Saturday, August 28, 2010

When will the US stop arming Israel’s foes?

From JPost 6 August 2010, by CAROLINE B. GLICK:

...Since 2006, the US has provided Lebanon some $500 million in military assistance. And June, the White House proclaimed Obama’s “determination to continue US efforts to support and strengthen Lebanese institutions such as the Lebanese Armed Forces and the Internal Security Forces.”

...the administration has already allocated $100m. in military assistance to Lebanon for 2011.

...last week Obama’s nominee to head the US Central Command, Gen. James Matthis, claimed that relations between US Central Command and the LAF focus on building the LAF’s capabilities “to preserve internal stability and protect borders.”

And how is that border protection going? Tuesday’s unprovoked LAF ambush of Lt.-Col. Harari’s battalion within Israeli territory showed that the LAF is fully prepared commit unprovoked acts of illegal aggression to harm Israel.

...The same aggressive border protection is completely absent, however, along Lebanon’s border with Syria. Since 2006, the LAF has taken no actions to seal off that border from weapons transfers to Hizbullah. It has taken no steps to protect Lebanese sovereignty from the likes of Syria and Iran that are arming Hizbullah’s army with tens of thousands of missiles.

...For the past four years, in open breach of UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which set the terms for the cease-fire that ended the Second Lebanon War, the LAF has done nothing to block Hizbullah from remilitarizing and reasserting control over southern Lebanon.

Moreover, the institution that the State Department views as the anchor of a multiethnic, independent Lebanon did not lift a finger against Hizbullah when Hizbullah staged a coup against the Saniora government in 2008.

...In stark contrast ...the US-supported Lebanese Internal Security Forces have used US signals equipment to help Hizbullah ferret out Israeli agents. According to the [LA] Times, “A strengthening Lebanese government is helping Hizbullah bust alleged spy cells, sometimes using tools and tradecraft acquired from Western nations eager to build up Lebanon’s security forces as a counterweight to the Shi’ite group.”

The US has refused to reckon with the consequences of its actions. ...Assistant Secretary of Defense Alexander Vershbow visited Beirut and said that continued US aid and training to the LAF would allow the Lebanese Army to “prevent militias and other nongovernmental organizations” from undermining the government.

It bears recalling that Hizbullah has been a partner in the Lebanese government since 2005. Since its successful coup in 2008, Hizbullah has held a veto over all the decisions of the Lebanese government.

It also bears recalling that during the 2006 war, the LAF provided Hizbullah commanders with targeting data for their missiles and rockets.

The LAF also announced on its official Web site that it would award pensions to families of Hizbullah fighters killed in the war.

Unfortunately, the LAF is not the only military organization aligned with Israel’s enemies that the US is arming and training. There is also the US-trained Palestinian army. ... since 1996, Palestinians security forces have repeatedly taken leading roles in organizing and carrying out terrorist attacks against Israel.

Hundreds of Israelis have been murdered and maimed in these attacks.

The Palestinian force being trained by the US Army represents a disturbing, qualitative upgrade in Palestinian military capabilities.

OC Central Command Maj.-Gen. Avi Mizrahi warned ...“This is a well trained force, better equipped than its predecessors and trained by the US. The significance of this is that at the start of a new battle [with the Palestinians] the price that we will pay will be higher. A force like this one can shut down a built-up area with four snipers. This is deadly. These aren’t the fighters we faced in Jenin [in 2002]. This is an infantry force that will be fighting us and we need to take this into account. They have offensive capabilities and we aren’t expecting them to give up.”

The IDF assesses that the US-trained force will be capable of overrunning small IDF outposts and isolated Israeli communities.

To date, the US has spent $400m. on the Palestinian army. The Obama administration has allocated an additional $100m. for the next year.

And the US is demanding that Israel support its efforts. In a General Accounting Office report issued in May, Israel was excoriated for hampering US efforts to build the Palestinian forces.

The GAO railed against Israel’s refusal to permit the transfer of a thousand AK-47 assault rifles to the Palestinian forces. It criticized Israel’s rejection of US plans to train a Palestinian counterterror force. It complained that Israel does not give freedom of movement to US military advisers to the Palestinian forces in Judea and Samaria.

The US claims that what it is doing cultivates stability. It argues that the Palestinian and Lebanese failure to prevent terror armies from attacking Israel is due to their lack of institutional capacity to rein in terrorism rather than the absence of institutional will to do so. The US claims that pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into these Lebanese and Palestinian armies will enable them to become stabilizing forces in the region that will engender peace. What the administration ignores, however, is the fact that the members and commanders of these US-trained forces share the terrorists’ dedication to Israel’s destruction.

TO ITS undying shame, Israel has publicly supported, or, at best failed to oppose these American initiatives. By doing so, Israel has provided political cover for these US initiatives that endanger its security. Although it is crucial to call the US out for its sponsorship of terroraligned armies, it is also important to understand Israel’s role in these nefarious enterprises.

Israel has gone along with these US programs for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it has been due to domestic politics. Sometimes it owed to Israel’s desire to be a team player with the US government. But generally the Israeli rationale for not loudly and vociferously objecting to US assistance to enemy armies has been the same as Israel’s rationale for embracing Yassir Arafat and the PLO in 1993 and for every other Israeli act of appeasement toward its enemies and allies alike.

Successive Israeli governments have claimed that by supporting actions that strengthen Israel’s enemies, they gain leverage for Israel, or, at a minimum, they mitigate the opprobrium directed against Israel when it takes actions to defend itself. In Lebanon, for instance, Israel agreed to the US plan to support the Hizbullah-dominated Saniora government in the hopes that by agreeing to give the Lebanese government immunity from IDF attack, the US would support Israel’s moves to defeat Hizbullah.

But ...The pro-Western Lebanese government ministers are beholden to Hizbullah. Whether they wish to or not, former prime minister Fuad Saniora and his successor Hariri both act as Hizbullah’s defenders to the US. ...The logic of appeasement moves in one direction only – toward one’s enemies.

The same holds for the Palestinians. Israel believed that once it capitulated to international pressure to recognize the PLO the US, the EU and the UN would hold the PLO to account if it turned out that Arafat and his minions had not changed their ways. But when Arafat ordered his lieutenants to wage a terror war against Israel rather than accept statehood, the US, the EU and the UN did not rally to Israel’s side.

They had become so invested in their delusion of Palestinian peacefulness that they refused to abandon it. Instead, at most, they pinned the full blame on Arafat and demanded that Israel support their efforts to “strengthen the moderates.”

And so, in this demented logic, it made sense for the US to build a Palestinian army after the Palestinians elected Hamas to lead them.

And so on and so forth. In every single instance, Israel’s willingness to embrace lies about the nature of its enemies has come back to haunt it. Never has Israel gained any ground by turning a blind eye to the hostility of the likes of Salam Fayyad and Saad Hariri.

...the US is abetting and aiding the war against Israel by supporting the LAF and the Palestinian military.

But ...the US will not stop until Israel demands that it stop....

Friday, August 27, 2010

Moderate Islam is the answer

Daniel Pipes, director of the Middle East Forum, former teacher of History at many eminent Universities, with a doctorate from Harvard University, and author of 12 books that have been translated into 33 languages, has been recognized as one of Harvard’s 100 most influential living graduates. He visited Perth, Western Australia last week, and I attended all 5 of his speaking engagements here.

Pipes’ opposition to “Islamism” (radical Islam) is sometimes misunderstood. He doesn’t oppose Islam or Muslims. He says:

"It's a mistake to blame Islam, a religion 14 centuries old, for the evil that should be ascribed to militant Islam, a totalitarian ideology less than a century old. Militant Islam is the problem, but moderate Islam is the solution."

He points out that Islamic society was a global leader for centuries since Mohammed, but has waned in the last two centuries. It is now least successful on virtually every index (freedom, longevity, innovation, economy etc).

Islamism developed as a response to this failure, at first taking its example from fascism (Mussolini) and communism (Lenin) in the 1920s, but overlaying “Islamic” content. It seeks to return to the heyday of Islamic societies and eventually to global Islamic hegemony by imposing and enforcing an extreme, violent, totalitarian interpretation of Islam.

In 1979 it graduated from a phenomenon of merely academic curiosity to become a serious strategic challenge to the free world, when the Islamic Revolution in Iran gave it control of a major Islamic state actor. Although Iran is not a powerful state like the Soviet Union or Germany was, its aspirations to add the nuclear threat to its arsenal of state-sponsored terrorism around the world, pose a grave danger to the free world.

However in addition to terrorism, violence and the nuclear threat, Pipes is even more concerned about Islamist infiltration of the free world using democratic freedoms and lawful means to acquire power. The "war's center of gravity has shifted from force of arms to the hearts and minds of citizens" he says.

Examples of this infiltration include Turkey, Pakistan and Hezbollah in Lebanon. Even the terrorist group Hamas (like Hitler) gained power in elections before it seized total power from its opponents by force. Moreover, Islamism is a utopian movement that has an attractive appeal to some. Proof of this can be found in the increasing number of Western converts to radical Islam. Pipes estimates that there are probably over 150 million Islamists today - more than all the communists and fascists who ever lived. Thus, it is dangerous to ignore the threat of Islamist infiltration of our free nations.

The Western response to this strategic challenge should be in alliance with moderate Muslims. What is needed, Pipes suggests, is a modern, more liberal re-interpretation of Islamic scriptures which would integrate women, gays and other minorities as full members of society, and would co-exist harmoniously with other religions, not seek to convert or subjugate them by force.

In summary: “Militant Islam is the problem, but moderate Islam is the solution."

Thursday, August 26, 2010

PA and Abbas honor the terrorist perpetrator of the Olympics massacre

From PMW Bulletins, Aug. 25, 2010, by Itamar Marcus and Barbara Crook:

On Sept. 5, 1972, eight members of the Palestinian terror organization Black September broke into the athletes' village at the Munich Olympics. They kidnapped and ultimately murdered 11 Israeli athletes and coaches.

After Amin Al-Hindi, one of the senior planners of the terror operation, died this week, the Palestinian Authority glorified him and his terror attack. The official PA daily described his participation in the Olympic massacre, saying he was "one of the stars who sparkled... at the sports stadium in Munich." The attack itself was referred to as "just one of many shining stations" in his life.

The PA daily reports that Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad were at the funeral, where "a red carpet was laid out for the arrival of the body, and the military band played the final farewell melody."

Follow this link to the PMW web site to see excerpts from three articles in the official PA daily, describing the honoring of the terrorist who planned the Olympic massacre.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Did 89-year-old Samuel Kunz murder my family?

From an article published 13 August 2010, by Zeev Avrahami:

OBERBACHEM (near Bonn), Germany:

According to German prosecutors [Samuel Kunz] was a monster ...who had participated in the murder of 434,000 people, 10 of whom, the authorities allege, were killed personally by Kunz in the Belzec death camp, where he was a guard from January 1942 until July 1943.

Kunz is probably the one with the mandolin.

[PERSONAL NOTE: My grandmother Chaie Lieblich, and uncle Moniek Lieblich, and possibly my grandfather Hersz (Zvy) Lieblich, were murdered at Belzec- maybe by the same Samuel Kunz. (My grandfather may have been killed in the streets of Rszesow, or in the Głogów Forest, also known as the Rudna Forest, outside the town, en route to the transport to Belzec.) - SL]

Samuel Kunz was born in 1921 in Russia, in a village on the Volga River. In World War II he was a soldier in the Red Army and was captured by the Wehrmacht. The Nazis gave him two options: incarceration in the POW camp at Chelm, or collaboration. After a few days in Chelm, where he saw the bodies of dozens of fellow prisoners being dragged out of the camp, Kunz volunteered to collaborate. He was sent to the SS training camp at Trawniki, along with some 5,000 other POWs (among them John Demjanjuk ). The trainees were subsequently assigned three missions: emptying the ghettos of their Jewish inmates, overseeing forced laborers or serving in death camps. Kunz became a guard in the Belzec death camp in occupied Poland.

He rose rapidly through the ranks and was involved in rousting Jews from the trains, pushing them into the gas chambers and evacuating the bodies to mass graves. His zealousness gained him an appointment as commander of other guards, a position that carried a higher salary and a significant improvement in food rations. But according to the indictment, Kunz, who did not deny that he was in Belzec, was no ordinary collaborator: In May 1943 he allegedly shot dead two Jews who tried to escape from the train. A month later, while seeing a guard shoot and wound eight Jews, he apparently grabbed the guard's pistol and shot and killed the eight as they lay on the ground.

At the end of 1943 - after nearly all the 1.8 million Jews who had lived in the region had been murdered - the camp at Belzec was shut down. Kunz was transferred to Flossenburg, a concentration camp in Bavaria, where he first met the guard John Demjanjuk. He was captured by the Americans and, beginning in the 1960s, testified in the trials of Nazi war criminals.

"We knew that Jews were being killed and we knew they were being burned," he stated at one trial. "We could smell it every day."

Finally, he moved to Bonn, received German citizenship and worked for the government as a carpenter in the Ministry of Construction until his retirement. Like many civil servants in the German government after the war - which was based in Bonn until the move to Berlin in the mid-1990s - Kunz saved his money until he could move to a leafy suburb, invest in real estate and disappear into the banality of assimilation. Time was on his side and work in his garden as a pensioner in Oberbachem was far removed from Belzec.

Belzec 'laboratory'
Toward the end of October 1941, the Germans had launched Operation Reinhard, which effectively began the implementation of the "Final Solution." In contrast to the camps at Auschwitz-Birkenau, which functioned also as labor camps, the new facilities - Sobibor, Treblinka and Belzec - were intended for the mass murder of Jews and Roma. Belzec, the first to be opened, was a "laboratory," the model upon which the other camps were built and operated. The choice of its site embodied a logistical rationale: The Lublin district, in which the camp lay, was close to the Jewish population concentrations in Poland and Galicia, and the infrastructure for transporting them from Lvov, Krakow and Lublin was already in place.

The camp commandant was Christian Wirth, a colonel in the SS who had gained valuable experience in mass murder as one of those in charge of Aktion (Operation ) T-4, in which 70,000 Germans who suffered from mental or physical disabilities were murdered by lethal injection. The first killing method at Belzec was to load Jews onto trucks whose exhaust fumes led into the sealed cabin into which the inmates were crammed.

But Wirth wanted something more efficient: He built gas chambers, placed flower pots in them and had a huge Star of David painted on the roof of the building. He received the thousands of people transported to the camp every day in packed train cars with a fiery speech, on the ramp. Invariably, some of the Jews who thought Belzec would be an improvement on life in the ghetto cheered him. Wirth sent the inmates to be disinfected, and men and women were separated. They disrobed and handed their belongings to the guards; the women's hair was shaved and everyone was sent to the "showers."

Unlike other camps, hardly any witnesses emerged alive from Belzec; even those who survived until the camp's closure were afterward put to death in Sobibor. One of the few testimonies about what went on in the camp came from Kurt Gerstein, a German chemical engineer who joined the Waffen SS as head of the technical department involved in disinfection. Already during the war Gerstein secretly made available information about the camp, hoping to arouse the international community to take action, but no one lifted a finger.

Excerpts from Gerstein's testimony: "The guards pushed the Jews into the showers and reminded them before they entered to breathe deeply to ensure that the disinfection would be effective ... Eight-hundred people were crammed into a room of 93 square meters. Then Sergeant Hackenholt would start his Opel truck and the exhaust fumes were carried in pipes into the gas chambers ... Generally all the inmates were dead within half an hour ... You could know who the families were because they held hands and there was nowhere for them to fall ... Infants still lay on their mother's breast ... Then the guards would enter and kill anyone who had survived, and Jewish inmates evacuated the dead to a mass grave - not before looking for gold in the mouths of the dead."

Wirth even dubbed the structure the "Hackenholt Foundation." In the 15 months of its operation, 434,500 people were murdered there.

Third on the list
Samuel Kunz could have died peacefully at a ripe old age in a fine house, surrounded by a blossoming garden in a village nestled in a valley by the Rhine. Indeed, had he already died, he would have pulled off the biggest success of his life: selecting three years from his twenties and pressing the "delete" button. But in his case things took a different course. Among the thousands of documents transferred by the American authorities to Germany in connection with the extradition of John Demjanjuk were papers about one of the potential witnesses in the trial, a German citizen by the name of Samuel Kunz.

The German prosecutors who read the documents decided that Kunz deserved an indictment of his own. John Demjanjuk, Jr. also fanned the flames when he complained that the Germans were dragging a Ukrainian citizen - his father - across the Atlantic but were not bringing their own citizens to trial, even when clear evidence against them existed. Germany, he declared, was trying to purge itself of cases of mass murder.

Kunz denies the charge of having murdered 10 Jews, but the German prosecution maintains it has clear proof of his actions, backed up by testimonies from postwar trials held in the Soviet Union.

Thus, instead of dying peacefully in old age, Kunz, who is half deaf and has a heart pacer, opened the door to the police officers who scoured his home in search of evidence about his past. He and his wife complained in an interview to a local radio station that someone had sprayed the word "Murderer" on the wall of their home .

Kunz appears in third place on the annual list of the most-wanted Nazis drawn up by the Jerusalem office of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. No. 1 is Dr. Sandor Kepiro, a Hungarian officer accused of murdering 1,200 civilians in Novi Sad, Serbia, who lives in Budapest opposite a synagogue; No. 2 Milivoj Asner, the chief of the Slovenska Pozega police in Croatia, who played a key role in the persecution, deportation and subsequent deaths of thousands of Jews, Roma and Serbs, but whom the Austrian authorities refuse to extradite to Croatia for an assortment of reasons...

See this history of Belzec
For information about the trial follow this link (web site under construction).

Iranian Regime Disintegrating ...(hooray!)

From The Wall Street Journal, AUGUST 24, 2010, by MICHAEL LEDEEN*:

The Iranian regime loves to boast of its military strength, international clout and hold on domestic power. ... but in fact the regime is in trouble. Iran's leaders have lost legitimacy in the eyes of the people, are unable to manage the country's many problems, face a growing opposition, and are openly fighting with one another.

...In late July, Mohammad Ali Jaffari, commander of the Revolutionary Guard Corps, the regime's Praetorian Guard, admitted publicly that many top officers were supporters of the opposition Green Movement. Shortly thereafter, according to official government announcements, some 250 officers suddenly resigned. In the past weeks, several journalists from the Guards' FARS news agency have defected, some to France and others to the United States.

Meanwhile, Iran has suffered a series of attacks against its petroleum industry. As Iranian media reported (detailed in the London Telegraph), a pipeline to Turkey was blown up last month, most likely by Kurdish oppositionists. Soon afterwards there was an explosion in a natural gas pipeline near Tabriz.

That was followed by a spectacular blast at the Pardis petrochemical plant in Assalouye, which—being a major facility for converting natural gas to fuel for vehicles—is central to Iranian efforts to cope with the new United Nations, U.S. and European Union sanctions against refined petroleum products.

The same plant was similarly sabotaged six months ago. No one has taken responsibility for that attack, but it suggests an activist opposition with considerable "inside" assistance.

That opposition is fed by enduring social and economic crises.
  • Unemployment last month reached 15% and is as high as 45% in some regions.
  • In Tehran, health officials warned pregnant women and mothers of young children not to drink the water. Electrical failures are widespread.
  • Taxi drivers have been striking around the country this summer, some because of the long lines at gas stations and others because of a shortage of compressed natural gas. The sanctions seem to be having an effect.
As these pressures have mounted, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei—against whom Iranians chant "Death to the Dictator!" at public gatherings and nightly from their rooftops—has sought to reaffirm his authority. Late last month he issued a fatwa declaring that his opinions had a status equal to those of the prophet Mohammed. The fatwa caused such consternation that it was removed from his website, then quietly returned a few days later.

Shortly thereafter, the country celebrated the funeral of Iran's most cherished performer, the singer Mohammed Nouri. Nouri was no dissident and was often praised by clerics as a "pious" man. But Mr. Khamenei chose the moment to issue a broad fatwa against music. "It's better that our dear youth spend their valuable time in learning science and essential and useful skills and fill their time with sport and healthy recreations instead of music," he declared.

Only "Western music" had previously been banned by Mr. Khamenei, and Iranian youth reacted with predictable hostility. In the days that followed, a Canadian-made remix of the 1979 Pink Floyd song "Another Brick in the Wall" went viral on the Internet with the new chorus, "Hey Ayatollah, leave those kids alone."

President Ahmadinejad has also tried to buttress his popular support, first by claiming that "stupid Zionists" were trying to kill him, and then by putting out a story—which few in Iran took seriously—of an assassination attempt on his motorcade. As usual, the "report" went through various iterations: first it was a grenade, then a firecracker, then nothing at all.

Even the government's campaign of repression seems increasingly sloppy. Recently the Judiciary Minister, in an extraordinary case of buck-passing, asked Mr. Khamenei for permission to execute 1,120 prisoners—as if the minister could imagine being prosecuted himself some day, and he wanted to be able to say it was Mr. Khamenei's fault.

These various debacles have strengthened the Green Movement, and opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi continue to launch serious verbal attacks on the regime. When the head of the powerful Guardian Council recently accused the Greens of receiving money from the Saudis and the Americans, Mr. Karroubi gave him the back of his hand: "If I am a conspirator because I object [to the rigged presidential election], then you are a partner of those who stole this nation's vote and are disloyal to the nation."

To add insult, Zahra Rahnavard, Mr. Mousavi's firebrand wife, wryly commented that the accusation would "make a cooked chicken laugh." Mr. Mousavi himself said that the Islamic Republic has become worse than the shah's regime, because "religious tyranny is the worst form of tyranny."

Challenges to the regime now come even from prisoners. When Mr. Ahmadinejad challenged Barack Obama to a debate this month, a Green Movement website reported with grim admiration that five journalists in Tehran's infamous Evin Prison had invited Mr. Ahmadinejad to come to jail and debate them.

Very little of this news reaches a mass Western audience, and one wonders to what extent Western governments understand what's going on. If they do, their failure to support the democratic revolutionaries is all the more lamentable.

*Mr. Ledeen, a scholar at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, is the author of "Accomplice to Evil: Iran and the War Against the West" (St. Martin's, 2009).

Sunni-Shi’ite clashes in Beirut

From JERUSALEM POST, 25 Aug 2010*:

At least 3 dead; LAF deployed to help calm worst violence since 2008.

Shi’ite and Sunni groups traded machine gun fire and grenades in Beirut on Tuesday, killing [three] people and wounding several others just blocks from a busy downtown packed with tourists.

...The shootout erupted between supporters of the Shi’ite Hizbullah and a Sunni conservative group in the mixed residential area of Bourj Abu Haidar near Beirut’s downtown, security officials said.

Hizbullah was battling the pro-Syrian Sunni Association of Islamic Charitable Projects, known as the Al-Ahbash group, which has a history of feuding with the Shi’ite group, they added.

The officials said Muhammad Fawaz, the local Hizbullah commander in Bourj Abu Haidar, had been killed along with his subordinate Ali Jouaz. Fawaz Omeirat of Al-Ahbash was also killed in the fighting.

...According to Lebanese paper Al-Akhabr, the clash started when Al-Ahbash members tried to bar Hizbullah men from passing through a neighborhood where the Sunni group holds control.

Shortly afterward, Shi’ite supporters of Hizbullah and sister organization Amal set fire to a Sunni mosque in the nearby neighborhood of Basta, according to an AP photographer.

...Local Lebanese media said rocket-propelled grenades and heavy machine guns were used.

...It was the worst clash since May 2008, when Hizbullah gunmen swept through Sunni neighborhoods of Beirut after the pro-Western government tried to dismantle the group’s telecommunications network. The fighting at the time brought the country to the brink of a new civil war. Lebanon has a history of deadly sectarian strife.

Tensions have been running high in recent weeks over signs a UN tribunal could indict Hizbullah members in the 2005 killing of former prime minister Rafik Hariri...

*AP and Bloomberg contributed to this report.

(Before thay start) Palestinians Threaten to Pull Out of Peace Talks

From Voice of America, 23 August 2010, by Luis Ramirez | Jerusalem:

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas attends a meeting of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) executive committee at his headquarters in the West Bank town of Ramallah, 20 Aug. 2010

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas says his faction will pull out of peace talks with the Israelis - set to resume next week - if Israel does not extend a freeze on construction in West Bank settlements that is set to expire September 26.

The warning from the Palestinian leader came in letters to President Barack Obama, as well as to the European Union, the United Nations, and Russia ...[not to Israel? - SL]...

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat  ... said that if the Israelis decide not to extend the freeze of construction in settlements after September 26, it means that the Palestinians will not be able to continue talks.

...Deputy Vice Prime Minister Silvan Shalom accused Palestinian leaders of creating excuses to make the negotiations fail before they start.

He said Israel should make it clear that it is going into direct negotiations without any further conditions and without preconditions. The Israeli official said Israel should be able to make decisions freely, without threats from the Palestinians...

PS If 1.5 million Arabs in Israel is not an "obstacle to peace" then why are several hundred thousand Jews in the West Bank a problem? - SL

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Direct talks? Big deal...

From The new York Times, August 20, 2010, by ETHAN BRONNER*:

JERUSALEM — The American invitation on Friday to the Israelis and Palestinians to start direct peace talks in two weeks in Washington was immediately accepted by both governments. But just below the surface there was an almost audible shrug. There is little confidence — close to none — on either side that the Obama administration’s goal of reaching a comprehensive deal in one year can be met.

Instead, there is a resigned fatalism in the air....
“These direct negotiations are the option of the crippled and the helpless,” remarked Zakaria al-Qaq, vice president of Al Quds University and a Palestinian moderate, when asked his view of the development. “It is an act of self-deception that will lead nowhere.”

And Nahum Barnea, Israel’s pre-eminent political columnist, said in a phone interview: “Most Israelis have decided that nothing is going to come out of it, that it will have no bearing on their lives. So why should they care?”

That such a dismissive tone comes ...from mainstream thinkers is telling of the mood.

Some Israelis who have spent their professional lives on peace talks with the Palestinians were upset by the fear that failed talks could prove worse than no talks. Yossi Beilin, for example, who left politics in 2008 after years as a leftist member of Parliament and government minister, said Friday that the Obama administration was wrong to set a one-year goal without consequences.

“I think this is a huge mistake by the U.S. administration,” he said by telephone. “There is not a chance in the world that in a year — or two or three — peace can be achieved. The gap between the sides is too big...
...on the Palestinian side, not even the leadership is enthusiastic. Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, has spent the past year and a half resisting the entreaties of Mr. Netanyahu to sit down together without preconditions. ...He has agreed only from a position of weakness, he and others say.

...The Israeli perspective focuses on Palestinian failures that have led to the current deadlock. As most Israelis see it, twice in the past decade their governments made generous offers to the Palestinian leadership that were rejected or ignored, evidence that peaceful coexistence was not the other side’s goal.

The first offer was in 2000 from then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak to Yasir Arafat at Camp David. Within two months, a Palestinian uprising broke out, leading to blood on the streets. The second was less than two years ago, when then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert offered even more to Mr. Abbas. Nothing came of that either.

What happened in Gaza over the past five years has also created intense Israeli disillusionment. Israel withdrew its settlers and soldiers and the result was a victory for Hamas, which rejects Israel’s existence, and thousands of rockets shot at Israeli communities from Gaza. The gap of mutual antagonism between Hamas and the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority grows monthly.

As a result, although most polls still show Israelis favoring a two-state solution, there is skepticism, even widespread cynicism, about Palestinian intentions and any prospect for a successful, peace-oriented state of Palestine...

*Isabel Kershner contributed reporting from Jerusalem, and Khaled Abu-Akr from Ramallah, West Bank.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

3 Hats on Abbas

From International Analyst Network, 17 Aug 2010 by David Singer:

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas continues to vacillate on resuming direct negotiations with Israel to create a new Arab State between Israel and Jordan.

Director of the Palestinian Authority government’s media centre - Ghassan Khatib - has described Abbas’s predicament as follows:

“ . . . We are looking for a settlement freeze according to the definition of Quartet … road map – adopted by the United Nations Security Council – which called for a settlement freeze in all occupied areas including East Jerusalem.”

Mr Ghatib is living in fantasyland.

Israel never accepted the settlement freeze proposed in the Road Map - having raised the issue as one of 14 reservations it made to President Bush after its initial release.

Reservation 9 made by Israel to President Bush stated :

“There will be no involvement with issues pertaining to the final settlement. Among issues not to be discussed: settlement in Judea, Samaria and Gaza (excluding a settlement freeze and illegal outposts), the status of the Palestinian Authority and its institutions in Jerusalem, and all other matters whose substance relates to the final settlement.”

Israel thus made it clear that whilst it was prepared to discuss a settlement freeze it was not prepared to accept that there be a complete settlement freeze as a binding condition in the Roadmap.

On 23 May 2003, then Secretary of State Colin Powell and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice made the following statement from the White House:

“The roadmap was presented to the Government of Israel with a request from the President that it respond with contributions to this document to advance true peace. The United States Government received a response from the Government of Israel, explaining its significant concerns about the roadmap. The United States shares the view of the Government of Israel that these are real concerns, and will address them fully and seriously in the implementation of the roadmap to fulfil the President’s vision of June 24, 2002.”
On 25 May 2003, the Israeli Cabinet met and by a majority resolved:

“Based on the 23 May 2003 statement of the United States Government, in which the United States committed to fully and seriously address Israel’s comments to the Roadmap during the implementation phase, the Prime Minister announced on 23 May 2003 that Israel has agreed to accept the steps set out in the Roadmap.

The Government of Israel affirms the Prime Minister’s announcement, and resolves that all of Israel’s comments, as addressed in the Administration’s statement, will be implemented in full during the implementation phase of the Roadmap.”

Nothing could be clearer or more unambiguous - President Bush had accepted Israel’s position that there would be no settlement freeze without it first being discussed and agreed by Israel.

Israel’s current limited freeze has resulted from its own sovereign decision and following agreement reached with President Obama as predicated by President Bush‘s earlier commitment.

Abbas cannot hope to delay direct negotiations on the basis of obtaining any further concessions from Israel. He cannot reasonably expect to get Israel to extend the deadline for its current limited freeze beyond its 26 September deadline. Certainly there is no hope of it being extended if Abbas refuses to enter into direct negotiations and great doubt that it will - even if Abbas relents.

The real irony is that Israel should contemplate resuming direct negotiations with Abbas as President of the Palestinian Authority whilst he also continues to occupy the dual positions of Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and Chairman of Fatah - the largest faction of the PLO.

As President of the Palestinian Authority Abbas is committed to concluding the “two state solution” accepted both by him and his predecessor the late Yasser Arafat - albeit the uncompromising terms demanded by both of them to date have ensured the failure of this American initiative.

As Chairman of the PLO - Abbas is obligated to observing the provisions of Article 20 of the PLO Covenant which states:

“The Balfour Declaration, the Mandate for Palestine and everything that has been based on them, are deemed null and void. Claims of historical or religious ties of Jews with Palestine are incompatible with the facts of history and the true conception of what constitutes statehood. Judaism being a divine religion is not an independent nationality. Nor do Jews constitute a single nation with an identity of its own: they are citizens of the states to which they belong”

As Chairman of Fatah - Abbas is also sworn to uphold Article 22 of Fatah’s own separate Charter:

“Opposing any political solution offered as an alternative to demolishing the Zionist occupation in Palestine "

Abbas therefore still continues to head two organizations that are hell bent on consigning the six million Jews now living in Israel into national oblivion whilst heading another organization that seeks to live side by side with the Jews in their own independent state.

Abbas - whilst he wears these three hats - is powerless to distance or disassociate himself from these plans to eliminate Israel as the designated Jewish National Home for all present - and future - generations of Jews no matter where they might happen to be born or now be residing.

Abbas is certainly frank about where his loyalties reside.

On 27 April 2009 he told a preliminary conference of the Palestinian Youth Conference at Ramallah:

“A Jewish State, what is that supposed to mean? You can call yourselves as you like, but I don’t accept it and I say so publicly. All I know is that there is the state of Israel, in the borders of 1967, not one centimeter less. Anything else I don’t accept ” [Y Net - 27 April 2009]

Abbas - after this outburst - had no compunction or embarrassment in accepting a large framed map of “Palestine” covering the entire area of Israel, Gaza and the West Bank, from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea . This picture later appeared on the front page of both daily publications of the Palestinian Authority.

Abbas is clearly conflicted - advocating for a “two state solution” whilst heading two organizations that call for the elimination of one of those two states. He heads the third organization - the Palestinian Authority - without any electoral mandate to do so and is powerless to guarantee the performance of - let alone honour and enforce - any agreement with Israel. He is locked in a deadly power struggle with Hamas that has no prospects of being resolved.

Continuing to deal with Abbas whilst he wears three hats has proved to be - and will continue to be - a recipe for disaster.