Friday, October 05, 2007

Israeli Slams Settlers for Influencing US Foreign Policy

Here's how arab media reported a story-read and learn:It’s not often you hear an Israeli attack the American pro-Israeli lobby for sabotaging US foreign policy regarding the Mideast peace talks, but Akiva Eldar is no man to mince words. Israeli Slams Settlers for Influencing US Foreign Policy Barbara Ferguson, Arab News —

WASHINGTON, 5 October 2007 — It’s not often you hear an Israeli attack the American pro-Israeli lobby for sabotaging US foreign policy regarding the Mideast peace talks, but Akiva Eldar is no man to mince words.“A small minority of people dictates their interests to the US and the Middle East, and the mainstream American Jewish lobby is directing US decisions from Israel,” said Eldar, chief political columnist for Ha’aretz.Eldar, in Washington this week to promote his book, “Lords of the Land,” spoke at the Washington-based Foundation for Middle East Peace, which co-hosted the event with Americans for Peace Now.“The settlements are the ultimate proof that the American Jewish lobby should get an award for dictating their policy to the US government,” Eldar told the audience.In his book, just released in English, examines the history of Israeli settlements and accompanying military occupation in the lands conquered in 1967 and their effect on Israeli and Palestinian society.Called the “encyclopedia on the illegal settlements,” “Lords of the Land” details how settlements, occupation and settlers’ messianic religion have transformed Israel and shaken the foundations of its society.This is the second book recently published that scathingly attacks the American Jewish lobby, and Eldar’s views parallel John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt’s book, “The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy,” published in September.“Most people in the Middle East want peace and a two-state solution between Israel and Palestine,” said Eldar, noting that the illegal settlements remain “a serious, but not impossible, obstacle to peace.“The Arab League Peace Initiative offers Israel peace with 22 Arab countries in return for Israel’s withdrawal to the 1967 borders,” said Eldar. “The majority of Israelis agree with this, but the settlers’ lobbies — both in the US and Israel — are so strong that it turns us away from peace.”Eldar, the last Israeli journalist to interview Yasir Arafat before his death, and the first to interview Mahmoud Abbas after elected prime minister, was named by The Financial Times last year as “one of the most influential political commentators in the world.” Focusing on the Mideast peace meeting recently announced by President George W. Bush and expected to be held on Nov. 15 in Annapolis, Maryland, Eldar said: “[Israeli Prime Minister Ehud] Olmert, [Palestinian President Mahmoud] Abbas and Bush are all lame ducks. They’re like gamblers with their very last dollar to play.”Still, Eldar believes the American government “must serve as a bridge between Israel and Palestinians.”Olmert could accept a two-state solution, said Eldar, because “he’s an intelligent individual who knows there is no better solution. Not because he feels we’re doing an injustice to the Palestinians, but simply because he knows it is the only choice.”Eldar said the Annapolis peace talks — the list of prospective invitees is expected to include Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Syria, Egypt, Jordan, Qatar, Morocco, Saudi Arabia and the Quartet: Russia, the EU and the UN — should pressure Israel to force the settlers from the Palestinian side of the West Bank.“I believe the Wall [that divides the West Bank] did us a favor, as it brought back the idea of partition in Israel.”Thus, Eldar said, the problem is “no longer where, but when we withdraw to the line.”“Only 60,000 Israelis live on the east side of the Wall, so it is still possible for them to make ‘aliyah,’ [Hebrew word meaning ‘to emigrate’]. It is possible for them to make ‘aliyah’ to Israel, and we will offer them some of the same benefits we offered settlers who left Gaza.“The settlements are about Jewish hegemony — and they failed.”

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