Saturday, August 01, 2009

Saudi FM: No gestures toward Israel

Aug. 1, 2009
Saudi Arabia on Friday sharply rejected American calls for gestures towards Israel, a central component of US efforts to pave the way for peace talks.

"Incrementalism and a step-by-step approach has not and - we believe - will not achieve peace. Temporary security, confidence-building measures will also not bring peace," Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal said at a State Department press conference. "What is required is a comprehensive approach that defines the final outcome at the outset and launches into negotiations over final status issues: borders, Jerusalem, water, refugees and security."
Yet US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who appeared alongside Saud following their meeting Friday afternoon, downplayed his comments and the extent to which the attitude damages the US's Arab-Israeli peace program.

Asked repeatedly whether Saud's comments made America's efforts more difficult, Clinton responded, "No, I don't think so at all."

Instead, she said, "I think that the efforts we are undertaking are to create a negotiation that will lead to a comprehensive settlement in the interests of both the Palestinian and the Israeli people," and indicated that Saud's perspective was in line with that.

To that end, US Mideast Envoy George Mitchell has been meeting with Israeli, Palestinian and Arab officials to restart talks. The US has demanded a settlement freeze from Israel, and that Palestinians stop incitement against Israel and continue security reforms, but have also repeatedly called for Arab countries to take steps to indicate they are serious about peace and are moving towards normalizing ties with Israel.

The Arab Peace Initiative, of which Saudi Arabia was the chief architect and which Saud endorsed again at the press conference, promises Israel full normalization in exchange for Israeli withdrawal from the territories it captured in 1967 as well as resolutions on Jerusalem and Palestinian refugees.

But both Israel and the US, which has praised the Arab initiative as a positive move, would like to see some steps taken now as a show of goodwill that could encourage the Israeli public to make difficult compromises.

US officials have spoken of the possibility of Arab countries opening up trade missions with Israel, allowing Israeli aircraft overflight rights and granting tourist visas to Israelis.

But Saud charged, "Israel is trying to distract by shifting attention from the core issue - an end to the occupation that began in '67 and the establishment of a Palestinian state - to incidental issues such as academic conferences and civil aviation matters. This is not the way to peace."

He also indicated that Israel's adherence to a settlement freeze would not change his position when questioned on the subject by a reporter. "Israel has refused a settlement freeze. And this is why we believe that making conditions right for a settlement is not by making gestures. It is by delving into the real issues."

Saud, however, did praise the US intensification of diplomacy in the region and suggested that "a bold and historic step" from the United States would be helpful. Indeed, several Arab leaders have been urging the US to present its own initiative, though so far, the US efforts have focused on pressing for the incremental moves Saud rejected in order to create a new dynamic. The US push for a total settlement freeze is part of this program, with the US expectation being that such a dramatic move would enable the Saudis and other Arab states to take the steps they are now resisting.

Israel has so far agreed to some limits on settlement activity, but has rebuffed calls for a halt to "natural growth," or all construction in existing settlements. Reports indicate, however, that Mitchell is hammering out a deal whereby Israel would be able to continue certain projects which have already started while stopping all others. He has met with top Israeli leaders over the past few weeks and Clinton, who declined to discuss the details of such a deal at the press conference, did say that "we feel like we're making headway."

Meanwhile, some 224 members of Congress signed a letter to Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah calling for precisely the measures that Saud rejected and chastising the country for its stance.

"In his address to the Muslim world in Cairo, President Barack Obama called on Arab states to live up to their responsibility and recognize Israeli legitimacy," reads the letter, which was co-sponsored by Brad Sherman (D-California) and whose bi-partisan co-signatories including leading members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. "We have been disappointed thus far to see the public reaction of your government to President Obama's request. Rather than expressing willingness to break down barriers between Arabs and Israelis, your foreign minister asserted that Saudi Arabia could not take any step toward normalization before the return of all Arab land."

The missive also refers to the overtures to Israel made by Jordan's King Hussein and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, the latter who visited Jerusalem before signing a peace treaty with Israel.

"We urge you to assert a strong leadership role and help lead the Middle East to a new era of peace and reconciliation by stepping forward with a dramatic gesture toward Israel akin to the steps taken earlier by the leaders of Egypt and Jordan," the letter states. "We believe that such a step on your part can help open the door to a better future and will reinforce the initiative undertaken by President Obama in Cairo."

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Obama fails to name anti-Semitism envoy

Etgar Lefkovits , THE JERUSALEM POST
The Obama administration has failed to name an envoy for monitoring and combating anti-Semitism around the world as mandated by US law since the previous ambassador was relieved of his duties at the start of the president's term more than six months ago, officials said Thursday.

The failure to name a new envoy for the
post raises questions about the importance the new administration attaches to the fight against anti-Semitism, said Rafael Medoff, director of the Washington DC-based David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies.

"Foot-dragging on the selection sends a message that anti-Semitism is not of great importance to the United States," Medoff wrote in a monograph to be published by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs titled "The Politics of the American Response to Global Anti-Semitism."

According to Medoff, "At a time when anti-Semitism remains a staple of government propaganda in the Middle East, when violent anti-Semitic incidents are reported almost daily throughout Europe, and when even the streets of Washington are not untouched by anti-Semitism's violent potential, that is the wrong message to send."

The State Department's Office of the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, which was established by a Congressional initiative in 2004, advocates American policy on anti-Semitism both in the US and internationally.

The proposal to establish such an office was initially opposed by the Bush administration, which took 18 months to appoint an envoy to head the office, Medoff said.

The envoy, Dr. Gregg Rickman, was removed from his post when the Obama administration took office in January in keeping with standard policy when a president of a different party takes power.

"On the one hand, it is understandable that at a time of multiple domestic and foreign crises, the Obama administration does not see this position as a top-tier concern," Medoff wrote. "Yet it is nevertheless surprising how far down anti-Semitism appears to have slid on the new administration's list of priorities, particularly when it was the Democrats themselves who fought so hard to create the position over the vehement opposition of the Bush administration."

A White House spokesman referred queries on the issue Thursday to the State Department. A State Department official said Thursday that upon the inauguration of a new president, ambassadors from the previous administration tender their resignations.

The official said that as with all Ambassadorial and other senior positions, there is an appointment process, which is ongoing, that includes the president nominating a candidate followed by Senate confirmation.

Guest Comment: An envoy to monitor anti-Semitism? Puleez!!! Stop this silliness..He would have to name "J" Street as a co-conspirator, slam Rabbi Yoffie, expose Rahm Emanuel and his sadistic brother, Dennis Ross, ...they, and all those who bash Israel contribute mightily to the spread of anti-Semitism…so please spare us all the pieties...

Friday, July 31, 2009

A Jewish and Non-Legitimate State

Mordechai Kedar

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish nation-state, or as the rightful homeland of the Jewish People, is a necessary condition of any future Israeli-Palestinian peace treaty – according to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Arab and Islamic leaders have rejected this demand. The reason for Arab inability and unwillingness to consider Netanyahu's demand is the fact that the Islamic world is ideologically incapable of according legitimacy to the State of Israel, for deep-seated religious, nationalistic and historical reasons.
Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has set out five conditions for the conclusion of an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal involving establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel. The first, and the hardest for the Arab world to accept, is Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish nation-state, or as the rightful homeland of the Jewish People. In fact, it is close to impossible, because Islam is intrinsically incapable of according legitimacy to the State of Israel for the embedded ideological reasons detailed below.

The First Component: Religion

According to Islam, the Jewish religion was invalidated by the birth of Christianity, which in turn was invalidated by the arrival of Islam. This concept was set down in the Koran: “Surely the true religion with Allah is Islam” (Chapter 3, Verse 19). Thus Allah does not recognize any other religion besides Islam. Islam – according to its own perception – brought the message of truth to the world, after the Jews and Christians changed and distorted the word of Allah given to them. In light of their conduct, Allah removed their religious role and theological message and passed it to the Muslims, who are the sole “believers.” Thus, Islam’s basic approach is not that it came to the world to exist alongside other religions as equal among equals, but to replace them.

A conclusion from this is that Judaism as a religion has lost its significance and role in the world. If so, how could one establish a Jewish state? And how could one claim that land can be holy to Judaism after this religion has been declared null and void? And since when do Jews – members of a meaningless religion – have the right to a state in any land, after they betrayed Allah and refused to accept Din al-Haqq "the religion of truth," Islam? In practice, Islam recognized the Jews as “people of the Book” and not as infidels, although on condition that they live under Islamic rule as "dhimmis" – protégés of Islam, and “pay the Jizya (per capita tax) with willing submission.” (Koran Chapter 9, Verse 29). However, once they conquered land, and killed and deported Muslims, they lost the privileges granted to them by the “Pact of Omar.”

Therefore, Israel’s demand that Islam recognize it as a state for the Jewish People contradicts the most basic tenets of Islam, which view Judaism as null and void. Israel’s demand actually requires Islam to recognize Judaism as a legitimate religion even though God himself stated in the Koran that “whoever seeks a religion other than Islam, will never be accepted” (Chapter 3, Verse 85).

The Second Component: Nationality

Judaism is perceived in the Islamic world as a communal religion, without either an ethnic or national basis. There are other instances of this. The people living in Iraq consist of many religious groups: Muslims, Christians, Sabaiis, Mandeans, Yazidis, and Jews. They are all members of the Arab nation, all sons of the Iraqi people and they all have a place in Iraqi land. There are Arab Iraqi Muslims, Arab Iraqi Christians and Arab Iraqi Jews, all members of religious communities which are part of the Iraqi people. The same goes for Yemen – which has Arab Yemenite Muslims and Arab Yemenite Jews, and for Morocco and the rest of the Islamic states, which have Jewish, Muslim, and Christian communities. Furthermore, from an Islamic perspective this is a way to view other countries: the Jew in Poland is Polish from an ethnic perspective and Jewish from a religious perspective. The French Jew is a member of the French nation who practices Judaism. Thus, there are no ethnic Jews in the world, just as there are no ethnic Christians or Muslims.

Suddenly, Jewish communities declare that they are one people, sharing the same ethnic background, as if all the Jews in the world look alike, speak the same language, share customs and cuisine, and dress in similar fashion! This is the "great lie" of the Zionist movement, according to Islamists: creating a Jewish people out of nothing, and trying to convince the world at large that a Jewish People does indeed exist. Even worse, these Jewish communities have decided to migrate to Palestine, to "displace" the original inhabitants and to establish a state, whose name has no connection to the Jewish people but to the mythological Sons of Israel. So, from the Islamic perspective, how can one recognize this state as the "State of the Jewish People” – an ethnic group that does not really exist?

The Third Component: Land

Palestine was sanctified as Muslim land by two acts. The first was its conquest during the period of Khalif Omar bin al-Khattab in the third decade of the seventh century. This placed Palestine within the group of countries which were under Islamic rule, like Spain, Sicily and part of the Balkans, and which must be returned to the bosom of Islam. The second act was the Islamic tradition which claims that the Khalif Omar declared Palestine, from the sea to the Jordan, as Waqf (holy endowment) land, consecrated for all Muslim generations forever. So how can the Jews – whose religion is illegitimate and who are not an ethnic people – demand that the Muslims recognize the conquest of the land of Palestine which is holy to Muslims alone?

Ideological Realities

Thus, according to Islam, the State of Israel is not legitimate. From a religious point of view, Judaism is void. The Jewish nation is an invention of the Zionist movement. The land called "Israel" is considered Islamic Waqf land, consecrated for Muslims.

Netanyahu’s insistence on recognition of the state as a Jewish nation-state contradicts the Islamic faith, and questions the very essence of Islam, whose relevance is based on the invalidity of Judaism (and Christianity as well).

Therefore, there is no escape from the conclusion that Israel’s struggle for survival is religiously based, even if externally it assumes the form of a territorial struggle. It does not matter what its size, Israel will never gain recognition by the Arab and Muslim world as a legitimate state. Similarly, international documents which legitimize the "Jewish State," such as United Nations General Assembly Resolution 181 of 29 November 1947, are viewed by Muslims as illegitimate.

Many say: “You are turning a territorial conflict into a religious one,” when they mean to say that territorial concessions would facilitate the recognition of the Arabs and Muslims in the legitimacy of the State of Israel. Such a statement assumes that the Arab and Muslim world is as secular as our own, and shares our concepts, values and priorities. This is the result of Israeli and Western ignorance of all that is related to Islam and the Arab world, derived from the fact that Westerners do not understand Arabic and Arab and Islamic culture. Israelis and Westerners alike are not exposed to the harsh truths which are expressed in the local tongues, and are well-concealed by spokesmen of “inter-religious dialogue.”

Recognition of Israel as a legitimate Jewish nation-state has no hope or chance as long as Islam perceives itself – and itself alone – as “the true religion with Allah.”

Dr. Mordechai Kedar, a research associate at the BESA Center and a lecturer in the departments of Arabic and Middle East Studies at Bar-Ilan University, is a 25-year veteran of IDF Military Intelligence specializing in Syria, Lebanon, the Palestinians and Islamic groups.

BESA Perspectives is published through the generosity of the Littauer Foundation.

Israel targets foreign gov't NGO funds

Recent revelations about foreign government funding for local NGOs involved in political activity have triggered discussions by senior Israeli officials about the possibility of making such aid illegal, The Jerusalem Post has learned.

The senior officials are looking into whether it might be possible to ban donations from foreign governments to political NGOs, just as it is forbidden for foreign residents, let alone governments, to contribute to Israeli political parties.
One of the questions that will have to be addressed, according to an official involved in the discussions, is what constitutes a political NGO. While it seems that there is an obvious distinction between an organization like Hadassah, which funds hospitals, and one like Breaking the Silence, which has a perceived political agenda, the distinctions would have to be spelled out in legislation.

The discussion follows Post revelations that foreign governments are funding of Breaking the Silence, which last week added its voice to a number of NGOs that have issued scathing reports of the IDF's activities in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead.

Israel has already contacted the Dutch and British governments about their funding of the organization, and is expected to soon take up the matter with the Spanish government as well.

The Spanish Foreign Ministry's agency for international development cooperation budgeted 80,000 for Breaking the Silence in 2009. It allocated 100,000 for the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, and another 80,000 for the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, a group led by far-left activist Jeff Halper.

Halper was arrested last year for setting sail from Cyprus for the Gaza Strip in a symbolic effort to break Israel's blockade of the Strip.

The Post has learned that the Spanish Foreign Ministry agency has also committed itself to giving 70,000 this year to Rabbis for Human Rights.

Ron Dermer, chief of policy planning in the Prime Minister's Office, decried the funding of political NGOs by foreign governments as a "blatant and unacceptable" intervention into Israel's internal affairs.

"Just as it would be unacceptable for European governments to support anti-war NGOs in the US, it is unacceptable for the Europeans to support local NGOs opposed to the policies of Israel's democratically-elected government," he said.

Moreover, Dermer said, what makes it worse is that some of the NGOs are not merely opposed to specific policies, but "are working to delegitimize the Jewish state."

Juan Gonzales, the No. 2 at the Spanish Embassy in Tel Aviv, said money his government gave the NGOs was based on the principles of "Spanish cooperation" and that it was not always easy to judge and decide which groups should get funds. He said he did not know on what grounds it was decided to support the various NGOs in Israel.

Also among the left-wing groups known to receive foreign funding are Peace Now, B'Tselem and Machsom Watch, which focus on Israel's treatment of Palestinians and settlements.

Gonzales said there might be some instances where such donations might raise concern from one of the countries where the NGOs operate, and in that case Madrid would be open to a dialogue. The Spanish government had not received any complaint from Israel on the matter, he said.

Israel's embassy in Madrid had no comment.

Breaking the Silence issued a statement earlier this week accusing the Foreign Ministry of a "witch hunt" in raising the issue with foreign governments, saying this testified to the erosion of the "democratic culture" in Israel.

"Attempts to silence voices in Israeli society are dangerous," the group said. "It appears that the Foreign Ministry is getting ideas from the darkest regimes where anyone who points to failures is considered a traitor."

Shortly after it was revealed last week that the British, Dutch and Spanish governments had funded Breaking the Silence, the Foreign Ministry sent directives to all its representatives abroad to begin to raise the problematic nature of funding political NGOs with their local governments.

This is part of new government policy, first reported by the Post three weeks ago, to take a more proactive stance against NGOs very critical of Israel. Officials articulated this policy after receiving reports that Human Rights Watch, a consistently harsh critic of Israel, had engaged in fund-raising in Saudi Arabia, using its criticism of Israel as a sales pitch.

Another manifestation of the government's new policy toward the NGOs was the release by the government on Thursday of a 164-page report on Operation Cast Lead, meant to counter the numerous reports released over the last few weeks by various NGOs. The government paper is titled "The Operation in Gaza - Legal and Factual Aspects."

The Foreign Ministry said in a statement that this report was the "definitive Israeli version" of the events in Gaza, and addressed a wide range of factual and international legal issues.

The report was prepared by officials in the Foreign, Justice and Defense ministries, as well as with the IDF. An indication of its target audience is the fact that the report was written in English, and not translated into Hebrew.

Foreign Ministry officials said the report aimed to do something that Israel has accused the various NGOs of omitting, namely describing in detail the context of the Gaza operation - documenting the Hamas attacks on Israeli civilians prior to the offensive, as well as Israel's efforts to prevent the attacks and avoid the conflict.

According to a statement put out by the Foreign Ministry, the paper contains "an extensive legal analysis of the legal principles and of state practice regarding the use of force and examines in detail the application of the principles of necessity, distinction and proportionality. In particular, with photographic and video evidence, it documents the tactics adopted by Hamas in launching attacks from within civilian populations and describes the IDF precautions and efforts to limit civilian harm in such situations."

The paper also gives details of the IDF investigations into allegations made by various groups of violations of the law.

Gerald Steinberg, the executive director of the Jerusalem-based NGO Monitor, said the NGOs have for years "mixed false claims, pure speculation, and bias in their 'research reports,' without responses from the Israeli government. This detailed report represents a fundamental change, presenting a point-by-point refutation of NGO allegations, including white phosphorous use and denial of use of human shields by Hamas."

The report shifts the burden of proof to the NGOs, which "must now provide evidence for their claims that is more credible than testimony from Palestinians and a handful of anonymous Israeli soldiers," Steinberg said.

Matthew Wagner contributed to this report.

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Submitted by Bishop E W Jackson Sr (United States), Jun 29, 2009 at 11:25
E.W. Jackson Sr.
June 16, 2009

Like Obama, I am a graduate of Harvard Law School. I too have Muslims in my family. I am black, and I was once a leftist Democrat. Since our backgrounds are somewhat similar, I perceive something in Obama's policy toward Israel which people without that background may not see. All my life I have witnessed a strain of anti-Semitism in the black community. It has been fueled by the rise of the Nation of Islam and Louis Farrakhan, but it predates that organization.
We heard it in Jesse Jackson's "HYMIE town" remark years ago during his presidential campaign. We heard it most recently in Jeremiah Wright's remark about "them Jews" not allowing Obama to speak with him. I hear it from my own Muslim family members who see the problem in the Middle East as a "Jew" problem.
Growing up in a small, predominantly black urban community in Pennsylvania, I heard the comments about Jewish shop owners. They were "greedy cheaters" who could not be trusted, according to my family and others in the neighborhood. I was too young to understand what it means to be Jewish, or know that I was hearing anti-Semitism. These people seemed nice enough to me, but others said they were "evil". Sadly, this bigotry has yet to be eradicated from the black community.
In Chicago, the anti-Jewish sentiment among black people is even more pronounced because of the direct influence of Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam. Most African Americans are not followers of "The Nation", but many have a quiet respect for its leader because, they say, "he speaks the truth" and "stands up for the black man". What they mean of course is that he viciously attacks the perceived "enemies" of the black community – white people and Jews. Even some self-described Christians buy into his demagoguery.
The question is whether Obama, given his Muslim roots and experience in Farrakhan's Chicago, shares this antipathy for Israel and Jewish people. Is there any evidence that he does. First, the President was taught for twenty years by a virulent anti-Semite, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright. In the black community it is called "sitting under". You don't merely attend a church, you "sit under" a Pastor to be taught and mentored by him. Obama "sat under" Wright for a very long time. He was comfortable enough with Farrakhan – Wright's friend – to attend and help organize his "Million Man March". I was on C-Span the morning of the march arguing that we must never legitimize a racist and anti-Semite, no matter what "good" he claims to be doing. Yet a future President was in the crowd giving Farrakhan his enthusiastic support.
The classic left wing view is that Israel is the oppressive occupier, and the Palestinians are Israel's victims. Obama is clearly sympathetic to this view. In speaking to the "Muslim World," he did not address the widespread Islamic hatred of Jews. Instead he attacked Israel over the growth of West Bank settlements. Surely he knows that settlements are not the crux of the problem. The absolute refusal of the Palestinians to accept Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state is the insurmountable obstacle. That's where the pressure needs to be placed, but this President sees it differently. He also made the preposterous comparison of the Holocaust to Palestinian "dislocation".
Obama clearly has Muslim sensibilities. He sees the world and Israel from a Muslim perspective. His construct of "The Muslim World" is unique in modern diplomacy. It is said that only The Muslim Brotherhood and other radical elements of the religion use that concept. It is a call to unify Muslims around the world. It is rather odd to hear an American President use it. In doing so he reveals more about his thinking than he intends. The dramatic policy reversal of joining the unrelentingly ant-Semitic, anti-Israel and pro-Islamic UN Human Rights Council is in keeping with the President's truest – albeit undeclared – sensibilities.
Those who are paying attention and thinking about these issues do not find it unreasonable to consider that President Obama is influenced by a strain of anti-Semitism picked up from the black community, his leftist friends and colleagues, his Muslim associations and his long period of mentorship under Jeremiah Wright. If this conclusion is accurate, Israel has some dark days ahead. For the first time in her history, she may find the President of the United States siding with her enemies. Those who believe as I do that Israel must be protected had better be ready for the fight. We are.
E.W. Jackson is Bishop of Exodus Faith Ministries, an author and retired attorney.
Barack Obama and Islam: An Ongoing Saga
by Daniel Pipes
January 19, 2009
updated May 25, 2009

During the presidential campaign, Obama did his best to distance himself from Islam. How are things looking, now that he is president? Already in December 2008, a Muslim preacher called on Obama to return to his roots and convert to Islam. This weblog follows the story.

The rules have changed: Thomas Lifton notes a new, positive disposition towards Obama's Islamic origins:
Now that he is elected and almost inaugurated, the rules of public discourse have changed when it comes to Barack Obama and Islam. During the campaign, you were a racist if you noticed that his middle name is Hussein. If you added that his father was a Muslim, and that Islam regards anyone born of a Muslim father as a Muslim, then you were a fear-mongering hysteric.
But tomorrow when he takes the oath of office, he has let it be known he will use his full name. He has also let it be known that he will travel to the capital of an Islamic nation to meet with leaders of Muslim nations. Suddenly, Islam is "in".
So much so that a previously unthinkable thing has happened: CNN has actually compared tomorrow's inauguration gathering to the Haj pilgrimage in Mecca! Watch this video and see for yourself.
Are we about to see a wave of celebration of Obama's Islamic heritage? Is Muslim chic in the future?

(January 19, 2009)
"Barack Hussein Obama": Jim Sleeper, an Obama acolyte, explains "Why It's 'I, Barack Hussein Obama...'," along the way side-swipping me (and, as liberals tend to do, getting wrong what I have been saying):
Even as we progress from symbolism to substance in the most stately way imaginable, I hope that everyone appreciates the symbolic and substantive rewards of Obama's being sworn in as "Barack Hussein Obama." This is the moment to explain again briefly why it matters so much.

During the campaign, neo-conservatives such as Daniel Pipes and other Obama detractors thought it smart to highlight his paternal Muslim roots and associations. But now that he's becoming president, you'd have to be as naive as a neo-con to miss the nobility and world-historical gains this country achieves as, having overthrown a bad Hussein, it installs a good one—not in Baghdad, but in Washington.
Sure, the mind reels. Hussein is a title of honor applied to metaphorical descendants of the prophet Mohammed. An American president bearing that name, even only residually, enacts what philosophers call a transvaluation of values. He gives a wicked case of cognitive dissonance to millions of people like Bill O'Reilly and Rush Limbaugh, but also to millions in the Muslim world who are not like them at all. …

the very prospect of our Hussein's inauguration raised millions of young Muslims' democratic hopes even higher than America has raised their material and sensual ones. (And, given present economic circumstances, it's telling that just when Obama's election was about to reflect Western democracy's deepest strengths, the iconically Western Gordon Brown was begging the Saudis to aid the International Monetary Fund.)

Comment: For the record, I thought it was "smart" to highlight Obama's having lied about his birth and childhood religious affiliation. (January 20, 2009)
"Christians and Muslims": Obama's inaugural speech contained a startling formulation: "The United States is a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus and non-believers." Hugh Fitzgerald comments on it at
The traditional formulation has always paired "Christians" with "Jews"—"Christians and Jews." Such a blatant change, then, in that traditional formulation is sure to attract notice. It invites inspection. It disturbs. The order in which these adherents of different faiths are named, and which is paired with the obviously, and rightly, dominant "Christians" (this country was both founded on Christian or, to include the Old Testament, Judeo-Christian principles, and owes its development right up to the present day to those same ideas, enshrined in our political and legal institutions which are, after all, the best thing America has to offer) both count. …

on what basis did Obama make the decision to move up "Muslims" in the ranking, right after, or even possibly paired with, Christians, leaving the Jews demoted, in a sense? It cannot be on the basis of population, for there are twice as many Jews in the United States as there are Muslims...Was this one more attempt to impress on the public the notion that we must appease Muslims, we must make of them something they are not in this country, in order to hold onto their loyalty that otherwise is in danger of being lost?

(January 20, 2009) Jan. 23, 2009 update: A backlash among conservative Christians, including African-American ones, has taken place to the inaugural speech phrase quoted here, reports AOL News. The upset has partly to do with the inclusion of "non-believers" and partly with the list of faiths. For example, Bishop E.W. Jackson Sr., of the Exodus Faith Ministries in Chesapeake, Virginia said he and others have no problem acknowledging that "this country is one in which everybody has the freedom to think what they want.'" Yet Obama crossed the line, in his view, in suggesting that all faiths (and none) were different roads to the same destination: "He made similar remarks in the campaign, and said, 'We are no longer a Christian nation, if we ever were. We are a Jewish, Hindu and non-believing nation.'" Not so, Jackson says: "Obviously, Jewish heritage is very much a part of Christianity; the Jewish Bible is part of our Bible. But Hindu, Muslim, and nonbelievers? I don't think so. We are not a Muslim nation or a non-believing nation."'

Jackson paraphrased here a statement by Obama on June 28, 2006 (at 1:04 in the recording): "Whatever we once were, we are no longer a Christian nation – at least, not just. We are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation, and a Buddhist nation, and a Hindu nation, and a nation of nonbelievers."
This formulation places Muslims after Jews but it strikingly refers to a "Muslim nation," a term that invokes both the Nation of Islam and the umma. Will this phrase be resurrected?

"I have Muslim members of my family, I have lived in Muslim countries": Stated in the course of a lengthy interview to the Dubai-based Al-Arabiya television channel, this comment startles because Obama had run away from his family connections to Islam when running for office. Now, when he finds it useful for reaching out to Muslim opinion, however, he is no longer shy about calling on it. (January 26, 2009)
"America is a country of Muslims, Jews, Christians, non-believers": That same Al-Arabiya interview includes this curious variant on the earlier two formulations, cited above:

"we are no longer a Christian nation – at least, not just. We are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation, and a Buddhist nation, and a Hindu nation, and a nation of nonbelievers."

"a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus and non-believers."
The tally so far: four categories (Christians, Jews, Muslims, non-believers) mentioned three times, Hindus twice, and Buddhists once. Muslims twice ranked ahead of Jews, Jews once ranked ahead of Muslims. (January 26, 2009)

Jihadis apprehensive about Obama: According to the February issue of inSITE (not accessible online), newsletter of the SITE Intelligence Group, most members of jihadi forums "were pessimistic when discussing Obama and his initial address to Muslims, and many argued that his charisma made Obama an even greater danger for Muslims than George W. Bush. Posters noted that unwary Muslims could be seduced by the rhetoric of change and cease working for jihad."

This confirms what Rita Katz found in the January issue of inSITE devoted to the forthcoming U.S. presidential inauguration: "once Obama was elected, the top leaders of al-Qaeda, demonstrating an apprehension about the Obama presidency, embarked on a very harsh propaganda campaign targeting the President-elect, even resorting to personal insults." (February 1, 2009)
Provides brief religious autobiography: Obama used the occasion of the National Prayer Breakfast to tell about himself:
January 20, 2009) Jan. 23, 2009 update: A backlash among conservative Christians, including African-American ones, has taken place to the inaugural speech phrase quoted here, reports AOL News. The upset has partly to do with the inclusion of "non-believers" and partly with the list of faiths. For example, Bishop E.W. Jackson Sr., of the Exodus Faith Ministries in Chesapeake, Virginia said he and others have no problem acknowledging that "this country is one in which everybody has the freedom to think what they want.'" Yet Obama crossed the line, in his view, in suggesting that all faiths (and none) were different roads to the same destination: "He made similar remarks in the campaign, and said, 'We are no longer a Christian nation, if we ever were. We are a Jewish, Hindu and non-believing nation.'" Not so, Jackson says: "Obviously, Jewish heritage is very much a part of Christianity; the Jewish Bible is part of our Bible. But Hindu, Muslim, and nonbelievers? I don't think so. We are not a Muslim nation or a non-believing nation."'

Jackson paraphrased here a statement by Obama on June 28, 2006 (at 1:04 in the recording): "Whatever we once were, we are no longer a Christian nation – at least, not just. We are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation, and a Buddhist nation, and a Hindu nation, and a nation of nonbelievers."

This formulation places Muslims after Jews but it strikingly refers to a "Muslim nation," a term that invokes both the Nation of Islam and the umma. Will this phrase be resurrected?

"I have Muslim members of my family, I have lived in Muslim countries": Stated in the course of a lengthy interview to the Dubai-based Al-Arabiya television channel, this comment startles because Obama had run away from his family connections to Islam when running for office. Now, when he finds it useful for reaching out to Muslim opinion, however, he is no longer shy about calling on it. (January 26, 2009)
"America is a country of Muslims, Jews, Christians, non-believers": That same Al-Arabiya interview includes this curious variant on the earlier two formulations, cited above:
"we are no longer a Christian nation – at least, not just. We are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation, and a Buddhist nation, and a Hindu nation, and a nation of nonbelievers."

"a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus and non-believers."
The tally so far: four categories (Christians, Jews, Muslims, non-believers) mentioned three times, Hindus twice, and Buddhists once. Muslims twice ranked ahead of Jews, Jews once ranked ahead of Muslims. (January 26, 2009)
Jihadis apprehensive about Obama: According to the February issue of inSITE (not accessible online), newsletter of the SITE Intelligence Group, most members of jihadi forums "were pessimistic when discussing Obama and his initial address to Muslims, and many argued that his charisma made Obama an even greater danger for Muslims than George W. Bush. Posters noted that unwary Muslims could be seduced by the rhetoric of change and cease working for jihad."

This confirms what Rita Katz found in the January issue of inSITE devoted to the forthcoming U.S. presidential inauguration: "once Obama was elected, the top leaders of al-Qaeda, demonstrating an apprehension about the Obama presidency, embarked on a very harsh propaganda campaign targeting the President-elect, even resorting to personal insults." (February 1, 2009)

Provides brief religious autobiography: Obama used the occasion of the National Prayer Breakfast to tell about himself: was reported locally to have been stopped from going to a Seventh Day Adventist Church by Muslims because they thought the church would try to convert her. "We had invited her to grace our meeting in Kisumu which was to mark the end of a three-week convention, but although she had prepared, she did not attend," Lewis Ondiek, a senior church figure, told Ecumenical News International.

It was claimed that family members stopped Mrs Obama from attending the service led by an Australian evangelist, John Jeremic, because they feared the church was trying to convert her to Islam [sic, should be "to Christianity"] but the family said she did not attend because she had a knee complication and could not go. Sheikh Mohamed Khalifa, the Council of Imams and Preachers of Kenya secretary, said: "Mama Sarah should not be forced by anybody to join Christianity since she is a Muslim. Muslims will not sit and watch one of their own being coerced by some religious leaders to convert to Christianity." …

Tom Obuya, of the SDA, denied the claims. "This is not true, she was never to be converted, this newspaper did not report well. she was due to be with us at a ceremony at the end of a three week evangelistic conversion mission, alongside other special guests." Saidi Obama, Barack's uncle and Sarah's son, said: "this is not true, she was not to be converted. she was to attend as a VIP but in the end she did not go because she had other commitments."

(April 24, 2009)
The United States "one of the largest Muslim countries"? Obama made the amazing statement to French television today that "if you actually took the number of Muslims Americans, we'd be one of the largest Muslim countries in the world."
Comments: (1) According to one listing of Muslim populations, the United States, with about 2.5 million Muslims, ranks about 47th.

(2) Poor Dan Quayle, poor George W. Bush. Had only they been liberals, they too could get away with saying the stupidest things and few would notice. (June 1, 2009) June 2, 2009 update: For an example of uncritical coverage, see how the New York Times under-reported this senstational statement at "Obama Says U.S. Could Be Seen as a Muslim Country, Too." June 3, 2009 update: Ivan Rioufol, Le Figaro's columnist and the best in France, agrees: "je m'étonne que la presse n'ai pas corrigé l'erreur" ("I am amazed that the press has not corrected the error").

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Whither Jerusalem?

Richard L. Cravatts | Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The stridency of the Obama administration’s attitude about Israeli settlements in the West Bank has stunned some observers, not the least of whom is Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu himself. Even more troubling to the Israelis is the State Department’s recent scolding of Ambassador Michael Oren about a 20-unit apartment project financed by a wealthy American philanthropist who purchased the former Shepherd Hotel property in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, adjacent to a compound of Israeli government buildings.What is stunning about this latest U.S. policy is that the project in question is in Israel’s capital, Jerusalem, in an Eastern Jerusalem neighborhood that, if the Palestinians have their way, ostensibly will be the capital of their putative state; more disturbing is the fact that U.S. diplomats have now decreed that Israeli construction in Jerusalem itself constitutes the forbidden settlement activity.

Speaking to the Jerusalem Post in July, State Department spokesman Ian Kelly was clear that the U.S. considers building projects in East Jerusalem to be in violation of the settlement “freeze” that President Obama and Secretary Clinton have been calling for; Kelly said very pointedly that “We're talking about all settlement activity, yes, in the area across the line,” meaning that, henceforth, any territory beyond the 1949 Green Line is to be off limits to Jews. Mr. Netanyahu did not hesitate to immediately reject the U.S.’s suggestion to facilitate the redivision of the Jewish state’s sacred capital, tersely but directly asserting that Israel “cannot accept such a ruling on East Jerusalem.”

In characterizing East Jerusalem—or any part of Jerusalem, for that matter—as territory that Israel “occupies” but over which it enjoys no sovereignty, the Obama administration is misreading, once again, the content and purpose of 1967’s U.N. Security Council Resolution 242 that suggested an Israeli withdrawal “from territories” it acquired in the Six Day War. Critics of Israeli policy who either willfully misread or deliberately obscure the resolution’s purpose say that the Jewish State is in violation of 242 by continuing to occupy the West Bank and Jerusalem, including what is mistakenly now referred to as “Arab” East Jerusalem. But the drafters of Resolution 242 were very precise in creating the statute’s language, and never considered Jerusalem to have been “occupied” by Israel after the Six Day War. Former U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Arthur Goldberg, one of the resolution’s authors, made this very clear when he wrote some years later that “Resolution 242 in no way refers to Jerusalem, and this omission was deliberate . . . At no time in [my] many speeches [before the UN] did I refer to East Jerusalem as occupied territory.”

Along with their unwavering and various demands, including a “right of return” of all refugees and sovereignty over the Temple Mount, the Palestinians now insist that Jerusalem must be divided to give them a capital in its eastern portion as the location of their new state. But these have always been points for future negotiations, at least before the State Department gave public expression to its new view that East Jerusalem—a patchwork community where some 200,000 Jews and 270,000 Arabs currently live―has already been assumed to be the Palestinian capital, and that Jews should no longer build or live there. That view is troubling, and not just because of the settlement issue, Israeli security concerns, and the fate of the Shepherd Hotel project; it is troubling because it reveals a pattern in which Arabs endow Jerusalem with intense significance to serve purposes of political expediency. In fact, observed scholar of Islam and Middle East Forum director Daniel Pipes, “An historical survey shows that the stature of the city, and the emotions surrounding it, inevitably rises for Muslims when Jerusalem has political significance. Conversely, when the utility of Jerusalem expires, so does its status and the passions about it.” When Jordan illegally annexed the West Bank and purged Jerusalem of its Jews from 1949 to 1967, for example, Jerusalem’s stature declined. But Israel’s recapture of the territory in 1967 changed the political landscape, including an Arab desire for Jerusalem, suggesting to Dr. Pipes that “the Muslim interest lies not so much in controlling Jerusalem as it does in denying control over the city to anyone else.”

Ever since the Camp David meetings in 2000 when Ehud Barak opened the door to a divided Jerusalem in his negotiations with Yasser Arafat, the Palestinians have been relentless in creating a false impression of how important Jerusalem is to them, while, at the same time, they have de-Judaized Jerusalem and tried to obscure the Jewish relationship with and continuing presence in the holy city, something Middle East scholar Martin Kramer has called their desire to effect “a reversal of history.”

Writing in al-Hayat al-Jadida, in March of 2009, for instance, Dr. Tayseer Al-Tamimi, PA Chief Justice of religious court and Chairman of Supreme Council of Islamic Law, absurdly claimed that "Jerusalem is the religious, political and spiritual capital of Palestine,” meaning a Palestinian Palestine, and that “the Jews have no rights to it." But the true danger of the Palestinian thinking about Jerusalem—and, indeed, about all of the Palestine that they covet, including Israel itself—was crystallized in Yasser Arafat’s own view that he expressed in a July 2000 edition of al-Hayat al-Jadida. “I will not agree to any sovereign presence in Jerusalem,” he wrote, referring to the thorny issue of who, Israel or the Palestinians, would have sovereignty of the Holy Basin, “neither in the Armenian quarter, nor in the Al-Aqsa Mosque, neither in Via De La Rosa, nor in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. They can occupy us by force, because we are weaker now, but in two years, ten years, or one hundred years, there will be someone who will liberate Jerusalem [from them].”

“Liberating” Jerusalem, of course, does not mean transforming it into a pluralistic, open city where members of three major faiths can live freely and practice their religions openly. Liberating Jerusalem for the Palestinians would be more in keeping with the type of liberation that Transjordan’s Arab League effected when they burned and looted the Jewish Quarter in Jerusalem in 1948, expelled and killed its hapless Jewish population, destroyed some 58 synagogues, many hundreds of years old, unearthed gravestones from the history-laden Jewish cemetery on the Mount Olives and used them for latrine pavers, and barred any Jew from praying at the Western Wall or entering the Temple Mount. That same predilection to destroy religious property was on display again shortly after Camp David when a crazed Palestinian mob took sledgehammers to Joseph’s Tomb, a Jewish holy site, and completely obliterated it as Palestinian policemen stood idly by and watched.

But false irredentist claims, Islamic supremacism which compels Jews and Christians to live in dhimmitude under Muslim control, and an evident cultural and theological disregard for other faiths— while troubling in the battle over sovereignty in Jerusalem—are not, according to Dore Gold, Israel’s former ambassador to the United Nations, the most dangerous aspects of a diplomatic capitulation which would allow the Palestinians to claim a shared Jerusalem. In his engaging book, The Fight for Jerusalem: Radical Islam, the West, and the Future of the Holy City, Gold points to a far more troubling aspect: in their desire to accede to Arab requests for a presence and religious sovereignty in Jerusalem, the State Department, EU, UN member states, and Islamic apologists in the Middle East and worldwide may actually ignite jihadist impulses they seek to dampen with their well-intentioned, but defective, diplomacy. Why? Because, as Gold explained, “In the world of apocalyptic speculation, Jerusalem has many other associations—it is the place where the messianic Mahdi [the redeemer of Islam] is to establish his capital. For that reason, some argue that it also should become the seat of the new caliphate that most Islamic groups—from the Muslim Brotherhood to al-Qaeda—seek to establish.”

When Arafat gave expression to the eventual “liberation” of Jerusalem as a sacred and unending ambition for the Palestinian cause, he defined it as a recapture of what had been, and should be, in his view, Muslim land, just as the eventual extirpation of Israel and the reclamation of all of Palestine would accomplish. The establishment of the Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem is the first important step in the long-term strategy to rid the Levant of Jews and reestablish the House of Islam in Palestine. “Jerusalem’s recapture is seen by some as one of the signs that ‘the Hour’ and the end of times are about to occur,” Gold suggested. “And most importantly, because of these associations, it is the launching pad for a new global jihad powered by the conviction that this time the war will unfold according to a pre-planned religious script, and hence must succeed.”

So far from creating a political situation in which both parties—Israelis and the Palestinians—feel they have sought and received equal benefits, such negotiations and final agreements would have precisely the opposite effect: destabilizing the region and creating, not the oft-hoped for Israel and Palestine “living side by side in peace,” but a incendiary cauldron about to explode into an annihilatory, jihadist rage. Those in the West who are urging Israel “to redivide Jerusalem by relinquishing its holy sites,” Dore cautioned, “may well believe that they are lowering the flames of radical Islamic rage, but in fact they will only be turning up those flames to heights that have not been seen before.” If the State Department and other Western diplomats are intent on mollifying the Arab street by pressuring Israel to divide Jerusalem as a peace offering to the Palestinians, it may well be setting into motion the exact opposite result: a jihadist, apocalyptic movement invigorated by the misguided diplomacy of the West that, once more, asks Israel to sacrifice its security and nationhood so that Islamists can realize their own imperial ambitions at the Jewish state’s expense.

Richard L. Cravatts, PhD, director of Boston University’s Program in Book and Magazine Publishing at the Center for Professional Education, writes frequently on higher education, politics, culture, law, marketing, and housing.

Stone Vessel with 'Priestly Inscription' Uncovered In Jerusalem

A7 News
Hana Levi Julian and Gil Ronen

A rare 2,000-year-old ritual earthenware vessel inscribed with 10 lines of text has been discovered in an excavation near the Zion Gate of the Old City of Jerusalem. It is an unprecedented find, according to Dr. Shimon Gibson, the archaeologist who heads the University of North Carolina team conducting the dig. "Such stone vessels were used in connection with maintaining ritual purity related to Temple worship, and they are found in abundance in areas where the priests lived," Gibson reported. "We have found a dozen or more on our site over the past three years. However, to have ten lines of text is unprecedented. One normally might find a single name inscribed, or a line or two, but this is the first text of this length ever found on such a vessel," he said.

Although the letters are clearly visible it will take some time before their meaning can be discerned due to the style of the writing. Gibson estimated in his preliminary report that it could take up to six months to translate the inscription. "It is written in a very informal cursive hand and is quite difficult to read," he explained.

Initially, Gibson thought the inscription was written solely in Aramaic. However, a group of experts consulting on the matter was not convinced; they say there is a possibility that the text contains the sacred name of G-d and is deliberately cryptic.

Ancient mikveh. Israel news photo: UNC

"Stephen Pfann, of the University of the Holy Land, is leaving open the possibility that it is Hebrew. He has also suggested that the text might have had meaning within a closed circle of priests, similar to texts at Qumran," said Dr. James D. Tabor, co-director of the dig.

The excavations, which lasted several months, were carried out under the auspices of the Jerusalem branch of the Nature and Parks Authority.

At least 30 people per week "sacrificed their own money, time, and hard labor to advance this important effort," according to Gibson, who said the results "have been simply astounding, the finds quite spectacular, and the whole area has been transformed."

He added that the excavation site was in ancient times "precisely at the center of Herodian/2nd Temple Jerusalem...we have extraordinarily well preserved ruins from the 2nd Temple period, culminating in the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 CE."

It is that terrible holocaust that is commemorated, as well as the destruction of the First Temple, on the Fast of Tisha B'Av.

Room with two ovens. Israel news photo: UNC

Excavations began on June 14, in the same site where previous archaeologists had probed the earth searching for clues to Israel's history in the 1970s.

This time around, structures from the First and Second Temple periods were discovered, including a mikvah (ritual pool) left almost completely intact, a vault, and a room with two ovens. Buildings from the Byzantine and early Islamic periods were also uncovered, as well multiple coins, intact lamps, ceramic and glass vessels, bits of jewelry and similar items.

Tekhelet snails found?

Also uncovered were at least half a dozen Murex snail shells with holes drilled through them. "Prior to our excavation one or two such shells had been found in all of Jerusalem," Gibson said. "That so many would be found at our site further supports our supposition that we are in a priestly residential area."

Murex snails were cultivated in ancient times at sites along the Mediterranean Sea, and a royal blue dye was extracted from them. "According to some experts this blue color was used for the priestly garments, as well as the tzitzit or threaded tassels worn by all pious Jews of the period," he explained in his report, referring to the Biblical tekhelet -- the thread of blue that G-d commanded male Jews to include in the ritual fringes on the corners of their garments.

"Speak to the Children of Israel and bid them that they make fringes on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and that they put upon the fringe of each corner a thread of blue (tekhelet). And it shall be for you as a fringe, that you may look upon it and remember all the commandments of G-d, and do them..." (Numbers 15:38-15:39)

Such fringes are worn by observant Jews to this day, although the thread of blue is no longer included, since the precise technology for making the dye has been lost.

Report: Despite PM's Promises, a Building Freeze in Jerusalem

Maayana Miskin

( Despite his stated support for permanent Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu recently froze a major construction project in the capital city as a diplomatic gesture to the United States. So reported Channel 10 news correspondent Raviv Drucker, citing testimony from Jerusalem city officials.

Netanyahu has denied the report.According to Drucker, Netanyahu ordered a halt to a construction project in Pisgat Zeev, a major Jewish neighborhood that is home to more than 40,000 Israelis. The project was to provide another 900 housing units in the area.

Netanyahu's order was given shortly after American officials asked Israel to freeze building in Jewish communities in Judea, Samaria, and all parts of Jerusalem demanded by the Palestinian Authority. The PA has laid claim to all Jerusalem neighborhoods that were occupied by Jordan between the years of 1948 and 1967, including Pisgat Zeev.

Several senior officials in the Olmert administration indicated that they would be willing to give the PA some Jerusalem neighborhoods, but all insisted on maintaining Israeli sovereignty over majority-Jewish areas such as the French Hill – Pisgat Zeev – Neve Yaakov bloc of neighborhoods in the northern part of the city.

Recently, Netanyahu expressed support for Israeli sovereignty not only in majority-Jewish parts of the capital, but in all of Jerusalem, when he rejected an American demand to cease construction of a Jewish-owned structure in the majority-Muslim neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah. Netanyahu reportedly said at the time, “What is [Obama] thinking? After I built 20,000 housing units in Har Homa despite all the pressure, I'll freeze construction of 20 housing units?”

"Despite Netanyahu's statement to his cabinet, according to which he refuses to negotiate over Jerusalem, he has decided to freeze building in Pisgat Zeev – a neighborhood in east Jerusalem, but one that has always been considered a part of the city,” Drucker said.

Netanyahu and his Defense Minister, Ehud Barak, are willing to go along with America's demand for a building freeze for a limited period of time only, Drucker added. The two have agreed to give in to a construction freeze in Jewish areas for six months while negotiations take place.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Obama administration to Israel: Forget about what we do! Didn't Obama say he supports Israel?


Barry Rubin

It is truly remarkable that even when the Obama administration is consciously, explicitly trying to show that it understands the Middle East, it shows that it…doesn’t understand the Middle East.

And Israel most of all.Here’s the background. Aluf Benn, a brilliant reporter for whom I have great respect, wrote a New York Times op-ed that says what everyone in Israel knows (and what I’ve written repeatedly): the Obama administration has alienated Israeli public opinion across the political spectrum.

(True, foreign reporters can find some people who say Israel should go along with Obama, but even they are clear that this is only to avoid making him angry and because they think his policy will fail any way.)

Then Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic, another superb reporter, interviewed two senior administration officials who claim that Benn and everyone else in Israel--which is after all the point, isn’t it?—got it wrong. Obama did two things in his Cairo speech for which Israelis are supposed to be grateful.

First, he spoke of America’s strong support for Israel, while talking directly to the Muslim world. (This was no doubt useful in case anyone in the Muslim world didn't know that the United States supports Israel.)

Second, he pointed out that regimes used the Palestinian issue as a diversion from their own problems and spoke in favor of democracy. (And then went on to fit his own policy completely into that deception.)

Goldberg seemed to find this claim at least partly persuasive. I find it completely ridiculous.

Here is a president whose administration publicly stated--before any consultation with the Israeli government--that he's going to force Israel to make a major concession, offered nothing in return, and made no demand on the Arab world. (Obama suggested politely and privately that Arab states should give Israel some confidence-building measure.)

Meanwhile, he told a Jewish leaders' delegation--into which he forced leaders of two anti-Israel groups--that the United States needed to distance itself more from Israel. Oh, and he said that a U.S. guarantee to Israel which Israelis believe had been given--correctly, I am positive--by the previous president never happened.

How could those silly Israelis be uncertain of his firm and reliable backing, administration officials say. Let me count the ways:

In the Cairo speech, Obama pandered to Islam, exonerating Muslims of any past intolerance whatsoever, focusing on Palestinian suffering (and alleged eagerness for a comprehensive peace agrement) while strongly implying that Israel only existed because of the Holocaust.

Yes, he also said that the United States strongly supported Israel and would continue to do so. Well, every president has said it and they actually did it. When Obama put that into his Cairo speech it had to be viewed by his audience as either something obvious or--wink, wink; nudge, nudge--a figleaf for a drastically different new policy.

And he did say Arab states used the Palestinian issue as an excuse to avoid democracy and to face their own failings.

But so what? At the same time his administration stopped any pressure toward democracy (he could barely support it verbally in Iran after a stolen election when millions were protesting) and accepted the idea--precisely the point he was supposedly contesting--that the Palestinian issue is the most important thing in the Middle East, maybe even in the world.

Let's review that last factor. Obama says: You're just pushing this issue to hide behind. But we will go along with this game and act as if we have to deliver on it to get anywhere with you.

Obama himself completely negated the point he was supposedly making.

No doubt, these senior officials are sitting around in Washington DC congratulating themselves on how they showed Israel that it could feel secure with an Obama administration.

At the same time, everyone in Israel keeps saying: No, we don't feel secure.

And when someone points that out right in their faces--the op-ed page of the New York Times-- so they can't ignore it--the response is: oh, no, you aren't paying proper attention.

What a wonderful symbol this is for the Obama administration's foreign policy! It takes a wrong tactic, strategy, statement, but then interprets it as if everyone else gets it wrong.

Iran;s regime doesn't understand that the United States is getting tough? Arab states don't understand that the United States will protect them from Iran? Central Europeans don't get it that Obama isn't selling them out to the Russians?

Hey! They just aren't paying attention!

But it's the Obama administration officials who aren't paying attention. They still didn't respond to Benn's point: Obama should speak to Israelis. They responded by saying that he spoke about Israel to Muslims. Isn't that better? No, it isn't.

It reminds me of the Stalinist Bertolt Brecht's reaction to the workers' uprising in East Germany and Poland in the 1950s: The workers have failed us. Let's elect a new proletariat.

Or perhaps to paraphrase the famous statement falsely attributed to Marie Antoinette: They aren't finding any bread in our policy? Didn't they see the cake we gave them!
Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition) and The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). Click here: To read and subscribe to MERIA, GLORIA articles or to order books.

Where are all of Obama's Jewish boosters now?

Ed Lasky
American Thinker

Criticism of Barack Obama's stance towards Israel has gone mainstream, and has appeared in media outlets and from Jewish groups across the spectrum. T

These include, the New York Post, all the Israeli papers, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times (in a recent op-ed), Commentary Magazine, statements from Abe Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League, David Harris of the American Jewish Committee, and a statement issued by The Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, Washington Post columnists, and the Washington Times.Criticism has even appeared at the liberal New Republic, including from Marty Peretz who, during the campaign, wholeheartedly supported Obama and deflected criticism that he would not be a supporter of Israel. James Kirchick, an editor at the magazine has been especially insightful (see, for example, "Israel Betrayed" regarding the damage Obama has already caused to the American-Israel relationship).

Even Democratic Congressmen have begun to speak out regarding Obama's approach towards Israel, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey, and Congresswoman Shelley Berkley of Nevada.

So a question naturally arises. Where have Barack Obama's Jewish defenders been hiding?

I am speaking about the range of people - many from Chicago - who dismissed scrutiny of Obama as hogwash from the internet, who counseled people on You Tube videos not to listen to people expressing concern about Obama, who wrote scathing emails questioning the intelligence of Jews who did not support Obama. I checked to see if some of these You Tube videos are still available but they have vanished.

Where is former Congressman Abner Mikva? Or various business titans across the land who stoutly defended Barack Obama? The criticism was quite voluble and was widely spread. So where are Obama's most ardent admirers and defenders now?

Are they leery of being in the company of groups such as J Street and their ilk who defend Barack Obama and are regarded in many quarters as anti-Israel pariahs? Of course, Ira Forman of the National Jewish Democratic Council will defend Obama to the grave: that is what he gets paid to do. Alan Dershowitz did write one op-ed in a recent Wall Street Journal that was less than a full-throttle defense of Obama (and was subject to a very fine level of criticism from British columnist Melanie Phillips. That Dershowitz would even feel it necessary to write such an op-ed is telling in and of itself that there are problems with the President.

But where are the fine people who disparaged critics of Obama? Was it just easier to dismiss critics as "blogging crackpots" than it is to start defending him when the criticism comes off the pages of America's finest papers and from the halls of Congress.

Their silence is deafening and also says a great deal about their prior views and how they feel right now.

Just wondering where they are now since so visible-and so certain-before.

Page Printed from: at July 29, 2009 - 10:51:28 AM EDT

Obama begins pressuring Arab leaders on deal with Israel

Nathan Guttman

WASHINGTON - Freezing the expansion of Jewish settlements in the West Bank was once seen as a unilateral Israeli obligation. But the Obama administration is now treating this as part of a package that will require concessions from Arab states as well.An intensified and more public focus on this idea appears to be one of the byproducts of U.S. President Barack Obama's July 13 pledge to American Jewish communal representatives to address perceptions that he is pressuring only Israel.

So far, the Arabs have been resistant. Still, in the wake of Obama's White House meeting with the Jewish delegation, Israeli, American and Arab leaders have, to varying degrees, shifted their rhetoric in ways that reflect acceptance of a new principle of reciprocity.

"The Americans now understand that if they get anything from us on the settlement issue, it will only be in the broader context of some kind of Arab return," said an Israeli diplomat, echoing other similar comments from Israeli officials recently. The official added that talks between U.S. Mideast envoy George Mitchell and Defense Minister Ehud Barak have focused on components of a two-sided deal that will include both a settlement freeze and reciprocal steps by Arab countries.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton appeared to confirm this in a policy speech two days after Obama's White House meeting with the Jewish representatives.

"Progress toward peace cannot be the responsibility of the United States - or Israel - alone," Clinton told the Council on Foreign Relations. "Arab states have a responsibility to support the Palestinian Authority with words and deeds, to take steps to improve relations with Israel and to prepare their publics to embrace peace and accept Israel's place in the region."

A U.S. State Department official told the Forward that steps by the Arab parties were fundamental to Mitchell's mission.

"Special envoy Mitchell continues to engage in constructive conversations with all parties, including Israel, the Palestinians and the Arab states, on steps they could take to help create a climate in which to re-launch negotiations," he said.

At least some Arab parties to the peace process also now appear to accept this.

"The price we pay will depend on what kind of a deal we get on the settlement issue," said an Arab diplomat in response to questions about Israel's stand. "In return for a symbolic compromise on the settlements, some Arab states will be willing to pay with some symbolic gestures."

But so far, the Obama administration appears stymied in its efforts to obtain a commitment to new concessions toward Israel by Arab states, even in the event of an Israeli commitment - nonexistent up to now, even conditionally - to a settlement freeze.

The administration has been frustrated in particular in its quest for flexibility from Saudi Arabia. According to experts and diplomats, tensions between Washington and Riyadh were building even prior to Obama's meeting with Jewish leaders, as a result of a June 3 meeting between Obama and King Abdullah in the Saudi capital. The meeting ended with a clear disagreement over the issue of Israel.

"Why should the king of Saudi Arabia, who is the leader of the Muslim world and the imam of his Muslim community, give something of this nature to the Israelis for free?" asked Jamal Khashoggi, editor-in-chief of the Saudi daily newspaper Al-Watan. "This is a new idea that was probably developed by Israel's friends in Washington."

Khashoggi said the Saudi monarch believes his 2002 peace initiative, supported by the entire Arab League, already offered concessions and showed the kingdom's wish for peace.

Israel never responded to the Saudi initiative. But in her speech to the Council on Foreign Relations, Clinton said that embracing the 2002 Arab peace plan is not enough, and that concrete initial steps are needed now.

The initiative, which Obama has cited as a helpful basis for discussion, commits the Arab world to an official peace agreement with Israel and normalized relations with it if Israel withdraws to its pre-1967 borders, accepts the establishment of a Palestinian state and resolves the issue of Palestinian refugees in accordance with United Nations resolutions.

Those U.N. resolutions, however, appear to require the refugees' return to homes in present-day Israel, constituting one of Israel's principal objections to the proposal.

No handshakes or visas

America's request for signs of normalization with Israel is now focused on symbolic steps. According to Arab and American diplomatic sources, Washington is now asking for the reopening of commercial interest offices of Oman, Qatar and Morocco in Israel and for permission for Israeli commercial airliners to fly over Gulf states, shortening flights from Israel to East Asia by several hours. Public overtures, such as a handshake with Israeli leaders, or providing tourist visas to Israelis seeking to visit Arab countries, are not on the table now, said an Arab diplomat with close knowledge of the talks. The diplomat stressed that such public gestures are viewed as being at the top of the scale of normalization and therefore will be kept for the final phase of the peace process.

"The Arab consensus is that normalization is the last card they have to play," the diplomat said.

Prior to the emerging emphasis on reciprocity, Israel's obligation to freeze the expansion of Jewish settlements in the West Bank was understood to be an independent requirement of the so-called road map for Middle East peace. The 2002 road map, forged by the Bush administration with international partners, required Israel to "immediately" dismantle settlement outposts that even Israel classifies as unauthorized, and to freeze all settlement activity, including natural growth.

The road map also requires the Palestinians to take concrete steps to halt terrorism and violence. But this, too, appears as an independent obligation, untied to any action by Israel.

The new Sadat

The most significant sign thus far of Arab willingness to adopt America's call for normalization has come from the small Gulf kingdom of Bahrain. In a July 16 op-ed published in The Washington Post, Sheikh Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa, the Bahraini crown prince, called on Arab countries to reach out and communicate with Israel.

"Essentially, we have not done a good enough job demonstrating to Israelis how our initiative can form part of a peace between equals in a troubled land holy to three great faiths," Khalifa wrote.

He went on to criticize Arabs who wish to perpetuate the Israeli-Palestinian conflict so that Palestinian victims "can be manipulated as proxies." The Bahraini leader also urged Arabs not to waste more time in waiting for Israelis to take the first step, calling this approach "small-minded."

Samuel Lewis, a former American ambassador to Israel who was directly involved in the Israeli-Egyptian peace talks in the late 1970s, equated Khalifa's article to peace gestures made by Egyptian president Anwar Sadat before signing the treaty with Israel 30 years ago.

"This is exactly the kind of message that an Arab leader gives both to the United States while at the same time aiming at other Arab leaders," Lewis said in a July 17 conference call organized by Israel Policy Forum.

But Bahrain is still a lone voice among Arab countries. Letters that Obama sent out in June to Arab leaders calling on them to be forthcoming in the peace process have remained largely unanswered.
This prompted the president to reportedly state, in his meeting with Jewish leaders, that "there is not much courage" within the Arab leadership.

Experts argue that the roots of the disagreement with Saudi Arabia, considered a linchpin for progress, go deeper.

Jon Alterman, director of the Middle East program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said the Saudis are disappointed with many aspects of Obama's policy: His drive for ending America's dependency on foreign oil, the decision not to appoint a close confidant as ambassador to Saudi Arabia and choosing the route of diplomatic engagement with Iran.

"There is a Saudi feeling that this administration does not recognize the importance of Saudi Arabia and does not appreciate them," Alterman said.

Iran says defense umbrella needed to protect against Israel


TEHRAN, July 27 (MNA) -- Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hassan Qashqavi said on Monday that a defense umbrella is needed in the region to protect against the Zionist regime’s nuclear arsenals.

Qashqavi’s remarks came in response to the U.S. secretary of state’s recent comments about an extension of a “defense umbrella” for its allies in the Persian Gulf region. Hillary Rodham Clinton said on Wednesday that Washington may erect a "defense umbrella" over the Middle East, if Tehran continues its nuclear program.

Qashqavi also called Israel a major threat to regional and international security.

Israel has a large stockpile of nuclear warheads -- more than 200 nuclear warheads.

He said the elimination of Israeli nuclear warheads is the best guarantee for peace and security in the region.

Describing Iran’s nuclear activities as peaceful, he said, “All our nuclear activities are conducted under the terms of the NPT (Non-Proliferation Treaty) and are closely monitored by the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency).”

Muslims’ rights

In response to a question on Iran’s reactions to the ethnic violence in China’s Xinjiang region and the cruel murder of an Egyptian Muslim woman in Germany, Qashqavi called such a comparison “illogical and unreasonable”.

In separate phone conversations with the Chinese foreign minister and the secretary general of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki called for strong reaction to the killing of people in China, the spokesman explained

He said the Islamic Republic seeks an observation of Muslims’ rights as well as other ethnic groups.

Condemning any external interference in the internal affairs of other countries, Qashqavi conceded that such interferences would aggravate the problem.

He expressed hope that peace and security would return to the Chinese province in the near future.

Marwa al-Sherbini, a 32-year-old Egyptian who was about four months pregnant and wore the hijab, had pressed charges against her neighbor for calling her a terrorist and was set to testify against him when he stabbed her 18 times inside a courtroom in front of her 3-year-old son on July 1 in Dresden, Germany. And the China’s Xinjiang crisis has left 184 people dead.

Iran’s package of proposals

The spokesman said Iran is drawing up a package of proposals to present to the 5+1 group (the five permanent UN Security Council members -- the U.S., Britain, France, China, and Russia -- plus Germany) at the appropriate time.

The package of proposals that is “up-to-date, practical, and comprehensive”, will be a push for “worldwide nuclear disarmament,” Qashqavi told reporters at his weekly press briefing.

Iran joins NAM troika

Elsewhere in his remarks, the spokesman said Iran has officially joined the NAM troika and will host the 16th NAM summit in 2012.

Iran''s membership in troika was approved in Vienna to pass on the NAM presidency from Cuba to Egypt.

Calling the movement the world’s second-largest organization after the United Nation, Qashqavi said, Iran’s presidency of the NAM’s next summit is a great diplomatic achievement.

Attended by delegates from some 118 member states, the 15th NAM Summit was convened in Sharm el-Sheik, Egypt, from July 15-16, 2009.

On the theme of International Solidarity for Peace and Development, the summit focused mainly on the ongoing global financial crisis, climate changes, the Middle East peace process, food security, energy, terrorism, and nuclear issues.

Founded in 1955, the NAM groups account for 56% of the world population.

Netanyahu: Palestinians will eventually topple Hamas

PM tells National Security Academy graduates 'radical Islam will be defeated by global information revolution, but this may be delayed by nuclear armament'; reiterates demand that future Palestinian state be demilitarized

Ronen Medzini

"One day, the Palestinians will topple Hamas' rule in Gaza," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday. "If the Palestinians could, they would overthrow Hamas, and believe me, one day they will," he said, speaking at the National Security Academy's graduation ceremony.

The prime minister also predicted that the end of radical Islam was near. "Eventually, radical Islam will be defeated by the global information revolution, the freedom to spread ideas and with the help of technology," he said.

"This won’t happen immediately, but it will happen. The only thing that could delay or disrupt radical Islam's demise is the possibility that (radicals) will obtain nuclear arms," he said.

Netanyahu also reiterated the importance of supporting the Palestinian economy, which he claimed will determine the Palestinians' future. "Economic development promotes peace. There is a struggle here and in other parts of the world against the dark, radical forces – the last thing these forces want to see is progress.

"The true test is whether we will be successful in helping the Palestinian Authority advance in the direction that Dubai has, or whether it will revert to the ways of the regime in Gaza. I am not saying (the PA) will become Dubai tomorrow or the day after that, but it is headed in that direction. The Palestinian economy is growing at an annual rate of more than 7%, and it can grow at a much faster pace," said the PM.

The Likud leader also repeated comments he made during his recent policy speech at Bar-Ilan University, saying a future Palestinian state must be demilitarized.

"No one wants to see a situation similar to the one in Gaza and south Lebanon, whereby any evacuated area is immediately taken over by terror elements," he said. "We all saw what happened in north and south Israel, and God forbid this should happen in central Israel as well. This is why the demand for active demilitarization is crucial to the peace process."

Earlier Tuesday, Netanyahu met with US special envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell in Jerusalem. The meeting was part of a round of talks being held by Mitchell and other top US administration officials in the region this week.

The Prime Minister's Office stated that the meeting was positive and that the two discussed various issues concerning the political process and not just the settlements issue.

Referring to Iran's nuclear program, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said after meeting US Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Monday that "we do not conceal our position. I believe that no option should be ruled out, and I recommend that others adopt the same approach."

The defense minister said that where the Iranian nuclear threat is concerned, Israel prefers to defend itself independently, "despite what (Gates) said about preference being given to diplomacy and sanctions at this stage."

Acknowledging Israel's concerns, Gates said the US administration's attempt to engage Iran was "not an open-ended offer" and that the US was aware Iran might try to "run out the clock."

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Abbas' chosen successor extremist Maher Ghneim due on West Bank Wednesday

July 28, 2009, 8:47 PM (GMT+02:00)

DEBKAfile disclosed exclusively Monday, July 27, that Abbas wants to crown the Tunis-based veteran advocate of armed resistance to Israel, long-time head of the PLO's armed groups' personnel, 71-year old Maher Abu Ghaneim to be his No. 2 and successor as Fatah leader - if he manages to stage the Fatah general conference next Tuesday, Aug. 4 in Bethlehem. A backstage drama took place Monday, July 27, around US Middle East envoy George Mitchell's shuttle between Jerusalem, Cairo and Ramallah behind the discussions on the peace process and Israeli settlement construction: It centered on the Abbas' desperate attempt to bring off the first general conference of his Fatah faction in 25 years next Tuesday.

It is still up in the air, although Binyamin Netanyahu as prime minister, whom the Palestinian leader has boycotted until now, now granted Abbas' request to let Ghaneim attend the conference although Abbas' heir apparent has fought all negotiations with Israel tooth and nail. He arrives Wednesday, July 29.

Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak weighed in by asking Mitchell to make an unscheduled side trip to Cairo Sunday, July 26, in the middle of his meetings with Israeli leaders. Mubarak told the US envoy that it was up to him to persuade Israel to help make the Fatah conference a success. Otherwise, he said, Abbas would be finished and forced to retire, taking with him the Obama administration's hopes for an Israel-Arab peace process taking off before the end of September.

Netanyahu still has to decide the following:

1. Should Israel allow 400 Fatah delegates based in the Gaza Strip to cross through Israel on their way to the Bethlehem conference - that is if the rival Hamas which rules the enclave lets them out? Hamas' price is that the Fatah-ruled West Bank administration release all Hamas detainees and obtain Israel's consent for their passage.

3. Should Israel must also admit Fatah delegations to the conference from Yemen, the Gulf emirates, Algeria, Lebanon and Syria, knowing they are the hard core of the Palestinian terror organizations operating in those countries?

4. The Netanyahu government is informed a priori that the majority of the approximate 1,500 delegates to the Fatah conference are radicals who will object to any move to drop the Palestinian movement's commitment to "armed struggle" against Israel.

Marwan Barghouti, the Palestinian leader who is serving 5 life sentences in an Israeli jail for orchestrating lethal terrorist attacks, posted a circular letter Sunday to all delegates telling them they must not renounce violent resistance to Israel, including suicide attacks, even for the sake of aid from the West.

The Israeli government therefore finds itself in the hugely anomalous position of being badgered by the United States, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority to help launch a Palestinian conference which is certain to be as radically anti-Israeli as the Islamist Hamas, thereby extending a lifeline to the US-promoted "peace process."

'Say 'No' to US settlement pressure'

TOVAH LAZAROFF, ELAN miller and yaakov lappin , THE JERUSALEM POST

Calling on Israel to simply say "no" to US pressure to freeze settlement activity and to divide the capital, close to a thousand people rallied outside Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's Jerusalem home Monday evening. "People tell us that it is impossible to stand up against American pressure; there is no bigger lie," yelled out Dani Dayan, who heads the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip, which helped to organize the event. It was timed to coincide with US envoy George Mitchell's visit to Israel.

Netanyahu's government should be concerned with its election promises to support the settlements, rather than with its obligations to the US, Dayan said. This government has an obligation to return Israel to the Zionist path of settling the land, he said.

Prior to the rally Dayan told The Jerusalem Post he hoped "Netanyahu will learn lessons from those who preceded him."

He added that "David Ben-Gurion founded Israel in spite of American pressure... Menachem Begin destroyed Osirak in spite of American opposition, and Yitzhak Shamir rejected American demands to stop construction."

Demonstrators held signs that said, "Yes to Israeli Independence! No to American Demands!" Other signs read, "Israel will not fold."

Holding aloft a banner bearing the legend "Stop Screwing Israel," Zvi November of Ramat Eshkol in Jerusalem told the Post: "All of the land of Israel belongs to Am Yisrael... There are 22 Arab states comprising five and a quarter million square miles of land - they don't need ours."

He questioned the "American foreign policy that has given rise to former Fatah terrorists now working as policemen being given AK-47 semi-automatic rifles."

MK Uri Ariel (National Union) told the Post: "There's no place in the world where Jews are unable to build themselves a home, but America doesn't want to allow us to build here - we are here to protest the American interference on this matter."

MK Arye Eldad (National Union) said, "We are hoping to change the perfect silence characterized by those elected to Netanyahu's government on the supposition that they are faithful to Israel and Israel's best interests. It is clear that Netanyahu is on the verge of total collapse and MKs like [Israel Beiteinu's Uzi] Landau and [the Likud's Gideon] Sa'ar, who were regarded as rebels because they were against the disengagement, are now silent on this issue.

"At the best they will voice quiet opposition to American attempts to dictate to Israel, but this is a time when we need to be strong," Eldad told the Post.

Samaria Regional Council head Gershon Mesika said Israel was not fighting with the US about outposts or settlement building, but rather about its right to exist. The only place Palestinians wanted to see Israelis was in the sea, said Mesika.

Jerusalem city councilman Yakir Segev, who holds the east Jerusalem portfolio in the municipality, told the crowd: "We have to defend Jerusalem with our hearts, with action, with our souls. We must defend it to allow every single Israeli Jew and Arab to walk freely in his land, the State of Israel."

Even as settler leaders, politicians and supporters rallied in the capital, other activists spent the day in Judea and Samaria trying to set up new outposts as part of an overall strategy by the Land of Israel Faithful group to expand Jewish holdings in the West Bank.

For the past two years the group has held events in which it has laid the groundwork for new outposts in eight sites. On Monday it started a two-day action to strengthen three of those sites and begin eight new ones.

At one called Netzer, located between the Elazar and Alon Shvut settlements in Gush Etzion, border policemen dispersed a group of 15 teens who had gathered there and detained three of them.

The IDF placed a jeep at either end of the dirt path that leads to the site and declared the area a closed military zone.

Two other teens were detained by police at a site called Inbalmin, near the Ma'aleh Michmash settlement in the Binyamin region.

At a hilltop outside of the Avnei Hefetz settlement in Samaria, however, former Kedumim mayor Daniella Weiss said that some hundred activists managed to gather near a new outpost site.

Activists would return on Tuesday to the three sites as well as to eight others in Judea and Samaria, she said.
This article can also be read at /servlet/Satellite?cid=1248277905794&pagename=JPArticle%2FShowFull

Monday, July 27, 2009

Hamas and the House of (No) Commons(ense)


Barry Rubin

The House of Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee has just issued a 100-page report on the Middle East. Here is the main conclusion as expressed by Mike Gapes, the committee chair:

“We see few signs that the current policy of non-engagement with Hamas is achieving the Quartet’s stated objectives....We therefore reiterate our recommendation from 2007, that the government should urgently consider engaging with moderate elements within Hamas.”In those few words are expressed five of the main and most harmful Western myths about the Middle East.

First, make the problem go away. Anything other than that is failure. Containing Hamas, weakening it over time, showing that radicalism doesn’t pay, or other such goals are not worth pursuing. Only if there is no more problem can the objective be considered achieved. This assumes that peace, quiet, and the existence of no problems is the normal state of politics and international relations. It isn’t.

Thus, follows the conclusion that policy has failed, but it can succeed, and something must be done.

Second, problems can and should be made to go away fast. Patience is a failure, not a virtue. So something must be done immediately. Naturally, this is not the rule the Middle Eastern factors play by. They believe in attrition, wearing the other side down, in the belief that God and history is on their side, while the West is cowardly and weak. They are half-right.

Third, that something which has to be done must be Western and Israeli concessions. If the other side is intransigent, that means its intended victims cannot be. Why is this so? Because things have to move, issues must be resolved, so defeat is preferable to steadfastness.

Fourth, the nature of your opponent is irrelevant. Ideology is unimportant. We all believe in the same things, don't we? So just because a group, Hamas in this case, says that Jews are sub-humans, that Israel must be wiped off the map, that Western power must be broken, that Islam must triumph over everything, doesn't really mean anything, does it? We all "want the same things" supposedly. So you deal with Hamas or Hizballah or Iran or Syria the same way you manage, for example, an environmental group from Surrey or a local housing authority in Kent.

Fourth, there’s got to be a moderate in there somewhere. President Ronald Reagan once joked that an optimist is someone who sees a room full of manure and concludes that there must be a pony in there somewhere. A modern European (and often American nowadays) statesman is someone who sees a terrorist movement or aggressive radical regime and is certain there's a moderate in there somewhere. And naturally if the West gives enough concessions to these "moderates" the "naturally" moderate character of the movement's members will take over and lead to a compromise settlement that will make the problem go away quickly.

Fifth, if anyone stands in the way of this grand design--like Czechoslovakia in 1938 or Israel in 2009--that foolish little country which actually thinks its own survival, much less interests, are of any importance becomes the villain. Why if only it sacrificed itself the problem could be solved and peace in our time established! There's an appropriate Yiddish proverb here: When a man is dead his problems cease.

One can only gape at the wisdom of Gapes. In the hands of such ignoramuses--not only ignorant of facts (which could be forgiven) but also on the most fundamental principles of politics and diplomacy--does the Western world's fate lie. Why not Israel's fate? Because it won't heed such counsels. But of course they can also do a great deal of damage to it as well.

This reminds me of something. In 1969, according to declassified British documents, the British government decided to open a dialogue with Fatah, which was daily carrying out terrorist operitions against Israel, portraying the PFLP as the radicals and Fatah as the moderates. Basically, in the meetings the British government is begging Fatah not to attack the UK and to discourage the PFLP from attacking.

The next year, in the war between King Hussein of Jordan--one of the closest British clients--and Fatah/PLO, the British government threw King Hussein under the bus and was ready to accept Arafat as Jordan's ruler. Fortunately, the US and Israel saved the king. If UK policy had had its way then, the results would have been horrifying.

Oh, and so the House of Lords doesn't feel left out here's something about UK policy toward Hizballah, which has been along similar lines.