Friday, August 19, 2011

A Palestinian State - The Day After

From International Analysts Network, 08 Aug 2011, by Mark Silverberg:
On Thursday, August 4th, Arab League foreign ministers and representatives from Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Lebanon and Qatar announced that they would support the plan of the Palestinian Authority (PA) for collective recognition of a Palestinian state at the UN General Assembly (UNGA).

So what kind of state exactly would the UNGA be endorsing especially given that it has no power to do so without Security Council approval.....but we'll leave that legal issue aside for the moment, as well as the geo-political implications of a sovereign Palestinian state that will inevitably be controlled by radical Islamists.

The 1933 Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States defines a “state” as an entity with
  • a permanent population;
  • a defined territory; a government; and
  • a capacity to enter into relations with the other state
- none of which the Palestinian state scheduled to be declared by the UNGA in September would possess.

As Steven Rosen points out in Foreign Policy, this particular UN "state" would have
  • two incompatible presidents,
  • two rival prime ministers pursuing incompatible policies,
  • a constitution whose central provisions are being violated by both Hamas and the Palestinian Authority,
  • no functioning legislature,
  • no ability to hold national elections,
  • a population not entirely under its control (Gaza, originally considered to be part of the Palestinian Authority under the Oslo Accords, is no longer part of the Ramallah-administered territory),
  • questionable borders that would involve annexing territory under the control of another state (Israel), and
  • no clear plan to resolve any of these conflicts.
Political Consequences
Assuming, however, that such a “state” is declared, both Israel and the United States have made it clear that unity talks between the PA and Hamas and the PA’s unilateral UN bid for statehood would have serious financial and political consequences.

For Israel, sufficient grounds already exist to abrogate the Oslo Accords should it wish to do so (1). UNGA "recognition" would merely be additional icing on the cake. The PA's continuing violations have led to increased terrorism and diplomatic isolation, two costly wars in Lebanon and Gaza, and the disenfranchisement of Israel’s political center.

Abrogating the Accords would not only terminate the basis upon which the PA itself was established and release Israel from cooperating with the Palestinians on numerous issues (most notably in the economic and security spheres), but would open the door to annexation and the extension of Israeli sovereignty over several major cities and towns on the West Bank which it currently controls in Area C - notably Ariel, Ma’aleh Adumim and the Gush Etzion bloc.

From a security perspective, should a Palestinian state be declared, and should the Accords be abrogated and Israeli security forces be withdrawn, Palestinian officials are well aware that Hamas (whose charter calls for jihad and genocide against Jews and Israel) is waiting in the wings for its opportunity to take over the West Bank, as it did in Gaza, and the Palestinians are not overly anxious to commit collective suicide through a third intifada that could quickly spiral out of control in favor of these Islamists - although Israel must prepare for that possibility.

Economic Concerns
Nor does the economic horizon appear to be any better if statehood is declared. Well over two hundred NGOs operate in the West Bank and Gaza, and 30% of the Palestinian GDP comes from foreign aid, making the Palestinians the largest per capita recipients of foreign aid in the world.

According to World Bank estimates, the PA received $525M in international aid in the first half of 2010, $1.4B in 2009 and $1.8B in 2008 making foreign aid the principal funding source for economic growth in the Palestinian territories. These billions of dollars in foreign aid would be jeopardized should the UNGA approve a Palestinian state outside the Oslo framework.

Few states can claim to have failed before they are even declared, but the Palestinian Authority may be about to create one of them. Part of the problem the PA faces relates to the multitude of programs and services in Gaza and the West Bank provided by the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), the vast majority of whose funding is derived from foreign aid. UNRWA defines “refugees” much more broadly than any other NGO globally.

Its broad definition includes not only those Palestinians who fled their homes in 1948 – then numbering about 750,000 - but their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren as well, who now number 4.8 million in Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the West Bank. If foreign aid to UNRWA dries up because of the UN bid, the PA would be hard-pressed to pay for the vast educational, social, healthcare and relief services the agency now provides to its West Bank and Gaza “refugees” and this will have serious political consequences.

Complicating these matters, the PA has also reached its borrowing limit. It carries a $585M deficit, is dependent on foreign aid to sustain its infrastructures, is the largest employer on the West Bank, and pays the salaries of approximately 150,000 civil servants and military personnel. During June and July, in a foretaste of what is to come, those salaries were cut in half (a decision later reversed when a general strike was threatened) and the prognosis looks even worse in the run up to September if they choose to proceed with their UN statehood initiative. Palestinian banks and the private sector have lent the PA more than $1B and they are loath to lend more.

Reports from credible media sources have noted that some ministries have already lost electricity due to their inability to pay their bills. In July, the PA ordered a reduction in the price of bread, leading to bakery strikes, and September will bring additional bills for educational fees and school supplies. In some areas, garbage is said to be piling up in the streets. In a country of less than four million, the economic repercussions of a massive loss in foreign aid revenues would be staggering, not to mention the political fallout that would certainly follow in its wake.

The U.S. Congress is also threatening to cut off aid should the PA reconcile with Hamas and move forward on its statehood initiative. In fiscal year 2011, U.S. foreign aid to the PA reached $550M, but that aid is now in jeopardy. On July 7th, the House passed a resolution opposing the statehood initiative by a 407-6 margin. House leaders followed up the resolution with a letter sent directly to PA President Mahmoud Abbas to “warn of the severe consequences” of continuing the UN initiative. As Jonathan Tobin writes in Commentary: "This initiative is rightly viewed by the Obama administration as a direct challenge to its leadership. The PA's tactics are sufficiently insulting to the U.S. that it may just motivate the administration to make good on threats to cut off American aid."

In addition, 87% of Palestinian exports now go to Israel, making the Palestinian economy dependent on good relations with its neighbor – a relationship that is deteriorating by the day. Over and above this, one-seventh of the total Palestinian workforce (constituting one-quarter of the total Palestinian payroll) work in Israeli West Bank towns and cities, which the PA has, at least for now, sought to ban.

Nor is the possible loss of Western foreign aid the PA’s only dilemma. Donations from the Arab world have plummeted. Its chief Arab benefactors (most notably Saudi Arabia) have failed to meet their own multi-billion dollar commitments to economic aid this year. Arab donors pledged $500M in 2008, 2009 and 2010 (of which only 7% was delivered) and increased it to $971M in 2011, but the year is more than half over and only $330M has been delivered. While Saudi Arabia did announce a $30M donation to the PA recently, that is far cry from the billions it promised. It is more concerned with shoring up its anti-Iran Sunni alliance with Jordan than pouring more funds into a dysfunctional Palestinian state that would be politically and economically problematic. The Saudis have therefore saved Jordan from bankruptcy and infused the country with an estimated $1B in July alone on the condition that Jordan accepts Saudi policies instead of bowing to Washington’s demands that are based on the delusion of a democratic Arab Spring. In this regional Sunni-Shiite power struggle between Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, the PA’s economic woes seem to have taken a back seat to Arab power politics, and the PA is becoming more trouble and costing more treasure than it’s worth.

Compounding Palestinian concerns, a recent Palestinian Media Watch report just presented to the U.S. Congress documents that, in May 2011, the PA paid just over $5M in salaries to Palestinians in Israeli jails, including 5,500 convicted terrorists, many of whom have Israeli blood on their hands - not to mention the families of Palestinian "martyrs" after whom tournaments, summer camps and marketplaces have been named. As Herbert London notes in Hudson (NY): "It pays to be a terrorist. These monthly stipends are more than the average salary for a PA civil servant or military officer." Last year, the U.S. provided $225M to the general Palestinian operating budget from which these salaries continue to be paid. As this represents a flagrant violation of U.S. anti-terrorism laws, Congress is now reviewing its options, and PA actions in September, as well as its pending pact with Hamas may tip the scales in favor of those in Congress seeking to terminate foreign aid.

And the U.S. Congress is not alone in its threat. Aid funds from Britain and the European Union are also being used for similar purposes, and it’s causing an uproar in the House of Commons. It was disclosed recently that the PA, which receives £86M of British aid a year, has authorized payments of almost £5M to the families of "martyrs", and another £3 million to the 5,500 Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails. According to the official Palestinian daily newspaper Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, payments to the families of "martyrs" (the definition of which includes suicide bombers) totals 3.5% of the PA budget.

And there is one final fear facing Palestinian leaders. Since 1998, more than $500M in judgments have been won against the PA by the families of victims of Palestinian attacks under the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1991. PA Prime Minister Fayyad has urged the U.S. administration to impose a presidential waiver that would protect the PA from having its bank accounts frozen in the United States to pay for these judgements, but that waiver depends very much on PA actions over the next thirty days.

Daniel Greenfield summed it up well in FrontPageMagazine: “The Palestinian Authority can’t pay its own bills. It can’t even fund its own army, yet insists on having one. It can’t generate its own electricity (95% of the electricity on the West Bank and 75% in Gaza comes from Israel), provide its own water or even hold elections. If that’s not the definition of being unready for statehood – what is?”

Finally, there is talk of a third Intifada breaking out following the UN vote in September. But it's important to note that the second Intifada (2000-2004) led to one of the deepest recessions the Palestinian economy has experienced in its short history and the memory lingers. According to the October 2004 World Bank Assessment, GDP per capita shrunk by thirty-five percent from its pre-Intifada numbers.

After four years of conflict, the Report noted that average Palestinian incomes declined by more than a third, and one-quarter of the work force was unemployed with nearly half of Palestinians living below the poverty line. Palestinian leadership knows full well that it has much more to lose this time around, both economically and politically if it proceeds with the statehood plan and joins with Hamas.

A No-Win Situation
Taking everything into account, Abbas is in the midst of what Robert Satloff of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy terms "a self-generated diplomatic train wreck" at the UN. Abbas knows that the Islamic Middle East cannot tolerate the presence of even one acre of land under sovereign Judeo-Christian control. He recognizes that peace is the only way Israel can win, and peace is the only way the Arabs can lose. Accordingly, surrendering land for peace is not the issue; Israel must cease to exist. As late as July 13th, Fatah’s foreign relations boss Nabil Shaath gave an interview to a Lebanese television station in which he stated point blank that the PLO will never accept Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state.

With that in mind, for the past sixty-three years, Palestinian leaders have promised an absolute Palestinian “right of return” to Israel. Abbas knows he can’t make peace with Israel and negotiate a two-state solution that would recognize Israel’s legitimacy - no matter what the terms of the agreement or where the final borders might be drawn. That’s why the PA is unwilling to compromise on the issue of refugees; Israel as a Jewish state; or any future agreement that would constitute an end to the conflict. That’s why it has consistently chosen to avoid resuming talks without first demanding that Israel agree in advance to all its demands.

But he also knows that he can’t afford to lose the massive financial aid pouring in from the U.S. and European Union without causing economic ruin for his embryonic state. Even PLO Council Member and former PA Information Minister Nabil Amr has expressed concern over the plan. Amr told the London-based Al-Quds Al-Arabi newspaper in an interview in late July that he was advising Abbas to reconsider the move.

Given all this, the best Abbas can hope for is to upgrade Palestinian status at the UN from observer to non-member state on a par with the Vatican (2), but that is a far cry from the "state" he promised the ‘Palestinian street’, and anything short of statehood may well be viewed as a betrayal. If so, all the foreign aid in the world won't save him.


1. Given that Arafat saw the Oslo Accords as part of his 1974 Phased Plan calling for the phased destruction of Israel, it is little wonder that the Accords have been honored more in their breach than in their observance. In violation of the Accords, the PA has failed to change the PLO Covenant by amending the clauses which call for the destruction of Israel (Article XXXII (9)). It has actively instigated rioting and taken few steps to halt armed attacks by PA police against Israeli forces. It has failed to confiscate illegal arms and disband terrorist militias like the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade thus enabling them to remain active (Article XIV, and Annex I, Articles II (1) and XI). It has failed to extradite suspected terrorists to Israel. It has conducted official activity in Jerusalem by maintaining headquarters, funding schools, paving roads and providing municipal services - all of which are prohibited under the Oslo Accords. It has recruited terrorists to serve in the Palestinian police. It has not protected Jewish holy sites from being desecrated. It has failed to revoke the death penalty for selling Arab lands to Jews. Its security forces have systematically utilized arbitrary arrests, detention and torture. It has signed a pact with Hamas - a terrorist organization committed to Israel’s destruction. It has conducted foreign relations by concluding economic and cultural agreements with other states which is specifically forbidden by the Accords (Article IX), and it has circumvented direct negotiations with Israel by seeking statehood from the UN on what are required to be final status talks with Israel. Each of these actions constitute a violation of the Oslo Accords.

But the most flagrant violation continues to be its incitement to hatred of Jews and Israel in its school textbooks, public speeches, and its official media. An Arabic translation of the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” can be found on the website of the Palestinian Authority’s Ministry of Information. For almost two decades, Israelis have bristled at maps in Palestinian schoolbooks and documents that designate Israel as Palestine, Palestinian TV broadcasts of mosque leaders denigrating Jews, and statements by Palestinian leaders calling for the ethnic cleansing of all Jews from any future Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem - for starters. In total, more than 600,000 Jews reside in east Jerusalem and the West Bank. Any Israeli who would call for the expulsion of Arabs from Israel would be rightly branded as an extremist, but few in the West think it odd that the Palestinians' view of a two-state solution is to have one state with Jews and Arabs, and one Arab state from which all Jews have been expelled. All this is reinforced by the fact that Palestinian terrorists who carried out deadly attacks against Israeli civilians are widely regarded as “martyrs” in Palestinian society. CAMERA reminds us that Article 26 (2) of the  U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights implicitly condemns incitement to hatred and violence against other ethnic/religious groups in textbooks and the U.N. Commission on Human Rights Resolution 2003/37 (No. 4) condemns incitement of ethnic hatred, violence and terrorism, but the PA seems to be violating the Accords without consequence.

2. If the Palestinians can get a two-thirds majority in support of statehood in the General Assembly, they also could put forward a so-called Uniting for Peace resolution. This non-binding, advisory resolution could provide legal cover to nations wanting to treat Palestine as a state - for example, allowing sanctions and lawsuits against Israel to go forward. The Uniting for Peace option was first used to circumvent a Soviet veto in the Security Council against action during the Korean War, and it was employed during the 1980s to protect countries that sanctioned apartheid South Africa from being sued under international trade laws.

Two sisters and their husbands murdered

Two sisters and their husbands were murdered by terrorists near Eilat. Terrorists fired at their bodies to confirm slayings. 
[baruch dayan emet]

Car attacked by terrorists
Car attacked by terrorists
Defense Ministry
Four victims of the deadly attacks Thursday in Eilat have been identified as husband and wife Moshe and Flora Gaz, and Flora's sister Shulamit (Shula) Karlinsky and her husband, Dov Karlinsky. Both couples lived in Kfar Saba.

The four took off for a vacation in Eilat on Thursday, but never arrived. As they approached the city they were ambushed by terrorists, who fired an anti-tank missile at their car.

After the missile hit his target, a terrorist approached the car and fired on the four to make sure they had all been slain.

Flora, 52, and Shula, 54, both worked in daycare centers for three- and four-year-old children in Kfar Saba.  “They were very well-known and respected educators,” Mayor Yehuda Ben-Hamo said of the two sisters. “This is a big tragedy for all of us.”

The Gaz family was expecting their first grandchild in another three months. They are survived by three children. The Karlinskys are survived by two children and two grandchildren.

“Flora and Moshe were excited for the birth of their first grandchild, but they will never see him,” one of the couple's friends said Friday.

Norway has indirectly promoted Palestinian terrorism

 From Ynet News, 2 August 2011, by Manfred Gerstenfeld:

After the horrific Oslo and Utoya killings, we see increased media attention to the multi-faceted anti-Israeli incitement by the Norwegian government and the country’s cultural elite. However, the Norwegian Ambassador to Israel, Svein Sevje, has not yet grasped this. After the murders, he implied that Palestinian terror against Israelis is more justified than terror against Norwegians. Alan Dershowitz reacted: “I can’t remember many other examples of so much nonsense in such short an interview.” A few days later, Sevje told Haaretz: “The history of Norway vis-à-vis Israel is one of great support.”

To expose the fallacy of Sevje’s last statement, one can provide many examples of Norway’s accommodation of anti-Israeli terror, with this is being executed in three ways. The first method entails applying double standards and being soft on terror by criticizing Israel, while mentioning little or nothing about murderous Palestinian attacks on Israeli civilians and Hamas’ genocidal program. The second entails statements that indirectly encourage terrorism. The third method is financing organizations that do the same.

Regarding the first method: In 2002, several members of the 1994 Norwegian Nobel Committee who granted the Nobel Peace Prize to Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres, and Yasser Arafat – i.e. Bishop Gunnar Stålsett, Sissel Rønbeck, and former Norwegian Prime Minister Odvar Nordli - expressed their disappointment in Peres. A fourth member, Hanna Kvanmo, said she wished there was a way to take the prize back from Peres. She also said Peres was on the verge of being considered guilty of war crimes.

Kvanmo was jailed after World War II, as a Nazi collaborator. Nevertheless, the Socialist Left party had selected her for the Nobel Prize Committee, which is comprised of political appointees. Then-bishop of Oslo Stålsett described the involvement of Nobel Laureate Peres in human rights abuses as absurd. He remained silent about Yasser Arafat, who had continued to order the murder of Israeli civilians even after he had received the Peace Prize. In 2004, the Jerusalem Post published an article noting that the members of the Nobel Committee still stood by their choice of Arafat. By that time, Israel had publicized a list of the terrorist operatives Arafat financed and showed that his signature was on the page listing the amounts paid to the murderers.”

Modern-day blood libel

Last month, a day before the murders in Oslo and Utoya, Norway’s Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere spoke at the anti-Israel incitement camp of the AUF, the youth organization of his Labor party. He called for the dismantling of Israel’s security barrier. Stoere knew well that it was built to prevent further murderous Palestinian terror attacks. He was thus indirectly promoting terrorism against Israelis, one day before some in his audience would become terror victims themselves.

In the past, even while acknowledging the threat of terror against Israel, the Lutheran Church demanded that Israel’s security barrier be dismantled. This State Church can thus also be considered an indirect promoter of Palestinian terrorism. Norwegian Church Aid (NCA) receives major funding from the Norwegian Foreign Ministry. One can debate whether it is only soft on terror, or an indirect terror promoter. Following Hamas’ takeover of Gaza in 2006, the NCA criticized the Norwegian government for "withdrawing economic support" for the "Hamas government."
Norwegian People's Aid (NPA) did the same. It is one of the largest and most highly regarded of Norway's humanitarian and development NGOs and is funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Its website promotes the “Stop the Wall Campaign” in Norway.
Mads Gilbert and Erik Fosse, two extreme left-wing doctors, came to Gaza during the Cast Lead War in 2008-2009, claiming that they wanted to provide medical assistance to the Palestinians. After the September 11 attacks, Gilbert stated that he supported the terrorist attacks on the United States. He and Fosse were interviewed extensively by the Norwegian and world press, and made serious accusations against Israel. According to Norway’s largest paper Verdens Gang, their trip to Gaza was paid for by the Norwegian Foreign Ministry.
Gilbert and Fosse failed to mention that the Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza where they worked had been used for military purposes by Hamas. Later it became known that Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh and other Hamas executives took over an entire ward of that hospital during the war.  

Gilbert and Fosse later wrote a best-selling book on their stay in Gaza. They were once again silent about the Hamas military presence in the hospital. Their claim that Israel had gone into Gaza in order to kill women and children is a contemporary mutation of the classic blood libel. This book, with its anti-Semitic message, had back cover comments written by Stoere and former Conservative Prime Minister Kare Willoch.

Finally, there is Deputy Minister of the Environment, Ingrid Fiskaa, who delights in visions of terrorism against Israel. A year before she entered the government, Fiskaa told a newspaper that she sometimes dreams about the United Nations firing rockets into Israel. One should pay attention to similar statements in the future, in order to identify those Norwegians who have learned nothing from the horrific murders of so many of their fellow citizens by “one of their own.”  

Obama’s hollow claim of commitment to Israel’s security

For a year, Obama prohibited any new US sanctions to stop Iran developing nuclear weapons – a looming existential threat to both Israel and the US.

Photo by: Reuters

Is President Barack Obama committed to Israel’s security? Reassuring bromides to that effect in his recent speeches are nullified by specific statements that spell out dangerous Israeli concessions and disregard for Israeli vital interests. Worse, the administration’s wider Middle East policies further denude those commitments of meaning.

Thus, when Obama said Israel must have secure, recognized borders “different than the one that existed on June 4, 1967,” many missed the point that this means little, when the new borders are to be “based on the 1967 lines, with mutually agreed swaps” and therefore be virtually indistinguishable from those lines. Indeed, with Palestinians unlikely to agree to any swaps, Obama gave the Palestinians a veto over any continued Israel presence beyond the pre-1967 lines.

Moreover, Obama’s unprecedented call for a Palestinian state to have “permanent Palestinian borders with… Jordan” would require Israel ceding the Jordan Valley, whose retention successive Israeli governments have regarded as vital– another first for a US president.

Obama has also become the first US president to suggest that issues of “territory and security” be agreed upon first, before proceeding to negotiations on all other matters, including Jerusalem and Palestinian refugees and their millions of descendants.

Upholding Israel’s basic security would also mean repudiating the repatriation of the refugees and their descendants. Bush did so in his May 2004 letter; Obama has not. On the contrary, he has supported the so-called Saudi peace plan, which demands not only a return to the 1967 lines, but also the return of all refugees and their descendants.

In May, Obama reiterated that the US “will hold the Palestinians accountable for their actions and their rhetoric.”

But he never has – nor does he now.

When, in August 2009, Fatah held a conference in Bethlehem, reaffirming its refusal to accept Israel’s existence as a Jewish state, glorifying terrorists, insisting on the so-called ‘right of return,’ and rejecting an end of claims in any future peace agreement, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton astonishingly claimed that the conference showed “a broad consensus supporting negotiations with Israel and the two-state solution.”

When in 2010, the PA named a Ramallah square after terrorist Dalal Mughrabi, Clinton falsely claimed that this ceremony was initiated by a “Hamas-run municipality.”

Refusing to identify the PA as responsible, Obama has not penalized it.

INDEED, FAR from holding Palestinians accountable, Obama has consistently rewarded them, increasing aid to almost $1 billion per year. A Palestinian Media Watch report just presented to the US Congress documents that, in May 2011 alone, the PA paid $5,207,000 in salaries to Palestinians in Israeli jails, including blood-soaked terrorists. Last year the US provided $225 million to the general Palestinian budget from which these salaries are paid.

If Obama was genuine about holding the PA accountable, he would be demanding the disbanding of Fatah’s own Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades – a US- recognized terrorist group. He would demand the abrogation of the PA’s unity agreement with Hamas (which calls for a genocide of Jews) as a precondition of any future talks. He has done neither.

It is also difficult to imagine what conception of American and Israeli security interests led Obama in January to ditch Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak and call for political “transition… now” when protests erupted in Cairo. Still less clear is why his administration spoke immediately of involving “non-secular actors” – a clear allusion to the Muslim Brotherhood – given its virulent hostility to the US and Israel. Now, Obama has legitimized the Brotherhood by initiating contacts with it.

THE NET result is that Egypt is on the road from lukewarm ally and peace-maker to a dependable enemy – one to which Obama has announced the sale of 125 state-of-the-art M1A1 Abrams tanks. It is also disturbing that Obama has not pressured Egypt to close its Gaza border at Rafah, whose recent opening has enabled the flow of weaponry into Hamas-run Gaza.

For a year, Obama prohibited any new US sanctions to stop Iran developing nuclear weapons – a looming existential threat to both Israel and the US. Indeed, further measures which must be taken to stop Iran is precisely what Obama left untouched in his recent speeches.

Thus Obama’s words and deeds not only fail to match his stated commitment to Israel’s security – they negate it.

*Morton A. Klein is National President of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA). Dr.Daniel Mandel is Director of the ZOA’s Center for Middle East Policy and author of H.V. Evatt & the Establishment of Israel (London: Routledge, 2004).

Thursday, August 18, 2011

White House "sleazy sleights of hand"

The White House engaged in two furtive gambits last week that painfully exposed the Obama administration's amateurish, deceitful Middle East-Islamic policies.

The first case concerned the thorny issue of Jerusalem's legal status in American law. In 1947, the United Nations ruled the holy city to be a corpus separatum (Latin for separated body) and not part of any state. All these years later and despite many changes, U.S. policy holds that Jerusalem is an entity unto itself. It ignores that in 1949 the Government of Israel made western Jerusalem its capital and in 1980 it declared the whole of Jerusalem to be the capital. The Executive Branch even ignores U.S. laws from 1995 (requiring a move of the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem) and 2002 (requiring that U.S. documents recognize Americans born in Jerusalem as being born in Israel). Instead, it insists that the city's disposition be decided through diplomacy.

Challenging this policy, the American parents of Jerusalem-born Menachem Zivotofsky, demanded on his behalf that his birth certificate and his passport list him as having been born in Israel. When the State Department refused, the parents filed a lawsuit; their case has now reached the U.S. Supreme Court.
Things started to get interesting on Aug. 4, when Rick Richman of the New York Sun noted that "The White House acknowledges on its own website that Jerusalem is in Israel—as does the State Department and the CIA on theirs," undermining the government's case. Richman pointed to three mentions of "Jerusalem, Israel" in captions to pictures on the White House website in connection with a trip by Joe Biden in March 2010: "Vice President Joe Biden laughs with Israeli President Shimon Peres in Jerusalem, Israel"; "Vice President Joe Biden meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, Israel"; and "Vice President Joe Biden has breakfast with Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair . . . in Jerusalem, Israel." Richman deemed this wording to be potentially "pivotal evidence" against the government's case.

One of the pictures on the White House website that mentions "Jerusalem, Israel."

At 3:22 p.m. on Aug. 9, Daniel Halper of the Weekly Standard reiterated Richman's point by posting the first of those pictures. Two hours and four minutes later, at 5:26 p.m., Halper reported that "the White House has apparently gone through its website, cleansing any reference to Jerusalem as being in Israel." The new caption read, "Vice President Joe Biden laughs with Israeli President Shimon Peres in Jerusalem." Someone on the White House staff hoped to pull a fast one. As James Taranto noted in the Wall Street Journal, the Supreme Court does not take kindly to such pranks.

Barack Obama continues George W. Bush's tradition of hosting an iftar at the White House.
The second deceit concerns the guest list for the iftar (breaking-the-Ramadan-fast) dinner at the White House on Aug. 10. The White House published a guest list "of some of the expected attendees" that included 4 members of congress, 36 diplomats, and 11 "community members." To the relief of those who watch such matters, the list mentioned no American Islamists.

But, it turned out, "some" was a weasel-word. Research by the Investigative Project on Terrorism and others established that the published list did not mention the American Islamists attending that dinner, including Haris Tarin of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, Mohamed Magid of the Islamic Society of North America, and Awais Sufi of Muslim Advocates.

(Also noteworthy: The White House invited not a single representative of the 12-member non-Islamist group, the American Islamic Leadership Coalition, whose mission statement proclaims the goal "to defend the U.S. Constitution, uphold religious pluralism, protect American security and cherish genuine diversity in the practice of our faith of Islam.")

In combination, two deceits in two days makes one wonder about the morality and even sanity of the White House staff under Barack Obama. Do his munchkins really think they can get away with such sleazy sleights of hand?
One of the Islamists, Awais Sufi, at the White House dinner.
Separately, each of these deceptions warrants condemnation; together, they symbolize the tenor of a failed administration in panic over its lowest-ever poll ratings (43.4 percent approval according to's aggregation of surveys) and trying to revive its fortunes by whatever means necessary, even if its dishonesty might expose it to ridicule.

More specifically, the two incidents point to the bankruptcy of the administration's Middle East and Islamic policies. The arrogance of 2009 remains in place, now tempered by failure and desperation.

...For a listing of U.S. government mentions of "Jerusalem, Israel," see an amicus brief to the Supreme Court compiled by the Zionist Organization of America, dated Aug. 5, 2011.

PA "peace partners" dream of erasing Jewish presence in Jerusalem

Official Palestinian Authority TV broadcast a documentary which stated that the PA plans to build an Arab residential area in place of the Western Wall Plaza in Jerusalem, "when they [Israelis] disappear from the picture, like a forgotten chapter in the pages of our city's history."

The Western Wall, a remnant of the Temple Mount, is Judaism's holiest and most important prayer site.

The PA TV documentary further rejected the Jewish connection to Jerusalem, referring to Jewish history as "their false history," while the Jews' praying at the Western Wall was called "sin and filth."

The following is the transcript of the excerpt of the PA TV documentary:
 "They [Israelis] know for certain that our [Palestinian] roots are deeper than their false history. We, from the balcony of our home, look out over [Islamic] holiness and on sin and filth (Jews' praying at Western Wall) in an area that used to have [Arab] people and homes. We are drawing our new maps. When they [Israelis] disappear from the picture, like a forgotten chapter in the pages of our city's history, we will build it anew (residential area). The Mughrabi Quarter will be built here (on the Western Wall Plaza)."
[PA TV (Fatah), Aug. 10, 2011]

Hezbollah implicated in Hariri Assassination

From NYT, August 17, 2011, by NADA BAKRI:

BEIRUT, Lebanon — The United Nations-backed tribunal investigating the assassination of a former Lebanese prime minister in 2005 released the full indictment Wednesday against members of Hezbollah named in the killing, a move that could exacerbate tensions in a country polarized by the repercussions of the investigation.
... many in Lebanon have feared that details of the indictment — how the assassination was actually carried out on a seaside corniche in the capital — would deepen divisions here.

...The tribunal’s prosecutor, Daniel Bellemare, said in a statement that unsealing the 47-page indictment “answers many questions.”

...The tribunal delivered indictments on June 30 against four men that Hezbollah has acknowledged as members of the organization. ...The most prominent of the four members is Moustapha Badreddine, a brother-in-law of Imad Moughnieh, a shadowy Hezbollah commander killed in 2007 and blamed for some of the group’s most spectacular acts of violence. Among them was the 1983 bombing of the United States Marines barracks in Beirut, which killed 241 American service members.

The former prime minister, Rafik Hariri, was killed along with 22 others when his motorcade was bombed. A Sunni Muslim, he was admired by supporters for helping rebuild Lebanon, especially Beirut, after its 15-year civil war ended in 1990...

... Anxiety is even more pronounced [than usual, in Lebanon] these days, as Lebanese worry that the five-month uprising in Syria could spill over into their country. A series of mysterious blasts this month in the capital — some characterized by Hezbollah as accidents — have amplified unease.