Saturday, July 18, 2009

Arab prince: "Arabs Need to Talk to the Israelis"

From The Washington Post, Thursday, July 16, 2009, by Shaikh Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa, crown prince of Bahrain:

We need fresh thinking if the Arab Peace Initiative is to have the impact it deserves on the crisis that needlessly impoverishes Palestinians and endangers Israel's security.

This crisis is not a zero-sum game. For one side to win, the other does not have to lose.

The peace dividend for the entire Middle East is potentially immense. So why have we not gotten anywhere?

...An Israeli might be forgiven for thinking that every Muslim voice is raised in hatred, because that is usually the only one he hears...

Essentially, we have not done a good enough job demonstrating to Israelis how our initiative can form part of a peace between equals in a troubled land holy to three great faiths. Others have been less reticent, recognizing that our success would threaten their vested interest in keeping Palestinians and Israelis at each other's throats. They want victims to stay victims so they can be manipulated as proxies in a wider game for power. The rest of us -- the overwhelming majority -- have the opposite interest.

... peace will bring prosperity. Already, the six oil and gas nations of the Gulf Cooperation Council have grown into a powerful trillion-dollar market. Removing the ongoing threat of death and destruction would open the road to an era of enterprise, partnership and development on an even greater scale for the region at large.

...The wasted years of deadlock have conditioned Israelis to take on a fortress mentality that automatically casts all Palestinians as the enemy -- and not as the ordinary, decent human beings they are.

Speaking out matters, but it is not enough. Our governments and all stakeholders also must be ready to carry out practical measures to help ease the day-to-day hardship of Palestinian lives.

The two communities in the Holy Land are not fated to be enemies. What can unite them tomorrow is potentially bigger than what divides them today.

Both sides need help from their friends, in the form of constructive engagement, to reach a just settlement.

...We must stop the small-minded waiting game in which each side refuses to budge until the other side makes the first move. We've got to be bigger than that. All sides need to take simultaneous, good-faith action if peace is to have a chance.

A real, lasting peace requires comprehensive engagement and reconciliation at the human level. This will happen only if we address and settle the core issues dividing the Arab and the Israeli peoples...The fact that this has not yet happened helps to explain why the Jordanian and Egyptian peace accords with Israel are cold. They have not been comprehensive.

...Once we achieve peace, trade will follow. We can then create a "virtuous circle," because trade will create its own momentum. By putting real money into people's hands and giving them real power over their lives, trade will help ensure the durability of peace. The day-to-day experience would move minds and gradually build a relationship of trust and mutual interest, without which long-term peacemaking is impossible.

When stability pays, conflict becomes too costly. We must do more, now, to achieve peace.

Moderate?...which moderate?

From The US House of Representatives web page of Congressman Howard Berman representing the 28th District of California, July 15:

Washington, D.C. - Howard L. Berman (D-CA), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, today issued this statement regarding proposed unconditional peace talks between Israeli and Palestinian authorities:

I am deeply disappointed that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has consistently rejected Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s call for unconditional talks on the Palestinian issue.

As everyone familiar with Israeli politics knows, Netanyahu has taken a politically courageous and substantively important step in endorsing the idea of ‘two states for two peoples,’ and he has also taken significant steps to ease travel and access in the West Bank by dismantling numerous checkpoints and roadblocks.

Nevertheless, Abbas is demanding that Netanyahu establish a settlement freeze as a condition for a meeting. This is a condition Abbas never required of Netanyahu’s predecessor Ehud Olmert.

Moreover, in the context of bilateral talks, Abbas could raise his settlement concerns directly with Netanyahu – concerns which, Abbas knows, are being discussed intensively between U.S. and Israeli officials.

For the sake of re-establishing an Israeli-Palestinian dialogue and helping to create an environment of peace, I call on President Abbas immediately to accept Prime Minister Netanyahu’s proposal for unconditional talks on peace.

Arab Intransigence

From The Jewish Press, Jul 15 2009, by P. David Hornik:

... this week ...Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas told reporters in Ramallah that talks with the Netanyahu government are no-go until Israel ...freezes all construction in West Bank settlements.

...Abbas's insistence on a total construction freeze ...seems strange, since he held intensive talks with the previous government of Ehud Olmert, even as construction was continuing in larger settlements.

...Abbas is counting on the Obama administration to "deliver" Israel ...and sees no point in resuming negotiations ....

... the fact remains: the Israeli prime minister has called for negotiations, and the Palestinian president has responded with a flat-out no.

If it were the reverse - "Netanyahu Refuses to Meet with Palestinians" - it would mean big news, a crisis in U.S.-Israeli relations. But portraying Netanyahu as conciliatory and Abbas as intransigent - even if this is what has actually happened - goes so against the media grain and the dominant political conceptions, that the contrast gets downplayed and generally ignored.

...Israel recently gave increased security control to Palestinian battalions in four West Bank cities. The battalions are trained in Jordan under U.S. Lt.-Gen. Keith Dayton, and three more are currently under training there, with a total of ten supposed to be deployed in the West Bank by 2012.

This at a time when Palestinian Authority TV recently boasted, as part of a "competition" with Hamas, about the lynch murder of two off-duty Israeli soldiers in Ramallah in 2000, and a mainstream activist from Abbas's Fatah told PA TV that "It has been said that we are negotiating for peace, but our goal has never been peace. Peace is a means; the goal is Palestine."
Meanwhile, the Fatah flag still shows all of Israel under rifles; children in the PA are routinely taught that Israeli cities within the 1967 borders are "Palestinian cities"; and the PA recently named a computer center after Dalal Mughrabi, a female terrorist who led a 1978 bus hijacking in Israel that killed 37 civilians including 12 children.

But with the term "Palestinian intransigence" still not having been invented, it doesn't even merit a blip.

Recently it was reported that Israel's haredi population faces a major housing crunch, with "thousands of young couples living in converted storage rooms, garages, parking lots and even garbage bin rooms because they have no other choice." The reason: construction in two large haredi West Bank settlements, Modi'in Illit and Betar Illit, has already been frozen and they have nowhere to go. The reason for that: Israel is demanded to hold West Bank land in perpetuity for the Palestinians no matter how they behave - no matter how much terrorism, hate education, glorification of terrorism, incitement.

Prime Minister Netanyahu appears to have adopted an approach of playing along with the game while trying to avoid being perceived as an obstacle to peace.

Under a positive scenario, he would succeed in holding both the Palestinians and the Obama administration at bay while achieving reasonable harmony with the latter.

Under a negative scenario, by 2012 the murderously hostile - as ever - Palestinian Authority would be bristling with ten armed battalions after another rash Israeli retreat.

Peace for peace (not land for peace)

I'm sick of all the useless fiddling with lines on maps, and I fear the Obama-as-messiah movement seeking a US-imposed "peace".

You can’t impose peace. While the Arab leaders continue to vilify Jews, incite hatred and glorify martyrdom, they cannot make peace and no-one else can make it for them.

The solution doesn’t lie in lines on maps, nor “compromise” imposed by outside parties.

At the time of the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine, there were two quite different reactions from the Arabs of the region.

On the one hand leaders (and there were many of them) like Hussein, Sharif of Mecca, who was the King of Syria and later King of Iraq, called on the Arab population in Palestine to welcome the Jews as brothers and to cooperate with them for the common good.

His son, the Emir Faisal, signed a treaty with Dr. Chaim Weizmann in February 1919, in which it was taken for granted that western Palestine (west of the Jordan River) was to be a Jewish state. Regarding that Agreement, Emir Faisal wrote the following (to Harvard Law School Dean and later US Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter): "We Arabs, especially the educated among us, look with the deepest sympathy on the Zionist movement. ...We will do our best, in so far as we are concerned, to help them through: we will wish the Jews a most hearty welcome home. … The Jewish movement is national and not imperialist. Our movement is national and not imperialist, and there is room in Syria for us both. Indeed, I think that neither can be a real success without the other."

On the other hand the British-appointed Mufti of Jerusalem, the Haj Amin al-Husseini, opposed Jewish immigration to Palestine. He engineered the bloody riots against Jews in 1929 and 1936. He also instituted assassinations and suicide bombings, targeting Arabs who refused to support his violent opposition to the Jews.

Thus a rejectionist Arab leadership took hold, violently persecuted Jews, and launched a relentless campaign, against the interests of their own people, to obliterate the Jewish national revival ….BEFORE any “occupation” and even before the establishment of the State of Israel (not as a "resistance" to it).

They flatly rejected the restoration of the Jewish homeland as mandated by the League of Nations in 1920. Even after Jordan was created from 80% of the British Mandate of Palestine, they rejected the still-legally-valid-today international right of Jewish settlement ANYWHERE in western Palestine (the remaining 20%, west of the Jordan River). They also rejected the 1937 Peel Commission proposal to partition western Palestine.

The Mufti later went on to collaborate with Hitler and planned with him to set up a death camp in Cairo modelled on those in Europe. Fortunately the Allies, largely thanks to the Australian and new Zealand Army Corps (ANZACs), held the Nazi forces off at Tobruk and turned Rommel back at El-Alemein in North Africa, otherwise we would have seen the Jews in Israel also fall victim to the Nazi Death Camp industry at a subsidiary in Cairo.

But for the Arabs' violent attempt to abort the 1947 UN partition of western Palestine, there would have been no war, no dislocation and no “Palestinian Refugees” (as uniquely defined by UNRWA) in the first place.

After the war, the Mufti spent the rest of his life fomenting violence against Israel. In 1948 he issued a fatwa: "I declare a Holy War, My Muslim Brothers! Murder the Jews! Murder them all!"

And the rejection of Jews (not just Israel, but Jews) continues to this day.

In 1949, Israel offered to return captured land as part of a formal peace agreement. Arab rulers refused.

From 1948 to 1967, Israel did not control the West Bank and Gaza.

The Islamo-totalitarian Yasir Arafat continued the legacy of his relative, the Islamo-fascist Mufti. The PLO could have demanded an independent state in the West Bank and Gaza from Jordan and Egypt, but did not. Had they sought peace and reconciliation, instead of rejection and global terrorism, a Palestinian state could have been established from the 1960’s.

They rejected the offer of Palestinian autonomy in the 1979 Egypt-Israel peace negotiations. They scuttled the Oslo process that began in 1993 leading toward the creation of a Palestinian state, by violating their commitments. In 2000, they also rejected the offer at Camp David to create a Palestinian state.

And they rejected an even better offer from caretaker-prime-minister Olmert in 2008.

The fact that now in 2009 they demand that the West Bank be ethnically cleansed of Jews, just emphasises their century-old rejection of co-existence with Jews.

Since the 1920s, misguided, self-serving Arab leaders have treated their own constituents as political pawns and cannon fodder, fed on hatred and false hope; and squandered repeated opportunities for statehood and economic progress.

The answer is not lines on maps, nor Obama, nor Mitchell …or the Messiah.

It is a new and fundamentally different Arab leadership.

Friday, July 17, 2009

'Breaking the Silence' vs. 'Soldiers Speak Out' on Cast Lead

From Arutz Sheva (, 17/7/09, by Maayana Miskin:

... Two organizations have come out with video testimony from IDF soldiers reporting what they saw and heard during the intense fighting.

The first group, Soldiers Speak Out, has collected several testimonies in English in which soldiers recall witnessing war crimes perpetrated by Hamas. One describes finding rocket launchers in an ambulance whose drivers claimed to be transporting an elderly patient.

Others list the measures they took to protect Arab civilians, from withholding fire on terrorists to tidying up civilian homes after entering them for combat purposes.

The second group, Breaking the Silence (Shovrim Shtika), has collected several testimonies of soldiers saying they saw soldiers causing damage to Arab property, or heard rumors that Arab civilians were used as human shields. Unlike the Soldiers Speak Out videos, the charges set forth by Breaking the Silence were widely reported by international media outlets, including the Associated Press, Reuters, AFP, CNN and The Guardian.

While Soldiers Speak Out testimonies were given by soldiers who used their full names and identified themselves, the Breaking the Silence videos were given anonymously, and soldiers' faces were blurred.

In March of this year, several major Israeli and international media outlets published testimony from IDF soldiers claiming that the army had committed war crimes in Gaza. Subsequent investigations showed that the reports were based on rumors and media reports, and that none of the soldiers who made serious allegations regarding harm to Arab civilians had witnessed any such incidents themselves.

IDF: Allegations Unproven
IDF officials slammed the Breaking the Silence videos on Wednesday, as the accounts were eagerly spread by media worldwide. “The IDF regrets the fact that a human rights organization would again present to the country and the world a report containing anonymous, generalized testimony without checking the facts or their reliability,” an official statement said.

Golani Brigade Commander Avi Peled pointed out that one of the soldiers who made the most serious allegations in his testimony was not in Gaza at the time that the events he reported allegedly took place. The testimony, in which the soldier claimed that Arab civilians had been used by the IDF as human shields, was based entirely on rumors and second- and third-hand accounts, Peled said....

Funding for Allegations from EU
... Like many other Israel-based organizations known for making allegations against the IDF and Israelis in Judea and Samaria, “Breaking the Silence” is funded largely by the European Union and various European countries.

In 2007, the group's total budget amounted to roughly half a million shekels, with much of the money coming from the New Israel Fund (NIF) ...given for “raising public awareness of the destructive consequences that serving in the occupied territories ha on Israeli society.”

Breaking the Silence managed to triple its annual budget in 2008 with major donations from the EU and the British and Dutch embassies in Israel.

...Breaking the Silence is not a true non-profit, but rather is listed as a registered company is not required to be honest regarding its funding, but Breaking the Silence founders insist that they have reported all donations to NGO Monitor and others who ask, saying they have “nothing to hide.”

The case against Obama

In THE JERUSALEM POST "Candidly Speaking" Blog, Jul. 15, 2009, Isi Leibler weighs in to the public debate between Melanie Phillips and Alan Dershowitz. See here and here. While he doesn't mention either of them by name Isi's title for this posting and his exortation to "American Jews who voted overwhelmingly to elect Obama" makes it quite clear... [My emphasis added - SL].

Here is Isi Leibler:
Prior to the election, many traditional Jewish supporters of the Democratic Party were apprehensive of Barack Obama's initially negative attitude to Israel and his troubling association with people like PLO ideologue Rashid Khalidi and the anti-Semitic Rev. Jeremiah Wright. However after aggressively repudiating his earlier policies, Obama convinced most Jews that he would never abandon the Jewish state. Alas, recent developments suggest otherwise.

President Obama is adept at warming the cockles of the hearts of his Jewish constituents, many of whom seem as mesmerized by him as their forebears were by Franklin D Roosevelt. He repeatedly articulates his commitment to the welfare of Israel and admiration for American Jewry.

Yet if one probes beneath the veneer of bonhomie and analyzes the substance of his policies, they reflect an unprecedented downturn in relations towards Israel with hints of worse to come. This was reaffirmed by Obama in the course of his recent meeting with Jewish leaders (which included representatives of extremist fringe groups like Peace Now and J Street but excluded those likely to be critical of his approach). In an extraordinary patronizing manner with his Jewish aides beaming at him he told Israelis to "engage in self reflection" and made it clear that he believed he had a better understanding of what is best for them than their democratically elected government. Alas, with the exception of Malcolm Hoenlein and Abe Foxman, it appears that the majority of the others endorsed his position or remained silent. Yet only a few days earlier even a passionate Democrat like Alan Dershowitz had expressed concern "that the coming changes in the Obama administration's policies could weaken the security of the Jewish state".

THIS COLUMN is a response to American Jews devoted to Israel who remain under the charismatic spell of their president and challenged me to demonstrate how his policies are harming Israel.

President Obama's keynote Cairo address included
  • effusive praise for Islam,
  • highlighted Western shortcomings but
  • omitted mention of global jihad and Islamic fundamentalism. It also
  • legitimized the Arab narrative including its malicious and false historical analogies.
  • By alleging that the State of Israel was a by-product of the Holocaust, the president of the United States denied 3,500 years of Jewish history and the central role of Jerusalem in Judaism.
  • He endorsed the Arafat mantra that Israel had been inflicted upon the Arabs by the Europeans to compensate for the Holocaust, even hinting at equivalence between Jewish and Arab suffering.
  • Obama ignored the rejectionism, ongoing wars and waves of Arab terror directed against the Jewish state since the day of its creation.
  • He also compared the Palestinians to the US civil rights movement.

When the president of the world's greatest superpower provides an imprimatur for such a false narrative it represents a major breakthrough for those seeking to delegitimize Israel.

Obama's Cairo address should be viewed as an extension of a calculated policy designed to appease the Arab world by playing hardball with Israel.

Obama's response to the brutal Iranian regime's thuggish clampdown on its own people was inordinately restrained. He bowed and scraped to the Saudis, unconditionally renewed diplomatic relations with the Syrians and failed to respond to the latest brazen North Korean missile launches. His "engagement" and benign relationship with corrupt and despotic Arab regimes contrast starkly with the tough diktats conveyed to Israel.

The confrontation with Israel goes far beyond the vexed settlement issue which was wrongly linked with curbing Iran's nuclear ambitions and has been exaggerated totally out of proportion.

Israel endorsed the road map and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu unequivocally undertook to freeze settlement expansion in areas other than within the settlement blocs which the Bush Administration had implicitly agreed should remain under Israeli sovereignty. Even in these areas Netanyahu undertook to limit growth to "enabling normal life." But either disregarding or cynically abrogating understandings by the former administration, Obama's demands exceeded even those of Arafat's when the 1993 Oslo Accords were negotiated.

Today, no city outside the Islamic world denies Jews the right of residence. Yet Obama is demanding that for the first time since 1967 Jews will no longer be entitled to build a single home beyond the old armistice lines, including Jewish sections of Jerusalem and adjacent areas like Ma'aleh Adumim. No Israeli government of any political composition could conceivably accept such a demand which even opposition Kadima spokesmen condemned as outright "extortion."

NOT SURPRISINGLY, the Palestinians and Arabs are delighted with Obama's humiliation of Israel. Saeb Erakat, the chief PA negotiator, proclaimed that the Palestinians need make no concessions because the longer the process extended, the more they would benefit from further unilateral Israeli concessions.

Washington Post journalist Jackson Diehl, not renowned as a pro-Israel supporter, observed, "[Obama] 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."

The reality is that Arab concerns are not related to settlements or boundaries. Both Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas rejected offers to return virtually all territories Israel gained in the 1967 war - a war initiated by the Arabs to destroy the Jewish state. "The gaps were too wide" said Abbas, after Olmert offered him the equivalent of all territories beyond the Green Line, including joint control of the Temple Mount. They adamantly demand the right of return for Arab refugees, which would effectively bring an end to the Jewish state.

Clearly, the overriding objective for the PA, no less than Hamas, remains, not two states but two stages leading to the demise of the Jewish state...

[Please let me repeat that - SL]:

...Clearly, the overriding objective for the PA, no less than Hamas, remains, not two states but two stages leading to the demise of the Jewish state.

In recent weeks there was a spate of Fatah statements on official PA-controlled media brazenly describing the negotiations as a vehicle to destroy Israel.

"Peace is a means not a goal. Our goal is all Palestine," said Fatah activist Kifah Radaydeh on PA TV and also affirmed that "armed struggle" is still on the cards.

If Obama was genuinely even-handed, he would urge the "moderate" Palestinians to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. He would make it clear that the US would never support the repatriation of the descendents of the Arab refugees to Israel. Obama would call on Abbas to stop sanctifying martyrs and naming streets, sports teams and other projects (some of which are sponsored by the US) after Palestinian suicide killers and murderers and would monitor anti-Semitic incitement in PA media, mosques, schools and kindergartens. And most importantly, before demanding that Israel remove barriers and downgrade security in Judea and Samaria, the US would insist that the PA curb its military wings and cease all acts of terror.

But as of now, Obama's policy can be summarized as "Israelis should give and Palestinians should take." It amounts to appeasing the Arabs, humiliating Israel and in the process, undermining the security of the Jewish state.

ISRAEL IS not a superpower and needs to retain the support of the United States, in the absence of which the United Nations, Europeans and the entire international community would gang up against the Jewish state. It is no coincidence that Javier Solana, the retiring EU foreign policy chief, has urged the UN to determine the final borders, the status of Jerusalem and resolution of the refugee problem and impose their solution. That the British government has just announced what amounts to a partial arms boycott against Israel is another example.

Netanyahu is doing his utmost to achieve a compromise and has already offered to totally freeze all settlement activity beyond Jerusalem and the major settlement blocs, which the vast majority of Israelis agree must be retained. But if the Americans remain bloody-minded and refuse to compromise, Netanyahu will stand firm on this issue and will be overwhelmingly supported by the people who are outraged by the double standards applied against them.

In the meanwhile, the public reprimands and humiliations already underway are eroding the US-Israel relationship and impacting on American public support for Israel, which polls indicate is plummeting.

American Jews who voted overwhelmingly to elect Obama should not remain silent. They are entitled to press him to adhere to his commitment and treat the Jewish state in an even-handed manner. Together with other friends of Israel they should discourage their president from offering Israel as a sacrificial lamb on the altar of Arab appeasement. In urging Obama not to abandon Israel, they would also be promoting the US national interest. History cannot point to a single instance in which appeasement of jihadists or tyrants has ever borne fruit.

Dershowitz responds to Melanie Phillips

In this Blog posting from The Jerusalem Post DOUBLE STANDARD WATCH Blog, Thursday, July 9, 2009, Alan M. Dershowitz responds to criticism of his support for Obama by Melanie Phillips (refer to our previous posting here). Isi Leibler has also weighed in to this discussion - I'll post his article on JIW very shortly).

So, first here is Alan Dershowitz:

Melanie Phillips has written a critique of me because I remain a Democrat and continue to support President Barack Obama, despite his recent statements regarding expansion of Israeli settlements and other matters relating to the Middle East conflict....

...Phillips, for all her good work in Great Britain on behalf of Israel, has absolutely no understanding of American politics. She would turn Israel into a wedge issue, in which Republicans were seen as the supporters of Israel and Democrats as its enemy. This is precisely what has happened, with disastrous results, throughout much of Europe. In most European countries, the left-wing political parties are anti-Israel, often virulently so. The right-wing political parties are generally more supportive of Israel, though not nearly as supportive as they should be in many instances. Because young people tend to be more liberal than their elders, support for Israel throughout Europe, has also become a generational wedge issue, with younger people opposing Israel far more than older people.

This is precisely the situation American supporters of Israel want to avoid. We do not want to replicate the horrible situation that currently exists in Phillips' Great Britain. We want Israel to remain a bipartisan issue and an issue that does not divide generations. During the Bush administration, Republican support for Israel - which they linked to their failed Iraq policy - alienated many younger and more liberal voters who despised Bush, Cheney and their policies.

Among the reasons that I supported Obama, having first supported Hillary Clinton, is because I believed, and continue to believe, that a young, extremely popular African American President who supports Israel, even if he disagrees with its policies regarding settlement expansion, would be far more influential with mainstream Americans and with people throughout the world than an old conservative republican, who also supported Israel. That is why I gave, and continued to give, President Barack Obama the benefit of the doubt in his dealings with Israel. I take him at his word that he seeks to bring about peace, by means of a two state solution pursuant to which all the Arab states recognize Israel's right to thrive as a Jewish democracy, while agreeing that any Palestinian state must be demilitarized and incapable of waging war or terrorist attacks against Israel.

I also take him at his word when he says that the United States will not accept a nuclear-armed Iran, and I believe that he has a better chance of achieving that goal through diplomacy - including sanctions if necessary - than would a tough talking and non-negotiating Republican administration.

I believe that although a military attack on Iran could have disastrous and far reaching consequences, a nuclear armed Iran would have far graver consequences. I do not know whether the Obama administration would, as a last resort, use military force to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. Nor do I know whether a Republican administration would have engaged in military action against Iran, especially in light of its failed war in Iraq. Neither do I know whether the Obama administration would try to prevent Israel from defending its civilians against an Iranian nuclear bomb by preventively attacking its nuclear facilities, as Israel did to Iraq in 1981. In a recent statement Vice President Biden strongly suggested that he believes that Israel should have the right to take military action to protect its citizens, if all other options fail. I believe that Dennis Ross holds similar views. The Bush administration, on the other hand, refused to supply Israel with weapons necessary to implement a strike against Iran's nuclear facilities, and according to press reports, it was reluctant to give Israel the green light to attack on its own.

No one knows precisely what any administration would do under varying and unpredictable scenarios. As I have previously written, I would strongly oppose a United States policy of learning to live with an Iranian nuclear bomb, regardless of which administration supported such a dangerous approach.

Recall that it was the Bush administration that for the first time announced its support for a Palestinian state - a position with which I agree, so long as it is completely demilitarized and incapable of aggression against Israel. Recall as well that it was the Bush administration that insisted on a freeze on Israel settlements in the West Bank - a position with which I also agree, subject to humanitarian and pragmatic considerations. (This should come as no surprise to anyone who has read my writings, since I have opposed Israel's civilian settlement policy since 1973. You can strongly support Israel's right to defend itself without supporting its settlement policy.)

Let me say as well that there were parts of President Obama's Cairo speech with which I disagreed, but there have also been parts of Republican speeches with which I have disagreed. I judge administrations by their actions more than by their words, though I wish President Obama had chosen some of his words more carefully.

The major difference between Melanie Phillips and me is that I want Jews to remain Democrats - if they support, as I do, liberal principles such as a women's right to choose abortion, the rights of gays and lesbians to equal justice, and other progressive policies. I also strongly support the separation of church and state, a constitutional principle that has allowed American Jews to be first class citizens and to reach greater heights in this wonderful country than they ever have achieved in Europe or anywhere else in the world except for Israel. Republicans, in general, seek to lower the wall of separation which would endanger the status of Jews in this country.

I also want Jews who disagree with my liberal politics to remain Republicans, if they choose, and to exercise influence within the Republican Party. I want all supporters of Israel, whether they are Democrats or Republicans to pressure their party and their government to protect Israel's security and defend its right to continue to thrive as a Jewish democracy.

It was clear to all perceptive Americans that Obama was going to win this past election in a landslide victory. The vast majority of Jews were on the winning side, and that is good for Israel. Recall the Republican Secretary of State James Baker's infamous remark: "F...the Jews. They don't vote for us anyway." Recall as well that among Israel's most virulent opponents are right wingers such as Pat Buchanan and Robert Novak.

Let me conclude by saying that because American Jews voted Democrat by and large and because the Democrats won, we have far more influence with this administration than we would if the majority of American Jews followed Melanie Phillips advice and voted Republican. When it comes to American politics, it is she who truly "doesn't get it." She should not be trying to influence the voting patterns of American Jews. We have done quite well, thank you, in maintaining widespread American support for Israel, because we understand the dynamics of the American political system.

Instead, she should be trying to change the terrible situation in Great Britain, where support for Israel has never been lower - in part because support for Israel has become a liberal versus conservative wedge issue. I wish there were more liberal supporters of Israel in Great Britain as there are among liberal political figures in the United States. So please stop lecturing us from your perch in Great Britain on who to vote for in the United States. We apparently "get it" over here a lot better than you do over there! The reality is we each have our problems and they must be addressed somewhat differently in different places.

So I will continue to give President Obama the benefit of the doubt, but if he does anything to weaken Israel's security, I will do everything in my power to change his attitude and to use whatever influence we have in Congress and among the public to make sure that American never weakens its commitment to Israel's security. That is my line in the sand - not the settlements.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Israeli navy in Suez Canal prepares for potential attack on Iran

From The Times July 16, 2009, by Sheera Frenkel in Jerusalem:

Two Israeli missile class warships have sailed through the Suez Canal ten days after a submarine capable of launching a nuclear missile strike, in preparation for a possible attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities.

The deployment into the Red Sea, confirmed by Israeli officials, was a clear signal that Israel was able to put its strike force within range of Iran at short notice. It came before long-range exercises by the Israeli air force in America later this month and the test of a missile defence shield at a US missile range in the Pacific Ocean.

Israel has strengthened ties with Arab nations who also fear a nuclear-armed Iran. In particular, relations with Egypt have grown increasingly strong this year over the “shared mutual distrust of Iran”, according to one Israeli diplomat. Israeli naval vessels would likely pass through the Suez Canal for an Iranian strike.

“This is preparation that should be taken seriously. Israel is investing time in preparing itself for the complexity of an attack on Iran. These manoeuvres are a message to Iran that Israel will follow up on its threats,” an Israeli defence official said.

It is believed that Israel’s missile-equipped submarines, and its fleet of advanced aircraft, could be used to strike at in excess of a dozen nuclear-related targets more than 800 miles from Israel.

Ahmed Aboul Gheit, the Egyptian Foreign Minister, said that his Government explicitly allowed passage of Israeli vessels, and an Israeli admiral said that the drills were “run regularly with the full co-operation of the Egyptians.”

Two Israeli Saar class missile boats and a Dolphin class submarine have passed through Suez. Israel has six Dolphin-class submarines, three of which are widely believed to carry nuclear missiles.

Israel will also soon test an Arrow interceptor missile on a US missile range in the Pacific Ocean. The system is designed to defend Israel from ballistic missile attacks by Iran and Syria. Lieutenant-General Patrick O’Reilly, the director of the Pentagon’s Missile Defence Agency, said that Israel would test against a target with a range of more than 630 miles (1,000km) — too long for previous Arrow test sites in the eastern Mediterranean.

The Israeli air force, meanwhile, will send F16C fighter jets to participate in exercises at Nellis Air Force base in Nevada this month. Israeli C130 Hercules transport aircraft will also compete in the Rodeo 2009 competition at McChord Air Force base in Washington.

“It is not by chance that Israel is drilling long-range manoeuvres in a public way. This is not a secret operation. This is something that has been published and which will showcase Israel’s abilities,” said an Israeli defence official.

He added that in the past, Israel had run a number of covert long-range drills. A year ago, Israeli jets flew over Greece in one such drill, while in May, reports surfaced that Israeli air force aircraft were staging exercises over Gibraltar. An Israeli attack on a weapons convoy in Sudan bound for militants in the Gaza Strip earlier this year was also seen as a rehearsal for hitting moving convoys.

The exercises come at a time when Western diplomats are offering support for an Israeli strike on Iran in return for Israeli concessions on the formation of a Palestinian state.

If agreed it would make an Israeli strike on Iran realistic “within the year” said one British official.

Diplomats said that Israel had offered concessions on settlement policy, Palestinian land claims and issues with neighboring Arab states, to facilitate a possible strike on Iran.

“Israel has chosen to place the Iranian threat over its settlements,” said a senior European diplomat.

Israel dismisses Gaza allegations

From the ABC, 15/7/09:

Israel has dismissed a report that accuses the Israeli military of widespread abuses during the recent offensive in Gaza.

The report is based on the testimony of 26 unnamed soldiers.... But Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev says the report has no credibility.

"There is no identification whatsoever of who these individuals are...We don't know if they were soldiers on the ground or it's hearsay information...." ...

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Destruction of Nazi Tunnel System “Bergkristall”

Further to my posting on this subject on Wednesday, June 24, 2009, and in response to my letter to the relevant Austrian Minister, I have received the following letter about the in-filling of the Nazi "Bergkristall" underground armaments factory that was manned by Jewish inmates of the Gusen 2 Concentration Camp:

Dear Madam and Sir,
The Bundesimmobiliengesellschaft (BIG) is currently carrying out safety work in the tunnel system in St. Georgen an der Gusen on behalf of the owners. The work is the concluding part of a restoration programme lasting several years carried out by BIG on commission to safeguard and preserve the tunnel system.

According to the Federal Ministry of the Interior (BMI), the backfilling technique chosen by BIG does not secure the tunnel system but only the terrain. BIG’s choice of technique is supported in an expert opinion by Univ. Prof. Dr. Leopold Weber from the mining authority and the University of Leoben, which states that large sections of the underground system are in acute or potential danger of collapsing, hence the decision to backfill part of the system as a safety measure.

Despite the fact that the BMI is not responsible for preservation of the tunnel system, we nevertheless consider it our duty as representatives of the Mauthausen and Gusen concentration camp memorials to remind BIG of its primary objective of “safeguarding and preserving” the tunnel. For this reason a written appeal has also been sent by the BMI to all relevant institutions — the Bundesimmobiliengesellschaft and the Federal Office for the Protection of Monuments (Bundesdenkmalamt) — to preserve the tunnel system as far as possible and to limit backfilling to those areas that are in acute danger of collapsing.

On conclusion of the safety work, the preservation of the tunnel system will call for concerted efforts by the institutions involved and the local authorities and civil society. The BMI sees it as its task to find realistic solutions that provide a worthy memorial to authentic sites of terror.
Further information on the subject and on the Gusen memorial can be found on our websites and

Yours faithfully,
For the Federal Minister...

The Gusen Memorial web site now has the following information on it [my emphasis added]:

Gusen concentration camp memorial
photo by Helga Loidold

Gusen concentration camp memorial — current developments and background to the discussion on the Bergkristall tunnel system in St. Georgen

The Bergkristall tunnel system in St. Georgen is owned by the Bundesimmobiliengesellschaft (BIG). It is not currently listed as a historical monument site and is not administered by the Federal Ministry of the Interior (BMI). The BMI was not informed by BIG about the restoration work in the tunnel. After it learnt of the work, it urged BIG to preserve the tunnel system as far as possible and to limit the backfilling operations to those areas that are acutely in danger of collapsing. The BMI will continue in future to support the preservation of the tunnel system.

The possibility of opening of the tunnel system to the public was studied by BIG in 2005 when the first safety measures under way but no further action was taken. Since 2003, however, various projects have been carried out in cooperation with the former Gusen concentration camp, to which the tunnel system in St. Georgen belongs, on behalf of or with the financial support of the BMI, with particular emphasis on research and determination of the historical events...

...At the instigation of the Federal Ministry of the Interior the Federal Office for the Protection of Monuments (BDA) initiated a procedure in 2007 to protect the entire site of the former Gusen camp complex. Following several appeals against the provisional decision by the BDA, an independent expert opinion on the historical significance of the site has been obtained, which will form the basis for further action. The safeguarding of the remaining structures in the camp is a necessary prerequisite for future consideration of the Gusen memorial concept.
As with the protection issue, the concept must also take into account the entire Gusen complex. Not least with a view to preventing “sensationalist tourism”, the concept for the St. Georgen tunnel system cannot be seen in isolation but rather as part of an overall Mauthausen – Gusen – St. Georgen memorial site.

The concept for the restructuring of the Mauthausen concentration camp explicitly calls for emphasising the sites of former satellite camps, particularly Gusen. For this reason, the BMI is suggesting the formation of a working group together with the relevant institutions and local policymakers and with the involvement the Modern History Department of the University of Vienna to consider ideas for the future management of the Gusen memorial in general and the tunnel system in St. Georgen in particular.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Obama Sabotages the Peace Process

From RubinReports, Sunday, July 12, 2009, by Barry Rubin:

...The Obama administration had an idea of making the main--or at least initial--specific tactic of its Middle East policy to get a freeze of apartment-building on Israeli settlements on the West Bank. What happened should have been predictable. Israel is in no hurry to comply, giving the administration a choice between looking foolish and being a bully in a game that isn't worth the candle.

But there's a more immediate problem. Syria and the Palestinian Authority, which not long before had been--in part to show Obama that they were most cooperative and eager for peace, no matter how hypocritical that was--are now demanding a freeze on construction as a precondition for any further talks.

In other words, the minimal chance for negotiations has been frozen due to the U.S. strategy. The ship is dead in the water.

The administration has--unintentionally, of course--even further slowed any actual manifestation of a peace process. Even to get anyone to sit down and talk at all during the rest of this year is now in question.

No Support in Israel for Obama or a Settlement Construction Freeze

From GLORIA July 8, 2009, by Barry Rubin*:

... In the past, the left ...has eagerly rallied to U.S. efforts to press Israel for concessions, especially on the territories. Not this time, even though the concession being sought is smaller than many in the past.

... in the past a lot of Israelis on the left were persuaded that there was a real chance for peace and that by proving its willingness to leave the territories, Israel could persuade the Palestinians to make a deal.

Hardly anyone believes that today in Israel.

People are fed up with the Palestinian leadership's bad faith and failure to deliver on commitments. They know that Hamas controls the Gaza Strip and has a big support base on the West Bank. They have no illusions about the Palestinian Authority leadership, which makes clear that its entire program is to have others pressure Israel into giving it everything it wants.

So the left's response would go something like this: We would be willing to dismantle all Jewish settlements in favor of a real and lasting peace. But do you really think freezing building on settlements will contribute to this goal? That's nonsense.

There's a secondary factor as well. Many Israelis on the moderate left--which are the overwhelming majority of those in the "left" category--support a two-state solution with some border shifts. In this concept, which is what Labor party leader and then prime minister Ehud Barak took to Camp David in 2000, Israel would retain some small areas with high Jewish (settlement) populations like Maale Adumim and Gush Etzion.

This concept was called the idea of the "settlement blocs." Israel believed that the last two U.S. presidents accepted this idea and thus agreed that Israel could continue building in these specific places. The Obama administration says that never happened.

So many Israelis on the left not only
  • doubt the prospect of peace and
  • blame the Palestinians for the situation and also
  • favor the settlement blocs approach and
  • are also made very nervous about a U.S. government that forgets past pledges to Israel and
  • doubt Obama's willingness to be tough in opposing Iranian nuclear weapons.

That's why there's no pro-Obama bloc in Israel today, not even on the left.