Thursday, July 09, 2009

"More of Same"

Arlene Kushner

I would like to begin today with Caroline Glick's latest piece, "Avoiding an American Ambush," which addresses issues I wrote about in my last posting.. After discussing Obama's immovable radical ideology, Glick says:

"Since the Netanyahu government took office three months ago, the Obama administration has placed inordinate pressure on Jerusalem in a bid to coerce it into making massive concessions to the Palestinians. These concessions are demanded not for peace, but simply for the sake of placing pressure on Israel. Obama wishes to pressure Israel to show his good intentions to the Arabs and Iran.

"To date, Obama's loudest demand has been to officially prohibit all Jewish construction in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria. Although the demand is intrinsically bigoted, illegal and immoral, and although the consequences of the expulsion of all Jews from Gaza in 2005 show that Israeli land giveaways and ethnic cleansing bring war not peace, the Netanyahu government has opted not to get into an open confrontation with the administration on the issue.

"Instead, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his government have sought to treat Obama's offensive as a routine disagreement between otherwise close allies. [Note: this is precisely what disturbed me about Ron Dermer's interview.] Rather than defending the principles of Jewish national, legal and human rights and the country's right to security, Netanyahu has sought to reach an accommodation with Obama by reducing the discussion to a conversation about the inevitable natural growth of Jewish communities due to expanding families.

"But what Obama's slavish devotion to his radical world view shows is that Netanyahu's decision to seek an accommodation is not simply an exercise in futility, it is a recipe for disaster. Obama and his advisers...are looking to fight because they believe that the US is best served by fighting with its allies - particularly with Israel. Any concession Netanyahu makes will just form the basis for the next round of demands.

"Far from seeking an agreement with Obama, Netanyahu should realize that given the president's ideological rigidity, there is no agreement to be had..." /servlet/Satellite?cid=1246443736579&pagename=JPArticle%2FShowFull


Repeatedly, press reports indicate that there are two positions within the government with regard to standing strong against Obama. Those who would put up a fight include Ya'alon, Begin, and Lieberman. Those who are seeking "compromises" with the US are, of course, Barak, who is the voice of Labor inside the government, and Dan Meridor, who is to the left within Likud. And then, Netanyahu. who is always linked with these two.

Thus do we have the babble about how the bonds between Israel and America are eternal and unbreakable. And thus is it Barak who is doing the major negotiating on the settlement freeze issue.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman just gave an "interesting" reason as to why he couldn't do that negotiating. As he lives in Nokdim -- a community that is part of Gush Etzion, near Tekoa, in Judea -- he explained that he might be accused of having a conflict of interest. Well, I don't buy it: he lives in Nokdim because he has a certain philosophy in terms of the right of our people to live in Judea and Samaria, and there's no reason why that philosophy shouldn't be brought to bear in negotiations. Barak also has a vested interest that could be called a conflict of interest -- he represents a party that doesn't adhere to this philosophy. In fact, he's willing to do a "temporary freeze" on settlement construction. If not Lieberman, why not Strategic Minister Ya'alon, who lives in Maccabim-Reut (Modiin), inside the Green Line?

Why not? Because Netanyahu is giving substantial weight to the left-wing member of his coalition.


Barak's latest meeting with Mitchell was held in London two days ago, and it wasn't pretty. It was said that "progress" was made on the issue of freezing settlements. Barak assured Mitchell that we would evacuate 23 "illegal outposts" within weeks or months, not years. As one senior minister, who preferred to remain anonymous, told YNet: Barak made this offer "in exchange for nothing."

Where is Netanyahu's principle of reciprocity?


This question of reciprocity is significant in several contexts. And I want to back up for a minute and look at Netanyahu's own words as he began his position at the helm of the new government. "We are not living in normal times," he told us. We are confronting "extraordinary dangers" and he must consider this as he makes his decisions, for it is his job as prime minister to keep us safe.

The obvious implication of this was that in return for certain concessions to Obama we would find ourselves in a better place with regard to attacking Iran. What we would get wasn't clear, but apparently there would be some quid pro quo: Approval to fly over Iraq? Some bunker busters we sought?

After his Bar Ilan speech, last month, when he uttered the words "Palestinian state," I said I was not yet ready to second guess him. And Caroline Glick at that point expressed a similar feeling, saying, "...If his speech succeeded in blunting US pressure on Israel - even temporarily - on the Palestinian front, and... Netanyahu has gained the opportunity to act on the Iranian front..."


Well, this week Netanyahu gave Obama that phrase he so much coveted": "two states living side by side." It was like a punch in the solar plexus, and what makes it worse is that there is no evidence of anything forthcoming from the US.

Obama had his chance. While he was in Russia yesterday, journalists queried him about Biden's remark that Israel was a sovereign nation and can decide for itself about attacking Iran. His answer made headlines: The US has "absolutely not" given Israel the green light to attack Iran.

"We have said directly to the Israelis that it is important to try and resolve this in an international setting in a way that does not create a major conflict in the Middle East...[it is] very important that I'm as clear as I can be..."

So much for that. The Washington Times reported yesterday that Netanyahu has pointedly not asked the White House for assistance in a possible attack on Iran, or for permission [WHY would we need "permission"?] since it was feared that the US would say no.

In fact, National Security Advisor Uzi Arad is of the opinion that Biden's comment about our being a sovereign country that can make its own decisions was not directed at Jerusalem at all, but at Teheran. This, says, Arad, was to distinguish the US from Israel and make it clear to the Iranians that the US would have no part in whatever Israel might decide to do.

And so, as there seems to be no quid pro quo after all, there also seems no reason to cut Netanyahu slack with regard to concessions to Obama he is inclined to make. I suppose one might make the case that Netanyahu at one time thought, or hoped, there would be a quid pro quo, because Obama had made a link between handling Iran and progress on the "peace process." But now he has to have been disabused of this -- now he certainly must understand how obstinate and devious Obama truly is.


One other note on Iran and the US, before leaving the topic:

US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm Mike Mullen spoke yesterday about Iran acquiring nuclear weapons: "I believe Iran is very focused on developing this capability, and I think when they get it, or should they get it, it will be very destabilizing." (Is this news?) But then he said an attack on Iran would also be destabilizing.

He gave a nod to the Obama policy: "There is a great deal that certainly depends on the dialogue and the engagement..." But then said something we almost never hear from the Americans any longer: "The clock is ticking, that's why I'm as concerned as I am...I think we need to do that [dialogue] with all options remaining on the table, including, certainly, military options."

A rational thought! Like a breath of fresh air.


The concessions that we're making don't end with phraseology. Defense Minister Barak has approved the transfer of 1,000 Kalashnikov rifles to the PA.

Before they are transferred, ballistics tests are done so the weapons can be identified if they are used in a terror attack.


This is all in line with the philosophy of strengthening the PA security forces, ostensibly so that they can fight terrorism (thereby permitting the pullback of IDF forces). US Security Coordinator Lt.-Gen. Dayton is currently training troops toward this end.

The PA, however, has run into a problem: They are having trouble recruiting people for the three additional battalions -- 2,000 soldiers -- they hoped to add to the existing four battalions that have already been deployed in Jenin, Hebron, Jericho and Bethlehem.

There has been a good deal of speculation as to why this is happening. Perhaps young men are still scarred by the Intifada, maybe they are too cynical. But what I suspect is a key reason hasn't been mentioned at all: They don't want to take on their brothers in Hamas. At the end of the day, the people with allegiance to the PA (and that is likely a tentative allegiance), and those who are Hamas-affiliated are bonded in a variety of ways. These young men who are potential recruits may be asking themselves why they should do the bidding of the US, and challenge their own people in the process. Many is the quote I've encountered that expressed this very sentiment.


And then we must ask how effective those who already serve in the existing battalions will be at actually battling terrorism. Will they have the willpower to do what the IDF has been doing? Rhetorical question.

Palestinian Media Watch tells us that on PA TV, on June 29, PA Minister of Prisoners Ashraf al-Ajrami spoke with pride about the bravery of the "security forces" of the PA during the Intifada:

"Now they [Hamas] are speaking [disparagingly] about the [PA's security forces, calling them] 'Dayton Forces.' These [security] forces paid the heavy price in the second Intifada, both as Shahids [Martyrs] and as prisoners. The greatest number of prisoners is from the security forces sector. They are the ones who bore arms and carried out the greatest and most important operations [terror attacks] against the Israeli occupation..."

Dayton would say that today's forces are being vetted more carefully. And yet... and yet...

They're doing ballistics tests on those rifles for a reason.


The European Commission issued an outrageous statement on Monday, saying that Israel's settlement policy strangles the PA economy and makes it more dependent on European aid. " is the European taxpayers who pay most of the price of this dependence." This apparently came from EC representatives in Jerusalem.

The charge is that we expropriate fertile land for settlements, build roads that only serve settlers, and put up checkpoints -- all of which inhibits economic growth and makes the Palestinians dependent on the Europeans, who have this year already paid more than 200 million euros ($280 million) to help cover the Palestinian budget deficit.

There are a host of responses to these unreasonable charges. That the Palestinians, by virtue of terrorism, make the checkpoints necessary. That no Palestinian land is being appropriated for settlements (remember -- the talk is of construction within existing borders of settlements). That the single worst deterrent to economic growth in the PA is the high level of corruption, which funnels money into private pockets so that it doesn't end up where it should. The Europeans bear enormous responsibility here, for they have over the years been very lax in demanding transparency with regard to how their money is expended.

In a fury, our foreign ministry summoned EU ambassador to Israel, Ramiro Cibrián-Uzal, to register a protest.

The ultimate irony is that the PA economy in Judea and Samaria grew by 5% in 2008, while in Gaza during that period there was decline (this is before Cast Lead). The very thing that pro-Palestinian people are screaming about -- building in the settlements -- in point of fact provides solid income for Palestinian workers who don't want to see the building stopped.

Israeli government sources said that the charge that the Jews are to blame for the Europeans having to give money to the Palestinians "borders on anti-Semitism." I would concur.


I have acquired additional names of Likud faction members who signed the letter to Prime Minister Netanyahu initiated by MK Tzipi Hotovely protesting his advocacy of a Palestinian state. In total, so far, my understanding is that the following signed it:

Gilad Erdan, Yuli Edelstein, Ayoub Kara, Gila Gamliel, Danny Danon, Miri Regev, Tzion Pinyan, Carmel Shama, Yariv Levin, and Ze'ev Elkin. I believe there may be another two or three names. I remain most curious as to where top tier Likud right wingers such as Benny Begin and Moshe Ya'alon stand with regard to this letter and have not abandoned attempts to learn more.


"The Good News Corner"

An Israeli company, BiondVax Pharmaceuticals, is developing a universal flu vaccine that would be effective against any flu, including pandemics such as the swine flu, for a period of five years.

Clinical trials are about to begin.


Israeli architect Eyal Amitzur has invented a new game that is a three-dimensional spin-off of the very popular Sudoku. Called Tredoku, the game utilizes the same rules as Sukoku, but is played with variable three-dimensional shapes.

see my website

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