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November 23, 2014 / 1 Kislev, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘U.S.-Israel relationship’

Visiting a Friend

Tuesday, March 19th, 2013

A lot of people are trying to spin President Obama’s upcoming visit to Israel this week in their own image. People on both sides of the divide see this trip designed to re-start the peace process.

The left that think settlements are an impediment to peace and know the President shares that view. So they are hopeful that he will somehow use his personal charm and considerable influence to halt settlement construction with an eye towards re-starting peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

Those on the right see the same thing, only instead of supporting it, they are vehemently opposed to it – believing that settlements are not the real issue. They instead see the President’s mission as forcing Israel to stop settlement construction at a time when they need it most (because of natural growth and the perceived (by the right) value of outlying settlements as bulwarks against terrorism).

I think they are both wrong. I don’t see any plan. I see an impasse. I think the President sees that too. If he had any kind of plan that he thinks would have even the slightest chance at success at re-kindling the peace process he would have suggested it by now.

The President doesn’t need face time with Israeli leadership to make these kinds of suggestions. Israeli leaders know full well how important the relationship with the United States is. Even the current Prime Minister bends over backwards to accommodate the President’s wishes whenever he can if he doesn’t see it as compromising their security or other national interests.

I have always maintained that the President is sincere in his attempts to convince both Israelis and Palestinians to negotiate peace in the form of a two state solution believing it to be the best of all possible worlds for all concerned. Whether settlements are an issue on any level can be debated by people of good will. But I don’t think any fair minded observer (and I emphasize fair minded) on either side of the issue can dispute the President’s noble intent.

My view on this issue is somewhere between these two extremes. I do not support settlement building at this time because the gain does not outweigh the loss of good will generated by acceding to the President’s wishes. But I don’t believe they are the main impediment to peace either. With little exception, I would therefore prefer if Israel does not move forward with expansion of settlements at this time. There is no advantage to spitting in the face of the leader of a country that is your biggest supporter. Especially while he’s there. That would be a major mistake.

That said, I do not believe that the President will press Israel to stop settlement during this trip. Not that he has changed his mind. But that he doesn’t want to waste the opportunity to build on the relationship between the two countries.

Unlike some of his biggest detractors, I believe that the President actually likes Israel and values the friendship of the Israeli people. I doubt that he buys into all the anti-Israel rhetoric one hears so frequently from Israel’s enemies. Like accusations that they are guilty of Apartheid for instance. I’m not saying he doesn’t see Palestinian suffering. I’m sure he does. But like me, he understands that their suffering is due in large part from security measures Israel takes because of a history of being attacked by their own people through terrorist organizations like Hamas.

Hamas is still considered a terrorist organization by the U.S. The President never suggested for a moment that Hamas be removed from the State Department list of terrorist organizations. Same thing Hezbollah. Although he may feel that Israel could do better I also believe that he understands Israel’s position and for the most part does not blame them for the suffering of the Palestinians.

I also believe that he values Israel as an important ally as well as a friend. That’s why he approved scarce budget dollars to be spent on the very successful ‘Iron Dome’ anti missile defense system. And why military and intelligence cooperation between the two countries has never been closer! He sees a Israel as a country of shared values and its people much like those of his own country.

The problem is with the way he started off his Presidency with respect to his Middle East foreign policy. Although that too was well intentioned, it was a mistake. He made overtures to the Arab nations by going over there intending to reset the U.S. relationship with them while at the same time being highly critical of their their anti Israel attitude and their revisionist attitude about the Holocaust. But he erred by not visiting Israel as well. Although he did not intend it that way – he in effect snubbed his closest ally in the Middle East.

That began a cycle of mistrust of the President by the Israeli people. He was initially seen as tilting towards the Arabs. He has not fully recovered from that perception. Israel and many of its supporters felt that once he was in the neighborhood he should have at least stopped off and paid his friend a visit. The perception of being snubbed set the tone.

The second thing that further caused a perceived rift was when Israel’s Prime Minister showed poor judgement on his first visit to the White House by publicly lecturing the President. That did not help matters cooling off of the relationship even further– at least publicly. Especially when the President was caught off guard telling the French President what a hard time he had with Prime Minister Netanyahu.

Some pundits characterized the relationship between the President and the Prime Minister as one where the two leaders hate each other. I don’t think that is accurate. I’m not saying that they are kindred spirits. But I don’t think ‘hate’ is the right word. I think that the two actually respect each other even while they disagree on some key issues. I do not think Netanyahu is his enemy by any stretch of the imagination – any more than House Speaker John Boehner is.

So why is he going to Israel? I believe that this trip is to repair the negative image he has in Israel. I doubt that he will do or say anything to them about the peace process or settlements – except to perhaps pay some lip service to it.

It is therefore my considered opinion that Israel should put on an unprecedented charm offensive – and treat him like he was – well… the President of the United States and their best friend. They should go out of their way to thank him for the considerable amount of things he has done for them . They ought to make sure that they talk as much as possible about the special relationship between the two countries; their shared democratic principles; and their commitment to preventing Iran from getting nuclear weapons.

There certainly ought not to be any demonstrations against him by any dissident extremists like the die-hard price-taggers. Although there may be some. As well as demonstrations about Jonathan Pollard – not that it will help him one iota. If any demonstrations do happen I’m sure that the President will see it as an example of the great freedom of expression that Israel grants its citizens – just like the United States does.

The Israeli public’s real concern right now is not the Palestinians. If the last election showed anything it showed that their main concern is how to solve the problem of “sharing the burden.” Meaning what to do about Haredim who insist on remaining exempt from the draft. If the fractious new coalition government has any one thing in common – it is that. To the chagrin of all the Haredi parties, they will have little to say about it having been left out of the coalition. They are now in the opposition.

But I don’t think this will influence any part of the President’s visit to Israel. I doubt that Haredim will be making an issue of this to the President. So after all is said and done I think this trip should be a resounding success that will enhance the relationship between Israel and the United States to an unprecedented level.

Visit Emes Ve-Emunah.

Obaminology

Tuesday, March 19th, 2013

Do you remember “Kremlinology,” the study of what was actually going on behind the walls of the Soviet citadel? Experts would scrutinize photos of Soviet officials to see who was standing closest to the leaders, who had moved farther away, or, ominously, who was not present at all. Since the Soviets were not exactly transparent about their policies, a known ‘hawk’ moving closer to party chiefs might signal a threat.

A free society is expected to be more transparent. Officials should announce policies, which are more or less the policies that the government then tries to carry out.

But in the America of today — and particularly with regard to Middle East policy — this is not the case. At least the pro-Israel community finds it necessary to microscopically examine the behavior of important officials, to try to determine what the administration intends. At times like this — immediately preceding the presidential visit to Israel — speculation reaches a high pitch. We find ourselves engaged in Obaminology.

There are some simple methods that can be employed. First, what doesn’t work: it is usually a waste of time to listen to the President’s actual words. As we can see by his recent comments to “Jewish leaders” and to representatives of American Arab organizations, he will tell his audiences what they want to hear. Such statements are carefully calibrated so that they will be technically true but either vacuous or open to multiple interpretations.

One useful technique is to look at the “friendly” media. For example, the New York Times often presents the official line or floats trial balloons for the administration. And the Times has run no less than four anti-Israel op-eds or stories in the past seven days: the Joseph Levine piece arguing that Israel did not have the right to exist as a Jewish state (which I commented on here); an op-ed by Columbia professor and Palestinian apologist Rashid Khalidi which claims the U.S. has enabled Israel’s “apartheid” policies; a long story in the magazine by Ben Ehrenreich, blaming the IDF and ‘settlers’ for provoking “resistance” by saintly Arab residents of Nabi Saleh; and a front-page news story by bureau chief Jodi Rudoren critical of Israel for allowing Jews to live in what she calls “Arab East Jerusalem.”

All of these articles had this in common: they are intended to reduce sympathy for Israel, to establish the ‘Palestinian’ narrative of both historical and current events, and to weaken the Jewish one.

This is nothing new for the Times, but the concentration of coverage makes one wonder. And it is not only the Times: this weekend NPR presented an interview with Khalidi making the same points as his op-ed.

If the President’s words are not useful in sniffing out his intentions, his actions are. Wednesday, President Obama will be visiting Israel, where he will snub the democratically elected Knesset by speaking at a nearby convention center, unlike Presidents Carter, Clinton and Bush, who chose to speak at Israel’s parliament. This is apparently because of the unprecedented lengths to which the Obama Administration has gone to deny Israel’s sovereignty over any part of Jerusalem. To add insult to injury, students from one of Israel’s accredited universities — the one that happens to be located in Ariel, east of the armistice line — were left out of the invitations offered to students at other universities.

I believe that the administration believes that it has set all of its ducks in a row for the upcoming visit. I do not believe that it will be “merely a photo-op,” as some have suggested, because Obama has no need for a photo-op today. The visit is costly and complicated, and will have objectives that the President and his advisers think are important.

It has also been suggested that the President will concentrate on issues involving Iran and the Syrian civil war rather than the question of the Palestinian Arabs. But this is not what is implied by the media offensive and the deliberate snub of Israel’s parliament and government.

Obaminology tells us that these objectives will be related to the ongoing effort to force Israel to withdraw from Judea, Samaria and eastern Jerusalem. Probably there will be renewed pressure to freeze construction east of the armistice lines, including Jerusalem. It would not surprise me if support for Israel in possible future actions against Iran were conditioned on concessions in the Palestinian arena.

Visit Fresno Zionism.

The Places Obama Will Avoid

Sunday, March 17th, 2013

According to a recent News item:

The U.S. Embassy has excluded Ariel University, located in the West Bank [Samaria - ed.], from the invitation list for President Barack Obama’s speech to Israeli students during his visit next week.

According to student union representatives, the embassy contacted the other seven accredited Israeli universities, all of which are located within the pre-1967 lines, but not the sole Israeli university located in the West Bank.

Ariel University Student Union head Shay Shahaf said he hoped the omission was an error that can be corrected rather than a political statement with respect to their location.

He noted that his school became Israel’s eighth accredited university in December and that there still might be confusion over its students’ status.

Shahaf is being polite. Don’t hold your breath for a correction — this is the State Department that can only mumble when asked what the capital of the state of Israel is.

Which brings us to this:

U.S. President Barack Obama has decided not to address the Knesset during his visit to Israel next week. Senior U.S. officials said that, after long deliberations and discussions, the White House decided that the president will address students from universities in Israel at the ICC (Binyaney Ha’uma) in Jerusalem.

That initial snub did not go unnoticed. The Prime Minister’s Office and a number of Knesset members passed messages to the White House saying they would be much happier if the speech took place in the Knesset. But senior U.S. officials have insisted that Obama decided to deliver his messages directly to the Israeli public, especially the younger generation, not just to politicians in the Knesset.

This is beyond weird. Where else but the Knesset, the seat of the government of Israel, would such an address be appropriate? When Netanyahu came to the U.S., he spoke in front of Congress, not at, say, Georgetown University.

But you just have to think like a State Department official and it becomes clear: the Knesset is the seat of Israel’s government, and the Knesset is located in … Jerusalem! So speaking before the Knesset constitutes de facto recognition that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. That wasn’t hard, was it?

The message sent by these and numerous other incidents is that the U.S. does not recognize Israel as a sovereign state, a state with the power to accredit universities, and to declare that the city which has been the seat of government for the 65 years since its founding is in fact its legitimate capital.

The case of the abused wife with a rich husband who gives her everything she wants except her autonomy is a cliché of fiction, but certainly exists in real life.

When does the Unbreakable Bond become an abusive relationship?

Visit Fresno Zionism.

Pour the Concrete and Build the Houses

Wednesday, March 13th, 2013

Sometimes I feel my passion for Israel exceeds even that of my Jewish friends. As I tell people, it is impossible to be a Christian and not believe that Israel is God’s Chosen Land and that, as God promises in the Bible, nations that bless Israel will be blessed and those that curse Israel will be cursed.

My first trip to Israel occurred nearly forty years ago, in July 1973, just a couple of months before the Yom Kippur War when I was a teenager. I’ve been going back to Israel ever since.

Whenever I visit Israel I venture into the Old City. I go into some of the shops where one can purchase a Palestinian map. In February I had two hundred people I took with me, most of whom were Christians and had never been there before. I wanted them to understand what is unique about this situation.

I got one of these maps and said, “By the way, open the map and show me where Israel is.” And they opened it up and didn’t see it. And I said, “Interesting isn’t it? Somehow Israelis are asked to make peace with a people who even in their published maps refuse to acknowledge even so much as the existence of the Jewish state.”

Israel often gets criticized for the actions it takes to protect its citizens. For example, Israel was and still is pilloried for its construction of the security wall (or fence) but until that security wall was erected it was a common occurrence for people to strap bombs to their bellies and board a bus and kill innocent men, women and children. With the construction of that wall, those acts of terror virtually stopped.

Shall we be critical of those who wish to protect their babies? Shall we condemn those who wish for peace in their neighborhoods, for their children to play in a park, for their wives to visit to a café or supermarket without the fear of being blown up by a terrorist?

We would never tolerate in our own cities what the people of Sderot have been asked to tolerate. I have been to Sderot and have seen the thousands of Katyusha rockets stacked up behind the police station. I can tell you that it is an absolutely sobering experience to understand that people have fear every day that a Katyusha rocket might land on their children’s bedroom, the park where they play, the schools they attend, the synagogues where they worship.

I would ask my fellow Americans, how many Katyusha rockets fired from Toronto into Buffalo do you think it would take before we would demand that our government did something to stop it? Five thousand? Four Thousand? Three Thousand? One hundred? No – just one Katyusha rocket is all it would take. And the Israelis have been asked to let it go after thousands of them.

I say one is enough, and Israelis must quit apologizing to the world and say, “We have a right to a secure and safe homeland – not just for us but for our grandchildren and great-grandchildren; a place that is a safe place, a haven.”

And if anybody wonders why a safe haven for Jews is necessary, they should talk to me. I’ll tell them what I’ve learned from my many visits to Yad Vashem and my experience this past January when my wife and I traveled to Poland. We went to Schindler’s factory and then to Auschwitz and Birkenau. As I stood in the very place where 1.1 million Jews were murdered in cold blood, chills came over me as I realized what had happened there. I prayed, “May the world never forget what happened.”

When I visited the Gush Katif Museum in Jerusalem a couple of years ago, it was a brutal reminder of what happens when politicians make decisions that don’t involve their brains. When you demand that people abandon their homes because you somehow believe you can trust radical Islamic fascists to keep their word and make nice if you’ll make nice, it shows a level of naiveté that makes a Chamberlain look like a Churchill.

It is time we recognize you don’t negotiate with people who do not believe you have a right to exist.

Is Soros Pumping Money into ‘A Jewish Voice for Peace’?

Monday, March 11th, 2013

I’ve written ad nauseum that the most energetic and effective anti-Zionists are Jews, not Arabs or Muslims. A perfect example is the group called “A Jewish Voice for Peace” (JVP), based in the San Francisco Bay Area, but with chapters all over the country, mostly on college campuses.

JVP has been growing by leaps and bounds, with their 2011 form 990 (a tax form which all non-profits are required to make publicly available) showing an income from contributions and grants of $871,250. This is very big money for an organization whose membership appears to be mostly students and young people, and there is reason to believe that they have recently started to receive much more. Unfortunately non-profits that don’t give money to political candidates are not required to disclose the identity of their donors.

This week, during the annual AIPAC meeting in Washington DC, JVP has purchased 100 advertising signs in DC Metro stations, working with the very professional “Avaaz” group (more about them later), to “challenge [AIPAC's] influence on U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East.” Here’s an example:

JVP-Aavaz ad in DC Metro

Ads like these cost between $400-$950 per ad for 4 weeks, depending on “timing and market.” So let’s say (very conservatively) that they are paying $250 per ad for two weeks. Their 100 ads cost them at least $25,000, probably twice that.

JVP likes media attention, and one of its favorite tactics is to disrupt pro-Israel speakers and events. Both the advertising and the disruption appear to be intended at least as much to attract attention — and recruits — to their organization as they are to change public opinion about their issues (promoting boycott-divestment-sanctions, portraying Israel as an apartheid state and human-rights violator, etc.).

Here is something else that I noticed on JVP’s form 990, which supports the idea that it is focused on growth. It has only one paid officer, Executive Director Rebecca Vilkomerson, who is listed as receiving total compensation of less than $75,000. But they also list $355,090 in “other salaries and wages.” Who are the additional employees? What do they do? It’s not the janitorial staff of JVP’s small Oakland office.

My guess is that they are organizers stationed on college campuses and other places where young Jews can be found. Although the organization wants to give the impression that it is an all-volunteer, ‘grassroots’ group, it seems that it is actually a disciplined professional operation that is rapidly growing. Their grants and contributions have increased by an average of more than $100,000 a year (with the exception of 2008, a bad year for all nonprofits).

Someone is pumping JVP up, and I think we can get a clue about who from the partnership with Avaaz. Avaaz is not (yet) big in the U.S., so you may not have heard of it. But let me quote from NGO Monitor’s analysis:

Avaaz was co-founded in 2007 by “Res Publica, a global civic advocacy group, and Moveon.org.” The former received grants totaling $290,000 from the Soros Open Society Institute in 2008. The latter received a $1.46 million grant from George Soros in 2004. Res Publica describes Avaaz.org as its “primary current project.”

According to a 2007 ABC News report on Avaaz.org’s call for the firing of Paul Wolfowitz as president of the World Bank, Avaaz.org is a “global advocacy group funded by philanthropist and financier George Soros, MoveOn.org and the labor group SEIU.”

According to the 2009 Form 990 (page 87) filed by the Open Society Foundations, OSF gave $600,000 to Avaaz.org via New York-based Res Publica; $300,000 for “general support to Avaaz.org” and $300,000 for “Avaaz.org’s work on climate change.”

A check into OSF 990s for 2010 or 2011 show no grants for Avaaz nor Res Publica. According to its 2011 990, Avaaz.org’s total revenue for that year was $7,519,028. Avaaz.org claims it is “wholly member-funded.” Avaaz does not publish a detailed list of donors on its website or 990 forms, and therefore this claim cannot be verified independently.

Avaaz.org is active in the Israeli-Palestinian arena. Its 2011 campaign “Palestine: the time is now,” was aimed at pressuring the UK, France, and Germany to support a Palestinian bid for recognition. The petition and accompanying video titled “Middle East Peace – The Real Story” promotes the Palestinian narrative. In 2007 Avaaz.org launched a petition calling to “End the Siege of Gaza: Ceasefire Now” demanding an end to the “blockade and growing humanitarian crisis in Gaza” and “ensure the free flow of supplies by land, sea or air.”

Soros also funds J Street, the phony “pro-Israel” lobby, although J Street’s director, Jeremy Ben Ami lied in an attempt to keep it secret.

Avaaz, with its huge budget, is as slick as it gets (here is a discussion of how it managed a fake grassroots Internet campaign for Palestinian recognition). My guess is that Soros is getting behind JVP as well, and with the same objective: to create a ‘popular’ Jewish anti-Zionist movement.

Soros, in other words, is pitching a whole line of anti-Israel merchandise to Jews. Are you a progressive who wants to distance himself from Israel along with your left-wing friends, while still remaining a member of your (liberal) synagogue? Buy some J Street! But suppose you want to see Israel replaced by an Arab state and don’t care who knows it — if you are suffering from stage-4 Oslo Syndrome — then JVP is for you.

There is a reason why so much of the heavy artillery of anti-Zionism is turned on the American Jewish community. True or false, it is seen as the key to American support for Israel.

Visit Fresno Zionism.

Palestinians Plan ‘Warm’ Welcome for Obama

Sunday, March 10th, 2013

Originally published at the Gatestone Institute.

U.S. President Barack Obama is coming to the Middle East later this month to explore the possibility of resuming peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

But while Obama is thinking of ways to revive the stalled peace talks, Palestinian activists say they are planning a “warm” welcome for him when he visits Ramallah or any other Palestinian city.

One plan being discussed among Palestinian activists includes staging anti-U.S. demonstrations in Palestinian cities, particularly outside the place Obama is scheduled to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Activists in Ramallah said they would try to block the roads leading to the location of the Obama-Abbas meeting to protest against U.S. “bias in favor of Israel.”

Some activists have even prepared American flags and portraits of Obama that would be set on fire in front of T.V. crews covering the visit.

Palestinian activists say they are also hoping to humiliate Obama when and if he decides to visit the Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.

Many Palestinians have already called on Obama to refrain from visiting the holy site, especially if he would be escorted by Israeli policemen and security officials.

Members of Hizb al-Tahrir, a radical Islamist group, said this week that they would throw shoes at Obama and his entourage if they arrived at the Aqsa Mosque.

There is no reason why Obama should not take all these threats seriously.

Earlier this week, the British Consul-General to Jerusalem, Sir Vincent Fean, had to flee Bir Zeit University near Ramallah after angry Palestinian students attacked his car.

The top British diplomat had arrived at the campus to deliver a lecture explaining his country’s position regarding the Palestinian issue. His presence on campus triggered protests from students, who shouted slogans denouncing the Balfour Declaration and Britain’s alleged bias in favor of Israel.

Palestinians are disappointed with Obama because of what they perceive as his unwavering support for Israel. They are particularly upset with Obama for failing to force Israel to accept their demands, including a full cessation of settlement construction, the release of Palestinians from Israeli jails, and a full Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines.

Palestinian activists said they were also disappointed with Obama because they believe that Iran, and not the Palestinian issue, is now at the top of his list of priorities.

By planning protests against Obama, Palestinians are hoping to bring their issue back to the top of the U.S. Administration’s list of priorities. But they are also hoping to humiliate Obama and the US for not being supportive enough of the Palestinians.

Palestinians are also angry with Obama because of his refusal to support Abbas’s statehood bid at the U.N. late last year.

Some Palestinians admitted that plans to disrupt Obama’s visit to the Aqsa Mosque are also aimed at embarrassing Israel and drawing the world’s attention to what they claim, without evidence, is an Israeli plot to “destroy” the mosque and replace it with the Third Temple.

So while Obama is seeking to revive the peace talks between Palestinians and Israelis, many Palestinians are thinking of ways to humiliate him and the U.S. When and if Obama visits, he will be reminded of the fact that many Palestinians continue to regard the U.S. as an enemy, not a friend.

Originally published at the Gatestone Institute.

The Changing Middle East as Seen from AIPAC 2013

Wednesday, March 6th, 2013

From the second one arrives at the Washington Convention Center, the AIPAC spectacle is all-encompassing. From the anti-Israel demonstrators clustering around the entrance to the sparkling multi-screen plenaries in the main hall, there is a both a sense of showmanship and a sense that this is, for two days, the only show in town.

Even so, the razzmatazz at this year’s AIPAC policy conference couldn’t quite mute the background murmurs about the organization’s declining influence. There was Chuck Hagel’s confirmation as defense secretary, and there is the ongoing debate about the impact of sequestration on Israel’s defensive capabilities.

When Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) complained that the Obama administration still had not delivered advanced F-35 fighter aircraft to Israel, he inadvertently invited his audience to ponder, “All powerful Israel Lobby? What all powerful Israel Lobby?”

Away from the podium, speeches that restated, to standing ovations and thunderous applause, the critical talking points of Israel advocacy – “Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East,” “all options must remain on the table concerning Iran,” “there is no genuine Palestinian peace partner,” and so forth – there was serious reconsideration of Israel’s current strategic position in the Middle East. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) memorably summarized the stakes involved when he told the AIPAC crowd, “I have not seen the Middle East and the world in a more dangerous situation in my lifetime.”

What, perhaps, is distinctive about this “dangerous situation” is that it involves a complex of conflicts in which Israel is not an active participant but a rather nervous bystander waiting on a series of uncertain outcomes.

The much-vaunted Arab Spring, more accurately described by the Israeli journalist Amos Harel as “the Arab Upheaval,” has taken different forms in different countries, but the common denominator is that in not a single instance has a democratic, open society emerged at the other end.

In the Arab Gulf region in particular, long-established repressive and corrupt regimes, most obviously in Saudi Arabia, remain in place; as the American pundit Bret Stephens pointed out, much as we might wish for an end to the Saudi monarchy, in all likelihood what follows it will be worse. Old certainties – like the position of Turkey as a friend of both Israel and the western powers – have been dramatically undercut, as demonstrated by Prime Minister Erdogan’s recent assault on Zionism as a “crime against humanity.”

Most of all, there is Iran. While there was little discussion of the one conflict in which Israel is directly involved – that with the Palestinians – the AIPAC parley was dominated by anxiety that Iran is on the cusp of acquiring a nuclear weapon.

Speaking at the main plenary, Vice President Joe Biden accentuated a significant, if subtle, shift in the administration’s articulation of its Iran policy. America’s goal, Biden said, “is to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, period.” Then, for added effect, Biden repeated: “Prevent, not contain, prevent.”

The picture that has emerged at AIPAC, then, is of an Israel facing unknown, indeterminate threats that are far greater than the known threats it has encountered in the past. As a consequence, detailed policy prescriptions were hard to come by. Absent from the policy conference were recommendations as to how Israel should proceed in negotiations with the Palestinians (because there aren’t any) or maintain its historic 1979 peace treaty with Egypt (because there’s not much it can do should that country’s Muslim Brotherhood leaders decide to tear it up).

Instead, the focus was on Israel as frontline member of the community of democratic nations, the terrain where the cultural, political and perhaps military struggles between western openness and Islamists strictures will be played out.

That was certainly the subtext of one of the more interesting, if sparsely attended, breakout sessions at AIPAC: on Canada’s relationship with Israel. All the Canadian politicians who spoke stressed the reason Canada goes to bat for Israel so energetically in international forums is illustrated in Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s dictum that “we’re going to support what’s right, not what’s politically expedient.”

Canadian parliamentarian Robert Dochert pointed out that the Toronto riding (electoral district) he represents contains 25,000 Palestinians and 500 Jews, but even so, his support for Israel won’t waiver.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/the-changing-middle-east-as-seen-from-aipac-2013/2013/03/06/

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