At the Passover seder, Jews around the World say, "Go out and learn what Lavan the Aramite wished to do to our forefather Jacob, for Pharoah only decreed that the males [should die] and Lavan wished to uproot everything." Science Minister Daniel Hershkowitz (Jewish Home) alluded to that passage today when he referred to President Obama's 'no natural growth in the settlements' decree as being 'worse than Pharoah.'
"The American demand to prevent natural growth is unreasonable, and brings to mind Pharaoh who said: Every son that is born ye shall cast into the river," Science Minister and Habayit Hayehudi head Daniel Herschkowitz said Sunday, referring to US President Barack Obama's demand to freeze all settlement activity, even that ensuing from natural growth.
Speaking ahead of the weekly cabinet meeting, mathematician Herschkowitz furthered his point with a simple equation. "If there is a family that expands from one child to four or five, what should we tell them - to ship the children off to Petah Tikva? This is an unacceptable demand, even if it comes from the Americans, and Israel should reject it decisively," he affirmed.
Interior Minister Eli Yishai said, "The American demand to freeze construction means expulsion for young people living in large locales. I hope the US administration understands that. If not, I don't want to be an apocalyptic prophet saying we're facing struggle and confrontation. The concessions they're demanding of us are a security impediment we cannot withstand."
What Yishai (of Shas - an ultra-Orthodox party) doesn't seem to understand is that Obama understands exactly what his 'decrees' mean and that is his intention.
The rest of the cabinet attempted to strike more conciliatory notes, but I don't expect Obama to back down on this at all anytime soon. The cabinet will have to decide whether to defy him and they will have to decide it sometime in the next week or two.
Would the 'father of our country' approve? Something tells me that George Washington would never accept such a decree on the United States.
'Moderate' 'Palestinian' President Mahmoud AbbasAbu Mazen could feel the love from President Obama so clearly in Washington last Thursday, that on Saturday he went to Cairo and told Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak that he will resist any changes to the 2002 'Saudi plan,' which seeks to push Israel back to the indefensible 1949 armistice lines and to flood it with 'Palestinian refugees' in exchange for a vague form of diplomatic recognition.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told his Egyptian counterpart Hosni Mubarak yesterday that he will not accept any alterations to the Arab peace initiative. In a meeting in Cairo, Abbas also discussed with Mubarak his summit with U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington last week.
After that meeting, Obama and Abbas told a press conference they were looking at ways to promote the peace process in the Middle East. At the conference, Obama stressed the need to work toward establishing a Palestinian state; he reiterated his demand that Israel halt all construction in West Bank settlements.
He also requested Abbas to step up security operations in the West Bank and "to continue to make progress in reducing the incitement and anti-Israel sentiments that are sometimes expressed in schools and mosques, because all those things are impediments to peace."
Continue to make progress? What progress has been made in reducing incitement? Textbooks? No. Television? No. Newspapers? No. So just where is this 'progress'?
Following the meeting, sources in Jerusalem expressed concern that Obama did not refer to Israel as a "Jewish state" at his press conference with Abbas.
"We don't understand why he didn't say it," a senior government official told Haaretz. "He could have, but he didn't."
The sources noted that Obama's body language was much more open at the meeting with Abbas than with Netanyahu earlier this month.
At his meeting with Mubarak, Abbas said he found a serious American administration committed to promoting the Middle East peace process and stopping settlement construction. He defined the meeting with Obama as very satisfying.
I would suggest that Obama's failure to refer to Israel as a Jewish state is the least of our problems here.
Azerbaijan is the newest Middle East conflict theater; will the US be next?
The Los Angeles Times discloses that Azerbaijani police thwarted an Iranian-Hezbullah plot to blow up Israel's embassy in the capital city of Baku last year. The plot was meant to be vengeance for the assassination - allegedly by Israel - of Hezbullah terrorist Imad Mughniyah (pictured).
Police intercepted a fleeing car and captured two suspected Hezbollah militants from Lebanon. The car contained explosives, binoculars, cameras, pistols with silencers and reconnaissance photos. Raiding alleged safe houses, police foiled what authorities say was a plot to blow up the Israeli Embassy in Azerbaijan, a former Soviet republic that borders Iran.
Western anti-terrorism officials say the arrests a year ago thwarted swift retaliation by Hezbollah and Iran for the slaying of Imad Mughniyah, the legendary warlord of the Shiite Muslim militia based in Lebanon whose death was widely blamed on Israel.
The prosecution remained largely a secret until this week, when closed court proceedings began for two Lebanese and four Azeris charged with terrorism, espionage and other crimes.
The case offers an inside look at one of the stealthy duels being fought by Israel on one side and Hezbollah and Iran on the other in remote locales, from Latin America to Central Asia.
"They had reached the stage where they had a network in place to do an operation," said an Israeli security official, who requested anonymity for safety reasons. "We are seeing it all over the world. They are working very hard at it."
This isn't the first time that Hezbullah has attempted to avenge what it views as an Israeli assassination of one of its leaders outside Lebanon's borders.
That alleged alliance is accused in the bombings in Argentina of the Israeli Embassy in 1992 and a Jewish community center in 1994, attacks that left 114 people dead. Both were allegedly the work of Hezbollah suicide bombers directed by Iranian spies in response to Israel's assassination of Hezbollah leaders.
"In Buenos Aires in 1992, the attack came a month after an assassination in Lebanon," said Magnus Ranstorp, a top expert on Hezbollah at the Swedish National Defense College. "They strike where they have infrastructure, a network, a target in place."
And according to terrorism expert Matthew Levitt, the choice of Azerbaijan had additional appeal to the Iranians.
"The Iranians have a history of a presence there," said Levitt, who is now at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. "And they wouldn't mind undermining the country, given Azerbaijan's Western leanings."
I've discussed Hezbullah's sleeper cells in Latin America several times. For those of you who are wondering where Hezbullah is likely to strike, please consider this:
Some experts believe that an attack remains inevitable because of Mughniyah's importance to both Hezbollah and Iran. The risk is greatest for Israeli and Jewish targets in U.S.-allied Arab nations, Latin America, Central Asia and Africa, the Israeli security official said.
I would add the US to that list. There are likely Hezbullah operatives among the illegal immigrants coming over the US border from Mexico. But that's okay because the Obama administration is comfortable with its 'allies' making overtures to Hezbullah.
There was a great editorial in Saturday's National Post that ripped the UN 'Human Rights Council' for its double standard in praising Sri Lanka's defeat of the Tamil rebels while condemning any action Israel takes against Hamas.
If more proof were needed that the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) is a feckless, biased, intellectually corrupt haven for dictators and Islamofascists, the evidence was clearly on display this week. The UNHRC voted to affirm Sri Lanka's right, justifiably, to self-defence from terror attacks launched against its citizens and territory by the Tamil Tigers. Indeed, the council went further, "condemning all attacks that the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) launched on the civilian population and its practice of using civilians as human shields." Sri Lanka had every right to protect itself, the council concluded, even at the cost of an estimated 20,000 civilian Tamil lives since the beginning of May alone.
Why, then, when Israel seeks to do the same -- protect its citizens and territory from rocket and terror attacks launched from Gaza -- does the very same council accuse Israel of being a "genocidal empire?" No quarter is given for the way Hamas --every bit as much a terror organization as the LTTE -- hides its rocket bases and ammunition caches in schools, apartments and hospitals and launches its attacks on Israel from behind innocent human targets so that if the Israel Defense Forces wish to retaliate it is impossible for them to do so without taking civilian lives.
We are not disagreeing with the UNHRC's assessment of Sri Lanka's actions. Even more than Hamas and its jihadi brothers-in-arms, the Tigers were enthusiastic suicide bombers, targeting shops, public squares and Sri Lankan government offices. So proficient had they become, the Black Tigers -- the LTTE's suicide squads -- could calculate how many Sri Lankans would die in their initial blasts and how many more would be cut down by flying glass and debris. After nearly three decades of fighting and at least 70,000 deaths on both sides, we sympathize with the Colombo government's desire to bring their civil war to an end, once and for all.
Our question is merely: Why such a double standard when it comes to Israel?
It should be obvious why there is a double standard with respect to Israel: It's the World's oldest hatred.
And it's a double standard that is not the unique domain of the 'Human Rights Council,' but one that cuts across nearly all UN agencies and international bodies in general. Think of the Security Council, the General Assembly, UNESCO (which is about to elect a director general who called for banning and burning Hebrew books in his home country), the 'World Court' and countless other international bodies in which Israel is condemned on a daily basis.
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
On Thursday, June 4, the day before the 42nd anniversary of the Six Day War's outbreak, American President Barack Hussein Obama will attempt to set in motion a process that will push Israel back to the armistice lines of 1949, if not to those of June 4, 1967.
Expectations are high for Obama’s Middle East visit, which begins with a meeting with King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia in Riyadh on Wednesday to discuss the Arab peace initiative and relations with Iran before he arrives in Egypt the next day.
The goal of two states living side by side, with the holy sites in Jerusalem under international jurisdiction, is to receive a new push by Obama.
“Some of the things that you will hear in the speech are returning to proven and effective policies and initiatives that have . . . served the national interest well in the past,” said Denis McDonough, Obama’s foreign policy adviser.
The only small consolation in an otherwise dreary article is this:
Administration officials say privately that Obama has given himself two years for a diplomatic breakthough on a two-state solution for Israel and the Palestinians, despite the opposition of Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, to America’s minimum demand for a freeze on all settlement building in disputed territory.
So if we can survive two years, he'll leave us alone? Maybe, if there's anything left. Within two years, Iran will be a nuclear power, and it is clear to all of us here that Israel will be left to confront that prospect alone.
Not wanting to risk a backlash from American Jewry, Obama will visit the Buchenwald concentration camp later in the trip. But Obama's great uncle Charles Payne, who was among the American troops who liberated Buchenwald, has ripped him for that insincere gesture in an interview in Der Spiegel (Hat Tip: Gateway Pundit):
SPIEGEL: Mr. Payne, early in June your great-nephew, President Barack Obama, will visit the former concentration camp Buchenwald, which you helped liberate at the end of the war. Will he be travelling in your footsteps?
Charles Payne: I don't buy that. I was quite surprised when the whole thing came up and Barack talked about my war experiences in Nazi Germany. We had never talked about that before. This is a trip that he chose, not because of me I'm sure, but for political reasons.
Israel doesn't excite American Jewry much anymore. Maybe the Holocaust will?
Poll: Nearly 40% of Gazans and 30% of Judea and Samaria 'Palestinians' would like to emigrate
A poll taken in the month of April, and published by the 'Palestinian' Center for Development Studies on Wednesday, shows that 39.6% of Gazans and 28.8% of Judea and Samaria 'Palestinians' would like to emigrate. Here are some of the poll highlights:
1. How do you describe the current economic situation of your family? Very good 5.2 Good 25.3 Intermediate 41.5 Bad 19.2 Very Bad 8.7
2. In the current period, do you feel that you and your family are safe? Yes 38.3 Somewhat safe 30.3 No 31.0 I don't have an opinion / I don't know 0.5
3. Are you generally optimistic or pessimistic about the future? I am optimistic 42.0 Somewhat optimistic 26.0 I am pessimistic 31.3 No opinion .7
4. Is the family provider currently employed? Yes, regularly 48.7 Yes, occasionally 28.4 There is no provider for my family 2.7 The family provider is unemployed 20.2
5. If you had the opportunity to migrate and live abroad, would you immigrate? Total yes 32.6 No 67.4 West Bank yes 28.8 No 71.2 Gaza Strip yes 39.4 No 60.6
6. Have you been personally exposed to any of the following practices by the occupation army? Beating yes 20.9 No 79.1 Arrest yes 13.7 No 86.3 Injury yes 8.5 No 91.5 Verbal abuse, and insulting yes 30.7 No 96.3 Sexual Harassment yes 4.5 No 95.5
To get out of the current Palestinian crisis, which of the following propositions do you approve? 1) Forming a unity government of all factions 58.0 2)Forming a government of independent specialists 19.4 3)Forming a mixed government of specialists and factions members. 22.6 9
Will you approve a solution taking in consideration the UN resolutions and including a Palestinian independent state in West Bank and Gaza with Jerusalem as its capital and a just solution for the refugee problem? Yes 82.1 No 13.7 I am not sure 4.2
Within the different practiced strategies, which of the following is more likely to achieve national liberation and establishment of the independent state? Armed resistance 18.0 Negotiations 16.6 Using both resistance and negotiations 42.5 Non-violent resistance and negotiations 17.7 I don't know 5.3
Note especially that most 'Palestinians' do not claim to have been abused by the 'occupation army' (and I would bet that many of the claims that were made have been exaggerated), and that despite the fact that most 'Palestinians' would accept solutions that Israel has offered, a plurality of 'Palestinians' want to use both 'resistance and negotiations' and substantial numbers want to leave. I view that as despair that the 'Palestinian' leadership will ever accept a solution to the 'Palestinian' problem offered by Israel.
Shock and horror: Understandings reached with Bush administration now 'worthless'
Israeli negotiators who met with emissaries of President Obama in London last week to try to work out a compromise regarding the 'settlement freeze' discovered to their shock and horror that all of the understandings that the Sharon and Olmert governments had reached with Bush administration were now 'worthless.'
The Israeli delegates were stunned by the uncompromising U.S. stance, and by statements from Mitchell and his staff that agreements reached with the Bush administration were unacceptable. An Israeli official privy to the talks said that "the Americans took something that had been agreed on for many years and just stopped everything."
"What about the Tenet Report, which demanded that the Palestinians dismantle the terror infrastructure?" said the official, referring to former CIA director George Tenet. "It's unfair, and there is no reciprocity shown toward the Palestinians."
The Israeli envoys said the demand for a total settlement freeze was not only unworkable, but would not receive High Court sanction. Tensions reportedly reached a peak when, speaking of the Gaza disengagement, the Israelis told their interlocutors, "We evacuated 8,000 settlers on our own initiative," to which Mitchell responded simply, "We've noted that here."
Defense Minister Ehud Barak will travel to Washington today in an attempt to put further pressure on the Obama administration.
"We want to reach an agreement with the United States on ways to advance the peace process," said a senior Jerusalem official. The U.S. stance, he said, "will stall the process and bring about tension and stagnation, which will hurt both Israel and the United States."
I don't expect Barak to get very far. Recall the treatment that IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi received in Washington a few months ago.
It's unbelievably hypocritical that the Obama administration expects the Netanyahu government to abide by its predecessors' commitments, but is unwilling to abide by its predecessor's commitments.
But what's most stunning about this piece is that the composition of the delegation that Netanyahu sent was probably about as 'moderate' as this government is going to get.
The Israeli delegation consisted of National Security Adviser Uzi Arad, Netanyahu diplomatic envoy Yitzhak Molcho, Defense Ministry chief of staff Mike Herzog and deputy prime minister Dan Meridor.
Arad has had his issues with the US, and I'm not really familiar with Herzog, but Molcho was Netanyahu's personal attorney and is the scion of a prominent Jerusalem law firm. He was the advance man for many of Netanyahu's negotiations with Arafat and (Hafez) Assad during Netanyahu's first term in office.
And Meridor is one of the Likud's most leftwing members who left the party at one point because it was too rightwing for his tastes. Meridor was one of the 'moderates' Netanayhu wanted high on the Knesset list that I had in mind in this post. The fact that this was Netanyahu's delegation (and not Avigdor Lieberman or former ambassador to the US and Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon) shows that Netanyahu really is trying to accommodate Obama. If this is the American position and those two are reacting with such shock to it, it is clear that we have a long uphill battle ahead of us to survive this administration's term in office.
The United States Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress on May 22 of the possible sale of 12 Apache Longbow attack helicopters to Egypt.
On May 22, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of a possible Foreign Military Sale to the Government of Egypt of 12 AH-64D Block II APACHE Longbow Helicopters and associated equipment, parts, training and support for an estimated cost of $820 million.
This proposed sale will contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to improve the security of a friendly country which has been and continues to be an important force for political stability and economic progress in the Middle East. This sale is consistent with these U.S. objectives and with the 1950 Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security.
Egypt will use the AH-64D for its national security and protecting its borders. The aircraft will provide the Egyptian military more advanced targeting and engagement capabilities. The proposed sale will provide for the defense of vital installations and will provide close air support for the military ground forces. Egypt will have no difficulty absorbing these helicopters into its armed forces.
The proposed sale of this equipment and support will not alter the basic military balance in the region.
This notice of a potential sale is required by law. It does not mean that the sale has been concluded.
Coincidentally, or perhaps not, some blogs have reported that the United States has refused to sell the same helicopter to Israel. Other blogs have questioned the authenticity of the original source for the report that Israel has been denied the same helicopter. According to that source, Israel asked to buy six of the helicopters and the request is under review.
Here's Charles Krauthammer's take on President Obama's meeting with Mahmoud AbbasAbu Mazen.
We have to start understanding that Abbas is an illusion. He is a fiction. He is a ghost. He is a potential president. I could go on, but you get the idea.
I mean, even the presidency he holds is a dubious legality. And it is said of him that he doesn't even control downtown Ramallah where his offices are.
So you’ve got a man who doesn't have anything in his control. And the reason that years of negotiations he held with the previous Israeli leader, Ehud Olmert, went nowhere is because when Olmert offered everything, Abbas had nothing he can offer to back it up.
So, what is it the United States is trying to do? It has to have a peace process in place, otherwise people will wake up and say we don't have a peace process, and that is intolerable. So you create one.
If you see where Obama is going next week, he's going to be in Egypt, in Jordan, and Saudi Arabia. The idea is to create an odd, three-way negotiation in which Israel makes concessions, small concessions, incremental, on the ground, like the lifting of roadblocks, the dismantling of outlying settlements.
And the corresponding concession is not from Abbas, who can't deliver, but from the Arab states — for example, the relaxation of Israel's isolation, trade bans. You could imagine the ping-pong team in Saudi Arabia, although that's rather unlikely, but a gesture on the part of Arabs. So that's what the administration is setting up.
There are some, however, in the administration who believe you can actually have a real settlement in this administration. I think it's an illusion. There's an old adage in the Middle East, "He whom the gods would destroy puts it in his head to solve the Arab-Israeli dispute."
Indeed. The problem is that too many people in this administration actually believe they're going to reach a 'settlement.' And they start with President Obama himself, who believes that through his personal charm, he will succeed where Bill Clinton and George W. Bush (and others before them) failed.
Unfortunately, Obama may actually reach a 'settlement.' But if he does, it won't include Israel.
US believes 'Palestinian police' will become an army
In her weekly JPost column - moved up to Thursday because of the holiday - Caroline Glick reports that US General Keith Dayton (pictured), who is training the 'Palestinian police force,' believes that 'police force' will become an army that will attack Israel in the event that Israel does not give the 'Palestinians' what they want.
Last Friday, Yediot Aharonot reported that at a recent lecture in Washington, US Lt.-Gen. Keith Dayton, who is responsible for training Palestinian military forces in Jordan, indicated that if Israel does not surrender Judea and Samaria within two years, the Palestinian forces he and his fellow American officers are now training at a cost of more than $300 million could begin killing Israelis.
Assuming the veracity of Yediot's report, even more unsettling than Dayton's certainty that within a short period of time these US-trained forces could commence murdering Israelis, is his seeming equanimity in the face of the known consequences of his actions. The prospect of US-trained Palestinian military forces slaughtering Jews does not cause Dayton to have a second thought about the wisdom of the US's commitment to building and training a Palestinian army.
Dayton's statement laid bare the disturbing fact even though the administration is fully aware of the costs of its approach to the Palestinian conflict with Israel, it is still unwilling to reconsider it. Defense Secretary Robert Gates just extended Dayton's tour of duty for an additional two years and gave him the added responsibility of serving as Obama's Middle East mediator George Mitchell's deputy.
Writing in Friday's Washington Times, Joel Mowbray reports on a GAO audit that indicates that the United States taxpayer continues to finance 'Palestinian' terrorism through its support of UNRWA and USAID (Hat Tip: Power Line).
The GAO report, requested in part because of congressional concerns over reporting by this journalist in The Washington Times, indicates that the State Department has dropped the ball on overseeing UNRWA. For example, existing U.S. law requires that UNRWA take "all possible measures" to prevent assistance from going to anyone who has engaged in any terrorist activity. The department, however, "has not defined the key term 'all possible measures' or defined nonconformance."
Some of GAO's recommendations are comically simple, such as "establishing criteria to evaluate UNRWA's efforts." Others are so obviously necessary that it's shocking they haven't been required all along, such as "screening the names of UNRWA contractors against lists of individuals and entities of concern to the United States."
Leading congressional efforts to prevent U.S. taxpayer money from flowing to terrorists or their propaganda has been Rep. Steven R. Rothman, New Jersey Democrat. Earlier this year, he introduced a resolution calling for UNRWA to put its textbooks on the Internet for public inspection and for the United States to screen the agency's payroll for terrorists.
His ultimate goal, he explains, is simple: "Not one penny of U.S. taxpayer dollars should go either directly or indirectly to anyone associated with Hamas or any other terrorist organization. Nor should any go to terrorist propaganda in classrooms."
However, changing the law alone is not enough. Judging by current procedures, the State Department seems intent on not enforcing the laws passed by Congress.
Lawmakers have dictated repeatedly and explicitly that no U.S. taxpayer funds can go to any organization that has even "advocated" terrorism - meaning no money should go to groups whose leaders have declared on Al-Jazeera or elsewhere that suicide bombers are "martyrs." This is not trivial. Figures who lionize terrorists and praise evil acts poison society and ultimately help cause more terrorism.
The State Department's bar that contractors and aid recipients must clear is much lower. Even under the most thorough vetting the department conducts, essentially only people who have actively participated in terrorism would be declared ineligible. It appears the department hasn't even bothered to think of a way to determine which people trying to receive U.S. taxpayer dollars have advocated terrorism.
UNRWA has long since outlived its usefulness. All it does is perpetuate the myth that 'Palestinian refugees' will 'return' to the homes that their great grandparents abandoned in Israel. UNRWA has resisted efforts to find 'Palestinians' permanent housing. It's time for it to be dismantled.
Baruch Dayan Ha'Emeth - May the true Judge be blessed
Israel Radio's 1:00 am news reported on the passing of Yona Baumel z"l over the Shavuot holiday. Yona Baumel was the father of Zecharyah Baumel, who has been missing since the battle of Sultan Yaqub during the first Lebanon War in 1982. Y'hi zichro baruch (may his memory be blessed).
Baumel became a symbol of efforts to find Israel's missing soldiers. He was an outspoken critic of the various Israeli governments and the Chief Rabbinate whom he felt were not aggressive enough in finding his son, who was last heard from 27 years ago. Zechariah Baumel was lost in south Lebanon in 1982 in the Sultan Yacoub battle, when he, along with three other soldiers – Ariel Lieberman, Hezi Shai, and Zohar Lipschitz, went missing. Lieberman and Shai were taken prisoner and were returned to Israel after a lengthy period. Lipschitz was killed, and his body was returned to Israel a year later. Baumel's whereabouts and status remain unknown.
The Baumel's made aliya (immigrated to Israel) from the New York City area between the Six Day and Yom Kippur wars. Zecharyah used to sit in the row in front of me in the yeshiva study hall two years before the first Lebanon War.
Here's an interview with Yona Baumel from July 2008. Let's go to the videotape.
Last Sunday, I reported that Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe (Boogie) Yaalon gave President Obama's idea of a 'total settlement freeze' a Bronx cheer. The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday that Prime Minister Netanyahu has now done the same (Hat Tip: Memeorandum).
Mr. Netanyahu's spokesman Mark Regev said Thursday that the prime minister won't change his long-held position that building should be allowed to continue in existing settlements as part of "natural growth."
Mr. Regev said any complete freeze in settlement activity could be discussed only in final-status peace negotiations with the Palestinians. But Palestinian leaders have refused to resume negotiations until Mr. Netanyahu acknowledges the commitments of past Israeli governments to a Palestinian state.
Netanyahu isn't even getting much support for destroying 'illegal outposts,' which he has attempted to make the sacrificial lamb to placate the Obama administration for his allowing 'natural growth' of 'settlements.'
Mr. Netanyahu is trying to find a middle ground. On Monday, he told lawmakers from his Likud Party that Israel would have to destroy 26 illegal outposts in the West Bank in order to win U.S. support for tough action against Iran. After his return from meeting with Mr. Obama in Washington last week, Mr. Netanyahu ordered a few structures built by teenage settlers on private Palestinian land in the West Bank razed. But none of them were among the 26, and settlers quickly started rebuilding some of them.
Meanwhile lawmakers from Mr. Netanyahu's party responded coldly to his proposal. "The message from the party was clear: We were not chosen by voters to evacuate Jews from their property," a Likud lawmaker said after a party meeting Monday.
As I tried to explain to someone in the US last week, what people outside Israel don't understand is that even though Netanyahu managed to push Moshe Feiglin out of the 'realistic' 19th slot into an unrealistic 36th slot on the Likud's slate, Feiglin was the big winner of the Likud primary. Netanyahu had attempted to fill the party slate with the likes of Uzi Dayan and Assaf Hefetz. But Feiglin endorsed people like Boogie Yaalon and Benny Begin and Michael Ratzon and those are the people who took the top positions in the Likud's slate. Netanyahu has very little room to maneuver within his own coalition. And that's a good thing.
Back in March, then Prime Minister Ehud K. Olmert claimed that he made an unprecedented 'generous' offer to the 'Palestinians' in September 2008 and that 'moderate' 'Palestinian' President Mahmoud AbbasAbu Mazennever bothered to answer. In Friday's Washington Post, anti-Israel columnist Jackson Diehl tells the 'Palestinian' side of the story.
In our meeting Wednesday, Abbas acknowledged that Olmert had shown him a map proposing a Palestinian state on 97 percent of the West Bank -- though he complained that the Israeli leader refused to give him a copy of the plan. He confirmed that Olmert "accepted the principle" of the "right of return" of Palestinian refugees -- something no previous Israeli prime minister had done -- and offered to resettle thousands in Israel. In all, Olmert's peace offer was more generous to the Palestinians than either that of Bush or Bill Clinton; it's almost impossible to imagine Obama, or any Israeli government, going further.
Abbas turned it down. "The gaps were wide," he said.
Abbas and his team fully expect that Netanyahu will never agree to the full settlement freeze -- if he did, his center-right coalition would almost certainly collapse. So they plan to sit back and watch while U.S. pressure slowly squeezes the Israeli prime minister from office. "It will take a couple of years," one official breezily predicted. Abbas rejects the notion that he should make any comparable concession -- such as recognizing Israel as a Jewish state, which would imply renunciation of any large-scale resettlement of refugees.
Instead, he says, he will remain passive. "I will wait for Hamas to accept international commitments. I will wait for Israel to freeze settlements," he said. "Until then, in the West Bank we have a good reality . . . the people are living a normal life." In the Obama administration, so far, it's easy being Palestinian.
Over at Hot Air, Captain Ed refers to this as a bombshell. But Ed really gets it right with his last paragraph:
That makes it pretty clear that the Palestinians aren’t interested in a two-state solution, nor a rational agreement on the return of refugees. They want the destruction of the state of Israel. What’s more, Abbas — supposedly a moderate — thinks he can get that by outwaiting Benjamin Netanyahu and that Obama will help him squeeze Bibi out of power. And he may not be wrong, either.
Sadly, Abu Mazen has probably read Obama correctly.
Diehl refers to the 'Palestinians' as being a long way from swallowing reality. And he's probably right about that. But only because (and if) Netanyahu's replacement would be very unlikely to go as far as Olmert was willing to go. No, I doubt Livni would offer what Olmert did either.
But from an Israeli's perspective, I have to agree with the 'Palestinians.' Life is good as it is. We too are living a normal life. Let's just manage the conflict and not try to do anything destructive like creating a 'Palestinian state.'
UPDATE 4:35 PM
In the comments to this post, Red Tulips reports, based on a conversation with the New York consul general, that Olmert even offered to give up the Kotel (Western Wall - the last remnant of the Second Temple).
Shavua tov - a good week to everyone. I hope you all had a lovely holiday too.
Here's an interesting take from a JPost editorial on why the government of Kim Jong-Il (pictured) conducted that nuclear test last week.
But the explanation we prefer suggests that as a proliferator of nuclear technology to countries such as Syria and Iran, the North Koreans need to show their customers that what they're selling really works.
Though they also make ends meet by trafficking in heroin and methamphetamines, and by exporting citizens for forced labor and sexual exploitation, nuclear proliferation is the country's most lucrative export.
Back in 1969, Secretary of State William P. Rogers (pictured) developed a 'Middle East peace plan' that became known as the Rogers Plan. For the remaining years of Rogers' tenure as Secretary of State, Israel and the pro-Israel community in the US lived in constant fear of the Rogers Plan being imposed on us. The Rogers Plan was designed to circumvent the premise that the Arab states (no one thought of a 'Palestinian state' back then) would not talk to Israel directly. So the 'four powers' (US, USSR, Britain and France) would impose a 'settlement' instead to get around that Arab unwillingness to speak to Israel.
Deja vu all over again, isn't it? Now, we're trying to get around Arab unwillingness to dismantle terror groups so the American government is talking about proimposing a 'settlement.' Read between the lines here:
"We are going to be putting forward very specific proposals to the Israelis and the Palestinians. That's what Senator Mitchell has been doing over the last couple of days," Clinton said at a press conference following her lunch meeting with Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit.
Mitchell has been in London this week meeting with top Israeli officials Dan Meridor, minister of intelligence services, and National Security Council head Uzi Arad over issues including settlement activity and Iran, in discussions the State Department characterized as a follow-up to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's visit to Washington last week.
Though the Obama administration has pledged intensified Middle East diplomacy since the beginning of its term, Clinton's comments went the furthest to date in suggesting that the US would make its own proposals for resolving the conflict that multiple American administration plans have failed to resolve.
Such US initiative has been urged by Arab countries, beginning with Jordan's King Abdullah during his own White House visit in April. At that time he also said the Arab countries would themselves have to contribute to the process, a theme Gheit echoed during Wednesday afternoon's press conference.
"We have been discussing the need for an American major action to expedite the process," he said. "We - all of us, the Quartet, the international community, the Arab countries - [need] to show support and understanding and to push them together, allow them to negotiate in direct negotiations."
Read that carefully. No one needs to 'allow' Israel and the 'Palestinians' to negotiate in direct negotiations. That's been going on for years. But if the Americans as the supposed impartial arbitrator make a specific proposal, does anyone really think it's going to be so easy for Israel to just say no? I assume you all realize the pressure Israel would be under to say yes if the Americans 'propose' something. De facto, there will be an effort to impose a settlement on Israel. The only reason that didn't happen nine years ago under Clinton was that the 'Palestinians' said no. Israel was unable to do so.
And Obama is much less sympathetic to Israel and its plight than Bill Clinton was. When Bill Clinton came to Israel, he spoke in the Knesset about how his pastor warned him never to abandon Israel. Think about who Barack Obama's pastor was for more than 20 years....
And here's the surest sign that the Obama administration is about to put the screws to Israel and has winked and hinted to the 'Palestinians' and their Arab supporters that it intends to do so: The 'Palestinians' are thrilled with Obama's approach.
Nabil Abu Znaid, the head of the Palestinian Authority's mission to the US, praised Obama's efforts and his "global" approach.
"I think that's why he wants to visit Saudi Arabia. He's visiting Egypt and he wants to have lots of contacts with countries that can influence the region," Abu Znaid said. "Peace would start between the Palestinians and the Israelis... but we need help towards peace, not the other way. So think the international community will help."
Abu Znaid said that, in addition to pressing for a negotiating process that has a defined timeframe leading to the creation of a Palestinian state, Abbas would also tell Obama that "we'd like to see something on the ground, especially with settlements."
Some 'negotiating process': A defined time frame (regardless of whether commitments are fulfilled) and a pre-determined outcome. Why bother to negotiate at all? And in case you missed it, 'something on the ground, especially with settlements' is right in line with the Obama administration's plans.
During Wednesday's press conference, Clinton stressed the US position that settlement construction must stop, even though Netanyahu has indicated "natural growth" in major blocs was set continue.
"The president was very clear when Prime Minister Netanyahu was here. He wants to see a stop to settlements - not some settlements, not outposts, not natural growth exceptions," she said. "That is our position, that is what we have communicated very clearly, not only to the Israelis, but to the Palestinians and others. And we intend to press that point."
In other words, she is preparing the groundwork for Israel to keep nothing over the 1949 armistice lines. My little suburb in Jerusalem (in an area that was no-man's land before 1967) experiences 'natural growth' almost every day. The size of my family is average to slightly-below-average for this neighborhood. The same is true for many Jewish communities in Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem. No 'natural growth'? In Jerusalem (the annexation of the eastern portions of which has never been recognized by the US)? Good luck with that.
She did not elaborate on what the administration had in mind when she referenced "very specific proposals," saying only, "We are making a very concerted effort. We have a well thought-out approach that we are pursuing. We have a lot of support from countries such as Egypt, but ultimately this is up to the two parties."
Well, it's sort of up to the two parties. If the 'Palestinians' say no (as they did to Bill Clinton in August 2000 and January 2001), the Arab states will back them and blame Israel and the US for not offering enough. But if the US makes 'proposals,' it will be very difficult for Israel to say no.
The New York Times reports that the Hezbullah terror organization is conducting talks with the European Union and the International Monetary Fund in a bid to ensure that Lebanon does not lose international financial support in the event that the terror group and its allies win Lebanon's national elections on June 7.
The talks this month reflected concerns here about a possible drop in international donor and investor confidence should the political alliance led by Hezbollah — considered a terrorist group by the United States and Israel — gain a majority for the first time. Many analysts believe that outcome is likely, though the race is considered too close to call.
Lebanon’s current governing majority, which has tried unsuccessfully to disarm Hezbollah, has depended on heavy financial support from the West and oil-rich Persian Gulf states, especially Saudi Arabia. In Beirut last week, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. said future American support to Lebanon, which includes military aid, would depend on the elections’ outcome.
European governments have not issued any such veiled threats, and Western leaders have recently shown a greater willingness to engage in political dialogue with Hezbollah’s patrons, Iran and Syria. Britain’s Foreign Office said in March that it would re-establish relations with Hezbollah’s political wing.
The European Union provides about $84 million a year to Lebanon, and the International Monetary Fund provides about $114 million, aid that will be coming up for reauthorization soon.
I guess it's just the United States and Israel that consider Hezbullah to be a terrorist organization. I wonder how long it will be before Obama decides to make the US fall in line with the rest of the world. What a consoling thought.
Lautenberg: US expects Israel to hit Iran if all else fails
US Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) implied to the Jerusalem Post on Wednesday that the US expects Israel to attack Iran's nuclear facilities if all else fails.
Interviewed during a short visit, Lautenberg - a consistent backer of Israel who is also a Democratic Party supporter of Obama - said, "Israel didn't ask us permission to drop bombs twice on Syrian nuclear facilities. I didn't hear America scolding Israel for what it did then. Hypothetically, if Israel were able to get rid of Iran's nuclear bomb-making capability, I'm sure that America would not send Israel a chastising e-mail message. We have to give Israel the courtesy of [allowing it to] make its own decisions."
I'm not sure America didn't scold Israel for bombing Syria's nuclear reactor in 2007, and I certainly don't share Lautenberg's optimism that "America would not send Israel a chastising e-mail message" were Israel to bomb Iran's nuclear facilities. Still, it is refreshing to see that if the Obama administration condemns Israel for attacking Iran's nuclear facilities, there are at least some Democratic Senators (and hopefully Representatives as well - although given the Ackerman betrayal I have to wonder how many) who will not fall into line.
Lautenberg also had some good comments about Obama's idea of linking opposition to Iran to 'progress' on the 'Palestinian' front.
The senator ... said he disagreed with Obama's policy of linking US action against Iran with an Israeli limitation of settlement activity.
"I agree that each is a major problem deserving of attention, but one is not dependent on the other," he said.
Israel is a "humane democratic society, a bastion of decency and freedom. It is a vital asset for America. It deserves not only respect but support," said Lautenberg, who has visited Israel 80 times since 1968. "It is a necessity for the US, a drop of sanity in the middle of so much madness."
Israel's recent war on Gaza brought the enclave to the brink of a catastrophe, Amnesty International said, also lambasting the two main Palestinian factions for human rights violations.
The massive offensive Israel launched on December 27 in response to ongoing rocket fire from the territory "brought conditions to the brink of human catastrophe," the London-based group said in its annual report.
Amnesty also criticized the blockade Israel imposed on Gaza in June 2007 after Hamas, a group pledged to the destruction of the Jewish state, seized power in Gaza.
The blockade "exacerbated an already dire humanitarian situation, health and sanitation problems, poverty and malnutrition for the 1.5 million residents."
"Seriously ill patients in need of medical care not available in Gaza and hundreds of students and workers wishing to study or travel to jobs abroad were among those trapped in Gaza by the blockade."
In its 2009 annual report, formally released on Thursday, Amnesty International places sole blame on Israel for the breakdown in the cease-fire between Israel and Hamas that led to Operation Cast Lead.
The London-based organization accuses Israel of breaking the six-month cease-fire on November 4, 2008, when "Israeli forces killed six Palestinian militants."
Jerusalem-based research organization NGO Monitor said the report ignored Hamas violations.
"Hamas's highly visible preparations for resumed Palestinian aggression during the six-month cease-fire in 2008, including the preparation of a human-shields strategy, are entirely ignored," NGO Monitor said.
NGO Monitor also accused Amnesty of not giving context when it blames Israel for the plight of Gazans who are denied access to Israel hospitals. The report uses four examples of Palestinians who died after being denied entry to Israel, without mentioning the large number of Palestinians treated in Israeli hospitals.
"Amnesty's activities in the Middle East are totally divorced from reality and constitute a continued attack on the moral foundation of human rights," said Prof. Gerald Steinberg, NGO Monitor's executive director.
"The world's most prominent human rights organization continues to abuse this position to join the ideological campaign that seeks to single out Israel for condemnation, promote the Palestinian narrative, and erase the context of mass terror and aggression by Hamas."
Amnesty's blatant bias against Israel has removed any shred of credibility they might otherwise have had in this country. No one here listens to them anymore.
A Brookings Institution poll ought to give pause to those who believe that 'democratic elections' in the Arab and Muslim world are a panacea for the region's problems.
Who’s the most popular ruler across the Arab world? It isn’t Mubarak, who enjoys skyrocketing sympathy that is erasing hatreds and clashes at this time, in the wake of the tragic death of his eldest grandson. It also isn’t Lebanon’s president, with everyone tense in the face of the large-scale terror attack feared ahead of the Lebanese parliamentary elections. It is certainly not Gaddafi either, the most veteran ruler, who enjoys cheers that are orchestrated from above through threats and bribes.
The answer is both surprising and disappointing: Bashar Assad, Syria’s president, reached the top spot in a poll whose findings stunned even those who carried it out - researchers at the Brookings Institute.
After 10 years of a regime characterized by violence and hesitance, the dictator from Damascus heads the parade. In third spot, unsurprisingly, we find the hero of the swamps and back alleys, Hizbullah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah. The second spot was taken by a grey figure, almost unknown around here: Sheikh Mohammad al-Nayan, the ruler of Abu-Dhabi, the Gulf’s prosperous heaven.
The survey was undertaken in six states: Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, and Saudi Arabia. Two of the rulers of these states, Mubarak and the Saudi King, publically declared they are no friends of Assad because of the Iranian bear hug and because of his involvement in smuggling terrorists and stimulating terror attacks against them. Also, we shouldn’t forget the big mouth Assad has shown at their expense every time he faces a microphone or cameras.
More than anything else, the stars of this popularity parade blatantly attest to the bankruptcy of the vision of democracy and human rights born at the White House. Does anyone truly believe that if they flew the poll respondents far away from Syria, they would elect a ruler who clings to power only via threats, scare-mongering, and jails for political prisoners?
Read the whole thing. The columnist, Smadar Peri, predicts that as a result of this poll, President Obama will 'forget' to talk about democracy and human rights in Egypt next week, because democratic elections might depose President Mubarak and the Saudi royal family.
But there's more to it than that - or there ought to be. At the end of World War II, the United States and its allies occupied Germany and Japan for some period of time and changed the countries' culture before the allies allowed elections to be held. Non-democratic regimes cannot just be deposed if one expects true democracy to take hold. They must be rooted out completely and the entire culture and way of thinking must be changed.
This is the mistake that the United States and Israel made in the 'Palestinian Authority' when they allowed elections to be held in January 2006 and got Hamas. And it's a mistake they are on the verge of making again. Democracy cannot exist in a vaccuum. The culture that underlies it must be established and built up before it can take hold. In the United States, the Revolutionary War ended in 1781 but there was a constitution and a bill of rights before elections were first held in 1788. During that time, the form of government was debated openly and a constitutional convention took place.
Democracy cannot be imposed from the top down by autocratic regimes. It must be sold from the bottom up.
Remember this joke about Clinton and Saddam Hussein?
President Clinton visits Saddam Hussein to talk about the UNSCOM inspections in Iraq. As he sits down he sees three buttons in the armrest of Saddam's chair. When Saddam sits down, Clinton immediately asks, "Why the three buttons in the armrest?" "You'll see," says Saddam. After 10 minutes, Saddam presses the first button and WHACK, a boxing glove hits Clinton in the face. Clinton grabs his nose while Saddam just laughs. Clinton manages to remain calm until, after another 10 minutes, Saddam presses the second button, and another boxing glove hits Clinton in the stomach. While Clinton's gasping for air, Saddam falls out of his chair from laughing. Clinton is highly annoyed by now, but remains outwardly calm. After another 5 minutes, Saddam presses the third button, and from under the table another boxing glove hits Clinton, this time right in the crotch. Clinton is really fed up by it now and breaks off the talks. "We'll continue this next week in the White House," says the President. Saddam has tears in his eyes from laughing, and can only nod in agreement.
As agreed, Clinton receives Saddam in the Oval office a week later, and as Saddam sits down, he sees three buttons in the armrest of Clinton's chair. As the meeting goes on, Saddam sees Clinton press the first button and immediately ducks, but nothing happens. This doesn't stop Clinton from laughing ... really loud. Clinton continues where he left off, and after a few minutes presses the second button. Saddam again reacts instinctively, and this time it's Clinton who falls out of his chair laughing. Saddam is totally bewildered, and wonders what the hell is happening. But no harm has come to him, so he retakes his seat and the talks continue.
After a few more minutes, Clinton presses the third button. This time, Saddam doesn't even flinch, but stays in his chair as though nothing unusual is taking place. Clinton, however, is rolling on the floor, doubled over from laughter. Saddam is not only bewildered-now he is angry. He springs to his feet and shouts, "I've had enough of this, and I’m going back to Baghdad!" Through tears of laughter, Clinton says, "Baghdad? ... ... What Baghdad????
Later today, President Obama will meet with 'moderate' 'Palestinian' President Mahmoud AbbasAbu Mazen in the oval office.
Today is the eve of the Jewish holiday of Shavuot. 28 years ago on the eve of Shavuot, then-Prime Minister Menachem Begin z"l (of blessed memory) sent IAF jets [video link] to attack Iraq's Osirak reactor, destroying it completely. The Bush 41 administration was not pleased.
Wouldn't it be funny if while Obama is meeting with Abu Mazen, he got a call from Netanyahu telling him that IAF jets are now bombing Bushehr, Natanz and other Iranian nuclear installations?
'Moderate' 'Palestinian' President Mahmoud AbbasAbu Mazen will be meeting with American President Barack Hussein Obama at the White House on Thursday, where the President will attempt to 'bolster' the 'Palestinian leader.'
The Washington Post is cooperating with the White House in its effort to make Abu Mazen appear to be something that he is not: a peacemaker.
Abbas, 74, a longtime aide to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, took over after Arafat's death in 2004 and won election on his own the following year. Trained as a lawyer and historian, Abbas came to power from a career spent burrowing into the fine points of peace talks.
Abu Mazen is a Holocaust denier. He wrote his doctoral thesis in 1982 at the Moscow Institute for Oriental Studies. The heading of his doctoral thesis was: "Zionist leadership and the Nazis." The introduction dealt, among other topics, with a loaded issue: How many Jews perished in the Holocaust. In the Soviet period, especially in the anti-Israel institute that Abu Mazen attended, they often dealt with such questions. The Soviet Union, more than any other country, was addicted to Holocaust denial. The victims were not recognized by their origin, but rather by their nationality. And this is what the diligent researcher Abu Mazen wrote:
World War Two caused the death of 40 million people from different parts of the world. Ten million Germans, 20 million Soviets, and more…Rumors at the end of the war said that 6 million of the world's Jews were among the victims in the war of extermination that was waged against the Jewish people and later on against other peoples. The fact is that no one can confirm this number or deny it. The number could be 6 million, but it could be much smaller, perhaps even smaller than one million.
"Many researchers who discussed the number reached the unconventional conclusion that it is no more than several hundred thousand," he wrote. Later on, Abu Mazen quotes a Holocaust denier who claimed that "at first the Zionists spoke about 12 million Jews who were killed in the death camps. They later narrowed the number down to 6 and to 4 million. It is not possible that the Germans murdered more Jews than existed in the world at the time." He quotes another Holocaust denier who counted 896,000 Jewish victims in all. Abu Mazen has consistently refused to distance himself from his thesis.
And then there's this piece of puff that the Post accepts unchallenged.
"He is not a man of resistance. He is not a man of fighting. He is a man of negotiation," said Ghassan Khatib, a Palestinian analyst and founder of the Jerusalem Media and Communications Center.
A 'man of negotiation'? Is this how a 'man of negotiation' talks?
On October 3, 2006, Abu Mazen told al-Arabiya and 'Palestinian' television, "It is not required of Hamas, or of Fatah, or of the Popular Front to recognize Israel." I know that you said last night that "nations that support a two-state solution, reject violence, recognize Israel's right to exist, and commit to all previous agreements between the parties" would be invited to your conference in the fall. If that is the case, how will you invite Abu Mazen? He doesn't recognize Israel's right to exist!
On January 11, 2007, Abu Mazen was reported by the Jerusalem Post to have said, “We have a legitimate right to direct our guns against Israeli occupation ... Our rifles, all our rifles are aimed at The Occupation.” And on February 5, 2007, Abu Mazen said, “We must unite the Hamas and Fatah blood in the struggle against Israel as we did at the beginning of the intifada. We want a political partnership with Hamas.” Is that a 'rejection of violence'?
On January 11, 2007, referring to the so-called ‘right of return’ of 'Palestinian refugees' and their millions of descendants which, if implemented would end Israel as a Jewish state, Abu Mazen said, "The issue of the refugees is non-negotiable.” Is that supporting a two-state solution?
And then there is the implication that Israel 'owes' the 'Palestinians' because they have cleaned up the terror in their midst and their finances. This is from the Washington Post again.
From a U.S. perspective, helping Abbas show results is the goal, said Rep. Gary L. Ackerman (D-N.Y.), member of a congressional delegation touring the region this week and chairman of the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia.
"Both Netanyahu and Obama need to create in Abu Mazen a clear feeling that he can provide," said Ackerman, using the common nickname for Abbas.
Husseini, the chief of staff, argues that the help is deserved -- particularly from the Israeli side. Although Palestinian politics are in disarray, Abbas's government has been given broad credit for cleaning up the Palestinian Authority's finances and improving security in the West Bank.
Neither project has endeared him locally. Financial reform was led by Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, a former World Bank economist. Fayyad enjoys international support, but he is opposed by Hamas and by Fatah members who think a party loyalist should be prime minister.
The creation of a U.S.-trained Palestinian security force has curbed crime in West Bank cities and has been credited by Israel with helping reduce militant attacks. But Palestinians say that has not led to an easing of Israeli restrictions in the West Bank, a curb on Jewish settlements in the area or other steps.
Both the Post and the turncoat Ackerman act as if cleaning up its finances and fighting 'Palestinian' terror are American and Israeli interests and not a 'Palestinian' interest - as if the 'Palestinian people' benefit from the corruption and terror. Obviously, that's not true.
But it's unfair to even credit the 'Palestinian Authority' with either of those 'accomplishments.' The 'Palestinian Authority' continues to pay the salaries of Hamas members in Gaza. The 'Palestininan Authority's finances are not clean so long as it is supporting terror - whether that terror is carried out by Hamas or Fatah.
As to the 'US-trained police force,' the training is unimpressive to say the least. Were it not for the IDF presence in Judea and Samaria, Hamas would have long since overrun the 'Palestinian police force.' That's not much of an accomplishment either.
But don't expect Abu Mazen to be confronted with those blunt realities when he sits with Obama in Washington on Thursday. Instead, expect President Obama to pander to his guest in a pointless effort to 'bolster' Abu Mazen's confidence.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton shook her finger at North Korea on Wednesday, and rumor has it that Kim Jong-Il is just shaking in his boots.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reaffirmed on Wednesday US commitments to allies Japan and South Korea in the face of North Korean threats and said she hoped Pyongyang could return to talks on abandoning its nuclear programs.
Speaking at a news conference, Clinton also said that North Korea, which conducted its second nuclear test on Monday, was behaving in a provocative and belligerent manner toward its neighbors and there were consequences to such behavior.
And what might those 'consequences' be? Ineffective sanctions? A demand for more 'talks'? Another UN resolution?
Sitting in Israel, the scariest thing is how Iran is waiting for the West to react and seeing nothing but ineffectual calls for talk.
And while North Korea continues its saber rattling, Iran watches as its own nuclear program continues churning out enriched uranium that with time will be sufficient for nuclear weapons. Iran's own statements are far more troubling than those of North Korea, if only because Iran repeatedly calls for genocide of entire populations - destroying Israel and seeking regional domination in the name of religious devotion. There's absolutely no reason to think that Iran is going to give up its nuclear intentions.
Even the diplomats think that the best case scenario is that the regime slows its production, meaning that it will simply take longer for the regime to have sufficient nuclear materials for weapons. It doesn't change the calculus of national security as there's no way to verify what Iran is going to do since it has most of its nuclear facilities buried underground so as to evade satellite detection and makes it extremely difficult to destroy should airstrikes be contemplated.
Negotiating with these regimes has given them time to further their nuclear ambitions and perfect the technologies needed to build nuclear weapons, more time is not going to change the calculus in favor of peaceful resolution that involves a denuclearized North Korea or Iran. Both regimes will have nuclear weapons and the means to exact a serious economic toll on the rest of the world.
From our perspective, the economic toll is potentially the smallest one.
50-year old Shukri Abu Baker, one of the founders of the Holy Land Foundation, was sentenced by a Dallas court to 65 years in prison on Wednesday for his role as a fundraiser for Hamas.
Shukri Abu Baker, 50, of Garland, Texas, was the first of five members of the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development to be sentenced.
Another member, Mohammad El-Mezain, 55, was later sentenced to 180 months for one count of conspiracy to support a terrorist organization.
The charity leaders were convicted on charges ranging from supporting a terrorist organization to money laundering and tax fraud. The three men still to be sentenced - Ghassan Elashi, Mufid Abdulqader and Abdulrahman Odeh - were convicted of conspiracy.
The charity itself was convicted on 32 counts. It was not accused of violence, but of bankrolling schools and social welfare programs that the US government says are controlled by Hamas.
The defendants said they only fed the needy and gave much-needed aid to a volatile region.
"I did it because I cared, not at the behest of Hamas," Abu Baker told the judge Wednesday.
US District Judge Jorge Solis cut off Abu Baker and told him: "You didn't tell the whole story. Palestinians were in a desperate situation, but that doesn't justify supporting Hamas."
That's a message that needs to get through to the Obama administration.
On Monday, I reported that Cafe Press - the online marketer of merchandise for bloggers - had a "F**k Israel" page. Reader Shy Guy wrote to Cafe Press to complain that the page violated Cafe Press' own policy. Cafe Press responded:
As you may know, CafePress.com provides an automated service to a rich and vibrant community of individuals across the globe who differ in their views about what is considered offensive. All product images and ideas used in connection with the CafePress.com Service have been provided to CafePress.com by users and do not reflect the opinions of CafePress.com. While we don’t endorse any particular position, we respect the right of individuals to express their own opinions. Thank you for bringing this content to our attention.
Content that may infringe on the rights of a third a party.
Items that make inappropriate use of Nazi symbols and glamorize the actions of Hitler.
Use of marks that signify hate towards another group of people.
Hate and/or racist terms.
Inappropriate content or nudity that is not artistic in nature.
Content that exploits images or the likeness of minors.
Obscene and vulgar comments and offensive remarks that harass, threaten, defame or abuse others such as F*** (Ethnic Group).
Content that depicts violence, is obscene, abusive, fraudulent or threatening such as an image of a murder victim, morgue shots, promotion of suicide, etc.
Content that glamorizes the use of "hard core" illegal substance and drugs such as a person injecting a vial of a substance in their body.
Material that is generally offensive or in bad taste, as determined by CafePress.com.
However, I understand your policy of understanding the rights of individuals to their freedom of expression of their own opinions.
I therefore withdraw my complaint.
Sincerely, Shy Guy
Shy Guy has decided to open his own Cafe Press account. You can check it out here. There's a sample at the top of this post. I wonder what would have happened if he had written Muslims instead of Arabs. Heh.
'Israel must free itself from the failed two-state paradigm'
Maybe some day he'll be Prime Minister.
On Tuesday, Minister of Strategic Affairs Moshe "Boogie" Yaalon told a group of Knesset members dedicated to the prevention of the creation of a 'Palestinian state' that Israel must free itself from the failed paradigm of a 'two-state solution.'
Israel's mistake lies in accepting a-symmetrical talks with the PA, Yaalon said. From the beginning of talks, he explained, Israel has accepted the idea of a Palestinian national movement with the PA as its representative, while the PA has resolutely refused to accept the Jewish national movement of Zionism or the idea of a Jewish homeland in the land of Israel.
Furthermore, while the PA demands that Arabs and Muslims be allowed to live in Israel, Israel accepts that a PA state would not have Jewish citizens, he said. And while Israel gives in on crucial issues such as the status of Jerusalem or the borders of a PA state, the PA refuses to bend in the slightest.
Israel has also been mistaken in assuming that the Israeli presence in Judea, Samaria and Gaza is the cause of Israel-Arab tension, he said. Arab attacks on Israel began well before the 1967 Six Day War in which Israel gained control of those areas, he said, and the Arab world's real goal is not a state in those areas, but rather, on the ruins of the State of Israel.
For this reason, he said, the PA is actually uninterested in a “two-state solution.” Former PA Chairman Yasser Arafat waged war on Israel in order to avoid the creation of a PA state, he argued.
"There are those who will argue that the PA wanted to establish a state in the 1967 borders but was unable to do so,” he said. “I say the problem was not one of ability, but of desire.”
If the PA does not desire an independent state in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, and will not accept such a state as the fulfillment of its national goals, the “two-state solution” has no chance to bring peace, he concluded.
I am an Orthodox Jew - some would even call me 'ultra-Orthodox.' Born in Boston, I was a corporate and securities attorney in New York City for seven years before making aliya to Israel in 1991 (I don't look it but I really am that old :-). I have been happily married to the same woman for thirty-two years, and we have eight children (bli ayin hara) ranging in age from 9 to 30 years and five grandchildren. Our eldest daughter and eldest son are married! Before I started blogging I was a heavy contributor on a number of email lists and ran an email list called the Matzav from 2000-2004. You can contact me at: IsraelMatzav at gmail dot com