Thursday, March 14, 2013

Make peace with who?

From Palestinian Public Opinion Poll No (46), published 13 Jan 2013:

In the aftermath of the Gaza War: Hamas’ way is preferred by the majority over Abbas’ way as the most effective in ending occupation and building a Palestinian state and Haniyeh defeats Abbas in a presidential election

Given the outcome of the war between Hamas/other resistance groups and Israel, in your view whose way is the best to end the Israeli occupation and build a Palestinian state: Hamas’ way or Abbas’s way?
1)Certainly Hamas’
4)Certainly Abbas
5)Other (specify: -------------------)

Ending the "Refugee" scam

A new effort is underway, backed by Israel, to tackle ‘the major hurdle to peace:’ how the UN defines a Palestinian refugee

Israel’s next government agreed: 4 parties, 68 members

Yesh Atid accepts Netanyahu offer, paving way for incoming coalition; key players meeting Wednesday night; swearing-in set for Monday

Yair Lapid, leader of the Yesh Atid political party, with his No. 2 Shai Piron (right) and fellow MK Yaakov Peri (center), in the Knesset last month. Photo credit: Miriam Alster/FLASH90)
Yair Lapid, leader of the Yesh Atid political party, with his No. 2 Shai Piron (right) and fellow MK Yaakov Peri (center), in the Knesset last month. Photo credit: Miriam Alster/FLASH90)
Six weeks of coalition talks drew toward a successful conclusion Wednesday evening, when the Likud finally conceded the Education Ministry to Yesh Atid’s Yair Lapid, and Lapid reportedly accepted the other terms of Likud’s compromise offer.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was set to meet with Lapid, Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett and former foreign minister Avigdor Liberman to confirm the terms.
“This government will be good for Israel,” Bennett said Wednesday night.
The necessary legal documents were to be drawn up and signed Thursday, leaving Netanyahu free to formally inform President Shimon Peres on Saturday night — the final day of the six weeks allocated to him — that he has mustered a Knesset majority. The coalition will comprise four parties: Likud-Beytenu (31 seats), Yesh Atid (19), Jewish Home (12) and Hatnua (6), for a total of 68 members in the 120-seat Knesset.
The outgoing government is set to hold a final meeting on Sunday, and the new government will be sworn in Monday — some 48 hours before the scheduled arrival of Barack Obama on his first presidential visit.
In return for having his No. 2, Rabbi Shai Piron, appointed education minister, Lapid agreed to give up on some of his other demands, including control of the Interior Ministry, his opposition to Hatnua having two ministers, and his objection to the Likud gaining an extra deputy minister, Channel 2 reported.
Gideon Sa’ar, Likud’s serving education minister, only learned that he would likely be losing his job from the TV reports, Channel 2 said, adding that he was now set to be made minister of the interior.
Along with Piron at education, Lapid himself is set to serve as finance minister, and Yesh Atid will likely have three other ministers in a cabinet of 21-22 members. Bennett will be minister of economics and trade, and his Jewish Home party will have two more ministers, one of whom is likely to be Uri Ariel at Housing.
Bennett reportedly told Lapid that if he didn’t accept Netanyahu’s compromise offer, Jewish Home would sign a coalition deal without Yesh Atid.
Netanyahu will hold the Foreign Ministry, to hand over to former foreign minister Liberman should he beat the fraud and breach of trust charges that forced his resignation in December. Likud’s former IDF chief of General Staff Moshe Ya’alon is set to succeed Ehud Barak as minister of defense. Likud-Beytenu will hold 11 ministries in all.
Tzipi Livni, who signed a coalition deal with Netanyahu last month, is to serve as justice minister, with her Hatnua party colleague Amir Peretz at environmental affairs.
There will be seven or eight deputy ministers, one of them, from Likud, at education.
Bennett, ending talks Wednesday afternoon with Lapid, had said he was confident that the two parties would yet resolve their differences with Netanyahu’s Likud-Beytenu and form a coalition. “There’ll be a government. I’m optimistic,” Bennett said, before heading off for further consultations with Likud representatives.
Bennett, who has emerged as the mediator between Netanyahu and Lapid in the final days of the coalition countdown, was speaking hours after Netanyahu issued an ultimatum to Lapid: either sign a deal to join the coalition, or the Likud will start negotiating with the ultra-Orthodox parties, Shas and United Torah Judaism.
“If there is no breakthrough in coalition negotiations with Yair Lapid in the next few hours, and he doesn’t back down from his excessive demands, the prime minister will initiate talks with the Haredi parties,” a senior Likud official said Wednesday morning.
It was not clear how potent the Likud threat was, since even with both ultra-Orthodox parties on his side, Netanyahu could not muster a Knesset majority without Bennett. And Bennett had been resolute that he would not join a coalition without Lapid.
Moreover, the ultra-Orthodox parties, having been spurned by Netanyahu in the past few weeks of talks, would likely not have allied with him cheaply, and would not easily accept the idea of mandatory national service for their young males — a demand that has been emphatically advanced by Lapid and Bennett, and that has wide public support.
Still, Shas’s Eli Yishai was reported in the ultra-Orthodox media to have been consulting with the party’s spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef Wednesday over the possibility of joining the coalition.
Earlier this week, Lapid rejected Likud’s suggested power-sharing deal for the education portfolio — the key obstacle to a coalition deal. Likud was determined to see Sa’ar maintain his position, while Yesh Atid insisted the post go to Piron.
“The coalition crisis that we are witnessing now is not merely a battle over ministerial portfolios. Yesh Atid’s insistence on receiving the Education Ministry stems from the fact that the path toward changing Israeli society lies there,” Yesh Atid said in a statement. “Yesh Atid asked for the public’s trust in order to battle not just for [a reduction in] the size of the government and equal share of the burden, but also for education and Israeli society’s future. Yair Lapid will not back down on his principles, even it means he has to sit in the opposition.”
“Education is at our core,” Yesh Atid MK Meir Cohen told Israel Radio. “It’s up to the prime minister to decide whether to give it to us or face new elections.”
The first-time MK said Yesh Atid wanted control of the Education Ministry because of its importance in shaping Israeli society, and charged that Likud only cared about the post because it ensured the party could maintain its influence over the ultra-Orthodox public by controlling the purse strings that fund Haredi educational institutions.
“We plan to introduce greater transparency to the budget, which discriminates between sectors [of Israeli society],” said Cohen, himself a former school principal.
Shortly after reports of Likud’s ultimatum began to circulate, Bennett posted a message on Facebook reading: “My friends in the Likud: forget about it. This is not the way. There are gaps. We need to talk and compromise, all of us, until a new government is formed. There is a state to worry about.”
Netanyahu met in secret with Bennett for several hours Tuesday night. During the meeting, Bennett repeatedly called Lapid in an effort to bridge the differences between the two leaders, but with no success.
Likud, Yesh Atid and Jewish Home were also battling over control of the powerful Knesset Finance Committee, with Jewish Home reportedly winning the battle to chair the panel under the final compromise.
Likud-Beytenu, Yesh Atid and Jewish Home agreed on Monday to shrink the Cabinet to 20 ministers plus the prime minister, down from 30 in the last government. The issue had been a central demand of the Yesh Atid party, which had wanted a cap of 18 ministers.
They also reportedly agreed to raise the threshold for Knesset representation from 2% to 4% from the next elections, a move that could dramatically reduce the number of parties making it into parliament.
The reduction in the size of the Cabinet marks a significant achievement for Lapid, who argued that a lean government would set the right example for Israel as it faces budget cuts in a challenging economic environment.
The smaller cabinet will complicate Netanyahu’s difficulties within his own Likud, where too many outgoing ministers and rising political players are competing for too few cabinet seats. Danny Danon and Tzipi Hotovely, two younger politicians who did well in the Likud party primaries, have been publicly advancing their own claims, but are seen as unlikely to make it into the cabinet. And there may simply not be enough jobs for all outgoing Likud ministers such as Silvan Shalom, Yisrael Katz, Gilad Erdan, Yuval Steinitz and Limor Livnat.
Media reports Wednesday evening suggested bitter internal fighting in the Likud over the relative paucity of the party’s ministerial options.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Australian Labor Leaders off track on Israel

From:The Australian, March 09, 2013, by:GREG SHERIDAN, FOREIGN EDITOR:
THE sad case of Ben Zygier, the Mossad agent who committed suicide in an Israeli prison in 2010, brings to the fore the strange pathologies in Australian opinion concerning Israel. It also underlines how badly the Labor government has gone off course in its conception of Israel, and Israel's place in the world.
I think Labor has been led astray by its two dominant foreign policy figures, Kevin Rudd and Bob Carr. It's no secret I admire Rudd and Carr. Both get far more right than wrong on foreign policy. But they are wrong on this.
Let's start with Zygier. He was an Israeli with an Australian passport who had served in the Israeli military as well as Mossad. He was arrested on national security charges. In 10 months in prison he was visited 50 times by his family, had frequent access to vigorous lawyers he chose and was not mistreated.
ASIO told the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade about Zygier's incarceration and made several reports to the attorneys-general. The most senior figures in the offices of the prime minister and the foreign minister were notified as well.
Under the governing international conventions, if a citizen is on trial in the nation of his citizenship, that nation is not obliged to give consular access to another nation whose passport he may also hold. Such considerations didn't even arise because Zygier didn't want Australian consular assistance. Yet the whole case has been used, characteristically, to paint Israel as a secretive, militaristic, national security state.
This week Rudd demanded that Israel say what Zygier was charged with. Yet the official DFAT report on Zygier, which the Gillard government accepts in its entirety, recommends that the official Israeli inquiries be allowed to conclude before Australia seeks any more information.
For his part, Carr mostly handled the matter well. He commented that there was no information to suggest that Zygier's Australian passports had been used for intelligence purposes. He then went on to say, however, that if this turned out to be the case Australia would be outraged and, absurdly, Australians would be put at risk. Yet when dealing with a friendly nation, surely it is reasonable to wait for evidence of an offence before throwing the switch to outrage.
Fairfax journalist Peter Hartcher commented that Carr tried to put more distance between Australia and Israel. Hartcher is right. This is the mainstream view. The same is true of Rudd. The question is: why? Beyond Zygier, let me offer some examples of where Labor has got it wrong on Israel and then suggest the analytical mistake at the root of these missteps.
Last year in a cabinet revolt, Julia Gillard was overridden on a key UN vote. Australia was set to vote no to elevating the status of the Palestinian Authority to an observer state at the UN. Carr and Rudd opposed Gillard's position (though Rudd was not a player in this vote). Under the baleful influence of Gareth Evans, a tremendously negative force on contemporary Labor foreign policy who offers only a bureaucratic version of conventional wisdom (and conventional wisdom is often wrong), Canberra changed its vote and abstained.
In its own terms, this was a very bad move. There will never be a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute until both sides compromise over an agreement. This UN move, along with many tens of millions of dollars of increased Australian aid to the Palestinians, gives them something for nothing. It helps convince the Palestinian leadership that the way to success doesn't involve compromise and negotiation. Instead the international community will do their job for them. It is a destructive syndrome.
Then, in the Australia-UK Ministerial Meeting in January, Carr ratcheted up Australia's rhetoric on Israel. For the first time, his office briefed journalists, Canberra was describing all Israeli settlements in the West Bank as illegal. Also, we were calling on President Barack Obama to lead a new peace effort on the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.
To simply call all Israeli settlements illegal is simplistic, reductionist, almost childish. It jumbles together in one category Jewish suburbs of East Jerusalem, large settlement blocks envisaged under every serious negotiation as staying with Israel, and those settlements illegal under Israeli law. It fails to recognise that there has been no physical expansion of settlement territory since 2004, that settlements occupy less than 3 per cent of the West Bank, that any settlement territory kept by Israel will be matched by land given to a Palestinian state from Israel proper and that settlements have never before been an obstacle to negotiations. Australia's position is also wrong in international law. Jordan, which formerly controlled the territory, is not the sovereign power andUN Security Council resolutions require a negotiated outcome.
But why take this position at all, except to kick sand in the Israelis' eyes? China claims all of the South China Sea almost right up to the Philippines shore, yet Canberra maintains a strict neutrality. If Israel is a friend, why the gratuitous aggro?
The demand that Obama urgently seek a peace settlement betrays the deeper analytical flaw by Carr and Rudd. At the moment, Syria does not exist as a nation, 70,000 of its citizens have been killed and its army has abandoned the border regions with Israel. Egypt is in terrible internal turmoil. Its army has effectively lost control of the vast Sinai area that borders Israel. No one can know what its future government will be like. And that's only the tip of the iceberg. The Palestinian leadership is murderously divided between the West Bank and Gaza. Surely it is intellectually fraudulent to imagine that any Israeli government could make a comprehensive peace in this context.
Underlying this is the cardinal doctrine of conventional wisdom among Guardian readers, UN habitues, European think tank staff and the like, and that is the implausible notion Israel is at the heart of Middle East disputes and the West's troubles with Islam.
Jimmy Carter, a kind of rich man's Evans, gives the platonic ideal of this position, when he writes: "The heart and mind of every Muslim is affected by whether or not the Israel-Palestine issue is dealt with."
The respected Jeffrey Goldberg, a senior editor at The Atlantic, points out that this notion now is simply "empirically insupportable". The civil war in Syria, the bloodshed and polarisation in Egypt, the chaos in Libya, the murderous politics of Tunisia, the disintegration of Yemen, the overarching Sunni-Shia conflict, Pakistan's support for South Asian terror, Afghanistan's Taliban - none of these can be remotely attributed to anything to do with Israel by anyone who takes reality seriously.
Just because an idea is widely uttered at the UN doesn't mean it embodies any reality. Carr, Rudd and Evans add to this zeitgeist error the subsidiary error that Australia seriously damages its reputation by supporting Israel at the UN, a proposition for which there is no evidence.
But even if it were true, this would be a price worth paying. Israel is Australia's friend and ally. The Labor Party used to know this and care about it. Joining in the popular kicking of Israel is not a sign of moral courage, though it will win plaudits from the usual suspects at the UN and in conventional international relations think tanks.
But it is an immoral position that betrays fundamental political, moral and ethical values that Labor used to understand pretty well.
Rudd and Carr are gifted men of great goodwill. On this matter they are completely wrong.