Saturday, August 08, 2009

New York Times covers up fierce anti-Israel radicalism at 'moderate' Fatah party convention

Leo Rennert
In its Aug. 7 edition, the New York Times runs an article by Jerusalem correspondent Isabel Kershner about the Fatah party conference that is a textbook example of keeping a lid on how Mahmoud Abbas's political movement has veered toward undying hostility toward Israel ("Fatah Delays Elections, But Extends Conference" page A7). Kershner devotes the first nine paragraphs of her 13-paragraph story to acrimonious disagreements over voting procedures and other disputes between the party's old and new guards.

This allows her to downplay and defang the real news of the conference -- blaming Israel for Arafat's death and the presence of a terrorist killer -- at the bottom of her article. And even then, she goes to extreme lengths to avoid mentioning what really happened in these two instances and why they are more significant than intra-party disagreements.

To wit:

1. In her 10th paragraph, Kershner writes that there was "consensus" about "the notion" that Israel was responsible for the death of Arafat" and that Fatah officials "would continue to investigate the circumstances of his death, and suspicions that Israel poisoned him."

Kershner's report doesn't begin to tell the tale. There was far more than "consensus" about a "notion" that Israel might have killed Arafat. The delegates unanimously adopted a formal resolution that orders an investigation to be headed by Arafat's nephew into the circumstances of how Israel assassinated Arafat. And the investigation is to be conducted with the a priori conclusion that Israel did it!

But you wouldn't know any of this by reading the Times.

2. In her 11th paragraph, Kershner briefly mentions that among the delegates were "Sari Nusseibeth, an intellectual from Jerusalem who has championed non-violence and Khaled Abu-Asba, who took part in a notorious attack in 1978 in which an Israeli bus was hijacked and about about three dozen Israeli civilians were killed."

Again, this doesn't come close to informing Times readers about the real import of the presence at the conference of this terrorist killer. Abu-Asba's presence at the conference wasn't on a par with the presence of Nusseibi. Abu-Asba received thunderous applause when he was extolled as a great Palestinian hero for participating in the murder of 37 Israeli civilians, including 12 children. Nusseibi got no such reception.

And who glorified what came to be known as the Coastal Road Massacre -- the worst terror attack in Israel's history? None other than Ahmed Qurei, a former Paletinian prime minister and chief peace negotiator during Olmert's tenure. Along with his fulsome introduction of Abu-Asba, Qurei extolled as a "heroic martyr" the leader of the terrorist team -- a Palestinian icon -- Dalal Mughrabi. Said Qurei: "All the sisters here are Dalal's sisters."

But you wouldn't know any of this by reading the Times.

Kershner's carefully sanitized reportage ensures that Fatah doesn't get soiled by the conference's vicious anti-Israel proceedings. What she hides from her readership is that, given these anti-Israel outpourings at the Fatah convention, there is no real peace partner on the Paletinian side. Is Abbas again going to tab Qurei as his prime negotiator if and when peace negotiations are resumed between Israel and the Palestinians?

When Fatah leaders -- and their followers -- go to great lengths to glorify terrorist murders and assume as a given that Israel assassinated Arafat, who is there left on the Palestinian side to take the critically necessary steps to achieve a two-state solution?

Page Printed from: at August 08, 2009 - 01:36:40 AM EDT

Settlers sue state over Hebron evacuation damages

Chaim Levinson, Haaretz Correspondent

Hebron's Jewish settlement filed a lawsuit against the State of Israel on Friday over damages caused during the evacuation of disputed structures in the city's wholesale market. In the suit, the settlers rely on a 2006 agreement reached with the IDF regional command, stating that Jewish residents of the disputed structures would vacate them, while leaving any stationary property.

That agreement was subsequently annulled, leading to the 2007 evacuation, in which police removed doorposts and knocked down plaster walls in order to prevent the settlers from returning to the structures.

The lawsuit, filed by Doron Ben-Tzvi, stated that the settlers demanded NIS 214,000 to compensate for damages they claimed were caused during the evacuation.

"The plaintiffs completed their side of the agreement: the families which had lived in the compound up until the time of the agreement vacated their belongings from the property, and left only stationary belongings," the lawsuit stated.

"That property included walls, doors, windows, closets, bathrooms, toilets, as well as kitchens, and so on. These belongings were left at the premises in the expectation of a promised future use."

Also, the settlers stated that "80 years after the Hebron massacre steps need to be taken to ensure the return of stolen Jewish property to its rightful owners," adding that "events such as the ones which lead to the filing of this suit are unnecessary."

An Israel Defense Forces spokesperson said in response that the IDF had not yet seen the lawsuit, but added that "the evacuation of the wholesale market was conducted in accordance with an explicit ruling by the Supreme Court."

"Claims against IDF forces fulfilling their duty will not deter from continuing to enforce the law and from actions designed to defend the rule of law in the area of Judea and Samaria," the spokesperson said.

The suit came as the most recent episode in a series of attempts to reclaim the structures, which were built on Jewish-owned land that was inhabited by Jews until 1929, when Arabs massacred many members of the local community and the survivors fled.

Hebron settlers have also argued that aside from being on Jewish-owned land, the stores are an integral part of the Jewish Avraham Avinu neighborhood: They share common walls with the houses on the edge of the neighborhood, and the neighborhood's access road passes between them.

Between 1948 and 1967, when Jordan controlled Hebron, the stores were managed by the kingdom's custodian of enemy property. After Israel captured the territories in 1967, it upheld the leases that Palestinian shopkeepers had signed with the Jordanian body and gave them the status of protected tenants.

In 1994, following both Baruch Goldstein's massacre of Muslim worshipers at the Cave of the Patriarchs and a stabbing in the area, the IDF closed both the wholesale and triangle markets and forbade Palestinian merchants to enter.

In 2001, following the murder of infant Shalhevet Pas, squatters moved in, bringing two of the merchants who had rented the stores to ask Peace Now to approach the Civil Administration for an eviction order on their behalf.

In 2006 the settlers reached the said failed agreement with the IDF, which led to the 2007 forceful evacuation of the structures.

Just Ask Arafat

Does world remember why we needed airline security in first place?

Noah Klieger

Every time I travel overseas (and I must admit it happens often,) I undergo security checks at airports worldwide. Every time I ask myself how could it be that none of the billions of travelers who have been going the strict and annoying checks for years now dedicate a few seconds to thinking about the reason for this screening process, which has become an integral part of every flight by now. As if it’s pre-destined. Just like one needs a ticket and passport, one needs to stand in line and undergo a security check. A whole generation (and in fact, two generations) of passengers are convinced that the need for security was born along with the first ever flight. However, we the older ones remember why every traveler now needs to undergo those checks. We also remember that many years ago we could fly from one location to another without any interruptions. The planes were slower perhaps, and there was no in-flight movie, but we could just board a plane and fly.

It is therefore odd that even those who still remember this ancient era do not think, or do not want to think, about the reason for the bothersome addition of security: The fact that one, Yasser Arafat, and the terrorist gangs he commanded, introduced the need of security checks after inventing the notion of hijacking planes for the purposes of extorting the Free World.

The real victims

These gangs, such as Black September or Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, prompted the nations of the world and airlines worldwide to invest – and continue investing – billions of dollars in sophisticated electronic equipment.

And if we already mention the names of some gangs, we can also mention that Black September was not named to commemorate the killing of Palestinians by Israel, but rather, the massacre undertaken by Jordan’s King Hussein in September 1970 in a Palestinian refugee camp. Based on Arafat’s estimate, more than 3,000 Palestinians were butchered at the time, yet there is no doubt that the number of victims was much higher.

Once in a while, just to amuse myself, I turn to security officers worldwide – politely, of course – and ask them to explain to me why these checks are necessary. As they always reply in one way or another that it’s about security, ask another question: Yes, but who does the whole world fear, and who are the ones that require us to maintain security screening?” The answer is always the same: Airplanes are hijacked by Arab terrorists.

Even those unfamiliar with what happened 30 or 40 years ago still remember the al-Qaeda hijackers who brought down the Twin Towers and exploded in the Pentagon on September 11th.

So if everyone knows the reason for the daily nuisance suffered by billions of travelers worldwide and for the expenditure of billions of dollars, how could it be that most passengers and their governments still think that the people behind all this are the victims?

The victims are in fact citizens of the entire Free World (and even those of the not-so-free world,) who are being extorted time and again, every day and on every flight.

Friday, August 07, 2009

s U.S. Open To A Settlement Compromise?

Abraham Foxman
Special To The Jewish Week

By this time one would have hoped that the Obama administration and the Netanyahu government would have resolved their dispute over Israeli settlements. In the first instance, what was so troubling about the administration’s approach was its handling of the issue in public, making it harder to reach a compromise and making Israel appear to be the problem in the region. As time goes by, however, and meeting after meeting takes place in Washington, Jerusalem, London and again in Jerusalem, the issue still goes unresolved and the gap between the U.S. and Israel takes on larger meaning. The Israeli government, which after all is a right-wing group committed ideologically to the settlement enterprise, has made significant concessions from its perspective. It has agreed in
principle to dismantle the illegal settlements and not to expand existing ones on new land beyond the boundaries of existing settlements. But this has not been good enough. Washington seems to be eager to squeeze out every last ounce of Israeli resistance on the subject by rejecting not only the concept of natural growth but even of Israel completing structures in midstream.

As the disagreement drags on, the impact goes beyond the subject of settlements. Now the Obama administration’s approach begins to raise a series of more fundamental questions: Is the historic special relationship between the two countries being eroded? Is the administration’s outreach to the Muslim world predicated on distancing the U.S. from Israel and putting pressure on the Jewish state? Are the unrelenting U.S. demands on Israel regarding settlements giving the Palestinians an excuse to avoid direct negotiations with Israel, the only path toward real peace? Is the continuing focus on settlements creating the perception around the world that the U.S. now agrees with Israel’s critics that it is Israeli policy that is the critical obstacle to peace?

If the administration denies the points embodied in these questions, the only way to demonstrate that is to be open to a compromise with Israel on the settlement issue. Such a move will send a very different message to Israel, the Palestinians, the Arabs and the world than it has been sending until now.
To Israelis it will indicate that the administration, like previous ones, wants Israel to stop expanding settlements but it also recognizes the realities of daily life, doesn’t see the issue as the be-all and end-all of the peace process, and knows that a strong U.S.-Israel relationship is critical for any peace process.

To Palestinians, the message will be that the U.S. will press Israel on settlements, but that it won’t allow itself to become the substitute for critical Palestinian decision-making, including good-faith negotiations with Israel, clamping down on terrorism and ending the teaching of hate so rampant in Palestinian society. Ultimately, since there is no greater reason for the duration of the conflict for decades than the unwillingness of Palestinians to make critical decisions for peace, everything must be done to encourage and motivate the Palestinians to accept responsibility for their future rather than to provide a disincentive for them to do so.

To the Arab states, the message will be that they cannot stand on the sidelines, claim that they have made a peace offer and there is nothing else for them to do until Israel gives in to the administration demands. The administration, by reaching agreement with Israel on settlements, will be insisting that there are no longer any excuses to procrastinate about normalizing relations with Israel. At the same time, by removing a source of contention between the U.S. and Israel, the administration will be saying to the Arabs that now we must all focus on the common threat to the region, that of Iran and its impending nuclear capability.

To the world, the administration will be signaling that yes, Washington will be more engaged; that yes, it is making outreach to the Muslim world, but that these important actions should not be misunderstood in any way as a weakening of the special relationship between the U.S. and Israel. This is an important message to convey to tamp down the cynical aspirations of anti-Israel forces that saw the opportunity to turn America away from Israel. It is an important reassurance to nations in the Middle East threatened by radical Islam, that the U.S. will stand strong with its allies Israel and the moderate Arabs, when the extremist threat from Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas and al-Qaeda looms very large.

Continuing the tension over settlements will only produce a lose-lose situation. Israel will feel more insecure and be less willing to consider concessions; Palestinians will feel less of a need to make critical decisions; Arabs will be no closer to getting the Palestinian issue off their agenda and focusing on the Iranian threat. Resolving the problem, on the other hand, can begin to free the process that ultimately can be a win-win proposition, for Israelis on one side and Palestinians and Arabs on the other.

Abraham H. Foxman is national director of the Anti-Defamation League and author of “The Deadliest Lies: The Israel Lobby and the Myth of Jewish Control.”

Erasing facts from Israel eviction story

Rafael Broch

The Palestinian families evicted in East Jerusalem had failed to pay their rent – a fact omitted from British media reports

Mattresses strewn across the street, a child crying, a woman shouting in despair – it was not a pretty scene in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood in East Jerusalem last Sunday, where two Palestinian families were evicted from the homes they had lived in for the last 50 years. Already a bitter pill to swallow, the sight of religious Jews immediately moving in to the properties can't have made things any easier for them.

However, things are not always what they seem and the eviction of the Hanoun and Ghawi families are an apt example of how an appetite for a certain type of story can create that story regardless of the facts. As an organisation that follows media coverage of the Middle East closely, we gathered from Sunday and Monday's reporting, such as on the BBC, in the Guardian and in the Times that the two Palestinian families were evicted because Israeli courts had found that the land belonged to Jews, not to the Palestinians living there. Cut to religiously clad Jews busting in to the newly vacated houses and the whole thing is just obvious: Israel mercilessly turfs Arabs on to the street to plant more settlers in east Jerusalem.

It turns out that this is simply not the case. In fact, there is nothing simple about this case at all. There is a long legal history pertaining to the dispute between 28 Arab families and Jewish organisations over the ownership of the land in question. However, one crucial point was omitted from all reporting from the British sources named above (bar a small amendment to the BBC article made yesterday following a communication from us): the two Arab families evicted on Sunday were evicted for failing to pay rent in violation of the terms of their tenancy agreements. The Arab families who have kept to the terms of their tenancy agreement have not been evicted.

It is true that the non-payment of rent is tied up with the dispute over who owns the land, but it is still intensely relevant to the story. It's all very well for the Guardian's Middle East editor, Ian Black, to describe the evictions as "the ugly face of ethnic cleansing" or for Cif contributor Matt Kennard to claim that they represent "a process of racial purification". But without informing readers that the only people being evicted are the ones who refused to pay rent to the landlords they recognised decades ago, they paint a distorted picture.

As a story that has been widely reported and stirs deep emotions, it is vital that crucial facts are not erased from the narrative. There can be no doubt that there are clearly issues of inequality in Jerusalem which need to be addressed but that is no excuse for British journalists and commentators to misrepresent this particular story. Liberal Israeli daily Ha'aretz saw fit to mention the non-payment of rent element in its reporting, as did the Jerusalem Post.

This information was public. Furthermore, Ir Amim, the Israeli organisation supporting the position of the evicted families, is straight about the fact that the families are being evicted for not paying rent; a representative stated: "The legal issues surrounding the Sheikh Jarrah evictions are quite complex. In short, the Israeli courts have accepted the settlers' claim of ownership over the property, but recognised the Palestinian residents to be protected tenants. Some of the 28 families continued to pay the rent, but some did not accept the court's ruling and therefore did not pay the rent. Against those, the court issued eviction orders."

So why the collective exclusion of this key fact from British reporting?

Hevron Jews Sue for Expulsion Damages

Maayana Miskin
A7 News

Hevron residents say the state violated its obligations as the custodian of Jewish properties in the marketplace. As custodian of the properties, which are rightfully owned by the descendants of the former Sephardi Jewish tenants of the buildings, the state had a responsibility to keep the properties in good condition, they argue. However, instead of protecting the properties while determining what to do with them, the state caused serious damage, the plaintiffs say. As evidence, they have pictures of soldiers destroying apartments in the marketplace with hammers and similar equipment shortly after two Jewish families were expelled from the residences.

The Jewish families, and hundreds of supporters, were expelled from the marketplace in August 2007.

Military officials had reassured the Jewish families living in the marketplace that if they were to agree to leave peacefully, they would be allowed to return and granted legal status. As there were no plans to allow Arab merchants to return to the historically Jewish properties, which they had used as shops during the Jordanian occupation of the city, military officials recommended that the state lease the properties to the Hevron Jewish community – as requested by the surviving original owners.

However, after nine families left peacefully, Attorney General Menachem Mazuz voided the agreement they had made with the IDF and said they would not be allowed to return.

Residents of Hevron are requesting 214,400 shekels to replace the property and infrastructure damaged in the expulsion. In addition, they are asking the government to reverse the previous government's decision and allow Jews to return to the marketplace, which is located in the Jewish Avraham Avinu neighborhood.

Return Fitting for 80 Year Memorial

The lawsuit has been filed two years after the marketplace expulsion, and 80 years after the Hevron massacre, in which Arab Muslim mobs slaughtered 67 Jewish residents of the city and wounded dozens more. Following the slayings, British authorities forcibly removed Jews from the city, and Jewish life was not restored to the area until after the Six Day War.

Prior to the massacre, Jews had lived in Hevron for centuries, and the city was home to an internationally renowned yeshiva.

Allowing Jews to return to historically Jewish property in the Avraham Avinu marketplace would be a fitting action to take in honor of the Jews slaughtered in the 1929 massacre, Hevron Jews say. The government has announced plans to commemorate the 1929 slayings with an official state ceremony.

Obama goes by the road map

yossi alpher , THE JERUSALEM POST

Back in 2003 when the road map was introduced, the clear impression of many observers, myself among them, was that it was stillborn. Palestinian president Yasser Arafat would interfere with the efforts of newly-appointed prime minister Mahmoud Abbas to restrain Palestinian violence. Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon would insist on Palestinian compliance on ceasing violence before he froze settlement construction and removed outposts. US president George W. Bush's newfound commitment to a proactive role in the peace process seemed largely rhetorical.

And indeed, all the villains in this scenario lived up to worst-case expectations. Nevertheless, something happened. Sharon responded to the road map by withdrawing from the Gaza Strip. Arafat passed from the scene and Abbas remains committed to nonviolence. Bush responded to the Hamas takeover of Gaza by investing heavily and successfully in helping the Palestinian Authority, now restricted to the West Bank, deliver on its road map phase I obligations of ending violence and building institutions.

Now along comes a new American president, Barack Obama, and demands that Israel finally seriously fulfill its own phase I obligations regarding settlements. Thus the road map - whose full title, tellingly, is "A Performance-Based Roadmap to a Permanent Two-State Solution to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict" - is still with us.

And phase I in particular is relevant. It presents a logical checklist of the positive developments that have to take place on both sides for any lasting progress toward a two-state solution to be contemplated:

"Palestinians immediately undertake an unconditional cessation of violence... accompanied by supportive measures undertaken by Israel. Palestinians and Israelis resume security cooperation... to end violence, terrorism, and incitement through restructured and effective Palestinian security services. Palestinians undertake comprehensive political reform in preparation for statehood, including drafting a Palestinian constitution, and free, fair and open elections upon the basis of those measures. Israel takes all necessary steps to help normalize Palestinian life. Israel withdraws from Palestinian areas occupied from September 28, 2000, and the two sides restore the status quo that existed at that time, as security performance and cooperation progress. Israel also freezes all settlement activity, consistent with the Mitchell report."

True, the timetables have long since expired and the Palestinian elections produced an unwanted and destructive result. But the contrast between PA and Israeli fulfillment of phase I obligations - or at least serious attempts to fulfill them, however tardily - is striking.

In the last two years, the PA has begun solidly delivering on security in the West Bank and building institutions of governance. Israel has done little to stop settlement growth or remove outposts. Nor has a succession of Israeli governments made any move to withdraw to the September 2000 lines or restore the Palestinian institutional status quo in East Jerusalem as phase I demands.

THIS CONTRAST is all the more striking if we factor in Israel's insistence, framed in Sharon's 14 point response to the road map, that phase I obligations be sequential and not parallel: Israel would fulfill its obligations only after the Palestinians fulfilled theirs.

The US and the rest of the Quartet never recognized this Israeli demand, which pointedly contradicts the language of phase I. But even if they were to accept it, Israel still hasn't complied with regard to settlements and Jerusalem in response to Palestinian security achievements. Only the persistent prodding of the Obama administration has brought a grudging government of Israel to begin dismantling West Bank checkpoints and to contemplate a serious effort to remove outposts.

In its final year in office, the Bush administration orchestrated one major structural adjustment to the road map. Under the Annapolis process, Israel and the Palestinians agreed to enter phase III - final-status talks - in parallel with phase I undertakings, with the stipulation that implementation of a negotiated peace would await fulfillment of phase I institution-building obligations. Because Israel and the PLO never reached an agreed final-status agreement, this arrangement could not be put to the test. But it certainly does not appear to have reduced Palestinian motivation in the West Bank to carry out the institution-building and security tasks outlined in phase I.

Interestingly, Obama's demands regarding settlements are not presented publicly as a call for Israeli compliance with the road map. As we see when we look at phases II and III, the Obama team is fairly closely following the road map rule book even as it officially ignores that document and embraces a regional, comprehensive approach. Presumably, it wants to avoid being tainted by what appears to be its predecessor's failure in Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking.

Yet it's all there in the road map.

Yossi Alpher is coeditor of the family of Internet publications. He is former director of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University. This article first appeared in and is published by permission.
This article can also be read at /servlet/Satellite?cid=1249418544481&pagename=JPArticle%2FShowFull

A Place that Never Changes

Robert Fulford
National Post A13, 1 August 2009

A miracle always lifts the spirits, and a miracle as rare as a mostly honest and readable UN report can lift mine. The UN normally publishes material written in a flannel-mouthed style invented for the purpose of evading ugly truths. But in a surprising deviation from the norm, the Arab Human Development Report, a series that began in 2002 under the United Nations Development Programme, has acquired an unexpected habit of honesty. The fifth installment, the work of 90 Arab scholars, appeared last week under the title Challenges to Human Security in the Arab Countries (available at

Seven years ago, the first report identified three "deficits" in Arab life — education, political freedom and women’s rights. In these fields, particularly politics, the situation has grown worse. Despite occasional reports of emerging democracy, most of the 350 million people in the region remain afflicted by dictatorships that show no sign of changing.

Economically, news is no better. While the planet has been in a temporary recession, the Arabs live in a permanent depression; Arab unemployment is more than double that of the rest of the world. As the assembled scholars judge it, Arabs are even less industrialized than they were four decades ago. Illiteracy remains high in many countries, health services sketchy. As for public safety, people fear the state security forces as much as they fear foreign invasion.

Rami G. Khouri, a Palestinian-Jordanian journalist, says as an Arab that "we have marginalized ourselves as serious players on the global political stage and now assume the role of nagging annoyances and miscreants." That’s from a paper, The Year that Was, in the report’s closing chapter. Core weaknesses grew during 2008, and democratization remains "buried beneath the stultifying weight of corruption-riddled Arab security states."

Yet most people in the West anticipate improvements in Arab life. The West believes in progress above everything else, and insists on re-asserting its belief against all contrary evidence.

Consider this week’s edition of The Economist, in which the UN report serves as the keystone of a 14-page section on Arab prospects. The editors recount the failures of the Arab countries, but announce in their magazin e’s cover line that the Arab world is "waking from its sleep." The leading editorial ends with glimpses of progress in women’s education, increasingly enlightened businessmen and the growth of satellite television (meaning al-Jazeera and its ilk) as a source of non-government information. Moreover, the unemployed young, more numerous than ever, are ripe for social upheaval.

Grandly, The Economist pronounces that the corrupt authoritarian style of Arab government deserves to die. "At some point it will almost certainly collapse. The great unknown is when." Oh, those wild and crazy Economist optimists.

They should note that the official Arab media have mainly ignored the UN report. This suggests that its authors, many of whom live outside the Arab world, are not taken seriously in their own countries. A piece in the Kuwait Times this week by Meshary Alruwaih, a staff columnist, reflects the approach that Arab governments prefer.

Alruwaih’s article about the Arab Human Development Report, Arab Cultural Security, turns away from practical matters, like the fact that about one Arab in five lives on the equivalent of two American dollars a day. Alruwaih prefers to opine on a philosophical plane. He suggests it’s all very well for the UN scholars to focus on national security, social security, water,=2 0education and so forth. But they miss a vital issue, cultural security, "the soul of the society."

He treats it as a pan-Arab issue: society’s ability "to maintain a theme of its history" while constructing purpose and meaning for the future. According to Alruwaih, what’s needed from social scientists is "proliferation of a discourse on cultural security."His gauzy, sentimental approach perfectly demonstrates the kind of complacent Arab thinking that serves mainly to protect the status and the power of the elites controlling the region’s governments. Confronted with the unpleasant truths in the Arab Human Development Report, Alruwaih does what contemporary Arab leaders have done for all of their lives, and believe they can do forever: He simply changes the subject to something much more pleasant. And then, defying the cover line on The Economist, he goes back to sleep.

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Thursday, August 06, 2009

U.S. Taxpayers Fund Pro-Hamas Propaganda

IPT News
August 6, 2009

With the federal government facing trillions of dollars in red ink, one might think that the United States Institute of Peace (USIP), which receives upwards of $30 million a year from the taxpayers, would want to show Congress it wasn't squandering money on propaganda for terrorist groups like Hamas. But that hasn't happened. Instead, USIP has issued a new report that twists reality to argue that Hamas has moderated and Israel needs to negotiate with the terror organization. The authors of the report are a Jew and Muslim, USIP informs readers: Paul Scham, a visiting professor of Jewish Studies at the University of Maryland College Park, and Osama Abu-Irshaid.

USIP identified Irshaid as a writer who "is completing a Ph.D. thesis on Hamas at Loughboro University, U.K., and is founder and editor in chief of Al-Meezan newspaper, published in Arabic in the United States." But USIP (and Foreign Policy magazine, which has published lengthy excerpts of the report ) neglected to inform readers that Irshaid used to be editor of Al-Zaytounah, the biweekly Arabic-language newspaper published by the Islamic Association for Palestine (IAP).

In the summer of 2007, evidence in the Hamas-support prosecution of the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (HLF) and its officers showed that the IAP played a central role in the Muslim Brotherhood's Palestine Committee. The committee was created to advance Hamas' agenda in the United States by, among other things, "what it needs of media, money and men and all of that."

For example, a November 1991 status report approved by the Shura Council explained that the Ikhwan, or Muslim Brotherhood, created IAP "to serve the cause of Palestine on the political and media fronts." It added that "The Association's work has developed a great deal since its inception, particularly with the formation of the Palestine Committee, the beginning of the Intifada at the end of 1987 and the proclamation of the Hamas Movement."

Evidence also included a 1992 internal memo urging the Palestine Committee to work to "increase the financial and the moral support for Hamas" to "fight surrendering solutions" and publicize "the savagery of the Jews." A July 30, 1994 report found in the home of a former Hamas official listed IAP as a member of the Committee.

Al Zaytounah also printed communiqués glorifying Hamas suicide attacks. In its October 27, 1994 issue, Al Zaytounah's headline was: "In its greatest operation, Hamas takes credit for the bombing of an Israeli bus in the heart of Tel Aviv." IAP was listed among more than 300 unindicted co-conspirators in the HLF case. In November 2008, the HLF and five of its senior officials were found guilty on all charges. Read more here.

Given Irshaid's background, it should come as no surprise that the report he co-authored for USIP calls for a "reexamination of our assumptions" that Hamas cannot coexist with Israel. "Indeed, Hamas has been carefully and consciously adjusting its political program for years and has sent repeated signals that it may be ready to begin a process of coexisting with Israel," Irshaid and Scham write. They add that Hamas "has indicated on a number of occasions" its "willingness to accede to a hudna [truce] for a specified period of time] with Israel" if "basic Palestinian rights" are agreed to.

Their case for negotiating with Hamas verges on the farcical, as the authors try to explain away its opposition to any territorial compromise with Israel and its anti-Semitism. Irshaid and Scham note, for example, that Article 11 of the Hamas charter affirms "that the land of Palestine is an Islamic waqf (trust) endowed for Muslim generations until the Day of Resurrection, and should not be compromised entirely or partially." Article 13 states that "various initiatives of settlement, and so-called peaceful solutions and international conferences to resolve the Palestinian issue contradict the tenets of the Islamic Resistance Movement, as compromising any part of Palestine is equivalent to the omission of a part of our religion." The same article, they point out, declares that there is "no solution to the Palestinian cause save jihad; for initiatives, proposals and international conferences are nothing but a waste of time and absurd nonsense."

Article 7 quotes the famous hadith: "The Day of Judgment will not come about until Muslims fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say 'O Moslems, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.'"

Article 22, "draws on mythology of the notorious Protocols of the Elders of Zion, an anti-Semitic forgery commissioned by the czarist secret police in the early years of the twentieth century and republished many times since, most recently in numerous Arabic editions," Irshaid and Scham write. "Article 22 of the charter refers specifically to Jewish (or Zionist, the words seem to be used interchangeably) control of the media, finance, Freemasonry, etc., and states that Jews are responsible for World Wars I and II."

This suggests that Hamas is irremovably anti-Semitic and hostile to peace. Not necessarily, according to the authors, who argue that Hamas' literature and statements during the movement's "early years" reflect "a genuine confusion about how to deal with Jews." Hamas has subsequently taken a "clearer position," they report, "that reflects hostility to actions by Jews against Palestinians and not hostility to Jews simply on the basis of belief." How comforting.

Article 13 of the Hamas Charter, which rejects negotiations with Israel, isn't a problem either, because Hamas officials now call for a "phased liberation" of Palestine, "which is a fundamental change in policy opening the door to coexistence with Israel." A few paragraphs later, the authors quote Muhammad Nazzal, a member of Hamas' political bureau, stating that "We are for any 'phased solution,' but without recognizing the Israeli enemy or its existence." [Emphasis added]

That sort of begs the question of how one can co-exist with someone whose existence one refuses to recognize. What might such "coexistence" look like? To Hamas, it looks like getting everything it wants and offering nothing in return. In recent interviews with the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, Meshaal said Hamas would respect a ceasefire with Israel and a prisoner swap that would free Hamas fighters (i.e., terrorists) in exchange for kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. He said Hamas would accept a ceasefire based on the June 4, 1967 borders and Israeli acceptance of the "right of return" for millions of Palestinian refugees.

In other words, Meshaal would agree to a 10-year truce as long as Hamas wouldn't have to recognize Israel's existence if Israel would agree to cripple itself by allowing millions of hostile Palestinians to settle in the country. Then, after Hamas armed itself for a decade, it could resume its war to destroy Israel (which by this point would be only eight miles wide, having relinquished the West Bank.) That isn't a peace agreement in any genuine sense but a formula for Israel's destruction.

But that is what Irshaid and Scham are proposing with support from USIP. Congress needs to start asking some serious questions – such as why taxpayers are being forced to fund pro-Hamas propaganda co-authored by an alumnus of the Hamas/ Muslim Brotherhood public-relations apparatus in the United States.

Israel vs the world: Drawing battle lines over Jerusalem

Aug. 6, 2009

The phone call Ambassador to the US Michael Oren received from the State Department on Monday protesting the eviction of two Palestinian families from a Jewish-owned building in Jerusalem's Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood - as well as the condemnations of the move by Britain, Egypt, the UN and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton - are the birth pangs of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's new policy on Jerusalem. For the past 40 years, scores of Israeli politicians have been talking about Israel's 3,000-year-old link to Jerusalem and how the city must remain Israel's undivided capital forever.

Former prime minister Ehud Olmert spoke that way for years, especially when he was mayor of the city. But then he became prime minister, changed his tone and - by his own in admission - was willing to compromise on Jerusalem.

In a May interview with Newsweek, Olmert said he agreed that the "holy basin" in Jerusalem would not be under Israel's sovereignty, but rather administered by a consortium of Saudis, Jordanians, Israelis, Palestinians and Americans.

In other words, there has long been a dissonance between Israeli slogans on Jerusalem and the country's negotiating position regarding the city.

Talk to foreign diplomats and they will tell you, with absolute sincerity, that the Arabs will never, ever compromise on Jerusalem, not in a million years.

The Jews, they believe, will compromise.

And their expectations are not unfounded: a quick glance at diplomacy over the last 10 years shows that premise to be true. Ehud Barak was willing to make Israeli concessions to the Palestinians regarding Jerusalem at Camp David and Taba, and Olmert was willing to do the same during his conversations with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Netanyahu, who when he was prime minister the first time around dug the Temple Mount tunnels that sparked riots, and also bucked the condemnation of the entire world in building Har Homa, seems to be made of different stuff on Jerusalem. When he says the city will be the undivided capital of Israel, he - apparently - means it.

What is occurring now - both the US protest over the decision to build 20 apartment units for Jews at the site of the old Shepherd Hotel in Sheikh Jarrah, and the protest over the current evictions - is that both Israel and the world are laying down their markers.

The world is saying "hands off east Jerusalem," and Netanyahu is replying, "no, it's ours." And those diametrically opposed positions are bound to lead to friction.

It is also important to keep in mind three other elements when looking at the current tension with Washington over Jerusalem.

The first is that the government did not initiate the eviction of the families in Sheikh Jarrah. One cannot accuse the government of picking a fight with the US over this issue now, at a very sensitive time in the diplomatic process. Rather, the police were implementing a decision on ownership of the house handed down by the Supreme Court.

Another thing to remember is that no prime minister of Israel has ever agreed to curtail building in east Jerusalem.

Even Olmert, who was willing to compromise a great deal on Jerusalem, continued to approve housing in the eastern part of the city, drawing fire as a result from then-US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice.

Olmert kept building in east Jerusalem, while at the same time indicating willingness to make concessions on it in a final-status deal. Netanyahu, like Olmert, continues to build, but has not indicated that he is willing to compromise on the final status of the city.

And, finally, the noise over Jerusalem now must be seen within the context of the negotiations over a possible settlement moratorium. The Israeli government has made clear that any possible limitations on settlement construction will be just that - limitations on settlements beyond the Green Line, but not in the capital.

The protests and howls coming from the world and Washington over everything Israel does in east Jerusalem is a clear sign that they do not accept that position.
This article can also be read at /servlet/Satellite?cid=1249418533561&pagename=JPArticle%2FShowFull

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Peace Talks

Shmuel Rosner
The New Republic

Hey Obama, don't waste your time giving a speech in Israel.
Post Date Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Two Israeli writers caused a stir last week by calling on President Obama to speak directly to Israelis, similar to the way he has addressed populations from Cairo to Moscow. "Simply stated, take your campaign directly to the Israeli people, and soon," Bradley Burston wrote in a Haaretz blog post. "Fail to do this, or wait too long, and you'd be well advised to leave the table while you still have chips." Aluf Benn echoed this sentiment in The New York Times: "This policy of ignoring Israel carries a price." Similar points were made just two weeks ago in a study by the Center for American Progress. Both Benn and Burston seem to believe that Israelis disapprove of Obama because they don't understand what he wants--simply because he has failed to explain it to them. It's unsurprising that columnists friendly to the ideas of the Israeli center-left would suggest that Israelis are actually in line with Obama's agenda. But there's an easier way of interpreting Israelis' uneasiness with Obama: They do understand him, and do not agree with him. If that's the case, more Obama-talk will not make a big difference. It is very common to blame "communication" when things go badly between two parties. However, there are many things that no improvement of communication will remedy.

Both writers assume that Israelis don't care much for settlements, and I tend to agree. However, as Benn starts explaining while not quite completing his argument ("Mr. Obama has made a mistake in focusing on a settlement freeze"), Israelis also don't care much for doing something for no particular reason, or just because there's a new sheriff in town. The settlements should certainly go, most Israelis believe--but they should go at this specific time only if the president can logically explain the benefit Israelis will gain from letting them go now. If all he has is the general "settlements are bad for Israel" argument, then nothing much has changed; Israelis already know that.

Yes, Israelis might appreciate the honor of having the U.S. president talking directly to them. (As Benn writes, "In the 16 rosy years of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, Israelis became spoiled by unfettered presidential attention.") But what exactly is he going to tell them? That peace is good for all and that he wants to advance peace? They know. That Palestinians suffer? They know. That he cares deeply for Israel's security? They know he says that, and would like to believe it, but the real game-changer will require proof, not words. Clinton and Bush didn't just say "We care for Israel" and instantly become darlings of the Israeli public. They showed they care--mostly by getting along well with the Israeli governments of Rabin and Sharon respectively. The Obama administration has done little to curry Israeli trust with their churlish attitude toward Netanyahu. In this sense, I agree with Benn and Burston: Regardless of the inevitable vapidity of an Obama speech directed at Israelis, the act of making the trip to Israel would be at least be a "deed"--a demonstration of good will on his part.

But words alone will not make Israelis trust Obama. Israelis do not suffer from lack of understanding of the issues; they suffer from peace-fatigue. They look at "peace processes" with suspicion, based on experience and events. They are scarred enough to know what has working and what has not, and they are tired of the good intentions of enthusiastic novices, believing that with their youth and their smarts they'll be able to come up with some magic trick that can somehow round a square. What Obama needs is a convincing plan that makes sense. It does not look like he has one.

The president has reportedly sent letters to seven Arab leaders reminding them of "the need for CBMs [confidence-building measures] in exchange for [a settlement] freeze and to [get] peace talks restarted." It hasn't worked very well, and Israelis will be aware of this failure if they hear Obama talking about the need to stop settlement construction. So perhaps instead of the president making the effort of "talking directly" to Israelis with nothing new to say, maybe he ought to put his efforts into convincing someone else to address Israelis--somebody whose very act of speaking to Israelis would be significant in its own right. King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia or President Bashar Al-Assad of Syria come to mind.

Regardless of its futility, my sources tell me that an Obama address to Israelis is coming soon. (Joe Klein was first to report this.) If he must do so, I can offer three pieces of advice: First, don't lecture Israelis like you know what's good for them better than they know themselves. You don't. Second, don't try to do an end-run on the Israeli government like you've done in other world capitols by speaking directly to "the people." Don't patronize them by saying that the Israel public knows better than its government what needs to be done. The public elected this government; the public you're talking about is the public of some liberal American Jews, which has little relevance to the current reality in Israel. And third, don't promise peace within a year or two. History is a better teacher of that lesson than I am.

I, for one, will not be disappointed if Obama chooses not to make the effort. I don't think that Obama needs the approval of Israelis--nor, for that matter, that it is crucial for Israelis to have the personal sympathies of the American president. In fact, I think those "spoiled" Israelis can benefit from being reminded that not all presidents will be a Clinton or a Bush. Presidents come with different priorities and changing agendas--and Israel should make sure that it is always strategically benefiting the United States rather than relying on intangible romantic notions of shared values and religious sympathies to bolster the relationship. And perhaps more importantly, Israelis need to be reminded that we can live, for a long or short period of time, with a less demonstrably friendly America with no need for hysteria.

Shmuel Rosner is an editor and columnist based in Tel Aviv. He blogs daily at Rosner's Domain.

Jewish Groups Slam Obama's Honoring Anti-Israel Leaders

Avraham Zuroff
A7 News

Two pro-Israel American organizations and the Republican Jewish Coalition lashed out at U.S. President Barack Obama for awarding a Presidential Medal of Freedom to Mary Robinson. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) called on the administration to “firmly, fully and publicly repudiate her views on Israel and her long public record of hostility and one-sided bias against the Jewish state.” The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) also condemned the decision to award former South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu. The ZOA pointed out that both Tutu and Robinson “have made statements and presided over organizations and conferences that were viciously critical of Israel.” ZOA’s National President Morton A. Klein said, “It is deplorable that President Obama should have honored two such utterly partisan, vociferously anti-Israel figures like Mary Robinson and Desmond Tutu.”

It is deplorable that President Obama should have honored two such utterly partisan, vociferously anti-Israel figures.

Klein noted that human rights groups are continuously being controlled by figures that are anti-Israel. He added, "Neither Robinson nor Tutu ever resigned in protest at the direction these bodies have taken, or took anything that could be called a courageous stand in favor of truth. Rather, both have lent their reputations to travesties of the truth and given the bodies on which they served an aura of undeserved legitimacy. By awarding them the Medal of Freedom, President Obama compounds their offense by lending them further underserved legitimacy.”

Republican Jewish Coalition Executive Director Matt Brooks said, "Mary Robinson, who was one of the people responsible for the 2001 Durban conference against racism descending into an anti-Israel propaganda forum, is not an appropriate recipient for one of our nation's highest honors. In fact, awarding the Medal of Freedom to Mary Robinson does great dishonor to the many outstanding men and women who have received it in the past."

Robinson is widely known for the high-profile role she played in leading in what AIPAC calls “the deeply flawed” U.N. Human Rights Commission and for presiding over the U.N.’s Durban Conference on Racism, which the United States boycotted for “its unprecedented hostility to Israel” and its final outcome document that equated Zionism with racism.

In a BBC interview following the passage of the “Zionism = Racism” Durban text, Robinson described the outcome as “remarkably good, including on the issues of the Middle East.”

In April 2002, Robinson’s Human Rights Commission voted on a decision that condoned suicide bombings as a legitimate means to establish Palestinian statehood after Robinson initiated a drive to become a fact finder to investigate the fictitious massacre in Jenin.

Desmond Tutu has claimed that Zionism has “very many parallels with racism” and has called Jews “arrogant. Tutu accused Jews of exhibiting “an arrogance – the arrogance of power because Jews are a powerful lobby in this land and all kinds of people woo their support.”

White House Responds

In response to AIPAC’s criticism, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told the press on Tuesday that Robinson was being honored due to her being the first female President of Ireland and as a prominent crusader of women's rights in Ireland and throughout the world.

Nevertheless, Gibbs asserted, “There are statements that obviously she has made that the President doesn't agree with, and that's probably true for a number of the people that the President is recognizing for their lifetime contributions.”

CNN interview with Mark Regev, Spokesman for the Israeli Prime Minister

Anchor: The international community is outraged. Israeli police used force to evict two large Palestinian families from an East Jerusalem neighborhood. Security forces were following court orders – still the situation got very tense. Tempers flared and scuffles broke out. The UN spokesman for Palestinian refugees echoed the global condemnation: . Chris Gunness: What we see here lies just strewn on the streets of Jerusalem. This is what occupation is actually about. That's what's going on here, now, in Jerusalem. And that is why we say, "Can the world please wake up and realize what is happening in the holy city?" - Because it is completely unacceptable.

Anchor: Well, the Israeli government had inquired about all of this until now. Israeli Government Spokesman Mark Regev joins us now, live from Jerusalem, with the government's reaction. There is widespread international condemnation of Israel for these evictions. UN envoy to the Middle East has called Israel's actions "totally unacceptable". What is your response?

Mark Regev: Well, I think a lot of the criticism is simply not fair. You had a legal dispute between two private parties. The Israeli government was not involved over who had title to a particular property there in East Jerusalem. And it went up the Israeli court system all the way to our Supreme Court, with both groups, both sides, putting all their documents, all their claims in front of the court.

As you know, the Israeli court system is independent and professional. Many times it rules in favor of the Palestinian side, if that's where it thinks justice lies. In this case it ruled in favor of the Jewish side.

The timing of this event was because the court order was implemented. And I think anyone who lives in a democracy knows that rule of law means that the court's decision must be upheld. Does anyone really think that the Israeli government can overrule its own Supreme Court and pass some sort of racist law that forbids Jews from buying apartments or property in Jerusalem?

Anchor: Mark Regev, would you accept that the scenes that played out for the world to see are not conducive to peace?

Mark Regev: I think peace, and I have heard my Prime Minister Netanyahu say this, peace has to include a situation where Jews in Jerusalem can live in Arab neighborhoods and Arabs in Jerusalem can live in Jewish neighborhoods. Isn't that what peace and coexistence is all about? The whole idea that East Jerusalem has to be free of Jews, surely that is something that no one in the international community can accept.

Anchor: The US State Department has already come out and said that these actions that took place clearly violate Israel's obligation under the US backed road map for peace. Would you accept that? Would you accept that they have repeatedly asked Israel not to carry out these evictions and not to move Jewish families into the area? - Because it undermines any kind of atmosphere for any kind of fruitful negotiations.

Mark Regev: Listen, I of course have empathy for people who are being evicted from houses that the court says they have to leave. I think in any situation like that you have empathy for people who have to leave the house. But of course there is rule of law. And in America, in Europe, in all democratic countries we know that the courts look at the evidence, they hear from both sides and they make a distinction, they make a decision. And that decision has to be upheld by the police, by the executive branch. In this case the court objectively heard all the evidence. Now people are tying to play politics here, but this isn't politics. This is rule of law.

Anchor: So you deny that there is a systematic policy in place, whether or not it is acknowledged as a policy. But there are systematic actions taking place to move Jewish families into East Jerusalem and to move Palestinians out. Would you deny that?

Mark Regev: There is no such government policy. On the contrary, here you have a situation where private people bought private property. And that is what it is. The court dealt with a land dispute between two private groups of people.

But let me make something clear here. Since Israel united the city in 1967, for the first time in the history of that city all great religious groups, whether it is the Christian community, the Jewish community or the Muslim community, have full freedom of religion, freedom of worship. Only under Israeli rule have democratic rights been maintained and guaranteed for all.

And I would ask those Arab residents who go the Israeli Supreme Court and go against these sorts of rulings, where else in the Arab world do you have a situation where the courts are free and independent and truly professional as they are in Israel?

Anchor: Well, a state has a duty of care to its citizens. So what happens now to those residents that are sleeping on the streets?

Mark Regev: Well to be fair, and I understand and have empathy for them, but this was no surprise. I mean, this has gone through all the courts in Israel up to the Supreme Court, and they knew that this court order had come. They were asked to leave voluntarily because the courts had decided it was not their property. They did not have the right to be there, and yet they chose this political statement. Really, they should have known this was coming and made the correct preparations.

Anchor: All right Mark Regev, Israeli Government Spokesman, joining us live at the I Desk, thanks for your time.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

The British Firestorm Against Israel

Melanie Phillips

The shocking rise in anti-Jewish attacks demonstrates that the way Israel is presented impacts directly on the safety of British Jews.
According to the Community Security Trust, there were 609 anti-Jewish incidents in the first six months of this year, more than in the whole of 2008. And more than half the incidents reported in January made some reference to Operation Cast Lead in Gaza.

Well, of course. People were being told day in, day out that the Israelis were wantonly killing Palestinian children.

In fact, Israeli figures showed that the vast majority of those killed were Hamas operatives. Given that half of Gaza’s population are children, not to mention the use by Hamas of civilians as human shields, the relatively small number of child casualties testified to the remarkable care Israel took not to kill children.

What makes the Israel-bashing so monstrous is that Israel is being vilified through falsehood and distortion for defending its citizens against attack. This is tantamount to saying it should not defend itself – and therefore should not exist at all.

When a culture goes bad like this, an enormous amount rides on the attitude and behavior of those at the top. But this vicious mood is being reflected and exacerbated by the government of that self-described Israel-lover, Gordon Brown.

There has of late been a flurry of Israel-bashing by the Foreign Office. It has totally disregarded the opinion of Colonel Richard Kemp, formerly commander of British forces in Afghanistan and the intelligence coordinator for the British government.

Col. Kemp recently told a conference in Jerusalem that, like Britain in Afghanistan and Iraq, Israeli forces were up against an enemy that deliberately manipulated Israel’s adherence to international law so as “to produce an international outcry and condemnation.”

And HMG has duly allowed Hamas to manipulate it. The Foreign Office has revoked five export licenses for spare parts for Israeli warships’ guns on the grounds that Israel’s actions were “disproportionate” — even though these are claims fabricated by Hamas and recycled by the UN, media and NGOs.

The FO says it based the revocation on the criterion of whether the proposed items would be used for “internal repression.” But Gaza is not ‘internal’ to Israel. Nor does Israel even occupy Gaza any more.

The Foreign Office told me that because of the “significant control that Israel has over Gaza’s borders, airspace and territorial waters, Israel retains obligations under the Fourth Geneva Convention as an occupying power in relation to Gaza.”

But this is nonsense. The Geneva Convention merely lays out the obligations of an occupying power. It does not actually define “occupation” – which, as set out by the Hague Convention, means military boots on the ground, preventing a territory from governing itself. There are very obviously no Israeli boots on the ground in Gaza, which is governed by Hamas.

This and other similar Foreign Office initiatives form part of a frenzied eruption of anti-Israel malice. Malevolently distorted reports by NGOs have provoked a firestorm of similar articles in the Guardian.

A book entitled Israeli Apartheid: A Beginner’s Guide by Ben White – who has stated: “I do not consider myself an anti-Semite, yet I can also understand why some are” – was launched by both War on Want and the Council for Arab British Understanding at a separate Commons reception presided over by Labour MP Brian Iddon.

And a few days ago, the Foreign Affairs Select Committee – in an incoherent report which condemned Hamas but bashed Israel for fighting it – reiterated its call to negotiate with Hamas.

Moral muddle and manipulative malice over Israel: look no farther for the causes of those shocking attacks on British Jews. Contributor Melanie Phillips is the author of the powerful and frightening Londonistan, and she blogs at The Spectator.

The crafting of Obama's Cairo speech to world's Muslims,0,7320667.story
The president worked with dozens but put his own delicate touch onto a blunt address that would grab global attention -- and some criticism.

By Christi Parsons
August 2, 2009

Reporting from Washington -- He sat with his legs crossed in an armchair in the Oval Office, his brow furrowed. Aides clustered on the couches around him. They could see black scratch marks all over their proposal for the most sensitive speech of his young presidency -- his long-promised address to the world's 1.5 billion Muslims.For weeks, they had toiled over the text. Now, some stole glances at the lead writer of the address, 31-year-old Ben Rhodes, as the lengthening silence confirmed that their best shot had fallen short.
Finally, President Obama dropped the manuscript into his lap and took a deep breath.

"I know you've been under a lot of pressure to get this right," he said. "But this speech is way too cautious. We have to say everything and say everything candidly. I'm not going all the way to Cairo to do anything else."

Despite the risk that he would give offense, he told his staff that he intended to address some of the most sensitive issues in foreign policy -- terrorism, the Arab-Israeli conflict, the inflammatory rhetoric of many Islamic leaders -- in terms that would grab the world's attention.

Obama worked his way around the cream-colored couches that flank the Oval Office fireplace, probing his aides' thoughts.

"We knew all the arguments not to say things," one recalled.

"He said, 'Look, put all those concerns aside. We need to be aware of them. . . . But I'm not going to fail to raise 9/11. I'm not going to not talk about women's rights in this way because it might be uncomfortable for some people.' "

The story of how the speech came into being is based on interviews with senior White House staffers and others directly involved. It reveals how Obama embraces opportunities for landmark addresses that can define him and his presidency -- as he did in his campaign speech on race and the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. -- and how once given the right platform he prepares obsessively.

Whatever else it achieved, the June 4 address at Cairo University inspired discomfort.

Some Israelis and American Jews recoiled at the way Obama juxtaposed the suffering of the Holocaust and centuries of anti-Semitic persecution with the experience of Palestinians under Israeli occupation.

Some Muslims were stunned to hear a Christian American president quote the Koran as he spoke to them about changing their attitudes toward Israel.

Whether Obama's blunt approach brings progress remains to be seen. What is already clear is that his outspokenness was no accident.

Line by line

On a Saturday morning in early May, not long after the milepost of the first hundred days of his presidency, Obama summoned several aides to the Oval Office. Sunshine streamed through the French doors that open onto the Rose Garden. Denis McDonough, deputy national security advisor for strategic communications, was there.

So was Rhodes, who had abandoned youthful dreams of becoming a novelist in favor of public policy. Rhodes, who has a master's degree in fiction writing from New York University, who had helped write the Iraq Study Group report and recommendations for the 9/11 Commission before working on Obama's presidential campaign.

One of six White House speechwriters, Rhodes had written some of Obama's most significant addresses, including foreign policy speeches during the campaign.

As a candidate, Obama had promised to give an address from a "major Islamic forum" at the outset of his presidency. The speech would signal a new day in U.S. relations with the Islamic world, he declared, and make it clear that "we are not at war with Islam."

On this May morning in the White House, Obama was dressed in his weekend working uniform of shirt sleeves and slacks. Speaking without notes, he outlined the message he wanted to convey in Cairo.

As usual, Rhodes wrote furiously on a white legal pad.
As the address took shape, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, who spent summers in Israel as a boy, would review almost every iteration.

David Axelrod, the president's top political advisor, would be deeply involved. So would other political aides and national security officials.
But Rhodes would be the principal draftsman -- with Obama passing judgment line by line.

The speech-writing team established a headquarters of sorts at the desk of Jenny Urizar, an assistant to McDonough. Her office space is designated as a secure site for storing sensitive information -- a "skiff," in White House parlance.

They began by drawing up lists of people to consult. "Make sure you talk to Muslims," Obama had said.

Soon, scores of experts and advocates were sending memos, polling data and letters in hopes of influencing the speech.

One by one, the experts got calls from Pradeep Ramamurthy, an FBI terrorism analyst detailed to the National Security Council. Diplomats came to meetings under fluorescent lights in the West Wing basement. Think-tank experts streamed into the Old Executive Office Building in groups of a dozen or so.

One group of activists sent a letter urging that human rights get prominent play; the signers were invited in to talk. "We urged them to use the word 'democracy,' " one said.

Other experts warned of pitfalls.

Talking about 9/11 would feed the theory widely believed in the Arab world that the U.S. had staged the attacks to justify military action against Islam. Decrying unequal treatment of women could bring charges of hypocrisy because of U.S. friendship with the likes of the Saudi royal family.

One especially emphatic warning came from a couple of Middle Eastern scholars. Beware of quoting the Koran, they said; the president might sound like he is pandering.

Worse, the complexities of Koranic interpretation might open Obama to ridicule by hostile clerics. Obama would "be playing on the turfs of the religious authorities," said one person who was present. "And then who are people going to believe -- the president of the United States, or the sheik?"

One member of the team would later refer to the group as "the Cairo cell." With the deadline at hand, they had a well-researched, meticulously vetted text. The State Department had blessed it. So had Axelrod and Emanuel.

Everything seemed on track -- until Obama announced his disappointment.

One attendee remembered something curious: At a certain point, Rhodes had stopped scribbling notes and just focused on the president's face.

Later, a friend bumped into the young speechwriter. "He looked relieved," the friend said, "even liberated."

So many voices had been urging caution that, as one team member described it, "we were putting the brakes on ourselves." Freed from those inhibitions, they tackled Obama's detailed edits. Some were line changes. Others, mostly on the backs of pages, were exact text to insert.

The structure itself changed. Instead of flowing prose, they made it read more like a list, with topics dealt with in bullet form -- violent extremism, nuclear disarmament, religious freedom.

That changed the message. It put women's rights on par with the speech's other main points, instead of making it a "throwaway line in the passage about democracy," as one staffer put it.

Democracy got its own bullet point for emphasis.
In the Arab-Israeli passage, they crossed boundaries of political correctness: Jews had been persecuted for centuries, they wrote, and their aspiration for a homeland is "rooted in a tragic history that cannot be denied." At the same time, the Palestinian people "have suffered in pursuit of a homeland."

The earlier version hadn't referred to the Holocaust, nor to the denial of it by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Now the team let fly: "Denying that fact is baseless. It is ignorant, and it is hateful.
"Threatening Israel with destruction, or repeating vile stereotypes about Jews, is deeply wrong, and only serves to evoke in the minds of the Israelis this most painful of memories while preventing the peace that the people of this region deserve."

Similarly, regarding Sept. 11, Obama would now bluntly declare, "I'm aware that there's still some who would question or even justify the offense of 9/11. But let us be clear: Al Qaeda killed nearly 3,000 people on that day...These are not opinions to be debated; these are facts to be dealt with."

References to the Koran changed, too. Instead of tucking quotations deep in the speech, Rhodes followed Obama's admonition to invoke the Islamic holy text more prominently.
Rashad Hussain, a devout Muslim on loan from the White House counsel's office, suggested the passage: "There must be a sustained effort to listen to each other, to learn from each other, to respect one another, and to seek common ground. As the Holy Koran tells us, 'Be conscious of God and speak always the truth.' "

'A musical impulse'

Obama went over the new text on Air Force One as he flew to an overnight stop in Saudi Arabia. As he read, he nodded, pausing now and then to ink in a thought or a suggestion.

That night, at the Riyadh ranch of King Abdullah, Obama had cardamom tea with the Saudi ruler. Emanuel went for a run in the 110-degree heat. Then Obama holed up with him, Axelrod and other senior staffers. Their buffet dinner simmered over cans of Sterno as they studied the text.

At midnight, the door to the staff work space creaked open. The president and his personal aide, Reggie Love, were delivering more changes.

On the two-hour flight to Cairo the next morning, Obama continued to tinker with the words and whisper parts of the speech to himself.

"He's very focused on both content and cadence," said Axelrod, "so he'll move the order of words around in order to get the cadence that he wants...It's almost a musical impulse -- how the words play against each other."

Rhodes would punch each change into his laptop, then walk to the back of the plane and read them to the Arabic translator.

"You've had a tough job," Obama said as they landed in the Egyptian capital.

A motorcade sped them through the streets. Then, surreally, the frenetic pace was interrupted as the president paused to tour the Sultan Hassan Mosque, one of the world's oldest.

Hussain from the White House counsel's office joined Rhodes, McDonough and others trailing behind Obama.

Afterward, there was a hint that the Cairo speech achieved at least one goal -- reaching over the heads of leaders and making contact with ordinary Muslims.

Paul Salem, director of the Carnegie Middle East Center, heard poignant evidence of that.

A friend in Cairo told Salem that on the day of the speech, he saw a little boy walking along the street, a smile on his face as he chanted in a soft, singsong voice: "Obama quoted the Koran. Obama quoted the Koran."

US Media See Through Smokescreen of Optimism

Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
A7 News

Journalists covering the U.S. State Department are increasingly becoming frustrated over officials’ comments reporting “progress” in attempts to renew Israeli-Palestinian Authority talks despite opposition in the Arab world. State Department spokesmen for years have been trying to show optimism despite widening gaps in positions between Israel and the PA. The PA bargaining power has been strengthened by U.S. President Barack Obama’s insistence that Israel freeze all building for Jews in eastern Jerusalem, as well as in Judea and Samaria.

In the daily State Dept. briefing on Monday, one reporter asked spokesman Philip J. Crowley, “You described earlier the conversation between the Secretary and the Jordanian Foreign Minister as excellent…. And yet, for the second time in three days, you’ve had an Arab foreign minister come out and basically say, ‘No way, we’re not going to do anything that Mitchell or you or whoever has asked us to do.’ How can you say that there’s progress being made and that Mitchell is close to getting the two sides back to the table?"

Crowley replied with a standard answer: “I think that we are working hard to put ourselves in position for negotiations to begin. I think we are saying that there’s still work to do and... even as we have experienced some progress.”

Before the reporter could continue questioning, Crowley then added, “You had strong statements by both the foreign minister of Jordan and the foreign minister of Saudi Arabia, first of all supporting the reengagement of the United States in this process, supporting the efforts to begin a negotiation…..

“We have reason for optimism… I think you have two strong reaffirmations of the importance of this effort, the critical role played by the United States, the willingness of countries to step up and take meaningful steps towards normalization.”

A journalist challenged Crowley, saying, “No, I’m sorry. You did not have a reaffirmation of countries taking meaningful steps towards normalization; you had the exact opposite…. Were you listening to the same comments?”

Crowley insisted, “You have two strong affirmations that the elements of the Arab Peace Initiative, the discussions that George Mitchell, the Secretary, at times the President, had. This is precisely the right course. We are not there yet. “

The issue of negotiations and President Obama’s demand for a building freeze for Jews has become an almost daily topic at government briefings. The journalists, who generally accept the government’s expressions of optimism, have increasingly been critical of the Obama administration for, in effect, becoming a proxy for the PA in negotiations with Israel.

Will Fatah Give Up the Armed Struggle at Its Sixth General Congress?

Pinhas Inbari

* Many observers are watching to see to what extent Fatah's Sixth General Congress will advance or retard the prospects for re-launching the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians. In this regard, the crucial question is: Is Fatah going to waive its historical principle of "armed struggle" and devote itself to peace negotiations based on compromise? * The two relevant documents to be discussed and approved by the Fatah Congress are the Political Program and Fatah's "Internal Order." The Political Program might be seen as reflecting progress in terms of accepting a political solution and rejecting violence - but it falls short of waiving the principle of armed struggle.
* The real problem lies in the Internal Order document, which restores all of the phrases that were omitted in the Political Program. While the Political Program sought to subordinate the struggle to the need for "international legitimacy," the Internal Order is very clear in rejecting all international peace initiatives.
* In the Internal Order document, Fatah retains the armed struggle as a strategy in order to liberate the whole of Palestinian and eliminate Israel. Article 12 calls for "the liberation of Palestine completely and the elimination of the state of the Zionist occupation economically, politically, militarily, and culturally."
* Article 13 calls for "establishing a sovereign democratic Palestinian state on the entire Palestinian territory." While the Political Program lists the "one-state solution" as an option in case the "two-state solution" fails, the Internal Order document mentions the "one-state solution" as the only solution.
* Should there be any question regarding Fatah's objectives, Article 17 states: "The armed popular revolution is the only inevitable way to the liberation of Palestine," while Article 19 notes: "The struggle will not end until the elimination of the Zionist entity and the liberation of Palestine."

The Sixth Fatah General Congress, convening for the first time in twenty years, will be judged mainly by two factors: its decisions and the composition of its new leadership. Here we will examine the nature of its expected decisions and leave the evaluation of the new leadership for future examination.

There is great international interest in the Fatah Congress since so much of the international community perceives the Palestinian problem as the key to the entire spectrum of conflicts in the Middle East. Many observers are watching to see to what extent the congress will advance or retard the prospects for re-launching the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians, and even launching a regional peace process based on the Israeli-Palestinian bilateral track.

In this regard, the crucial question is: Is Fatah going to waive its historical principle of "armed struggle" - muqawama - and devote itself to peace negotiations based on compromise, as was discussed extensively between the former Kadima-led Israeli government and Palestinian negotiators - led by PA leader Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) and former Prime Minister Abu Ala?

Two Documents: One for International Consumption and the Other for Internal Use

The two relevant documents to be discussed and approved by the Fatah Congress are the Political Program1 and Fatah's "Internal Order."2 The Political Program might be seen by many as reflecting progress in terms of accepting a political solution and rejecting violence - but it falls short of waiving the principle of armed struggle. The document endorses the Arab Initiative, talks in vague expressions of the "right of return" - using a formula "based on UN Resolution 181" and not on fulfillment of this resolution, and offers the model of the "Intifada of the Stones" (the first intifada) as preferred over the model of military struggle.

The principle of the "armed struggle" is mentioned as an option of the past that must be re-examined in comparison to other options of struggle. The model seen to fit our times is the anti-wall campaigns in Nil'in and Bil'in, but "10,000 times as fierce." The political program uses the term "the struggle" (not quite describing it as the "armed struggle") and even the "peaceful struggle." However, there is more than one reference to the term "the struggle of all options," that includes the armed struggle as well. In an interview with Maan News, the Fatah leader in Lebanon, Sultan Abu al-Einein, made it clear that the "struggle of all options" includes the armed struggle as well.

Fatah's Internal Order Presents a Different Face

Developing the Nil'in-Bil'in model of struggle is problematic because it can easily deteriorate into violence, as past experience shows, but the real problem lies in the Internal Order document. All of the phrases that were omitted in the Political Program are present in this would-be "bureaucratic" document. The term "armed popular struggle" appears at the very beginning. While the Political Program sought to subordinate the struggle to the need for "international legitimacy," the Internal Order is very clear in rejecting all international peace initiatives: "The projects, agreements, and resolutions that were issued or will be issued by the UN or group of states or any separate state on the Palestinian problem that waives the rights of the Palestinians on their homeland is null and void."3

Furthermore, Article 22 calls for: "objection by force to all political solutions that are offered as an alternative to the extermination of the occupying Zionist entity in Palestine and all the projects that aim for the elimination of the Palestinian problem, or seek to internationalize it or put an outside custodian on its people from any possible party."4 This article is in contradiction to the call in the Political Program for greater international involvement in the problem and its welcome for the involvement of international forces in Palestine.

Article 9 states clearly that "the liberation of the Holy Land and the defense of its holy sites (that are forbidden to infidels) is an Arab, Muslim, and humanitarian duty."5

Fatah Retains the Strategy of the Armed Struggle

And here we come to the essence: Fatah retains the armed struggle as a strategy in order to liberate the whole of Palestine and eliminate Israel. Article 12 calls for "the liberation of Palestine completely and the elimination of the state of the Zionist occupation economically, politically, militarily, and culturally."6 (Indeed, one of the methods mentioned in the Political Program for the "peaceful intifada" is an economic boycott of Israel.)

Article 13 calls for "establishing a sovereign democratic Palestinian state on the entire Palestinian territory that will preserve the legitimate rights of the citizens on the basis of justice and equality without discrimination on the basis of race, religion and belief, and Jerusalem will be its capital."7 While the Political Program lists the "one-state solution" as an option in case the "two-state solution" fails, the Internal Order document mentions the "one-state solution" as the only solution.
Article 17 says: "The armed popular revolution is the only inevitable way to the liberation of Palestine."8

Finally, Article 19 notes: "The armed struggle is a strategy and not just a tactic and the armed revolution of the Arab Palestinian people is a decisive factor in the war of liberation and the elimination of the Zionist existence, and the struggle will not end until the elimination of the Zionist entity and the liberation of Palestine."9

While Fatah's Political Program tries to accommodate international expectations and seems designed to mobilize international legitimacy for the re-launching of a "peaceful intifada," Fatah's "Internal Order" reminds us how deeply ingrained in Fatah is its ideology from the 1960s and 1970s.

* * *




3 المشاريع والاتفاقات والقرارات التي صدرت او تصدر عن هيئة الامم المتحدة او اية مجموعة من الدول او اي دولة منفردة بشأن قضية فلسطين والتي تهدر حق الشعب الفلسطيني في وطنه باطلة ومرفوضه.

4 لمادة (22) - مقاومة كل الحلول السياسية المطروحة كبديل عن تصفية الكيان الصهيوني المحتل في فلسطين، وكل المشاريع الرامية الى تصفية القضية الفلسطينية او تدويلها او الوصاية على شعبها من اية جهة.

5 لمادة (9) - تحرير الديار المقدسة والدفاع عن حرماتها واجب عربي واسلامي وانساني.

6 المادة (12) - تحرير فلسطين تحريراً كاملاً وتصفية دولة الاحتلال الصهيوني اقتصادياً وسياسياً وعسكرياً وثقافياً.

7 المادة (13) - اقامة دولة فلسطينيه ديمقراطية مستقلة ذات سيادة على كامل التراب الفلسطيني تحفظ للمواطنين حقوقهم الشرعية على اساس العدل والمساواة دون تمييزفي العنصر او الدين والعقيده وتكون القدس عاصمة لها.

8 المادة (17) - الثورة الشعبية المسلحة هي الطريق الحتمي الوحيد لتحرير فلســطين.

9 المادة (19) -الكفاح المسلح استراتيجية وليس تكتيكاً والثورة المسلحة للشعب العربي الفلسطيني عامل حاسم في معركة التحرير وتصفية الوجود الصهيوني ولن يتوقف هذا الكفاح الا بالقضاء على الكيان الصهيوني وتحرير فلسطين.

* * *

Pinhas Inbari is a senior policy analyst at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. He is also a veteran Palestinian affairs correspondent who formerly reported for Israel Radio and Al Hamishmar newspaper, and currently reports for several foreign media outlets. He is the author of a number of books on the Palestinians including The Palestinians: Between Terrorism and Statehood.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Fayyad Proclaims Jerusalem Capital of 'Palestine'

Maayana Miskin
A7 News

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad proclaimed historic Jerusalem an Arab capital city in a speech given Saturday near Ramallah. Control of the city must be granted to a future PA state, he said.

"The future of the national project and the future of a comprehensive peace in the region are both dependent on protecting Jerusalem, its status, its history, and Palestinian rights in the city,” he declared.
"East Jerusalem is the capital of the Palestinian statehood and the state's sovereignty over its capital must be complete,” he added.

Similar statements were made by senior PA negotiator Saeb Erekat, who expressed fury Sunday over the implementation of a court order evicting two Arab families from Jewish-owned homes in Jerusalem where they had been squatting illegally for several years.

"East Jerusalem is, and always will be, Palestinian,” an angry Erekat said. Like Fayyad, he threatened that Israel's presence in the entire city of Jerusalem “threaten[ the viability of a two-state solution.”

Erekat called on the international community to reject Jewish growth in historic Jerusalem, which he termed “a dangerous plan” to thwart Arab demands. “The international community must act decisively, in line with international law, against these Israeli measures... Nobody can say that they didn't see these outrageous actions coming,” he said.

PA leaders have repeatedly insisted that they be granted sovereignty over all areas of Jerusalem that were conquered by Jordan in 1948 and occupied until 1967, when Israel regained control over the eastern part of the city during the Six Day War.

Areas demanded by the PA included the Old City and the Temple Mount, historic Jewish neighborhoods such as Mei Shiloach (Silwan) and Shimon HaTzaddik (Sheikh Jarrah), as well as more recently-built neighborhoods such as Pisgat Ze'ev and Neve Yaakov that are home to a total of roughly 300,000 Israeli Jews.

The PA's demands have recently met with understanding in the United States, whose officials have begun pressuring Israel to halt building projects in some parts of the capital city. While Israeli leaders have publicly refused to do so, and have said that Jerusalem will remain Israel's undivided capital, recent reports suggest that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu may have given in to American demands and ordered a partial building freeze.

European Union countries have been sympathetic to PA demands as well, and several have provided funding for Israeli-based organizations such as Peace Now, B'Tselem and Ir Amim, which oppose the Jewish presence in historic Jerusalem.

Why Israel Is Nervous

Tension is escalating between the U.S and Israel. The problem: The administration views the Israeli-Palestinian issue as the root of all problems, while Israel is focused on Iran’s nuclear threat, says Elliott Abrams. ELLIOTT ABRAMS

The tension in U.S.-Israel relations was manifest this past week as an extraordinary troupe of Obama administration officials visited Jerusalem. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, National Security Advisor James Jones, special Middle East envoy George Mitchell and new White House adviser Dennis Ross all showed up in Israel’s capital in an effort to…well, to do something. It was not quite clear what.

Since President Obama came to office on Jan. 20 and then Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on March 31, the main motif in relations between the two governments has been friction. While nearly 80% of American Jews voted for Mr. Obama, that friction has been visible enough to propel him to meet with American Jewish leaders recently to reassure them about his policies. But last month, despite those reassurances, both the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and the Anti-Defamation League issued statements critical of the president’s handling of Israel. Given the warm relations during the Bush years and candidate Obama’s repeated statements of commitment to the very best relations with Israel, why have we fallen into this rut?

Lorenzo Petrantoni
U.S.-Israel relations are often depicted as an extended honeymoon, but that’s a false image. Harry Truman, who was a Bible-believing Christian Zionist, defied the secretary of state he so admired, George C. Marshall, and won a place in Israel’s history by recognizing the new state 11 minutes after it declared its independence in 1948. Relations weren’t particularly warm under Eisenhower—who, after all, demanded that Israel, along with Britain and France, leave Suez in 1956. The real alliance began in 1967, after Israel’s smashing victory in the Six Day War, and it was American arms and Nixon’s warnings to the Soviet Union to stay out that allowed Israel to survive and prevail in the 1973 war. Israelis are no fans of President Carter and, as his more recent writings have revealed, his own view of Israel is very hostile. During the George H.W. Bush and Clinton years, there were moments of close cooperation, but also of great friction—as when Bush suspended loan guarantees to Israel, or when the Clinton administration butted heads with Mr. Netanyahu time after time during peace negotiations. Even during the George W. Bush years, when Israel’s struggle against the terrorist “intifada” and the U.S. “global war on terror” led to unprecedented closeness and cooperation, there was occasional friction over American pressure for what Israelis viewed as endless concessions to the Palestinians to enable the signing of a peace agreement before the president’s term ended. This “special relationship” has been marked by intense and frequent contact and often by extremely close (and often secret) collaboration, but not by the absence of discord.

A Relationship Marked by Friction and Warmth

U.S.-Israel relations are often depicted as an extended honeymoon, but that’s a false image.

May 14, 1948
Israel declares independence, President Harry Truman recognizes Israel 11 minutes later, Arab states attack and War of Independence begins.

Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) is founded by Yasser Arafat with the goal of destroying the state of Israel.

Associated Press
“Six-Day War”: Israel captures Sinai, Gaza, West Bank, Jerusalem.

“Yom Kippur War”: a surprise attack on Israel by Arab states on the Jewish holy day. Soviets back Arabs, Nixon orders U.S. arms airlift to Israel.

Oslo Accords are signed; Israel and PLO agree to mutual recognition. Israel Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat receive the Nobel Peace Prize following year.

President Bill Clinton’s efforts to broker Israel-PLO and Israel-Syria peace deals fail. Intifada begins; suicide bombings hit civilian targets in Israel.

President George W. Bush announces that U.S. will support the creation of a Palestinian state.

Yet no other administration, even among those experiencing considerable dissonance with Israel, started off with as many difficulties as Obama’s. There are two explanations for this problem, and the simpler one is personal politics. Mr. Netanyahu no doubt remembers very well the last Democratic administration’s glee at his downfall in 1999, something Dennis Ross admits clearly in his book “The Missing Peace.” The prime minister must wonder if the current bilateral friction is an effort to persuade Israelis that he is not the right man for the job, or at least to persuade them that his policies must be rejected. When Israeli liberals plead for Obama to “talk to Israel,” they are hoping that Obama will help them revive the Israeli Left, recently vanquished in national elections. It is hard to avoid the conclusion that Mr. Obama and his team wish former Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni had won the top job and view Mr. Netanyahu and his Likud Party with some suspicion. The result, of course, is to make personal relations among policy makers more difficult, and to make trust and confidence between the two governments harder as well.

But the Obama administration has managed to win the mistrust of most Israelis, not just conservative politicians. Despite his great popularity in many parts of the world, in Israel Obama is now seen as no ally. A June poll found that just 6% of Israelis called him “pro-Israel,” when 88% had seen President George W. Bush that way. So the troubles between the U.S. and Israel are not fundamentally found in the personal relations among policy makers.

The deeper problem—and the more complex explanation of bilateral tensions—is that the Obama administration, while claiming to separate itself from the “ideologues” of the Bush administration in favor of a more balanced and realistic Middle East policy, is in fact following a highly ideological policy path. Its ability to cope with, indeed even to see clearly, the realities of life in Israel and the West Bank and the challenge of Iran to the region is compromised by the prism through which it analyzes events.

The administration view begins with a critique of Bush foreign policy—as much too reliant on military pressure and isolated in the world. The antidote is a policy of outreach and engagement, especially with places like Syria, Venezuela, North Korea and Iran. Engagement with the Muslim world is a special goal, which leads not only to the president’s speech in Cairo on June 4 but also to a distancing from Israel so as to appear more “even-handed” to Arab states. Seen from Jerusalem, all this looks like a flashing red light: trouble ahead.

Iran is the major security issue facing Israel, which sees itself confronting an extremist regime seeking nuclear weapons and stating openly that Israel should be wiped off the map. Israel believes the military option has to be on the table and credible if diplomacy and sanctions are to have any chance, and many Israelis believe a military strike on Iran may in the end be unavoidable. The Obama administration, on the other hand, talks of outstretched hands; on July 15, even after Iran’s election, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said “we understand the importance of offering to engage Iran….direct talks provide the best vehicle….We remain ready to engage with Iran.”

To the Israelis this seems unrealistic, even naïve, while to U.S. officials an Israeli attack on Iran is a nightmare that would upset Obama’s outreach to the Muslim world. The remarkable events in Iran have slowed down U.S. engagement, but not the Iranian nuclear program. If the current dissent in Iran leads to regime change, or if new United Nations sanctions force Iran to abandon its nuclear weapons program, this source of U.S.-Israel tension will disappear. But it is more likely that Iran will forge ahead toward building a weapon, and U.S.-Israel tension will grow as Israel watches the clock tick and sees its options narrowed to two: live with an Iranian bomb, or strike Iran soon to delay its program long enough for real political change to come to that country.

Israel believes the only thing worse than bombing Iran is Iran’s having the Bomb, but the evidence suggests this is not the Obama view.

If Iran is the most dangerous source of U.S.-Israel tension, the one most often discussed is settlements: The Obama administration has sought a total “freeze” on “Israeli settlement growth.” The Israelis years ago agreed there would be no new settlements and no physical expansion of settlements, just building “up and in” inside already existing communities. Additional construction in settlements does not harm Palestinians, who in fact get most of the construction jobs. The West Bank economy is growing fast and the Israelis are removing security roadblocks so Palestinians can get around the West Bank better.

Special Envoy George Mitchell meets with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah.
A recent International Monetary Fund report stated that “macroeconomic conditions in the West Bank have improved” largely because “Israeli restrictions on internal trade and the passage of people have been relaxed significantly.” What’s more, says the IMF, “continuation of the relaxation of restrictions could result in real GDP growth of 7% for 2009 as a whole.” That’s a gross domestic product growth rate Americans would leap at, so what’s this dispute about?

It is, once again, about the subordination of reality to pre-existing theories. In this case, the theory is that every problem in the Middle East is related to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. The administration takes the view that “merely” improving life for Palestinians and doing the hard work needed to prepare them for eventual independence isn’t enough. Nor is it daunted by the minor detail that half of the eventual Palestine is controlled by the terrorist group Hamas.

Instead, in keeping with its “yes we can” approach and its boundless ambitions, it has decided to go not only for a final peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, but also for comprehensive peace in the region. Mr. Mitchell explained that this “includes Israel and Palestine, Israel and Syria, Israel and Lebanon and normal relations with all countries in the region. That is President Obama’s personal objective vision and that is what he is asking to achieve. In order to achieve that we have asked all involved to take steps.” The administration (pocketing the economic progress Israel is fostering in the West Bank) decided that Israel’s “step” would be to impose a complete settlement freeze, which would be proffered to the Arabs to elicit “steps” from them.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, right, walks with U.S. ambassador to Israel James Cunningham, center, and Israeli Defense Ministry Director-General Pinchas Buchris
But Israelis notice that already the Saudis have refused to take any “steps” toward Israel, and other Arab states are apparently offering weak tea: a quiet meeting here, overflight rights there, but nothing approaching normal relations. They also notice that Mr. Mitchell was in Syria last week, smiling warmly at its repressive ruler Bashar Assad and explaining that the administration would start waiving the sanctions on Syria to allow export of “products related to information technology and telecommunication equipment and parts and components related to the safety of civil aviation” and will “process all eligible applications for export licenses as quickly as possible.” While sanctions on certain Syrian individuals were renewed last week, the message to the regime is that better days lie ahead. Of this approach the Syrian dissident Ammar Abdulhamid told the Wall Street Journal, “The regime feels very confident politically now. Damascus feels like it’s getting a lot without giving up anything.” Indeed, no “steps” from Syria appear to be on the horizon, except Mr. Assad’s willingness to come to the negotiating table where he will demand the Golan Heights back but refuse to make the break with Iran and Hezbollah that must be the basis for any serious peace negotiation.

None of this appears to have diminished the administration’s zeal, for bilateral relations with everyone take a back seat once the goal of comprehensive peace is put on the table. The only important thing about a nation’s policies becomes whether it appears to play ball with the big peace effort. The Syrian dictatorship is viciously repressive, houses terrorist groups and happily assists jihadis through Damascus International Airport on their way to Iraq to fight U.S. and Coalition forces, but any concerns we might have are counterbalanced by the desire to get Mr. Assad to buy in to new negotiations with Israel. (Is the new “information technology” we’ll be offering Mr. Assad likely to help dissidents there, or to help him suppress them?)

Future stability in Egypt is uncertain because President Hosni Mubarak is nearing 80, reportedly not in good health, and continues to crush all moderate opposition forces, but this is all ignored as we enlist Mr. Mubarak’s cooperation in the comprehensive peace scheme. As we saw in the latter part of the Clinton and Bush administrations, once you commit to a major effort at an international peace conference or a comprehensive Middle East peace, those goals overwhelm all others.

Getty Images
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres in Jerusalem.
Israelis have learned the hard way that reality cannot be ignored and that ideology offers no protection from danger. Four wars and a constant battle against terrorism sobered them up, and made them far less susceptible than most audiences to the Obama speeches that charmed Americans, Europeans, and many Muslim nations. A policy based in realism would help the Palestinians prepare for an eventual state while we turn our energies toward the real challenge confronting the entire region: what is to be done about Iran as it faces its first internal crisis since the regime came to power in 1979.

Mrs. Clinton recently decried “rigid ideologies and old formulas,” but the tension with Israel shows the administration is—up to now—following the old script that attributes every problem in the region to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, while all who live there can see that developments in Iran are in fact the linchpin of the region’s future. The Obama administration’s “old formulas” have produced the current tensions with Israel. They will diminish only if the administration adopts a more realistic view of what progress is possible, and what dangers lurk, in the Middle East.

Elliott Abrams is a senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. He was the deputy national security adviser overseeing Near East and North African affairs under President George W. Bush from 2005 to January 2009.