Trying to make sense of a meshuga planet

Palestinian reactions to Netanyahu’s speech

I would really prefer to say that there is a variety of opinions from the Palestinian/Arab side, but so far Israel’s “peace partner’s” reaction to an extended hand is unanimously negative, as Abba Eban has predicted long ago. Their idea of “two states for two peoples” is to have Judenrein Falastin and to flood Israel with Arabs. Of course they call it “peace”, but demand demographic, military, political, etc. abilities to destroy Israel as a Jewish state.


“President Obama, the ball is in your court tonight. You have the choice tonight. You can deal with Netanyahu as a prime minister above the law, close the file of peace tonight and engulf the whole area in the direction of violence, chaos, extremism and bloodletting. The other choice is to make Netanyahu abide by the “road map” plan for peace.

“The peace process has been moving at the speed of a tortoise. Tonight, Netanyahu has flipped it over on its back.”

It is funny that Erekat threatens with “violence, chaos, extremism and bloodletting” in the same phrase he mentions the Road map, because the Phase I of A Performance-Based Roadmap to a Permanent Two-State Solution to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict requires “Ending Terror And Violence, Normalizing Palestinian Life, and Building Palestinian Institutions.” Also, it is interesting that he expects Obama’s support.


“Netanyahu’s remarks have sabotaged all initiatives, paralysed all efforts being made and challenges the Palestinian, Arab and American positions.”

Empty mumbo-jumbo, but note how “the Palestinian, Arab and American positions” are being bunched together.

JPost reports:

“Netanyahu’s speech is a blow to Obama before it’s a blow to the Palestinians and Arabs,” an Abbas aide said. “It’s obvious, in the aftermath of this speech, that we are headed toward another round of violence and bloodshed.”

Abbas’s office issued a terse statement in which it accused Netanyahu of destroying efforts to achieve peace in the region.

“The speech has destroyed all initiatives and expectations,” the statement said. “It has also placed restrictions on all efforts to achieve peace and constitutes a clear challenge to the Palestinian, Arab and American positions.”

Nabil Abu Rudaineh:

“Netanyahu’s remarks won’t lead to a just and comprehensive peace based on United Nations resolutions.”

Yasser Abed Rabbo, a senior PLO official closely associated with Abbas, launched a scathing attack on Netanyahu, calling him a “swindler and liar.”

Netanyahu wanted the Palestinians to join the Zionist movement by offering them a state under the protectorate of Israel, Abed Rabbo said. He also rejected Netanyahu’s demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state.

The speech, Abed Rabbo said, was worthless and meaningless and hampered efforts to move forward toward a fair solution to the Israeli-Arab conflict.

“Netanyahu is creating tricks to sabotage the peace process,” he said. “The response to Netanyahu must be firm.”

Again, irresponsible threats, absurd demands and childish temper tantrums. It seems the Palestinian leadership is not in a hurry to build their own state. An why should they be: the entire world is providing them with billions and is taking their “plight” close to heart. Who will be interested in another tiny Arab state without oil, when future Falastin won’t be bent on destroying its Jewish neighbor?

As for the speech itself, I tend to agree with Daniel Pipes’ evaluation: “In brief, it’s a fine speech, making many needed points, but it fails on the critical point of prematurely accepting a Palestinian state.”

A brilliant Palestinian reporter Khaled Abu Toameh offers Analysis: Why was PA reaction to Netanyahu’s speech so harsh? (JPost)

The Palestinian Authority leadership’s hysterical, hasty and clearly miscalculated response to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s speech at Bar-Ilan University on Sunday night is likely to boomerang because it makes the Palestinians appear as “peace rejectionists.”

Note, the PA is the “moderate” “peace partner”. YID With LID has more quotes, including some reactions from Hamas. According to those “humanitarians“, a demand to recognize a Jewish State is a “racist” position: Those “Moderate” Palestinians React to Netanyahu’s Peace Proposal. So in another post, he conveniently provides a map of states declaring themselves as Arab or Islamic.

A summary of Arab media reaction on Netanyahu’s speech (Hat tip: RoadsToIraq)

Palestinian response to Netanyahu speech – panic or delusion? by Avi Issacharoff (Haaretz)

The Palestinian reaction to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s address Sunday can been seen as an indication of panic or alternately as proof that they are drunk with power.

Arabs Pan Israel’s Overture by Margaret Coker (WSJ)


June 15, 2009 Posted by | Arab-Israeli Conflict | , | 1 Comment

Obama’s Cairo speech analyses roundup

The “big” speech was indeed so long-winded and multi-faceted that, before it is too late, I decided to post a few good links and a single quote, instead of my random thoughts. It’s a bit too much for me to chew right now.

In 1922 the League of Nations mandated Great Britain to facilitate the
reconstitution of the Jewish commonwealth in the Land of Israel on both
sides of the Jordan River. The international community’s decision to work
towards the reestablishment of Jewish sovereignty in Israel owed to its
recognition of the Jewish people’s legal, historic, and moral rights to our

Arab propaganda finds this basic and fundamental truth inconvenient. So for
the past 60 years, the Arabs have been advancing the fiction that Israel’s
existence owes solely to European guilt over the Holocaust. As far as the
Arabs are concerned, the Jews have no legal, historic, or moral right to
what the Arabs see as Islamic land.

In his address, while Obama admonished the Arabs for their pervasive Jew hatred and Holocaust denial, he effectively accepted and legitimized their view that Israel owes its existence to the Holocaust when he said, “the aspiration for a Jewish homeland is rooted in a tragic history that cannot be denied,” and then went on to talk about the Holocaust.

Just as abominably, Obama compared Israel to Southern slave owners and Palestinians to black slaves in the antebellum south. He used the Arab euphemism “resistance” to discuss Palestinian terrorism, and generally ignored the fact that every Palestinian political faction is also a terrorist organization.

In addition to his morally outrageous characterization of Israel and factually inaccurate account of its foundations, Obama struck out at the Jewish state through the two policies he outlined in his address. His first policy involves coercing Israel into barring all Jewish construction in Judea and Samaria (otherwise known as the West Bank), and Jerusalem.

Even more strategically devastating than his castigation of Israel as the villain in the Arab-Israel conflict is Obama’s stated policy towards Iran.



Criticism and Conciliation by Raymond Ibrahim

West Bank Settlements and the Future of U.S.-Israeli Relations by George Friedman (STRATFOR)

The Exodus Obama Forgot to Mention by Andre Aciman

Israel and the US: What Special Relationship? by Ami Isseroff

Why Israelis Are Cool on the Obama Speech by Judea Pearl

Our Historically Challenged President. A list of distortions by Victor Davis Hanson

Obama to Jews: I’m Just Not That Into You by Stuart Schwartz

A new magazine Tablet has a Liberal response to Conservative criticism:
Purple Prose of Cairo. The trouble with conservative critiques of Obama’s Cairo speech by Michael Weiss

How representative is this selection? It depends on the metrics. This is what caught my eye and I thought is worth attention.

June 9, 2009 Posted by | Arab-Israeli Conflict, US foreign policy | , , , | Leave a comment

NYT’s Roger Cohen cheers up for James “F*ck the Jews” Baker

NYT continues to publish Roger Cohen’s stream of nonsense. The guy simply doesn’t know what he’s talking about. This time he recommends:

I hope President Obama has been reading James Baker in preparation for his speech Thursday to the Muslim world. It was in the time of the former secretary of state, two decades ago, that the United States last had a balanced approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Infamously, during a private conversation in 1992 James Baker remarked: “Fuck the Jews.”

Looking back, here Scott Johnson at PowerLine picked apart Roger Cohen’s case of malice towards Israel, while looking for excuses for and publicly expressing his infatuation with Iranian mullocracy:

In Roger Cohen’s world, Yasser Arafat was a true partner in “the peace of the brave” represented by the Oslo accords. It is a bit difficult to follow Cohen’s train of thought through the tears he sheds. Apparently only the murder of Rabin intruded to prevent the peace that was in the making at his death and apparently only the coming of another Rabin is what is called for now that Israel faces heightened existential threats partly created by Oslo itself. In addition to demonstrating the usual Times malice toward Israel, Cohen’s article showed Cohen himself to be an utter fool.

Most recently, Cohen has displayed his foolishness in a series of columns on Iran, beginning with “What Iran’s Jews say.” Cohen followed up with “Iran, Jews and Germany,” “Iran, Jews and pragmatism” and “From Tehran to Tel Aviv.”

Ronald Radosh reviewed Cohen’s columns and the response to them in “Memo to the New York Times: Fire Roger Cohen!” This week he returned to the subject in “Roger Cohen’s continuing nonsense.”

In his “Iran, Jews and pragmatism” column, Cohen holds himself out as providing “a cautionary warning against the misguided view of Iran as nothing but a society of mad mullah terrorists bent on nukes.” He has sought to examine the “distinctive characteristics of Persian society.” Cohen calls for us to see Iran in full.

Here Jeffrey Goldberg picks apart Roger Cohen’s idyllic “Iranian civility toward Jews”. Only someone who doesn’t have a clue how totalitarian societies work – invariably held on fear – can be so gravely naive.

June 4, 2009 Posted by | Arab-Israeli Conflict, Iran | , , , | 2 Comments

Robert Baer’s proposed solution and UNSCR 242

This is an update to my earlier post about Baer’s book The Devil We Know: Dealing With The New Iranian Superpower.

As with his other books, I enjoyed the parts where Baer describes his own experiences. When he talks about his fallen colleagues (Baer is an ex-CIA who served in the Middle East, including Lebanon in the 1980s), it is truly touching.

He makes some very good points, but at times I find myself questioning his conclusions and recommendations, especially when he attempts to play prophet.

He sees a possible conflict the US vs. Iran as either
(1) a 30-year war, which may turn into a 100-year war, or
(2) the US acknowledging the “devil we know” as a “new superpower” and making peace with Iranian mullocracy/Revolutionary Guard regime according to its new dominating status: guarantee its security, lift the sanctions, jointly patrol the Gulf, give them a role in Iraq and Afghanistan, and basically let them spread their influence as far as they wish, including Iran’s takeovers from Bahrain to Iraq to Mecca to Lebanon to Gaza.

Baer prefers to deal with the Shia (whom he describes as a closed and secretive society, but ultimately rational, pragmatic and disciplined) rather than with the Sunnis (lacking central power/doctrine and often turning radical, e.g. uncompromising “takfiris”, who see the world strictly in black & white). He seems to take a defeatist position: we’ve already lost, and we don’t even know it (book title notwithstanding). According to him, Iran has perfected modern warfare in Lebanon and Iraq via proxies (Hezbollah, Iraq’s Shia majority & the Kurds) and by consorting with Russia and China. Characteristically, ch. 5 is entitled: “Lethal and Elusive: Why Iran’s Weapons and Tactics Make It Unconquerable – Even Without Nukes.”

But the biggest surprise for me was his recommendation for Israel: give up the alleged nukes and implement UNSCR 242 – I italicized the verb because Baer seems to (mis)understand it as endless Israeli concessions. He should know better: the resolution is so short that I will quote it in its entirety here:

The Security Council,

Expressing its continuing concern with the grave situation in the Middle East,

Emphasizing the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war and the need to work for a just and lasting peace in which every State in the area can live in security,

Emphasizing further that all Member States in their acceptance of the Charter of the United Nations have undertaken a commitment to act in accordance with Article 2 of the Charter,

1. Affirms that the fulfillment of Charter principles requires the establishment of a just and lasting peace in the Middle East which should include the application of both the following principles:

(i) Withdrawal of Israel armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict;

(ii) Termination of all claims or states of belligerency and respect for and acknowledgement of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every State in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force;

2. Affirms further the necessity

(a) For guaranteeing freedom of navigation through international waterways in the area;

(b) For achieving a just settlement of the refugee problem;

(c) For guaranteeing the territorial inviolability and political independence of every State in the area, through measures including the establishment of demilitarized zones;

3. Requests the Secretary-General to designate a Special Representative to proceed to the Middle East to establish and maintain contacts with the States concerned in order to promote agreement and assist efforts to achieve a peaceful and accepted settlement in accordance with the provisions and principles in this resolution;

4. Requests the Secretary-General to report to the Security Council on the progress of the efforts of the Special Representative as soon as possible.

Note the absence of “the” in 1(i) and… not a word about the Palestinians, who were not a party in 1967 Six-Day War.
Here is one decent analysis
Here is another.

May 31, 2009 Posted by | Arab-Israeli Conflict, Iran | , , , | Leave a comment

US-funded PA names a center “after the martyr Dalal Mughrabi”

How many times we hear that the PA is “too weak” to act decisively against terrorism? No amount of money, equipment and training seems to make any difference. And so, apologists of PA’s inaction come up with never-ending demands of concessions and “gestures” from Israel (not that these make any difference, either).

Itamar Marcus and Barbara Crook (of Palestinian Media Watch) ask in JPost: Will the US follow its laws and suspend funding to Abbas? The article proves that Palestinian leadership consistently makes incitement of violence against Jews and Israel their first choice. The full article has more evidence.

As US President Barack Obama prepares to welcome Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to Washington this week, and US lawmakers debate the proposed $900 million aid package to the PA, it is once again using its money to proclaim that killing Israeli woman and children is heroic.

The PA chose to name its latest computer center “after the martyr Dalal Mughrabi,” who led the most deadly terror attack in the country’s history. Her 1978 bus hijacking killed 37 civilians, 12 of them children, including American photographer Gail Rubin. The new center is funded by Abbas’s office, which is bolstered by Western aid money. (Al-Ayyam, May 5).

US law prohibits the funding of Palestinian structures that use any portion of their budget to promote terror or honor terrorists. But $200 million of the US’s proposed $900m. aid package is earmarked to go directly to the Abbas government, which regularly uses its budget to honor terrorists. In fact, this latest veneration of Mughrabi is not an isolated case, but part of a continuing pattern of honoring terrorists that targets children in particular.

Last summer the PA sponsored “the Dalal Mughrabi football championship” for kids, and a “summer camp named for martyr Dalal Mughrabi… out of honor and admiration for the martyr.” It also held a party to honor exemplary students, also named “for the martyr Dalal Mughrabi,” under the auspices of Abbas and at which Abbas’s representative “reviewed the heroic life of the martyr [Mughrabi] (Al-Hayat al-Jadida, July 23, 24 and August 8, 2008). All these PA-funded activities were to teach kids that a killer of women and children is a role model.

TWO MONTHS AGO, 31 years to the day after the Mughrabi murders, PA TV broadcast a special program celebrating the terror attack, calling the killing of 37 civilians “one of the most important and most prominent special operations… carried out by a team of heroes and led by the heroic fighter Dalal Mughrabi” (PA TV March 11).

In 2002, US money funded renovations of the “Dalal Mughrabi school for girls.” After PMW alerted the US State Department to Mughrabi’s terrorist past, the funding was cancelled. Within 24 hours, the PA said the name would be changed, and the American money was reinstated. Once the work was completed, however, the school was renamed for the terrorist. It bears Mughrabi’s name to this day.

AT A RECENT hearing of the House Appropriations Committee, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pledged: “We will work only with a Palestinian Authority government that unambiguously and explicitly accepts the Quartet’s principles, [including] a commitment to nonviolence.” And it’s not just Clinton’s pledge. US law interprets nonviolence to include not honoring terrorists: “None of the [US]… assistance under the West Bank and Gaza program may be made available for the purpose of recognizing or otherwise honoring individuals who commit, or have committed acts of terrorism” (2008 Foreign Operations Bill Sec. 657.B – C.1). This latest glorification of the terrorist Mughrabi, coming as Congress considers the administration’s latest request to fund Abbas, imposes a profound responsibility on Congress. But it also creates a unique opportunity.

Will the US follow its own laws, and insist that the PA stop turning killers of women and children into heroes and role models before it receives another cent of US money? Congress and Obama can send a message to the PA that the US will not fund the PA, or any part of its budget, until it proves that it has ceased promoting terrorist murderers as heroes and role models. It can demand a statement from Abbas – in public, in Arabic and in the PA media – that murdering Israelis is terror, that terrorists are neither heroes nor holy martyrs and that they will no longer be honored.

Or they can send a different message to Abbas: that raising another generation of Palestinian children to the values of hate, murder and martyrdom is acceptable to the US – so acceptable that the US is even willing to fund it.

May 28, 2009 Posted by | Palestinians | , , , | Leave a comment

The unbearable lightness of being [irresponsible]

As always, an insightful article by Barry Rubin: How Can Israel depend on those who have Proven Undependable?

Back in 1993, when the “peace process” began, President Bill Clinton told a press conference that Israel was ready to take risks for peace and he told Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, “If you do that, my role is to minimize those risks.”

One of the most important elements in contemporary Israeli thinking is the irony of those words. Clinton, of course, meant them and his intentions were good. But looking back from 2009, the risks taken by Israel and the concessions it has made have repeatedly plagued the country and cost the lives of thousands of its citizens.

Not only has the United States—and the Europeans who made similar pledges—failed to minimize the costs of this process but in most cases they have not even acknowledged it. Israeli concessions have not, as was expected, led to increasing support and public respect, quite the opposite.

Anyone who wants to deal with the conflict today must acknowledge and deal with this experience but we find that it is not happening. In the statements of Western leaders and in the media, what we usually discover is that such matters are either not mentioned at all or only passed over in ritualistic fashion. There is much talk about Israeli concessions and responsibilities, virtually none about Palestinian ones.

Thus, the two-state solution (TSS) or stopping settlement construction or removing roadblocks are spoken about as if these things alone will bring peace. There is little about a Palestinian Authority (PA) end to incitement to murder Israelis and denial of Israel’s right to exist (which goes on daily) or better security efforts, or agreement to end the conflict or to resettle refugees within a Palestinian state. There is little acknowledgement that Hamas’s control of the Gaza Strip is not just an inconvenience but an almost total roadblock for any hope of peace.

Note well, these are not “hawkish” or “anti-peace” arguments. Anyone who wants to make progress must deal with them very seriously. If these issues are ignored, failure is inevitable.

Read the entire article.

Under normal circumstances, whenever two sides enter into an agreement/contract, there is some kind of “or else” clause and the side that does not uphold its obligations has to pay. Curiously, when it comes to repeatedly failing Mid-East “peace process”, there’s no responsibilities and no consequences.

Hordes of conceit “peacemakers” keep giving promises they do not care to keep, because whatever happens, they still look good: if they can put a positive spin on it, they will take full credit; if the situation gets worse, well, they made an attempt of a noble mission and got a photo-op. Since no one is held responsible for their flawed plans, these plans tend to grow increasingly fanciful and delusional – such as recent Jordan’s Abdullah’s “57 state-solution” which the Arab League quickly rendered stillborn.

So when the next peacemaker pushes Israel to take even more risks while making questionable promises, let’s make sure there is “or else” clause.

May 26, 2009 Posted by | Arab-Israeli Conflict | | Leave a comment

Andrei Sakharov’s widow Yelena Bonner speaks out

IsraelNN published excerpts from Yelena Bonner’s moving speech at Oslo Freedom Forum:

Read Sakharov’s Memoirs. It’s a pity his Diaries haven’t been translated; they were published in Russia in 2006. Apparently, the West isn’t interested now in Sakharov.

The West isn’t very interested in Russia either, a country that no longer has real elections, independent courts, or freedom of the press. Russia is a country where journalists, human rights activists, and migrants are killed regularly, almost daily. And extreme corruption flourishes of a kind and extent that never existed earlier in Russia or anywhere else. So what do the Western mass media discuss mainly? Gas and oil — of which Russia has a lot. Energy is its only political trump card, and Russia uses it as an instrument of pressure and blackmail… Russia will remain the way it is now for decades, unless there is some violent upheaval.

…They say people are coming together — but in reality, they are growing apart. And that isn’t because an economic depression suddenly burst forth, and swine flu to boot. [It] began on September 11, 2001. At first, anger and horror was provoked by the terrorists who knocked down the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center and by their accomplices in London, Madrid and other cities, and by the shahids, suicide bombers who blew themselves up at public spaces like discotheques and wedding parties, whose families were rewarded $25,000 each by Saddam Hussein.

Later, Bush was blamed for everything, and as always, the Jews — that is, Israel… So it is about Israel and the Jews that I will speak… At one time, the Nobel Peace Prize was the highest moral award of our civilization. But after December 1994, when Yasser Arafat became one of the three new laureates, its ethical value was undermined. I haven’t always greeted each selection of the Nobel Committee of the Norwegian Storting with joy, but that one shocked me. And to this day, I cannot understand and accept the fact that Andrei Sakharov and Yasir Arafat, now posthumously, share membership in the club of Nobel laureates.

In many of Sakharov’s publications… [he] wrote and spoke about Israel. I have a collection of citations of his writing on this topic. If it were published in Norway, then many Norwegians would be surprised at how sharply their contemporary view of Israel differs from the view of Sakharov. Here are several citations from Sakharov: …

“All wars that Israel has waged have been just, forced upon it by the irresponsibility of Arab leaders.” “With all the money that has been invested in the problem of Palestinians, it would have been possible long ago to resettle them and provide them with good lives in Arab countries.”

…Now, a new motif is fashionable (in fact it’s an old one): ‘Two states for two peoples.’ It sounds good. And there is no controversy in the peace-making Quartet, made up of the U.S., the UN, the EU, and Russia (some great peace-maker, with its Chechen war and its Abkhazian-Ossetian provocation). The Quartet, and the Arab countries, and the Palestinian leaders (both Hamas and Fatah) put additional demands to Israel. I will speak only of one demand: that Israel accept back the Palestinian refugees. And here a little history and demography are needed.

According to the UN’s official definition, refugees are considered those who fled from violence and wars, but not their descendants who are born in another land. At one time the Palestinian refugees and the Jewish refugees from Arab countries were about equal in number — about 700-800,000. The newly-created state Israel took in Jews (about 600,000). They were officially recognized as refugees by the UN Resolution 242, but not provided with any UN assistance. Palestinians, however, are considered refugees not only in the first generation, but in the second, third, and now even in the fourth generation. According to the UN Works and Relief Agency’s report, , the number of registered Palestinian refugees has grown from 914,000 in 1950 to more than 4.6 million in 2008, and continues to rise due to natural population growth. All these people have the rights of Palestinian refugees and are eligible to receive humanitarian aid.

The entire population of Israel is about 7.5 million, of which there are about 2.5 million ethnic Arabs who call themselves Palestinians. Imagine Israel then, if another five million Arabs flood into it; Arabs would substantially outnumber the Jewish population. Thus, created next to Israel will be a Palestinian state cleansed of Jews, because in addition to the demand that Palestinian refugees return to Israel, there is also the demand that Judea and Samaria are cleansed of Jews and turned over to Palestinians – while in Gaza today there is not a single Jew already.

The result is both strange and terrifying, not only because Israel will essentially be destroyed… Because the plan “two states for two peoples” is the creation of one state, ethnically cleansed of Jews, and a second one with the potential to do the same thing. A Judenrein Holy Land – the dream of Adolph Hitler come true at last. So think again, those who are still able, who has a fascist inside him today?

And another question that has been a thorn for me for a long time. It’s a question for my human rights colleagues. Why doesn’t the fate of the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit trouble you in the same way as the fate of the Guantanamo prisoners?

You fought for and won the opportunity for the International Committee of the Red Cross, journalists, and lawyers to visit Guantanamo. You know prison conditions, the prisoners’ everyday routine, their food. You have met with prisoners subjected to torture. The result of your efforts has been a ban on torture and a law to close this prison. President Obama signed it in the first days of his coming to the White House…

But during the two years Shalit has been held by terrorists, the world human rights community has done nothing for his release. Why? He is a wounded soldier, and fully falls under the protection of the Geneva Conventions. The Conventions say clearly that hostage-taking is prohibited, that representatives of the Red Cross must be allowed to see prisoners of war, especially wounded prisoners, and there is much else written in the Geneva Conventions about Shalit’s rights.

The fact that representatives of the Quartet conduct negotiations with the people who are holding Shalit in an unknown location, in unknown conditions, vividly demonstrates their scorn of international rights documents and their total legal nihilism. Do human rights activists also fail to recall the fundamental international rights documents?

And yet I still think (and some will find this naïve) that the first tiny, but real step toward peace must become the release of Shalit. Release – and not his exchange for 1,000 or 1,500 prisoners who are in Israeli prisons serving court sentences for real crimes.

Returning to my question of why human rights activists are silent, I can find no answer except that Shalit is an Israeli soldier, Shalit is a Jew. So again, it is conscious or unconscious anti-Semitism. Again, it is fascism.

Thirty-four years have passed since the day when I came to this city to represent my husband, Andrei Sakharov, at the 1975 Nobel Prize ceremony. I was in love with Norway then. The reception I received filled me with joy. Today, I feel Alarm and Hope (the title Sakharov used for his 1977 essay written at the request of the Nobel Committee).

Alarm because of the anti-Semitism and anti-Israeli sentiment growing throughout Europe and even further afield. And yet, I hope that countries, their leaders, and people everywhere will recall and adopt Sakharov’s ethical credo: “In the end, the moral choice turns out to be also the most pragmatic choice.”

I hope they listen. Here’s the speech in original Russian.
BTW, Andrei Sakharov was not Jewish, but he perfectly understood the importance of Israel. I highly recommend his memoirs.

May 24, 2009 Posted by | Yelena Bonner | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What does it take to become a state

As early as 1920, the Palestinian Jews developed viable democratic institutions consistent with a modern nation state: the Histadrut, Va’ad Leumi, Sokhnut, Haganah, and decades later, these centralized quasi-governmental organizations indeed served as a foundation for the Jewish state. Free press (such as The Palestinian Post), egalitarian culture, education (Hebrew U.), industrial and agricultural infrastructure (kibbutzim) also flourished.

Instead of helping to create the Jewish state (the Mandate prescribed “a national home for the Jewish people”), the British actively forestalled it. Efforts of the mandatory power were more along the lines of creating the Arab one (e.g. in 1922 the Brits gave away Trans-Jordan, constituting 75% of the Mandate territory, to the Hashemite Arab dynasty, and increasingly restricted Jewish immigration – especially during the Holocaust years! – but never Arab immigration).

What were the Palestinian Arabs doing during the 1920s? They were rioting, led by the jihadi-du-jour, such as the future Nazi mufti Hajj Amin al-Husseini and Izz ad-Din al-Qassam. No viable Palestinian Arab institutions were created.

Even later, during the occupation by Egypt and Jordan (1949-1967), nothing resembling a Palestinian state was created and there were no complaints then…

Fast forward to 2009. Several departments within the UN are dedicated exclusively to the Palestinian Arab cause, billions of dollars have been donated by the gullible West, and the whole world (except for the Palestinian leaders themselves) seems to crave for a Palestinian state – some insist that it already exists and hurried to recognize it – but, as in the 1920s, the Palestinian Arabs are still disunited, disassociated from reality and irrelevant to anything other than a rallying cry against Jews. Their institutions are either corrupt and dysfunctional (Fatah) or openly terrorist and totalitarian (Hamas). As in the 1920s, their culture is still imbued with radicalism, violence, and cult of death and martyrdom. None of these helped: the Arab League, Organization of Islamic Conference, individual Arab/Muslim countries, the Quartet, the Soviet Union/Russia, the European Union, individual European countries, the US, the UN…

Until the Palestinians themselves seriously engage in constructive – rather than destructive – statecraft, all efforts from the outside will fail.

Gerald F. Seib writes in his When is a Palestinian State Really a State?

What does it mean to call a nation a state?

The Israeli prime minister is willing to cede land, and flatly says he has no desire for Israel to govern Palestinians any longer.

The problem, in his mind, is that people are throwing around the word “state” too freely and allowing for too many assumptions about what that word means. Being a state means running your own affairs, picking your own leaders, and having your own economic system—none of which Netanyahu appears to have any problem with when it comes to the Palestinians.

But when people say “state,” Netanyahu worries, they also are implying a self-governing unit that can raise an army, acquire weapons from abroad and control its own borders. And those aspects of statehood, the Israeli leader argues, are non-starters for Israelis, and not just Israelis of his own Likud party.

Oh, and he also thinks there is ambiguity about what Palestinians really mean when they say they accept the state of Israel. He thinks they need to accept not just that there will be a country called Israel, but accept that it will be, specifically and eternally, a Jewish state.

The key question is this: Is the difference over what it means to establish a Palestinian state a semantic distinction, or a deep substantive divide? That’s the nub of the matter, and the issue that Obama’s special Middle East peace envoy, George Mitchell, will have to parse out.

The Netanyahu formulation would seem to leave plenty of room to agree to the formation of a self-governing, independent Palestinian entity of some kind. One journalist suggested to a senior Israeli official Tuesday that maybe it’s time to revive a term of art that has been used in the past to describe the goal of talks: formation of a “demilitarized Palestinian state.” The Israeli official nodded knowingly, but didn’t bite on the suggestion.

May 22, 2009 Posted by | Arab-Israeli Conflict | , | 1 Comment

The “peace process” realities vs. utopia

Unsurprisingly, plenty of articles today are dedicated to Israel and the “peace process”. Some are quite good, actually – let’s leave the bad ones for another time. As always, STRATFOR offers excellent analysis: An Israeli Prime Minister Comes to Washington Again by George Friedman
A short excerpt, the emphasis is mine:

The foundation of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process for years has been the assumption that there would be a two-state solution. Such a solution has not materialized for a host of reasons. First, at present there are two Palestinian entities, Gaza and the West Bank, which are hostile to each other. Second, the geography and economy of any Palestinian state would be so reliant on Israel that independence would be meaningless; geography simply makes the two-state proposal almost impossible to implement. Third, no Palestinian government would have the power to guarantee that rogue elements would not launch rockets at Israel, potentially striking at the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem corridor, Israel’s heartland. And fourth, neither the Palestinians nor the Israelis have the domestic political coherence to allow any negotiator to operate from a position of confidence. Whatever the two sides negotiated would be revised and destroyed by their political opponents, and even their friends.

For this reason, the entire peace process — including the two-state solution — is a chimera. Neither side can live with what the other can offer. But if it is a fiction, it is a fiction that serves U.S. purposes. The United States has interests that go well beyond Israeli interests and sometimes go in a different direction altogether. Like Israel, the United States understands that one of the major obstacles to any serious evolution toward a two-state solution is Arab hostility to such an outcome.

The Jordanians have feared and loathed Fatah in the West Bank ever since the Black September uprisings of 1970. The ruling Hashemites are ethnically different from the Palestinians (who constitute an overwhelming majority of the Jordanian population), and they fear that a Palestinian state under Fatah would threaten the Jordanian monarchy. For their part, the Egyptians see Hamas as a descendent of the Muslim Brotherhood, which seeks the Mubarak government’s ouster — meaning Cairo would hate to see a Hamas-led state. Meanwhile, the Saudis and the other Arab states do not wish to see a radical altering of the status quo, which would likely come about with the rise of a Palestinian polity.

At the same time, whatever the basic strategic interests of the Arab regimes, all pay lip service to the principle of Palestinian statehood. This is hardly a unique situation. States frequently claim to favor various things they actually are either indifferent to or have no intention of doing anything about. Complicating matters for the Arab states is the fact that they have substantial populations that do care about the fate of the Palestinians. These states thus are caught between public passion on behalf of Palestinians and the regimes’ interests that are threatened by the Palestinian cause. The states’ challenge, accordingly, is to appear to be doing something on behalf of the Palestinians while in fact doing nothing.

The United States has a vested interest in the preservation of these states. The futures of Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states are of vital importance to Washington. The United States must therefore simultaneously publicly demonstrate its sensitivity to pressures from these nations over the Palestinian question while being careful to achieve nothing — an easy enough goal to achieve.

The various Israeli-Palestinian peace processes have thus served U.S. and Arab interests quite well. They provide the illusion of activity, with high-level visits breathlessly reported in the media, succeeded by talks and concessions — all followed by stalemate and new rounds of violence, thus beginning the cycle all over again.

May 18, 2009 Posted by | Arab-Israeli Conflict | | Leave a comment

“If Only Israel” syndrome

AJC Executive Director David Harris has a great article at his blog In the Trenches: What’s the IOI – “If Only Israel” – syndrome? I quote the beginning and the ending, but recommend the whole thing.

It’s the misguided notion, peddled in the name of Israel’s best interests by some in the diplomatic, academic, and media worlds, that if only Israel did this or that, peace with its neighbors would be at hand. But since it doesn’t, then Israel constitutes the principal, perhaps only, real obstacle to a new day in the Middle East.

Striking, isn’t it?

Poor Israel. If only it had the visual acuity of these “enlightened” souls, then all would be hunky-dory. After all, according to them, Israel holds all the cards, yet refuses to play them.

The thinking goes: Why can’t those shortsighted Israelis figure out what needs to be done – it’s so obvious to us, isn’t it? – so the conflict can be brought to a screeching halt?

Thus, if only Israel froze settlements. If only Israel removed checkpoints. If only Israel recognized the Hamas government in Gaza. If only Israel stopped assuming the worst about Iran’s “pragmatic” leadership, which just wants a nuclear weapon for defensive purposes. If only Israel got beyond its Holocaust trauma. If only Israel ______ well, you can fill in the blank.

The point is that, for sufferers of IOI, it essentially all comes down to Israel.

And the IOI syndrome has only been strengthened by the advent of the new Israeli government, of course.

But unless and until Israel’s neighbors recognize its inherent legitimacy, and stop viewing it as a temporary interloper that can be defeated militarily or swamped by Palestinian “refugees,” then whatever the IOI crowd insists upon will be a secondary issue in the real world.

Unless and until this recognition is reflected in Palestinian and other Arab textbooks, where children have been taught for generations that Israelis are modern-day Crusaders to be driven out, then what hope is there for the future?

Unless and until the Palestinian Authority succeeds in building a serious governing structure, including an enhanced capacity and political will to combat Palestinian terrorism, then Israel will have no choice but to operate in the West Bank to prevent attacks against its civilians.

And unless and until the forces seeking Israel’s annihilation – from Iran’s current regime to Hamas to Hizbullah – are marginalized or replaced by those committed to coexistence, then there will always be a long shadow cast over the road to peace. Some would argue that this view gives the spoilers too much power over the process. I believe it simply acknowledges the inescapable and ominous reality that Israel faces.

As Prime Minister Netanyahu makes his first visit to Washington since his election earlier this year, and as the IOI chorus once again raises the decibel level, let’s hope that cooler heads prevail.

Israel doesn’t need sanctimonious lectures on peace. It needs genuine partners for peace. Without them, peace remains elusive. With them, peace becomes inevitable.

May 14, 2009 Posted by | Arab-Israeli Conflict | , | Leave a comment