Friday, December 28, 2012
From Commentator, 26 December 2012 by Wahied Wahdat-Hagh*
With unemployment soaring and the advent of hyperinflation, the plight of ordinary workers just gets worse and worse
Many blame the ham-fisted manner in which Ahmedinejad has sought to privatize significant swathes of the economy.
As BBC Farsi reported in April 2012, privatization led to mass layoffs across the country. Iranian newspapers reported cases in which workers had not been paid for as much as two years.
Corruption and incompetence in the banking sector also play a big role in the disastrous Iranian economy. In one widely reported case, a pipe-making company went bankrupt following privatization only for an entrepreneur promising to resuscitate it to secure a hefty loan from an Iranian bank and then promptly leave the country, taking the cash with him. That is not an isolated example.
Unsurprisingly, people are not taking this lying down.
According to Radio Farda, the Persian broadcasting service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 20,000 Iranian workers wrote an open letter to the Iranian Minister of Labor in September 2012 complaining about non-payment of wages and the fact that the most Iranian workers live below the poverty line.
Typical monthly wages range between $240 and $320 as against an official poverty line of $800 a month. But it's even worse than it looks. Steve Hanke, Professor of Applied Economics at the Johns Hopkins University, reckons that following the collapse of the Iranian currency earlier this year, monthly inflation rates may be running at 70 percent.
With average wages already so far below the poverty line, hyperinflation is making it increasingly difficult for large numbers of Iranians to put food on the table.
In such conditions, unemployment is predictably soaring. Nobody believes the official reports that the jobless rate (as reported for the first three months of the year) stands at around 13 percent. Most analysts believe it is at least double that level and rising fast.
Working conditions for many who do have jobs are appalling, According to human rights activist Shirin Ebadi, five workers die daily as a consequences of accidents at the work place. In the past decade 9,625 workers have died at their place of work. A report from Radio Farda on December 18, stated that in 2012 alone around 1,100 miners died in Iran, and that figure is the official one. Again, analysts fear the true number may be greater.
As a response to the growing wave of strikes, companies are firing contracted employees and replacing them with casual labor. Speaking recently to the Iranian newspaper Rahe Daneshju, the Iranian trade unionist Fathollah Bayat said that in 2012, approximately one million contract workers were simply dismissed. He added that day-labor hiring practices were becoming ever more common.
On the other hand, the regime has created a kind of "Islamist labor aristocracy" which remains on fixed contracts in order to secure their loyalty. The Iranian dictatorship and its entrepreneurs fear organized strikes (which remain legal, though frowned upon) and must be painfully aware of the parlous state of the economy.
In February 2006, Ahmadinejad pledged to make Iranians richer. He promised Iranian families so called "justice shares" -- financial gifts funded through the sale of state shares. In theory, many millions would have been entitled to up to $800. In reality, few received their dues, and many who did were likely to have been among the most loyal supporters of the regime.
But social justice cannot be achieved through ideological promises. Ahmadinejad didn’t end poverty during his presidential term, though some of his followers did become richer.
Meanwhile, a social catastrophe in Iran continues to unfold.
*Wahied Wahdat-Hagh is a Senior Fellow at the European Foundation for Democracy (EFD) in Brussels
The UN General Assembly, as Elliott Abrams noted yesterday, just passed nine resolutions in a single day condemning Israel, mainly for its treatment of the Palestinians, while completely ignoring the real disaster that befell the Palestinians this week: the Assad regime’s bombing of the Yarmouk refugee camp near Damascus, which reportedly killed dozens of Palestinians and caused about 100,000 to flee.
But the situation becomes even more surreal when one examines the actual content of the resolutions–because it turns out that while the UN is voting to condemn Israel, its alleged victims are voting the opposite with their feet.
One resolution...slams Israel’s 1981 annexation of the “occupied Syrian Golan” and demands that Israel “rescind forthwith its decision.”
Given what’s happening across the border in Syria, where the ongoing civil war has killed over 44,000 people and created over 500,000 refugees, I suspect most of the 20,000 Syrian Druze on the Golan are thanking their lucky stars to be living safely under Israel’s “occupation.” But you needn’t take my word for it: According to the Hebrew daily Maariv, whose report was subsequently picked up the Winnipeg Jewish Review, Israeli government statistics show that the number of Golan Druze applying for Israeli citizenship (for which the annexation made them eligible) has risen by hundreds of percent since the Syrian civil war erupted...
“More and more people comprehend that this [Israel] is a well-managed country and it’s possible to live and raise children here,” one Druze who acquired Israeli citizenship explained. “In Syria there is mass murder, and if [the Druze are] under Syrian control they would likely be turned into the victims of these atrocities. People see murdered children and refugees fleeing to Jordan and Turkey, lacking everything, and ask themselves: Where do I want to raise my children. The answer is clear–in Israel and not Syria.”
But what the Golan’s own residents want, of course, is of no interest to the UN: It would rather Israel return the area, and its Druze, to the Syrian hellhole “forthwith.”
Then there was the resolution condemning Israel for violating “the human rights of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem.”
But in East Jerusalem, too, the number of Palestinians requesting Israeli citizenship has risen sharply in recent years ...
The number of East Jerusalem Palestinians registering for the Israeli matriculation exam rather than the Palestinian one has also recently risen by dozens of percent, meaning these young Palestinians aspire to study at an Israeli university and work in Israel rather than studying and working in the Arab world. This, too, is a sea change: For years, Palestinians refused to allow their children to study the Israeli curriculum; now, private preparatory schools are springing up to enable these children to pass the Israeli exams.
Moreover, repeated polls have shown that if Jerusalem were redivided, many Palestinians–at least a sizable minority, and possibly a majority–would want to remain in Israel. But again, what East Jerusalem residents want is of no interest to the UN.
All of which just goes to show, if anyone had any doubts, that the UN and its member states have no interest whatsoever in the actual wellbeing of those under Israeli “occupation.” All they’re interested in is bashing Israel.
...The NIF response, posted below paragraph by paragraph with my comments, is astonishing:
In today’s “open letter” to the New Israel Fund chair, the Im Tirtzu organization uses allegation, misrepresentation and outright falsehood to make their case.
* Many fewer civilian lives were lost during Operation Pillar of Defense than in Cast Lead four years ago. This is partially because the Israel Defense Forces, publicly and to its credit, used reports from human rights organizations to improve its operational procedures to better avoid civilian casualties.The truth is that percentage of civilians killed compared to militants in Pillar of Defense is roughly the same as for Cast Lead, about 1 to 1.
The work of NIF-supported human rights organizations saved lives.
Anyone who has read the IDF responses to Goldstone would know that the processes meant to protect civilians pre-dates Cast Lead. Of course, the IDF is always looking to improve, and it looks at criticism from all corners, but the IDF goes to lengths that are literally unprecedented by any other army to minimize civilian casualties. For the NIF to take credit for this is not only obviously false, but more than a little self-serving. And its comparison of casualties in two completely different scales of conflict is knowingly deceptive.
The NIF’s response is false.
* For three years, Im Tirtzu has accused the Israeli human rights community of being the prime source for the Goldstone report. Repeating a lie loudly and frequently doesn’t make it so. An objective analysis proved that less than two percent of the Goldstone Report’s negative findings about the IDF during Operation Cast Lead were attributable to human rights organizations (link); the vast majority of information came from public sources in the Israeli government and military.Im Tirtzu does not make that claim in this open letter. It says that the anti-Israel campaign from NGOs culminated in the Goldstone Report and that NIF grantees were cited extensively. Im Tirtzu’s language here is mostly accurate (maybe not “hundreds of times” but well over a hundred.)
NIF’s response is false.
* Not one of the human rights organizations Im Tirtzu attacks accused Israel of war crimes in the recent Gaza action. One organization signed a letter asking for investigation of possible breaches of the Geneva convention by both sides in the conflict.In Im Tirtzu’s fact sheet, they document the accusations with citations:
A B’Tselem statement the day after Operation Pillar of Defense began accused Israel of targeting civilians: “As was the case four years ago [in Operation Cast Lead], Israeli officials are now using the conduct of Palestinian organizations to justify harm to Palestinian civilians….The fact that one side violates the law does not give the other side the right to violate it as well.” (HERE) Days later, B’Tselem accused Israel of targeting journalists (HERE) despite the fact that the “journalists” were well-known senior terrorists in Hamas and Islamic Jihad. (HERE) Adalah, another flagship NIF grantee – it seeks as an official position the end of Israel as a Jewish State – accused Israel of “a serious violation of the laws of war.” (HERE) Sari Bashi, the executive director of Gisha, accused Israel of “collective punishment” during the conflict. (HERE) Collective punishment is a war crime under Article 33 of the 4th Geneva Convention. The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel signed a statement claiming, without offering any specifics, “concrete evidence indicating the commission of war crimes” by Israel. The statement also blamed Israel entirely for Hamas’s rocket attacks on Israeli civilians and called for another Goldstone-style “investigation” of Israel at the United Nations. (HERE)NIF’s response is false.
The NIF response letter continues:
* The right to dissent is often a casualty of war. After Operation Cast Lead, Israel’s human rights community were threatened and vilified and it is now happening again. As in any conflict anywhere, it is the responsibility of human rights groups to monitor and report, and it is their right and everyone’s to offer opinions regarding the conduct of the conflict. While NIF does not necessarily agree with the positions of the many organizations we support, we staunchly defend their right to do their jobs, dissent from the majority based on their own analyses, and point out controversial issues of concern.Here, the NIF is acknowledging that they cannot defend everything that the organizations they fund do – but they are willing to continue to fund them nonetheless! Is there any oversight? Are there any checks and balances? Are there any reviews of issues that the NIF might find problematic? Or is an organization’s criticism of Israel enough to give it the benefit of the doubt?
Moreover, it is a bit hypocritical to complain about NGO’s being “vilified” when that is exactly what they do to Israel, every day. The simple fact is that the NGOs must adhere to the standards they demand from the Israeli government and the IDF. Demanding that their biases, their sources of funding, their methodologies and the identity and affiliations of their researchers be exposed is simply asking them to be transparent – something that any legitimate watchdog organization should welcome.
They draw conclusions about Israeli motivations using far, far less credible evidence than their detractors use to criticize them. It is when they stonewall on this vital information that we can start to wonder if they are as pure and objective as they claim to be. Any unbiased observer must conclude that they are not – far from it. And this letter from NIF proves it.
This doesn’t mean that what they do is worthless – all democracies must have checks and balances, and Israel is no exception. But when they cross the line from truth into lies, as the NIF response does, it is reasonable to question everything else about them.
It is not a small matter. While the NGOs claim that they are working to save people’s lives, their work can also endanger people’s lives. The debate as to where the line must be drawn between valuing some lives and endangering other lives during wartime is a valuable one, and one that the IDF engages in every day with or without the NIF.
Criticism is fine – but lies are not. This response shows that, apparently, the funder of these anti-Israel NGOs does not know the difference.
...It is not clear why the NIF insists on denying the fact that organisations it supports indeed hastened to make the usual unfounded allegations against Israel.
Furthermore the NIF's attempt to portray In Tirtzu['s] letter as simply more witch-hunting by the radical right becomes somewhat ridiculous in the light of the list of academics, intellectuals, mayors and former army personnel who signed that letter...
...By the early 1980s, the political Left in the US had already abandoned support for Israel.
Thursday, December 27, 2012
These are the results and analyses of the latest Arab World for Research & Development (AWRAD) public opinion poll, focusing on the aftermath of the UN vote on November 29, 2012 and the Gaza confrontations in the last two weeks of November.....
The questionnaire was fielded December 1-2, 2012, only 2 days after the UN vote recognizing Palestine as a non-member state. The initiative was led by Palestinian President M. Abbas. The poll was also fielded a week after the cease-fire agreement went into effect in Gaza between Israel and Palestinian groups led by Hamas. The agreement was brokered by Egypt and Turkey.
For this survey, 1,200 Palestinians were interviewed in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. All socioeconomic groups were represented in the poll (for more details on the sample, please refer to www.awrad.org). The margin of error in this poll is plus or minus 3 percent. The survey was carried out by AWRAD researchers under the supervision of Dr. Nader Said-Foqahaa, President of AWRAD.
....50 percent believe that the confrontations in Gaza will not lead to real change in the affairs of Palestinians. 46 percent believe otherwise.
...89 percent say that their views of Hamas improved or improved to some extent, while only 8 percent say that their views diminished.
...86 percent say that their views of Haniyeh improved or improved to some extent, while only 9 percent say that their views diminished.
...83 percent say that their views of KhaledMeshaal improved or improved to some extent, while only 10 percent say that their views diminished.
...In addition, 85 percent say that their views of Islamic Jihad improved or improved to some extent, while only 9 percent say that their views diminished.
...Furthermore, the results of the present poll show that respondents are divided on the issue of a two-state solution, with 47 percent supporting and 50 percent opposing. Support for a two-state solution is higher in Gaza (51 percent) than in the West Bank (44 percent)...
Support for Hamas has increased slightly while support for Fatah has declined slightly since July 2012:
...Support for Hamas increased by 7 points from July (15 percent) to the present (22 percent).
...Support for Hamas increased by 7 point in Gaza and 8 points in the West Bank....
Follow this link to download the full report in English.
"I am writing to beg you that whatever may have happened to me, you will make the effort to take it in the spirit I want. We had a difficult fight. I have tasted hell but it has been worthwhile because I am convinced the end will see a Jewish state and all our longings ... I want you to remember that we were soldiers and had the greatest and noblest cause to fight for ... I have lived my life fully, and very sweet it has been to be here in our land ... I hope one day soon you will all come and enjoy the fruits of that for which we are fighting. Be happy and remember me only in happiness. Shalom, Esther."
"The Jewish Quarter has been destroyed. This renders the Jews' return to this place impossible."
“The blind spot displayed by governments and other influential players is causing them to squander a broader opportunity. Religious freedom is the canary in the mine for human rights generally.”
Wednesday, December 26, 2012
...the insistence by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and EU foreign police head Catherine Ashton, as well as most of the world’s governments, that the 1949 armistice line between Israel and Jordan was a “border” is beyond comprehension. They know full well that it was not...
The international agreement on the armistice lines after Israel’s War of Independence says:
“The Armistice Demarcation Lines defined in articles V and VI of this Agreement are agreed upon by the Parties without prejudice to future territorial settlements or boundary lines or to claims of either Party relating thereto.”
It is for this reason that UN Security Council Resolution 242 did not call for a full withdrawal from all the territories that Israel captured in the Six Day War. The 1949 lines were no longer to be a reference point for a future peace process.
Armistice lines are immaterial in international law in terms of land rights and final status agreements...
Tuesday, December 25, 2012
"The [New York] Times Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Map"
On December 7, the New York Times website ran a “correction” to Jodi Rudoren’s article on the E1 area between Jerusalem and Ma’ale Adumim (a community of about 40,000 Jews living less than two miles east of the capital). The Times acknowledged that, contrary to the article, the E1 plans “would not divide the West Bank in two” and “would not technically make a contiguous Palestinian state impossible” (emphasis added). As Israeli ambassador Michael Oren noted, one would know this if one were to “just look at a map.”
Elliott Abrams wrote that it was “just plain extraordinary” that the Times’ Jerusalem bureau chief “knows so little about the geography of the Jerusalem area that she could write such things.” He suggested a reason for her errors:
“Here’s my theory: that just about everyone she knows … know that they are true. Settlements are bad, the right-wing Israeli government is bad, new construction makes peace impossible and cuts the West Bank in half and destroys contiguity and means a Palestinian state is impossible. They just know it, it’s obvious, so why would you have to refer to a map, or talk to people who would tell you it’s all wrong?”
In an email to Politico, Rudoren said she “deeply regretted” that “on deadline, late at night and at the end of a very long couple of weeks, I used imprecise language and, yes, did not study the map carefully enough.” She asserted she consults “a broad variety of people” and that “most of the people” she associates with do not have “any particular perspective.” At Israel Matzav, Carl in Jerusalem ran an experiment to test Rudoren’s assertion, and cast some doubt on it.
Then on December 20, the Times ran an editorial entitled “The Fading Mideast Peace Dream”–and repeated the same Rudoren errors, alleging the E1 plans “would split the West Bank” and “prevent the creation of a viable contiguous Palestinian state.” What made the Times–two weeks after it knew the assertions were false–repeat them on its editorial page? The editors were not working on deadline, and they had ready access to maps. They had corrected Rudoren’s assertions not only December 7 on their website, but on December 16 in the print version of the paper, on page A3. They had presumably read Oren’s “just look at a map” article, since it appeared in the New York Daily News a week earlier.
I have a theory. The Times has a “worldview” of “political and cultural progressivism” that “virtually bleeds through the fabric of The Times,” treating certain developments “more like causes than news subjects.” Actually, it’s not a theory, and it’s not mine. The words are those of Arthur Brisbane, in his final column earlier this year, summing up his two years as the Times’s public editor. There is a logical corollary: you are not likely to become the Times’s Jerusalem bureau chief without subscribing to its worldview of Israel–one that, as the Times editorial shows, produces errors caused by something more than long weeks and nights, deadlines, and insufficient map study.
Hours after A-G pens letter supporting giving Ariel University Center official university status, outgoing Defense Minister Ehud Barak issues directive to OC Central Command Alon to recognize Israel's 8th university.
Outgoing Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Monday ordered the accreditation of Ariel University in [Samaria], a move that poises it to become the eight such Israeli institution.
Once OC Central Command Maj.- Gen. Nitzan Alon signs the order, an issue of formality, it will be the first time in close to 40 years that an Israeli institute of higher learning has been accredited.
Left wing politicians, academics and activists as well as Palestinians and the international community have in the past heavily criticized the push to accredit the university, because of it is located in the Ariel settlement in the Samaria region...
But on Monday night Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar (Likud) hailed Barak’s decision. It came just hours after Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein formally recommended and reiterated his support for the move.
Netanyahu called university’s chancellor Yigal Cohen-Orgad to congratulate him.
“After decades, the state has an additional university,” he said. “It further strengthens higher education in Israel,” Netanyahu added.
Earlier in the day, Weinstein penned a letter to Alon, recommending he proceed with the process of recognizing the university, which had gone under the name of Ariel University Center of Samaria.
Weinstein advised that there was no reason to delay the accreditation process, which now needs only Alon’s signature.
On Monday night, Barak ordered Alon to sign the accreditation, which is in line with a July decision by the Council for Higher Education in Judea and Samaria.
Alon has yet to sign, but that is just a formality, and his signature is expected soon.
Weinstein said that the decision of the Judea and Samaria Council combined with the government's decision earlier this year to grant the institute university status, gave Alon the power to approve AUC...
Ariel University, which has 14,000 students, was first created in 1982 as a branch of Bar-Ilan University. It became an independent college in the 1990s and upgraded to the status of University Center, in 2007....
Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar expressed "satisfaction" over the decision. "An important process has been completed during the current government term - a process which I led despite numerous irrelevant objections," Sa'ar said. "Making the AUC Israel's eighth university is the right move for the country's higher education system."
The University said Barak’s order proved once and for all that it was equal in status and stature to the other seven Israeli accredited universities.
Monday, December 24, 2012
The possible nomination of former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense will represent a litmus test as to whether President Obama is poised to resume his anti-Israeli campaign, despite supporting Israel during Operation Pillar of Defense and only last week employing a US veto in favor of Israel at the UN.
One should not underestimate the significance of appointing a man like Hagel to such a key post. He represents one of the most hostile antagonists of Israel in the mainstream political arena. Some of his views have even been compared to the extremist policies promoted by Pat Buchanan, the former Republican radical isolationist.
For example, Hagel has questioned the patriotism of the American Jewish community – accusing them of displaying dual loyalties – proclaiming that “the Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people” and that “I am a United States Senator not an Israeli Senator”.
His indifference and even hostility towards Israel has been completely out of synch with mainstream congressional attitudes. He was one of four senators who refused to sign a Senate letter supporting Israel during the second Intifada. During the Second Lebanon War he blamed Israel and Hezbollah equally for the conflict. He subsequently rebuffed efforts to persuade the European Union to ban Hezbollah as a terrorist group. In 2009, he urged Obama to engage in direct negotiations with Hamas. Earlier this month, the Atlantic Council, which he chairs, published a front page article titled “Israel’s apartheid policies”.
He has unfailingly opposed sanctions or military action against Iran, warning that a nuclear Iran was inevitable and “continued hostile relations between the US and Iran will have the effect of isolating the United States”. He even refused to endorse the designation of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist entity.
Hagel supported unconditional engagement with rogue states, stating “engagement is not surrender. It is not appeasement”.
He held both Assads (father and son) in high regard. In 2008, together with Senator Kerry (now designated to become Secretary of State), he co-authored an article in the Wall Street Journal titled “It is time to talk to Syria” which stated “Syria’s leaders have always made cold calculations in the name of self-preservation and history shows that intensive diplomacy can pay off”. As late as 2009, he was still urging the US to engage in dialogue with Syria.
Hagel also favors reducing what he described as the “bloated” Defense budget – unusual for a candidate who would overview the Pentagon.
Based on this grotesque political track record, even the liberal Washington Post editorial board urged Obama to reject the nomination on the grounds that it was totally inappropriate for such a sensitive position to be headed by a person harboring views which would be regarded as “near the fringe of the Senate”.
Hagel is supported by the wrong people. These include
- the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), described by the FBI as an unindicted co-conspirator to fund Hamas and also cited as an agent of the Moslem Brotherhood in America.
- Stephen Walt, co-author of the notorious book “The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy”, which mimicked classic anti-Semitic stereotypes, said that Hagel’s nomination would be excellent because “unlike almost all of his former colleagues on Capitol Hill, he has not been a complete doormat for the Israeli lobby” and is “skeptical about the use of military force against Iran”. He also said that the appointment would represent Obama’s “payback to Benjamin Netanyahu”.
- Executive Director of J Street, Jeremy Ben-Ami endorsed Hagel as “a fine choice” and “friend of Israel”. He complained that “somebody of Chuck Hagel’s stature and significant record of national service is being slandered”.
- Peter Beinart condemned the White House for emboldening the “pro-Israel right” by failing to defend Hagel.
Senior Wall Street Journal columnist Bret Stephens stated that Hagel’s appointment would confirm his belief that Obama is not a friend of Israel and that “Perhaps the 63% of Jewish Americans who cast their vote for Mr. Obama last month might belatedly take note”.
In fact, Hagel’s nomination will demonstrate whether pro-Israel Jewish Democrats who voted for Obama carry any weight within the party or are now cynically taken for granted as automated supporters irrespective of how the Democratic Party behaves towards the Jewish state.
Interestingly enough, in 2009, after Hagel was named co-chairman of the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, Ira Forman, then executive director of the National Jewish Democratic Council (and subsequently appointed Obama’s 2012 Jewish outreach coordinator), felt impelled to state that “if Hagel was taking a policy role, we’d have real concerns”. Forman currently declined to comment on the far more significant role for which Hagel is currently being considered.
Ed Koch, a passionate Zionist and former Democratic mayor of New York who nevertheless endorsed Obama in the elections, said that Hagel “would be a terrible appointment… and would give comfort to the Arab world that would think that President Obama is seeking to put space between Israel and his administration”.
Chief Executive of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA), Mort Klein, called on President Obama to withdraw the nomination of one of the most consistently hostile political critics of Israel. The ZOA summed up Hagel as “a frightening and dangerous apologist for groups like Hamas and Hezbollah, as well as for the terrorist regime of Iran, while being arguably one of the most vicious and hostile critics of Israel”.
Anti-Defamation League Director, Abe Foxman – who those on the right frequently accuse of deferring unduly to the liberal establishment – stated that Hagel’s record on Israel and the US-Israel relationship “is at best, disturbing and at worst, very troubling. The sentiments he has expressed about the Jewish lobby border on anti-Semitism in the genre of Professors John Mearsheimer, Stephen Walt and former President Jimmy Carter”.
AJC Executive Director, David Harris pointed out that as far back as 1999, Hagel was the only Senator who refused to sign a letter urging Russian President Yeltsin to take action to quash burgeoning anti-Semitism. He noted that the concerns the AJC had about Hagel 13 years ago, remain today.
If nominated, Hagel’s confirmation in the Senate will presumably be challenged. However, despite holding views which conflict starkly with mainstream Congress foreign affairs attitudes, rejecting him may be complicated by the fact that he is a former Republican Senator and a popular, highly decorated war hero.
But there should be no illusions. This is a watershed and litmus test of Obama’s attitude to the Jewish state. Should Hagel’s appointment be confirmed it would be perceived as a signal of the president’s determination to revive his earlier efforts to distance the US from Israel and that we are likely to face massive problems during the course of this administration.
To appoint as Secretary of Defense, a man who has consistently opposed sanctions as well as military action against Iran would also undermine Israel’s confidence that Obama was sincere when throughout the elections he repeatedly vowed that Iran would never become a nuclear power under his watch.
Sunday, December 23, 2012
Is the High Commissioner of Palestine returning to the land of Israel? While the British left the land a long time ago, European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who is British, hasn't ceased to worry over, keep an eye on, and condemn us all because of the decision to renew construction in Jerusalem.
For years Ashton and her associates pressured us to accept reality, to face the facts and to recognize the Palestinians' right to a state. Ultimately, and to the chagrin of many Israelis, even Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu came to terms with the idea.
Now, Miss Ashton, it is your turn. It's about time that you and your colleagues face reality. The Jerusalem you are talking about today is much different than that of 45 years ago, which seems to still be stuck in your heads. This city, part of the Jewish genome, is not up for debate, first and foremost because of the continuous Jewish connection to it throughout the ages and our rights of primogeniture over the city (which has never been an Arab political or cultural capital).
Beyond these factors, though, you should take a few other facts into account: The area you are accustomed to calling "east Jerusalem," in other words, the area north and south and east of the Green Line that split the city in half during the Jordanian occupation, is home today to some 200,000 Jews comprising 41 percent of all the residents living in this area. Eighty-five percent of the 295,000 Arabs in east Jerusalem were born after 1967 into the reality of a united Jerusalem under Israeli governance, and were never exposed to the reality of a divided city.
They are extremely fearful of Palestinian Authority rule and the division of the city. Tens of thousands of them voted with their feet by crossing the security barrier in north Jerusalem over to the Israeli side, to remain inside the united city. Additional tens of thousands have said in surveys that they will do the same thing if the city is once again divided.
Israel has made mistakes in Jerusalem, but it has also done many good things: The health care system in Jerusalem serves both populations, as does Hebrew University, the Roads Authority, public transportation, shopping malls, electricity grids, telephone wires and the sewage system. The neighborhoods themselves are also intertwined. Even the barriers between the different quarters in the Old City are increasingly blurred. Jews live in the Muslim Quarter; Muslims live in the Christian Quarter. In contrast to the period under Jordanian rule, the holy sites are open to everyone. The only such restriction is against Jews on the Temple Mount.
When you mention neighborhoods in Jerusalem, you must be accurate: In Beit Tzafafa, a village divided by fences and walls that separated Jordan and Israel, residents today say thanks on a daily basis that the walls have come down, despite the discrimination they suffer. Isawiya, which your spokespeople occasionally refer to as "east Jerusalem," was part of the Israeli Mount Scopus enclave until 1967.
But aside from "little" details such as these, you should write this down for yourselves: Dividing Jerusalem is not only impossible, it also contradicts the wills of the majority of the city's residents, Jewish and Arab alike.