Saturday, March 20, 2010

Leading Dutch Newspaper Accepts Antisemitic Theme

By Barry Rubin

Here is a small sign of the insanity let loose on the world. NRC Handelsblad is Holland's most prestigious newspaper. On the frontpage of its March 17 edition it carries an article that claims the "Israel lobby" is threatening to defeat President Barack Obama's health plan because of his tensions with Israel. The old "Jews control everything" libel. Of course, the very passionate battle over the health bill has nothing to do with the Middle East. And what is the source of this article? A posting by a single left-wing blogger with no special source of information. Supposedly, good judgment and knowledge block the descent of the responsible mass media to nonsense, conspiracy-mongering, and slander. But when--as was shown in the Swedish case and every day in the British media--Israel or the Jews are involved, responsibility, even sanity, all too often vanishes.

There are scores, hundreds, of such incidents around the world daily, the great majority of which we never even hear about.

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). His new edited books include Lebanon: Liberation, Conflict and Crisis; Guide to Islamist Movements; Conflict and Insurgency in the Middle East; and The Muslim Brotherhood. To read and subscribe to MERIA, GLORIA articles, or to order books. To see or subscribe to his blog, Rubin Reports.

Russia Defies Obama Administration in Midst of Clinton's Visit; Clinton Defines U.S. Goals with Peace Process in a Way Sure to Fail

Barry Rubin

Here's the headline: Secretary of State Hilary Clinton says in a BBC interview:

"I think we're going to see the resumption of the negotiation track and that means that it is paying off because that's our goal. Let's get the parties into a discussion, let's [get] the principle issues on the table and let's begin to explore ways that we can resolve the differences." Let's consider this a moment. What happens if the Palestinian Authority (PA)--as I expect--refuses to return to indirect talks? By making such a statement, Clinton is once again setting up the administration for a fall, promising something it cannot fullfil.

She is making U.S. policy subject to PA whims, in a situation where the U.S. government refuses to pressure the PA and the PA will escalate its demands to a point which Israel can't meet and which the U.S. government can't deliver. The PA acts this way for three reasons: it wants more, it doesn't want to talk to Israel, and it seeks to deepen the U.S.-Israel conflict.

But Clinton's statement, and that of other U.S. officials, also makes clear also that the U.S. goal here is not some grand comprehensive settlement or plan but simply to get talks going so that the administration can claim a success. Yet repeatedly the administration is its own worst enemy, something it has in common with its predecessor.

Meanwhile, we can see that the world's biggest issue isn't an Israeli announcement, during a visit by Vice-President Joe Biden, that in a few years and after three more stages of government consideration it will build some apartments in Jerusalem?

Russia openly defies the Obama Administration by insisting it will finish a nuclear plant for Iran, just when Secretary of State Hilary Clinton is visiting! A real slap in the face.

China, even more angry about U.S. arms sales to Taiwan and congressional human rights criticism, continues to make clear it won't support sanctions on Iran.

Increased sanctions on Iran seem no closer today than they were on January 21, 2009, the administration's first full day in office.

Syria, emboldened by U.S. criticisms of Israel, now says it will never reach peace with this government, while Palestinian Authority officials openly encourage violence.

Everything I've been saying for more than a year is--unfortunately--coming to pass. The administration has not a single foreign policy success and American credibility is shot to Hell. Efforts to deny this situation become increasingly ridiculous. Yet there is no sign that the administration is waking up--despite Clinton's sporadic and limited efforts to get it back into reality mode.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Obama's War on Israel

Caroline Glick , THE JERUSALEM POST March 19, 2010

Why has US President Barak Obama decided to foment a crisis in US relations with Israel?

Some commentators have claimed that it is Israel’s fault. As they tell it, the news that Israel has not banned Jewish construction in Jerusalem – after repeatedly refusing to ban such construction -- drove Obama into a fit of uncontrolled rage from which he has yet to recover. While popular, this claim makes no sense. Obama didn’t come to be called “No drama Obama” for nothing. It is not credible to argue that Jerusalem’s local planning board’s decision to approve the construction of 1,600 housing units in Ramat Shlomo drove cool Obama into a fit of wild rage at Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

Obama himself claims that he has launched a political war against Israel in the interest of promoting peace. But this claim too, does not stand up to scrutiny.

On Friday Obama ordered Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to present Netanyahu with a four-part ultimatum.

First, Israel must cancel the approval of the housing units in Ramat Shlomo.

Second, Israel must prohibit all construction for Jews in Jerusalem neighborhoods built since 1967.

Third, Israel must make a gesture to the Palestinians to show them we want peace. The US suggests releasing hundreds of Palestinian terrorists from Israeli prisons.

Fourth, Israel must agree to negotiate all substantive issues, including the partition of Jerusalem, (including the Jewish neighborhoods constructed since 1967 that are now home to more than a half million Israelis), and the immigration of millions of hostile foreign Arabs to Israel under the rubric of the so-called “right of return,” in the course of indirect, Obama administration-mediated negotiations with the Palestinians. To date, Israel has maintained that substantive discussions can only be conducted in direct negotiations between Israeli and Palestinian officials.

If Israel does not accept all four US demands, then the Obama administration will boycott Netanyahu and his senior ministers. In the first instance, this means that if Netanyahu comes to Washington next week for the AIPAC conference, no senior administration official will meet with him.

Obama’s ultimatum makes clear that mediating peace between Israel and the Palestinians is not a goal he is interested in achieving.

Obama’s new demands follow the months of American pressure that eventually coerced Netanyahu into announcing both his support for a Palestinian state and a ten month ban on Jewish construction in Judea and Samaria. No previous Israeli government had ever been asked to make the latter concession.

Netanyahu was led to believe that in return for these concessions Obama would begin behaving like the credible mediator his predecessors were. But instead of acting like his predecessors, Obama has behaved like the Palestinians. Rather than reward Netanyahu for taking a risk for peace, in the model of Yassir Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas, Obama has pocketed Netanyahu’s concessions and escalated his demands. This is not the behavior of a mediator. This is the behavior of an adversary.

With the US President treating Israel like an enemy, the Palestinians have no reason to agree to sit down and negotiate. Indeed, they have no choice but to declare war.

And so, in the wake of Obama’s onslaught on Israel’s right to Jerusalem, Palestinian incitement against Israel and Jews has risen to levels not seen since the outbreak of the last terror war in September 2000. And just as night follows day, that incitement has led to violence. This week’s Arab riots from Jerusalem to Jaffa, and the renewed rocket offensive from Gaza are directly related to Obama’s malicious attacks on Israel.

But if his campaign against Israel wasn’t driven by a presidential temper tantrum, and it isn’t aimed at promoting peace what explains it? What is Obama trying to accomplish?

There are five explanations for Obama’s behavior. And they are not mutually exclusive.

First, Obama’s assault on Israel is likely related to the failure of his Iran policy. Over the past week, senior administration officials including General David Petraeus have made viciously defamatory attacks on Israel insinuating that the construction of homes for Jews in Jerusalem is a primary cause for bad behavior on the part of Iran and its proxies in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Syria and Gaza. By this line of thinking, if Israel simply returned to the indefensible 1949 armistice lines, Iran’s centrifuges would stop spinning, and Syria, al Qaida, the Taliban, Hizbullah, Hamas and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards would all beat their swords into plowshares.

Even more important than its usefulness as a tool to divert the public’s attention away from the failure of his Iran policy, Obama’s assault against Israel may well be aimed at maintaining that failed policy. Specifically, he may be attacking Israel in a bid to coerce Netanyahu into agreeing to give Obama veto power over any Israeli military strike against Iran’s nuclear installations. That is, the anti-Israel campaign may be a means to force Israel to stand by as Obama allows Iran to build a nuclear arsenal.

For the past several months, an endless line of senior administration officials have descended on Jerusalem with the expressed aim of convincing Netanyahu to relinquish Israel’s right to independently strike Iran’s nuclear installations. All of these officials have returned to Washington empty-handed. Perhaps Obama has decided that since quiet pressure has failed to cow Netanyahu, it is time to launch a frontal attack against him.

This brings us to the third explanation for why Obama has decided to go to war with the democratically elected Israeli government. Obama’s advisors told friendly reporters that Obama wants to bring down Netanyahu’s government. By making demands Netanyahu and his coalition partners cannot accept, Obama hopes to either bring down the government and replace Netanyahu and Likud with the far-leftist Tzipi Livni and Kadima, or force Yisrael Beitenu and Shas to bolt the coalition and compel Netanyahu to accept Livni as a co-prime minister. Livni of course, won the Obama’s heart when in 2008 she opted for new elections rather than accept Shas’s demand that she protect the unity of Jerusalem.

The fourth explanation for Obama’s behavior is that he seeks to realign US foreign policy away from Israel. Obama’s constant attempts to cultivate relations with Iran’s unelected president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Ahmadinejad’s Arab lackey Syrian dictator Bashar Assad, and Turkey’s Islamist Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan make clear that he views developing US relations with these anti-American regimes as a primary foreign policy goal.

Given that all of these leaders have demanded that in exchange for better relations Obama abandon Israel as a US ally, and in light of the professed anti-Israel positions of several of his senior foreign policy advisors, it is possible that Obama is seeking to downgrade US relations with Israel. His consistent castigation of Israel as obstructionist and defiant has led some surveys to claim that over the past year US popular support for Israel has dropped from 77 to 58 percent.

The more Obama fills newspaper headlines with allegations that Israel is responsible for everything from US combat deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan to Iran’s nuclear program, the lower those numbers can be expected to fall. And the more popular American support for Israel falls, the easier it will be for Obama to engineer an open breach with the Jewish state.

The final explanation for Obama’s behavior is that he is using his manufactured crisis to justify adopting an overtly anti-Israel position vis-à-vis the Palestinians. On Thursday The New York Times reported that administration officials are considering having Obama present his own “peace plan.” Given the administration’s denial of Israel’s right to Jerusalem, an “Obama plan,” would doubtless require Israel to withdraw to the indefensible 1949 armistice lines and expel some 700,000 Jews from their homes.

Likewise, the crisis Obama has manufactured with Israel could pave the way for him to recognize a Palestinian state if the Palestinians follow through on their threat to unilaterally declare statehood next year regardless of the status of negotiations with Israel. Such a US move could in turn lead to the deployment of US forces in Judea and Samaria to “protect” the unilaterally declared Palestinian state from Israel.

Both Obama’s behavior and the policy goals it indicates make it clear that Netanyahu’s current policy of trying to appease Obama by making concrete concessions is no longer justified. Obama is not interested in being won over. The question is what should Netanyahu do?

One front in the war Obama has started is at home. Netanyahu must ensure that he maintains popular domestic support for his government to scuttle Obama’s plan to overthrow his government. So far, in large part due to Obama’s unprecedented nastiness, Netanyahu’s domestic support has held steady. A poll conducted for IMRA news service this week by Maagar Mohot shows that fully 75 percent of Israeli Jews believe Obama’s behavior towards Israel is unjustified. As for Netanyahu, 71 percent of Israeli Jews believe his refusal to accept Obama’s demand to ban Jewish building in Jerusalem proves he is a strong leader. Similarly, a Shvakim Panorama poll for Israel Radio shows public support for Kadima has dropped by more than 30 percent since last year’s elections.

The other front in Obama’s war is the American public. By blaming Israel for the state of the Middle East and launching personal barbs against Netanyahu, Obama seeks to drive down popular American support for Israel. In building a strategy to counter Obama’s moves, Netanyahu has to keep two issues in mind.

First, no foreign leader can win a popularity contest against a sitting US president. Therefore, Netanyahu must continue to avoid any personal attacks on Obama. He must limit his counter-offensive to a defense of Israel’s interests and his government’s policies.

Second, Netanyahu must remember that Obama’s hostility towards Israel is not shared by the majority of Americans. Netanyahu’s goal must be to strengthen and increase the majority of Americans who support Israel. To this end, Netanyahu must go to Washington next week and speak at the annual AIPAC conference as planned despite the administration’s threat to boycott him.

While in Washington, Netanyahu should meet with every Congressman and Senator who wishes to meet with him as well as every administration member who seeks him out. Moreover, he should give interviews to as many television networks, newspapers and major radio programs as possible in order to bring his message directly to the American people.

Obama has made clear that he is not Israel’s ally. And for the remainder of his term, he will do everything he can to downgrade US relations with Israel while maintaining his constant genuflection to the likes of Iran, Syria, the Palestinians and Turkey.

But like Israel, the US is a free country. And as long as popular support for Israel holds steady, Obama’s options will be limited. Netanyahu’s task is to maintain that support in the face of administration hostility, as he implements policies towards Iran and the Arabs alike that are necessary to ensure Israel’s long-term survival and prosperity.

The response to Israel's announcement is disproportionate

The most enthusiastic critics of both Israel and the US, have been invigorated recently by what they gleefully describe as one of the worst ever crises in our excellent relations.
By Ron Prosor, Israel's Ambassador to the UK

The cause, they tell us, was the announcement during Vice-President Biden's recent visit to Israel, that 1,600 flats would be built in the existing North Jerusalem suburb of Ramat Shlomo.

The suburb is home to some 16,000 strictly orthodox Jews, who represent the fastest growing section of Israeli society Prime Minister Netanyahu apologised for the timing of the announcement, which he acknowledged was unhelpful. He also took steps to prevent a recurrence. Usually, such an apology would draw the episode to a close.

Instead, on this occasion, the incident has triggered a disproportionate response.

Let's get the facts straight. Ramat Shlomo is not in "east" Jerusalem as often reported, but in the north of Jerusalem. It is not a new settlement, but an existing, established neighbourhood. The planning application has already taken years and will take at least another three for the first brick to be laid.

Most cool-headed analysts agree that Jerusalem suburbs such as Ramat Shlomo will be considered part of Israel under any negotiated two-state solution.

For Israel, Jerusalem is the heart of the Jewish people, established as our eternal capital by King David, some 3,500 years ago. Jews have lived, worked and prayed in the city from time immemorial.

Throughout the generations, Jews have been the largest community in Jerusalem. This was confirmed in 1845 when the Prussian consul conducted the first census in the city. By 1905, out of a population of less than 60,000, at least 40,000 were Jewish. In modern times, the only period when Jews were restricted from living throughout Jerusalem was between 1948 and 1967. Under Arab Jordanian control, Jewish communities were ruthlessly and violently driven out of areas where they had lived for centuries. It would be virtually unimaginable for an Israeli government to restrict the rights of Jews to live in Jerusalem. Israelis disagree on nearly everything, but on the sovereignty of our capital city we are overwhelmingly united.

This has sometimes led to a difference of opinion between Israel and the US over construction. But that difference has never altered the basic reality of our friendship. Israel and the US are and remain close friends and strategic allies, united by shared values and common interests.

When PM Netanyahu last year agreed to an extensive freeze on West Bank settlement construction, Hillary Clinton hailed the move as an "unprecedented concession". Yet it was clear even then that the freeze did not apply to Jerusalem, the indivisible sovereign capital of the State of Israel.

For over a year, the Netanyahu government has offered direct negotiations with the Palestinian Authority without preconditions. By making talks conditional on a total freeze on construction in Jerusalem, the Palestinian Authority has been given a golden get out clause. The Palestinian refusal to enter direct talks is ironic, given that the PA is itself a product of direct negotiations with Israel.

As the media spotlight last week glared on Jerusalem, Fatah officials renamed the main square in Ramallah after Dalal Mughrabi, the leader of a PLO terror attack in 1978 which killed 38 Israeli civilians, including 13 children. There was no coverage, let alone criticism, of this symbolic embrace of terrorist atrocity, despite its timing. There rarely is.

Anyone casually observing the disproportionate recent media coverage might assume that a handful of apartment blocks in Israel's capital is the most pressing issue in the world today, let alone the Middle East. If they are ever built, they will need exceptionally strong foundations. After all, they are being used as a peg on which to hang the world's political baggage from Washington to Waziristan and from Jerusalem to Jakarta.

President Obama's hope to engage the Muslim world is commendable but, as some analysts have observed, not without risk. In some instances, positions have hardened. Certainly, the strategy of rewarding the refusal of the Palestinian Authority to come to the table with stronger criticism of Israel seems an unlikely recipe for success.

The media has long cast PM Netanyahu in the role of villain but he has refused to act the part. He embraced the two-state solution in his policy speech last June. He agreed to a West Bank settlement freeze of greater scope than any previous Israeli government. He has removed West Bank roadblocks and restrictions, easing access and helping to boost unprecedented growth in the Palestinian economy.

Frustrated, critics have elevated Ramat Shlomo to a position of disproportionate prominence. It is, apparently, more important than Iran's imperial nuclear ambitions, the Taliban's tightening grip on Pakistan's border and the evolution of Iraqi democracy. Such thinking is an Achilles' heel in conflict resolution. At one point I wondered whether this small Jerusalem suburb would be held accountable for causing undue tension to David Beckham's Achilles tendon.

Israel is committed to peace. As we search for a comprehensive agreement, calm and sober voices are needed to acknowledge sensitivities and diffuse tensions. Describing Jerusalem as a "settlement" is unhelpful, historically flawed and undermines negotiations. We cannot portray a host of global policy concerns as at the mercy of the Israeli equivalent of the council house waiting list.

The Battle for Jerusalem

Ted Belman

Daniel Pipes in his well known 2001 article, The Muslim Claim to Jerusalem, asks

The city being of such evidently minor religious importance (to Islam), why does it now loom so large for Muslims, to the point that a Muslim Zionism seems to be in the making across the Muslim world? Why do Palestinian demonstrators take to the streets shouting “We will sacrifice our blood and souls for you, Jerusalem” and their brethren in Jordan yell “We sacrifice our blood and soul for Al-Aqsa”? Why does King Fahd of Saudi Arabia call on Muslim states to protect “the holy city belongs to all Muslims across the world”? Why did two surveys of American Muslims find Jerusalem their most pressing foreign policy issue?

and answers simply

Because of politics. An historical survey shows that the stature of the city, and the emotions surrounding it, inevitably rises for Muslims when Jerusalem has political significance. Conversely, when the utility of Jerusalem expires, so does its status and the passions about it.

Ten years later the Muslim claim is getting traction. Resolution 242 of the Security Council passed in the wake of the Six Day War made no mention of Jerusalem. Nevertheless when Israel annexed Jerusalem in ’67 the US, and most every other country, refused to recognize the annexation and has ever since.

In the lead up to the Madrid Conference in ‘91, Pres Bush ’41 forced the very reluctant PM Shamir to not only attend the conference but to put Jerusalem on the negotiating table where it has been ever since but set aside as a final status issue.

PM Netanyahu, though under great pressure from Obama would not agree to freeze settlement construction in Jerusalem. All past Israeli governments have built in Jerusalem and the number of Jews now living in east of the armistice lines is approximately 300,000. Barak at Taba, Livni and Olmert, recently, all offered to give Arab east Jerusalem, variously described, to the Palestinians, but no one has even contemplated more.

For Barak Obama, that’s not good enough. By calling all settlements illegal and demanding the 1600 proposed units in Ramat Shlomo, a totally Jewish neighbourhood, be cancelled, he is signally that all Jerusalem east of the armistice lines is in play. He realizes that he will never get the Arabs to accept any deal that doesn’t include, much, if not all of this territory. Israelis are adamant that they will not yield on.

It must be remembered that there was a Jewish majority in Jerusalem since 1860. Jews lived all over Jerusalem and fought courageously in the War of Independence in 1948 to maintain their hold on it but in the end lost many lives and the east part of the city. No doubt they would have been able to keep it all had Jewish immigration not been restricted by the British for ten years preceding the war and had the British prevented the Arabs from massacring Jews in the city during those years.

Last November, a top State Department official spelled out that the goal of the United States in its negotiations in the Middle East is to pressure Israel into expelling Jews from Judea and Samaria in order to “end the occupation that began in 1967.”

By refusing to recognize Israel’s reunification of Jerusalem, the US State Dept is saying that all lands in Jerusalem east of the armistice lines are occupied territory. They are also flying in the face of a April 1990 “House (Congress) Resolution Expressing Support for Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital”

“Whereas ambiguous statements by the Government of the United States concerning the right of Jews to live in all parts of Jerusalem raise concerns in Israel that Jerusalem might one day be redivided and access to religious sites in Jerusalem denied to Israeli citizens; and the search for a lasting peace in the region:

“Now, therefore, be it Resolved by the House of Representatives (the Senate concurring),
“That the Congress

(1) acknowledges that Jerusalem is and should remain the capital of the State of Israel;

(2) strongly believes that Jerusalem must remain an undivided city in which the rights of every ethnic religious group are protected; and”

The terms of reference for the proximity talks announced at the same time, made no specific reference to Jerusalem but did provide for “secure and recognized borders that reflect subsequent developments and meet Israeli security requirements.” Thus Israel can only rely on this slim reed to justify her act of reunification.

Last December the EU amended a Swedish draft of a statement that called for East Jerusalem to be the capital of Palestine, to read “Jerusalem as the future capital of two states.” Even so there are many in the EU who still support the Swedish draft.

King Abdullah of Jordan also weighed in. by saying, “Jerusalem constitutes a red line for us, and Israel must recognize Jerusalem’s status among Arabs, Muslims and Christians, and not play with fire,” and went on to say the peace negotiations had to lead to the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, with Jerusalem as its capital.

And as usually in order to prod the international community to pressure Israel, the Palestinians, at the urging of their leaders, are rioting in Jerusalem.

Israel is standing firm and united.

The present government and Kadima unequivocally reject relinquishing Jewish areas of Jerusalem and a large majority of Israelis support keeping all of it.

Even Pres Peres said that Israel has every right to build in Jerusalem.

Everyone knows there will be no peace agreement unless Israel caves in on this. That’s why they say construction in annexed Jerusalem puts the achievement of a peace agreement at risk.

Obama has few choices, namely 1) force Israel with all manner of actions or threats, to share Jerusalem, 2) force the PA to accept much less then they are demanding or 3) be content with a peace process for show or no peace process at all.

He won’t succeed with the first, won’t try the second and thus is left with the third. If, as a result the Arab League, or the EU, submit the matter to the Security Council to impose a solution on Israel, as they are both threatening to do, then Obama will have to decide whether to veto it or not. Put another way he will have to decide whether to alienate the EU and Arab League or to alienate Americans.

But if he declines to veto it, Israel will not comply with the UN diktat and will do what is best for her without regard to the international community. Sanctions would come next and the question of how to exercise his veto will again be before him.

Perhaps a realignment is in order? America, with the view to currying favour with the Arabs, has always been against Israel’s expansion, even as a result of a defensive war,. She saved Kuwait and Saudi Arabia from the clutches of Sadaam Hussein in the Gulf war and liberated Iraqis from Hussein’s despotism in the Iraq War. A lot of good it has done them! She is still the “great Satan” and hated by the man on the Arab street. She has also promoted the peace process which in itself is very destabilizing and which has caused the deaths of over 1300 Israelis and many more Arabs..

Why not realign herself with Israel’s policies, clearly and unequivalently. This would end the deligitimation and demonization of Israel. It’s American ambivalence that fuels it. This would result in the Palestinian/Israeli conflict receding from the front pages. It would allow Israelis and Palestinians to focus on coexistence and not land for peace. The Palestinians are intransigent now because the US gives them hope. The Palestinians will only get realistic if they are required to sink or swim on their own.

To further calm the neighbourhood and pacify Egypt and Saudi Arabia, she should take down the regime in Iran and let Israel take down Hamas and Hezbollah, if need be.

That’s the real peace process, the real path to peace. And leave Jerusalem to Israel.

CAIR’s Smear Job Against Brigitte Gabriel

Jamie Glazov

Gabriel: CAIR, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, sent out a press release on March 17th, using its standard propaganda techniques such as name calling, which I won’t dignify by repeating here. This is not the first time that CAIR has attacked me. But in this case, CAIR’s attack could best be described as “throwing the kitchen sink” at me. It was a litany of accusations and references to statements I have allegedly made, or statements that were taken out of context, pieced together to create a distorted caricature of what I believe and how I define the threat of radical Islam.

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CAIR’s Smear Job Against Brigitte Gabriel

Jamie Glazov Posted by Jamie Glazov on Mar 19th, 2010 and filed under FrontPage. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry
Jamie Glazov is Frontpage Magazine's editor. He holds a Ph.D. in History with a specialty in Russian, U.S. and Canadian foreign policy. He is the author of Canadian Policy Toward Khrushchev’s Soviet Union and is the co-editor (with David Horowitz) of The Hate America Left. He edited and wrote the introduction to David Horowitz’s Left Illusions. His new book is United in Hate: The Left's Romance with Tyranny and Terror. Email him at
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Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Brigitte Gabriel, founder of the nonprofit organization ACT! for America, and one of the leading terrorism experts in the world. Her expertise is sought after by world and business leaders. She has addressed the Australian Prime Minister, members of The British Parliament/House of Commons, members of the United States Congress, The Pentagon, The Joint Forces Staff College, The US Special Operations Command, The US Asymmetric Warfare group, the FBI, and many others. She is the New York Times best selling author of Because They Hate and They Must Be Stopped: Why We Must Defeat Radical Islam and How We Can Do It.

FP: Brigitte Gabriel, welcome to Frontpage Interview.

I would like to talk to you today about CAIR’s personal attack on you. Tell us about it.

Gabriel: CAIR, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, sent out a press release on March 17th, using its standard propaganda techniques such as name calling, which I won’t dignify by repeating here. This is not the first time that CAIR has attacked me. But in this case, CAIR’s attack could best be described as “throwing the kitchen sink” at me. It was a litany of accusations and references to statements I have allegedly made, or statements that were taken out of context, pieced together to create a distorted caricature of what I believe and how I define the threat of radical Islam.

FP: Why do you think CAIR did this?

Gabriel: It seems clear to me that CAIR is becoming increasingly desperate in its efforts to try to stop the truth about radical Islam from reaching the American people. It’s almost like they’re flailing, like a drowning man desperately trying to stay afloat. They have lost every court battle thus far in their fight against the authors of the blockbuster exposé Muslim Mafia. The Department of Justice has reaffirmed its finding that CAIR is tied to the terrorist organization Hamas, and a grand jury subpoena for CAIR records issued last November indicates a new government investigation of CAIR is ongoing.

Desperate organizations, like desperate people, are prone to do desperate things. CAIR is desperately trying to divert attention from its own problems, and they are many, by slinging mud at others – and not just me.

FP: I noticed that one of the sources CAIR quotes is the Australian Jewish News. Could you tell us about that particular interview?

Gabriel: This is one of the areas CAIR honed in on. Back in 2007 I was in Australia to speak at a major event honoring Prime Minister John Howard. While there I met with a Jewish journalist who brought along a friend, and we had coffee. The “friend” turned out to be an apologist for anything Islamic, including the Palestinians against Israel. He was so ignorant of the issues of terrorism that he didn’t even know what Hamas was. He was so uninformed that the journalist sitting next to me told him, “You are an embarrassment to journalism.” The man who invited him apologized to me in the car for his friend’s behavior and told me that he will never invite him again to a press conference. This person was a regular at the Islamic Mosque and was very close friends with the Imam and members of the mosque. He ended up writing a blog that badly distorted things I said in the conversation.

CAIR has since been quoting this blog to falsely allege things that I don’t believe. For instance, I don’t believe that there are no moderate Muslims. Of course there are.

FP: You have made statements about “practicing Muslims.” Tell us precisely what you mean in these statements.

Gabriel: When I have made statements about “practicing Muslims,” here is what I’m saying:

In any religious faith, and that includes Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, there are people who are very orthodox and very devout, and then there are others who are less so. There are Christians who read their Bibles, attend church regularly and pray every day, and there are those who don’t. The same dynamic is true in Judaism.

And the same is true in Islam. There are many, many Muslims who have never read the Koran in their own language, who don’t even know many of its teachings or closely adhere to its teachings and those of the Hadith, and who don’t pray five times a day. These are the Muslims who are often described as “moderate,” or less devout, or even “secular.”

Then there are those Muslims who take the Koran and Hadith very seriously. They follow the Islamic shariah law and they subscribe to the supremacist political ideology embedded within the Islamic holy books. They aspire to emulate Mohammed, who any honest historian will tell you spread Islam by terror and the sword. They agree with the doctrine of jihad. They believe that Islamic shariah law should reign supreme over all and that man-made laws are invalid. They agree with the Islamic command that their allegiance is to the “ummah”, the Islamic nation, rather than to any country.

It is these Muslims, who are typically referred to as practicing “radical Islam,” that I refer to when I say such Muslims cannot be trusted to be a loyal citizen to our country – or any country for that matter – and who do not acknowledge that here in America we recognize the Constitution as the “supreme law of the land.” It is these Muslims I have referred to as “practicing.”

Just look at what Imam Al-Awlaki, the American Al-Qaida leader in the Arabian Peninsula, said just last week: ”I eventually came to the conclusion that jihad against America is binding upon myself just as it is binding on every other Muslim.”

As you can see, this explanation does not lend itself well to a 20 second sound bite. So it’s easy for Islamists and their apologists to lift one sentence out of context to lead people to conclude something that I’m not saying. And they don’t do it just to me – they do it to anyone who they perceive as a threat to their ideological agenda.

FP: For real.

Even more interesting: isn’t it true that CAIR leaders have made public statements that actually confirm what it is you’re saying?

Gabriel: That’s the delicious irony of all of this. CAIR’s press release criticized me for my statements about how radical Muslims cannot be trusted to be loyal citizens. Yet public statements by some of their own leaders confirm what I’m saying.

For instance, Omar Ahmad, the founder of CAIR, made this statement in 1998: “Islam isn’t in America to be equal to any other faith, but to become dominant. The Qur’an should be the highest authority in America.” This was reported in the San Ramon Valley Herald on July 4, 1998. Look what Ahmad is saying – he wants an Islamic theocracy in America. How is this any different from my position that says there are those Muslims who believe that Islamic shariah law should reign supreme and that man-made laws are invalid?

Then there’s Ibrahim Hooper, CAIR’s Communications Director, who said in a 1993 Minneapolis Star Tribune interview, “I wouldn’t want to create the impression that I wouldn’t like the government of the United States to be Islamic sometime in the future…”

If that sounds to you like he wants an Islamic theocracy in America where Islamic shariah law reigns supreme, you’re right.

Which begs this question: Can Omar Ahmad and Ibrahim Hooper be counted on to be loyal citizens of the United States and to the Constitution, our law of the land?

FP: This is the question that many people are afraid to answer.

So what do we conclude from all of this?

Gabriel: Everywhere I go I make the point of saying just what I said earlier, that there are many, many Muslims worldwide who either don’t know, don’t understand, or don’t subscribe to the ideology of political Islam, the doctrine of jihad, and the supremacy of Islamic shariah law. Of course, we have no idea how many people make up this group.

But ultimately, that’s not the issue. The issue is the radical, passionate Islamists worldwide who are driving the militant Islamic agenda in the world. Read the words of the revered and respected Muslim clerics worldwide. They are committed to supremacy, jihad, and Islamic shariah law. This is what drives the terrorists and those devoted to “stealth jihad.” It doesn’t matter if even most Muslims don’t think this way, because as history teaches us, the “moderate” element within a movement don’t drive the agenda. Most Germans during World War II weren’t committed Nazis, but that didn’t prevent Nazism from leading to the deaths of 60 million people. The same can be said for the Communists in the Soviet Union and the followers of Mao in China.

FP: Words of wisdom.

So before we go, a final thought?

Gabriel: Thanks Jamie.

A final thought?

Well, let’s face the truth of the dire situation we are facing: Islamists are intent on doing us harm, either through violent jihad or stealth and cultural jihad. They are driven by their commitment to the ideology of political Islam, the doctrine of jihad, the supremacy of Islamic shariah law over all other law, and their allegiance to the ummah rather than any one country. They see this as a state of war between Islam and the “infidel” world, and the practice of everything from deception (taqiyya) to violence is acceptable for their use in fighting this war. That includes the propaganda techniques employed by organizations like CAIR. Understanding all of this is essential to understanding how our enemies think and why they do what they do – and what we must do to defeat them.

FP: Brigitte Gabriel, as always it was an honor and privilege to speak to you. Thank you for your courage and nobility. Thank you for your fearless fight for liberty and the truth. The world doesn’t make many people like you.

The Crisis

Was Obama's confrontation with Israel premeditated?

Yossi Klein Halevi

JERUSALEM—Suddenly, my city feels again like a war zone. Since the suicide bombings ended in 2005, life in Jerusalem has been for the most part relatively calm. The worst disruptions have been the traffic jams resulting from construction of a light rail, just like in a normal city. But now, again, there are clusters of helmeted border police near the gates of the Old City, black smoke from burning tires in the Arab village across from my porch, young men marching with green Islamist flags toward my neighborhood, ambulances parked at strategic places ready for this city's ultimate nightmare. The return of menace to Jerusalem is not because a mid-level bureaucrat announced stage four of a seven-stage process in the eventual construction of 1,600 apartments in Ramat Shlomo, a Jewish neighborhood in northeast Jerusalem. Such announcements and building projects have become so routine over the years that Palestinians have scarcely responded, let alone violently. In negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis, the permanence of Ramat Shlomo, and other Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, has been a given. Ramat Shlomo, located between the Jewish neighborhoods of French Hill and Ramot, will remain within the boundaries of Israeli Jerusalem according to every peace plan. Unlike the small Jewish enclaves inserted into Arab neighborhoods, on which Israelis are strongly divided, building in the established Jewish neighborhoods of East Jerusalem defines the national consensus.

Why, then, the outbreak of violence now? Why Hamas's "day of rage" over Jerusalem and the Palestinian Authority's call to gather on the Temple Mount to "save" the Dome of the Rock from non-existent plans to build the Third Temple? Why the sudden outrage over rebuilding a synagogue, destroyed by the Jordanians in 1948, in the Old City's Jewish Quarter, when dozens of synagogues and yeshivas have been built in the quarter without incident?

The answer lies not in Jerusalem but in Washington. By placing the issue of building in Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem at the center of the peace process, President Obama has inadvertently challenged the Palestinians to do no less.

Astonishingly, Obama is repeating the key tactical mistake of his failed efforts to restart Middle East peace talks over the last year. Though Obama's insistence on a settlement freeze to help restart negotiations was legitimate, he went a step too far by including building in East Jerusalem. Every Israeli government over the last four decades has built in the Jewish neighborhoods of East Jerusalem; no government, let alone one headed by the Likud, could possibly agree to a freeze there. Obama made resumption of negotiations hostage to a demand that could not be met. The result was that Palestinian leaders were forced to adjust their demands accordingly.

Obama is directly responsible for one of the most absurd turns in the history of Middle East negotiations. Though Palestinian leaders negotiated with Israeli governments that built extensively in the West Bank, they now refused to sit down with the first Israeli government to actually agree to a suspension of building. Obama's demand for a building freeze in Jerusalem led to a freeze in negotiations.

Finally, after intensive efforts, the administration produced the pathetic achievement of "proximity talks"—setting Palestinian-Israeli negotiations back a generation, to the time when Palestinian leaders refused to sit at the same table with Israelis.

That Obama could be guilty of such amateurishness was perhaps forgivable because he was, after all, an amateur. But he has now taken his failed policy and intensified it. By demanding that Israel stop building in Ramat Shlomo and elsewhere in East Jerusalem—and placing that demand at the center of American-Israeli relations—he's ensured that the Palestinians won't show up even to proximity talks. This is no longer amateurishness; it is pique disguised as policy.

Initially, when the announcement about building in Ramat Shlomo was made, Israelis shared Vice President Biden's humiliation and were outraged at their government's incompetence. The widespread sense here was that Netanyahu deserved the administration's condemnation, not because of what he did but because of what he didn't do: He failed to convey to all parts of his government the need for caution during Biden's visit, symptomatic of his chaotic style of governing generally.

But not even the opposition accused Netanyahu of a deliberate provocation. These are not the days of Yitzhak Shamir, the former Israeli prime minister who used to greet a visit from Secretary of State James Baker with an announcement of the creation of another West Bank settlement. Netanyahu has placed the need for strategic cooperation with the U.S. on the Iranian threat ahead of the right-wing political agenda. That's why he included the Labor Party into his coalition, and why he accepted a two-state solution—an historic achievement that set the Likud, however reluctantly, within the mainstream consensus supporting Palestinian statehood. The last thing Netanyahu wanted was to embarrass Biden during his goodwill visit and trigger a clash with Obama over an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood.

Nor is it likely that there was a deliberate provocation from the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, which runs the interior ministry that oversees building procedures. Shas, which supports peace talks and territorial compromise, is not a nationalist party. Its interest is providing housing for its constituents, like the future residents of Ramat Shlomo; provoking international incidents is not its style.

Finally, the very ordinariness of the building procedure—the fact that construction in Jewish East Jerusalem is considered by Israelis routine—is perhaps the best proof that there was no intentional ambush of Biden. Apparently no one in the interior ministry could imagine that a long-term plan over Ramat Shlomo would sabotage a state visit.

In turning an incident into a crisis, Obama has convinced many Israelis that he was merely seeking a pretext to pick a fight with Israel. Netanyahu was inadvertently shabby; Obama, deliberately so.

According to a banner headline in the newspaper Ma'ariv, senior Likud officials believe that Obama's goal is to topple the Netanyahu government, by encouraging those in the Labor Party who want to quit the coalition.

The popular assumption is that Obama is seeking to prove his resolve as a leader by getting tough with Israel. Given his ineffectiveness against Iran and his tendency to violate his own self-imposed deadlines for sanctions, the Israeli public is not likely to be impressed. Indeed, Israelis' initial anger at Netanyahu has turned to anger against Obama. According to an Israel Radio poll on March 16, 62 percent of Israelis blame the Obama administration for the crisis, while 20 percent blame Netanyahu. (Another 17 percent blame Shas leader Eli Yishai.)

In the last year, the administration has not once publicly condemned the Palestinians for lack of good faith—even though the Palestinian Authority media has, for example, been waging a months-long campaign denying the Jews' historic roots in Jerusalem. Just after Biden left Ramallah, Palestinian officials held a ceremony naming a square in the city after a terrorist responsible for the massacre of 38 Israeli civilians. (To its credit, yesterday, the administration did condemn the Palestinian Authority for inciting violence in Jerusalem.)

Obama's one-sided public pressure against Israel could intensify the atmosphere of "open season" against Israel internationally. Indeed, the European Union has reaffirmed it is linking improved economic relations with Israel to the resumption of the peace process—as if it's Israel rather than the Palestinians that has refused to come to the table.

If the administration's main tactical error in Middle East negotiating was emphasizing building in Jerusalem, its main strategic error was assuming that a two-state solution was within easy reach. Shortly after Obama took office, Rahm Emanuel was quoted in the Israeli press insisting that a Palestinian state would be created within Obama's first term. Instead, a year later, we are in the era of suspended proximity talks. Now the administration is demanding that Israel negotiate over final status issues in proximity talks as a way of convincing the Palestinians to agree to those talks--as if Israelis would agree to discuss the future of Jerusalem when Palestinian leaders refuse to even sit with them.

To insist on the imminent possibility of a two-state solution requires amnesia. Biden's plea to Israelis to consider a withdrawal to an approximation of the 1967 borders in exchange for peace ignored the fact that Israel made that offer twice in the last decade: first, when Prime Minister Ehud Barak accepted the Clinton Proposals of December 2000, and then more recently when Prime Minister Ehud Olmert renewed the offer to Mahmoud Abbas. Abbas, says Olmert, never replied.

The reason for Palestinian rejection of a two-state solution is because a deal would require Palestinians to confine the return of the descendants of the 1948 refugees to Palestine rather than to Israel. That would prevent a two-state solution from devolving into a bi-national, one-state solution. Israel's insistence on survival remains the obstacle to peace.

To achieve eventual peace, the international community needs to pressure Palestinian leaders to forgo their claim to Haifa and Jaffa and confine their people's right of return to a future Palestinian state—just as the Jews will need to forgo their claim to Hebron and Bethlehem and confine their people's right of return to the state of Israel. That is the only possible deal: conceding my right of return to Greater Israel in exchange for your right of return to Greater Palestine. A majority of Israelis—along with the political system—has accepted that principle. On the Palestinian side, the political system has rejected it.

In the absence of Palestinian willingness to compromise on the right of return, negotiations should not focus on a two-state solution but on more limited goals.

There have been positive signs of change on the Palestinian side in the last few years. The rise of Hamas has created panic within Fatah, and the result is, for the first time, genuine security cooperation with Israel. Also, the emergence of Salam Fayyad as Palestinian prime minister marks a shift from ideological to pragmatic leadership (though Fayyad still lacks a power base). Finally, the West Bank economy is growing, thanks in part to Israel's removal of dozens of roadblocks. The goal of negotiations at this point in the conflict should be to encourage those trends.

But by focusing on building in Jerusalem, Obama has undermined that possibility too. To the fictitious notion of a peace process, Obama has now added the fiction of an intransigent Israel blocking the peace process.

The administration, according to a report in the Israeli newspaper Yedito Aharonot, is making an even more insidious accusation against Israel. During his visit, wrote Yediot Aharanot, Biden told Israeli leaders that their policies are endangering American lives in Afghanistan and Iraq. The report has been denied in the White House. Whether or not the remark was made, what is clear today in Jerusalem is that Obama's recklessness is endangering Israeli--and Palestinian--lives. As I listen to police sirens outside my window, Obama's political intifada against Netanyahu seems to be turning into a third intifada over Jerusalem.

Yossi Klein Halevi is a senior fellow of the Shalem Center in Jerusalem, and a contributing editor of The New Republic.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Middle East Peace Scam

Daniel Greenfield

"I condemn the decision by the government of Israel to advance planning for new housing units in East Jerusalem"

Vice President Joseph Robinette Biden, March 09, 2010

For nearly twenty years the great sham of the Middle East Peace Process has dragged on. And this despicable scam has consisted of only one policy, only one platform and only one plan. Pressuring Israel for more concessions.

Year in and year out, new peace conferences were declared and new plans for peace were hammered out. All of them had one thing in common, they carved up Israel for a non-existent peace. When Arafat and his gang of terrorists made a concession, it was to demand 5 percent less of Israel in the current phase of negotiations. When Israel made a concession, it was to turn over another 10 percent of land to its worst enemies in this phase of negotiations... in exchange for them putting off their demands for that 5 percent into the next phase of the negotiations. And this sick charade in which Israel gave and the terrorists took was the peace process.
While this great surrender process was going on, outside the bombs went on exploding, tearing apart buses, restaurants, malls and families-- the politicians and diplomats in charge excused the terrorists and damned Israel if it so much as lifted a finger to defend itself, or erected a single checkpoint to catch at least one of the terrorists on the way to kill a dozen people in Jerusalem.

And now finally the Vice President of the United States arrives in Israel to reaffirm his absolute commitment to Israel's security, a commitment he and just about every other politician who let that phrase trip lightly off their lips, honors by pressing Israel to surrender again the terrorists. He arrives and condemns the greatest impediment to peace. Jewish families living in the capital of their own nation.

Biden did not take the time to condemn Abbas for his failure to hold elections, for his attendance at a funeral for the terrorists in his own militia who murdered an Israeli Rabbi, for his violation of the Gaza Jericho agreement or for his recent threats of a Holy War against Israel. Not even the Palestinian Authority naming a municipal square two days ago after Dalal Mughrabi, one of the Coastal Road Massacre bus hijackers, resulted in any statements of condemnation. Let us for a moment balance the horrifying scene of Jews moving into new apartments in Jerusalem, vs the Coastal Road Massacre in which Fatah terrorists murdered Gail Rubin, an American nature photographer, hijacked a bus, and murdered 38 passengers, 13 of them only children.

But the murder of Israelis never "undermines the trust we need right now". Only Jews living in East Jerusalem can do that. Not Israelis, Jews, for if Arab citizens of Israel were moving into new buildings in East Jerusalem, Biden and the media would not be condemning Israel for it. It is precisely Jews that are the problem for the Obama Administration and its Media-Government Complex. Just as they were a problem for Hitler and Stalin. Just as they have always been a problem for would be tyrants.

There are of course no worries about whether Israel will trust Abbas and his Fatah gang. As if anybody in their right mind would, after nearly two decades of terrorism that followed the ballyhooed signing of the Peace Accords and the famous handshake overseen by a smiling Clinton. After violating nearly every agreement he ever signed with Israel, Arafat unleashed a wave of terror, while pocketing a fortune in foreign aid. And after every bombing, the same despicable conglomeration of diplomats and politicians and diplopols that form the "World Community" pointed Israel to the negotiating table. Their only solution, then as now, was more concessions. By Israel to the terrorists-- of course.

And so here we are in the splendid year 2010, 5770 in the Hebrew calendar, and 1431 in the Muslim calendar. In a few months it will be 43 years since the Liberation of Jerusalem. Since Jews returned to the Old City they were ethnically cleansed from by Muslim soldiers. And today the Hurva synagogue, twice destroyed by Muslims, has been completely reconstructed. In 1948 the Jordanian command expelled the Jews from East Jerusalem and destroyed the Hurva synagogue, vowing that the Jews would never return. And today in the year 2010, the Vice President of the United States comes on a mission to carry on their work. That of the dynamiters and the bombers and the expellers.

This is where nearly two decades of negotiations have brought us. In the early nineties, Israel was discussing the status of certain West Bank towns. Today Israel is being warned against allowing Jews to live in Jerusalem. Tomorrow... I would dearly like to say that the possibilities are endless, but there are only so many parts of Israel where Jews still live, and no doubt the eager ethnic cleansers in the Obama Administration and the EU have plans for them too.

And so the Middle East Peace Scam marches on. There is a great deal of preparation for intense rounds of negotiations at which it will be determined what else Israel must give for there to be no peace. East Jerusalem will naturally end up on the table soon enough. Meanwhile the entire farce has less legal basis than a kangaroo court and all the consistency of a drunken liar on the witness stand.

Today there are three Palestinian states. One in Jordan, divided to create an Arab State in the bygone days of the Palestine Mandate. A second state in Gaza, which is ruled over by Hamas as part of the spoils from their war with Fatah. A third state in the West Bank ruled over by Abbas and Fatah, even though his term ended and there have been no new elections. Out of this hodgepodge, Israel is expected to negotiate even though Hamas refuses to negotiate any permanent peace agreement, and Fatah has no legal authority to represent anyone.

You will not of course here about any of this in the media, which is still busy being outraged by the thought of Jews living in Jerusalem. When they're not being outraged by the thought of Israel treating Rachel's Tomb as a heritage site. After all the Prime Minister of Turkey has declared that Rachel's Tomb is not Jewish, but Islamic. Just as all of Israel is Islamic. Just as all of the world is Islamic. But the world isn't paying attention. The world is certain that the rage and violence of a billion Muslims can be calmed with some Jewish land and Jewish blood. Just as the rage and violence of Nazism could be calmed with some Czech land and blood.

But why listen to me? Listen instead to the soothing words of Ahmad Bahar, the Speaker of the Palestinian Authority Parliament.

"Make us victorious over the infidel people… Allah, take hold of the Jews and their allies, Allah, take hold of the Americans and their allies… Allah, count them and kill them to the last one and don’t leave even one.�

Ah, but you say it's about "the occupation". And there will be peace when the terrorists have all the land they feel they're entitled to. But... no.

"Our enmity with the Jews is a matter of faith, more than an enmity owing to occupation and the land."

Oh yes, there will be peace when they have all the land that they feel Muslims are entitled to. And this is the scope of their territorial demands.

“Soon, Allah willing, Rome will be conquered, like Constantinople was conquered, according to the prophecy of our prophet Muhammad. Their capital will be the first post of the Islamic conquests that will spread all over Europe then it will turn to the two Americas and even to Eastern Europe."

But don't worry. Joseph Robinette Biden is deeply committed to fighting against Jewish families living in Jerusalem. And the Middle East Peace Scam marches on.

Daniel Greenfield

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Netanyahu’s Brother-in-Law: Obama’s an Anti-Semite

Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
A7 News

Dr. Hagai Ben-Artzi, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s brother-in-law, labeled U.S. President Barack Obama an anti-Semite in two radio interviews Wednesday. The Prime Minister immediately disassociated himself from his remarks and outright rejected them.he time has come to tell the truth.” Dr. Ben-Artzi told Arutz-7 radio (Hebrew). “I understand the Prime Minister’s reaction to me, but the truth must be told. Obama is an anti-Semite.” He said that Israel is dealing with “a president who was educated by anti-Semitic preacher Jeremiah Wright.”

He also told IDF Army Radio that Wright (pictured) is "anti-Israeli, anti-Jewish and anti-Semitic." Obama was a devotee of Wright for two decades but distanced himself from the preacher during the presidential campaign two years ago.

Dr. Ben-Artzi told Arutz-7 that the United States is important to Israel from both the economic and security standpoints, but when “the United States makes demands on Jerusalem, the time has come to tell the truth -- we are talking about an anti-Semite."

He said that Prime Minister Netanyahu must follow the course of his predecessors since all of Jerusalem was restored to Israel in 1967. "Once the Americans tried to intervene in anything related to Jerusalem we told them one simple word: No.

"We Jews are a people from nearly 4,000 years ago. In another year, you [Obama] will disappear. Who will remember you?”

Dr. Ben-Artzi said if President Obama is looking for a crisis over Jerusalem, “then a crisis is what he will get.”

He said that he did not speak personally with his brother-in-law about his comments but discussed with him the achievement of Avner Netanyahu, the Prime Minister's son, who advanced this week in the national Bible Quiz.

Dr. Ben-Artzi noted that the achievement was symbolic "because the theme for this year is Jerusalem and its connection with the People of Israel. He said he told the Prime Minister, “You, Avner’s father, stand at a test that requires you to prove the strong link with Jerusalem.

NYT Blames Israel For Palestinian Incitement

Leo Rennert
The Hurva Synagogue was the premier Jewish place of worship in Jerusalem's Old City in the 19th and early 20th Centuries -- until Jordanian troops destroyed it in 1948. On March 15, after several years of painstaking restoration, it came to life again -- an exact replica of the old Hurva.

In the week before its reopening, however, the Palestinian Authority unleashed a vicious conspiracy campaign that falsely claimed that reopening the Hurva was a prelude to Israel's intent to destroy Al-Aqsa Mosque on Temple Mount to make room for the Third Jewish Temple. Palestinian officials called on Arabs to rush into the Old City by the thousands to "defend" Al-Aqsa -- the usual rallying cry for violent riots and the unleashing of stone barrages from Temple Mount on Jewish worshippers below at the Western Wall. Israeli authorities had to deploy several thousand police to prevent what could have been a bloody conflagration. So how did the New York Times report this latest inciteful provocation by the Palestinian side in violation of its obligations under the U.S. road map's requirement that Palestinians cease all anti-Israel incitement?

Answer: By putting the blame on Israel! Yes, it's all Israel's fault.

In a March 16 article headlined "Rebuilt Synagogue Is Caught In Disputes Over Jerusalem," Isabel Kershner's lead paragraph reads as follows:

"In what appeared to be a case of unfortunate timing, Israel officially inaugurated a rebuilt synagogue in Jerusalem's Old City on Monday, entangling what was intended to be a festive cultural event with the diplomatic row over new Israeli construction in the contested territory."

In other words, it wasn't Palestinian incitements and provocations that marred the reopening of the Hurva; it was Israel's "unfortunate timing" of the event. It was Israel "entangling a festive event" with the controversy over Israeli home construction in its capital.

To put the onus even more on Israel, Kershner goes on to tell Times readers that the Hurva, like the rest of the Old City, is located "in territory that Israel conquered from Jordan in the 1967 war" and that Israel's claim to that part of the city is "not recognized by most of the world." In other words, Israel's fault is that it -- and the Hurva -- really don't belong in the Old City.

Because, mind you, Kershner doesn't just blame Israel's "unfortunate timing" of the Hurva's reopening for getting the Palestinians all exercised, she challenges the very existence of the renovated Hurva in the Old City, as follows:

"Because of the topography seen from certain points around the city, it rises above the Islamic shrines of the compound revered by Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary, and by Jews as the Temple Mount, including Al-Aqsa Mosque."

In other words, if you twist your neck from a certain vantage point in Jerusalem, the Hurva rises higher than Al-Aqsa -- the real provocation in Kershner's eyes.. God forbid, a Jewish synagogue should rise higher than Al-Aqsa! What nerve! What chutzpah!

And that paragraph is followed immediately by a statement in Damascus from Hamas's supreme leader, Khled Meshal that Hurva's reopening signifies "the destruction of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the building of the temple.", The same vicious canard promulgated by officials of Mahmoud Abbas's "moderate" Palestinian Authority and Fatah political party.

Having squarely put the monkey on Israel's back, Kershner finally gets around in her seventh paragraph to report that the State Department said the United States was "deeply disturbed by statements made by several Palestinian officials mischaracterizing the event in question, which could heighten tensions. We call upon Palestinian officials to put an end to such incitement."

Given the amount of ink the Times has devoted over the last week in reporting the Obama administration's savage attacks on Israel for plans to build more homes in a Jewish neighborhood of Jerusalem (a neighborhood Hillary Clinton's husband when he was president felt should remain under Israeli sovereignty under his peace initiative), one might have thought that the State Department finally and belatedly taking a whack at the Palestinian Authority might have led Kershner's piece. Instead, Meshal's incendiary anti-Israel fulminations take precedence over a very rare U.S. protest against Palestinian actions.

And those are the lengths to which the New York Times stretches to exculpate Palestinian impediments to the peace process.

Page Printed from: at March 17, 2010 - 12:56:35 AM CDT

Who's destroying, and who's rebuilding?

Naomi Ragen

Dear Friends,

The rebuilding and rededication of the Hurva ('ruined') Synagogue in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem few days ago was a moment of true joy for every Israeli, and every Jew.

Some background. Construction of the synagogue began under Rabbi Judah the Hassid in 1700. The rabbi was a member of one of the first groups of Ashkenazi Jews to immigrate to Jerusalem, a few hundred from Poland. It was thought that a synagogue had existed on the same spot since the Second Century B.C.E. The Hurva Synagogue was rebuilt under Ibrahim Pasha in 1836 and finally completed in 1856. Designed in a grand Neo-Byzantine style, it was one of the largest buildings in the Old City.

In 1948, members of the Jordanian Arab Legion, led by the same regime which outlawed Jewish access to all Jewish holy places in Jerusalem and Hebron, including the Western Wall and the Tomb of the Patriarchs, blew up the beautiful synagogue (to see photos go to:


Jordanians also used the Jewish headstones from the Mount of Olives Cemetery to pave roads. Altogether, the Arab Legion destroyed 29 synagogues during the War of Independence. When Arabs were in charge of Jewish holy sites, they destroyed them.

Now, not only are the Palestinians guilty of having blown up this synagogue, but have the unmitigated gall to protest its rebuilding!

The Gaza-based head of al-Quds International Institution warned against the reopening of the Hurva synagogue as part of an Israeli plan to erect a Jewish temple on al-Aqsa ruins (!!!) and Hilary Clinton wants Israel to prove its dedication to peace?!!!

In the meantime, anti-Semitic nut job websites, like VNN and Goyfire ("Hammering out the Jew, one Broadcast at a time") wrote that: "Israeli officials have reportedly called on Israelis to march into the al-Aqsa Mosque on Tuesday, highly revered as the third holiest site in the Muslim world."

Funny, no one told me.

The current American Administration, by siding with Israel's enemies, have emboldened them and every other anti-Semite in the world to spread this preposterous poison. Thanks Barack, Hilary. They couldn't do it without you!

And if you think we are going to let these bloody terrorists take over an inch of Jerusalem, you are deluded, no matter how much pressure you exert. We will wait until the good folks in America come to their senses and vote you into oblivion. Maybe then the Saudis can offer you a job? After all that scraping and bowing to them, it's the least they can do, no?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

1. Netanyahu on the Offense: Jerusalem Building to Continue

Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
A7 News

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Monday switched from apologies to the Obama administration for building for Jews in Jerusalem and went on the offense. Buoyed by virtually unanimous Cabinet support, he told Likud Knesset Members at a party meeting, “Building in Jerusalem and in all other places will continue in the same way that has been accepted in the last 42 years.”
He added that the construction does not harm Arabs. Last week, the Prime Minister apologised to visiting U.S. Vice President Joe Biden over the timing of a government announcement that 1,600 new housing units will be built in the Jewish neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo.

Ramat Shlomo shares the same status as French Hill, Ramot and Gilo, totally Jewish areas that are considered to be politically “untouchable” by any agreement for a new Palestinian Authority state within Israel’s current borders. The neighborhood is not far from the largely Arab-populated area of Shuafat, but is surrounded on all other sides by the Jewish areas of Ramot, Ramat Eshkol and Golda Meir Blvd.

Prime Minister Netanyahu’s sudden change of pace came in response to a Likud caucus question by strongly nationalist MK Tzipi Hotovely concerning the 10-month building freeze on new homes for Jews in Judea and Samaria.

He stated that the freeze, which was a “goodwill” gesture to U.S. President Barack Obama to entice the PA to resume negotiations, is "binding” and will not be extended.

The current crisis with the United States, the worst since the 1970s, peaked after Biden arrived in Israel simultaneously with a White House announcement that the PA agreed to American-mediated talks with Israel and with the Israeli government statement on new Ramat Shlomo construction.

The Obama government has insisted it is not imposing terms on Israel but also has been paving the ground for Israel to stop building in the restored parts of Jerusalem until a final agreement is made with the PA. However, the Arab world has stood firm that there is no ground for negotiations and that all of its claims to the Old City, eastern, northern and southern Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria must be met.

The current crisis has placed both Prime Minister Netanyahu and senior American officials in a bad light. Most media have roundly criticized the Prime Minister for embarrassing Biden, although the Israeli leader insisted he had nothing to do with the timing of the announcement of new homes in Ramat Shlomo (pictured).

Biden and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have been severely criticized for over-reacting and for what appears to many as gross interference in Israeli affairs.

Reporters covering the U.S. State Department also questioned its spokesman Philip Crowley for referring to Netanyahu without the title “Prime Minister.” Crowley replied, “That was my choice of words."

The same reporter then commented, “Why three days after what happened, and the Vice President’s own condemnation of that happened, was the need felt to deliver this quite harsh rebuke [by Clinton]?”

Crowley sidestepped the query and also tried to dodge reporters' doubts that the Arab world wants to continue with indirect talks.

An Historic Synagogue Reopens to Joy and Sadness

Leo Rennert

The first time I glimpsed the ruins of the Hurva Synagogue was in 1991, when, during a week-long stay in Jerusalem, my wife and I toured the Old City several times. It quickly became a ritual -- enter via Jaffa Gate, make a right turn toward the Armenian Quarter, and on to the Jewish Quarter. It was there, short of our destination -- the Kotel, or Western Wall -- that we noticed the imposing fifty-foot-high arch, the only remaining part of what was once the premier synagogue in Jerusalem.

The Hurva was the the Jewish landmark in Jerusalem in the 19th and early 20th centuries. It was a magnet for early Zionists, religious and non-religious. Theodore Herzl was a visitor, and so were many other Jewish notables from far and wide. The first synagogue on the site was built in 1701. Jews had obtained a loan for its construction from Muslims. But Jerusalem's Jewish community, mired in poverty, couldn't repay the debt, so Muslim creditors destroyed the synagogue.

But Jewish residents, with some outside help, rebuilt the Hurva and turned it into a magnificent landmark...that is, until 1948, when less than two weeks after Israel declared independence, Jordanian forces moved into the Old City and destroyed the Hurva -- with only the great arch left as a reminder of its former glory. And so it remained for six decades. From 1948 until 1967, Jews were barred by Jordan from even approaching the Hurva ruins, just as they were barred from praying at the Western Wall. After Israel captured the Old City in 1967, the Hurva Arch stood for many years as a stark reminder of a sad chapter in Jewish history.

Then a meticulous rebuilding and renovation effort was begun several years ago. It culminated on March 15, 2010 in the official reopening of the Hurva as an exact replica of the 19th-century synagogue, including the surviving Arch, which is now a permanent part of the new Hurva. Henceforth, it won't just be a dramatic reminder of the past; it will resume its age-old function as a place of worship.

So quite understandably, the rebirth of the Hurva is a moment of great joy for Jerusalem, for Israel, and for Jews everywhere.

But it is a great joy mixed with great sadness.

Why sadness? Because in the run-up to the Hurva's reopening, the Palestinian Authority launched a vicious campaign of incitement, claiming that the Hurva was a prelude to Jewish designs to destroy Al-Aqsa Mosque on nearby Temple Mount along with a Jewish conspiracy to replace it with a Third Jewish Temple.

Why sadness? Because the Palestinian Authority issued a call to Israeli Arabs and Palestinians to come to the Old City and "defend" Al-Aqsa against Jewish depredations. Khalem Abdel Kader, the holder of Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah Jerusalem portfolio, called the renovation of the Hurva a "provocation," accusing Israel of "playing with fire" for daring to reopen an ancient Jewish place of worship twice destroyed by Muslims.

Why sadness? Because Israeli authorities, in the light of such incendiary incitement, had to marshal thousands of police to prevent a conflagration.

Why sadness? Because in response to the PA's call for a massive march on the Old City and Temple Mount, the mayor of a Bedouin city in Israel's Negev heeded the PA's call to arms and assembled busloads of protesters to head toward Jerusalem.

Why sadness? Because just as the Hurva came to life again, Israeli President Shimon Peres told the visiting president of Brazil that Israel respects and safeguards all religious sites -- Jewish, Christian, and Muslim. Then, added ever the cockeyed optimist, "and vice-versa." While the first part of Peres' comment was right on the mark -- the "vice-versa" was sadly missing.

Why sadness? Because the inflammatory PA campaign against the renovated Hurva didn't raise a peep from the White House and the State Department, giving the lie to Vice President Biden's assurances during his Israel visit that the Obama administration would hold both Israel and the PA accountable for any moves that undermine the peace process and threaten resumption of peace negotiations.

Why sadness? Because the silence of American Jews, especially the 78 percent who voted for Obama, was truly deafening, as was the silence of the great majority of American rabbis. This is a silence that serves only to give license to Obama's escalating campaign of Israel-bashing, coupled with his tolerance of wave after wave of the most toxic incitement by Abbas and the Palestinian Authority against Israel.

Page Printed from: at March 16, 2010 - 05:27:03 AM CDT

Obama's Turn Against Israel

The U.S. makes a diplomatic crisis out of a blunder.
In recent weeks, the Obama Administration has endorsed "healthy relations" between Iran and Syria, mildly rebuked Syrian President Bashar Assad for accusing the U.S. of "colonialism," and publicly apologized to Moammar Gadhafi for treating him with less than appropriate deference after the Libyan called for "a jihad" against Switzerland. When it comes to Israel, however, the Administration has no trouble rising to a high pitch of public indignation. On a visit to Israel last week, Vice President Joe Biden condemned an announcement by a mid-level Israeli official that the government had approved a planning stage—the fourth out of seven required—for the construction of 1,600 housing units in north Jerusalem. Assuming final approval, no ground will be broken on the project for at least three years.

But neither that nor repeated apologies from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu prevented Secretary of State Hillary Clinton—at what White House sources ostentatiously said was the personal direction of President Obama—from calling the announcement "an insult to the United States." White House political chief David Axelrod got in his licks on NBC's Meet the Press yesterday, lambasting Israel for what he described as "an affront."

Since nobody is defending the Israeli announcement, least of all an obviously embarrassed Israeli government, it's difficult to see why the Administration has chosen this occasion to spark a full-blown diplomatic crisis with its most reliable Middle Eastern ally. Mr. Biden's visit was intended to reassure Israelis that the Administration remained fully committed to Israeli security and legitimacy. In a speech at Tel Aviv University two days after the Israeli announcement, Mr. Biden publicly thanked Mr. Netanyahu for "putting in place a process to prevent the recurrence" of similar incidents.

The subsequent escalation by Mrs. Clinton was clearly intended as a highly public rebuke to the Israelis, but its political and strategic logic is puzzling. The U.S. needs Israel's acquiescence in the Obama Administration's increasingly drawn-out efforts to halt Iran's nuclear bid through diplomacy or sanctions. But Israel's restraint is measured in direct proportion to its sense that U.S. security guarantees are good. If Israel senses that the Administration is looking for any pretext to blow up relations, it will care much less how the U.S. might react to a military strike on Iran.

As for the West Bank settlements, it is increasingly difficult to argue that their existence is the key obstacle to a peace deal with the Palestinians. Israel withdrew all of its settlements from Gaza in 2005, only to see the Strip transform itself into a Hamas statelet and a base for continuous rocket fire against Israeli civilians.

Israeli anxieties about America's role as an honest broker in any diplomacy won't be assuaged by the Administration's neuralgia over this particular housing project, which falls within Jerusalem's municipal boundaries and can only be described as a "settlement" in the maximalist terms defined by the Palestinians. Any realistic peace deal will have to include a readjustment of the 1967 borders and an exchange of territory, a point formally recognized by the Bush Administration prior to Israel's withdrawal from Gaza. If the Obama Administration opts to transform itself, as the Europeans have, into another set of lawyers for the Palestinians, it will find Israeli concessions increasingly hard to come by.

That may be the preferred outcome for Israel's enemies, both in the Arab world and the West, since it allows them to paint Israel as the intransigent party standing in the way of "peace." Why an Administration that repeatedly avers its friendship with Israel would want that is another question.

Then again, this episode does fit Mr. Obama's foreign policy pattern to date: Our enemies get courted; our friends get the squeeze. It has happened to Poland, the Czech Republic, Honduras and Colombia. Now it's Israel's turn.

Comment: I would offer that this is not a turn of events; rather it is precisely what his policy toward Israel has always been. Finally some people are realizing you must look through his words and examine his actions and behavior. This latest incident is consistent with his anti-Israel behavior.

Clinton Rebukes Israel on Housing Announcement

March 12, 2010
Clinton Rebukes Israel on Housing Announcement

WASHINGTON — In a tense, 43-minute phone call on Friday morning, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Israel’s plan for new housing units for Jews in East Jerusalem sent a “deeply negative signal” about Israeli-American relations, and not just because it spoiled a visit by Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.

Mr. Biden, in Israel this week to declare American support for its security, had already condemned the move as undermining the peace process. But Mrs. Clinton went a good deal further in her conversation with Mr. Netanyahu, saying it had harmed “the bilateral relationship,” according to the State Department spokesman, Philip J. Crowley. Such blunt language toward Israel is very rare from an American administration, and several officials said Mrs. Clinton was relaying the anger of President Obama at the announcement, which was made by Israel’s Interior Ministry and which Mr. Netanyahu said caught him off guard.

The Israeli leader repeated his surprise about the plan to Mrs. Clinton, a senior official said, and apologized again for the timing. But that did not appear to mollify Mrs. Clinton, who said she “could not understand how this happened, particularly in light of the United States’ strong commitment to Israel’s security,” Mr. Crowley said.

Hours after the phone call, Israel was again condemned for the plan in a statement issued by the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations, which work together in a group known as the Middle East quartet to mediate Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

The Israeli ambassador to Washington, Michael B. Oren, was summoned to the State Department on Friday by the deputy secretary of state, James B. Steinberg, a senior American official said. The Israeli Embassy declined to comment on Friday evening.

The coordinated moves were a remarkable show of displeasure by the Obama administration, which has been rebuffed in its yearlong effort to persuade Israel to freeze construction of settlements as a first step toward reviving the long-stalled peace talks. Mr. Obama has been personally involved, discussing the matter with Mrs. Clinton in their regularly scheduled Oval Office meeting on Thursday.

But the moves place the administration in a delicate position, two weeks before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a pro-Israel lobbying group, holds its annual meeting in Washington. Both Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Netanyahu are scheduled to speak at the gathering.

On Friday, Mrs. Clinton told the prime minister that the United States expected Israeli officials to take “specific actions” to show “they are committed to this relationship and to the peace process,” Mr. Crowley said.

He declined to say what those actions were, though other administration officials said the United States hoped Israel would do something drastic enough to send a signal to the already reluctant Palestinian Authority that it was committed to the peace process.

Mr. Biden also spoke to Mr. Netanyahu Friday, reiterating the message.

Mr. Netanyahu has not said he will try to rescind the plan for the ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo, nor has he expressed regret for building in East Jerusalem.

Last November, the Israeli government imposed a 10-month partial freeze on the construction of Jewish settlements in the West Bank. But it exempted Jerusalem because Israel has annexed East Jerusalem and regards it as part of its united capital, a position the rest of the world rejects.

In the absence of direct talks, the United States has begun what it calls “proximity talks,” in which the administration’s special envoy for the Middle East, George J. Mitchell, carries messages between the Israelis and the Palestinians. He had expected to return to the region on Sunday, but will probably delay that by a day.

Next Friday, Mrs. Clinton is to meet in Moscow with leaders of the quartet.

She waited to call Mr. Netanyahu until after Mr. Biden had left Israel. Analysts said the administration held its fire until Mr. Biden left so it would not undermine the trip’s purpose, which was to reach out to the Israeli population.

In a speech at Tel Aviv University on Thursday, Mr. Biden spoke of the Obama administration’s “ironclad commitment to Israeli security.” But in language added after the settlement announcement was made, he said that “the status quo is not sustainable,” adding, “Sometimes, only a friend can deliver the hardest truths.”

Monday, March 15, 2010

Biden's Israel Visit and Its Aftermath

The Importance of Maintaining Strategic Direction in U.S. Middle East Policy
By Robert Satloff
March 15, 2010

In less than forty-eight hours, U.S.-Israel relations went from "unbreakable," according to Vice President Joe Biden, to "perilous," as ascribed to an "unnamed senior U.S. official." This drastic mood swing risks overshadowing the great achievement of the vice president's Middle East trip -- the affirmation for Israelis (as well as those Arabs and Iranians following his words) that the Obama administration is "determined to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons."

The central purpose of the Biden visit was to cap a months-long "reset" of U.S.-Israel relations within a larger reorientation of U.S. Middle East policy.

When the new administration came to office, its Middle East policy was motivated by three principles:

* that Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking was an urgent priority and that a breakthrough depended in large part on Israel proving its bona fides through full cessation of settlement activity, including in Jerusalem;
* that convincing Iran to change course on its nuclear program was also a high priority and that the best way to accomplish this would be to end Iran's isolation through high-level engagement with Iranian leaders; and
* that the two issues were inherently linked in the sense that breakthrough on the peace process would increase the prospects of success for engagement with Iran. Over the first several months of the Obama administration, each of these principles was found faulty: In regard to the peace process, Washington overreached in its demand for a halt to Israeli settlements and inadvertently created its own impasse in Israeli-Palestinian diplomacy. In terms of Iran, repeated rebuffs by the Tehran leadership underscored that the real source of the problem was Iran's ambitions, not Iran's isolation. And in reference to linkage, Arab leaders, such as the king of Saudi Arabia, rebuffed U.S. efforts to build a more conducive environment for Arab-Israeli peacemaking while exhorting Washington to be more assertive against Iran, sending a clear message about their own priorities.

In recent months, the administration has toiled hard to repair its earlier errors, adopting a de facto strategy that positions the Iran nuclear issue as the fulcrum of Middle East policy. Part of this effort has been to roll back its maximalist "not one brick in Jerusalem" position on settlements and to shift the focus from a U.S.-Israel clash on peace issues to a U.S.-Israel partnership on strategic issues.

Nevertheless, within that framework it is still important that the administration create a functioning diplomacy between Israelis and Palestinians -- not because serious observers believe a near-term breakthrough is in sight but because an active and ongoing diplomacy denies both critics and naysayers an opportunity to make mischief. Furthermore, it frees the administration to inject international urgency into the Iran issue. Indeed, some argue that the linkage argument is now turned on its head in the sense that real success in the peace process may only be possible once there is success on the Iran issue. Only when the Obama administration has proven its mettle in preventing Iran's march for regional preeminence, it is argued, will Israelis and Palestinians be willing to bet on Washington and take the risks necessary for a real breakthrough in peace negotiations.

In this regard, the U.S. diplomatic team, headed by George Mitchell, the State Department's special envoy for Middle East peace, has shown remarkable persistence in its attempts to convince the Palestinian Authority (PA) to resume peace talks with Israel -- an endeavor that should have required a less-than-herculean effort. After all, one would imagine that Palestinians, eager for statehood, would want talks under almost any conditions. But in the Alice-in-Wonderland world of the Middle East, the reverse has been true. Whereas Washington figured out how to climb down from its insistence on a full settlement freeze as a condition of peace talks, PA president Mahmoud Abbas found the process uncomfortable, particularly given his volte-face, under pressure, on the Palestinian response to the Goldstone report on alleged Gaza "war crimes." In the end, of course, Abbas needs negotiations even more than Israel does; diplomacy is his calling card, without which the Palestinians might as well turn to another leader or, even worse, to the military option of Hamas. Still, Abbas managed to get Washington to work hard to achieve what is manifestly in his interests to do -- that is, talk with Israel, even if through the halfway house of indirect negotiations.

At the same time, it is also true that a quiet revolution has been going on inside Israel on the peace issue. What has been lost amid the histrionics about construction permits in Jerusalem and Israel's habit of delivering concessions to Washington weeks after the Obama administration wanted them is that Binyamin Netanyahu has led the Likud-led government into totally uncharted waters. With his Bar-Ilan speech, he became the third "revisionist" prime minister in a row to adopt the "two states for two peoples" paradigm, effectively consigning Greater Israel advocates to the margins of Israeli politics, where they have no national champion. Moreover, with his decision on a West Bank settlement moratorium, Netanyahu made a commitment that no Israeli prime minister since Oslo -- Rabin, Sharon, Peres, or Barak -- ever made, and in the process tacitly rolled back forty years of Israeli policy that rejected the idea of settlements as an obstacle to peacemaking. The result is that mainstream Israeli debate on the peace process now centers on the fitness of the PA as a negotiating partner and the extent of Israeli territorial demands -- 2 percent of the West Bank? 4 percent? 6 percent? -- and not on the more basic question of a repartition of Palestine that would leave the other side with the vast majority of West Bank territory in an independent and more-or-less sovereign state. Over time, these developments will be recognized as seismic.

The Biden Visit
The vice president's visit to Israel was intended to confirm this "reset" of U.S. Middle East strategy: to affirm publicly the strength of the U.S.-Israel strategic partnership; to inject warmth and "the human touch" in a relationship that, at high levels, seemed cold and distant; to declare, on Middle East soil, the Obama administration's commitment to preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear bomb (thereby silencing the wags who believe there is a slide toward "containment" in the halls of government); and to bless the awkward and hopefully temporary setup of indirect "proximity" talks engineered by Mitchell. Biden was ideal for the task: he has a decades-old friendship with Israel that has not precluded, at times, some very blunt advice to the Israelis.

From the moment of his arrival in Israel, Biden performed like the master politician he is, hitting all the right notes, making all the right statements, saying all the right things. Then came the Shas-controlled Interior Ministry's statement on Jerusalem construction planning. Though the announcement did not violate the moratorium on West Bank construction nor presage any new construction in the near future, Washington was justifiably outraged by the timing, which seemed to have no other aim than to embarrass the vice president. Although the U.S. reaction -- to "condemn" Israeli actions as contrary to the spirit of peacemaking -- used language more appropriate to a massacre than to a bureaucratic statement, it clearly reflected the U.S. team's deeply felt anger. (By contrast, it is useful to note that this statement was far more forceful than President Obama's "what we can do is bear witness" response to Iran's violent repression of unarmed anti-government street protestors last June.)

Then, two days later, Biden delivered a major speech at Tel Aviv University that was designed to speak directly to the Israeli people. In that speech, Biden's intent was to repair the perception many Israelis have -- justifiably or not -- that Obama's decision to visit Cairo, Riyadh, and Ankara in his first year as president, but not Jerusalem, was based on a calculation that he couldn't both warm ties with Muslims and strengthen them with Israelis. And Biden performed superbly. He delivered an address reminiscent of Bill Clinton that voiced his empathy with Israeli pain and joy; he reminded his audience that his father had taught him that gentiles could be Zionists (a word even many pro-Israel activists have begun to shun these days) and repeatedly cited the Jewish people's historic connection to the land of Israel, thus correcting the regrettable impression left from Obama's Cairo speech that Zionism only began with the Holocaust.

On the substance of policy, he boasted that the Obama administration had "expanded -- not maintained, expanded" cooperation on joint exercises and missile defense and reiterated America's commitment to Israel's qualitative military edge. And he took a jibe at the Walt-Mearsheimer thesis when he said that "American support for Israel is not just an act of friendship; it's an act of fundamental national self-interest on the part of the United States."

That sense of shared interest was affirmed by the critical portion of the speech on Iran. Not only did Biden underscore Washington's realization that Israel has "no greater existential strategic threat" than Iran's acquisition of nuclear weapon, but he stressed that the "acquisition of nuclear weapons by Iran is also a threat to the security -- short-term, mid-term and long-term -- of the United States of America," effectively correcting a statement to the contrary made by Secretary of State Hilary Clinton last month in Qatar. And he said America's strategy for addressing this threat was prevention -- "The United States is determined to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, period" -- thereby rejecting the advice of some "realist" voices advocating a more "sensible" policy of containment.

Biden did not avoid the peace process; on the contrary, he devoted much of his speech to this issue. And, for the most part, it was a strong declaration of U.S.-Israel partnership. The key line is Biden's emphatic statement, to strong applause, that "in my experience, one necessary precondition for progress is that the rest of the world knows … there is absolutely no space between the United States and Israel when it comes to security, none."

Biden and Clinton on Bibi
On the crisis over the Jerusalem construction planning announcement, Biden explained that the U.S. government viewed it as "undermining the trust required for productive negotiations" and explained that President Obama himself had asked him to "condemn it immediately and unequivocally." Importantly, he then went on to express "appreciation" for the "significant" steps taken by Netanyahu in the intervening two days to prevent the recurrence of such a bureaucratic blunder.

Given Biden's comments, it is not unreasonable for his hosts to believe that the crisis had passed. Indeed, Biden did not say that Israel had violated any agreement with the United States by making its ill-advised Jerusalem construction announcement; he did not suggest that relations were severely damaged by making this announcement, nor did he resurrect the demand for complete cessation of settlement activity, including in Jerusalem, that had bedeviled earlier diplomacy. While Biden did promise that the United States "would hold both sides accountable for any statements or any actions that inflame tensions or prejudice the outcome of talks," he noted that Netanyahu himself said that "all sides need to take action in good faith if peace is to have a chance." By the end of the speech -- and by the end of the visit -- the bitterness that provoked the unusual condemnation of Israel two days earlier seemed to have dissipated.

There are some items to quibble with in Biden's speech. For example, though he said there was "no space" between Washington and Jerusalem on security issues, in reality they have different redlines in respect to the Iran nuclear question. As Biden noted, repeating previous comments by Obama, the U.S. redline is to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons; Israel's redline, as repeatedly noted by Netanyahu and others, is to prevent Iran from achieving a "military nuclear capability" -- a much broader requirement. At some point in the not-too-distant future, this divergence may give rise to practical disagreement between the two sides. If that happens, the potential for a nasty dispute is real.

But the dominant message of the Biden speech and his entire visit was U.S.-Israel amity -- which underscored the cognitive dissonance of Secretary of State Clinton's walk-to-the-woodshed conversation with Netanyahu on Friday and subsequent comments by senior officials on weekend talk shows. In Middle East terms, her rebuke of the Israeli prime minister's insult to the U.S. vice president was reminiscent of the French outrage when the Bey of Algiers smacked the French consul with a flyswatter in 1827, triggering the dispatch of the French navy to invade, occupy, and colonize Algeria. In this case, however, Clinton's implied threat was not invasion, but rupture of relations. She not only took Netanyahu to task for insulting Biden and risking damage to the bilateral relationship, but according to reports she also outlined specific demands within the context of peace negotiations with the Palestinians that the government of Israel needs to implement, lest it find itself friendless.

Here, the Obama administration needs to tread carefully and act wisely or it risks the collapse of its entire "new and improved" Middle East strategy. It is appropriate to ask the Israeli government to take steps to prevent freelancing by individual ministers on matters of national significance -- especially one like Shas interior minister, Eli Yishai, who is supposed to carry broad government responsibility as a deputy prime minister -- and to give additional meaning to Israel's oft-stated commitment to negotiate in good faith. On all these issues, there are reasonable steps the Netanyahu government can take to allay any lingering concerns in Washington about a crisis of confidence.

At the same time, the U.S. administration needs to avoid demands that undermine the very purpose of the Biden visit, that resurrect the overreach of the first six months of the administration, and that threaten the reordered strategic priorities that have been a salutary course correction for Obama administration Middle East policy. It would be shortsighted for the administration to use this episode as an opportunity to reward the Palestinians -- who, after all, have been unenthusiastic about American requests for negotiations for months -- or to accept Palestinian arguments that "proximity talks," rather than direct negotiations, are an appropriate forum for substantive give-and-take. And it would be an analytical blunder for the administration to believe that this incident is an opportunity that could precipitate Netanyahu's political demise: after all, this government -- or another with him at the helm -- is an accurate reflection of what Israeli politics these days is all about.

The key for a great power is to know the difference between thinking big and thinking small. The vice president's mission to Israel was an expression of the former. Even accounting for the Israelis' grievous blunder that marred Biden's visit, it is important for the administration not to let itself be diverted from this path.

Robert Satloff is executive director of The Washington Institute.