Saturday, November 20, 2010

Stealth power


The F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter is now at the center of a security package offered in exchange for a new moratorium on settlement construction.

When the gray-haired man entered the Lockheed Martin aircraft assembly plant in Fort Worth, Texas, last May, the workers thought he was just another corporate executive. His suit, tie and slightly British accent seemed to fit the mold.

The man was then given the opportunity to do something that most visitors do not have when visiting the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) assembly line – sign his name inside the cockpit of a plane.

Taking a black marker, he leaned inside the cockpit and wrote on the interior wall: “Maj.- Gen. Ido Nehushtan, OC Israel Air Force: Go!” The last word was basically Nehushtan’s way of urging Lockheed Martin and the US Defense Department to move forward as quickly as possible with the development and production of the advanced fifth-generation stealth fighter, which Israel is counting on as at strives to retain its qualitative military edge in the region. On October 7, Nehushtan’s dream finally came true with the signing in New York of a contract, valued at $2.75 billion, for the sale of 20 F-35s to the IAF. The planes will begin to arrive in 2016 or 2017.

“Having the F-35 in Israeli hands will boost our deterrence,” Nehushtan said after the signing. “We also believe that the F-35 will improve Israel’s ability to retain air superiority and strengthen its ability to carry out its missions.”

Nehushtan knows what he is talking about from experience. In 1976, after completing his first year in the IAF’s Pilots’ Course, Nehushtan watched as the first four F-15s arrived, making this the first country outside the US to receive the new plane. At the time, all other countries in the region were flying third-generation aircraft made in the Soviet Union. The F-15 was a generation ahead.

“Until then the IAF was operating planes that were comparable to the Russian planes, but then the F-15 came and in a dogfight between an F-15 and an older Russian plane, there is no question that the F-15 had the advantage,” he told The Jerusalem Post in an interview last year.

“The moment the plane arrived, it boosted Israel’s deterrence. A plane that is advanced and is of a new generation has strategic significance and boosts our deterrence. It is therefore important that we are the first in the Middle East to get the F-35.”

THE COUNTRY’S LOVE affair with the F-35 – now at the center of a security package offered in exchange for a new moratorium on settlement construction – began in the early 1990s with the birth of the JSF program in the Pentagon, which was searching for a plane of the future that would replace the F-16, the backbone of the US Air Force’s fleet. The idea was to create a plane that could be used by the US and its allies and enable interoperability among different countries in future missions. By having other countries invest in the development, the Pentagon was also succeeding in offsetting some of the costs.

Seven countries joined the US in the program – the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, the Netherlands, Norway, Italy and Turkey. Israel was offered to sign on as a full partner at the cost of about $150 million, but due to a number of considerations – a mixture of economics and concern that its know-how would make its way to unfriendly hands – it declined.

In 2003, though, it decided to pay $20m. to join the program as a security cooperation participant which enabled it to review the plans for the plane but without a say in its development or configuration.

Many officials today look back at the decision to turn down the offer to join the program as a full partner as the original sin.

“Had we joined the program as a full partner, we would have been able to avoid the ups and downs we had with the Pentagon over the integration of Israeli systems into the plane, since we would have had a say on how the plane was built,” one senior IAF officer told the Post recently.

And ups and downs there were.

In 2005, Israel’s observer status in the JSF was revoked after the US accused it of upgrading the drones that Israel Aerospace Industries had sold Beijing several years earlier. Defense minister Shaul Mofaz reached an agreement with the US later in the year which allowed Israel to return to the project but placed restrictions on local defense industries in selling weaponry to China and eventually saw the resignation of Defense Ministry director-general Amos Yaron.

But this was not the end of the problems. As talks were renewed over the type of configuration of the plane the IAF would receive, the Defense Ministry was told by the Pentagon that no changes would be allowed to be made.

“This was against the way we had bought planes throughout our history,” the IAF officer explained. “Every plane we bought was unique, since we were able to add our own indigenous technology to it to provide it with the edge that we need to retain our air superiority in the region, and here we were told take it or leave it.”

While Israel was promised that it would be the first country in the Middle East to receive the plane, judging from history it could not count on being the last. Egypt also flies F-16s and Saudi Arabia flies F-15s as well. For this reason, Israel had to ensure that its unique technology would be installed on the aircraft.

ITS DEMANDS FOCUSED on three main issues – that it be allowed to install its own electronic warfare (EW) systems, that it be able to work with its own radar and communications systems and that it retain independent maintenance capabilities.

All of these demands went against the Americans’ vision of the deal.

The installation of the systems was said to be impossible since the US was not willing to provide access to the computer’s mainframe, deemed top secret even for close allies. Independent maintenance was also rejected since the idea behind a “Joint” strike fighter was that all of the partners work together. Part of this meant establishing regional maintenance centers – such as the one expected to be built in Italy – where all partners could send their planes for repairs.

Israel, however, refused to accept no as an answer.

“How could we accept such a condition with the possibility that in a future war, a country in Europe would say we are boycotting Israel and won’t let the IAF repair its planes?” a top officer from the IAF’s Materiel Command, which is responsible for weapons systems and technology, asked. “We need complete independence.”

Israel claimed that it required its own electronic warfare systems since it could not rely on the American systems. This demand was a result of the Yom Kippur War, before which Israel had received the US’s most advanced EW systems, which had been used successfully in Vietnam just a year or two earlier. The systems, though, were not configured for the daunting Soviet-made SA-6 surface-to-air system which wreaked havoc on IAF jets.

That war and the reliance on the US system taught the IAF an important lesson. “When it comes to EW we have unique challenges, and therefore can rely only on ourselves and our own systems,” said the officer.

The demand that it be allowed to install its own communications system also made sense for Israel, which uses a different communica-tions network than the US. Had it not been allowed to change the system, it would either be forced to change its entire current network or not buy the F-35.

In the end, the US proved to be more flexible than initially anticipated and in the negotiations – ahead of last month’s signing – Israel had most of its requests approved. In other cases, the Americans agreed to set up a joint logistics team with the IAF which will continue to work through issues as they come up throughout the production phase.

For example, with regard to the EW, the IAF received permission to insert its own parameters for operations within the Middle East into the American EW system already installed on the plane. At a later stage, it is also possible it will be allowed to connect an “add-on” EW piece to the one already installed.

“There is no question that in the beginning the answer we received was that this is the way the plane comes and there is no changing it,” the officer said. “As we began working together with the Americans, they became more flexible over time.”

But there were many other considerations along the way, including demands by defense the production of the plane and ultimately its high price tag of around $130m. apiece. If Israel accepts President Barack Obama’s offer to receive another squadron of F-35s for free as well as other security and political benefits in exchange for a three-month freeze, it will be as if it is paying $65m. per plane.

AT ONE POINT last year, some circles within the defense establishment recommended that the IAF back down from the F-35 and consider alternatives such as Boeing’s new F-15 Silent Eagle, which is not completely stealthy but is said to have a fairly low radar signature.

For Nehushtan, though, the F-35 was more than just a plane. Yes, it will give superior military capabilities, but just as important is the boost it will provide to deterrence.

“The fact that Iran and other countries will know that our planes can fly into their territory without them even knowing about it is a powerful message in of itself,” he has been known to say.

The fact that Israel will be the first foreign customer to receive the aircraft is also a demonstration of America’s commitment, some argue, to its security and its qualitative military edge in the region.

But this is not as straightforward as it appears. While the IAF will begin receiving at least 20 F-35s sometime around 2017 – and possibly 40 if it accepts the US’s current offer – other countries in the region are also arming themselves at an alarming pace.

In September, the Obama administration unveiled unprecedented plans to sell Saudi Arabia $60 billion worth of the most-advanced military platforms, including 84 F-15 fighter jets, 70 Black Hawk helicopters and 60 Apache attack helicopters. Egypt is also purchasing new F-16s from the same block as the latest IAF F-16s came from.

Israel told the Pentagon that it understands the importance in selling advanced military platforms to moderate Arab countries, particularly in light of the Iranian nuclear threat and the realignment taking place within Gulf states.

On the other hand, Israelis are concerned with the possibility of a future regime change in either or both of these countries. There is concern that what happened in Iran in 1979 could one day happen in other countries in the Middle East.

The Americans’ counterargument was that if the US doesn’t sell the equipment to these countries, Russia likely will. Secondly, by selling the planes, the US reserves for itself a certain degree of control over their use since the countries will be dependent on it for spare parts and maintenance.

While there is some truth to these arguments, Israelis point to the sale of F-4s to Iran in the 1970s. Despite sanctions imposed on Iran and an embargo that has been in place since shortly after the 1979 revolution, the Iranian air force continues to somehow get its hands on spare parts.

But while Israel is concerned with the arrival of additional F-15s in Saudi Arabia, possibly of even more concern is that the proposed deal includes Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAMs), basically freefall satellite-guided smart bombs that can be fired from a standoff position of dozens of kilometers.

The problem, one senior IAF officer explained, is that unlike other weapon systems, the JDAM does not need to be “driven” by the pilot to its target.

“Our pilots are better trained than Saudi pilots,” he said. “But even an untrained pilot can drop a JDAM and accurately hit a target dozens of kilometers away.”

What Israel can take comfort in is that the Saudis are not getting the most advanced JDAMs currently in use in the US and Israel, like the version of the bomb that adds a laser seeker to its nose and gives it the ability to engage moving targets.

Nehushtan had fought hard in his previous job as head of the IDF’s Planning Division to prevent the sale of JDAMs by the Bush administration to Saudi Arabia. In June 2007, he flew with Amos Gilad, head of the Diplomatic-Military Bureau at the Defense Ministry, to voice concerns about the proposed sale for to top Pentagon officials.

It remains to be seen what impact the Saudi deal will have, although one thing is increasingly clear – the power balance in the region is shifting and Israel’s qualitative military edge is no longer as obvious as it once was, even with the F-35.

The Reason There is No Palestinian State Today: Arafat

Barry Rubin - The Jerusalem Post

On November 11, 2004, Yasser Arafat died. US president Bill Clinton explained why he wouldn’t attend Arafat’s funeral: “I regret that in 2000 he missed the opportunity to bring [Palestine] into being…” Not Israel, but Arafat did so.

Today, the Arafat era’s lessons have been largely swept under the rug: his persistent mendacity, use of terrorism, cynical exploitation of an “underdog” posture to garner sympathy and unfailing devotion to the dream of wiping Israel off the map. The placing of that last priority over creating a Palestinian state is why there is none today. Not Israeli policy, not settlements, but the preference for total victory over compromise. At Arafat’s funeral, one of his lieutenants, Saeb Erekat, proclaimed: “Give him the honor he deserves!” Let it be so. As the editorial in The Times of London put it, he was the man who “threw away the best chance in a generation for an honorable settlement to the Middle East conflict.” In The New Yorker, David Remnick accurately wrote, “Rarely has a leader blundered more and left more ruin in his wake.”

Yet too, perhaps, as never before in modern history, have so many relentlessly airbrushed away a leader’s career of faults and crimes. What was especially remarkable in so much of the coverage and discussion was the virtual erasure of a career in terrorism which had spanned 40 years. There were no scenes of past carnage shown; no survivors or relatives of his victims interviewed. In political terms, his dedication to the elimination of another state and people, consistent use of terrorism and rejection of peace were thrown down the memory hole of history.

The time lines for Arafat’s life prepared by both the BBC and the Associated Press omit any mention of terrorist attacks and skip the fatal year 2000 altogether. In its time line the Associated Press only invokes the word terrorism to claim that Arafat had “renounced” it in 1988, though this had not prevented the PLO from committing scores of attacks–usually with Arafat’s blessing–thereafter.

Arabs, who knew him and his history better, were more critical. An article surveying Arab reaction in Cairo’s Al-Ahram concluded that most Arab officials’ private reaction was one of “relief.” They said he had been an obstacle to achieving peace “largely for the sake of his own glory” and called him a man “too self-centered to really care about the misfortunes of his own people.” Not a single interviewee expressed a word of sorrow.

At the time of Arafat’s death, his people still did not have a state, a functioning economy or the most elementary security after following his leadership for 35 years. Much of that situation remains the same today.… At the time of his death he was more popular in France, where almost half the population saw Arafat as a great national hero, than among his own people. In a June 2004 poll, only 23.6 percent of Palestinians named him as the leader they most trusted.…

Since Arafat’s death, most of the leadership of Fatah and the PA has made clear their interpretation of Arafat’s legacy was the need to fight on for total victory, no matter how long it took or how much suffering or lives it cost. One Palestinian leader recalled that when, in 1993, he had reproached Arafat for signing the Oslo Accords, Arafat replied that by making the agreement, “I am hammering the first nail in the Zionist coffin.” Actually, though, Arafat biggest achievement may have been hammering the last nail into the Palestinian coffin.

The writer is director of the Global Research in International Affairs Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs Journal.

Friday, November 19, 2010

"So Far, Nothing"

Arlene Kushner

And let it remain so!

What is being touted as minor glitches in the negotiations between Israel and the US with regard to the "freeze" deal are actually much more. And so the talking goes on and on. All day yesterday, I had this "any minute now" sense, even as I was picking up conflicting reports that were indicative of the gaps between the two sides.

Yesterday, Haaretz reported that:

"According to a US official, 'If the moratorium deal goes through, we will continue to press for quiet throughout east Jerusalem during the 90 days,' regardless of what Netanyahu is telling his coalition partners. 'So whatever Bibi is telling [the] Shas [party] to reassure them about U.S. policy on east Jerusalem is not true.'" Shas is said to be demanding specific commitments up front from our government in terms of Jerusalem building projects for those 90 days. May they stand strong!

Now, today, I have read that there is haggling over the issue of the stealth jets Israel is reportedly to receive -- with regard to when we would receive them and whether they would be a gift or would carry a substantial price tag. (No wonder I have had difficulty in reporting.)


What I have been pondering is why the difference in interpretations: Did Hillary (a model of duplicity) actually say things to Netanyahu that the US is now backing off from, or did she imply subtly and allow him to draw inflated conclusions (perhaps not imagining that Israel would demand the promises in writing), or did Netanyahu willfully exaggerate at home in order to sell the deal (the possibility I actually consider least likely since he's demanding the deal in writing).


Netanyahu came away from his meeting with Clinton sounding like a high school cheerleader. Reading his words -- Wow! this is great, we're going to be able to come to the table and make peace now, or something akin to this -- made my stomach hurt. I felt then and still feel that he cannot believe this. I am absolutely convinced -- unless he is sinking into a very early senility -- that he knows with certainty that the Palestinian Arabs can not, do not want to, make a peace deal. So why all the eagerness?

The conclusion I drew (and please, Netanyahu-haters, don't write to me!) is that, whether it is actually the case or not (I would say, not), he believes he is being clever by playing this game of eagerness. It's not all caving, it also suggests something of that well-known Netanyahu brinksmanship. There are reasons why he may see it important to appear eager to negotiate peace: He is determined, I suspect, to demonstrate to the US and the world at large that it is the other side that is obstructionist. The problem, of course, is that the US and the world at large don't really care -- they find a way to put the onus on us anyway.

However, it is very possible that Netanyahu is acting as he is at least in part because of the specter of Palestinian Arab unilateralism -- which would mean the PLO requesting that the Security Council declare a Palestinian state on the '67 lines. He does not want the Arabs to be able to say that they had to do this because Israel would not negotiate. I further suspect that he might be counting on the PA/PLO to either refuse to come to the table at all, or to sabotage talks early on, so that there is no actual danger of having to negotiate away our state. Very dangerous stuff, if this is the case. But less dangerous than if he truly had reached the point at which he himself wanted to give away our state.


All this theorizing aside, I am grateful that our prime minister at least is holding out for a written deal (although in the end I fear he may settle for more ambiguity than is wise), and that he says the deal must enhance Israeli security.

I am far more grateful for the right wing, nationalist members of the Security Cabinet who know better than to trust the US and thus make the written agreement necessary -- the agreement that, I trust, will never properly materialize and will make it all fall apart.


Caroline Glick, in her column today, "Facing Our Fears," echoes my supposition about Netanyahu:

"According to sources close to Netanyahu, it is his fear of US abandonment at the Security Council that has convinced him to capitulate so profoundly..."

But she says this about the deal Netanyahu made with Clinton:

"Secretary of State Hillary Clinton must have given Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu quite a reception. Otherwise it is hard to understand what possessed him to accept the deal he accepted when he met with her last week.

"Under the deal, Netanyahu agreed to retroactively extend the Jewish construction ban ended on September 26 and to carry it forward an additional 90 days.

"Clinton’s demand was 'Not one more brick' for Jews, meaning, no Jew will be allowed to lay even one more brick on a home he is lawfully building even as the US funds massive Palestinian construction projects. The magnitude of this discriminatory infringement on the property rights of law abiding citizens is breathtaking."


Glick refers to the huge mistake of agreeing to start negotiations with the issue of borders (separating it out from the rest). In point of fact, this is last thing that should be negotiated, because once we should agree to certain borders that would be the point at which the PLO could walk away from negotiations and tell the Security Council that Israel has agreed to a state defined by these lines.


Glick's conclusion:

"Netanyahu made a horrible deal with Clinton.

"Leaders like Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya’alon have acted as patriots by actively opposing it. It is true that the Obama administration could help us if it wanted to. But it doesn’t want to. Happily, Israel has the power to help itself, if it dares."

Read her entire article to understand what she sees as the way for us to help ourselves.


JPost editor David Horovitz, writing today, observes, "Before we can even get to grips with the complexities of dealing with the Palestinians, we find ourselves head-to-head with Washington, locked in tense negotiating sessions where previously we were locked in step."

And Ruby Rivlin (Likud), Speaker of the Knesset, observes, "Today we find ourselves facing an American administration that does not see as a basic point of reference the moral responsibility for the existence of Israel...There is definitely a new American perception that does not see Israel as a strategic asset in the Middle East for both the United States and the free world."

These are hard realities that we Israelis, first, must accept and cope with in strength, but that American Jews and all American supporters of Israel must also deal with.

Do we have supporters in Congress? Absolutely. Magnificent supporters. But the Obama administration's approach to Israel is adversarial and hostile.


Would that I had time to discuss other issues now. But Shabbat comes in very early indeed.


© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.

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Thursday, November 18, 2010

Harper and Obama on Israel

Isi Leibler
November 18, 2010

Having recently visited the US and Canada, I was left with a feeling of profound disquiet concerning the starkly contrasting attitudes toward Israel displayed by the leaders of these two neighboring countries.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has unquestionably emerged as Israel's greatest friend in the world, effectively assuming the role previously occupied by former Australian prime minister John Howard. Harper's principled approach to Israel was demonstrated in an extraordinary address he gave in Ottawa to an interparliamentary conference for combating anti-Semitism. Courageously dismissing the traditional political correctness expressed by many liberals, who feel obliged to distance themselves from the Jewish state, Harper made it clear that under his leadership Canada would not "pretend" to be impartial on Israel even if that meant facing negative repercussions at the UN and other international organizations.

He said that the persecution of Jews had become a global phenomenon in which anti-Semitic ideologies targeted the Jewish people in their "homeland" and perversely exploited the "language of human rights to do so." He stressed that "while Israel is the only country in the world under attack, is consistently and conspicuously singled out for condemnation, I believe we are morally obligated to take a stand.

"I know this because I have the bruises to show for it, that whether it is at the UN or any other international forum, the correct thing to do is simply to just go along with this anti-Israeli rhetoric, to pretend it is just about being evenhanded, and to excuse oneself with the label of ‘honest broker'... There are after all, a lot more votes in being anti- Israel than taking a stand.

"But as long as I am prime minister, whether it is at the UN or anywhere else, Canada will take that stand, whatever the cost. Not just because it is the right thing to do but because history shows us that the ideology of the anti-Israeli mob tells us all too well, that those who threaten the existence of the Jewish people are a threat to us all."

Canada was in fact "punished" for its support of Israel when it was ignominiously defeated by Portugal, an almost bankrupt country, in its attempt to obtain a seat at the UN Security Council. All 57 seats of the Organization of the Islamic Conference opposed the Canadian nomination.

For some, Canada's defeat under such circumstances will be viewed as a badge of honor. But what made Canada's defeat even more outrageous was the role of the US. According to Richard Grenfell, a former press officer with the US mission to the UN, "US State Department insiders say that US Ambassador Susan Rice not only didn't campaign for Canada's election but instructed American diplomats to not get involved in the weekend leading up to the heated contest."

David Frum, a speechwriter to former president George W. Bush, also noted that "the US government has kept awfully quite about the suggestion that it went missing during the Security Council vote."

The US betrayal of its neighbor and long-standing ally is a chilling indication of the depths to which the Obama administration has stooped in its efforts to "engage" and appease Islamic and Third World rogue states.

Having joined the appallingly misnamed UN Human Rights Council dominated by dictatorships and Islamic nations, the US is now beginning to reap the harvest from this flawed policy. This was exemplified this month during the council's first "universal periodic review of human rights." In a session where US representative Esther Brimmer told the group that "it is an honor to be in the chamber," Cuba described the US blockade of Cuba as a "crime of genocide"; Iran, a country which stones women for adultery, urged the US "to combat violence against women"; and Libya complained about US "racism, racial discrimination and intolerance."

IN THE midst of this and despite repeated assurances concerning the "unbreakable bond of friendship" between the US and Israel, Obama is continuing to flex his muscles by beating up on Israel. Yet, his Middle East policies, which run counter to American public opinion, have failed disastrously, with US approval levels in the Muslim world even plummeting below 2008 levels.

Obama's most recent assault on Israel was conveyed from his childhood home, Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia, the largest Islamic country in the world, which he praised as a model of tolerance worthy of global emulation.

While compared to Arab standards, Islamic Indonesia may be relatively tolerant, the president overlooked the recent opinion polls, in which 25 percent of the population expressed confidence in the leadership of Osama bin Laden, and that between 2004 and 2007, 110 Christian churches were closed due to pressure from local governments. In January of this year, 1,000 Muslims burned down two churches in Sumatra.

Needless to say, Indonesia does not recognize Israel, bans Israeli aircraft from flying over Indonesian territory and denies entry visas to Israeli citizens. It is especially galling that from such a country, Obama again saw fit to distance the US from Israel and aggressively condemn the Jewish state for building homes in the exclusively Jewish suburbs of its capital Jerusalem.

We must ask ourselves what endgame the US administration is pursuing. Obama knows that former prime ministers Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert offered the Palestinians everything and that they still refused to reach an accommodation because their ultimate objective remains the delegitimization of Jewish sovereignty. What they now seek is a non-demilitarized state based on the 1949 armistice lines to provide them or other Arab states with a launching pad to attack and destabilize Israel. Not surprisingly, the Europeans are more than happy to accept such a state of affairs. It would thus be catastrophic for the Obama administration to stand aside and enable this process to eventuate.

Yet, all indicators suggest that the Obama administration is determined to capitalize on Israel's international vulnerability. Despite the absence of any response from the Palestinians or the Arab world to Israel's 10-month settlement freeze, the US has literally bludgeoned Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to breach his undertaking to the people of Israel and renew a settlement freeze, including areas that will undoubtedly remain in Israel.

Although on the surface the US appears to be offering incentives to Israel to persuade it to accede to its requests, anyone reading between the lines recognizes that nothing new is being offered. The exercise of the veto in the face of UN resolutions demonizing Israel and offering to maintain Israel's security needs have been fundamental tenets of the relationship between Israel and the US. In reality, Obama issued an ultimatum to Netanyahu by threatening to abandon Israel unless it capitulates to his demands.

Many of us today yearn for an American president who would be more considerate of our needs than the present incumbent. It would perhaps be an impossible dream to have someone of the caliber of Stephen Harper leading the US, but alas, today, we are becoming increasingly reconciled to the reality that the US president is no friend of Israel and is paving the way for an imposed settlement with potentially disastrous long-term repercussions on the security of our nation.

This column was originally published in the Jerusalem Post

US official says letter detailing freeze deal being drafted


"It was always envisioned that there would be a letter...we are nailing down the specifics," senior US official says; “Jerusalem is outside of the discussion on this issue,” Netanyahu’s office states.

The Obama administration is drafting written diplomatic and security assurances to Israel to persuade Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's government to renew a freeze on West Bank settlement activity, a senior US official said Wednesday.

"It was always envisioned that there would be a letter detailing our understandings," the official said. "We are nailing down the specifics." Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was hopeful on Wednesday night that negotiations with the US over a written incentives package in exchange for a 90-day settlement freeze will soon be completed.

The US document would reflect the understandings reached between Netanyahu and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at their meeting last Thursday in New York, the Prime Minister’s Office said.

“If the American document is designed according to these principles, it will be an excellent agreement for the State of Israel,” the Prime Minister’s Office said.

Opponents of a renewed freeze have speculated that when the document arrives, the wording will be so vague as to allow the US to renege on any of its commitments.

The document, government sources said, would likely state that this 90-day freeze would be the last.

Earlier in the day, government officials clarified that Israel’s ability to continue Jewish construction in east Jerusalem during that 90-day period would be understood, but not spelled out in the document.

“Jerusalem is outside of the discussion on this issue,” Netanyahu’s office said.

Already during the Netanyahu-Clinton meeting last week, this was understood.

Israel had consistently said that it would continue to build in Jewish neighborhoods of east Jerusalem, Israeli officials added.

The Shas party’s expected abstention from the security cabinet vote on the proposal – a stance that is critical to its passage – is linked to its understanding that the document would clarify that east Jerusalem construction is not included in the settlement freeze.

On Wednesday, Netanyahu and attorney Yitzhak Molcho spoke with the two Shas ministers in the security cabinet, in an attempt to shore up their support for the freeze. Molcho was also at last Thursday’s meeting with the Americans and has been among the Israeli negotiators with the US.

Israel has continually explained to Washington that east Jerusalem is part of Israel’s united capital and that it does not intend to halt construction there, Israeli officials said.

The Palestinians have insisted that all Jewish construction must be halted both in West Bank settlements and in east Jerusalem before they would agree to return to the negotiating table.

The US is looking to Israel to impose a 90-day settlement freeze in hopes of convincing the Palestinians to resume peace talks.

Many in the international community do not distinguish between West Bank settlements and east Jerusalem Jewish neighborhoods. US policy has been more ambiguous, but it has still frowned on Jewish construction in east Jerusalem.

Israeli officials said they expected the document detailing the incentives package for the 90-day freeze to state clearly that it would be an extension of the previous moratorium on new settlement construction, which the government had imposed from November 26, 2009, to September 26, 2010.

That moratorium did not include east Jerusalem, and east Jerusalem would not be included in the proposed 90- day extension of that freeze, the Israeli officials said.

The nuance of this portion of the agreement is important, the officials said. Netanyahu is therefore waiting to see the language in the US document detailing the incentives package, before he brings it to the security cabinet for approval, the officials said.

It is also expected that the US-penned document would clearly state that Israel was not expected to impose another freeze of settlement construction, the Israeli officials said.

Late on Wednesday night, a number of media outlets speculated that the US document had arrived and would be brought to the security cabinet possibly as early as Thursday.

On Wednesday, when quizzed on the matter by reporters in Washington, Clinton said, “I can’t get into details. I can only repeat what I have said, that we are in close touch with both the Israelis and the Palestinians. We’re working intensively to create the conditions for the resumption of negotiations that can lead to a two-state solution and a comprehensive peace, because we continue to believe strongly that it is only through negotiations between the parties themselves that all final-status issues can be resolved and the conflict ended, because the current status quo is unacceptable.”

In addition to setting the terms of the 90-day freeze, the document is also expected to confirm that for one year, the US would oppose Palestinian efforts toward unilateral statehood at the United Nations. The US is also expected to confirm its promise to give Israel 20 advanced F-35 fighter jets worth $3 billion, when they become available in several years.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

"Crazy and Farcical, Part 2"

Arlene Kushner

The other day, the PA commemorated the sixth anniversary of the death of Yasser Arafat. In the course of ceremonies in Ramallah, PA president Mahmoud Abbas pledged to continue in Arafat's footsteps until the Palestinians achieved an independent state with Jerusalem as its capital, the refugees were able to return to their homes, and all prisoners were released from Israeli jails.

“There will be no negotiations with settlements,” he declared. “The Arab city of Jerusalem, including the holy sites, is an integral part of the 1967 occupied territories. "Everybody knows that Jerusalem was occupied in 1967 and that any solution that does not include Jerusalem is not a solution.”


Please note carefully that he refers to the "Arab city of Jerusalem." Jerusalem. Not eastern Jerusalem. It's the whole that they are after.

What is more, they are after everything over the Green Line, plus "return" of refugees to within Green Line Israel. There is no compromise. No intention to compromise. Actually, Abbas boasted about the fact that Palestinian goals have not changed since 1988. These goals include, of course, the ultimate destruction of Israel. There was no pretense about this in 1988, which was pre-Oslo. And now he allows for no moderating shift since the advent of Oslo.

And yet, and yet, Obama and company are seeking to get this man and his cohorts -- who, in praising Arafat, are praising an unrepentant terrorist -- to sit down with Israel at a negotiating table and make "peace" within a year, with much of the issue of borders resolved within three months.


My friends, if this is not both crazy and farcical, I do not know what is.

Nor is it the end of the insanity. Caroline Glick, in her piece,"What the Palestinians Buy with American Money," explains:

"Two weeks ago, a Palestinian from Bethlehem was arrested by the US-financed and trained Palestinian Authority security forces. He was charged with 'carrying out commercial transactions with residents of a hostile state.'

"No, he was not buying uranium from Iran. His purported crime was purchasing wood products from an Israeli community located beyond the 1949 armistice lines.

"Denied bail by the US-funded PA magistrate's court in Bethlehem, he has been remanded to custody pending the conclusion of his trial.

"This man's arrest is part of what the unelected, US-supported Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad has touted as his 'National Honor Fund.' The goal of this project is to ban all economic contact between Palestinians and Jews who live and work beyond the 1949 armistice lines. As far as the supposedly moderate Fayyad is concerned, those Jews and Israel generally comprise the 'hostile state,' that the Palestinians under Fayyad's leadership are being compelled to boycott.

"...Fayyad's measures come on top of previously enacted PA measures like imposing the death penalty on Palestinians who sell land to Jews. Less than two months ago, the PA reaffirmed that it will continue to execute any Palestinian who commits this 'crime.'

"There is no way to credibly claim that these actions advance either the cause of peaceful coexistence or Palestinian economic prosperity. Yet it is precisely in the hope of advancing these goals that the US government funds the PA.

"Despite his campaign to boycott Israel and punish Palestinians with economic ties to the Jewish state, Fayyad is the US's favorite Palestinian. Since PA President Mahmoud Abbas appointed Fayyad to lead the rump Fatah government in Judea and Samaria after Hamas took over the Gaza Strip, US aid to the PA has increased by more than 700 percent. Most of this aid has gone to propping up Fayyad.

"The US directly finances his budget. It funds and trains a Palestinian military. And it subsidizes his programs to build governmental institutions that loyally carry out his anti-Israel policies.

"Last Wednesday, during a joint press conference with Fayyad, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced the US will give the PA an additional $150 million in aid to supplement the $400 million in financial assistance that President Barack Obama pledged in June. This supplement comes in response to Fayyad's claim that he needs $500 million to close his budget shortfall.

"According to the Congressional Research Service, the PA is the largest recipient of foreign assistance in the world. According to Bloomberg, it received $1.2 billion in 2009 and will receive $1.8 billion by the end of the year. (Emphasis added.)

"...Finally, the simple truth is that it is impossible to prevent US budgetary assistance to the PA from financing Hamas, in contravention of US law. Each month Fayyad transfers funds to Hamas-controlled Gaza to pay the salaries of PA employees there. Fayyad has argued that this assistance cannot be considered material aid to Hamas, since the employees are employed by the PA. But this is nonsense.

"These employees serve at the pleasure of Hamas. Paying their salaries contravenes US law as well as international law, which prohibits states from providing any assistance whatsoever to areas controlled by terrorists."

Our "partners for peace," nobly aided by our "ally" America. Please do share this information from Glick broadly. People do not know...and they need to know.


But in the midst of all of this, there is an island of sanity, and her name is Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. Slated to become the Chairperson of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs in January, she has already voiced criticism of the current situation:

“Sending U.S. tax dollars to the Palestinian Authority to help them cover their budget shortfall is a bailout, plain and simple.

“It is deeply disturbing that the Administration is continuing to bail out the Palestinian leadership when they continue to fail to meet their commitments, under international agreements and requirements outlined in U.S. law, including dismantling the Palestinian terrorist infrastructure, combating corruption, stopping anti-Israel and anti-Semitic incitement, and recognizing Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state.

“So long as Palestinian leaders keep being financially rewarded by the U.S. unconditionally, they will have zero reason to change their ways and truly commit to peace. It is long past time to hold Ramallah accountable.”


The stalemate has not been broken.

Today came and went and there was a meeting of the Security Cabinet here in Israel, but the proposed freeze was not on the agenda. Netanyahu is still waiting for something from the US in writing, and the longer it takes, the more doubts those on the fence have regarding the wisdom of counting on US promises, written or not. Shas, in particular, is under pressure in this regard. In point of fact, there is now a report -- that we can only hope is accurate -- from a member of Shas who says that faction head Eli Yishai has come out explicitly against the freeze and has indicated that he will inform Rav Ovadiah Yosef and other members of the Shas faction of his position.

The stumbling block for the US seems to be the verbal commitment Clinton made to Netanyahu that there would be no US request for additional freezes. The Palestinian Arabs are not exactly on board with this.


There is no guarantee what tomorrow will bring. But I close here with a look by Arutz Sheva at the lengths to which State Department spokesman JP Crowley went just yesterday to avoid saying anything on the matter of written guarantees to Israel:

"In Tuesday’s daily press briefing that turned into a game of 'dodge’em,' reporters badgered...Crowley to answer, 'Are you prepared to give them [Israel] a piece of paper that outlines what you’re willing to do to get them back to the table?'

"Crowley replied, 'We’re prepared to do everything that we can to create the conditions for both the Palestinians and the Israelis to have confidence to return to direct negotiations.'"

And so it went:

"Reporters...opened the session by asking a simple question: 'Have you sent them this proposal? Crowley replied, 'I am not going to get into specifics as to where we are. We’re trying to encourage both sides to get back into negotiations.'

"...from another reporter: 'Look, the Israelis have come out and said they’re not going to vote on this tomorrow in the cabinet because they’re waiting for a written proposal. I fail to see how it would affect the negotiations if you say that yes, you’re willing to consider giving them something in writing.'

"Crowley’s’ repeat performance: 'We want to get them back into negotiations. We’re trying to create the conditions to do that.'

"Frustrated questioners tried again: 'A piece of paper, whether you’re willing to write something down on a piece of paper is not the substance – is not substantive…I’m just asking if you are willing to give them something written down.'

"Again Crowley answered, 'We will do everything that we can to encourage the parties to get back into negotiations.'

"The journalists made one last college try: 'Do you think you can do that without giving them a piece of paper?'

"Crowley’s answer was different this time. He said. 'It’s a very good question,' as everyone laughed.

"In Jerusalem, no one is laughing."


© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.

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"Between Crazy and Farcical"

Arlene Kushner

I wish to thank everyone who yesterday contacted those members of the Security Cabinet who are tending towards either voting for the renewed freeze or abstaining, but might still be convinced otherwise.

If you haven't sent your messages yet, please do so! And emphasize the need for the US promises to be in writing -- especially when contacting the Shas ministers. (More on this below.)

There seem to have been some problems with the e-mail address of Eli Yishai (of all people!) and I had hoped by today to have secured a new address, but have not been able to. Please, even if you are in the US, if you have access to a fax machine, fax him: 02-666-2909. dditionally, I have been provided with a new fax number for Yuval Steinitz that may be more effective than the one I had yesterday: 02-569-5335. (With thanks to Judith N.)

One last "housekeeping" matter. Whatever your sincere passion for these events (and that passion is acknowledged!), I ask, please, that you never include my original posting in the e-mail message you send to members of the government. It undermines the purpose of your message, rather than strengthening it.


The title of today's post is most appropriate because the current situation has spun out into a situation that is unreal. I do not intend to belabor it all: we'll see what happens in due course. But what we've got now is the following:

[] The Israeli government is waiting for the US government to put in writing what Clinton told Netanyahu verbally.
I suggest that Israel might have to wait a long time.

Yesterday, when State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley was asked about the commitment (made by his boss!) to provide Israel with an additional 25 fighter jets, he said:

“We are committed to maintaining Israel’s qualitative edge in the region – but beyond that, I’m not going to comment.

"I would just always caution that any time you have reports about specific things, some details may be right, some details may be wrong.”

Not an encouraging sign of US sincerity. But then, to expect US sincerity would be foolish. (More on this follows.)


Perhaps US officials were under the impression that Netanyahu and company were gullible enough to simply take Clinton's word for whatever was said. But this is not the case. Netanyahu said clearly that he would not bring the proposal to the Security Cabinet until it was finalized in writing. What is more, what is written must "reflect the understandings reached during...talks with Hillary Clinton in New York."

Trying to pass this through the Security Cabinet on the basis of a verbal commitment only would likely be a losing proposition, in any event. Yishai spoke about abstaining if there were written promises from Obama. And the more MKs and ministers opposed to the freeze have focused on ways in which the US has reneged in the past on guarantees, the more uneasy the government has become with regard to proceeding without everything in writing.

[] At the same time, the PA is screaming, "It's not fair!" If they agree to come back to the table even though we won't freeze building in Jerusalem, they say, they want guarantees and a package of additional assistance from the US as well. According to YNet, Palestinian Arab sources told al-Quds al-Arabi in London that commitments from the US would be forthcoming, and that they are waiting.

Of course, the fact that the Palestinian Arabs say so, does not make it so, and we must keep this in mind. But there seems no doubt that their feathers are ruffled by what it has been reported the US is ready to promise Israel, and there is every reason to believe that they are demanding something additional of the US.

At any rate, what is being said is that there would be diplomatic and financial aid provided to the PA by the US, as well as a promise that borders would be set in three months. That, of course, is an impossible promise to make.


With it all, it is also being said that the Palestinian Arabs don't feel confident that they'll get enough additional from the US, and thus they want to consult with the Arab League -- with the idea of going to the Security Council still on the table. Abbas apparently cancelled a meeting with a US diplomat yesterday. What is more, while US diplomats say they are keeping the PA apprised of the "freeze proposal," PA officials are saying they're being kept in the dark.

A charge has been made by one Israeli official that the discontent on the Palestinian Arab side is keeping the US administration from finalizing the proposal to Israel. Tension between Israel and the US has been reported with regard to the Israeli demand that everything be in writing. According to this official, the US would like to water down the original understanding -- removing the promise that no further freeze would be expected of Israel -- in deference to Palestinian Arab demands.

And it has gone even further: According to the JPost, "sources close to the issue" are reporting that the Palestinian Arabs are refusing to come to the table even if Israel extends the freeze. The Palestinian Arabs don't want to come to the table -- they want everything handed to them without concessions -- and they cannot be happy with a situation that entices Israel to smooth the way to that table.

How convoluted this all is! Has Obama figured out yet how far over his head he is? Probably not.

I make only one prediction here: However this ends up, Israel will be blamed, somehow.


Minister Uzi Landau (Yisrael Beitenu) is one of the clearest-thinking and most straight-talking people in the government. I want to share, straight from Arutz Sheva, what he said in an interview today with regard to this whole mess:

"...the United States doesn't just want a three month extension, said Landau. When asked why he was opposed to so much benefit for 'only' three more months of a building freeze, Landau responded, 'Israel has failed to learn from the past. President Obama is ignoring previous promises, also written in a letter, that President Bush presented to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Those promises, too, were portrayed as a great diplomatic achievement.

"'All the American promises share a similar characteristic – they lack specifics, and are not carried out if they are found to be damaging to American interests.' That was the case with the 2003 letter Bush presented Sharon, ostensibly recognizing Israel's right to retain the 'settlement blocs' in the event of a deal with the PA; in the end, that American promise has been rescinded by President Barack Obama because he has decided it is in American interests to do so.

“'Here too, with the Obama promises, we must see the structure of the deal – and you see that the Americans are demanding that we come to a full agreement with the PA in order for the benefits to kick in,' Landau explained. 'You only get the benefits in the event of a final-status agreement – only when everything is over.' Given the history of Israel-PA negotiations, the likelihood of that happening is 'very low,' he added.

"Perhaps even worse, Landau said, the understandings between Israel and the United States – which included American opposition to a unilaterally declared PA state – are apparently no longer extant, and have instead been turned into a 'sword of Damocles,' to be held over the head of Israel.

“'Until now, it was understood that the U.S. would veto' sanctions against Israel, or a non-negotiated settlement of the Middle East conflict. Apparently that has changed, Landau said. 'the veto was promised and taken as a matter of fact, as long as progress was being made and negotiations were continuing. No "gestures" were required to expect it. Now, the American veto is being used as a threat against our negotiators, pressuring them to surrender our positions. If in a year there is no deal – and it's unlikely there will be – the threat will descend like a sword on our heads, and the U.S. will blame us' and vote against Israel, Landau said."


© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.
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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Eric Cantor Flexes Muscles for Israel

Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu

Jewish Republican Representative Eric Cantor met last week with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and promised him that his party will act as a “check” on the Obama administration.

The unusual meeting offers a strong hint that U.S. President Barack Obama will find Congress taking a more assertive role in foreign policy towards Israel. Cantor is set to become the majority leader in the GOP-controlled House of Representatives. "Eric stressed that the new Republican majority will serve as a check on the Administration and what has been, up until this point, one party rule in Washington," according to a statement from his office. "He made clear that the Republican majority understands the special relationship between Israel and the United States, and that the security of each nation is reliant upon the other."

Although not unprecedented, the one-on-one meeting drew strong criticism from anti-Israel circles. The Atlantic, which routinely criticizes Israel, wrote on its ”Daily Dish” that the meeting is “a legitimate scandal worthy of far more attention. When dealing with foreign policy and climate change, Republicans believe in trying to deliberately sabotage the position of the U.S. government. The same is true of U.S. policy towards Iran…. Now it's true of U.S. policy towards Israel, too.”

The “liberal" Op-ed news site posted an article by Saman Mohammadi, a university student, currently living in Toronto, who wrote under the headline, "Cantor, Thy Name is Traitor.”

The Virginia Congressman met with Prime Minister Netanyahu at the Regency Hotel in New York City, along with National Security Advisor Uzi Arad and Israeli Ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, according to the Politico website.

Cantor "reiterated his belief that compromise between Israel and the Palestinians can only be achieved through direct negotiations between the parties,” according to a statement from his office. He also urged the Obama administration to "make it absolutely clear that the U.S. will veto any effort by the Palestinians" to seek recognition of their state by going to the United Nations.

"Eric has a longstanding friendship with Prime Minister Netanyahu and appreciated the opportunity to catch up last evening.”

Veteran observer of U.S.-Israeli relations Ron Kampeas wrote on a blog on the JTA website that the meeting and statement were "an eyebrow-raiser. I can't remember an opposition leader telling a foreign leader, in a personal meeting, that he would side, as a policy, with that leader against the president." Cantor's office later disputed his analysis.


Likud rebels cast doubt on US pledges, warn of party split


J'lem committee cancels discussion of 1,000 new homes; Begin slams Netanyahu for not honoring promises; Clinton hails PM’s ‘serious effort.’

While the US on Monday heaped further praise on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu for moving toward a renewed settlement freeze, ministers and other hardliners from his Likud party stepped up their campaign to block it, going so far as to suggest that some of the ostensible US incentives may not hold true.

Diaspora Affairs Minister Yuli Edelstein told The Jerusalem Post that he and other Likud skeptics are not convinced that, despite assurances to the contrary, the US will give its support in writing to continued Jewish construction in east Jerusalem or to a commitment that the mooted 90-day freeze would be the last such moratorium on new construction in the settlements. Furthermore, Likud rebels are warning, an American promise of a guaranteed one-year US veto in the Security Council against any Palestinian moves to unilaterally seek statehood, rather than representing a benefit for Israel, constitutes something of a threat, since it opens the door to the possibility that, after the year is over, the US might in fact support Palestinian unilateral moves.

Meanwhile, the Jerusalem Regional Planning Committee has removed from its agenda discussions on more than a thousand housing units in the Gilo neighborhood set for Tuesday. The municipal spokesman refused to draw a link between the change of agenda and any political considerations, and stressed that the city is a city like any other, with ongoing bureaucratic issues pertaining to its natural growth.

In Washington, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told reporters that she was encouraged by Netanyahu’s moves to push the freeze through the cabinet.

“This is a very promising development and a serious effort by Prime Minister Netanyahu,” Clinton said.

“We’re in very close touch with the Israelis and the Palestinians, working intensively to create the conditions for the resumption of negotiations that can lead to a two-state solution and comprehensive peace in the region,” she said.

The US wants the resumption of talks on all final-status issues, she said, and added that “the status quo is unacceptable.”

In remarks marking the start of Id al-Adha, the Muslim festival of the sacrifice, Netanyahu said, “We are trying to renew negotiations with our Palestinian neighbors and to advance peace agreements with other Arab nations.”

But even as Netanyahu tried to sway opposing cabinet members to support the agreement he is hammering out with the US, MKs from his own Likud Party met in the Knesset on Monday to stop him.

Those present included: Edelstein, coalition chairman Ze’ev Elkin, Danny Danon, Yariv Levin, Tzipi Hotovely, Miri Regev and Haim Katz.

They agreed to formulate a “lightning campaign” intended to sway Shas not to abstain in the vote on the deal when Netanyahu brings it to the 15- member security cabinet.

Shas has made its planned abstention from this cabinet vote – an abstention that would likely give Netanyahu a narrow majority in favor of the freeze – dependent on an explicit commitment to increased building in Jerusalem throughout the period of the freeze, and in key West Bank settlements following the moratorium’s conclusion.

Danon told the Post that he had written a letter to Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef in which he called upon the rabbi to “check if it is really true” and to “ask to see in writing” American commitments regarding continued building following the end of the proposed three-month moratorium.

The anti-freeze Likud MKs believe that the two Shas ministers with votes in the security cabinet are leaning in opposite directions, with Interior Minister Eli Yishai tending toward opposing the freeze and Construction and Housing Minister Ariel Attias leaning toward supporting it.

The Likud opponents also want to erase Netanyahu’s narrow margin of support among the seven security cabinet members who are expected to support Netanyahu when he brings the deal to a vote.

Although Minister-without-Portfolio Bennie Begin did not attend Monday’s Knesset meeting, he gave the freeze opponents a strong boost on Monday evening when he broke two days of silence to denounce the intended move.

“Government promises must be followed through,” said Begin, in reference to his own pledges and that of Netanyahu that the first freeze on new construction, which ended on September 26, was a onetime deal.

Begin, who is believed to be the man who can best rally the party’s right wing, told Channel 2, “One should have been able to anticipate the actions of recent days, and if they weren’t taken into consideration in advance, that is strange to me. Someone needs to offer some explanations.”

Edelstein said that in speaking with cabinet members, “We decided that the main effort will be directed in the next two days to try to convince Likud ministers and MKs that nobody can sit on the fence on this issue.”

Edelstein, the only minister to attend the meeting, said the antifreeze campaigners would try to have as many Likud ministers and MKs as possible sign a letter voicing their opposition to the freeze.

“I think that this is a very bad situation for the Likud,” Edelstein responded when asked if his party could split over a second freeze.

“The participants in the meeting aren’t some extreme elements that infiltrated the Likud. These are Likudniks. And if they remain bitter and disappointed, it would be very serious for the party. I would not want to be the one who has to organize and rally the faction around major issues after we go in to a freeze.”

Should efforts to block the freeze in the security cabinet fail, the Likud MKs promised that they would consider more serious sanctions against the coalition, including boycotting key votes in Knesset committees.

Meeting with the deputy chairwoman of the German Bundestag in Jerusalem, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin also voiced discomfort with the proposal.

“The freeze has created a serious argument in both the Knesset and the Israeli public. The possibility that Israel will stand alone before the UN Security Council without an American veto creates a new situation in the Middle East, and that must be examined in a long-term perspective,” Rivlin said.

“Israelis now wonder: What will happen next time that there is a disagreement with the Americans? From now on, will every step that Israel takes be measured against the threat of the Americans rescinding their veto?” Separately, Jerusalem’s Local Planning Committee removed from its agenda for Monday a discussion of the request of a contractor to change the designation of a plot of land from a hotel to apartments.

The plot in southern Jerusalem, which lies between Beit Safafa and Gilo, has already received approval for a private entrepreneur to build a hotel. He recently decided that he’d rather build three apartment buildings instead.

The Local Committee made its agenda for this Monday public last Thursday, a few hours before the marathon New York meeting between Netanyahu and Clinton.

The municipality released a statement saying the committee is bound by law to discuss such a request, which was likely to be denied since the city encourages the construction of hotel rooms, as the capital has a shortage of them.

On Monday, the request was removed from the agenda. The municipality said in a statement that this was done “to examine the ramifications of changing the plot’s designation from a hotel to private living units, in light of the city’s policy on this issue.”

A spokesman for the municipality denied that the committee might have removed the topic from the agenda to prevent unwanted hubbub in the current politically tense environment, and stressed that there has never been a construction freeze in Jerusalem.

Monday, November 15, 2010

"Voicing Our Protest"

Arlene Kushner

It's time, my friends, to let those who would vote for the new proposed freeze hear from us. Every effort at every level has to be made to stop this.

Under no circumstances communicate in hostile or argumentative terms. Be polite and make your case succinctly and clearly.

Where it is possible, faxes are more effective than e-mails.

From N. America, for faxes, dial 011-972, drop the zero of the area code 02, and continue as given.

There is no time to waste: Act on this, please! without delay. he proposal -- once it is finalized -- will be brought to the 15-person Security Cabinet for a vote, which is expected to be very close.

Some on the Security Council are "lost causes": they will never vote against the freeze. There are four people who are key -- people who might, or should have the inclination to vote against it, people who are not inherently left-wing by any means, but who will cooperate with the prime minister for political expediency or narrow interests of one sort or another.

The first two people are the Shas representatives in the Cabinet. Faction head Eli Yishai has already said that he will abstain from voting (which shifts the count automatically, as he would vote against if he voted) if there were massive building in Jerusalem and a promise from Obama that certain specific communities in Judea and Samaria would be permitted to build after the freeze.

Eli Yishai (Minister of Internal Affairs and Deputy Prime Minister)
Phone: 02-640-8408 or 02-640-8407
Fax: 02-666-2909

Ariel Atias (Minister of Housing)
Phone: 02-640-8338
Fax: 02-649i-6713

Remind them that they are religious members of the government and have a responsibility to protect the land. Let them know that you are counting on them to vote with their conscience to protect Eretz Yisrael. Implore them not to abstain, but to cast votes against the new freeze in Judea and Samaria.

Then two members of Likud must be contacted.

Yuval Steinitz (Minister of Finance)
Phone: 02-649-6115
Fax: 02-649-6579

Gideon Sa'ar (Minister of Education)
Phone: 02-640-8319
Fax: 02-649-6578

Let them know how saddened and deeply disappointed you are by reports that they will support the freeze. Implore them to put political considerations aside and to vote their conscience, opposing a new freeze on building in Judea and Samaria.


As I have indicated, the proposal has not been finalized: details are still being ironed out. Thus it is theoretically possible (I know, it's a bit of a stretch) that in the end Netanyahu will not be satisfied with that final agreement. It is worth the effort, I think, to let the prime minister know how alarmed you are with what is being proposed, and to implore that -- in order to protect Israel's genuine best interests -- he not bring it to the Security Cabinet. Remind him what horrendous pressure he will be under to resolve borders with the Palestinian Arabs within 90 days. And let him know that his coalition will be at risk.

Prime Minister Netanyahu
Fax: 02-670-5369

E-mail: and also (underscore after pm) use both addresses


Numbers matter. Pass this message to others, please. Particularly in Israel this is important -- send out e-mails and post this on blogs read in Israel. Where it is possible, share this with religious Sephardi voters in Israel, as this is the constituency that Shas represents. Such persons, writing to the Shas members of the Cabinet, should let them know who they are, and that they vote and would be most distressed if Shas did not actively oppose the freeze.

The real secret, of course, is to get to Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef, the presumptive spiritual head of Shas.

There is a great deal of activity being promoted by those in the Knesset, the government, and organizations representing the Judea and Samaria communities, to stop the second freeze from happening.


Because the proposal is not finalized in writing, different versions have been reported in different places. I want to correct one matter that I apparently got wrong yesterday. As to a second set of 20 fighter jets, presumably they would be given to Israel, not sold.

There is a proviso, however. Uzi Landau, in an interview with Army Radio today, makes the very important point that just because the US promises doesn't mean the American government will deliver on the promise. He referred in particular to a US promise to then-PM Barak in 2000 to provide Israel with $800 million in cash if we pulled out of Lebanon. Where is that money? asked Landau.

I noticed, as well, that some of what the news is referring to is uncomfortably vague, with wording such as "the US will take into consideration," which, in the end is no assurance at all. All the talk about allowing Israel a presence in the Jordan Valley and promoting Israel's security interests is uncomfortably amorphous and means nothing.


Yoram Ettinger has written an important piece examining just this problem:

"President Obama stridently disavows President Bush's understandings - with Israel - concerning sustained natural growth construction in Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, as well as – supposedly - future Israeli sovereignty over "settlement blocs" in Judea and Samaria. What does such a disavowal bode for the credibility and durability of President Obama's promises to – and understandings with – Israel?!

"The discussion, in Jerusalem, of Obama's proposed commitments in return for the continued freeze of Jewish construction in Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem (while Arab construction is at an all time high!) reflects miscomprehension of the US political system, ignores lessons from past US commitments and guarantees...

"...An examination of past US commitments, guarantees and treaties highlights three critical attributes: 1. Non-Specificity, vagueness and ambiguity, intended to facilitate non- implementation. 2. Non-Automaticity which is a platform for delay, suspension and non-implementation. 3. Non-Implementation if implementation harms US interests. For instance, the NATO treaty as ratified by the Senate commits the US only to consider steps on behalf of an attacked NATO member, "as it deems necessary," "including the use of armed forces." Also, in 1954, President Eisenhower signed a defense treaty with Taiwan; but in 1979, President Carter annulled the treaty unilaterally with the support of the US Supreme Court and Congress.",7340,L-3967569,00.html

You might want to allude to Israel's inability to trust American promises in the communications to the five people above.


There is, as well, the unease caused by the Obama administration promise, for the next year, to veto efforts by the Palestinian Arabs to unilaterally establish a state via the Security Council. For one year only? Limiting this commitment to one year actually overturns a prior US policy, which was to consistently oppose such measures. And so this is not a "gain" at all. What it does is have the effect of further pressuring Israel to come to a deal within the year.

Something else that might be mentioned in the communications to the five.


As your time allows and as you are inclined, it is also very good to let those in the Security Cabinet who are opposed to the freeze know how grateful you are for their strength and their decisions on behalf of Israel. Urge them to use all the influence they have to convince others in the Cabinet to oppose the freeze. Just a couple of lines to each.

Moshe Ya'alon (Likud -- Strategic Affairs Minister)

Benny Begin (Likud -- Minister without Portfolio)

Silvan Shalom (Likud -- Deputy Prime Minister)

Avigdor Lieberman (Yisrael Beitenu, Minister of Foreign Affairs)

Yitzhak Aharonovich (Yisrael Beitenu, Minister of Public Security)

Uzi Landau (Yisrael Beitenu, National Infrastructure Minister)


© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.

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The bank, the buck and the next war

Bank of Israel chief Stanley Fischer has been buying dollars for two years. While the official reason for this is to boost exports by devaluating the shekel, there are other considerations, which may not bode well for the future

By Aluf Benn

Every few weeks I get a call from an international investment house or a risk-assessment firm. The callers always wants to know if and when Israel will attack the nuclear facilities in Iran.

“You have to understand that this is a critical question for my employers,” one adviser told me. “They need to decide whether to go long or short in oil.”

An Israeli military operation will send energy prices spiraling worldwide, and investors want to decide in advance what the most expedient move would be in such a situation. One investor says he is uneasy about Israeli bonds, which have done well in recent years, and he wants to protect himself against a potential fall should war break out. Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer is readying for a possible war by hoarding vast amounts of dollars. Last month, Israel’s foreign currency reserves reached an all-time high of $67 billion. They have been increasing steadily for the past two years, since Fischer started buying dollars on the open market.

The policy is presented as being aimed at creating a deliberate devaluation of the shekel in order to support Israeli exports. But according to a senior official in the economic establishment, “There are also geopolitical considerations, which do not exist in other countries.” Most countries aim to build up a “security cushion” of hard currency to guarantee their ability to repay debts and finance imports in hard times, he explains, “But because of the geopolitical situation, we have a little more [hard currency] than what the economics textbooks recommend.”

Prime Minister Benjamin visit to the United States this week is likely to rattle the investors and their advisers. Following a long period of quiet on the subject, Netanyahu has catapulted the confrontation with Iran back into the political headlines. He called on the U.S. administration to posit a “credible military threat” against the Iranians, and added that the sanctions as such will not induce Tehran to abandon its threatening nuclear program.

The U.S. defense secretary, Robert Gates, immediately took issue with the prime minister. The sanctions are working, he declared. But the Israeli message was received loud and clear. Netanyahu is trying to influence the agenda of U.S. President Barack Obama, who is looking for another realm to invest his efforts in the next two years, following the Democratic Party’s serious setback in the midterm Congressional elections. Netanyahu wants “Iran first,” but Obama is insisting on “the settlements first.” Obama’s relatively mild response to reports about Israel’s intention to build thousands of new residential units in Jerusalem’s Har Homa neighborhood and elsewhere across the Green Line indicates that he is looking to cut a deal with Netanyahu. The hopes and expectations of the Israeli left – that Obama would come down hard on Netanyahu immediately after the elections – have so far not been fulfilled.

Netanyahu wants to offer Obama a blueprint for an Israeli-Palestinian agreement that can be achieved within a year. In return, he has a few requests: a large-scale security package from the U.S. – not only for the West Bank; the enlistment of additional Arab states in a broad regional settlement that will be signed parallel to the Israeli-Palestinian agreement; and an American demand from the Palestinians to return to the talks, rather than presenting their case before the UN Security Council. Netanyahu knows that before these requests are discussed he will have to give Obama something on the settlements, in order to overcome the obstacle of the construction freeze.

This week’s preoccupation with Har Homa is diverting attention from Netanyahu’s public call for an escalation in the confrontation with Iran. True, he did not urge the Americans to load stealth aircraft with bombs and destroy Natanz. The premier knows this is not the way Washington works: The Americans go to war only in the wake of a provocation by the other side. Accordingly, he made do with a proposal for a “credible military threat.” The fact is, says Netanyahu, that in 2003 the Iranians took fright at the display of American might in the conquest of Iraq and suspended their nuclear project for a time.

In his imagination, Netanyahu sees a replay of the 1962 missile crisis in Cuba. In this scenario, the U.S. imposes a maritime blockade on Iran and the economic stranglehold prompts Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and their colleagues to throw in the towel and drop the nuclear program.

President John F. Kennedy won everlasting glory for the courage and control he demonstrated in the missile crisis, in which the world was closer than ever before to a nuclear catastrophe, after the Soviets installed surface-to-surface missiles on Fidel Castro’s island – a short hop, skip and jump from Miami, Washington and New York, in ballistic terms. Kennedy put his foot down and the Russians backed off and removed the missiles from Cuba (after the U.S. promised quietly to remove its missiles from Turkey ). If Obama can reprise this exercise and get Iran to forgo its nuclear project without firing a shot, he will justify the Nobel Peace Prize he was awarded last year big-time – and earn himself a place of honor in history.

But that scenario is better suited for a Hollywood action movie. In reality, Netanyahu does not trust the Americans to take serious action against Iran. If he truly believed that Obama wanted to put a stop to Iran’s work on a nuclear bomb, he would not be preaching to him publicly about what to do. The prime minister apparently thinks that Washington has reconciled itself to Iran having nuclear weapons capability, and that it intends to contain Tehran by diplomatic means and deterrence, but not to use force. He is disturbed by what he heard about the renewal of the talks between Iran and the big powers, in which the Americans dropped their demand for a complete halt to uranium enrichment in Iran. But the prime minister’s public castigation looks like an Israeli attempt to “wag the dog” and drag America into a war it doesn’t want.

What course of action will Netanyahu take? Will he launch a preventive war against Iran? The risks are great. Accepting an Iranian nuclear capability would place Israel under a dark cloud. Bombing the Iranian facilities from the air, or any other aggressive action that could be identified with Israel, is liable to make the warning issued by the outgoing director of Military Intelligence, Amos Yadlin – who predicted heavy Israeli casualties in the next war – a reality.

If Tel Aviv is assaulted by missiles and rockets, and airlines stop flying into Ben-Gurion International Airport, Israel will suffer a serious economic blow as well. The impressive achievements of the past year – Israel’s high growth as compared to that of the Western economies, the country’s 15th place ranking in the United Nations’ human development index, and Tel Aviv’s third-place position on the “Lonely Planet” list of tourist destinations – will instantly evaporate.

Israel has not recovered to this day from the economic blow inflicted by the Yom Kippur War. Will it take another risk of this magnitude?
Thanks Ted Belman

Sunday, November 14, 2010

"A Decidedly Bad Scene"

Arlene Kkushner

Before I discuss that interminable, yet non-existent, "peace process," I want to go back and provide a link to one more article on Obama in Indonesia. It is too powerful not to share.

Last I wrote on this subject, I provided criticism of Obama by several commentators, because he chastised Israel from a Muslim country. But Daniel Greenfield, writing as Sultan Knish, carries it a great deal further in his blog posting. written on November 9th, called "A Smiling Obama Returns to Bloody Jakarta":

"The media narrative is that Barack Hussein Obama is returning to the place where he grew up as part of a diplomatic tour. The truth is that Obama is visiting a genocidal country and paying homage to its regime, even while many of the atrocities continue. (Emphasis added) "While Obama found time to blast Israel for building housing in Jerusalem, he made no mention of the Indonesian genocide in East Timor. No word about the Indonesian mass murder of between 100,000 to 200,000 people in a country whose population totaled little more than half a million..

"But there is a reason you won't hear about the meat hooks where Indonesian backed militias hung their victims, before mutilating and killing them. You won't hear about the fields of the dead where the corpses of men, women and children were piled into mass graves. You won't hear of the machete squads who hacked people to death in full public view and on video. You certainly won't hear about the ethnic cleansing, the mass deportations, the gang rapes or even the murder of Western reporters. And there's a simple reason for all that.

"Indonesia is a Muslim country. Their victims in East Timor were Christians.

"...But East Timor isn't the end of it. The same Indonesian military is still in business.

"The Kopassus special forces, Indonesia's answer to the German SS, are still out and about. In 1998, Kopassus thugs gang raped hundreds of Chinese women in Jakarta. Some were burnt alive. The victims were as young as 10 years old and some were thrown into burning buildings afterward. The attackers proclaimed to their victims, 'You must be raped because you are Chinese and non-Muslim.'

"And because of that, because the perpetrators were Muslim and the victims non-Muslim, the whole thing was quickly swept under the rug.
"The Kopassus forces are still up to their old game. Their enemies list has leaked and its top target for assassination is Reverend Socrates Sofyan Yoman, the head of the Baptist Synod in West Paupua. The Deputy Commander of Kopassus, Colonel Nugroho Widyo Utomo, is a war criminal. This is the organization that America will be providing aid and training to-- under the authorization of the Obama Administration. These are the Muslim war criminals that we will be helping to become better killers and more efficient monsters. (Emphasis added)

"Recently cell phone video footage of Indonesian forces brutally torturing West Papuan natives surfaced, but this hasn't halted the resumption of US military cooperation with Indonesian forces-- or put a stop to Obama's visit.

"And once there, Obama did not challenge Indonesia on its continuing occupation of West Papua. Nor did President Yudhoyono ever utter a word of regret. But Yudhoyono did have the unmitigated gall to pressure Obama on an independent Palestinian Muslim state. Because unlike the Christians of East Timor and West Papua, or the Chinese women of Jakarta-- Muslims actually matter.

"In response, Obama bragged about a new partnership between America and the Muslim world, and condemned Myanmar [where there was violence], while making no mention of the situation in New Guinea. Or acknowledging that he standing on the bloody soil of a regime that had committed genocide and shrugged it off... (Emphasis added)

"And that denial pervades everything the administration does. In Mumbai, the Jakarta street kid spent ten minutes talking about the terrorist attack, without once mentioning the identity of perpetrators. His only mention of Muslims was as "victims" of the attack. That Muslims had perpetrated the attack remained unspoken."

Prime Minister Netanyahu has returned home from meetings in the US with Vice President Biden and Secretary of State Clinton, and the only thing that remains unclear is the extent to which he caved. That he did cave is without question.

He apparently hopes to be able to reinstate a 90-day freeze in building in Judea and Samaria. If he does not, it will not be for lack of his trying but rather because of the refusal of his 15-person Security Cabinet to go along with it.

The deal under consideration is not finalized and there is nothing in writing. As Netanyahu put it: "[the proposal] is undergoing a consolidation process on both the US and Israeli sides. If and when the process is completed it will be brought before the proper governmental forum – the Political Security Cabinet, for approval." (Elsewhere, the Cabinet was cited by the prime minister as the forum to which the proposal would be brought.)

In broad outlines the proposal was presented by Netanyahu to the seven-person inner Cabinet (Septet) last night, and the full Cabinet today.


News has it that this freeze, proposed by Clinton in the course of an exceedingly lengthy meeting with Netanyahu, would not include eastern Jerusalem, but would be retroactive to September 26, when the last freeze ended. That means that anyone who started construction when that last freeze was lifted would have to stop. This alone is sufficient to bring one's blood to the boiling point.

(A clarification to the best of my understanding: This does not mean counting of the 90 days would start from September 26. Counting would begin on the day agreement went into effect. However, when the previous freeze was instituted, construction that had already reached a certain point, with a foundation in and perhaps walls up, was -- at least in theory -- permitted to be finished. In this instance, everything started after September 26 -- even if the foundation were already in, etc. -- would be counted as new construction and have to stop. This would in essence make the freeze a lot more than 90 days and would over-turn the lifting of the freeze on September 27.)

In return, reportedly, we would be given US assurances that no other freeze would be requested subsequent to this three months, the US would veto all PA unilateral actions in the Security Council in the course of the coming year, and similarly would seek to block measures that delegitimize Israel or deny her the right to self-defense. And Congress would be asked by the Obama administration to approve the sale to us of 20 more stealth fighter jets.


Netanyahu, as he presents this, is making a great deal of his care to protect Israeli security. But I tend to view this as political smokescreen.

Aaron Lerner, of IMRA, working directly from Netanyahu's statement at the opening of the Cabinet session, noted that what he said was: "I insist that any proposal meet the State of Israel's security needs, both in the immediate term and vis-à-vis the threats that we will face in the coming decade."

Observes Lerner: "Mr. Netanyahu has children and grandchildren. His only concern is for the next decade?"

What Lerner then determined in the course of the day today was that Netanyahu's reference to a decade of security was repeated in other contexts. And so, wrote Lerner:

"...this reference to ten years is one of Mr. Netanyahu's sound bite policy building blocks.

"...And it is a very disturbing policy sound bite. Because policy sound bites typically reflect more than a few minutes of thought.

"So here we are, with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu saying that the test of a deal is if it can be expected to be viable for only ten years.

"This should be taken as a warning to any cabinet member or MK being asked to support any proposal relating to Arab-Israeli relations that comes through Mr. Netanyahu's office. Anyone, that is, that is interested in Israel's future beyond 2020."

But never mind in ten years: this would be an enormously dangerous arrangement now. At a bare minimum, every time we freeze we weaken the legitimacy of our claim to the land. But it's far worse than this: For, from the US perspective, should this freeze be instituted, the expectation would be that Israel would strike an agreement with the PLO within those 90 days regarding final borders. That's why the US is content to request only 90 days: after that, there would be no argument about where Israel could build without restriction and where all further construction would be prohibited.

An agreement on final borders for a Palestinian Arab state within 90 days????

Imagine, if you will, what sort of pressure we'd be under to come to that agreement.

I remind one and all what Sultan Knish wrote, above. There is no room for doubt as to what Obama's allegiances are and how readily he would pressure us.


There are many voices being raised loudly here in Israel in opposition to a new freeze. Those noted first from within Likud were Silvan Shalom, Gilad Erdan, Yuli Edelstein and Moshe Ya'alon, with Ya'alon calling the US offer a "honey trap." In addition, there are Limor Livnat and Benny Begin -- and others.

Coalition head Ze'ev Elkin (Likud) has stated that he believes the majority of Likud ministers and MKs will oppose this new proposal.

Elkin joined MK Aryeh Eldad (National Union) in sending a letter today to right wing members of the government, asking them to oppose the freeze. Eldad is not optimistic about opposition to the proposal.

The letter called upon MKs to "stand with [its authors] in this testing time, to oppose every additional freeze and to demand a renewal of building as the cabinet decided. No security package can be as worthy as the security provided by the hills and Jordan valley."

Additionally, Danny Danon (Likud), Deputy Speaker of the Knesset, began a round of emergency consultations with key cabinet members.

Yesha Council Chairman Danny Dayan (not to be confused with Danon) said, “The unilateral ten-month freeze accomplished nothing other than to make the notion of freezing the rights of our families to build a pre-condition for peace. If Israel is forced into another freeze, our nation will be entering into a trap where we are already addressing final status issues while the Palestinians have never made even a single concession. ”

Shas, as is its norm, is equivocating. Minister Eli Yishai says he would not oppose the freeze (i.e., would abstain) if building in all of Jerusalem were to proceed immediately, and Obama would agree to write a letter stating that after 90 days building would resume in Maaleh Adumim, Ariel, Beitar Illit, and Kiryat Sefer.

Habayit Hayehudi is solidly opposed to a freeze resumption, but questions hang in the air as to whether this coalition partner would leave the government if it were to pass. (My betting, based purely on what I've seen to date, is not.)

With all of this, ironically, it is not a sure thing that the Palestinian Arabs would come to the table even if a freeze, as described, were reinstituted. Khaled Abu Toameh writing in today's JPost, indicated that a Palestinian Authority official said yesterday that "The US failed to convince Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to halt settlement construction in return for the resumption of peace talks." Allegedly, this came from US Consul-General in Jerusalem, Daniel Rubinstein, who briefed PA President Mahmoud Abbas on Netanyahu's meetings with Biden and Clinton.

In light of Netanyahu's efforts to secure approval for a freeze extension, this seems a bit puzzling. Except for the fact that Jerusalem is not -- at least officially -- included in this proposal.

Today PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat said that the Arab League would be consulted on this. While expressing severe reservations ("they know we have a major problem in not including east Jerusalem"), he said there would be no official PA response until an official US briefing with regard the plan was provided.


More on this and other subjects will follow soon.


© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.

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