Saturday, June 06, 2009
...Obama prattles about US arrogance and bows before the corrupt Saudi potentate and the democracy-deficient Islamic world. ...The underlying premise is that our world must be perceived as benign and that to diagnose it as otherwise is a profound mental aberration.
...Anything not in keeping with Obama's visions of sugarplums - even killjoy genocidal aggression - can presumably be overcome by expressions of affection and therapeutic introspection. That's what progressive professors inculcated into Obama, and why he now atones to ungrateful Europeans and hostile Muslims for supposed American conceit. That's why he intimates Israel had been "disrespectful" of the pitiable Palestinians who failed in their tireless efforts to obliterate it. We Israelis are just the victims of an anomaly, of untreated maladjustment, of a complex of gross irrationality.
To achieve enlightenment and rehabilitation in the eyes of those who know better, we need only cease seeing the worst in our mortal enemies. We must stop focusing on Arab media's harangues against us, on mosque sermons demonizing Jews and on kindergarten exhortations to please Allah by slaying Israeli infidels.
Only if we plug our ears and put blinders on will we regain normalcy and acceptance. Obama-speak compromise obliges Israel to take existential risks. Arab cooperation requires they wait patiently for Israeli suicide rather than rush in for the precipitous slaughter.
Coated with enough sugar, this poison pill appears the perfect cure. Refusal to swallow it becomes unreasonable rejectionism, which upsets the delicate international equilibrium.
In a world where the three-word slogan and five-second sound bite prevail, it doesn't matter that all the palaver in Annapolis was never translated into binding agreements, which consequently were never brought to a Knesset vote and were never democratically ratified. For moral relativists, Israeli democracy is anyway not preferable to PA thuggery.
If anything, Annapolis should teach Israel's Left how dangerous even suggested concessions are. Even what was never approved or implemented becomes willy-nilly the next square-one. That's how Annapolis emerged as a nonagreement to contend with.
THREE LAME DUCKS (George Bush, Ehud Olmert and Mahmoud Abbas) convened in Annapolis on November 27, 2008 and produced a catalog of cliches unsurprisingly extolling the virtues of ending "bloodshed, suffering and decades of conflict," of ushering in "a new era of peace, based on freedom, security, justice, dignity, respect and mutual recognition," of propagating "a culture of peace and nonviolence," of "confronting terrorism and incitement, whether committed by Palestinians or Israelis."
That last phrase of course is the ultimate epitome of vapid moral relativism. Israelis have never sent suicide bombers to Arab streets nor incited Jewish masses to annihilate Muslims, but fair-mindedness ostensibly demands that guilt for Arab/Muslim crimes be shared equally even when there's not a shred of justification for the galling impudence. Yet Israel's previous PM never saw fit to protest the transparent misrepresentation. When Israel's new government objects, it's judged as blaspheming against the gospel of Annapolis.
Next in the inventory of Annapolis platitudes is verbiage on "good-faith bilateral negotiations in order to conclude a peace treaty resolving all outstanding issues, including all core issues without exception." This was supposed to have been achieved by the end of 2008. Failure to do so still presumably obliges us in 2009 and indefinitely beyond.
The Annapolis three also resurrected that crumpled tattered 2003 road map and chattered about its implementation, as if the PA ever moved one step along its chartered track.
Additionally the US was empowered to "monitor and judge the fulfillment of the commitment of both sides of the road map." Israeli sovereignty thus was ad hoc surrendered by a departing premier to a departing US president. Nevertheless, Israel's status as a banana republic must, apparently, in the view of the Obama administration, remain irrevocable.
Obama is free to change course and deviate radically from the policy of his predecessor, but he denies like privilege to his Israeli counterpart. How very liberal. The adamant insistence on the Annapolis "understandings," moreover, is based on studious disregard for the actual facts on the ground. If anything, these underscore the utter hollowness of those Annapolis truisms.
In the far-from-Annapolis real world, Arabs arrive with axes at a playground and crack open the heads of Jewish children. Not only does the Arab side betray its road map obligations by not fighting terror, it resorts to terror as policy. Rabid incitement continues as an instrument of mass indoctrination.
The road map was blueprinted by the Saudis to whom Obama demonstrated obeisance, and they do not have Israeli welfare at heart. And oh, yes, the Palestinian state already exists on nearly 80 percent of Palestine, even if, for reasons of political expedience, it's called Jordan.
But who cares about pesky reality which mars enticing illusions? Tzipi Livni doesn't give a hoot. Instead, she haughtily carps that "in 20 minutes Lieberman managed to undo years of peacemaking." So what if those years produced nothing but abysmal flops? Olmert crowed that he offered Abbas even more than the 98% of everything which Ehud Barak was willing to give Yasser Arafat. Presumably only disaffected Israeli voters prevented peace from blossoming all over. The fact that the voters refused the Annapolis toxic potion doesn't count, according to Obama-Olmert-Livni. Their concept of democracy coerces all future governments to subscribe to the rebuffed folly.
This becomes the unassailable criterion for sanity and righteousness. Why not? It's more likely than well-founded pessimism to fly in a world where there are no deadly dangers and no ill will. At most we're sometimes impeded by fleeting frustrations. We can quell all irritations with compassion for the adversary's tribulations and with a whole lot of self-improvement techniques.
We can make this a nice world if we only make nice. Yet we mustn't force our perception of nice on the bad guys who're anyway not bad - only misunderstood - victims of our narrow-mindedness.
...The "Road Map" vision, as well as continuous pressure from the "Quartet" (U.S., the European Union, the UN and Russia) to surrender parts of the Land of Israel are contrary to international law that firmly call to "encourage ... close settlement by Jews on the land, including State lands and waste lands not required for public purposes." It also requires "seeing that no Palestine territory shall be ceded or leased to, or in any way placed under the control of the government of any foreign power."
Any attempt to negate the Jewish people's right to Palestine - Eretz-Israel, and to deny them access and control in the area designated for the Jewish people by the League of Nations is a serious infringement of international law.
International Law - The "Mandate for Palestine"
The "Mandate for Palestine" an historical League of Nations document, laid down the Jewish legal right under international law to settle anywhere in western Palestine, the area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, an entitlement unaltered in international law. Fifty-one member countries - the entire League of Nations - unanimously declared on July 24, 1922:
"Whereas recognition has been given to the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine and to the grounds for reconstituting their national home in that country."
On June 30, 1922, a joint resolution of both Houses of Congress of the United States unanimously endorsed the "Mandate for Palestine":
"Favoring the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.
"Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled. That the United States of America favors the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which should prejudice the civil and religious rights of Christian and all other non-Jewish communities in Palestine, and that the holy places and religious buildings and sites in Palestine shall be adequately protected."
Law of War - Arab Unlawful Acts of Aggression in 1948
Six months before the War of Independence in 1948, Palestinian Arabs launched a series of riots, pillaging, and bloodletting. Then came the invasion of seven Arab armies from neighboring states attempting to prevent the establishment of a Jewish state in accordance with the UN's 1947 recommendation to Partition Palestine, a plan the Arabs rejected.
The Jewish state not only survived, it came into possession of territories - land from which its adversaries launched their first attempt to destroy the newly created State of Israel.
Israel's citizens understood that defeat meant the end of their Jewish state before it could even get off the ground. In the first critical weeks of battle, and against all odds, Israel prevailed on several fronts.
The metaphor of Israel having her back to the sea reflected the image crafted by Arab political and religious leaders' rhetoric and incitement. Already in 1948 several car bombs had killed Jews, and massacres of Jewish civilians underscored Arab determination to wipe out the Jews and their state.
6,000 Israelis died as a result of that war, in a population of 600,000. One percent of the Jewish population was gone. In American terms, the equivalent is 3 million American civilians and soldiers killed over an 18-month period.
Israel's War of Independence in 1948 was considered lawful and in self-defence as may be reflected in UN resolutions naming Israel a "peace loving State" when it applied for membership at the United Nations. Both the Security Council (4 March, 1949, S/RES/69) and the UN General Assembly (11 May, 1949, (A/RES/273 (III)) declared:
"[Security Council] Decides in its judgment that Israel is a peace-loving State and is able and willing to carry out the obligations contained in the Charter ..."
Arab Unlawful Acts of Aggression in 1967
In June 1967, the combined armies of Egypt, Syria, and Jordan attacked Israel with the clear purpose expressed by Egypt's President: "Destruction of Israel." At the end of what is now known as the Six-Day War, Israel, against all odds, was victorious and in possession of the territories of Judea and Samaria [E.H., The West Bank], Sinai and the Golan Heights.
International law makes a clear distinction between defensive wars and wars of aggression. More than half a century after the 1948 War, and more than four decades since the 1967 Six-Day War, it is hard to imagine the dire circumstances Israel faced and the price it paid to fend off its neighbors' attacks.
Who Starts Wars Does Matter
Professor, Judge Stephen M. Schwebel, past President of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) states the following facts:
"The facts of the June 1967 'Six Day War' demonstrate that Israel reacted defensively against the threat and use of force against her by her Arab neighbors. This is indicated by the fact that Israel responded to Egypt's prior closure of the Straits of Tiran, its proclamation of a blockade of the Israeli port of Eilat, and the manifest threat of the UAR's [The state formed by the union of the republics of Egypt and Syria in 1958] use of force inherent in its massing of troops in Sinai, coupled with its ejection of UNEF.
"It is indicated by the fact that, upon Israeli responsive action against the UAR, Jordan initiated hostilities against Israel. It is suggested as well by the fact that, despite the most intense efforts by the Arab States and their supporters, led by the Premier of the Soviet Union, to gain condemnation of Israel as an aggressor by the hospitable organs of the United Nations, those efforts were decisively defeated.
"The conclusion to which these facts lead is that the Israeli conquest of Arab and Arab-held territory was defensive rather than aggressive conquest."
Judge Sir Elihu Lauterpacht wrote in 1968, one year after the 1967 Six-Day War:
"On 5th June, 1967, Jordan deliberately overthrew the Armistice Agreement by attacking the Israeli-held part of Jerusalem. There was no question of this Jordanian action being a reaction to any Israeli attack. It took place notwith¬standing explicit Israeli assurances, conveyed to King Hussein through the U.N. Commander, that if Jordan did not attack Israel, Israel would not attack Jordan.
"Although the charge of aggression is freely made against Israel in relation to the Six-Days War the fact remains that the two attempts made in the General Assembly in June-July 1967 to secure the condemnation of Israel as an aggressor failed. A clear and striking majority of the members of the U.N. voted against the proposition that Israel was an aggressor."
Israel Has the Better Title to the Territory of What Was Palestine, Including the Whole of Jerusalem
International law makes it clear: All of Israel's wars with its Arab neighbors were in self-defence.
Professor, Judge Schwebel, wrote in What Weight to Conquest:
"(a) a state [Israel] acting in lawful exercise of its right of self-defense may seize and occupy foreign territory as long as such seizure and occupation are necessary to its self-defense;
"(b) as a condition of its withdrawal from such territory, that State may require the institution of security measures reasonably designed to ensure that that territory shall not again be used to mount a threat or use of force against it of such a nature as to justify exercise of self-defense;
"(c) Where the prior holder of territory had seized that territory unlawfully, the state which subsequently takes that territory in the lawful exercise of self-defense has, against that prior holder, better title.
"... as between Israel, acting defensively in 1948 and 1967, on the one hand, and her Arab neighbors, acting aggressively, in 1948 and 1967, on the other, Israel has the better title in the territory of what was Palestine, including the whole of Jerusalem, than do Jordan and Egypt."
"No legal Right Shall Spring from a Wrong"
Professor Schwebel explains that the principle of "acquisition of territory by war is inadmissible" must be read together with other principles:
"... namely, that no legal right shall spring from a wrong, and the Charter principle that the Members of the United Nations shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any State."
Simply stated: Arab illegal aggression against the territorial integrity and political independence of Israel, cannot and should not be rewarded.
Professor Julius Stone, a leading authority on the Law of Nations, stated:
"Territorial Rights Under International Law.... By their [Arab countries] armed attacks against the State of Israel in 1948, 1967, and 1973, and by various acts of belligerency throughout this period, these Arab states flouted their basic obligations as United Nations members to refrain from threat or use of force against Israel's territorial integrity and political independence. These acts were in flagrant violation inter alia of Article 2(4) and paragraphs (1), (2), and (3) of the same article."
Thus, under international law Israel acted lawfully by exercising its right to self-defence when it redeemed and legally reoccupied Judea and Samaria, known also as the West Bank.
Legalities aside, before 1967 there were no Jewish settlements in the West Bank, and for the first ten years of so-called occupation there were almost no Jewish settlers in the West Bank. And still there was no peace with the Palestinians. The notion that Jewish communities pose an obstacle to peace is a red herring designed to blame Israel for lack of progress in the 'Peace Process' and enable Palestinian leadership to continue to reject any form of compromise and reconciliation with Israel as a Jewish state.
Lord Caradon, who drafted Resolution 242, rejected proposals to add the word "all" before the word "territories." He said: " … withdrawal should take place to secure and recognized boundaries … the 1967 border … is not a satisfactory border, it is where troops had to stop in 1947 …that is not a permanent boundary... "
Mr. Michael Stewart, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, and Mr. George Brown, British Foreign Secretary, confirmed: “… the omission of the word 'all' before the word 'territories' is deliberate…” and “… The proposal …means that Israel will not withdraw from all the territories."
Mr. Arthur Goldberg, US representative to the UN: "… there have never been secure or recognized boundaries... Neither the armistice lines of 1949 nor the cease-fire lines of 1967 have answered that description... such boundaries have yet to be agreed upon.... "
President Lyndon Johnson: "… It is clear … that a return to the situation of 4 June 1967 will not bring peace. There must be secure and there must be recognized borders … agreed to by the neighbours involved."
Mr. Joseph Sisco, Assistant Secretary of State: "That Resolution did not say 'withdrawal to the pre-June 5 lines'. … the question of the final borders is a matter of negotiations between the parties."
Eugene V. Rostow, Professor of Law and Public Affairs, Yale University, and US Under-Secretary of State for Political Affairs: "The agreement … should establish 'secure and recognized boundaries’ … to replace the Armistice Demarcation lines established in 1949, and the cease-fire lines of June 1967... It is … not legally possible to assert that the provision requires Israeli withdrawal from all the territories now occupied …."
President Obama repeatedly insists that American foreign policy be conducted with modesty and humility. Above all, there will be no more "dictating" to other countries. We should "forge partnerships as opposed to simply dictating solutions," he told the G-20 summit. In Middle East negotiations, he told al-Arabiya, America will henceforth "start by listening, because all too often the United States starts by dictating."
An admirable sentiment. It applies to everyone — Iran, Russia, Cuba, Syria, even Venezuela. Except Israel. Israel is ordered to freeze all settlement activity. As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton imperiously explained the diktat: "a stop to settlements — not some settlements, not outposts, not natural-growth exceptions."
What's the issue? ... Over the past decade, the U.S. government has understood that any final peace treaty would involve Israel retaining some of the close-in settlements — and compensating the Palestinians accordingly with land from within Israel itself.
That was envisioned in the Clinton plan in the Camp David negotiations in 2000, and again at Taba in 2001. ...This idea is not only logical, not only accepted by both Democratic and Republican administrations for the past decade, but was agreed to in writing in the letters of understanding exchanged between Israel and the United States in 2004 — and subsequently overwhelmingly endorsed by a concurrent resolution of Congress.
Yet the Obama State Department has repeatedly refused to endorse these agreements or even say it will honor them. This from a president who piously insists that all parties to the conflict honor previous obligations. And who now expects Israel to accept new American assurances in return for concrete and irreversible Israeli concessions, when he himself has just cynically discarded past American assurances.
The entire "natural growth" issue is a concoction....It is perverse to make this the center point of the peace process at a time when Gaza is run by Hamas terrorists dedicated to permanent war with Israel and when Mahmoud Abbas, having turned down every one of Ehud Olmert's peace offers, brazenly declares that he is in a waiting mode — waiting for Hamas to become moderate and for Israel to cave — before he'll do anything to advance peace.
In his much-heralded "Muslim world" address in Cairo yesterday, Obama declared that the Palestinian people's "situation" is "intolerable." Indeed it is, the result of 60 years of Palestinian leadership that gave its people corruption, tyranny, religious intolerance and forced militarization; leadership that for three generations rejected every offer of independence and dignity, choosing destitution and despair rather than accept any settlement not accompanied by the extinction of Israel.
That's why Haj Amin al-Husseini chose war rather than a two-state solution in 1947. Why Yasser Arafat turned down a Palestinian state in 2000. And why Abbas rejected Olmert's even more generous December 2008 offer.
In the 16 years since the Oslo accords turned the West Bank and Gaza over to the Palestinians, their leaders built no roads, no courthouses, no hospitals, none of the fundamental state institutions that would relieve their people's suffering. Instead they poured everything into an infrastructure of war and terror, all the while depositing billions (from gullible Western donors) into their Swiss bank accounts.
Obama says he came to Cairo to tell the truth. But he uttered not a word of that. Instead, among all the bromides and lofty sentiments, he issued but one concrete declaration of new American policy: "The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements," thus reinforcing the myth that Palestinian misery and statelessness are the fault of Israel and the settlements.
Blaming Israel and picking a fight over "natural growth" may curry favor with the Muslim "street." But it will only induce the Arab states to do like Abbas: sit and wait for America to deliver Israel on a platter. Which makes the Obama strategy not just dishonorable but self-defeating.
Thursday, June 04, 2009
The vibes from Washington clearly suggest that the Obama administration may be heading toward a major confrontation with the Israeli government.
The policy adjustments are being orchestrated in a highly sophisticated manner. President Barack Obama conveys warm signals to the Jewish community, expressing appreciation for the Jewish contribution to American society, hosting the first Seder ever held in the White House and visiting Buchenwald rather than Jerusalem after Cairo. He reassures Americans that the United States will remain "a stalwart ally of Israel and it is in our interests to assure that Israel is safe and secure."
Yet when President Obama reiterates the need to be "honest" with Israel there is no doubt that he is signalling his intention of adjusting long standing US policies.
What we are witnessing is not the anticipated confrontation over illegal outposts or restraining the growth of settlements. Nor is it a conflict over "two states for two peoples" which is a red herring inflicted upon Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu because of domestic considerations.
President Obama is fully cognisant that when Netanyahu and his Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman explicitly endorsed the Quartet Road Map, they were signalling that a Palestinian state is not an issue. It is the nature of such a state and issues relating to Israel’s long term security needs that they feel must first be resolved.
Recent White House body language suggests that the PA now enjoys a favoured relationship with the president. Obama, who does not relate to a need to be "honest" with Mahmoud Abbas, seems to be concentrating most of the pressure on Israel which is being subtly portrayed as an obstacle to progress.
The key policy change is the reversal of priorities governing the Road Map. From day one it has been clearly stipulated that prior to Israel making concessions, the Palestinians would be obliged to demonstrate a commitment to curbing terror and eschewing violence. Today that does not even remotely apply.
Yet despite the lessons of the Gaza withdrawal, Israel is once more being pressured to provide unilateral concessions as a sign of good faith. The United States even announced that a PA-Hamas unity government would qualify as an appropriate peace partner.
In addition, two key understandings extended to Israel by the Bush administration are simply being disregarded.
In a letter to former prime minister Ariel Sharon on April 14th 2002, President Bush stated that in accordance with UN Resolutions 242 and 338, any final settlement should take account of "the new realities on the ground" and should not oblige Israel to return to the 1949 armistice lines.
In recognition of Israel's unilateral withdrawal from Gaza, the Bush administration also endorsed settlement construction based on natural growth in the major settlement blocs.
President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton are now ignoring these understandings and demand that Jews henceforth be denied from taking up residence in regions, such as Ma'aleh Adumim and the Gush Etzion bloc, which will never be ceded to the Arabs. More unconscionably, the Obama administration is demanding that Jews be precluded from residing in sections of Jerusalem, the cradle of their religion and civilization. If implemented, Jerusalem would become the only city in the world not controlled by Islamic fundamentalists, where Jews are denied the right of residency. No Israeli government could conceivably accept such a demand.
The apparent dictats are even more outrageous when the US adamantly demands that the Netanyahu government adhere to commitments entered into by its predecessors. Yet Obama's officials themselves display no inhibitions in repudiating understandings instituted by the Bush administration.
There are other issues. Obama has "suggested" to Mahmoud Abbas that he ends the incitement against Jews which saturates Palestinian Mosques, schools and the public arena. That is surely a mild rebuke for a criminal society which still brainwashes its citizens from kindergarten onwards to regard Jews as sub-human and extols those who murder Jews for achieving the highest level of martyrdom.
Perhaps President Obama should "suggest" that Abbas personally cease sanctifying suicide bombers as national heroes and providing pensions to their families. He might also consider "suggesting" to Abbas that his determination to make areas under PA jurisdiction Judenrein is a form of ethnic cleansing frowned upon by the United States.
There are other ominous signals emanating from the US. Until now it was clearly understood that an Arab-Israeli settlement could ultimately only be resolved directly between both parties to the conflict. Now the Obama administration is moving towards an internationally imposed solution. There are repeated paeans of praise for the problematic Saudi 'peace' plan which, aside from the unacceptable demand to repatriate Arab refugees, also ignores the issue of defensible borders and would inflict upon Israel what the late Abba Eban described as "Auschwitz borders."
There were also hints that if Israel failed to co-operate, the US may review employing its veto powers and influence at the UN and other international venues. Were that to happen, Israel would be thrown to the wolves and soon be confronted by sanctions and boycotts from international bodies dominated by Arabs and their fellow travellers.
Netanyahu is in an unenviable position. The cards are stacked heavily against him and rumours are circulating that elements within the Obama administration are determined to drive him out of office. He must be firm and resist the outrageous demands. Yet he must also make every effort to avert a breakdown in relations with our most important global ally.
Netanyahu must convince his party colleagues to extricate themselves from their self-imposed political swamp and end the spurious debate over Palestinian statehood. He should concentrate on the Road Map, insisting that a Palestinian state can neither be a Hamastan nor a threat to Israel's security. Israelis must be assured that they will not wake up one day and discover Iranian troops massing on their borders.
Ironically today, as was the case previously in 2000 when Arafat rejected Ehud Barak's offer of 97% of the West Bank , it is Palestinians rather than Israelis who oppose a state because they delude themselves that their dream of ending Jewish sovereignty is drawing closer as Israel becomes increasingly isolated. Abbas and his supporters are now openly saying that they intend to be passive and merely demand more concessions until Netanyahu is driven out of office.
It is time for all Zionist political parties to suspend their differences and unite in the face of a potential national crisis. It is time for Kadima head Tzipi Livni to rise above her personal political ambitions and act in the national interest instead of cynically blaming Netanyahu for the American pressure. She realizes that Kadima, no less than Likud, would be obliged to resist the draconian demands the US is seeking to impose on Israel. She should offer to join a unity government.
In the United States, public opinion and Congress remain overwhelmingly pro-Israel. A united Israel displaying moderation and rationally presenting its case can still galvanize the American Jewish community and neutralize those Jewish elements (including members of Obama's entourage) who are undermining Israel.
A conflict is not inevitable. The policy changes at this stage are still embryonic and many appear to be trial balloons to test the water. Obama the pragmatist has on previous occasions shown that he can be persuaded to reverse polices. If he did so now, he would not merely avert a disaster for Israel but would also be acting in the global interests of the United States. There is no single instance in history where appeasement has succeeded in persuading tyrannies or rogue states to moderate their behaviour.
TodayPres. Obama delivered a speech on U.S.-Muslim relations from Cairo University. The President called for renewed Middle East peace talks as well as an agenda for economic and social development in the region. Washington, DC
Click here to see a video of the entire 55 minute speech. The section on Israel is 23-33 minutes into the speech.
From YouTube, 1/6/09:
Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon appeared yesterday on the FOX News Channel to discuss the most pressing issues facing Israel today. ...Ayalon discusses Iran’s nulear program, US-Israel relations, among other topics.
MOSCOW — Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman met the Russian leadership on a visit marked by differences over Moscow's policy towards Iran and Palestinian militants.
Lieberman, a Russian-speaker born in Soviet-era Moldova, met Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow before going into talks with President Dmitry Medvedev and later meeting Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, officials said.
...Russia is promoting a plan to host a Middle East peace conference, preferably this year, despite Israeli concerns. ...Lieberman had made it clear Israel would not attend if representatives of the Palestinian militant group Hamas were invited.
Lieberman will also try to wean Russia off its relatively close ties to Iran, due to Israeli fears about Iran's nuclear programme and also worries that the Islamic Republic could be emboldened by a recent nuclear test in North Korea, the Russian newspaper said. "The Israelis believe cooperation between the Islamic Republic and several states including Russia is helping speed up Tehran's moves in a dangerous direction. But they haven't yet managed to persuade Russia of this," [Russian daily newspaper] Kommersant said.
However Kommersant noted Lieberman would enjoy the highest-level reception in meeting both Russia's president and prime minister and said both sides would strive for an upbeat tone. "The first Russian-speaking foreign minister of the Jewish state has set developing relations with Russia as one of his priorities. Moscow is treating him in kind," Kommersant said.
Wednesday, June 03, 2009
...the European Union and individual European countries seem poised for what could become the ugliest confrontation with Israel since the creation of the Jewish state.
Crude threats are being conveyed to the Netanyahu government, making it clear that unless it capitulates to a series of demands, relations will be downgraded and boycotts may even be instituted. Unconfirmed rumors are circulating that the US State Department does not object to these European initiatives.
...Coincidentally ...Der Spiegel [has] suggested the Holocaust could not have been implemented so effectively without the enthusiastic support and collaboration of major anti-Semitic sections of the indigenous population under Nazi occupation. It concluded that, to be more precise, the culpability for the Holocaust should be extended to encompass Europe as a whole.
One wonders if Winston Churchill had not become prime minister and the Nazis had conquered England, how the British anti-Semites would have behaved. Would they have behaved differently from their French counterparts? Under Nazi occupation would the British police, bureaucracy and volunteers also have collaborated in deportations and other actions which were a prerequisite for the gas chambers?
This has relevance for our contemporary situation. The ferocity and extraordinary resurgence of anti-Semitism in Europe cannot simply be attributed exclusively to the impact of Muslim migrants or rage against Israeli policies. The anti-Israel tsunami which swept across Europe can only be appreciated in the context of the profound traditional hatred of Jews which, we now realize, only went into remission when the horrors of the Holocaust were unveiled. But half a century later it has reemerged with a vengeance, with the Jewish nation state acting as surrogate for anti-Semitism directed against Jews.
How else can one explain why this tiny embattled Jewish state has assumed the role of scapegoat for all the ills of humanity. It is reminiscent of the times when Jews were accused of poisoning the wells, spreading the plague and acting as the sinister force behind capitalism and communism? How else to explain why Israel has been condemned as a rogue state representing a greater threat to peace than North Korea or Iran? How else to explain the application of Holocaust inversion to its treatment of the Palestinians while silence prevails concerning human rights violations and mass murders in countries like Sudan, Sri Lanka or Congo? How else to explain why its legitimate efforts to defend its citizens against terrorists and missiles are blamed for the rise of Islamic fundamentalism and global terrorism?
THESE POISONOUS currents dominate large segments of public opinion in the enlightened Europe of our time. In most cases the people are actually even more hostile to Israel and Jews than their governments. Needless to say, the quality of life for Jews in this environment has undergone a dramatic deterioration. Although some bury their heads in the sand and delude themselves that these conditions are transitory, most Jews are deeply despondent about the future of their children in a society which is beginning to regard them as pariahs.
The current campaign is being spearheaded by the British and the French. Jewish leaders from the French Jewish representative body CRIF, whom I have grown to respect for their courage and willingness to stand up and be counted when confronted by hostile governments, are deeply apprehensive about President Nicolas Sarkozy, who was initially believed to have reversed the traditional anti-Israeli approach of successive French governments since Charles de Gaulle. However, in recent months both the UK and France have intensified their anti-Israel stance and hardly even bother to maintain a pretense of being even-handed.
It is the Italian government, the fourth largest state in the EU, that stands out today as the most notable long standing friend of Israel in Europe. Berlusconi displays genuine warmth when he relates to the Jewish state and takes pride in having been closely associated with Israeli leaders over a long period. At his initiative, Italy utilized its veto power to neutralize some of the more extreme anti-Israel EU initiatives.
Regrettably, like the Germans, Italy still retains strong commercial ties with Iran, but at least this has not deterred it from condemning Iranian policies toward Israel.
...A series of European countries hostile to Israel, starting with Sweden, are about to assume leadership of the EU when the Czechs retire at the end of the month.
In this difficult climate, with the US-Israeli relationship now in question, Israel must try to strengthen its relationship with the European countries willing to offset the anticipated flow of anti-Israeli initiatives.
.. US President Barack Obama dropped in unannounced on Defense Minister Ehud Barak while he was meeting National Security Adviser James Jones in the White House on Tuesday.... it came following Obama's call Monday for a halt to all settlement construction, including for "natural growth." That was the first time Obama himself, and not an adviser or Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, had included "natural growth" in the settlement freeze.
...Obama's visit was seen as particularly meaningful, as it came just a few hours before he was to set off for Saudi Arabia and then Egypt, and following several statements criticizing Israel for its settlement policy.
... Barak's role is particularly key, as he represents the left flank of Netanyahu's government and has a warmer following in Washington than some of his fellow coalition members, even as he has articulated a position supporting the prime minister's assertion that natural growth must continue.
The settlement issue was believed to have been one of the focuses of Barak's discussion with Jones. Following the meeting, Barak issued a statement saying that "the intimacy, openness and joint interests of Israel and the US are a foundation of Israeli policy, both in facing threats and making peace."
Barak's statement, however, could not camouflage deep differences that have been emerging over the settlement issue.
Officials in the Prime Minister's Office on Tuesday said that understandings on settlement construction with the US had formed the basis of Israel's acceptance of the road map in 2003 and the adoption of the disengagement plan in 2005, firing back at Washington for its demand for a settlement freeze that would include natural growth.
The implication of the officials' comments were clear: that if the US was changing its understandings on the settlements, it was undermining the foundations of the road map and was in essence reneging on understandings that were an essential part of Israel's decision to leave the Gaza Strip.
...While Israel committed itself not to build new settlements and to address the unauthorized outposts, there was an effort to allow for normal life in existing communities, especially those in the large settlement blocs that will definitely stay part of Israel in any final-status agreement."
..."On the basis of these understandings, the government accepted the road map in 2003, and adopted the disengagement plan in 2005," the officials continued. "Israel will continue to abide by these bilateral understandings and seeks to strengthen them with the new US administration."
Dov Weisglass, who was intimately involved in reaching these understandings with the US, wrote in Yediot Aharonot on Tuesday that there was "no doubt" that the Bush administration recognized Israel's right to build within the construction lines of the settlements, on condition that no new settlements would be established, that there would be no expropriation of Palestinian land for the settlements and that no budgets would be allocated for encouraging settlement.
Officials in the Prime Minister's Office said there was concern that the US was now attempting to roll back those agreements.
...Obama also intimated that if Hizbullah were to win the elections later this week in Lebanon, the US would possibly have to reconsider its policy toward the organization. ...
In a recent public opinion survey of likely American voters participants were asked:
Do you think that if the Palestinians were given their own state in the West Bank and Gaza they would live peacefully with Israel or continue their campaign of terror to destroy Israel?
18% said live peacefully
60% said continue terror
In other words the American people clearly understand that the so-called two state solution is not a formula for bringing about a peaceful solution to the Palestinian problem. Several commentators have noted that even before Israel created any settlements the Palestinians conducted a full-scale war of terror against them.
But for some reason, the Obama Administration has made the two-state proposal with its demand that Israeli settlements be curtailed and eventually dismantled the centerpiece of its peacemaking strategy in the region.
When Prime Minister Netanyahu met with President Obama, the Americans demanded that Israel begin the process of curtailing the settlements. This demand included that Israel take the irresponsible action of ending the natural expansion of a settlement. This entails a decision not to build housing for families that have children.
While this demand sounds irrational, the Obama Administration has privately and publicly repeated this demand. When on his American visit, Prime Minister Netanyahu was repeatedly goaded on this issue. On Sunday, Israel's Cabinet emphatically declared that they support their Prime Minister's position that the natural expansion of settlements will continue.
The other day, an American television analyst asked us why Obama is pushing so hard on this issue. Why doesn't he see that the facts on the ground belie the contention that the two state solution is a viable policy initiative: There is no leader on the Palestinian side to conclude a deal with, even the "moderate" Abbas refuses to recognize a Jewish state, Israel has a right to defensible borders and the settlements play a crucial security role, etc.
While we agree that these facts should bury the two-state idea and the demand to curtail settlements we have come to the conclusion that to understand why the Obama administration is pushing Israel so hard we must look beyond the local Israel-Palestinian conflict. The public criticism of Israel by President Obama, Secretary of Sate Clinton, Defense Secretary Gates, and others in the administration can only be understood in a larger context. It is unlikely that these realists believe that they have the solution to the Palestinian-Israel conflict. But they seem to have come to the conclusion that by making Israel their target they will win favor throughout the Muslim world.
This explains why President Obama's administration has turned up the heat on Israel shortly before the President makes his much ballyhooed speech to the Muslim World. One could ask what is the purpose of such a speech? Why address only the Muslim World? Why not the Christian and Jewish worlds? One possible answer is that this American administration wants to realign America's role in the world and Israel stands in its way. As several public opinion surveys have shown a vast majority of Americans identify with Israel and see Israel's enemies as our enemies. President Obama does not see the world that way and by confronting Israel he hopes to gain favor in the world of those who confront the United States.
These are very dangerous times for the United States, Israel, and the Western World. Because this mindset is at the center of the Obama Administration's relations with Iran. The Administration acts like it believes it can live with a nuclear Iran, that Iran is just another Civilized nation among nations. Lets pray that America's leaders wake up to reality before it is too late.
Tuesday, June 02, 2009
...A positive approach would be to announce a four-principle policy, which even if rejected at first by the Arabs and other Muslims should be egalitarian, just and reciprocal to the West, and especially to the US. This would be vastly superior to drawing red lines which are constantly eroded and thus demonstrate weakness and lack of determination.
First, Israel should declare its recognition of the right of self-determination of all Arab and Muslim peoples, including the Palestinians, providing that they recognize the same for the Jewish people. Non-recognition of that right to the Jewish people would represent a non-starter for any negotiation. So far, Israel has recognized the Palestinians, but no reciprocation has been forthcoming, evidenced by Abu Mazen's rejection of Israel as a Jewish state.
Second, Israel recognizes the national liberation aspirations of all those nations recognizing Israel's own national liberation movement, that being Zionism. In Oslo, Israel recognized the PLO, but her mindless negotiators never insisted on reciprocation. Hence the continued denigration of the national revival of the Jews, by all Arabs and Muslims, and the continued validity of the PLO Charter which derogates Zionism and vows its eradication.
Third, the entire land of historical Palestine, including Israel, Jordan, the West Bank and Gaza (the land of Israel in Israeli parlance), must be put up for negotiation and be re-apportioned between Israeli-Jews and Palestinian-Arabs, who are both the owners of the territory and the sole determinants of its disposition. How they each call their portion is according to their own discretion: Palestine, Israel, Zion, the Hashemite Kingdom of Palestine, the Arab State, the Jewish State etc. Palestinian Arabs, like the Israeli Jews, certainly deserve a state, large enough to accommodate most of the Palestinians, but not separate Palestinian entities in Gaza, Amman, the West Bank, the Negev and the Galilee, while the Jewish state is challenged and called into question.
Fourth, when the final and permanent border between the two entities is determined by negotiations, distinction must be made between sovereignty over territory and the personal status of the inhabitants. To wit, that Palestinian Arabs, including the Arabs in Israel who elect to identify as Palestinians, can continue to live in Israel as alien residents who owe their loyalty to the Palestinian state, and vice versa for Israeli Jews who would elect to reside in the Palestinian territory. There will be no better guarantee for peace than the mutual presence of each party's population in the other's territory. The gradual voluntary exchange of population might occur over the years, with each individual moving in and out of his/her present dwelling, according to each person's wish and pace, and within the rule of law.
The list of problems accompanying such a long term settlement is long and complicated. But many other existing options have been tested and failed. Great statesmanship consists not only in discriminating between good and bad (that would be too easy), but in seizing the bad before it grows worse. We have been set on a failing course over the past two decades. If we fail again to seize the opportunity, things will grow worse. If we take the initiative, we will have turned a corner and kindled a flame of hope at the end of the tunnel.
Monday, June 01, 2009
Mirror, Mirror on the Wall,
Whose the most popular statesman of all?
...If President Barack Obama actually succeeds in making himself more popular among Arabs and Muslims, what material advantage would it give the United States? [See below for Prof Rubin's assessment.]
Stephen Collinson, AFP, 1/6/09, explains:
President Barack Obama will journey to the center of Arab-Muslim civilization this week, to begin the daunting task of draining deep mistrust of the United States felt across the Islamic world.
In Egypt on Thursday, Obama will make a personal address to the world's Muslims, harnessing his own ancestral ties to Islam and globalizing his message of change in an speech rich in trademark political ambition.
...Obama targeted reconciliation with Islam and rigorous Middle East diplomacy from his first moments in office.
...This trip's first stop, on Wednesday, will be Saudi Arabia, for talks with King Abdullah, seeking Arab support for US peace efforts. But the highlight will be the speech at the University of Cairo, co-hosted by Al-Azhar University, an ancient hub of Islamic scholarship.
..."I want to use the occasion to deliver a broader message about how the United States can change for the better its relationship with the Muslim world," Obama said last week.
...Some analysts predict though Obama may fall short.
...In 2004, a survey by WorldPublicOpinion.org, based at the University of Maryland, found just four percent of Egyptians had a favourable opinion of the United States. A McClatchy/Ipsos poll this month found that only 33 percent of those surveyed in six Arab countries had a favorable opinion of the United States
..."There's nothing Barack Obama could say to Muslims on June 4th that will make the United States popular, and he shouldn't try," said Jon Alterman, of the Center of Strategic and International Studies. "The underlying interests are simply not allied with the policies that many Muslims around the world would like to see the United States pursue."
"We're going to have to agree to disagree, and that's the first task for the president -- to frame US policy in a way that takes some of the passion out of widespread hostility to the United States.
Prof Rubin agrees. If Barack Obama actually succeeds in making himself more popular among Arabs and Muslims, what material advantage would it give the United States? He suggests considering the following points:
--All of these [Islamic] regimes are dictatorships and so popular opinion is of very limited importance.
--Publics are very hostile to America and the West and will not be easily moved by the charm of an American president unless he does things far beyond any possible policy he might follow.
Bashing Israel won't transform this opinion.
--The impressions of U.S. policies and leaders among these groups are mediated by state-controlled media which are hostile for reasons of national or regime interests, and intellectual elites which tend to be carriers of either Arab nationalism or Islamism, world views that have a systematic antagonism to the United States.
--Islamists and radicals such as Iran, Syria, Hamas, Hizballah, and the Muslim Brotherhoods view America in all its varieties and guises as an enemy. No matter what Obama says or does they will deem it a trick. Unless, of course, he gives them concessions in which case they will take them, see him as weak, and give nothing back. That isn't popularity; that's contempt.
--Middle East leaders emphasize a realist, power-oriented model of politics. Obama wanting to be popular is simply incomprehensible to them. At best, they will attribute this to naivete and weakness. Doubting that he will be strong in protecting them they will actually do less for the United States. That isn't popularity; that's fear that you're on the losing side.
So no matter how high Obama gets his popularity in polls-which will be celebrated in the American media and in Washington DC as a great victory-nobody in the region will do more to help him or give him more as a result.
If you need a test experiment for this assertion, think about Europe. Europeans love Obama; Europe is an American ally. European societies are democracies close to America in culture and world view. And yet when Obama asked European countries for cooperation on various issues ranging from economic revival to Afghanistan they gave him nothing.
...International politics isn't high school. Popularity doesn't matter....
Israel will not freeze settlement construction for natural growth ...there is no reason housing units cannot be built inside the major settlement blocs for people who want to move there, as well as for natural growth.
In light of unequivocal comments made over the last week by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton calling for an end to all settlement construction, including for natural growth, as well as US and Israeli officials' failure to reach an agreement on this issue in London last week, there is a great deal of frustration over the matter in the Prime Minister's Office.
....dialogue on the matter is continuing, with Defense Minister Ehud Barak expected to discuss the matter Monday in New York with US Middle East envoy George Mitchell, and then later in the week with US Vice President Joe Biden and National Security Adviser James Jones.
Representing the left flank of the Netanyahu government, Barak has made it clear that he, too, feels it is illogical and impossible to completely stop all construction in the settlements.
...Considering Clinton's comments that there should be absolutely no new construction anywhere in the settlements, there is heightened concern in Jerusalem that her words presage the beginning of a rollback of understandings on settlement construction that were reached with the Bush administration, and that were anchored in then-president George W. Bush's 2004 letter to former prime minister Ariel Sharon.
Elliott Abrams, the former deputy national security adviser who was intimately involved in the issue, acknowledged these understandings in a Washington Post article in April, in which he said, "For the past five years, Israel's government has largely adhered to guidelines that were discussed with the United States ...that there would be no new settlements, no financial incentives for Israelis to move to settlements and no new construction except in already built-up areas. The clear purpose of the guidelines? To allow for settlement growth ..."
The current sense in Jerusalem is that a demand for Israel to stop all construction runs contrary to these guidelines, leading to the argument that if the US does not honor its previous understandings with Israel, then it has little right to demand that Israel live up to commitments it made in the past, such as taking down settlement outposts...
Sunday, May 31, 2009
"The American demand to prevent natural growth is unreasonable, and brings to mind Pharaoh who said: Every son that is born ye shall cast into the river," Science Minister and Habayit Hayehudi head Daniel Herschkowitz said Sunday, referring to US President Barack Obama's demand to freeze all settlement activity, even that ensuing from natural growth.
Speaking ahead of the weekly cabinet meeting, mathematician Herschkowitz furthered his point with a simple equation. "If there is a family that expands from one child to four or five, what should we tell them - to ship the children off to Petah Tikva? This is an unacceptable demand, even if it comes from the Americans, and Israel should reject it decisively," he affirmed.
Interior Minister Eli Yishai said, "The American demand to freeze construction means expulsion for young people living in large locales. .... The concessions they're demanding of us are a security impediment we cannot withstand."
Information and Diaspora Minister Yuli Edelstein chose a positive perspective on the dispute ...President Obama is a friend of Israel, and I'm sure we can resolve the disagreements..."
Welfare and Social Services Minister Isaac Herzog of the Labor party stressed the importance in preventing a head-on collision with Obama. "The current American administration sees things differently than the last two presidents did. Construction is being undertaken around Jerusalem according to understandings with previous administrations. Israel wants very much to reach understandings, and Defense Minister Ehud Barak's upcoming trip to Washington proves it," Herzog said.
... the persistent notion that settlements impede peace ...is intrinsically interconnected with the cliche condemnation of Israeli "occupation" and the sanctimonious clamor for a Palestinian state.
...settlements didn't cause our regional strife and ...consequently, visceral enmity for Israel won't disappear, even if every last settlement does. The settlements ...are red herrings deliberately dragged in - with heaps of malice aforethought - to mislead the uninitiated and thereby undermine Israel.
Arabs regard all of Israel as an illegitimate settlement. Israel was hated, designs for its destruction were blueprinted and terror was rampant before the first settlement was founded on land liberated in the Six Day War of self-defense. .
..Arab belligerence predated Israeli settlements.
... these settlements aren't remote from Israel's heartland. Indeed, they're directly adjacent to its most crowded population centers, besides being the cradle of Jewish history. Jews are hardly foreign interlopers in their homeland. Large Jerusalem neighborhoods - some continuously Jewish from time immemorial - are categorized internationally as objectionable "settlements."
SETTLEMENTS AREN'T the problem and removing them isn't the solution. Israel foolishly dismantled 21 Gaza Strip settlements in 2005. Did peace blossom all over as a result? Precisely the reverse occurred. The razing of Israeli communities was regarded as terror's triumph, expediting the Hamas takeover. Emboldened by seeming success, Hamastan amassed formidable military arsenals and launched rocket attacks on Israeli civilians.
...This pattern should be borne in American minds before Congressional kibitzers admonish Israel. Fatahland stands ready in Judea and Samaria to emulate Hamastan. However, the potential disaster for Israel on its elongated eastern flank makes Gazan aggression in the south appear negligible.
Netanyahu should have spread out maps and pointed to the location of the settlements that so incense the State Department. They adjoin Petah Tikva, Kfar Saba and Netanya - all quite close to Tel Aviv. This is Israel's notorious narrow waistline (nine miles between the Mediterranean and the border near Netanya). The settlements give Israel minimal depth and constitute bulwarks against utter chaos rather than obstacles to utopian harmony. They are precisely the opposite of what latter-day disguised blood-libelers claim.
Maligning the settlements - with such alarming unanimity - is the updated version of blaming Jews for whatever ails the world. Once it was medieval Europe's Black Death. Today it's Islam's insidious inroads into modern Europe. Even responsibility for Iranian nukes can be laid at Israel's door. If only Israeli settlements were sacrificed to appease the savage beast, the rest of the world might enjoy a lulling respite. And when that respite is over, more demands will be made of the Jews - who, as always, upset global equilibrium.
In the plainest language, Netanyahu should have told his listeners that they are going after the wrong side, allowing the real miscreants to gain strength while weakening a true ally and making it more vulnerable to hostile predation. This, Netanyahu should have declared, won't save America, or anyone else. It will only hasten the cataclysm.
Netanyahu should have reminded Americans that during the Six Day War - before any so-called Israeli occupation or settlement activity began - a Jordanian WWII-vintage Long Tom cannon hit an apartment building in central Tel Aviv's Kikar Masaryk, a mere hop from City Hall. That antiquated weapon was fired from a lowly hill outside Kfar Saba. Visible and assailable from that hill are greater Tel Aviv, the extended Dan and Sharon regions and Israel's three power stations (Ashkelon, Reading and Hadera). Were that hill to be ceded, no car could travel safely in metropolitan Tel-Aviv and no plane could land or take off from Ben-Gurion Airport.
Any attempt to hinge "accommodation with Iran" on suffocating the settlements is tantamount to advising Israelis to slit their own throats before Ahmadinejad nukes them. That's what Bibi should have said. Instead he mumbled something about not constructing new settlements.
To assert that settlements are "an obstacle to peace", is to accept as a premise that the Arabs cannot live with Jews.
Actually that's a reasonable assumption in view of the fact that the 22 Arab nations have persecuted Jews since the 1920s and expelled virtually all their Jewish citizens (over 850,000 of them).
That's the real obstacle to peace.Now they're saying that they can't possibly create a 23rd Arab state until that territory is also ethnically cleansed of Jews. It would be analogous to Israel saying that its 1.5 million Arab citizens are an "obstacle to peace" and should stop having children because they aren't allowed to build more accomodation.
However, the Arabs controlled the West bank and Gaza from 1948-1967. Did they try to create a state there then?
Is it possible that the real agenda is not to create a 23rd Arab state, but to destroy the only Jewish one?
Supporting the call to stop "all settlement activity" in the West Bank is telling Jews there that they can't have children. It's a call for a judenrein West Bank, in preparation for the next move ...a judenrein Middle East ...
The real issue here is the Arab failure to accept peaceful co-existence with Jews ...that's the obstacle to peace, not "settlements".
...PA officials said [their] leadership is waiting for US pressure to bring down the Netanyahu government.
..."It will take a couple of years" for this American pressure to force Netanyahu from office, the Washington Post quoted one of Abbas's officials as saying, presumably bringing opposition head Tzipi Livni to power.
...According to the report, Abbas and his leadership believe the government would likely fall if Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu surrendered to American demands for a total freeze on construction in West Bank settlements.
...Abbas added that he would not even assist Obama's special envoy, George Mitchell, in trying to encourage Arab states to begin warming relations with Israel until Israel accepted these conditions. "We can't talk to the Arabs until Israel agrees to freeze settlements and recognizes the two-state solution," Abbas was quoted as saying. "Until then, we can't talk to anyone."
However, the Washington Post went on, "Abbas and his team fully expect that Netanyahu will never agree to the full settlement freeze - if he did, his center-right coalition would almost certainly collapse. So they plan to sit back and watch while US pressure slowly squeezes the Israeli prime minister from office. "'It will take a couple of years,' one official breezily predicted."
Abbas "rejects the notion that he should make any comparable concession - such as recognizing Israel as a Jewish state, which would imply renunciation of any large-scale resettlement of refugees," the article continued. Abbas intends to remain passive, he told the paper.
"I will wait for Hamas to accept international commitments. I will wait for Israel to freeze settlements… Until then, in the West Bank we have a good reality... The people are living a normal life."
Abbas also told the Washington Post that former prime minister Ehud Olmert accepted the principle of a "right of return" to Israel for Palestinian refugees and offered to resettle thousands of Palestinians in Israel. He said Olmert proposed a Palestinian state on 97 percent of the West Bank, and showed him its contours on a map.
Abbas said he turned down Olmert's peace offer because "the gaps were too wide."
"What's interesting about Abbas's hardline position," wrote the Washington Post's Jackson Diehl, who conducted the interview along with a colleague, "is what it says about the message that Obama's first Middle East steps have sent to Palestinians and Arab governments."
While the Bush administration placed the onus for change in the Middle East on the Palestinians, Diehl wrote, the Obama administration had shifted the focus to Israel.
The upshot is that "in the Obama administration, so far, it's easy being Palestinian," Diehl wrote.
Under George W. Bush, the Palestinians knew that "until they put an end to terrorism, established a democratic government and accepted the basic parameters for a settlement, the United States was not going to expect major concessions from Israel," wrote Diehl.
But Obama, with his repeated demands for a settlement freeze, "has revived a long-dormant Palestinian fantasy: that the United States will simply force Israel to make critical concessions, whether or not its democratic government agrees, while Arabs passively watch and applaud." ...