Saturday, September 19, 2009

Gratitude? Soft Power? Popularity? Apologizing? Hey, We’re Talking About International Relations Here!

Barry Rubin

Today, U.S. foreign policy is full of the notions of “soft power,” confidence-building measures, popularity, apologizing and showing empathy in order to win the respect of other counties. The idea that there is gratitude in international relations is a very powerful one in Washington, perhaps in the West generally. AAnd so I thought of the fragility and fantasy involved in these worthy sentiments when I came across the following passage by another country’s most famous writer of the day, a close personal friend of his country’s leader, as a response to a massive American aid effort which saved the lives of millions of his fellow countrymen while asking for nothing in return except good will:

“In all the history of human suffering, I know of no accomplishment which can be compared in magnitude and generosity with the relief that you have accomplished….The generosity of the American people resuscitates the dream of fraternity….It will be inscribed in the pages of history as unique, gigantic, and glorious…and will long remain in the memory of millions you have saved from death….”

Who was the author and what the occasion for this outpouring of eternal gratitude?

The leading Soviet novelist Maxim Gorky, Vladimir Lenin’s favorite writer, wrote this in 1921 at Lenin’s request, thanking the U.S. campaign that not only saved so many lives but also probably prevented the USSR’s collapse. Of course, this debt was repaid by seventy years of Soviet Communism which did everything possible to destroy U.S. interests and credibility.

By the way, the Soviet government never let the letter be published in the country. When reference was later made to it in Soviet publications—with no hint of the letter’s contents--the title given turned the gratitude into hatred and suspicion: “The Greek Hoover and His Gifts. “ Herbert Hoover headed the program. The implication was taken from the Greek story of the Trojan Horse, that is the treachery implicit in phony generosity. The concept is best known today from the phrase, “Beware of Greeks bearing gifts.”

It is hard to think of a single instance, certainly in the Middle East (outside of Israel) at least, when U.S. humanitarian or economic aid, material support, military liberation (Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait), support for statehood plus massive funding (Palestinian Authority), or diplomatic support have ever brought cooperation or warm feelings toward America. Any hope of appealing by such methods to the regimes of countries like Bolivia, China, Cuba, Iran, Myanmar, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Venezuela, Zimbabwe, or any others you care to add is not going to work.

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).

German FM: Ahmadinejad is a disgrace to Iran

US, UK, Germany condemn Iranian president's repeated Holocaust denial. Washington's ambassador to UN says President Barack Obama will not meet with Iranian counterpart during UN General Assembly in New York


White House spokesman Robert Gibbs on Friday condemned Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's latest denial of the Holocaust.

"Obviously, we condemn what he said," Gibbs said at a news briefing. Such a comment "only serves to isolate Iran further from the world," he added. Ahmadinejad delivered a speech at Tehran University, hinting once again that the Holocaust never took place: "If the Holocaust was planned by the West, why won't you allow any research on the Holocaust?

"The Holocaust," he added, "Has turned into a black box and they won't let anyone open it and examine it… If this is such an important event, why won't you let us reveal the reality to the entire world?"

Susan Rice, US ambassador to the United Nations, called Ahmadinejad's comments "hateful, adding Obama and Ahmadinejad un unlikely to "have a direct engagement" during the UN General Assembly in New York next week.

Britain was also swift to condemn Ahmadinejad's remarks, calling them "abhorrent as well as ignorant": "It is very important that the world community stands up against this tide of abuse. This outburst is not worthy of the leader of Iran," Foreign Secretary David Miliband said.

Germany's Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier also condemned Ahmadinejad's remarks, calling Tehran's ruler "a disgrace to his country."

In a statement Steinmeier said: "Today's statements by the Iranian President are unacceptable. With his intolerable tirades he is a disgrace to his country. This sheer anti-Semitism demands our collective condemnation.

"We will continue to confront it decisively in the future."

Paris was next to issue a censure, with the French Foreign Ministry calling the Iranians president's speech "appalling and unacceptable."

Canadian Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon deplored the speech as "irresponsible" and "full of anti-Semitic rhetoric." The Canadian government, he added, will not remain indifferent to that kind of rhetoric "by the radical Iranian regime which violates human rights."

The Associated Press contributed to this report

Friday, September 18, 2009

Young Guns


They've had it. And they're taking the situation into their own hands. The Jewish year 5769 marked a rise in young, driven, grassroots politics and public relations and the spotlight shone especially on Jerusalem municipality party Hitorerut Yerushalayim (Wake Up Jerusalem), which garnered an astounding two seats, and student-led hasbara group Im Tirtzu (If You Will It), which hit campuses across the nation with their Zionist messages. Also this year, freshman Likud MK Tzipi Hotovely championed women's rights, and she represented her religious-Zionist constituency by opposing parts of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's land reform.

Down south in Rahat, environmentalist Ahmed Amrani became the Rahat mayor's chief of staff. And up in Galilee, Yoel Zilberman , founder of the New Guardsmen, has led over 2,000 volunteers in patrolling their homesteads.

At the High Court, human rights lawyer Michael Sfard protected the little guy, while Tel Aviv activist Nic Schlagman made sure he had food and shelter.

Some, like Africa-Israel's Nadav Grinshpon , had a nose for business. Others, like chemical engineer Dr. Hossam Haick , were pioneers in inventing nanotechnology aimed at sniffing out cancer.

Dudi Sela hit the big time on the international tennis stage this year. And soon, the world will be listening to the music of Asaf Avidan and the Mojos , who recently signed with Sony.

We take our hats off to these young Israelis and we salute, as ever, the lone soldiers .
This article can also be read at /servlet/Satellite?cid=1251804595067&pagename=JPArticle%2FShowFull

UK dhimmi trade unions boycott Israeli goods in protest over Gaza

Jihad Watch

The jihadist propaganda offensive so relentlessly pursued by the Palestinians bears bitter fruit today. Human shields? Pah! It's all Israel's fault! "British trade unions approve Israel boycott," from the Jewish Telegraph Agency, September 17 (thanks to News4U): JERUSALEM (JTA) -- British trade unions approved a boycott against importing goods produced in some Israeli settlements.

The boycott was approved Thursday by the Trade Union Congress at its annual conference. The congress also called for an end to arms trading with Israel and for disinvestment from some Israeli companies.

According to the London Times online, the unions had considered a comprehensive boycott of consumer goods produced in Israel but reconsidered following "frantic behind-the-scenes negotiations."

The statement approved by the delegates read: "To increase the pressure for an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian Territories and the removal of the separation wall and illegal settlements, we will support a boycott of those goods and agricultural products that originate in illegal settlements through developing an effective, targeted consumer-led boycott campaign."

The boycott reportedly was proposed in response to Operation Cast Lead, Israel's military offensive in the Gaza Strip last winter.

Israel's industry, trade and labor minister, Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, said that "a boycott is wrong, as it will first and foremost hurt the Palestinian families who are employed in these factories. This is a unilateral attempt to promote political agendas with the use of economic weapons."

What happened to the US deadline on Iran?


Earlier this month, it became clear that Iran was defying the US and its Western allies by once again refusing to open serious negotiations over its nuclear program. After all, Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declared on September 7 that, he believed, "the nuclear issue is finished," adding, "We will never negotiate on the Iranian nation's rights." Days later, Iran's new five-page proposal to the P-5 plus 1 (the US, Russia, China, the UK, France and Germany) did not provide an opening for serious nuclear negotiations, but rather vague formulations for the agenda of any future talks. Indeed, the Iranian document began by asserting that the world was moving beyond "the difficult era characterized by domination of empires, predominance of military powers." It made reference to the need for "complete disarmament," but said nothing about its own nuclear program. In his Friday sermon on September 11, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei further backed the uncompromising Iranian nuclear stance.

THIS PAST July, when the G-8 announced that the opening of the UN General Assembly "would be an occasion for taking stock of the situation in Iran," most international observers understood that there was a hard September deadline that Iran had to meet to begin serious negotiations. Obama himself stated at a July 10 press conference after the G-8 meeting: "We've offered Iran a path towards assuming its rightful place in the world. But with that right comes responsibilities. We hope Iran will make the choice to fulfill them, and we will take stock of Iran's progress when we see each other this September at the G20 meeting." The G20 will be convened September 23.

Unfortunately, at this stage, there is little evidence that the Obama administration is about to adopt effective action in a timely manner in light of Iran's policy of rejectionism. Engagement was the centerpiece of its Middle East policy and has been hard to abandon. For example, while rejecting the newest Iranian proposals on September 10, State Department spokesman Philip J. Crowley reminded reporters that engagement was still official US policy, stating: "We remain willing to engage Iran." Moreover, within 24 hours Crowley announced that the US would negotiate with Iran despite his determination a day earlier that their proposals were inadequate.

The hard-line Iranian newspaper Javan noted the dramatic US shift on September 14: "One day after the hasty response to Iran's updated package of proposals, America made a U-turn and announced that because these proposals could become a basis for direct talks with Iran, it accepts the talks over this package." Indicating Iranian understanding of the new US policy, the article was entitled: "The inevitable acceptance of nuclear Iran." The first meeting between Teheran and the West reportedly will take place in early October when Javier Solana, the EU foreign policy chief, and Western diplomats meet with Saeed Jalili, the chief Iranian nuclear negotiator. According to Solana's office, the meeting will not yet be a "formal negotiation," which presumably will come at a later stage. The September deadline appeared to have vanished and the Iranians have gained valuable time.

The consequences of letting the September deadline pass without a decisive response is clearly not understood in Western capitals. Iran will carefully calibrate its next moves on the basis of how it believes the US and its allies will act in the weeks ahead.

THERE ARE two very important Iranian considerations that are likely to be affected by what the West does now. Just recently, Glyn Davies, the US ambassador to the IAEA, acknowledged that the Iranian stockpile of low-enriched uranium has already reached a sufficient level so that it was possible to talk about Teheran having "a dangerous and destabilizing possible breakout capacity." What he probably meant was that the Iranians could soon take their low-enriched uranium and put it through a further stage of enrichment to produce weapons-grade fuel. He announced that Iran already has enough low-enriched uranium for at least one atomic bomb.

Under the breakout scenario, Iran would refuse any more IAEA inspections, shut down the IAEA cameras that provide a partial picture of what transpires in the Natanz enrichment plant, and manufacture high-enriched fuel.

International precedents in this area are not encouraging. North Korea's Yongbyon nuclear reactor was under IAEA monitoring until 2002, when Pyongyang removed the IAEA seals from its stock of spent fuel rods and expelled international inspectors. Since, North Korea conducted two nuclear tests and got away with them: first in October 2006 and then in May 2009. Reportedly, Iranian representatives were present at both. Teheran undoubtedly observed that no serious action was taken against North Korea for its nuclear breakout. Should Iran escape from the September deadline that the West itself instituted, then its readiness to follow the North Korean example will substantially increase.

The second area which will be affected by how Iran is handled at present will be deterrence. The common assumption in Washington policy circles is that even if Iran reaches the nuclear finish line, the US can fall back on the same Cold War deterrence that was used against the Soviet nuclear arsenal.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's offer in July of a "defense umbrella" against Iran to worried Arab states foreshadows the coming approach of the administration to a nuclear Iran. But will Iran respond to Western deterrence the way Washington hopes?

Indeed, over the last year, Western leaders have repeatedly declared that a nuclear-armed Iran was "unacceptable." But should they subsequently acquiesce to Iran's final sprint to a nuclear capability, what credibility will US deterrence have with the leadership in Teheran after it successfully defies the West's repeated warnings? There is an unwarranted complacency growing in the West about Iran. Some believe that if the world survived the advent of Pakistani and North Korean nuclear weapons, and the sky did not fall, then an Iranian bomb will be no more threatening. The cases are, of course, very different. Iran is a revolutionary power whose aspirations extend into Iraq, Bahrain, and other oil-producing states. It is involved in both the Afghan and Iraqi insurgencies, while its support for terrorism reaches into Lebanon, Gaza, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Sudan. Now Iran is heavily involved in South America and East Africa, with growing security and economic ties. In short, the nuclearization of Iran has global implications.

In dealing with the new Ahmadinejad government, the proposals currently being considered for severe sanctions, including a gasoline quarantine, on Iran must be pursued immediately, despite the start of any negotiations. The West must demonstrate political will, but time is now short. The decision to engage Iran diplomatically has never been cost-free. In 2003-2005, Teheran engaged with the EU-3 (UK, Germany and France) for two years, exploiting the talks to race ahead with construction of key uranium enrichment facilities, while fending off punitive measures by the UN Security Council for three entire years. Iran today is far more advanced than it was then and the time for diplomatic experimentation is extremely limited. The scale of the next crisis with Iran will largely be affected by how the Obama administration responds to the challenge it faces when it meets the Iranians next month.

The writer, president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, was ambassador to the UN in 1997-1999. He is the author of the newly-released The Rise of Nuclear Iran: How Teheran Defies the West (Regnery).
This article can also be read at /servlet/Satellite?cid=1251804588639&pagename=JPArticle%2FShowFull

"Rosh Hashana"

Arlene Kushner

Rosh Hashana begins this evening. And so I want to begin today by wishing all those who are observing the holiday a year of peace, health, fulfillment and spiritual growth.

May the Almighty watch over each of us and lead us to where we are meant to go. May He protect Israel and keep us strong and truly committed. It was a bombshell of sorts, but not really unexpected: The Goldstone Commission released its findings -- which accuse Israel of war crimes in Gaza-- yesterday. This investigation was commissioned by the UN Human Rights Council, a vociferously anti-Israel group, and the bias was so much anticipated that Israel refused to cooperate in the investigative process. Its mandate was to "investigate all violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law by the occupying power, Israel, against the Palestinian people."

Prime Minister Netanyahu could not be more correct in calling this a "kangaroo court." A "prize for terrorists," he said that makes it more difficult for democratic countries to combat terrorism.

What makes it all the more disgraceful is that the head of this commission, South African Constitutional Court Judge Richard Goldstone, is a Jew.

The diplomatic approach of our government is to, in essence, head this off at the pass. This report will now go to the Human Rights Council and from there to the Security Council. The goal is to delegitimize it by contacting Western democracies and seeking their cooperation in refusing to pass on this. Without the support of these countries, the report would lack moral authority.

Significant to blocking the process is having a veto in the Security Council that will prevent this from going to the International Court at the Hague. All eyes will be on the US in this regard.


Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, is the US, and has called upon American Jewish leaders to act with force against the report. It is, he said, "a dangerous attempt to harm the principle of self-defense by democratic states and provides legitimacy to terrorism." As such, it "should be treated like the [eventually rescinded] UN General Assembly Resolution 3379 equating Zionism with racism. We must mobilize and act with all force against the report in order to remove it."


For more on this, please see the Jerusalem Post editorial.

"The learned judge's concoction, based heavily on unverifiable claims from avowedly non-objective sources, some of them long-since discredited, is a feat of cynical superficiality, without appropriate distinction between terror and defense. The distorted picture justifies the Foreign Ministry's reaction of 'nausea and fury.'"


The British Trades Unions have called for a boycott on some Israeli goods coming out of Judea and Samaria -- as a response to our action in Gaza. This thinking is exacerbated by the Goldstone report.

There is concern that another repercussion of the report will be its use in countries that have universal jurisdiction -- allowing claims against Israeli leaders even if their alleged "crimes" were committed elsewhere. But Foreign Ministry lawyer Allan Baker thinks this is unlikely because the report does not contain sufficient evidence to support criminal charges.


Still no agreement reached on a settlement freeze. Mitchell has been bouncing between Jerusalem and Ramallah. What seems fairly obvious is that Netanyahu has made his offer, pretty much along the lines that have been described ad infinitum, but Abbas is saying nothing doing: A total freeze or no negotiations.

I am opposed to a freeze in any terms, but I'll give credit here to the prime minister for holding out and not caving to the demand that the freeze be total, in order to appease the PA.


I had said I wanted to return with a story about Ilan Ramon, Israel's first astronaut, and am pleased to do so here:

Sixty years ago, in the Nazi concentration camp of Bergen-Belson, a young Dutch boy named Yoachim (Yoya) Yosef received a tiny Torah scroll from the rabbi of Amsterdam. It was used to secretly teach him his Torah portion for his bar mitzvah, and he kept it with him ever after; when he survived the war, he came to Israel and brought the scroll with him. In fact, he became one of Israel's top physicists and ultimately a mentor to Ramon, who was himself the son of a Holocaust survivor. He was involved with experiments Ramon carried out in space.

Ramon brought this tiny scroll into space with him, along with an Israeli flag, mezuzot, and a kiddush cup.

"I want to bring on the mission as much as possible of the Jewish people, of the identity of the Jewish people," he said at the time. As to the Torah scroll, it represents "the ability of the Jewish people to survive everything, including horrible periods, and go from the darkest of days with hope and faith in the future."

From space he broadcast the story of the scroll.

While Ramon was a secular Jew, he requested kosher food on his mission, and asked to be excused from work on Shabbat. (No, I don't know how he calculated Shabbat in space, but there is a way). He believed he represented all of the Jewish people on this mission.

How exquisitely moving is this story, and how utterly painful that he, and then his son, have been lost to us. But there is a way in which he is not lost, because he serves as a magnificent model of proud Jew that should be broadly emulated.

We must remember him with hope for our future as a people, as surely he would want us to.

see my website



Thursday, September 17, 2009

UN Investigation of Israel Discredits Itself and Undercuts Human Rights

September 16, 2009 3:43 PM
by Alan M. Dershowitz
Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law, Harvard Law School

Richard Goldstone—the primary author of a one-sided United Nation’s attack on Israeli actions during the Gaza war—has now become a full fledged member of the international bash-Israel chorus. His name will forever be linked in infamy with such distorters of history and truth as Noam Chomsky, Norman Finkelstein and Jimmy Carter. The so-called report commissioned by the notorious United Nations Human Rights Council and issued under his name is so filled with lies, distortions and blood libels that it could have been drafted by Hamas extremists. Wait, in effect, it actually was!

One member of the group is an Hamas lackey who before being appointed as an "objective" judge had already reached the conclusion—without conducting any investigation or hearing any evidence—that Israel’s military actions “amount to aggression, not self defense” and that “the manner and scale of its operations in Gaza amount to an act of aggression and is contrary to international law.” So much for objectivity. Many human rights experts urged her to recuse herself because of her prejudgment, but she was on a mission on behalf of her “client”—Hamas. And she did a good job as an advocate! But as a judge, she employed an Alice-In-Wonderland conception of justice: verdict first, trial to support the verdict.

Other members were accompanied on their investigations in Gaza by actual Hamas activists who showed them only what they wanted them to see. The group was eager to find or manufacture “evidence” to support what the Human Rights Council itself had directed them to find, namely that Israel committed “grave violations of human rights in the occupied Palestinian Territory, particularly due to the recent Israeli military attacks against the occupied Gaza Strip.” This conclusion too was reached before any investigation. No wonder so many prominent human rights experts, including Mary Robinson, refused to participate in this mockery of human rights, declaring that it was “guided not by human rights, but by politics.” No wonder so many nations that are dedicated to human rights—such as Switzerland, Canada, Japan, France, the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands—refused to go along with the politically-motivated witch hunt. They should also refuse to accept the politically motivated, entirely pre-ordained conclusions of the biased report.

As I wrote before the “Kangaroo Court investigation” began:

“The UN Human Rights Council is a scandal. [It has] a long history of singling out Israel for condemnation and of ignoring real human rights abusers by the world's worst offenders, several of which dominate the Human Rights Council and it predecessor.

As Hudson Institute scholar Anne Bayefsky recently noted: "The Council has adopted more resolutions and decisions condemning Israel than all the other 191 U.N. member states combined.... The more time the Council spends demonizing Israel, the less likely it becomes that it will ever get around to condemning genocide in Sudan, female slavery in Saudi Arabia, or torture in Egypt.”

The very idea of the UN Council conducting an "independent" or objective investigation of Israel is preposterous.

A careful reading of the official media summary—the widely quoted press release—of the report itself reveals the bias of its members and discredits the entire enterprise.

The summary never criticizes Hamas. It downplays the rockets deliberately fired by Hamas at Israeli civilian targets in Sderot and other towns and cities, blaming them on generic “Palestinian armed groups.” It faults Israel more than Hamas for using human shields. It cites the admission of Hamas leader Fathi Hammad, who boasted that:

“For the Palestinian people, death has become an industry, at which women excel, and so do all the people living on this land. The elderly excel at this, and so do the mujahedeen and the children. This is why they have formed humans shields of the women, the children, the elderly, and the mujahedeen, in order to challenge the Zionist bombing machine. It is as if they were saying to the Zionist enemy: “We desire death like you desire life.”

But it concluded that “it does not consider [this admission] to constitute evidence…” It ignored videos, which constitute hard evidence, that clearly show Palestinian terrorists firing rockets from civilian areas, including schools. This was part of a pattern of ignoring evidence that undercut its pre-determined conclusions and exaggerating—sometimes manufacturing—evidence that supported it.

The lowest blow and the worst canard contained in this lie-laden report is that the Israeli judicial system is incapable of conducting investigations and bringing about compliance with international law. It claims that the Israeli judicial system “has major structural flaws that make the system inconsistent with international standards,” and that “there is little potential for accountability for serious violations of international humanitarian and human rights law through domestic institutions in Israel.” This is a direct attack on the Israeli Supreme Court by a lawyer who knows full well that there is no country in the world that has a judicial system that demands more accountability than the Israeli system does. There is no judicial system in the world—not in the United States, not in Great Britain, not in South Africa, not in France—that takes more seriously its responsibility to bring its military into compliance with international law. The long term President of the Israeli Supreme Court, Professor Aharon Barak, opened the Supreme Court of Israel to all claims of law violation. Cases that would be rejected by the courts of other nations have been pursued by the Israeli Supreme Court. This part of this infamous report has literally turned black to white and white to black. It has condemned the most responsive judicial system in the world, without even bothering to compare it to other systems. In doing so, they have made a mockery of international human rights and turned into a weapon that targets only Israel.

Another Orwellian “newspeak” conclusion is that “the international community has been largely silent” about alleged Israeli abuses in the Gaza and the West Bank. Didn’t the investigators even read the reports of the Human Rights Council, as well as so many other organizations of the international community, that obsess over Israeli imperfections, to the exclusion of other real human rights abusers? No country in the world has been subjected to more criticism than Israel. Yet on Planet Goldstone “the international community has been largely silent” about Israel. This statement could only have been written by a variation of the three monkeys with hands covering their eyes and ears, but not their mouths or pens.

Every serious student of human rights should be appalled at this anti-human rights and highly politicized report. Judge Richard Goldstone should be ashamed of himself. In an apparent effort to curry favor with the international anti-Israel establishment, and perhaps with the Nobel Peace Prize Committee, he has abandoned all principles of objectivity and neutral human rights. He no longer deserves the mantle of a human rights advocate. He has done more to destroy the credibility and objectivity of human rights than any credible human rights personage in modern times.

If the methodology and conclusions of this infamous report were ever applied generally to democracies seeking to combat terrorists who hid behind civilians—as in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq—it would constitute a great victory for terrorism and a defeat for democracy. But not to worry. The report is not intended to establish general principles of international law, applicable to all nations. It is directed at one nation and one nation only: the Jew among nations—Israel. For shame.

Goldstone Report Endorses Unreliable Witnesses

Tamar Sternthal

“The mission found Khalid and Kawthar Abd Rabbo to be credible and reliable witnesses. It has no reason to doubt the veracity of the main elements of their testimony. The Mission also reviewed several sworn statements they and other eyewitnesses gave to NGOs about the incident and found them to be consistent with the account it received.”Yesterday the United Nations' fact-finding mission into the three weeks of fighting in the Gaza Strip published its scathing report, harshly condemning Israel for its “disproportionate attack designed to punish, humiliate and terrorize a civilian population.” Much of its conclusions are based on Palestinian witnesses, and the process in which the U.N. Human Rights Council investigators, led by Judge Richard Goldstone, selected these witnesses is unknown. There are clear systemic problems in relying on the testimony of many of the witnesses. Specifically, according to media reports, Hamas representatives accompanied U.N. investigators throughout much of their fact-finding visit to the Gaza Strip, casting doubt in particular on the credibility of witnesses aligned with Fatah.

The case of Khaled and Kawthar Abed Rabbo illustrates this predicament. Before Hamas' violent takeover of the Gaza Strip, Khaled Abd Rabbo was a member of the Fatah-controlled Palestinian Authority police forces, and the Palestinian newspaper Al-Hayat Al-Jadida identifies the Abed Rabbo family as loyal to Fatah. Yet, the Goldstone team fails to take into account Khaled Abed Rabbo's reported loyalties to Fatah. Surely, in the context of intra-Palestinian violence, in which Hamas took advantage of the fighting with Israel to kill and maim Fatah opponents, the testimony of Abd Rabbo— who says that his three daughters and mother were shot in cold blood by an Israeli soldier on Jan. 7 — must be treated with a healthy dose of skepticism.

Moreover, while the Goldstone committee “found Khalid and Kawthar Abd Rabbo to be credible and reliable witnesses [and] has no reason to doubt the veracity of the main elements of their testimony,” Khaled Abd Rabbo and his relatives have given more than a dozen different versions of what happened to them on Jan. 7, 2009. These multiple conflicting accounts appearing both in the mainstream media and a number of NGOs, such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, are incompatible with the U.N. commission's statement that “The mission also reviewed several sworn statements they and other eyewitnesses gave to NGOs about the incident and found them to be consistent with the account it received.”

A review of the earlier statements by witnesses given to both NGOs and journalists reveals not only that the witnesses were completely unreliable, but that the U.N.'s statements, to the contrary, are not credible.

Despite the many inconsistencies in the various testimonies and reports, the general outline of the Abd Rabbo story is that on Jan. 7, an Israeli tank unit approached the family home in Izbet Abed Rabbo, near Jabalya, in the northern Gaza Strip and ordered the family to leave the home. Several family members exited, waving a white flag. Outside the home were two soldiers standing next to a tank. A third emerged from the tank and shot at three sisters, killing 7-year-old Souad and 2-year-old Amal, and seriously injuring 4-year-old Amar. In addition, the soldier injured the girls' grandmother, Souad.

An earlier CAMERA report focused on the inconsistencies in Abed Rabbo's story as reported in media outlets. This analysis focuses on the inconsistencies between the Goldstone findings on the Abed Rabbo story versus earlier NGO investigations.

Fatah-Hamas rivalry in Abd Rabbo case is key, but omitted

The Goldstone report does not mention Abed Rabbo's Fatah affiliation. In his Jan. 28 testimony, Khaled states: “We have nothing to do with Hamas and we were used to hav[ing] the Israeli army come into our area. So I thought this time we could stay in our houses. We had nothing to do with Hamas. We did not pose any danger to Hamas.”

Yet, a Jan. 27 from the Palestinian newspaper Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, reveals that the Abd Rabbo family are Fatah loyalists, that their land was taken over by Hamas for tunnels, arms caches, and rocket attacks, that the family was waiting for reparations from Hamas, and that they were afraid to speak out against Hamas:

The Abd Rabbo family kept quiet while Hamas fighters turned their farm in the Gaza Strip into a fortress. Right now they are waiting for the aid promised by the [Hamas] movement after Israel bombed the farm and turned it into ruins. . .

The hill on which Abd Rabbo family lives overlooks the Israeli town Sderot, a fact that turned it into an ideal military position for the Palestinian fighters, from which they have launched hundreds of rockets into southern Israel during the last few years. Several of the Abd Rabbo family members described how the fighters dug tunnels under their houses, stored arms in the fields and launched rockets from the yard of their farm during the nights.

The Abd Rabbo family members emphasize that they are not [Hamas] activists and that they are still loyal to the Fatah movement, but that they were unable to prevent the armed squads from entering their neighborhood at night. One family member, Hadi (age 22) said: “You can't say anything to the resistance [fighters], or they will accuse you of collaborating [with Israel] and shoot you in the legs.” (Translation by Palestinian Media Watch)

Thus, the Abed Rabbo family are Fatah loyalists, their property was taken over by Hamas fighters, they were awaiting reparations from Hamas, they were afraid to “say anything to the ‘resistance,’” and Khaled failed to note the Hamas takeover of his area. Therefore, on what basis does the commission accept at face value his claim that there was no fighting at the time of the shooting incident? The report concludes: “The testimony of Khalid and Kawthar Abd Rabbo, however, shows that the Israeli armed forces were not engaged in combat or fearing an attack at the time of the incident.”

Was Khaled outside at the time of the shootings or inside his house?

Was Khaled outside or inside his home at the time of the alleged shootings of his three girls? Despite the U.N.'s claim that Abed Rabbo's earlier sworn testimonies to NGOs are consistent with the Goldstone testimony, Khaled is not consistent on this key point. His respective testimonies to the Goldstone Report and Human Rights Watch, which is cited 33 times in the U.N. report, are contradictory as to whether he was inside or outside during the shooting. The Goldstone report claims that after hearing Israeli soldiers using a megaphone calling upon the family to leave their home, Khaled stepped outside along with his wife, three daughters, and mother. The report states (paragraph 771):

At about 12:50 p.m., Khalid Abd Rabbo, his wife Kawthar, their three daughters, Souad (aged 9), Samar (aged 5) and Amal (aged 3), and his mother, Hajja Souad Abd Rabbo, stepped out of the house all of them carrying white flags.

Indeed, this is what Khaled testified to the U.N. delegation on June 28. Yet, according to Human Rights Watch's August 2009 “White Flag Deaths” report, Khaled said he was inside during the time of the actual shooting. The Human Rights Watch report states:

According to all three family members [Khaled, his brother, and his mother], around noon the family heard the tank outside their house and then a soldier on a megaphone calling on them to come outside. Afraid to send out any men, two women and three female children gathered at the door, at least three of them holding pieces of white cloth. They stepped outside and saw an Israeli tank about 10 meters away with its turret pointed at the house. On the front steps stood Khalid's mother, Su'ad, 54, his wife, Kawthar, 26, and their three girls, Su'ad, 7, Samar, 4, and Amal, 2.

Likewise Souad Abed Rabbo, Khaled's mother, told investigators from Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, that she, her daughter-in-law, and three grandaughters — but not Khaled — exited the home following the soldiers' call. The PHR-I report states:

Feb 2 2009. Souad Abed Rabbo told the team that on 7 Jan 2009 there were 30-40 people in the house in Jebel al Kashif. On the first day of the “ground invasion”, 4 Jan 2009, the Israeli tanks had already passed the house. Now they experienced tank shelling around the house and Israeli soldiers shouting that they should all come out of their houses. She, her daughter in law (married to her son Khaled) and her three granddaughters went out of the house, Souad and the daughter in law and her 7-year old girl each holding a white flag above their heads. The girls were Souad, 7, Samar, 4 and Amal, 2. Outside the house there was an Israeli tank. It had come from the west towards the house that was facing north. It was 11.30 –– 12.00. The tank was in the garden about ten meters from her, when she stopped to receive permission to leave unharmed. On her right side were the three girls, behind her was the daughter in law close to the door of the house.

Similarly, Khaled specifically told the Irish Times that only women and children went outside, and that he deliberately stayed behind to demonstrate the family's civilian status:

“My three daughters, wife and mother went out carrying white flags,” Mr Abed Rabbo said. By sending the women out, the family sought to prove they were civilians.

Whether or not Khaled was inside or outside the home is not an incidental detail. It goes to the central question of what exactly he might have been able to see. Moreover, the very fact that Khaled has been inconsistent about whether he was inside or outside during the alleged shootings is enough to disqualify him as a reliable witness. To that end, Khaled's claim in the Washington Post —“I was holding Amal when they shot her. My hand felt heavy and I dropped her, and I saw her abdomen open” — is notable. He does not repeat it in his testimony to the U.N. investigators, even though in that version he did claim to be outside during the shooting. The bottom line is that Khaled cannot simultaneously have held Amal while he watched her insides spill out and have waited inside to demonstrate that his family was civilian. Thus, he is lying in either one or both cases, and the U.N. investigators should have called him on this instead of dubbing him "reliable.

Other inconsistencies derive from this basic flaw in Khaled's story. For instance, is it true that “Khalid and Kawthar Abd Rabbo carried their three daughters and mother back inside the house” as per the Goldstone Report, or that “The women and girls managed to scramble back inside the house, some of them bleeding badly,” as per Human Rights Watch? Or perhaps, “The grandmother retreated inside the house, while the father and mother moved the injured girls,” as per the investigation of Adalah, Al-Mezan and Al-Haq, which also all contributed to the Goldstone Report.

The Ambulance Incident

Again, despite U.N. claims that earlier testimony to NGOs was consistent with the accounts its own investigators received, this was not the case with respect to events surrounding Samieh al-Sheikh, the ambulance driver/neighbor, who said he tried to assist the Abed Rabbo family. According to the Goldstone report, Khaled and Kawthar

shouted for help and a neighboour, Sameeh Atwa Rasheed al-Sheikh, who was an ambulance driver and had his ambulance parked next to his house, decided to come to their help. He put on his ambulance crew clothes and asked his son to put on a flourescent jacket. They had driven a few meters from their house to the immediate vicinity of the Abd Rabbo house when Israeli soldiers near the Abed Rabbo house ordered them to halt and get out of the vehicle. Sameeh al-Sheikh protested that he had heard cries for help from the Abd Rabbo family and intended to bring the wounded to hospital. The soldiers ordered him and his son to undress and then re-dress. They then ordered them to abandon the ambulance and walk towards Jabaliyah, which they complied with. When the families returned to Izbat Abd Rabbo on 18 January, they found the ambulance in the same place but had been crushed, probably by a tank.

Yet, al-Sheikh told Human Rights Watch the soldiers “ordered him to get out of the ambulance and walk out of the neighborhood.” In that testimony, he did not make any mention of either his son or orders to undress. (In yet another version of what happened, al-Sheikh told Time Magazine “the Israeli soldiers beat me up.”) Moreover, Goldstone and Human Rights Watch contradict each other as to how the ambulance was destroyed. While Goldstone is unclear about what crushed the ambulance (“probably . . . a tank”), HRW definitely states that the ambulance was crushed under a destroyed house, where their investigators saw it:

When he returned to his home after the Israeli withdrawal on January 18, he said he found his ambulance crushed under his demolished house. Human Rights Watch observed the crushed ambulance under the rubble of al-Sheikh's destroyed house on January 25.

Kawthar, Khaled's wife, gives a different account about the ambulance's fate. In her recorded testimony to the Goldstone committee, she says that the ambulance was crushed immediately when al-Sheik tried to help – not later, after he left for Jabaliya. She said:

My neighbor, uh, he's an ambulance driver and he was, uh, worked to help patients and we called on him and asked him to help us with the ambulance but when the ambulance came out they crushed the ambulance. They hit the ambulance and did not allow it to reach us.

Husband—Wife Contradictions

In another indication that the U.N. mission was grossly mistaken when it found “Khalid and Kawthar Abd Rabbo to be credible and reliable witnesses,” the Goldstone testimonies by the husband and wife team are not consistent with each other. Khaled spoke before the investigators on June 28 in Gaza. Kawthar's testimony was given in a video. She was filmed with her daughter Samar at a Belgium hospital.

1) Which parent carried which daughter?

Khaled testifies that when the family left the home to reach a hospital: “I carried my daughter Suad, 3 years old [sic]. She was dead. I left the house. My wife carried Amal, 2 years old and she joined me.”

However, according to Kawthar: “I carried Suad and my husband carried Amal.” Also, Kawthar's daughter Samar states in the video, “my father carried Amal.”

2) When did the family learn that Samar was injured and not killed?

Khaled testifies to the Goldstone commission:

Of course, we reached the Kamal Idwan Hospital and they confirmed that the three of them were martyred, that is Suad, 3 years old, Samar, 4, and Amal, 3 years old and but [sic] surprisingly enough they told me that Samar, no, she had survived and she was moved to al-Shiffa Hospital.

In contrast, Kawthar and Samar talk about an incident on the way to the hospital, which Khaled did not mention and which contradicts his testimony:

Kawthar: On the way, uh, this girl [Samar], we were, uh, in front of them and she was behind us with her uncle and a soldier saw her. So he told her uncle to throw her on the floor.

Samar: A soldier found me and told him, “Put her down.” He told my uncle, “Put her down. Throw her.” This is what he said and my father carried Amal. Amal is very small. She's 2 years old, and a half, and my elder sister she is 7 and a half years old.

Kawthar: They didn't see us as were running with our girls but when they saw her [Samar] they told her uncle, “Throw her down,” and then they were surprised to see that the girl was still alive. So they told the uncle, “Come back and get her.” So thanks be to God her uncle came back and got her after she was thrown on the floor and then he came back and took her.

Either the family knew that Samar was alive during the alleged incident with the soldier on the way to the house, or the family only found out once they reached the hospital. They can't both be true. Again, either Khaled or Kawthar, or both, are lying.

This analysis is only a partial expose of the many inconsistencies between Khaled and Kawthar Abed Rabbo's testimonies to the Goldstone committee, as well as disparities between the family members' account to Goldstone versus earlier NGO accounts and media reports. While the mission says “it has no reason to doubt the veracity of the main elements of their testimony,” an objective observer would have no trouble identifying literally dozens of reasons to discount the Abed Rabbos' testimony.

Fundamentally Freund: The UN has outdone itself this time


Even for a body with a steady and dependable record of demonizing Israel, the UN has truly outdone itself this time. Mustering all the righteous indignation at its disposal, the world organization has deemed itself morally fit to accuse the Jewish state of "actions amounting to war crimes, possibly crimes against humanity" during last winter's conflict in Gaza. These were among the unsavory findings of the 575-page report released on Tuesday by the Goldstone Commission, under the authority of the UN Human Rights Council to investigate the fighting between Israel and Hamas.

The harshness of the report is simply breathtaking. It lambastes Israel for using "collective punishment" and asserts that the IDF's military operations "were carefully planned in all their phases as a deliberately disproportionate attack designed to punish, humiliate and terrorize a civilian population."

Israel's assault, the report concludes, "was directed at the people of Gaza as a whole," which is about as close as you can come to depicting a country's actions as Nazi-like without actually using the "N" word.

THE PANEL, headed by South African Jewish jurist Richard Goldstone, also recommended that Israel be given three months to launch its own investigations "in conformity with international standards" or face possible referral by the UN Security Council to the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

Yes, you read that correctly. The Jewish state and its wartime leaders now face the prospect of being hauled before the very same tribunal that is pursuing the perpetrators of genocide in Darfur and the murder and conscription of children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Sure, the report also accused the Palestinians of similar violations of international law, but we all know perfectly well just how this is going to play around the world.

In short, the Goldstone report is nothing less than a political pogrom, one which reeks of anti-Semitism, moral relativism and bias. It has nothing to do with justice and everything to do with a political agenda which seeks to isolate the Jewish state, besmirch its good name and pressure it into making concessions to its enemies.

More than 60 years may have passed since the State of Israel was founded, but clearly much of the world still seems incapable of forgiving us for having the gall to defend ourselves.

Various legal experts have already weighed in, asserting that Israel has little to fear from the report in the form of practical consequences because of jurisdictional and other issues. They point to the fact that its recommendations are not binding, and that in any event Israel is not a party to the treaty which established the court at The Hague.

All that may be true, but regardless of the legal ramifications, this is a body-blow in political and diplomatic terms. It reinforces all the hostile propaganda that has been hurled in Israel's direction over the years by the Palestinians and their supporters, and enshrines Israel alongside thugs such as Serbia's Slobodan Milosevic and Liberia's Charles Taylor as modern-day war criminals.

WORSE YET, the fact that the report bears the imprimatur of a panel headed by a prominent international Jewish jurist will make it that much more difficult to counter the slanders it contains, as people will naturally assume that the ethnic identity of its author shields against any possible underlying anti-Israel partiality.

Whether Goldstone consciously sought to lay this outrageous document at Israel's doorstep just days before Rosh Hashana is debatable, and we may never truly know. But in a sense that he surely never intended, its timing could not possibly have been more fortuitous.

Starting with Rosh Hashana, Israel is entering a period of judgment, an annual rite of passage when the creator of the world assesses us both individually and collectively and determines our fates for the coming year.

In contrast to Goldstone and his ilk, this is one tribunal where we can and will get a fair hearing, from a judge who truly has our best interests at heart and wishes to dispense justice tempered with mercy.

The slap in the face that the UN has given Israel is a timely reminder that we cannot place our trust in man, or rely on him to adjudicate on our behalf. It is a sharp and unpleasant signal that Israel remains very much alone among the nations, maligned and misunderstood.

Surely, we must criticize and condemn the Goldstone report with every ounce of our being, and redouble our efforts to explain Israel and its cause. But the onset of the High Holy Days presents us with a unique and far more powerful opportunity.

"Everything that happens on a day-to-day basis has already been decreed on the previous Rosh Hashana and will be reevaluated and judged on the upcoming Rosh Hashana," writes Rabbi Avigdor Nebenzahl, chief rabbi of the Old City of Jerusalem, in his brilliant work Thoughts for the Month of Elul. "All the headlines of the upcoming year, may they be for the good, will be written in Heaven on Rosh Hashana and will only be published later, when the events themselves transpire."

Each of us, then, now has an opportunity in the coming days to literally write the future. Through our prayers and our actions, we can influence events and sway the heavenly verdict in Israel's favor. We can write the coming year's headlines through the power of our pleas and the resonance of our repentance.

If you believe, as I do, that there is a God who actively intervenes and guides the course of history while granting us free will, then by necessity the course of the future has yet to be finalized.

So this Rosh Hashana, let's strike a blow at all the Goldstones and Israel-bashers out there, and channel our passions in the direction of prayer. Let's show the UN what we think of its courts and their rulings, by going over their heads and appealing to a much higher authority. For in doing so we can be assured that justice will, for once, finally be served.

CBS: Israel's population numbers 7,465,500

Sep. 16, 2009
Israel's population numbers 7,465,500 - some 5,634,300 Jews, 1,513,200 Arabs and 318,000 others - according to the annual pre-Rosh Hashana report released by the Central Bureau of Statistics Wednesday.
President Shimon Peres was presented with the report and thanked the CBS for its work. "The data you presented is a product of very important work," he said upon receiving the report. "I give you my blessing and wish all of us a happy and successful year."
The report found that Israel's population has been growing at a steady annual rate of 1.8% since 2003.
It showed that the growth rate among Jews in 2008 was 1.7%, and among Arabs 2.6%. The growth rate of the 'others' dropped to 0.5%, compared with 1.8% in 2007 and 3% on average between 2003-2006.
Life expectancy continued to rise, to 79.1 years among men and 83 years among women. Compared with 2007, life expectancy among men went up by 0.4 years, and among women 0.6 years. The life expectancy was 3.7 years greater among Jewish men and women than among Arabs.
The national expenditure on education went up by 3% in 2008, compared with a 4% average rise between 2006-2007
It also emerged that Israel has a relatively young population compared to the West. In 2008, the percentage of children between 0-14 in Israel was 28.4%, compared with the 17% Western average, while the percentage of those aged 65 and up was 9.7%, compared with the West's figure of 15%.
The number of Israelis 75 and older has risen steadily over the years, particularly among Jews - 5.6% in 2008, compared with 3.8% at the start of the 90s.
Also according to the 2008 figures, there were 979 men to every 1,000 women in Israel.
It further emerged that among Jews there was a tendency to push off marriage, with 32% of men and 42% of women between the ages of 25-29 being bachelors. Among the Muslim population for the same age group, the figure was 39% for men and 15.5% for women.
The proportion of Israeli-born Jewish members of the population continued to rise, standing at 70.7% (3.9 million) at the end of 2008, compared with 35% when the state was established.
At the end of 2008, 2.2 million people - 37.9% of the Jews and 'others' - had originated from Europe and the US.
Regarding geographical trends, about half of Israel's Jewish population is concentrated in central Israel, while less than 10% of Israeli Jews live in the North.
On the other hand, some 60% of the Arab population live the North, and 11% in the South.

The Central District saw the most internal migration in 2008, following a decades-old trend, adding 11,700 people to the population in 2008, compared with 12,600 in 2007. The number of residents of Judea and Samaria rose by 3,900 in 2008, compared with 4,900 in 2007.

One of the most striking statistics in the report is the number of people who have apparently been priced out of the Jerusalem and Tel Aviv regions. The population of the former area dropped by 4,200 and of the latter by 5,700. The Tel Aviv area negative migration is the largest since the end of the 90s.
In all the five biggest cities - those with a population of 200,000 or more - negative migrations were recorded, the smallest being in Rishon Lezion (600) and the largest in Jerusalem (4,900). In Tel Aviv, the figure was 3,200, in Haifa 1,400 and in Ashdod 900.
This article can also be read at /servlet/Satellite?cid=1251804585800&pagename=JPArticle%2FShowFull

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

U.S.-Iran Negotiations: Once you start you must be nice to them, right?

Barry Rubin

Before I respond to some points about the U.S. government negotiating with Iran, let me tell a personal story that illustrates the issue. Some years ago, a colleague wanted to invite me to speak at his think tank in Washington. To his surprise the director of the program absolutely refused to have me as a speaker. He said that I had done something he didn’t like but he just couldn’t remember what it was.

While this seems a rather flimsy excuse—hey, this is Middle East studies so one always expects the worst—I know exactly what happened. It was in Cairo and I was on a delegation of researchers. A couple of mid-level bureaucrats from the Egyptian Foreign Ministry were giving a briefing which was pure junk, a waste of time to listen to, constituting the official line that everything that has ever happened and was going on in the Middle East was Israel’s fault.

My philosophy on these matters is to challenge this kind of performance. There are good reasons for doing so.

First, the way it works in the Arabic-speaking world is that visitors are fed nonsense unless they show that they won’t accept it. When that happens, you get a higher level of information and more respect.

Second, it puts the speakers on notice that they have to be more honest and more realistic if they want to get anywhere.

Remember, I was not an official or a journalist representing any governmental or journalistic institution, but a researcher and analyst. We’re supposed to question things, right?

In fact, my polite demurrals upset others in the delegation to the point that I was immediately disinvited from continuing with the group to Saudi Arabia and, apparently I was banned from speaking at the think tank of one member of the delegation (not the organizing group).

Now, why am I telling you all this? The reason is this: the person in question has just written an article supporting U.S. negotiations with Iran. He gives three reasons why negotiations are a great idea (he doesn’t really engage with the critique very much) but the real problem is revealed by his own behavior.

Briefly the argument is this (for my fuller discussion see here and here):

A. By talking with Iran the United States will better keep together the Western coalition for higher sanctions. I have repeatedly asked: What specifically are you talking about? This argument is never accompanied by examples. Russia and China won’t switch to supporting higher sanctions as a result of these talks; from everything we’ve heard, Britain, France, and Germany are ready to raise sanctions now. So who is Washington trying to convince? Unless you hear something specific, disregard this argument, the main theme of the administration.

B. The United States talks to other dictatorships so why not to Iran? Answer: Some dictatorships do not threaten U.S. interests and so once one disregards human rights there are no big barriers to talking. Libya is given as an example, but the United States engaged Libya only after the Libyans abandoned their nuclear program and gave full information to U.S. policymakers. In contrast, Iran has done nothing and will do nothing. Moreover, the Tehran regime has become far worse but is being rewarded now at the moment it is most repressive and extremist.

C. Iran might help the United States on other issues, Afghanistan being the one specifically mentioned. Ok, but what will have to be given up to gain that help, assuming Tehran would do anything? Obviously, the first thing is acceptance of the Iranian nuclear program. The game is not worth the candle as the saying goes or, more bluntly: the United States would be giving up a lot to get very little in return.

Now back to my point. Once talks begin, the tendency is to become uncritical. Can the United States raise sanctions? But that would jeopardize the talks and their collapse would be America’s fault. Can U.S. leaders be tough in criticizing Iran (they are hardly doing so even now) about things like repression, anti-Americanism, killing American soldiers in Iraq, sponsoring terrorism, having a wanted terrorist as defense minister, and breaking all their promises regarding their nuclear program?

No, because—as the author of the article I have in mind showed in my case—you punish people who raise tough questions and point out the other side’s shortcomings and lies.

Thus, we arrive at a ridiculous but common situation. Iran or Syria, or even Egypt or Saudi Arabia, ridicules U.S. policy and attacks the United States daily—the former through government circles; the latter through state-controlled media—but any American response so upsets the other side that it is forbidden.

After all, it’s impolite and they get angry if you criticize them, right?

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: . To see or subscribe to his blog, Rubin Reports, .

A. By talking with Iran the United States will better keep together the Western coalition for higher sanctions. I have repeatedly asked: What specifically are you talking about? This argument is never accompanied by examples. Russia and China won’t switch to supporting higher sanctions as a result of these talks; from everything we’ve heard, Britain, France, and Germany are ready to raise sanctions now. So who is Washington trying to convince? Unless you hear something specific, disregard this argument, the main theme of the administration.

B. The United States talks to other dictatorships so why not to Iran? Answer: Some dictatorships do not threaten U.S. interests and so once one disregards human rights there are no big barriers to talking. Libya is given as an example, but the United States engaged Libya only after the Libyans abandoned their nuclear program and gave full information to U.S. policymakers. In contrast, Iran has done nothing and will do nothing. Moreover, the Tehran regime has become far worse but is being rewarded now at the moment it is most repressive and extremist.

C. Iran might help the United States on other issues, Afghanistan being the one specifically mentioned. Ok, but what will have to be given up to gain that help, assuming Tehran would do anything? Obviously, the first thing is acceptance of the Iranian nuclear program. The game is not worth the candle as the saying goes or, more bluntly: the United States would be giving up a lot to get very little in return.

The best thing that can happen is that the talks go on for three or four months, the United States says they aren't going anywhere, and then returns to the sanctions' policy that would otherwise have been implemented in late September. Time would be lost, the Iranians would progress toward their goals, nothing would be gained, but the losses would be limited.

But what if the process stretches out? And let's face it Tehran will pull every clever trick it can to drag out the talks and stall off tough action as long as possible.

Now back to my point. Once talks begin, the tendency is to become uncritical. Can the United States raise sanctions? But that would jeopardize the talks and their collapse would be America’s fault. Can U.S. leaders be tough in criticizing Iran (they are hardly doing so even now) about things like repression, anti-Americanism, killing American soldiers in Iraq, sponsoring terrorism, having a wanted terrorist as defense minister, and breaking all their promises regarding their nuclear program?

No, because—as the author of the article I have in mind showed in my case—you punish people who raise tough questions and point out the other side’s shortcomings and lies.

Thus, we arrive at a ridiculous but common situation. Iran or Syria, or even Egypt or Saudi Arabia, ridicules U.S. policy and attacks the United States daily—the former through government circles; the latter through state-controlled media—but any American response so upsets the other side that it is forbidden.

After all, it’s impolite and they get angry if you criticize them, right?

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).

Ex-Commandos Rescue US Woman Imprisoned in Arab Home

Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu US Woman Freed from Arab Captor

Former IDF commandos secretly entered a Palestinian Authority village on Monday and rescued an American woman and her 2 1/2-year-old son from her Muslim husband, who had beaten and and held her captive for three years. The woman and child flew to the United States Wednesday night and are en route to her family’s home in Ohio. The Arab met the woman during a visit to the United States and enticed her to return with him to Israel and to the house where he lives with his first wife and several children, according to Voice of Israel government radio military reporter Carmella Menashe, who reported the story.

“She had no idea of where she was and was unable to escape,” Menashe reported. The woman wore Muslim clothes, including a veil over her face, and the man threatened her that she never would see her child again and that security agents would pick her up if she fled. She was kept under guard to make sure she could not reveal details of her ordeal on the telephone.

Her family, knowing she was somewhere in Israel, unsuccessfully tried to get the U.S. Consulate in eastern Jerusalem and the Palestinian Authority to help, and finally a member of the family turned to a friend in Israel, a former commando in the Israeli Defense Forces.

The commando, who did not reveal his identity, explained that he gathered nine comrades, and they used their own intelligence connections to locate the house where she was being held.

“We carried out surveillance around the house, wore civilian clothes and staged the operation without any danger. We were unarmed, but part of the group was armed in a waiting vehicle in case there was trouble," he revealed.

They carried out the secret operation in broad daylight without resistance and when the captor was not home, whisked the woman and child into a car and brought them to an apartment already prepared for them near the American Consulate.

Her husband had destroyed her American passport, and after she signed documents and obtained a new passport, she and her son were driven to Ben Gurion International Airport, where they boarded a plane to New York.

The commando who was interviewed by Menashe pointed out that the IDF and American government were not involved in the mission although the Consulate was notified so officials could be prepared to help the woman after her rescue. He said there was no problem entering the Arab village and that the rescuers crossed the IDF checkpoint when they knew there would be a minimum number of soldiers.

He said they carried out no illegal activities, and that they did not care if they were stopped on their way to Tel Aviv from the village because they had accomplished their mission of freeing the woman.

The woman’s family will pay the commandos for their work, he said.

Asked if he would carry out the same type of operation to free kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, he said that is exactly what the government should be doing.
A7 News

NATO aids water bridge between Israel, Jordan and the US

Karin Kloosterman
September 15, 2009
Israel 21c

Israel is home to the largest seawater desalination plant in the world, at Ashdod (pictured). Now Israeli company Rotec is developing a desalination plant for inland brakish water. Photo by Edi Israel, Flash90.
A new Israeli technology for desalination is the centrepiece of a NATO grant that promotes collaboration between Israel and Jordan and could save water and energy across the globe. srael and Jordan share environmental problems, but regional politics and prejudices keep them from solving them together. A new North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) grant set up to develop two inland water desalination plants - one in Israel and one in Jordan - not only gets two Middle East universities collaborating, but the end-product could quench the region's thirst. It could also boost an under-used new technology that promises to save energy and water the world over.

According to the terms of the project, three universities - Ben Gurion University in Beersheba, the Hashemite University of Jordan and the University of Colorado in the United States - are to implement a new Israeli reverse osmosis desalination technology at two pilot sites.

Developed originally at Ben Gurion University by Dr. Jack Gilron of the Zuckerberg Institute for Water Research and Prof. Eli Korin of the department of chemical engineering, a new six-person company called Rotec is commercializing the research and turning it into a product.

The universities, as partners, will implement the new reverse osmosis Rotec technology at an existing water plant near Eilat run by Mekorot, Israel's national water carrier. A second pilot site north of Amman in Al Zareqa could become a new water plant if the pilot goes well.

Desalination technology is famously known for squeezing drinking water from the sea, but Rotec's new desalination technology works inland to clean the salts from brackish water located in aquifers deep underground. Although far from the sea, these areas can also contain high concentrates of salts, which need to be removed to make water drinkable.

Cost-saving, scalable technology

While pilot sites in Israel and Jordan will be set up to produce a small amount of water, about 120 cubic meters a day, the technology is easily scalable, with the pilot meant to be a proof of concept in the field, Noam Perlmuter, Rotec's CEO, tells ISRAEL21c.

Rotec was formed as a company this year and the scalable, retrofit technology will get its pilot run at Israeli and Jordanian sites, by the end of this year, and the beginning of 2010 respectively. In the meantime, Perlmuter is seeking US and foreign strategic partners to set up the technology elsewhere, in areas like the Midwestern United States, India and Australia, where drinking water is scarce but inland aquifers could provide water.

"The most important thing is not only the additional clean water you are getting," says Perlmuter. "The biggest advantage to the technology is you are increasing recovery, and reducing brine intended for disposal, by 50 percent."

Since it costs up to $2 per cubic meter to dispose of the brine, the savings are significant. "I believe that there are other technologies out there, but am not sure if they are in the commercialization stage," Perlmuter tells ISRAEL21c. At least, "none are working using flow-reversal," notes the 38-year-old.

Rotec will benefit indirectly from the international grant, awarded through the NATO Science for Peace program and the Middle East Desalination Research Center (MEDRC). The company has already attracted considerable interest and seed funding through Israel's Office of the Chief Scientist, Israel's national water carrier, Mekorot and a smaller Israeli-based venture capital firm BDB. Perlmuter did not wish to disclose financials.

A briny solution for peace

Based in the Ashkelon Technology Incubator (ATI), Rotec's technology is ready for commercialization, says Perlmuter, stressing that it's an attractive solution wherever brackish water and brine removal are a problem.

Developed by the Israeli scientists, the Rotec clean technology solution exploits a physical process on the surface of the desalination membrane before it can be fouled. Gilron says that "the process will be tuned to reduce brine volumes to 33%-50% of those generated in conventional reverse osmosis. This greatly reduces the environmental burden and improves the economics of the inland desalination process.

"Water scarcity and the need to develop new water resources for populations not on the seacoasts are driving efforts to desalinate brackish water and municipal wastewater with ever-increasing efficiencies," he notes.

The technology is out-licensed by BGN Technologies, the university's technology transfer company and ATI. The university inventors and Perlmuter, as well, are quite proud of NATO's interest in the project, which has a number of positive parameters for the environment and for promoting Middle East peace.

Perlmuter tells ISRAEL21c: "NATO normally wants to establish peace. And as you know water is a source of a lot of problems in the Middle East."

An add on to existing plants

NATO promotes peace, he explains, "by investing in and funding a novel technology to improve desalination processes, to get more water, to produce less brine for disposal and less chemicals against anti-scalants."

An advantage of the technology is that it upscales in a linear fashion, and can be added on to existing water treatment plants. "This is the first time you can use the same plant you normally use, and just change the way you are operating it," says Perlmuter. "You will achieve a higher recovery rate - if the normal water recovery is 70-85%, we are talking about more than 90%."

Let's hope that the same technology will increase the chances that long-lasting peace in the region will finally be achieved - up to 100%.

UN charges Israel with war crimes

Sep. 16, 2009
E.B. SOLOMONT, Jerusalem Post correspondent in NEW YORK , THE JERUSALEM POST

A United Nations probe of last year's conflict in Gaza concluded Tuesday that both sides were guilty of committing war crimes, including the violation of human rights and international humanitarian law. In a 575-page report, the fact-finding mission, headed by former South African Judge Richard Goldstone, found that "Israel committed actions amounting to war crimes, possibly crimes against humanity," during last year's Operation Cast Lead, which targeted Palestinian rocket squads in Gaza.

Based on numerous public hearings and testimony from experts and victims in Gaza and Geneva, the report also found that "Palestinian armed groups committed war crimes," including firing rockets into civilian areas in southern Israel.

"There should be no impunity for international crimes that are committed," Goldstone told reporters at a news conference in New York. "It's very important that justice should be done."

Appointed by the Human Rights Council in April, the mission was charged with investigating 36 specific incidents in Gaza and others in the West Bank and Israel. In all, the mission conducted 188 interviews, reviewed 10,000 documents and viewed 12,000 photos and videos.

Among its main findings, the mission said Israel imposed a blockade around Gaza that amounted to "collective punishment," and further carried out a "systematic policy of progressive isolation and deprivation of the Gaza Strip." More than 1,400 people were killed during the military operation, and houses, factories, wells, schools, hospitals, police stations and public buildings were destroyed.

The report portrayed a military operation that used disproportionate force aimed at civilians, amounting to "direct attacks against civilians with lethal outcomes," including the targeting of a mosque during prayer time that killed 15 people. A "direct and intentional" attack on Al Qud's hospital as well as shelling in Gaza City's Zeitoun neighborhood - where shells hit a house in which civilians were forced to congregate - constituted a war crime, the report found.

"Taking into account the ability to plan, the means to execute plans with the most developed technology available and statements by the Israeli military that almost no errors occurred, the Mission finds that the incidents and patterns of events considered in the report are the result of deliberate planning and policy decisions," investigators wrote.

On the Palestinian side, the report concluded that repeated rocket and mortar attacks into southern Israel by Palestinians constituted "war crimes and may amount to crimes against humanity" because they did not distinguish between military and civilian targets.

"Where there is no intended military target and the rockets and mortars are launched into civilian areas, they constitute a deliberate attack against the civilian population," the report found.

Among its recommendations, investigators said the Security Council should require Israel to launch an investigation into the conflict within three months. An independent body should be set up to monitor the progress of such an investigation and subsequent prosecutions, and if no progress is made within six months, the Council should refer the situation to International Criminal Court prosecutors. A similar effort should be undertaken on the Palestinian side, with the independent body reporting to the Security Council on progress there.

"We've received a copy of Judge Goldstone's report regarding the alleged human rights allegations during the Gaza conflict," a US official told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday. "As the report is lengthy, and the issues it address are complex, the findings will take time to digest and we are reviewing it carefully."

United States Ambassador Susan Rice was appointed president of the Security Council during the month of September.

Goldstone, who is Jewish, said he has strong ties to Israel and noted his attempt to maintain objectivity during the probe.

"Speaking from that point of view, it's obviously a great disappointment to me, putting it mildly, that Israelis have behaved in the way described in the report," he told reporters.

Earlier this year, the Israeli army denied wrongdoing during the war. Since then it has opened a serious of separate investigations, which Goldstone said were insufficient.

"The Israeli investigations have been conducted secretly by the military," which "relied only on the evidence given to them by their own soldiers," he said, comparing that strategy to a "domestic police force in Manhattan investigating murders by only speaking to murderers."
This article can also be read at /servlet/Satellite?cid=1251804580161&pagename=JPArticle%2FShowFull

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Listen Up

Barry Rubin

One remarkable thing about watching the Middle East is how what’s celebrated as brilliant in Europe or America is errant nonsense.

Writing such stuff makes people successful and gives them an audience of millions. What they say is so ridiculous that one wants to laugh, yet so totally accepted as true in Washington and European capitals that the laughter would be laughed at. The article to which I refer is by Jacob Weisberg in the June 22 Newsweek, entitled, "A Friend in Need: Barack gets tough on Bibi." It is far more terrible because Weisberg is neither leftist nor anti-Israel but has simply imbibed what "everyone says."

Let me quickly add that while I don't know Weisberg personally, I'm confident in saying he has no serious training in the Middle East, speaks neither Arabic nor Hebrew, spends little time researching the region, and has no real qualification for making the judgments he does. Here's the theme: Israelis are so stupid about their country, situation, and region on the life-and-death issues which they have been dealing with for decades that they must be saved in spite of themselves by people who have no knowledge or experience on any of these things. No other country in the world is so frequently told this kind of thing which I hear all the time from Europeans, too.

Is it so hard to comprehend that our views and behavior are based on years of experience and study? That we know best how to save ourselves and have been doing a far better job of it, against tremendous odds and unhelpful kibbitzers, than many others? That heeding their prescriptions would be disastrous, in fact have already proven so? After all, the tragic history of the last 20 years has largely resulted from listening to the same advice he gives now.

When one tries to explain these things in conversations, however, you can see their eyes go blank and their ears close up.

Weisberg’s article follows this pattern. The United States, he says (and these are main elements in the rhetoric among supporters of the Obama administration and several European governments) must show Israel "tough love," lean "harder on Jews and the Arabs to get serious about a deal," and stop "fostering Israeli illusions that there [is] an alternative to trading land for peace."

All three of these arguments are based on false premises.

Tough love: This derives from the late 1980s and early 1990s when the left side of the Israeli spectrum was pushing the land-for-peace and negotiate with the PLO arguments against their rivals on the right. A little U.S. pressure, they argued, would help get talks going.

A lot has happened since then, however, notably the 1992-2000 Oslo process. This proved to the vast majority of Israelis that the Palestinian leadership (and Syria, too, for that matter) wasn’t ready or interested in peace. Disillusioned, a lot of these people supported Ariel Sharon and the disengagement from the Gaza Strip, the results of which (Hamas takeover, rocket fire) made them even more disenchanted.

That's why the Labour party­ which invented the land-for-peace argument in the first place and made the Oslo agreement and offered a two-state solution in 2000 ­is now in a coalition government with the Likud party. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is not a "right-wing" or "hard-line" leader but someone who speaks for the national consensus, a consensus based on education through painful, bloody experience.

Israel also faces a more hostile Europe, an Iran racing toward nuclear weapons, an intransigent and incompetent Palestinian Authority, plus Hamas and Hizballah.

Today the last thing Israelis need or want is pressure to make more concessions to the Palestinians. They’ve already made a lot; these didn’t lead anywhere good. What Israel needs today is not "tough love" but real support.

Push "harder on Jews and the Arabs to get serious about a deal": The false assumption here is that getting an agreement, any agreement, is a desperate need of the two sides and of the region as a whole.

In fact, Israel is doing very well without any comprehensive peace agreement. The economy is doing fine; morale is high; security improved. Moreover, this concept pays no attention to the idea that a deal can be a bad one, inherently instable and leading to more violence.

It never enters the minds of these people that a "peace" agreement that was broken or had dangerous provisions (giving up strategic territory; east Jerusalem; empowering a radical regime in a next-door Palestinian state; opening the door to foreign Arab or Iranian armies entering; bringing in millions of Palestinian Arabs to Israel) could leave Israel far worse off.

As for the Palestinian leadership, far from being desperate for a deal it is desperate to avoid one on anything other than its own unrealistic terms.

Stop "fostering Israeli illusions that there [is] an alternative to trading land for peace." This one makes me laugh. Everyone in Israel knows that there can be no comprehensive agreement without trading land for peace. The question is, however, whether any comprehensive agreement on decent terms is possible at this time.

In addition, the question is also which land. Israel has focused on three to five percent of the West Bank that is strategically important and has large concentrations of Israeli population.

Finally, if someone doesn't understand that the barrier to peace is the Palestinians and not Israel, any advice they give Israel is going to be worthless.

As for those giving advice, here’s what we’ve seen in the last six months from those who want to "save" others by imposing their own vision:

--The idea that stopping construction on Jewish settlements would bring some Arab concession has already proven wrong.

--The idea that engagement with Iran would work has already proven wrong.

--The idea that the United States could successfully engage Syria in a set of mutual compromises has already proven wrong.

--The idea that an Obama charm offensive would bring higher levels of Arab support has already proven wrong. And that's just in six months!

Let’s have a little humility and readiness to listen, please, from those who would play with the lives of other people.

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), with Walter Laqueur (Viking-Penguin); the paperback edition of The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan); A Chronological History of Terrorism, with Judy Colp Rubin, (Sharpe); and The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley).

Originally Posted at GLORIA Center

Netanyahu calls for tougher sanctions now on Iran

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday the time had come for tougher sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program. "I believe that now is the time to start harsh sanctions against Iran -- if not now then when? These harsh sanctions can be effective," Netanyahu was quoted by a parliamentary official as telling a legislative committee.

"I believe that the international community can act effectively," he said, according to the official, who briefed reporters on Netanyahu's remarks to parliament's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.

"The Iranian regime is weak, the Iranian people would not rally around the regime if they felt for the first time that there was a danger to their regime -- and this would be a new situation," Netanyahu said.

His comments appeared to signal -- amid wide speculation that Israel could opt to attack Iranian nuclear facilities -- that it had not given up on international diplomacy to curb Tehran's atomic ambitions.

Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes. It has agreed to start talks on October 1 with world powers on the dispute. Israel is widely believed to be the Middle East's only nuclear power.

U.S. President Barack Obama, who came to office pledging a policy of engagement toward Iran, has suggested it may face harsher international sanctions if it does not accept good-faith talks by the end of September.

(Writing by Jeffrey Heller, Editing by Richard Williams)

Remembering the Munich Massacre

Maayana Miskin
A7 News

Israel commemorated the Munich Massacre of 1972 on Monday in a state ceremony attended by politicians, athletes and relatives of the fallen. Eleven Israel coaches and athletes and one German policeman were killed in the attack. "An entire country held its breath and watched, transfixed, as the El Al plane from Munich landed in our national airport, and out came the surviving athletes, silent and stunned, standing next to their friends who returned in coffins,” said Minister of Sport Limor Livnat, who spoke as the official government representative at the ceremony.

"The memory of the 11 athletes murdered in Munich is the pillar of fire leading the great camp of the children of light to overwhelming victory in their war against the children of darkness,” she said.

Michal Shahar, whose father Kehat Shorr was among those murdered in the attack, spoke on behalf of the bereaved families. Former Olympic swimmer Yoav Bruck spoke in the name of Israel's athletes.

Tzvi Varshaviack, Chairman of the Israeli Olympic Committee, said in a speech, “Thirty-seven years have passed since that black day, and it remains impossible to forget. Since then, Israeli athletes have continued to represent the state of Israel with pride and to make remarkable achievements. We will not let terrorism defeat us,” he said.

The memory of those slain in Munich remains in the Olympic Committee's consciousness, he added. “We will do whatever we can to perpetuate their memories,” he said.

Norman Borlaug: The man who fed the world.

On the day Norman Borlaug was awarded its Peace Prize for 1970, the Nobel Committee observed of the Iowa-born plant scientist that "more than any other single person of this age, he has helped provide bread for a hungry world." The committee might have added that more than any other single person Borlaug showed that nature is no match for human ingenuity in setting the real limits to growth. Borlaug, who died Saturday at 95, came of age in the Great Depression, the last period of widespread hunger in U.S. history. The Depression was over by the time Borlaug began his famous experiments, funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, with wheat varieties in Mexico in the 1940s. But the specter of global starvation loomed even larger, as advances in medicine and hygiene contributed to population growth without corresponding increases in the means of feeding so many.

Borlaug solved that challenge by developing genetically unique strains of "semidwarf" wheat, and later rice, that raised food yields as much as sixfold. The result was that a country like India was able to feed its own people as its population grew from 500 million in the mid-1960s, when Borlaug's "Green Revolution" began to take effect, to the current 1.16 billion. Today, famines—whether in Zimbabwe, Darfur or North Korea—are politically induced events, not true natural disasters.

In later life, Borlaug was criticized by self-described "greens" whose hostility to technology put them athwart the revolution he had set in motion. Borlaug fired back, warning in these pages that fear-mongering by environmental extremists against synthetic pesticides, inorganic fertilizers and genetically modified foods would again put millions at risk of starvation while damaging the very biodiversity those extremists claimed to protect. In saving so many, Borlaug showed that a genuine green movement doesn't pit man against the Earth, but rather applies human intelligence to exploit the Earth's resources to improve life for everyone.

PA to tell Mitchell: No talks without settlement freeze

Special US envoy to Middle East scheduled to meet Netanyahu, Abbas Tuesday to discuss disputed issues, including Israeli settlement freeze, construction in east Jerusalem. Israeli official: Only after meetings will we know if Netanyahu-Abbas-Obama meeting will take place

Roni Sofer and Ali Waked

Palestinian Authority officials are expected to tell special US envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell that the PA will not resume its negotiations with Israel unless the Jewish state commits to halting all construction in the West Bank. Mitchell, who has already met with President Shimon Peres during his current visit to the region, is scheduled to meet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Tuesday morning before heading to Ramallah for talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said the Authority would not agree to anything less than a complete West Bank construction freeze in exchange for the relaunching of talks with Israel.

He also denied reports of a possible three-way meeting between Netanyahu, Abbas and US President Barack Obama ahead of the UN General Assembly session in New York.

The Palestinians hope Mitchell's visit will jumpstart the peace negotiations based on "an international understanding that the settlements pose an obstacle to peace."

'Enable normal living'

The Palestinian cabinet on Monday called on Obama to continue pressuring Israel on the settlements, work towards bringing an end to the arrest of Palestinians within PA-ruled territory and demand that Israel lift its siege on Gaza, the Ma'an news agency reported.

Netanyahu, for his part, is expected to ask Mitchell to exclude east Jerusalem from the demand to halt settlement construction, and also expects the Americans and Palestinians to agree to the continuation of West Bank building projects that are already underway to accommodate natural growth.

"I told the Americans we would consider cutting down on construction. We shall balance the will to make a gesture in order to promote negotiations and a peace process, and the need to enable normal living for the residents of Judea and Samaria. Cutting down on construction will be for a limited period and we have not reached an agreement with the Americans on the time span," the PM told the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Monday morning.

An official in Jerusalem said, "Only after Mitchell meets Abbas will we know whether the Netanyahu-Abbas-Obama meeting will take place and whether or not there is a real chance of resuming dialogue with the PA."

Meanwhile, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said the Authority was pursuing its plan to establish a de facto Palestinian State within two years.

"We must begin building government institutions now, and not wait until after we declare a Palestinian state," he said.

Attila Somfalvi contributed to the report