Saturday, July 04, 2009

Israel's reliable friend

Recent Israeli governments have underestimated the power of Congress

Yoram Ettinger

President Obama and his advisors pressure Prime Minister Netanyahu to avoid intensive contacts with Congress. They claim that such contacts would undermine the Presidency, and would therefore damage US-Israel relations. However, refraining from such contacts would demote Congress into a "Supporting Actor," and thus would be an insult to the American People, to its representatives on Capitol Hill and to the US democracy, which regard Congress as a "Co-Starring Actor." In the long run, it would degrade vital Israeli interests and weaken US-Israel relations. In 1992, I was told by then Majority Leader, Senator George Mitchell: "Doesn't Israel realize that the US is not a monarchy and that the President is strong but not omnipotent?!" And, in fact it was Congress – and not the President – that stopped US military involvement in Vietnam (Eagleton Amendment,) Angola (Clark Amendment,) Nicaragua (Boland Amendment,) forced the USSR to let the Jews go (Jackson-Vanik Amendment,) approved emergency aid to the former USSR (Aspen-Nunn Amendment,) toppled the White regime in Pretoria (Anti-Apartheid Act,) provided Israel with emergency assistance following the 1991 Gulf War in defiance of Bush and Baker, etc.

Recent Israeli governments have underestimated the power of Congress, as a result of the highlighted global profile of the President. Still, a US President is powerful, but – unlike Israeli Prime Ministers – he is not the chairman of his party and not the leader of his congressional slate. He does not anoint the Speaker, majority leaders and committee chairs. And he does not determine which bills should pass in Congress.

The President is one of three arms of government, which are equal in power and independence. He is constrained by the decentralized Federal system, by an effective Separation of Powers and by an elaborate system of checks and balances, which are designed to prevent tyranny. The President initiates and executes policy, but Congress – which is featured in the first article of the US Constitution - possesses the "Power of the Purse" and the authority to change, suspend and initiate policy, prevent senior presidential appointments and add and eliminate government departments and agencies.

While the relative presidential weight increases during national security crises, the relative weight of Congress is upgraded during financial crises. The confrontational or defiant nature of the President-Congress relationship constitutes a significant watchdog over US democracy.

Israel's government assumes that the Congressional Democratic majorities provide President Obama with a "free ride." However, Senator Robert Byrd, President Pro-Tempore of the Senate has persisted in quipping at Democratic and Republican presidents: "Legislators are the servants of the Constitution, not the servants of the President."

Cultivate ties with Congress
Former Speaker, Democratic House Member Tom Foley, advised President Clinton in 1993 not to take House and Senate Democratic majorities for granted: "We won't be able to support all your ambitious policies, because our political life expectancy (running every two years) is different than yours (running every four years)." Clinton ignored the advice and caused the Democratic Party crash in the November 1994 election.

The loyalty of the 535 federal legislators – who represent districts and states more than political parties – is first and foremost to their constituents, to the Separation of Powers and to the independence of the Legislature and only then to the President. Therefore, over 30 Democratic House Members supported the impeachment of Clinton, many Democrats opposed Clinton's free trade initiatives, caused Obama to rescind the appointment of anti-Israel pro-China Chas Freeman, forced Obama to boycott the UN Durbin II Conference and are not automatic supporters of Obama's proposals to close down the Guantanamo jail, to bail out Wall Street and the Detroit car makers, dramatically increase the national debt, etc.

As the November 2010 congressional elections approach, and as economic recovery is further delayed, the more dependent Obama becomes on a willing Congress and the more independent and defiant will the legislators become.

In 1891, six years before the First World Zionist Congress, in defiance of the US Department of State, 400 US dignitaries co-led by the Speaker of the House and the Chairman of the House International Relations Committee signed the "Blackstone Memorial," which called for a Jewish national home in the Land of Israel. In 1922, 26 years before the establishment of the Jewish State, The US House and Senate unanimously passed a Joint Resolution, reaffirming congressional support of a Jewish State between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean.

The enhancement of Israel's critical interests and the demonstration of respect towards the US democracy, behoove Israel's Prime Minister to cultivate ties with Congress - the most authentic representation of the US public, equal in power to the President, a bastion of support for closer US-Israel ties, which appreciates the unique covenant binding the US and the Jewish State: Democracy, shared Judeo-Christian values, mutual regional and global threats and joint strategic interests.

Yoram Ettinger is a US and Middle Eastern affairs expert

PA Arabs in Late Response to Obama Speech: No, We Can't

Maayana Miskin

( A poll released this week showed that PA Arabs are reluctant to grant rights to Jews or Christians within areas demanded for a PA state. A survey conducted by the Arab World for Research and Development among 1,200 Arab residents of Judea, Samaria and Gaza found that did not feel Jerusalem should be shared with Jews and Christians. When asked to what extent they agreed with a statement made by United States President Barack Obama that Jerusalem should be “a secure and lasting home for Jews and Christians and Muslims,” less than 17 percent said they agree, while 20 percent said they “somewhat agree.” More than 42 percent said they disagree with the statement, while 17 percent “somewhat disagree.”

Reject violence? No thanks
More than 45 percent of those surveyed disagreed with a second statement of Obama's in which the president called on the Arab world to reject violence and killing as a means of struggle. Twenty-two percent did not give an answer, while the remainder said they “agree” or “somewhat agree” with the statement.

The poll showed that PA Arabs were pessimistic regarding Obama's speech to the Arab world in early June. More believed that Obama's visit to the region would strengthen Israel, increase restrictions on Gaza, and do nothing to promote negotiations than believed the opposite. Only 14.2 percent said they fully agreed that Obama is serious when he calls for the creation of a PA state.

Jews want rights as minority in PA
Another new poll showed that most Israeli Jews believe that any future Palestinian Authority-led Arab state in Judea and Samaria should provide Jews with equal rights, including the right to live freely in its territory. The statistic was revealed Thursday by a Maagar Mochot poll published by the Independent Media Review and Analysis.

Fifty-eight percent of the 506 Israeli Jews surveyed said they believed Israel should insist that any future PA state respect the right of Jews to live in its territory. Thirty-one percent believed Israel should not insist that Jews be allowed to live in a PA state.

Roughly 300,000 Jews reside in Judea and Samaria, and approximately 250,000 more live in Jerusalem neighborhoods demanded by the PA. The views exposed by the Maagar Mochot poll are at odds with government policy, which has been to forcibly remove Jews from PA areas in line with PA demands that any future Arab state in Judea and Samaria be rid of the current Jewish minority.

An even larger majority of those polled believed that Israel should insist that the PA commit to allowing Jews full access to Jewish holy sites in Judea and Samaria, including those considered holy by Muslims as well. Eighty-two percent said Israel should insist on access to holy sites, while only 11 percent said Israel should not make such a demand.

Indicator of national dignity
Jewish holy sites in Judea and Samaria include the Tomb of the Patriarchs (Me'arat Hamachpelah) in Hevron, Joseph's Tomb in Shechem, and Rachel's Tomb in Bethlehem. Jews are currently allowed full access only to the latter site, while the Tomb of the Patriarchs is split into Jewish and Muslim sections, and Jews are allowed to visit Joseph's Tomb only intermittently.

While a narrow majority of respondents said Israel should negotiate with the PA without preconditions, most said Israel should insist on Jewish rights during the negotiation process.

More than 60 percent of those polled said that demanding Jewish rights under PA rule was an indicator of national dignity. Israeli leaders who fail to demand freedom of residence and access to holy sites for Jews lack self-respect, they said.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Lieberman: Settlements issue blown out of proportion

Jack Khoury, Haaretz Correspondent and Reuters

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Thursday responded to remarks made earlier by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who said that Israel's construction in West Bank settlements jeopardized the two-state solution, and said that the world has blown the settlements issue entirely out of proportion.
"The situation in the West Bank and the cessation of settlement construction shouldn't top the international community's agenda," Lieberman said during a meeting with Druze leaders at the home of fellow party member MK Hamad Amar in Shfaram.

"North Korea fired three missiles today, despite the warnings and the sanctions, and the world is still occupying itself with Yitzhar and Migron," he said, referring to an outpost north of Jerusalem and a West Bank settlement.
"We have to allow the residents of the West Bank to live normal lives," Lieberman went on to say. "We can't strangle them. We must explain our stance and refrain from strangling people."

Lieberman added that "we all saw the occurrences and the dramatic events in Iran. Does the attempt to lead a normal life in Judea and Samaria top that on the international community's priority list? We have to bring things back into proportion."

The foreign minister also criticized what he termed as the Israeli government's concession policy, saying "we are certainly a government that wants to advance toward a resolution of the [Israeli-Palestinian] conflict, to come up with solutions, that isn't afraid to take responsibility. But taking responsibility doesn't mean that we always have to concede. We are always loved and applauded when we concede and concede. I'm not sure that these concessions lead to any kind of result."

Earlier Thursday, Merkel demanded that Israel halt construction in the West Bank settlements, saying it endangered efforts to achieve a two-state solution with the Palestinians.

"I think it is now important to get commitments from all sides and that includes the issue of settlement building," Merkel said in a speech to the Bundestag lower house of parliament.

"I am convinced that there must be a stop to this. Otherwise we will not come to the two-state solution that is urgently needed."

Merkel's remarks are in line with the positions of the European Union and the United States, but were unusually clear-cut for the German leader, who regularly cites her country's special obligation to Israel because of the Holocaust, in which six million Jews were deliberately murdered.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has said U.S.-backed peace talks with Israel cannot resume until all settlement activity has ceased on captured land the Palestinians want for a state.

Washington has also called for a total halt to settlement building in the West Bank, a demand that has opened the most serious rift in U.S.-Israeli relations in a decade.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak said on Wednesday that Israel would consider a limited moratorium on new settlement construction, but said it should be part of a broader deal bringing Arab states into the peace process.

Comment: "Settlements" are villages, towns and cities inhabited by Israeli citizens living in the disputed territories of Judea and Samaria.

'Not a single Jewish home without Obama's OK'

Aaron Klein
© 2009 WorldNetDaily

TEL AVIV – Not a single Jewish home will be built in the strategic West Bank without approval of the Obama administration and the Palestinians, Nimer Hamad, senior political adviser to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas told WND.

In spite of recent reports Israel will build 50 new homes in a northern West Bank Jewish community, Hamad said U.S. guarantees make him "confident" such housing will not actually be constructed. . "The guarantees we received from the U.S. make us confident all the talks about the 50 houses in Adam are only a piece of meat (Defense Minister Ehud) Barak threw to the settlers," Hamad said.

"I am not excited about these reports. I am confident no single housing will actually be built outside an agreement between the Palestinians, the Americans and the Israelis," he said.

Barak's Defense Ministry approved the construction of 50 new homes in Adam, an existing West Bank community, as part of a wider plan to absorb residents slated to be evicted from an area called Migron.

Migron is considered an illegal outpost since it wasn't constructed with Israeli government approval. The U.S. has demanded all illegal outposts be removed.

The new houses in Adam would defy a demand by the Obama administration that Israel halt all settlement activity, including natural growth, in apparent abrogation of a deal made by President Bush in 2004.

Barak was in New York yesterday to meet with U.S. Special Envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell in an effort to agree on a compromise formula on settlement construction.

Sources in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office told WND that Barak favors a "temporary freeze" of Jewish communities and a declaration that the issue be resolved in talks with the PA.

Top ministers in Netanyahu's cabinet, such as Vice Premier Moshe Yaalon, the strategic affairs coordinator, oppose a settlement freeze, fearing it will become permanent, according to sources close to Yaalon.

Obama tells Jews to stop building in Jerusalem

Earlier this week, WND quoted a top PA negotiator stating the Obama administration told the Palestinians the "golden era" of Israeli construction in sections of Jerusalem and the strategic West Bank will soon come to an end.

"The U.S. assured us that for the first time since 1967, we are going into a period where there will not be allowed a single construction effort on the part of the Israelis in the settlements, including in Gush Etzion, Maale Adumum and eastern Jerusalem," said the negotiator, speaking from Ramallah on condition his name be withheld.

Maale Adumim is located in eastern Jerusalem. Israel reunited the eastern and western sections of Jerusalem and the West Bank during the 1967 Six Day War. Eastern Jerusalem, claimed by the PA for a future state, includes the Temple Mount.

The negotiator told WND the positions of the PA and U.S. regarding ongoing Jewish construction in the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem "are closer than ever."

"The U.S. used to differentiate between natural grown and adding new communities. Not anymore. No construction will be allowed, not even natural growth," the PA negotiator said.

The negotiator claimed that while Barak might reach an understanding with the U.S. regarding possible West Bank movements, such a deal would be for Israeli political purposes and wouldn't translate into actual Jewish construction on the ground.

The West Bank borders major Israeli cities and is within rocket firing range of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Israel's international airport.

Military strategists long have estimated Israel must maintain the West Bank to defend itself from any ground invasion. Terrorist groups have warned if Israel withdraws, they will launch rockets from the West Bank into Israeli cities.

Many villages in the West Bank, which Israelis commonly refer to as the "biblical heartland," are mentioned throughout the Torah.

The book of Genesis says Abraham entered Israel at Shechem (Nablus) and received God's promise of land for his offspring. He later was buried in Hebron.

The nearby town of Beit El, anciently called Bethel, meaning "house of God," is where Scripture says the patriarch Jacob slept on a stone pillow and dreamed of angels ascending and descending a stairway to heaven. In that dream, God spoke directly to Jacob and reaffirmed the promise of territory.

And in Exodus, the holy tabernacle rested in Shiloh, believed to be the first area the ancient Israelites settled after fleeing Egypt.

Guest Comment:It would be a gross understatement for us to say that we in Israel are damn fed up with the interference of the 'pro-Israel' folks who feel free to dictate to us what we may and may not do.

From Sarkozy who tells the Netanyahu government whom to fire (of course, the French leader has so many Muslims in his country that he has to be careful ), to Congressman Robert Wexler who was described in the Jerusalem Post today as "a close political ally of US President Obama and a stalwart Israel supporter", we are receiving 'orders' from those who have no business telling us what they believe is 'in Israel's interest'. A constant stream of officials - most of them Jewish - appear to dictate to the Israeli leadership how we must acquiesce. ENOUGH!!!!

When the Iranian government used brutal measures to quell those who protested against the fraudulent re-election of Ahmadinejad, the American president used such mild language initially in response that he was even criticized by US citizens. His excuse was that he did not want to interfere in the workings of another country. Imagine! Then why does he take the liberty of dictating to Israel what we may do?

In addition to many other reasons, Obama's ignorance and incompetence in foreign policy most likely helps drive him to pressure a small and vulnerable country like Israel. It is obvious from his actions since becoming president that he does not care if Israel survives; while not directly destroying us he is creating conditions for our surrounding enemies to do the job. During electioneering last year he was openly supported by the Arabs; monies flowed to his campaign from the Middle East. Hamas, with its publicized goal of destroying Israel, featured mugs and shirts with Obama's photo! Does this not tell us something?!

We are aware that much of what happens in Israel never makes the news; when I have forwarded some information to friends in the States they have confirmed this. Warnings about some of Obama's questionable associations were not heeded. His charisma, golden tongue that insisted that he was 'pro-Israel' , and the desire for change hid the real goals of the man. So many Jews, traditionally Democrats, were fooled - misled into choosing a leader who favors those who wish to annihilate the Jewish homeland - just for a start. Let no one doubt that this would again unleash such a worldwide anti-Semitic outburst that there would be no place to hide.

We must remember that the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, a religious leader, was a cohort of Hitler's and supported the 'final solution'. A recent American expert on the subject of terrorists connected their ideology to that of the Nazi dictator. The goals have not changed - just the players.
It would behoove everyone to remember that many millions of non-Jews were victims of those who just started their killing with Jews but it did not end there.

Those who now see that they have been misled must now stand up and demand that the US government desist from any pressure on Israel. The alternative would be catastrophic for the world! Please act now! Call members of Congress and forward this message to others.


Thursday, July 02, 2009

Agreements must be honored

Dov Weissglass

On May 1 and 16, 2003, during discussions of Israel’s reservations in respect to the Road Map initiative, it was agreed that there will be no construction at Jewish communities in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza, with the exception of existing communities. These words were uttered, agreed upon, and documented in the records of the talks kept at the Prime Minister’s Office. I’m sure that an efficient search will reveal the parallel American records. This is how most day-to-day diplomatic activity takes place: Talks between the authorized representatives of states, followed by a verbal agreement recorded in real-time by one or several of those present, and the documentation that reflects the agreements.

Regular diplomatic contacts and the understandings reached through them only rarely result in a detailed contract that includes an introduction as well as numbered clauses and paragraphs. And this is precisely how the above-mentioned agreement was secured, as an exception to the general construction freeze decree in the Road Map.

The agreement was brought to the public’s attention in Israel and abroad on December 18, 2003. In the “Herzliya speech,” which for the first time presented the Gaza disengagement plan, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon detailed the substance of the agreement that is now shrouded in controversy. This is what he said at the time: “Israel will deliver on all its obligations, including on the matter of settlement construction. There will be no construction beyond the existing construction lines. There will be no land confiscations meant for construction, no special economic incentives, and there is no construction of special settlements.”

The text of the speech was read, analyzed, and carefully studied everywhere, and especially in the United States. Yet nobody, either here or there, stood up or protested: “What construction? What agreement?” The speech was met with laud applause, among others by the US ambassador to Israel at the time – who was among the guests of honor at the Herzliya Conference, and who recently made a point of denying the existence of the agreement in an article he wrote.

Embarrassing position

The US Administration’s current position on the matter is embarrassing, to say the least. Talk such as “there was never such agreement,” “these were only verbal understandings,” or “if there was an agreement, it was violated by Israel, and in any case it should be annulled given the changing circumstances” is reminiscent of a person who at court claims that he never signed a promissory note, while at the same time arguing that he already paid it in full a long time ago.

The current secretary of state went as far as declaring that no mention of the agreement can be found in the Administration’s records. A former senior White House official, Elliot Abrams, wrote recently that Clinton is wrong, and that an agreement was reached. “I was there,” he noted in a Wall Street Journal article last week.

Indeed, there was an agreement, which was documented (at least in Israeli records) and publically announced. We should also keep in mind that a verbal agreement is one that must be honored, as long as there is substantial evidence of such agreement’s existence. Moreover, nothing fundamental has changed in the past six years that justifies the annulment of the agreement.

The Administration’s denials are not only unfair and unjust; they are also unwise. The Arab-Israeli conflict is replete with suspicions. Once final-status peace treaties are secured, they will require many American guarantees and obligations, especially in respect to long-term security arrangements. Without these, it is doubtful whether an agreement can be reached.

Yet if decision-makers in Israel (or elsewhere) discover, heaven forbid, that an American pledge is only valid as long as the president in question is in office, nobody will want such pledges. The ancient rule whereby “agreements must be honored” is the basis for the existence of the social and political order in the world.

For that reason, we must note the following: Israel’s right for limited construction in Judea and Samaria communities, within existing construction lines, was agreed upon as an exception to the construction freeze clause in the Road Map. And as agreements must be honored, Israel too must remove any doubt regarding its adherence to the Road Map. The obligation to honor agreements applies to Israel as well.,2506,L-3740136,00.html

'Obama' Think-Tank: Israel Should Cede Jerusalem Sovereignty

Hillel Fendel Proposal: 3rd-Party to Rule Jlem

A think tank which is arguably the most influential in Washington is proposing an “interim” neutral administration to govern Jerusalem instead of Israel. The Center for American Progress (CAP), headquartered just three blocks from the White House in Washington, is regarded as one of the most influential think tanks in the city, if not the most influential. “CAP has been an incubator for liberal thought and helped build the [Democratic part platform that triumphed in the 2008 campaign,” according to a report, which noted that some of the group's recommendations were adopted by Obama while he was still president-elect.

Four weeks ago, CAP held a panel discussion based on the premise that the Old City of Jerusalem is the main impediment in finding a solution to the Israel-Arab problem in the Holy Land. Michael Bell, a former Canadian Ambassador to Jordan, Egypt and Israel, presented a plan entitled the Jerusalem Old City Initiative. The plan does not call for the internationalization of Jerusalem -- but is not far off from that. It recommends that both Israel and a future state of Palestine appoint a third-party administrator that would run and police the city.

Bell explained that the plan calls for an administration or regime that would govern the Old City of Jerusalem for an interim period, without either Israel or the PA giving up their demands for sovereignty: “Frankly, I don’t think there’s going to be any agreement on sovereignty. I think that the two sides need not cede their demands for sovereignty; these claims can remain exactly as they are today. The sides would simply agree to delay the implementation or assertion of these claims until after an agreement is reached. Until then, a special administration would be set up, with the two sides agreeing to set this up, at least on an interim basis. And what this would do … would be to ensure dignity, human rights and equity for all living in the Old City, all visitors, and all pilgrims.”

Questions and Clarifications

The implication that these values are not currently provided and offered by Israel was not challenged. An audience member did ask afterwards why the status quo could not simply be retained, and Bell responded, “We thought of this option ourselves, but we thought it would be too intangible…”

He also said, “I don’t think you would find a majority on either [side to the conflic that would agree to defer its claims to sovereignty” - though Israel is already sovereign there, and would seemingly not mind retaining the status quo.

Bell did not quantify the plan’s “interim period,” though he did imply that it could very well be “close to permanent.”

“The Chief Administrator would be appointed by both sides to administer the city according to the mandate they give him,” Bell said. “He would be accountable to them, but the mandate would have to be sufficiently forthcoming. They would have to agree that he would handle crises such as massacre, land-grab, or whatever, without their intervention.”

CAP Report Cites Western Wall as Holiest Site

The CAP report on the event states, “The Temple Mount’s Western Wall is the most sacred place of Jewish worship, and the al-Haram al-Sharif (Temple Mount), where Muslims believe that Mohammad ascended into the heavens, is the third holiest site in Islam.” However, law professor Marshall Breger -- co-author of “Jerusalem's Holy Places and the Peace Process” and consultant to the Jerusalem Old City Initiative – who spoke at the panel about the competing religious claims, said more than once that it was the Temple Mount itself, and not the Western Wall outside it, that is the holiest place in Jerusalem.

Bell: Whether Belief Systems are Historically Valid is Beside the Point

Both Breger and Bell dismissed the claims of those who challenge Islam’s connection to the site. Breger agreed, but implied that current Islamic claims that Judaism’s Holy Temple was never built there are totally unfounded, noting that the Waqf itself published literature some decades ago boasting that the Dome of the Rock is on the site of the Holy Temple. At that point, Bell said, “It’s very important to realize that it’s beside the point whether these belief systems are historically valid or not… It’s not up to me to tell you whether your narrative is valid or not…”

Breger: Take Politics Out

Breger similarly said that the argument that Jerusalem is not so holy to Islam is “a silly one.” He said, “It’s true that when Jerusalem was not under Islamic control, such as during the Crusader period, the British Mandate and under Israeli control, there was more discussion about Jerusalem in Muslim sources… but it’s silly to say that it’s not so holy to Islam, because you have to accept a religion’s definition of what is holy.” However, this appeared to contradict what he said just minutes before: “One of our problems is that we have to weed out the ‘politics of religion’ from the ‘doctrine of religion’…”

He did not note that Jerusalem is not mentioned even once in the Quran.

Breger did say that the current Muslim clerical view that non-Muslims should not enter the Temple Mount “was clearly not always the Muslim view,” since just a few decades ago the Waqf "charged admission to non-Muslim visitors."

Daniel Kurzer on Jerusalem

Daniel Kurtzer, an Orthodox Jew and diplomat who has been credited with coining the concept “land for peace” and insisting long ago that Jerusalem be included in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, was the moderator. He said that discussing the option of imposing a settlement freeze on Jerusalem would make it easier to have serious negotiations.

Kurtzer further warned that a solution for Jerusalem had better be found before Israel builds its E-1 housing project near Maaleh Adumim and before the City of David (Silwan) Jewish settlement project proceeds much further.

Comment: This blog and Docstalk blog over a year ago predicted this outcome and warned voters to pay attention to those surrounding Obama. Well you got what you voted for and the dangers are mounting. It is patently false and absurd that Israel must give away parts of Jerusalem. It is time for caring Americans to say stop the madness-enough is enough.

Israel will say 'yes' to settlement freeze, Wexler tells 'Post'


Israel would lose nothing, and potentially gain everything, by agreeing to a temporary moratorium on construction in the settlements for a short period of time, Congressman Robert Wexler, a close political ally of US President Barack Obama and a stalwart Israel supporter, told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday. Wexler, on his third visit to Israel since December, met with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Wednesday, a day after Defense Minister Ehud Barak and US Middle East envoy George Mitchell met in New York and decided that the discussion over settlement construction would continue.

"A request for a moratorium or freeze in settlement activity that can be mutually agreed upon by the US and Israel in the next several weeks is a tiny, tiny gesture and down payment to make when you look at potentially what is on the other side of the equation," said Wexler.

On other side of the equation, he said, were 22 Arab countries being urged by the US to take significant steps now towards normalization with Israel.

"I want to call their bluff," Wexler said. "I want to see, if Israel makes substantial movement toward a credible peace process, whether they are willing to do it. And if they are not, better that we should find out five or six months into the process, before Israel is actually asked to compromise any significant position."

Asked what would happen if Israel were to say no to the moratorium request, Wexler said, "I don't think Israel will say no. I don't see an equation where it is in Israel's interest to say no, so I believe Israel will say yes, under a certain set of qualifications that Israel will agree to. This is one hundred percent in Israel's national security interest."

Regarding the types of "qualifications," Wexler said that that was up to the Israeli prime minister to decide.

"Any process of discussion requires compromise, particularly amongst friends and allies if they are coming from different points," he said, adding that every reasonable actor in the process understands that in a political dynamic there must be give and take.

Wexler bewailed that while the US demands on Israel were highlighted in the Israeli press, Washington's demands on the Arab world were not gaining similar attention.

According to Wexler, the Obama administration was making "equal, if not greater, demands on the Arab world in the context of starting the process and negotiations."

Wexler said that the demands on the Arab world - Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States and the North African Arab states - were quite substantial in terms of steps of normalization. He said what was being discussed were trade offices, direct economic links, cultural and educational exchanges and over-fly rights for Israeli air carriers.

Moreover, he said the US was "open to suggestions from the Israeli side as to all the different indicators of normalization that would be important for Israel and that would create credibility among the Israeli public."

An Israeli settlement moratorium could go a long way toward moving that normalization process ahead, he said.

When asked why the Arab world couldn't first show signs of a willingness to normalize before Israel declares a moratorium, Wexler characterized such a demand as "childish."

Wexler, a liberal Democratic congressman from South Florida who was the first high-profile Jewish politician outside of Illinois to endorse Obama's presidential candidacy in 2007, said Obama was asking Israel for a moratorium on settlements, and a relaxing of conditions in the West Bank consistent with Israel's security requirements, in exchange for the Palestinians' adhering to their security conditions and responsibilities, and the Arab world being given a set of responsibilities that has not been given in the past.

"And if the Arab world fails to deliver," Wexler said, "you can rightly say that all bets are off."

Wexler dismissed concerns that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was waiting for Obama to "deliver" Israel while the PA made no conciliatory steps, saying that if he did believe that, he was disabused of the notion by Obama's positive response to Netanyahu's speech last month at Bar-Ilan University.

"If in fact the Palestinians believed that the American posture was that they didn't have to do anything, and the Americans would take care of this, then I think they learned the hard way," he said.

Wexler was also dismissive of the notion that the US was pushing Israel hard on the settlement issue as a way of bringing down the Netanyahu government.

"The president of the US does not have a view, or an opinion, or either a tactical or strategic posture on the government of Israel," he said. "The idea that the president, or anyone in any position of responsibility in Washington, is designing a process to undermine the policy or position or standing of the government of Israel is absurd."

Channel 1 reported last night that according to an Israeli source, Obama would be announcing his Mideast peace plan within a month.

Netanyahu on Wednesday night called Israel's bond with the United States "unbreakable."

"We have a brave relationship with the United States, a bond that President Obama himself defined as unbreakable; Indeed, our bond with the US is unbreakable," Netanyahu said, speaking at the US Independence Day reception at the American ambassador's residence in Herzliya.

Netnayhu went on to praise the US, calling the country a model for freedom and values.

In an allusion to the Iranian nuclear program, Netanyahu said freedom has usually triumphed over repressive regimes, but warned that the world order could break down if tyrannical regimes obtain weapons of mass destruction.

"The greatest danger facing our world today is that this historical consistency of the triumph and spread of democracy could change if the world's worst regimes acquire the world's most dangerous weapons," he said.

Netanyahu did not mention Iran, but he has often warned against allowing Iran to acquire nuclear weapons. Iran has denied it is pursuing nuclear weapons.

The prime minister went on to stress that the State of Israel and its citizens deeply appreciate the US, noting that several of Jerusalem's streets are named after former US presidents.

US Ambassador to Israel James Cunningham also mentioned the strong bond to Israel, and said the US is committed to the security of Israel and to the security of Israel's citizens.

Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report
This article can also be read at /servlet/Satellite?cid=1246443695869&pagename=JPArticle%2FShowFull

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Azerbaijan's moderate dream


Barry Rubin
Baku, Azerbaijan

Azerbaijan, an oil- and history-rich country on the Caspian Sea’s western coast has a dream: to be a pragmatic, moderate, secular, tolerant Muslim-majority state which serves as good example to others in the region. Given its unique history—and despite its geopolitical situation--it may succeed. The country’s basis is a unique combination of circumstances. After more than a century of Russian—Czarist, then Communist—rule, Azerbaijan achieved independence when the USSR collapsed. By that point, its largely Shia Muslim and Turkic population had been shaped by that long situation. To a large extent, it had lost any distinctive national or religious identity. Or, as one sophisticated Azerbaijani put it, “We thought we were Russians.” While many Azerbaijanis are still bilingual and switch between Azeri and Russian easily, the younger generation is now learning English as a second language.

Moreover, a large part of Baku’s population was Armenian, Jewish (both long-native and immigrant from the USSR), and Russian. In the early 1990s, there was a massive population exchange in the post-USSR era. Russians went to Russia; Armenians went to Armenia; Jews went to Israel; and Azerbaijanis returned from all parts of the former Soviet Union. So now the republic of Azerbaijan is, of all things, full of Azeris. At a time when Western Europe has been moving toward abandoning the nation-state, twenty-five new ones are born or reborn further east out of the old Soviet bloc.

For Azerbaijan, this means defining its national character and goals. As an Azerbaijani intellectual put it, “We’ve been around for centuries yet this is the first time we’ve really ever had our own country.” But wait, there’s more geopolitics first before we get there. It’s the combination of all these factors that makes Azerbaijan such an interesting place.

--Urbanization: About half the population now lives in Baku. The stereotype of the Caucasus as a place of village peasants is outdated.

--Islam: Azerbaijan isn’t comfortable with neighboring Iran’s brand of radical Islamism. Azerbaijan is a secular state, proud of its toleration of other groups. Azerbaijan is active in international Muslim organizations, presenting its own brand of moderate Islam. Women’s rights, a legacy of the Soviet era, are very much advanced.

--Oil: Azerbaijan has a lot of it in the Caspian Sea. A decade or so ago, pumping it out was still a vision and many believed that a huge pipeline to Turkey’s Mediterranean ports would never be built. Well, it has, and Azerbaijan has made a lot of money out of oil. Development has been rapid though lower prices now will slow it down.

--Democracy: This remains an aspiration rather than a current reality. It is clearly understood that Azerbaijan has a long way to go until it achieves that goal. Still, basic rights seem pretty well-entrenched.

--Turkey: Azerbaijanis like Turkey and they are themselves a Turkic people. But their identity, language, and history are quite distinct from their cousins in Anatolia. When one says the word “Turk,” they are talking about foreigners.

--Russia: In the Azerbaijani assessment, Russia is the principal threat to their country’s well-being and independence. There are certainly indications that the big neighbor’s regime is increasingly thinking about recreating the Russian empire in some way, at least by including Azerbaijan and the south Caucasus (including also Armenia and Georgia) in its sphere of influence. Russia’s alliance with Armenia has also brought Azerbaijan’s biggest problem.

--Armenia: This neighbor inflicted a humiliating defeat on Azerbaijan, seized the Nagorno-Karabakh region, resulting in hundreds of thousands of Azeri refugees. Responding to a lack of international sympathy and effort, an Azeri official proclaimed in exasperation, “But don’t they know that we were the ones attacked?”
The conflict is unresolved, there are all sorts of plans, groups, and peace processes going on and none of them are likely to lead to any actual progress in resolving the conflict. A key element on this issue is that Azerbaijanis view Russia as the real problem, egging on Armenia and even maintaining its own troops on their territory.

--Iran: A very worrisome neighbor as well. Azerbaijanis will tell you that there are 30 million Azeri Turks in Iran. The true number is about half that but still Azeris are about one-quarter of Iran’s total population. In general, there is no discrimination against Azeris as individuals—though there is a push toward “Persianizing” them and any specific Azeri identity is discouraged.

On the one hand, some Azerbaijanis dream of a united Azeri state, though no one seems to be pushing for one in practice. On the other hand, more Azerbaijanis worry that Iran thinks they are dreaming about a united Azeri state and thus views them as a threat to be attacked.

The export of Islamism to Azerbaijan could set off terrorism and even civil war. The threat seems to be contained so far rather effectively. --Strategy: Facing conflicts with three neighbors—Russia, Iran, Armenia—what’s a country to do? The answer is to seek allies strong enough to balance them out.

Thus, Azerbaijan’s approach is to seek strong relations with the United States, the West in general, Israel, and its other neighbor, Georgia. While hating to say so, nowadays I’m particularly fearful for countries putting their faith in the West. Western intellectuals and politicians might view such behavior as reckless and provocative, eager as they are to appease any state that threatens them.

Yet there is indeed a conflict between more aggressive dictatorial-type states and conflict-averse democratic ones. And there is indeed a battle between democratic-style modernization and merely grafting technology onto traditional authoritarian-oriented social structures. One can well expect that the internal and international fate of countries like Azerbaijan is going to determine the fate and direction of the twenty-first century

Barak, Mitchell remain disputed on settlements

After long meeting in Washington between defense minister, US Mideast envoy, two fail to agree on settlement freeze. Issue to be debated again when Mitchell meets PM Netanyahu in two weeks' time

Yitzhak Benhorin

WASHINGTON - Defense Minister Ehud Barak and US special envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell failed to reach an agreement regarding the Israeli construction in the settlements during their meeting in Washington Monday. Mitchell is scheduled to meet Prime Minister Benjamin Netnayahu in about two weeks.

UK deplores Israeli decision to allow new settler homes / Reuters
British foreign secretary tells parliament, 'Settlements are illegal under international law and they are a major blockage to peace in the Middle East on the basis of a two-state solution'
Full Story

A joint statement published following the meeting said that Barak and Mitchell "discussed the full range of issues related to Middle East peace and security and the contributions Israelis, Palestinians, their neighbors and the international community should make to this effort.

"Specifically, their discussions covered a wide range of measures needed to create a climate conducive to peace. These included measures on security and incitement by the Palestinians, steps by Arab states toward normalization with Israel; and, from Israel, actions on access and movement in the West Bank and on settlement activity. The discussions were constructive and will continue soon."

The two discussed ways to jumpstart the peace talks between Israel and the Palestinains. Barak made it clear that Israel is willing to pay a price for renewing the talks, but that the Arab world needs to contribute to the efforts as well. "We are weighing any positive contribution we can make to promote the peace efforts, while taking into consideration our security interests," he said.

No agreement was reached on freezing settlement construction. The US is demanding that Israel put an immediate moratorium on all building in the settlement blocs. However, the Obama administration is interested in decreasing the conflict that has flared between the US and Israel over the issue out of an understanding that such a state of affairs does not serve their interests in the Middle East.

Mitchell will arrive for another round of meetings in about two weeks. Until then, the Americans are expecting a number of goodwill gestures from Israel, such as easing restrictions on West Bank Palestinians.

Barak's entourage received the impression that the Americans understand that any demand for freezing settlement building must not be separate from an inclusive, regional peace process. Therefore, the US will also be looking for goodwill gestures from the Arab states.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Barak wants to delay decision on settlements

Defense minister to ask US to discuss settlement freeze only when talks with Palestinians begin; Washington Post columnists call on Obama to relinquish tough stance on settlements

Roni Sofer

Defense Minister Ehud Barak left for a visit to the US Monday afternoon, after a forum of ministers including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided not to freeze construction in West Bank settlements. Barak will attempt to soften the US and EU's stance on the issue by proposing that the future of the settlements be determined during talks with the Palestinians.

On Monday six ministers including Barak, Netanyahu, and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman met to discuss the issue of the settlements.

During the meeting Barak said an accord must be reached in order to prevent conflict with the US. The prime minister supported his view.

However Lieberman, together with ministers Benny Begin and Moshe Ya'alon of the Likud, said Israel should not compromise the future of settlements destined to remain within its borders.

Netanyahu and Barak said a decision on the issue could be delayed if Israel postponed discussion until talks with the Palestinians were underway. But the ministers were divided on whether preconditions should be determined before talks were started, or whether Israel should make gestures that would jumpstart the process.

Barak, who holds the latter view, said Israel should offer to temporarily freeze construction if this helped peace talks get underway. He said willingness to do so would alter Israel's "refusing" reputation.

The defense minister issued a statement saying "intimate" talks with the US were ongoing. "The talks with (George) Mitchell are a continuation of President Obama's speech in Cairo and Prime Minister Netanyahu's speech at Bar Ilan. Their aim is to promote the process of a regional accord in the Middle East," the statement said.

"Within this framework it is possible to hold efficient negotiations with the Palestinians. The questions regarding settlements can be solved in this dialogue."

Post columnists urge Obama to let go

Meanwhile, two Washington Post columnists have called on President Obama to relinquish his tough stance on the issue of the settlements.

Jackson Diehl, deputy editor of the Washington Post, wrote that "Obama began with a broad strategy of simultaneously pressing Israel, the Palestinians and Arab states to take concrete steps toward peace", but that this front had been "narrowed to a single point: a standoff with the Israeli government of Binyamin Netanyahu over whether 'natural growth' would be allowed in Jewish settlements".

David Ignatius wrote Monday that "the Obama team assumes that if it can pressure Israel into a real settlements freeze, the Arabs will respond with meaningful moves toward normalization of relations – which will give Israel some tangible benefits for its concessions".

He quotes a senior Arab diplomat whose stance negates these assumptions. "'What will I do in exchange for a settlements freeze? Nothing. We're not interested in confidence-building, or a step-by-step approach,'" Ignatius quotes him as saying. .

Israel Must be self-Reliant!

Steven Shamrak

In a reversal of her stated position as a presidential candidate, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton revealed that an Iranian attack on Israel would no longer be considered as an attack on America . Speaking during an interview on ABC TV, she said "I think there would be retaliation. And I think part of what is clear is, we want to avoid a - a Middle East arms race which leads to nuclear weapons being in the possession of other countries in the Middle East." She would not, however, repeat her explicit statement from 2008 that the U.S. would be a part of such retaliation. When asked if her new statement was official U.S. policy, Clinton dodged the question, "I think it is U.S. policy to the extent that we have alliances and understandings with a number of nations (too evasive). I don't think there is any doubt in anyone's mind that, were Israel to suffer a nuclear attack by Iran , there would be retaliation."

(After a nuclear attack, American 'retaliation' would bring little comfort to the remaining Jews in Israel! If some people did not have doubts about the US before they do now! The United States has never been an honest and reliable partner of Israel and many of its other allies, which were sold out when it was convenient for the United States. Israel was assured by the US that the Oslo agreement would not move toward a two-states solution, but it did; the understanding about Jewish settlement which Israel had with president Bush has been ignored and unilaterally thrown into the rubbish bin by the new administration and there is no longer any commitment "to come to Israel's defence". After a nuclear attack there would be little need for the US to defend Israel. Self-reliance and pursuit of the Jewish National goal is the best option for the survival of the Jewish state !)

The election in Iran has proved her wrong again. Only three months ago U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said: I want to see what the president's engagement will bring& I think there's an enormous amount of potential for change, if the Iranians are willing to pursue that." Even president Obama admitted "The difference between Ahmadinejad and Mousavi in terms of their actual policies may not be as great as has been advertised," "Either way we are going to be dealing with an Iranian regime that has historically been hostile to the United States."

Both Iranian presidential candidates are fundamentalists serving the Ayatollah's dictatorship. As Mossad chief Meir Dagan said "we mustn't forget Mousavi is the one who started the (Iranian) nuclear program." (Iranians are not willing to pursue change for peace - just a cosmetic change! Israel can neither wait for the actual nuclear attack from Iran nor afford the stupidity of wishful thinking and policy of appeasement the Obama administration has adopted!)

Food for Thought. by Steven Shamrak

Opening parking lots in Jerusalem on Sabbath, especially next to the Welling Wall, the holiest Jewish place - Isn't it like brining a lag of ham to Mecca?

Considering the response of the United States to one terror attack perpetrated by Al Quaida, what do you think the appropriate response by Israel should be after more than 60 years of continuous terror attacks perpetrated by or on behalf of fake nation, the Palestinians?

Obama and Clinton Lied Again! Elliot Abrams, who served under United States Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, took issue on Thursday with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's claims that there were no understandings between the Bush administration and Israel about construction for natural growth in Judea and Samaria. Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Abrams said, "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."

Emotional Cruelty of Hamas. Hamas cannot confirm or deny if captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit is still alive, said an official authorized to speak on the issue. "The crazy war on the Gaza Strip wiped out everything so we don't know if Shalit is still alive or if he has died". He said that Israel still has to go ahead with talks to exchange Shalit for a number of Arab prisoners "whether the soldier was dead or alive." ( For three years Hamas did not offer any proof of life, did not allow the IRC to visit Shalit, and changed its demands any time the negotiations came closer to an agreement. It means that since the abduction Hamas has been playing a cruel game!)

That is What They were After. Long time PA diplomat Saeb Erekat told the BBC that the Palestinians are currently in a position of strength compared to Israel, thanks to the pressure Washington is putting on the Netanyahu government. (Only self-respect and determination to achieve the Jewish National Goal can bring back strength to Israel and Jews!)

Quote of the Week:

"You ought to let the Jews have Jerusalem ; it was they who made it famous." - Winston Churchill to diplomat Evelyn Shuckburgh, 1955, Descent to Suez; Diaries 1951-1956 - Even he understood the importance of Jerusalem for Jews!

Jerusalem Will Always be Ours. "Unified Jerusalem is the capital of Israel . Jerusalem always has been and always will be ours and it will never be divided again," said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu "Jerusalem will never be divided again" ( To end any ambiguity and painful speculation, the idea of a Jewish "Unified Jerusalem" and all Jewish land must be adopted by the Knesset as the irreversible law of the state of Israel!)

Islamic Brotherly Love. The death toll from suicide truck bombing in northern Iraq has risen to almost 80 and wounded 211 people, destroying at least 50 buildings. It occurred in a busy area near a mosque in the town of Taza , about 10 miles southwest of Kirkuk. ( The different brands of Islam have been hating each other, as much as they despise infidels, for centuries. By isolating them the Western democracies will be able to prevent an Islamic onslaught and contain the spread of terror ! Whatever they do to each other in their own country is not our business.)

Will Biblical Ark be Revealed? Patriarch Abuna Pauolos of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church told reporters that the time had come to reveal the Holy Ark before the world: "The Ark of the Covenant has been in Ethiopia for many centuries. As Patriarch, I have seen it with my own eyes". But he failed on Friday to make good on a promise of an announcement regarding the Ark of the Covenant. (Was it a publicity stunt?)

Must the 'Show' Go on? Syrian President Bashar Assad rejected the offer of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for a resumption of peace talks between the two countries and stressed that Israel is well aware that the basis for talks is full withdrawal from the Golan Heights. (And this is after so many publicity stunts - promotion of Syrian interest to negotiate peace with Israel!)

Hypocricy of the Headlines.

"Israel seen as test of Obama's credibility" - Houston Chronicle - Why isn't the US president's credibility tested by resolving the current economic crisis, or implementation of promised health reforms or restoration of the crumbling and aging US infrastructure? Aren't those issues more important to American voters and weren't they promised to be resolved during the election campaign ?

New Broom in Lebanon with the Same Attitude. Lebanon will not conduct an independent peace track with Israel and may not even join the Arab peace initiative: "the Arab initiative includes many countries for the peace process, and Lebanon will come as we see fit." said Hariri, the 39-year-old so-called moderate leader of the largest parliamentary bloc, which dealt a major setback to Hizbullah and its Syrian and Iranian backers, but his hateful attitude toward Israel is the same as others!

It Is Expensive to Live under Terror Threat. A report in the Economist revealed that Israel has the highest per capita spending on defense in the world. Israel's total defense expenditure in 2008 was $16.2 billion, or a ratio of more than $2,300 per person. The United States posted the second largest ratio at $2,000 per person.

Illegal Arab Settlement on Jewish Land.

Over 100,000 Arabs Live Illegally on Jewish-Owned Land in Jerusalem and Israeli government and JNF do nothing about it!

Key land in Qalandiya and Kfar Akeb is owned by the Jewish National Fund (JNF), which over the years has allowed tens of thousands of Arabs to illegally squat on its land, resulting in the current Arab majority. The organization bought the land in the early 1920s using Jewish donor funds for the specific purpose of Jewish settlement.

Arabs first constructed facilities illegally in Qalandiya and Kfar Akeb between 1948 and 1967, prior to the 1967 Six-Day War during which Israel retook control of the entire city of Jerusalem . The bulk of illegal Arab construction in Qalandiya occurred in the past 20 years, with construction of several new Arab apartment complexes taking place in just the past two years. Neither the Israeli government nor JNF took any concrete measures to stop the illegal building, which continues today. (Why isn't President Obama talking about this illegal expansion of Arab settlements?).

Israeli Navy drops US Warship for made-in Israel option
by Yehudah Lev Kay

( The Israeli navy has dropped plans to purchase U.S. made warships and instead is exploring the possibility of a home-grown military shipbuilding industry, according to the website of Defense News.

The Ministry of Defense had originally planned on purchasing either the small Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) from Lockheed Martin or similar corvettes built by Northrop Grumman. However, costs for the LCS ships skyrocketed to $637 million, and costs for the corvettes were estimated at $450 million, both deemed prohibitive to the navy. “As much as we sought commonality with the U.S. Navy, it became much, much more expensive than planned,” a naval source said. “At the end of the day, we had no choice but to face that fact that, for us, it was unaffordable."

Instead, the ministry is now considering building two ships based on the German Meko A-100 corvette at the Israel Shipyards in Haifa, where the project would give a much-needed shot in the arm to the economy.

“One of the things we put on the table is how to vector our urgent operational needs into a project that can support local industry,” the source said. “We believe a strong case can be made for making this into a national project that fosters self sufficiency and provides all the economic benefits that come with creating a military shipbuilding industry.”

The 2,200-ton Meko was designed by the Hamburg-based ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems, which currently builds Dolphin-class submarines for the Israeli navy. The version to be built in Haifa would likely include on-board systems built by the Israel Aerospace Industries.

The main issue which needs to be worked out for the program to take off is how the defense ministry will finance a home-grown ship building plan estimated to cost $600 million.

“If political leaders determine that this is a critical national program, then it’s reasonable to expect significant funding to come from the Treasury,” a second naval officer said.

In addition, the navy is examining how a part of annual U.S. foreign military financing to Israel could be used to fund the project. Israel used part of those funds to finance the locally produced Merkava battle tank, which incorporates raw materials and an engine produced in the U.S.

The price for involving U.S. funds in the plan, however, is a limit on Israel’s ability to export the technology, as is the case with the Merkava.

Comments on PM Netanyahu's speech - from Israel

Submitted by Chana Givon, Jun 28, 2009 19:26

Dear Dr. Pipes,

Now that the long-awaited speech by PM Netanyahu has been delivered - with a bow to President Obama's demand re a 'Palestinian' state - we wonder what the American leader is prepared to do regarding Iran. We recognize his attempt to falsely link that country with the creation of an Arab state in Palestine. If it is the same as his belated response to the dangers of a more advanced threat of No. Korea - sanctions - then the world, including Israel, has gained little.. Iran is still behind in perfecting its nuclear capability and strict sanctions would be more likely to have an effect - if anything can - before it achieves its goal and threat to annihilate Israel. Those of us who have followed Obama's m.o. see him as one whose 'talk' is far greater than his 'walk'. It is as though by ignoring certain crises they will disappear.This does not demonstrate the strength that is required these days in coping with the creeping global danger of a radical ideology.

Now the question remains as to what is going to be required of Abbas. To this point, he has reneged on every demand made of them in the so-called 'peace process'. That empty expression should be discarded; it has been proven meaningless. A 'process' implies give and take on both sides - compromise - until an agreement is reached with neither side getting everything that it wants.

Time after time, Israel has been the only side to be held to more than the letter of the law. The Arab leadership has refused outright to disarm terrorists and disband them. Each time Israel has made 'painful concessions in the interest of peace' it has been the recipients of more vicious terrorism by an emboldened enemy. Israel's release of hundreds of terrorists has also brought little comfort to its families who have been deprived of comfort and closure by not knowing the whereabouts and welfare of their captured loved ones.

Israel's enemies have not lived up to the minimal laws of war ; the International Red Cross has not been permitted visitation rights or any kind of contact with a young soldier like Gilad Shalit. This is simply inhuman yet the world does little to force adherence to law. The U.N., created with such hope, has been proven to be useless; it has been hijacked by ruthless anti-Israel countries. Knowing that, we must wonder why President Obama is attempting to work through such an organization that has falsely validated and passed more resolutions against the Jewish state than any other country while ignoring more blatant examples of inhumanity such as Darfur.

The much publicized 'fresh start' that the present American administration has pursued with the Islamic world is about to be tested. The President's new path has been hailed by Abbas, Fatah, and Hamas, the terrorist entities who openly supported his candidacy and continue to do so, expressing satisfaction at finally having a president who 'understands' and will deliver for them. Abbas has the expectation that the US will pressure Israel to acquiescence to the PA demands. Now Mr. Obama has an opportunity to demonstrate whether or not the new path that he has chosen will enable him to make the necessary demand of his new admirers.

PM Netanyahu spoke eloquently; even at the risk of antagonizing many of his supporters who see danger in his offer to the Arabs. They remember too well Sharon's 14 reservations before agreeing to the Road Map and the fact that they were ignored. Israelis have not forgotten this shameful betrayal and it cannot be repeated. The ball is in President Obama's court.


Chana Givon

Jerusalem, Israel

Comments on PM Netanyahu's speech - from Israel

Submitted by Chana Givon, Jun 28, 2009 19:26

Dear Dr. Pipes,

Now that the long-awaited speech by PM Netanyahu has been delivered - with a bow to President Obama's demand re a 'Palestinian' state - we wonder what the American leader is prepared to do regarding Iran. We recognize his attempt to falsely link that country with the creation of an Arab state in Palestine. If it is the same as his belated response to the dangers of a more advanced threat of No. Korea - sanctions - then the world, including Israel, has gained little.. Iran is still behind in perfecting its nuclear capability and strict sanctions would be more likely to have an effect - if anything can - before it achieves its goal and threat to annihilate Israel. Those of us who have followed Obama's m.o. see him as one whose 'talk' is far greater than his 'walk'. It is as though by ignoring certain crises they will disappear.This does not demonstrate the strength that is required these days in coping with the creeping global danger of a radical ideology.

Now the question remains as to what is going to be required of Abbas. To this point, he has reneged on every demand made of them in the so-called 'peace process'. That empty expression should be discarded; it has been proven meaningless. A 'process' implies give and take on both sides - compromise - until an agreement is reached with neither side getting everything that it wants.

Time after time, Israel has been the only side to be held to more than the letter of the law. The Arab leadership has refused outright to disarm terrorists and disband them. Each time Israel has made 'painful concessions in the interest of peace' it has been the recipients of more vicious terrorism by an emboldened enemy. Israel's release of hundreds of terrorists has also brought little comfort to its families who have been deprived of comfort and closure by not knowing the whereabouts and welfare of their captured loved ones.

Israel's enemies have not lived up to the minimal laws of war ; the International Red Cross has not been permitted visitation rights or any kind of contact with a young soldier like Gilad Shalit. This is simply inhuman yet the world does little to force adherence to law. The U.N., created with such hope, has been proven to be useless; it has been hijacked by ruthless anti-Israel countries. Knowing that, we must wonder why President Obama is attempting to work through such an organization that has falsely validated and passed more resolutions against the Jewish state than any other country while ignoring more blatant examples of inhumanity such as Darfur.

The much publicized 'fresh start' that the present American administration has pursued with the Islamic world is about to be tested. The President's new path has been hailed by Abbas, Fatah, and Hamas, the terrorist entities who openly supported his candidacy and continue to do so, expressing satisfaction at finally having a president who 'understands' and will deliver for them. Abbas has the expectation that the US will pressure Israel to acquiescence to the PA demands. Now Mr. Obama has an opportunity to demonstrate whether or not the new path that he has chosen will enable him to make the necessary demand of his new admirers.

PM Netanyahu spoke eloquently; even at the risk of antagonizing many of his supporters who see danger in his offer to the Arabs. They remember too well Sharon's 14 reservations before agreeing to the Road Map and the fact that they were ignored. Israelis have not forgotten this shameful betrayal and it cannot be repeated. The ball is in President Obama's court.


Chana Givon

Jerusalem, Israel


Jun. 29, 2009

For a brief moment it seemed that US President Barack Obama was moved by the recent events in Iran. On Friday, he issued his harshest statement yet on the mullocracy's barbaric clampdown against its brave citizens who dared to demand freedom in the aftermath of June 12's stolen presidential elections. Speaking of the protesters Obama said, "Their bravery in the face of brutality is a testament to their enduring pursuit of justice. The violence perpetrated against them is outrageous. In spite of the government's efforts to keep the world from bearing witness to that violence, we see it and we condemn it."

While some noted the oddity of Obama's attribution of the protesters' struggle to the "pursuit of justice," rather than the pursuit of freedom - which is what they are actually fighting for - most Iran watchers in Washington and beyond were satisfied with his statement.

Alas, it was a false alarm. On Sunday Obama dispatched his surrogates - presidential adviser David Axelrod and UN Ambassador Susan Rice - to the morning talk shows to make clear that he has not allowed mere events to influence his policies.

After paying lip service to the Iranian dissidents, Rice and Axelrod quickly cut to the chase. The Obama administration does not care about the Iranian people or their struggle with the theocratic totalitarians who repress them. Whether Iran is an Islamic revolutionary state dedicated to the overthrow of the world order or a liberal democracy dedicated to strengthening it, is none of the administration's business.

Obama's emissaries wouldn't even admit that after stealing the election and killing hundreds of its own citizens, the regime is illegitimate. As Rice put it, "Legitimacy obviously is in the eyes of the people. And obviously the government's legitimacy has been called into question by the protests in the streets. But that's not the critical issue in terms of our dealings with Iran."

No, whether an America-hating regime is legitimate or not is completely insignificant to the White House. All the Obama administration wants to do is go back to its plan to appease the mullahs into reaching an agreement about their nuclear aspirations. And for some yet-to-be-explained reason, Obama and his associates believe they can make this regime -- which as recently as Friday called for the mass murder of its own citizens, and as recently as Saturday blamed the US for the Iranian people's decision to rise up against the mullahs -- reach such an agreement.

IN STAKING out a seemingly hard-nosed, unsentimental position on Iran, Obama and his advisers would have us believe that unlike their predecessors, they are foreign policy "realists." Unlike Jimmy Carter, who supported the America-hating mullahs against the America-supporting shah 30 years ago in the name of his moralistic post-Vietnam War aversion to American exceptionalism, Obama supports the America-hating mullahs against the America-supporting freedom protesters because all he cares about are "real" American interests.

So too, unlike George W. Bush, who openly supported Iran's pro-American democratic dissidents against the mullahs due to his belief that the advance of freedom in Iran and throughout the world promoted US national interests, Obama supports the anti-American mullahs who butcher these dissidents in the streets and abduct and imprison them by the thousands due to his "hard-nosed" belief that doing so will pave the way for a meeting of the minds with their oppressors.

Yet Obama's policy is anything but realistic. By refusing to support the dissidents, he is not demonstrating that he is a realist. He is showing that he is immune to reality. He is so committed to appeasing the likes of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Ali Khamenei that he is incapable of responding to actual events, or even of taking them into account for anything other than fleeting media appearances meant to neutralize his critics.

Rice and Axelrod demonstrated the administration's determination to eschew reality when they proclaimed that Ahmadinejad's "reelection" is immaterial. As they see it, appeasement isn't dead since it is Khamenei - whom they deferentially refer to as "the supreme leader" - who sets Iran's foreign policy.

While Khamenei is inarguably the decision maker on foreign policy, his behavior since June 12 has shown that he is no moderate. Indeed, as his post-election Friday "sermon" 10 days ago demonstrated, he is a paranoid, delusional America-bashing tyrant. In that speech he called Americans "morons" and accused them of being the worst human-rights violators in the world, in part because of the Clinton administration's raid on the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas in 1993.

Perhaps what is most significant about Obama's decision to side with anti-American tyrants against pro-American democrats in Iran is that it is utterly consistent with his policies throughout the world. From Latin America to Asia to the Middle East and beyond, after six months of the Obama administration it is clear that in its pursuit of good ties with America's adversaries at the expense of America's allies, it will not allow actual events to influence its "hard-nosed" judgments.

TAKE THE ADMINISTRATION'S response to the Honduran military coup on Sunday. While the term "military coup" has a lousy ring to it, the Honduran military ejected president Manuel Zelaya from office after he ignored a Supreme Court ruling backed by the Honduran Congress which barred him from holding a referendum this week that would have empowered him to endanger democracy.

Taking a page out of his mentor Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez's playbook, Zelaya acted in contempt of his country's democratic institutions to move forward with his plan to empower himself to serve another term in office. To push forward with his illegal goal, Zelaya fired the army's chief of staff. And so, in an apparent bid to prevent Honduras from going the way of Daniel Ortega's Nicaragua and becoming yet another anti-American Venezuelan satellite, the military - backed by Congress and the Supreme Court - ejected Zelaya from office.

And how did Obama respond? By seemingly siding with Zelaya against the democratic forces in Honduras who are fighting him. Obama said in a written statement: "I am deeply concerned by reports coming out of Honduras regarding the detention and expulsion of president Mel Zelaya."

His apparent decision to side with an anti-American would-be dictator is unfortunately par for the course. As South and Central America come increasingly under the control of far-left America-hating dictators, as in Iran, Obama and his team have abandoned democratic dissidents in the hope of currying favor with anti-American thugs. As Mary Anastasia O'Grady has documented in The Wall Street Journal, Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have refused to say a word about democracy promotion in Latin America.

Rather than speak of liberties and freedoms, Clinton and Obama have waxed poetic about social justice and diminishing the gaps between rich and poor. In a recent interview with the El Salvadoran media, Clinton said, "Some might say President Obama is left-of-center. And of course that means we are going to work well with countries that share our commitment to improving and enhancing the human potential."

But not, apparently, enhancing human freedoms.

FROM IRAN to Venezuela to Cuba, from Myanmar to North Korea to China, from Sudan to Afghanistan to Iraq to Russia to Syria to Saudi Arabia, the Obama administration has systematically taken human rights and democracy promotion off America's agenda. In their place, it has advocated "improving America's image," multilateralism and a moral relativism that either sees no distinction between dictators and their victims or deems the distinctions immaterial to the advancement of US interests.

While Obama's supporters champion his "realist" policies as a welcome departure from the "cowboy diplomacy" of the Bush years, the fact of the matter is that in country after country, Obama's supposedly pragmatic and nonideological policy has either already failed - as it has in North Korea - or is in the process of failing. The only place where Obama may soon be able to point to a success is in his policy of coercing Israel to adopt his anti-Semitic demand to bar Jews from building homes in Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria. According to media reports, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has authorized Defense Minister Ehud Barak to offer to freeze all settlement construction for three months during his visit to Washington this week.

Of course, in the event that Obama has achieved his immediate goal of forcing Netanyahu to his knees, its accomplishment will hinder rather than advance his wider goal of achieving peace between Israel and its neighbors. Watching Obama strong-arm the US's closest ally in the region, the Palestinians and the neighboring Arab states have become convinced that there is no reason to make peace with the Jews. After all, Obama is demonstrating that he will deliver Israel without their having to so much as wink in the direction of peaceful coexistence.

So if Obama's foreign policy has already failed or is in the process of failing throughout the world, why is he refusing to reassess it? Why, with blood running through the streets of Iran, is he still interested in appeasing the mullahs? Why, with Venezuela threatening to invade Honduras for Zelaya, is he siding with Zelaya against Honduran democrats? Why, with the Palestinians refusing to accept the Jewish people's right to self-determination, is he seeking to expel some 500,000 Jews from their homes in the interest of appeasing the Palestinians? Why, with North Korea threatening to attack the US with ballistic missiles, is he refusing to order the USS John McCain to interdict the suspected North Korean missile ship it has been trailing for the past two weeks? Why, when the Sudanese government continues to sponsor the murder of Darfuris, is the administration claiming that the genocide in Darfur has ended?

The only reasonable answer to all of these questions is that far from being nonideological, Obama's foreign policy is the most ideologically driven since Carter's tenure in office. If when Obama came into office there was a question about whether he was a foreign policy pragmatist or an ideologue, his behavior in his first six months in office has dispelled all doubt. Obama is moved by a radical, anti-American ideology that motivates him to dismiss the importance of democracy and side with anti-American dictators against US allies.

For his efforts, although he is causing the US to fail to secure its aims as he
himself has defined them in arena after arena, he is successfully securing the support of the most radical, extreme leftist factions in American politics.

Like Carter before him, Obama may succeed for a time in evading public scrutiny for his foreign-policy failures because the public will be too concerned with his domestic failures to notice them. But in the end, his slavish devotion to his radical ideological agenda will ensure that his failures reach a critical mass.

And then they will sink him.

This article can also be read at /servlet/Satellite?cid=1246296529986&pagename=JPArticle%2FShowFull

Monday, June 29, 2009

Violence in Iran: What the West Needs to Know – Part One of a Series, ‘Three Questions for Dr. Walid Phares’

W. Thomas Smith, Jr.

The violent crackdown continues in the wake of Iran’s disputed June 12th presidential elections in which – according to the Wall Street Journal – “hard-line clerics have rallied behind Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in supporting President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's declared landslide poll victory.” Hardly a “victory,” much less a “landslide” – so say supporters of opposition candidates Mir Hossein Mousavi and and Mehdi Karroubi, who have “challenged the vote, alleging widespread vote-rigging.”

Despite restrictions on media, at least 20 people have reportedly been killed and hundreds wounded by Basij militia forces. Some sources suggest the death toll is much higher. And it doesn’t appear as if the mullahs, Ahmadinejad, and their cronies are going to let up until any hint of expressed opposition is crushed.

Additionally, according to the Kuwaiti newspaper Alseyassah, the leadership of Lebanon-based Hizballah is appealing to the Iranian regime – literally the hand that feeds Hizballah – to use all means to quash the opposition movement in Iran. Alseyassah also reports “a number of troops of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps [IRGC] in Kuwait, Iraq, Lebanon and Syria have been recalled to Tehran ... to join the Tha’r Allah [Vengeance of God] forces … These special forces are in charge of protecting the regime."

Saturday, I discussed Iran with Middle East expert Dr. Walid Phares – director of the Future of Terrorism Project for the Foundation for Defense of Democracies – for the initial Q&A in what will be an ongoing series of interviews, Three Questions for Dr. Walid Phares, providing timely perspective on Middle East issues and international terrorism as events unfold.

W. THOMAS SMITH JR.: Considering the large pro-democracy turnouts in recent elections in Lebanon and Iran – and the now seeming desperation on the part of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps to quash all dissent – is the IRGC, its Quds force, Hizballah, etc., on the ropes? Does the West now have a strategic opportunity here?

DR. WALID PHARES: The Iranian people have a unique opportunity to liberate themselves from 30-years of oppression embodied by the Vilayet e-Faqih Jihadist regime with its Pasdaran and Basij militias. Such windows of opportunity come only once every one or two decades, and many young Iranians understand this. Hence we have this explosive uprising in the streets of Tehran, and we will continue to see urban opposition for a long time inside Iran.

Moreover, the Lebanese people, who have been under the yoke of Hizballah terror for a quarter century, also have an unexpected opening wherein regional support for Hizballah may be declining inasmuch as Iran's regime may well lose its ability to support Hizballah. Lebanon's Cedars Revolution, which has been under attack for the last four years, may also derive tremendous benefit from the youth uprising in Tehran. But even though both civil societies in Iran and Lebanon are looking at a generational opportunity to defeat the terror system in the region, it is really in the hands of the free world and particularly in the hands of the United States to either hasten the advance of democracy or let go of the latter, allowing the Pasdaran to win.

There seems to be an amazing alignment of the planets in favor of pushing back against these terror forces in the region, but Washington will have to say “yes” or “no” to the international push. Iranians and Lebanese can only struggle, but America and other democracies can make it happen soon or in the far future. So, Pasdaran, Quds force and Hizballah aren't on the ropes as you say. But with a quick, serious international alignment of the international community coordinating with the uprising, these militias can be isolated and their terror power significantly reduced. If the West doesn't realize this huge change taking place now out of Tehran and take action, the so-called “Tha’r Allah” forces will become an extremely dangerous tool in the hands of a surviving angry regime.

SMITH: Is there not also an increased danger of an IRGC-inspired attack elsewhere in the world, to divert attention from Thar Allah operations in Iran?

PHARES: Obviously. Strategically, the Iranian regime is bleeding politically. Its credibility is gone, even if it crushes the opposition and pursues the youth across the country. And when such regimes see their political shields shattered, they begin acting irrationally and preemptively. Iran's billions of petrodollars invested in propaganda via satellite TV, as well as the infiltration and influence of Western media have built an unnatural image of the regime camouflaging the oppression. As a result, journalists and academics have described Iran's Khomeinist regime as “reasonable, stable, and with whom democracies can conduct business.” The young men and women on the streets of Tehran have come very close to destroying this expensive public-relations image. Hence, the IRGC could be tasked to strike at targets overseas and engage in terror regionally as a means of deflecting attention from the “Tha’r Allah” operations inside the so-called "republic." The international community in general, Western democracies in particular must be very attentive to the possibility of Pasdaran-guided, ordered and/or inspired terror operations worldwide as the crisis inside Iran persists. Therefore, it is crucial that the West in general and the United States in particular work on backing the democratic uprising in Iran now before the Pasdaran takes them by surprise. This is not an issue of luxurious choice, it is a matter of national security.

SMITH: What is the West failing to understand, that we must get our heads around regarding the IRGC – its subsidiaries like Hizballah – and the “Tha’r Allah” forces?

PHARES: As of the fall of 2006, early 2007, the pro-Iranian-regime lobby in the United States – and some other Western countries – has succeeded in imposing a new equation regarding Iran. Whether it is because of propositions of oil advantages or false promises of help in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is a fact that the Iran policy in the United States has shifted during the last two years of the Bush Administration and throughout the current Obama administration from considering the Iranian regime as a strategic foe supporting terrorism to just a nuisance with which one might cut a deal. U.S. policy has reached a summit of contradictions as its intelligence and legal components consider the Pasdaran and Quds force, as well as Hizballah, as terrorists; yet our political decision-makers look at the Iran of Khamenei as a potential partner in regional political business. The West – particularly the U.S. and the UK – knows all too well that the IRGC and Hizballah are strategic threats but a political decision was made to disregard this reality hoping that it would – or could – end when the “engagement path” would bare fruit. This is a dangerous game, a bet that is irrational, which may cost democracies greater losses and the region's civil societies longer oppression. The Tehran uprising should be viewed as an event of destiny, and it should open Western eyes. Let’s see if Washington and London figure it out and change course or stubbornly continue toward the precipice.

— Visit W. Thomas Smith Jr. at

"Their Jail Is Islam, and Changing the Warden from One Thug to Another Won't Set Them Free"

Diana West
Saturday, June 27, 2009 6:48 AM
Over at Family Security Matters, Ruth King tells it like it is ... to women. She writes:

I am dismayed by a number of stylish, well coiffed, décolleté and manicured “feminists” in America, including Iranian expatriates, who urge the courageous women of Iran to continue their bloody struggle against the regime in Iran without naming the real enemy….Sharia. It is like telling them to die in vain.

The poster-boy for the rebellion is Moussavi and he and his “reformist” wife, who dresses in hijab, utter not a single word of opposition to Sharia, the cruel, misogynist Islamic law that oppresses women and reduces them to the status of animal.
Revolution cannot be successful if sacrifice brings more Islamic repression and degradation with another face and a new set of Ayatollahs. Their jail is Islam and changing the warden from one thug to another will not set them free.

Soaring line. King goes on to address the "women of Iran." She tells them:

Freedom is what I see daily in my supermarket…women in saris, in hijab, Orthodox Jewish women in wigs or headscarves, girls in miniskirts, girls with navel rings who live and play and love and pray without fear of “honor killings” or stoning or lashing or rape, or forced marriages even at the pre-puberty age of nine. [DW: Sadly, these barbarous Islamic practices are now taking place in Muslim populations in Western societies.]

Freedom is not just the right to vote for candidates that are both sides of the same coin. It is the right to live without fear that your father or your brothers will murder you for committing adultery or apostasy or a perceived insult to the Prophet. It is the right to read books…porn if you choose….see movies from musicals to erotica….to dance and to kiss in public….to divorce or marry …to drive and to travel and to choose how and when and if you must wear that scarf, all with the protection of the state and not the religious dictates of the state.

You are being compared to the crowds of oppressed people who brought down the Soviet Empire. They named their enemy. It was an evil ideology named Communism. Your enemy is an evil ideology named Sharia, which enables your tormentors....

Semantically speaking, I prefer to label the ideology "Islam"; sharia (Islamic law) is its application. But I wonder whether King's rousing words can be understood across the Western-Islamic divide? That is, to what extent are people, women -- Muslims -- in Iran secularly motivated to throw off the coils of sharia, an act of apostasy that would place them in direct, full-frontal opposition to Islam? Frankly, rejecting Islam is quite a lot to expect of a people brought up in an Islamic nation, particularly one such as mullah - and sharia-ruled Iran. Indeed, we have seen scant indicators of this so far. This, of course, doesn't matter to our pundit-ocracy, which has failed to note the connection between Islam and repression to date. Regardless, Ruth King's main point -- the craven ommision by Westerners to identify the Islamic ideology that oppresses these people, particularly these women, is certainly where our own impotence and failure begin -- and with dire consequences to our own liberty.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Czechs weren’t invited to Munich, either

News item:

Foreign ministers of Group of Eight countries urged Israel to halt all settlement construction in the West Bank Friday, during a meeting in Italy largely focusing on recent events in Iran. They also called on Israelis and Palestinians to renew direct negotiations over all disputed issues. Also meeting Friday on the sidelines of the summit is the Mideast Quartet - the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations - to try to help move the Israeli-Palestinian peace process forward…

A range of Arab League nations will join in a follow-on session Friday afternoon. Israel was not invited; the Italian Foreign Ministry said that decision was taken by the Quartet, not Italy.

The BBC reports that the Quartet has also asked for Israel “to stop all West Bank settlement building activity and to open its border crossings.” Palestinians have demanded this as a precondition for resuming negotiations.

It’s almost too easy to point out that in 1938 the Czechs were not invited to the Munich conference either. Of course this meeting will not produce a document with such immediate impact on Israel as the Munich diktat had for Czechoslovakia, but the sense of powerful nations deciding the fate of a small one in consultation with its enemies remains.

If a Martian asked me why the ‘Quartet’ — the UN, EU, US and Russia — is particularly suited to bring about a just peace between Israel and the Palestinians, I would not be able to answer. The UN is dominated by Muslim and third-world countries and has been particularly hostile to Israel for decades. The EU’s member nations have important economic relationships with Arab oil producers, and also have political and psychological reasons for tilting toward the Palestinians. The EU quietly funds many NGOs whose output is significantly biased against Israel. Russia, a traditionally antisemitic nation, has economic ties with Iran and also feels threatened by Israel’s nuclear capability.

This leaves the US as the sole member of the Quartet that might be expected to support Israel, but it is becoming increasingly clear that the Obama Administration has few — if any — power centers opposed to the anti-Israel forces in the State Department, the CIA and the Pentagon (which has undergone significant changes since the early part of the previous administration). Add to this the fact that President Obama himself seems to be taking a tack designed to improve relations between the US and the Muslim world, and one wonders who will represent Israel’s interests in this group.

Technorati Tags: Israel, Mideast Quartet