Israel is not stalling, peace takes two. Israel has repeatedly offered to make far-reaching compromises, but it cannot move forward alone. Israel cannot simply announce a new border without legitimate Palestinian leaders who can implement an agreement. Israel must have assurances that Palestinians can maintain law and order, control terrorist groups like Hamas, and are educating their societies for peace. Palestinians must understand that continued rejectionism has its price. Israelis cannot move forward while Palestinians postpone negotiations or gather strength for the next attack.
(from stand With Us)
In a nut-shell Dennis Prager explains why there is no peace!!! a must see….
The Truth about the Peace Process with Danny Ayalon
November 12, 2014
Kissinger: Israel Should Not Seek Final Peace Deal With Palestinians Until MidEast Chaos Subsides
Respected statesman and former U.S. secretary of state Henry Kissinger told a New York audience on Tuesday that considering the widespread upheaval in the Middle East, it is a mistake for Israel to pursue a comprehensive peace deal with the Palestinians.
After describing the regional turmoil, Kissinger advised against seeking a “permanent settlement” until “the fundamental issues that I described here move to some resolution.”
The renowned diplomat said “the overall solutions will have to be discussed within the context of a solution of the various upheavals and the settling down of these upheavals.”
In the meantime, he counseled, Israel should “make contributions by the understanding it shows for the psychological and historical problems of the people with which it lives in the same territory. But things cannot be accomplished in a final manner in a single negotiation.”
Kissinger’s comments were made before a crowd of 500 at the Waldorf Astoria as he received the Theodor Herzl Award from the World Jewish Congress (WJC). Other attendees at the black-tie gala included Barbara Walters who presented the honor, WJC Chairman Ronald Lauder, Ralph Lauren and Google’s Eric Schmidt.
Kissinger also outlined his assessment of the foreign policy landscape and had words of advice for the leaders of the United States. He spoke as an American but with sympathy and reverence for the Jewish state. Speaking at a time in which U.S.-Israel ties have seen significant strain, Kissinger continuously stressed the fundamental importance of the relationship.
“In the years ahead,” he said, “there are a number of principles that the United States has to keep in mind. What it will defend or seek to achieve even if it has to do so alone. What it has to achieve only together with others, and finally, what is beyond its capacity.
“The survival of Israel and the maintenance of its capacity to build the future is one of those principles that we will pursue even if we have to do so alone.”
“It is crucial for the United States to develop a conception of the future that we can sustain over a long period of time,” he said. “And part of that consensus must be a realization that Israel is, has been, a representative of the principles in which America believes. It is the one country on whose geopolitical support America can always count.”
Describing the singular standard to which Israel is held in international diplomacy, Kissinger said, “It is in the unique position that for every other country, the recognition of its existence is taken for granted as the basis of diplomacy. Israel is asked to pay a different price before it is recognized and participates in the international system.”
Addressing the recent resurgence of anti-Semitism in Europe and around the world, Kissinger said the award came “at moment of enormous upheaval in the world. A period in which many of the institutions with which we have been familiar are under attack and in which the Jewish people have again become, in some countries, the object of severe attacks.”
Referring to his journey as a refugee escaping the Holocaust in Germany as a teen, he lamented “what can happen to societies when they take a wrong turn, and the disaster that can happen to the Jewish people under those conditions.”
“In America we have come to think that peace is something that can be contracted in a single effort…” he concluded. “The fact is that we are engaged now in a process without end, but a process which needs our convictions and our commitments and in which the friendship between Israel and the United States is an essential element.”
September , 2014
What Now for Israel?
Common enemies and shared interests have aligned the Saudis, the Egyptians, and other Arabs with the Jewish state. That’s the good news.
Mosaic (advancing Jewish thought)
IDF paratroopers search for hidden tunnels used by Hamas to attack Israel. Photo by the IDF Spokesman Unit.
“The status quo is unsustainable,” President Obama said of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict soon after taking office in 2009. “The status quo is unsustainable,” then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told AIPAC in March 2010. “The status quo is unsustainable and unacceptable,” United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon averred in 2013. This year, Secretary of State John Kerry, with his customary light touch, informed the Munich Security Conference: “Today’s status quo absolutely, to a certainty, I promise you 100-percent, cannot be maintained. It’s not sustainable.”
What is usually meant by this assertion is something quite specific: that in the “occupied territories” of Gaza and the West Bank, a Palestinian state must very soon be erected—or else. “It is critical for us to advance a two-state solution where Israelis and Palestinians can live side-by-side in their own states in peace and security,” Obama added in that 2009 statement. He has repeated the line endlessly, and so has every world leader except for Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei (who has a rather different objective in mind).
But 66 years after the founding of the state of Israel, and 47 years after Israel conquered the West Bank and Gaza, the status quo has once again confirmed its (relative) merits, while a history of repeated efforts to upend it precipitously has once again exposed an often reckless folly. The status quo has outlasted the cold war, the Oslo-fed dreams of a “new Middle East,” and the hopes for an Arab Spring; it has endured decades of war and intifada, and has proved more durable than many of the leaders and regimes who have insisted that it cannot and must not be sustained. Israelis who spent this past summer dodging Hamas rockets and sending their sons to fight in Gaza must wonder, not for the first time, why it is “critical” to implement Obama’s solution to their problems rather than to defeat terrorism and more broadly the ceaseless Arab and Muslim assaults on the Jewish state. Why are these not the status quo that the whole world agrees is unsustainable?
In truth, of course, much has changed in the Middle East and consequently in Israel’s strategic situation—for which some credit can be assigned to the latter’s ability to sustain the status quo. Consider: Israel fought wars against Arab states in 1948, 1956, 1967, and 1973. Defeat might have meant extinction; and, especially in 1948 and 1973, defeat seemed entirely plausible. After the Israeli victory in June 1967, the Arab League pledged itself to the “Three No’s”: no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with Israel. Moreover, this universal and implacable Arab hostility was backed by the Soviet Union, one of the world’s two superpowers.
Today the USSR is gone and Israel has both peace treaties and close and cooperative security arrangements with Egypt and Jordan. It is not an exaggeration to say that Egypt’s military ties are more intimate today with Israel than with the U.S. In 2002, 35 years after the “Three No’s,” there came the Saudi Plan, a proposal by then-Crown Prince (now King) Abdallah offering comprehensive peace and the establishment of normal relations in exchange for Israel’s complete withdrawal from Arab lands captured in 1967. Of course, the sweeping terms (including, for example, relinquishment of the Old City of Jerusalem) were unacceptable; but here were the Saudis and then the entire Arab League publicly stating that recognition and even normalization were now thinkable, no longer a crime or a heresy.
Today, several of the most important Arab regimes that have long been closest to the United States (Kuwait, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia), as well as the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the West Bank, share with Israel a common view of the major dangers facing them. For each, as Jonathan Rynhold of the Begin-Sadat Center at Bar-Ilan University describes it, “the key threats come from Iran and from radical Sunni Islamists, including the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas. They seek to maintain and promote a balance of power against these forces.”
This helps to explain regional reactions to the latest Israel-Hamas conflict. Despite their rhetorical invocations of Palestinian suffering, all of these states and the PA were clearly hoping for an Israeli victory and a real setback for Hamas. ’Twas not always thus. During the second intifada, when I was serving in the George W. Bush White House, we received angry and forceful Saudi demands for American pressure to stop Prime Minister Ariel Sharon from encircling Yasir Arafat; in the summer of 2001, the Saudis even threatened a reappraisal of their entire relationship with the U.S. The same thing happened during “Operation Cast Lead” against Hamas in December 2008 and January 2009.
This summer, by contrast, there were no such threats from Riyadh. The Saudis were now acting as they had in 2006 when Israel went to war with Hizballah: that is, with public statements of humanitarian concern hiding a private hope that the Iranian proxy would be severely damaged. Of course, Hizballah is Shiite, so no one in 2006 really expected the Saudis and other Sunni Arabs to be shedding anything but crocodile tears. In 2014, by contrast, the instigators, Hamas, were themselves Sunni, yet even so, and notwithstanding the ritual statements of concern—the minimum demanded by considerations of domestic politics—Egyptian and Saudi reaction was cold: let Hamas be beaten down.
Here it is necessary to enter a qualification: this being the Middle East, the enemy of my enemy is not always my friend, especially if he is a Jew. (More on this below.) But that there is a realignment of interests and worldviews is unquestionable. The Saudis under King Abdallah, Egypt under General (now President) Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Jordan under King Abdullah, the PA under President Mahmoud Abbas, and Israel under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are essentially status-quo powers fearing and fighting the same enemies—enemies who wish to overturn the regional order and establish either an Iranian hegemony or an Islamist caliphate. All this leaves Israel and many Arab heads of state eyeing each other as potential allies rather than as perpetual foes.
Why not be optimistic, then, about how regional politics will evolve? Might the Saudi Plan of 2002 offer a pathway to reconciliation sooner rather than later? Is Israel perhaps on the verge of an era of peace, with true reconciliation now closer than ever? Is now the right time for the United States to propose an updated version of the “peace process”?
The answer is no—and not only because, in the Middle East, it is always inadvisable to discount the virtues of the status quo compared with what may be coming next. There are at least five additional factors to consider. The most tractable of them, at least in the medium term, may be the new face of American policy. The most unyielding are the rise of Iran, the growth of Sunni extremism, the very old problems of Palestinian politics, and the persisting hatreds of “the Arab street.”
1. American Policy
These days, the United States appears to view neither Iran nor Islamism as the key threat. Instead, the principal American goal has been well summed up by the scholar Michael Doran with the aid of a literary allusion:
[T]he president is dreaming of an historical accommodation with Iran. The pursuit of that accommodation is the great white whale of Obama’s Middle East strategy, and capturing it is all that matters; everything else is insignificant by comparison. The goal looms so large as to influence every other facet of American policy.
In particular, Doran has in mind the longstanding relationship between Iran and the Palestinians, and the way in which Washington’s policy toward the former influences its policy toward the latter. He’s right about that: for many years, Shiite Iran was a key financial and military backer of Sunni Hamas, allowing its own search for regional influence and a shared hatred of the Jews to bridge the Shiite-Sunni gap. Today, Iran is funding Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a Gazan group that makes Hamas seem moderate and responsible by comparison.
Doran is also right that the pursuit of the “great white whale” overshadows almost all else, including the fight against the jihadist forces most recently and barbarously represented by the “Islamic State” (IS, also commonly known as ISIS). True, in the face of IS gains, Washington has moved to conduct air strikes in Iraq and help non-jihadi rebels in Syria, but the former effort has so far been highly limited in scope and the latter, no less limited, is woefully belated and unrealistic.
Many Arab leaders have therefore written off the Obama administration as either unaware of or indifferent to the seismic shifts under way in the region. In July, they were shocked to see Secretary of State Kerry in Paris in July with the foreign ministers of Qatar and Turkey, which were supporting Hamas, and without Egyptian or PA officials present. Washington’s August campaign to save the Yazidis and deliver a series of blows to IS, however welcome in itself, has struck these leaders as more of a stop-gap substitute for the level of action that is needed (or a political effort to avoid blame for inaction) than as a stalwart promise of tough moves to come against our common enemies. President Obama’s comments after IS beheaded the American journalist James Foley—“People like this ultimately fail. They fail because the future is won by those who build and not destroy. . . . One thing we can all agree on is that a group like IS has no place in the 21st century”—provided no sense of renewed American leadership. As August ended, the American military was studying possible air strikes on IS in Syria, but it remained entirely unclear whether these would ever happen or, if they did, would constitute serious blows.
It is not surprising, therefore, that when Obama or Kerry or Ban Ki-moon or anyone else assures Arab leaders that the status quo in the Middle East is unsustainable, their reaction is to wonder: “whose side are you on?”
As for Israel, the tensions between the Netanyahu government and the Obama administration have been bad from the outset and have grown worse this past summer. Communications at the top levels are bitter, and the older pattern of U.S.-Israel relations—whereby there was no love lost at the State Department but close ties and constant communication with the White House—has been replaced by one of barely concealed hostility in both domains. The terms used by Israeli officials in complaining about their American counterparts are sometimes harsh, even in public—though the same terms are heard from the Arabs in private. The point is that all of our allies in the Middle East believe we are way off course and are pursuing policies that cannot succeed and that will damage their security and ours.
In addition, then, to their deep worry about Sunni extremism and about Iran, Israelis and Arabs worry about the United States. They cannot see a way to defeat their enemies without the Americans on their side; they cannot see a better future if the United States is leading toward appeasement and withdrawal instead of striving to maintain its long-term dominance in the region. For Israel in particular, far more isolated in the world than are the Arab states, and facing deep wells of hatred in the Muslim world and Europe, the worry is especially great.
And there is a deeper concern. Israel and the Arab regimes that have long depended on the United States can wait out an administration that has only a couple of years left in power. But they also read the poll data showing that Americans are sick of the Middle East and its wars and want no more of them. Is this, they wonder, a natural reaction to America’s recent experience in Iraq and Afghanistan, or is it a deeper and more lasting trend toward isolationism—just at the moment when they need robust American help to combat both Iran and the Sunni jihadis?
There is no way to answer that deeper concern until the 2016 election: then we will see who is president and what policies are to be adopted in the Middle East. For the record, though, it is at least worth noting that a weaker or more withdrawn America is a threat of not only regional but global proportions—not only to Jerusalem, Riyadh, and Abu Dhabi but also to the South Koreans, Japanese, Vietnamese, and Filipinos facing China and to the Georgians, Ukrainians, Poles, and Estonians facing Russia.
Tehran indulges in eliminationist rhetoric toward Israel and, despite endless and transparently ridiculous denials, is steadily moving toward developing nuclear weapons. It is also the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism. The main beneficiary of that support is Hizballah, which, at least until IS metastasized in Syria and Iraq, has been the world’s most powerful terrorist group. Sitting on Israel’s northern border, Hizballah showed itself in the 2006 war to be a capable military force. Since then, its capabilities have only grown.
It is largely the growing power of Iran and its bid for regional hegemony that have so spooked Gulf Arabs and changed their attitude toward Israel. Here there really is a common enemy, which is why they hope that Israel will persuade Washington to stop the Iranian nuclear program, or accomplish the task itself. As is well known, the Israelis have said they cannot and will not tolerate Iranian acquisition of a nuclear weapon and will do anything to prevent it. The United States, under several presidents by now, has said the same thing. But would we actually strike Iran, eliminate its nuclear program, and destroy by this assertion of American dominance the ayatollahs’ dreams of hegemony, solving the problem for Israel and our Arab allies? In 2014, it certainly does not seem so.
What, then, of the ongoing negotiations to halt the Iranian program by diplomatic means? It is increasingly clear that the very best one could hope to gain from a deal between Iran and its P5+1 interlocutors (Russia, China, France, the UK, Germany, and the United States) is a delay of some years in the regime’s achievement of its nuclear ambitions—during which time it is conceivable that the Iranian people would rise up and overthrow the hated theocracy. But a much more likely outcome is that, with sanctions lifted and its economy soaring, the Islamic Republic would grow ever stronger and more capable of using its power to change the region in line with its interests.
That means a stealthily creeping or defiantly robust movement toward possession of nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them. It means stronger support for Hizballah, now in possession of roughly 50,000 missiles and rockets targeting the Jewish state—five times what Hamas had when conflict began last July. And it means Iranian hegemony in what the king of Jordan once warned us would be a “Shiite crescent” stretching from Iran (and perhaps Bahrain) through Iraq and Syria to Lebanon.
For Israel, the growing threat from Hizballah is worry enough; a nuclear-armed Iran is a nightmare of a different order. Two nightmares, really. The ultimate one envisions the actual deployment of nuclear weaponry directly against Israel, “a one bomb country,” as the Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani once called it—meaning that one well-placed nuclear bomb would in essence destroy the state. The lesser nightmare would be to live under the daily threat of a nuclear confrontation, with regular launches of missiles or bombers for “tests” and “training” and daily assurances by ayatollahs and Revolutionary Guard generals that Iran is ready to strike, determined to strike, and on the alert. Israelis would know that all this was likely a taunt—but what if not?
Such is the world of “containment.” During the cold war, the United States and the USSR achieved a balance of terror. But the distances between them being much greater, there was more time to ascertain what was happening; and there were also diplomatic relations, negotiations, and a “hot line.” In addition, the U.S., roughly the size of the USSR, would have been able to absorb many blows. Nor were the Soviets motivated by religious zeal to eliminate the United States from the face of the earth.
In brief, the two situations are simply not comparable, and the containment option is an illusion. How can Israel thrive under an unrelieved threat of devastation? How can it live in an entire region dominated by its single largest, most hostile, and most determinedly lethal enemy?
3. Sunni Extremism
The growth of IS in Syria and Iraq came as a shock to most Americans. Almost unknown a year earlier, suddenly this group—an outgrowth of al-Qaeda in Iraq that changed its name to the Islamic State of Iraq, then to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, and now more simply to the Islamic State—seemed capable of defeating both the American-trained Iraqi army and the redoubtable Kurdish forces known as the peshmerga, and of establishing jihadi rule over a vast stretch of Arab territory.
For now, the first concern of IS is to root out Sunni Muslim infidels and Shiite heretics: the “near enemy.” Accordingly, its targets have been mainly Arab governments in Baghdad and Damascus, and collaterally any “infidels” encountered along its rampaging way. But success is bound to breed further ambitions. Already IS constitutes a threat to every moderate or responsible Arab regime it can reach, and its presence in Syria means that sooner or later it might camp out on the borders of both Jordan and the Golan Heights.
Of course, unlike Hizballah, IS enjoys no Arab or Muslim state support. But so far, that has not been an impediment. Awash in looted arms and money, attracting jihadis and would-be jihadis from the United States, Europe, and all over the Muslim world, IS—a better name for it might be Jihadis Without Borders—seems to have little problem of supply.
The scope of the danger is so great as to have overcome, to at least a small degree, President Obama’s fears of returning to military action in Iraq. And there is always the possibility that IS may yet be beaten back by some combination of the Kurds, Iran, Arab states, and the occasional use of American power. But one cannot rule out the possibility of its forward progress—the group’s size, resources, location, zeal, and ruthlessness have made the defeat of the Taliban in Afghanistan seem like child’s play by comparison—or of its ultimately setting its sights on Jerusalem.
IS is the product, not the progenitor, of Sunni extremism, and its jihadis therefore swim in the same toxic sea of Islamic and Arab anti-Semitism as do Shiite mullahs in Iran and Hamas commanders in Gaza. This means both that its pool of potential recruits is immense and that the dominant Islamic culture finds it extremely difficult to repudiate or defeat its claims to authenticity. To these Sunni extremists, the Jewish state, built on what they see as Arab lands and controlling the city of Jerusalem, is a monstrous insult to Islam whose time of destruction must come.
4. The Palestinians
Once upon a time, and perhaps ever since 1948, it was difficult to read much of anything about the multiple crises in the Middle East without seeing the word “Palestine” in the first paragraph. Generations of experts, academics, and policymakers assured the world that here, in the Israel-Palestinian conflict, lay the central problem in the Middle East, the problem whose solution would unlock the solutions to all the other problems and was therefore the prerequisite for “peace.” And not just peace in the Middle East. In 2009, James Jones, President Obama’s first national-security adviser, told a J Street audience that the Israeli-Arab conflict was the “epicenter” of world politics and that “finding a solution to this problem has ripples that echo, that would run globally and affect many other problems that we face elsewhere in the globe.”
This view has always been nonsense. Outside the pro-Israel community, however, it remained unchallenged, and was taken to be true on its face. Every so often, it would impel an administration to set its hopes on a “comprehensive peace,” to be achieved by transforming the supposedly unsustainable status quo through sweeping acts of high-level diplomacy.
Today, at least, the “epicenter” argument is so visibly ludicrous that it is heard less frequently. The future of the Middle East is not coterminous with the future of the Palestinian territories, and Arab leaders know it. Even some European leaders know it, though they cannot say so. (In my meetings with Arab and European officials these last few years, we can go for an hour before I interrupt to observe that the word “Palestine” has yet to be spoken. It invariably elicits awkward smiles.) Even in the State Department, there is some understanding that the rise of Iran, the challenge of IS, and the collapse of the Arab Spring cannot be linked to whether or not “the occupation” ends.
But for Israelis, what to do about the Palestinians is inevitably a major political and national-security issue. What indeed is to be done? In recent years (as we have seen), the Middle East has changed in important ways, not all of them negative. Is this major problem immune to improvement?
Yes and no. For decades, the single Palestinian leader, first Haj Amin al-Husseini and then Yasir Arafat, was someone who sought the murder of Jews. Today Mahmoud Abbas is the one-man head of the Fatah party, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), and the Palestinian Authority (PA), and he, though no democrat and no democratizer, uses his security forces to prevent terrorism and violence. In addition, the West Bank Palestinian leadership as a whole remains secular and resistant to the Islamist trends elsewhere in the region.
For a brief moment, a decade ago, there seemed to be the possibility of progress. Arafat died in late 2004—an event that, along with Ariel Sharon’s quelling of the second intifada and accelerated construction of Israel’s security fence, was a prerequisite to any real forward movement. In early 2005, Abbas was elected president as a proponent of statehood but an opponent of achieving it by violence. In the summer of the same year, Sharon removed Israeli settlements and military bases from Gaza; his then-colleagues say he was contemplating a similar move in the West Bank by pulling settlements back to the security fence.
On the Israeli side, the idea was to establish the country’s de-facto borders for a generation or two, retaining Jerusalem and the major settlement blocks and waiting for the Palestinians to develop a decent civic culture and an effective system of governance. How long would that take? It had been 38 years since the 1967 war, and Sharon presumably thought another such period was likely. He would be gone, but for the foreseeable future Israel would be secure and could afford to be patient.
On the Palestinian side, there appeared to be the makings of a fresh beginning. Under the brief premiership of Salam Fayyad, a political independent not subordinate to Fatah, the PA became less corrupt, and the institutions of government—courts, ministries, police—improved. At both the practical and the ideological level, Fayyad had to contend at once with the Israelis and with Hamas. To the Israelis he wanted to prove that Palestinians were indeed building a trustworthy set of institutions and therefore merited more self-rule and sovereign authority. A key element in this project was the security forces, which were being trained in Jordan by the United States not only to police the Palestinian territory but also to work with Israel against terror. And Fayyad also had a theory of how to defeat Hamas: namely, by seizing from it the idea of “resistance” and arguing that true resistance lay not in counterproductive violence against Israel’s “occupation” but in the hard, patient work of state-building.
For that brief moment, many Israelis bought in. Israelis in general do not want four million Palestinians as their fellow citizens (any more than do the neighboring Arab states); nor do they want to rule them forever, police them, or fight them. So the idea of a separate Palestinian state ultimately won the grudging endorsement of even such hard-liners as Sharon and Netanyahu. Or perhaps one should rephrase that: both Sharon and Netanyahu came to believe that, among the available options, the best was to have a Palestinian state if and when it was safe to do so. Security came first; Palestinian self-rule in a sort-of-sovereign state would come afterward. If Fayyad and the PA could deliver, peace might be possible.
The project failed. There’s enough blame to go around: Israel could have done more to help achieve prosperity in the Palestinian territories; America should have backed Fayyad’s incrementalism instead of always searching for a comprehensive peace deal with handshakes and prizes on the White House lawn; the Arab states were stingy and late in their support of the Palestinian government.
But the main problem wasn’t outside, it was inside. In 2006, Abbas held a parliamentary election, and Hamas won. In the Bush administration, the agreed explanation was that Hamas’s narrow victory (44 percent of the vote to Fatah’s 41 percent) was attributable to popular discontent with Fatah’s endemic corruption. Maybe. Or maybe Hamas won because people wanted more Hamas-style Islamism than Fatah-style secularism. Or maybe Hamas won because Palestinians preferred shooting Israelis to negotiating with them.
The next year, in Gaza, Hamas overwhelmed the far larger Fatah/PA military forces and seized control. Since then, the two-state solution has been a declining stock. How could it be brought about, with Hamas in control of Gaza? How could you hold a free election? How could Hamas be defeated if Fatah remained as corrupt as ever? And how could Hamas terrorists be prevented from eventually controlling the PA in Ramallah?
In a “normal” Arab country (especially one without a king), when a civilian government is as incompetent and unpopular as the PA, the army intervenes. There’s a coup, and some general emerges to rule. We’ve just seen that happen again in Egypt. In a way, it’s what Hamas attempted to do within the PA and succeeded in doing in Gaza, where, after Israel permitted it to take over, Hamas promptly proceeded to build up its military forces and to initiate wars in 2008, 2012, and this past summer. If unstopped, it might well succeed in the West Bank, too, overwhelming the PA’s forces unless, presumably, Israel and possibly Jordan intervened to block it.
Hamas has had a series of victories—not against the IDF but against Israel’s “peace camp,” which it has largely killed off. There are still Israelis who talk about implementing the two-state solution right now, but they are fewer and fewer in number. The practical impossibility of doing this was proved each day in July and August as people grabbed their children and ran to their bomb shelters. “A republic, if you can keep it,” Benjamin Franklin famously said about the fledgling United States. How many Israelis believe Mahmoud Abbas—now seventy-nine, the man who led Fatah to electoral defeat and then lost Gaza to Hamas—can keep it?
So what is Netanyahu’s strategy for dealing with the Palestinian question now, in the Middle East of 2014? He is making neither the Right nor the Left happy because he is straddling their traditional positions: he angers Likud and those farther Right by asserting his support for Palestinian independence and the two-state solution, and he frustrates the Left because in practice he appears ready to sustain the “unsustainable” status quo for as long as it takes. The latest polls show that he is still about 30-percent ahead of any other potential candidate for prime minister, so his straddle, however unfortunate or frustrating it may appear to some, must strike most as realistic and necessary. He might not have a magical solution to the conflict with the Palestinians, but the “solutions” on offer (for example, from John Kerry) are dead in the water. After this summer’s war, there is little taste for taking chances with national security.
In truth, no one has a solution. If, in private, you were to ask a Gulf Arab or Egyptian or Jordanian official whether Israel should just pull out and risk Hamas rule in all of the West Bank and Gaza, he would just laugh. If you asked an Israeli officer who had served in the West Bank whether one could rely on Fatah to defeat Hamas at the polls and on the PA forces to defeat Hamas in the streets and alleys, he would smile ruefully. The only practical advice offered recently came from Giora Eiland, Israel’s former National Security Adviser:
We should have declared war against the state of Gaza (rather than against the Hamas organization), and in a war [acted] as in a war. The moment it begins, the right thing to do is to shut down the crossings, prevent the entry of any goods, including food, and definitely prevent the supply of gas and electricity. . . . The fact that we are fighting with one hand and supplying food and energy to the enemy state with the other hand is absurd. This generosity strengthens and extends the ability of the enemy state of Gaza to fight us.
That’s not the kind of advice that Israel’s official interlocutors in Washington, or Europeans who buy Israeli goods, like to hear.
There will no doubt be efforts now to improve conditions in Gaza and in the West Bank, and Israel will no doubt cooperate with them. Palestinian misery is not an Israeli goal, and in fact Netanyahu has taken numerous steps to help the West Bank economy. The idea of increasing the PA role in Gaza—of, for example, having it run the Palestinian side of the passages between Israel and Gaza and between Egypt and Gaza—sounds good in theory, but making it work in practice will be exceedingly difficult.
Under far better circumstances, the United States discovered this for itself. In 2005, when the PA still ruled all of Gaza, we drafted and received PA and Israeli approval of an “Agreement on Movement and Access,” which provided detailed rules for how people and goods could pass into and out of Gaza. The lack of trust between the sides, combined with deliberate Hamas efforts to render implementation impossible, destroyed the agreement before the ink was dry. It’s easy to say today that, for instance, the cement now needed for reconstruction would be closely monitored for proper use and not diverted to building more Hamas tunnels. But who exactly would be the monitors, working inside Gaza and in the face of Hamas intimidation? Scandinavian aid officers? UNRWA, whose facilities have been Hamas assets for years and whose staff is riddled with Hamas terrorists and sympathizers?
What’s more, even if reconstruction aid could be delivered and real humanitarian benefits could accrue to Palestinian families, the PA would reap little political gain. Fatah is the heart of the PA and the PLO, and Fatah, completely incompetent at governance, has long since forfeited the trust of the Palestinian public. Those who would use Arafat’s old party to defeat Hamas are employing a weapon that will not fire. Even worse, as Fayyad’s removal in 2013 reminds us, more constructive Palestinian voices are woefully missing.
The lack of a strong and persuasive democratic voice in the Palestinian polity should come as no surprise; such a voice is also absent in Egypt and throughout most of the Arab world. The well-organized forces, and the ones with persuasive arguments to make, are the Islamists and the army: of the two, one is for jihad and the Koran, the other for order and stability. The liberal and secular forces, dedicated to effective governance, tolerance, and individual freedom—the forces we would so love to see triumphant—are few and weak. We should support them, to be sure, as we should have supported Fayyad, and from time to time they will have a victory. But national-security policy cannot be based on hope, especially for Israel, a country of seven million surrounded by many more well-armed and hate-fueled enemies.
5. The “Street”
Which brings us to what may be the most potent and intransigent factor of all. Egypt’s General Sisi and the Saudi king have, like several other Arab leaders, shown themselves to be versatile when it comes to Israel. There is a time for war and a time for peace, a time for hate and a time for love (well, wary coexistence). Israel is today the enemy of their enemies. But their publics remain mired in hatred of Jews, and no wonder: their media and their education systems continue to preach it, teach it, and encourage it. For 30 years, Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak, who scrupulously upheld the peace treaty with Israel, broadcast the most vicious anti-Semitic programming imaginable, including Syrian-made shows dramatizing and updating the medieval blood libel. In Saudi Arabia, although textbooks have been improving over the last decade, they continue to instruct students in the wily and devious ways of the Jews, sworn enemies of the Prophet and the nemeses of every good Muslim today.
Realpolitik may lead a king or sheik or general to ally with the Jews for a while, or even to admit to himself that age-old prejudices must be abandoned. But until this new attitude replaces decades if not centuries devoted to the inculcation of hatred, Israel will continue to face millions of neighbors who see Jews as accursed by God and the Jewish state as an alien and, it is hoped, temporary usurper of Arab lands.
On the surface, the problem is political: under what circumstances do rulers decide that Israel must be recognized or offered peace? When are diplomats, or intelligence or military officers, allowed to meet the Jews, and with how much secrecy? But underneath the politics lie Islam’s pernicious teachings. The Roman Catholic Church wrestled with a history of anti-Semitic teachings and finally eliminated them. In Arab lands, such an effort is not even embryonic. And the disease is contagious. The upsurge of anti-Semitism in Europe this past summer, in what were billed as “pro-Palestinian rallies” but were often displays of naked hatred and violence, offers a cautionary lesson. It would be bad enough if the anti-Semitism were coming exclusively from Muslim immigrants to Europe and their descendants; in its non-Muslim variant, it has awakened dormant bigotries and inflamed the otherwise contrasting agendas of the anti-democratic Left and the anti-democratic Right, where it remains volatile and highly poisonous.
It is clear that, whatever calculations of national interest may be made by rulers, hatred of Jews is and will remain a powerful phenomenon in the Arab and Muslim Middle East. The depth of the problem is especially visible today in Turkey, once considered Israel’s close ally. Recep Tayyip Erdogan was elected president last month in part by playing on those same deep reserves of popular anti-Semitism. He did not create them, but neither did decades of close diplomatic and military relations between Israel and Turkey reduce their potency.
While the Arab Spring failed to produce democracy (except perhaps in Tunisia), it has reminded rulers that the street, whose passions they have opportunistically inflamed, is unpredictable and dangerous. Reconciliation with the Jews would be immensely controversial and would elicit violent opposition, so why risk it—especially now, with the region in turmoil and the Americans so shaky? Even the teaching of elementary civil tolerance appears to be beyond the ability or the will of most Arab states—not to mention the Palestinian Authority, whose official and unofficial media are founts of anti-Semitism and glorify terrorists as heroes.
This bedrock fact of facts tells us one thing with unmistakable clarity. The “new Middle East” that Shimon Peres saw aborning in the early 1990s will remain a mirage for many years to come, if not for the lifetime of most readers of these words.
6. Israel and the Status Quo
So, again, what is to be done?
Netanyahu may actually have a strategy for the Palestinian conflict—or so the research analyst Jonathan Spyer argued recently in explaining why the prime minister resisted domestic voices urging him to conquer and overthrow Hamas and reoccupy Gaza. Netanyahu’s caution, Spyer wrote, derives from
his perception that what Israel calls “wars” or “operations” are really only episodes in a long war in which the country is engaged against those who seek its destruction. . . . In such a conflict, what matters is not a quick and crushing perception of victory. Indeed, the search for a knockout, a final decision in this or that operation, given the underlying realities, is likely to end in overstretch, error, and non-achievement. What matters is the ability to endure, conserve one’s forces—military and societal—and to work away on wearing down the enemy’s will.
“This view,” Spyer adds, is sensitive to “the essentially implacable nature of the core Arab and Muslim hostility to Israel. So it includes an inbuilt skepticism toward the possibility of historic reconciliation and final-status peace accords. At the same time, [it] does not rule out alliances of convenience with regional powers.” Because Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Israel—and, I would add, the Emirates—are status-quo powers, their national policies are dedicated to preventing the success of revolutionary regimes or movements like IS or Hamas or Iran: that is, the forces dedicated to destroying the regional status quo and replacing it with something far worse. In this, Israel and those Arab states find common ground, as well as a shared sense of shock and horror that their close ally in Washington seems not to understand the threat and the means they have adopted to fight it.
If Spyer is right about Netanyahu’s vision of the world, as I suspect he is, nothing the prime minister has seen this year—from war in Gaza, to IS gains in Syria and Iraq, to anti-Israel and anti-Semitic demonstrations in Europe—would have shaken it. But is this vision, for Israel, a counsel of doom and despair? That depends on your expectations of the world and the place of the Jews in it.
The only democratic nationalist movement of the 20th century that succeeded was Zionism; the state created by the Jews is thriving today as an economic, scientific, military, and technological juggernaut, as the center of a vibrant intellectual and religious culture, and as the homeland of an extraordinarily resilient and happy people. While America’s “pivot to Asia” is a joke among foreign-policy experts, Israeli trade with India and China is growing fast—and India’s traditional knee-jerk support for the Palestinian cause was notably absent in this past summer’s war. Israel’s economic strength is being vastly reinforced by the discovery of energy resources previously thought to be a dream, a discovery that will not only enrich it but bring energy independence and a role as a regional supplier.
On the political and diplomatic front, Israel’s peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan endure, and relations with the Gulf Arabs, however cold and pragmatic, are no less significant for that. In the new struggle between the Sunnis on one side and Shiite Iran with its allies and proxies on the other, Israel is not, for now, the main target. And every year, opinion polls confirm the remarkable support that Israel enjoys among the people of the United States. Decades pass, administrations come and go, but this popular American support remains quite steady, based as it is both in faith and in an appreciation that there’s one ally in the Middle East the United States can count on.
That’s the positive side, and it suggests that the Jewish state enjoys many resources and advantages. But, as Spyer observes, Israel’s “inbuilt skepticism toward the possibility of historic reconciliation” rests on a rather different set of facts: namely, that Israel has many strong enemies, and many military cemeteries. Even if some of those enemies are currently preoccupied, they aren’t going away. The Arab and Muslim street remains awash in vicious and violent attitudes toward Jews, and the bacillus of anti-Semitism festers equally beneath many a well-cut suit. No one has yet stopped Iran from closing in on a nuclear weapon. The alliances Israel has struck, some formally and some on the basis of currently shared interests, could disappear like smoke if the balance of forces were to change.
That, in sum, is why Israel’s national story still remains “a long war . . . against those who seek its destruction,” and what makes Israel as unique among nations today as it was in 1948. For what other country on the face of the earth confronts unceasing attempts to bring its national life to an end? And yet, where Israel is concerned, for hundreds of millions of people around the globe, the very existence of the Jewish state is the unsustainable status quo.
Of course, as Jewish history shows, it is difficult to know what is sustainable and what is not. Charles Krauthammer once reminded us that Israel “is the only nation on earth that inhabits the same land, bears the same name, speaks the same language, and worships the same God that it did 3,000 years ago.” Surely, had one been betting in 1948 on whether the Jewish state would outlast the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, one would have bet on the Soviets. And, as it turned out, one would have lost. As for the next 66 years, one can only hope they will prove to be more relaxing than the previous 66. At the moment, once again, the odds have darkened. Israel’s national existence is the product of the one dream that came gloriously true, but its history since 1948 has rightly taught its leaders to be realists rather than utopians.
July 1, 2014
What Peace Process?
American Center for Democracy Blog
Lawrence J. Haas
The murder of three Israeli teens reveals there is no hope for a “peace process” anytime soon.
As the parents of three Israeli teens live their worst nightmare, their sons the latest victims of terror, the drama can now follow a well-worn path of Palestinian triumphalism, Israeli revenge and global moral blindness. It is but another teaching moment — lest anyone still needs one — about why Israeli-Palestinian peace will not come soon and why the basic assumptions behind the “peace process” are so off-base.
That U.S.-led process presumes that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict rests on disputes about what a future Israel and new Palestine would entail for borders, security, Jerusalem and refugees. That the horror of recent days so obviously belies such presumptions will not deter the peace process’ biggest backers.
The June 12 kidnapping of West Bank teens Naftali Fraenkel, Eyal Yifrah and Gil-Ad Shaer by two Hamas operatives, their murder soon after, and the discovery of their bodies — bound and partially buried in an open field — occurred amidst a broader resurgence of terror in the Palestinian territories.
First came the reconciliation pact between Fatah, the party of the Palestinian Authority that controlled the West Bank, and Hamas, the terrorist offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood that ran Gaza, giving official Palestinian legitimacy to the Hamas agenda — reject peace, deploy terror, destroy Israel and claim all land from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea for a new “Palestine.”
Then came a resumption of rocket fire over the last two weeks from Gaza into southern Israel, igniting alarms, inciting fear and prompting Israel’s Air Force to strike terrorist targets in response. With the rocket fire increasing, an official of Hamas announced that it had reached a pact with Palestinian Islamic Jihad, another terrorist group in Gaza, to “unify the weapons of resistance” against Israel. “There will be no security for the Zionists over and under the land,” the Hamas official, Mahmoud al-Zahar, declared prophetically in a speech in Gaza. “We are prepared to sacrifice our blood for the sake of Palestine, and we advise the Zionist enemy not to play with us.”
The expanding terror of late also drives another nail into the coffin of hopes that governance will moderate extremist forces. It didn’t happen to the terrorist group Hezbollah after it gained political power in Lebanon, it didn’t happen to Hamas after it overthrew the Palestinian Authority in Gaza, and it isn’t happening to Hamas now as it begins to share responsibility to govern all Palestinian territory.
Indeed, Hamas marked the kidnappings with public rallies; Fatah created a cartoon of three mice, each with a Star of David, dangling from a string; and young Palestinian children held up three fingers in a sign of celebration. Not surprisingly, Hamas Chief Khaled Mashaal praised the kidnapping as heroic, called the teens “settlers and soldiers in the Israeli army,” and, while refusing to confirm Hamas’ role, proclaimed, “Blessed be the hands that captured them. This is a Palestinian duty, the responsibility of the Palestinian people.”
Now, with the murders confirmed and Israel sure to respond forcefully, the region and world can play their usual role, bemoaning less the murders themselves than what they will describe as Israel’s “overreaction.” That process was already underway in recent days as Israel sought to find the teens, searching more than 1,500 locations on the West Bank and arresting more than 400 Palestinians, most of them Hamas members.
Top officials from Arab and Muslim states vowed to ask the United Nations Security Council to investigate not Hamas, which perpetrated the terror, but Israel. The officials included ambassadors from Saudi Arabia, Iran, Qatar, Senegal and the League of Arab States, as well as the Palestinian ambassador.
As Israel now turns from a search for teens to a response to terror, options surely will include the pinpoint killings of Hamas’ leaders, a broader round-up of Hamas operatives and a pounding of Hamas weapons caches. Whether Fatah also pays a price for its governmental partnership with Hamas remains to be seen.
However much such Israeli responses seem justified, expect the usual global Israel-bashing in return. Expect the world to react in horror to Israel’s action, demand a cessation of hostilities, blame the entire episode on Israeli settlements and human rights abuses, and mindlessly bemoan another “cycle of violence.” Expect the media to quickly forget the three Israeli teens and focus its attention squarely on Palestinian suffering. Expect Washington to counsel Israeli moderation and, if Jerusalem resists, join the chorus of global condemnation.
Then, expect a wounded but affirmed Hamas to plot its next move.
* Lawrence J. Haas, former communications director for Vice President Al Gore, is a senior fellow at the American Foreign Policy Council.
June 2, 2014
Times of Israel
Rebecca Shimni Stoiland
US says it will work with new PA government
Move comes as blow to Netanyahu; Washington will ‘watch closely’ to ensure new Hamas-backed leadership respects principles of non-violence
US President Barack Obama, right, and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas hold a meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, Monday, March 17, 2014 (photo credit: Saul Loeb/AFP)
WASHINGTON — In a major blow to the Israeli government’s efforts to isolate the Hamas-backed Palestinian unity government, the US said Monday it would work with the new West Bank-Gaza leadership, which was sworn in on Monday afternoon, and would maintain its aid to the Palestinian Authority. It said it would be “watching closely” to ensure the new government respects the principles of non-violence
The US position is in conflict with the official stance in Jerusalem, which outright rejects the new Palestinian leadership because Hamas remains committed to destroying Israel and is a designated terrorist organization in Israel, the US and the EU.
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said on Monday that Washington believes Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has “formed an interim technocratic government…that does not include members affiliated with Hamas.”
“With what we know now, we will work with this government,” Psaki said. She did, however, warn that the US “will continue to evaluate the composition and policies of the new government and if needed we’ll modify our approach.” She later added that the administration would be “watching carefully to make sure” that the unity government upholds the principles that serve as preconditions for continuing US aid to the Palestinian Authority.
Reached for comment, Israel’s foreign ministry declined to respond to the statements from Washington. But the US move was a major surprise; sources in Washington had been quoted in Israel in recent days saying the US would not immediately recognize the new PA government.
As recently as Sunday, Secretary of State John Kerry called Abbas and “expressed concern about Hamas’s role in any such government and the importance that the new government commit to the principles of nonviolence, recognition of the state of Israel and acceptance of previous agreements with it,” Psaki had said in remarks Sunday.
Earlier Monday, Kerry discussed the recent developments in a phone call with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. State Department officials would not confirm the tone of the conversation, or comment on whether the US administration’s announcement had come as a surprise to the Israeli government.
But asked if Israel would agree to return to the negotiating table after it suspended the talks in April, Psaki said that would be up to the Israeli government to decide.
“It is ultimately up to the parties … to make the difficult decisions about coming to the negotiating table,” she said. “So we will see. We are not in a position to make a prediction at this point.”
Psaki said that the United States is open to the current plan set out by the interim unity government, according to which long-delayed elections in the Palestinian Authority will be held in six months’ time.
“As a matter of principle we support democratic free and fair elections,” Psaki said, but added that “it is too early to speculate as to what the outcome will be and we will let events proceed.”
The State Department spokeswoman commented that although the US continues to expect Abbas to uphold his commitment to maintaining security coordination with Israel, Hamas’s support for the current government did not change the American perspective on culpability for rocket attacks launched toward Israeli targets from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.
“We expect the PA to do everything in its power to prevent attacks from Gaza, but we understand that [the] Gaza Strip is under the control of Hamas,” Psaki explained.
Earlier in the day, Abbas swore in 17 ministers in a new technocratic government meant to steer the PA toward elections within six months.
The Israeli cabinet, meanwhile, said on Monday it would hold the new government responsible for any rockets fired at Israel from Gaza.
In a decision approved at a special meeting of the Ministerial Committee for National Security Affairs, Netanyahu and eight top ministers said they would boycott the new government and form a team to “examine courses of action” in light of the new Palestinian unity government.
Abbas swore in the ministers of the new unity government Monday afternoon after Gaza’s Hamas rulers and Abbas’s Fatah resolved a last-minute disagreement over a key government ministry.
He hailed the “end” of Palestinian division, saying: “Today, with the formation of a national consensus government, we announce the end of a Palestinian division that has greatly damaged our national case.”
Abbas has pledged that the new administration will abide by the principles laid down by the Middle East peace Quartet that call for recognizing Israel, rejecting violence and abiding by all existing agreements, though Hamas has yet to ratify those conditions.
Elhanan Miller and other Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.
June 2, 2014
Times of Israel staff and AFP
Palestinians hail unity as new government sworn in
Abbas praises ‘end of Palestinian division,’ indicates Ramallah will continue statehood drive; ceremony goes ahead after last-minute dispute
Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas (C) poses for a picture with the members of the new Palestinian unity government in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Monday, June 2, 2014 (photo credit: AFP/ABBAS MOMANI)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas swore in the ministers of a new unity government Monday afternoon after Gaza’s Hamas rulers and Abbas’s Fatah resolved a last-minute disagreement over a key government ministry.
Abbas hailed the “end” of Palestinian division, saying: “Today, with the formation of a national consensus government, we announce the end of a Palestinian division that has greatly damaged our national case.”
“This black page in the history (of the Palestinians) has been turned forever, and we will not allow it to come back,” he added
Hamas praised the “national consensus government, which represents all the Palestinian people,” the movement’s spokesman, Sami Abu Zuhri, told AFP.
The swearing in marked the end of years of division between the rival Palestinian factions, with the technocratic government planned to set up elections in the next six months.
Israel has skewered the unity deal, accusing Abbas of preferring a pact with the Islamist Hamas movement over peace with Israel and threatening punitive measures.
At the swearing in, Abbas lashed out as Israel’s refusal to recognize the government, indicating the Palestinians would continue efforts for statehood, put on hold over the past year during peace talks with Israel. “We won’t stand with our hands folded in the face of punitive measures, and we will use every legal and diplomatic tool at our disposal in the international community,” he said according to a Haaretz report.
In Gaza, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh praised the “historic” move.
Hours before the swearing-in ceremony, Hamas had said that it would not recognize the unity government if it did not include a minister for prisoners affairs. At the last minute, the two sides agreed to have Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah man the post.
Abbas had left the position off the roster with the intention of delegating the matter to a committee.
The new government has 17 ministers, five of them from Gaza. Hamdallah, the current premier in the West Bank, will also hold the interior portfolio.
Abbas has already pledged that the new administration will abide by the principles laid down by the Middle East peace Quartet that call for recognizing Israel, rejecting violence and abiding by all existing agreements. However, Hamas has yet to ratify those conditions.
Abbas’s Fatah party and Hamas ended several years of animosity when they reached an agreement in late April to form an interim unity government of technocrats, with full elections by year’s end.
Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah (R) is sworn in along with the new Palestinian unity government in the presence of PA President Mahmud Abbas (L) in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Monday, June 2, 2014 (photo credit: AFP/ABBAS MOMANI)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ended peace talks with Abbas after the unity government was announced, and has repeatedly stated that Israel will not work with a Palestinian leadership that includes Hamas, which Israel and much of the West consider a terror group. On Monday, Netanyahu hit out at European governments for condemning a shooting attack on the Jewish museum in Brussels while responding with “ambiguity” to Palestinian reconciliation.
“It is puzzling to me that governments in Europe that strongly criticize this act of murder speak with ambiguity and even friendliness about a unity government with Hamas, a terror organization that carries out crimes like these,” he said.
Ahead of the swearing-in ceremony, US Secretary of State John Kerry telephoned Abbas to express “concern about Hamas’s role in any such government,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters Sunday, saying he had again stressed the importance of its acceptance of the Quartet principles.
May 7, 2014
Poll finds two thirds of Israelis support freezing peace talks
According to IDI/TAU poll, only 9% of Israelis see achieving peace with Palestinians or improving country’s image as top priority.
More than two-thirds of Israeli Jews support the government’s decision to suspend negotiations with the Palestinian Authority after Fatah and Hamas signed a unity deal, according to a poll published Wednesday by the Israel Democracy Institute and Tel Aviv University.
The monthly Peace Index poll found 68 percent of Israeli Jews believe the decision made by the security cabinet two weeks ago was appropriate, while 27% disagree with the move.
When asked about the US president’s assessment that neither Israeli nor Palestinian leaders showed the political will to make difficult decisions to sustain negotiations, only 39% of Israeli Jews said they agreed both sides were equally responsible for the negotiations’ failure. The percentage disagreeing with Obama was 56%.
As well, 58% of Jewish Israelis said the Hamas-Fatah reconciliation was dangerous. The same number said the unity deal would not increase legitimacy for decisions made by the PA. Plus, 31% said the unity deal was not dangerous, and 34% said it would add legitimacy to the PA’s decisions.
When asked to cite which of the following should be the most important goal for the government today, 68% gave socioeconomic- related responses, 47% prioritized reducing socioeconomic gaps and 21% cited the creation of affordable housing. Only 10% chose strengthening military power, 9% said improving the country’s political status in the international community and 9% said reaching a peace agreement.
Asked about Israel’s achievements over 66 years, 76% said they were satisfied while 23% were not. As well, 82% said they were satisfied with military-security achievements, 41% were satisfied on foreign relations, and 31% on socioeconomic matters.
Seventy-three percent said they were optimistic about Israel’s future in the coming years, while 24% were pessimistic.
The optimists included 77% of the self-identified Right, 77% of the Center, and 58% of the Left. Regarding their personal future, 85% called themselves optimistic and 11% pessimistic.
If given the opportunity to move to a different country, 80% of Israeli Jews would continue to live in Israel, while 17% would move to a different country. Those committed to staying include 93% of national-religious Israelis and 73% of secular Israelis.
May 7, 2014
Top Netanyahu aide: Here’s proof Abbas deliberately destroyed peace talks
In letter to White House, EU and world ambassadors, PM’s national security chief presents ‘damning evidence’ of sabotage by Ramallah
Times of Israel
A letter reportedly sent by Israel’s national security chief to the White House, the EU and numerous ambassadors blames the Palestinians for the collapse of peace talks, and claims to include hard proof that PA officials were devising measures to thwart the process even before Israel refused to release a fourth round of Palestinian prisoners at the end of March.
In the April 22 letter, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s national security adviser, Yossi Cohen, revealed that chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat wrote a policy paper in March in preparation for a Palestinian rejection of American mediation efforts and Israeli overtures — nearly a month before Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas made a unilateral move to sign 15 international conventions, ostensibly in response to Israel’s refusal to honor its commitment to release the final round of prisoners, Haaretz reported Wednesday.
In fact, Cohen said, according to a copy of the latter published alongside the report (PDF here), Erekat had planned the maneuver weeks before Israel announced its refusal to release the prisoners — timing that, according to Cohen, demonstrates that the Palestinian leadership never intended to follow the peace talks through.
Cohen attached Erekat’s policy paper to his letter, copies of which were reportedly sent to his US counterpart Susan Rice, US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro, all Israel-based EU ambassadors, and ambassadors from China, Russia and other countries. He appealed to the recipients to peruse the Erekat document and “draw conclusions” as to the Palestinians’ “bad faith” and responsibility for the failure of the latest round of peace talks.
According to Cohen, the 65-page Erekat document, which contained a “highly selective” account of the peace talks held since July and a “series of recommendations” for unilateral Palestinian actions, was presented by Erekat to Abbas on March 9, prior to Abbas’s visit to the United States and his meeting at the White House with US President Barack Obama on March 17.
The paper, Cohen said, serves as proof that Palestinian policymakers had recommended a strategy of unilateral moves “outside of the agreed negotiation framework” to Abbas as early as March, nearly two months before the April 29 deadline for the completion of the talks. Thus when Obama tried at their White House meeting to persuade Abbas to make progress at the negotiations, Cohen indicated, the PA president was already bent on torpedoing the talks and following a unilateral course.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (R) signs a request to join 15 United Nations-linked and other international treaties at his headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah on Tuesday, April 1, 2014 (photo credit: AFP/Abbas Monami)
“The document serves as damning evidence of bad faith on the part of the Palestinian side,” Cohen wrote. “It suggests that plans to reject American proposals and pursue unilateral actions were in place well in advance, despite the unwavering commitment shown by Secretary Kerry and his team in facilitating these negotiations, and the seriousness which Israel has demonstrated throughout the negotiation process.”
In the document, Erekat recommended that the Palestinian Authority apply to international treaties such as the Geneva Convention.
He also recommended reconciliation with Hamas, revealing that the push for a unity government with the terrorist organization, which does not recognize Israel, began long before negotiations with Israel reached a stalemate.
Palestinian supporters of the Islamist Hamas movement attend a rally prior to the Student Council elections at Birzeit University, on the outskirts of the West Bank city of Ramallah on May 06, 2014. (photo credit: Issam Rimawi/Flash90)
This, Cohen said, proved that the Palestinians’ unilateral moves, ostensibly direct responses to perceived Israeli intransigence, were actually “premeditated” and “calculated” steps aimed at sinking the peace process and hindering American mediation efforts.
The Palestinians have blamed Israel for the failure of the talks, saying that if Israel had released the prisoners as planned, they would not have made unilateral moves, culminating with the Fatah-Hamas pact, that saw Israel suspend the negotiations and the April 29 deadline pass with no substantive progress and no agreement for further talks.
Israel had conditioned the release of the fourth batch of prisoners, some of them Arab Israelis, on the continuation of talks past their April 29 deadline. The Palestinians refused, and made a unilateral move for international recognition.
“This document refutes the current Palestinian claim that the decision to apply for accession to the conventions – in direct violation of Palestinian obligations and of the understandings that enabled the resumption of negotiations in July 2013 – was taken strictly in response to what they considered a delay in the release of the fourth tranche of prisoners,” Cohen wrote in the letter
“Similarly, it indicates that advancing the reconciliation process with Hamas and bringing Hamas into a new government was under active consideration at the very time intensive negotiations were meant to be under way,” he continued.
“The document points to premeditation and to Palestinians’ calculations to renege on their commitments and pursue a unilateral strategy regardless of the release of prisoners, in a manner that would gravely endanger if not destroy the negotiation process.”
American officials were quoted last weekend, in an extensive account of the negotiations published by Yedioth Ahronoth, overwhelmingly blaming Israel for the failure of the talks. It was later claimed that Kerry’s special envoy Martin Indyk was the prime source for the report, which highlighted Netanyahu’s settlement policies as “the primary sabotage.” An official was quoted in the report telling Israel, The Palestinians are tired of the status quo. They will get their state in the end — whether through violence or by turning to international organizations.”
May 3, 2014
Why [Israeli-Palestinian] Negotiations Collapsed
The Times of Israel and the Middle East Forum
Alexander H. Joffe
Effective foreign policy requires a balance between the predictable and the unpredictable. Alliances require careful maintenance and no surprises while adversarial relationships sometimes require unpredictable responses. It is the unique gift of the Obama administration to have reversed this equation.
The collapse of peace negotiations was wholly predictable and has finally taken place. Efforts are now being made to assign blame and exert pressure on the parties. In a series of off the record interviews with Israeli newspapers, unnamed American officials involved in the negotiations have quite predictably put most of the blame on Israel. Careful reading, however, reveals more about America than it does Israelis or Palestinians.
In a wide-ranging interview with veteran Israeli journalist Nahum Barnea, blame was systematically assigned to Netanyahu and his government and a single, overarching cause: “people in Israel shouldn’t ignore the bitter truth – the primary sabotage came from the settlements.”
“Settlements” are indeed a primary issue, both for peace negotiations and for Israeli politics. But “settlements” have become a kind of deus ex machina for both domestic and international critics of Israel, the first and last explanation for why bad things happen.
One of the more remarkable statements from Barnea’s interlocutor shows just how little understanding there is regarding “settlements” as an Israeli political issue. “We didn’t realize continuing construction allowed ministers in his government to very effectively sabotage the success of the talks.”
Since the 1980s there has been a predictable manner in which low and mid level Israeli committees embarrass prime ministers engaged in peace negotiations with announcements of construction tenders, some for projects far in the future. This is a major Israeli political problem, but reasonably informed American observers should at least be aware of it.
Amazingly, the Americans appear not to have been. Instead, they reacted with outrage, which is more foolish than simply being surprised and disappointed, since it rewards the Israeli right wing. It also betrays just how ill-informed American diplomats appear to be about the convoluted, if not demented, nature of Israeli politics and bureaucracy. Allowing Abbas to collapse the talks because of housing tenders issued for Gilo – a Jerusalem neighborhood that no reasonable observer could possibly expect to be evacuated – is doubly so.
The outsized and deeply personal nature of the negotiations agenda in American foreign policy is reflected elsewhere. Moshe Ya’alon’s overly blunt outburst against Kerry, in which he said the Secretary of State was only interested in winning a Nobel Peace Prize for brokering an Israeli-Palestinian agreement at a time when American allies were under threat around the world, is thus characterized as deeply hurtful; “the insult was great.”
At the time American officials reacted with even more pique: “”We were shocked by Moshe Ya’alon’s comments, which seriously call into question his commitment to Israel’s relationship with the United States.”
Ya’alon’s remarks were accurate but ill-considered, and were in keeping with many being made by nervous American allies. But the American response then and now seems to be that Israelis should simply shut up.
Barnea reports that the US perceives the hero of the recent negotiations to be Tzipi Livni, who “fought for all her might to promote the agreement.” This may be so, but characterizing Livni as the righteous woman of the hour simply amplifies the longstanding perception that she is the Obama administration’s favored successor to Netanyahu. This will not do her any good politically.
Despite it all, and to Kerry’s credit, progress was made and an agreement was outlined. But one obstacle remained, Abbas’ refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. Here too the American official betrays something bordering on criminal ignorance:
“We couldn’t understand why it bothered him [Abbas] so much. For us, the Americans, the Jewish identity of Israel is obvious. We wanted to believe that for the Palestinians this was a tactical move – they wanted to get something (in return) and that’s why they were saying ‘no.’
Recognizing Israel as a Jewish state is, for Abbas and the Palestinian leadership, if not the majority of Palestinians, a declaration that Jews have historic rights as a nation and a people, not simply a religion. Such a declaration would end the conflict once and for all by mandating that a Jewish nation-state may stand alongside a Palestinian state. And for those reasons it was out of the question.
The American habit of seeing Israel as a Jewish state is comforting, but the inability to understand that Palestinians refuse to do so out of religious convictions that Jews are a religion, not a people entitled to sovereignty in their historic homeland, is absurd. If the Arab-Israeli conflict has a “root cause,” this is it. But American blindness is not surprising, since the religious context of international affairs has never been well-understood by American policymakers, and has, since 9/11, been deliberately obfuscated, denied, and pushed far to the background.
Finally, Barnea’s interview betrays the understated American strategy of pressuring Israel with threats of international boycotts. This approach goes back at least a year, with statements by Kerry and enshrined as policy in President Obama’s notorious interview with Jeffrey Goldberg prior to the AIPAC meeting in March 2014.
Barnea’s interviewee made the threats clear: “The international community, especially the European Union, avoided any action during the negotiations. Now, a race will begin to fill the void. Israel might be facing quite a problem.”
As with Kerry’s and Obama’s statements in the past, European states and corporations have been given explicit license to explore boycotting Israel. European foreign ministries and the European Commission, pressured by anti-Israel NGO’s that they themselves fund, will rush to the task.
Rarely has a bludgeon been wielded so blatantly by American administration against an ally. Kerry’s haphazard use of the term “apartheid” makes the message unmistakable.
Historical outcomes are never inevitable but they are frequently predictable. So it was in the case of Kerry’s latest efforts, where the pitfalls were obvious and self-made. As more details emerge there will be much blame to be shared by Israelis and Palestinians. America, however, will take the lion’s share.
Alex Joffe is a historian and archaeologist. He is a Shillman-Ginsburg Fellow of the Middle East Forum.
April 28, 2014
Running Away from Statehood, Again
BESA Center Perspectives Paper
(Begin- Sadat Center for Strategic Studies)
Prof. Efraim Karsh
The Palestinian Authorities’ decision to strike an agreement with Hamas instead of with Israel is of little surprise. Since before 1948, the Palestinian leadership has continually rejected any possibility of attaining statehood, in favor of a commitment to violence and promoting their self-inflicted plight for their own financial benefits. With the possibility of another failed round of peace talks, one wonders whether the Palestinian leadership is even interested in independent statehood of any kind.
The “historic” agreement of last week between The Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) and Hamas, to form a united government casts a serious doubt not only on the Palestinian leadership’s commitment to a two-state solution, but also on its interest in the attaining of statehood at all.
Not that this should have come as a surprise to anyone. For nearly a century, Palestinian leaders never have missed an opportunity to impede the development of Palestinian civil society and the attainment of Palestinian statehood.
Had the Jerusalem mufti Hajj Amin Husseini, who led the Palestinian Arabs from the early 1920s to the late 1940s, chosen to lead his constituents to peace and reconciliation with their Jewish neighbors, the Palestinians would have had their independent state over a substantial part of mandate Palestine by 1948, and would have been spared the traumatic experience of dispersal and exile.
Had Yasser Arafat, who dominated Palestinian politics from the mid-1960s to his death in November 2004, set the PLO from the start on the path to peace and reconciliation instead of turning it into one of the most murderous and kleptocratic terrorist organizations in modern times, a Palestinian state could have been established on numerous occasions: In the late 1960s or the early 1970s; in 1979, as a corollary to the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty; in May 1999, as part of the Oslo process; or more recently at the Camp David summit of July 2000.
Had Mahmoud Abbas, who succeeded Arafat as PLO chairman and PA president, abandoned his predecessors’ rejectionist path, a Palestinian state could have been established after the Annapolis summit of November 2007, or in June 2009, during President Obama’s first term when Benjamin Netanyahu broke with the longstanding Likud precept by publicly accepting the two-state solution and agreeing to the establishment of a Palestinian state.
But why should the Palestinians engage in the daunting tasks of nation-building and state creation if they can have their hapless constituents run around in circles for nearly a century while they bask in international sympathy and enrich themselves from the proceeds of their self-inflicted plight?
The Palestinian leadership in Mandate Palestine (1920-48) had no qualms about inciting its constituents against Zionism and the Jews while lining its own pockets from the fruits of Jewish development and land purchases. So too, the cynical and self-seeking PLO “revolutionaries” have used the billions of dollars donated by the Arab oil states and the international community to lead a luxurious lifestyle in sumptuous hotels and villas, globe-trotting in grand style, acquiring properties, and making financial investments worldwide – while millions of ordinary Palestinians scramble for a livelihood, many of them in squalid and overcrowded refugee camps.
This process reached its peak following the September 1993 signing of the Israel-PLO Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements (DOP, or Oslo I) and the establishment of the Palestinian Authority. For all his rhetoric about Palestinian independence, Arafat had never been as interested in the attainment of statehood as he was in the violence attached to its pursuit.
In the late 1970s, he told his close friend and collaborator, the Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, that the Palestinians lacked the tradition, unity, and discipline to become a formal state, and that a Palestinian state would be a failure from the first day.
Once given control of the Palestinian population in the West Bank and Gaza as per the Oslo accords, Arafat made this bleak prognosis a self-fulfilling prophecy, establishing a repressive and corrupt regime in the worst tradition of Arab dictatorships. The rule of the gun prevailed, and huge sums of money donated by the international community for the benefit of the civilian Palestinian population were diverted to funding racist incitement, buying weaponry, and filling secret bank accounts.
Not only has Abbas done nothing to clean up the Palestinian Authorities’ (PA) act, but he seems to have followed in his predecessor’s kleptocratic footsteps, reportedly siphoning at least $100 million to private accounts abroad and making his sons at the PA’s expense. In the words of Fahmi Shabaneh, former head of the Anti-Corruption Department in the PA’s General Intelligence Service:
“In his pre-election platform, President Abbas promised to end financial corruption and implement major reforms, but he hasn’t done much since then. Unfortunately, Abbas has surrounded himself with many of the thieves and officials who were involved in theft of public funds and who became icons of financial corruption. … Some of the most senior Palestinian officials didn’t have even $3,000 in their pocket when they arrived [after the signing of the Oslo accords]. Yet we discovered that some of them had tens, if not hundreds, of millions of dollars in their bank accounts. …”
The attainment of statehood would have shattered the paradise established on the backs of the long suffering public in the West Bank and Gaza. It would have transformed the Palestinians in one fell swoop from the world’s ultimate victim, into an ordinary (and most likely failing) nation-state, thus terminating decades of unprecedented international indulgence. It would have also driven the final nail into the PLO’s false pretense of being “the sole representative of the Palestinian people” (already dealt a devastating blow by Hamas’s 2006 electoral rout) and would have forced any governing authority to abide, for the first time in Palestinian history, by the principles of accountability and transparency.
Small wonder, therefore, that whenever confronted with an international or Israeli offer of statehood, Palestinian leaders will never take “yes” for an answer.
Professor Efraim Karsh is a senior research associate at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, and a professor of Middle East and Mediterranean Studies at Bar-Ilan University, Kings College London, and the Middle East Forum (Philadelphia). His books include Arafat’s War and Palestine Betrayed.
April 26, 2014
Abbas: Palestinian unity government will recognize Israel
PA president says he wants to extend peace talks, tells PLO Central Council that joint Hamas-Fatah authority will reject violence
Avi Issacharoff and Times of Israel Staff
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during a meeting of the Palestinian Central Council, a top decision-making body, at his headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Saturday, April 26, 2014. Abbas said any unity government with the Islamic extremist Hamas would follow his political program, an apparent attempt to reassure the West. Israel’s leaders have accused Abbas of choosing Hamas over possible peace with Israel. (photo credit: AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday said the Palestinian unity government Hamas and Fatah will form as part of their reconciliation deal will recognize Israel and respect its international agreements.
Speaking at a meeting of the PLO Central Council in Ramallah, Abbas spoke for over an hour in a mostly impromptu address that covered a range of topics, focusing on the peace talks with Israel and the reconciliation deal reached between Hamas and Fatah earlier this week. A member of the Islamist movement Hamas attended the meeting.
Abbas said that the unity government which he is to lead will be an independent, technocratic government without Hamas or Fatah politicians. He emphasized that it would not deal with the negotiations with Israel.
“That is not its concern, that [falls within] the PLO’s authority,” the PA president said. “At the same time, I recognize Israel and it will recognize Israel. I reject violence and it will reject violence. I recognize the legitimacy of international agreements and it will recognize them. The government is committed to what I am committed. No one should claim now that it’s a government of terror.”
Abbas said, however, that the Palestinians would never recognize Israel as a Jewish state.
Concerning the impending expiration of the peace talks with Israel, Abbas said he was still interested in extending the negotiations beyond their April 29 deadline, but reiterated his demand that Israel freeze settlement construction in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, free the final group of 26 Palestinian prisoners, and begins discussions on the future borders of a Palestinian state.
The PA president lambasted Israel, saying Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government was determined not to reach a peace deal with the Palestinians and that Israel’s refusal to negotiate with a Palestinian government that includes Hamas is proof it is not committed to a two-state solution. He praised US Secretary of State John Kerry’s efforts, saying he was serious about helping the two sides reach a negotiated peace.
Abbas claimed that Israel wanted the political division between the West Bank and Gaza Strip which has endured since Hamas violently took over the latter territory in 2007.
“The Israelis agreed to the rift, supported and loved the division. And why? Because every time that we came to negotiate with Israel, it said ‘But with whom will we speak, with Gaza or the West Bank?’ So we made reconciliation. Now they tell us to choose between Gaza and negotiations. But this is our people, this is our land.”
Noting that Israel considered Hamas a terrorist organization, Abbas pointed out that Israel held indirect negotiations with Hamas on multiple occasions, including in late 2012 to reach a ceasefire to end Operation Pillar of Defense.
“But you Israelis made deals with them, no? You reached a ceasefire agreement with the mediation of [ousted Egyptian president] ‘Sheikh’ [Mohammed] Morsi,” Abbas said. “We are not opposed to a truce, but you made the deal and now you’re telling me, ‘You must not go with Hamas?’”
Abbas said that in the past two days hope was renewed with the unity deal reached by Fatah and Hamas.
The last time the PCC convened was three years ago.
Israel suspended the peace talks over the deal, saying it would have no dealings with a Palestinian government backed by Hamas, which is pledged to the destruction of the Jewish state.
Israel and the United States had been hoping to extend the faltering peace talks beyond their April 29 deadline, but the efforts hit a wall last month when Israel refused to release a final batch of Palestinian prisoners.
The Palestinians retaliated by applying to adhere to 15 international treaties and then Abbas, who heads the PLO, the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Fatah, listed conditions for extending the talks beyond the April 29 deadline.
In the unity deal penned this week, Hamas and the Fatah-led PLO agreed to establish a “national consensus” government under Abbas within weeks.
The reconciliation deal infuriated Israel, which said it would “not negotiate with a Palestinian government backed by Hamas, a terror organization that calls for the destruction of Israel,” and vowed unspecified “measures” in response.
On Friday, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said US efforts to broker a peace deal had not failed, but were currently in a “holding period” as Palestinians and Israelis decide their next move.
She noted Abbas had insisted that any government formed with Hamas backing would “represent his policies, and that includes recognition of Israel, commitment to non-violence, adherence to prior agreements and commitment to peaceful negotiations toward a two-state solution.”
Abbas spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh said, however, that the Palestinians received no official statement from Washington about a change in the US’s aid policy vis-á-vis the Palestinians in light of the reconciliation deal, according to Israel Radio. Congressional Republicans and Democrats signaled Friday that any permanent agreement between the PA and Hamas, which the US designates a terrorist organization, would force the US to end some $400 million in economic and security aid provided annually.
Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah informed Abbas Friday he would resign if the president deemed it necessary for the formation of the new unity government, official Palestinian news agency Wafa reported.
April 24, 2014
U.S. & Israel Must Terminate Relations With Abbas Following Fatah/P.A.––Hamas Reconciliation Deal
ZOA (Zionist Organization of America)
U.S. State Dept. –– Now Israel Can’t Be Expected To Negotiate
The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has urged the Obama Administration and the Israeli government to terminate relations with Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah/Palestinian Authority (PA), following its conclusion of a reconciliation agreement with the Islamist terrorist organization Hamas, which controls Gaza. The State Department designates Hamas as a terrorist organization.
Top Hamas official Hassan Yousef announced that the terror group would not renounce its commitment to violence and the destruction of Israel, will not recognize Israel and “will not give up the resistance” [i.e. terrorism against Israelis] (Adam Kredo, ‘New Palestinian Government Refuses to Renounce Violence,’ Washington Free Beacon, April 23, 2014).
The ZOA believes such an agreement between Abbas’ Fatah/PA and Hamas automatically invalidates any rationale that could be made for promoting Israeli/Palestinian negotiations.
Fatah calls in its Constitution for the destruction of Israel (Article 12) and the use of terrorism as an indispensable element in the struggle to achieve that goal (Article 19). Fatah terrorists have murdered over 500 Israelis since Yasser Arafat launched his terrorist wave against Israel in September 2000. Hamas calls in its Charter for the destruction of Israel (Article 15) and the worldwide murder of Jews (Article 7), while Hamas terrorists have also murdered over 500 Israelis since September 2000.
Palestinian media outlets are already reporting that Hamas members are set to fill the PA’s ranks, and may even head the new government. Following the announcement of the reconciliation deal, Israel said it would not attend a negotiation session planned for Wednesday evening. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier said Mr. Abbas would have to choose between peace with Israel and peace with Hamas, saying, “Does [Abbas] want peace with Hamas or peace with Israel? You can have one but not the other” (‘Hamas and Fatah unveil Palestinian reconciliation deal,’ BBC, April 23, 2014).
In a press briefing, the State Department spokeswoman, Jen Psaki, responded to the news of the reconciliation deal, saying, “it’s hard to see how Israel can be expected to negotiate with a government that does not believe in its right to exist.” Asked if U.S. financial aid to the PA would be a casualty of this move, Psaki replied, “Well, obviously, there would be implications” (‘Jen Psaki, Spokesperson, Daily Press Briefing, Washington, DC, April 23, 2014’).
ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said, “By concluding a reconciliation agreement with Hamas, a movement intent on a genocide of the Jews, Abbas’ Fatah/PA has shown conclusively that it is not only not a peace partner, but an avowed enemy of Jews and the Jewish state.
“As we have argued for many years now, we know from long, bitter experience that the PA is unlikely to accept even the most generous Israeli peace proposals, even ones that would endanger Israel, such as Ehud Barak’s 2000 peace offer or Ehud Olmert’s 2008 offer. Indeed, they have frustrated American attempts to bring about peace negotiations in recent months by adding new demands and also refused even to talk to Israel for almost the whole of the past five years.
“Abbas’ PA has not fulfilled its commitments under the Oslo agreements to arrest terrorists, outlaw terrorist groups and end the incitement to hatred and murder in the PA-controlled media, mosques, schools and youth camps that helps fuel the conflict. It has repeatedly and explicitly refused to accept Israel’s existence as a Jewish state. Even without the Fatah/Hamas deal, talks with the Fatah/PA are devoid of purpose.
“Until and unless the PA genuinely reforms to cleanse itself of terrorism and extremism, fights and jails terrorists and terminates the culture of hatred and rejection that helps fuel Palestinian violent rejection of the Jewish state of Israel, there is no prospect of peace. Is there now any prospect of these things happening when the Fatah/PA allies itself to Hamas? They have nailed their colors to the mast.
“We therefore urge both the Obama Administration and the Israeli government to terminate relations with the Fatah/PA forthwith.”
Further Israeli reactions to the Fatah/Hamas reconciliation deal:
- The secular left-of-center party Yesh Atid’s leader, Finance Minister, Yair Lapid, said that Hamas is “a jihadi terror organization that is proud of killing civilians – women, children, the elderly – just because they’re Jewish. If the Palestinians really want a treaty with Israel … how did they not demand from Hamas to say it is abandoning terror, to commit to not hurting innocent people and to follow international law?”
- The Jewish Home party leader, Economy Minister Naftali Bennett said, “We don’t talk to murderers … The agreement between Fatah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad brings the Middle East to a new diplomatic era. The Palestinian Authority turned into the largest terrorist organization in the world, 20 minutes from Tel Aviv” (Herb Keinon & Lahav Harkov, ‘Israel cancels planned peace talks meeting after Fatah-Hamas unity deal announced,’ Jerusalem Post, April 23, 2014).
April 23, 2014
Hamas and Fatah unveil Palestinian reconciliation deal
Middle East Editor
Rival Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas have announced a reconciliation deal, saying they will try to form a unity government in the coming weeks.
Hamas and Fatah split violently in 2007. Previous reconciliation agreements have never been implemented.
The deal comes amid troubled peace talks between Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Israel.
Following the announcement, Israel said it would not attend a negotiation session planned for Wednesday evening.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier said Mr Abbas would have to choose between peace with Israel and peace with Hamas.
It is not easy to find a Palestinian who is optimistic about the latest, announcement, long overdue, about a reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas.
Dozens of similar meetings have been held at home and abroad over the years. Two agreements were signed – in Qatar and Cairo – but none of these saw the light of day and nothing changed on the ground.
So what is new in this round?
Observers and analysts say there are new developments in the region.
Hamas has lost a strong ally in Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and the leadership has also lost a key base in Damascus.
Fatah, meanwhile, is looking to strengthen its position as peace negotiations with Israel stall.
Media divided over Palestinian unity deal
“You can have one but not the other. I hope he chooses peace; so far he hasn’t done so,” he warned.
Israel – along with the US and the EU – views the Islamist Hamas group as a terrorist organisation.
Palestinian officials responded by saying reconciliation was an internal matter and uniting Palestinian people would reinforce peace.
In a statement, Mr Abbas said there was “no incompatibility between reconciliation and the talks” and that they were committed to peace on the basis of a two-state solution.
US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Washington was “disappointed” by the announcement and warned it could seriously complicate peace efforts.
“It’s hard to see how Israel can be expected to negotiate with a government that does not believe in its right to exist,” she added.
Mr Abbas sent a delegation from his Fatah party to Gaza for reconciliation talks earlier this week.
Israeli spokesman Mark Regev: “This is a move away from peace”
The factions said they planned to form an interim unity government – headed by Mr Abbas – within five weeks and hold parliamentary elections within six months.
“This is the good news we tell our people,” Ismail Haniya, prime minister of the Hamas-led government in Gaza, told reporters. “The era of division is over.”
Senior Fatah official Azzam al-Ahmed said they had “agreed about everything we discussed, so we will forget what happened in the past”.
The news brought thousands of Palestinians out on to the streets of Gaza City in celebration.
Mustafa Barghouti, Palestinian Legislative Council: “Now any agreement will be with all Palestinians”
Ordinary Palestinians have long hoped for an end to the split between their political leaders but previous reconciliation deals in Doha and Cairo were never implemented, says the BBC’s Yolande Knell in Jerusalem.
The agreement will strengthen the position of Mr Abbas – whose Fatah movement dominates the Palestinian Authority, which controls parts of the West Bank – and should also make Hamas feel less isolated as it continues to face border restrictions imposed by Israel and Egypt, our correspondent adds.
Fatah has historically been the dominant faction in the Palestinian nationalist movement, but Hamas won parliamentary elections in January 2006.
Palestinians show support for the reconciliation deal, in Gaza City, on 23 April 2014 The deal was welcomed with celebrations by Palestinians in Gaza City In early 2007, Fatah and Hamas agreed to form a coalition to end growing factional violence, but in June of that year Hamas seized Gaza by force and set up a rival government.
Shortly after Wednesday’s reconciliation deal was announced, five people were injured in an Israeli air strike in northern Gaza, Palestinian medics said.
Israel said it had targeted militants preparing to fire rockets. On Monday, seven rockets were launched from the territory into southern Israel.
April 8, 2014
The Peace Process is Dead. Let it lay in Peace
The April 29th deadline has not yet been reached, but it may be said with confidence that the initiative by Secretary of State John Kerry to revive the ‘peace process’ between Israelis and Palestinians has already reached its final destination: failure.
The failure of this initiative was obvious from the beginning. To everyone except, apparently, Kerry himself. This reality lent an element of low farce to the entire proceedings.
By now, it should really be obvious to any serious observer that there is no chance that the Israeli-Palestinian negotiating process will produce a comprehensive peace between the two sides.
There are two core reasons for this. One of them is of long-standing, the other is a development of the last decade.
The first reason is because the Fatah movement, headed by Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, is simply not interested in exchanging its historic goal of reversing the verdict of 1948 for the establishment of a small Palestinian state in the West Bank.
This is the reason why it has refused every concrete proposal to end the conflict along these lines – from the Clinton proposals of 2000, via then Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s plan in 2008, to the recent refusal by Abbas to declare that any agreement reached would mark an end to the conflict and to further Palestinian claims.
The volume of proof supporting this contention is now so enormous that it is truly astonishing that this point needs to be made. But illusions die hard, apparently.
So once more with feeling. The Fatah movement considers the acceptance of any sovereignty west of the Jordan river other than Arab Muslim sovereignty to be unimaginable. It will therefore never sign an agreement that includes the acceptance of such sovereignty. It will always find a reason not to do so, while for tactical reasons where necessary pretending that the problem is with the precise details of the agreement.
As to why Fatah cleaves to this position. On the more superficial level, mainstream Palestinian nationalism considers that the ‘imposition’ of Jewish sovereignty over part of former British Mandate Palestine (not ‘historic Palestine’, an entity that never existed) constitutes a crime of such horror and magnitude that it can never be accepted.
On a deeper level, this unusual refusal to compromise with reality derives from the movement’s Islamic roots (the very name ‘Fatah’ derives from a Koranic term meaning ‘Islamic conquest), which make it unimaginable that land once possessed by Muslims or Arabs can be accepted as having passed to another sovereignty. This process is experienced as particularly humiliating when the other sovereignty in question is that of a traditionally despised people, the Jews, rather than some mighty foreign empire.
Thus far, so obvious. The second, newer development, however, deserves closer attention.
The Israeli-Palestinian peace process also has no chance of success because there is no authoritative Palestinian Arab partner to the talks. Why not?
The first and obvious reason for this is because there is no longer a single, authoritative Palestinian national leadership. Yasir Arafat, founder of Fatah, achieved little for his people and bequeathed them even less. One thing which he did both achieve and bequeath, however, was a single, united Palestinian national movement.
This achievement did not long survive him.
Arafat died in 2004. In 2007, the Palestinian movement split in two, with control of the Gaza Strip passing to Hamas, the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Today, Hamas constitutes the more vigorous and formidable element in Palestinian nationalism. It presides over a small, sovereign Palestinian area. And of course, it opposes the negotiations and remains openly committed to the goal of destroying Israel.
There is no prospect of Palestinian re-unification in the foreseeable future (though Fatah spokesmen are forever proclaiming that it is just around the corner).
But there is a deeper and more historic aspect to this disunity. The division in Palestinian nationalism appears to be a return to the normal state of affairs, in which the Arab population of the area west and east of the Jordan River is divided into a variety of groups, with widely varying interests and agendas.
Palestinian identity, it turns out, like the neighboring Syrian and Iraqi and Lebanese identities, turns out to be a far more flimsy and contingent thing than its partisans and spokesmen have claimed.
The Israeli Arabs, though they continue to elect nationalist and Islamist representatives to the Knesset, react with horror to the prospect of exchanging their citizenship of the Jewish state for that of a putative Palestinian sovereignty.
This renders absurd the claim of membership in a broader Palestinian identity made by the elected leaders of these Israeli citizens.
There are today Palestinian Arab populations in three entities west of the Jordan River, each with their own interests, and own incompatible agendas.
In addition to this, of course, there is also a large majority Palestinian population in Jordan, which today mainly accepts the continued rule of the Hashemite monarchy.
So the very nature of the Palestinian political culture developed by Arafat and his colleagues precludes the conclusion of an agreement based on partition. But even if it did not, there is no single ‘pen’ with the authority to sign such an agreement on behalf of the Palestinians.
Israel will and should continue to make clear to both the PA leadership and to Jordan that it is willing to reach a solution based on partition with appropriate security guarantees, or a long term interim accord if this proves impossible.
Neither outcome looks imminent, however. Many Palestinians and the many western supporters of the Palestinian cause are convinced that the gradual international delegitimization of Israel is the key to final strategic victory over the Jewish state and the reversal of the verdict of 1948. This is an illusion. But it will need to work itself through, like the illusions that preceded it.
When it has, sadly, it is likely to be replaced by a new illusion. Thus the reckoning with the reality of Jewish peoplehood and sovereignty will continue to be avoided, and the Palestinian politics of subsidized fantasy will continue.
Jonathan Spyer is a senior research fellow at the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and a fellow at the Middle East Forum.
April 11, 2014
Standing Firm –To Blame Israel
Council on Foreign Relations
Several well-known members of America’s foreign policy establishment have just published an open letter to Secretary of State Kerry, entitled “Stand Firm, John Kerry.” And firm they are, in blaming Israel for every problem in the peace negotiations.
Criticism of Israel and of the policies of the Netanyahu government is certainly fair, whether from the left or the right. But the criticisms adduced here are not. Why not?
The authors’ (Zbigniew Brzezinki, Carla Hills, Lee Hamilton, Thomas Pickering, Frank Carlucci, and Henry Siegman) first point is that the “enlargement” of Israeli settlements is the central problem in getting to peace. They propose stopping all negotiations until settlement “enlargement” ends. One problem with this approach is that it is the Palestinians, after all, who want to change the current situation, end the occupation, and get a sovereign state, so halting all diplomatic activity would seem to punish the party the authors’ wish to help. But there’s a deeper problem: there is no “enlargement” of Israeli settlements. There is population growth, especially in the major blocs that Israeli will obviously keep in any final agreement. But enlargement, which logically means physical expansion, is not the problem and is rare in the West Bank settlements. The authors don’t seem to know this.
Their second point deals with “Palestinian incitement,” a term long used by American officials to describe anti-Semitic statements and actions that glorify terror and terrorists—naming schools and parks after them for example. But the authors’ say nothing about this; they do not mention Palestinian anti-Semitism or the glorification of terror. They say instead that Israel sees “various Palestinian claims to all of historic Palestine constitute incitement.” This is plain wrong. Here’s what Palestinian “incitement” means, as described by David Pollock of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy:
In a particularly striking case, at the end of 2012, the Fatah Facebook page posted an image of Dalal Mughrabi, a female terrorist who participated in the deadliest attack in Israel’s history — the killing of 37 civilians in the 1978 Coastal Road Massacre. The image was posted with the declaration: ‘On this day in 1959 Martyr (Shahida) Dalal Mughrabi was born, hero of the ‘Martyr Kamal Adwan’ mission, bride of Jaffa and the gentle energizing force of Fatah.’
Another theme of recent official Palestinian incitement is the demonisation of Israelis and Jews, often as animals. For example, on 9 January 2012 PA television broadcast a speech by a Palestinian Imam, in the presence of the PA Minister of Religious Affairs, referring to the Jews as ‘apes and pigs’ and repeating the gharqad hadith, a traditional Muslim text about Muslims killing Jews hiding behind trees and rocks, because ‘Judgment Day will not come before you fight the Jews.’
The authors’ should know this kind of incitement happens constantly, and should demand that it end.
Then comes a paragraph about Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish State, as to which the authors are a bit ambiguous. They conclude that “Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, provided it grants full and equal rights to its non-Jewish citizens, would not negate the Palestinian national narrative.” They should have acknowledged that Israel does grant full and equal rights to non-Jewish citizens. There is no other country in the region with a substantial Christian population from which those Christian citizens are not fleeing, and that might have been noted. And Muslims in Israel vote in fully free elections; where else in the region does that truly happen?
Then comes a paragraph on “Israeli security,” which is devoted to condemning “Illegal West Bank land grabs”—as if Israel had no security problems at all. With respect to the Jordan Valley, they bemoan the impression that the United States takes Israeli security concerns there seriously. They do not acknowledge something every serious expert knows: that the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan also has grave concerns about security in the Jordan Valley and does not (repeat, not) want to see a quick withdrawal of Israeli forces from that long border. Security in the West Bank is a serious issue, but the open letter does not discuss the problem in a serious way.
The authors’ conclude that “the terms for a peace accord advanced by Netanyahu’s government, whether regarding territory, borders, security, resources, refugees or the location of the Palestinian state’s capital, require compromises of Palestinian territory and sovereignty on the Palestinian side of the June 6, 1967, line. They do not reflect any Israeli compromises….” This is remarkable. It’s obvious that tens of thousands, perhaps one hundred thousand or more, Israeli settlers would have to be uprooted in any peace deal remotely like the ones proposed by Israel at Camp David in 2000 and after Annapolis in 2008. The authors do not mention those proposals—nor the fact that the PLO rejected them. Nor the massive uprooting of citizens that Israel would have to undertake.
After his dozen trips to Israel as secretary of state, John Kerry can be presumed to know better than the authors of this open letter what’s going on in the “peace process.” Let’s hope he does “stand firm” against an analysis that blames one side exclusively for the failure to make peace, and ignores the history and complexities of the negotiations.
April 8, 2014
The Mideast peace process peters out
Palestinian leaders’ rejection of Israel precludes the possibility of a deal
The Washington Times
Clifford D. May
Blessed are the peacemakers, but don’t confuse peacemakers with peace processors.
The latter think they can persuade the lion to lie down with the lamb. The former are realistic enough to grasp how perilous that is unless the lion has just had a big dinner and a couple of stiff drinks.
Sad to say, Secretary of State John F. Kerry has proven to be a peace processor, one loath to acknowledge that the latest round of Palestinian-Israeli peace talks have come to a very dead end. Actually, they never moved off the starting blocks.
Let’s stipulate that Mr. Kerry is a good man who thought he had the diplomatic chops to succeed where his predecessors failed. Still, at a time when thousands of men, women and children are being slaughtered in Syria, al Qaeda is resurging in Iraq (and elsewhere), Egypt is in turmoil, and negotiations with Iran are at a critical juncture, his decision to invest so much time and energy in this effort — a dozen trips to the region — has to be seen as ill-advised.
Even if the region were not in turmoil, formidable obstacles to a Palestinian-Israeli settlement remain. Among them: Mahmoud Abbas was elected to a four-year term as president of the Palestinian Authority in 2005. He has continued to occupy that office ever since, avoiding the inconvenience of elections. Suppose he signed a treaty: What would his signature mean?
Although Mr. Abbas remains the boss on the West Bank, Gaza is ruled by Hamas, which openly rejects his authority and is unambiguously committed to Israel’s extermination. Hamas would not be bound by any compromises Mr. Abbas offered Israel.
Not that Mr. Abbas has offered compromises. All he has done is to send an envoy to sit at the table so long as Israelis, in exchange, release dozens of Palestinian terrorists from prison. Imagine the distress of victims’ families as they watch the murderers of their loved ones return to the West Bank, where Mr. Abbas celebrates and financially rewards them.
Imagine how difficult this is for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who understands — as Mr. Kerry apparently does not — that for a thousand years, the spilling of Jewish blood was an inexpensive proposition, a condition Israel was created to rectify.
Here’s the real stunner: Mr. Abbas still refuses to acknowledge Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people — a people with a history, culture, language and religion dating back three millennia in this corner of the Middle East. That can only imply one thing: Mr. Abbas rejects the principle of “two states for two peoples” — the only basis on which a two-state solution could possibly be achieved.
It’s not as though this is a new idea. In 1947, the United Nations proposed the partition of the Palestinian Mandate — territories that came under British control when the Ottoman Empire collapsed after World War I — into independent Arab and Jewish states. (Why did the U.N. not propose Palestinian and Jewish states? Because back then, “Palestinian” was a term used to refer to Arabs and Jews — and more often to the latter.)
The Jewish leaders of Palestine agreed to take the deal. Palestine’s Arab leaders — and the leaders of all the existing Arab states — rejected it, and sent their armies to strangle the state of Israel in its crib. Against all odds, Palestinian Jews defended themselves successfully.
The failure of this first war against Israel might have resulted in at least grudging acceptance of Israel by its Arab neighbors. Instead, as Canadian author George Jonas has noted, it produced among the Arabs “the special humiliation of a Goliath beaten by David.”
In 1967, the states on Israel’s borders launched another major war to push the Jews into the sea. Again, Israelis prevailed. At the Arab League summit that followed, eight Arab heads of state issued the “Three No’s”: “no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations” with Israel.
Nevertheless, the 1967 war opened what seemed like a great opportunity: Gaza and the West Bank, which had been ruled by Egypt and Jordan, respectively, were in Israeli hands. Why not create an independent Palestinian state in these territories — the first such state in history? All that would be necessary would be for the leaders of that state to recognize and peacefully coexist with Israel. But no Palestinian leaders have been willing to accept that, and even today, no leaders of Arab and Muslim states are urging them to do so.
At this point, whatever Mr. Abbas may want (I don’t claim to be able to read his mind or heart), he’s savvy enough to know that if he agrees to end the conflict with Israel — on almost any terms, no matter how favorable to Palestinians — Hamas would declare him an “Arab Zionist” and traitor.
Hamas would seek to impose capital punishment on him without the nuisance of lawyers, trials and such, as would Lebanon-based Hezbollah, which is Iran’s proxy, and Iran’s rulers, who are aiming to become the region’s nuclear-armed hegemon.
Some say that Mr. Netanyahu faces the same threat: In 1995, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated after proposing that Israel make far-reaching concessions for peace. It’s my conviction that Mr. Netanyahu — whose brother was the only Israeli soldier killed during the successful rescue of hostages from Palestinian terrorists at Entebbe, Uganda, in 1976 — would take that risk, and even accept that fate, if he thought it meant giving Israelis the gift of a durable peace.
But I don’t think that Mr. Abbas will present Mr. Netanyahu with such a decision. I don’t think the renewed peace process Mr. Kerry initiated ever had the slightest chance of changing Mr. Abbas‘ mind.
Clifford D. May is president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
April 3, 2014
Israel Cancels Prisoner Release Over Palestinian UN Step
Israel canceled the already postponed release of 26 Palestinian prisoners in the latest blow to faltering peace talks, saying the move was a response to renewed efforts by Palestinians to gain recognition at the United Nations.
Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, one of Israel’s two chief negotiators, told Palestinian counterpart Saeb Erekat of the decision in a meeting earlier today, an Israeli official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the delicacy of the talks.
Ziad Abu Ein, the Palestinian Authority’s deputy minister for prisoner affairs, said halting the release “closes all doors to further peace opportunities, and it’s a blow to the American efforts that have been exerted till this moment.”
Israel has freed three previous groups of prisoners since U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry brought the two sides back to the negotiating table in July, and missed a deadline this week for a fourth release. Kerry, speaking earlier today before the Israeli announcement, said it was premature to conclude that talks have broken down, and called on both sides to put aside their rancor and work harder on a peace agreement.
“You can facilitate, you can push, you can nudge, but the parties themselves have to make fundamental decisions and compromises,” Kerry said in Algiers. “The leaders need to lead.”
Kerry talked by telephone later today with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, according to State Department officials.
After Israel initially postponed the prisoner release, Abbas retaliated by resuming efforts to win further recognition of a state of Palestine, over Israeli and U.S. objections.
The Palestinians applied at the UN to join 15 international treaties and conventions, in a calibrated bid to protest the stalemate in efforts without risking a cutoff in American aid.
Kerry said the fine print of the UN applications showed the Palestinians kept a door open. The Palestinians, who say they promised to suspend such efforts in exchange for the prisoner releases, didn’t seek status as a member-state at the world body or any of its agencies.
Under U.S. law, full statehood recognition before UN organizations would require a cutoff of about $300 million a year in American aid to the Palestinian Authority. Other laws bar U.S. funding for any UN organization that gives the Palestinians statehood rights, which in turn can lead to the suspension of U.S. voting rights for failure to pay dues.
During peace talks, Kerry has pressed Abbas to hold off on pursuing statehood goals at international agencies or filing complaints against Israel with the International Criminal Court.
“This is basically a first shot against Israel that ‘we are renewing the war, we are renewing the battlefield at the United Nations,’’ Einat Wilf, a former member of the Israeli Knesset told reporters yesterday on a conference call organized by the Israel Project, a Washington-based advocacy group. ‘‘It’s still not the heavy gun.’’
The Palestinian Authority gained the right to sign on to multilateral treaties after its status at the UN was elevated to observer non-member state in November 2012. It applied to organizations yesterday on behalf of the ‘‘State of Palestine,’’ a status that is under negotiation between Israel and the Palestinians in the talks over a two-state solution.
The applications didn’t include the Rome Statute, which would let Palestinians take cases alleging Israeli war crimes to the international court.
April 4, 2014
Former Israeli Ambassador Pins Dead Peace Process on American Wishful Thinking,
Says Kerry ‘Smothered in a Middle East Sandstorm’ (interview)
Yoram Ettinger, the former Israeli Ambassador for U.S. Congressional Affairs, on Thursday had harsh words for U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who he said has ignored the lessons of history in favor of “wishful thinking.”
Hitting at the heart of Israel’s relationship with the U.S., and informed by his years as Israel’s Consul General in Houston, Texas, Ettinger toldThe Algemeiner in an interview that Kerry’s refusal to acknowledge the historical facts and realities of the Middle East left America’s top diplomat “smothered in a Middle East sandstorm.”
Ettinger said the Obama administration’s “Palestine Firster” mentality was what doomed the nine months of peace talks that collapsed this week between the internationally recognized Jewish state and a group Ettinger insists still be referred to as the PLO, with all of the connotations those initials recall of its long terrorist roots, and showing how far the world is from in its “mistaken conventional wisdom” of a ‘Palestinian Authority’ prepared to govern responsibly beside Israel.
He pointed to the common misunderstanding of the role of the United Nations, wherePalestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has already launched his next battle, but Ettinger was confident that the powerful, though under-appreciated, role of the U.S. Congress in foreign affairs would allow Israel’s position to prevail.
“The ‘Palestine Firsters’ are those who believe that this is the center of everything,” Ettinger told The Algemeiner. “It’s part of an overall worldview – these are the same people who also believe that the UN is the quarterback of international relations. The UN assumes that the Palestinian issue is the center, so if the quarterback is telling you that the entire game plan has to be based on the Palestinian issue, you go with the quarterback.”
“They genuinely believe an Israeli concession — the establishment of a Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria — is going to do the trick, and thereby they ignore the roughly 100 years of conflict that sends a very clear message to the contrary.”
“In the 1920s and 1930s and 1940s, during the pogroms of those years, there was no independent Jewish state. There was no ‘Israeli occupation’, but still there was a war on the Jewish communities in the land of Israel,” he said. “Until 1967, Israel was not in Judea and Samaria, or Gaza.”
That begs the question: If history shows that war predated the “occupation,” how could the “occupation” be the cause of the war?
“And the same thing with the ‘settlements,’” Ettinger said.
“The lesson is very clear. The Palestinian war on Israel is not due to Israel’s policy or Israel’s size. It has to do with the existence of the Jewish state, which leads to the most fundamental misperception and error here.”
Rather than looking toward history or understanding how religion impacts decision making in the Middle East, because those concepts are too complicated to paint a simple picture, Ettinger said the U.S. sees every question through the lens of secular nationalism that can be swayed with the capitalist’s carrot of throwing money at the problem. In this case, Kerry offered $4 billion of aid to the PA to reach a deal.
If it were about money, the oil producing Arab states could come up with even more, he said; “that’s petty cash for them.”
The other tack the U.S. took in the peace talks was to insist on “Palestinian human rights,” with the notion of any group of people being able to choose their destiny through free, frequent and fair elections. But in that case, asked Ettinger, how could Kerry invite Abbas to the table, when he was elected for a four-year term, 10 years ago? Rather than nine months of fruitless negotiations, wouldn’t Kerry’s time have been better spent pursuing “Palestinian human rights” by demanding those people, too, have the chance to choose their destiny through a democratic election?
In Ettinger’s view, rather than face any of the underlying issues, the U.S. approach was to focus on multi-lateral and multi-national ways of solving problems, ultimately accepting the world view of the UN, where Israel’s enemies imagine that the Jewish state is the world’s leading tyranny against human rights.
“You have a world view of [U.S. President Barack] Obama — John Kerry’s is basically Obama’s, Obama calls the shots,” he said. “They are determined to subordinate reality to that world view, irrespective of the fact that the world view has nothing to do with the reality, and that’s typical of John Kerry’s speech, which is replete with the word ‘imagine.’”
“‘Imagine what would happen if?’ And ‘imagine’, and ‘imagine’, and ‘imagine’, and ‘imagine’…”
“And you wonder, why is the supposed architect of foreign policy dealing with imagination rather than reality?
“He is assuming you can coerce reality to be subordinated to wishful thinking, to whims.”
“Again, it goes back to John Kerry,” he said. “This is the same John Kerry, together with [Defense Secretary] Chuck Hagel and [former Secretary of State] Hilary Clinton, who belonged to a very small club in the U.S. Senate which referred to [Syrian President] Bashar al Assad as a ‘constructive’, ‘reformist’, ‘potentially peaceful’ leader of Syria, this is before the civil war in Syria that has claimed 150,000 Syrian lives.”
“By the way, John Kerry had the same attitude toward Hafez al Assad, also, proclaimed him to be a ‘constructive leader’, and therefore one should not be surprised that he focuses on the wrong items when it comes to the Arab-Israeli conflict.”
When the U.S. declines to act against Syria for completely abrogating the human rights of Syrians, even after two generations of brutal dictatorships, Ettinger wanted to know why Kerry “imagines” that what’s happening in Israel is somehow more urgent than the hundreds of thousands of Arabs dying in various levels of civil war across the Middle East.
As he thought of the appropriate analogy to express his exasperation with the U.S. Secretary of State, Ettinger, dressed in a suit and black snakeskin cowboy boots, admitted his fondness for Texans and their sensibilities.
“I spent years in Texas, as an undergraduate and then as Consul General, and I now visit Texas sometimes four times a year, and there is a Texan colloquialism: When you drive in West Texas, and you’re smothered by a lethal West Texas sandstorm, don’t be pre-occupied by the tumbleweeds on the road.”
“So, here is John Kerry, driving in the Middle East, and he’s smothered by a Libyan sandstorm, by a Tunisian sandstorm, by an Egyptian sandstorm, by a Syrian sandstorm, a Yemenite sandstorm, an Iranian sandstorm, and an Islamic terrorist sandstorm, and what is he doing?”
“Focusing on the Palestinian tumbleweed on the road, which could face him with a very, very lethal fate. Because when you don’t focus on the sandstorm, you may be thrown off the road. And, unfortunately, this is exactly what John Kerry is doing right now in the Middle East.”
“This is Kerry’s 12th or the 13th visit to Ramallah and Jerusalem,” Ettinger said, throwing up his hands, baffled.
Rather than focus on the external forces that Israel cannot change, Ettinger’s approach is to focus on the areas where Israel, and Israelis, can make a difference, constructively, and independently of the “whims” of the world powers.
April 3, 2014
Palestinian official: Talks can continue, but only on borders
The Times of Israel (AFP contributed to this report)
Stuart Winer and Rebecca Shimoni Stoil
Palestinian envoy threatens Israel with ICC membership
The operational fiasco at the heart of the Pollard affair
Why the peace talks are collapsing
Kerry calls on Israeli, Palestinian leaders to ‘lead’ in talks
As US battles to save peace process, senior Fatah negotiator says ‘door still open,’ challenges Israel to produce map based on pre-1967 lines
Palestinian negotiator Mohammad Shtayyeh, June 2011. (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Palestinian negotiators would be willing to continue peace talks with Israel, but only to discuss defining the borders of a future state, a senior Palestinian official said in comments published Thursday.
The statement by top Fatah official Mohammed Shtayyeh came as the US scrambled to keep talks alive after each side accused the other of making unilateral moves to torpedo negotiations over the last few days.
Speaking to Sky News Arabic on Wednesday, Shtayyeh, who resigned as a member of the Palestinian negotiating team in December, said the Palestinians were prepared to give talks another chance during April, but should they fail, they will seek to join 63 international organizations including the International Criminal Court.
Returning to the negotiations “will be on the border only,” he said, challenging Israel to present a map based on the 1967 lines.
Shtayyeh said that serious talks about the borders, a core issue, would prove that Israel and the US are sincere about reaching an agreement.
Peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians were scheduled to last until late April, but broke down earlier in the week after Israel balked at releasing a fourth round of prisoners, which Ramallah says was agreed to before the talks.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas responded on Tuesday by applying for membership in 15 international bodies, many of which are UN-related, seemingly contravening an agreement not to turn to the United Nations as long as talks continued.
The moves drew harsh responses from the US, with the White House accusing the sides of taking “tit-for-tat actions.”
US mediator Martin Indyk convened emergency talks late Wednesday night between the two sides’ chief negotiators, Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and the PA’s Saeb Erekat.
There was no word on the outcome of the meeting as of Thursday morning.
A source close to the talks quoted by the Walla news website said the chances of success were “slim, but we’ll keep trying.”
Shtayyeh said that while Abbas’s dramatic televised signing of the applications to join 15 international agencies on Tuesday night was in response to Israel’s stalling over the fourth phase of a series of promised prisoner releases, the “door for negotiations was still open till the end of the month.”
He blamed the cancellation of a visit to the region by US Secretary of State John Kerry on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s duplicity over the prisoner release, saying the prime minister had assured Kerry nine times that he would indeed release the prisoners, but then reneged on the assurance.
PLO Central Committee Secretary Yasser Abed Rabbo (photo credit: Flash90/Issam Rimawi)
The PLO’s Yasser Abed Rabbo (photo credit: Flash90/Issam Rimawi)
Yasser Abed Rabbo, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s executive committee, endorsed the Palestinian condition that talks focus on defining the borders of a state, but warned against meaningless gestures.
“We can’t return to the empty routine, a search for a framework for talks — this empty routine which is negotiating about negotiating,” he said on Wednesday, according to Reuters.
Despite the move to join international agencies, Abed Rabbo insisted that Abbas remained committed to the US peace efforts.
“The Palestinian leadership… wants the political process to continue. But we want a real political process, without tricks,” he said.
Livni termed Abbas’s applications to join the 15 treaties and conventions, which were formally submitted to UN and other officials on Wednesday morning, “a breach of [his] commitment” not to apply to UN bodies while the negotiations were continuing. “It harms Palestinian interests,” she said of the move. “If they want a state, they must understand it must pass through the negotiating room.”
Israeli officials were quoted earlier Wednesday saying Abbas had “torpedoed” a nascent, complex, three-way deal under which Israel would have freed a final batch of 26-30 long-term Palestinian terror convicts and also released 400 more Palestinian security prisoners not guilty of violent crimes, peace talks would have extended beyond the current April 29 deadline, and the US would have released American-Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard.
Still, Livni said she believed talks would continue despite the crisis. ”We repeat and pledge that we will continue to fight for peace and stand like a fortified wall against the extremists, in the government as well, who are attempting to pass extreme legislation,” she said.
Deputy Foreign Minister Ze’ev Elkin lambasted Livni for meeting with Erekat, saying it was “a disgrace to the State of Israel.”
“The time has come to stop being the go-to sucker of the Middle East,” he said. “I call on the prime minister and Minister Livni to end the entire negotiation process so long as Abbas doesn’t withdraw his request from the United Nations, and unilaterally implement the many measures Israel has in order to convince the Palestinian leadership that it doesn’t pay for them to fight us in the international arena.”
State Department Deputy Spokeswoman Marie Harf refused to implicate Abbas’s move as the sole factor in Kerry’s decision to cancel his Wednesday meeting.
Harf would not answer questions Wednesday as to whether the State Department had been warned before Abbas made his Tuesday treaties and conventions move.
“Over the last 24 hours there have been unhelpful actions taken on both sides,” Harf said, described a growing “sense over the last 36 hours that we didn’t think it was a conducive environment for the secretary to travel there right now.”
Harf said that the coming days represented a critical stage for the talks. “This is one of the points in which both sides must make tough choices,” Harf warned, adding that the two sides “have made courageous decisions in the past” but that “we can’t make the tough decisions for them, they need to do it for themselves.”
Acknowledging that “it’s an easy story to write that making Middle East peace is hard,” Harf also emphasized that “talks are not at a dead end. There is still a chance to move the process forward.” During the past eight months, the negotiations had succeeded in “narrowing gaps” between the parties, she argued, but would not specify on which topics.
Israel’s Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, meanwhile, said he did not know “if this is a real crisis or an imagined one” but that ”the ball is in the Palestinians’ court.” Should the Palestinians choose not to resume negotiations, Israel need not run after them with conciliatory gestures, he said. ”If you don’t want negotiations, that’s your decision,” he said.
Liberman also said he would not vote for any deal that included freeing Israeli-Arab prisoners, who were reportedly slated to be part of 104 freed in exchange for peace talks.
Netanyahu issued no immediate official response to Abbas’s move. But unnamed officials in Jerusalem were quoted by Channel 2 news saying Abbas’s application to join the 15 international treaties and conventions represented a “major breach” of his understandings with Israel and the US over peace negotiations, and that it indicated that there was now “almost no chance” of a Pollard-for-prisoners deal enabling the continuation of peace talks.
Netanyahu was reported by Channel 2 to have mustered a cabinet majority in the course of Tuesday for a Pollard-for-prisoners deal, and to have been “shocked” to see the televised ceremony in which Abbas signed off on the various letters of accession.
Palestinian officials denied that applying to join the treaties and conventions marked a breach of understandings, and said the PA was committed to continuing talks until the April 29 deadline. “This is the fulfillment of Palestine’s right and has nothing to do with negotiations or the reaching of an agreement,” the PLO’s negotiations department said in a statement.
March 29, 2014
‘Israel offers to free 400 more prisoners if Abbas extends talks’
Palestinian sources disclose new proposal, which they say is backed by the US, to try to break peace talks impasse
Times of Israel
Palestinians celebrate at the welcome reception for released Palestinian prisoners, at the Muqata’a in Ramallah,
in the early hours of Tuesday, December 31, 2013. (photo credit: Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Israel has offered to release a new group of 400 Palestinian security prisoners, in addition to the fourth and final group of longtime terrorism convicts who were set to go free this weekend, if the Palestinian Authority agrees to extend peace talks for another six months, The Times of Israel learned from Palestinian sources on Saturday night. The US, anxious to arrange for the continuation of the talks, backed the offer.
Some sources claimed Israel was holding off on freeing the prisoners because of rumors that the PA would back out of peace talks once the fourth round of convicts were released
As of Saturday evening, however, PA President Mahmoud Abbas was insisting that the fourth group of longtime prisoners first be released before he would consider extending the talks beyond their current April 29 deadline.
Israel has refused to free the final group of some 26 prisoners, whom the PA insists must include several Israeli Arabs, unless Abbas first agrees to extend the talks. Israel has also balked at releasing Israeli Arabs.
Under the new Israeli offer, Israel would determine which additional 400 security prisoners would go free, the sources said. Israel is said to be holding close to 5,000 Palestinian security prisoners.
Jewish Home’s Uri Ariel, the minister of housing and construction, was said to be ready to recommend that his right-wing party leave the coalition if the release of the extra prisoners goes through.
Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz, a member of Netanyahu’s own Likud party, told Israel Radio Saturday night that he was against the release of all further prisoners, and that moves to free them should be stopped immediately, particularly “since there hasn’t been any forward movement in the peace process.”
The Minister of Prisoners in the PA, Issa Karake, on Saturday night urged Abbas to leave the negotiations and instead take the cause of Palestinian statehood to the UN and other international organizations if Israel does not release the fourth group of prisoners within the next few days.
State Department Spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Saturday night: “In regard to reports this evening on an agreement on the release of prisoners, no deal has been arrived at, and we continue to work intensively with both sides. Any claims to the contrary are inaccurate.”
Meanwhile, US Special Envoy for Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations Martin Indyk met with chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat and Israel’s envoy to the peace talks, Yitzhak Molcho, in Jerusalem Saturday night. Erekat was quoted by Army Radio saying he believed the deadlock would be broken, and the fourth group of prisoners would go free early in the coming week.
Earlier Saturday, it was reported that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has told US Secretary of State John Kerry that he fears his coalition could fall apart if Israel frees the fourth batch of Palestinian prisoners who were slated for release this weekend — among them 14 Israeli Arabs.
Citing sources in the Palestinian Authority, the London-based pan-Arab al-Hayat newspaper reported that US negotiators had told Abbas Netanyahu feared his coalition, which includes the right-wing Jewish Home and Yisrael Beytenu parties, might disintegrate over the prisoner release.
March 21, 2014
Abbas: I Am a Hero. I Said No to Obama
Khaled Abu Toameh
US President Barack Obama and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at a White House press conference on March 17, 2014. (Image source: White House video).
If in the past Abbas was afraid of Hamas’s response to the signing of a peace deal with Israel, it is now clear that he also has good reason to fear the reaction of top Fatah officials to any movement he makes concerning the peace process.
These rallies [Abbas asks for] are intended not only to send a message to Obama and Kerry, but also to Abbas’s rivals in Fatah.
Even before Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas left Washington on his way back to Ramallah, Palestinian Authority [PA] officials rushed to announce that their president’s talks with President Barack Obama over the future of the peace process were “unsuccessful.”
The officials said that Abbas rejected most of the proposals made by Obama during their meeting at the White House, including the idea of recognizing Israel as a Jewish state and maintaining an Israeli military presence in the Jordan Valley. Abbas, according to the officials, also dismissed as “immature” Obama’s proposal concerning the status of Jerusalem because it did not call for a full Israeli withdrawal from the eastern part of the city.
Abbas’s rejection of the U.S. proposals for a “framework agreement” with Israel did not come as surprise.
Over the past few months, Abbas and his top aides and negotiators have repeatedly voiced their strong opposition to these proposals, with some accusing the US Administration of endorsing the Israeli stance and failing to serve as a honest broker in the conflict.
Before heading to Washington, Abbas instructed the PA to organize public rallies in the West Bank in his support.
PA employees and schoolchildren were sent into the streets to chant slogans in support of Abbas, urging him not to succumb to U.S. pressure. The rallies were intended to send a message to President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry that the Palestinian public is strongly opposed to any concessions to Israel.
Upon Abbas’ return to Ramalllah, the Palestinian Authority once again organized rallies in support of him. On March 20 hundreds of PA employees and schoolchildren were sent to welcome Abbas at his presidential office and thank him for resisting U.S. pressure.
Bassam Zakarneh, chairman of the Palestinian Public Employees’ Union, said that the rallies were aimed at thanking Abbas for resisting “pressure and conspiracies and upholding Palestinian rights.”
The pro-Abbas rallies have drawn criticism from some Palestinians, who said they seemed reminiscent of demonstrations organized by dictators and their security agencies throughout the Arab world.
“These rallies are not real,” complained West Bank university professor Abdel Sattar Qassem. “They are similar to what Arab intelligence agencies have been doing — using blackmail and intimidation to force their public servants to show loyalty for the ruler.”
Abbas is now hoping to turn himself into a hero by telling his people that he had the guts to say no to Obama and Kerry during his visit to Washington.
Abbas is badly in need of public support, especially in light of increased tensions inside his ruling Fatah faction. In the past few days, these tensions have erupted into an all-out confrontation between Abbas and ousted Fatah Central Committee member Mohamed Dahlan.
Backed by some Gulf countries, Dahlan, a former commander of the PA security forces in the Gaza Strip, is now waging a public campaign to overthrow Abbas on charges of corruption and abuse of power. Abbas has retorted by accusing Dahlan of involvement in the death of Yasser Arafat and six Fatah leaders in the Gaza Strip.
“This is a disgraceful war between Abbas and Dahlan,” wrote Palestinian editor Abdel Bari Atwan. “We feel ashamed as we follow the exchange of allegations between the two men, who are accusing each other of theft, murder and collaboration with Israel. The Palestinians have become a joke in the eyes of many Arab brothers.”
Abbas’s rejection of the U.S. proposals is also attributed to the severe crisis within Fatah.
If in the past Abbas was afraid of Hamas’s response to the signing of a peace agreement with Israel, it is now clear that he also has good reason to fear the reaction of top Fatah officials to any move he makes concerning the peace process.
All Abbas can do for now is continue to ask his public servants and schoolchildren to take to the streets and chant slogans in his support. These rallies are intended to send a message not only to Obama and Kerry, but also to Abbas’s rivals in Fatah.
March 22, 2014
Times of Israel staff
TV report: Abbas said ‘no’ to Obama on 3 core peace issues
Rejecting Kerry framework, Palestinian leader reportedly told US president he won’t recognize ‘Jewish Israel,’ abandon ‘right of return,’ or commit to ‘end of conflict’
US President Barack Obama, right, and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas hold a meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, Monday, March 17, 2014 (photo credit: Saul Loeb/AFP)
On his trip to Washington this week, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas rejected US Secretary of State John Kerry’s framework document for continued peace talks with Israel, and issued “three no’s” on core issues, leaving the negotiations heading for an explosive collapse, an Israeli TV report said Friday.
Abbas “went to the White House and said ‘no’ to Obama,” Channel 2 news reported, quoting unnamed American and Israeli sources.
Specifically, the report said, Abbas rejected Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s demand that he recognize Israel as a Jewish state. He also refused to abandon the Palestinian demand for a “right of return” for millions of Palestinians and their descendants — a demand that, if implemented, would drastically alter Israel’s demographic balance and which no conceivable Israeli government would accept. And finally, he refused to commit to an “end of conflict,” under which a peace deal would represent the termination of any further Palestinian demands of Israel.
Israel has indicated that it may not release a fourth and final group of Palestinian prisoners at the end of this month, as agreed to when the current talks began last July, if Abbas does not first agree to extend the talks beyond their scheduled cessation next month. Since Abbas rejected the Kerry framework for extending the talks, the TV report said, the negotiations were now heading for an “explosion.”
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas waves to his supporters following his trip to Washington, DC, on Thursday, March 20, 2014, in the West Bank city of Ramallah (photo credit: AFP/Abbas Nomani)
Abbas returned on Thursday from the US, having held talks with Obama on Monday, and was met at his Ramallah compound by hundreds of cheering supporters.
“We carried the deposit, and we are guarding the deposit,” Abbas told those supporters somewhat cryptically. “You know all the conditions and circumstances, and I say to you that capitulating is not a possibility.” Abbas did not specify what he meant by the “deposit.”
During Monday’s meeting in Washington, Obama told Abbas that he would have to make tough political decisions and take “risks” for peace, as would Netanyahu. Abbas, for his part, reiterated his rejection of Israel’s demand that its status as a Jewish state be enshrined in a future peace accord, asserting that previous Palestinian recognition of Israel was sufficient.
“Everyone understands the outlines of what a peace deal would look like,” Obama said, describing an agreement that reflected the pre-1967 lines with agreed land swaps.
Sitting next to the president, Abbas spoke through a translator, thanking Obama for the opportunity to come to the White House and for the “economic and political support the US is extending to the Palestinian state so it can stand on its own feet.”
He outlined the Palestinian positions for negotiations, including “working for a solution that is based on international legitimacy and also the borders — the 1967 borders — so that the Palestinians can have their own independent state with East Jerusalem as its capital and so that we can find a fair and lasting solution to the refugee problem.”
On Thursday, the Palestinian Foreign Ministry notified Abbas that it is prepared to apply for full membership in international institutions if Israel fails to complete the fourth and final release of Palestinian prisoners jailed before the signing of the Oslo Accords, scheduled for March 29.
Israel agreed to release 104 such prisoners in four stages over the nine-month negotiating period, in return for a Palestinian commitment not to apply for membership in international bodies.
A number of Israeli cabinet members, including Economy Minister Naftali Bennett and Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon, have publicly opposed the final release, which the Palestinians want to include 14 Israeli citizens, something Israel has rejected.
Lazar Berman, Elhanan Miller, Rebecca Shimoni Stoil and AP contributed to this report.
March 19, 2014
Wall Street Journal Opinion Europe
The Failure of the Mideast ‘Peace Process’
The U.S. and Britain present themselves as Israel’s friends. Israel doesn’t quite see it like that.
The Middle East peace process seems all but doomed. Although U.S. President Barack Obama said he remained “convinced” it could still succeed when he met Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas this week, Secretary of State John Kerry has said trust between the Israelis and the Palestinians has reached a “nadir.”
David Cameron visited Jerusalem and Bethlehem last week, his first visit to the region after four years as British Prime Minister. His government has kept the Middle East at arm’s length. It is Secretary Kerry who has made all the running in this latest peace process, endlessly shuttling between the two sides.
Ostensibly, both the U.S. and the U.K. are urging both sides equally to take “tough political risks,” as Mr. Obama put it, for peace. Alas, such exhortations seem to elicit merely disdain from both Jews and Arabs.
A poll by the Israel Democracy Institute and Tel Aviv University revealed last week that 64% of Israelis do not trust Mr. Kerry to treat Israel’s security as a “crucial factor” in the framework peace proposal, while some 53% of Israeli Arabs don’t trust him either.
Both the U.S. and Britain present themselves as Israel’s candid friends. Israel doesn’t quite see it like that.
Benjamin Netanyahu (left) with Barack Obama. saul loeb/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images
For all his well-received remarks in the Knesset, where he declared his “unbreakable” belief in Israel and “rock solid” commitment to its security, Mr. Cameron’s government is widely viewed there with suspicion. Last year, the U.K. played a key role in the EU’s provocative decision to label goods made in the disputed territories, and even issued an explicit warning to British companies over the risks of doing business there—initiatives the Israelis regarded as gratuitous acts of aggression.
More important, there is also deep shock within Israel at what it sees as bullying by the U.S. When President Obama met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier this month, he issued a veiled threat that if Israel did not accept the Kerry framework, the U.S. would no longer defend Israel against its enemies at the U.N. and elsewhere. This followed Mr. Kerry’s remark last year that if Israel stymied the peace process, it might soon be facing an international delegitimization campaign “on steroids.”
In Israel, there is bewilderment that it alone is being held responsible for the absence of peace. After all, while Mr. Netanyahu has accepted the prospect of a Palestinian state alongside Israel, Mr. Abbas has said repeatedly that the Palestinians will never accept that Israel is a Jewish state.
He also continues to insist on the right of every Palestinian “refugee” to immigrate not just to Palestine but also to Israel, which would destroy it as the Jewish national home.
In addition, despite President Obama’s statement this week that Mr. Abbas has “consistently renounced violence,” the Palestinian Authority continues to incite hatred against Israel through its educational materials and regime-controlled media, and permits and glorifies acts of terrorism by the al Aqsa brigades and others.
Yet the U.S. and U.K. hold only Israel’s feet to the fire. Why? An important part of the answer lies in the inherent nature of the “peace process” itself.
This rests on two premises. The first is the Western fallacy that everyone in the world is governed by reason and material self-interest, whereas in fact some have non-negotiable agendas. The second is the current liberal belief that trans-national instruments such as international law can transcend the grievances of nation states.
War thus becomes a primitive throwback. It must be replaced by conflict resolution, negotiation and the “peace process.”
This then becomes a deeply problematic end in itself. Based on an amoral equivalence in such negotiations between aggressor and victim, the peace process has to be kept going at all costs if war is to be avoided.
That means ignoring the fact that the aggressor in the dispute may still be violent or threatening. For if that is acknowledged, the “peace process” becomes something unconscionable: an enforced surrender to violence.
If the victims protest at this free pass to murderous aggression and refuse to submit, it is they who get the blame for derailing the peace process. That process is therefore innately inimical to justice, and biased in favor of the aggressor in a conflict.
This is what happened in the Northern Ireland peace process. Widely viewed as a triumph in creating a power-sharing administration between the hitherto warring Catholic Irish Republican Army (IRA) and the Protestant Unionists, this is the template for the Middle East negotiations and Mr. Kerry’s last stand.
The U.K. government first under John Major and then Tony Blair is credited with having turned IRA terrorists into statesmen by bringing them into this peace process. In fact, the IRA came in only because they were in effect beaten by the British army and British intelligence. They realized they could never win by military means. So they put their weapons “beyond use” and were given a share in the government of the province.
But to keep the peace process on track, the Unionists were denied knowledge of certain facts, such as deals being made to not prosecute IRA terrorists. When these secret deals recently became public, Mr. Cameron had to move swiftly to stop the Unionists from destroying Northern Ireland’s power-sharing administration, which brought the risk of a return of IRA terrorism.
Not so much a true peaceful democracy, therefore, as an institutionalized protection racket. For Northern Ireland, the peace process was a Faustian pact in one U.K. province. For Israel, the stakes are rather higher.
March 18, 2014
Obama Setting Israel Up to Take the Blame
Jonathan S. Tobin
Yesterday’s meeting between President Obama and Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas brought no surprises. In contrast to the frosty reception that greeted Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu two weeks ago, Abbas basked in Obama’s praise. In his public remarks the president also chose to emphasize those elements of the U.S.-sponsored framework for Middle East peace that conform to some of the Palestinians’ demands, such as a state along the 1967 borders with mutually agreed territorial swaps. But though the president also said that the Palestinians needed to take risks for peace, there was none of the heavy-handed pressure or criticism of Abbas that Netanyahu received. Nor was there even a mention of the need for Abbas to say the two little words that would guarantee a surge of Israeli support for concessions to the Palestinians: “Jewish state.”
Abbas didn’t miss the significance of that omission, which was foreshadowed by Secretary of State Kerry’s complaint last week about the necessity of making the Palestinians make a statement signaling the end of their war to destroy Israel. As the New York Times noted in a story published today, the president seems to be at pains to “right the balance” in the negotiations. Apparently, the White House has come to the conclusion that Secretary Kerry’s efforts to revive the peace process have been too focused on measures intended to convince Israelis that the Palestinians are finally ready for peace or guarantee their security in the event a deal is struck. The president appears to think it’s time to shift back to the combative tone he struck toward Israel during most of his first term prior to his election-year Jewish charm offensive. Even though the Israelis have shown that they will accept Kerry’s framework that reportedly includes a Palestinian recognition of a Jewish state, Obama’s intention seems to be aimed at placing the onus for the potential failure of the talks squarely on the Israelis.
That’s good news for Abbas who has made it clear he has no intention of agreeing to the framework. But it begs the question of whether Obama is more interested in venting his spleen at Netanyahu or brokering peace.
Israelis will, no doubt, be surprised to learn that the administration thinks it has spent the last few months tilting the diplomatic playing field in their direction. After all, it was the Jewish state that paid a high price in terms of U.S. pressure that demanded the release of more than 100 terrorist murderers in order to persuade Abbas to come back to the negotiating table. And it was Israel that was the prime focus of pressure from Kerry throughout the first months of the talks as the secretary threatened it with a new intifada and growing economic boycotts if they failed to make sufficient concessions to the Palestinians in statements that appeared to justify such acts.
Kerry included in his framework the Jewish state demand as well as more concrete measures aimed at ensuring that the new Palestinian state would not pose a security threat to Israel. In doing so Kerry was rightly seeking an agreement that would actually bring a conclusion to the conflict rather than a pause before the Palestinians resumed it on more advantageous terms. But that was apparently too much for both the Palestinians and their friend in the White House. Thus, rather than using this visit by Abbas to pressure him to say those two little words and to recognize that peace must be final, the president appears to have employed it as a signal to Israel to back off lest it be blamed for the collapse of the talks.
The president is being assisted in this gambit by a liberal mainstream news media that knows how to pick up on administration cues. The headline on the Times article, “Jewish State Declaration is Unyielding Block to a Deal,” made it clear that Washington wants to leave no doubt that even though it is Abbas that is the one who is saying “no” to a peace framework, they blame the Jews for asking him to do something unreasonable.
Abbas’s refusal to take the steps necessary to make peace is nothing new when you consider that he and his predecessor Yasir Arafat have already turned down three Israeli offers of peace and statehood. This has been a consistent pattern for the PA. As the Washington Post’s Jackson Diehl noted on Sunday, Abbas thinks he can get away with this because the Obama administration has no intention of pressuring him or holding him accountable for Palestinian incitement, terror connections, or diplomatic intransigence.
If the president were genuinely interested in pursuing peace he would be hammering the Palestinians for their behavior and making it clear they would pay a high price for saying no to Kerry’s framework. Instead, he has given Abbas carte blanche to maintain the same obdurate stance he has taken since he took over the PA from his longtime boss Arafat.
What will this accomplish? It won’t advance the cause of peace. But it will make it easier for Israel’s critics to blame Netanyahu for the inevitable collapse of Kerry’s effort and serve to rationalize the violence and the boycotts the secretary threatened the Jewish state with. All Obama is doing is setting up Israel to take the fall for a fourth Palestinian “no” to peace.
March 11, 2014
Why Abbas Will (Again) Say No
Khaled Abu Toameh
On the eve of his meeting with President Barack Obama, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has won the backing of the Arab League for his positions and demands.
The Arab League support is exceedingly important for Abbas: it gives him the power and energy to resist any pressure from Obama to soften or change his position.
The Arab league’s announcement came after a meeting of its foreign ministers, in Cairo, attended by Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riad Malki, who urged his counterparts to show their support for Abbas on the eve of his meeting with Obama, scheduled to take place in Washington on March 17.
The Arab League announcement allows Abbas to turn down any request from Obama under the pretext that he is not authorized by the Arab countries to make any concessions.
Obama should therefore not expect to hear anything new from Abbas, who continues to insist there will be no peace agreement until Israel and the U.S. comply with all his demands.
By requesting the backing of the Arab countries, Abbas is seeking to show Obama and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry that there is no point in exerting pressure on him because the Arab countries will not accept any concessions to Israel.
Abbas has actually tied his own hands before the meeting as a way of avoiding pressure.
Abbas’s predecessor, Yasser Arafat, resorted to the same tactic during the miscalculated Camp David summit in the summer of 2000. Then, Arafat too claimed that he did not have a mandate from the Arab and Islamic countries to make concessions to Israel and that was why he would not be able to strike a deal.
The Arab League announcement also allows Abbas to tell Obama that he is speaking not only on behalf of Palestinians, but the entire Arab world as well. However, many Palestinians would argue that Abbas does not even have a mandate from his people to negotiate, let alone sign, any peace agreement with Israel.
But the Obama Administration does not really seem to care whether Abbas, who recently entered the 10th year of his four-year term in office, is authorized by his people to sign a deal with Israel. Obama and Kerry seem to want a deal at any cost, even if it is with a president who lost his legitimacy many years ago and even if the deal will unravel the day after.
So now Abbas is going to mislead Obama into thinking that he is coming to meet with him not only as the “rightful” leader of the Palestinians, but also as a representative of the Arab world.
As Abbas’s foreign minister, Riad Malki, explained following the Cairo gathering, “When President Abbas arrives in Washington, he will be talking not only on behalf of Palestine, but on behalf of all the Arab countries.”
In other words, Abbas is going to pretend that the entire Arab world has authorized him to speak on its behalf during his meeting with Obama. Never mind that the Arab League, which issued the statement backing Abbas, is considered extremely inefficient and incompetent and no one in the Arab world takes it seriously.
In any event, the Arab League announcement in support of Abbas is going to make his mission to Washington even more difficult.
The announcement reiterated the Arab countries’ refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, insisted on a full Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines and rejected any attempt to “resettle” Palestinian refugees “outside their homeland.”
Now that he has won the backing of the Arab League for his positions, Abbas will feel more confident to say no to Obama. The Arab League has in fact authorized Abbas to resist all forms of pressure from the U.S. Administration.
Yet Abbas is also full of self-confidence because he and many Palestinians are encouraged by what they perceive as increased boycotts of Israel in the international arena.
The Palestinians also do not take Obama seriously, especially in light of his failure in dealing with the crises in the Arab world and Ukraine.
Abbas believes that he can say no to Obama because the U.S. Administration will not take any retaliatory measures against the Palestinian Authority.
Palestinian officials in Ramallah pointed out the threats by the U.S. Administration to impose financial sanctions if Abbas sought unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state at the United Nations two years ago.
“President Abbas feels satisfied with the comprehensive campaign of boycotting Israel in the academic and economic fields,” explained Palestinian political analyst Hani Habib. “This means that the international public opinion is today supportive of the Palestinian position.”
Arab political support and anti-Israel boycott campaigns around the world have emboldened Abbas to a point where he feels that there is no need for him to make any concessions for the sake of peace.
March 13, 2014
Abbas and the “Right of Return” Will Defeat John Kerry
Council on Foreign Relations: Pressure Points
When the Kerry negotiations fail to achieve an Israeli-Palestinian peace, many observers in Europe and even some in the United States will attribute the disappointment to Israel and especially to “Israel’s right wing government” under Prime Minister Netanyahu.
One can reach that conclusion only by ignoring many statements being made and positions being taken by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The most recent remarks were made to young Fatah activists on March 6th and available at the MEMRI web site. Abbas’s subject was the “refugee” issue and the “right of return.” Here is an excerpt of what he said:
Every Palestinian, from Canada to Japan – that includes the Palestinians living abroad as well – will have to agree on the proposal. They will vote in favor or against. If they say “no,” the proposal will not pass.…The Right of Return is a personal right. If you are a refugee, your son is a refugee as well. Perhaps you will decide to relinquish this right while your son decides not to, or vice versa. Your son is free to do so. When we say that this is a personal choice, it means that he can decide for himself. We will all be making a choice: One option is to remain where we are – in Jordan, in Syria, in Lebanon, and so on – and receive compensation…Of course…The second option is to go to another country, as part of an agreement. If someone wants to emigrate to Canada, he is free to do so. Wherever one goes, one remains a Palestinian. In this case, he will receive compensation as well. The third option is to decide to return to the Palestinian state, and to receive compensation. He can also decide to return to the State of Israel. In such a case, he will receive compensation and return….All the refugees who number 5 million today, along with their offspring, are considered 1948 refugees. There are no refugees who came from Nablus or Ramallah. They are all from Tiberius, Safed, Acre, Nazareth, Jaffa, Beersheba, and so on.
This is a remarkable statement and it pretty much kills the chances for a peace deal. Here’s why:
In any real negotiation, Israel and the PLO will need to make compromises and it’s obvious that the PLO will have to abandon the idea that five million Palestinians have the right to move to Israel. No Israeli government will ever sign a deal that would leave Israel a majority Arab country. As President Bush put it in 2004, “It seems clear that an agreed, just, fair, and realistic framework for a solution to the Palestinian refugee issue as part of any final status agreement will need to be found through the establishment of a Palestinian state, and the settling of Palestinian refugees there, rather than in Israel.”
By making the “right of return” a personal right for each Palestinian, Abbas is saying the PLO has no right to negotiate over it and no right to sign a agreement that defeats or even limits that “right.” If that’s really the PLO position, there will never be an agreement.
Second, if Abbas doesn’t really mean it, he is narrowing his own negotiating room to near zero and obviously not preparing his on people for the compromises peace will entail.
Third, his definition of “refugee” is as broad as it could possibly be. Accordinmg to Abbas, a Palestinian who left Israel in 1948 or 1967 has the right to move to Israel or to decline, but his “no” does not even bind his own foreign-born children. His son, and presumably grandson, who have never set foot in Israel and may well have citizenship in (for example) Canada have their own separate rights to move to Israel. Five million separate choices, says Abbas.
Fourth, Abbas has every one of those people receiving compensation. Those who move to Palestine get compensation; those who “return” to Israel get compensation; those who move to Canada or stay in Canada get compensation, and so on. So, the young man or woman born in Jordan or Canada and having full citizenship there, and staying there, gets compensation. It’s a nice fantasy for a politician to describe—every Palestinian takes part in this bonanza—but it is just that: a fantasy. Once again, it has nothing to do with actually making the choices peace will require nor with preparing Palestinians for the real future.
Finally, there’s nothing wrong with having a referendum on a major national choice. The Swiss do it all the time, the UK may hold one on the EU, the Scots will have one on staying in the UK, and the Palestinians and Israelis may have referenda on any peace deal. The question is who gets to vote, and Abbas wants not only those living in the West Bank and Gaza and eligible to vote in Palestinian Authority elections to have that right, but “every Palestinian, from Canada to Japan.” He says there are five million refugees. When he was elected president in 2005, there were 800,000 voters and that was considered a two-thirds turnout, suggesting 1.2 million eligible voters. That means nearly four million Palestinians not living in the West Bank or Gaza would be eligible, according to Abbas, or perhaps a smaller number when people too young to vote are subtracted—but still several times more than the voters living in what will become Palestine.
It is obvious that a peace deal of remarkable balance and generosity in many and varied ways, but not granting the “right of return” that Abbas says belongs to every single Palestinian “refugee,” might well be rejected by Palestinians now in Lebanon, Jordan, and Syria. They have just been told, now in 2014 in the middle of peace negotiations, that Abbas will get them the right to move to Israel , and also been told that everyone will be getting compensation. If the final deal does not give them the ability to move to Israel, or they don’t think the compensation is adequate, they may well vote no.
So Abbas’s maneuver here, as we approach the Kerry deadline in April, makes a genuine peace agreement unrealistic and in fact impossible. The terms he has just set forth will never be met. Rather than preparing for peace, he is not only making it impossible for himself to sign a deal, but also setting out terms that will make it impossible for his successors to sign a deal.
March 14, 2014
Kerry: Netanyahu wrong to insist Palestinians recognize Israel as Jewish state
US secretary of state tells lawmakers in Washington that international law already recognizes Israel as a Jewish state, says trust between Israel and Palestinians at a nadir.
US Secretary of State John Kerry. Photo: REUTERS WASHINGTON
Secretary of State John Kerry told members of Congress on Thursday that international law already declares Israel a Jewish state, and called Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu’s insistence on a public declaration of Israel’s Jewish character from the Palestinians “a mistake” in the diplomatic process.
“I think its a mistake for some people to be raising it again and again as the critical decider of their attitude toward the possibility of a state, and peace, and we’ve obviously made that clear,” Kerry told the House Foreign Relations Committee, in a hearing on budget matters.
Yesterday, Kerry told a Senate panel that Israel and the Palestinians had less trust in one another than at any point in over nine months of negotiations.
“‘Jewish state’ was resolved in 1947 in Resolution 181 where there are more than 40– 30 mentions of ‘Jewish state,'” Kerry continued. “In addition, chairman Arafat in 1988 and again in 2004 confirmed that he agreed it would be a Jewish state. And there are any other number of mentions.”
Netanyahu has said that the PLO’s public recognition of Israel as a Jewish state is a “minimal requirement for peace,” and considers the issue fundamental to the conflict: Arab refusal to accept a permanent Jewish presence in the region.
Palestinian negotiators say that no other Arab nation that has made peace with Israel has had to declare it the Jewish homeland.
Kerry dampened expectations surrounding a visit by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to Washington next week, warning that trust between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators had hit a low point.
Abbas is to meet with President Barack Obama in the White House on Monday, along with Kerry, who has moderated negotiations between Israel and the PLO for nine months. A key juncture for those talks is fast approaching: an April deadline that will mark either the end of talks over a two-state solution, or the continuation of those talks under a formal framework agreement.
But at a Senate hearing on Wednesday, Kerry expressed skepticism that Israel and the Palestinians would even be able to agree on a framework to continue negotiations.
“The level of mistrust is as large as any level of mistrust I’ve ever seen, on both sides,” Kerry said. “Neither believes the other is really serious. Neither believes that the other is prepared to make some of the big choices that have to be made here.”
Kerry said he was hopeful, nevertheless, that the two sides would manage to settle on “some kind of understanding of the road forward,” even if “big-ticket items” – such as the status of Israel as the Jewish homeland, or the future capital of a Palestinian state – were not directly addressed.
Obama has been largely hands-off on the peace talks up until recently, when he personally pressed Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu, during his own visit to the White House last week, to close the framework with Abbas.
During that Oval Office meeting, Netanyahu aired his own critiques of the talks in front of the president and his press corps.
“Israel has been doing its part, and I regret to say that the Palestinians haven’t,” Netanyahu said. “What we want is peace, not a piece of paper.”
US State Department officials told The Jerusalem Post that Israel’s decision on whether to follow through with its final release of prisoners next week, a condition of the original agreement that jump-started direct negotiations, would be a harbinger for whether or not talks continue.
Candidly Speaking: Obama-Netanyahu rift is unbridgeable
March 9, 2014
In an unprecedented breach of diplomatic etiquette, President Obama once again sandbagged Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
Netanyahu and Obama shake hands at start of Oval Office meeting, March 3, 2013 Photo: REUTERS
In an unprecedented breach of diplomatic etiquette, President Obama once again sandbagged Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. In a carefully orchestrated interview with Jeff Goldberg, a columnist for Bloomberg, released a few hours before the prime minister’s arrival in the US, Obama reverted to his May 2011 role as an Israel basher and engaged in personal savaging and humiliation of Netanyahu.
This despite Netanyahu’s intimation that Israel intended to adopt the Kerry framework, albeit with reservations.
Obama accused Netanyahu of leading his country toward disaster, condemned the “more aggressive settlement construction” and rhetorically asked, “Do you resign yourself to what amounts to a permanent occupation of the West Bank?” He effusively praised Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas – who had rejected prime minister Ehud Olmert’s offer for 97 percent of territories over the Green Line and refused to even conduct negotiations unless Israel released mass murderers whom he currently fetes as heroes. Obama made no reference to Palestinian intransigence and total unwillingness to compromise.
Obama’s most ominous remark was a veiled threat that unless Israel made further concessions, the US would be limited in its ability to protect Israel from “international fallout” at the United Nations and other international bodies.
Some allege that Obama was playing a “good cop, bad cop” routine with Secretary of State John Kerry, who despite his earlier role conveying similar intimidating threats against Israel was now reverting to a pro-Israel posture. The more likely explanation is that in the absence of another election, Obama no longer feels obliged to be nice to Israel and is unconstrained in promoting his biased outlook.
To Netanyahu’s credit, he retained his cool and avoided directly confronting Obama’s offensive remarks. He said that “Israel has been doing its part, and I regret to say that the Palestinians haven’t.” He added, “The tango in the Middle East needs at least three. For years, there have been two – Israel and the US. Now it needs to be seen if the Palestinians are also present.” Reiterating his desire to achieve a peace settlement, he nevertheless emphasized that he would resist any pressures that could compromise Israel’s security needs.
In the midst of this, the Ukraine crisis exploded and Obama’s impotent response again highlighted the dramatic retreat of the US from the world stage.
Obama’s incompetence and failed diplomacy led to the debacle in Syria which, combined with his misguided support of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, paved the path for Russia to resume its role as a central player in the Middle East. Obama’s courting and appeasement of extremist adversaries like Iran and his alienation of friends, and hollow threats, have convinced traditional allies that the United States has become a paper tiger and can no longer be relied upon.
Many regard Obama as even more ineffective than president Jimmy Carter.
However, when faced with another insoluble maelstrom in the Ukraine and humiliation at the hands of Russian President Vladimir Putin and requiring congressional support, Obama must have realized that it would be somewhat bizarre to launch a new confrontation with a democratic ally.
At the joint press meeting with Netanyahu, Obama gushed that “we do not have a closer friend or ally than Israel and a bond between our two countries and our two peoples is unbreakable.” In a 360-degree reversal, he commended Netanyahu’s efforts and praised him for having “conducted these negotiations with the level of seriousness and commitments that reflects his leadership.”
Netanyahu responded indirectly to Obama’s earlier outburst stressing that “the best way to guarantee peace is to be strong and that’s what the people of Israel expect me to do – to stand strong against criticism, against pressure, stand strong to secure the future of the one and only Jewish state.” He emphasized that “what we want is peace – not a piece of paper… a real peace… based on mutual recognition… a peace that we can defend.”
He urged Obama to cooperate with Israel to prevent Iran from producing nuclear weapons. He concluded with formal praise of President Obama and especially John Kerry for their tireless efforts to promote peace.
After the meeting, according to news agency AJP, a senior administration official described the talks as “not as contentious as on previous encounters” and said that the president told Netanyahu that he would “push Palestinians” to match any Israeli concessions.
And so we witnessed an extraordinary reversal. At the subsequent AIPAC conference, Kerry was effusive in his praise of Israel and Netanyahu. He called on Palestinians to recognize Israel as a Jewish state and stressed that Israel could not compromise its security.
In his AIPAC address, Netanyahu made scant reference to the president. He restated the danger of a nuclear Iran, reiterated the need for the Palestinians to recognize Israel as a Jewish state and refused to compromise on security issues. The bulk of his speech was devoted to passionately conveying his desire to reach a settlement with the Palestinians, stressing the great economic, political and social benefits that peace would bring to Israel and the region. The speech reflected the centrist position that he had adopted and thrust the onus on the Palestinians. It was an extraordinary display of good diplomacy, for which Netanyahu deserves full credit.
Yet we should be under no illusions. Despite the ultimate ritual exchange of diplomatic pleasantries, the negative chemistry and ideological differences between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu seem unbridgeable.
Obama’s calculated savage outburst against Netanyahu prior to his arrival stands in stark contrast to the soft and engaging language he consistently employs toward leaders of rogue states like Iran. Despite the chaos and bloodshed engulfing the Middle East and other parts of the world, Obama remains obsessed with beating up Israel. His latest outburst reinforced the concerns of most of the Israeli public that he lacks any real understanding of the situation and confirmed their estimate of him as the most hostile US president Israel had ever encountered.
Israel will go through the ritual of approving the Kerry framework agreement with major reservations. If the Palestinians do likewise, negotiations will continue, although nobody will be holding their breath in expectation of a positive outcome in the short-term.
The best achievement would be an agreement to concentrate on interim solutions until such time as the Palestinian people and their leaders are genuinely willing to engage in peaceful coexistence.
But for the next two years while Obama is in office, there must be a concerted effort to retain American public and congressional support in order to deter the current administration from implementing Obama’s threat to stop protecting Israel at the United Nations and other anti-Israeli dominated international forums.
In addition, we must not become complacent about the special military assistance and cooperation we receive which was even strengthened by the Obama administration and remains crucial for the IDF to retain a qualitative advantage against its adversaries.
To this end Israel must seek to minimize public disputations with the administration and strengthen our standing amongst the American public. AIPAC must endeavor to retain the support of a bi-partisan Congress.
We must also continue to demonstrate our willingness to reach a reasonable accommodation with the Palestinians if their leaders come to their senses – a highly unlikely eventuality.
As we witness the consistent US abandonment of its major allies culminating with the ongoing Ukraine crisis, it is now evident that under Obama, it is unlikely that the US will resort to military power to defend its friends. In this climate, most Israelis would endorse Netanyahu’s determination not to compromise on security or be willing to subcontract areas controlled by the IDF to any third parties, including NATO.
February 24, 2014
The Politics of the Palestinian Right of Return
Middle East Forum
Alexander Joffe and Asaf Romirowsky
US-backed negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority are entering a critical period. With reports suggesting Israeli acceptance of the 1967 lines and land swaps, what about Palestinian concessions? Two issues are paramount: the ‘right of return’ and recognition of Israel as a Jewish state.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas recently stated, “Let me put it simply: the right of return is a personal decision. What does this mean? That neither the PA, nor the state, nor the PLO, nor Abu-Mazen [Abbas], nor any Palestinian or Arab leader has the right to deprive someone from his right to return.”
Jamil Mizer, a member of the political bureau of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) underscored the issue saying, “there is talk about the liquidation of the Palestinian refugee cause, the return of hundreds of thousands to the lands occupied in 1948, and the dismantling of the right of return of over six million Palestinian refugees in the camps, in exile and in the diaspora, who are waiting for their moment to return to the homes and lands from which they were expelled”.
Palestinians, as well as other Arabs and supporters, rarely tire of pointing out that more 60 years after the creation of Israel, Palestinians remain ‘refugees.’ It is, or should be a commonplace to point out that this is by choice, since no Arab state besides Jordan grants Palestinians citizenship. In comparative terms, the fact is also that there are no remaining ‘refugees’ from the contemporary, vastly larger and more convulsive creation of India and Pakistan, nor of course from World War II.
Palestinian identity is synonymous with three things, the ‘right of return,’ the permanent, sanctified struggle with Israel, and permanent recognition of their status as refugees, dispossessed at the hand of Israel with the connivance of the international community. A corollary demand is that the international community must sustain them as ‘refugees’ through UNRWA until the Palestinians themselves, somehow, declare the ‘refugee crisis’ resolved.
Palestinian national identity is predicated on winning a zero sum struggle with Zionism, not a vision of a state of their own. There are sentimental images of restoring the status quo ante, an imaginary Arab Palestine of plenty; indeed, the ‘right of return’ is founded on the one hand precisely in such vague sentimentality, as well as inventive interpretations of ever-motile ‘international law.’ But clear proposals for a Palestinian state and its institutions, and how that state will be grounded in a society and with social, legal, and cultural principles, remains vague. Except, of course, from Hamas, whose Muslim Brotherhood-derived goals have been both articulated and, now, tested, in Gaza. In the meantime, however, the embrace of statelessness and trauma is unending.
Unwillingness to listen to what Palestinians say in Arabic (and often English), about their political demands or national identity, much less their attitudes towards Israelis, has long been one of the most puzzling features of American and European engagement with the Middle East. Abbas’s defense of the ‘right of return’ is absolute, as is that of nearly every Palestinian politician and intellectual.
The ‘right of return’ is sometimes explained away as being symbolic rather than practical, an element of the Palestinian ‘narrative’ regarding the blameless circumstances of their diaspora. Israelis are demanded to accept both the narrative, in which they are the villains, and the possibility of the mass return of Palestinians that would, by design, end Israel as a Jewish state.
In contrast, the demand that Israel be recognized as a Jewish state would have no practical costs for Palestinians. But it would be acknowledgment of the character and permanence of Israel, and thus is rejected outright. This cannot be admitted, indeed, the entire thrust of Palestinian public culture, from education to summer camps to TV programming, relentlessly pushes the idea that Israel is temporary and illegitimate. Statements, such as the Palestinian Authority’s Religious Affairs minister Mahmoud al-Habash’s recent demand that “every inch” of the pre-1967 territory must be turned over by Israel, including the “Buraq Wall” – better known as the Western Wall, Judaism’s holiest place – make deep impressions on Israelis. But they pass unnoticed by Kerry and his associates.
That these empirical facts appear not to have been factored into American peacemaking is astonishing. But the implications should be understood clearly; like Palestinian nationalism, their negotiation stance is contingent not on compromise but on struggle until victory. And the thrust of the Palestinian leadership is to be as uncompromising as possible, to keep public expectations uncompromising, and to trap future leaders and members of Palestinian society by making compromise with Israel treason.
With Arab nationalism, and nations, dissolving everywhere, it is both ironic and mysterious that the US is expending so much capital attempting to bring yet another such state into being. It failed to do so in Iraq, it abetted the dissolution of Libya and the convulsions in Egypt, and stands aside while Syria burns. And with Palestinian leaders all but stating outright that they have no plan but to struggle against Israel, the American task is Sisyphean.
Eminently sensible proposals regarding borders, Jewish communities in the West Bank and even Jerusalem are rendered irrelevant. No peace is possible until Palestinian society makes the compromise it has been unwilling to do for nearly a century, share the land. Until they do so, by their leaders giving up, however reluctantly, the ‘right of return,’ by declaring their struggle against Israel at an end, and by declaring that an independent Palestine means no Palestinian is a refugee, there will be no peace.
Messrs. Joffe and Romirowsky are fellows at the Middle East Forum and the authors of Religion, Politics, and the Origins of Palestine Refugee Relief, Palgrave Macmillan
February 20, 2024
Kerry disappointed with Palestinian verbal attacks against Israel
Herb Keinon, Khaled Abu Toameh, Michael Wilner
US secretary of state, PA leader discuss framework deal;
PM quiet on reports of building freeze in isolated settlements.
US Secretary of State John Kerry expressed his “disappointment” to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday over anti-Israeli rhetoric. Kerry spoke during an evening meeting in Paris intended to discuss a framework for negotiations on the Israeli- Palestinian peace process.
Last week, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat told Xinhua, a state-run news organization in China, that Israel may initiate a military incursion in Gaza against Hamas to undermine Kerry’s efforts to forge peace. Erekat had previously suggested that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu wanted Abbas assassinated.
Israeli officials have denied and condemned the remarks, and the State Department on Wednesday expressed “concern over the recent
comments.” “Personal attacks are unhelpful,” State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said, responding to Erekat’s
comments to the Chinese media outlet. “The secretary will make clear that these comments are disappointing.”
The meeting between Kerry and Abbas was attended by Erekat, Abbas’s spokesman Nabil Abu Rudaineh, and PLO ambassador to France Hayel Fahoum, the PA’s official news agency Wafa reported. Kerry also met in Paris with Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh. Kerry’s talks with the Palestinians and Jordanians focused on his efforts to achieve a framework agreement between the Palestinians and Israel, a PA official said.
Earlier, PA officials said they expected Kerry to present the PA leadership with an “amended formula” of the proposed framework agreement.
The officials said that Abbas had rejected the original framework agreement that included Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state.
Abbas rebuffed the part that calls for turning only parts of east Jerusalem into a capital of a Palestinian state, as well as the annexation of settlement blocs in the West Bank to Israel. Abbas expressed opposition to Kerry’s proposal for a “symbolic” return of Palestinian refugees to their homes inside Israel, according to the officials. Abbas, the officials said, continues to insist that any framework agreement call for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state on the pre-1967 lines with minor swaps of land.
In Israel, speculation ran high that Kerry’s framework would require Israel to freeze construction outside the settlement blocs.
The Prime Minister’s Office has for months consistently refused to comment on reports about what is and what is not on the negotiation table, either with the Palestinians or with the Americans. They refused to comment again on Wednesday after Army Radio reported that such a freeze was in the works.
Construction and Housing Minister Uri Ariel was far less reticent, however, saying in an interview that “to the best of my knowledge” this is not on the agenda. “There is no situation where the prime minister will issue a directive that no tenders can be issued outside the settlement blocs,” he said. “We are building. I want to be clear, we built, we are building and we will continue to build.” Ariel said that he has never spoken with Kerry, but would like to invite him to talk over humous in Ariel. He said that the previous construction freeze, taken in 2009, not only proved ineffective but “pushed the Palestinians up a tree” regarding their demands.
In July, when Kerry was working on an earlier framework to get the Palestinians back to the negotiating table, one idea presented was that Israel would freeze construction outside the blocs, rather than release 104 Palestinian security prisoners. Abbas, according to Israeli officials, rejected that offer.
According to Wednesday’s radio report, Israel would “unofficially” freeze all construction in the isolated Jewish settlements that lie outside of the major population centers under Israeli control in the West Bank. While an official freeze on construction would require a cabinet decision, an unofficial freeze could be implemented by placing bureaucratic obstacles to building plans or having the defense minister order the Civil Administration for Judea and Samaria, which is charged with approving construction plans in the territories, cease deliberating on such plans. In addition, the interior minister could instruct the Jerusalem Building and Planning Council to halt all plans in sensitive areas of the city and the prime minister could order the housing minister to cease publishing construction tenders. An unofficial freeze would enable government officials to deny its existence while in practice halting all construction, Army Radio reported.
Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, who is heading Israel’s negotiating team, has spoken out for months against continued building in the isolated settlements, saying it is difficult to convince the world that you are serious about peace when you continue building in areas unlikely to remain a part of Israel in a peace agreement.
Report: Kerry framework proposal calls for Israeli freeze of settlement construction
February 19, 2014
Army Radio says proposal would bind Israel to ‘unofficial’ pledge to halt construction outside settlement blocs.
View of settlement. [Illustrative] Photo:Marc Israel Sellem/the Jerusalem Post
Aides to US Secretary of State John Kerry will request that the Israeli government freeze all construction in settlements outside of the large blocs of communities that Israel intends to keep in any final-status deal with the Palestinians, Army Radio reported.
Kerry’s aides say the request will be an integral part of the framework agreement that will allow for the negotiations to continue past the originally allotted nine months, according to Army Radio.
Officials in Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s office have yet to officially respond to the request, Army Radio reported. While there has been no official response from Jerusalem, government officials have resigned themselves to the fact that Israeli gestures are necessary in order to entice Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas back to the negotiating table.
According to Army Radio, Israel would declare an “unofficial” freeze to all construction in the isolated Jewish settlements that lie outside of the major population centers under Israeli control in the West Bank.
While an official freeze on construction requires a government edict, an unofficial freeze could be implemented by placing bureaucratic obstacles and red tape on building plans or having the defense minister order the Civil Administration, which is charged with approving construction plans in the territories, to cease deliberating on such plans. In addition, the interior minister could instruct the Jerusalem Building and Planning Council to halt all plans in sensitive areas of the city, and the prime minister could order the housing minister to cease publishing tenders.
An unofficial freeze would enable government officials to deny its existence while in practice halting all construction, according to Army Radio.
The Cost of the “Peace Process”
Council on Foreign Relations
February 13, 2014
The goal of Secretary of State Kerry’s energetic diplomacy with the Israelis and Palestinians is the two-state solution, which means the establishment of an independent, sovereign Palestine living at peace with its neighbor Israel.
Or is it? What’s missing in that sentence is the word “democratic.” Do we care? Once upon a time, the United States worked hard to give Yasser Arafat, a terrorist and thief, a state to rule. That policy was changed in the George W. Bush administration, when we began to care not only about the borders of the new Palestine but was within those borders. Bush said he would not support establishment of a Palestinian state if that state would just be another dictatorship, another kleptocracy, another home for terrorism.
Today we appear to be back in the Arafat period–without Arafat to be sure, but with the same lack of concern about events in the real Palestine.
Consider the new January, 2014 report of the Palestinian Independent Commission for Human Rights. Some highlights:
Cases of torture and ill treatment during detention continued. Furthermore, it increased in the centers of the Preventive Security Agency in the West Bank. ICHR received 56 complaints of torture and ill treatment, 36 of which occurred in the Gaza Strip and 19 in the West Bank.
ICHR received complaints of violations of the right to appropriate legal procedures during detention in breach of guarantees to a fair trial, which are enshrined in the basic law.
Some official security and civil authorities still refrain from implementing courts’ decisions or procrastinate their implementation. ICHR received 8 complaints in this regard in addition to 16 other previous decisions. Furthermore, one of the inmates remained in prison despite completing his sentence.
ICHR received complaints concerning expropriation of citizens’ property by security agencies in the West Bank without judicial order.
ICHR received a number of complaints of violations concerning the right to freedom of expression, press, peaceful assembly and academic freedoms. It also received a number of complaints concerning assaults on persons, public and private properties.
There are plenty of other reports. The Committee to Protect Journalists noted that “Despite the immense differences between the Israeli government, Fatah, and Hamas, they shared a common trait in 2013: a consistent and troublesome record of silencing journalists who reported dissenting perspectives….Local human rights organizations reported that the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank also obstructed coverage of protests, especially those in support of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.”
Human Rights Watch, which is notably unsympathetic to Israel, reported that
In the West Bank, Palestinian Authority (PA) security services beat peaceful demonstrators, and arbitrarily detained and harassed scores of journalists. Credible allegations of torture committed by the PA’s security services persisted.
One could go on. For example, it is widely believed that corruption in the Palestinian Authority has exploded since the departure of former prime minister Salam Fayyad, who fought it. Reports on PA corruption are numerous: see this one, for example, or the Sunday Times of London story in October reporting that “billions of euros in European aid to the Palestinians may have been misspent, squandered or lost to corruption, according to a damning report by the European Court of Auditors, the Luxembourg-based watchdog.”
So, the question again arises: do we care, or are we indifferent to what goes on within the borders Secretary Kerry is trying to negotiate? Has the United States reverted to the position we had in the 1990s, when Yasser Arafat visited the White House 13 times and our policy goal was to hand him a state, no questions asked? How can it possibly contribute to the building of a decent, peaceful, democratic Palestine for the United States to appear–or worse yet, to be–indifferent to the actual conduct of the Palestinian Authority?
Secretary Kerry and other U.S. officials have spoken often about the negotiations and their goals, but I do not recall any honest discussion of the problem of growing corruption and lawlessness in the Palestinian Authority. State Department spokesmen issue statement after statement about Israeli settlement activity, seemingly whenever one brick is laid atop another, yet ignore these serious issues. What kind of Palestine is it that the United States is seeking to create?
“Soft Bigotry,” Secretary Kerry, and the PLO
Council on Foreign Relations
February 2, 2014
Secretary of State Kerry continues to press forward in his negotiations with Israelis and Palestinians, seeking some sort of “framework” document that would be an acceptable basis for future negotiations. We’ve been here before: the “Roadmap” of 2003 was supposed to provide such a basis and was accepted–with reservations–by both sides. My guess is that Kerry will succeed, if success is defined as keeping both sides at the table.
But what if success is defined as moving the Palestinians closer to having a decent, democratic political structure that can lay the foundation for eventual statehood?
What has Kerry, and what has the Obama administration, demanded of the Israelis to move forward? At various times a freeze of all construction has been demanded, and for ten months prime minister Netanyahu complied. For this effort, which had a significant cost in Israel’s domestic politics, Israel and Netanyahu received no benefit. More recently, Israel has been pressured to release dozens of convicted murderers from its prisons, at an even greater political cost. That cost was then increased several fold when the murderers were received by PLO chairman (and PA president) Abbas as honored citizens.
And what has been demanded of the Palestinians? What will be demanded as part of the Kerry proposals? In my view, the answer is nothing–nothing at all. In a recent trip to the region I found universal agreement that in the last year corruption in the PA has increased greatly. The United States has not reacted in any way, thus delivering the message to Abbas that we do not care. The reception given to the murderers is just one piece of the overall picture of glorifying terrorism and terrorists, which continues apace. This is what is called “incitement” in the diplomatic lingo, and like its predecessors (including the Bush administration) the Obama administration complains occasionally but does nothing about it. And it is worth noting that Abbas was elected president in January 2005, and is in that sense in the tenth year of his four year term. There are no serious plans for elections, and once again the United States does not seem to care.
So that’s the picture: in return for coming to the negotiating table, and now for staying at the table, we overlook everything else the PA/PLO does. We overlook the illegitimacy of the government, the glorification of terror, and the spreading corruption. The clear U.S. message is that nothing really counts but sitting down with Kerry and the Israelis. I have no doubt that whatever document Kerry produces will say something about “incitement” and perhaps even something about better “governance,” a code word for reducing corruption. And I have no doubt that six months later nothing will have changed. The Palestinians are not stupid and they can distinguish easily between real pressure and mere words.
President Bush once noted the “soft bigotry of low expectations” in our domestic context, and the term is useful here. For it is bigotry to believe that more cannot realistically be expected from the Palestinians. And it is very damaging to any hope for a decent, democratic, independent state some day. Neither the political culture nor the institutions of democracy can be built this way. That was the great error of the Clinton administration, which dealt with Yasser Arafat as if he would one day be the George Washington of Palestine instead of the corrupt terrorist he was. The error is being repeated now, as we ask Abbas for one thing only–to sit at the table–and overlook all else.
The irony here is that Abbas got his job as prime minister, in 2003, when the United States and the EU forced Arafat to create the post and fill it (and also put in Salam Fayyad as finance minister) because we came to believe that defining the borders of Palestine was not the prime goal. Instead, defining what would be within those borders was more important: was it to be a corrupt terrorist state, or one that was building toward a decent government under the rule of law? Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it, Santayana famously said. Here we go again, drawing maps of border compromises when inside Gaza and the West Bank, Palestinians are further from developing the institutions they need than they were when Barack Obama came to office.
Abbas rejects extending peace talks beyond nine-month timeline
Khaled Abu toameh
January 21, 2014
PLO negotiator says Palestinians would not agree to even a one-day extension, denies secret talks being held in Washington.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday rejected the idea of extending the peace talks with Israel beyond the nine-month timeline set by US Secretary of State John Kerry.
“It was agreed that the negotiations would continue for nine months. We have had a large number of negotiation sessions, during which we discussed major issues. There is not talk about an extension. We need to focus on the remaining time and not think about prolonging the talks,” he told reporters in Ramallah.
Abbas was speaking after meeting in his office with visiting Romanian President Traian Basescu.
Abbas said that the PA leadership was pursuing its efforts to reach a peaceful solution that would lead to peace and stability in the region and “end Israeli occupation that began in 1967.”
The Palestinians’ goal, he added, was to achieve an independent and sovereign Palestinian state with east Jerusalem as its capital, that would exist next to Israel in security and good relations.
Chief PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat also dismissed the idea of extending the peace talks beyond the nine-month period, which expires in April. The Palestinians would not agree even to a one-day extension.
He said that the PA leadership was also opposed to any interim agreement or the establishment of a state with temporary borders.
Erekat denied that the Palestinians were holding secrets talks with Israel in Washington.
The PA negotiating team may meet with Kerry next week, he added.
“There are some who are talking about secret talks in Washington while I’m here in Jericho,” Erekat was quoted by Ma’an news agency as saying.
Meanwhile, Nabil Abu Rudaineh, Abbas’s spokesman, condemned Israeli plans to build 381 housing units in east Jerusalem.
“There will be no peace without Jerusalem,” Abu Rudaineh said. “Any settlement in Jerusalem or elsewhere will have to be removed.”
Ambassador Shapiro: Kerry heard things from Netanyahu , Abbas ‘no one ever heard before’
January 7, 2014
Secretary of State John Kerry, in hours of meetings with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, has heard things from each of them that “perhaps no one else has heard,” US Ambassador Dan Shapiro said on Tuesday.
Shapiro, in an Israel Radio interview, said the focus of the US diplomatic efforts now was on bridging the gaps between the sides on all core issues and “maybe, in the final analysis, the two sides will agree to something new, something they have not agreed upon until now.”
He would not elaborate.
The document Kerry was working on, Shapiro explained, will serve as a framework for continued negotiations toward a permanent agreement and will be presented “in another few weeks, maybe another month.” This framework, he added, “will form a basis for both sides to continue negotiations.”
Kerry, who left the region Monday after a five-day trip, will return soon, Shapiro said.
The US envoy said that the framework for the negotiations will show both Israelis and Palestinians what the basis of a permanent agreement will look like.
“It has to answer a number of central questions that are at the center of the conflict,” he said.
Responding to reports that Israeli government officials were accusing Kerry of using the threats of European sanctions or a boycott as a way to pressure Netanyahu, Shapiro said that the US has not only made clear that it opposes boycotts and sanctions against Israel, but also fights against them on a daily basis in various international forums.
Having said that, he added that he believed one of the reasons Netanyahu entered into the negotiations over the summer was because “he understood the international situation, and that this situation would be more difficult without negotiations than with them.”
In a television interview in Israel on November 7, Kerry said, “I believe that if we do not resolve the issues between Palestinians and Israelis, if we do not find a way to find peace, there will be an increasing isolation of Israel, there will be an increasing campaign of delegitimization of Israel that’s been taking place in an international basis.”
Meanwhile, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, who met with Kerry alongside Netanyahu and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni a couple of times over the weekend, said the emphasis now was not on reaching a framework agreement but on agreeing on a framework to enable a continuation of the talks beyond the nine-month deadline that expires in late April.
“It is clear there are big gaps – they are not new – but our interest is definitely to continue the negotiations and continue to work toward stabilizing the situation and our relations with the Palestinians,” he said during a tour of the IDF Central Command headquarters in northern Jerusalem.
Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman met in London with British Foreign Secretary William Hague, and afterward the two of them issued a joint statement saying they “agreed that the current negotiations provide a unique opportunity to end the conflict once and for all.”
Liberman has not used this type of language in the past.
The statement said the two men also discussed the “unprecedented package of security, political and economic support that the European Union will provide to the parties in the event of a final-status agreement.”
According to the statement, the two had an “open and productive” discussion on a wide range of regional and bilateral issues.
Regarding Iran, Liberman and Hague “reiterated our common goal of preventing a nuclear-armed Iran, and the importance of continuing our coordination on this matter. We agreed that the sanctions regime should remain robust until Iran agrees to a comprehensive and final settlement addressing all international concerns about its nuclear program.”
Yaakov Lappin contributed to this report.
Abbas reaffirms refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state
Khaled Abu Toameh
January 11, 2014
PA president says Palestinians won’t accept any deal that doesn’t include east Jerusalem as capital of a future Palestinian state.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at a PLO meeting in Ramallah, October 2, 2013. Photo: REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday reaffirmed his refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state.
He also stressed that the Palestinians would not accept any solution that did not include east Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state.
“We don’t love death, but we welcome martyrdom if it happens,” Abbas declared. “We will march to Jerusalem in the millions, as free people and heroes.”
Referring to Israeli demands to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, Abbas said, “This is a story that we have heard only in the last two years. We won’t recognize and accept the Jewishness of Israel. We have many excuses and reasons that prevent us from doing so.”
Abbas was speaking during a meeting in his office with dozens of east Jerusalem residents.
Israel’s problem is that the Palestinians know more than the Israelis about history and geography, he said. “We talk about what we know,” he said.
“We won’t accept the Jewishness of Israel. We are asking for the 1967 borders.”
On the current peace talks with Israel, Abbas said the negotiations would continue only for nine months [ending in late April]. “After that, we are free to do what we want,” he said. “The talks are limited to this period.”
He said that Arab League foreign ministers who are scheduled to meet with US Secretary of State John Kerry this week would tell him that Jerusalem is the occupied capital of the State of Palestine.
“Without this, there would be no solution,” Abbas said. “No one is authorized to sign [an agreement] without this.”
Dismissing Israel’s refusal to talk about Jerusalem, Abbas said that without east Jerusalem being the capital of a Palestinian state there would be no peace with Israel.
“Jerusalem is not Abu Dis,” he said, referring to the village located on the eastern outskirts of the city – outside the municipal boundaries. “Rather, Abu Dis is part of Jerusalem.”
Regarding the issue of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel, Abbas said that Israel has linked this matter to settlements.
“Each time a batch of prisoners is released, they announced new housing projects,” he said. “They say this is part of the agreement. But this is a lie. There is no relation at all between the release of prisoners and settlements. Settlements are illegal from the beginning to the end.”
Abbas said that when the two sides reach an agreement, the Palestinian lands, borders and airspace would be under full Palestinian sovereignty.
“We will have our own borders and we have nothing to lease,” he explained. “No one can deceive us.”
John Kerry goes home with three “No’s”
January 8, 2014
John Kerry, should be given a top international award when he leaves office – an award for irrepressible optimism in the face of brutal reality, because he’s utterly clueless on the Middle East peace process
President Obama’s Secretary of State, John Kerry, should be given a top international award when he leaves office – an award for irrepressible optimism in the face of brutal reality.
On Monday, he flew home from the Middle East after what must have been a depressing and morale-breaking few days of shuttling between Jerusalem, Ramallah, Amman and Riyadh.
The responses he received to his unpublicised “framework document” for peace between Israel and the Palestinians were reminiscent of the Arab League’s “three no’s” issued following the 1967 Six Day War with Israel.
Back then, the League swore themselves to “no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel and no negotiation with Israel”. Attitudes have relaxed a bit since (well, some), but John Kerry has discovered that feelings about peace with Israel run high and strong among America’s Middle Eastern Arab allies.
The first “no” was from Mahmoud Abbas in response to the suggestion that Israel be allowed to keep troops in the Jordan Valley in the event that a Palestinian state is created.
Israel needs to keep a security buffer between any international border and a future Palestinian state. Not to insist on this would be to risk leaving an open door for terrorists and weapons to supply militant anti-Israel groups. Mr. Abbas, on the other hand, insists that his own troops, or an international force, would guarantee the integrity of the Jordan Valley border.
The second “no”, also from Abbas, was allegedly in answer to a proposal that “Greater Jerusalem” should be the capital of both Israel and a Palestinian state. This is anathema to the Palestinians, who demand all of East Jerusalem as their capital even though they have no valid historical claim.
The third “no” came from King Abdullah of Jordan, who refuses to accept Palestinian forces or troops on his border. He has openly expressed his mistrust of Palestinian police, soldiers or intelligence services and doesn’t want them anywhere near his international border.
So, Abdullah refuses to countenance Palestinians on his border and prefers Israelis, while Abbas refuses to countenance Israeli troops on his border, and Israel refuses not to have them there. Sounds like a clash of red lines to me.
Of course these “no’s” are just the ones expressed this last weekend. While John Kerry’s optimism that things are always moving forward (even if they aren’t) is commendable, his assessment of progress to the media in Riyadh was showing cracks: “…very positive, but I have to say very serious, very intensive conversations. These issues are not easy.”
The “framework document” that John Kerry wants both sides to accept attempts to cover all the main points of contention and soften all the red lines that exist on both fronts. But a red line means nothing if you don’t stick to it and Kerry is discovering just how thick and solid those decades old lines are.
For such an intractable conflict, the major issues boil down to only five principle deadlocks, but each one is a red line for both sides. This is what Kerry’s framework document is up against:
Jerusalem – When Israel took the West Bank from Jordan’s illegal occupation of it, she annexed the eastern half of Jerusalem, put it under full Israeli sovereignty and enacted a law that made the whole city her capital.
But with a patchwork of Palestinian neighbourhoods interspersed with Jewish ones and the “Haram al Sharif” (Temple Mount) in the middle of it all, the Palestinians insist the city must be split up again with their capital being the East of the city.
Unfortunately, the development of infrastructure across the redundant divide over 40 years plus, including the East-West tram system, has rendered a workable redivision of the city virtually impossible, reinforced by the inconvenient fact that a high proportion of East Jerusalem Arabs would rather be ruled by Israel. Deadlock one.
Borders – the Palestinians and the international community want Israel to withdraw to the now-irrelevant armistice line of 1948. But this would leave the most populated areas of Israel highly vulnerable to missile or rocket attack, including Ben Gurion international airport.
The nearest Israel will come is to offer land swaps that would make the border slightly more defensible and keep the major settlement blocks within Israel proper. Problem: what land do you offer in place of the settlement blocks?
The latest offer is of those towns close to the final border that are most heavily populated by Arabs
known as “the triangle”). But the Arabs concerned have no desire at all to become Palestinians. They too prefer Israeli rule. Deadlock two.
Refugees – the Palestinians want the artificial “right of return” for several million refugees and their descendants; a return to live in Jewish Israel. Israel will never allow this because the demographics would lead to an Arab-majority Jewish state. I don’t think so. Deadlock three.
Security – After decades of violent attacks by Palestinians on Israelis, Jihadis ready to swoop in and attack Israel from a new Palestinian state and the expectation of more rockets from land given up, it’s not surprising that Israel wants listening posts on the hills of the West Bank and her own troops on the Jordan Valley border with Jordan.
The Palestinian position is that not one single Jewish soldier or settler will be allowed to set foot in a future Palestinian state, let alone defend Israel from it. Deadlock four.
Recognition – Ah, the really tricky one! The Palestinians refuse to recognise Israel as a Jewish state, because that would legitimise the “Zionist entity” occupying land that should be Muslim.
It would mean that the conflict would have to end with the formation of a Palestinian state because recognition that Israel is a legitimate Jewish state would remove the main raison d’être for wanting to destroy Israel completely.
Israel recognises that you cannot have peace between two states without mutual recognition and is insisting on this as part of any final agreement. Deadlock five.
Now we see why Mr Kerry’s optimism is so misplaced. Any bets on when reality will finally hit?
Nick Gray is Director, Christian Middle East Watch, a British organisation dedicated to objective and factual discussion of Middle Eastern issues, especially of the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Nick, who is a regular contributor to The Commentator, blogs at cmewonline.com
Jesus of Palestine?
History is too important to leave to academics
Foundation for the Defense of Democracies
Clifford D. May
January 2, 2014
The members of the American Studies Association care deeply about historical truth, which is why they protested so strenuously when, over Christmas, Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas called Jesus “a Palestinian messenger.”
Actually, they didn’t. Why not? Perhaps the 5,000 members of the ASA — an old if not venerable “academic organization” — are so busy boycotting Israeli educational institutions that they have no time to object to propagandistic falsifications of history — in this case, the denial of the Jewish past in the Middle East as a not-so-subtle way of threatening the Jewish future in the region.
As war is too important to leave to generals, so scholarship is too important to leave to professors — or at least to the sizeable cohort that prioritizes moral posturing and trendy political activism over such mundane concerns as research, learning, and teaching. So let’s quickly review the historical record, with which ASA members may be unfamiliar — and which, we may assume, Abbas distorts out of enmity rather than ignorance.
In 130 A.D., about a century after the crucifixion of Jesus, there was a Jewish rebellion against Roman imperialism. Successful it was not. Simon Sebag Montefiore, in his masterful tome Jerusalem: The Biography writes that hundreds of thousands of Jews were killed in battles with Roman forces and “so many Jews were enslaved that at the Hebron slave market they fetched less than a horse.”
The Roman emperor, Hadrian, was not satisfied. He determined to wipe “Judaea off the map, deliberately renaming it Palaestina, after the Jews’ ancient enemies, the Philistines.” And who were the Philistines? They were “Sea People, who originated in the Aegean” and sailed to the eastern Mediterranean, where they “conquered the coast of Canaan.”
In other words, Jesus was born a century before the region was renamed Palestine. That makes calling him a Palestinian akin to calling a 15th-century Algonquin a New Englander. And Jesus was certainly no Philistine. Based on all the evidence, he was a Jew born into an already ancient Jewish community.
It was not until the seventh century that warriors from the Arabian Peninsula, adherents of a new religion known as Islam, conquered Palestine and many other lands — creating an empire as large as Rome’s had been at its height.
Over the centuries that followed, one foreign conqueror after another — e.g. Umayyads, Abbasids, Fatimids, Crusaders, Mamluks — ruled Palestine. The territory never became an independent country. Nor did it even become a separate province under the centuries of Ottoman rule that ended with the collapse of that empire/caliphate after World War I. In 1922, the League of Nations confirmed the Mandate for Palestine, authorizing Britain to rule the territories that would later be known as Jordan, Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank.
For years after that, the term “Palestinian” was more frequently used to refer to the region’s Jews than its Arabs. For example, the Palestine Post was founded in 1932 by a former editor of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. (The newspaper became the Jerusalem Post in 1950.) Jewish musicians organized the Palestine Symphony Orchestra in 1936. (Its name was changed to the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra twelve years later.) During World War II, the “Palestine Regiment” of the British Army had both Jewish and Arab battalions, with more of the former than the latter. Perhaps most significantly, U.N. Resolution 181, passed in 1947, referred to the founding of a “Jewish State” and an “Arab State” — and looked forward to peace and amicable relations “between the two Palestinian peoples.”
Only in the 1960s, with the rise of Yasser Arafat and the Palestine Liberation Organization, did the term “Palestinian” begin to exclude Palestinian Jews. Many who employ the term also exclude those Palestinian Arabs who hold Israeli citizenship — about 20 percent of Israel’s current population.
How large, by comparison, will the Jewish minority be in the Palestinian state that Abbas envisions? Zero percent — Jews will not be tolerated. The PA president has made that quite clear. And Hamas, which rules Gaza, has intentions toward Israelis that can only be described as genocidal.
The ASA has objected to none of this. Nor are they fretting about the fact that the Christian population of the West Bank and Gaza has been plummeting. Indeed, Christians are being persecuted and “cleansed” throughout much of the Muslim world. Meanwhile, by stark contrast, Israel’s Christian community continues to grow and strengthen.
It is within this context that Abbas has been negotiating with Israel — doing so, apparently, only because President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry insist, and in exchange for tangible benefits — e.g., the release of scores of terrorists imprisoned in Israel.
To be fair, Abbas must wonder how anyone could seriously expect him to make peace with Israel at this moment. He knows that Iran intends to have a nuclear-weapons capability. He almost certainly doubts Obama’s determination to prevent that. He understands that if sanctions are lifted and Iran can again sell oil at world-market prices, its economy is likely to boom. Iran’s rulers will then use their new weapons and wealth to establish hegemony over the region.
They would not look kindly on any Muslim leader who had recently grasped an Israeli hand. They would, however, find common ground with a Palestinian leader who had attempted to erase Israel from history. That would be consistent with their more ambitious goal: to follow Hadrian’s example and erase Israel from the map.
Let me end on a more encouraging note. In recent days, the Association of American Universities, the umbrella organization for 62 major universities and university-systems, and the Association of American University Professors have rejected the ASA’s boycott, as have Harvard, Yale, Princeton, the University of Pennsylvania, and the University of Chicago — a growing list of America’s most prestigious schools. Action item for philanthropists considering giving gifts to educational institutions in the New Year: Those not on that list should not be on yours.
— Clifford D. May is president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a policy institute focusing on national security.
Council on Foreign Relations
January 1, 2014
Working toward an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement, negotiators always seek “confidence-building measures” or CBMs. These moves are supposed to show good faith and convince the other side to undertake equal steps, or perhaps even more important to show the other side’s good faith.
Today the Kerry negotiations use prisoner releases as such a CBM, designed mostly to keep PLO chairman Abbas at the conference table. But the prisoner releases are not CBMs; they are CDMs, confidence-destroying measures. With some American pressure, Prime Minister Netanyahu has released a third tranche of long-serving security prisoners –murderers, to be exact.
The first thing this does is diminish confidence in the United States. After all, we never do this; we never release murderers or terrorists from our prisons for political reasons. That we expect Israel to do so teaches Israelis that we will ask Israel to take risks we would not take, and do not fully understand the security situation they face.
And the releases certainly diminish confidence in the Palestinians as peace partners. Today’s Daily Telegraph in London explains why:
Twenty-six inmates incarcerated since before the 1993 Oslo Peace Accords were given a hero’s welcome in the West Bank city of Ramallah after being freed from Israeli custody early on Tuesday. They were the third of four batches of prisoners Israel agreed to release last July, as part of the price for re-starting long-stalled peace talks with the Palestinians. But scenes of Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority president, kissing and hugging each prisoner after their release provoked revulsion in Israel, with critics complaining that most of the inmates had been convicted of murdering Israelis. “Each one of us sees this and we ask ourselves, can we make peace with these people, who welcome murderers with flowers as if they were heroes,” Silvan Shalom, the Israeli regional development minister, told Israel Radio. “If these are their heroes, if this is what they show the young generation, that these loathsome murderers are heroes, can we make peace with them? What kind of education is this for children?”
Who is being released? Here are some of the stories, from the Jerusalem Post:
Damouni Saad Mohammed Ahmed will be released to the Gaza Strip this week more than 20 years after he was convicted of taking part in the brutal lynching of IDF reservist Amnon Pomerantz, who took a wrong turn into a refugee camp in the coastal territory in 1990 – he was beaten to death before his car was set alight by firebombs.
Shakir Alifu Musbach Nufal will be released to his home in the West Bank this week, some 27 years after he was sentenced to life in prison for his role in the kidnapping and murder of then- 21-year-old IDF soldier Shaltiel Akiva on Passover night in 1985.
Two Fatah terrorists, Samarin Mustafa Kalib Asrar and Kra’an Azat Musa Musa, were convicted in the 1992 abduction and murder of Israeli soldier Tzvi Klein in the West Bank in 1992.
Yosef Mahmad Haza Haza was only 17 when he and a friend murdered hikers Leah Elmakayis and Yossi Eliyahu at a forest on the Gilboa mountain range in 1985. Abed al Raba Nimr Jabril Issa is also set to be released following his conviction for the murder of hikers Revital Seri and Ron Levy in 1984.
Fatah member Abu-Dahila Hasan Atik Sharif will be released to the West Bank 21 years after his arrest for the murder of Avi Osher, who employed him for 15 years at his Jordan Valley farm before Sharif beat and stabbed him to death.
The list includes Amer Massoud Issa Rajib, one of those convicted in the murder of Ian Feinberg, who was hacked and shot to death in April 1993 in the Gaza Strip, where he had been working on economic revitalization plans for the area.
One can perhaps forgive a murderer’s family for greeting him with kisses; one cannot forgive the highest authorities of the PA and PLO for doing so, and Silvan Shalom is right in asking what lesson this teaches all Palestinians. Palestinian leaders refuse to make any moral distinctions, separating those who committed crimes of violence from those who did not nor even –the very least that might be expected– separating those who killed soldiers from those who killed civilians.
The official Palestinian glorification of those who murdered Israelis is now the backdrop to Secretary’s arrival in Israel today to advance “peace.”
Kerry says prospects good for Israeli-Palestinian peace
The Washington Post
Anne Gearan and William Booth
December 6, 2013
EPA – U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, left, meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a Jerusalem hotel, Dec. 6, 2013.
TEL AVIV — Secretary of State John F. Kerry claimed Friday that chances for a lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians are better now than at any time in years, despite widespread skepticism that the peace talks he fostered are making little headway.
Kerry likened the long effort to bring peace to the Middle East to Nelson Mandela’s decades-long struggle to end apartheid in South Africa. Both struggles seemed impossible but are not, Kerry told reporters during a press conference at Ben Gurion Airport.
Kerry also reassured Israelis that tough sanctions on Iran will remain in place during negotiations toward an international deal to limit Iran’s nuclear program to peaceful purposes.
“We will approach this final negotiation with an absolute view about Israel’s security,” as well as the safety of the wider Middle East, Kerry said as he ended two days of talks in Israel and the West Bank.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was a vocal critic of the effort Kerry helped lead to broker an interim deal with Iran that caps its disputed nuclear program in exchange for limited relief from economic sanctions.
Netanyahu’s blunt appraisal that the deal was a catastrophic mistake marked the most public breach with the United States in years.
“The prime minister has every right in the world to make his views known about the security of his country,” Kerry said.
He predicted that Netanyahu will be helpful as world powers work toward a wider final deal with Iran in six months.
“He understands that we are now in the real negotiation,” Kerry said.
Netanyahu has made no public pledge to support that final deal, but has toned down his criticism.
Kerry’s two-day visit was partly aimed at lowering public tension with Israel over the Iran deal. He publicly endorsed Israel’s focus on defense and security using the same terminology Netanyahu routinely employs, that Israel must be able to defend itself by itself.
Standing with Netanyahu on Thursday, Kerry made no public mention of Israeli settlements on land claimed by the Palestinians, a roadblock to the peace deal he wants to forge and a routine irritant between Israel and the United States. He also did not mention the issue in brief remarks following a meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Kerry acknowledged that the Palestinians see “difficulties” in the talks.
Kerry and retired Marine Gen. John R. Allen also presented American proposals for possible security arrangements in the West Bank after any peace deal is struck. Reuters quoted one Palestinian official as saying Abbas had rejected the ideas, but Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said the proposals remain a work in progress.
The presentation marked the first public acknowledgment of a new, more forceful role for the United States in moving talks ahead. It is not clear whether the advent of American proposals means the talks are at an impasse.
Details of Allen’s proposed West Bank security architecture remain secret, but people familiar with it have told The Post that it includes ideas to satisfy Israeli concerns about threats coming from Palestinian airspace and on the ground along the Jordan Valley. An international peacekeeping force has been widely reported to be one idea under discussion.
US Secretary of State John Kerry warned of a return to Palestinian violence and Israel’s isolation if the faltering peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians ultimately fail. This is a typical leftist Pavlovian response to the impasse in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations that is now over a decade old. Such thinking primarily reflects the frustration that the optimistic evaluations that the conflict can be ended quickly remain unfulfilled. Unfortunately, Kerry’s remarks tell the Palestinians to hold on to their maximalist positions. This reflects an inability to grasp the intricacies of protracted intractable ethnic conflict and a misguided American policy.
There is definitely a possibility that the Palestinians, in particular the radical forces, will recur to violence. In reality these forces try to kill Israelis all the time, and a dearth of terrorist attacks in recent years can only be attributed to the work of the Israeli security forces. Yet the likelihood of massive organized violence by the Palestinian Authority (PA) is small. Rocking the boat endangers too many vested interests of the Palestinian ruling class. The PA leadership has probably registered the heavy price paid by the Palestinians during their terrorist campaign at the beginning of the twenty-first century, as a result of Israeli countermeasures.
Moreover, even if the Palestinians miscalculate once again and go for a “third Intifada,” Israel’s capability to contain terrorism and other modes of civilian struggle is high. The Israeli army can be trusted to meet all challenges successfully. Most important, a large majority of Israelis believe that the Palestinian demands, such as Jerusalem and the “Right of Return,” are the real obstacles to peace. This large consensus about Palestinian intransigence allows for significant social mobilization and resilience in protracted conflict. Israelis will go once more to war with a feeling of “Ein Breira” (no choice) and are likely to win that engagement as well.
Large parts of the hypocritical world may indeed see Israel as the culprit for the failure of the negotiations and for a new round of Israeli-Palestinian violence. But such negative attitudes do not necessarily lead to international isolation. Public statements and the voting record of states at the UN – an ineffective, morally bankrupt organization – are not indicative of the true nature of interstate relations.
National interests dictate state actions, and in most cases bilateral relations with Israel are hardly affected by the ups and downs in the peace talks with the Palestinians. For example, the rising powers India and China have expanded their bilateral ties with Jerusalem because it is in their interest to engage a successful state such as Israel. Nowadays, when the Iranian threat dominates the region, Arab Sunni states such as Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia, who are exasperated with American behavior, are in the same strategic boat as Israel. Generally, the Middle East – especially today, while in the throes of a colossal political, social, and economic crisis – is hardly paying attention to the Palestinian issue. In the Caucasus and in Central Asia, Muslim Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan are friendly to Israel.
Moreover, isolation of Israel is unlikely because of the large existing reservoirs of support for Israel in many quarters. Canada and Australia are ruled by governments most responsive to Israeli concerns. Even in Western Europe, concerns about Muslim immigration and foreign aid place the Palestinians in a problematic spot. Above all, two-thirds of Americans have consistently favored Israel over the past two decades, which translates into Congressional support. The US is Israel’s most important ally and even the Obama administration has maintained the strong support and cooperation in the military sphere.
But the prism of the Obama administration on the Middle East and global affairs is fundamentally flawed. An American foreign policy that supports the Muslim Brotherhood, estranges its traditional Arab allies such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia, allows Iran to get closer to the bomb, sees in Turkey’s Erdoğan a great friend of the West, and insists that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can be ended in nine months is dangerous and does more damage that good. Similar complaints about poor US political judgment are abundantly voiced by America’s friends in Asian and Eastern European capitals.
It is the enemies of the US who rejoice in President Barack Obama’s foreign policy, and who relish in America’s perceived decline in world affairs.
Ironically, at this historic juncture, even an isolationist America would be a better alternative for those that want the good guys to win. Therefore, dear President Obama, please do us a favor: save some money and keep Kerry at home.
Prof. Efraim Inbar, director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, is a professor of political studies at Bar-Ilan University and a fellow at the Middle East Forum.
Kerry’s Antagonism Unmasked
BESA Center Perspectives (Begin Sadat Center for Stratigic Studies)
David M. Weinberg
November 10, 2013
John Kerry has abandoned America’s honest broker stance in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. His warnings about the coming isolation of Israel and of a third Intifada – unless Israel quickly allows the emergence of a “whole Palestine” and ends its “perpetual military occupation” of Judea and Samaria – effectively tell the Palestinians that they should make sure the talks fail, and then Israel’s “gonna get it.” Kerry laid out the consequences for Israel of disobeying America (no safety and no prosperity), but laid out no similar consequences for the Palestinians if they remain intransigent.
Up until last Thursday night, most Israelis related to US Secretary of State John Kerry as a naïve nice guy. His ardent enthusiasm for basically-impossible peace talks with the Palestinians was viewed as stop-gap diplomacy at best and a fool’s errand at worst.
But in a November 7 joint interview to Israeli and Palestinian television, Israel discovered a different Kerry: nasty, threatening, one-sided, blind to the malfeasance and unreliability of Palestinian leaders, and dangerously oblique to the explosive situation he himself is creating.
Channeling the Palestinian line, Kerry showed no appreciation whatsoever for Israel’s positions and concerns, aside from the usual, throw-away, vague protestations of concern for Israel’s security.
His warnings about the coming isolation of Israel and of a third Intifada – unless Israel quickly allows the emergence of a “whole Palestine” and ends it “perpetual military occupation” of Judea and Samaria – amount to unfriendly pressure. Worse still, Kerry is trading treacherously in ugly self-fulfilling prophecy.
There was always a high probability that the Palestinians would eventually use the predictable collapse of the talks as an excuse for more violence and renewal of their “lawfare” against Israel in international forums. Now they have John Kerry’s seal of approval for doing so.
Kerry has basically laid out the Obama administration’s understanding of the campaign to delegitimize and isolate Israel – unless Israel succumbs to Palestinian and international dictates for almost complete Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and Jerusalem.
Kerry is effectively telling the Palestinians that they should make sure the talks fail, and then Israel’s “gonna get it.”
So now the Palestinians know clearly what to do. They don’t really want a circumscribed, hemmed-in, mini-state of the like that Israel could agree too. They have never wanted the “sovereign cage” of a Palestinian state that Israel can contemplate (as Ahmad Khalidi and Saeb Erekat have categorized the generous Barak and Olmert proposals). What they have always wanted is “runaway” statehood and the total delegitimization of Israel, alongside an ongoing campaign to swamp Israel demographically and overwhelm Israel diplomatically.
Strategically then, there is no good reason for Palestinian leader Abbas to agree to any negotiated accord with Israel. An accord will hem-in Palestinian ambitions. An accord will grant Israel the legitimacy that Kerry warns we are losing. An accord will grant Israel the legitimacy “to act in order to protect its security needs,” as Tzipi Livni keeps on plaiting.
Obviously then, Abbas knows what to do. By stiffing Israel and holding to his maximalist demands, Abbas pushes Israel into Kerry’s punishment corner. He spurs on the isolation of Israel that Mr. Kerry is oh-so-worried-about. He creates ever-greater pressure on Israel to concede ever-more to Palestinian ambitions.
In short, Kerry’s onslaught last night only encourages Palestinian stubbornness, and strips the peace process of any realism.
Over the past thirty years, Israelis have shifted their views tremendously. They’ve gone from denying the existence of a Palestinian people to recognition of Palestinian peoplehood and national aspirations, and from insisting on exclusive Israeli sovereignty and control of Judea, Samaria, and Gaza to acceptance of a demilitarized Palestinian state in these areas. Israel has even withdrawn all-together from Gaza, and allowed a Palestinian government to assume authority over 95 percent of West Bank residents. Israel has made the Palestinian Authority three concrete offers for Palestinian statehood over more than 90 percent of West Bank territory plus Gaza.
Palestinians have made no even-remotely-comparable moves towards Israel.
‘America will intervene with own peace plan by January if talks fail’
Meretz Chairwoman MK Zehava Gal-On meets with senior Palestinian and American officials,
learns about plans for American intervention in peace talks in 2014 • Gal-On:
U.S. moving from coordination to intervention • No more interim agreements.
After meeting with senior Palestinian and American officials, Meretz Chairwoman MK Zehava Gal-On released a statement Monday saying that the Americans are “moving from a coordination phase between the two sides to an intervention phase.”
The new plan, expected to be presented in January 2014, will follow the “Clinton parameters,” according to Gal-On and her policy advisor Ilan Baruch. It will address all the core issues, and will be “based on the ’67 lines with agreed land swaps.”
Also revealed in Gal-On’s meetings with senior officials: U.S. President Barack Obama will continue to pressure Ramallah and Jerusalem to reach a breakthrough in negotiations by the second quarter of 2014.
Gal-On’s statement further asserted that the Americans believe that both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas have the political credit necessary to forge an agreement. However, public skepticism on both sides has justified the American preparation to intervene if the talks reach a crisis.
Gal-On added that, in anticipation of a deadlock, the U.S. is expected to lay out a draft plan as early as January, complete with a schedule for talks and additionally addressing the points of the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative.
Finally, these talks will not lead to another interim agreement, Gal-On’s statement explained, as the Americans have accepted that Abbas will no longer be able to drum up public support for anything short of a permanent agreement.
Meanwhile, Netanyahu, in his Rome meeting with Secretary of State John Kerry last week, refused an American proposal to station American forces in the Jordan Valley or to allow other international troops to maintain the security along the eastern border.
During the seven-hour meeting, Kerry attempted to finish outlining the borders for the future Palestinian state.
The prime minister drew the outline first. In Netanyahu’s map, the Palestinian state is farther away from the Jordan Valley, is surrounded on all sides by areas under Israeli sovereignty, is demilitarized, and preserves for Israel the greater Jerusalem area and the Jewish settlement blocs. The Palestinians, for their part, are thought to be unwilling to give up a state that does not stretch to the Jordan River, nor will they agree to not control the northern Dead Sea area.
Palestinians: We Do Not Trust The Americans
Khaled Abu Toameh
November 6, 2013
“We want the Americans to be involved in the peace process. But the U.S. should focus its pressure on the Israelis and not on us. We want the Americans to force Israel to accept the two-state solution and dismantle all the illegal settlements.” — Senior aide to Palestinian Authority’s Mahmoud Abbas
The Palestinians’ biggest fear is that the U.S. will try to impose a solution. That is why Abbas and his top aides have begun moves in the international community to persuade as many countries as possible to get involved in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, especially the European Union, United Nations and Russia. The last time the Americans tried to extract concessions from the Palestinians, within a few weeks the Palestinians launched the Second Intifada against Israel; Abbas has already threatened as much.
As U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry embarks on a fresh mission to prevent the collapse of the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, the Palestinian Authority [PA] appears to be doing its utmost to internationalize the conflict with Israel.
The Palestinians want other international parties, especially the European Union, United Nations and Russia, to play a major role in the current U.S.-sponsored peace talks.
They perceive these parties as being more sympathetic to, and supportive of, the Palestinians.
The PA’s biggest fear is that Washington will try to impose a solution that would certainly fail to win the backing of most Palestinians and Arabs.
Unconfirmed reports recently suggested that Kerry was considering the possibility of forcing his own deal on the Israelis and Palestinians as early as next year.
A forced solution, Palestinians warn, would also severely undermine the credibility of the PA leadership, whose leaders would be accused by many Palestinians and Arabs of capitulating to American pressure and threats.
The PA has come to learn that U.S. threats to cut off financial aid are not to be taken seriously. The U.S. administration has previously issued similar threats, but never carried them out. The last threat came before the PA unilaterally applied for the status of non-member observer state in the United Nations.
The PA also keeps warning the Americans that financial aid cuts would lead to the collapse of the “moderate” Palestinian camp and pave the way for a Hamas takeover of the West Bank.
Kerry and his team are evidently unaware of the fact that neither Abbas, whose term of office expired several years ago, nor any other Palestinian leader is authorized to make real concessions to Israel.
The last time the Americans tried to extract concessions from a Palestinian leader was in the year 2000, when President Bill Clinton dragged Yasser Arafat to Camp David and exerted heavy pressure on him to accept Ehud Barak’s offer to hand over to the Palestinians most of the West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.
The result of the U.S. pressure was that Arafat ran away and within a few weeks Palestinians launched the Second Intifada against Israel; Abbas, in Arabic, has already threatened as much.
Today, the PA is already facing growing criticism for agreeing to return to the negotiating table unconditionally three months ago. Palestinian leaders have justified their decision by arguing that Kerry forced them to drop their pre-conditions and resume the peace talks with Israel.
“We want the Americans to be involved in the peace process,” said a senior aide to PA President Mahmoud Abbas. “But the U.S. should focus its pressure on the Israelis and not on us. We want the Americans to force Israel to accept the two-state solution and dismantle all the illegal settlements.”
Palestinian Authority officials say they are now convinced that the U.S. administration has no intention to force Israel to comply with all the demands of the Palestinian negotiators, including a full withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines. That is why Abbas and his top aides have begun moves in the international community to persuade as many countries as possible to get involved in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
And that is why the Palestinians have recently been directing their criticism not only against Israel, but also against the U.S. administration.
PA leaders say they have lost their confidence in the U.S. administration’s ability to serve as an honest broker in the negotiations between the Palestinians and Israel.
Hours before Kerry was scheduled to meet with PA President Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem, several Palestinian officials and groups issued statements denouncing U.S. “bias” in favor of Israel.
The Palestinians also called for holding protests during Kerry’s visit to Bethlehem to express their opposition to U.S. policies in the region, particularly regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In fact, anti-U.S. protests have become a common occurrence in the West Bank each time a U.S. official arrives to meet with Palestinians.
The Palestinian Authority’s strategy now is to prove to the world that Israel is not interested in peace and the U.S. cannot be trusted with brokering a comprehensive and just solution.
The Palestinians are willing for now to pursue the talks with Israel to avoid being held responsible for the failure of the peace process.
They want to show the world that it is Israel that should be blamed for the collapse of the talks because of its refusal to comply with all the Palestinian demands. Moreover, the Palestinians are hoping, through the continued dialogue with the U.S. administration, to show the world that the Americans cannot do anything to bring about peace — a step which they hope would pave the way for the involvement of other parties in the conflict.
How Palestinian Hate Prevents Peace
International New York Times
The Opinion Pages
Yuval Steinitz is Israel’s minister of intelligence and international affairs.
October 15, 2013
JERUSALEM — On Sept. 26, the Palestinian Authority’s president, Mahmoud Abbas, told the United Nations General Assembly that the Palestinians “keep reaching out to the Israelis saying: let us work to make the culture of peace reign.” Honorable sentiments, to be sure, but sadly not free of hypocrisy.
Just after returning from his U.N. speech, Mr. Abbas cleared time to host the celebrated Egyptian poet Hisham al-Gakh, author of a famous hit proclaiming that “our enemy is the fork-tailed Zionist devil.” That evening, Mr. al-Gakh had an opportunity to recite his “lovely” song upon receiving an award from the Palestinian minister of culture.
And in July, the program “Palestine This Morning” featured two sisters reciting a poem referring to “sons of Zion” and “barbaric monkeys” and “wretched pigs.”
These are but a few of the thousands of examples of Palestinian incitement against the Jewish state and the Jewish people. There are even numerous instances of the glorification of Hitler on the Facebook pages of some government-supported Palestinian schools and in children’s publications funded by the Palestinian Authority. Such messages, propagated daily in P.A. media and classrooms, are internalized by the population at large — and children in particular.
Two decades ago, I was a chartered member of Israel’s Peace Now movement and an unabashed supporter of the peace process. Since then, I — and many Israelis like me — have become deeply skeptical about Palestinians’ real intentions. And it’s not only because of the terrorist attacks which have emanated from areas handed over to Palestinian control, but also because of the repeated Palestinian calls for Israel’s destruction. Jewish history has taught us the hard way never to underestimate the power of hatred.
The Palestinian Authority’s television and radio stations, public schools, summer camps, children’s magazines and Web sites are being used to drive home four core messages. First, that the existence of a Jewish state (regardless of its borders) is illegitimate because there is no Jewish people and no Jewish history in this piece of land. Second, that Jews and Zionists are horrible creatures that corrupt those in their vicinity. Third, that Palestinians must continue to struggle until the inevitable replacement of Israel by an Arab-Palestinian state. And fourth, that all forms of resistance are honorable and valid, even if some forms of violence are not always expedient.
Instead of being schooled in the “culture of peace,” the next generation of Palestinians is being relentlessly fed a rhetorical diet that includes the idolization of terrorists, the demonization of Jews and the conviction that sooner or later Israel should cease to exist.
Even after Secretary of State John Kerry’s announcement of the resumption of peace talks, incitement remains prevalent. For example, P.A. television coverage of a “peace visit” to the West Bank’s Hebron district by the famed FC Barcelona soccer team took the trouble to remind viewers that Palestine extends “from Eilat to Rosh Hanikra” — that is, not just the West Bank and Gaza Strip, but the entire land of Israel. This remark was followed by a song performed by Muhammad Assaf, the winner of the popular TV show “Arab Idol.” The lyrics envisioned the “liberation” of Israeli cities such as Haifa, Tiberias and Safed.
The fact that this anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic indoctrination persists, despite the much-touted relaunch of Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, constitutes a huge obstacle on the road to peace. It should have disappeared 20 years ago, as a result of a clear Palestinian commitment to end all forms of incitement included in the Oslo Accords. And until it ends, the current round of talks cannot hope to reach a successful outcome.
Progress toward a peace agreement requires that both Palestinians and Israelis foster an environment conducive to productive dialogue. Israel’s anguished decision on July 28 to release over 100 convicted terrorists, as well as to help the Palestinian economy, were a courageous attempt to build trust and improve the atmosphere surrounding the negotiations, and I supported it.
Palestinian leaders must now reciprocate by immediately and fully halting their encouragement and sponsorship of hatred.
If they do not, attempts at renewed diplomacy are doomed to fail, Israelis will become more skeptical about the peace process, and we in the Israeli government will have greater difficulty taking the additional confidence-building steps that we have been considering. Indeed, with each passing day, my colleagues and I will find it more and more problematic to authorize any further release of prisoners.
If Israelis are ever to believe that peace with Palestinians has a chance, the first step Mr. Abbas must take is to swiftly terminate the campaign to delegitimize the Jewish people and its state.
Yuval Steinitz is Israel’s minister of intelligence and international affairs.
Palestinian Corruption – Again
by Shoshana Bryen
October 17, 2013
Sept. 12, 2013
Mere State-Building In Palestine
Council on Foreign Relations
August 28, 2013
How can a Palestinian state be built? For those who believe that the “two-state outcome” is important, and this includes the governments of Europe and the United States, that’s a critical question. Former prime minister Salam Fayyad had an answer: start building, now, under the Israeli occupation, despite the occupation, against the occupation. Get ready for independence step by step.
We now have an important European view, from the foreign minister of Norway–which chairs the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee, the key donors’ organization for the Palestinian efforts. Espen Barth Eide is quoted as follows in the Jerusalem Post:
“The donors will not be ready to keep funding Palestinian state-building much longer if we are not seeing a political horizon,” said Eide. Eide said it was important for both sides to know – as they have just restarted negotiations – that the world was not willing to provide a blank check.
“I think this is important for the Palestinians to know, because if anyone there thought they could sort of just fall back to the comfort of an internationally subsidized state-building endeavor, that may be wrong,” he said in an interview. “And I think that it is important for some people on the Israeli side – living in reasonable comfort [given] that cooperation with the pseudo-state in the West Bank is quite good – to know that this cannot continue forever.”
That is an extraordinary statement, and should not pass without notice. What he derides as “falling back into the comfort of an internationally subsidized state-building effort” is in fact the greatest challenge facing Palestinians now, and one they have not met. Nor have donors– Arab, American, European– met the challenge of providing adequate political and financial support for state-building, focusing instead for decades on repeated failed efforts at leaping to final status agreements. Those efforts have produced little for Palestinians, while state-building efforts can offer them pragmatic gains and real improvement in their lives–and can show Israelis that their security needs can be met in an independent Palestine.
Put another way, Eide continues the failed policy of wanting to create a Palestine whose borders might be known– before we have any idea what will be within those borders: failed state or successful economy? Democracy or terrorist base? This has not worked and will never work. To find that the chairman of the donors’ committee now dismisses mere state-building as an activity not worth supporting in its own right suggests that nothing has been learned from the experience of recent decades.
Obama Appeasement Will Result in Disaster
August 19, 2013
Reviewing Israel’s political situation after two weeks abroad is a disconcerting exercise.
As anticipated, the Arab Spring has devolved into a bloody nightmare that has engulfed Egypt, leaving Israel surrounded by a sea of violence and barbarism with no prospect for stability on the horizon. Yet whilst hundreds of people are being brutally killed daily, the international community remains obsessed with condemning Israel for allowing the construction of homes in the Jewish suburbs of East Jerusalem.
Meanwhile, the disproportionate levels of energy and passion invested by US Secretary of State John Kerry and other Western leaders in the Israeli-Palestinian imbroglio can only be described as surrealistic. Despite realities on the ground providing irrefutable evidence to the contrary, Kerry continues to chant the absurd mantra that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict represents the principal obstacle to stability in the region. There is little doubt that Kerry gave a wink to the Europeans to encourage them to initiate the most recent campaign against the settlements. With his outrageous remark and worrisome threat to Prime Minister Netanyahu that if peace talks break down “there will be a delegitimization campaign ‘on steroids’ against Israel,” the Obama Administration is signaling that it is intent on imposing a settlement. One shudders at the thought of other messages that are likely to be conveyed, including suggestions that the US abstain from or even support one-sided Security Council condemnations and boycotts against Israel that it has previously vetoed.
The venom directed against us is inexplicable when we consider the facts: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has refused to make a single, meaningful concession or gesture toward Israel; Palestinian media, religious institutions and educational systems continue to preach feral anti-Israelism and anti-Semitism; the liberal West remained silent when President Abbas proudly proclaimed that ethnic cleansing will be implemented in a Palestinian state to ensure that not a single Jew is permitted to live in Judea or Samaria; and Hamas, the terrorist entity occupying Gaza with which Abbas has pledged to reunite, remains violently opposed to any peace process.
But the most troubling phenomenon is the intensity of American pressure that has forced our government to consider releasing brutal murderers to “boost the morale of the Palestinians” and induce them into “engaging in negotiations”. Never in history has a nation that vanquished those seeking to destroy it been forced to release prisoners under such circumstances. To pressure us to release monsters (who are hailed as heroes and will receive state pensions) before negotiations commence is one of the most appalling concessions to terror ever made; it incentivizes future terrorists and traumatizes Israelis, especially families of terror victims.
If that was not enough, the government even abrogated its jurisdiction by conceding to demands from Abbas to include Israeli Arab terrorists amongst those to be granted amnesty.
The demand that we release these prisoners as a “goodwill gesture” calls into question the entire peace process and those who insist that we make compromises in order to win the “blame game” to secure public opinion.
Israel’s concession-making has never borne positive consequences. The Oslo Accords, Prime Ministers Barak and Olmert’s extraordinary offers to withdraw from virtually all the disputed territories and the Gaza disengagement, all failed to achieve productive results. Instead, these unilateral concessions only raised the benchmark so that the Americans are now effectively proposing that the basis for a peace agreement be the indefensible 1949 armistice lines “with swaps.” If, as in the past, we are unable to reach an agreement on land swaps, the Palestinians will demand that they retain control of all of East Jerusalem and the major settlement blocs, repudiating UN Resolution 242 and disavowing the President Bush’s commitment to Prime Minister Sharon after the Gaza disengagement.
What does this portend for the future? If President Obama has succeeded in bludgeoning Israel into conceding on such a contentious and emotional issue as the release of murderers — something no sovereign state, least of all America, would ever contemplate — future prospects for the peace process are chilling. Can we expect even handedness from Kerry’s envoy Martin Indyk, whose contempt for Israel’s sovereignty was displayed not so long ago when he ingratiated himself with the President by viciously denigrating Israel at the height of Obama’s confrontation with Netanyahu?
Moreover, our giving into American pressure will cause Israelis to quickly forget Netanyahu’s successful diplomatic tightrope walk with Obama during his former term of office and encourage expressions of no confidence and calls for Prime Minister Netanyahu’s resignation.
The early Mapai leaders, who were in a much weaker position than today’s government, would not have capitulated. David Ben Gurion stood up against the world when the state was created. One can hardly imagine Golda Meir conceding to such pressures. Yitzhak Rabin, despite his failed gamble with the Oslo Accords, defied Jimmy Carter. It would have been inconceivable for Menachem Begin to grant amnesty to murderers of innocent Jews.
Yet it is easy for an armchair observer, who is neither privy to the pressures exerted on the Prime Minister nor obliged to make decisions affecting national security, to condemn this concession out of hand. It is possible that when the facts emerge, we may retrospectively become convinced that our leaders had no choice. It is unlikely that Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, hardly a dove, would have endorsed a concession that runs completely counter to his outlook unless there were grave security issues at stake. Some have suggested, albeit unconvincingly, that the alternative would have been even worse – a complete settlement freeze on Jerusalem and the major settlement blocs. There have also been hints that Iran was a part of the equation.
But even if the government was obliged to make this draconian unilateral concession, our fears remain justified. Tzipi Livni, a failed politician who described Netanyahu’s release of terrorists as “a courageous act”, will over the next nine months be leading secret negotiations on behalf of Israel behind closed doors. Without substantial public pressure to boost his resolve, Netanyahu may capitulate to American pressures. Ultimately, we may be faced with a fait accompli — a “take it or leave it” scenario accompanied by threats of what to expect if we “leave it.”
What are we to do? We must loudly publicize the fact that after failing to undermine us by terror and violence, the Palestinians are working to diplomatically dismantle us by stages. We must make the case that we are not another Czechoslovakia and there are limits to our willingness to compromise in this asymmetrical environment. Our government must stress that whilst the vast majority of Israelis remain committed to working toward peace and have no desire to rule over Arabs, peace cannot be achieved with neighbors whose leaders incite hatred against us and we will not gamble the lives of our children by compromising on security needs at a time when half the Palestinian population is controlled by Hamas, a terrorist entity that regularly launches missiles at us.
It is time for us to call on our allies and friends, especially American Jewish leaders, to demand that Kerry and the Obama administration confront the Palestinians on the issues that are central to genuine peace negotiations: their recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, abrogation of the Arab right of return, an end to anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic domestic propaganda, and education of their people toward peaceful co-existence.
Israeli and Palestinian negotiators meet in the capital for nearly five hours, one day after prisoner release
Sides stay mum as ‘serious’ talks get underway
Times of Israel
Stuart Winer and Lazar Berman
August 14, 2013
Israeli and Palestinian negotiation teams began hashing out a peace deal Wednesday, while maintaining an impressive level of silence that concealed even when and where they were meeting
Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s aide Yitzhak Molcho sat down with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s advisers Saeb Erekat and Mohammed Shtayyeh somewhere in the capital on Wednesday.
The sides met for nearly five hours, reported Israel Radio, and the meeting was described as “serious” by sources close to the talks. The participants agreed to meet again soon, in the West Bank city of Jericho.
It was the second encounter since talks kicked off last month, and it went ahead after Israel released 26 Palestinian prisoners the night before, a key precondition for talks, and several days after Jerusalem announced it would approve some 2,000 new units in East Jerusalem and major West Bank settlement blocs. Both moves created an atmosphere of mutual recrimination in the negotiations.
The sides and the US, which is shepherding the negotiations, have vowed to maintain radio silence in the hopes of silencing critics that could scuttle the negotiations.
“The talks resumed. no photo opp. no statements. Why? to allow the teams to work together, and not think about the media waiting outside,” Livni spokesperson Mia Bengel tweeted Wednesday evening in a rare statement.
At the Palestinians’ request, Army Radio reported, no photo opportunities were scheduled either, though the Government Press Office issued brief footage of Livni, Molcho and Erekat speaking.
There were differing reports as to whether US envoy Martin Indyk was present in the room during the talks.
Speaking at a swearing-in ceremony for the chief rabbi Wednesday morning, Livni told reporters: “We are committed to making the effort, for the sake of the people the State of Israel and its values. It’s going to be complex and complicated, but I’m not ready to give up.”
Also Wednesday, Science Minister Yaakov Peri, who formerly headed the Shin Bet internal security service, told Army Radio of the mixed feelings he has over the prisoner release that will see a total of over a hundred convicted Palestinians set free in four phases as the talks progress.
“Out of the 104 prisoners that are to be released, I was personally involved in, or directed, the capture of 92 of them, so these are not easy times for me and for the families [of the victims],” he said. “But that is part of the price in the quest for peace.”
Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon from the Likud party argued that Israelis today would not accept a peace proposal made by Netanyahu predecessor Ehud Olmert.
Such an agreement “will not win support, not just from me, but also from the Likud and, I think, most of the nation,” Danon told Israel Radio.
The talks are so far keeping to a schedule hammered out two weeks ago in Washington during a first round of talks that laid down a nine-month timetable to reach an agreement. However, there is pessimism on both sides as to what they will achieve.
“We set ourselves nine months and we will try and reach something with the Palestinians,” an Army Radio report quoted Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon on Wednesday. “In the meantime we’ve been trying for 20 years since Oslo, 20 years of conflict, and you can hear in my tone the skepticism, but we decided to give this a chance.”
Meanwhile, Shtayyeh criticized Housing and Construction Minister Uri Ariel’s announcement on Sunday of the construction of 1,187 new housing units in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.
Israel’s move proved “it wasn’t serious about negotiations” and was instead trying “to topple the foundations of the solution, which is establishing a Palestinian state in the ’67 borders,” he said, according to a report from Israel Radio.
Even before the announcement of the construction plans, Erekat had already said in an interview with Reuters this week that the settlements could force him and his team “to leave the negotiating table.”
“If the Israeli government believes that every week they’re going to cross a red line by settlement activity, if they go with this behavior, what they’re advertising is the unsustainability of the negotiations,” Erekat said.
On Tuesday, the Housing Ministry confirmed that it had secretly approved a further 900 housing units in East Jerusalem, scrambling the US secretary of state to play down the significance of the construction plans that, he said, the Palestinians were well aware of in advance.
Trying to salvage the US-brokered peace talks, Kerry spoke Tuesday to reporters while on a trip to Brazil and said that although it would be better if Israel didn’t make such announcements during the peace talks, he did not think they would threaten the second round of talks. Kerry revealed Tuesday night that Netanyahu told him and Abbas in advance of Israel’s intention to announce additional building “in places that would not affect the peace map.”
Court rejects victims’ families’ petition against prisoner release
Times of Israel
August 13, 2013
Relatives of Israelis killed in terror attacks holding signs as they demonstrate outside the
Supreme Court in Jerusalem on August 11, 2013. (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Judges rule that the decision to set free Palestinians is diplomatic and therefore not a legal matter requiring intervention
The High Court of Justice on Tuesday rejected a petition by the families of terror victims to block the release of 26 Palestinian prisoners who were convicted of terrorism, ruling that it is not for the court to involve itself in what is a diplomatic rather than a legal process.
In their rulings the three judges said that the question of prisoner releases had been brought before the court many times in the past but had always been rejected when the proposed release was part of diplomatic negotiations.
“We see no reason to divert from the court’s decisions on these matters,” the judges wrote.
“There is no doubt that this is a difficult and sensitive matter. Our hearts are with the families. We are sure that those who made the decision [to release the prisoners] made it with a heavy heart, while considering the position of the bereaved families,” wrote the judges.
Family members of terror victims petitioned the High Court of Justice on Monday to issue a temporary injunction on the release of the prisoners, claiming that counter to government promises, six of those on the list were tried after Israel and the Palestinians signed the Oslo accords in 1993. The families’ lawyer, Naftali Wertzberger, said the ministerial committee tasked with selecting those to be freed were only authorized to include those convicted prior to the signing of the Oslo agreements.
The rulings did not make any specific reference to the timing of the prisoners’ convictions.
In arguing against the release, the petitioners claimed that the government was wrong in entrusting to a panel of just five ministers the decision of which of 104 prisoners would be released first. The court, however, determined that the government did have the authority to designate the decision, and that it did not require the approval of the full cabinet.
The prisoners are to be released as a goodwill gesture by Israel ahead of peace talks scheduled to restart in Jerusalem on Wednesday.
The Almagor Terror Victims Association responded in a statement: “Today the Supreme Court shut its doors to Jewish bereaved families and terror victims — something it never does to any Palestinian, from interfering with the construction of the security fence at a cost of hundreds of millions of shekels, all the way to terrorists’ demands to put an end to the use of physical pressure in interrogations and to the IDF’s ‘neighbor procedure.’
“The Supreme Court has effectively erased the standing of the victims and instead spread its wings over the terrorists, who from this point on can keep demanding the release of more and more murderers.”
The prisoners were transferred Monday to Ayalon Prison in Ramle, where they have begun a process of identification, medical exams, exit interviews with prison staff and discussions with the Red Cross, reported Israel Radio.
The prisoners will not be released until midnight Tuesday, at the earliest.
Netanyahu to Kerry: Abbas is inciting against Israel
After Erekat’s letter to secretary about Israel’s continued settlement construction, PM retorts with complaints about PA officials’ incendiary comments
Times of Israel
Michal Shmulovich August 11, 2013
In the wake of the chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat’s angry letter to US Secretary of State John Kerry about Israel’s new settlement building amid the resumption of peace talks, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent his own letter to Kerry over the weekend, lambasting the Palestinians for failing to curb incitement against Israel.
Netanyahu wrote to Kerry that leading Palestinian Authority officials were calling for Israel’s destruction even after peace talks resumed on July 31 in Washington — the first major effort since negotiations broke down in 2008.
“Incitement and peace don’t go together,” Netanyahu wrote, explaining that new generations of Palestinians were being taught to hate Israel, further fueling the cycle of violence.
“Instead of educating the next generation of Palestinians to live in peace with Israel, the education of hate poisons them against Israel and lays the groundwork for continued violence and terror,” he wrote.
Netanyahu asserted, for example, that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s comment that a future Palestinian state wouldn’t have a single Israeli in it — which Abbas made as peace talks kicked off in Washington two weeks ago — was a form of incitement.
He also pointed out that an anchor on the PA’s official news channel stated, during a broadcast of the Barcelona soccer team’s visit to the West Bank last week, that the state of Palestine would extend from Rosh Hanikra to Eilat, i.e. the entire length of Israel, constituting another incendiary statement.
Last week, during a trip to Israel by a delegation of 36 House Democrats to Israel, Steny Hoyer (D-Maryland), the second-ranking Democrat in the US House of Representatives, addressed the issue of Palestinian incitement, particularly youth being taught hateful messages about Israelis.
“Erekat talked about the necessity to live together with mutual respect,” Hoyer said about his meeting with the Palestinian chief negotiator at a Jerusalem press conference. “I asked him whether their school curriculum would comport with that objective… He said they haven’t done so perfectly, but that he believes they’re working on reaching that objective.”
Speaking during the AIPAC-affiliated trip, Hoyer said that there has been “too much teaching of violence, too much perpetration of violence, and too much teaching of prejudice,” in the Middle East and that “no group on Earth” has been the object of as much discrimination and hate as the Jews.
Hoyer told reporters he would follow up on the issue with the State Department and other officials when back in Washington.
In his letter to Kerry Thursday, Erekat said the Palestinians have a hard time understanding how peace talks can move forward while settlements expand. He said the Palestinians see the move as direct defiance of the US role in facilitating negotiations.
Israel’s latest settlement announcements were an indication of “Israel’s bad faith and lack of seriousness” in the talks, Erekat stated. He urged Kerry to “take the necessary action to ensure that Israel does not advance any of its settlement plans, and abides by its legal obligations and commitments.”
Addressing Israel’s expansion of settlements during peace talks, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said US officials were speaking with the Israeli government to express concern about the settlements.
“We do not accept the legitimacy of continued settlement activity and oppose any efforts to legitimize settlement outposts,” Psaki said. “The secretary has made clear that he believes both of the negotiating teams are at the table in good faith, and are committed to working together to make progress.”
Settlements have long been a contentious issue between the Palestinians and Israelis.
The Palestinians want to establish a state in the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem — lands Israel captured in 1967. The renewed talks are to draw Israel’s borders with such a state. Since 1967, Israel has built dozens of settlements in the West Bank — deemed illegal by most of the international community. Some 560,000 Israelis live across the pre-1967 Green Line in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.
On Thursday, a military official confirmed that the Defense Ministry had approved construction plans for more than 1,000 new apartments in settlements. This means the plans move forward, but still require final approval before construction can begin.
Earlier last week, the Cabinet expanded its list of West Bank settlements eligible for government subsidies. The Cabinet approved a range of housing subsidies and loans for more than 600 Israeli communities deemed “national priority areas,” including poor towns and 91 settlements.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Kerry tells US Jewish leaders he fears for Israel’s future if no peace deal
At White House, secretary highlights Israel’s growing isolation, demographic challenges; Jewish leaders call for Abbas to moderate tone in upcoming UN speech
Times of Israel
Rebecca Shimoni Stoil
August 9, 2013
US Secretary of State John Kerry speaks during a press conference at Queen Alia International Airport in Jordan on Friday, July 19, 2013. (photo credit: AP/Mandel Ngan, Pool)
Secretary of State John Kerry and an elite US diplomatic team met with a small group of American Jewish leaders at the White House Thursday night to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks that resumed last month.
An optimistic-sounding Kerry asked the Jewish leaders for their help in supporting the newly restarted talks, The Times of Israel learned, saying that he feared for Israel’s future if a peace deal is not reached.
Kerry told the fewer than two-dozen representatives of Jewish organizations that he really believes that both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas realize that there is a strategic imperative to act now. He noted that Israel faces the threat of diplomatic isolation and a demographic clock.
A number of the Jewish leaders pressed Kerry on Abbas’s upcoming address to the United Nations General Assembly. They expressed hope that Abbas would change the tone of his rhetoric during his speeches to the world body — a good-faith gesture to demonstrate outward Palestinian willingness to engage in peace talks. One observer noted that Kerry seemed receptive to the idea.
Other Jewish representatives pushed for Kerry to ask Abbas to recognize Israel as a Jewish state.
Kerry told the leaders that one of the lynchpins of the current peace process is the separation of Israel’s security assurances from the general negotiations, assurances he said would be guaranteed in a separate agreement with the US.
The security track is being worked out under the auspices of retired Marine Corps general John Allen, who is currently Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s special adviser for the Middle East Peace.
Kerry also emphasized the economic development track being pursued with the Palestinians, particularly the encouragement of private investment in the West Bank. The secretary of state, who announced less than a month ago the resumption of talks, said that this round of negotiations could be separated into five different components: security, economic development, international outreach, public outreach in the form of an open appeal for support, and the diplomatic negotiations themselves. These components, Kerry told the Jewish leaders, were effective when used in concert with the others.
Kerry did most of the talking during the 90-minute meeting, but he was joined by nearly a dozen administration officials including White House Special Envoy for Mideast Peace Martin Indyk, National Security Adviser Susan Rice, senior adviser Frank Lowenstein and deputy national security adviser for strategic communications Ben Rhodes.
Indyk remained silent, and Rice only spoke briefly, focusing on how deeply President Barack Obama was committed to the peace process.
The meeting was not listed on the public calendar for the White House, where it was held, or for the State Department. Unlike at the previous meeting with US Jewish leadership, held in March prior to Obama’s visit to Israel, the president was not present at Thursday’s talk.
The Jewish leadership was a virtual who’s who of the American Jewish community, representing a broad political spectrum, including representatives from the Orthodox Union as well as J Street, and including leaders such as the Anti-Defamation League’s Abe Foxman and the Conference of Presidents’ Malcolm Hoenlein.
This meeting was a soft sell for most attendees, without Kerry pressing them to take the message of support for peace talks home to their respective communities. The hard sell — a more organized push to market the peace talks to centrist US Jews — is anticipated to come later in August, in the run-up to Rosh Hashanah.
Khaled Abu Toameh
August 1, 2013
Abbas may be conducting peace talks with Israel, but at the same time he is also backing campaigns that promote boycotts and hatred of Israel. What Secretary Kerry and the U.S. need to understand is that Abbas has failed to prepare his people for the possibility of peace.
If Mahmoud Abbas does not have the power or courage to allow an Israel-based clothing shop to open branch near his residence in Ramallah, how will he ever be able to make peace with Israel?
This is the question some Palestinian businessmen have been asking during the past few days in light of an organized campaign to prevent the Fox clothing chain from opening a store in the city.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s strenuous efforts to resume peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority led two Israeli Arab businessmen to take the initiative and open the first Fox store in the West Bank.
After investing hundreds of thousands of dollars in renovations and the training of employees, the two businessmen soon found themselves at the center of a protest organized by “Anti-normalization” activists and journalists.
Facing daily threats, the two entrepreneurs decided to call off the project, which would have provided jobs to nearly 150 Palestinians.
Although the Palestinian Authority gave permission to the two businessmen to open the Ramallah Fox branch, it was yet unable to do anything to protect them against the threats, including calls for fire-bombing the store.
The opening of a clothing store in Ramallah may be a minor issue, especially compared with the major and explosive issues facing Israeli and Palestinian negotiators.
But this incident, in which a clothing shop is forced — under threats — to withdraw plans to open branch in a Palestinian city, is an indication of what awaits Abbas if and when he dares to reach any agreement with Israel.
The same “anti-normalization” movement that Abbas supports will be the first to turn against him if he strikes a deal with Israel.
Although Fox clothes are immensely popular among young Palestinian men and women, the fashion retailer did not have a branch in the West Bank or Gaza Strip.
While many Palestinian merchants have been quietly selling Fox clothes in several Palestinian cities, they are particularly afraid of the strong “anti-normalization” movement that prohibits any form of contact with Israelis.
Ironically, this movement is fully supported by the same Palestinian Authority and Fatah leaders whose leaders do not hesitate to conduct public meetings with Israelis, in addition to security coordination with the Israel Defense Forces in the West Bank.
Just this week, senior Fatah officials were invited to the Knesset for talks with Israeli colleagues about peace and coexistence; and earlier, Fatah leaders in Ramallah hosted scores of Israeli politicians, including members of the Likud and Shas parties, to an event organized by the joint Israeli-Palestinian Geneva Initiative group.
The campaign against the opening of a Fox store in Ramallah also coincided with the launching of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks in Washington.
While Palestinian activists were busy threatening the owners of the clothing store, their representatives, Saeb Erekat and Mohamed Shtayyeh, were sitting with Israeli minister Tzipi Livni in Washington and talking about ways of achieving peace and coexistence between the two sides.
What Kerry and the U.S. Administration need to understand is that Abbas has failed to prepare his people for the possibility of peace with Israel. Abbas may be conducting peace talks with Israel, but at the same time he is also backing campaigns that promote boycotts and hatred of Israel. It is important to talk peace. But it is even more important to educate people about peace — something that neither Yasser Arafat nor his successor Abbas has done for the past two decades.
Why Is The United States Asking Israel To Release Terrorists?
Council on Foriegn Relations
July 29, 2013
The Government of Israel has announced that it will release 104 “security prisoners” in an effort to induce the PLO to return to the negotiating table. This was a PLO demand that was backed by the United States, as part of Secretary Kerry’s efforts to get talks restarted.
Put aside for the moment the oddity that the Palestinians must be bribed in this way to negotiate. One might have thought that they would wish to negotiate–because they wish to end the Israeli occupation and move toward independence.
My question is why the United States asks a friend to do what we would not do– release terrorists. Here is how the Washington Post described those who will be released:
The list of prisoners who may be released in coming days includes militants who threw firebombs, in one case at a bus carrying children; stabbed and shot civilians, including women, elderly Jews and suspected Palestinian collaborators; and ambushed and killed border guards, police officers, security agents and soldiers.
Israel has at times undertaken huge prisoner releases, for example letting a thousand men out to get back the kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit. But that was their own sovereign decision, taken after long national debate. Here, we are pressing them to release prisoners. We will bear none of the risk that any of them may return to violence, which makes our requests and pressure difficult to justify morally. Nor do we face the terrible problem of explaining to the victims of these crimes, and their relatives and survivors, why they were set free.
Meanwhile, our own policy toward terrorists remains tough and uncompromising. Just this month the President gave a speech defending vigorously his use of drone attacks. So, we escalate our effort to kill terrorists while urging an ally to release terrorists from prison. It would be worth asking the administration how that position can be defended morally.
Netanyahu: Government to pass referendum law ‘soon’
July 22, 2013
Economics and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett arriving for cabinet meeting, April 28, 2013. Photo: Alex Kolomoisky/Pool/Yediot Aharonot
Economy Minister Naftali Bennett makes ultimatum: Bayit Yehudi won’t support budget without Referendum Bill.
The government will pass a law requiring a referendum on any peace treaty, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu announced Monday.
“For years, I have said that any diplomatic agreement must be brought to a referendum,” Netanyahu said at a press conference in the Knesset.
“An agreement that does not get the authorization of the nation is not worthy of being signed.”
The prime minister explained that a peace treaty is different from other decisions, because it “determines destinies,” and every citizen ought to have his or her say on it.
“I will bring supplementary legislation [on a referendum] to the government and then the Knesset,” Netanyahu stated.
“This is a law that passed in the last Knesset, but we will supplement and strengthen it by making it a government bill.”
Netanyahu added that “attaining peace is a vital goal for the State of Israel. Peace and security are difficult and complex goals, and we must work toward our vital goals and our security through negotiations.”
“Peace with our neighbors requires peace among ourselves, and the way to ensure this is through a referendum,” he concluded.
A source close to Netanyahu said that he is unlikely to bring the bill to a vote in its final readings during the Knesset summer recess, even though he legally could. He said the most likely scenario is that it would be passed into law when the Knesset returns to session on October 13.
Netanyahu’s comments followed an ultimatum by Economy and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett that unless the coalition makes progress on the Referendum Bill, his party will vote against the budget.
In light of Bennett’s demands, coalition chairman Yariv Levin (Likud Beytenu) expressed confidence that an emergency Ministerial Committee for Legislation meeting will take place this week to discuss a bill submitted by Levin and Bayit Yehudi MKs Ayelet Shaked and Orit Struck on Monday morning that would turn an existing law requiring a referendum on any peace talk with land swaps into a Basic Law.
“We will support the budget, but insist that the referendum move forward by then,” Bennett said at a Bayit Yehudi faction meeting Monday. “A referendum is a way to stop the nation from being torn apart.”
The Referendum Bill is one of two bills the Bayit Yehudi- Likud Beytenu coalition agreement says must be passed in the current Knesset session, which ends August 4.
The Referendum Law, which passed in 2010, states that any peace agreement in which Israel gives up sovereign land must be approved via referendum if less than 80 MKs vote in favor of the treaty. Evacuating parts of the West Bank would not require a referendum, but dividing Jerusalem, giving away the Golan Heights or signing a land-swap deal would.
Levin, Shaked and Struck’s bill turns the existing Referendum Law into a Basic Law, giving it constitutional value and reinforcing the law so it can only be canceled by a majority of 61 MKs. This would make it very difficult for the current law to be canceled if the government comes to an agreement with the Palestinians.
Netanyahu signaled that his planned Referendum Bill will be different from the aforementioned one, because he said he will “strengthen [the existing law] by making it a government bill,” and not by making it a Basic Law, though some in the coalition said the prime minister would simply adopt the Levin-Shaked- Struck version as government legislation.
Bennett explained that he made this ultimatum so the bill will progress quickly.
“I said Bayit Yehudi will not sit in a government that negotiates based on ’67 lines, and now it isn’t happening. When we insist, we bring results,” he said.
Bennett referred to the Oslo Accords, which passed 20 years ago, saying it was approved “by a margin of one vote by a political deserter who was given a job.”
“We remember – it has been 8 years since the disengagement and 20 since Oslo. We will not lend a hand to ‘Mitsubishi agreements,’” he quipped, referring to the car given to deputy ministers at the time of Oslo. “We’re still eating their rotten fruits,” he declared.
“Bayit Yehudi opposes a Palestinian state and we oppose giving the Land of Israel to our enemies, period. This is the land of our fathers, and only the people can decide what to do with it. Nothing will go wrong if we hold a referendum on the future of our nation; this will have an effect on future generations, the great-grandchildren of our great grandchildren.”
Later Monday, Levin said that he, Shaked and Struck submitted the bill that morning because they were confident it would pass.
Levin is working to arrange a Ministerial Committee for Legislation meeting to take place by Wednesday so it can be brought to a first vote next week.
Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, chairwoman of the Ministerial Committee for Legislation, adamantly opposes a referendum, reiterating her opinion in Monday’s Hatnua faction meeting.
Yesh Atid has yet to officially decide whether or not to support a referendum, and opinions are split within the party.
Earlier this year, the faction discussed the matter, but decided to postpone a decision until the bill came up for a vote.
Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman opposes a referendum on the grounds that elections give the government a mandate to make decisions.
However, he said he would support the Referendum Bill if the coalition decides to back it.
Meanwhile, opposition leader Shelly Yacimovich called Bennett’s ultimatum a “spin” and accused him of being “very selective” about referendums.
“If they believe that democratic elections aren’t enough, why isn’t there a referendum on the budget? The budget hurts 99 percent of the public, and the public clearly understands economics better than the government,” she stated.
According to Yacimovich, “the whole purpose of a referendum is to torpedo the chances of diplomatic negotiations before they even start.”
“The goal isn’t peace talks,” she said. “Talks happen so there will be an agreement that will allow us to continue our vision of a Jewish and democratic state.”
Indyk: a Disastrous Choice for Mediator
The Jerusalem Post
July 26, 2013
The US State Department has floated a trial balloon to test the idea of former US Ambassador to Israel, Martin Indyk, serving as mediator in the forthcoming peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. It is not surprising that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has signaled his approval. What is incomprehensible is that Prime Minister Netanyahu has done likewise.
Unfortunately the prospect of genuine progress in the negotiations is extraordinarily slim. There is no evidence that the Palestinian Authority will compromise on a single issue. In the unlikely event that the weak, corrupt President Abbas does make even a single concession, his Fatah supporters will immediately topple him.
Nonetheless, an “honest broker” is essential to the process. However, Martin Indyk is not that broker. His track record in presiding over previous peace negotiations indicates that if re-appointed, he will, in all probability, direct negotiations in a manner to ensure that Israel will be blamed for their failure.
Indyk has had an impressive political career. Educated in Australia, he moved to the US where he joined AIPAC and subsequently held executive positions at prestigious Washington, DC think-tanks (Executive Director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, and Director of Foreign Policy at the Brookings Institution). He also has assumed key political positions (Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs in the Clinton administration). After becoming a naturalized US citizen, President Clinton appointed him US Ambassador to Israel – the first foreign born and first Jew to hold the position. He served two terms, from April 1995 to September 1997 and from January 2000 to July 2001.
Indyk’s rise in the political arena has been ascribed to his talent of adjusting to the prevailing political climate of the Democratic leadership. When President Obama was elected, Indyk aligned himself with the new leader, and enthusiastically participated in Obama’s Israel-bashing and Netanyahu-snubbing. He was unsparing and, at times, vicious in his criticism of our Prime Minister, and laid the bulk of the blame on Netanyahu for the breakdown in Israeli-Palestinian relations.
He has moved further and further to the left as his career unfolded. He served as International Chair of the New Israel Fund, an organization that has repeatedly been castigated for funding rabid anti-Zionist and anti-Israel NGOs, including several organizations that compiled distorted and false information for the notorious Goldstone Report accusing the IDF of engaging in war crimes.
Aside from occasional lip service to their failings, Indyk became an aggressive apologist for the Palestinians and at one stage even identified himself with those defending Arafat’s rebuff of Prime Minister Ehud Barak’s extreme concessions at Camp David.
Indyk has made outrageous claims about Israel’s de-stabilizing effect on the Middle East, and the need for Israel’s to bend to the will of the United States, threatening, “If Israel is a superpower and does not need $3 billion in military assistance and protection, and [does not require] the efforts of the US to isolate and pressure Iran, then go ahead and do what you like. If you need the US, then you need to take American interests into account… Israel has to adjust its policy to the interest of the United States or there will be serious consequences.”
He has also made the obscene charge that it was Israeli intransigence that contributed to US military casualties in Afghanistan, accusing Israel of endangering “a vital security interest of the United States.” The “intransigence” he was alluding to was the settlement construction then taking place in Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem.
He stooped even lower when he stated that Prime Minister Netanyahu should take into account that President Obama was obliged to write 30-40 condolence letters a week. To climax his antagonistic attitude towards Israel, in 2010 Indyk publicly urged Prime Minister Netanyahu and the Israeli government to cede the Golan Heights to Syria.
Indyk frequently invokes the memory of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who he refers to as “Israel’s greatest strategic thinker.” But Rabin would have undoubtedly rejected an American spokesman or diplomat with the chutzpah to make the demands on Israel as made by Indyk. He would have dismissed him for his lack of respect for Israel’s sovereignty and his treatment of it as a vassal state. Certainly, Rabin would never have endorsed Indyk’s calls to divide Jerusalem and to make unilateral territorial concessions.
Most of us continue to dream of peace. However, we recognize that with the current chaos and violence in the region, the likelihood of moving forward with a peace “partner” who sanctifies murder and engages in vicious incitement is almost a mirage. Yet to demonstrate our commitment to leave no stone unturned in our desire for peace, we have succumbed to pressure and unfortunately compromised the rights of terror victims and their families, by releasing hundreds of mass murderers as a “goodwill gesture” to sit at the negotiating table.
Yet the extraordinary lengths to which we will go for the sake of peace will not move us forward if the US mediator is an American Jew, whose recent track record is indistinguishable from that of J Street in seeking to pressure Israel to make unilateral concessions. That such a politically jaundiced Jew is being proposed for this role is cause for grave concern.
Prime Minister Netanyahu would be well advised to bite the bullet now and resist pressure to accept Indyk as mediator. Otherwise, we will once again be accused of intransigency and inflexibility, if not the cause of an upsurge in violence that President Abbas has already threatened should his demands go unmet.
Negotiations will be direct and discreet, Netanyahu tells cabinet
PM says any deal will need to be approved by referendum; Peres tells Abbas ‘there is no alternative to peace, not for us and not for you
By Haviv Rettig Gur
The Associated Press and Times of Israel staff
July 21, 2013
The newly announced talks between Israel and the Palestinians will be conducted “with integrity and honesty,” and discreetly, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the weekly cabinet meeting Sunday morning.
“It won’t be easy,” Netanyahu warned, “but we’re going into the negotiations with integrity and honesty.”
He added that he hoped “the process will be responsible, serious and to the point — and in its initial stages, also discreet.”
Netanyahu’s comments echoed those of US Secretary of State John Kerry, who promised discretion while announcing new talks on Friday. A number of leaks have already added some confusion, with Palestinian officials claiming Kerry promised them in writing that the talks would be conducted based on the 1967 lines, which Israel has denied.
And on Saturday, Minister Yuval Steinitz broke rank and said Israel had agreed to release a large number of veteran Palestinian prisoners in exchange for the talks. He said many of the prisoners were being held for “serious” crimes.
Characterizing the resumption of talks, which have been on hold since 2010, as a strategic interest, Netanyahu said any peace deal would have to approved by national referendum.
“I don’t think these decisions can be made, if there is a deal, by one government or another, but need to be brought as a national decision,” he said.
He added that his main guiding principles will be to maintain a Jewish majority in Israel and to avoid a future Palestinian state becoming an Iranian-backed “terror state.”
Many top officials in Jerusalem have reacted with optimism to the resumption of talks after the hiatus.
On Saturday night, President Shimon Peres called Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to offer his good wishes for the Ramadan holiday. Peres praised Abbas for the “courageous and historic decision” to return to the negotiating table.
“There is no alternative to peace, not for us and not for you,” Peres said, according to the President’s Residence. “Don’t listen to the skeptics; you’ve done the right thing. We want to see the two peoples taking the right path.”
Peres also praised Netanyahu, who “understands this is a historic calling,” and Kerry. “The Americans fulfilled an important and central role in our return to the negotiations. Kerry’s work was very professional. He is a wise man, honest and serious in his intentions,” Peres said.
Abbas told Peres it was time “to continue the peace process we began so many years ago, and to complete it.”
“There is hope,” Abbas told Peres. “We’ll continue to build the future, and I hope we’ll arrive at a good end. I hope we’ll see progress and that we’ll gain an independent state that enjoys neighborly relations and lives in peace alongside Israel.”
Peres has urged Abbas to return to peace talks in recent months. The Sunday Times reported that the two met in secret in May in Amman, Jordan, where Peres reportedly tried to convince Abbas that Jewish settlers could live in a future Palestinian state if they agreed to accept its sovereignty.
Israeli sources say the talks are set to last from 9 to 12 months. Israel will be represented by Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Netanyahu envoy Yitzhak Molcho and the Palestinians by veteran negotiator Saeb Erekat. Kerry said Friday he expected the talks to resume in Washington next week, but Israeli officials said logistics might require a further week of preparation.
JCPA: ‘We’re The Voice of American Jews,’ But Many Beg to Differ
Lori Lowenthal Marcus
The Jewish Press
July 17, 2013
As we conclude the somber observance of Tish B’Av, the time when so many tragedies that have befallen the Jewish people are recalled, it is perhaps not irrelevant that U.S. secretary of state John Kerry has returned to the Middle East.
Official reports claim Kerry has no plans to visit Israel, but, as Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu reported in The Jewish Press, Kerry met with Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas while in Jordan. It turns out he is also meeting with various Arab leaders who, according to al Jazeera, Kerry believes “are essential to his push to get Israelis and Palestinians to resume peace talks.” That’s right. Arab leaders to push – who? Who else, but Israel, to restart the “peace talks.”
Yes, although the entire Middle East is in turmoil, Egypt has just gone through a second revolution, nearly a100,000 have died in Syria’s ongoing civil war, one into which Lebanon is increasingly being drawn, Turkey is nearing the boiling point, Iraq continues to unravel and Iran is approaching nuclear weapons capability, leave it to a group of professional Jewish professionals to sashay into D.C. and tell the relevant congressional committees that now is the time for Kerry to kickstart the Arab-Israeli “peace talks.” And that’s what happened, just before Kerry left for the Middle East.
The Jewish group making the possibly worst-timed suggestion ever is the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA).
According to its website, the JCPA has a tripartite mission: first, “to safeguard the rights of Jews here and around the world”; second, “to dedicate ourselves to the safety and security of the state of Israel”; and third, “to protect, preserve and promote a just American society, one that is democratic and pluralistic, one that furthers harmonious interreligious, inter ethnic interracial and other intergroup relations.”
From their mission, you might think that the safety and security of Jews and the Jewish state would be the primary focus of JCPA’s activities. But you might be wrong, as a quick look at their website makes clear. The JCPA’s focus is on liberal domestic issues. Israel and Judaism play a minor role.
JCPA CLAIMS TO REPRESENT THE ORGANIZED JEWISH COMMUNITY
Nonetheless, the JCPA can prioritize as it wishes and make whatever suggestions it wants to members of congress. But when the JCPA leaps over its goal to be something and starts proclaiming it is something, that is when people begin to bristle.
You see, on the JCPA Facebook page, and on its Twitter homepage, it states, with no qualifiers, that “the JCPA is the representative voice of the organized Jewish community.”
That’s news to a whole lot of American Jews who shared their response with The Jewish Press.
Because when the JCPA decided to meet with the House and the Senate foreign relations committees, asserting that the American Jewish community wants Kerry to focus on restarting the peace talks, that claim may have been heard as if it had far more weight than warranted.
Let’s put aside for the moment that when the JCPA went to congress to make its claims, it was double-dating with the American Task Force on Palestine. That’s something they do a lot. Again, whatever JCPA does is its own business.
But The Jewish Press asked a broad geographical cross-section of American Jews who are knowledgeable about the Middle East in general and Israel in particular, whether, as the JCPA asserts, it is the “representative voice of the organized Jewish community,” and if it spoke representing them when it went to congress urging the restart of the “peace talks” at this time.
In a word, no.
People in California, Chicago, Florida, Washington, D.C., and New York were asked to comment. Rabbis, architects, businesspeople, financial wizards, intelligence analysts, and Jewish communal leaders were asked to comment. They all said no, the JCPA does not represent them.
“They don’t represent me,” said Jeff Ballabon, the president of a New York consulting firm and the founder of the Coordinating Council on Jerusalem, a consortium of two dozen national pro-Israel groups.
“Israel has stated very clearly: there are to be no preconditions for starting the peace talks, so I have to wonder, why are these groups putting pressure on Israel? I don’t see how any American Jew who cares about Israel’s safety and security would be pushing this now,” Ballabon said.
Carol Greenwald, treasurer of Citizens Opposed to Propaganda Masquerading as Art, a pro-Israel voice in the Washington, D.C. area, told The Jewish Press that “the JCPA’s claim is a sham. They don’t represent the Jewish community, they are a bunch of self-appointed leftists.”
“Win-win? Nah, it’s they take, we give,” Greenwald said, responding to a claim by JCPA’s spokesperson Ben Suarato, that The JCPA and ATFP were “making the case together and trying to represent the win-win aspect of negotiations.”
How about over in California?
Vic Rosenthal is the treasurer of the Jewish Federation of Central California. His response to the JCPA’s claim, he told The Jewish Press: “I don’t know how they can call themselves ‘the representative voice of the organized American Jewish community.’ They certainly didn’t ask me, or any of the other board members of our local Federation. Many of us feel strongly that forcing Israel to sit down with the PLO, which doesn’t have the ability to deliver peace even if it wanted to, at a time of maximum instability in the region, is worse than a waste of time — it’s dangerous.
And Doris Wise Montrose lives in Los Angeles, where she heads the seven year old, 30,000 strong organization, Children of Jewish Holocaust Survivors, was emphatic: “The JCPA most definitely does not represent me or my organization. The JCPA represents only those Jewish organizations whose leaders cling to the politically correct delusion that Israel will achieve ‘peace through appeasement’ with enemies who have vowed to destroy it. The position of the JCPA and other like-minded organizations only serve to weaken Israel and put the lives of Israeli citizens in danger.”
In an email from a Chicago suburb, Peggy Shapiro, the Mid-West coordinator for StandWithUs, also rejected the idea that the JCPA represents her views. She wanted to know: “Why are some obsessed with believing that a recalcitrant Palestinian Authority and the terrror-government Hamas will suddenly find peace with Israel a viable option? Neither government has given evidence to support such a belief. Yet the JCPA is making another push to push the U.S. to push Israel into another round of talks.”
Shapiro also pointed out that the Middle East beyond Israel is roiling with violence.
“Who focus on Israel and the Palestinians at this moment in history? Egypt is on fire, Syrians are being slaughtered in the thousands, Jordan is shaky, and Lebanon is run by Iran’s terror proxies – Hezbollah. It is delusional to think that peace with Israel is the key and that once (if only) the Palestinians and Israelis arrive at an agreement, the Sunnis and Shias will kiss and make up and all the Muslim world will be at peace?
“I understand the JCPA’s desire for peace. I share it. yet anyone who believes such wishful thinking is denying some harsh realities on the ground,” Shapiro concluded.
David Steinmann is a New Yorker who scoffed at the JCPA’s claim.
“JCPA neither represents me or, as far as I know, any meaningful proportion of the organized American Jewish community. They may well represent American Jews who are neither knowledgeable about these matters or blind to the extreme dangers to Israel which the current two-state proposal entails,” Steinman explained, and then went on to articulate some of the dangers in the proposals the JCPA was urging the U.S. government to push:
the proposed two-state solution would simply follow in a long line of Israeli concessions which have provided not a single reciprocal gesture from the Palestinians who have instead, continuously increased their demands on Israel in order to even begin to speak about speaking. And, finally, but by no means less important, the proposed Palestinian state would put all of Israel’s major population centers in the center of Palestinian bulls-eyes. Planes landing at Ben Gurion airport, for example, could be shot down with little difficulty from land now proposed as a part of a Palestinian state.
The danger of the plan at the basis of the “peace talks” the JCPA is pushing was used by many respondents to explain how out of touch the JCPA is with any but like-minded peace process pushers, and therefore is not a legitimate representative voice of American Jewry.
Rabbi Pesach Lerner, the executive vice president emeritus of the National Council of Young Israel, was incredulous that the JCPA would have the chutzpah to claim they are the representative voice of organized American Jewry.
“They don’t represent me or most of the American Jewish community,” Lerner told The Jewish Press. “At this point most of the community realizes that the PA is not serious about peace, most of the community realizes that they must put the security of Israel first, and most of the community realizes that Israel has gone above and beyond for the sake of peace.”
“They seek peace but there is no peace.” Lerner had a suggestion for the JCPA: “they should wake up already.”
Sarah Stern, the founder and president of EMET, a pro-Israel think tank in Washington, D.C., also rejects the idea that JCPA represents her.
With the Middle East imploding all around the tiny state of Israel, now, is precisely not the time to destabilize the one, solid, democratic, ally that we have in the Middle East, the state of Israel. Ask yourself: Has the Gaza withdrawal bought any quiet and calm to Israel’s southern borders? Has the Lebanese withdrawal brought any quiet and calm to Israel’s northern borders? Now, with both Egypt and Syria imploding and Muslim slaughtering Muslim ruthlessly, and with the potential for more violence throughout the feuding Muslim and Arab word, (which by the way, has nothing what-so-ever to do with the size and shape of Israel’s borders,) now is precisely the wrong time to try to encourage Israel to take more ‘risks for peace.’
Chicago pro-Israel activist Richard Becker told The Jewish Press, “Can we not all agree on the definition of ‘insanity’ as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results?”
Becker has been an observer of the Middle East conflict for many years. He pointed out that the Arab Palestinians, “have spoken clearly and distinctly on the subject of Israel. They speak unambiguously and with one voice—-no Jewish state, no defensible borders, no Jewish connection to the land, no long-term peace, etc. Are we incapable of hearing ? Or is the truth too painful to bear ?
Becker recommended that the U.S. government should “stop throwing away hard-earned taxpayer dollars on a defective process that sets unattainable expectations with the inevitable outcome sure to disappoint and inflame. We’ve seen this movie before.”
A long time Washington insider, Barbara Ledeen, told The Jewish Press, “It is complete folly to pretend that a so called Kerry ‘peace’ initiative has any traction. There are only two subjects the JCPA or any other Jewish organization should discuss on the Hill – the IRS’s outrageous investigations into Jewish groups and Iran. Anything else is irrelevant.”
New Yorker Helen Freedman, the executive director of Americans for a Safe Israel, was similarly clear: “the JCPA absolutely does not represent the ideology of AFSI. The continued deception about the viability of a “two state solution” defies understanding. We say enough.”
Jerry Gordon of western Florida has been an observer of the Middle East since his time as an intelligence analyst during the Viet Nam war. More recently, Gordon has been writing for the New English Review.
Gordon made it clear that the JCPA does not represent his views.
“Jewish Center for Public Affairs, the capstone of local Jewish Community Outreach Councils, champions outreach to both domestic and Middle East Muslim Jewish hate groups in the guise of dialogue. Its resolutions on academic freedom and free speech denies defense of Jewish college students against anti-Israelism on campus. The JCPA’s views on Israel are in alignment with J Street and the current Administration seeking to impose a draconian two state peace solution rejected by the majority of Israelis.”
But they aren’t in alignment with the people Gordon relies on for accurate information, or to be effective advocates for Israel.
So, while the secretary of state is apparently doing exactly as the JCPA recommended to the congressional committees, it is not the view of many engaged American Jews that it is the right thing for Kerry to be doing. Nor is it accurate for the JCPA to claim it represents the organized American Jewish community. And yes, any claim that there is such a thing as an “organized American Jewish community” is bound to be held up for ridicule. And with good reason.
About the Author: Lori Lowenthal Marcus is the US correspondent for The Jewish Press. She is a recovered lawyer who previously practiced First Amendment law and taught in Philadelphia-area graduate and law schools. She is President of Z Street, targeted by the IRS for their pro-Israel position.
Israeli And Palestinians: What If They Get To The Table?
July 1, 2013
Secretary of State Kerry has dedicated enormous amounts of time to getting the Israelis and Palestinians back to the negotiating table. The last serious negotiations took place toward the end of the Bush administration, and failed when the PLO rejected a remarkable offer from then-prime minister Ehud Olmert. An attempt to get negotiations started was made by the Obama administration on September 1st, 2010, but after a round of talks in Washington things broke down very quickly.
The problem has in my view been the imposition of preconditions by the Palestinian side, including a demand for a total construction freeze in settlements and in Jerusalem. Here the Obama administration deserves mention as well, for its adoption of the demand for a total freeze put PLO chairman and PA president Mahmoud Abbas in a corner: he could not demand less than the Americans, at that point led by George Mitchell and Hillary Clinton, were demanding.
Because neither the Israelis or Palestinians want to get blamed by Mr. Kerry or the United States for blocking talks, Kerry may well “succeed:” that is, he may get talks started. This may not happen at the top level of Abbas and Netanyahu, but serious talks can be held a level or two down.
I put quotation marks around “succeed” because the goal, after all, is not getting them to the table; it is getting an agreement. Some good is done by getting a negotiation started, of course: it may calm the situation in the West Bank for a while–if, and only if, it is accompanied by moves that make life easier there. Here the Kerry efforts on the economic side are a very good adjunct to his diplomatic activities. If talks continue for several months we may get through the UN General Assembly this Fall without a huge Palestinian diplomatic effort against Israel at the UN and other international bodies–especially in UN agencies whose admission of “Palestine” to membership would trigger a freeze on American payments (as has happened in UNESCO).
On the down side, a collapse of talks could create additional tensions. Presumably both sides, and Secretary Kerry, know this and would seek to avoid a sudden collapse if talks do begin.
But what has been and remains mysterious to me is why Mr. Kerry thinks progress will be made on final status issues if and when he manages to get talks started. What’s new here that would lead to optimism? All that is new in the region–from tensions between Hamas and Fatah that make concessions tougher for Abbas to troubles inside Likud that pressure Netanyahu against concessions, to the situations in Lebanon and Jordan, the amazing levels of violence in Syria, and the current instability on Egypt–suggests that making peace will be harder, not easier, than in the past when attempts after all failed.
There is a viewpoint that the two sides are “an inch apart” and just a bit of serious negotiating will bridge the gap, but that has always seemed nonsense to me (and I discuss this in detail in my recent book, Tested By Zion: The Bush Administration and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict). An inch apart on the many Israeli security demands, such as control of the Palestinian air space and electro-magnetic spectrum and of the Jordan Valley? An inch apart on Jerusalem itself, which great numbers of Israelis do not wish to see divided ever again but which most Palestinians demand at least significant parts of as their capital? An inch apart on the “refugee” issue–when Palestinian leaders have never told their own people that there will be no “right of return” and that Palestinian “refugees” will never go to Israel? To the extent that “everyone knows what an agreement would look like,” both Israeli and Palestinian leaders and populations have for decades rejected those terms.
One can be an optimist about whether Kerry will be able to get talks started and a pessimist about whether those talks will go anywhere. And that’s my view.
Kerry, Jerusalem, And The Palestinian Concessions
Council on Foreign Relations
June 27, 2013
Secretary of State Kerry is about to visit Jerusalem again, seeking to get negotiations between Israel and the PLO restarted. News reports make it clear that the Palestinians are seeking various concessions as the price of returning to the negotiating table, including some prisoner releases (of prisoners convicted of violent crimes) and a partial freeze of construction in the settlements. The United States appears to be pushing in the same direction, asking Israel to take these steps so that talks can begin.
Meanhwhile, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz published a story quoting a “senior cabinet minister from Netanyahu’s Likud party” about Prime Minister Netanyahu’s intentions. Accordng to this source, Netanyahu
would be willing to withdraw from most of the West Bank and evacuate numerous settlements as part of an agreement with the Palestinians, as long as his security demands were satisfied….”Netanyahu understands that for a peace agreement, it will be necessary to withdraw from more than 90 percent of the West Bank….” The minister said the issue of security arrangements is Netanyahu’s main concern, and this will be his main demand in the negotiations. If his security demands are met, he is prepared to make significant territorial concessions, the minister added…Netanyahu wants the future Palestinian state to be demilitarized, and he also wants the Israel Defense Forces to be able to maintain a long-term presence along the Jordan River, even if Israel cedes sovereignty there….
The Likud minister’s statements echo those made last week by the heads of Netanyahu’s two biggest coalition partners, Economy Minister Naftali Bennett (Habayit Hayehudi ) and Finance Minister Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid ). In separate interviews with the Washington Post, both said Netanyahu seriously wants to advance the peace process. Most settler leaders think this as well.
The story also notes that
The senior minister said that Netanyahu very much wants to resume talks with the Palestinians, but the premier isn’t convinced that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is equally eager. “He’s not certain there’s a partner,” the minister said.
I wonder what Secretary Kerry thinks. After all, the Palestinians should be jumping at the chance for serious negotiations, not creating obstacles for their resumption–yet PLO and Palestinian Authority head Abbas does not appear anxious for talks to start. He seems to be satisfied with the status quo, and concerned above all with Palestinian internal politics–right now, with appointing a new prime minister. After former prime minister Fayyad was forced out, the next appointee resigned after only 18 days in office and the power struggle continues.
But it is also striking that as has almost always been the case in the so-called “peace process,” all the concessions are being sought on the Israeli side. The United States has not, for example, demanded an end to Palestinian glorification of terrorism or incitement against Israel in official media as the price for starting new negotiations. Abbas continues to repeat the lie that Israel is endangering or seeking to destroy the al-Aqsa mosque; Palestinian official media continue to celebrate prisoners whose committed vicious acts of violence and terror; terrorists who prepared the bombing of civilian sites are honored by PA officials. Yet it is Israel’s commitment to peace that is doubted and from whom concessions are sought, as if the Palestinians are doing Israel and the United States a great favor by entering into negotiations that are the only route to their stated goal of an independent state.
Secretary Kerry has said he seeks progress by September. Progress is more likely if he tells the PA and PLO officials that they must do more than complain and criticize and condemn Israel. He should tell them that he will judge their own commitment by their conduct this summer, and that “incitement”– the catch-all phrase that is used in diplomatic circles to include anti-Semitic attacks, lies about Israeli behavior, and glorification of violence and terror– must cease. That is the least the Palestinians can do, yet they do not appear willing to do it–and we do not appear willing to insist on it.
Times of Israel
April 27, 2013
Israel wants summit to resume peace talks.
Palestinian official says Abbas would welcome top-level meeting with Israel, US and Jordan leaders, but demands Israel first meet ‘its commitments.
An unnamed senior Palestinian official said that Israel has proposed holding a four-way summit to relaunch peace talks with the Palestinians, Chinese news agency Xinhua reported Saturday. The report said the idea is that the high-level summit be attended by US President Barack Obama and Jordan’s King Abdullah as well as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
Abbas reportedly welcomed the proposal, but demanded that Israel first “implement its commitments.”
According to the report, US Secretary of State John Kerry briefed Abbas about the Israeli proposal during their meeting in Turkey last week.
The Palestinians, in response, reiterated to Kerry their preconditions that Israel halt settlement building in the Palestinian territories and east Jerusalem, recognize the principle of the two-state solution based on the 1967 lines, and release prisoners from Israeli jails.
The Israeli proposal was made almost one month after Obama’s visit to Israel and the West Bank, and amid a renewed push by Kerry to try to resume the peace talks which have been stalled for the past three years.
Ahead of Obama’s visit, it was widely speculated that the president would use the trip to host a leadership summit and announce a resumption of peace negotiations, but the gaps between the sides derailed that idea. Israel wants to restart talks without preconditions, a position endorsed by Obama during his visit.
Prime Minister’s Office spokesman Mark Regev on Saturday declined to comment on the specifics of the report, as did chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat.
“The Palestinian stance is clear that the international efforts to resume the peace talks are welcomed but need an Israeli commitment to halt settlement and recognize the borders of the Palestinian state,” said Erekat.
During a meeting with Jordan’s King Abdullah at the White House on Friday, Obama said that the US and Jordan see eye to eye on there being a “window of opportunity” during which a peaceful settlement between Israelis and Palestinians can take place — an agreement that would make Israel secure and enable it to normalize its relations with its neighbors, and also establish a sovereign Palestinian state.
Abdullah echoed Obama’s sentiments by stating that Jordan would continue to work closely with both the Israelis and Palestinians to try to secure a peace deal.
Why Europe Can’t Bring Peace To The Middle East
April 20, 2013
Lady Catherine Ashton, the EU’s top foreign policy official, has received a remarkable letter from the “European Eminent Persons Group on the Middle East Peace Process.” This self-selected collectivity might more accurately be called the “Formerly Eminent Persons Group,” inasmuch as the first word describing each one of its members is “Former,” but I suppose that these Formerly Eminent Persons do indeed also represent the views of Currently Eminent European Persons. The letter and its list of signatories are copied below.
The letter is important in one way: it shows that European official and elite thinking continue to blame Israel for everything related to the so-called Peace Process. To take one example, the letter states that
We have watched with increasing disappointment over the past five years the failure of the parties to start any kind of productive discussion, and of the international community under American and/or European leadership to promote such discussion. We have also noted with frustration and deep concern the deteriorating standards of humanitarian and human rights care of the population in the Occupied Territories.
The failure of the parties? Five years? Five years ago, in the spring of 2008, the parties were negotiating, apparently seriously, as part of what was then called “the Annapolis process.” That failed when Mahmoud Abbas refused an extremely generous offer from Israeli Prime Minister Olmert. The Formerly Eminent Persons appear to have forgotten this, or far more likely to be seeking to avoid that truth. Equally inaccurate is their line about the “failure of the parties,” a phrase which refuses to acknowledge that only the Palestinians have refused to negotiate in the last four years, not “the parties.”
In any event, the Formerly Eminent Persons soon arrive at their key insight, which is “that the Peace Process as conceived in the Oslo Agreements has nothing more to offer.” What does this mean, actually? Turns out, rather unsurprisingly, that it means we must all get tougher now with Israel. We must all insist that Israel’s borders are the 1967 lines and everything beyond that is illegal and illegitimate. Everything– including, therefore, such things as Israel’s control of the Western Wall and the Jewish sector of the Old City of Jerusalem, from which Israelis had been kept away when Jordan controlled the Old City. The Formerly Eminent Persons wish above all to erase the letter to Prime Minister Sharon from President Bush in 2004, where he called the major settlement blocks “new realities on the ground” that all efforts at negotiation had acknowledged Israel would keep.
There is more in the letter that is wrong, such as the notion that human rights conditions in the West Bank are deteriorating due to the Israeli occupation. One can make a good argument that they are deteriorating, in Gaza due to Hamas and in the West Bank due to the growing pressure from the PA against journalists. The letter does not appear to consider the possibility that any problem in Palestinian areas might possibly be the fault of Palestinians.
The letter’s greatest sins are those that are quite familiar in letters from Europe, whether from Formerly Eminent Persons or from Currently Eminent Persons: the sin of blaming everything on Israel and blaming nothing on the Palestinians, demanding nothing of the Palestinians, and treating the Palestinians like objects rather than people. Nowhere does the letter mention the issue of anti-Semitic broadcasting and hate speech in Palestinian official media, nor the matter of the glorification of terrorism and terrorists by the PA, and the impact such conduct has on prospects for peace.
The letter takes a shot at President Obama, saying that all he said and did during his trip to Israel “gave no indication of action to break the deep stagnation.” Just talk from the Americans, you see; we are all, including Mr. Obama, seen as coddling Israel (and we do not even have Formerly Eminent Persons writing letters).
This letter is a useful reminder of European attitudes, at least at the level of the Eminent: Blame Israel, treat the Palestinians as children, wring your hands over the terrible way the Americans conduct diplomacy. The Israelis will treat this letter with the derision it deserves, and the Palestinians will understand that because this kind of thing reduces European influence with Israel, the EU just can’t deliver much. Indeed it cannot, and the bias, poor reasoning, and refusal to face facts in this letter all suggest that that won’t be changing any time soon.
THE MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS
Dear High Representative
We, the under-signed members of the European Eminent Persons Group on the Middle East Peace Process, are writing to you to express our strong concern about the dying chances of a settlement based on two separate, sovereign and peaceful states of Israel and Palestine.
The Eminent Persons Group is composed of a number of former Presidents, Prime Ministers, Ministers and senior officials of EU Member States who have decided to concert their efforts to encourage a lasting settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.
We have watched with increasing disappointment over the past five years the failure of the parties to start any kind of productive discussion, and of the international community under American and/or European leadership to promote such discussion. We have also noted with frustration and deep concern the deteriorating standards of humanitarian and human rights care of the population in the Occupied Territories. The security and long-term stability of Israel, an essential objective in any process, cannot be assured in such conditions, any more than the legitimate rights and interests of the Palestinian people.
President Obama made some of these points during his March 2013 visit to the region, particularly in his address to the people of Israel, but he gave no indication of action to break the deep stagnation, nor any sign that he sought something other than the re-start of talks between West Bank and Israeli leaders under the Oslo Process, which lost its momentum long ago.
We are therefore appealing to you, and through you to the members of the Council of Ministers, to recognise that the Peace Process as conceived in the Oslo Agreements has nothing more to offer. Yet the present political stalemate, while the situation deteriorates on the ground, is unsustainable, given the disturbed politics of the region and the bitterness generated by the harsh conditions of life under the Occupation.
The concern of the European Union at this deterioration, clearly expressed in a series of statements, not least the European Council Conclusions of 14 May 2012, has not been matched by any action likely to improve the situation. The aspirations of Palestinians and Israelis and the interests of the European Union, prominently referred to in those Conclusions and in other relevant EU documents, cannot be met by the current stagnation.
It is time to give a stark warning that the Occupation is actually being entrenched by the present Western policy. The Palestinian Authority cannot survive without leaning on Israeli security assistance and Western funding and, since the PA offers little hope of progress towards self-determination for the Palestinian people, it is fast losing respect and support from its domestic constituency. The steady increase in the extent and population of Israeli settlements, including in East Jerusalem, and the entrenchment of Israeli control over the OT in defiance of international law, indicate a permanent trend towards a complete dislocation of Palestinian territorial rights.
We have reached the conclusion that there must be a new approach. Letting the situation lie unaddressed is highly dangerous when such an explosive issue sits in such a turbulent environment.
A realistic but active policy, set in the context of current regional events, needs to be composed of the following elements:
– a sharper focus on the essential need for a two-state solution, as the most likely outcome to offer lasting peace and security for the parties and their neighbourhood and the only one recognised by UN resolutions as just and equitable;
– an explicit recognition that the current status of the Palestinian Territories is one of occupation, with responsibility for their condition falling under international law on the occupying state;
– an insistence that Israeli settlements beyond the 1967 lines are illegal, must cease being expanded and will not be recognised as one of the starting points in any new negotiations;
– a stipulation that any representative political organisation with a valid claim to participate in negotiations must renounce the use of violence outside established UN norms;
– the renewal of efforts to establish a unified Palestinian representation of both the West Bank and Gaza, without which a comprehensive peace cannot be successfully negotiated and the absence of which serves as an excuse for inaction;
– the encouragement of reform of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation, including representation of all the main Palestinian parties committed to non-violence and reflecting the expressed wishes of the resident Palestinian population in the West Bank and Gaza;
– a vigorous international drive for the implementation of much improved humanitarian and human rights conditions in both the West Bank and Gaza, monitored by the United Nations, whatever the state of peace negotiations might be at any time;
– a reconsideration of the funding arrangements for Palestine, in order to avoid the Palestinian Authority’s present dependence on sources of funding which serve to freeze rather than promote the peace process;
– a clear and concerted effort to counter the erasing of the 1967 lines as the basis for a two-state outline. This should include a clear distinction in EU dealings with Israel between what is legitimate – within the 1967 lines – and what violates international law in the Occupied Territories;
– a clearer willingness within the EU to play a political and not just a funding role and to resume a more strategic dialogue with the Palestinians.
For all the good sense of EU statements on this issue over the years, the EU’s inactivity in the face of an increasingly dangerous stagnation is both unprincipled and unwise. European leaders cannot wait for ever for action from the United States when the evidence accumulates of American failure to recognise and promote the equal status of Israelis and Palestinians in the search for a settlement, as accepted in United Nations resolutions.
Later generations will see it as unforgivable that we Europeans not only allowed the situation to develop to this point of acute tension, but took no action now to remedy the continuing destruction of the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination. We regard it as essential for EU interests that the Council of Ministers and you take rapid action to correct this unacceptable state of affairs.
We are sending copies of this letter to Members of the Council of Ministers and to the US Secretary of State.
Members of the EEPG send you their respectful greetings.
Guiliano Amato, Former Prime Minister of Italy
Frans Andriessen, Former Vice-President of the European Commission
Laurens Jan Brinkhorst, Former Vice-Prime Minister of the Netherlands
John Bruton, Former Prime Minister of Ireland
Benita Ferrero-Waldner, Former European Commissioner and Former Foreign Minister of Austria
Teresa Patricio Gouveia, Former Foreign Minister of Portugal
Jeremy Greenstock, Former UK Ambassador to the UN and Co-Chair of the EEPG
Lena Hjelm-Wallén, Former Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister of Sweden
Wolfgang Ischinger, Former State Secretary of the German Foreign Ministry and Co-Chair of the EEPG
Lionel Jospin, Former Prime Minister of France
Miguel Moratinos, Former Foreign Minister of Spain
Ruprecht Polenz, Former Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the German Bundestag
Pierre Schori, Former Deputy Foreign Minister of Sweden
Javier Solana, Former High Representative and Former NATO Secretary-General
Peter Sutherland, Former EU Commissioner and Director General of the WTO
Andreas van Agt, Former Prime Minister of the Netherlands
Hans van den Broek, Former Netherlands Foreign Minister and Former EU Commissioner for External Relations
Hubert Védrine, Former Foreign Minister of France and Co-Chair of the EEPG
Vaira Vike-Freiberga, Former President of Latvia
Israel – The Happy Little Country
April 19, 2013
Prime Minister Netanyahu at Independence Day celebration,
April 16, 2013
Photo: Amos Ben-Gershom/GPO
As Independence Day celebrations were winding down Tuesday night, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu made a guest appearance on Channel 2’s left-wing satire show Eretz Nehederet. One of the final questions that the show’s host Eyal Kitzis asked the premier was how he would like to be remembered after he leaves office.
Netanyahu thought a moment and said, “I’d like to be remembered as the leader who preserved Israel’s security.”
On the face of it, Netanyahu’s stated aspiration might seem dull. In a year he’ll be the longest-serving prime minister in the state’s history, and all he wants is to preserve our national security? Why is he aiming so low? And yet, the studio audience reacted to Netanyahu’s modest goal with a thunderclap of applause.
After pausing to gather his thoughts, a clearly befuddled Kitzis mumbled something along the lines of, “Well, if you manage to make peace as well, we wouldn’t object.”
The audience was silent.
The disparity between the audience’s exultation and Kitzis’s shocked disappointment at Netanyahu’s answer exposed – yet again – the yawning gap between the mainstream Israeli view of the world, and that shared by members of our elite class.
The Israeli public gave our elites the opportunity to try out their peace fantasies in the 1990s. We gave their peace a chance and got repaid with massive terror and international isolation.
We are not interested in repeating the experience.
We will be nice to leftists, if they are polite. We might even watch their shows, if there’s nothing else on or they are mildly entertaining. But we won’t listen to them anymore.
This is why US President Barack Obama’s visit last month had no impact on public opinion or government policy.
Obama came, hugged Netanyahu and showered us with love just like Bill Clinton did back in the roaring ’90s. He praised us to high heaven and told us he has our back. And then he told us we should force our leaders to give Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria to our sworn enemies even as they teach their children to aspire to kill our children.
And we smiled and wished him a pleasant flight home.
Obama had no idea what he was getting into when he came here. Like Kitzis and his colleagues on Channel 2, Obama surrounds himself with people who, like him, prefer fantasy to reality. In Obama’s world, Islamic jihad is about the West, not about jihadists. In Obama’s world, the most pressing issue on the international agenda is apartments for Jews in Jerusalem and Efrat. And in Obama’s world, what Israelis need more than anything else is for leftist Europeans to love us.
Talk about retro.
But a lot has changed since the 1990s. Twenty years after Yitzhak Rabin shook Yasser Arafat’s hand on the White House lawn and so officially ushered in Israel’s Age of Terror, most Israelis don’t really care what the Europeans or the Arabs think of us.
The Europeans prattle on about Israeli racism, and threaten to put yellow stars or some other nasty mark on Israeli goods. They ban Israeli books from their libraries in Scotland. They boycott Israeli universities, professors and students in England. In Italy they hold rallies for convicted mass murderer Marwan Barghouti at their national Senate. And in France they butcher Jewish children.
And then the likes of Catherine Ashton expect us to care what they think about us.
Well, we don’t.
For their part, Americans are bemoaning the resignation of the unelected Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, and insisting that he was a true partner for Israel, who just couldn’t make a go of it due to forces beyond his control. While most recognize Fayyad’s departure has nothing to do with Israel, some US pontificators have blamed Israel for Fayyad’s failure. Elliott Abrams, for instance, wrote, “Israeli governments also gave him less cooperation than he deserved.” To that we answer, Fayyad was nothing more than a Western delusion, like Arab peace with Israel.
Fayyad didn’t have a chance of leading the Palestinians because he never personally killed a Jew. And the Palestinians only accept murderers as their leaders. But the fact that he never killed a Jew personally didn’t render Fayyad a partner for Israel.
Fayyad dutifully used donor funds to pay the salaries of terrorists in Judea, Samaria and Gaza every month.
He led the Palestinian branch of the boycott, divestment and sanctions war against Israel. He made working for Israelis and buying Israeli goods criminal offenses. Fayyad personally led raids into private homes to inspect people’s refrigerators to see if they had Israeli cottage cheese on their shelves. He organized and attended bonfires where they burned Israeli goods.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but this is not the sort of behavior you would expect a peace partner to engage in.
The Americans who insist on mourning Fayyad’s departure refuse to accept the obvious fact that Palestinian aspirations for statehood are a cheap, shoddy, for-export-only Arab product. The Palestinians don’t want a state. They want to destroy Israel. Unable to accept this basic fact, the Americans invent lies like Fayyad-as-peace partner and try to shove them down Israel’s throats. Well good riddance, Salam Fayyad.
Obviously Fayyad is not the last word in Western delusion. They will think of a new perfect solution to replace him in short order.
But in their endless search for the next silver bullet, the Europeans and the Americans and their Israeli followers miss the fact that the easiest way to build a secure and peaceful world is not by wooing terrorists. The best way to achieve these goals is by accepting the world as it is. This is what the Israeli people has done. True, we needed to have our fantasies blown away in suicide bombings before we reconciled ourselves to this simple truth. But life has been better, happier and more secure since we did.
The “international community’s” inability to accept that sober-minded contentment is better than pipe dream fantasies has caused leftist writers in Israel, Europe and the US alike to express mystification at a recent survey carried out by the OECD, which ranks Israelis among the happiest people in the world. The ranking made no sense to commentators.
Israelis work harder than other members of the OECD. We complain more than other members of the OECD. We don’t have “peace.” And yet, we are among the happiest people in the OECD.
What gives? For decades before we embarked on the phony peace process, Israel was a model socialist state. We had paralyzing tax rates and failed government industries that crowded private entrepreneurship out of the market. Monopolies ran every sector and provided shoddy goods and horrible services at astronomical prices. The Histadrut labor union owned most of the economy along with the government and in every sector, Histadrut commissars ensured that anyone with an ounce of initiative was subject to unending abuse.
Just around the time we began extricating ourselves from our socialist straitjacket, we were also recognizing that the peace thing wasn’t everything it was cracked up to be. And at that point we began to understand that happiness and success aren’t about what other people give you – money, treaties, a phone line after a five-year wait. Happiness and success are about what you accomplish.
At that point, sometime between 1996 and 2000, Israelis began creating large families and embracing the free market.
Today, with an average of three children per family, Israelis are the fecund outliers of the industrial world. And as David Goldman at PJ Media has demonstrated, there is a direct correlation between children and human happiness. This is why fruitful Israelis have the lowest suicide rate in the industrial world. When you have children, you have a future.
And when you have a future, you work hard to secure it, and have a generally optimistic outlook.
What could be so bad when your kid just lost his first tooth? Israelis are also happy because we see that we can build the future we want for our families and our country even without another glitzy signing ceremony at the White House every six months. Our country is getting stronger and more livable every day. And we know it.
Those on the international stage that share our view that life is about more than pieces of paper signed with Arab anti-Semites recognize what is happening. For them Israel is not “that shi**y little country.” It’s “The Little Engine that Could.”
Take the Chinese. Last July China signed a deal with Israel to build an inland port in Eilat and a 180- km. freight railway to connect Eilat to Israel’s Mediterranean ports in Ashdod and Haifa. The purpose of the project is to build an alternative to the Suez Canal, in Israel. The Chinese look at the region, and they see that Egypt is a failed state that can’t even afford its wheat imports. The future of shipping along the Suez Canal is in doubt with riots in Port Said and Suez occurring on a regular basis.
On the other hand, Israel is a stable, prosperous, successful democracy that keeps moving from strength to strength. When the freight line is completed, as far as the global economy is concerned, Israel will become the most strategically important country in the region.
Then there is our newfound energy wealth. Israel became energy independent on March 30, when the Tamar offshore gas field began pumping natural gas to Israel. In two to three years, when the Leviathan gas field comes online, Israel will become one of the most important producers of natural gas in the world. Moreover, in 2017, Israel will likely begin extracting commercial quantities of oil from its massive oil shale deposits in the Shfela Basin near Beit Shemesh.
Geologists assess that the field alone contains some 250 billion barrels of oil, giving Israel oil parity with Saudi Arabia. Chinese, Russian and Australian firms are lining up to sign contracts with Israeli energy companies. International analysts assess that Israel’s emergence as an energy power will have a stabilizing impact on the global economy and international security. Israel can end Asia’s oil and gas hunger. It can reduce European dependence on Russia. It will remove OPEC’s ability to dictate world oil prices through supply manipulation.
Israel’s discovery of its energy riches couldn’t have come at a more propitious time. Had Israel discovered its oil and gas 65 or even 20 years ago, we wouldn’t have had the economic maturity to manage our resources responsibly. But now, with our free market, our hi-tech sector and our entrepreneurial culture, we can develop and manage our resources wisely and successfully.
At 65, Israel is becoming a mature, responsible, prosperous and powerful player in the international arena. The only thing we need to ensure that we enjoy the fruits of our labors is security. And the one thing we can do to squander it all is place our hopes in “peace.”
And so we won’t, ever again.
Palestinians Impose Severe Restrictions on Foreign Media
Khaled Abu Toameh
March 26, 2013
This latest restriction serves as a reminder that the Palestinian Authority is not much different from other dictatorships, which assign “minders” so the journalists see and hear only what the dictators want. Representatives of the international media — as well as human rights organizations and groups that claim to defend freedom of the press — have not protested against the PA’s threat to restrict journalists’ work and even arrest them. One can only imagine the response had Israel issued a similar ban or threat.
It’s official: the Palestinian Authority does not want foreign journalists to work in territories under its control in the West Bank unless they receive permission in advance from the Palestinian Ministry of Information.
The decision was taken earlier this week by the Palestinian Ministry of Information and the Palestinian Journalist’s Syndicate — a body controlled by Fatah-affiliated journalists.
Foreign journalists who ignore the latest restriction face arrest by Palestinian Authority security forces, said Jihad Qawassmeh, member of the Palestinian Journalist’s’ Syndicate.
He warned that any Palestinian journalist who helps international media representatives enter the Palestinian Authority-controlled territories without permission would face punitive measures.
“The Palestinian security forces are entitled to arrest any person who enters the State of Palestine without permission,” Qawassmeh added.
The new decision is directed primarily against Israeli journalists who cover Palestinian affairs. Recently, many Palestinian journalists complained that it was unacceptable that their Israeli colleagues were being allowed to operate freely in Palestinian territories while they did not have permission to enter Israel. They also complained that the Israeli Government Press Office was refusing to issue them press credentials.
The Palestinian journalists demanded that the Palestinian Authority impose restrictions on the work of both Israeli and international reporters.
The Palestinian journalists’ claim that they are not free to work in Israel and are being deprived of Israeli press cards stands in contrast to their calls for boycotting Israel.
The Palestinian Journalist’s Syndicate has long been opposed to “normalization” with Israel, and bans its members from holding meetings with Israeli colleagues. Some Palestinian journalists who defied the ban were recently expelled from the syndicate.
So while the Palestinian journalists are promoting a boycott of Israel, they are also demanding that the Israeli government issue them with press cards so they can enter Israel.
Besides reflecting hypocrisy on the part of these Palestinian journalists, the latest restriction serves as a reminder that the Palestinian Authority is not much different from most Arab dictatorships.
Under these dictatorships, foreign journalists need to obtain permission from the relevant authorities to enter the country to cover a story. In many cases, the authorities assign a “minder” to guide or escort the journalists to make sure that they see and hear only what the dictators want.
The Palestinian Authority, which has often displayed a large degree of intolerance toward journalists who refuse to serve as a mouthpiece for its leaders, wants to work only with sympathetic reporters.
The timing of the ban is no coincidence. It came in the aftermath of US President Barack Obama’s visit to Ramallah and Bethlehem, where Palestinian protesters set fire to and trampled on his pictures. The protests seriously embarrassed the Palestinian Authority, especially because they underscored the large gap between its leaders and the street.
While the Palestinian Authority continues to talk about making peace with Israel, many Palestinians are opposed to the idea; they argue that the leadership in Ramallah does not have a mandate to make any concessions to Israel.
These objections appeared in addition to some protests also directed against Mahmoud Abbas and his policies, especially against his declared opposition to an armed struggle against Israel and an alliance with the US and the West.
Abbas and the Palestinian Authority leaders went out of their way to show Obama that they are in full control and that they enjoy the backing of the overwhelming majority of Palestinians. But TV footage and news reports of the anti-Obama demonstrations threatened to spoil their effort to persuade Obama.
Particularly disturbing is that representatives of the international media have not protested against the Palestinian Authority’s threat to restrict the journalists’ work and even arrest them. One can only imagine the response of the international media had the Israeli authorities issued a similar ban or threat.
It also remains to be seen whether human rights organizations and groups that claim to defend freedom of press will react.
Once the ban goes into effect, officials of the Palestinian Authority Ministry of Information will find themselves serving as censors and editors of all news items concerning the Palestinians. Unless, of course, foreign journalists raise their voices and insist on their right to write their own stories from Ramallah.
Policy Takeaways from Obama’s Visit to Israel and the West Bank
March 22, 2013
The president tilted U.S. policy toward Israel in substantive ways, especially with regard to resuming peace talks with the Palestinians and repairing Israel-Turkish ties.
The main news story of President Obama’s Middle East trip was his intensive focus on engineering an emotional reset with both the leadership and people of Israel. His two prepared texts (the speech to Israeli youths at the Jerusalem Convention Center and his toast to President Shimon Peres upon receiving Israel’s Medal of Distinction) stand alongside his 2011 UN General Assembly speech as the most powerful endorsements of Zionism ever delivered by an incumbent president — not just a defense of Israel, but an embrace of its founding ideology.
But the visit was not limited to emotion and outreach — it also provided a series of important policy takeaways:
A shift in U.S. policy on the requirements for resuming Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. While Washington has been largely silent on this issue since talks last collapsed in 2010, the president firmly aligned himself with Israel’s position that they should now proceed, immediately and without precondition. The fact that he aired this view standing next to Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas was especially significant.
No change on pursuit of a “borders and security first” agreement. While he chose not to dwell on the details of his preferred approach to Israeli-Palestinian diplomacy, the president did reiterate his belief that the most effective way to proceed remains a negotiation over the delineation of borders, which he said would resolve the thorny settlements issue. This harkens back to his May 2011 speech outlining principles for a “borders and security first” approach. By implication, this approach is now likely to dominate U.S. diplomatic efforts, as opposed to focusing on interim arrangements or incremental changes to the current disposition of Israeli and Palestinian control over various West Bank zones.
Mutual blurring of U.S.-Israeli disagreement over the timetable of Iran’s nuclear progress. Prior to his trip, the president stated that Iran would need at least a year to develop a nuclear bomb, an outcome that he has vowed to prevent. This appeared to suggest that diplomacy had much more time than the redline laid down last fall by Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who warned at the time that Iran would cross an unacceptable threshold by spring or summer 2013. When asked about the issue this week, Netanyahu chose to play the warm and polite host, endorsing the president’s statement. In reality, they were talking about two totally different issues — Netanyahu was focusing on the speed of Iran’s production of medium-enriched uranium, while Obama was focusing on the speed of Iran’s development of a fully operational nuclear weapon. While the details of the private Obama-Netanyahu talks on Iran have not been leaked, U.S.-Israeli disagreement on the appropriate moment for the expiration of diplomacy apparently lives on.
Agreement to open talks on an extension of U.S. military aid to Israel. It is not surprising that the United States will continue to provide Israel with substantial military support. Yet the fact that the administration could announce the opening of talks about long-term provision of U.S. aid at a time of deep budgetary disputes in Washington underscores the depth of bipartisan commitment to Israeli security.
Recognition of the contribution Israel makes to U.S. interests. Amid all the fanfare about the depth of U.S. commitment to Israel’s security, it should be noted that President Obama added an entirely new dimension to his recent rhetoric in support of the bilateral relationship when he stated that “innovation” was as important a part of the partnership as “security cooperation.” This comes very close to the idea — so controversial in circles infected with the Walt-Mearsheimer school of thought — that Israel is actually an asset to, not a ward of, the United States.
Projecting continued unease and reluctance about U.S. military involvement in the Syria conflict. The president’s most unsure moment during the visit was his press conference response to a question charging him with inactivity in the face of slaughter in Syria. After explaining the significant financial support the United States has given Syrian refugees and the recognition Washington has extended to the opposition, he fell back on the idea that preventing the massacres is a “world” responsibility, not an American one — a concept seemingly at odds with the thrust of his comments two days later at Yad Vashem.
Contributing to an important thaw in Israeli-Turkish relations. It is no coincidence that Netanyahu spoke by phone with Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan just as President Obama was departing Israel for Jordan, opening the door to a mutual return of ambassadors. Mending ties between the two leaders has long been a U.S. objective. The fact that Obama delivered a highly symbolic (if indirect) rebuke to Erdogan by visiting the tomb of Theodor Herzl — implicitly endorsing the ideology that the Turkish leader recently called a “crime against humanity” — almost certainly gave cover for Netanyahu to reach out to Ankara.
AN EARLY ASSESSMENT
On key issues, then, the president tilted U.S. policy toward Israel in substantive ways, especially with regard to resuming peace talks with the Palestinians and taking steps that facilitated an improvement in Israel-Turkish ties. Whether the shift on how peace talks should begin translates into a shift on how those talks should then proceed remains unclear. The president endorsed the importance of direct negotiations, long an Israeli desideratum, but also urged the people of Israel to pressure their leaders for progress, implying that his host was not sufficiently committed to the objective of peace with the Palestinians. (In this regard, Obama’s rhetorical flourish about politicians never taking risks unless prodded by their publics earned applause, but it also turned peace process history on its head. Neither Menachem Begin nor Yitzhak Rabin, for example, faced public pressure to reach agreements with Egypt and the Palestine Liberation Organization, respectively; rather, each took a major risk and sought to build popular support for his initiative.)
On Iran, the president affirmed his position on prevention with powerful rhetoric but injected no additional measures to strengthen the credible threat of military force that, as Netanyahu said in their press conference, is a key component of a successful policy.
Beyond these individual issues, the most important takeaway from the president’s trip is this: if the basic idea behind visiting Israel was to open the administration’s second term on surer footing in terms of U.S.-Israeli relations than what characterized the opening months of the president’s first term, he appears to have succeeded.
Robert Satloff is executive director of The Washington Institute.
The two-state solution is dead (and why we should be celebrating)
March 14, 2013
Daniel Frank is a Canadian graduate student at Tel Aviv University…
This past week, Robert Serry, the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process gave a lecture at Tel Aviv University proclaiming that the possibility for a two-state solution would die in a matter of months, Ben Birnbaum wrote a riveting and influential essay about the end of the two-state solution and at a Herzliya conference panel on the peace process, almost everyone except Tzipi Livni spoke as if a two-state solution is presently untenable. In response to this I say yes, the two-state solution (as we know it) is dead, but this is a positive, not negative step towards peace.
Before a phoenix can rise from the ashes, it has to burn. The concept of a negotiated solution based on the Clinton parameters is a pipe-dream that has never been that close to actually happening. This “pipe-dream” in my opinion is presently the biggest obstacle to peace. When the only tool one has is a hammer, everything looks like a nail; in this case, the only tool people are using to try and solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a negotiated two-state solution based loosely on the Clinton parameters. By looking beyond this framework, I think more suitable tools to solve the conflict will present themselves and peace, like a phoenix, will be able to rise from the ashes.
The reason why a negotiated two-state solution has not worked has not been for a lack of effort or negotiations, but because both sides cannot live with the other parties’ demands. Negotiations are not educational campaigns to sway the public’s view, and so long as the majority of people on both sides cannot live with the proposed offers, nothing will be achieved. A great example of this can be seen with the Geneva Initiative, a peace proposal that roughly falls in the middle of both parties’ demands (concessions that both parties would likely never acquiesce to); present the Geneva Initiative as a referendum to both publics and it will get rejected.
The PLO is not a democracy so in theory, its possible that they could reach an agreement that is unsatisfactory to its people, however not only is this unlikely, but the fact that the PLO is not a democracy makes it even harder for them to reach an agreement because without vast public support, they will be politically and/or physically overruled. A demonstration of this can be seen with the Yossi Beilin-Abu Mazen agreement, an agreement that would actually be acceptable to much of the Israeli public. After the agreement was leaked and Abu Mazen became accountable for his work, he claimed that he never supported it and would not allow it to be referenced during the Camp David negotiations.
Since Netanyahu’s second term as Prime Minister started, there have been two official sets of discussions held between Israeli and Palestinians, and a series of unofficial correspondence. Many people fallaciously point to the lack of negotiations as the greatest hurdle for peace. The first official discussions in 2010 consisted of Abu Mazen coming to the table 9 months into a 10-month settlement freeze and leaving after the freeze expired while the Palestinian leadership failed to show up to second attempt in 2012 held in Amman.
It has been stated regarding the private correspondence and is obvious to outside observers that Abu Mazen does not want to engage in negotiations. This is for two reasons; the first is that he knows that the negotiations will be futile. Abu Mazen turned down Ehud Olmert’s extremely generous offer and he knows that Netanyahu would never offer anything close to that. The second is that if Abu Mazen enters negotiations and leaves with nothing, he would lose support, something that could easily lead to his demise.
In 1978, Prime Minister Meacham Begin and Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan flew to Washington to meet with President Jimmy Carter and National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski. They spoke at length about the future situation of the Palestinians and while many interesting things were discussed, there is one quote by Begin that stands out in specific: “In our self-rule plan, we give the Palestinian Arabs the option of [Israeli] citizenship after five years. They can even choose to vote for our Knesset”. Whether it was due to a wish for greater security or the belief that Jews living in Judea and Samaria was integral to the state of Israel, Begin thought it was more important to retain control of Judea and Samaria than it was to have a “Jewish” state. This is the issue that must be dealt with today.
78% of Israelis are against a bi-national state according to a poll conducted by Blue White Future; it is obvious to the overwhelming majority of Israeli citizens and Jews in the diaspora that Begin’s view is unacceptable, untenable and unsuitable. The ideal solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict differs depending on the individual; some want Israel to withdraw to the 49 Armistice lines, the Geneva initiative, the Clinton Parameters, to annex area C, swap the Israeli triangle for the settlement blocs, a three state solution with Jordan, to pay the Palestinians to leave etc. Aside from the fringe groups, there is near unanimous consensus (a rarity in Jewish culture) to keep Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.
What I think is most likely to happen and most suitable is a partial unilateral withdrawal from Judea and Samaria. Ehud Barak planned for it, Ariel Sharon did it, Ehud Olmert campaigned on it, Avigdor Lieberman proposed it and it is rumoured that Benjamin Netanyahu has seriously considered it. As of now, 45% of the Israeli public supports a partial unilateral withdrawal. Although the goal would be to have a Palestinian state on provisional borders as discussed in the Quartet’s 2002 Road Map For Peace as recently advocated by Yossi Beilin, it is unlikely that the Palestinians will accept anything that is provisional.
In order for unilateral withdrawal to be successful without Palestinian concessions, Israel must remain in possession of key bargaining chips, such as the presence of the IDF in Judea and Samaria, compensation for refugees, Arab neighbourhoods in or adjacent to Jerusalem etc to ensure that there are still incentives left for the Palestinians. 80% of Israelis support keeping the IDF in the West Bank in light of unilateral disengagement; throughout this procedure, security cannot be overlooked.
As the next government is still being formed, one should not expect such acts to take place immediately. However, after the contentious legislation being drawn up now has been passed and settled in, I would be not be surprised if Netanyahu starts taking unilateral actions. In such a situation, it is likely that Habayit Hayehudi would leave the coalition and as earlier promised by Shelly Yachimovich, Labor would join the coalition. The specifics of such a move are unpredictable. It is unlikely that Netanyahu would go as far as Olmert’s proposed realignment plan and evacuate settlements outside of the security barrier and annex the remaining land. Netanyahu could issue a settlement freeze east of the security barrier while progressively evacuating smaller, isolated settlements while issues like housing shortages are addressed.
The intention of unilateral withdrawal is to change the parameters and dynamics of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and failing that, for Israel to create their own acceptable future. Indefinite occupation is unsustainable and the two-state solution is presently untenable; Israel must change the status on the ground to secure its future as a defensible Jewish and democratic state.