Saturday, June 04, 2011

Jerusalem is our home

Op-ed: Israelis willing to give up Jerusalem must undergo serious process of self-examination

Eddie Yair Fraiman
Israel Opinion

Ten measures of beauty descended on the world - nine were taken by Jerusalem, one by the rest of the world. There is no beauty greater than Jerusalem. (Talmud: Kiddushin 49B).

I remember myself standing in front of Jerusalem’s ancient walls, looking up in excitement and awe. I was a boy on a school field trip wandering into another world. Back then, I couldn't truly grasp the great meaning of those shining Jerusalem stones. The deep importance and weight of millennia of Jewish existence in the holy city was particularly poignant for us, citizens of a sovereign Jewish state visiting our capital city. This poignancy wasn't yet clear to me as a young boy. But I felt I was home. This feeling brought me back to live in Jerusalem for my university studies. I couldn't imagine any other option, and I recognized how fortunate my generation is. Jews haven’t always been able to make this simple decision - Aliya, going up to Jerusalem!

For generations my ancestors dreamt of Jerusalem, mentioning her in their prayers from morning till evening and on all of Israel's holy days. The destruction of the Second Temple was and still is remembered at every Jewish wedding- "If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, may my right hand forget itself "- demonstrating with these sacred words that even during their greatest joys, the people of Israel remember their beloved homeland, and deep in her heart, Jerusalem. Reciting these lines, spoken by generation upon generation of Jewish grooms before me, was one of the most exciting and meaningful moments of my own wedding.

In addition to those Jews in the Diaspora, throughout the past 2,000 years there was also a small but continually enduring Jewish presence in the holy city. The Jews of Jerusalem lived as a small minority under the shadow of the city’s heavy walls, which protected them from outside dangers. The walls of Montefiore built for the Mishkenot Shaananim neighborhood testify to both the symbolism of the Old City’s battlements, and the Zionist pioneers’ movement to move and build a modern, shining city beyond them.

After the establishment of the State of Israel, Jerusalem suffered from foreign Jordanian rule and occupation. The Jewish neighborhoods opposite the ancient city walls were subjected to constant Jordanian attack and heavy fire. Only after the Six Day War, when Jerusalem was finally liberated from foreign, unjust occupation, was the Shofar again heard on Temple Mount. Only with the regaining of their sovereignty could the Jews go back and live in their eternal capital city, as could people of every nation and religion.

Born in Jerusalem

However, along with this justified reverence, Jerusalem’s unique position in the world also brings her difficulties. We live in a modern, liberal world where people are driven to underestimate the important values of the past. Too many of us have forgotten the history and Jewish nationality which unite the people of Israel. Today, too many Jews alienate themselves from their past and their own people, choosing to abandon the principles and faith of their forefathers in favor of universal values disconnected from the struggles and beliefs of their grandparents. In doing so, these individuals deny the contribution of those who came before them, and believe instead in foreign values.

Given their abandonment- some might even say betrayal- of their own history and identity, it’s not surprising that some of our Jewish brethren speak up and call on others to leave Jerusalem, to give up our capital, to cut it in half, to divide it or to run away. However, those individuals who are willing to give up Jerusalem need to undergo a process of serious self examination and criticism.

Then there are those people who excuse their leaving Jerusalem because they don’t like one thing or another about the city - the complexity and tension of life in a such a multicultural and often conflicted city, the difficult economic situation faced by many, particularly young secular couples, or the ever encroaching religiosity from the city’s ultra-Orthodox sector.

However, like those who want to give away the city to our enemies, these people ought to open a history book and learn about Jerusalem’s past. They should understand that living in Jerusalem is about much more than simply making your life in one city or another. To live in modern, undivided Jerusalem is to make a choice and a statement about the future of the Jewish people and the State of Israel. To live here is to proclaim one’s place in the history and continuity of the Jewish nation.

In every generation there have been Jews who betrayed their brothers and the people of Israel. In our days these are the fallen weaklings who try to speak nicely to foreigners and the world at large while forgetting their own people at home. They show tremendous concern for foreign workers on the shores of Tel Aviv, and worry about the preservation of terrorists’ rights, but they forget the eternal capital of Israel – and hand it away to the enemy.

Every Jewish woman and man in our generation must ask themselves whether they did enough for Jerusalem. Whether they lived Jerusalem, created in it, built it and brought the Jewish spirit to it. We must remember that we're lucky to be the free generation who builds in Jerusalem!

At least I can be proud of the fact that after thousands of years of my family living in the Diaspora, after thousands of years of killings, persecution, pogroms and Jewish destruction that my family endured – my first child was born in the Jewish people’s eternal capital. On her birth certificate it says: BORN IN JERUSALEM!

Friday, June 03, 2011

More Facts on the Myth of "The Palestinian People"

Michael Brown

My May 28th article, “Five Simple Truths about the Mideast Conflict,” elicited some passionate responses from those on both sides of the debate, with the first point in particular proving to be the most controversial: “There is no such thing as a historic ‘Palestinian people” living in the Middle East.’” Let’s unpack two of the most common responses to that assertion, separating myth from fact. Of course, we know that there are several million people living in the West Bank and Gaza who identify as Palestinians today, and regardless of their historic pedigree, they are human beings with real needs. But when a misleading “history” is presented so as to delegitimize Jewish claims to the Land, the falsehoods must be exposed.

Myth #1. The modern Palestinians can trace their lineage back to the ancient Philistines, who were living in the land of Canaan (= Palestine) long before the Israelites had arrived on the scene.

This is completely false as to any lineal or ethnic connection between modern Palestinians and ancient Philistines.

First, the Philistines were Aegean (or Cypriot) sea peoples who migrated to the southern coast of Israel/Canaan in the 12th century BC. It is unclear what relationship they bear with the Philistines who are mentioned in Genesis, hundreds of years earlier. In short, they were not a Semitic people, as the Israelites and Arabs were. Second, from the 8th-5th centuries BC, they were crushed or ruled by the Assyrians, Babylonians, and Persians, ultimately being absorbed by these populations and entirely disappearing from history. In other words, there was a distinct, end of the line for the Philistines roughly 2,500 years ago.

Third, six hundred years after the extinction of the Philistines, and after putting down a Jewish revolt, the Romans changed the name of Judea to Palaestina (in Latin) in order to discourage Jewish patriotism. So, there is absolutely no lineal or ethnic connection between the (earlier) Philistine people and the (later) land called Palestine. In fact, the Philistines had previously lived in the western part of the country, on the Mediterranean coast, whereas Palestine originally referred to the eastern part of the country, on the West Bank of the Jordan river.

Fourth, some Muslim leaders have claimed that there was a continuous Arab presence in Palestine dating back to Muslim conquests in the 7th century AD. But this dubious claim, even if true , would still mean that the continuous Jewish presence in the land predated the first major Arab presence by at least 2,000 years, and it would also underscore the fact that there is no connection between the later Arabs and the earlier (extinct) Philistines.

Myth # 2. The whole argument about there being no historic, “Palestinian people” is meaningless, since there’s is no such thing as a historic Iraqi people either. Borders were artificially created after World War I.”

This is false, as to the overall argument and only partially true about the artificial borders.

Anyone who knows the history of the modern Middle East will recognize the names of nation-states that did not exist as such before (such as United Arab Emirates). But not all national identities in the Middle East are of recent origin.

There has certainly been an ancient, historic Egyptian people in the region, to the south of Israel, and an ancient, historic Syrian-Lebanese people, to the north of Israel, while the Iraqi people often traced their heritage back to the ancient kings of Babylon as well as to the golden age of Islam that flourished in their region 700 years ago. In contrast, the Arabs living in Palestine had no such national identity because they had no such ancient, historic roots, not to mention the fact that there were dozens of other (non-Arab) peoples living in Palestine, some of whom had ruled the region for centuries.

In the oft-quoted words of the celebrated Arab-American historian and Princeton University professor, Philip Hitti, testifying before the Anglo-American Committee in 1946, “There is no such thing as ‘Palestine’ in history, absolutely not.” And so, if there was no “Palestine” in the pre-1948 Arab consciousness, there was no Palestinian people. The only people living in Palestine who traced their pedigree back to ancient, biblical times and who awaited the restoration of their ancient homeland were the Jewish people.

But why bother with facts? The old myths and lies are so much more effective.

"Tough Going"

Arlene Kushner

Let me start with something good, to fortify:

In September (which is shaping up to be some month!) the UN at its NY headquarters is having a 10th anniversary commemoration of the 2001 Durban conference. That original conference was an anti-Semitic anti-Israel horror, and this commemoration is highly unlikely to be anything other than obscene.

Now we learn that the US will not be participating. Until this announcement, it was only Canada and Israel that had declared intention to not participate.

As a State Department representative put it, the US opposed the "resolution establishing this event because the Durban process included ugly displays of intolerance and anti-Semitism, and we did not want to see that commemorated. "Anne Bayefsky, of Eye on the UN, believes this decision, made at this time -- so many months after Canada had announced its decision -- was made in response to the backlash to Obama's speech calling for a return to the '67 lines.

I don't know if Obama has sufficient clout internationally any longer for this decision to influence other Western nations with regard to participation.


You may remember that just weeks ago, when a group of Bretslav Chassidim went to pray at Kever Yosef in Shechem (Joseph's Tomb, in what the Arabs call Nablus), they were shot at by PA security personnel. Shot, actually, when they were leaving the area, not when entering. Ben-Yosef Livnat was killed and four others were wounded.

The group had gone to pray without securing clearance from the IDF, which would have paved the way with PA security, as the Tomb is in Area A, controlled by the PA. (Never mind that it's a sickening thought, that a Jewish site of sanctity should be controlled by Palestinian Arabs -- who were committed to providing ready access for Jews, but do not.) But the security forces, according to knowledgeable individuals, knew the Bretslav Chassidim and certainly knew that they came to pray and were not dangerous.

The IDF has completed its investigation of the matter and has concluded that the security forces shot intentionally and aimed to kill. Chief of Staff Benny Gantz has said this act was without justification, done when the security forces knew their lives were not in danger.

Gantz has not used the word "terrorism," but a defense ministry official has -- and I do. These guys may be "security," but they are terrorists.

What is more, my best information at this writing is that these forces were US-trained. If and as this is confirmed, I will address this issue again.


The Palestinian Arabs are not going to miss a trick, with regard to their efforts to establish a state in September, and one that will be a full member of the UN, as well.

PA foreign minister, Riad Maliki has said that, if there is a veto in the Security Council, they will seek an emergency session of the General Assembly known as "Uniting for Peace" to override any veto.

What he's referring to is this:

In 1950, North Korean invaded South Korea -- generating a threat to world peace. But there was dissension within the Security Council, with the Soviet Union boycotting, and thus creating a stalemate.

The General Assembly then passed Resolution 377, which established the "emergency special session" framework. It read:

"...if the Security Council, because of lack of unanimity of the permanent members, fails to exercise its primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security in any case where there appears to be a threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression, the General Assembly shall consider the matter immediately with a view to making appropriate recommendations to Members for collective measures, including in the case of a breach of the peace or act of aggression the use of armed force when necessary, to maintain or restore international peace and security."


An emergency session of the General Assembly can be called within twenty-four hours after the Secretary-General has received a request from the majority of the members of the GA. At present, the PA does not have that majority. This is where the decisions of various states that are still on the fence become important.


I was back on the phone today with an international lawyer who serves as a professional source of information for me. He says, yes, the PA is likely to be able to convene an emergency session of the GA. ("Emergency" here simply means a session not regularly scheduled.) But, he says, whatever is decided will be a recommendation and not binding in any event.

He does not believe that the parameters at work at the time of the Korean War are applicable in this case. Put simply: a decision about a Palestinian state having membership in the UN does not exactly qualify as constituting a threat to international peace.

He makes this judgment because he's speaking with a legal mind, rationally. But can we be sure that the UN will not decide that a Palestinian state is so important that denying it "rights" constitutes a threat to world peace? At the UN, which panders to the Palestinian Arabs, anything is possible.

What this will depend upon is the readiness of a majority of the states to bend or break the rules. The president of the GA has already made a statement indicating that if the Security Council vetoes, there is nothing the GA can do. And the illegality of GA action on a Palestinian state is what the letter signed by international jurists that was sent to the Secretary-General addressed. So the Palestinian Arabs do not have it all wrapped up.

One last note: Maliki talks about overriding a veto. In any event, I do not believe this is possible. What the General Assembly could do, at most, would be to recommend that the Security Council reconsider the matter.


Knowing full well that it isn't all wrapped up for them, the Palestinian Arabs are trying other tactics at the same time.

Riyad Mansour, who represents the PA at the UN (observer status), has now said that they are ready to take to the streets, and follow in the footsteps of the Tunisians and Egyptians.

"I need to mobilize the largest number of forces, whether [on] the ground or [on] the political front...we have other tactics that we can use in order to flex additional muscles in order to make it very, very difficult for anyone to obstruct our effort."

It's my opinion that the mere fact that he can make such statements is prima facie evidence that the Palestinian Arabs do not deserve a state. A responsible governing party does not threaten violence at every turn -- especially when peaceful alternatives are at hand. But who's going to notice this?


We are all familiar with the claim made so often by Obama that the Arab states are concerned about establishment of a Palestinian state. Does this sound as if the Arabs care about the situation of the Arabs in PA areas:

In a press conference yesterday, PA prime minister Salam Fayyad said the PA is experiencing a financial shortfall. The Arab states, he said, are delivering much less than they committed to. Collectively the PA is receiving $452.5 million a month from the Arab states.


A poll of a representative sample of Israeli adults was carried out by Geocartography Knowledge Group last week for Israel Television Channel One's Politika program. Key results:

66% would oppose any part of Jerusalem going to a Palestinian state

73% would be opposed to international control of the holy places in the context of a peace agreement

67% opposed to freezing construction beyond the '67 line.

You might want to save this to refer to when you hear claims that most Israelis are for dividing Jerusalem for peace.


In ceremonies of Yom Yerushalayim yesterday, Prime Minster Netanyahu shared childhood memories of a divided Jerusalem:

"From Sanhedria in the north to Talpiot in the south, the city was constantly under fire or the threat of fire.

"A scar passed through the center of the city -- of barbed wire, no-man's land, mines, waste -- it was a dump.

" won't go back to a divided city, to a cut and wounded city, because the day Jerusalem was redeemed, the day the city was unified -- the wound healed and the scar disappeared.

There are problems and challenges, but we won't revert to those days."


© 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.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

"Finding Our Strengths"

Arlene Kushner

MK Tzipi Hotovely (Likud) is advancing legislation that would require Hebrew names only -- and not Arabic -- to be used for all Jerusalem neighborhood, on signs and in official Israeli broadcasts.

While this may seem like a small matter, it is not -- and Hotovely is thinking clearly. There is great psychological impact inherent in a name. As she explained:

"In our battle for Jerusalem, it is important to recognize the historic Hebrew roots of the city...

"People say we can give up parts of Jerusalem because we didn't pray to return to Sheikh Jarreh or to Silwan. But we did pray to return to Shimon Hatzadik and to the City of David. "When a neighborhood is called by its correct name, it gives it significance. It's important."

Whether the proposed bill passes or not, we might all take our cue from her.


Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon (Yisrael Beitenu) left for Mexico City today, after which he will travel to El Salvador and a meeting of the Organization of American States. His goal is to counter the Palestinian Arab campaign for recognition of a Palestinian state.

Mexico remains on the fence in the matter, and -- if convinced to not to recognize a Palestinian state -- might have considerable sway over El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Panama.

Another country to be lobbied in this respect is Columbia. Considered Israel's closest ally in South America, this country currently sits on the UN Security Council; there is hope that it might vote with the US against UN membership for a Palestinian state. The US would prefer to not cast a vote in isolation, but to have backing in at least some quarters.


Clarification: There are 15 members of the Security Council, five permanent and 10 additional members serving two year terms. For a state to be approved for UN membership, it must receive nine votes out of the 15, with no veto by a permanent member. The US, alone, can stop the process. The desire to not stand alone is primarily political/diplomatic and not legal.


Meanwhile, the PA's Nabil Sha'ath has announced his plans to visit Mexico and Columbia to promote the Palestinian state.


The argument is being made by the US government that Obama gave his '67 borders speech in order to convince European nations not to support a Palestinian state. And so we see here, too, Obama's eagerness to get other states on board with his position.

But if the cost of stopping recognition of a unilaterally declared Palestinian state is international pressure on Israel to move back to untenable, indefensible lines that deny us basic rights, then I say bring on the unilateral declaration.

This is no favor to Israel.


We have a great deal to cope with in the coming weeks and months:

There has been talk for some time now, especially via Facebook, of plans by Palestinian Arabs to flood across our borders in September, when the Palestinian state is declared, or the vote is brought to the UN.

Now there is additional talk about such an effort in June, to coincide with the Six Day War. Mass rallies are being called for, to begin this Friday, and run through June 7. There are detailed plans for marches on Israel's borders from Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Gaza. Additionally, there will be marches inside Jerusalem by Israeli Arabs to the Al Aksa Mosque on the Temple Mount.

According to a spokesman in the prime minister's office, Israel is ready to use "any means necessary" to protect its border...

"We're prepared for any eventuality, whether by use of the police, army, security forces, Foreign Ministry and of course the Prime Minister's office, to provide a security response to attempts to enter our territory...

"The borders are under our sovereignty and will be maintained, whatever the cost."

The IDF and related forces, having coped with attempts on "Nakba Day" to cross our borders, will undoubtedly be better prepared this time. And when it comes down to it, because the sanctity of borders must be maintained, we will do what is necessary. But one of the goals is to avoid casualties as much as is possible, because provoking massive casualties is part of their goal.


The IDF has learned another lesson, as well. This is with regard to those damned flotillas attempting to break our naval blockade of Gaza. Chief of Staff Benny Gantz says Israel is now prepared for the next flotilla, which may be coming later this month. (Or may be delayed a month or more if they don't have their act together yet.)

The navy -- utilizing commandos from the Israeli Navy Flotilla 13, the Shayetet -- has been conducting training exercises with the air force. Members of the Police and Prison Service who specialize in quelling civilian riots will also be involved.

"We will order the ships to stop, but if they don't we are prepared to intercept and board the ships," a senior navy officer said. There would be a number of "surprises" for the ships participating in the flotilla.

Here, too, action will be taken as necessary, but the goal will be to take the ships without casualties.


I've previously used this video "Our Best Defense," which sings "If I forget you, Oh Yerushalayim," and so yesterday I decided to run something else. But it's still the most moving (brings me to tears) and so I share it as Yom Yerushalayim draws to a close:


Neither would our day be complete without hearing the magnificent late Ofra Haza sing "Yerushalayim Shel Zahav" (Jerusalem of Gold).


© 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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Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Why Borders Matter‏

Barry Rubin

A reader asks whether there are any defensible borders in the modern world because it is possible to fire missiles or rockets across a border.

Well, yes, but even in ancient times it has always been possible for an army to cross–or try to cross–a border. That isn’t what defensible borders means.

Example, rockets can hit Sderot from the Gaza Strip but not hit Tel Aviv because the latter city is too far for Hamas to hit from its side of the border. Can they get bigger ones? Yes but the bigger they are the easier they are to spot and the longer–even seconds count–a defensive missile has for shooting them down. The further the border, the longer it takes for a terrorist squad to get to where there are a lot of people to kill. It’s best to stop them either before they cross the border or while they are on the way.

Geography matters also. It is far easier to attack or shoot downward from the Golan Heights than from the flat plain below. It is far easier to do so also from the Judean Hills. An army holding that terrain has an advantage, even when it comes to firing rockets

It is far easier to cut a narrow corridor like that leading to Jerusalem in the pre-1967 borders and thus surround, beseige, and capture that city than it would be if the border was further away. The same applies to the fact that pre-1967 Israel’s narrowest point is half the width of the Washington Beltway, that’s twenty minutes’ even in driving in traffic. And enemy armies don’t stop at red lights.

Depth of defense is a basic strategic consideration. The deeper your territory the more time and space you have to maneuver and to create multiple lines and defenses, each of which the enemy must face and defeat for advancing.

Israel has a small standing army. Its defense depends on mobilizing reserves, civilians, who must get the word, go to their assigned stations, get their equipment, and go into action. That can be done quickly but it still takes time. And it is much harder to do if attacking forces are within range of their homes, assembly points, and armories.

The reader asking about all of this cites the rather bad example of Muammar Qadhafi in Libya who “cannot defend his borders.” Leaving aside the fact that there’s a civil war going on (his main enemy is inside his borders), of course it is best to have a technological edge and the ability to move quickly. Israel has both of these advantages.

What it lacks, with the 1967 borders, is strategic depth and advantageous terrain.

But isn’t peace better than a good defensive situation?

Of course it is. Not being attacked at all is better than being attacked and winning (I’m sure there are exceptions to that but I’ll leave that for another time.)

Yet that’s precisely the point. It is because Israel CANNOT ASSUME AND HAS GOOD REASON NOT TO ASSUME that an agreement with the Palestinian Authority would lead to lasting peace. This is the factor that is generally left out of Western calculations that simply cannot comprehend Israel’s position on the issues.

Western officials and those talking on television and writing in newspapers call on Israel to rush into a deal–no matter what concessions are needed–because things will get worse. That, like many of the mainstream arguments given about the Middle East, can be demolished in sixty seconds. If things are going to get worse–and they will–any peace agreement would be abrogated by the other side and backfire.

It isn’t a great idea to be a country the size of Delaware surrounded by enemies who daily boast of how they’re going to wipe you off the map, have broken almost all of their previous agreements, and who outnumber you by a ratio of about twenty to one.

How is that hard to understand?

Now, with Iran moving toward getting nuclear weapons; Turkey about to reelect a government dedicated to Israel’s destruction; the Palestinian Authority reincorporating Hamas; Egypt electing a radical and possibly Islamist regime; Hizballah taking over Lebanon; and the weakest, most unreliable, government in Washington within living memory is not the time for Israel to weaken its defenses.

Why don’t we hear that simple truth?

To take voluntarily a bad strategic position in a situation where the probability of attack is higher than at any time in more than 30 years is crazy. Yet this is what much of the world, including the U.S. president, wants Israel to do.

Israel is not going to follow a stupid, self-destructive strategy. If only this could be said of others today!

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center, editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal, and a featured columnist at PajamasMedia His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). The website of the GLORIA Center is

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The conflict isn’t territorial

Op-ed: Deputy PM Ya'alon says Israel must be recognized as Jewish state for peace to prevail

Moshe (Bogi) Ya'alon
Israel Opinion

The key sentence in the prime minister's speech before Congress made it clear that the main reason for the failure of all attempts to secure Israel-Palestinian peace is the Palestinian refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish State; that is, to recognize the Jewish people's right to maintain a Jewish nation-state, the State of Israel, on the land of its forefathers. srael's Palestinian dialogue partner in peace talks is the PLO; all members of this umbrella organization, including Fatah, reject Israel's right to exist, while accepting it (because of the IDF's military power) on the condition that it would be an entity that lacks an ethnic identity – that is, that it will not be the Jewish people's nation-state.

A speech isn’t enough / Ehud Olmert
Former PM Olmert says peace requires bold decisions, will not be achieved through speeches
Full Story
The Palestinians always stress that they are in favor of the "two-state" solution, rather than a solution based on "two states for two peoples." According to Palestinian leader Abbas, the Jews are not entitled to a state. He rejects a connection between the Jews, as a religion, and the Land of Israel, even though he admits to a Jewish presence in Eretz Yisrael in the distant past, as the Koran often refers to it. Indeed, Abbas defines Jewishness as a religion, rather than a nationality.

Ever since the Oslo Accords, the Palestinians have resorted to a series of verbal maneuvers in order to reject Israel's identity as the Jewish people's nation-state, and they have never renounced the return of refugees. This approach is not only espoused by some sly statesmen. It is the main message conveyed to the Palestinian public in general and Palestinian youth in particular, via the media, textbooks, constitutive documents of political organizations, religious authorities and cultural work.

Palestinian maps make no mention of Israel, and the PMW website, which monitors the Palestinian media, shows us the Palestinian leadership, headed by Abbas, beaming while a talented singer promises that Haifa and other areas within Israel will again be part of Palestine. Moreover, Palestinian children are being educated from young age to hate Israel and adore suicide bombers. This is not the way to make true peace. This is not how one prepares for coexistence.

Rockets in response to concessions
Promoting an atmosphere that encourages violence and terror, combined with incitement for hatred of Israel and the Jews, is the reason for the ongoing suffering of the Palestinians rather than the steps adopted by Israel to defend itself in the face of this incitement. An Israeli concession on this matter will prompt the establishment of a hostile (and apparently failed) state near our population centers.

The heart of the conflict with the Palestinians is existential and not just territorial, as proven by Nakba Day events and as the prime minister made clear in his speech. As far as the Palestinians are concerned, the occupation started in 1948 and not in 1967. Hence, Palestinian recognition of Israel as the Jewish people's nation-state is a required condition for viable peace with the Palestinians, although it is not a condition for entering negotiations.

Imparting this realization to the Palestinian public is a condition for implementing a peace deal and will require significant time. We should not delude ourselves and cultivate false hopes.

Past experience taught us that for any territory we gave up in order to move closer to the peace we seek, we got terror and rockets rather than peace. I'm glad to see that more and more Israelis are aware of this danger, and the more united Israel is on this front vis-à-vis the Palestinians and the international system, the higher our chances will be of prompting the Palestinians and the world to address the issue, and as result to secure stable, agreed-upon peace that will meet the national demands of both peoples.

The writer is Israel's deputy prime minister and minister for strategic affairs

Monday, May 30, 2011

"UN Panic"

Arlene Kushner

There is considerable anxiety these days with regard to the threats of the Palestinian Authority (and now the Arab League) to ask the UN, in September, to officially declare "Palestine" to be a state.

Accompanying -- or fueling -- this anxiety is a great deal of misinformation. And so -- having consulted with legal experts here in Israel and done other research -- I will make my best effort to clarify a muddled situation.


What is referred to as "international law" is not nearly as clear or definitive as many people imagine it to be. There are certain written documents of international law. The Geneva Conventions (four treaties and three protocols pertaining to human rights during war) would be a prime example. But technically these apply only to those nations that have ratified the conventions -- that is, that have agreed to abide by their stipulations. Similarly, there is the charter of the UN, the principles of which have theoretically been accepted by all member states.

There is also "customary international law": When a practice is so common that there is a broad international consensus that it is obligatory, it becomes a rule of customary law considered binding upon all nations.

Sometimes, even though a treaty (such as a Geneva Convention) is binding only on signatories, the principles stated within that treaty have been so widely accepted internationally that they can be said to be "customary international law."


This is what we have, broadly, from the perspective of international law with regard to the establishment of a Palestinian state:

The United Nations does not "recognize" or "declare" states into existence. All the UN can do is accept for membership states that are already in existence. (I'll come to this below.)

A state applies to the Secretary-General. The Security Council must then make a recommendation on membership and send that recommendation to the General Assembly.

But we can assume that the application by a Palestinian state would be vetoed in the Security Council by the US. This is close to a sure thing, because this is the principle on which Obama has advanced his policy and his public position: the state of Palestine must be established via negotiations. What is more, Obama is likely to be influenced by Congressional pressure and electoral considerations.

There is considerable talk among the Arabs now about going to the General Assembly for a declaration of statehood, to avoid that Security Council veto, but quite frankly, I don't know what they're thinking. In any event, a declaration of statehood for the Palestinians by the General Assembly would be only a recommendation without weight in international law. This is important to keep in mind.


Here I would like to stop for an aside: It is often said that Israel was voted into existence with the partition of Palestine recommended by the General Assembly on November 29, 1947. This is not the case. The GA, which only makes non-binding recommendations, did no more than suggest or advise that division of Palestine into states for the Jews and the Arabs would be prudent.

Israel came into being with the declaration of independence made by Ben Gurion on May 14, 1948. The Jewish community in Palestine acted in compliance with the recommendation of the GA regarding division of Palestine. But it was the Jewish community and its leadership, acting, that established the state, not the UN.


As to establishing a Palestinian state:

The PA must declare the state into existence. This it can do, independent of all other issues. There are, however, criteria for the establishment of a state that have been established in customary international law (drawing from the Montevideo Convention):

A state must have (a) a permanent population; (b) a defined territory; (c) government; and (d) capacity to enter into relations with the other states.

It is the issue of defined territory that is most problematic.

Originally it was thought that a Fatah-controlled PA would make the declaration in Judea and Samaria. But now formation of a unity government with Hamas is in process. If that government is established, the "state," as it would be declared, would include Gaza.

But beyond this is the question of the border between the PA in Judea and Samaria, and Israel. The talk, of course, is of a Palestinian state to the '67 line. That line was an armistice line between Israel and Jordan in 1949, a line that, according to the terms of the armistice treaty, would not prejudice future negotiations on a final border. The armistice was abrogated in 1967, when Jordan attacked Israel. It is a line without meaning today.

Needless to say, the PA is not in control of all of the territory of Judea and Samaria, from the Jordan River to the '67 line. At most it controls area A, as defined by the Oslo Accords (encompassing the main Arab cities such as Nablus and Jenin -- where the IDF still does operations against terrorists), and partially controls area B.

I spoke yesterday with a lawyer from the Legal Forum of Israel who says the PA cannot declare a state on land it does not control. I have spoken with another legal expert who says they'll declare on all of Judea and Samaria, but will control less.

In other words, they'll do as they please -- undoubtedly, they will declare Jerusalem or part of it as their capital, as well -- regardless of international law.


What would follow next is the recognition of this state of Palestine by other states. The international status, the viability, of this state would be affected by how well recognized it was internationally.

We've already seen recognition by some states -- Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina -- in Latin America, which is interesting, as this has come before the PA itself has declared a state. But in any event it is the recognition of Western democracies that would make a real difference for the new Palestinian state.

What we are looking at is the possibility of recognition by European nations -- and it is these nations that Netanyahu has been lobbying in this regard. The Europeans must be convinced that a unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood would be detrimental to peace in the Middle East and should not be supported.


It is the considered opinion of many, if not most, experts that nothing much will happen on the ground after that Palestinian state is declared. It is a certainty that no international force, UN or otherwise, is going to come in and push us back to the '67 line. And keep in mind that Israel is not going to recognize the state. Israel is highly unlikely to honor the inviolate integrity of this unilaterally declared sovereign state if it is necessary to pursue terrorists, and most certainly will not honor the unilaterally declared border.


The overriding concern with regard to this matter is not with legalities, but with politics. If Israel is perceived as "occupying" part of a Palestinian state, then there may be an increased effort at isolating and delegitimizing the Jewish state -- utilizing boycotts and sanctions. Thus, every possible effort is being made now to make Israel's case within the international community, and to bolster Israel's status. To that end, what Netanyahu just accomplished in the Congress is of enormous importance.

It must be noted as well that whatever I've said about international law, there is a tendency to ignore that law today and take action as it suits various parties politically.


In seeking to declare a state unilaterally, the Palestinian Arabs are hoping to circumvent the "end of conflict" that would come with a negotiated settlement. They are separating peace from statehood. This point cannot be over emphasized, and it is what the international community must understand. If there were a final peace accord, in theory, two states would stand side by side. As it is, they hope to declare their state and still go at Israel until she is no more.


What is more, unilateral declaration of statehood by the Palestinian Arabs represents an abrogation of agreements under Oslo (which created the PA in the first place). It also flies in the face of UN resolutions -- most particularly Security Council Resolution 242 of 1967 -- which call for a negotiated settlement on final borders.


A letter drafted jointly by lawyers of the Legal Forum for Israel and by Ambassador Alan Baker, Director of the Institute for Contemporary Affairs at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, and signed by jurists and international lawyers from around the world is being sent to the Secretary-General of the United Nations.

It addresses the inherent illegality of the adoption of a resolution by the General Assembly recognizing a Palestinian state and its borders, and seems to be a move to block a worse case scenario in which the General Assembly ignores both its own rules and international law.

You can see it in its entirety here:

I would like to share three of the points made in the letter:

"[] While the Interim Agreement [of the Oslo Accords] was signed by Israel and the PLO, it was witnessed by the UN together with the EU, the Russian Federation, the US, Egypt, and Norway. It is thus inconceivable that such witnesses, including first and foremost the UN, would now give license to a measure in the UN aimed at violating this agreement and undermining major resolutions of the Security Council.

"[] While the UN has maintained a persistent policy of non-recognition of Israel's sovereignty over Jerusalem pending a negotiated solution, despite Israel's historic rights to the city, it is inconceivable that the UN would now recognize a unilaterally declared Palestinian state, the borders of which would include eastern Jerusalem. This would represent the ultimate in hypocrisy, double standards, and discrimination, as well as an utter disregard of the rights of Israel and the Jewish People.

"[] Such unilateral action by the Palestinians could give rise to reciprocal initiatives in the Israeli Parliament (Knesset) which could include proposed legislation to declare Israel's sovereignty over extensive parts of Judea and Samaria, if and when the Palestinians carry out their unilateral action."

Again, I point out that such a move by the General Assembly would carry no weight in international law, but might have negative political repercussions for Israel.

As to the last of the points in the letter above: Israel, as the PA, is bound by the Oslo Accords to resolve via negotiations issues of borders and status of territory in Judea and Samaria. Unilateral action is precluded. If the PA were to take unilateral action, it would abrogate Oslo and free Israel to move on annexation of at least Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria.


© 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.

One Day in the Life of an Israeli Hospital

Steven Plaut

The Bash-Israel Lobby has now become a large choir of totalitarian chanting about supposed Israeli “apartheid.” Western campuses are filled with the hate fests of “Israel Apartheid Week.” Friends of Israel attempt to engage the bigots in debate, attempt to challenge their claims. Statistics are ladled out. Facts are cited, documentation is presented. But the libels about Israeli “Apartheid” are notoriously resistant to facts and truth, like mutant bacteria that resist antibiotics. Anyone who knows anything at all about the Middle East understands that Israel is the only country in the region that is not an apartheid regime. I must say that I find the “debates” about Israeli “apartheid” to be boring and wearying. Instead, I would like to offer a simple window into life in Israel and into Arab-Jewish relations inside Israel. It is based on the routine inside an Israeli hospital, where I had the “opportunity” to spend some time recently.

Apartheid? Make up your own mind.

Obviously, this is a country that has no shortage of world-class Jewish medical doctors. The chief physician in my department in the hospital is an Israeli Arab. He did not get his position out of any gesture of “affirmative action,” but rather simply because he is immensely qualified. He leads a team of medical doctors that include Jews and Arabs, as well as similar teams of nurses and other personnel. My personal doctor in the ward is a young Arab. Russian is the third most common language in the ward, after Hebrew and Arabic; many of the best physicians of the one-time Soviet Union moved long ago to Israel.

I notice that many of the younger Arab doctors have picked up basic Russian. Many of them have additional academic degrees, like an MPH, besides their MD. Among the medical students doing shifts in the ward are a small but notable number of Ethiopian Jewish women, first-generation Israelis. An Arab woman student is doing the ECG checkups in the emergency room. As she finishes checking me, I ask her if the machine can tell whether I am in love, and this has her giggling. A young Arab from Haifa is working in the ward as a volunteer. He just graduated from the highly prestigious Arab Orthodox (as in Greek Orthodox) high school in Haifa and is building up his resume as a volunteer to help him get into med school.

I think the most notable feature of life in the hospital ward is the ready and cordial mingling and socializing of everyone, Jews and Arabs, religious and secular, recent immigrants with old-timers, the well-off with the poor. The socializing is not some sort of “social engineering” program initiative, but simply occurs spontaneously and naturally. Patient family members chat amongst themselves, comparing patient histories, offering health tips and advice, suggestions, information about tests and doctors, share foods, assisting one another. Anyone who spends more than 3 minutes with the patients and their families sheds any delusions about any imaginary Israeli “apartheid.” There are no politics on the floor of the hospital ward.

“We will call the orderly to wheel you back to the ward,” says the Xray technician. “No need,” says the elderly Arab man just behind me in line, I will push him back, and we will swap stories along the way. The odor of strong coffee sneaks into my room. I follow it in a semi-trance to the eating area across the hallway. A large Druse family is sitting there, and has brought their own coffee in a large “finjan” coffee pot from the village. The smell of your coffee is already restoring my health and strength, I tell them, and they insist that I sit with them and share a few cups, a bit mystified by my bizarre American accent, especially when I try to say a few words in Arabic.

No one initiates the mingling and mutual support. Even though in ordinary life Jews and Arabs usually move in different social circles, as indeed do subgroups of Jews and subgroups of Arabs, they find nothing strange about being thrust together in the hospital ward. This may be the most difficult part of life in the Middle East to explain to outsiders. All of the passions and politics and political conflict are part of everyday life in Israel. I doubt that anyone, Jew or Arab, changes his or her political notions and loyalties one iota by spending days or weeks mingling socially. They will leave with the same ideological orientations they held before coming to the hospital.

Probably the hardest notion of all to explain is that the Middle East conflict has nothing at all to do with “getting to know the ‘Other’” or establishing personal social ties with members of the belligerent community. As surprising as it sounds, there is no “alienation” or unfamiliarity with the “Other” in Israel. It is apparent from the first moment in the ward. Israeli Jews and Arabs are actually enormously familiar with one another, which is why they mingle so easily in the ”artificial” and alien environment of the hospital ward. They already know the “Other” quite well. I am told there is even more intense mingling among families in the children’s ward, but I simply cannot bring myself to enter the ward to see for myself. I find it too draining emotionally. I can cope with sick adults, no matter how seriously sick, and have even visited people in the worst psychiatric wards, but I am just too weak to come to terms with a ward of sick children.

The presumption that unfamiliarity is what lies behind political belligerence is a Western prejudice and is simply wrong. Most Israeli Jews know some basic Arabic, and Israeli Arabs are so thoroughly immersed in Israeli culture that when chatting amongst themselves it is rare for them to complete an entire sentence without Hebrew words and terms being interjected, when they convey an idea better than the parallel word in Arabic.

There are decidedly different “cultures” of hospital visiting among the different groups. Ashkenazi Jewish families tend to come in small numbers, stay for short visits, and speak in near whispers. Rural Arabs tend to arrive in large numbers, almost the whole village showing up to entertain the patient in near festival tones. Druse also come in large numbers, but tend to divide themselves into shifts, with one team entering the patient’s room as the previous team is relieved.

There are even more clear differences in the “hospital culture of food” among the different groups. Arabs and Druse arrive with large picnic coolers of home-made food from their towns and villages. It goes without saying that their patients should eat home-cooked and not the pathetic excuse for food that the hospitals wards serve up. Invariably the supplies from home include the delightful “finjan” filled with indescribably delicious coffee. The families invite roommates of their sick to share.

Down in the lobby is an espresso bar. It is filled with Ashkenazi yuppie families. There is a Middle East grill where the Sephardic families hang out, and it is also my favorite source for lunch. There are some fast-food joints where teenagers, Jews and Arabs, tend to hang out. Older Arabs however prefer to hang out in the cafeteria eating what they have brought from home, or in small gardens scattered among the hospital buildings.

In a previous hospitalization 11 years ago, I spent the week next to an elderly Bedouin who had been a legendary police “scout” in Israel, solving crimes and exercising near-supernatural powers of forensics. After leaving the hospital I published a book in large part about his life and about Bedouins in northern Israel, “The Scout.” Our families have remained on warm terms since our ordeals.

It is all really the diametric opposite of that old mafia cliché about it being business and not personal. Politics, war, ideology – in the Middle East those are all “business.” But there is no room for business on the hospital ward. To the contrary, everything is “personal.” Relations go well beyond the “correct” to being truly amicable. Such cordiality does not change the background political-national-religious conflict, that which has been ongoing for so many decades. Here is where one begins to understand the Middle East. Do stays of intimate socializing at the personal level in the hospital ward change loyalties, political affinities, ideological passions for those involved when they depart? Not in the least. This is the fundamental “contradiction” that underlies everything in this country.

Consider the following. The Wall Street Journal on May 25, 2011 reported this story: “A Palestinian woman from Gaza arrives at Soroka Hospital in Beersheba for lifesaving skin treatment for burns over half her body. After the conclusion of her extensive treatment, the woman is invited back for follow-up visits to the outpatient clinic. One day she is caught at the border crossing wearing a suicide belt. Her intention? To blow herself up at the same clinic that saved her life.”

Nothing in that news report really contradicts anything in my above descriptions of life in the Israeli hospital ward. It is a pair of ideas about which one needs to wrap one’s mind. It is only when one can digest both that one begins to understand Israel.

This is also the reality of life and of Arab-Jewish relations in the Israel that is being increasingly demonized by bigots, anti-Semites and Israel-bashers as an “apartheid” regime. I would say that a week in an Israeli hospital is just what could cure such people of their “ideas,” but on second thought they would emerge with their hate and bias intact. Israel’s own radical leftists get sick as often as other Israelis and are just as aware of the Jewish-Arab relations of the hospital ward. They too ignore the reality to denounce their own country falsely as “apartheid,” because they are driven by hatred of their country and desire for its destruction.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Judea and Samaria Will Outlive Us All

Dov Fischer

In approximately eighteen months, Barack Obama may well be a lame duck limping to January.

During the same period, more thousands of Jews will continue being added to the population of Judea and Samaria. Since 1967, several powerful world leaders who worked to oust Israel from Judea and Samaria have passed away. During that same period, the Jewish population of Judea and Samaria, including the areas of East Jerusalem liberated in June 1967, has grown to 558,000 -- 230,000 in Greater East Jerusalem and 328,000 throughout the rest of Yesha.

Yitzchak Rabin had an Oslo plan to withdraw from Judea and Samaria, but he was tragically assassinated before it could be advanced. Shimon Peres, Rabin's Labor Party successor, thereupon entered as Israeli prime minister with a higher than 90% poll rating and assured everyone that he would complete the vision of withdrawing. Yet an outbreak of Arab bus bombings wiped out Peres's support, whereupon he lost office to Binyamin Netanyahu. After Bibi compromised on Hebron at the Wye Conference, his stellar polls suddenly plummeted, and he was ousted by Ehud Barak. Barak proceeded to withdraw unilaterally from South Lebanon, creating a vacuum soon filled by Hezbollah, and then to work with Bill Clinton to prepare a complete withdrawal from virtually all of Judea and Samaria. Inexplicably, Arafat turned him down, started an Intifada, and Barak lost the government to Ariel Sharon in a landslide. Sharon soon shifted course ideologically; formed the new Kadimah party; unilaterally withdrew from Gaza, creating a vacuum soon filled by Hamas; and then turned his attention to withdrawing from Judea and Samaria. Suddenly, in the blink of an eye, he sustained a massive stroke that has left him comatose for years.

Ehud Olmert followed Barak with the promise to withdraw from Judea and Samaria. Then Hezbollah terrorists started a war, and Olmert's miscalculations and failures, augmented by the incompetence of a defense minister with no qualifications other than being a socialist union organizer who rose to head the Labor Party, obliterated his authority. Stymied by the scandal of war, Olmert was consumed and further driven from office by financial scandals. Tzipi Livni, the last Kadimah prime minister, was voted out rapidly. And now Netanyahu again.

During that same period since 1967, Richard Nixon presented the Rogers Plan. Nixon has passed on, and Rogers has passed. Gerald Ford and Henry Kissinger tried imposing the "Reassessment Plan." Ford is gone, Kissinger irrelevant. Jimmy Carter has done everything imaginable through a lifetime to advance the cause of Hamas and Fatah sovereignty. Yet, as president, he pushed Israel until he unexpectedly was overwhelmed by 19% inflation, Iranian hostages, a botched rescue mission, and Soviet progression on three continents.

Israel enjoyed some respite during the Reagan years, with her concerns sympathetically grasped by Secretaries of State Alexander Haig and George Shultz. Then George H.W. Bush came in, reached 90% popularity with the Desert Storm and the war in Kuwait, turned his attention to pressing Israel with James Baker as a decidedly unfriendly secretary of state, and even condemned American Jews for lobbying in Washington for Israel. Somehow, his poll numbers disappeared overnight as the economy upended. Bill Clinton came in, made Arafat the most frequent invitee to the White House, and pressed Israel to cede Judea and Samaria -- and yet he saw everything fizzle as Arafat rejected the offers. The Clinton White House soon became consumed with its own survival as repeated scandals began erupting like unquelled acne.

George W. Bush came in, supported Israel initially as no president ever had, and enjoyed stellar poll numbers, even expanding his party's leads in the first bi-elections and then winning reelection. As he turned during his second term to pressing Israel, under his "Road Map" to cede Judea and Samaria, Hurricane Katrina hit, and the American economy, led by bursting housing and banking bubbles, subsequently collapsed overnight, eradicating his poll numbers and devastating his party.

And now Barack Obama. Obama came in with excellent poll numbers, rapidly moved towards pressing Israel to halt all construction in Judea and Samaria, and heaped the onus for Mideast problems on Israel, even traveling and genuflecting throughout the Arab world on an Apology Tour centered on a speech in Egypt. His efforts radicalized the expectations of Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah because Abbas had to be at least as extreme as the American president. And Obama's gigantic poll numbers flattened in the face of pressing for an Obamacare whose details we would learn only after it was passed, even as James Cameron could not help Obama solve an oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. The GOP's victories in November set records.

As pressure from the Obama administration to withdraw has intensified against Israel, signaling to Israel's foes that historic diplomatic backing from America is not reliable, the economy has failed to respond to "stimulus." Now it's petering out again under the weight of oil at $100 a barrel, receding housing starts, joblessness stuck at 9 percent, and the Mississippi cresting. Natural disasters already have led to rising commodities futures, and the elected leadership refuses to open ANWR to drill here and drill now, intensifying the Obama economic calamity as he tilts at green windmills.

Obama's entire Mideast speech, including forgiving Egypt's billions of loan dollars, was crafted around his intent to squeeze Israel back to suicidal 1967 borders. If Washington only will listen respectfully to the Arab world, from Hamas to Mahmoud Abbas, the message could not be more clear: there will be no negotiated peace with Israel. First, Israel must divide her capital city. Then she must agree to be overrun by three million aliens seeking to supplant her. And she still will have no right to exist within the geographical Orbit of Islam. As we saw on Sunday, "Nakba Day" (The Day of Catastrophe) in the Arab mind is not the day in June 1967 that Israel liberated Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria, but instead the day in May 1948 when Israel breathed her way into existence.

All the talk about demilitarizing and assuring (even guaranteeing) that weapons will not infiltrate into such an Arab Judea-Samaria is made ridiculous by the massive rearming of Hezbollah in South Lebanon (under the noses of United Nations forces that were supposed to prevent it) and the rearming of Hamas in Gaza since the Goldstone War. The unification of Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah with Hamas solidifies an outward posture that parallels the unmistakable refusal to abide alongside a Jewish country.

But in the end, it does not matter. Sixty years after Hitler, no Israeli government is going to uproot nearly 600,000 Jews in the land where they themselves live. It is fantasy. If the past half-century has taught anything, it has taught that the Jewish communities of Judea and Samaria will outlive all of us, including those now abiding in the White House.

Dov Fischer, adjunct professor of law at Loyola Law School, is a columnist for several online magazines and is rabbi of Young Israel of Orange County. He blogs at

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