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Thursday, August 13, 2009

Ayalon: Back channel dialogue between Avigdor Lieberman and Hillary Clinton, Livni and Abu Ala notes on Annapolis contradictory

Each week, various 'local' (usually ultra-Orthodox) newspapers are left on our doorstep. The newspapers are distributed for free, they are in Hebrew and they are not available in digital form. This morning, one such paper, called HaShavua b'Yerushalayim (This Week in Jerusalem) was left on our doorstep, and it has something that may actually be an exclusive. In the paper's magazine called Shvii (The Seventh - a reference to the Sabbath, which is the seventh day of the week), it has an interview with Danny Ayalon (pictured), Israel's Deputy Foreign Minister and the country's former ambassador to the United States.

The interview runs for ten newspaper columns in difficult Hebrew. I translate professionally from time to time, and on average, a Hebrew to English translation will run about 50% more words in English. Therefore, I did not translate the entire interview. I took some of Ayalon's quotes from it. Here are some the things Ayalon says in the interview:

On Nadav Tamir (Israel's consul general in Boston who has been recalled): "Let it be clear. We encourage criticism, but I am upset about two things that were done wrong. First, the consul in Boston is not responsible for dealing with the American government, nor for our relations with the Congress and the Senate, nor for our relations with the Jewish federations and the Conference of Presidents [of Major American Jewish Organizations].

"Even if he was responsible for the area, which he was not, this is not how things are done. I was in the foreign ministry for twenty years. I know how to write and read a [diplomatic] cable. I am sorry for the lack of professionalism in writing this document because it has no supporting information and no data. Additionally, he distributed this document by mass distribution and not in a discrete network. A diplomat in government service doesn't behave that way."

Ayalon also takes issue with Tamir on the facts: "The numbers speak for themselves. In a Zogby poll - which was conducted by an American of Arab descent who is not suspected of loving Israel - it was shown that 71% of American citizens support Israel as compared with 26% who support the Arab side. In another poll, it was found that 66% see Israel as a friendly nation." (See also the Rasmussen poll I posted on Wednesday. CiJ).

In Tamir's letter, he claims:
The damage to US public opinion is already evident from recently held opinion polls, and is expected to worsen.
According to Ayalon, that statement referred to two opinion polls, one commissioned by the Israel Project, which sees a jump in donations every time opinion polls in the US look bad for Israel, and the other by J Street, whose dishonest polling methods I discussed here. Both of those polls had an interest in showing that Israel's relations with the United States are in crisis, according to Ayalon.

On relations with the United States - "I can say today with full responsibility that relations with the United States and the American government are on a good path. There is close cooperation in a number of areas, both with [US Special Envoy to the Middle East George] Mitchell and with [National Security Adviser James] Jones. Yes, there are disagreements, but the mutual obligations remain as they were. One can break down the American commitment to Israel's security, welfare and maintenance of a qualitative advantage [in the military] in minute detail: Obama did not touch a strategic plan that includes a $30 billion grant to Israel over ten years. The Arrow 3 project is continuing to move full steam ahead. Aide to Israel continues. At the same time, they're not releasing a cent to Abu Mazen."

On Lieberman's back channel dialogue with Hillary Clinton - After a lengthy discussion about whether foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman is being shuffled to the background in any and all discussions with the United States (Defense Minister Ehud Barak is handling all the negotiations relating to the 'settlement freeze' - Ayalon argues that's because the Defense Minister is the one who has to approve or disapprove all construction in the 'settlements), Ayalon discloses publicly for the first time that there is an ongoing back channel dialogue between foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. "The foreign minister is responsible for strategic dialogue and he is currently in advanced discussions with the most senior people in order to conduct the dialogue for which he is responsible, including his American counterpart Hillary Clinton.

"These contacts relate to determining strategy in all of the security and diplomatic areas, and not just in the narrow area of evacuating 'illegal outposts' and freezing construction. [As a result of these contacts,] I don't believe that Obama will present a plan without consulting us. I don't see that happening."

On Lebanon and Hezbullah - "I gave notice that if so much as a hair falls off an Israeli's head, Hezbullah will be responsible and will bear the consequences. But not just Hezbullah. The responsibility also belongs to the Lebanese government. Hezbullah is not on the moon. It is part of Lebanon, acting as a state within a state. If the Lebanese close their eyes and ignore it, we will hold them responsible for attacks on our northern border and for attacks on Israeli interests all over the world."

On the Annapolis process - "Livni held 70 meetings with Abu Ala. Nothing came out of them.

"What's worse is that the Americans themselves were shocked. For each meeting, they received one report from Livni and one report from Abu Ala. They didn't know what to do. There was no orderly protocol. The Americans - not us - say that there was no connection between what Livni wrote and what Abu Ala wrote.

"We are obligated by prior agreements, but there are no orderly protocols of the Annapolis meetings. These weren't diplomatic negotiations. They were cocktail party conversations."


At 9:46 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

Danny Ayalon made some very good points. And the Palestinians have never said Annapolis is binding upon them. As I understand it, obligations accepted by both parties bind both of them. Israel has fulfilled almost all of its commitments in the past 16 years. The Palestinians have yet to fulfill a single one they undertook of their own free will to carry out. Until they do, peace is far away.


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