Monday, April 27, 2009
When the siren sounds tonight at 8:00 across the nation, we will begin Yom HaZikaron --the Day of Remembrance -- and we will pay tribute to all those who have fallen for Israel. It is because of our soldiers that we stand as a nation, and their sacrifices are keenly felt. A national ceremony will be held at the Kotel (Western Wall). Tomorrow at 10:00 AM another siren will sound, and people all over Israel will stop what they are doing and stand silently in honor of the fallen.
So far, so good. Very good indeed.
Now Minister of Strategic Affairs (and former chief of staff) Moshe (Bogie) Ya'alon has given an interview to the Jerusalem Post. Among the points he made:
-- President Obama must set a time frame and benchmarks for his negotiations with Iran, or else they will use the dialogue to stall for time as they move towards nuclear capacity.
"What is happening between the Western world and the Islamic jihadists of Iran is a process that is built on previous surrenders and concessions," he said. "What the West needs to do is stand up against this wave and confront it."
If the US wants to hold dialogue with Iran, it must do so while holding the "stick of military pressure."
As to whether Israel is capable of an effective strike against Iranian facilities on her own, Yaalon replied:
"We need to hope that the job will be done by someone else and at the same time, as the Talmudic sage Hillel said, 'If I am not for myself who will be?'"
-- He dismissed Hillary Clinton's statement regarding Israel's loss of support from Arab nations for action against Iran if we don't negotiate with the Palestinians as "superficial."
"I believe that this whole idea is wrong at its core."
-- As to the negotiations with the Palestinians, he stressed the PA's refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, so that even at Annapolis Abbas refused to include the phrase "two states for two peoples" in a joint declaration. (see below)
"That is why the prime minister says that we want them to recognize Israel's right to be a Jewish state," he said. "This right does not depend on them [important that he clarified this!] but if they don't recognize it then there is nothing to talk about."
He rejects the Saudi plan: "From our perspective, the pre-1967 borders are not defensible. To go onto this track is dangerous."
[Note: the idea that the 1967 armistice lines were "borders" is so thoroughly ingrained in the public discourse, per the constant prodding of Palestinian PR, that even Ya'alon, who rejects return to those lines, refers to "borders."]
What the government, which is close to completing its assessment, favors, Yaalon said, is a "bottoms up" approach. This means that before anything else happens the PA has to institute serious educational, political, security and economic reforms.
This is the only thing that remotely makes sense. But Obama -- who wants to impose a Palestinian state by tomorrow, damn whether it can be a successful state -- is not going to like it.
The enormous irony of the US desire for talks with Iran without preconditions is that Ahmadinejad is calling for "a clear cut framework" and a "clear agenda" in talks with the Americans. This means he wants control over what will be discussed. In fact, in an ABC "This Week" interview yesterday, he said that the nuclear program was a "special issue":
"We think that the nuclear issue needs to be resolved in the context of the agency and regulations. We are just utilizing our legal rights."
Sounds to me as if he's telling the Americans that he'll be happy to talk, but not about nuclear development. Rather puts the ball in Obama's court, I think.
Never let it be said that we don't have friends (at least in some contexts). Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini proudly expresses a sense of commitment to Israel, and says that the Italian boycott of Durban 2 was required.
"...We could not participate in an event where, once again, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was manipulated and Israel labeled a racist nation, as happened in 2001. The events of [last] Monday afternoon [Ahmadinejad's talk] confirmed that foresight."
Frattini says there were three key issues in the proposed document for the conference that were of concern to Italy: approval of the Durban 2001 document, which singled out Israel; insufficient treatment of the Holocaust; and motions aimed at limiting freedom of expression regarding criticism of religions and their followers.
"An international forum on a crucial issue such as racism cannot be exploited to attack Israel," he declared. "The EU displayed political weakness and lost an occasion for expressing unity."
In point of fact, the Durban 2 conference was not quite the disaster that had been anticipated -- did not have the horrific tenor of the first conference, where virulently anti-Israel groups demonstrated and documents where produced that charged Israel with every evil under the sun.
Satisfactory? Productive for the sake of human rights? Of course not. But this time we were prepared, and the willingness of several states to pull out (in part as the result of intense Israeli diplomatic effort) undercut the legitimacy of the proceedings.
My own opinion is that the organizers overplayed their hand; to have Ahmadinejad as key note speaker at a human rights conference is nothing short of farcical. Who but states such as Libya and Cuba could find him acceptable?
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay added to the sense of farce when she concluded the conference on Friday by calling it "a celebration of tolerance and dignity for all."
So much for what we can expect from the UN. Frattini recalled a former American proposal (I believe it was by John Bolton) that Western democracies form a separate coalition.
Precisely what has gotten into King Abdullah of Jordan?
In the US, he met with President Obama and called for serious negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians based on the concept of two states. Then, on the "Meet the Press" television show yesterday, he referred to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as the "core issue" of the Middle East. Not only is he advocating strenuously for a Palestinian state, he has suggested that one of the main reasons that Iran is working towards nuclear development is because Palestinians are suffering and there is the matter of Jerusalem [which is in Israeli hands].
Now, really... If you know the ideology of the Mullahs in Iran, and their goal of controlling the entire region in order to impose Shiite Islam, and you know that the US is referred to as the Big Satan, you know that a whole lot more than the Israeli-Palestinian conflict occupies them.
But see for yourself: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21134540/vp/30418412#30418412 (Thanks, Bob H.)
Until not long ago it was well known in intelligence circles that Abdullah preferred Israel at his border rather than a PA state. What he feared was a Hamas take-over that would cause instability in his nation. And now?
I'm not sure how to read him. Is he playing to Obama (very likely)? Afraid that Netanyahu might propose a federation of Palestinian areas with Jordan?
Pope Benedict XVI is coming to Israel on May 16, and the signals about what is likely to transpire when he's here are not positive. He is scheduled to visit Jerusalem, Nazareth, and Bethlehem -- as well as the nearby al-Aida UNRWA refugee camp, where he will preach.
Fouad Twal, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem and president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Holy Land, said yesterday that the camp "symbolizes the refugees' suffering and their right of return." Their right of return?
According to YNet, the stage hosting the Pope was supposed to be built in a school yard, but Palestinians violated an agreement regarding this with Israel (which controls the area) and built the stage instead near the security fence. A demolition order has been issued and the stage is supposed to be re-built.
Insisted Twal: "The fence will be seen from the location of the pope's seat."
In due course there will be more to say on this issue.
PA President Mahmoud Abbas gave an impassioned speech in Ramallah today:
"A Jewish state, what is that supposed to mean? You can call yourselves as you like, but I don't accept it and I say so publicly," he declared.
Accepting a "Jewish state" would mean relinquishing the "right of return" -- which is, in fact, a device for ensuring an Arab majority inside Israel, and which has been promoted among the people as a sacred and inalienable right. The current Palestinian position is not "two states for two people," but ultimately "two states for one people."
"All I know is that there is the state of Israel, in the borders of 1967, not one centimeter more, not one centimeter less. Anything else, I don't accept."
The Palestinians would have not only Har Habayit -- the Temple Mount -- but also the Kotel, with no sharing.
He further said that there will be no negotiations unless Netanyahu puts a total freeze on construction in Judea and Samaria, something Netanyahu has said he does not intend to do.
No negotiations? That's fine.