Friday, November 30, 2007

Gillerman to the UN: 'Stop eternalizing the past'

From JPost, Nov 29, 2007 by MICHAL LANDO:

As Hamas officials called for the United Nations to rescind the partition plan that was adopted in 1947, UN Ambassador Dan Gillerman on Thursday urged it to stop "eternalizing the past" and work toward a better future....

"It is possible to bring the spirit of Annapolis also to the halls of the UN - a coalition of moderates in favor of peace, instead of the spirit that currently blows through the halls that brings hatred and eternalizes the past," he said in an address to the General Assembly.

On November 29, 1947, the UN voted for Resolution 181, which recommended an end to the British Mandate in Palestine and a partition plan that called for the creation of two states - one Jewish and one Arab....

..... Since 1977, this day is earmarked at the UN as an annual day of "Solidarity with the Palestinian People," and is typically commemorated as a day of mourning. Part of the discussion in Thursday's General Assembly meeting was reserved for the "Question of Palestine," an annual ushering-in of several anti-Israel resolutions.

Israel sees it as a happy occasion and streets in several Israeli cities are named after the date.
"The 29th of November is a reason for celebration," said Gillerman.... "On this date, the world got a gift: a state which contributes to humanity more than all the countries in the UN that mourn on this day."

..."Israel recognized two states for two peoples already 60 years ago," Gillerman said. "If the Arabs would have agreed to the historic partition plan, the Palestinians would have had a state for 60 years. What would a 60-year-old Palestinian state look like? Look at what Israel has accomplished in 60 years, where we are and where those who tried to destroy us and who continue to try to destroy us are today." ...

Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Bush Letter

From JCPA, Vol. 7, No. 22, 23 November 2007, by Dore Gold [synopsis only - follow the link for the full paper]:

  • ... The Bush Letter of April 14, 2004, received by Israel as a quid pro quo for the Gaza Disengagement, introduced new elements into the Israeli-Palestinian peace process that completely superseded the Clinton proposals.
  • Prime Minister Sharon explained the significance of the Bush Letter to the Knesset on April 22, 2004: "There is American recognition that in any permanent status arrangement, there will be no return to the ‘67 borders. This recognition is to be expressed in two ways: understanding that the facts that have been established in the large settlement blocs are such that they do not permit a withdrawal to the ‘67 borders and implementation of the term ‘defensible borders.'"
  • There is a serious question about the exact standing of the Bush Letter on the eve of Annapolis. Secretary of State Rice stated on November 13, 2007: "I believe that most Israelis are ready to leave most of the - nearly all of the West Bank, just as they were ready to leave Gaza for the sake of peace." Yet all serious public opinion polls actually show strong Israeli support for retaining strategic areas of the West Bank, like the Jordan Valley.
  • It has been frequently stated, particularly in Washington, that, "We all know what the final outcome of an Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement will look like," an assertion usually followed by some reference to the Clinton proposals and the talks at Taba. Such statements try to introduce inevitability into the expected parameters of a peace settlement, even though they are based on a whole series of failed negotiating attempts seven years ago that cannot possibly bind the State of Israel, and completely ignore the fact of opposition by the General Staff of the Israel Defense Forces to the Clinton proposals as endangering Israel's security.
  • It is critical for Israeli diplomacy to protect the Bush Letter against those who seek to undercut and replace it with a new set of Israeli-Palestinian documents. Israelis have learned from their experience with Gaza what can happen to their most vital security interests if they are not safeguarded at the same time that far-reaching territorial concessions are made....

60 years on...Hamas dreams on..

From JPost, Nov 29, 2007:

Hamas on Thursday called on the UN to rescind the 1947 decision to partition Palestine into two states, one for Jews and one for Arabs. The group said in a statement, released on the 60th anniversary of the UN vote, that "Palestine is Arab Islamic land, from the river to the sea, including Jerusalem... there is no room in it for the Jews."

.....In [an interviewwith Army Radio], Peres described the first moments after the historic vote in 1947: "I was next to [Israel's first prime minister, David] Ben-Gurion. That night, when all the streets were filled with dancing and rejoicing, he said that tomorrow there would be bloodshed. I wasn't sure he was right… but he was in a very grave mood."

...."After the terrible Holocaust, there remained only a few thousand Jews who came out of the camps weighing 30-40 kilograms. We had to set up a state, and there was no other choice… Ben-Gurion stood at the edge of the abyss. He decided to take a chance - and he was right."

One of our best friends defeated

From JPost, by Isi Leibler, November 29, 2007:

...Many Australian Jews and Israelis will be deeply saddened to lose a leader whose genuine and unremitting friendship captured their hearts. John Howard was unquestionably one of Israel's greatest champions among world statesmen and a unique friend of the Jewish people.

...He regarded his principled support of Israel as a moral imperative ...There are few politicians who could state, as he recently did, that "the personal friendship I have for the Jewish people will never be diminished. It is something I value as part of my being and as part of what I have tried to do with my life."

The defeat of the Howard government will also see the retirement of Foreign Minister Alexander Downer and Treasurer Peter Costello, both of whom were enthusiastic supporters of Israel in their own right....

...There is considerable hope that the new Prime Minister Kevin Rudd will maintain Australia's tradition of friendship.... I did harbour reservations ...when I heard that Rudd would invariably tend to support the "more politically balanced" approach on the Middle East exemplified by European abstentions on Israel-related issues in United Nations bodies. Rudd also distanced himself from President George W. Bush on Iraq and has committed his new government to a phased withdrawal of the 550 Australian troops stationed there.

Yet by and large since assuming leadership of the Labor Party prior to the elections, Rudd has unquestionably displayed a warmer approach to Israel.....

.... on the eve of the elections, Rudd declared his adamant refusal to have any relationship with Hamas unless it reversed its refusal to recognize the Jewish state. He also announced that a Labor government would initiate steps to summon Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad before the International Court of Justice on charges of incitement to genocide....

....In a parallel move related to the needs of the Australian Jewish community, Rudd committed Labor to provide $36 million of additional support for Jewish schools over a four year period. This included funds to cover the special security related requirements of Jewish day schools. This precedent is of great importance to a Jewish community which prides itself on having achieved the highest pro rata enrolment in Jewish day schools in the world.

Needless to say, undertakings made prior to elections should not be taken for granted. Rudd will encounter opposition from within his party to the implementation of some of his commitments. He will certainly face opposition from the radical pro-Palestinian wing of the party, described by a former Jewish Labor Party Minister Barry Cohen as "distinctly anti Semitic." They will undoubtedly endeavor to undermine Rudd's pro-Israel stance. However their chances of success are slim for they are politically marginal......after such a landslide victory at the polls, Rudd is now in a unique position of strength to ensure that his policies are implemented.

To summarize, all indicators suggest that the new government will remain pro-Israel. Only time will tell the extent to which it will fully replicate the extraordinary support of the former Howard government and resist the temptation to become more "even handed" at the UN and other international forums....

Howard's achievements, Rudd's promise

From The Australian Jewish News, November 30, 2007, by Colin Rubenstein [my emphasis added - SL]:

The new Rudd Government gives every indication of not only seeking to match, but if possible, even improve on the excellent record of the Howard Government in terms of both willingness to act on Jewish domestic concerns and also Australia's support for Israel's security and peacemaking efforts...

....Firstly, historically, despite some exceptions, Australian governments of both political persuasions have gone out of their way to cultivate positive Australia-Israel relations. This has been the historic norm.

Secondly, that being said, the Howard Government has brought that relationship to new heights since 1996. Howard, his Foreign Minister Alexander Downer and Treasurer Peter Costello have made Australia one of Israel's closest and most consistent friends. This government has given Israel tremendous verbal support, articulated not only in speeches to the Jewish community, but also in the media.....

....At the United Nations, Howard's Australia fought to end institutional discrimination against Israel; played a leading role in the fight against the violent anti-Zionism mixed with antisemitism that marred the 2001 Durban "anti-racism" conference; voted to end funding for the series of permanent anti-Israeli bureaucracies built into the UN structure and actively lobbied others to do the same; and was willing to be in a small minority in promoting these reforms and opposing one-sided anti-Israel resolutions.

And it should not be forgotten that at the start of the 2003 war in Iraq, Australia primarily contributed elite Special Air Service (SAS) troops whose main role, successfully executed, was to penetrate behind Iraqi lines and prevent the launching of Scud missiles against Israel.

Foreign policy went almost unmentioned during this election campaign, and there is likely to be more continuity than major reversals in Australian foreign policy in general. Moreover, both Rudd and most of his key team members, as their public statements indicate, are committed and longstanding friends of Israel. There is every chance the new ALP government will work to maintain the uniquely close and supportive relations with Israel of the last 11 years, and Kevin Rudd himself fully intends to do this....

....One area to be watched in this regard will be United Nations voting, where we hope Prime Minister-elect Rudd will make sure that Australia does not return to a pattern of European-style abstention on key votes, such as those on the security fence and the funding of anti-Israel bureaucracies within the UN (despite an earlier view that Australia should have abstained from the 2005 vote condemning the security barrier, which Australia courageously opposed).

On the other hand, because the ALP will likely make the UN a larger focus in Australian foreign policy, it has additional incentives to make UN reform a priority - including weakening its institutionalised biases against Israel. And this is certainly in Israel's interest, as well as Australia's.

Further, the suggestion by Kevin Rudd that Australia could play a leading role in international efforts to indict Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for incitement to genocide is also promising. Pursuing such a legal avenue is an important additional diplomatic tool that can increase pressure on the Iranian regime when combined with other diplomatic measures, including especially increased economic sanctions.

In short, there is every reason to believe that the new Rudd Government will continue Australia's tradition of a warm, supportive relationship with the Jewish community and Israel, and succeed in maintaining, perhaps even exceeding, the exceptional support and closeness that characterised the Howard era.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Letting Syria Drill a Hole in the Lifeboat

From GLORIA, by Barry Rubin, November 25, 2007:

.... what is the worst mistake that could be made to ensure that an already difficult situation becomes worse? Answer: invite Syria.

.... Palestinian leaders ...are horrified by Damascus getting equal time [to the Palestinian issue].

...Iraq? Syria is the main sponsor of the terrorist insurgency. It has a deep interest in ensuring that no moderate, stable, pro-Western regime takes root in [Iraq].

The radical alliance? Syria is a leading factor in the problem, a partner with Iran for twenty years. Anyone who believes that Damascus can be split from Tehran understands nothing about the mutual benefits Syria gets from the alliance, far greater than anything the West could possibly give to its dictator President Bashar al-Asad.

Iranian nuclear? When Iran gets atomic weapons it will be a great day for Syria, ensuring its strategic protection, damaging Western influence, and helping the radical Islamist cause that Syria backs.

American credibility? It undermines years of U.S. efforts to pressure Bashar away from radical adventurism. Syria can now show that it can kill Americans soldiers in Iraq, murder democratic Lebanese politicians, foment Hamas’s takeover of the Gaza Strip, and sponsor Hizballah’s effort to seize power in Lebanon without incurring any serious risk or cost.

On the contrary, Syria is now making demands on the United States for concessions ....This is happening at the very moment when plans for an international trial of Syrian leaders for political assassinations in Lebanon is gathering momentum, as Syria’s campaign to install a puppet government in Beirut has just been foiled.

.... Syria [is] the main Arab sponsor of Hamas, a state working tirelessly to throw out the current Palestinian leadership and raise the level of Arab-Israeli violence.

Annapolis Conference

From a statement by President George W. Bush, Memorial Hall, United States Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland, November 27, 2007 and published on the Department of State Web site (excerpts of the key points only):

PRESIDENT BUSH: .... I'm about to read a statement that was agreed upon by our distinguished guests:

The representatives of the government of the state of Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization.... concluded the following joint understanding.

We express our determination to bring an end to bloodshed, suffering and decades of conflict between our peoples; to usher in a new era of peace....

....we agree to immediately launch good-faith bilateral negotiations in order to conclude a peace treaty, resolving all outstanding issues....

We agree to engage in vigorous, ongoing and continuous negotiations, and shall make every effort to conclude an agreement before the end of 2008......

....President Abbas and Prime Minister Olmert will continue to meet on a bi-weekly basis ....

...The parties also commit to immediately implement their respective obligations under the performance-based road map ...and agree to form an American, Palestinian and Israeli mechanism, led by the United States, to follow up on the implementation of the road map.

The parties further commit to continue the implementation of the ongoing obligations of the road map until they reach a peace treaty. The United States will monitor and judge the fulfillment of the commitment of both sides of the road map. Unless otherwise agreed by the parties, implementation of the future peace treaty will be subject to the implementation of the road map, as judged by the United States.

Congratulations for your strong leadership. (Applause.)

....Our purpose here in Annapolis is not to conclude an agreement. Rather, it is to launch negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians..... I believe now is precisely the right time to begin these negotiations -- for a number of reasons:

First, the time is right because Palestinians and Israelis have leaders who are determined to achieve peace. ....

Second, the time is right because a battle is underway for the future of the Middle East -- and we must not cede victory to the extremists..... if Palestinian reformers cannot deliver on this hopeful vision, then the forces of extremism and terror will be strengthened....

Third, the time is right because the world understands the urgency of supporting these negotiations......

....For these negotiations to succeed, the Palestinians must do their part..... They must demonstrate that a Palestinian state will ....dismantle the infrastructure of terror.....

The Israelis must do their part. They must show the world that they are ready to begin -- to bring an end to the occupation that began in 1967 through a negotiated settlement....

...Arab states also have a vital role to play..... All Arab states should show their strong support for the government of President Abbas -- and ....should also reach out to Israel, work toward the normalization of relations, and demonstrate in both word and deed that they believe that Israel and its people have a permanent home in the Middle East.....

Finally, the international community has important responsibilities....With strong backing from those gathered here, the Palestinian government can build the free institutions that will support a free Palestinian state.

The United States will help Palestinian leaders build these free institutions -- and the United States will keep its commitment to the security of Israel as a Jewish state and homeland for the Jewish people....