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September 22, 2014 / 27 Elul, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘state’

Driving in Neutral: Hillary Clinton Explains the Israel-Palestinian Conflict

Wednesday, December 5th, 2012

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s said some very interesting and revealing things in her appearance at the Saban Center’s gala dinner, November 30. They are, however, being quoted out of context. Let’s look at what she actually said in some detail for a sense of how the Obama Administration’s highest-ranking foreign policy official and a future presidential candidate thinks about this issue.

Let me note also that the statement was made at an institution that might be considered friendly to Israel and thus Clinton might have skewed her remarks to be more fair to that country than she would in a regular international forum.

In answering a question, Clinton went into some detail about the problems facing a two-state solution and peace. Remember she is speaking extemporaneously.

First, the Israeli perception:

“I think Israelis have good grounds to be suspicious. And I would never be one who tries to rewrite or dismiss history. The Palestinians could have had a state as old as I am if they had made the right decision in 1947. They could have had a state if they had worked with my husband and then-Prime Minister Barak at Camp David. They could have had a state if they’d worked with Prime Minister Olmert and Foreign Minister Livni.”

Here Clinton is pointing out that the Palestinians have repeatedly rejected getting a state, that’s why they didn’t have one years ago. I cannot imagine Obama saying this kind of thing.

“Now, would it have been a perfectly acceptable outcome for every Israeli and every Palestinian? No. No compromise ever is. But there were moments of opportunity. And I will also say this. When Prime Minister Netanyahu agreed to a 10-month settlement freeze I flew to Jerusalem. We’d been working on this. George Mitchell had been taking the lead on it. And when Prime Minister Netanyahu agreed to a 10-month settlement freeze, it wasn’t perfect. It didn’t cover East Jerusalem, but it covered much of the contested area in the West Bank.”

There’s something important in this passage that no one has noticed. For the first time ever, Clinton publicly and explicitly acknowledged that the freeze did not cover East Jerusalem. Why, then, did Vice-President Joe Biden throw a temper tantrum when an Israeli zoning board cleared some future construction there? At the time, the U.S. government repeatedly implied that Israel violated the agreement, which it didn’t. Now Clinton admits that.

Incidentally, the Obama Administration did nothing when the Palestinian Authority refused to negotiate seriously despite the freeze on construction.

Clinton continued, and this is also revealing:

“And I stood on a stage with him at 11 o’clock – Israelis always meet late at night, I don’t understand it – (laughter) – but 11 o’clock at night, midnight, and I said it was unprecedented for any Israeli prime minister to have done that. I got so criticized. I got criticized from the right, the left, the center, Israeli, Jewish, Arab, Christian, you name it. Everybody criticized me. But the fact was it was a 10-month settlement freeze. And he was good to his word. And we couldn’t get the Palestinians into the conversation until the tenth month.”

I cannot remember anyone criticizing her for this statement. It was small enough reward to Netanyahu for a major domestic political risk and a concession which in the end brought no progress for peace and no gratitude from the White House. But what Clinton says now does reflect the Western view that if you bash Israel it has no cost and if you praise Israel it is going to hurt you. I wonder if this is also a hint that Obama wasn’t happy with her praise for Netanyahu.

Thus ran her praise for Israel’s efforts. So then, in the spirit of evenhandedness embraced by recent presidents in place of a former pro-Israel policy, she has to balance out this statement. When a Democratic politician has to be hyper-sensitive about saying something nice about Israel it tells you how much things have shifted in that party and in the “liberal” context:

“I’m not making excuses for the missed opportunities of the Israelis, or the lack of generosity, the lack of empathy that I think goes hand-in-hand with the suspicion. So, yes, there is more that the Israelis need to do to really demonstrate that they do understand the pain of an oppressed people in their minds, and they want to figure out, within the bounds of security and a Jewish democratic state, what can be accomplished.”

She makes four points:

Israelis have missed opportunities. Really, like what? If she’s aware of real ones Clinton can provide examples but while it is easy to list two dozen Palestinian missed opportunities—i.e., Israel was ready for real peace and they weren’t—the effort to provide some opposite example always turns out to be illusory.

Lack of generosity: This is shameful. First of all, since when is generosity an international diplomatic norm? Against what other country or people would she dare make such a statement? On further consideration, if generosity means being nice or making unilateral concessions to enemies that wish to destroy you, then the Obama Administration is very generous.

But in fact Israel has been generous. It has freed large numbers of Palestinian prisoners to get back kidnapped Israelis; it let around 200,000 Palestinians come to the territories after 1993; it has used much less force than it might have; it has largely ignored continuous incitement against itself and not responded in kind. The list is a long one.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, not exactly a left-winger, even fully withdrew from the Gaza Strip and dismantled Jewish settlements in large part to give the Palestinians a chance to develop that area, see that Israel did not want the territories and sought to provide an opportunity to build a basis for peace.
Who in the world has been generous toward Israel?

Lack of empathy: This is really low on Clinton’s part. In schools, Israeli kids learn about Palestinian grievances. Israel television showed a multi-part history documentary that showed the Palestinian viewpoint. In Israeli newspapers, and every other medium Palestinians are interviewed and an honest attempt is made to portray their standpoint, sometimes indeed with more sympathy than is showed to Israel’s government.

Every Israeli leader, except those on the right-wing fringe, is perfectly aware of the Palestinian case and complaints. To cite only one example, Ehud Barak once said that if had been a Palestinians he would have been a fighter in Fatah. No country in modern history has shown more empathy to its enemies.
Can anyone cite a single example—a speech, an article—on the Palestinian side that has shown any shred of empathy?

Finally, “oppressed people” and this is the most important point. If the Palestinians are an oppressed people who is oppressing them? Here we see how the Obama Administration has, at best, accepted the European version of the anti-Israel narrative. If the Palestinians keep turning down peace offers how is Israel responsible for their “oppression”?

If they are oppressed it is by their own leaders. Who oppresses the population of the Gaza Strip.

And once you have “the pain of an oppressed people” it is a short step toward believing that terrorism and intransigence is just an expression of that pain, rather than the cause of it.

Clinton concluded:

“And I think that, unfortunately, there are more and more Israelis and Palestinians who just reject that idea out of hand: Why bother? Why try? We’ll never be able to reach an agreement with the other. But in the last 20 years, I’ve seen Israeli leaders make an honest, good-faith effort and not be reciprocated in the way that was needed.”

But here, too, there is a disproportionate idea. Relatively few Israelis reject a two-state solution out of hand. The dominant idea today is: We want a two-state solution but the other side doesn’t. On the Palestinian side, virtually none of the leadership is prepared to implement an achievable two-state solution. Indeed, they increasingly talk of a one-state solution (total victory and Israel’s destruction), an approach that is never heard among Israeli leaders.

What is objectionable is not that she criticizes Israel—she could cite various things like insufficient energy in dismantling outposts or being too permissive toward settlements—but the criticisms she makes. They all fall into the current dominant Western view that the world’s problems are caused by greedy, aggressive, unempathetic white people who oppress everyone else. Implied here is that the only solution is that such people take risks, make unilateral concessions, pay money, and continually apologize for their sins.
And that’s a formula for disaster, not only in U.S. policy toward Israel but everywhere else.

I say all this not to complain about unfair double standards or even to respond to Clinton. That is a waste of time. What’s important here is to show how her mind works and that of a large portion of the Western elite. Her remarks are not as bad as they sound when taken out of context. She does try to be balanced—though an attempt at equidistance is not exactly showing strong support for Israel—and also does—unlike Obama—criticize the Palestinians. Yet in policy terms at the very moment of culmination for a Palestinian Authority three-year effort to wreck any peace process by unilateral independence and when Hamas has decided the moment has come for a jihad backed up by the Islamist tidal wave in the region, Clinton and the Obama Administration are obsessed with Israel not making even more concessions.

“I think Israelis have good grounds to be suspicious,” Clinton said. But what she didn’t explain are all the good grounds for Israelis to be suspicious of the Obama Administration.

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

B’nai Jeshurun Synagogue Leaders Congratulate Palestine on UN Vote

Wednesday, December 5th, 2012

Remember the outpouring of Arab support when Israel declared its independence, back in 1948? No, you don’t, neither does anyone else. But we can certainly mark the unabashed joy of a New York City Upper West Side synagogue, after the UN hammered another nail in the simple pine box of the Zionist dream.

On Tuesday, the New York Times reported that the leaders of the “Congregation B’nai Jeshurun, a large synagogue on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, known for its charismatic rabbis, its energetic and highly musical worship, and its liberal stances on social causes,” had sent out an email last Friday to congregants, praising the UN vote that elevated the Palestinians to non-member state status.

“The vote at the UN yesterday is a great moment for us as citizens of the world,” said the email, signed by the B’nai Jeshurun’s three rabbis, cantor, board president and executive director. “This is an opportunity to celebrate the process that allows a nation to come forward and ask for recognition. Having gained independence ourselves in this way, we are especially conscious of this.”

Well, this begs for at least a minor correction: “we” did not gain independence in this way. Yes, the UN took a vote and approved a plan to divide the area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea into areas that were populated by a majority of Jews and a majority of Arabs (Arab portion was bigger). But that vote didn’t get us our independence. The blood of 6 thousand Jews, fighting off invading Arab armies as well as local Arab terror gangs – that got us our independence.

Allan Ripp, a member, said he and his wife were appalled, the Times reported.

“We are just sort of in a state of shock,” Ripp said. “It’s not as if we don’t support a two-state solution, but to say with such a warm embrace — it is like a high-five to the P.L.O., and that has left us numb.”

But another congregant, Gil Kulick, told the Times he was “really delighted that they chose to take a strong unequivocal stand.”

The synagogue leaders wrote:

“As Jews deeply committed to the security and democracy of Israel, and in light of the violence this past month in Gaza and Israel, we hope that November 29, 2012 will mark the moment that brought about a needed sense of dignity and purpose to the Palestinian people, led to a cessation of violence and hastened the two state solution.”

“It’s very shocking to many of the congregants that this position was taken publicly and this e-mail was sent around,” Eve Birnbaum, a member of the congregation for about 15 years, told the Times, adding: “I am very dismayed, as a longstanding member of the synagogue, that the rabbis and the board would take a position that is contrary to what many members believe, contrary to the peace process.”

 

RELATED: Cartoon 

Correction: The letter was signed by the board president, not the entire board as the article originally stated.

Rahm Emanuel Blasts Netanyahu for ‘Betraying’ Obama

Tuesday, December 4th, 2012

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu betrayed the Obama administration by announcing a new settlement expansion and the cutoff of tax transfers to the Palestinian Authority, JTA reported.

Emanuel, President Obama’s chief of staff in his first term, delivered the rebuke over the weekend at the Saban Forum in Washington.

Emanuel’s comments were made public by another participant, former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, during an open forum and were confirmed by other participants.

According to an account by New Yorker journalist David Remnick, Emanuel had said that Netanyahu had “repeatedly betrayed” Obama, and that the latest Israeli moves – apparent retaliations for the successful Palestinian bid to achieve non-observer state status last week at the United Nations – were especially galling given U.S. support for Israel during its recent mini-war with Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

No other U.S. mayor had anything to say against Netanyahu this weekend.

Egypt in Dire Straits

Monday, December 3rd, 2012

Ever since Mubarak was forced to resign in February 2011, a sense of a new dawn has swept over Egypt. Grand words and phrases such as “democracy,” “civil rights,” “freedom” and “state of institutions” have become the focus of political discourse, because of the sense that all of those fine characteristics of democracy have finally come to Egypt. As citizens of a state that has been treading on the path of independence and sovereignty for more than two hundred years, the Egyptians have been waiting for their turn to board the democracy train and enjoy its advantages, which many other peoples have been doing, among them peoples who have overthrown dictators and won their freedom only a few years ago, like the peoples of Eastern Europe.

For the first time in the history of modern Egypt, true, not rigged, elections were held for parliament and the presidency, and for the first time the people of Egypt saw how their sweet dream to be a state of its citizens is coming true, a state of constitution and law, of law and order, not the state of a dictator and his sons where every decision is an expression of the personal interest of someone who no one knows when – if at all – his autocratic rule will come to an end. The immediate expression of these hopes was supposed to be an upgrade to the Egyptian economy and an increase of per capita income. In a country where tens of millions live in unplanned neighborhoods, without running water, sewage, electricity or telephone, economic welfare is a matter of existential importance, and without it, life is too much like death.

But the greater the hope, the greater the disappointment. Almost two years have passed since the beginning of the “Spring” and Egypt only continues to slide down the slippery, dangerous slope into the swamp of political, civil, constitutional, and administrative problems, with almost no control of how things develop as they bring Egypt closer to the brink. The paralysis that has taken hold of the government is an obstacle to any progress in the wording of the new constitution, which was supposed to give the country a set of consensual and binding rules of the political game, and the rage over the lack of these rules drives many Egyptians out of their minds.

The elected president, Muhammad Morsi, a representative of the long-standing and well-known Muslim Brotherhood movement, at first enjoyed much credit from the public at large, but is now perceived in these troubled times  as the new dictator, after issuing a few “constitutional declarations” which grant him broad powers over other governmental agencies, particularly the legal system.

Morsi dismissed the attorney general, despite the claim that he had no authority to do so. According to Morsi’s “declarations,” his decisions are not subject to legal review, not even by the high court. Many Egyptians – even those who believed in him, supported him and voted for him – now feel that two years ago they managed to overthrow a military dictator and in his place they got a religious dictator.

In the summer, when Morsi dismissed Field Marshall Tantawi and other military commanders, his prestige increased in the eyes of most of the citizens of the country because this step was interpreted as the end of the rule of officers and the beginning of civilian rule.  Even the cruelty of the military in breaking up the demonstrations against him added to Morsi’s popularity, since he was seen as an opposing force to the military. However, he quickly lost a significant portion of the public credit because he failed to reconvene the parliament after it had been dispersed by the high court and because he did not convene the committee for drafting the constitution.

Morsi’s public struggle with the legal guild arouses the anger of opponents and supporters alike: his opponents rage over his attempts to control the legal system, which is supposed to be free, professional and without political bias, and his supporters are angry because he has not controlled this elite, professional class, which is not elected, but imposes its agenda on the state.

With the military, Morsi succeeded in avoiding conflict, but this is because he does not dare touch the economic monopolies from which the military makes a very good livelihood. The reason that Morsi did not take over the assets of the military is because he needs loans from the deep pockets that the military controls without oversight of the office of treasury or the tax authority.

Lauder Agrees to Bail Out Israeli TV Station

Monday, December 3rd, 2012

American billionaire Ronald Lauder agreed to bail out the financially troubled Israeli television station Channel 10.

Under the agreement signed with the State of Israel, the franchise for Israel’s second commercial channel will be extended for three years and Lauder, the station’s majority shareholder, will invest nearly $21 million over that time, the Israeli business daily Globes reported.

Channel 10′s debt is equal to about $29 million, according to reports.

Lauder, who owns 25 channels in Eastern Europe, said during a news conference on Sunday that he was signing the agreement to help save the jobs of the station’s 600 employees. He also decried Israel’s stringent regulatory laws, saying that no other country in the world has regulations as tough as Israel.

The station’s debt consists of state royalties and license fees, as well as interest on the fees, according to reports.

Lauder is the president of the World Jewish Congress.

Netanyahu on Pollard and a Palestinian State

Sunday, December 2nd, 2012

PM Netanyahu said today at a cabinet meeting that, “a Palestinian state will not be established until they recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people along with a decision to end the conflict. Israel will not let Judea and Samaria turn into a terror base where missiles will be launched at Israel.”

In addition, Netanyahu spoke about Jonathan Pollard and said, “Over the weekend we heard news of Jonathan Pollards illness. I am sending, from the entire government, our well wishes that he get better. We will continue to try all methods to return Jonathan Pollard home.”

Reality Check: Palestine Will Remain a Non-Existent State

Sunday, December 2nd, 2012

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

Almost to the day last Thursday, in 1988, I stood in a large hall in Algeria and saw Yasir Arafat declare the independence of a Palestinian state. And that was forty-one years, almost to the day, after the U.N. offered a Palestinian state in 1947. Twelve years ago Israel and the United States officially offered a Palestinian state as part of a compromise at deal in the Camp David summit of 2000. Arguably, despite all their errors, the Palestinian movement has made progress since those events, though it is not very impressive progress. Yet in real terms there is no real Palestinian state; the movement is more deeply divided than at any time in its history; and the people aren’t doing very well.

Now the U.N. has given Palestine the status of a non-member state. The only thing that will change is to convince people even more that they are following a clever and successful strategy. They aren’t.

Perhaps in 24 or 41 years there will actually be a Palestinian state.

There are two ways to respond to the General Assembly’s likely vote to so designate a state of Palestine. One of them is outrage at the absurdity of how the international system behaves. The other would be to dismiss the gesture as meaningless, even more than that, as something that will even further delay the day that a real, functioning state comes into existence.

Certainly, there are threats and dangers, for example the use by Palestine of the International Court. Or one could look at this as another step on the road to a final, I mean comprehensive, solution to the issue. Yet over all, I’ll go for disgusted and cynical as the most accurate responses.

Let’s start with disgusted. In 1993, the PLO made an agreement whose very basis was that a Palestinian state would only come into existence as a result of a deal made with Israel. Instead, the Palestinian side refused to make such a compromise and broke its commitments repeatedly. The ultimate result was Yasir Arafat’s refusal to accept a Palestinian state with its capital in the eastern part of Jerusalem both at the 2000 Camp David meeting and a few months later when President Bill Clinton made a better, and final, offer.

I have just this minute come from an interview with a very nice journalist who asked me, “But doesn’t Israel want everything and offer nothing in return.” What was most impressive is the fact that he had no personal hostility or any political agenda. (You’d understand if I identified the person and his newspaper but I’m not going to do that.) This conclusion was simply taken as fact. He was astonished to hear that another perspective even existed.

My first response was to point down the street two corners to the place where a bus was blown up in 1995 and right next to it where a suicide bomber had killed about a dozen pedestrians around the same time. This was the result of risks and concessions that Israel had voluntarily undertaken in trying to achieve peace. And, I added, it was possible to supply a long list of other examples.

So despite Israel taking risks and making concessions, the Palestinian Authority rejected peace. Thursday, the same group was recognized by the U.N. as a regime governing a state. Moreover, this is a body that is relentlessly begging Hamas, a group that openly calls for genocide against both Israel and Jews, to join it.

Hamas, of course, ran for office without accepting the Oslo agreement (a violation of it) and then seized power in a coup. Since then it has rained rockets and missiles on Israel. In other words, although it is unlikely to happen, in a few months Hamas might become part of the official government of this non-member state of the U.N.

Yet complaining about the unfairness of international behavior or the treatment of Israel, like complaining about one’s personal fate, doesn’t get you anywhere. It is cathartic to do so but then one must move on to more productive responses.

The second issue is whether it will really matter. Yes it entails symbolism, yes it will convince the Palestinians they are getting something when the course they have followed ensures they get pretty close to nothing. But, to use a Biblical phrase, it availeth them not. On the contrary, to coin a phrase, this move “counter-matters,” that is it is a substitute for productive action that actually detracts from the real goal.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/analysis/rubin-reports/un-palestine-is-now-a-non-member-state-reality-palestine-will-continue-to-be-a-non-existent-state/2012/12/02/

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