Saturday, June 20, 2009

Two-state double standard

From a New York Daily News Editorial, Wednesday, June 17th 2009:

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stepped up this week and accepted the idea of a Palestinian state as part of a Mideast peace settlement. His good deed did not go unpunished.

In return for envisioning "two people ... side by side in amity and mutual respect," Netanyahu was branded, in far too many corners, as an obstacle to peace for placing what were called "conditions" on his offer.

Chief among them was a call for Palestinian demilitarization and "public, binding and unequivocal" Palestinian recognition that Israel is "the state of the Jewish people."

How dare he insist on the very survival of his country!

The negative responses to Netanyahu's outstretched hand show how dangerously and successfully the Palestinians have waged the propaganda war to portray Israel as an oppressor rather than the target of a relentless campaign to wipe it off the map.

...the chief Palestinian negotiator ran away from the idea of negotiating with Netanyahu, declaring that the prime minister's security concerns made it impossible even to consider discussions. Get it? If it doesn't make Israel more vulnerable, Saeb Erekat doesn't want to talk about it.

Meanwhile, President Obama continued the wobbliness he has shown since his Cairo speech. Saying he detected only "some positive movement" in Netanyahu's address, Obama placed both sides on an extraordinarily imbalanced moral scale: Israel was responsible for halting settlements that irk the Palestinians, while the Palestinians were responsible for an "end to violence" against Israel.

Oh, that.

Khamenei Threatens "bloodshed and chaos”

From The New York Times, June 20, 2009, by NAZILA FATHI and ALAN COWELL:

TEHRAN — Taking an unequivocal stand against days of mass protests, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, sternly warned opposition supporters [in a sermon] on Friday to stay off the streets and raised the prospect of violence if their defiant, vast demonstrations continued.

He said bluntly that opposition leaders would be “responsible for bloodshed and chaos” if they did not stop further rallies in protest of last week’s disputed presidential election.

...In Washington, both the House and Senate overwhelmingly passed resolutions condemning the Iranian government’s crackdown on the opposition.

...Mr. Obama said he was “very concerned based on some of the tenor — and tone of the statements that have been made,” and that the government of Iran should recognize that “the world is watching.”

...Just hours after the polls closed last Friday, Iranian election authorities declared a landslide victory for the incumbent, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. ...Khamenei denied the opposition’s accusations that the vote was rigged...

...The opposition, led mainly by one of the declared losing candidates, Mir Hussein Moussavi, had called for or encouraged the huge silent marches in Tehran for the last four days. There was no immediate response from Mr. Moussavi.

But opposition Web sites called another large rally for Saturday afternoon, setting the stage for a confrontation between protesters and security forces.

...the sermon showed that Iran was in the grips of what one person called “an all-or-nothing showdown” between the authorities and reformists.

...[UK] Prime Minister Gordon Brown stepped up his public criticism. ...the BBC announced that it was using two extra satellites broadcast its Persian-language service into Iran to restore the signal after days of jamming by Iranian authorities.

...It was not clear whether Iran’s government, made up of fractious power centers, was pursuing a calculated strategy or if the moves reflected internal disagreements, or an uncertainty not apparent in Ayatollah Khamenei’s address.

Also uncertain was the role being played by a former Iranian president, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who supported Mr. Moussavi and is in a power struggle with Ayatollah Khamenei. There were unconfirmed reports Thursday that two of his children had been banned from leaving the country because of their role in helping the protesters...

Israel's rare opportunity.

From Middle East and Terrorism Blog, Friday, June 19, 2009, by Caroline B. Glick, senior Middle East Fellow at the Center for Security Policy in Washington, DC and the deputy managing editor of The Jerusalem Post:

Why the Jewish State must assert itself in Iran's affairs

...The revolutionary atmosphere building in Iran presents Israel with a prospect it has rarely confronted...

...There is no reason for Israel to believe that a Mousavi government will be more inclined to end Iran's race to the bomb or diminish its support for terror groups like Hizbullah and Hamas than Ahmadinejad's government is. As Iranian prime minister in the 1980s, Mousavi was a major instigator of Iran's nuclear program and he oversaw the establishment of Hizbullah and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

...When Khamenei embraced the obviously falsified official election results as a "divine victory" for Ahmadinejad, Mousavi was widely expected by Western observers to accept the dictator's verdict. When instead Mousavi sided with his own supporters who took to the streets to oppose their disenfranchisement, Mousavi became a revolutionary. Whether he had planned to do so or not, a week ago Mousavi became an enemy of the regime.

The significance of Mousavi's decision could not be more profound. As Michael Ledeen from the Foundation for Defense of Democracies wrote, last Friday night Mousavi tied his personal survival to the success of the protesters — and pitted his life against Khamenei's. In Ledeen's words, "Both Khamenei and Mousavi — the two opposed icons of the moment, at least — know that they will either win or die."

For their part, by the end of this week, the protesters themselves had been transformed. If last week they were simply angry that they had been ignored, by Thursday they had become a revolutionary force apparently dedicated to the overthrow of the regime. This was made clear by a list of demands circulating among the protesters on Wednesday. As Pepe Escobar reported in Thursday's Asia Times, the protesters demands include Khamenei's removal from power, the dissolution of the secret police, the reform of the constitution under anti-regime Ayatollah Hossein Montazeri who has been living under house arrest for the past twelve years, and the installation of Mousavi as president. These demands make clear where the protesters are leading. They are leading to the overthrow of one of the most heinous regimes on the face of the earth and its replacement by a liberal democracy.

As far as Israel is concerned, this is a win-win situation. If the protesters successfully overthrow the regime, they will have neutralized the greatest security threat facing the Jewish state. And if they fail, Israel will still probably be better off than it is today. For if the mullahs violently repress the pro-democracy dissidents, the Obama administration will be hard-pressed to legitimize their blood bath by embracing them as negotiating partners.

Were Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to publicly announce Israel's support for the protesters, Israel would stand to gain politically in a number of ways. First and foremost, it would be doing the right thing morally and so would earn the respect of millions of people throughout the world who are dismayed at their own governments' silence in the face of the brave Iranian protesters risking their lives for freedom.

Moreover, by acting as the loudest and first democratic champion of the protesters, Israel would catapult itself to the forefront of the campaign for democracy in the Muslim world. Doing so would make it far easier for Israel's representatives throughout the world to defend against false accusations by self-described human rights organizations that Israel is a human rights abuser.

Beyond that, Israel would be building an important alliance with the Iranian people themselves. Contrary to what the mullahs would have us believe, Iranians by and large do not share the widespread hatred of Israel and the Jews that their regime promotes and the Arab world embraces. Over the years, Iranian regime opponents — from the students to the trade unionists to women's rights activists to minority Kurds, Azeris, Ahwaz Arabs and Baluchis — have all appealed to Israel for support. Israel Radio in Farsi, which broadcasts into Iran daily, has more than a million regular listeners.

Were Netanyahu to explain that the same mullahs who seek to disenfranchise and repress the Iranian people seek to destroy Israel with nuclear bombs; were he to call for Iran to stop financing Hamas and Hizbullah terrorists who are reportedly now deployed in Iran to brutalize the protesters, and instead invest in the Iranian economy for the benefit of Iran's people, he would be giving a message that already resonates with the people of Iran.

Finally, Israeli outreach to the Iranian people now struggling to overthrow the regime would expose the Obama administration's effective support for the mullahs against their people in all its absurdity and moral blindness. ...Clinton and Obama would be in no position to attack Israel for supporting Iranian dissidents demanding freedom. And their stammering reaction would make their attacks against Jewish building in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria look ever more ridiculous.

Although Israel is far away from Iran, it has significant capacity to help the demonstrators. It could use its communication satellites to break through the communications blackout the regime has attempted to enforce. Its internet capabilities can be offered to the protesters to reopen closed networks. Israel could temporarily expand its radio broadcasts into the country and allow its airwaves to be used to broadcast events on the ground in real time so that protesters won't have to rely on word of mouth to know what is happening or where things are leading.

...The mullahs can only concentrate on so much at once. If they are preoccupied with domestic dissent, they will have less time to devote to Hamas and Hizbullah. If they are busy quelling armed insurrections by Kurds or Azeris or Baluchis, they will have less time to devote to negotiating the purchase of the S-300 anti-aircraft system with Russia, or keeping tabs on their nuclear scientists. Strategically, Israel stands only to gain — either marginally or massively - from the ayatollahs' discomfort...

Friday, June 19, 2009

Palestinians choosing wrongly ...again

From the Wall Street Journal, JUNE 18, 2009:

Israel's PM gets no credit for bending on a two-state solution

... having a "hardline" Israeli Prime Minster call for a freeze on new settlement construction and propose immediate negotiations in order to create a Palestinian state might be seen as a breakthrough...

...Mr. Netanyahu broke with much of his own Likud party's rank-and-file to acknowledge Israel's interest in an independent Palestine. ... "... two free peoples living side by side in this small land, with good neighborly relations and mutual respect, each with its flag, anthem and government, with neither one threatening its neighbor's security and existence."

To this, the Palestinian reaction was to say the speech was "worthless," "nothing but a hoax," that it had "destroyed all peace initiatives and [chances for] a solution," and that Mr. Netanyahu was "a liar and a crook." And that was the reaction among the Palestinian moderates. Only Hamas and the Huffington Post were more withering.

...Mr. Netanyahu ... insisted the state be demilitarized; that Palestinian refugees not be resettled within Israel; and that Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state.

...The transformation of the Gaza Strip into an armed and hostile Hamas enclave is evidence enough of why any future Palestinian state would have to be demilitarized. And that was after Israel uprooted its settlements.

Nor should the thought of Israel as a Jewish state be controversial: That's how it was conceived by the U.N. resolution that helped bring it into existence, and that's how it was recognized by Harry Truman minutes after it declared independence. The idea that a state can privilege a certain religion isn't strange, either -- witness the Church of England -- and needn't be invidious as long as it respects the religious traditions of all its citizens, as Israel does. As for the refugees, it's hard to understand the logic of simultaneously demanding a Palestinian state, free of Jewish settlements, while also insisting on Israel itself as a second Palestinian homeland.

Responding to Mr. Netanyahu's speech, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs called it an "important step forward," but offered little more than that. The Administration could help matters more by providing the Israelis with greater assurances that they won't simultaneously demand further Israeli concessions while doing nothing serious to stop Iran -- a leading patron of Hamas -- from getting nuclear weapons. A Palestinian state poses enough challenges to Israeli security without it being an atomic spearpoint.

As for the Palestinians, for too long they have practiced a kind of fantasy politics, in which all right was on their side, concession was dishonor, and mistakes never had consequences. It hasn't earned them much. Mr. Netanyahu's speech now offers them the choice between fantasy and statehood. Judging from early reactions, they're choosing wrongly again.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Binyamin Netanyahu's Bar Ilan speech

Excerpts of Binyamin Netanyahu's Bar Ilan speech (published in full in THE JERUSALEM POST, Jun. 14, 2009) [my emphasis added - SL]:

Honored guests, citizens of Israel.

... we face three immense challenges - the Iranian threat, the economic crisis and the advancement of peace.

...The greatest danger confronting Israel, the Middle East, the entire world and human race, is the nexus between radical Islam and nuclear weapons....

... the third challenge, so exceedingly important, is the advancement of peace. I also spoke about this with President Obama, and I fully support the idea of a regional peace that he is leading.

...I call on the Arab countries to cooperate with the Palestinians and with us to advance an economic peace. An economic peace is not a substitute for a political peace, but an important element to achieving it. Together, we can undertake projects to overcome the scarcities of our region, like water desalination, or to maximize its advantages, like developing solar energy, or laying gas and petroleum lines, and transportation links between Asia, Africa and Europe.

...I call on the talented entrepreneurs of the Arab world to come and invest here and to assist the Palestinians - and us - in spurring the economy.

Together, we can develop industrial areas that will generate thousands of jobs and create tourist sites that will attract millions of visitors eager to walk in the footsteps of history - in Nazareth and in Bethlehem, around the walls of Jericho and the walls of Jerusalem, on the banks of the Sea of Galilee and the baptismal site of the Jordan.

...I turn to you, our Palestinian neighbors, led by the Palestinian Authority, and I say: Let's begin negotiations immediately without preconditions.

Israel is obligated by its international commitments and expects all parties to keep their commitments.

We want to live with you in peace, as good neighbors...

...Why has this conflict continued for more than 60 years? ...the simple truth is that the root of the conflict was, and remains, the refusal to recognize the right of the Jewish people to a state of their own, in their historic homeland.

In 1947, when the United Nations proposed the partition plan of a Jewish state and an Arab state, the entire Arab world rejected the resolution. The Jewish community, by contrast, welcomed it by dancing and rejoicing.

The Arabs rejected any Jewish state, in any borders.

Those who think that the continued enmity toward Israel is a product of our presence in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, is confusing cause and consequence.

The attacks against us began in the 1920s, escalated into a comprehensive attack in 1948 with the declaration of Israel's independence, continued with the fedayeen attacks in the 1950s, and climaxed in 1967, on the eve of the Six Day War, in an attempt to tighten a noose around the neck of the State of Israel.

All this occurred during the 50 years before a single Israeli soldier ever set foot in Judea and Samaria.

...Many good people have told us that withdrawal from territories is the key to peace with the Palestinians. ...But the fact is that every withdrawal was met with massive waves of terror, by suicide bombers and thousands of missiles.

...The claim that territorial withdrawals will bring peace with the Palestinians, or at least advance peace, has up till now not stood the test of reality.

In addition to this, Hamas in the South, like Hizbullah in the North, repeatedly proclaims its commitment to "liberate" the Israeli cities of Ashkelon, Beersheba, Acre and Haifa.

Territorial withdrawals have not lessened the hatred, and to our regret, Palestinian moderates are not yet ready to say the simple words: Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people, and it will stay that way.

...a fundamental prerequisite for ending the conflict is a public, binding and unequivocal Palestinian recognition of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people.

To vest this declaration with practical meaning, there must also be a clear understanding that the Palestinian refugee problem will be resolved outside Israel's borders. For it is clear that any demand for resettling Palestinian refugees within Israel undermines Israel's continued existence as the state of the Jewish people.

The Palestinian refugee problem must be solved, and it can be solved, as we ourselves proved in a similar situation. Tiny Israel successfully absorbed tens [actually hundreds - SL] of thousands of Jewish refugees who left their homes and belongings in Arab countries.

... the connection between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel has lasted for more than 3,500 years. Judea and Samaria, the places where Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, David and Solomon, and Isaiah and Jeremiah lived, are not alien to us. This is the land of our forefathers.

The right of the Jewish people to a state in the Land of Israel does not derive from the catastrophes that have plagued our people. True, for 2,000 years, the Jewish people suffered expulsions, pogroms, blood libels and massacres which culminated in a Holocaust - a suffering which has no parallel in human history.

...This tragic history of powerlessness explains why the Jewish people need a sovereign power of self-defense.

But our right to build our sovereign state here, in the land of Israel, arises from one simple fact: This is the homeland of the Jewish people, this is where our identity was forged.

...within this homeland lives a large Palestinian community. We do not want to rule over them, we do not want to govern their lives, we do not want to impose either our flag or our culture on them.

In my vision of peace, in this small land of ours, two peoples live freely, side-by-side, in amity and mutual respect. Each will have its own flag, its own national anthem, its own government. Neither will threaten the security or survival of the other.

...In order to achieve peace, we must ensure that Palestinians will not be able to import missiles into their territory, to field an army, to close their airspace to us, or to make pacts with the likes of Hizbullah and Iran. ...It is impossible to expect us to agree in advance to the principle of a Palestinian state without assurances that this state will be demilitarized.

On a matter so critical to the existence of Israel, we must first have our security needs addressed. ...Without this, sooner or later, these territories will become another Hamastan. And that we cannot accept.

...If we receive this guarantee regarding demilitarization and Israel's security needs, and if the Palestinians recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people, then we will be ready in a future peace agreement to reach a solution where a demilitarized Palestinian state exists alongside the Jewish state.

...Israel needs defensible borders, and Jerusalem must remain the united capital of Israel with continued religious freedom for all faiths.

The territorial question will be discussed as part of the final peace agreement. In the meantime, we have no intention of building new settlements or of expropriating additional land for existing settlements.

But there is a need to enable the residents to live normal lives, to allow mothers and fathers to raise their children like families elsewhere. The settlers are neither the enemies of the people nor the enemies of peace. Rather, they are an integral part of our people, a principled, pioneering and Zionist public.

Unity among us is essential and will help us achieve reconciliation with our neighbors. That reconciliation must already begin by altering existing realities. I believe that a strong Palestinian economy will strengthen peace.

If the Palestinians turn toward peace - in fighting terror, in strengthening governance and the rule of law, in educating their children for peace and in stopping incitement against Israel - we will do our part in making every effort to facilitate freedom of movement and access, and to enable them to develop their economy. All of this will help us advance a peace treaty between us.

Above all else, the Palestinians must decide between the path of peace and the path of Hamas. The Palestinian Authority will have to establish the rule of law in Gaza and overcome Hamas. Israel will not sit at the negotiating table with terrorists who seek their destruction.

Hamas will not even allow the Red Cross to visit our kidnapped soldier Gilad Schalit, who has spent three years in captivity, cut off from his parents, his family and his people. We are committed to bringing him home, healthy and safe.

With a Palestinian leadership committed to peace, with the active participation of the Arab world, and the support of the United States and the international community, there is no reason why we cannot achieve a breakthrough to peace....

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Iran's Stolen Election : is there no limit?

From GLORIA, June 14, 2009, by Barry Rubin* :

Many Western analysts and journalists are treating the stolen election in Iran as something of no international significance...

.... I certainly expected Ahmadinjad to win but figured the regime would play out the game. He'd either genuinely gain victory in the second round or they'd change just enough votes to ensure his victory. What no one expected is that the regime would tear up the whole process like this. Their brazen way of doing so--if you don't like it you can go to hell, we're going to do whatever we want, and we don't care what anyone thinks--signals to me that this ruling group is even more risk-taking and irresponsible than it previously appeared. extremist, aggressive dictatorship.

...Is a regime that just committed itself irrevocably to the most extreme faction, most radical ideology, and most repressive control over the country going to compromise with the West on nuclear weapons or anything else?

Of course not...

... before taking this step, the regime's leaders calculated they had nothing to lose internationally. ...they hadn't planned on making nice with the West ...they don't take Western pressure--at a time when there's so much talk of engagement, apology, and appeasement in the air--as a serious threat?

So now are we going to see an all-out effort to conciliate with the Islamist regime which has just signalled its intentions in the clearest possible terms? For goodness sake, is there truly no limit?

* Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal.

Clinton Reverses: Israel on its Own With Iran

From, 14/6/09:

In a reversal of her stated position as a presidential candidate, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton revealed last week that an Iranian attack on Israel would no longer be considered as an attack on America.

Speaking during an interview on ABC TV she said that the Iranians could expect “retaliation” but America was not committing itself to come to Israel's defense. Interviewer and White House Correspondent George Stephanopoulos reminded Clinton of her previous position by playing a 2008 video recording in which she states: "I would make it clear to the Iranians that an attack on Israel would incur massive retaliation from the United States.”

When asked if her new statement was official U.S. policy, Clinton dodged the question, "I think it is U.S. policy to the extent that we have alliances and understandings with a number of nations. I don't think there is any doubt in anyone's mind that, were Israel to suffer a nuclear attack by Iran, there would be retaliation." Stephanopoulos pressed her: "By the United States?" But Clinton declined to commit: "Well, I think there would be retaliation.”