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Friday, November 20, 2009

Has the Obama government misread Israeli opinion on Jerusalem?

http://zionism-israel.com/israel_news/2009/11/has-obama-government-misread-israeli.html

Herb Keinon's Analysis: Obama's press on Gilo shows a continued misread of Israel is one of the more astute analyses of why Israel is building in Gilo, and why most Israelis are backing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on this issue. Anyone who thought about it could recognize immediately that the heart of the "innocent" seeming Palestinian demand to stop settlements was really the issue of Jerusalem (see Will Jerusalem be a frozen settlement? - which I wrote last May - and O! No! Jerusalem and the Settlement Freeze!). It was obvious what the Palestinians were trying to do with their "settlement freeze." But it was hard to believe that U.S. would be obtuse enough to fall for the ploy or arrogant enough to ignore Israeli opinion entirely.


Herb Keinon is absolutely on the money when he writes: ... Gilo - not in a far-flung settlement overlooking Nablus, nor even in one of the settlement blocs like Gush Etzion, nor even a Jewish complex in one of the Arab neighborhoods of the capital, but in Gilo, one of the large new neighborhoods built in the city following the Six Day War. If Israel cannot build in Gilo without US approval, than it cannot build in Ramot Eshkol, French Hill, Ramot, Neveh Yaakov, Pisgat Ze'ev, East Talpiot or Har Homa. However, the issue, as we shall see, is not quite what most Israelis - or most Americans think it is.

The Palestinians knew that by posing a demand to end "settlement construction" before resuming peace talks, they would have an iron-clad guarantee that there would never be peace talks, because Israel is not going to give up its claim to Jerusalem, certainly not before there are any negotiations, and Israel will not allow Jerusalem to be treated as a "settlement." The Palestinians don't want to negotiate peace with Israel, because they have finally understood that in negotiations, Israel will never agree to allow the descendants of Palestinian Arab refugees to return to Israel and turn the country into an Arab state, and Israel is not going to give up all of East Jerusalem. "Moderate" Mahmoud Abbas has stated repeatedly that the Palestinians insist on "Right" of return, insist on getting every inch of "East Jerusalem" for their capital city, and insist Israeli withdrawal to the Armistice borders of 1949. Abbas said it first, perhaps in an interview he gave in 2000, and he has never budged an inch from those positions. If they cannot obtain the destruction and dismemberment of Israel by negotiations, the Palestinian "moderates" will turn to unilateral declaration of a state or to other means to accomplish the same end. If Israel agrees to the settlement freeze, the Palestinians can use it as an admission that Israel is giving up all rights to the areas in question, and will seek to ensure that it is a permanent freeze.

Not only would the Palestinians not have to negotiate about peace, but they get an added bonus, since by refusing to agree to the conditions of the nice President Obama, Israel is seen as the "obstacle to peace."

To most Israelis, the issues are obvious. What is a wonder to me, at least, is that some of my American Jewish friends cannot understand why the bad Mr. Netanyahu is putting a monkey wrench in the machinery of peace being operated by their Nobel prize winning president, over another silly settlement. It is surprising to me because you don't have to be a religious fanatic or even Jewish to know that Jerusalem is central to the Jewish people, and has been a central national symbol for the Zionist movement (Zion is a place in Jerusalem, remember?) and modern Israel. You don't have to have much background in the history of the Middle East to understand that since the time of the Emperor Vespasian at least, whoever controls Jerusalem is considered to control the land of Israel (AKA Palestine), an idea ratified, at least in the eyes of the Muslims by the conquest of Jerusalem from the Crusaders by Salah al-din (Saladin). Our American Jewish friends might disagree, but surely they can understand the reasons. Yet one of them wrote that the construction in Gilo looks like Israel is saying,

"We don't give a sh*t what you think or how hard you want to work for peace we will do what we want to do."

The perceptions of Americans about the peace process seem to be a bit strange. Israelis lost over a thousand lives "taking risks for peace," but were are supposed to be considerate of the hard working Americans, burning the midnight bourbon in Washington, who only want us to give up our capital city, a minor sacrifice, in order to advance their political agenda. What bad, ungrateful people we Israelis are, after all Mrs Clinton and Mr. Obama did in order to bring us peace!

The lady who wrote that is not ignorant. She not anti-Zionist. She considers herself knowledgable about dialogue. Dialogue people are supposed to know how to listen. Is it possible that she was totally deaf to Israeli opinion about Jerusalem? Does it really look like that? Perhaps to this nice Jewish lady, and a lot of Americans it does. From here, it looks rather like it is the Obama administration that is saying

"We don't give a sh*t about Israeli opinion, or three thousand years of history, or decisions of the Israeli government. We are an arrogant 800 pound gorilla and we will make you do whatever we want you to do."

Herb Keinon explained the Israeli position very well, though foreigners may not grasp that for most Israelis, Ramat Eshkol and French Hill are as much a part of Israel and Israeli Jerusalem as Pennsylvania avenue is part of Washington DC for Americans. It seems probable however, that it is Keinon who is misreading the American position, rather than the Americans who are misreading the Israeli position. Not only Herb Keinon, but a lot of Israelis may have been misreading the American position on Jerusalem for a long time and have also misunderstood the actual position of the Israeli government and the actual status of Jerusalem as well.

In order for the United States to "misread" the Israeli position on Jerusalem, we would have to assume that Mr. Obama and and his advisors do not know any of the following:

1. Jerusalem was the ancient capital of the Jewish people and has been a central part of Jewish culture in exile. President Obama held a Passover Seder at which he and other attendees presumably read from the Haggadah, including the pledge at the end "Next year in Jerusalem." He had to know that for Jews, this city is not like some town in the West Bank - it is not the same as Efrat, or Ariel or even Gush Etzion.

2. A sizeable Jewish community had lived in what Palestinian Arabs like to call "Arab East Jerusalem" - inside the old city in fact, for hundreds of years before being ethnically cleansed in 1948.

3. Jerusalem does not have the same status in international law as the rest of the West Bank. The United Nations partition plan called for Jerusalem to be internationalized. It was never supposed to be part of any Palestinian Arab state. The Palestinian claims of a "right" to a capital in East Jerusalem based on "international legitimacy" are completely bogus and without foundation. Subsequent UN resolutions reaffirmed the international status of Jerusalem in law, even though it was de facto divided and the eastern part was illegally annexed to Jordan. For example, UN General Assembly Resolution 303 reaffirmed that Jerusalem is a "corpus separatum." The international status of Jerusalem - fictional as it may be, has also been recognized in security council resolutions, which have the status of international law. Therefore it is not possible that the US doesn't know that settlement construction in Jerusalem is different from settlement construction in the West Bank.

4. Mr. Obama and Mrs Clinton both must know that the The Clinton Bridging Proposalsrecognized the special status of Jerusalem and called for the Jewish neighborhoods to remain under Israeli sovereignty.

5. Presumably, even the U.S. intelligence services, admittedly not too knowledgeable about the Middle East, at least monitor the Jerusalem Day declarations of every Israeli Prime Minister, all of whom pledge that "United Jerusalem is Israel's capital. Jerusalem was always ours and will always be ours. It will never again be partitioned and divided." in those or similar words. Yithak Rabin said, in October of 1995, "First and foremost, united Jerusalem …as the capital of Israel under Israeli sovereignty." Mr Obama and his team had to know that for Israelis, Jerusalem is not just another settlement. They had to know that this issue is political dynamite.

American politicians must also know that these declarations of Israeli leaders are not just political hot air on the same order as the "unbreakable bond" between the United States and Israel, to be trotted out on festive occasions. Too much blood was spilled in Jerusalem for the Israeli position to melt away in the face of political expediency.

But perhaps Israelis have also been misled by our own leaders.and have misread the situation. Most Israelis, and many others, have the impression that Israel annexed East Jerusalem either in 1967 or in 1980, when the Knesset passed the Basic Law: Jerusalem.

The 1967 laws, Law and Administration Ordinance (Amendment No. 11) Law, 1967 and Law and Administration Order (No. 1) of 28 June 1967, extended Israeli juridiction to the area added to the Jerusalem municipality, but these related to internal Israeli law and did not make any declaration regarding the international status of Jerusalem.

Likewise, the 1980 Basic Law simply declares that United Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. The word "annexation" is not used, the 1948 law regarding annexation is not referenced. The law does not even mention anything about the citizenship status of non-Israeli Arabs living in Jerusalem. This is the entire law, which the government of Menachem Begin passed with so much fanfare:

1. Jerusalem, complete and united, is the capital of Israel.


2. Jerusalem is the seat of the President of the State, the Knesset, the Government and the Supreme Court.

3. The Holy Places shall be protected from desecration and any other violation and from anything likely to violate the freedom of access of the members of the different religions to the places sacred to them or their feelings towards those places.


4. (a) The Government shall provide for the development and prosperity of Jerusalem and the well-being of its inhabitants by allocating special funds, including a special annual grant to the Municipality of Jerusalem (Capital City Grant) with the approval of the Finance Committee of the Knesset.

(b) Jerusalem shall be given special priority in the activities of the authorities of the State so as to further its development in economic and other matters.

(c) The Government shall set up a special body or special bodies for the implementation of this section.

The law is at least very ambiguous. There is no other law that annexed east Jerusalem. Jerusalem is therefore suspended in a sort of legal vacuum in Israeli law. Even that timid attempt to assert Israeli internal jurisdiction over east Jerusalem evoked an international storm of protest. The United Nations Security Council repudiated the law in Resolution 478, a kind of backhanded admission that Israel annexed or tried to annex Jerusalem. The United States abstained; it did not veto the resolution. All foreign governments moved their embassies out of Jerusalem. The United States never had an embassy in Jerusalem. Those "enthusiasts" who are pressing for Israeli annexation of parts or all of the West Bank should take into account that is doubtful if Israel even annexed east Jerusalem, and even that is not recognized by any other government.

American leaders did not "misread" Israeli opinion. Israeli leaders, of the right as well as those of the left, are fully cognizant of international opinion and United States policy regarding Jerusalem. They know very well that the US embassy has remained in Tel Aviv, and that the United States will not register "Israel" as the country of birth of any American born there, and they know exactly why. Israeli leaders have taken it into account even while making the most adamant assertions about Jerusalem to the Israeli public.

The difference of opinion between the US and Israel regarding Jerusalem seems to be something unpleasant that in fact everyone knows, but nobody usually talks about, something like a toilet in Victorian society, or an embarrassing relative who is never mentioned in polite company. Each side jockeys for position and pushes the envelope to see how far it can be pushed. The United States knew exactly what it was doing in insisting on stopping construction in east Jerusalem, and the Netanyahu government knew exactly what it is doing by announcing construction in Gilo. Isn't it time that the Israeli public understood and admitted the real situation, and isn't it time that the American public, especially American Jews, understood how Israelis feel about Jerusalem?

Ami Isseroff

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Thursday, June 11, 2009

Taking down fake Zionists and "pro-Israel" groups

http://zionism-israel.com/israel_news/2009/06/taking-down-fake-zionists-and-pro.html

I am glad that someone has had the courage to speak out about fake "pro-Israel" groups. I too got the e-mails that urged Jews to "stand up for Obama" and bombard congress to vote down the initiative to give President Obama the legal power to impose energy sanctions on Iran, as noted in the article. It was amusing to try to puzzle out how voting down a bill that would give a president power could be "support" for that president. I thought supporting a president was done by giving him more power, not less. It was even more amusing to read In Time magazine that the order for this initiative came directly from the White House and that it is part of Obama's strategy. These groups are more "pro-Obama" than Obama. They are so "pro-Obama' that they are against Obama's policies.
I think that their support of negotiations with Hamas. and M.J. Rosenberg's support, which ran to an obsession, for Charles Freeman, are far worse than their "support" of Obama, and much harder to justify. Obama is the President and Americans are going to tend to agree with his policies. But Freeman is the head of a large Arab lobby group and is outspokenly anti-Israel, pretty much to the point of anti-Semtism. As for Jews who support the genocidal Hamas, that is totally beyond comprehension.
Ami Isseroff

Candidly Speaking: Bogus 'Zionist' Israel-bashers

Jun. 9, 2009
Isi Leibler , THE JERUSALEM POST

It is ironic that many of the disconcerting themes relating to Israel in US President Barack Obama's Cairo speech replicated those widely promoted for months by a noisy minority of radical American Jews. These "Israel bashers" now proudly proclaim that the new language being employed by Obama "echoes the vocabulary we use."

On the eve of Binyamin Netanyahu's arrival in Washington, a full page advertisement inserted by the Israel Policy Forum (IPF) appeared in The New York Times. Instead of the customary welcome message to a visiting prime minister or expressions of solidarity, it urged Obama to press Israel to make further unilateral concessions to the Palestinians, assuring him that in the event of a confrontation, he would enjoy the backing of most American Jews because "they are not Israelis living in exile." IPF's Washington director, M.J Rosenberg, issued a call to neutralize "the minority of Jews falsely" purporting to present the Jewish community as "blind supporters" of the Israeli government.

ISRAEL POLICY FORUM is only one of a cluster of radical left-wing organizations that have the chutzpa to describe themselves as lovers of Israel and even "Zionists," while actively lobbying the Obama administration to pressure Israel. They deviously sugarcoat their anti-Israeli campaigns by comparing themselves to parents whose children are drug addicts requiring "tough love" to force them to change their dangerous habits.These sentiments were effectively replicated in Obama's Cairo speech.

They were joined in April last year by J Street, a new group initially funded by the Jewish tycoon George Soros who had achieved notoriety for demonizing successive Israeli governments irrespective of their political leanings.

J Street and another radical group, Brit Tzedek v'Shalom, proudly announced that they had succeeded in persuading 11,000 of their members to bombard the White House with e-mails urging Obama to stand firm against Netanyahu.

During the Gaza offensive, J Street condemned the action against Hamas as "disproportionate." Refusing to "pick a side" and identify "who was right and who was wrong," it applied moral equivalency to both parties proclaiming that "we recognize that neither Israelis nor Palestinians have a monopoly on right and wrong... While there is nothing 'right' in raining rockets on Israeli families or dispatching suicide bombers, there is nothing 'right' in punishing a million and a half already suffering Gazans for the actions of the extremists amongst them."

J Street also opposes Israel's efforts to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power. Despite the fact that Israelis of all political opinions are united on this issue, J Street members were e-mailed and urged to actively lobby against a bipartisan congressional resolution calling for tougher sanctions to be applied against Iran.

The radical groups also resurrected the bogus anti-Semitic charge of "dual loyalties," warning Jews that by continued "blind" support of Israel, they risked alienating the American public and would be condemned for displaying greater loyalty toward Israel than the US. They were almost hysterical in their condemnation of Jews who exercised their rights to protest against the proposed appointment of the fiercely anti-Israel Charles Freeman to head the National Security Agency. IPF spokesmen went so far as to explicitly state that being an anti-Israeli fanatic was insufficient grounds for barring a person from assuming a senior administration role.

If there was any doubt about J Street, its endorsement of the British anti-Semitic play Seven Jewish Children, effectively a contemporary blood libel, placed it squarely in the camp of those seeking to demonize the Jewish state. It justified its support on the grounds that the play would promote "rigorous intellectual engagement and civil debate on which our community prides itself."

J Street and IPF also seek to slander and undermine AIPAC, the highly effective pro-Israel lobby group, depicting it as an extreme right-wing and hawkish body although it has consistently promoted the policies of all Israeli governments, including the dovish administrations preceding Netanyahu.

IN AN ENVIRONMENT in which global anti-Semitism and demonization of Israel are beginning to make inroads into the United States, the potential of such radical groups to destabilize the standing of Israel should not be underestimated.

Never before has the Jewish community faced a situation in which organizations presenting themselves as Zionists shamelessly lobby their president to pressure the democratically elected government of the Jewish state to make concessions which could have life and death implications for its citizens.

Not that anti-Jewish Jews are a new phenomenon. Jewish communists were bitterly opposed to the campaign to liberate Soviet Jewry and defended state-sponsored anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union. But they were marginalized and regarded as pariahs by the Jewish community.

The problem in the US is that the established Jewish leaders decided to ignore these organizations, mistakenly believing that confrontations would be construed as attempts to restrict freedom of expression and would transform the radicals into martyrs.

But the issue of freedom of expression is a red herring. Any Jew is entitled to express his beliefs, no matter how nauseating or deviant such views may appear to the majority. That certainly applies to those arguing in favor or in opposition to settlements. Surely the red lines are being crossed when, as distinct from expressing views, American based organizations claiming to "love" Israel aggressively lobby the US government to pressure it to make concessions that could place lives at risk. To tolerate such groups within the framework of the Jewish community provides them with an aura of respectability to which they are not entitled. Alas, today some of these groups already attend administration briefings on a par with the recognized mainstream organizations.

Furthermore, failure to confront these Israel bashers has already provided the general media with grounds to suggest that American Jewish support of Israel is collapsing. That has certainly encouraged the Obama administration to intensify its pressure on the Netanyahu government. It may also cause some weak-kneed Jews to distance themselves from Israel to avoid confronting a popular American president.

There are even ominous mutterings predicting a possible replay of what transpired during World War II, when fearing a confrontation and bedazzled by president Franklin Roosevelt, Jewish leaders lacked the courage to protest against the indifference of the US government to the Nazi extermination of the Jews.

Now, as never before, when the beleaguered State of Israel confronts Iran, potentially one of the greatest existential threats since its creation, the support of American Jews is crucial.

A united Jewish community should marginalize the anti-Israeli radicals and urge Obama (who received 80 percent of its votes) to stand by commitments made to Israel by previous US administrations in the same manner as the Netanyahu government is obliged to adhere to undertakings made by previous Israeli governments. A strong Jewish stand in this direction could effectively tip the balance in averting a catastrophic major rift between the US and Israel.

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Thursday, June 4, 2009

Obama in Cairo - We've got plenty of nothing

http://zionism-israel.com/israel_news/2009/06/obama-in-cairo-weve-got-plenty-of.html

The full text of US President Obama's speech in Cairo is here among other places. Below are the highlights. This is the first time that a U.S. President has used the word "legitimacy" about Israeli settlements, but regarding both the Israeli-Palestinian issue, as with the Iranian and other problems, Obama offered no plan - just finely balanced rhetoric that will either please everyone or make them angry. Each media outlet will choose to highlight whatever seems important to them: Here is the Israeli-Palestinian nugget:

Palestinians must abandon violence. Resistance through violence and killing is wrong and does not succeed. For centuries, black people in America suffered the lash of the whip as slaves and the humiliation of segregation. But it was not violence that won full and equal rights... That is not how moral authority is claimed; that is how it is surrendered.

Now is the time for Palestinians to focus on what they can build. The Palestinian Authority must develop its capacity to govern, with institutions that serve the needs of its people. Hamas does have support among some Palestinians, but they also have responsibilities. To play a role in fulfilling Palestinian aspirations, and to unify the Palestinian people, Hamas must put an end to violence, recognize past agreements, and recognize Israel's right to exist.

At the same time, Israelis must acknowledge that just as Israel's right to exist cannot be denied, neither can Palestine's. The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop.

Israel must also live up to its obligations to ensure that Palestinians can live, and work, and develop their society. And just as it devastates Palestinian families, the continuing humanitarian crisis in Gaza does not serve Israel's security; neither does the continuing lack of opportunity in the West Bank. Progress in the daily lives of the Palestinian people must be part of a road to peace, and Israel must take concrete steps to enable such progress.

Finally, the Arab States must recognize that the Arab Peace Initiative was an important beginning, but not the end of their responsibilities. The Arab-Israeli conflict should no longer be used to distract the people of Arab nations from other problems. Instead, it must be a cause for action to help the Palestinian people develop the institutions that will sustain their state; to recognize Israel's legitimacy; and to choose progress over a self-defeating focus on the past.

America will align our policies with those who pursue peace, and say in public what we say in private to Israelis and Palestinians and Arabs. We cannot impose peace. But privately, many Muslims recognize that Israel will not go away. Likewise, many Israelis recognize the need for a Palestinian state. It is time for us to act on what everyone knows to be true

What does "continued Israeli settlements" mean? Is it a deliberate imprecision? Does he mean continued settlement, or the continued existence of settlements? Is Jerusalem a "settlement?" If he is referring to existing settlements, then Obama's speech directly contradicts the letter of Predident Bush given in 2004. It did take some courage to say, in Cairo, addressing the Arab world, that the bond between israel and the United States will never be broken. This was not a AIPAC meeting after all.

Ami Isseroff

Obama: I'll personally pursue two-state solution
By Haaretz Service

In his long-anticipated Cairo address to the Muslim world, U.S. President Barack Obama reaffirmed Washington's strong backing for a Palestinian state, highlighting his administration's commitment to follow through on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

While reaffirming Washington's "unbreakable bond" with Israel, Obama said that there can be no denying of the right of Palestine to exist, and that he would "personally pursue" the realization of a Palestinian state "with all the patience that the task requires."

"Israelis must acknowledge that just as Israel's right to exist cannot be denied, neither can Palestine's," Obama said.

The president also issued a blunt repudiation of Israel's settlement enterprise in the West Bank, an issue that has strained Washington's ties with Jerusalem.

"The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements," Obama said. "This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop."

"The obligations that the parties have agreed to under the Road Map are clear," Obama said, referring to the multi-stage peace plan agreed to by Israel and the Palestinians during the Bush presidency. "For peace to come, it is time for them - and all of us - to live up to our responsibilities."

"If we see this conflict only from one side or the other, then we will be blind to the truth," Obama said. "The only resolution is for the aspirations of both sides to be met through two states, where Israelis and Palestinians each live in peace and security."

"That is in Israel's interest, Palestine's interest, America's interest, and the world's interest," the president said.

In addressing the Iranian nuclear program, Obama acknowledged longstanding Muslim accusations of Washington's double standard in objecting to Tehran's drive for nuclear weapons while tolerating Israel's alleged possession of atomic bombs.

The president reiterated his desire to see a world free of nuclear weapons.

"I understand those who protest that some countries have [nuclear] weapons that others do not," Obama said. "No single nation should pick and choose which nations hold nuclear weapons. That is why I strongly reaffirmed America's commitment to seek a world in which no nations hold nuclear weapons."

Obama conceded that Iran has rights to nuclear energy "if it complies with its responsibilities under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty."

Obama said his government will close the gap between public pronouncements and difficult truths that are often acknowledged behind closed doors in the halls of power throughout the Middle East.

"America will align our policies with those who pursue peace, and say in public what we say in private to Israelis and Palestinians and Arabs," Obama said.

Obama urged Muslims around the world to acknowledge Jewish suffering and to repudiate Holocaust denial. The Arab and Muslim world ought to reconcile with the existence of Israel, the president said.

"Threatening Israel with destruction - or repeating vile stereotypes about Jews - is deeply wrong, and only serves to evoke in the minds of Israelis this most painful of memories while preventing the peace that the people of this region deserve," Obama said.

The president also noted the plight of the Palestinians, who "have suffered in pursuit of a homeland" and who "endure daily humiliations ... that come with occupation."

"Many wait in refugee camps in the West Bank, Gaza, and neighboring lands for a life of peace and security that they have never been able to lead," Obama said. "So let there be no doubt: the situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable. America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity, and a state of their own."

The president urged the Palestinians to draw upon the example of African slaves in the United States, arguing that a "peaceful and determined insistence upon the ideals at the center of America's founding" had led to their gaining civil rights.

"Resistance through violence and killing is wrong and does not succeed," Obama said. "For centuries, black people in America suffered the lash of the whip as slaves and the humiliation of segregation. But it was not violence that won full and equal rights."

Obama said the Palestinians "must focus on what they can build." He urged Hamas to accept the Quartet's preconditions for international recognition - recognition of past signed agreements with Israel, recognition of Israel's right to exist, and a renunciation of violence.

"I have come here to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world, one based upon mutual interest and mutual respect," Obama said.

Obama offered the Arabic greeting of assalaamu alaykum, or "peace be unto you", in the early part of his speech. He also quoted a passage from the Koran and cited his father's Muslim background in a bid to highlight his sensitivity to Islamic grievances against the West.

"America is not and never will be at war with Islam," Obama said. "We will, however, relentlessly confront violent extremists who pose a grave threat to our security."

"The relationship between Islam and the West includes centuries of co-existence and cooperation, but also conflict and religious wars," Obama said. "Violent extremists have exploited these tensions in a small but potent minority of Muslims."

"Much has been made of the fact that an African-American with the name Barack Hussein Obama could be elected President," Obama said. "But my personal story is not so unique."

Obama is delivering his long-anticipated speech seeking to turn a new page in Washington's relations with the Arab and Muslim world.

Obama arrived in Egypt hours before giving long-promised speech in Cairo, the ancient seat of Islamic learning and culture.

The U.S. president is hoping to usher in a new era in the United States'
relationship with the world's 1.5 billion Muslims. Aides say Obama will blend hopeful words about mutual understanding with blunt talk about the need for Muslims to embrace democracy, women's rights and economic opportunity.

Obama met with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, a key American ally, at his palace in the capital.

"We discussed how to move forward in a constructive way to bring peace and prosperity to people in the region," Obama told reporters after talks with Mubarak, who has ruled Egypt since 1981 and kept a tight lid on opposition.

"I emphasized to him that the U.S. is committed to working in partnership with countries in the region so all people can meet their aspirations," he said before heading to a mosque in a quarter of Cairo that is full of Islamic architectural gems.

The mosque is a 600-year-old center of Islamic worship and study called the Sultan Hassan mosque. Obama will then tour the Great Pyramids of Giza on the capital's outskirts.

Obama arrived in Egypt from Saudi Arabia, where he stayed overnight at King Abdullah's horse farm in the desert outside Riyadh.

In his Cairo address Thursday, Obama called on Israel and the Arab states to change their approach to the Middle East peace process.

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Sunday, May 17, 2009

Obama: No options off the table on Iran, not my place to determine Israeli security needs

http://zionism-israel.com/israel_news/2009/05/obama-no-options-off-table-on-iran-not.html

US President Obama gave a carefully timed interview to Newsweek ahead of the visit of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. The interview ranged over a wide variety of subjects. President Obama had some very important messages on Iran and Israel and Middle East peace, that do not look or sound anything like what has appeared in the media or has been published about this interview. He said that no options are off the table, and repeated that he is not naive. He also said that he can understand why Israel considers Iran to be an existential threat and emphasized that the United States cannot determine Israeli security needs. He did not explain, and was not asked, why American officials have been going around warning Israel not to attack Iran, nor did he say that he himself believes Iran to be an existential threat to Israel. He did say, when asked, that "NO" the United states will not stop Israel from attacking Iran. In fact, he said:
They're right there in range and I don't think it's my place to determine for the Israelis what their security needs are.
His words were chosen skilfully, even if the delivery seemed off hand. They should not be distorted, as some have already begun to do.
Notably absent from this interview as published on the Web: Any mention of Palestinians, peace intitiatives, settlements and two-state solutions. Literally, those words are not there, and neither is the word "Arab."
Here is the part of the interview that relates to Israel and Iran:

Prime Minister Netanyahu is coming [to Washington this week]. How do you expect to talk to him about the possibility of Israeli military action against Iran? And some people have argued that we should not take [American military action] off the table.
I've been very clear that I don't take any options off the table with respect to Iran. I don't take options off the table when it comes to U.S. security, period. What I have said is that we want to offer Iran an opportunity to align itself with international norms and international rules. I think, ultimately, that will be better for the Iranian people. I think that there is the ability of an Islamic Republic of Iran to maintain its Islamic character while, at the same time, being a member in good standing of the international community and not a threat to its neighbors. And we are going to reach out to them and try to shift off of a pattern over the last 30 years that hasn't produced results in the region.

Now, will it work? We don't know. And I assure you, I'm not naive about the difficulties of a process like this. If it doesn't work, the fact that we have tried will strengthen our position in mobilizing the international community, and Iran will have isolated itself, as opposed to a perception that it seeks to advance that somehow it's being victimized by a U.S. government that doesn't respect Iran's sovereignty.

And you would expect the Israelis, as an ally, to follow along with that and not take unilateral [military] action?

No, look, I understand very clearly that Israel considers Iran an existential threat, and given some of the statements that have been made by President Ahmadinejad, you can understand why. So their calculation of costs and benefits are going to be more acute. They're right there in range and I don't think it's my place to determine for the Israelis what their security needs are.

I can make an argument to Israel as an ally that the approach we are taking is one that has to be given a chance and offers the prospect of security, not just for the United States but also for Israel, that is superior to some of the other alternatives.

Make of it what you will, in the context of all other buzz, spin and rumors.

Cross posted:

Ami Isseroff

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