Sunday, May 03, 2009

"Prospects Dim"

Arlene Kushner

None of the reports are encouraging -- nor did I expect they would be. That is, with regard to the meeting between PM Netanyahu and President Obama scheduled for later this month.

Oh, there is the usual spin from some sources about how Netanyahu will be warmly welcomed. But other reports are positively grim with regard to how intensely and determinedly Obama will be pressuring our prime minister. We know, without a question of a doubt, that these two heads of state have different worldviews and different perspectives on how to approach the situation in the Middle East. Netanyahu -- bless him for this! -- has yet to even utter the term "two state solution," while Obama has set the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as his first goal, declaring with breath-taking shortsightedness that everything else depends upon this.

Thus, we should not expect reports following the meeting of the beginning of a warm friendship developing between the two men, who really see eye to eye on the important issues, blah, blah, blah. Or, let us say, if we hear such reports, we should know better than to believe them.


I remain pleased, at this point, with approaches reportedly being taken by Netanyahu. He is preparing with considerable care, and has a research team compiling facts and talking points for each issue that will be on the table with Obama.

What I am seeing again and again, with regard to reports that are coming out, is that this government is talking "tachlis" -- confronting issues that others were prepared to sweep under the carpet. The first was the matter of having the PA recognize us as a Jewish state -- for you can't even talk about a "two state solution" unless it's clear that one of those states is Jewish. And so the Palestinian refusal to do so is being exposed and their intention called into question.

Now I read that one source close to the Netanyahu team has said, "Two states for two people is more complicated than the slogan suggests. For example, what is to be done with Hamas in Gaza?"

To which I responded, Mazel tov! Here is someone stating the obvious, at last. Hamas has been the elephant in the room: everyone talked about negotiating with the PA as if Hamas were not there.


The key here is the ability of Netanyahu to stand strong in the face of that Obama pressure. More to come on this.


With regard to the entire business of a negotiated "two-state solution," I ask you please to read and extensively share my latest piece, "Two States: A Figment of Obama's Imagination," which ran on Front Page Magazine. It deals in some detail with the complexities that are being ignored by Obama.


As Netanyahu plans his approach to Obama, he is in consultation with Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Minister for Strategic Affairs Moshe Ya'alon, and Minister of Intelligence and Atomic Energy, Dan Meridor..

His primary message to Obama and company will be that dealing with Iran has priority over talks with the Arabs, be they Palestinians, Syrians or Lebanese.


For his part, Mahmoud Abbas, PA president, is himself delusional.

To date, as expected, all negotiations between Fatah and Hamas regarding formation of that much-touted unity government have failed. Abbas has now announced that he will form a new government, which Hamas has warned him not to do.

Yesterday, a representative of Fatah, Palestinian Legislative Council member Faisal Abu Shahla, declared that "the new government which President Abbas intends to form will be responsible for both the West Bank and Gaza."

Says he. But is Hamas on board with this? Clearly not. In fact, Hamas warns that this plan would be regarded as a "fatal blow" to Egyptian efforts to achieve a unity government.

In this eventuality, Hamas intends to form its own government. But Abu Shahla says this is "tantamount to a coup, and the deepening of division." Apparently he hasn't noticed that there has already been a coup.

"...this government [formed by Abbas] will not be [just] for the West Bank, as some people are saying, but will rather take responsibility for the Palestinians in Gaza, including for delivering salaries, social affairs and medical treatment abroad."

The PA has been sending money into Gaza for salaries all along, and is involved with helping people get medical treatment. Have no clue what's involved in being responsible for "social affairs." But this is not the totality of a government by any means.

This is a study in political confusion.


While further clarifications may be necessary, I have from more than one source the suggestion that Obama, during his recent visit to Turkey, responded with such warmth to Prime Minister Ergodan, that the Turks have now been emboldened. In the wake of Obama's visit they moved to sign a pact with Lebanon -- which is on its way to Hezbollah control -- that will grant it both military training and arms.

Bad news for Israel. And yet one more troubling sign that Israeli security is not on Obama's radar.


Israel is preparing seriously for possibility of conflict with Iran.

Those Air Force reservists who operate the Arrow and Patriot missile defense systems are being called up one day a week to sharpen their skills.

According to a top IAF officer quoted by the Post:

"We are working hard to be ready for the Iranian threat, "We are preparing for barrages, split warheads and other surprises and therefore we need to retain a high operational level by everyone, including reservists."

The preparation involves different possible scenarios: large barrages of missiles fired from different countries at once, and the need for the operator to decide which missile to intercept first and at what stage of its flight.

Additionally, today the French paper, L'Express, reported that Israeli fighter jets, preparing for a possible attack on Iran's nuclear facilities, recently conducted a drill above the Strait of Gibraltar.

Do you remember the charges brought four years ago against two officials of AIPAC -- Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman -- that they had illegally disclosed classified information to Israel? The whole case smelled of ugly politics from the beginning.

Now the US government has decided to drop the case because of a diminishing possibility that it could succeed in securing convictions. Among the reasons for this change of heart was the fact that the defense had secured permission to call high profile former officials such as Condoleezza Rice to testify that the sort of sharing of information they did was standard procedure.

The defendants are delighted, but also express frustration that because there will be no trial there will be no opportunity to definitively prove their innocence.

"I was a person who had his whole life taken away from him," said Rosen.

But the issue transcends what happened to these two personally: "We're in a situation where the wild allegations against Israel and the friends of Israel are being printed all over the place, and some people believe."


Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who has been accused of being a racist, hostile to Arabs, recently appointed Bedouin diplomat Ismail Khaldi as his Middle East advisor. Khaldi, who holds a masters degree in political science, served in the IDF and worked as a political analyst for the Defense Ministry. He was the first Bedouin to join Israel's Foreign Service, and now Lieberman is the first minister to appoint a Bedouin as his advisor.

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