Saturday, August 22, 2009

Report from Washington: U.S. Middle East's Policy's Next Step

Barry Rubin

It’s always a pleasure to arrive in a place, scrutinize the situation carefully, and conclude that your analysis has been right. And it’s also a good time to be taking a close-up look at U.S. Middle East policy.

Before talking about the next stage, let’s briefly review our story to date, since Barack Obama became U.S. president on January 20. OUR STORY TO DATE

Step 1: Obama and his administration think that his charm and the fact that he isn’t George W. Bush will help quickly change the Middle East. He is planning to appeal to the people over the heads of government, show his sympathy with Islam and Palestinian aspirations, show his willingness to engage foes and make them friends, and generally get things moving quickly.

Result: Failure.

Step 2: Order Israel to stop building apartments on existing settlements, with quick compliance to follow. This would in turn lead to gratitude on the part of the Arabs (Hey, this guy really means business!) and thus a breakthrough in the peace process. This breakthrough would, in turn, lead to Arab support for U.S. efforts on Iran.

Result: Failure

Step 3: Faced with Israeli resistance, Obama then tried to get both sides to do something along the lines of giving Israel some confidence-building measures. Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia not only refused, they publicly refused, and not just that but publicly refused while standing in Washington next to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Sum total of successes: one weasel-worded op-ed in the Washington Post by a UAE royal; possible promises by Oman and Qatar to let Israeli commercial offices to reopen (but not Omani and Qatari offices in Israel).

Result: Failure


There is a dawning realization that things are not quite happening as many of Obama’s advisors have prophesized. To some extent this means the need to listen to other advisors.

We are now entering a new phase, which will also fail but is better than its predecessors, the optimism offensive. Obama will proclaim—he’s already started doing so—that his strategy has succeeded and that both Israel and the Arabs have pledged to do some things to advance the peace process.

There is, however, now a slight tilt toward Israel. Partial as it is, a limited freeze did give the Obama administration something, while the Palestinians gave nothing and the Arab regimes close to nothing. What Obama is likely to propose is not a detailed peace plan but a feel-good sense that we are now on the road forward. A good amount of the credit will be given by him to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

In Washington, it is thought that this optimism will in itself generate progress. The American people will see that Obama was “right” and that in comparison to his predecessor the president’s personal attention has moved things forward. They also think this will appeal to Arabs and Israelis alike, who will see hope. And hope, as you know, is the thing this administration believes leads to change you can believe in.

I am more skeptical that this phase will have much impact. It is based on too little and comes at a time when cynicism is at a peak, even by the Middle East's usual standards. Arabs and Palestinians will grumble as Israel completes already started apartments, insisting that Israel has given nothing and that America once again proves it is pro-Israel.

The administration and many in Washington simply don’t understand the depth of radicalism, ideology, how extremism serves regime and opposition interests, and other such factors in the Arabic-speaking world.

As I write this, a translation from MEMRI arrives on my computer, an Egyptian cleric speaking on al-Jazira about Obama’s Cairo speech:

“All the people in the front row applauded him….don't know what for….He is killing your sons in Iraq, he is killing your Muslim mothers and sisters in Afghanistan, and he sent a ship loaded with weapons to the Jews, in order to replace the three million kg of weapons that they used against your brothers in Gaza for 23 days.

“You come and tell me we should recognize Israel? If you love them so much…give them half a state of the United States….But no, they planted [Israel] in our midst.”

Now this is not the way President Husni Mubarak or Jordanian King Abdallah speaks to Obama, but it is apparently not too different in tone from what the president heard when he visited the Saudi king. That meeting was—according to sources I believe—a real shock for him, the equivalent of when Dorothy said to Toto, “We’re not in Kansas any more.”

At any rate, it is closer to the mainstream narrative in the Middle East—to use the current post-rational jargon—than people in Washington think of as the norm.

So the Arabs, no matter how polite the rulers are to the administration, or Palestinians won’t buy the official optimism.
Indeed, the Palestinians are moving in a more radical direction as the Fatah congress showed. (Incidentally, no one seemed to notice that there was no gratitude or praise for Obama at that meeting.)

As for Israelis, they follow events too closely and are too familiar with how things work in the region to buy the U.S. claim that everything is going well on the peace train. Polls showing that the great majority of Israelis don’t even believe they have a Palestinian peace partner indicate this is a matter of national consensus not some right-wing viewpoint. I have to keep reminding people here that this is not a Netanyahu government but a Netanyahu-Barak government. Israelis are not going to be deluded into believing that peace is at hand.

What about domestically? Will the American people buy it? To some extent they will but I can foresee, for example, that in early 2010 the New York Times will be writing articles about Obama’s brilliant success in the Middle East while the Washington Post is saying that he hasn’t achieved anything.

Moreover, it is important to factor in the growing criticism of Obama within the United States, where his popularity is falling steadily. The health plan mess has hurt him. Congress is no longer as tame as it was before and is returning to an independent voice on Middle East issues. At the same time, the loony left is starting to be dismayed that Obama is not in their camp, even if only from a sense of personal self-preservation rather than any conviction that they are wrong.

An element of good news is that the Obama-is-out-to-destroy-Israel talk will die down. We should remember, however, that if Israel didn't have a government willing to stand up for national interests things could have gone much worse.

Finally, and very importantly, little progress on Arab-Israeli issues will be accompanied by even less on Iran. Tehran is likely to give him nothing, perhaps unwilling to meet for negotiations, certainly unwilling to make real concessions.

There is an important distinction between the Arab-Israel issue and the Iran-Syria issue, and not just its nuclear weapons’ element. At this point, wishful thinking on the former will do little or no harm; wishful thinking on the latter is incredibly dangerous. The problem is not just the Iranian regime getting nuclear weapons but its spreading influence and power which could transform the regional power balance.

The writer F. Scott Fitzgerald once said that there were no second acts in American lives. The Obama Administration is going to need an act two in its term or it may not have a term two.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). To read and subscribe to MERIA, GLORIA articles, or to order books go to http://www.gloria-center/.com>. To see or subscribe to his blog go to

Why There Won't Be Peace: A Short Analysis of Palestinian Leadership, Factions, and Strategies


Barry Rubin

Palestinian politics and ideology is the key to understanding why there is no peace and no Palestinian state. The extremism of Hamas is an important indicator of these problems and a roadblock to such progress. But it is the situation in Fatah that remains the dominant factor. This article explains the current political line-up and different strategies being advocated in the Fatah-Palestinian Authority framework. Nobody Advocates A Realistic Peace Program

This part is easy to understand. Nobody in the movement openly advocates accepting things like territorial swaps, security guarantees, recognizing Israel as a Jewish state, resettlement of Palestinians only in Palestine, definitively ending the conflict in exchange for an independent state, or other point’s key to gaining Israel’s agreement on a peace treaty.

But here’s one of several stories I could tell you.

A few years ago, a very important Fatah and Palestinian Authority (PA) leader is speaking to a small group of special visitors. (Hint: He was just elected to the Fatah Central Committee). "We have a very unrealistic negotiating position," he says. "This Right of Return demand is a terrible mistake. The Israelis will never accept it and it will ensure there’s no agreement."

Suddenly, it was as if he woke up, realized where he was, shook his head, and added, “Forget I said that.”

Oh and nobody ever talks in Arabic about any empathy or understanding for Israel’s situation or makes any attempt to move their people toward toleration and getting beyond hatred. In America and Europe many think the Palestinian leadership is close to make peace. That's what it wants them to think, but in reality it isn't even in the same building.

The Ruling Establishment: The "All Mahmoud Abbas’s Men" Faction

Be careful here. I’m not saying these people obey Abbas or even look up to him as unquestioned ruler, as they actually did to Yasir Arafat. But they’ve hitched their wagon to his. In fact, this is basically Arafat’s old crew.

These include both older and younger guys: Saib Erikat, Azzam al-Ahmad, Hassan al-Sheikh, Tawfiq al-Tirawi, Othman Abu Gharbyeh, Muhammad al-Madani, Nabil Shaath, Muhammad Dahlan, and Jibril Rajoub.

What is their strategy? They don’t have anything very clever:

Try to avoid armed conflict with Israel and stay in the process, but without really bargaining with Israel. Just keep repeating their demands. Hope that the West forces Israel to make all the concessions. All you have to say is, "Thank you very much," pick up the keys, and drive away. (Well, actually they won't even say thanks.)

They are doing pretty well with the status quo and can enjoy being powerful and getting even richer. They have no intention of introducing democracy or putting a real emphasis on improving their people’s lives though if there’s money to be made they are delighted to see the West Bank become more prosperous. But they live off foreign donors.

Israel can work with them to keep things reasonably stable and non-violent. Progress toward peace? Forget it.

The Ruling Establishment's Hardline Lobby, Forget About the Peace Process, Onward to Victory!

This group hasn't had a new idea in 40 years. In practice it supports Abbas but is always lobbying for a more extreme policy and tougher rhetoric. Unlike the Abbas group, it isn't interested in saying nice things to fool the Westerners and make them happy. (It doesn't matter, though, because they don't pay attention any way.)

The person they really don’t like is Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. They’re humiliated at having a moderate technocrat who’s there just because the donors like him. They rejected the peace process and have no interest in any agreement.

These are all powerful guys, Fatah barons, like Muhammad Ghaneim, Salim al-Zanoun, Abbas Zaki, Sultan Abu al-Aynain, and Nasser Kidra. They’re also the kind of people who say to you: Where was Hamas when we were doing all the fighting?

In contrast to the Abbas group—and again I don’t want to imply they are anti-Abbas—they put less emphasis on keeping up a moderate image and more on ensuring that no concessions are ever made. They have their eyes on the prize—total victory over Israel and a Palestine from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean—and are going to make sure that the Abbas crowd doesn’t forget that’s what the struggle is about.

By making Ghaneim his successor, Abbas is cementing together these two factions. The only problem is he is dealing a death blow to any hope of peace and possibly setting the stage for a future violent confrontation. But that’s how Palestinian politics works.

The “Young Guard” Opposition: Defeat Israel, Make Peace, Defeat Israel Again

These are people who are younger, who never left the West Bank, weren’t in Arafat’s inner circle, but fought the First Intifada (1987-1990) and led the second one (2000-2005?). They never had much of a base in the Gaza Strip.

It is easy for outsiders to think of them as brave young rebels against the stodgy establishment. But they are not any more moderate than the Abbas crowd. In fact they might be better compared in many respects to the establishment’s hardline faction or you could put them somewhere in between.

I discuss this group in more detail here

Briefly, their program is:

Step one: Fight Israel on the West Bank, as was done in the Second Intifadah, until it accepts Palestinian terms.

Step two: Make a peace deal from a position of strength which does not foreclose continuing the battle once a Palestinian state has been established.

Step three: Establish a state and begin the next round to eliminate Israel altogether.


The main point is that none of these groups are going to make a comprehensive, full, final peace with Israel.

The Abbas group will continue the status quo and even work with Israel when necessary to do that. It will negotiate but never give anything, patiently awaiting success no matter what the cost in material terms. It has a cynical corrupt side to it, which is by no means completely negative since that’s better than having fanatical extremists like Hamas to deal with.

Of course, an incident could set off a new Palestinian-Israel war and, if so, the Abbas crowd will lead it. But that isn’t their goal at present.

The extremists in the establishment will act as watchdogs (are canine analogies still acceptable in such matters?) to ensure a hardline is maintained, that the next generation is educated to fight the struggle, and that there won’t be confidence-building measures toward Israel.

The young guard advocates a new rebellion. It might also be more open to cooperation with Hamas—which the establishment hates—as a needed ally in the battle. Increasingly, its rival will be the establishment’s younger generation.

The Fatah Congress was a victory for both factions in the establishment. It was an exercise in giving the appearance of change without there actually being any change.

And this is the framework which is supposedly going to bring a comprehensive peace in the next few years? Get real.

Netanyahu's perilous statecraft


This week we discovered that we have been deceived. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's principled rejection of US President Barack Obama's bigoted demand that Israel bar Jews from building new homes and expanding existing ones in Judea and Samaria does not reflect his actual policy. Construction and Housing Minister Ariel Attias let the cat out of the bag.

Attias said that the government has been barring Jews from building in the areas since it took office four months ago, in the hopes that by preemptively capitulating to US demands, the US will treat Israel better.

And that's not all. Today Netanyahu is reportedly working in earnest to reach a deal with the Obama administration that would formalize the government's effective construction ban through 2010. Netanyahu is set to finalize such a deal at his meeting with Obama's Middle East envoy George Mitchell in London on Wednesday.

Unfortunately, far from treating Israel better as a result of Netanyahu's willingness to capitulate on the fundamental right of Jews to live and build homes in the land of Israel, the Obama administration is planning to pocket Israel's concession and then up the ante. Administration officials have stated that their next move will be to set a date for a new international Middle East peace conference that Obama will chair. There, Israel will be isolated and relentlessly attacked as the US, the Arabs, the Europeans, the UN and the Russians all gang up on our representatives and demand that Israel accept the so-called "Arab peace plan."

That deceptively named plan, which Obama has all but adopted as his own, involves Israel committing national suicide in exchange for nothing. The Arab plan - formerly the "Saudi Plan," and before that, the Tom Friedman "stick it to Israel 'peace' plan" - calls for Israel to retreat to the indefensible 1949 armistice lines and expel hundreds of thousands of Jews from their homes in Judea, Samaria, Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. It also involves Israel agreeing to cease being a Jewish state by accepting millions of foreign, hostile Arabs as citizens within its truncated borders.

The day an Israeli government accepts the plan - which again will form the basis of the Obama "peace conference" - is the day that the State of Israel signs its own death warrant.

Then there is the other Obama plan in the works. Obama also intends to host an international summit on nuclear security in March 2010. Arab states are already pushing for Israel's nuclear program to be placed on the agenda.

Together with Obama administration officials' calls for Israel to join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty - which would compel Israel to relinquish its purported nuclear arsenal - and their stated interest in having Israel sign the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty - which would arguably force Israel to allow international inspections of its nuclear facility in Dimona - Obama's planned nuclear conclave will place Israel in an untenable position.

Recognizing the Obama administration's inherent and unprecedented hostility to Israel, Netanyahu sought to deflect its pressure by giving his speech at Bar-Ilan University in June. There he gave his conditional acceptance of Obama's most cherished foreign policy goal - the establishment of a Palestinian state in Israel's heartland.

Netanyahu's conditions - that the Arabs generally and the Palestinians specifically recognize Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state; that they relinquish their demand that Israel accept millions of hostile Arabs as citizens under the so-called "right of return"; that the Palestinian state be a "demilitarized" state; and that Arab states normalize their relations with Israel were supposed to put a monkey wrench in Obama's policy of pressuring Israel.

Since it is obvious that the Arabs do not accept these eminently reasonable conditions, Netanyahu presumed that Obama would be forced to stand down.

What the prime minister failed to take into consideration was the notion that Obama and the Arabs would not act in good faith - that they would pretend to accept at least some of his demands in order to force him to accept all of their's, and so keep US pressure relentlessly focused on Israel.

Unfortunately, this is precisely what has happened.

Ahead of Obama's meeting on Tuesday with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Al-Quds al-Arabi reported that Obama has accepted Netanyahu's call for a demilitarized Palestinian state. Although Netanyahu is touting Obama's new position as evidence of his own diplomatic prowess, the fact is that Obama's new position is both disingenuous and meaningless.

Obama's supposed support for a demilitarized Palestinian state is mendacious on two counts. First, Palestinian society is already one of the most militarized societies in the world. According to the World Bank, 43 percent of wages paid by the Palestinian Authority go to Palestinian militias. Since Obama has never called for any fundamental reordering of Palestinian society or for a reform of the PA's budgetary priorities, it is obvious that he doesn't have a problem with a militarized Palestinian state.

The second reason his statements in support of a demilitarized Palestinian state are not credible is because one of the central pillars of the Obama administration's Palestinian policy is its involvement in training of the Fatah-led Palestinian army. US Lt.-Gen. Keith Dayton is overseeing the training of this army in Jordan and pressuring Israel to expand its deployment in Judea and Samaria.

The US claims that the forces it is training will be responsible for counterterror operations and regular police work, and therefore, it is wrong to say that Dayton is raising a Palestinian army. But even if this is true today, there is no reason not to assume that these forces will form the backbone of a future Palestinian army. After all, the Palestinian militias trained by the CIA in the 1990s were trained in counterterror tactics. This then enabled them to serve as the commanders of the Palestinian terror apparatus from 2000 until 2004, when Israel finally defeated them. It is the uncertainty about these forces that renders Obama's statement meaningless.

And that gets to the heart of the problem with Netanyahu's conditional support for Palestinian statehood. Far from deflecting pressure on Israel to make further concessions, it trapped Israel into a position that serves none of its vital interests.

For Israel to secure its long-term vital national interests vis-a-vis the Palestinians, it doesn't need for the US and the Palestinians to declare they agree to a demilitarized state or for a Palestinian leader to announce that he recognizes Israel's right to exist or even agrees that Israel doesn't have to commit national suicide by accepting millions of Arab immigrants. For Israel to secure its national interests, Palestinian society needs to be fundamentally reorganized.

As we saw at the Fatah conclave in Bethlehem last week, even if Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas were to accept Netanyahu's conditions, he wouldn't be speaking for anyone but himself. Fatah's conclave - like Hamas's terror state in Gaza - gave Israel every reason to believe that the Palestinians will continue their war against Israel after pocketing their state in Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem. There is no Palestinian leader with any following that accepts Israel. Consequently, negotiating the establishment of a Palestinian state before Palestinian society is fundamentally changed is a recipe for disaster.

Furthermore, even if Netanyahu is right to seek an agreement with Mitchell next week, he showed poor negotiating skill by preemptively freezing Jewish construction. Domestically, Netanyahu has lost credibility now that the public knows that he misled it. And by preemptively capitulating, the prime minister showed Obama that he is not a serious opponent. Why should Obama take Netanyahu's positions seriously if Netanyahu abandons before them before Obama even begins to seriously challenge him?

Beyond the damage Netanyahu's actions have inflicted on his domestic and international credibility is the damage they have caused to Netanyahu's ability to refocus US attention and resolve where it belongs.

As the prime minister has repeatedly stated, the Palestinian issue is a side issue.

The greatest impediment to Middle East peace and the greatest threat to international security today is Iran's nuclear weapons program. A nuclear-armed Iran will all but guarantee that the region will at best be plagued by continuous war, and at worst be destroyed in a nuclear conflagration.

Netanyahu had hoped that his conditional support for Palestinian statehood, and his current willingness to bar Jews from building homes in Judea and Samaria would neutralize US pressure on Israel and facilitate his efforts to convince Obama to recognize and deal rationally with the issue of Iran's nuclear weapons program. But as Ambassador Michael Oren made clear on Sunday, the opposite has occurred.

In an interview with CNN, Oren said that Israel is "far from even contemplating" a military strike against the Islamic republic's nuclear installations. He also said, "The government of Israel has supported President Obama in his approach to Iran, initially the engagement, the outreach to Iran."

From this it appears that Israel has not only made no headway in convincing the administration to take Iran seriously. It appears that Jerusalem has joined the administration in accepting a nuclear-armed Iran.

It is possible that Oren purposely misrepresented Israel's position. But this too would be a disturbing turn of events. Israel gains nothing from lying. Oren's statement neutralizes domestic pressure on the administration to get serious about Iran. And if Israel attacks Iran's nuclear installations in the coming months, Oren's statement will undoubtedly be used by Israel's detractors to attack the government.

Some critics of Netanyahu from the Right like Ariel Mayor Ron Nachman claim that it may well be time to begin bringing down Netanyahu's government. They are wrong. We have been down this road before. In 1992, the Right brought down Yitzhak Shamir's government and brought the Rabin-Peres government to power and Yassir Arafat to the gates of Jerusalem. In 1999, the Right brought down the first Netanyahu government and gave Israel Camp David and the Palestinian terror war.

There is another way. It is being forged by the likes of Vice Premier Moshe Ya'alon on the one hand and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee on the other.

Ya'alon argues that not capitulating to American pressure is a viable policy option for Israel. There is no reason to reach an agreement with Mitchell on the administration's bigoted demand that Jews not build in Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem. If the US wants to have a fight with Israel, a fight against American anti-Jewish discrimination is not a bad one for Israel to have.

Ya'alon's argument was borne out by Huckabee's visit this week to Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria. Huckabee's trip showed that the administration is not operating in a policy vacuum. There is plenty of strong American support for an Israeli government that would stand up to the administration on the Palestinian issue and Iran alike.

Netanyahu's policies have taken a wrong turn. But Netanyahu is not Tzipi Livni or Ehud Olmert. He is neither an ideologue nor an opportunist. He understands why what he is doing is wrong. He just needs to be convinced that he has another option.

This article can also be read at /servlet/Satellite?cid=1249418663524&pagename=JPArticle%2FShowFull

Friday, August 21, 2009

Taking the Mideast peace plunge

The Obama administration hopes all parties will jump into the peace process together. Egypt's Mubarak and other Arab leaders must leap, too.
By the Monitor's Editorial Board
August 19, 2009 edition

One of many problems in making Middle East peace is that no one wants to go first. Decades of injustice, violence, and false promises have sown such distrust that the players look for proof of sincerity from others before considering a move themselves. s a consequence, they all stand frozen, waiting – as if on the shore of a cold lake – for the other one to jump in.

The Obama administration is trying to shake up the waiting game by moving all parties in "parallel steps" toward a return to Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. "Everybody's going to have to take steps; everybody's going to have to take some risks," Barack Obama said this week at a press conference with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

"Everybody" must include Egypt itself. As the most populous Arab nation, as neighbor to the troublesome Gaza Strip, as erstwhile peace partner with Israel, Egypt plays a critical role in the region. But even as American special envoy George Mitchell scurries around the Middle East trying to get the peace ducks in a row, Egypt and the Arab nations could be doing much more to support Mr. Mitchell's efforts.

Encouragingly, some progress is being made, as President Obama pointed out this week. Since coming to power five months ago, the Israeli government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has not issued any new contracts for construction of new Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank – a key demand of Washington and the Palestinians and a sore point between Israel and the new US administration.

Obama also highlighted Israeli easing up on checkpoints in the West Bank and increased economic activity there. Meanwhile, positive developments are visible in both Palestinian factions. The secular and moderate Fatah, ruling in the West Bank, has greatly improved its security forces, and thus stability. In the Gaza Strip, the militant Islamist Hamas has remained fairly quiet – except for its recent vicious attack on a rival Islamist group there.

Egypt and other Arab nations appear to be the odd men out here. For several years, Cairo has pledged to end the split between Fatah and Hamas – without which an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal seems impossible. Yet its attempt to broker between the two has so far yielded no concrete results. Egypt has also promised to end weapons smuggling into Gaza, including rockets, but arms still flow. Neither has Cairo been able to negotiate the release of an Israeli soldier held hostage since 2006.

It's disheartening that Arab nations reject the administration's request for small steps toward normalizing relations with Israel. Those steps include overflight rights for Israeli civilian aircraft and increased cultural cooperation with Israel.

But as Mr. Mubarak made clear in Washington, Arab support is conditional. "If negotiations start," he said, then Arab states will support moving the peace process forward. Apparently, Arab autocrats still need Israel as a foe to deflect public disappointment from their own poor performance.

It's no secret that Mubarak was unhappy with the previous US administration. The Egyptian autocrat stayed away from Washington for five years because he objected to the Iraq war and US support for the 2006 Israeli invasion of Lebanon. Cairo also bristled at the Bush administration's public pressure for democracy in Egypt and for improvement in the country's poor human rights record.

But the Egyptian leader has no more excuses. Obama, showing spine toward Israel, is giving him considerable maneuvering room. Indeed, Mubarak praised the US president for his "fantastic" speech to the Muslim world delivered from Cairo in June, and the Egyptian president says he appreciates Mitchell's listening approach. Notably, it was Mubarak himself who said that he and Obama discussed internal reform in Egypt. No public lecturing needed from Obama on that front.

Well into his third decade in office, Mubarak should have his own interests in moving the peace process forward. A negotiated Palestinian state and normalized relations between Israel and the Arab world would amount to a historic legacy. And as Mubarak has noted repeatedly, insecurity next door means insecurity in Egypt. Further, the lack of a peace deal helps spread Iranian influence – something Egypt opposes.

The new US administration's "everyone together" approach is worth a try, but it won't work if Egypt and the Arab states hold out. Obama has just made it much easier for Mubarak to wade in alongside Israelis and Palestinians. Egypt's president should don his swim trunks, and bring his Arab brothers with him. The shock of peace can be refreshing.

WaPo hypocrisy on Israel's security barrier

Leo Rennert
American Thinker

In its Aug. 20 edition, the Washington Post features an article by correspondents Linda Gradstein and Howard Schneider about Israel's counter-terrorism barrier along the West Bank. The story is spread across four columns, with a four-column photograph of the barrier, plus a couple of maps ("Momentum Slows for Israel's Barrier -- Cost, Legal Concerns and a Drop in Violence May Leave Controversial Project Unfinished" page A10). Gradstein and Schneider describe the barrier as "one of Israel's more controversial undertakings," although the only beef OF most Israelis is that it's taken much too long to build it. The article quotes Israeli officials as crediting the barrier with a decline in suicide bombings and mentions that it was started in 2002 amid a "violent Palestinian uprising." But it strangely fails to tell Post readers whether any Israelis actually were killed and/or injured as a result of this uprising. Had the authors mentioned that the intifada claimed the lives of more than 1,000 Israelis as a result of terrorist attacks originating from the West Bank and wounded several thousand more, Post readers perhaps might have gotten a better idea of why the barrier was so critically needed.

Gradstein and Schneider go on to quote a UN official as calling for the removal of the barrier during the "debut of a short UN documentary on the barrier, narrated by Pink Floyd founder Roger Waters." One wonders if this promo for the film sparked this article in the first place. Whatever their intentions, the authors of the article fail to inform Post readers that the British rocker isn't exactly an impartial observer. Instead, he is a passionate pro-Palestinian propagandist. So much for UN impartiality. And, naturally, Gradstein and Schneider dutifully report for the umpteenth time that Palestinians refer to the barrier as an "apartheid wall."

Nevertheless, despite all these many shortcomings, I wouldn't really have any great objection to this article -- were it not for the fact that I've lost count of how many previous articles, all critical of the barrier in one fashion or another, have appeared in the Washington Post over the last seven years, while the paper never has devoted similar coverage to many other security barriers around the world.

The Post would have greater credibility in running yet another negative piece about the barrier IF it also had shown similar interest in:

--A 112-mile-long barrier -
- with concrete, barbed wire, watchtowers, minefields and ditches -- that has sliced through Cyprus since 1974 to separate Turkish Cypriots from Greek Cypriots.

--A security barrier built by India through disputed Kashmir that runs hundreds of miles to blunt intrusion by Pakistan-based terrorists.

--Saudi Arabia's barrier to prevent infiltration of terrorists from neighboring Yemen -- also built in areas under dispute.

--The barrier that separates Protestants and Catholics in Belfast, which somehow has escaped any pejorative description like "apartheid wall." It's commonly known as the "Peace Line" -- a label that equally fits Israel's security barrier along the West Bank.

--The "Wall of Shame" -- a sand and stone barrier, mined in some places -- that protects Moroccans from Polisario terrorists in the Western Sahara.

--And let's not overlook the U.S. barrier along the border with Mexico to keep out illegal immigrants
-- a barrier that hasn't gotten a fraction of the coverage the Post has devoted to Israel's security barrier.

So what are we to make of the Post's singular obsession with Israel's barrier?

I'm reminded of what Larry Summers, President Obama's economic guru, said when he was president of Harvard and under pressure from some faculty members and students who wanted the university to divest from companies doing business with Israel. Summers, in rejecting their demands, declared that, since they were singling out only Israel for punitive action, their campaign amounted to "anti-Semitism in effect, if not in intent."

As the saying goes, if the shoe fits....

Page Printed from: at August 21, 2009 - 06:00:46 AM

'State lands being commandeered by Arabs'

HaShomer HaHadash, established in order to prevent Arab takeover of Jewish lands, convenes in north. 'State decided it doesn't care about racketeering in Negev or about land expropriation in Galilee,' complains organization's founder

Sharon Roffe-Ofir

Hundreds of volunteers from the HaShomer HaHadash organization met Thursday to express their grievances over supposed public land expropriation at the hands of the Arabs in the north. "The State of Israel has a national mission to protect the 4 million dunams (about 988,500 acres) that are being stolen from under their noses," said one of the organization's members, Brig. Gen. (res.) Ram Shmueli.

Arabs claim land reform is racist / Sharon Roffe-Ofir
Ahead of slated vote on privatization of state lands, Arab sector wages battle against the bill: 'We are citizens of the State, and not a security threat. Time has come for the State to change its approach and not to enact discriminatory laws'
Full Story
During a conference that took place next to the statue of legendary valley land protector, Alexander Zaid, near Tivon, the organization's members asked that national priorities be adjusted.

Yoel Zilberman, 24, from the town of Tzippori, established the organization two years ago along with his friends. Since, the group has blossomed to 300 members, who keep watch every night over Galilee and Negev lands over which nearby Arab residents attempt, and sometimes succeed, to overtake.

The organization provides support for any farmer who encounters a problem. They believe that by 2012, their ranks will number 2,000 members. "We have given ourselves and objective to bring back courage and strength," said one of the members, Erez Eshel. "It shouldn't be that a farmer is afraid to work his land. It starts with bullying on farm lands and ends with bullying on the Tel Aviv promenade. Therefore, what goes on here needs to worry not just a handful of people, but the entire country."

"We believe that the country decided it doesn't care if protection money is collected in the Negev or if land in the Galilee is commandeered every day and farmers looking to protect their land are beaten up," said Zilberman. "The State, unfortunately, cares only about Azrieli Towers. We won't let this happen. The time has come for the country to wake up and understand that this is the cancer of the country, and if it isn't taken care of, we won't have any state left to live in."

'Choose good over comfortable'
Both MK Yisrael Hasson and Minister Moshe Ya'alon were invited to the event, entitled "Who will save my home," Thursday evening. However, because he was summoned for a talk with the prime minister, the latter could not attend.

Nazareth Illit Mayor Shimon Gapso spoke at the event and explained why he believes this is not just a problem for farmers, but for everyone: "The State of Israel's plan was that 45% of the Galilee will be Jewish by 2010. In reality, we are less than 40%, and if the State doesn't make sure to bring Jews here en masse, we will lose the Galilee."


Brig. Gen (res.) Ram Shmueli, who served on nearby Ramat David air force base, spoke after Gapso. He told those present how the State is losing the Negev: "This country was not conquered by the soldier's sword, but the farmer's plough. There is no Right or Left here. Our future is in holding on to State lands. It is a deposit no government has the right to get rid of. We must understand what our national objectives are in order to be here for another 60 years, and another 60 years after that.

Zilberman concluded the meeting, saying: "This generation has been lost to Survivor and Big Brother. I promise there will be a reawakening of people who choose good over comfortable in order to protect this country."

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Palestinian prof says Jews have no ties to Western Wall

Jihad Watch

We have seen this appropriation of other traditions many times in the past -- indeed, the Qur'an's depiction of the Biblical prophets as Muslim prophets indicates that this kind of appropriation is foundational in Islam: "Abraham was not a Jew, nor yet a Christian; but he was an upright man [Muslim hanif] who had surrendered (to Allah), and he was not of the idolaters" -- Qur'an 3:67 In verses 65-68 of the Qur'an's sura 3, Allah rebukes the Jews and Christians for arguing over something about which they “have no knowledge” (v. 66): the religion of Abraham. The Patriarch couldn’t have been a Jew or a Christian, says v. 65, because “the Torah and the Gospel were not revealed till after him.” In reality, he was a Muslim hanif (حَنِيفًا مُّسْلِمً) (v. 67) – as the Tafsir al-Jalalayn explains: “Abraham in truth was not a Jew, neither a Christian, but he was a Muslim, professing the Oneness of God, and a hanīf, who inclined away from all other religions towards the upright one; and he was never of the idolaters.” What’s more, Muhammad and the Muslims are “the nearest of kin to Abraham,” as Ibn Kathir says: “This Ayah [verse] means, ‘The people who have the most right to be followers of Ibrahim are those who followed his religion and this Prophet, Muhammad, and his Companions…”

"Palestinian prof: No Jewish ties to Western Wall: Latest Islamic figure to deny documented archeological history," by Aaron Klein for WorldNetDaily, August 19:

JERUSALEM – The Jews have no historical connection to Jerusalem or the Western Wall, declared a Palestinian Authority lecturer on official PA television.

"[The Jews have] no historical roots. This is political terminology to win the hearts and the support of the Zionists in Europe, so they would emigrate and come to Palestine. Nothing more!" stated Shamekh Alawneh, a lecturer in modern history at Al-Quds Open University.

"The [Jews'] goal in giving the name 'Wailing Wall' to this [Western] Wall is political," continued Alawneh, speaking on a PA television program called "Jerusalem – History and Culture."

"The Jewish Zionists had no choice but to invent an excuse [about Jerusalem] to spread among the Zionists or the Jews in Europe, to connect to something concrete from the past about Jerusalem. They made false claims and called the 'Al-Burak Wall' the 'Wailing Wall," Alawneh said.

His remarks were translated from Arabic by Palestinian Media Watch.

Alawneh was the latest PA-connected official to deny the Jewish historical connection to Jerusalem and the Western Wall, which are intimately tied to Judaism. Islam largely did not consider the area holy or important until the late 19th century....

Jerusalem US Consulate is De Facto Embassy to PA

Hana Levi Julian Jerusalem US Consulate is for PA - Arutz Sheva

The U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem is America's embassy to the Palestinian Authority, according to the U.S. Consul-General's response to a letter penned by an irate Jewish American. Dr. Adam Splaver, a Florida cardiologist, wrote to the American Consul-General in Jerusalem on August 14 expressing outrage that the Consulate's website "did not mention Israel, projects in Israel, the people of Israel or the modern state of Israel. What it does mention is the numerous projects you have with the Palestinians and in their cities and towns."

The consulate building is located in the eastern section of Jerusalem, in an area restored to Israel's capital during the1967 Six Day War. The Palestinian Authority has repeatedly demanded that Jerusalem be recognized as the capital of any future Arab state established alongside Israel. For now, the PA has refused to come to the negotiating table unless Israel first agrees to freeze all construction, including building to accommodate natural growth, in all post-1967 areas of Jerusalem, as well as in all of Judea and Samaria.

Splaver, a former president of the Young Israel synagogue in Hollywood, Florida, wrote that he was "appalled," adding that he believed the omission was not the result of an error, but rather a deliberate statement.

"As an American and as a Jew, I must voice my objections to your political message and clearly, proudly, and defiantly state that a united Jerusalem was, is and will be the capital of the Jewish homeland called Israel," he added.

The reply, received Monday, August 17, speaks for itself:

"Thank you for your feedback on the U.S. Consulate General Jerusalem's Website. Just to clarify, the Consulate General in Jerusalem is the principal representation to the Palestinian Authority. We also provide services to American citizens in Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza.

"The U.S. embassy to Israel is in Tel Aviv and is focused on the bilateral relationship with Israel. Their website is The American Center in Jerusalem also provides information about the United States to the Israeli public. Their website is .

"Jerusalem is a final status issue. Israel and the Palestinians have agreed to resolve its status during negotiations. We will support their efforts to reach agreements on all final status issues."

While the current seat of the PA government is in Ramallah, the United States government appears to already recognize the Palestinian Authority's claim to Jerusalem. At the same time, successive American governments have failed to officially recognize Israel's declaration of the city as its capital since 1948.

"I am surprised that more aren't aware of the de facto embassy [to the PA in Jerusale that the U.S. government has set up," Plaver said in an exclusive telephone interview Tuesday afternoon with Israel National News. "I am in shock!"

The Death of a Prophet
by Dr. Gerardo Stuczynski

Jabotinsky's astonishingly precise view of Israel.

On August 2, 1940, Zeev Jabotinsky died without having been able to see his dream come true. Sixty-nine years after his death, the almost mythical President Shimon Peres referred to this event in front of Jabotinsky's tomb on Mount Herzl.

Jabotinsky's clairvoyance was such that many people (myself included) consider him a real modern prophet "It is likely that great leaders are bound to make great mistakes," said the endless Shimon Peres, referring to the fact that Jabotinsky was wrong about the geographical boundaries that the future State of Israel would have.

Undoubtedly, Jabotinsky was wrong when he considered "both banks of the Jordan" as boundaries of the sovereign territory of Israel. But it was mischief on the part of the president, who plays down his socialist and distant youth, to highlight that aspect, since it is one of the very few concepts in which Jabotinsky did not predict the future with precision.

In everything else, Jabotinsky's clairvoyance was such that many people (myself included) consider him a real modern prophet. Although his person is surrounded by prejudices, these are not based on knowledge of Jabotinsky's political thought, but on the slogans used by his detractors.

He was always convinced that a Jewish State was a historical need that would come to pass. That is why, in 1931, he proposed that the 17th Zionist Congress define its objective as the establishment of a Jewish State on both banks of the Jordan River. But the delegates, who refused to do so, did not reject the idea because of a geographical discrepancy, but because of a conceptual difference. They hardly dared to talk shyly about a Jewish national home. Needless to say, Jabotinsky was right as regards the need of a Jewish State, while other Zionist leaders were satisfied with much less than that.

Jabotinsky understood that the Hebrew language was a central element in the construction of the nation. Many had advocated the use of other languages.

Jabotinky predicted the Shoah explicitly. He made a call to end the Diaspora before the Diaspora put an end to the Jews. He issued his messages in a tone of urgency not shared by the other Zionist leaders. After the Holocaust, it seems unnecessary to go more deeply into who was right.

When the First World War broke out, Jabotinksy proposed the creation of a Jewish legion to support the Allies in the liberation of Palestine from the hands of the Ottomans, so as to earn the right to demand the creation of an independent Jewish State. Contrary to this position, the official Zionist leadership supported neutrality. David Ben-Gurion himself opposed the creation of the Zion Mule Corps. However, with the Balfour Declaration, his position changed to the point of becoming himself a member of such a brigade.

Jabotinsky does not seem to have been wrong either when he demanded the Zionist authorities modify their moderate policies concerning the restrictions on Jewish immigration to Palestine (the White Book) under the British Mandate. His movement led some of the first attempts to rescue Jewish people secretly.

But beyond the historical events themselves, whoever goes now to modern Israel will see a country whose characteristics are those Jabotinsky foresaw, definitely different from those conceived of by his contemporary political rivals.

Most of the early Zionist leadership had a socialist collectivist conception, extremely Statist. Its objective was to represent the interests of the working class and its leaders disapproved of private property. However, Jabotinsky prioritised the individual. The role of the State was to serve the individual and not the other way around. In spite of the accusations of his opponents, he considered himself a bitter enemy of fascism.

The State should satisfy the basic needs of the individual, in Jabotisnky's view, regardless of whether he had a job or not. For the Jews, "not only he who works should eat, but any other who is around and is hungry." He considered democracy the best political system to express the will of the people and essential to respect minorities. For him, what was crucial in democracy was freedom.

He was against the Marxist concept of class struggle

Jabotinsky thought liberalism has its roots in human nature, as opposed to the socialist regime that contradicts it. Therefore, in his view, humanity was not moving towards socialism, as his opponents claimed, but in the opposite direction.

He was against the Marxist concept of class struggle and proposed national arbitration for the reconciliation of the different interests in society. He aspired to a parliamentary system of government and considered private initiative the determining factor in the formation of a society.

Jabotinsky thought racist prejudice was a pathology that could not be cured by means of the law, but by general compulsory education. All the inhabitants of Jabotinsky's future State should have the same rights, regardless of their race, beliefs or nationality. As far as the role of women was concerned, he claimed that there was no role or profession he would not trust a woman with.

Jabotinsky believed in the separation of State and religion, since the latter should be a private issue. On the other hand, the Jewish State should base itself on the Jewish tradition, in order to become an ideal State, and thus ensure its continuity and development.

Jabotinsky strongly believed that the quality of production did not depend on nature, but on man; that was why Switzerland produced quality chocolate without having cocoa. Who can deny such a claim today, in this technological era?

As far as war is concerned, Jabotinsky thought it was a disease from which humanity would be cured one day, but in the meantime it was necessary to have a powerful army with the capacity for action and deterrence. Peace negotiations with the Arabs would only be successful when they became fully convinced it would not be possible to get rid of the Jews by force of arms. Then, and only then, would extremist groups lose their influence.

Jabotinsky is not likely to have imagined that his name would be the most repeated street name in all the cities of Israel. But concerning the characteristics of the Jewish State, its features, political system, society, economy, language, army and existential problems, his predictions were astonishingly precise.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Israelis sour on Rahm Emanuel

KENNETH P. VOGEL | 8/17/09 4:51 AM EDT

As the Obama administration presses Israel to cease settlement expansion as part of a renewed push for a Middle East peace deal — a course of action that many Israelis have interpreted as evidence of the president’s favoritism towards Palestinians — Israelis have increasingly focused their disappointment not on Obama, but rather on his chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel.

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An observant Jew with deep ties to Israel, Emanuel is viewed as something of a native son, his rise through the ranks of American politics celebrated by Israelis who reveled in details such as his childhood summers spent in Israel and his volunteer stint during the first Gulf War in an Israeli military program for civilians.

When Emanuel was tapped to be Obama’s chief of staff, a headline in the Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz kvelled “Obama's first pick: Israeli Rahm Emanuel as chief of staff,” while the Jewish news service JTA went with “Rahm Emanuel: attack dog, policy wonk, committed Jew.”

But in a dramatic emotional shift, Israelis have become increasingly disenchanted with Emanuel, and the disappointment is especially intense on the Israeli right, which supports Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in his opposition to Obama’s call for ceasing settlement activity.

Israelis across the political spectrum were skeptical of Obama’s commitment to the Jewish homeland during the presidential campaign but many viewed Emanuel as a guarantor of their interests, the best hope for continuing the U.S. government’s favorable treatment of the Jewish state.

Today, however, widespread unhappiness with their treatment at the hands of the Obama administration has led to feelings of betrayal—and Emanuel is bearing the brunt of it.


In April, a hard-line Israeli Knesset member, Yaakov Katz, wrote Emanuel accusing him of “condescending” to Israelis and their leaders, and in May delivered a speech from the Knesset floor in which he blasted Obama’s demand that Israel cease settlement building. He also invited Emanuel — whom Katz has called “an Israeli Jew” — to “return to Israel” and to stay in the settlement Katz helped create.

Later, Haaretz reported that conservative Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has feuded with Obama, has slurred both Emanuel and fellow senior adviser David Axelrod as “self-hating Jews.”

A Netanyahu spokesman denied the report, but an Israeli pollster interviewed by POLITICO said Netanyahu’s point of view is shared by many Israelis, and that resentment tends to focus more acutely on Emanuel — whose father is Israeli, and who friends and associates say maintains deep connections to the Jewish state — than Axelrod.

The hostility is not limited to the Israeli right. Haaretz — which is regarded as a more liberal newspaper and thus more likely to give the Obama administration the benefit of the doubt — last month caricatured Emanuel as a stern-faced, whip-bearing lion-tamer prodding the United States — represented by a compliant lion with its mouth open wide and teeth bared–to chomp on an unsuspecting Netanyahu (who appears to think the scene is part of a harmless circus trick).

Conservative Jerusalem-based blogger Ted Belman helped promote a protest of the administration’s Middle East policy two weeks ago in Chicago — the hometown of Obama, Emanuel and Axelrod — billing it as the “Rally for Israel against Rahm Emanuel and Obama's efforts to Divide Israel and Jerusalem,” with hardline Jerusalem Post editor Caroline Glick as the keynote speaker.

Father surprised by Israeli reaction

At the heart of the disillusionment with Emanuel is the notion that he is both pushing the administration — and providing cover for it — to demand more concessions from Israel than from its Arab neighbors.

The very existence of that belief has been a bitter pill for the Emanuel family to swallow. The family changed its last name from “Auerbach” to “Emanuel” to honor an uncle who was killed in a clash with Arabs in pre-Israel Palestine. Emanuel’s own middle name is “Israel,” and he compiled a strong, though occasionally dovish, pro-Israel record during his three terms as a Democratic congressman.

Shortly after Obama selected Emanuel for his post, a story in the Israeli tabloid Maariv quoted his father, Benjamin Emanuel, asserting that his son "obviously … will influence the president to be pro-Israel. Why wouldn't he? What is he, an Arab? He's not going to clean the floors of the White House."

That comment caused an outcry among Arab American groups and prompted an apology from his son.

But late last month, Benjamin Emanuel — a retired Chicago doctor who was born in Jerusalem and served in a pre-Israeli-state militant Zionist group known as the Irgun or Etzel — lashed out at Israeli treatment of his son.

"I'm simply surprised that in Israel they jump down his throat," he told a Haaretz reporter angrily — and in Hebrew.

"I love the country, my children are Zionists, they came to Israel every year, and I don't know why they're attacking Rahm. I support Netanyahu, I was a member of the Etzel," he is quoted as saying.

Asked about his comments, Benjamin Emanuel told a POLITICO reporter, “I don’t talk to journalists, I’m sorry.”

Rahm Emanuel’s office did not answer questions about the Israeli perceptions, his role in crafting Middle East policy or his connections to Israel. Instead, his spokeswoman Sarah Feinberg said in a statement, “Dr. and Mrs. Emanuel are private citizens. The Emanuel family would greatly appreciate it if reporters would respect their privacy and refrain from calling them at their home.”

History of Israeli obsession

There is a long history of Israeli “obsession with politicians and advisors to the U.S. presidents who are Jewish going back to Kissinger,” said Mitchell Barak, a Jerusalem-based pollster who during the presidential campaign conducted several surveys showing Israelis favoring Republican John McCain over Obama.

Channeling what he said are common Israeli sentiments, Barak said “we were proud that Rahm reached the top and we felt comfortable and secure that he was going to look after our interests. And now we find out that that’s not the case.”

Citing Obama’s call for Israel to cease building new settlements in Palestinian territory, Barak asserted Israelis think Emanuel “is giving Obama his Kosher stamp of approval to be tough on Israel, when they thought he was going to be there to explain our position.”

That sentiment is an unfair characterization and reflects a misunderstanding of Emanuel’s role, said Aaron David Miller, a former State Department official who worked on Arab-Israeli peace negotiations under four presidents.

“On matters related to Israel and Middle East policy, Rahm will have a very strong voice, but he’s not the power behind the throne on foreign policy,” said Miller, who worked with Emanuel during the Clinton administration and is now a scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center. “The whole thing is inside Jewish baseball, and it’s not healthy. It’s symptomatic of a real dysfunction in the way some Israelis look at the world and look at America.”

Miller, who is also Jewish, is familiar with some of the pressures confronting Emanuel. In 1989, as a lead peace negotiator for then-Secretary of State James Baker, he was publicly lambasted in Israel along with two other Jewish diplomats as being “self-hating Jews.”

“This is different, though — it’s a complete misreading of Rahm. Rahm is a tough, pragmatic guy who has a real commitment to the security of Israel. His credentials on that are above reproach,” Miller said.

He attributed the Israeli scrutiny of Emanuel to widespread Israeli mistrust of Obama, differences between the two nations on how aggressively to address the Iranian nuclear threat, the president’s call for Israel to cease settlement growth and Netanyahu’s opposition to that call, combined with Emanuel’s Clinton-era experience with Netanyahu, whose aides reportedly first grew wary of Emanuel during their talks with the Palestinians at Wye Plantation in 1998 — in the midst of Netanyahu’s first stint as prime minister.

“All that has a created a perfect storm of suspicion — which has to be addressed if the administration is going to have success in the peace process — and Rahm seems to have emerged as the focal point,” Miller said.

Liaison to Israel, Jews?

Though presidential chiefs of staff typically have played only peripheral foreign policy roles, Emanuel is often viewed as something of a liaison between the administration and the Jewish community when it comes to Israel.

Emanuel was one of only a few aides — Axelrod was another — to attend an initially secret, closed-door meeting in the White House’s Roosevelt Room between Obama and American Jewish leaders meant to allay their growing concerns about his administration’s Israel policy.

One report of the meeting quoted Obama saying he relies on Emanuel to explain the complicated political nuances of settlement issues. Separate Israeli media reports have asserted that Emanuel, in a private conversation with an unnamed American Jewish leader in April and one with AIPAC donors in May suggested that U.S. efforts to thwart Iran’s nuclear ambitions were contingent upon Israel’s willingness to make concessions in peace negotiations with Palestinians.

A White House aide suggested the reports were inaccurate, pointing to a post refuting them by staunchly pro-Israel blogger Jeffrey Goldberg, who had previously professed that he’s “known Rahm for a long time” and that his selection for the post “makes the entire Does Obama secretly hate Israel?’ conversation seem a bit ridiculous.”

In the White House-endorsed post, Goldberg wrote “I have it on good authority that Rahm told the [AIPAC] audience that Obama believes that it will be easier to enlist Arab allies in the confrontation with Iran if visible progress is made on the Palestinian front.”

That’s roughly the message that Obama delivered to the Jewish leaders at last month’s Roosevelt Room meeting, said Alan Solow, a longtime Obama ally from Chicago who attended the meeting as chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

Solow, who knows Emanuel from Chicago political circles, says he does not believe Emanuel will be particularly involved in crafting or advancing the administration’s Middle East policies.

Caricatures predominate

The Israeli media’s characterizations of Emanuel’s role contain “a lot of speculation and opinion,” he cautioned. “That doesn’t always mean that it’s factually-based or accurate.”

Nonetheless, Solow conceded that Obama has a lot of work to do in winning over Israelis if he is to make any headway in the peace process, and he pointed to a June poll by the conservative Jerusalem Post newspaper that found only six percent of Jewish Israelis consider Obama’s views to be “pro-Israel.”

“I would doubt that Rahm would be the front person in making outreach to the Israeli citizenry,” Solow said, adding he and other American Jewish leaders urged Obama to appeal directly to Israelis much like he did to Muslims in his June address in Cairo.

Natasha Mozgovaya, Haaretz’s chief U.S. correspondent, said “Israel feels pretty vulnerable now” partly because of American pressure, and she conceded that Israelis may have a skewed impression of how much responsibility Emanuel bears for that pressure.

“Some of them probably get the feeling that's all he does — plotting all day against Netanyahu's government,” she said, explaining that her story late last month quoting Benjamin Emanuel puzzling over the Israeli backlash toward his son was an attempt “to try to broaden this perspective a bit” and get beyond the caricature of the White House chief of staff.

Most of the feedback after it ran from Israelis acknowledged a “better understanding of the complexity of this person,” Mozgovaya said.

But, she added, some also blasted him as a "Kapo Jew" — the name for Jewish police officers in Nazi concentration camps. “People wrote that ‘if he wasn’t a Jew, he would be called an anti-Semite.’ So it's very personal.”

© 2009 Capitol News Company, LLC

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"So, What's the Dif?"

Arlene Kushner

Rumors have been flying fast and furious regarding an informal agreement allegedly reached by Construction and Housing Minister Ariel Atias (Shas), Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak to unilaterally freeze construction in settlements in Judea and Samaria until the end of this year in order to promote negotiations or give things a chance (or however it was euphemistically stated). Both the prime minister and Atias have denied this. From the prime minister's office came this statement:

"There is not now, nor was there any agreement between the Prime Minister, the Defense Minister, and the Housing Minister to freeze construction in Judea and Samaria."

Atias, however, has been more forthcoming, saying that there was no "freeze," but rather simply a decision to "shelve construction" for the time being, with no new tenders for building having been issued since Netanyahu took office. (Building is being done, but in accordance with prior tenders.)

That failure to issue tenders has extended to even the major settlement blocs and to eastern Jerusalem (where our government has declared the right of Jews to live and establish homes). Atias said that a compromise on a freeze was still being worked on by the Netanyahu and Obama governments, and that the Netanyahu government wanted to sustain the principle of allowing the settlers to live normal lives.


Well, I must be very dense, because I'm not sure I see the difference between a freeze made in an agreement with the US and unilaterally shelving construction. The most that can be said is that we are in control of timing, and can begin instituting construction again whenever we wish.

But, on the negative side, the unilateral action has a terribly obsequious feel. Netanyahu claims to be big on "reciprocity." And so, why? Why should we give anything to a US president who has unreasonably put the onus for "peace" on us, or to a PA that has just held a conference that promoted violence against us? Are we looking at a prime minister who is all too eager to show that we are the good guys and to keep the international community happy?


Several things have transpired that make all of this particularly infuriating. Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak has just met with Obama. At their subsequent press conference, Obama, in response to a question regarding Israeli settlement construction, declared that both he and Mubarak are "encouraged" by the "positive movement" in the "peace process." How lovely. Just what we need: to make these guys happy at a price that curtails our rights.


Now it has made the news that a "senior diplomat" of Israel says that it has been known to "those who need to know" that we have not issued any tenders for building in Judea and Samaria for four months: it was specifically mentioned that George Mitchell, US envoy here, knows, which means Obama also does -- and I would assume also Abbas.

So, my question is why a big deal has been made about the need for a "freeze" these past four months, if it's been known. Why does Obama announce his pleasure with the "movement" now if nothing has changed since April? Precisely what is the dynamic we're looking at and what's going on behind the scenes?


If Netanyahu imagined that this voluntary curtailment of building would enable us to secure increased good will from the Palestinians or gestures from the Arabs, he's been dreaming. Mubarak made this clear in the press conference, at which he reiterated the Arab position that their gestures would come at the end of the process, and -- except for the outside possibility of some very minimal movement -- not now.

What is more, the PA positions, which have moved further towards Hamas and make ever more stringent demands, are not exactly conciliatory either. In addition to which, Abbas is again making noises about negotiating a unity government with Hamas.


A couple of additional notes on this issue:

Peace Now is claiming that even if there is a freeze on construction in Judea and Samaria, it would apply only to government approved building, while in fact some 60% of building is private. But it has been my understanding that all housing must receive approval from the Construction and Housing Ministry, so that I don't believe this statement stands.


And this, from the Post, which is politically of great significance:

"[Atias] revealed that in the past, the Construction and Housing Ministry had approved mortgages for settlers who lived in outposts which were established without government approval or recognition."

Well, I've already explained that almost always there is SOME government approval -- for electricity, water, roads, whatever. "...established without government approval or recognition..." is not quite the case, but refers to that final signature only.

But here we have the mind-blowing acknowledgement that people have received government mortgages for houses that were then declared "unapproved." Go make sense out of this schizoid and unfair situation.


Lastly, I am fascinated by the inherent conflict between Netanyahu's very public statement regarding our right to live as Jews in eastern Jerusalem, and the failure to issue tenders for building there. In particular, I wait to see how the Shepherd Hotel matter will be resolved: Will there be renovations of that hotel and/or construction on the property surrounding the hotel for Jewish apartments?

Right wing members of the government are furious about this entire business of the unilateral "shelving of construction" and insist that a Cabinet decision on building is required.

So, once again, folks, I provide contact information so you might communicate with the appropriate people regarding this issue: No freeze on building in Judea and Samaria and eastern Jerusalem. Not even a unilateral, informal cessation of the issuing of tenders, as this contravenes Jewish rights.

All phone and fax numbers from the US: 011-972, then drop the "0" and proceed with the rest of the number.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu (Likud)

Fax: 02-670-5369

Phone: 03-610-9898
E-mail: (underscore after pm)

Minister for Strategic Affairs Moshe Ya'alon (Likud)
Fax: none provided
Phone: 02-6408891

Defense Minister Ehud Barak (Labor)
Fax: 02-6496117
Phone: 02-6753223

Interior Minister Eli Yishai (Shas)
Fax: 02-6662909
Phone: 02-6408406/7

Construction and Housing Minister Ariel Atias (Shas)
Fax: 02-6753934
Phone: 02-6753934

Minister Benny Begin (Likud)
Fax: none provided
Phone: 02-6408022

National Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau (Yisrael Beitenu)
Fax: none provided
Phone: 02-6408055/4

Science and Technology Minister Daniel Hershkovitz (Habayit Hayehudi)
Fax: 02-6496159
Phone: 02-6496100

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman (Yisrael Beitenu)
Fax: 02-6408921
Phone: 02-6408388/9

Minister of Information Yuli Edelstein (Likud)
Fax: 02-6758919
Phone: 02-6408392

Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz (Likud)
Fax: 02-6496579

Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz (Likud)
Fax: 02-6496525

Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch (Yisrael Beitenu)
Fax: none provided
Phone: 02-6408825

Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov (Yisrael Beitenu)
Fax: 02-6753372
Phone: 02-6408111/2

Immigrant Absorption Minister Sofa Landver (Yisrael Beitenu)
Fax: 02-6496744
Phone: 02-6408183/2

Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar (Likud)
Fax: 02-6753525
Phone: 02-6408131/375

Communication Minister Moshe Kahlon (Likud)
Fax: 02-6408902
Phone: 02-6408365


What has been reassuringly clear in past weeks is that we have some good friends -- officials and former officials-- in America. I allude, for example, to Steny Hoyer, House Majority Leader.

We have here in Israel now an extraordinary friend, Mike Huckabee -- former governor of Arkansas, talk show host (The Huckabee Report, ABC), and Republican presidential candidate hopeful -- who is visiting under the auspices of Ateret Cohanim, which is promoting the purchase of property for Jewish homes in eastern Jerusalem.


Huckabee, for whom a private reception was held at the Shepherd hotel earlier this week, has said the establishment of a Palestinian state here simply won't work:

"The point is that if you try to layer two governments on top of each other, there is going to be nothing but conflict. I don't know how that would work. That comes back to the question of how you designate two owners of the same car.

"Historically, the international community has already said Israel has a right to be here, that this is going to be their homeland.

"The question is, should the Palestinians have a place to call their own? Yes, I have no problem with that. Should it be in the middle of the Jewish homeland? That's what I think has to be honestly assessed as virtually unrealistic."

Huckabee says he has speculated on the idea that the Palestinian state might be in Egypt or Saudi Arabia. (Interesting, that he avoided mention of Jordan.) His point is that the Palestinian state should be somewhere else, decided upon by the international community.

It was unreasonable, he said, to ask the Jews to surrender their land for another state:

"They [the Jews] have been given a tiny minuscule strip of land call home. To ask them to...give increasing amounts of acreage away for what is hoped [would] be a peaceful arrangement - it has not resulted in creating any level of peace."


To see a video of a Huckabee interview, with statements about his response to Israel and his sense that "the dry bones have come alive," see the link below.

Huckabee alludes to the fact that he wasn't allowed into Nablus (Shechem) because he had Jews in his party. "Arab people can go to the Jewish parts of Jerusalem, and the Jewish parts of Israel, but the Jewish people could not go there.” About time someone noticed this.


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Mubarak's plan: 2-year peace process

In Washington, Egyptian leader rejects notion of temporary Palestinian state, says 'we need to move to final status solution' based on return to pre-1967 borders

Ali Waked

Egypt is expected to ask the US limit the Israeli-Palestinian peace process to two years, Palestinian sources told Ynet Tuesday night shortly after President Hosni Mubarak met his American counterpart Barack Obama at the White House. Obama told reporters at the White House that he saw encouraging signs of a softening of Israel's resistance to his call for a freeze on settlement-building in the West Bank.

"My hope is that we are going to see not just movement from the Israelis, but also from the Palestinians around issues of incitement and security, from Arab states that show their willingness to engage Israel," the US leader said.

Obama has been pushing Arab states to make small concessions to Israel to unlock deadlocked peace moves and has called on the Jewish state to halt expansion of settlements.

Mubarak (L) and Obama at White House (Photo: Reuters)

According to the Palestinian sources, for the future negotiations to be successful, all parties must agree that a comprehensive agreement would include a land swap and a return to the pre-1967 borders.

An agreement on the permanent borders, said the sources, would help resolve the remaining disputed issues, including the status of Jerusalem and the right of return for Palestinian refugees.

During the White House press conference, Mubarak rejected the notion of a temporary Palestinian state.

"We need to move to the final status solution and level," Mubarak told reporters as he sat with Obama in the Oval Office.

"I have contacted the Israelis and they said 'perhaps we can talk about a temporary solution,'" Mubarak said.

"But I told them, No, I told them, forget about the temporary solution, forget about temporary borders," he said, referring to debate about the future shape of a Palestinian state.

"We can reach a solution, because the Arab nation wants peace and a better life, and the Israeli people also want stability in their lives."

The Palestinian sources continued to say that Egypt would back Arab measures towards the normalization of ties with Israel should they be complimented by an Israeli halt to settlement construction.

"They key is the amount of pressure the US will exert on Israel," one source said, "The Arabs have made it clear that, in principle, they accept the formula of normalization in exchange for a settlement freeze, and now we must assess Israel's sincerity."

News agencies contributed to the report

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A Short Guide to Israel-Palestinian Negotiating Positions


Barry Rubin

This is a quick, brief guide to the negotiating positions of Israel’s government and the Palestinian Authority (PA). Israeli Negotiating Position

Two-State Solution: Israel accepts a two-state solution--including an independent Palestinian state—only under conditions it believes would lead to real and lasting peace.

It is a myth that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu only recently accepted this goal or did so only under U.S. pressure. In fact, he agreed to this as an outcome of negotiations in 1996.

Israel has put forward five conditions:

--Recognition of Israel as a Jewish state. Without this step, the aftermath of any “peace” agreement would be additional decades of Arab effort to destroy Israel in all but—temporarily—name.

--Absolute clarity that a peace agreement ends the conflict and all claims on Israel. Otherwise, the Palestinian leadership and much of the Arab world would regard any “peace” agreement as license for a new stage of battle using Palestine as a base for renewed attacks and demands.

--Strong security arrangements and serious international guarantees for them. Have no doubt; these will be tested by cross-border attacks from Palestine.

--An unmilitarized Palestinian state (a better description than “demilitarized”), with the large security forces already existing: enough for internal security and defense but not aggression.

--Palestinian refugees must be resettled in Palestine. The Palestinian demand for a “Right of Return” is just a rationale for wiping Israel off the map through internal subversion and civil war.

The PA basically rejects all of these conditions. While the first one—“Jewish state”—is debatable, the rest are obviously reasonable.

Issues to be decided in negotiations

In addition to these points, other issues under negotiation are less specifically delineated. The main issues are:

--Jerusalem: Israel’s general position has been that Jerusalem is the eternal capital of Israel and cannot be divided. However, previous governments have offered most or almost all of east Jerusalem to a Palestinian state. Unless the Palestinians make a very positive offer it is unlikely that the current government turn over all or most of east Jerusalem, yet is should be noted that the previous governments referred to were headed by Ehud Barak who is the coalition partner.

--Future of Settlements: It is likely that Israel would agree to dismantle all settlements in areas that became part of a Palestinian state (see borders, below)

--Borders: There is no one specific plan but the basic framework discussed is that the Palestinian state would get 92 to 96 percent of the West Bank with the offer of additional land to be traded to bring the total given up to the area of the West Bank captured by Israel in 1967. This is vital or strategic reasons (for example, a small portion of the main Tel Aviv-Jerusalem road crosses the line) as well as the concept of settlement blocs.

Settlement blocs refers to the Israeli idea that by annexing a small portion of the West Bank, say 3-5 percent, near the border and relatively uninhabited by Palestinians, Israel can bring a very large proportion of settlers into the country. This would not only have a strategic value, strengthening the border, but also muster a great deal of popular support for the painful concessions needed to make peace. Most of the construction on settlements is in these areas. By stopping the construction, the United States seems to be arguing for a precise return to the pre-1967 borders, thus damaging support for other concessions in Israel, though U.S. policymakers seem completely ignorant of these issues.

--Compensation: The Palestinian side would probably hear receive tens of billions of dollars in compensation for property confiscated after 1948. There is no discussion of any compensation for Jews displaced in Arab countries or pre-1948 landowners whose property would become part of a Palestinian state.

Palestinian Authority Negotiating Position

This is rather simple: Israel withdraws to the 1967 borders, allows any Palestinian refugees who wish to go to live in Israel (Right of Return), and that’s about it. There is no offer whatsoever on such things as end of conflict, security guarantees, or limits on the sovereignty of a Palestinian state (can form military alliances, invite in foreign troops, have whatever military it wishes, etc.)

Moreover, the alternative PA negotiating position is not more flexibility or compromise but the threat to go to armed struggle and to advocate openly a one-strate solution (which may be its goal any way), that is the subsuming of Israel into a Palestinian Arab Muslim state, the basic proposal made by the PLO in the 1960s.
How does the PA hope to get a state when it is unwilling to compromise? Simple, it expected the U.S. government and Europe to press Israel into giving it everything it wants.

The Day after Effect, Nothing Can Go Wrong Syndrome

Western and Arab policymakers often speak as if there will be a peace agreement and that’s the end of history. No more war, no more conflict, nothing can go wrong. Israeli policymakers must be more careful and certain that mechanisms are built into any agreement that will ensure it continues.

Why should a state without serious conditionality be given a Palestinian regime which has failed to govern competently, continued anti-Israel incitement, is profoundly corrupt, has already lost half its patrimony to a more extremist rival, is subject to influence by radical states, etc.

After all, it is easy to come up with realistic—even highly likely—scenarios for what could happen:

--Cross-border attacks from Palestine against Israel carried out either by Hamas and other Islamist oppositionists or by factions or even mainstream Fatah cadre. The Palestine government would declare itself unable to stop the attacks, deny they came from its territory, or blame Israel. To argue that a weaker Palestine would not allow such things given its self-interest neglects large portions of Middle East history when such things have happened.

--Overthrow of the new regime by a more radical group or faction. The government of Palestine would then have all the benefits of statehood and previous Israeli concessions without any intention to live up to prior commitments.

--A government of Palestine, even one which has signed a peace agreement, could embark on a Stage 2 strategy, which is after all what much of its ideology and key documents advocate, to complete Israel’s destruction.

--A Palestine government could be subverted by radical regimes (at present, Syria and Iran) or it could obtain advanced weapons from Arab states or Iran, or even invite in foreign troops.

In the face of these and other scenarios, Israel always has a war option. But how much could it depend on the United States and Europe to enforce a peace agreement or support its defensive efforts? Precedent isn’t encouraging. Moreover, as a sovereign state, Palestine would have very advantageous options, for example going to the UN where a Muslim-Arab bloc backed by others would declare Israel the aggressor no matter what had happened.

The bottom line is this: Israel would be worse, not better, off agreeing to such arrangements than it is now.

Are Things So Terrible Now?

Those insisting on peace at any price—for Israel that is—often employ two conflicting arguments. On the one hand they claim that Israel is so strong that it can give concessions without receiving equivalent ones, or so weak that it must do so. Yet the country simply does not desperately need a deeply flawed "solution" to be grabbed either out of misplaced "generosity" or "fear."

This is true because Israel is the stronger party, it has (or can obtain) control over the land in question, and it can resist external pressure both because it is likely to be fairly low and the stakes for Israel’s survival are so high.

Another mistaken conception is that the status quo is intolerable and that any change would be for the better. Yet more risks, concessions, and the establishment of an unstable and hostile Palestinian state--the most likely outcome at present--would make things worse.

Equally wrong is the notion that time is against Israel, a strong and vibrant society surrounded by weak, disorganized neighbors. Israel’s strategic situation has dramatically improved over the decades. It is a strong, confident society visibly meeting the challenge of the modern economic and technical environment.

But what about the Palestinians? They are certainly suffering. Are their leaders desperate to get a state as quickly as possible and thus willing to be flexible? On the contrary, the history of the PLO, Fatah, and the PA under both Yasir Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas show they are in no such hurry at all. They would rather wait decades than give up the option of total victory in future. They also hope that external pressure will win the day for them. Thus, the worse things are, the better is their situation.

A Changing Reality

Ari Bussel

The face of the Jewish community is changing. The change is subtle, but the undercurrents are strong. Slowly, we are waking up. We are still dazed, more from the realization that we are suddenly leaning to the right, less “liberals” and more protective of our self-interests and ourselves.As if emerging from under a haze, even Democrats are uncomfortable with the direction of the new Administration. The New Deal is not good for the Jews. Those in a position of power face a double sword: They need to justify these actions and ensure their survivability as elected members of Congress. The latest follies: Much of what circulates on the internet is utterly false and soon there will be a compromise about expansion of the so-called Settlements which will be a middle ground so neither the President not the Prime Minister loses face. Apparently, it boils down to a definition of what is “natural growth.”

While action is the most potent remedy to dispel any unease Jews feel given the current positions of the Administration, inaccurate reporting can be dealt with simply by presenting the “true” facts. Yet, when the only “inaccuracies” are those that do not sit comfortably with wishy-washy demagogies, there is a real problem: The speaker must change course and the listener better be alert to internalize the situation.

I have now observed the Jewish community over a period of many years, and there is a clear reversal from the previous liberal-Democrat-“get out of the West Bank”-“the Palestinians deserve a state” to a slightly more cautious approach. It has become abundantly clear to all that there is no partner for peace, unilateral action is doomed to fail and all concessions are viewed not as gestures of goodwill but as clear signs of weakness. No attempt has been made to change the textbooks or the hatred spewed over loudspeakers from the mosques or the PA-produced and sanctioned TV and radio programs. Most recently a new language has arisen: The mere thought of Israel as a Jewish State is racist.

Once there were “moderate” Arabs (Fatah) and “terrorists” (Hamas), but the differences have washed away. Today, there is only one enemy to peace in the Middle East, although for the purposes of channeling billions of dollars and Euros in aid and internal power struggles, some are led to the mistaken notion of two distinct Palestinians authorities. Iran’s reach and grip on Gaza may seem stronger at the moment, but it spreads fast, through Judea and Samaria into Israel proper. The grasp has tightened, and misleading labels do little in the fight for survival.

The Jews are still obfuscated in an internal debate: How to better the lives of the Palestinians; How to change our ways to accommodate their aspirations and demands, which could only be satisfied on the ruins of the Jewish State; Why it is our fault that a “freedom fighter” goes into an Israeli town and smashes the skull of his enemy – a 13 year old boy – with an axe; Why profiling or a fence causes great inconvenience to the Arabs and thus must be abolished, yet these are the most effective ways to deter terrorism.

Our narrative slowly changes. Where once we had the right and obligation to openly criticize the State of Israel, we have witnessed this posture has led to worsening Israel’s position. How far can we malign the Jewish State and remain unscathed, unaffected by the poison we constantly administer? We did not achieve success, but rather we have contributed to the weakening of Israel.

The Jewish community’s defenses and overly creative mindset deflected and we are now much worse off. Not only are we perceived weak by our enemies, the US Administration under President Obama has reached the decision that since all previous Administrations – whether Democrat or Republican – failed to bring peace, a new course is necessary, one in which Israel as an ally and friend is no more the highest priority.

I am content that the Jewish community will change even further; it has no other choice. The most recent ads by the Anti-Defamation League are but another sign that this is happening. In the meantime, the venomous arrows will continue hitting us, with ever-increasing frequency and accuracy, and the poison more potent, spreading faster than ever.

Oh, then a day will come when the Jewish community’s narrative will be so drastically different than before, one will listen with pride once more to the ancient melody of inner strength and unyielding convictions. Only by that time it would be too late, rather than a cry to battle, it would be a lamentation of a defeated people, a cry over a dead body, temperature still warm, lying before one’s eyes.

Help to Israel from the Jewish community will be too little, too late. Many elders of American Jewry have not yet visited Israel. A majority of the youth is comfortable with a notion of life without a Jewish State. With each generation, the distance from Israel increases, the seams loosen, the connection becomes more garbled and less important. Thus, we must call on others for aid and sound the horn reverberating throughout foreign lands to other religions that still see the goodness within, who understand the importance of supporting Israel.

“For a gentile nation you do not know you will call, and a gentile nation who does not know you will run to you, for Lord, your God, and for the Holy One of Israel since He has glorified you.” Isaiah 55:5

In the series “Postcards from Israel,” Ari Bussel and Norma Zager invite readers throughout the world to join them as they present reports from Israel as seen by two sets of eyes: Bussel’s on the ground, Zager’s counter-point from home. Israel and the United States are inter-related - the two countries we hold dearest to our hearts - and so is this “point - counter-point” presentation that has, since 2008, become part of our lives. Feel free to share with others.

© Postcards from Home, August, 2009