaceful uses isn't on Iran's shopping list.
Iran and Syria rank as the leading state sponsors of terrorism, yet the president has removed a longstanding export ban on American technology to Syria, allowing the transfer of spare aircraft parts, information technology and telecommunications equipment, all material that could also benefit the air force of Syria's close ally, Iran. At the same time, Obama actually suspended the sale of military equipment to Israel -- holding up the shipment of Apache helicopters after Israel moved to defend its citizenry against daily Hamas-enabled rocket barrages earlier this year -- equipment necessary to safeguard Israel's security against overwhelming odds. Syria, an unrepentant state supporter of terrorism, was exempted by Obama from the longtime ban on the sale of sensitive, dual-use technologies. Yet, it is only Israel that stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the United States as America's most important and dependable ally in combating terrorism. Can the president see the difference?
Obama spoke eloquently to the United Nations about having compassion for "the Palestinian boy in Gaza who has ... no country to call his own." Where's his concern for the 3,000-year-old Jewish communities in Arab lands that were ethnically cleansed between 1948 and the early 1970s? Commencing with Arab League retaliation for the declaration of the State of Israel, 1 million Jews were forcibly removed from their homes and personal property, forfeiting 62,000 square miles of land (nearly five times Israel's 12,600 square miles) and assets worth approximately $300 billion. What of their "right of return?"
By tying the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to improving Muslim-U.S. relations, Obama has forced Israel into the position of answering for U.S. failures in the Muslim world and making the sacrifices necessary to mend that relationship. Obama has placed immense pressure on Israel to halt settlement building. Where is the equal pressure on the Palestinian Authority to ensure Israel's security? Obama's far greater pressure on the Israelis has emboldened Arab intransigence and moved the Middle East farther away from the prospect of peace.
Case in point: Last weekend, Mohamed ElBaradei, the Egyptian chairman of the United Nations' International Atomic Energy Agency, asserted that Israel's nuclear weapons program, not Iran's, is "the number one threat" to Middle East peace. In the words of Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic, "Israel seeks Iran's recognition; Iran seeks Israel's destruction. So of course it is Israel that poses a threat." Obama's strong-arm policies toward Israel have created the opening Arab countries have long sought to solve "the Jewish problem" once and for all.
President Obama's new, "evenhanded" policy in the Middle East is anything but fair and balanced. His policies increasingly endanger and isolate Israel. At the United Nations, Obama forcefully stated that "the United States of America will never waiver in our efforts to stand up for the right of people everywhere to determine their own destiny," that is, of course, unless the people are Israelis. Without the Jewish state of Israel as a standard bearer for Western ideals of democracy in the Middle East, the world will be a far more dangerous place. Then it will be America's turn to stand alone as "Public Enemy No. 1" for Islamic fundamentalists.
This article originally appeared in the Jewish Journal.

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Abbas' refusal to run: the real reason is...

Mahmoud Abbas created concern in the United States when he announced he would not run for a second term because Israel was not agreeing to his conditions. Suddenly, Israel was under pressure to make concessions and "save" Abbas. But that was evidently just a side benefit of Abbas's announcement. The real reason was that Abbas had gotten himself into a jam. Hamas would not agree to participate in the elections. That meant that elections would be held only in the West Bank, and that Abbas would be running against Abbas, perhaps with a nominal opponent as Yasser Arafat did. Now we have the (inevitable) announcement of a "postponement" in the Palestinian elections scheduled for January 24.
Palestinian democracy - one man, one vote, one time, as in much of the Middle East - has the luxury of being able to blame the lack of democracy on Israel.
Ami Isseroff 
Last update - 15:14 12/11/2009       
Fatah official: Abbas to accept delay of Palestinian elections
By Reuters and Haaretz Service
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is expected to accept a recommendation that he postpone elections scheduled for January, a senior official said on Thursday.
The independent Central Election Commission, responsible for organizing elections, had recommended postponement to Abbas on the grounds that conditions would not favor a fair vote on Jan. 24, the official said.
Postponement will avoid an election destined to cause a permanent split in the deeply divided Palestinian movement, and put off the moment at which Abbas has said he could choose to withdraw from the presidency.
Abbas had set the election date after his rivals in the Hamas group, which controls the Gaza Strip, refused to sign a reconciliation proposal that scheduled the elections in June.
"The committee will recommend postponing elections because Hamas has rejected elections in Gaza," the official, who declined to give his name, told Reuters.
The official said the recommendation had already been communicated to the president, who has said on several occasions that he would be ready to postpone the vote if Hamas changed its mind and agreed to the reconciliation pact.
So far there is no sign that the Islamist group intends to accept what Abbas on Wednesday repeated was the offer of his hand in friendship. A Hamas spokesman responded immediately to the gesture, dismissing it as a "maneuver."
Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri expressed no surprise at the proposed postponement.
"This is a natural result because of the lack of appropriate conditions and it is evidence of the credibility of Hamas' position, which rejected the call for elections before a national consensus was reached," he said.
Abbas declared last week that he does not wish to run for a second term as president of the Western-backed Palestinian Authority, because he feels frustrated by an inability to move forward on peace negotiations with Israel.
He cited Israel's failure to stop all settlement building in the West Bank and disappointment with the United States over its failure to back the Palestinians demand for a freeze.
Addressing a rally in Ramallah on Wednesday to mark the fifth anniversary of the death of his predecessor Yasser Arafat, Abbas said that for peace talks to resume, Israel must recognize the terms of reference.
"We cannot go to negotiations without a framework. And we say the framework is UN resolutions, meaning a return to the 1967 borders," Abbas said, referring to Israel's borders on the eve of the conflict that changed the map of the Middle East.
Israeli, Arab and European leaders appealed to Abbas to reconsider, since he is viewed as their main partner for peace in any future negotiations.
An open-ended postponement of the elections would require the endorsement of the Palestine Liberation Organization, which Abbas heads. The PLO has the power to extend his term indefinitely.

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Gold vs Goldstone - Reviewed

Gold vs Goldstone
Nov. 11, 2009
E.B. SOLOMONT, jpost correspondent in WALTHAM, Massachusetts , THE JERUSALEM POST
Former Israeli ambassador Dore Gold wanted the last word after his matchup with Judge Richard Goldstone at Brandeis University last week. If it wasn't obvious during the testy exchange between the two, it became clear when Gold convened a news conference following the two-hour debate on Thursday night.
"I'm not here because the government of Israel sent me," he told reporters, as he hammered home his arguments again and again. On a main point - Israel's refusal to cooperate with the probe - Gold said cooperation would not have improved the final report, which charged Israel and Hamas with war crimes during Operation Cast Lead in Gaza last winter. "This was a fixed fact-finding mission," Gold said. "It wasn't looking for the truth. It was looking for a narrative that condemned Israel and let Hamas off the hook."
Then why did Gold agree to the debate?
To be sure, the event was a landmark occasion: a former Israeli diplomat appearing on stage with the South African jurist named by the UN to probe Israel's actions during Operation Cast Lead. In fact, hours before Gold and Goldstone were introduced, the UN General Assembly in New York approved a resolution fully endorsing the report and paving the way for the matter to be taken up in the Security Council and down the road, the international courts.
Invited by Brandeis, Gold came to this sleepy college town armed with aerial maps, video and sound clips and other evidence showing how Israel warned Gaza civilians of its impending actions. "I obviously did a great deal of my own preparations," he said, insisting that all of the materials he used were in the public domain. In other words, he used "material the UN Gaza mission could have obtained itself," he told The Jerusalem Post. "It didn't need Israeli participation," he said.
Given the chance to hear an Israeli response to a topic that has dominated headlines since September, when the Goldstone report was made public, hundreds of students, professors and members of the local Jewish community packed into an auditorium at Brandeis. The event was also streamed live over the Web.
Israeli officials who've gone on record about the report have said its mandate from the UN Human Rights Council was flawed and one-sided. Immediately, Goldstone attempted to dispel that argument, saying he wrote the final mandate himself. "It really was my sincere hope," he said, in an argument reiterated throughout the night, "that Israel would seize this opportunity of an evenhanded mandate and cooperate with the mission."
He further dismissed allegations that his report undercuts Israel's right to defend itself. "I publicly stated on many occasions, Israel has the right to protect its citizens," even "a clear duty to do so," he said. The mandate therefore did not question the use of military force, but whether it was used in a manner consistent with international humanitarian law.
Gold's introductory remarks reflected how high the stakes were for Israel. "The UN Gaza report is the most serious and vicious indictment of the State of Israel bearing the seal of the United Nations since the UN General Assembly adopted the infamous 'Zionism is racism' resolution in 1975," he said. "In the report, Hamas, a recognized international terrorist organization, is almost protected throughout its text. Its forces appear innocuously as 'Palestinian armed groups.'"
In fact, he added, by 2008 nearly a million Israelis were under reach of rocket fire, and after Israel withdrew from Gaza the attacks only escalated.
Using slides, Gold's defense was three-pronged, taking on the report's main allegations that Israel deliberately attacked civilians and attacked public buildings resulting in a huge scale of destruction. He showed aerial maps of Gaza, where schools and military caches could be seen in close proximity.
"I ask you, what would you do if your population is facing repeated rocket attacks for eight years and your enemy is embedding his military capacity in his own civilian area?" he asked. He added that the IDF sent multiple warnings - via leaflets and phone messages - but Hamas instructed citizens to act as human shields. Hamas booby-trapped large numbers of buildings in residential areas, he said, showing another map.
GOLD AND Goldstone went head to head when it came to an attack on a Gaza mosque as 300 Palestinians prayed inside. Mosques were not militarized, Gold insisted, as Goldstone countered: "You don't mortar shell it during a service... That hasn't been explained to us at all. It's that sort of incident that cries out for investigation by an open, credible investigation in Israel and why shouldn't they do that?"
"I'm telling you this, Israel did not attack that mosque," Gold countered. "Of the 36 incidents that are mentioned in the report, there are 12 that the Israeli army never heard of." Regarding the alleged attack on the mosque, he said, "The Israeli position has been that that mosque was not attacked by Israel."
And they hit a sharp divide over Israel's ability to investigate itself, which Gold expressed confidence would happen. "The military is investigating itself behind closed doors," Goldstone charged. "That's not a legal system. That's not a judicial system. It's not justice at all."
Goldstone and Gold took questions from the audience, with preference given to students, who were urged by the Brandeis president Jehuda Reinharz to "make up your own mind on important and highly contested issues that too often are argued with more heat than light."
Indeed, one student asked Goldstone about the objectivity of one member of the fact-finding team, Christine Chinkin, who in a joint statement published in London's Sunday Times on January 11 said Israel's acts during the amounted to "prima facie war crimes."
Goldstone answered that had the probe been considered "judicial," Chinkin's statement would have disqualified her.
His answer - that the letter was signed by other eminent international scholars, that the letter only dealt with "technical issues" related to Israel's right to self-defense and that Chinkin has previously condemned Hamas - fell short, according to Hillel Neuer of the Geneva-based UN Watch. "Goldstone has consistently evaded any accountability under the law applicable to international fact-finding missions, by repeatedly declaring that his panel was 'not judicial,'" he wrote in an opinion essay after the debate. "But this is a red herring. The simple truth is that his fact-finding mission was legally subject to a well-established set of standards. Sadly, however, these were ignored."
Indeed, one student asked about the conditions in Gaza, and Goldstone lightened the mood by recounting nightmares he had before his investigation. "I was, quite frankly, and I'm not ashamed to say it, I was very nervous, a Jew going to Gaza," he said. Three nights before his trip, he woke up with a terrible nightmare that "I'd been kidnapped by Hamas and people in Israel were rejoicing."
He then turned serious, lamenting the humanitarian problems there, including a lack of water, infrastructure and jobs.
Gold, with downturned lips, conceded there was "enormous damage" in Gaza as a result of the war. But he cited the border to Egypt, through which Gazans may obtain supplies. Turning to the report, he added: "Why does Hamas not appear as a responsible party for what happened?... This war never would have happened if rockets weren't launched at the State of Israel."
During Gold's press conference after the event, he asserted those arguments repeatedly. But a final comment blurred the lines between why Gold agreed to come to Brandeis and his former role as a diplomat speaking on behalf of his country.
Asked by a student journalist whether a Palestinian speaker should have been invited to the discussion, to provide an alternative perspective to Gold's, Gold argued that Israel was chiefly accused in the report and therefore deserved the chance to respond.
"The weight of the report is not against Hamas," he said. "It is against the State of Israel and therefore someone from Israel should have given an answer and that's why I came."

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

U.S. Jews turn to Israel to escape bleak job market

Last update - 00:13 01/01/2009       
U.S. Jews turn to Israel to escape bleak job market
By Reuters
Jewish American math teacher Goldie Burdetsky never expected to find herself working the front desk of a hotel in southern Israel alongside management interns young enough to be her children.
"I mean, for God's sakes, I have a master's degree in education," said the 55-year-old New Yorker. "I expected to be able to find a teaching job in the U.S. without any problems. But I couldn't."
Burdetsky decided to escape the dire economic situation back home, by coming to Israel on a program that offers Jews free housing, Hebrew classes, training, and work experience - all of which translate into temporary financial respite.
As the unemployment rate in the U.S. climbed to a 26-year high of 10.2 percent last month, growing numbers of young and adult American Jews were arriving in Israel to inexpensively "wait out" the economic lull.
In an attempt to lure Diaspora Jews to make Israel their permanent home, the Israeli government and Jewish organizations offer a multitude of scholarships and travel grants, allowing many to spend up to six months in Israel almost for free.
The key aim is to safeguard a Jewish majority in a country where Arab citizens make up 20 percent of the population. In 2008, some 15,400 Jews immigrated to Israel, of whom 3,200 came from North America.
MASA, which means journey in Hebrew, oversees 160 such programs. It has seen the number of participants double and even quadruple this year, especially among those aged 21 to 30.
Participation in Burdetsky's hotel management internship scheme jumped from 10 last year to 55 this year.
The World Union of Jewish Students Israel Hadassah, a post-university experience program, recorded a 100 percent increase in registrations, with 100 participants scheduled for the second half of 2009, compared with 50 all of last year.
"With the economy the way it is in North America, more and more Jewish college graduates who can't find a job are deciding to delay their careers and come to Israel for a while," said WUJS Israel director Mike Mitchell.
Yahel Segev, marketing director of MASA, said the increase reflects the success of the organization's marketing strategy.
Its 'Better Stimulus Plan' campaign, inspired by the U.S. government's post-crash economic stimulus package, offers grants to North American Jews for career development in Israel.
"With the Israel stimulus grant we are trying to convince them that while the situation is bad in America, they can spend time in Israel," Segev said.
For decades Jewish organizations have sent Jews from around the world to Israel for free, or at a very low cost, with hopes of boosting immigration or at least building ties to Israel.
Matt Bennett, a 25-year-old from Vineland, New Jersey, is currently attending the same program as Burdetsky. He says he is unsure whether he will stay on after it ends.
"They're funding these programs to attract more Jews to come," Bennett said. "Will I immigrate? For now I'm just going to say that if it's going to help me and advance my career, I'll take it while I can. That's what I'm doing."
Segev of MASA said the programs aim to reconnect Jews to their Jewish roots, but that's not all.
"We're very happy about every single person who immigrates after completing a MASA program," she acknowledges.
Adam Hecht, 25, from Los Angeles, said he probably would not be immigrating to Israel after his five months here.
"I'm American. I doubt I will come to identify with Israelis over the next couple of months," he said. "Except maybe, that is, I could immigrate ... if I find my future wife here."

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Optimistic take on Obama Israel policy

There is really no evidence for this optimistic analysis. Since the Clinton remarks about "unprecedented" Israeli concessions, Clinton has made sour declarations about settlements. The only thing we can say about the Obama-Netanyahu meeting is that it was held under wraps. That is not usually a good sign at all. The Obama administration has been fairly "relaxed" about Iran's virtual rejection of the draft treaty.
There are no real grounds for optimism. Are there?
Ami Isseroff
WASHINGTON (JTA) -- When the White House chief of staff took to the podium at the federations' General Assembly to call for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations without preconditions, he sounded almost exactly like Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a day earlier.
"All issues should be resolved through negotiations," Rahm Emanuel said Tuesday to delegates at the Jewish Federations of North America's annual meeting. "No one should allow the issue of settlements to distract from the overarching goal of lasting peace."
On Monday, Netanyahu used the GA podium to appeal to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to return to the negotiating table.
"Let us seize the moment to reach an historic agreement; let us begin talks immediately," Netanyahu said.
Palestinian Authority leaders say they will not negotiate unless Israel commits to a full settlement freeze. To some extent, the Obama administration is to blame for the intransigence; the Palestinians adopted that position only once the Obama administration insisted earlier this year that Israel commit to a full freeze.
U.S. administration officials have since tempered their position, praising the concessions Netanyahu is willing to make on Jewish settlement construction in the West Bank.
During a visit to Jerusalem a week and a half ago, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called Israel's concessions "unprecedented."
Speaking at a joint news conference with Netanyahu, Clinton said, "What the prime minister has offered in specifics of a restraint on the policy of settlements which he has just described - no new starts for example -- is unprecedented in the context of prior to negotiations."
The U.S. position shift, while pleasing Israel, has angered many in the Arab world and left the Palestinian leadership in a difficult spot. If Palestinian leaders give up their insistence for a full settlement freeze before returning to negotiations, they will be seen as betraying the cause. If they hold firm, peace talks will remain stalled.
The convergence of the Israeli and U.S. positions on Israeli-Palestinian negotiations comes amid some concern about the Obama-Netanyahu relationship.
Their meeting Monday night was under unusual circumstances, taking place well past the time Netanyahu could exploit a handshake with Obama for Israel's evening news back home -- and there wasn't even a public handshake. In a rare move, the White House skipped both the standard quick photo op before the meeting and the post-meeting Q & A session with reporters.
Few specifics emerged from the meeting. Obama and Netanyahu spoke alone for an hour of the 100-minute meeting, and afterward Netanyahu uncharacteristically canceled his traditional briefing for the Israeli press corps. Emanuel called the meeting "positive" but offered little elaboration.
The unusual circumstances of the meeting reflect the predicament faced by both sides.
It would have been unseemly for Netanyahu, who was going to be in Washington for the General Assembly, to swing through town without having an audience with the U.S. president. But with the Obama administration trying to downplay its shift toward the Israeli position on Israeli-Palestinian peace talks -- Clinton was forced to make an unscheduled trip to Cairo last week to allay Arab fears that Washington was easing the pressure on Israel -- a high-profile meeting with the Israeli leader followed by a joint news conference could only do harm.
Thus, in his GA speech, Emanuel at once tried to assure the Jewish audience that the bond between the U.S. and Israeli administrations remained strong while still making clear that the United States is pressing Israel to make concessions to the Palestinians.
Emanuel went to great lengths to make the case for Obama's support of Israel, noting the "unbreakable" U.S.-Israeli bond. But both he and Alan Solow, the chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and a backer of Obama from the launch of his political career in the mid-1990s, also spoke of natural "differences and discussions" between the two governments.
"Unilateral actions should be avoided and cannot dictate the outcome," Emanuel said. He added that "negotiations must address permanent-status issues: borders, refugees and Jerusalem."
Israeli officials do not want to negotiate over Jerusalem and the right of return to Israel of Palestinian refugees.
The cancellation of Obama's planned GA speech on Tuesday did not appear to be part of any calculated strategy; the president changed his plans to attend a memorial service Tuesday in Texas for victims of the Fort Hood shooting rampage.
Once the scheduling change was made, the White House put together a reception for Jewish leaders on Monday evening. Obama came but he did not talk foreign policy. Instead, he gave a 20-minute discursion on Jewish values of charity and the importance of health care reform.
In his New York Times column over the weekend, Thomas Friedman suggested that the president withdraw from Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking until the parties themselves are ready to come to the negotiating table.
But in a broad-ranging interview Tuesday on "The Charlie Rose Show" on PBS, Clinton made it clear the Obama administration intends to stay involved.
"They want us to be engaged, to be leading, both by example and through engagement," she said of the Israelis and Palestinians. "As complicated and as difficult as they might be, we have to be there, we have to be working.
"Now we may be more engaged or less engaged, depending upon our assessment. We may leave the parties to themselves for periods of time and stand on the sidelines, or we may be intensely working with them. That's a calibration. But the overall fact is the United States must be present."
Bureau chief Ron Kampeas and staff writer Eric Fingerhut contributed to this report from Washington.

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Is the Guardian plagiarizing Stormfront?

Does Steve Bell of the Guardian read Stormfront? Is that where he gets his ideas? Is that what The Guardian is guarding these days? ("Wenn est stet zu schutz und Trutze").  Check it out yourselves here.

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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A lesson in geography: Turkey official addresses letter to Knesset Speaker in Tel Aviv

The letter should have embarrassed the sender. Perhaps it should have been returned:
"Address incorrect."
Last update - 21:51 10/11/2009       
Turkey official addresses letter to Knesset Speaker in Tel Aviv
By Jonathan Lis, Haaretz Correspondent
The Turkish head of parliament sent Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin a missive on Monday stating that the Israeli legislature was located in Tel Aviv, as opposed to the capital Jerusalem.
The letter, addressed to "Reuven Rivlin, Chairman of the Israeli Parliament, Tel Aviv," embarrassed more than a few Knesset officials, with the Knesset Speaker's Office opting not to turn the possible mistake into a diplomatic spat.
"Jerusalem's status as the capital of Israel and as the home of the Knesset is well established, and there is no doubt that that is a fact well understood in Ankara," a note of clarification released by the Knesset Speaker's Office said on Tuesday.
Despite recent tension between Israel and Turkey, the Knesset Speaker's Office expressed satisfaction over the letter, sent in reply to Rivlin's note of congratulations over the recent election of Mehmet Ali Sahin as the new Turkish Parliament Speaker.
"I would like to thank you for the gracious congratulatory letter you sent me on behalf of yourself and the Israeli Knesset for my election into office," Sahin wrote.
"I would like to stress that during my term as parliament speaker the bonds of friendship and cooperation will continue between the Grand National Assembly of Turkey and the Israeli parliament," Sahin added, wishing Rivlin "luck in his duties and passing my genuine regards to the honorable members of Israel's parliament."
The mishap follows the more recet diplomatic crisis between Israel and Turkey, generated over Turkey's disapproval of Israel's actions in its war against Hamas in Gaza, earlier in the year.
Last month Turkey canceled a NATO air force drill in which Israeli pilots were set to participate in protest of Israel's invasion of Gaza, with tensions further deepening after Turkey's state-run TV aired a drama series that portrayed Israeli soldiers killing a Palestinian girl.

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Reconciliation - between Birthright and the Jewish Agency

Last update - 09:21 10/11/2009       
Seeking peace between Jews, one Israel program at a time
By Natasha Mozgovaya
Following years of tension between the Jewish Agency and the Birthright Israel-Taglit program JA Chairman Natan Sharasky has brought the groups to reconcile.
The reconciliation took place at the Israeli Embassy in Washington on Monday, on the eve of the General Assembly of the United Jewish Communities.
Sharansky held a joint reception for leaders of Birthright and MASA, a year-long program for Diaspora Jewish youth run by the Jewish Agency and the Israeli government.
Birthright brings young Jews from the Diaspora, mainly from North America, on 10-day identity building trips to Israel. It was founded 10 years ago by philanthropists Michael Steinhart and Charles Bronfman, and is funded by private contributions, although it receives some money from the Jewish Agency as well.
MASA, which brings youth to study or work here for one year, was founded five years ago by the JA, with Israeli government assistance.
Both programs are considered successful, but they have been fighting over credit for their successes.
"It is never a simple matter to appease bodies that come from different places in the Jewish world, but now it has become critical," Sharansky told Haaretz.
"The Jews have less money [now], and criticism on college campuses is growing. We have to increase the number of Jews with a connection to Israel, and for that, there has to be cooperation, at least. Each program has its strong points. Birthright has had unprecedented success in bringing in private-sector funds.
"But more than half of all the people who come on Birthright do so via Israel Experience, a Jewish Agency company. We must utilize the advantages of both programs, and there is no reason for rivalry. Their aim is the same. If we can bring peace between the Jews, perhaps we'll be able to go further."
When Birthright co-founder Steinhart was asked Tuesday why such a large part of Jewish philanthropy goes to non-Jewish projects, he said it was worth it.
"The intention is to say, look in the mirror. Who are you? To what extent are you Jewish? What percentage of your life is Jewish? The more we become integrated into American society, the challenge of maintaining our identity becomes more difficult."
Rachel Cohen, who participated in Birthright's first program a decade ago, comes from a mixed Jewish-Christian family, "a descendant of seven generations of Christian missionaries." The visit to Israel changed her life, she said yesterday. "When I first recited a Hebrew prayer at the Western Wall, this connected me with the tradition. The journey challenged me to reexamine my life and gave me the inspiration to concentrate on my studies in International Relations. My family was also surprised."
Since then, her younger brothers have also participated. "Thank you for continuing to invest in people like me," she told the program's founders.

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Monday, November 9, 2009

Fair Witness Expresses Serious Concern About the HolyLand Christian Ecumenical Foundation

November 9, 2009

Contact: Christians for Fair Witness on the Middle East

(212) 870-2320



Fair Witness Expresses Serious Concern About The Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation


Christians for Fair Witness on the Middle East ("Fair Witness") is seriously concerned about the content and tone of the Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation's ("HCEF") 11th International Conference, held at the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center in Washington, D.C., October 24, 2009. 


"I thought this conference was going to be about helping Palestinian Christians," said Rev. Thomas Prinz, pastor of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, Leesburg, Virginia.   "But the main theme was attacking Israel, blaming it for all  the problems in the Middle East. The occasional moderate voice could not be heard for the otherwise constant one-sided accusations against Israel."


"There were times in the conference when calls for coexistence camouflaged attacks on the Jewish state," added Rev. Prinz.  "One speaker talked about the path to peace with Jews, Christians and Muslims together in Jerusalem, singing praises to one God.  It was superficially very appealing.  But his call for a one-state solution was really just a call for the destruction of the Jewish state and a situation where Jews become the minority in an Arab Muslim land.  That's not a path to peace."


"Accusations we heard of Israel's  planned 'ethnic cleansing' in 1948 and  Jewish 'triumphalism' that  led to 'one of the most consistent and egregious human rights violations in history' were extreme and offensive and have no place in a Christian conference with a  stated theme of 'Building Peace Through Faith and Dialogue,' says Rev. Dr. Scott Ickert, senior pastor of Resurrection Evangelical Lutheran Church, Arlington, VA.  


"Too much of the conference appeared based on misinformation," added Sr. Ruth Lautt, O.P., Fair Witness National Director. "For example, one speaker claimed that Palestinians  descended from the Philistines.  The Philistines disappeared from history probably by the late fifth century B.C., but not later than the time of Alexander the Great. They have no known historical connection to modern Palestinians.  Making up specious connections between Palestinian Arabs and a seafaring European people from the second millennium B.C. does not help resolve a conflict where two people --  Jews and Palestinians -- have legitimate claims to parts of the same land." 


Fair Witness fails to see how the conference helped achieve HCEF's stated goals which include "Promot[ing] peace, justice, and reconciliation in the Holy Land . . ."


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India buys upgraded Barak-8 Israeli air defenses for $1.1 billion

Israel has signed a $1.1 billion contract to supply an upgraded tactical air defense system to India, with delivery expected by 2017, an Israeli official said on Monday.
The sale of the Barak-8 systems came as India's army chief, General Deepak Kapoor, held high-level talks in Israel, India's biggest defense supplier.
Made by state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries Ltd., the Barak-8 is designed for use aboard ships and can shoot down incoming missiles, planes and drones. The most advanced version can be also deployed on land, the Israeli official said.
India has already acquired an earlier generation of the Barak system, the official said.
The Barak-8 contract was signed in April, and delivery of the systems will take place "over the next six to eight years".
The Indian embassy in Tel Aviv had no immediate comment

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Obama - Bibi meeting: Photo-op frill or substantive discussion?

In Ha'aretz, Aluf Benn asserts that the late hour timing of the meeting between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Obama is a snub that makes the visit worthless. He wrote:
The delays in finding a time to meet, and pushing it to a late hour - after the news programs on Israeli television - make Netanyahu look as if Obama threw him a bone. In such circumstances, it is no longer important what will be said at the meeting, and the extent to which there will be an attempt to present it as an achievement. The prime minister of Israel was humiliated before all.
It ain't necessarily so. In fact, the story was specifically denied by the Prime Minister's office. Mr. Obama and Mr. Netanyahu have important business to discuss, and most of it is best discussed quietly. The Palestinians have the intention of declaring a state unilaterally, with EU and UN support. Until now, the importance of this ominous threat did not register with Israel leaders it seems (see Unilateral Palestinian state declaration - More important than settlement freeze). But the gravity of the problem is slowly dawning on Israeli policy makers, and Netanyahu wants a commitment from the US to block a unilateral Palestinian state declaration. At the same time, the farce of dialog with Iran is slowly coming to its inevitable conclusion, and US policy makers are beginning to understand the obvious: Iran is not interested in dialogs and treaties about nuclear development. Iran is going to build nuclear weapons if nobody stops it. Iran's refusal to sign a meaningful draft treaty, coupled with reports that they have been testing a two-point implosion mechanism for use in a nuclear warhead, should make it amply clear what Iran is doing and what they intend.  
Netanyahu is a seasoned politician. The injury to his delicate psyche from the "humiliation" is not really of much importance compared to the prospect of Iranian nuclear weapons or a Palestinian unilateral state declaration. What is important for Netanyahu and Israel is whether or not the US will lead in taking decisive action to stop Iranian nuclear development, and whether or not the US will put the kibbosh on Palestinian plans to declare a state unilaterally, not whether or not he gets a photo-op with Mr. Obama. If President Obama gives Netanyahu those commitments and keeps his word about them, then it doesn't matter if he smiles at him or not.  And if Obama smiles and does not make the commitment. Having suffered a setback in the Arab world after Hillary Clinton praised Israel for making "unprecedented" concessions regarding the settlements issue, the Obama administration is engaged in serious public backpedaling to mollify Arab opinion. In any case, the peace process and the other issues would best be discussed without the "benefit" of press coverage and without the need for public statements that everyone knows are not quite really true. Israel doesn't need any more talk about unbreakable bonds. There are serious problems that require serious attention.
It is probably too much to hope that that will happen. Instead, Mr Obama, intent on his Middle East policy, will likely pressure Netanyahu to "give me something I can show the Palestinians." That is understandable. But tne timing of the meeting is a rather juvenile and petty issue of diplomatic protocol games.
The only real story in Aluf Benn's article, is that Benn and others are doing their darndest to amplify differences between the United States and Israel and to make it seem like there is maximal US pressure on Israel. It would be fatuous to claim that there is unanimity of policy between the two countries as some do. The timing of the meeting was a symbolic snub. In Israel, it will not lose any popularity for Netanyahu, who is respected for standing up to unreasonable Palestinian demands that are backed by the United States. It is equally absurd to insist that the substance of the Israel-U.S. relationship is based on photo-ops and the timing of meetings.  .
Ami Isseroff

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US getting desperate about Iran "dialog"

According to the New York Times, Iran is ignoring US efforts to salvage the draft nuclear treaty and vindicate the Obama administration policy of dialogue. As decision time looms closer and closer, American officials are at last beginning to believe what should have been obvious from the start: there won't be any deal, because Iran will not agree to any deal that prevents it from developing nuclear weapons:
But members of the Obama administration, in interviews over the weekend, said that they had now all but lost hope that Iran would follow through with an agreement reached in Geneva on Oct. 1 to send its fuel out of the country temporarily -- buying some time for negotiations over its nuclear program.
"If you listen to what the Iranians have said publicly and privately over the past week," one senior administration official said Sunday, "it's evident that they simply cannot bring themselves to do the deal." The administration officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were speaking about delicate diplomatic exchanges.
Actually Iran has been saying precisely the same thing for a long time - they will not brook any interference in their nuclear program, and they justifiably don't believe US threats or US resolve to stop them. For some strange reason, Obama administration policy simply ignored everything that the Iranian government has said about this issue and made believe it had a negotiations partner.
The New York Times story is below.
Ami Isseroff
Iran Is Said to Ignore Effort to Salvage a Nuclear Deal
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration, attempting to salvage a faltering nuclear deal with Iran, has told Iran's leaders in back-channel messages that it is willing to allow the country to send its stockpile of enriched uranium to any of several nations, including Turkey, for temporary safekeeping, according to administration officials and diplomats involved in the exchanges.
But the overtures, made through the International Atomic Energy Agency over the past two weeks, have all been ignored, the officials said. Instead, they said, the Iranians have revived an old counterproposal: that international arms inspectors take custody of much of Iran's fuel, but keep it on Kish, a Persian Gulf resort island that is part of Iran.
A senior Obama administration official said that proposal had been rejected because leaving the nuclear material on Iranian territory would allow for the possibility that the Iranians could evict the international inspectors at any moment. That happened in North Korea in 2003, and within months the country had converted its fuel into the material for several nuclear weapons.
The intermediary in the exchanges between Washington and Tehran has been Mohamed ElBaradei, the director general of the energy agency. He confirmed some of the proposals — including one to send Iran's fuel to Turkey, which has nurtured close relations with Iran pp in interviews in New York late last week.
But members of the Obama administration, in interviews over the weekend, said that they had now all but lost hope that Iran would follow through with an agreement reached in Geneva on Oct. 1 to send its fuel out of the country temporarily -- buying some time for negotiations over its nuclear program.
"If you listen to what the Iranians have said publicly and privately over the past week," one senior administration official said Sunday, "it's evident that they simply cannot bring themselves to do the deal." The administration officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were speaking about delicate diplomatic exchanges.
Iranian officials told the energy agency on Oct. 29 that they could not agree to the deal that their own negotiators had reached, but they never explained why. Iran has never publicly rejected the deal, but its official reaction has been ambiguous at best.
Dr. ElBaradei insisted he still had hope, but he conceded that the chances were receding.
"I have been saying to the Iranian leadership, privately and publicly, 'Make use of that opportunity. Reciprocate,' " Dr. ElBaradei said last week. But he said that it now appeared that "the foreign policy apparatus in Iran has frozen," partly because of the country's own domestic turmoil.
So far, President Obama has said nothing about the stalemate threatening his first, and potentially most important, effort at diplomatic engagement with a hostile foreign government. When the first meeting in Geneva ended Oct. 1, Iranian and American officials said they would meet again later in the month to discuss the nuclear program and the potential for a broader relationship. That meeting never occurred, and none is scheduled.
Mr. Obama's aides say he is still willing to wait until year's end before concluding that Iran is rejecting his offers of diplomatic engagement. What happens after that is unclear: Mr. Obama has suggested he would then turn to much more severe sanctions than the United Nations has already imposed against Iran, though it is unclear whether Russia and China would go along.
Officials in Israel, which feels the most threatened by Iran, have hinted that if Iran does not accept the Geneva deal they will revive their consideration of a military strike against Iran's nuclear facilities. Mr. Obama's own aides say they cannot determine whether the Israelis are bluffing.
Iran's backpedaling from the Geneva deal — which would require Iran to ship 2,600 pounds of low-enriched uranium to Russia by Jan. 15 for processing into fuel rods for a reactor in Tehran used for medical purposes — will almost certainly be discussed when Mr. Obama meets the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, at the White House on Monday evening.
In public, Mr. Netanyahu expressed support for the deal after it was announced. Privately, Israeli officials here said they expected it to fall apart because they doubted the Iranian government would part, even temporarily, with the fuel it had spent years accumulating.
Administration officials say they had been working closely with Russia each step of the way, and were pleased over the weekend that the Russian president, Dmitri A. Medvedev, had raised anew the prospect of economic sanctions if Iran rebuffed the offer. Russia has an economic interest in the deal: it would reap considerable revenue for converting Iran's fuel — a step that Turkey would not be able to perform — and Russian officials appear to still be pressing the Iranians to take the deal.
"Russian efforts may well prompt Iran to accept," an administration official said Sunday. "There is still time for Iran to make the right choice" before the board of the I.A.E.A. meets later this month.
But few other American or European officials interviewed in recent days seem to believe that the Iranians will agree to send the fuel to Russia, Turkey or any other nation. Officials would not say which other nations would possibly accept the fuel.
Officials say they believe that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran, who first suggested the country might be willing to export its uranium temporarily, may have never expected that suggestion to be considered seriously. Some officials speculate Mr. Ahmadinejad's offer may have been overruled by other Iranian authorities.
The idea of offering to help Iran use its stockpile to fuel the medical reactor attracted Mr. Obama because it would buy him time. Iran has generated enough fuel to make between one and two weapons — if it were further enriched — and it would take Iran roughly a year to replace the fuel it sent out of the country. That would take the pressure off some of the negotiations.
For that reason, it touched off a nationalistic backlash in Iran, and Mr. Ahmadinejad was criticized by both reformers and hard-liners. "The countries which were proposed to receive our 5 percent uranium were not countries that the Islamic republic trusts to trade with," Hosein Naghavi-Hosseini, a member of Iran's Majlis Security Council, said over the weekend, according to Iran's state-run press, "because in the past, these countries have not held up their side of trade agreements."
Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, used the 30th anniversary of the takeover of the American Embassy in Tehran last week to warn Iranians against Mr. Obama's offers of diplomatic engagement.
Mr. Obama is reported to have sent Ayatollah Khamenei two private letters this year, but he received only one response, mostly a litany of past grievances.

Continued (Permanent Link)

J Street's university arm is not dropping pro-Israel

It is not quite clear from the below what J Street's university group will be doing, but it is clear that that they did not drop "Pro-Israel" from their platform. They may have also added pro-Palestine. In any case, the original Jerusalem Post article that stated that they are dropping "pro-Israel" was possibly not accurate. Of course, J Street has peculiar ideas of what is pro-Israel in some cases.
Ami Isseroff

J Street student head: We're pro-Israel

Oct. 29, 2009
hilary leila krieger, jpost correspondent in Washington , THE JERUSALEM POST

Following controversy in some quarters of the Jewish community over the decision of the J Street U student board not to include "pro-Israel" in its messaging, J Street sent out statements this week affirming the organization's commitment to Israel.

They also referred to "incorrect reports" on the decision, with student board president Sophia Manuel putting out a statement Wednesday that, "The national board of J Street U neither discussed nor voted on any action to remove the term 'pro-Israel' from our platform, policy or the way we describe ourselves at J Street U's national conference."

The Jerusalem Post, which first reported the decision, did not suggest it had been made at the national conference, held this weekend. But participants told the Post that it had been disseminated then to students in attendance.

The decision itself was made last year when the student board began discussing what the baseline message for student groups participating in J Street U should be, according to several students.

As student board secretary and J Street intern Lauren Barr told the Post following her speech at the conference's opening session Sunday night, "We talked a lot about formulating a unified message, a banner under which we can all stand proudly."

While the parent organization of J Street refers to itself as a "pro-Israel, pro-peace" organization, in contrast the J Street U student board felt that their "unified message" would simply be "pro-peace."

Another member of the student board, Yonatan Schechter, said Sunday the students "decided that we would use the 'pro-peace' terminology [because] it was more conducive to discussion. With our generation, it seems that if you use 'pro-Israel,' people really want to say 'anti-Palestine.'"

As part of J Street U's promotion of student autonomy, Barr explained that individual university chapters and affiliated student groups could then include "pro-Israel," "pro-Israel, pro-Palestine," or other slogans with which they felt comfortable.

"We don't want to isolate people because they don't feel quite so comfortable with 'pro-Israel,' so we say 'pro-peace,'" Barr told the Post, "but behind that is 'pro-Israel.'"

When asked for comment Monday, J Street Executive Director Jeremy Ben-Ami did not dispute the students' statements, saying, "If the way to engage the young part of our community is to give them space to work through their relationship with Israel, then we're going to do that. We're not going to shut them out, because the only way to keep them in the community is to give them the space to work that out."

In subsequent e-mails to the press, however, J Street staff stressed that the students' terminology should not be interpreted as a lack of support for Israel.

"We are building this movement because we care about Israel, its future and the future of the entire Middle East," Manuel said in her statement. "To us being pro-Israel is intertwined with being pro-Palestine, and recognizing this is a vital step in the pursuit of a lasting peace."


Continued (Permanent Link)

Dutch NGO funds "No Jews allowed" event in the name of "Peace"

This is quite difficult for theoretical advocates of "dialogue" to comprehend - that foreign "peace" NGOs will go along with and perhaps encourage a "No Jews need apply" policy in a "peace" event.
It is all very well to preach about dialogue, but the reality is quite a different matter. Where are the outraged proponents of coexistence?
Ami Isseroff
There aren't too many English-language journalists who have covered Arab Jerusalem as I have for In Jerusalem in recent years - reporting on everything from a home in Anata built and demolished four times and now facing a fifth demolition order, to the first shopping mall along east Jerusalem's main drag Salah a-Din Street, which received a building permit after 42 years of bureaucracy; from the al-Mamal Foundation for Contemporary Art inside the New Gate, to a conference on Palestinian refugees at al-Quds University in Abu Dis. These are all stories I have reported in an objective manner.
Artistic director Merlijn Twaalfhoven: "Our team [of 12 Dutch activists and eight artists] had to promise that we would not allow peaceful Israelis to come."
Thus it was that last weekend I duly RSVP'd to a guests-only invitation to the Al-Quds Underground, touted as an unconventional festival with more than 150 small shows in private spaces in the Old City. Performances included music, storytelling, dancing, short acts and food. Locations were living rooms, a library, courtyards, gardens and more unique places. My expectation of a celebration of Jerusalem's diversity was dashed, however, when I arrived late Saturday afternoon at the Damascus Gate meeting point. Politely asked in English by Jamal Goseh, the director of the a-Nuzha Hakawati Theater near the American Colony Hotel, "Where do you live?" I responded in Arabic that I live in Jerusalem. From my accent and appearance, he discerned that I am an Israeli.
Al-Quds Underground's artistic director Merlijn Twaalfhoven of Amsterdam then told me, along with some Israeli peace activists who had arrived, that we were not welcome. My reply that I had been invited was to no avail, nor was my guarded threat to pen an expose of their racism.
And so here it is.
For the sake of fairness, I met Twaalfhoven the next day to allow him an opportunity to explain… or dig himself a deeper hole. (Goseh declined my request for an interview.) "We want to bring art to the world," he began. "I sometimes break through the boundaries between art and life. That is the core of my work."
A visionary creator of art happenings such as a dance performance at the Jalazoun refugee camp near Ramallah and the Long Distance Call concert on the rooftops of the Turkish half of the divided Cypriot city of Nicosia, Twaalfhoven said he had vaguely heard that the Arab League had chosen Jerusalem as Al-Quds 2009 Capital of Arab Culture and that the Israeli government had banned the festival as a political event forbidden under the Oslo Accords. "I don't know the details. I thought it was a good idea to bring people together."
Twaalfhoven then added, "The local people told me months ago that Israelis cannot go. Our team [of 12 Dutch activists and eight artists] had to promise that we would not allow peaceful Israelis to come."
Apologetic over what had happened, he then spilled the beans. The €50,000 project was funded by the European Union through the Dutch charity Cordaid and the Alexandria-based Anna Lindh Euro-Mediterranean Foundation for the Dialogue between Cultures. To have said no to racism would have meant to scuttle the budget.
Al-Quds Underground's no-Israelis rule is part of a larger policy set by the Palestinian Boycott Divestment and Sanctions National Committee. This BDS movement, founded in 2005, can take credit for the cancellation of Leonard Cohen's September concert at the Ramallah Cultural Palace.
Similarly in 2007, BDS activists succeeded in getting Canadian rock 'n' roll star Bryan Adams to pull the plug on back-to-back concerts in Jericho and Tel Aviv. Organized by the New York-based One Million Voices, the concerts were intended to promote a two-state solution to resolve the festering Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
BDS activists in Europe and elsewhere aim to isolate and discomfit Israel just as South Africa's apartheid regime was targeted in the 1980s. This rejection of normalization of relations is a historic and strategic mistake based on the false analogy between apartheid and Zionism.
Never mind the snub I received Saturday. On a broader level, the BDS movement is missing the point that peace is best promoted at a grassroots level, person to person, Jew to Arab, and Arab to Jew.
Those who think Israel can be pressured into coexistence are mistaken. Two states for two peoples will be embraced when enough people demand it. BDS fosters the illusion that Palestinians can achieve their goal of statehood without ever accepting Israel and Israelis.
Boycott, divest and sanction? I respond, Embrace, invest and encourage. Peace starts among people. Anyone unprepared for honest dialogue with the other is suffering from acute xenophobia. As Black Panther activist Eldridge Cleaver once remarked, "You're either part of the solution or you're part of the problem."


Continued (Permanent Link)

Coalition or not, Hizbullah will continue to hold sway in Lebanon

We knew this, but here it is spelled out. The people voted, but the decisions were made in Tehran.
Following statements from both government and opposition sides in Lebanon over the weekend, it now looks likely that Prime Minister-elect Saad Hariri will announce the formation of a new governing coalition in the next few days.
The announcement that a deal has been reached on a unity government was made by the Hizbullah-led March 8 opposition movement after a meeting on Friday.
The details of the deal have not yet been made clear, but it appears that the main stumbling blocks have been overcome.
The formation of a new government will bring to an end four months of political paralysis in Lebanon, following the victory of the pro-western March 14 coalition in general elections in June.
However, the new government will have no bearing on the key political fact looming over Lebanon today: namely, the existence of a parallel state maintained by Hizbullah, which makes its decisions without consulting the nominal rulers of the country.
The deadlock regarding the formation of the government was itself related to the agenda of the Hizbullah parallel state. It is worth remembering that agreement for the formula of cabinet appointments was reached in July. But this agreement solved little.
Hariri was determined to prevent the opposition from obtaining veto power in the new government. To exercise a veto over cabinet decisions, the opposition needed to control at least 11 portfolios in the 30-member cabinet - that is, one-third plus one of the cabinet seats.
In July, both sides accepted a formula of 15 portfolios for the March 14 coalition, 10 for the opposition, and five to be appointed by President Michel Suleiman.
The key issue then became the identity of the ministers to be appointed by the president. If only one of them were to be inclined toward the opposition, this would mean that Hizbullah would effectively have kept the veto it exercised before June. Since the final names have not yet been announced, it is too soon to draw any firm conclusions in this regard.
It looks likely, however, that Hariri has compromised in another key area.
Hariri announced after the election that he was determined to keep the Telecommunications Ministry for his party. The Hizbullah-led opposition was equally determined to obtain this portfolio for themselves.
Hizbullah maintains a large-scale independent communications network which is an essential part of its military stance vis a vis Israel. Its determination to keep this network away from government scrutiny was one of the factors that triggered the fighting in Beirut in May 2008.
Hizbullah at that time acted decisively to prevent any government interference with its independent communications. Possessing the telecommunications ministry is a way to ensure no further possible unwanted scrutiny.
Reports suggest that Hariri has conceded this portfolio to the opposition. The prime minister-elect has apparently prevailed in his demand that Jebran Bassil, son-in-law of former Gen. Michel Aoun, not occupy this post. But the portfolio looks set to go instead to another member of Aoun's party, which is aligned with Hizbullah.
Hizbullah itself, it appears, will have two posts in the new cabinet.
Hariri, in a recent statement to the media, sought to display his Arab nationalist colors, asserting that Hizbullah would be in the cabinet, whether Israel liked it or not. It is also the case that Hizbullah will continue to do what it wants in Lebanon - whether Saad Hariri likes it or not.
In the May 2008 fighting, Hizbullah reconfirmed that its parallel structures are off limits to the government of Lebanon. It did this by demonstrating its effective monopoly of the means of violence.
Such a monopoly remains the ultimate source of political power. This was the case before the June elections, remained the case after them, and will remain so regardless of the precise coalition arithmetic.
As the seizure of the Francop arms ship last week showed, Hizbullah and its backers are busily engaged in preparing for the next round of fighting with Israel. The precise timing and nature of the conflict to come will be determined without reference to the wishes of the new Lebanese cabinet, whatever its eventual makeup.
A report in a British newspaper on Sunday quoted Hizbullah fighters as openly admitting the extent of their rearmament efforts. In a statement which says much more about who makes the key decisions in Lebanon than any details regarding the coalition, a Hizbullah gunman was quoted as saying "Sure, we are rearming, we have even said that we have far more rockets and missiles than we did in 2006."
This statement confirms Israeli assessments. By making it, the unnamed Hizbullah man cheerfully shows his contempt for Security Council Resolution 1701, the UN forces deployed to enforce it, and those Lebanese who might want their country to be something other than a springboard for war.
Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun, as a famous Chinese leader once said. In Lebanon, the guns are in the hands of Hizbullah.
This is the salient point. All else is detail.
The writer is senior researcher at the Global Research in International Affairs Center, IDC, Herzliya.
This article can also be read at

Continued (Permanent Link)

PA would breach Oslo if it declared a state unilaterally, but so what?

Essentially, the analysis proves what we should know: Agreements are paper worth only as much the guarantees behind them are worth. If Israel wants to prevent a unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state, it must make clear that such a declaration would result in physical termination of the Palestinian Authority and return to the status quo ante that existed before 1992.

Analysis: PA would breach Oslo if it declared a state unilaterally

Nov. 9, 2009

From a practical point of view, the question of whether or not the Palestinian Authority can declare "Palestine" an independent state is more political than legal.

It is clear from the provisions of the 1995 Oslo Interim Agreement that the Palestinian Authority would be perpetrating a material breach of the treaty by declaring an independent state.

According to Article 23 of the internationally recognized accord, "neither side shall initiate or take any step that will change the status of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip pending the outcome of the permanent status negotiations."

Therefore, a unilateral declaration of independence by the PA would constitute a clear and serious violation of the agreement.

According to attorney Allen Baker, a former legal adviser to the Foreign Ministry, on the basis of that breach, Israel could declare the entire agreement void.

Baker added that the 1995 accord not only determined the administrative and security arrangements in all of the West Bank according to areas A, B and C, but is also the source of authority for the PA itself.

Palestinian Prime Minister Salaam Fayad's program not only declares that a Palestinian state will be established in 2011, but also says its borders will be those of June 4, 1967, in other words, it will include all of the West Bank and east Jerusalem.

In the plan, entitled "Palestine: Ending the Occupation, Establishing the State," Fayyad wrote, "This [proposal] is the path to the creation of the independent state of Palestine on the Palestinian territory occupied in 1967, with East Jerusalem as its capital."

Hebrew University Professor Emeritus Ruth Lapidot told The Jerusalem Post that according to the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, no state can abrogate a bilateral treaty unless it declares that the other partner is guilty of a "material breach" of the agreement.

Although the PA is not a state, the same principle should apply to it.

So far, the PA has not accused Israel of any material breach. Nevertheless, when he introduced his proposal to building up the Palestinian institutions for the establishment of an independent state, Fayad reportedly added that Oslo had been signed 16 years earlier, yet there was still no end to the Israeli "occupation."

And pointing to the more than 100 settlements in the West Bank, which he said were built in violation of international law, Fayad added, "Look who's talking about unilateralism."

Lapidot explained that there was no international body or institution that recognized states. Individual countries did so according to their own national considerations.

There are, indeed, four conditions that an entity should fulfill in order to be regarded as a state. It must have a population, a territory, an effective government and it must be able to conduct relations with other countries.

But each country determines for itself whether the criteria have been met. Lapidot estimated that the PA would have no trouble finding countries to recognize Palestine as a state, despite the constraints of the Oslo Accord.

The experts with whom the Post spoke on Sunday agreed, however, that the most important question for Israel is whether the US would do so.

Dan Diker, a foreign policy analyst at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, said he was worried that the American administration is heading in that direction and is ready to abandon the peace negotiations which have been stalled since Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu came to power.

But Baker said he was not overly concerned that this would happen because the US, along with Russia, Norway, Egypt and the European Union, co-signed the Oslo Accord. Baker said he found it difficult to believe that any of them would be prepared to support a material breach of the treaty by the PA and recognize a Palestinian state.

This article can also be read at

Continued (Permanent Link)

Sunday, November 8, 2009

UN Secy General to send Goldstone report to Security Council ASAP

The only reason to send the report to the UN Security Council is to force a USA veto. Or is it? Sending the report does not mean it will be the subject of a resolution, but it is certain that one or another country will bring try to pass a resolution.

Ban to send Goldstone to UNSC 'ASAP'

Nov. 8, 2009
E.B. SOLOMONT and tovah lazaroff , THE JERUSALEM POST

NEW YORK - Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Friday he will send the Goldstone Report, which calls for Israel and the Palestinians to investigate alleged war crimes during Operation Cast Lead in Gaza to the UN Security Council "as soon as possible."

The 15 council members have already received copies of the 575-page report, by the panel chaired by South African Judge Richard Goldstone. The General Assembly, in a resolution adopted Thursday, asked the secretary-general to transmit it, which will make the report an official Security Council document.

It's possible the Goldstone Report could come before the Security Council on Wednesday, during its open debate on the protection of civilians in armed conflict.

Following a two-day debate in the UN General Assembly, 114 countries voted for the resolution and 18 voted against it, including Israel, the US, Germany, the Netherlands, Canada, Australia and several Eastern European nations. Another 44 abstained, including most of the EU countries that had sought unsuccessfully to soften the resolution's language prior to the vote.

Switzerland was the only European country to endorse the report. Russia, which does not often side with Israel in these matters, abstained.

In anticipation of defeat on Thursday, Israel had focused its energies on a "moral victory" and had called on democratic and Western countries to reject the report, which it said undermined the right of moderate countries to defend themselves against terrorism.

"We are satisfied that 18 countries, which constitute a moral majority, supported Israel's stance and that 44 abstained and did not vote with the automatic majority," Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman told the media on Friday.

"It's not a trivial thing that 18 countries, including those from the Western, democratic world, would vote against the resolution," he said.

"The automatic majority of countries like Saudi Arabia and Somalia at the UN is, unfortunately, a given situation. These are not countries which will teach us about morals. Once again it has been proven that the UN is not an arena we can fight in," Lieberman said.

"The results of the vote, and the large number of countries who voted against or abstained, clearly show that the assembly's resolution does not enjoy the support of the moral majority," the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem said, in a statement after the vote. The statement stressed that the resolution had no connection to "the reality Israel faces."

"During Operation Cast Lead the IDF exhibited higher standards of combat and morals than those held by the all the initiators of the resolution," the statement continued. "Israel will continue to act to defend itself from international terrorism, as any democratic country would."

Palestinians are pushing the Security Council to refer the report to the International Criminal Court at The Hague in hopes that it would then prosecute individual Israelis of war crimes.

The Security Council, however, is highly unlikely to take any action. The United States, which has veto power on the council, has repeatedly said the report belonged in the Geneva-based Human Rights Council, which appointed the Goldstone panel.

Diplomats said Russia, which also has veto power on the council, does not want the Security Council dealing with human rights issues.

State Department spokesman Ian Kelly told reporters in Washington on Friday, "We don't support raising this issue in the Security Council. We are committed to the resumption of talks between the two sides, and we do not want to take any steps that would, in any way, jeopardize the resumption of those talks. We also believe that these kinds of issues are best raised and best dealt with through domestic institutions. And we call on Israel to set up the kind of mechanisms to investigate these - some of these allegations."

Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian UN observer, called Thursday's General Assembly's endorsement of the report, "an important night in the history of the General Assembly and the history of fighting against impunity and seeking accountability."

The General Assembly resolution also called on Switzerland to reconvene a meeting of the parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention, which spells out the obligations of an occupying power, and Mansour said the Palestinians will start preparing for this.

Israeli Ambassador Gabriela Shalev boycotted Thursday's vote, sending Deputy Representative Danny Carmon in her place.

Carmon said the resolution "endorses and legitimizes a deeply flawed, one-sided and prejudiced report."

He said the General Assembly ignores facts on the ground related to Israel's security, and cited the recent interception of a large arms shipment from Iran destined for Hizbullah.

Indeed, prior to Thursday's vote, Israel filed a letter of complaint with Ban, urging him to press the Security Council to act against Iran.

The dispatch by Iran of 36 shipping containers of weapons on the cargo vessel Francop violates several Security Council resolutions, namely 1747, 1701 and 1373, Shalev wrote in the letter.

"The aforementioned shipment from Iran to Syria, or to any other country or entity, in particular to any terrorist entity, constitutes a severe violation of this and other resolutions," she wrote.

Listing other violations, Shalev implicated Iran's national shipping company, saying it has "repeatedly" been "found to be involved in transporting weapons and other banned items in violation of UN Security Council resolutions."

Following the Goldstone vote, which US Ambassador Susan Rice did not attend, the US mission circulated an "explanation of vote" by Deputy Permanent Representative Alejandro Wolff, who voted in Rice's place.

"As the United States made clear in Geneva, we believe that the Goldstone Report is deeply flawed," Wolff said, citing an unbalanced focus on Israel, sweeping legal conclusions and overreaching recommendations, and a failure to adequately assign responsibility to Hamas for basing its operations in civilian-populated areas.

He stressed that the matter should be handled at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva alone, saying discussion in the Security Council would be "unconstructive."

Stating that the US "strongly supports accountability" for human rights and humanitarian law violations, Wolff said the best way to end human suffering is to bring comprehensive peace to the region, including a two-state solution.

"As we urge the parties to restart permanent-status negotiations leading to the creation of a Palestinian state, we should all be seeking to advance the cause of peace - and doing nothing to hinder it," he said.

The UN resolution was passed two days after the US House of Representatives passed a non-binding resolution calling the Goldstone Report "irredeemably biased and unworthy of further consideration or legitimacy."

US Jewish groups - from B'nai B'rith to the American Jewish Committee to the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations - criticized the UN vote.

"In the event that this matter is referred to the UN Security Council," said AJC Executive Director David Harris, "we urge member states to dismiss the recommendations of the Goldstone Commission, which was grossly prejudiced against Israel from its inception."

On Monday, Lieberman and Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon will head to Denmark and the Netherlands where they will speak with European and Israeli diplomats about both the Goldstone Report and the shipment of Iranian arms which Israel confiscated last week. Israel has argued that the UN should condemn Iran's actions rather than Israel's. Lieberman plans to thank the Netherlands for its stance on the Goldstone Report.

The two officials will also discuss an upgrade of European Union relations with Israel.

In related news, the Anti-Defamation League said the Goldstone Report has become "a cause célèbre in the Arab press," which has published anti-Israel cartoons in response to the document.

Among the examples cited by the ADL is a cartoon published in Alraya in Qatar on October 17 that portrays a Jew putting the Goldstone Report into a shredder.

AP contributed to this report.


Continued (Permanent Link)

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