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December 27, 2014 / 5 Tevet, 5775
 
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Palestinian State’

J Street Speech Reveals Hagel Will Push Saudi Peace Initiative

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

Jennifer Rubin of the Washington Posts’ blog Right Turn, bless her heart, has learned from her Senate sources that the “left-wing group J Street” was refusing to provide a video of Chuck Hagel speaking before the group’s first conference in 2009.

“Senators were tipped off that Hagel departed from his prepared remarks and made controversial comments to the J Street Conference. In exchanges with Senate Armed Services Committee staff, J Street volunteered the prepared remarks and said it decided not to provide the complete video for fear that Hagel’s remarks would be taken out of context,” Rubin wrote on Tuesday.

She commented that J Street would have to provide the tape, should the Armed Services Committee issues a subpoena for it. Finally, on Tuesday night, Rubin updated her story to report that J Street contacted the Senate Armed Services Committee to report that it was going to post the entire video of Hagel’s 2009 speech online.

I downloaded the video and sat and transcribed portions of the tape itself, to male sure they did not differ from the online text. In my opinion, the truly alarming text was delivered by Hagel in the official speech, which he read, word for word. I will get to it later, and share with you why I think Hagel may be the worst thing to hit the U.S.-Israel relationship since Casper Weinberger locked the IAF off the Iraqi ballistic missile launchers.

But, first, here’s the stuff that didn’t make it into the official speech, and came at the short Q&A portion at the end. Hagel was asked by the host what advise he would give newly elected Prseident Obama, who took him on as an advisor, regarding the Middle east.

Hagel responded: “Engagement. I’ve never understood a great nation like the United States who would be afraid to engage. Why are we afraid to talk with someone? If we believe that we have a pretty good system—and I don’t think we should go around the world imposing it on anyone—but if we have some sense of who we are, and believe in who we are, then why wouldn’t we engage? how in the world do we think we can make a better world? How in the world do we think isolating someone is going to somehow bring them around to your way of thinking? I think just the opposite. So, engagement.”

Big applause.

“2 – it seems to me a comprehensive framework of a foreign policy is essential. Because I have never believed you go to war in Iraq, you go to war in Afghanistan, and believe that you can deal with those battlefields, those countries, in microcosms, or narrow channels. These are regional issues. There will not be any peace in the Middle East or in Afghanistan, central Asia, without Iran somewhere…”

Host: “So Iran is connected to Afghanistan, and Afghanistan is connected to Israel and Palestine, and connected to Syria…”

Hagel: “It’s all connected.”

More dangerous words have not been uttered since Wayne Wheeler and Andrew J. Volstead from Minnesota invented the 18th Amendment (the one about not letting the boys coming back from war in Europe have a drink). The notion that the war-loving Afghani tribes are shooting and tooting on account of the Iranians not liking the delayed peace negotiations in Ramallah, which in turn drives the rebel army outside Damascus is the craziest pile of horse manure dumped on the American political scene since the Domino theory.

And it’s no wonder the J Street folks have kept those comments out. In light of the civil war in Syria and the emerging civil war in Egypt, they make the presumptive Secretary of defense sound like Jimmy Carter.

In that vein, just look at what the man said about Syria, back in 2009:

“I believe there is a real possibility of a shift in Syria’s strategic thinking and policies. For its own self interests… not because they want to do a favor for the U.S. or Israel. If we can convince Damascus to pause and re-consider its positions and support regarding Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas and radical Palestinian groups, we will have made progress for the entire Middle East, Israel, and the U.S. Syria wants to talk – at the highest levels – and everything is on the table.”

My Lord – is there even one assumption in that pile of fragrant stuff that is still true today? Is this man capable of making even one observation that isn’t a trite cliché and hopelessly divorced from Middle east reality?

Israeli UN Envoy Admonishes UN Security Council

Sunday, January 27th, 2013

Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations Ron Prosor told the UN Security Council last week that the “Council needs a GPS system to find its moral center in this debate on the Middle East.”

Prosor addressed the issue of settlements in his speech, saying that “there are many threats to the security in our region. But the presence of Jewish homes in Jerusalem – the eternal capital of the Jewish people, has never been one of them.”

He further clarified that the existence of a Palestinian state did not depend on E-1 construction connecting Ma’ale Adumim and Jerusalem, which are 7 kilometers apart. “Those who make this claim are the same people who stand up and speak about a contiguous state between Gaza and the West Bank, areas divided by more than 70 kilometers… which would cut Israel in two.”

Addressing the current Middle East situation and Israel’s latest elections, Prosor admonished the Security Council for its continued silence in the face of terror and oppression that reigns across the Middle East. “Most of the millions in our region who live under oppression, fear, and violence are completely ignored in this debate,” the ambassador stated during UN Security Council’s monthly open debate on the Middle East in New York last Wednesday.

Prosor stated that, instead, a “litany of half-truths, myths, and outright lies about Israel” are the focal points of Security Council sessions, adding that the monthly debate which the Security Council holds on the Middle East falls short of its original mission to advance global peace and security.

The ambassador emphasized that there were other challenges facing the Middle East, highlighting both the regime of Syrian President Bashaar Assad and the Aytollah regime in Iran. “More than 60,000 were killed in Syria in just the past two years,” Prosor stated. Among those killed, he said, were hundreds of Palestinians living in refugee camps bombed by Assad’s fighter jets. Prosor also noted that Assad’s chemical weapons could be taken over by Al Qaeda or Hezbollah. He mentioned the oppressive Hezbollah regime in Lebanon that had “transformed the country into an Iranian terror base,” and that Iran’s advanced missile technology with nuclear weapons and extremist ideology “leaves the lives of millions” hanging in balance.

Following Prosor’s speech, U.S. ambassador to the UN Susan Rice took the opportunity to criticize Israel on settlement activity. “We have reiterated our longstanding opposition to Israel’s West Bank settlement activity, as well as construction in East Jerusalem, which run counter to the cause of peace,” declared Rice. She said that construction in E-1, connecting Jerusalem to Ma’aleh Adumim, “would be especially damaging to efforts to achieve a two-state solution.”

Ambassador Rice, however also voiced Washington’s disapproval of the Palestinians’ use of ‘State of Palestine’ on their nameplate at the UN Security Council session. She stated that the United States did not recognize the UN General Assembly vote to upgrade the status of Palestine as a non-member observer state on November 29, 2012, saying that “…any reference to the ‘State of Palestine’…do not reflect acquiescence that ‘Palestine’ is a state.”

While the Middle East peace process and occasionally even Syria, dominated the Security Council session on Wednesday – they were described as the “two major crisis” facing the region by several ambassadors – Israel’s UN envoy offered another perspective on the debate.

“I have a novel idea. Perhaps this discussion could occasionally spend some time examining why the situation in the Middle East remains unstable, undemocratic and violent. I’ll give you a hint: it has nothing to do with Israel,” stated Prosor.

Lapid on Jerusalem and the Palestinians

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013

The big surprise of Israel’s elections was the rise of Yair Lapid’s “Yesh Atid” (There is a Future) party, which is projected to have received 18-19 seats in the upcoming 19th Knesset. The second biggest party after the Likud, it is presumed that Lapid will join Netanyahu’s next government as a senior partner.

“Yesh Atid” will be influential in setting all aspects of government policy, including the resumption of the peace process and the attempts to come to an agreement with the Palestinians.

What are Lapid’s principles regarding the peace process?

The party’s platform, formulated by Ofer Shelach, a former journalist and number 6 on the party’s Knesset list, states that Israel will strive to return to the negotiations table with the Palestinians with the principle of “two states for two nations” serving as the basis of the process.

Yesh Atid perceives a possible peace process as a response to an ensemble of threats looming over the State of Israel and the only way to effectively minimize these threats in the long term.

What will be the fate of the communities of Judea and Samaria? Yair Lapid chose to launch his campaign in Ariel, which can be telling about his future intentions regarding Judea and Samaria. Yesh Atid’s platform states that within the framework of the negotiations, the large settlement blocks—Ariel, Maale Adumim and Gush Etzion—will remain within the agreed upon boundaries of the State of Israel. During peace negations no new communities will be established, but until the signing of an agreement the natural growth of the existing communities will be taken into consideration.

The Yesh Atid platform further states that Israel’s future borders will be decided on the basis of Israel’s security needs, as well as the reality created since 1967: “Both sides will acknowledge that it is in their mutual interest that the settlement blocks remain in Israel’s hands.” A swap of land is an option, according to Yesh Atid. However, Lapid has stated several times throughout his campaign that the communities in Judea and Samaria constitute a financial burden on Israel’s economy, and that he intends to change that.

The Palestinian refugees’ issue will be settled within the boundaries of a future Palestinian state.

The platform also focused on the rabid antisemitic incitement within the Palestinian educational system, stating its complete end as a part of any future agreement.

As for Jerusalem, the platform clearly states: “Jerusalem is Israel’s eternal capital and its unity is a national symbol of the first degree. Jerusalem will remain united under Israeli sovereignty, for Jerusalem is not merely a location or a city, but the center of the Jewish-Israeli ethos and the holy place that the Jews have yearned for throughout the ages.”

Lapid has made several such public statements. A few days ago, he stated that there is no point in negotiating for Jerusalem, “we have no existence without Jerusalem.” He intends to grant Israeli citizenship to the Arabs of east Jerusalem.

Many questions are left open, and on many of the points Yesh Atid’s platform is ambiguous. In the coming month we’ll find out how Lapid’s new, 19-member party will affect Israel’s future.

Welcome to the State of Palestine, Main Export: Delusions

Tuesday, January 8th, 2013

On Sunday, Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas issued a decree giving his cabinet two months to come up with regulations to issue identity documents bearing the State of Palestine logo.

The decree covers passports, identity cards, population records, vehicle and driving licenses, postage stamps, official papers and embassies.

Abbas reminds me of the cliché new business owner who starts by ordering stationary and business cards. I say, make your first sale, then go to Kinko’s.

That’s what State Dept. Spokesperson Victoria Nuland was thinking, I’ll bet, when she was asked on Monday to comment on Abbas’s renaming the Authority the “State of Palestine.”

“You can’t create a state by rhetoric and with labels and names,” she said. “You can only create a state in this context through bilateral negotiations.”

Nuland added that “our policy on continuing to call it the Palestinian Authority until such time that there is a negotiated agreement for a state with borders will not change.”

Phew… That’s gotta’ be a load off our mind. But the questions persisted:

“So you don’t really take a position on the decision to start calling themselves the State of Palestine?”

The spokesperson dutifully repeated her previous answer, more or less. It doesn’t matter what they name themselves, they could call it the Galactic Empire of Palestine, they’d still have to stop at an Israeli checkpoint and present their papers.

Indeed, Ynet reported that Abbas is not rushing to change passports and ID cards which the Palestinians need to pass through Israeli crossings.

“At the end of the day, the Palestinian Authority won’t cause trouble for its people,” Abbas’ spokeswoman Nour Odeh, told Ynet.

But PLO spokesman Ahmad Assaf sounded extremely militant on Tuesday morning, declaring: “The Palestinian leadership couldn’t care less about Israel’s objections to planned State of Palestine passports and other identity documents.”

“Since when does the occupier allow the occupied to attain liberation and self determination?” Assaf challenged. “If we had waited for Israeli approval, we would still have been living in the time before the PA (government was established), because Israel doesn’t want any Palestinians to live in this land and this is a fact.”

And vice versa…

Prime Minister Netanyahu’s office said Abbas’s decree was “devoid of any political meaning and creates no practical impact on the ground. A Palestinian state will only be created as part of a peace agreement with Israel.”

Expelling Jews is a Red Line

Monday, January 7th, 2013

I was surprised to read in JewishPress.com, Yair Shamir’s article, where he states that he opposes a Palestinian state.

I was surprised, because over Shabbat, I read in Makor Rishon an interview with his party’s leader, Avigdor Liberman, where Liberman explicitly stated that he would support the uprooting of settlements that aren’t inside settlement blocs, in exchange for peace, including his own home in Nokdim, Gush Etzion.

Liberman continued on to say that peace isn’t possible under the current conditions, only because Abbas isn’t a partner,.

But that last line is more than a bit disingenuous, because on Sunday, I read that Liberman said that seeking a two-state solution will be an important element of the next government.

Like Shamir, Liberman also said that he is also opposed to a Palestinian state.

But as I understand him, Liberman says he supports the creation of autonomous, demilitarized Palestinian areas, or alternatively two states with population transfers. I’m not sure what the differences between any of these plans are at this point. If it walks like a Palestinian duck…

I’ve also heard rumors that Liberman is angry at Shamir for something he recently said. Perhaps it was about opposing the Palestinian state, without adding on the autonomous area bit? Or perhaps it was for attacking Netanyahu for supporting the two-state solution.

I don’t know.

The bottom line is that Liberman has explicitly stated that he accepts the dismantling of settlements, and he will be actively pushing for a resolution based on a two-state solution in his next term, and he openly accepts that uprooting Jews will or at least may be part of that solution.

And to top it off, now there are reports that Netanyahu has delayed E1, by “hesitating” to approve the projects there, and not filing them. That’s a worrisome development.

I don’t know much about Shamir’s actual positions, and whether or not he stands 100% behind Liberman, but since its Liberman and Netanyahu who are setting policy, and not Shamir, I am honestly concerned that a vote for Likud-Beytenu is a vote to expel Jews from their homes.

It’s unfortunate, because there are so many important issues on the Yisrael Beytenu agenda that they want to deal with, such as reforming the electoral system, Hareidi integration, and so on. But instead, Liberman chose to insert a red line like this into his party’s position.

Yesterday, Naftali Bennett, was attacked for his position on not uprooting Jews. He wisely responded that all the Jewish parties should sign an affidavit that they won’t expel Jews. He received cheers and applause for saying that. And his party is only going up because of it.

Today, Rav Ovadiah’s son said the same thing.

The bottom line is this.

The Israeli people do not want any more Jews uprooted, and the Israeli people do not believe that pulling back to any variation of the ’67 lines will bring peace with the Arabs.

It’s unfortunately quite clear that Netanyahu and Liberman do not see eye to eye anymore with what most of the population wants or believes is good for us, and it’s only because the Likud list is a pretty good list, that Likud-Beytenu hasn’t dropped even further or faster.

Expelling Jews is a red line, and no matter what other benefits Likud-Beytenu may bring, it’s a red line that they’ve told us they may very well cross.

Netanyahu and Liberman need to come out and explicitly state that under no circumstances will Jews be expelled during their term in power.

That’s my red line.

Hebron Arabs: If Israeli Soldiers Return – We’ll Beat Them Up Again

Thursday, December 13th, 2012

The confrontation between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian policemen last week in Hebron has left its mark on the city’s Arab residents. “If Israel tries to enter our territory again and make trouble for us, we promise to give them trouble in return,” young men in Hebron told Maariv reporter Assaf Gibor, adding: “We have a Palestinian state and we have Palestinian policemen.”

The confrontation last Thursday broke out when soldiers attempting to arrest a Palestinian policeman entered the Arab H-2 zone and ran into Palestinian policemen who refused to hand over their colleague to the army. In the ensuing confrontation, one Palestinian policemen hit an Israeli soldier in the face with his fist, and the event developed into a real brawl. The inspection area where the soldiers retreated is still covered with the pile of stones thrown at the soldiers.

Standing in front of a cauldron of hot oil waiting for falafel balls to be dropped into it, Amar Abu Jihad, 25, was arguing with a man ten years older. “The Palestinian police showed the Israeli soldiers that we have a state,” Amar said angrily, adding: “They came in here without prior approval from the PA, and the police showed them what’s what.”

But the older man, Yusuf, waved off Amar’s argument. “You don’t know what you’re talking about, what kind of state do you have, without borders, with checkpoints and soldiers on all sides.”

Another friend intervened: “The Palestinian policemen proved that our state does have a border, and the Israeli occupiers can’t walk in here whenever they want, because if they will – they will be beaten up.”

But despite their insistence, the two younger men couldn’t to persuade the older Yusuf, who insisted: “For every one rifle that Palestinian police has, Israel has 20.”

“But you saw how the Israeli soldiers fled from here,” Abu Jihad made the conclusive argument.”You saw wow Palestinian police beat them up, and then we threw stones at them. Israel will not come back here again.”

Abu Jihad also referred to the results of Operation Pillar of Defense: “Look at what happened in Gaza, how Hamas defeated the Israeli army, and Tel Aviv received missiles on the head. Where was Israel’s Iron Dome? We have a strong Palestinian state.”

Yusuf, however, was not convinced, Assaf Gibor reported. “Stop, stop dreaming already,” he said. “There is no Palestinian state and no watermelons (an Arabic expression meaning ‘nothing’).”

In response, the two friends shouted: “You are the dreamer, you are the sleeper, wake up. There is a Palestinian state, and there are Palestinian policemen.”

Reporter Alan Elsner Leaving Pro-Israel Group for ‘Ideologically Better Suited’ J Street

Thursday, December 6th, 2012

The Israel Project is a bi-partisan pro-Israel messaging organization with close relationships to many people spread across the Israeli political spectrum and with liberal centrist pro-Israel Democrats in the U.S. government.

TIP is perhaps best known for its polling and messaging efforts to improve Israel’s image with the public, and the helicopter rides they offer foreign journalists stationed in Israel, so that the size of the country, especially in comparison to its hostile neighbors, is understood.

In what has been a stable yet rapidly-expanding organization, several changes have recently taken place at TIP that surprised the somewhat inbred pro-Israel world.

First, TIP’s ubiquitous founder and president left – for good this time  – but perhaps far more shocking, the former number two at TIP has joined J Street.  Whereas TIP is focused on helping Israel improve its image throughout the world, many consider J Street to be the source of more harm to Israel’s image than just about any other organization, and certainly more than any other organization which claims to be pro-Israel.

TIP was founded ten years ago by three women, one of whom became the president and remained in that position until this summer.  Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi was a communications and political consulting strategist as well as a former operative with the Democratic National Committee until she launched TIP.  After ten years, TIP grew to an organization with staff of more than 80 and with offices in three different cities – including Jerusalem – and an annual budget of up to $11 million.

The TIP Board came up with a new strategic plan last year, and Laszlo Mizrahi had already decided it was time for her to move on.

The board’s strategic plan was to scale back the enormous worldwide focus – TIP was not only working on pro-Israel messaging in the United States but was also working with Israeli, Russian, Spanish, British, German, Arabic and Chinese press to improve Israel’s image.

One former employee told The Jewish Press that it was hard to justify spending lots of money to improve relations with Russian and Chinese journalists, given that the press is tightly controlled by the government in both of those countries.

The search to find a new TIP president and executive director concluded when former American Israel Public Affairs Committee spokesperson Josh Block agreed to sign on.  Block’s mandate included a more tightly focused agenda – concentrating on the U.S. market where results are more likely and more quantifiable.  He also took the helm when the nature of the media messaging was shifting, with a stronger emphasis on digital engagement – twitter, Facebook and other social media.  The nature of these changes – not in message but in delivery – meant TIP was going to become a leaner machine.

Alan Elsner, the former number two at TIP,  saw the writing on the wall and left the organization earlier this fall.  Elsner had been a journalist with Reuters for more than 30 years, but retired from that job two years ago.  In a move that surprised some, Elsner joined TIP and was its senior communications director during his two year stint.

Elsner told The Jewish Press that he first met Laszlo Mizrahi while he was Reuters’ political correspondent.  At that time Laszlo Mizrahi was what Elsner called a DNC “operative,” and she had been a source for him.  Over the years the two maintained a friendship, and after Elsner left Reuters, Laszlo Mizrahi asked him to join TIP.

Taking a position at a hasbara organization is something few journalists would deign to do, especially one coming from an organization like Reuters.  But while some folks expressed surprise when Elsner went to TIP, he said that because he was “retired” from journalism, he was finally able to do what he really wanted.  And Israel has always been important to Elsner.

Alan Elsner grew up in England, but his parents eventually moved to Israel.  Elsner lived in Israel for eight years, and served in the Israel Defense Forces from 1981-82.  His sister and brother-in-law still live there, in the south, near Beer Sheva, as do their four sons.  Elsner is a child of a Holocaust survivor, and one of the books he wrote is about his father’s experience during World War II, “Guarded by Angels.”

Laszlo Mizrahi – who told The Jewish Press that she had no comment for this article – developed the TIP style of not criticizing either journalists or Israeli government officials for doing the wrong thing, but instead to offer material and resources to the former and information and polling data to the latter, to help achieve the desired results – a more positive image for Israel.  TIP does not create Israel’s message. Instead, TIP helps to package Israel’s message – either through changes in word choice, context or emphasis – so that the global audience is less likely to have its feathers ruffled – or its prejudices kick in.

Elsner, on the other hand, says he now understands that his personal style and ideology is better suited to J Street.

Echoing a statement released by J Street when Elsner accepted the new position as its senior communications director this week, he told The Jewish Press, “accentuating positive messages about Israel, while it can be useful, ultimately is not going to get Israel to where it needs to go.”

Unlike TIP, J Street is not interested in helping Israel deliver its message with better packaging. J Street has its own idea of what Israel’s message should be, and is perfectly happy delivering its own message to rather than for Israel.  That message is that there must be a Palestinian State and any efforts that get in the way of creating that result – and their primary focus for criticism is Israel – is destructive and should be treated accordingly by the U.S. administration.

So what should Israel be doing? According to Elsner, “Israel should find a way to get back to the peace process.”  He said, “continuing to build settlements, just eating up land where the Palestinian State is going to be established” takes everyone further away from a solution.

When asked what message he has for Israel, Elsner’s response was not surprising.  He said, “the only way to safeguard Israel as a democratic, Jewish state is to reach a peace agreement with the ‘Palestinians’ so that they have their own state, that has to be the priority.”

Elsner continued, “Israel cannot take positions that make it [the 'Two State Solution'] more difficult, and Israeli politicians are making short term choices for political reasons, ones that always outweigh the long term good of the nation.”

Elsner criticized the recent announcement approving a stage in the process of construction in the area known as E-1 by Prime Minister Netanyahu.  Some former colleagues described Elsner as a “Bibi hater.”

“There should be room in the discussion for those who want to pursue a real peace process and who value dialogue above settlements,” is the way J Street, and also Elsner – now publicly – frame the issue.

When asked whether he thought it was acceptable for a future Palestinian State to forbid Jews from living there, Elsner’s response echoed what the J Street crowd calls “Jewish out of bounds talk,” i.e. they claim it is not acceptable to speak harshly about the “settlements.”  In this instance, when it is suggested that those who push the Two State Solution are actually promoting a Judenrein state, the suggestion is balked at, turned away from, but ultimately never addressed head on.

In an effort to draw out Elsner on this concept, The Jewish Press reminded him of the tragic story of Koby Mandell, the 13 year old Jewish American-Israeli boy who, with his friend Yosef Ishran, was bludgeoned to death in 2001 by Arab Palestinians in the wadi outside of his home in Tekoa, in the Judean desert.

The Mandell family moved to Tekoa in the wake of the Oslo Accords.  They believed peace was truly going to break out between Jews and Arabs, and when they moved to Tekoa, according to Koby’s father, Rabbi Seth Mandell, they really did not know whether the land would be part of Israel or of a Palestinian State, and they didn’t think it mattered.

Elsner’s response – while perhaps not intentionally harsh, and certainly not intentionally ironic – was that lots of blood has been spilled on both sides, and that there was an excessive level of naivete many years ago that no longer is as prevalent.

Since announcing his new position, Elsner said he has received a tremendous amount of positive feedback, especially from his friends and relatives in Israel.

How he lasted two years in senior leadership at The Israel Project is the real mystery.

 

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