Friday, April 23, 2010


Arlene Kushner

Or, possibly, less than half-way. Not a total cave from our prime minister. He's taken one good stand, on one very important issue. But for the rest?

It's official from the prime minister's office: the US gov't has been told that we will not be freezing construction in Jerusalem. This follows several public statements the prime minister has made lately regarding the fact that there would be no freeze in Jerusalem.
However, there apparently have been concessions on other issues "demanded" by Obama. These are not being reported by the officials in the prime minister's office -- who seem to have restricted themselves to the good news. What I'm reading comes from US sources and should probably be considered fairly accurate. But none of this is official.

What bothers me the most (although it all bothers me) is that US sources are saying we've agreed to delay construction in Ramat Shlomo for two years. This, if true, would be a sop to the Obama administration for the "embarrassment" caused by an announcement of planned construction there while Biden was visiting. Obama extracting his due, or something. Blood-boiling, for we had and have a right to build there. Young couples who need housing will be paying the price.


Then, according to the Wall Street Journal, Netanyahu agreed to several other things, including: "the release of Palestinian prisoners, easing the flow of goods into Gaza, and the removal of more roadblocks in the West Bank. Israel also said it would expand the area of responsibility for Palestinian security forces in the West Bank."

We need to wait for official confirmation of all of this. Prisoners to be released? How many? Only without blood on their hands? With how much of their sentences remaining? Roadblocks removed? Which ones? And so on...


But I would like to address one issue now, and that is the expansion of area of responsibility for Palestinian security forces.

It made the news yesterday that the IDF has drafted plans for a "pullback to pre-intifada lines," should our government agree to this.

In the heady days of Oslo, when we were supposed to be giving the PA latitude to manage its own affairs, we pulled out of major PA cities in Judea and Samaria. But then the second intifada saw horrendous terrorist attacks emanating from the areas where we were no longer in control. And so we launched Operation Defensive Shield in 2002 and went back in. It did the trick. And since then we've maintained the right to go in for security reasons. Nightly, we do operations that keep matters in check.

Of late, there is supposed to be an improvement in the capabilities and professionalism of these PA security forces, as they are being trained on the US dollar, under the supervision of Gen. Keith Dayton. What you've been hearing from me, and will continue to hear from me, is that these forces do not cut it. They will not consistently and reliably take out terrorists.

And here we have it as part of the news report from the JPost yesterday:

"The Post has learned that the IDF brass, particularly the Central Command, have recommended not carrying out such a withdrawal.

"'The IDF's freedom to operate everywhere is extremely important in keeping terrorism down to a minimum,' the senior defense official said. (emphasis added)

"As proof, the official referred to a recent IDF operation in Jenin, during which troops arrested two top Islamic Jihad operatives. Operations in Jenin are still carried out, the official said, despite the 'Jenin Model' program that saw the deployment of US-trained PA forces in the city and Israel's decision to scale back its operations.

"'We still operate there whenever we believe there is a threat,' the official said."

One would not know this from certain reports that extol the excellent performance of the PA troops. But it's exceedingly significant information.


Now, I do not believe that the current concession with regard to IDF pullbacks (if there is such a concession) would return us to the "pre-intifada lines." It would be more modest than this. And yet...

Decisions such as this are made by political and not military leaders -- the civilian government decides how the army will operate. That's how a democracy functions. However, in our particular situation there is a very precarious balance -- one that I've been watching with enormous unease and considerable anger for years: What plays well politically or diplomatically -- let me rephrase this: that a particular government may perceive as playing well politically or diplomatically -- may not be what is in the best interests of the security of the Israeli populace.

We hear meaningless platitudes about balancing the "legitimate security needs" of Israel with the "legitimate desires of the Palestinian people for a state." To "advance peace," innocent lives are put at risk, and sometimes lost. And who cares?

We should watch this situation closely, and scream loudly when necessary.


I do not minimize the horrendous pressure being put on Netanyahu by an American regime that is either hostile or indifferent to our legitimate interests. I would have preferred a blanket "no" across the board from our prime minister, but I knew that wasn't going to happen: it's a question of seeing how much has been conceded.

Left still up in the air is the very important issue of whether Netanyahu will accede to Obama's demand that the freeze on construction in Judea and Samaria be extended beyond its original 10 months (which brings us to September). Netanyahu has promised faithfully again and again that there would be no extension. I'm uneasy that there is no word on this yet. There will be hell to pay here if it is extended.


Also to be watched is reference I've picked up in some quarters to discussions about permitting PA institutions to operate in eastern Jerusalem. That would be a horrendous, for it would de facto would give the PA a foot in our city. But I have no confirmation of anything with regard to this.


And one proviso here, which I share with a modicum of reluctance: Akiva Eldar has a piece in Haaretz that says Netanyahu is only pretending to refuse to freeze building in Jerusalem, while he will in fact stop all tenders for new construction unofficially. According to Eldar, the US is privy to this, and the PA will accept it.

I find it hard to believe this on several accounts. One being that the PA would not have sufficient "face" satisfaction with such an arrangement (i.e., it wouldn't be clear to the world that we had backed down). Then there is the fact that Elder, far to the left, may promote the story that fits his perception of how it "should" be. But this is not the first time we've heard this. For whatever it is or is not worth.


The bottom line here, when all is said and done, is the refrain repeated regularly by US officials that if there are going to be much needed "peace negotiations," it's up to us to give more. And more. And more. A one-sided and unreasonable demand that doesn't acknowledge what we've done.

Consider this from National Security Advisor Jim Jones:

"It is time to begin those negotiations and to put an end to excuses. It is time for all leaders in the region-Israeli, Palestinian, and Arab-to support efforts for peace."

Excuse me? Who is it that is refusing to come to the table? Why the false equivalence?

High level diplomats from Israel and the US have been huddling to work out details of various matters, and Envoy George Mitchell is due here this evening.


Sometimes, I review the news, and in response to one item after another I have an impulse to say, "Nah, this can't be. Would you mind repeating that?"

Take, for example, the information that came out yesterday that, at least for the "near future," a military strike is "off the table" for the US. Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Michele Flournoy said during a press briefing, "Right now the focus is a combination of engagement and pressure in the form of sanctions."

Nah, she couldn't have said that. But, alas, she did. Engagement? After everything, she mentions this again? And the foolishness of telling Iran that military action is not a possibility, even if it's true. The foolishness of not letting them worry and wonder.


But this business of engagement is really big with the Obama administration. Today, Secretary of State Clinton again defended the decision to send an ambassador to Damascus in spite of the "deeply disturbing" reports about Syria supplying Hezbollah with Scud missiles. Said she:

"We have a long list of areas that we have discussed with the Syrians and we intend to continue pushing our concerns, and we think having an ambassador there adds to the ability to convey that message strongly and hopefully influence behavior in Syria."

Influence behavior in Syria? You think she'd mind repeating that again?


But hey, this is good compared to some of the things Clinton says. The statement of hers, below, made at an event recently, could take your breath away. I believe she actually said this with a straight face:

"...and I sometimes look at the President when I’m with him and talking about some issue or another, and think about a grandfather [Obama's] who marched in Patton’s Army and a great-uncle [Obama's] who helped to liberate Buchenwald. And I know how rock solid and unwavering his commitment is to Israel’s security and Israel’s future."

This folks, constitutes my joke for the day. This is a "laugh so I don't cry" situation.From the Obama administration and friends I'm picking up three main themes with regard to what's happening now. One is a solemn declaration of devotion to Israel's security. Thus, for example, there is a letter that Obama just wrote to Alan Solow, Chair, Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, in which he speaks about "[America's] special relationship with Israel that will not change," and the intertwining of American and Israeli security issues.

The second is the acknowledgement that only the parties can make peace, and that the US cannot impose it. Even Obama advisor Rahm Emanuel has come out with a statement about this not being the right time to advance a plan.

However, there is another thrust that simply will not go away: And that's the linkage of peace between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs, and the ability to stop Iran. That logic has it that the Arab states are so upset that the Palestinians don't have a state that they won't help stop Iran. An Iran that terrifies them, it should be noted. And Palestinian Arabs for whom they care not a fig.

Thus does Jim Jones say:

"One of the ways that Iran exerts influence in the Middle East is by exploiting the ongoing Arab-Israeli conflict. Iran uses the conflict to keep others in the region on the defensive and to try to limit its own isolation. Ending this conflict, achieving peace between Israelis and Palestinians, and establishing a sovereign Palestinian state would therefore take such an evocative issue away from Iran, Hezbollah, and Hamas."

It's a crock. And he's got it backwards: If Iran is taken down, the power of Hezbollah and Hamas to do damage will be reduced.


From several quarters I'm picking up an interesting analysis of Secretary of State Robert Gate's secret memo, exposed by the NYTimes this week, stating that the administration has no real plan B on Iran. This memo was originally described as a "wake up call" to the government.

But no, say some, this is an attempt by Gates to set the record straight for history with regard to his position on Iran -- a cover-his-rear tactic that will likely be followed by his resignation.

See a video clip with John Bolton on this:
see my website

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