Representative Brian Baird (Washington Democrat) a protege of the J Street Lobby, is on a solidarity visit to Gaza, to show his support for the genocidal, racist, religious fanatic reactionary Hamas regime there. Baird told Gaza students that the United States should break the Israeli blockade of Gaza:
"We ought to bring roll-on, roll-off ships and roll them right to the beach and bring the relief supplies in, in our version of the Berlin airlift,"
So much for the "unbreakable bond" between Israel and the United States. So much for J Street's "pro-Israel" politics. Baird was an honorary host of the J Street Gala dinner. Baird and about 50 other congresspersons, along with J Street, were signatories of a recent letter calling on President Obama to life the Gaza siege and let Hamas have the materials it so desperately needs to rebuild its terror capabilities, as well as to ensure that a satisfied population will support the Hamas regime. The supposed rationale of the policy was that improving the lot of the population would make them more likely to support compromise and peace proposals. This is analogous to claiming that the allies should have lifted the blockade of Nazi Germany in order to put the Germans in a friendlier mood. The Democratic party got a gift from the Republican Jewish Coalition, which made out that the letter is even worse than it is, and circulated inaccurate information about it. This allowed apologists for the letter to blunt criticisms by shifting the issue to the RJC's misrepresentations.
But the letter was not enough for Baird, since he is evidently an all-out open Hamas supporter, and insists that the US must show solidarity with the Hamas in the same way it showed solidarity with blockaded Berlin in 1948.
If you live in Washington State, please write to Congressman Baird, though he has announced his retirement. Every US citizen, especially Democratic Party supporters, can and should write to these contacts to protest support for Hamas by J Street and by Democrat law makers:
National Jewish Democratic Council, Marc Stanley Chairman - http://www.njdc.org/forms/sign/contact (fill out the form to contact the Washington office); By phone in Washington DC; 202-216-9060; New York: email@example.com; Addditional phone, fax and email contacts at the above Web site
Be respectful of persons and institutions and constructive. Focus on issues. Do not confuse partisan political pleading with Israel advocacy - and remember - the Gaza agitation is the work of a handful of senators, it is not policy of the Obama administration and should not be blamed on Barack Obama or any administration personnel.
Pass it on to friends and fellow Democrats.
Labels: Gaza, US Policy
Continued (Permanent Link)
There is no doubt about it. The Goldstone report about Operation Cast Lead (the Gaza war of 2008) is not about "justice." It is based on an investigation initiated with the most malicious intent, by a UN body, the UNHRC, that is obsessed with the mission of delegitimizing Israel. Its major conclusions were decided before there was any "investigation," and the investigation that was undertaken was a bad joke, consisting mostly of collecting Israel-bashing libels from anti-Israel NGOs. Judge Goldstone was enlisted in this nefarious project to provide a fig leaf of respectability for the "human rights" advocacy of countries like Libya and Sudan. He did not exercise the best judgment in accepting the charge and did not conduct a fair investigation.
The Goldstone report was meant to be, and will be, the centerpiece of a vicious PR campaign and UN propaganda persecution against Israel. It gives the usual sources many opportunities to rant about "Zionist war criminals" and "Zionist war crimes" and to attempt to force a UN Security Council condemnation of Israel. Alan Dershowitz has pointed out that Goldstone went beyond the various human rights organizations with his fantastic contention that the Israeli government diabolically planned in advance to murder Palestinian civilians and destroy civilian infrastructure. (see THE CASE AGAINST THE GOLDSTONE REPORT: A STUDY IN EVIDENTIARY BIAS).
However, it is time to say what everyone knows and will not admit. Israel's army probes of the Gaza war crime allegations are not going to satisfy many critics, nor will documents like the one issued recently by the Israeli government, and other reports that are either in preparation or submitted. The Israeli MAG (Military Advocate General) reported that they investigated X number of cases raised ( about 140 at this time) by the infamous Goldstone report and closed them. But the skeptics will dismiss it all as "Zionist propaganda" because they have been convinced, rightly or wrongly, that only an independent civilian inquiry will discover the truth.
Contrary to the impression that some people seem to have, the report presented to UN Secretary General Ban was not the final Israeli rejoinder to the Goldstone report. Israel is preparing a very long report that will be a point by point refutation:
The 40-page “letter” was delivered to Ban, explaining the independence of ’s legal system, and the efficacy of the justice system in the military.
Diplomatic officials stressed that this letter is not the IDF’s answer to the Goldstone Commission report. The IDF rebuttal is currently being completed, and will number more than 1,000 pages and will answer point-by-point all the allegations in the Goldstone Report
The "40 page letter" referred to above may or may not be the 46 page document that is posed at the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs Website - Gaza Operation Investigations - an update. That document details the structure and independence of the Military Advocate General's office and the Israeli investigation process, as well as giving finding regarding some of the cases.
These efforts, which impress Israel's friends, are not necessarily going to convince the the world, and do not change the fact that there were, and are, real problems that require both judicial and administrative or legislative remedies.
The problems are evident even in the handling of the rebuttal. According to Haaretz, newspaper, the letter sent to Secretary General Ban claimed that two IDF officers were disciplined for improper use of white phosphorus in one incident on January 15, 2009. But according to Haaretz newspaper, the IDF promptly denied that any officers were disciplined!
The Israel Defense Forces on Monday denied that two of its senior officers had been summoned for disciplinary action after headquarters staff found that the men exceeded their authority in approving the use of phosphorus shells during last year's military campaign in the Gaza Strip, as the Israeli government wrote in a recent report.
The report, which was a sensation for a day, seems to have vanished without a final resolution - either a clear official confirmation or a clear denial. This is not indicative of an orderly process of investigation, to say the least. If Haaretz is referring to the 46 page update document, there is indeed a report that officers were disciplined in section 100 and what is apparently the same report for the same incident is given in Section 108:
One of these incidents involved alleged damage to the UNRWA field office compound in Tel El Hawa.102 The special command investigation revealed that, during the course of a military operation in Tel El Hawa, IDF forces fired several artillery shells in violation of the rules of engagement prohibiting use of such artillery near populated areas. Based on these findings, the Commander of the Southern Command disciplined a Brigadier General and a Colonel for exceeding their authority in a manner that jeopardized the lives of others.
There is no mention of white phosphorus in that section. In Sections 118-120, the document states categorically that all IDF use of white phosphorus was found to be legal and there were no violations. The Haaretz article related an entirely narrative that is not taken from the document, and their source is not clear. The IDF denial that officers were disciplined for any reason that is quoted in Ha'aretz is also unexplained.
If we don't believe our own report, it is not likely that anyone else will believe it. If different branches of the IDF cannot ascertain whom the IDF punished and for what, there must be at least some procedures that require investigation and correction.
According to the report, about 150 cases were investigated and 36 were referred for disciplinary action. Details are not given for every case. In the entire Gaza operation, we are supposed to believe, almost nobody made serious errors in judgment. We are to believe that almost all the decisions were correct, even though soldiers died from friendly fire, and three little Palestinian girls, whom everyone admits were blameless, daughters of a blameless physician, Dr. Izzeldin AbuelAish, were killed by mistake..Those are three wrongful deaths that we can identify by name. Even the most pro-Israel enthusiast might think it is suspicious if the IDF says, "We investigated ourselves and we found ourselves almost blameless."
If all the IDF decisions were correct, then how did it happen that we waged an expensive and risky war, and at the end of the war there was a lot of destruction in Gaza, but the Hamas
remained stronger than ever? It is unlikely that Israeli generals are war criminals as Goldstone charges, but nobody should get a prize for the planning and execution of the Gaza war. The Goldstone report or some similar kangaroo proceeding, should also have been foreseen by the planners since allegations of Israeli "war crimes" are not new. Even if there were no instances of criminal malfeasance, there was certainly a failure of decision making, and there errors of judgment and lapses in discipline. We all know about the graffiti left in Gaza by various IDF soldiers, and about the inciteful pamphlets initiated by fanatic rabbis and distributed by the IDF "through an oversight." What mechanisms were put into place to correct these problems?
We were assured, from the start, that the Gaza war would not be like the Second Lebanon war. Officers and government officials would not speak out of turn, and would not make pointless bellicose remarks. But pointless bellicosity continued long after the Second Lebanon war, and the Goldstone report used them as "evidence" against Israel. For example, In October 2008, just before General Eisenkott said, regarding Lebanon:What happened in the Dahiya quarter of Beirut in 2006 will happen in every village from which Israel is fired on. […] We will apply disproportionate force on it and cause great damage and destruction there. From our standpoint, these are not civilian villages, they are military bases. […] This is not a recommendation. This is a plan. And it has been approved.”
This is the sort of primitive and needless bragging and bullying that used to characterize Arab leaders. It is in a class with the threats made by Gamal Abdul Nasser before the Six day war
. Whatever policies the government adopts, they are not set by the IDF, and whatever military doctrines the IDF adopts, they are not more effective if discussed in public. Wars are not won by rhetoric. If the Israeli government wanted to warn the Lebanese against testing Israeli patience, there were other, more credible and more civilized ways to do it.
Even more pointless were the remarks of Eli Yishai, Minister of Industry, Trade and Labor. He said on February 2, 2009Even if the rockets fall in an open air or to the sea, we should hit their infrastructure, and destroy 100 homes for every rocket fired.
We can point out that these remarks were made after the conclusion of Operation Cast Lead and cannot prove intent, though they might say something about general policy and state of mind They are not evidence surely, as Yishai didn't plan the operation. They were utterly pointless because unlike General Eisenkott, Yishai is not a military authority and is not in charge of military planning.
He should stick to what he knows.
Perhaps the skill of Alan Dershowitz can convince friends of Israel that it is not illegal to call for destruction of homes, as he does so well. But if you require a Dershowitz or a Clarence Darrow to defend you and to produce an exegesis of your remarks in the manner of the Rashi and the Rambam, you are in trouble. Those who are not so well disposed to our cause will take the remarks literally. As the Israeli government had to be aware of the hostile international environment, what possible excuse was there for remarks such as these, intended evidently to garner support from Shas party voters. What is a minister of a religious party doing meddling in foreign policy and military strategy in public? Yishai probably knows even less about military strategy than he knows about industry, trade or labor. What purpose did these remarks serve?
At least some Israeli authorities have understood that an independent investigation is required. Col. Pnina Sharvit-Baruch, who headed the Military Advocate General's international law department during Operation Cast Lead called for an investigation
, though she is apparently convinced that all is well in the best of all possible worlds:"There is not necessarily a need for a commission of inquiry because we essentially know more or less what happened in terms of decision making, orders and targets," she said. "As for the top brass, we have the protocols of government meetings."Nonetheless, she added, "We are now in a situation in which we need to give our friends - who don't want to see lawsuits filed against us in their own courts - the tools to do away such claims, along with other charges against us," she said."If they need a commission of inquiry then that's what we'll give them," she added. "I really don't think we have anything we need to hide."
It is not so clear that everything is under control and nothing can go wrong, as Sharvit-Baruch implied. If she had done her job right during the Gaza war, there might not have been a Goldstone report. Moreover, if everything is just fine, then how did it happen that her remarks, made in confidence to a closed forum, were published the next day in Haaretz? Leaks of this sort are the rule, rather than the exception. What sort of army cannot keep secrets?
Menachem Mazuz, Israel's outgoing government counsel (a title erroneously translated in English as "Attorney General") also explained
why an independent investigation is needed:
"There is a danger here of a 'Serbianization' of Israel," even though the report on the Gaza war was biased and contains unsubstantiated conclusions, Mazuz said. "Therefore I believe that Israel has a clear interest in conducting a serious, expert examination that will deal with the report and produce an opposing report. It would be a serious mistake not to establish some sort of committee. We must remove the shame of accusing Israel of being a country that commits war crimes."
"Some sort of committee" is not enough. There must be a judicial committee of inquiry or judicial proceedings in regular courts regarding criminal allegations. The investigation or trials would not satisfy everyone. The Palestinians, notwithstanding the fact that they won't try any of their "alleged" war criminals and their supporters will continue to rant about Zionist war criminals, backed by the Arab world and degenerates like the Dutch socialite Greta Duisenberg. But friendly governments will at least have a solid basis to reject the Goldstone allegations and to combat the campaign of pseudo-legal war criminal proceedings being waged by Palestinians and their supporters.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak and IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi are opposed to a probe. But they are among the "suspects," because part of Goldstone's allegations, the most serious ones, claim that the Gaza operation was planned to harm civilians and to harm infrastructure in order to hurt civilians. Of course, intentional destruction of some infrastructure may have been done based on the doctrine that we must destroy "infrastructure" of terrorists. That is not criminal, but since terror groups do not have and do not need much infrastructure, it is probable that this doctrine is mistaken. But it is clear that suspects in a possible investigation should not be deciding whether or not to have an investigation.
A second investigation, non-judicial, is needed to examine the tactical and strategic and policy aspects of Operation Cast Lead
. Before the next war, we must find out what really went wrong in Operation Cast Lead
, and in the Second Lebanon War
. Obviously, not all the lessons of the Second Lebanon war were learned, because in some respects the Gaza war was a repeat performance. This is true despite the great strides taken by the IDF in repairing itself, and despite the fact that both the Chief of Staff and the Defense Minister had been replaced, and nobody doubts the professional qualifications of the present incumbents. And the problem is not confined to military planning.
The two wars share too many negative characteristics in common: Both were long drawn out operations that generated a lot of destruction and civilian deaths on the enemy side, but did not inflict a decisive blow on the enemy. Both brought charges of Israeli "war crimes."Israel's friends may be willing to help us, especially as the United States, Britain and others may be accused of similar war "war crimes" in Iraq and Afghanistan by the same coalition of terror groupies But friends can only help those who help themselves. And we need a real investigation, because there are real problems that exist regardless of the Goldstone report. The same sorts of problems have been dogging the IDF and Israeli government since the Yom Kippur War
: poor intelligence, poor decision making, poor strategy, neglect of essential preparation, flaws in implementation. Israelis who do not believe me, should consider this example, which is easy to check. What is the status of the air raid shelters in your town. Are they all clean and ready? Were they all opened and ready for use when there was a drill?
After each war there is an "investigation" and we are assured that the problems will not recur, but they do. Condemning the Goldstone report is not enough. Friends of Israel have to understand that along with condemning the Goldstone report, we must call for independent inquiries.
What is more important than the last war or last wars, is the next one. The next Lebanon or Gaza war, if there will be one, is being planned according to the same formula: a long war of attrition featuring air and ground operations. The minister of religion and the minister of rabbit growing will issue bellicose announcements about grinding the enemy to dust and will be duly quoted in the media. The confidential remarks of every military official in closed door forums will make daily headlines. The network and media photographers and correspondents will have weeks to report about the real or imagined agony of innocent Lebanese civilians. The enemy will be able to generate a great deal of Pallywood and Hoaxbulla - dead bodies taken from morgues, staged ambulance emergencies, the same person losing a different home on different days. The anti-Israel lobby will have a PR festival, and Israel
will accomplish no strategic objective other than to strengthen its enemies.
Well-meaning polemics against the Goldstone report, as bad as the report is, miss the point. It is always valid to ask for an independent civilian investigation of criminal actions when there are reasonable suspicions. Justice must be seen as well as done. When the military and civilian decision process has produced two catastrophic failures in a brief period, it is also imperative to hold a serious and probing technical and policy review as well. It is not unpatriotic to mount these investigations. It is common sense, good government and good Zionism.
Labels: Gaza, Hamas, Human Rights, IDF, International law, United Nations, US Policy
Continued (Permanent Link)
This assessment has to be mostly correct. Barack Obama is certainly not an anti-Semite and is not the worst US president as regards Israeli policy. However, it is probably not in order to accuse Rahm Emmanuel of being too idealistic, or to lay the blame on any one advisor. Barack Obama is an adult and could make his own decisions. He certainly had input from Hillary Clinton and others. This was not the decision of one person. State Department Middle East experts would not be more pro-Israel, for certain
Nov. 30, 2009
Lenny Ben-David , THE JERUSALEM POST
This week a senior respected Israeli analyst asked me to look back and decide, "Are we seeing the worst crisis in US-Israel relations? Is this the worst ever administration from Israel's perspective?" Also this week an Israeli minister termed President Obama's administration "awful," and an Israeli political activist was quoted in Israel's largest circulation paper as saying, "The Obama regime is anti-Jewish and anti-Semitic."
To all, I respond with the strongest possible retorts: balderdash, tripe, silliness and stupidity! There are other serious ideological problems with this US administration which results in rock-bottom popularity for the US president in Israel but the labels of "anti-Semitic" or "the worst" are just bum raps.
Just look at the history.
IN 1957, the Eisenhower administration threatened to come down hard on the fledgling Israel, including removing UJA's tax-exempt status, as a way of pressuring Israel to withdraw from the Sinai Peninsula.
In 1970, Richard Nixon threatened to cut the supply of 50 F-4 Phantoms to Israel because of insults hurled at French Premier Georges Pompidou by Jewish-American activists in New York. The demonstrations led the notoriously anti-Israel columnists Rowland Evans and Robert Novak to bray, "More than any president since Dwight Eisenhower, Mr. Nixon has shown a tough realism in trying to stake out the correct US policy in the inflamed Middle East without kowtowing to the large and highly influential Jewish vote." [Note Evans and Novak beat by more than 35 years professors Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, the authors of the 2007 The Israel Lobby a distinctly unoriginal diatribe against Jewish influence on foreign policy. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose (the more things change, the more they stay the same.)]
Observers feared the worst in US-Israel relations in 1975 when the Ford Administration weighed a "reassessment" of American policy in the Middle East, including cutting aid to Israel.
In the 1980s, Ronald Reagan earned a place in history as one of Israel's strongest friends, but his administration included strong critics of Israel such as vice president George H.W. Bush and defense secretary Caspar Weinberger. The sale of AWACS, just the tip of a massive arms sale and a realignment of US policy to embrace Saudi Arabia, took place under Reagan's watch, and the political war cry of "Reagan or Begin" was broadcast to suggest American Jews' dual loyalties. Arms to Israel were embargoed and delayed after the 1981 Osirak reactor bombing and the 1982 Lebanon War. And the Pollard affair pulled the US-Israel relationship to new lows.
Could relations have been worse than when George Bush Sr. went on national TV to challenge 1000 Jewish lobbyists to block $10 billion in housing loan guarantees over the issue of settlements at a time when hundreds of thousands of Soviet Jews were flowing into Israel? Actually, yes, they worsened when his secretary of state, James Baker, was quoted as saying, "F*** the Jews, they don't vote for us anyway."
YOU GET the point: Anti-Semitism and crises in the US-Israel relationship have existed in the past, and there is simply nothing like it in the current US administration. Arms embargos and aid cut-offs then truly endangered Israel's security and gave Arab states tangible proof that American support for Israel was assailable. There is no such talk of cuts today. In fact, the strong support given to Israel by Congress and the unprecedented joint anti-missile exercise carried out by US and Israeli armed forces last month should put to rest the canard of an anti-Israel America.
So why the pervasive malaise about the Obama administration - a distrust so deep that Obama's popularity in Israel is equal to the margin of error? Well, Obama's failure to visit Israel doesn't improve his popularity, nor does his repeated cold-shouldering of Israel's prime minister.
Even the appointments of prominent Jews, Rahm Emanuel (chief of staff), David Axelrod (senior advisor), Mara Rudman (NSC/Mitchell's team), Hannah Rosenthal (envoy to monitor anti-Semitism), etc. don't make a difference. They arranged the first ever Seder in the White House, and sent the president to visit a concentration camp. How can anyone accuse these individuals of being "self-hating Jews," when they are members of synagogues, observe Jewish holidays, have relatives in Israel and send their children to Jewish Day Schools?
Because they are "Newest Testament" Jews; Jews who have embraced the new American Jewish religion of tikkun olam [fix the world] liberalism. Tikkun olam is the new overarching mitzva that guides them, even though it was never one of the 613 precepts of the Torah. The founding of Israel and the creation of Palestinian refugees may not have been the Original Sin in their theology as it is to others on the Left, but the settling of the West Bank following Israel's victory in 1967 is definitely viewed by them as Israel's Golden Calf
The translation of Newest Testament universalism into action can be seen in the words and policies of the modern day shaliach tzibbur [leader of the service], J Street.
The policies of J Street - the self-proclaimed "blocking back for Obama" - hold open the option of negotiations with Hamas, oppose Iran sanctions, and embrace the Saudi Plan, now called the Arab Peace Initiative, which demands a return to the 1967 lines, dividing Jerusalem and the right of return for Palestinian refugees.
"There will be no peace if the settlements remain in place," wrote one of the Newest Testament prophets, MJ Rosenberg. "Pre-1967 Israel was not terrible at all. In fact it was pretty wonderful," he also wrote. "The secular areas [of Jerusalem] are charming but much of the rest is Jewish Taliban country... No humor, no aesthetics, just lunatics in black."
The Obama administration certainly has committed its share of questionable activities, such as ignoring George W. Bush's assurances on Israeli population centers in the West Bank, being over-confident in the ability of Palestinian security forces, attempting to appointment Chas Freeman to a high intelligence post, and abysmally executing its campaign against Israeli settlements and building in Jerusalem.
Perhaps the biggest mistake of all, however, was the advice given by Obama advisors that the rules of tikkun olam have a place in the compassionless Middle East.
The diplomatic failures led the New York Times editorial board to conclude on November 28, "We don't know exactly what happened but we are told that Mr. Obama relied more on the judgment of his political advisers - specifically his chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel - than of his Mideast specialists."
Misguided, perhaps. But to declare the Obama administration to be anti-Semitic is just wrong. Let's keep the debate in the area of policy. Unfortunately, there'll be no shortage of topics to discuss.
The writer served as a senior diplomat in the Israeli Embassy in Washington and a member of AIPAC's staff in Washington and Jerusalem from 1972 to 1997. Today he is a public affairs consultant. He blogs at www.lennybendavid.com
Labels: Settlements, US Policy
Continued (Permanent Link)
An accurate description of Western policy was given by the speaker of the Iranian parliament:
"If you do not stop these ridiculous carrot-and-stick policies, we will in return adopt new policies and seriously decrease cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency," Larijani, an influential conservative, told the assembly.
Thumbing its nose at the world, Iran thereupon decided to build 10 new enrichment plants. No doubt the plants had been planned for a long time and may have been in process of construction.. What was really decided was to make them public.
Carrots and sticks can work on cooperative beasts. When you are dealing with a mad dog that is out of control, there is only one remedy that works.
Reuters News Agency however, seems to be blissfully ignorant of the Iranian constitution, as they wrote:
Parliament has the power to oblige the government to change its cooperation with the IAEA, as it did in 2006 after the Vienna-based agency voted to report Iran to the UN Security Council.
Final say on all legislation is that of the "Council of Experts" - the Ayatollahs, who can veto any parliamentary legislation as "un-Islamic."
The Iranian government on Sunday approved a plan to construct 10 new uranium enrichment plants, just two days after the International Atomic Energy Agency voted to rebuke the Islamic Republic for building an enrichment plant in secret.
Iran's parliament speaker said Sunday that Tehran could move to reduce its cooperation level with the United Nations nuclear agency watchdog if the West continues to pressure the Islamic state over its nuclear program.
The Islamic Republic has already denounced Friday's IAEA resolution, which won rare backing from China and Russia, as "intimidation" which would poison its talks with world powers.
"If you do not stop these ridiculous carrot-and-stick policies, we will in return adopt new policies and seriously decrease cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency," Larijani, an influential conservative, told the assembly.
Parliament has the power to oblige the government to change its cooperation with the IAEA, as it did in 2006 after the Vienna-based agency voted to report Iran to the UN Security Council.
Friday's resolution by the 35-nation IAEA board was a sign of spreading alarm over Tehran's failure to dispel fears it has clandestine plans to build nuclear bombs, a charge Iran denies.
It urged Iran to clarify the original purpose of the recently-disclosed Fordow enrichment site, hidden inside a mountain bunker, stop construction and confirm there are no more hidden sites.
But it was far from clear whether the West could now coax Moscow and Beijing to join in tough sanctions against Iran, something they have long prevented at the U.N. Security Council.
Iranian Ambassador Ali Asghar Soltanieh on Friday called the resolution a "hasty" step devoid of legal basis, saying Iran would not halt its sensitive nuclear work.
He said Iran would continue to allow basic inspections at its nuclear sites but could stop making "voluntary gestures" of extra cooperation such as when it allowed widened surveillance at its rapidly expanding main enrichment complex at Natanz.
Iran says its atomic energy program is purely for peaceful purposes, aimed at generating electricity.
Labels: Iran, Nuclear Weapons, US Policy
Continued (Permanent Link)
Those concerned that peace will break out unexpectedly needn't worry, the Palestinians have already rejected the move.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on Wednesday evening that Israel would impose a 10-month freeze on construction in West Bank settlements, saying the move was a bid to restart stalled peace talks with the Palestinians.
"I hope that this decision will help launch meaningful negotiations to reach a historic peace agreement that would finally end the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians," Netanyahu said at a special press conference he held shortly after the security cabinet approved the moratorium.
He added: "We have been told by many of our friends that once Israel takes the first meaningful steps toward peace, the Palestinians and Arab states would respond."
Settlement building has been a key sticking point in U.S. efforts to restart Middle East peace talks; the Palestinians say they will not return to the negotiating table without a complete halt to construction.
During the press conference, Netanyahu said the "far-reaching and painful" move would not be implemented in predominantly Arab East Jerusalem, which is viewed by Israel as a separate issue to be discussed in a final status agreement with the Palestinians.
"We do not put any restrictions on building in our sovereign capital," the premier said.
The freeze applies only to new construction, meaning housing already underway will continue. Also, Netanyahu said, only new homes are included.
"We will not halt existing construction and we will continue to build synagogues, schools, kindergartens and public buildings essential for normal life in the settlements," he said.
Netanyahu concluded with an appeal to the Palestinians to enter into a new round of peace talks.
"Now is the time to begin negotiations, now is the time to move forward towards peace," he said. "Israel today has taken a far-reaching step toward peace, it is time for the Palestinians to do the same."
He added: "Israel's government has made an important step toward peace today, let us make peace together."
Netanyahu: Settlement freeze will prove Israel really wants peace
At the cabinet vote, National Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau (Yisrael Beiteinu) was the only minister to oppose the move.
Shortly before the cabinet session, Netanyahu said the freeze would prove that Israel genuinely seeks to reach peace with the Palestinians.
"In the international circumstances that have been created, this step will advance Israel's broad international interests. This is not a simple step, nor an easy one; but it has many more advantages than disadvantages," Netanyahu told his aides.
He added: "It will enable us to show the world this simple truth: The Government of Israel wants to enter into negotiations with the Palestinians, is taking practical steps to enter into negotiations and is very serious in its intention to advance peace."
At least one key Security Cabinet member, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, came out in favor of the proposal. "Its aim is to open a window for renewing negotiations with the Palestinians," he said.
"I hope that the Yesha [council of settlements] leadership, which is patriotic, responsible and serious, will understand the need for the decision at this time," Barak added.
"The understandings with the United States are of the utmost importance with regard to negotiations, and guarantees of security and its military supremacy."
An official statement from the Prime Minister's Office on Wednesday said Netanyahu would seek approval for the moratorium from his cabinet in order to boost peace prospects.
"As part of our efforts to give impetus to peace talks with the Palestinian Authority and promote Israel's comprehensive national interests, the prime minister will ask the security cabinet to approve a temporary suspension on construction permits for new residences and the [actual] start of new residential construction for a period of ten months," the statement said.
The move is not unexpected; Netanyahu announced several days ago that he intended to declare a settlement freeze for 10 months. Israel began building in the West Bank in 1967, following the capture of the territory from Jordan during the Six-Day War. Today, more than a quarter of million Israelis live in West Bank settlements.
The freeze will also not apply to construction that has already been authorized or to work on public buildings conducive to normal life in the territories.
Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad told reporters Wednesday that a settlement freeze was unacceptable without halt in construction in Jerusalem, which the Palestinians want as the capital of a state.
"What has changed to make something that what was not acceptable a week or 10 days ago [acceptable now]?," he told reporters. "The exclusion of Jerusalem is a very serious problem for us."
Labels: Palestinians, Peace, Settlements, US Policy
Continued (Permanent Link)
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?
Labels: International law, Jerusalem, Obama, US Policy
Continued (Permanent Link)
Rather interesting that Syria more or less admits responsibility for bombings in Iraq.
MEMRI September 4, 2009No. 2519
Following August 19 Baghdad Bombings, Syrian Daily Teshreen Warns Obama: The Syria-Iran Alliance, Which Is Cultivating the Resistance, Has Won a Great Victory– And Will Not Wait Until Hesitant Obama Reaches a Decision
In an August 22, 2009 article in the Syrian government daily Teshreen, Nasser Qandil, a former Lebanese MP who is close to Syria, wrote that some in Washington were acting to worsen the security situation in Iraq. Their aim, he said, is to extend the U.S. military presence in the country, which will harm U.S. President Barack Obama in his next election campaign; to promote the Biden Plan to partition Iraq into three regions; and to sabotage the relations among Iraq, Syria, Turkey and Iran.
Qandil warned that although Syria and Iran had shown openness to the possibility of dialogue with the U.S., this was in now at risk due to the hesitancy that characterizes the Obama administration.
Following are excerpts from his article:
The Violence in Iraq Is Meant to Prevent U.S. Withdrawal, Harm President Obama
"The escalation of violence and bloodshed in Iraq in recent days came as the Americans were beginning to prepare for their 2011 troop withdrawal, and as the commanders of the U.S. forces tried to draw up understandings with the countries neighboring [Iraq], particularly Syria, to increase coordination at the border...
"Anyone who is following conditions in Iraq knows that the bloody operations against Iraqi civilians are designed to [reinforce] the call for U.S. forces to remain [in Iraq], and perhaps even redeploy in the cities that they have already left. The excuse given is that if the forces withdraw according to the timetable, the security situation could explode...
"These attacks took place just as many articles and studies were being published by the American and Israeli press, and by several institutes researching the Middle East, about the need to extend the U.S. forces' presence for another four years - or at least until after the next U.S. presidential election in 2012 - so that Obama will not be able to use the withdrawal as a card in his election campaign, and will not be able to claim that he kept his promises from his [first] campaign.
"Other studies link the demand to keep [U.S.] forces [in Iraq] to what they call 'the requirements for negotiating with Iran and guaranteeing Israel's security' prior to the U.S. military pullout. Still other studies hint at the possibility of a war on Iran or of an Israeli war on Lebanon - which, according to this approach, requires U.S. willingness to give Israel this opportunity prior to the [U.S.] troop withdrawal [from Iraq]...
"American research institutes are saying that the safest option for Iraq is a return to the three regions theory, presented by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden when he headed the [U.S. Senate] Committee on Foreign Relations. According to this model, encouragement of this track will help provide the safety net required for a troop withdrawal, [by keeping] Iraq stable."
"This Reveals Two Opposing Lines Among the Influential Circles in Washington"
"It was against the backdrop of this American political and media atmosphere that the recent attacks in Iraq took place. This reveals two opposing lines among the influential circles in Washington. While the president's team is acting slowly and hesitatingly on the negotiations track, and opening a window to cooperation with the countries neighboring Iraq - as he started to do with Syria and is about to start with Iran - there are those who are acting to worsen the Iraq security situation, so as to reopen the door to an extension of the [U.S.] troop presence in Iraq, and also to encourage the option of partitioning the country."
The August 19 Attacks Were Aimed at Sabotaging Assad's Syrian-Turkish-Iraqi-Iranian Cooperation Plan
"...It seems that the [August 19] attacks were aimed at [sabotaging] Syria-U.S. contacts by fomenting suspicion between the allies Syria and Iran; at stopping the progress that had been made in Syria-Iraq relations on the security and economic level when the Iraqi prime minister visited Damascus; and at complicating the Syrian-Turkish-Iraqi-Iranian cooperation plan, proposed by Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad as a future strategic plan, to which he is devoting much attention, time, and effort...
"Those engaged in escalating regional conflicts - those who lose by, and are harmed by, the American openness to the new reality - are racking up achievements against the Obama administration - because it is hesitant, slow, and irresolute in translating this openness into making the required bold decisions, and because it continues to give the Israeli leadership the right of veto in security and political resolutions regarding the region.
"Further hesitation by the Obama administration would mean another blow to the hopes for change that were pinned on it following the U.S. presidential election... Indeed, there could be Israeli war adventurism, or increased bloodletting in Iraq. But the biggest loser of an escalation in the destruction and blood[shed] would first and foremost be President Obama - they [i.e. those who act against him] want him to end his first term exhausted, without the confidence of the voters or of any of those with whom he promised to turn over a new leaf."
"The Syrian-Iranian Alliance... Will Not Wait Until Those Who Hesitate Reach a Decision"
"The region can tolerate no more experiments with the blood of its sons. Thus, the Syrian-Iranian message was clear and resolute, when President Assad visited Iran - that many, from near and far, must read well the meaning of what is happening in the region. The meaning is that the Syrian-Iranian alliance, which is cultivating the resistance movements, has won an historic, significant victory. Despite its openness to the dialogue option, this alliance will not wait until those who hesitate reach a decision."
Labels: Iran, Iraq, Syria, US Policy
Continued (Permanent Link)
They are after Tel Aviv now. It was inevitable.
First they went after Jerusalem. UN resolutions "internationalized" Jerusalem. The "international" status of the city was ignored as long as Jordan illegally occupied the old city and east Jerusalem, but vigorous protests were issued when Israel conquered Jerusalem in the Six day war. Even the United States does not recognize any Jewish claims to Jerusalem, does not recognize any part of Jerusalem as part of Israel in violation of United States law, the 1995 Jerusalem Embassy Act. The US Consulate in Jerusalem insists that it is a mission to the Palestinian Authority. The Palestinians have long insisted that Jews had no historical connection with Jerusalem. The most recent statement to that effect was issued by the Muslim Chief Justice, Taysir Tamimi, denying Jewish historical rights in Jerusalem. He claimed it was never inhabited by Jews. The first temple is erased from history as well as the second temple, as well as the long habitation of Jews in Jerusalem prior to 1948, when Jerusalem was ethnically cleansed by the Jordan Legion.
The Arab and Muslim "narrative," given academic credentials by such people as Nadia Abu el-Hajj of Barnard University, is that Jerusalem was always an Arab city. Never mind the Menorah in the Arch of Titus. Never mind the description of the siege of Jerusalem by Josephus Flavius. Never mind the inscription from the time of Hezekiah, which describes the tunnel built to divert water from Shiloach during the siege - precisely as recorded in the Old Testament. The Palestinians have a different "narrative." The Beit al Maqdes (temple) was built by Suleiman the Muslim. Muhammad secured Jerusalem for the Muslims by flying to Jerusalem in one night on his horse (pretty good horse!) al-buraq, and tying it up at the Wailing wall, which ensures that the wailing wall is Muslim too. So much for "Zionist Myths. Jerusalem is Arab and "Arab East Jerusalem" now belongs to the Muslims.
But now they are going after Tel Aviv as well. According to the old "Zionist narrative," apparently incorrect, Tel Aviv was founded in 1909, originally to be called "Achuzt Bayit." It was built on empty land purchased from Arabs. But a film festival in Toronto celebrating Tel-Aviv's Centennial is being boycotted, on the grounds that Tel-Aviv was stolen from the Arabs! No doubt, soon it will be discovered that Muhammad visited Tel Aviv too, and tied his horse up in Dizengoff Center. Such luminaries as Jane Fonda are boycotting the film festival:
Jane Fonda, Danny Glover and Eve Ensler have joined the growing list of artists who are boycotting the Toronto film festival over a program honoring Tel Aviv's 100th anniversary, gossip blogger Perez Hilton reported on Friday.
The three have added their names to a letter aimed at festival officials claiming that Tel Aviv was built on violence, ignoring the "suffering of thousands of former residents and descendants," Hilton reported.
Well yes, there was a war here. We didn't start it. Remember? There were also a few wars between Germany and France. Alsace is also "built on violence, ignoring the 'suffering of thousands of former residents and descendants.'" What about "former residents" of Washington DC or for that matter Toronto? Or former Jewish residents of Cairo and Baghdad? Is that a reason to boycott these cities? Will Jane Fonda and her friends leave any corner of Israel that may be claimed by Jews as our birthright?
If Tel Aviv does not belong to the Jewish people by right, then surely Beersheba, an Arab town from 640 C.E. until 1948 is Arab by right, and Neve Gordon, the boycott advocate, should not be living and teaching there. Even the most obtuse boycotters can now understand that the boycott movement is not aimed at ending the occupation, but at ending Israel.
Labels: Anti-Zionism, Media, Tel-Aviv, US Policy
Continued (Permanent Link)
US Mideast envoy George Mitchell believes people are misinterpreting the Obama administration's pressure on Israel as well as the Arab response to Washington's regional peace push.
"One of the public misimpressions is that it's all been about settlements," Mitchell told the New York Times in an interview published Sunday. "It is completely inaccurate to portray this as, 'We're only asking the Israelis to do things.' We are asking everybody to do things."
"These are discussions among friends, not disputes among adversaries."
Like the song says, "I'm just a soul whose intentions are good; please don't let me be misunderstood."
There are two types of quarrels: Those based on misunderstanding, and those based on understanding only too well.
What George Mitchell is asking Israel to do is to give up its capital city. What are friends for after all, if not to oblige other friends with little favors like that? This is an even handed policy. The Saudis are asked to allow Israeli overflights (and refuse) and Israel is asked to renounce sovereignty over its capital city. Everybody is asked to do something for the cause, and to please smile while doing it.
The heart of the disagreement is that the US insists that Jerusalem is just another "settlement," that the US does not recognize Israeli sovereignty in any part of Jerusalem, and that they can and should dictate to Israel what policies to adopt in Jerusalem and when and where to build. The most recent "misunderstanding" was a public and ugly US protest against removal of illegal Palestinian occupants squatting in propery owned by Jews. It may not be wise for Israel to build in areas that might be subject to future negotiations, but it certainly understandable that Israel will enforce Israeli law, backed by a supreme court decision, in an area that is declared by Israel to be under its sovereignty. There is no misunderstanding. The problem is not that the United States wants Israel to negotiate, but rather that the US is telling Israel and the world that there is nothing to negotiate about in Jerusalem, since the city does not belong to Israel according to them, but to a hypothetical international administration or Palestinian state. This is not a disagreement among friends. It is a hostile diplomatic act. In the 19 years of illegal Jordanian occupation of East Jerusalem, the United States did not once protest any Jordanian action, including the building of King Hussein's summer house, or the wrecking of the last remnants of the Jewish quarter and the Jewish cemetery in the Mount of Olives.
There is no misunderstanding of US policy in this regard whatever and the policy is unmistakable. The United States does not recognize any part of Jerusalem, East or West, as part of Israel, and certainly not as Israel's capital city. UN Security Council Resolution 250 condemned Israel for holding a military parade (the Independence Day parade) in Jerusalem in 1968. The parade was held in West Jerusalem only. The United States did not veto the resolution. The Web site of the United States Conuslate in Jerusalem is all about Palestinian Arabs - in the West Bank and in Gaza. Not a word about Jews, though Jerusalem has a Jewish majority. The consulate refuses to recognize that there are Jews living in any part of Jerusalem it seems. Are they trying to tell us something?
Perhaps some of the misunderstanding is caused by the reticence of the Israeli government, which has never openly protested against the hostile policy of the United States. On the one hand, Israeli governments grandiosely proclaim that "United Jerusalem is the Eternal Capital of Israel." On the other hand, no Israeli government has seriously tried to get the United States to recognize even Kiriat Hayovel and Rehavia as part of Israel.
West Jerusalem, of course, has been part of Israel since 1948, but the US, to placate Arab opinion, continues to pretend that the internationalization of Jerusalem mandated by the UN in 1947 is a reality. The policy of the United States government regarding Jerusalem is contrary to its own laws, since the 1995: Jerusalem Embassy Act mandated that the United States recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and mandated that the embassy must be moved there and that US citizens born in Jerusalem be registered as having been born in Israel. Using a hypocritical loophole, the law has been ignored by successive presidents. If you think this policy is bizarre, you can write to the consulate at JerusalemACS@state.gov and to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: http://contact-us.state.gov/cgi-bin/state.cfg/php/enduser/ask.php, U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street NW, Washington, DC 20520, 202-647-4000
Labels: Jerusalem, Peace, US Policy
Continued (Permanent Link)
It seems that the US has broken yet another agreement or understanding with Israel. It is not the first time.
Despite fervent denials by Obama administration officials, there were indeed agreements between Israel and the United States regarding the growth of Israeli settlements on the West Bank. As the Obama administration has made the settlements issue a major bone of contention between Israel and the U.S., it is necessary that we review the recent history.
In the spring of 2003, U.S. officials (including me) held wide-ranging discussions with then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in Jerusalem. The "Roadmap for Peace" between Israel and the Palestinians had been written. President George W. Bush had endorsed Palestinian statehood, but only if the Palestinians eliminated terror. He had broken with Yasser Arafat, but Arafat still ruled in the Palestinian territories. Israel had defeated the intifada, so what was next?
[Commentary] Getty Images
Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, President George W. Bush, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Jordan's King Abdullah, June 4, 2003.
We asked Mr. Sharon about freezing the West Bank settlements. I recall him asking, by way of reply, what did that mean for the settlers? They live there, he said, they serve in elite army units, and they marry. Should he tell them to have no more children, or move?
We discussed some approaches: Could he agree there would be no additional settlements? New construction only inside settlements, without expanding them physically? Could he agree there would be no additional land taken for settlements?
As we talked several principles emerged. The father of the settlements now agreed that limits must be placed on the settlements; more fundamentally, the old foe of the Palestinians could -- under certain conditions -- now agree to Palestinian statehood.
In June 2003, Mr. Sharon stood alongside Mr. Bush, King Abdullah II of Jordan, and Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas at Aqaba, Jordan, and endorsed Palestinian statehood publicly: "It is in Israel's interest not to govern the Palestinians but for the Palestinians to govern themselves in their own state. A democratic Palestinian state fully at peace with Israel will promote the long-term security and well-being of Israel as a Jewish state." At the end of that year he announced his intention to pull out of the Gaza Strip.
The U.S. government supported all this, but asked Mr. Sharon for two more things. First, that he remove some West Bank settlements; we wanted Israel to show that removing them was not impossible. Second, we wanted him to pull out of Gaza totally -- including every single settlement and the "Philadelphi Strip" separating Gaza from Egypt, even though holding on to this strip would have prevented the smuggling of weapons to Hamas that was feared and has now come to pass. Mr. Sharon agreed on both counts.
These decisions were political dynamite, as Mr. Sharon had long predicted to us. In May 2004, his Likud Party rejected his plan in a referendum, handing him a resounding political defeat. In June, the Cabinet approved the withdrawal from Gaza, but only after Mr. Sharon fired two ministers and allowed two others to resign. His majority in the Knesset was now shaky.
After completing the Gaza withdrawal in August 2005, he called in November for a dissolution of the Knesset and for early elections. He also said he would leave Likud to form a new centrist party. The political and personal strain was very great. Four weeks later he suffered the first of two strokes that have left him in a coma.
Throughout, the Bush administration gave Mr. Sharon full support for his actions against terror and on final status issues. On April 14, 2004, Mr. Bush handed Mr. Sharon a letter saying that there would be no "right of return" for Palestinian refugees. Instead, the president said, "a solution to the Palestinian refugee issue as part of any final status agreement will need to be found through the establishment of a Palestinian state, and the settling of Palestinian refugees there, rather than in Israel."
On the major settlement blocs, Mr. Bush said, "In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli populations centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949." Several previous administrations had declared all Israeli settlements beyond the "1967 borders" to be illegal. Here Mr. Bush dropped such language, referring to the 1967 borders -- correctly -- as merely the lines where the fighting stopped in 1949, and saying that in any realistic peace agreement Israel would be able to negotiate keeping those major settlements.
On settlements we also agreed on principles that would permit some continuing growth. Mr. Sharon stated these clearly in a major policy speech in December 2003: "Israel will meet all its obligations with regard to construction in the settlements. There will be no construction beyond the existing construction line, no expropriation of land for construction, no special economic incentives and no construction of new settlements."
Ariel Sharon did not invent those four principles. They emerged from discussions with American officials and were discussed by Messrs. Sharon and Bush at their Aqaba meeting in June 2003.
They were not secret, either. Four days after the president's letter, Mr. Sharon's Chief of Staff Dov Weissglas wrote to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that "I wish to reconfirm the following understanding, which had been reached between us: 1. Restrictions on settlement growth: within the agreed principles of settlement activities, an effort will be made in the next few days to have a better definition of the construction line of settlements in Judea & Samaria."
Stories in the press also made it clear that there were indeed "agreed principles." On Aug. 21, 2004 the New York Times reported that "the Bush administration . . . now supports construction of new apartments in areas already built up in some settlements, as long as the expansion does not extend outward."
In recent weeks, American officials have denied that any agreement on settlements existed. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated on June 17 that "in looking at the history of the Bush administration, there were no informal or oral enforceable agreements. That has been verified by the official record of the administration and by the personnel in the positions of responsibility."
These statements are incorrect. Not only were there agreements, but the prime minister of Israel relied on them in undertaking a wrenching political reorientation -- the dissolution of his government, the removal of every single Israeli citizen, settlement and military position in Gaza, and the removal of four small settlements in the West Bank. This was the first time Israel had ever removed settlements outside the context of a peace treaty, and it was a major step.
It is true that there was no U.S.-Israel "memorandum of understanding," which is presumably what Mrs. Clinton means when she suggests that the "official record of the administration" contains none. But she would do well to consult documents like the Weissglas letter, or the notes of the Aqaba meeting, before suggesting that there was no meeting of the minds.
Mrs. Clinton also said there were no "enforceable" agreements. This is a strange phrase. How exactly would Israel enforce any agreement against an American decision to renege on it? Take it to the International Court in The Hague?
Regardless of what Mrs. Clinton has said, there was a bargained-for exchange. Mr. Sharon was determined to break the deadlock, withdraw from Gaza, remove settlements -- and confront his former allies on Israel's right by abandoning the "Greater Israel" position to endorse Palestinian statehood and limits on settlement growth. He asked for our support and got it, including the agreement that we would not demand a total settlement freeze.
For reasons that remain unclear, the Obama administration has decided to abandon the understandings about settlements reached by the previous administration with the Israeli government. We may be abandoning the deal now, but we cannot rewrite history and make believe it did not exist.
Mr. Abrams, a senior fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, handled Middle East affairs at the National Security Council from 2001 to 2009
Labels: Israel-2, Settlements, US Policy
Continued (Permanent Link)
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