J Street has responded to the two questions ECI (Emergency Committee for Israel) threw at it on Monday night. Ben Smith has the details.
We’re also very clear that, no, we don’t support the two-state solution no matter the character and borders of the two states. We believe that both states have to be secure, viable and contiguous. That means not simply that Israel’s security must be assured in a two-state deal — that’s a given, and no Israeli government would or should agree to a deal that doesn’t guarantee security. But it’s also in Israel’s interest to ensure that the future Palestinian state is viable and sustainable and offers the Palestinian people a future with dignity, not a half-state that breeds further violence and discontent.
We support a two-state solution built on the 1967 borders with equal land swaps and in which the Jewish and Arab sections of Jerusalem are capitals respectively of Israel and the new Palestinian state. We support the vision of a two-state solution outlined by President Clinton and captured in the Geneva and Ayalon-Nusseibeh Initiatives. This includes return of Palestinian refugees only to the state of Palestinian and robust security arrangements including international supervision along the new Palestinian state’s eastern border with Jordan.
This is physically impossible without a massive redrawing of the map on both sides. Unless you make drastic changes, if one state is contiguous, the other, by definition, is not. Does anyone at J Street know how to read a map? Maybe J Street President Jeremy Ben Ami should have stayed in Israel long enough to do the army and learn how to read a map.
Here's an interesting idea I heard today. Remember the BDS actions at Carrefour, TESCO and others? What if the people who took those actions found themselves with lawsuits and criminal charges confronting them afterward?
She didn't keep the entire Sabbath - non-Jews aren't supposed to do that. But Sarah Palin spent Friday night at a Shabbaton in Hershey, Pennsylvania before heading to Washington for Glenn Beck's mass rally on Saturday.
By evening, the halls of the Hershey Lodge were filled with the aroma of chulent, the traditional Sabbath stew....My colleague Sheya, director of PalinTV, presented Mrs. Palin with the ArtScroll edition of Perek Shira, a commentary on the song of celebration sung by Jewish women during the exodus from Egypt. Mrs. Palin received the Hebrew volume with obvious delight; she has used the biblical Book of Esther as bedtime reading material for her eight-year-old daughter, Piper. She wants Willow to emulate Esther, Jewish history’s great heroine, who risked everything to save the Jewish people from Haman's plan for genocide.... On her lapel, she wore a pin showing the American and Israeli flags intertwined.... As we enjoyed our Shabbat meal, we listened to Mrs. Palin’s references to "Judeo-Christian values"—a concept well understood by the deeply religious Christian audience with whom we shared the evening, including more than a few Amish ladies wearing their traditional bonnets....
So evangelical Christian Sarah Palin spent Friday night with (mostly) observant Jews, along with various Christians, including some Amish. Then on Saturday she spoke at a rally hosted by a Mormon who went out of his way in his remarks to refer to the important role of "churches, synagogues and mosques" in American life.
Welcome to today's intolerant, divisive, close-minded, and just plain scary American conservatism.
Liveblog: Terror attack in Kiryat Arba: Four people murdered
Two men and two women - one of them pregnant - were murdered in a terror attack near Kiryat Arba this evening. All were residents of Beit Hagai and all were between the ages of 25-40.
Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said, "Shot were fired from close range at the vehicle at approximately 7:30 p.m. All four occupants of the vehicle were shot dead. The area has been cordoned off by Border Police, Judea and Samaria Police and the IDF. Security forces are searching for the attackers."
The attack occurred around 7:30 P.M. on Route 60, when shots were fired at a private vehicle near the Bnei Naim junction, south of Kiryat Arba. Preliminary reports showed the gunmen approached the vehicle and shot the victims multiple times at point-blank range.
At least some of the victims, who are all residents of Beit Hagai, are members of the same family. Ambulance service officials said the victims include two men aged about 25 and 40, as well as two women of roughly the same ages, one of them pregnant.
According to initial reports, an Israeli vehicle traveling in the area came under fire directed at it from a passing vehicle at the Bani Naim junction on Highway 60, between Hebron and Kiryat Arba.
More than one terrorist apparently took part in the attack, with Channel Two reporting the attackers apparently confirmed the death of the Israeli victims by shooting them at close range, before fleeing the scene.
"The vehicle was sprayed with dozens of bullets," a paramedic at the scene told Channel 2. "There were numerous shell casings around. We found four bodies and there was no chance whatsoever to help them; all we could do was to pronounce the death of these four Jews."
Paramedic Guy Gonen told Ynet: "The victims were hit by numerous shots from short range. It looked like a well-planned ambush."
IDF security forces were scouring the area for suspects. Notably, the army had been on high alert ahead of the resumption of peace talks in Washington. Troops set up roadblocks on Hebron-area roads in an effort to nab the attackers.
Military officials said that they did not have any specific advance warning of such attack, but rather, only routine alerts.
Following the attack, security forces across the nation were ordered to go on high alert ahead of the possibility of further attacks.
Unusually, no one seems to be rushing to take credit.
Palestinian security forces were also informed of the attack, which took place just as the Ramadan fast was ending, and are looking into the incident. A Palestinian security official said that a Hamas cell is believed to be behind the lethal attacks. He noted that the last attack in the Hebron region, which left an Israeli police officer killed, was also the work of Hamas.
Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum told Ynet the attack was not meant to foil direct peace talks, and said the negotiations had failed even before starting.
"This is a natural response by the Palestinian resistance to the enemy's crimes, and is proof that despite the resistance's persecution by the security services and despite Israel's crimes, the Palestinians are capable of responding to these crimes."
"This is proof that the Palestinian resistance is living, breathing, and kicking," he said.
Addressing the Palestinian Authority's estimate that Hamas was behind the attack, Barhoum said: "Things are not as they were described by the Authority's security forces."
Meanwhile, the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) told Ynet Tuesday's shooting attack was a message to the Palestinian negotiating team ahead of the resumption of direct talks with Israel.
"They should not have embarked on this move without the support of the Palestinian people," PRC Spokesman Abu Mujahid said. "Our people still espouse the resistance and do not believe in the fictitious talks scheduled to commence tomorrow."
Israel Television is reporting that all the towns in the area are closed and that the attack area is a closed military zone.
The dead people are a couple who left children behind, and two hitchhikers. The driver's personal weapon was confiscated several months ago. That's not the first time someone whose weapon was confiscated has been murdered.
The terrorists apparently pulled the victims out of the car and then verified the kill.
Abu Bluff is meeting with Clinton as I type these words. Netanyahu is on the plane to Washington. The talks won't be canceled but this should serve as a warning to those who think Israel can relax in Judea and Samaria.
UPDATE 9:50 PM
Jewish residents of the Hebron area report that the IDF has taken down many roadblocks in the area of late to make life easier for the 'Palestinians.'
The 'Palestinians' report that the IDF has placed a siege on the village of Bani Naim and has closed all entrances to Hebron in a bid to catch the terrorists.
There has been a lot of talk about a moratorium on settlements by Israel. Abbas has threatened to walk out. When do they talk about a moratorium on killing Jews? Perhaps Bibi should leave D.C. and return to Israel for the funerals of the four victims (possibly five, if indeed the woman was carrying a child). That would, maybe, refocus things.
Sounds right to me.
Anyone else remember Yitzchak Rabin rushing back from Washington in March 1993 after the murder of Yehoshua Friedberg HY"D (may God avenge his blood)? Rabin came home during the shiva - putting negotiations on hold - because a group of Friedberg's friends took it upon themselves to sit shiva where his body was found, alongside the Jerusalem - Tel Aviv highway. I remember it vividly because at the time I was commuting from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv for work, and I remember seeing their campfire at the site where the body was found every night.
UPDATE 10:02 PM
Note that Moriah writes in the comments that one of the couples who was murdered had seven children. Hashem yerachem (may God have mercy upon them).
UPDATE 10:11 PM
Here are someone else's notes from a hastily assembled bloggers' conference call that I managed to miss:
My notes, feel free to use:
Lt Col Avital Leibovich:
An hour ago, we had a severe terroristic attack at Kiryat Arba - which is very close to Hebron. The info we have is that it was a civilian car. Four people that were sitting inside the car were killed, amongst them a pregnant woman. This is a very severe terroristic attack. In the past two or three years, the security sit in the WB was overall stable and this is such a vicious attack on civilians. We wish that this security situation will not deteriorate. In 2010 we had two other incidents in the WB. One of which, in Feb - an IDF warrant officer was stabbed by a Palestinian in a [port junction]?. In June, we had a policeman that was killed. Fire was opened. This was at the Al Fuar junction. Apart from those incidents in 2010 we didn’t experience an incident in which civilians are being killed.
IDF patrolling area looking for possible evidence with the police. Don’t know who was responsible.
Take some easing steps toward the Palestinians. 180 roadblocks removed from 07 until today. Drive from Jeru to Hebron, Route 60 - you won’t have even one roadblock along the way. Easing measures were necessary to strengthen stability in the area, which was stable until today.
Raising of security levels is a function of operation assessments that we have. Usually based on intel info that we have. This specific event - I’m not sure there was any raising of alerts.
If you have a vehicle and you kill all four people sitting in the vehicle, then you need an impressive amount of fire to kill all four people.
Indeed. Apparently hundreds of bullets were used.
UPDATE 10:29 PM
Netanyahu has landed in Washington and his spokesman said that he has ordered the IDF to do everything possible to find the murderers. He will tell Hillary Clinton this evening that tonight's murder shows why Israel must stand on its security requirements.
Hamas took responsibility a short while ago. Hamas says it's a natural reaction to the 'occupation' and the 'settlers.' The 'Palestinian' security services say they expected this.
The victims were named as Yitzhak Ames, 47, and his wife Tali Ames, 45, Kochava Ben- Haim, 37, and Avishai Schindler, 24, all from Beit Hagai. The Ames couple had six children, including a oneand- a-half-year-old toddler.
There will be joint eulogies for the four at 11:00 am and then the Ames will be buried on the Mount of Olives, Ben-Haim in Ashdod, and Schindler, whose body will first be taken to his parents home in Elad, will be buried in the Sgula cemetery in Petach Tikva.
But how's this for a nightmare:
Zaka volunteer Momy Ben- Haim was dispatched to the scene of the attack with his colleagues, when to his horror he discovered that his wife was among the dead.
“We saw a crying volunteer, and at first we did not understand what was happening – he has seen many disasters before,” Zaka volunteer Isaac Bernstein told The Jerusalem Post.
“Then he started shouting, ‘That’s my wife! That’s my wife!’ We took him away from the scene immediately,” Bernstein added.
Ben-Haim was taken to his home in Beit Hagai by his colleagues.
Hashem yerachem (may God have mercy).
UPDATE WEDNESDAY 8:25 AM
I have video here and the 'Palestinians' 'condemnation' statement with commentary here.
Republican Senate nominee Carly Fiorina has maintained a vigorous pace on the campaign trail this summer, but at the traditional kickoff to the general election she is heading to Israel for what her aides describe as a "personal trip."
The Labor Day weekend tour is a surprising diversion for the first-time candidate, who weighed in on U.S.-Israeli relations during her primary campaign but has kept a laser-like focus on job losses and rising government spending while sparring with Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer this summer.
Although Fiorina's campaign manager, Marty Wilson, said the trip is not intended to "drive any publicity" while she's in the country, it seems destined for maximum exposure.
It will serve to remind conservative evangelicals, a key Republican voter bloc that sympathizes with Israel, of Fiorina's candidacy, and could also capture the attention of Jewish voters, who usually side with Democrats.
The four-day trip is being arranged and paid for by the Republican Jewish Coalition. It begins a day after Israeli and Palestinian leaders are scheduled to resume direct peace talks in Washington and right after Fiorina's first debate with Boxer, two events that could steer voters' attention back to foreign policy.
Wilson dismissed questions about the timing by saying that the former Hewlett-Packard chief executive has long wanted to visit Israel. "They are a vital link to that region of the world; they are a democracy and one that we have to support," Wilson said. "For Carly to be informed and updated on what's happening over there is a good thing."
Fiorina, however, suggested in an interview with an Israeli business publication earlier this month that she had more ambitious designs. Alluding to a possible trip, she said she hoped to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Shimon Peres and Defense Minister Ehud Barak to "convey directly to the people of Israel that they will not have a stronger friend in the U.S. Senate than me."
After ECI unveiled its ad against Rush Holt on Monday, J Street swung into action with a list of questions that it thought could embarrass ECI. ECI answered the questions almost immediately. You can find the questions and the answers here and here. Or you can read below:
Question: “ECI refuses to take a position on the two-state solution. But two-thirds of Israelis and American Jews support it. The last four prime ministers of Israel have. Will ECI stop hiding its true colors on the only possible way to achieve real peace and security for Israel as a Jewish, democratic homeland?”
Answer : ECI supports a two-state solution if Israel has defensible borders and if the Palestinian state is stable, peace-loving and anti-terrorist. ECI does not support a “two-state solution” if one of the states is to be a terrorist state. And, yes, ECI believes there can be peace and security for Israel without having yet achieved a two-state solution.
Question: “Does [ECI] support the new peace talks starting this week, built on the notion that it should be possible to achieve a negotiated resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?”
Question: “Do they support the governments of Israel and of the United States in doing what they can to make them successful?”
Answer: Yes, if “success” means real peace and security. No, if “success” means the Obama administration pressuring Israel to make concessions that would strengthen anti-Israel extremists, weaken Israel’s security, decrease the chances of real peace, and lead to a terrorist state on Israel’s borders.
I think ECI's answers are excellent.
ECI also asked J Street some questions, but you will have to follow one of the links above to read them.
Four years ago, this blog first started to make a name for itself when I used it to give a history lesson to Washington Post reporter Richard Cohen. Richard has improved since then, and in a column in Tuesday's Post, he shows just how much he has learned.
His starting point is a recent Pew poll, which showed a steep drop in support for President Obama's Middle East policies in the Arab world. Cohen notes that 100% of the Shiites in Lebanon are disappointed with Obama's policies on the Middle East. But instead of saying that Obama has to try to satisfy the Arabs, Cohen correctly says that it's a credit to the United States that so many Arabs oppose Obama's policies.
What the Arab world seems to appreciate is that America will never agree to what the Arab world most wants -- an Islamic state where a Jewish one now exists. This entirely reasonable conclusion is based on what has long been American policy -- not what the State Department wanted but what the American people supported. America has always liked the idea of Israel. The Arab world, for totally understandable reasons, has always hated it. Nothing has changed.
A fundamental document in this area -- a once-secret CIA analysis from 1947 -- was unearthed (to my knowledge) by Thomas W. Lippman and reported in the winter 2007 issue of the Middle East Journal. The CIA strongly argued that the creation of Israel was not in America's interests and that therefore Washington ought to be opposed. This was no different than what later diplomats and military men (most recently, David Petraeus) have argued and it is without a doubt correct. Supporting Israel hurts America in the Islamic -- particularly the Arab -- world and, given the crucial importance of Middle Eastern oil, makes no practical sense.
The CIA further argued that the so-called Arab-Israeli conflict would soon widen to become an Israeli-Islamic conflict -- another bull's-eye for what was then an infant intelligence service. That process was already underway, which is why some non-Arabs (Bosnian Muslims, for instance) fought the creation of Israel, and has only intensified as radical Islam, laced with healthy doses of anti-Semitism, has gotten even stronger.
But where the CIA went wrong -- and not, alas, for the last time -- was in predicting that the Arabs would defeat Israel and that the state would not survive. The CIA was pretty sure of the outcome, what a later CIA figure might have called a "slam dunk."
What neither the CIA nor, for that matter, the anti-Israel State Department recognized in the late 1940s is that America's interests are not always measurably pragmatic -- metrics, in the jargon of our day. Sometimes, our interests reflect our national ethic, an affinity for other democracies, sympathy for the underdog. These, too, are in America's interests and they may be modified, but not abandoned, for the sake of mere metrics.
This is why Obama's overture to the Arab world, clumsily executed, was never going to succeed.
In all fairness, Obama came into office seeking to change US policy in favor of the Arabs, and he may continue to attempt to do so. But America (with or without Obama) will not agree to an Islamist state replacing Israel.
I was speaking with someone here at the conference about some of the ads that ECI (the Emergency Committee for Israel) has been running and what the ads' goals are.
Ben Smith is convinced that ECI is just going after J Street.
But it's clear to me that the ads are having an effect beyond causing problems for certain candidates, and perhaps that's their intention. The ads will make future Senators and Representatives think twice before signing letters issued by organizations like J Street and CAIR, because they now know that those letters can come back to haunt them.
Abandoning Israel now carries a political price. Ask Joe Sestak. And that's a good thing.
Can Democrats still take the Jewish vote for granted?
For the last 80 years, Democrats have pretty much been able to take the Jewish vote in the United States for granted. In fact, I have heard many people quip that the Obama administration's policy until recently was "F**k the Jews, they'll vote for us anyway." But is that true anymore? Morgan P. Muchnick, a 2001 graduate of Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, who served as professional staff to Senator Fred Thompson and as chief speechwriter for Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, when Ayalon was the Israeli Ambassador to the United States, argues that the Democrats can no longer take the Jewish vote for granted (Hat Tip: Shmuel Rosner). American Jews will face a very difficult dilemma this November, and in November 2012.
The Republican Party, rightly, argues that we are spending far too much money on failed social spending that helps very few while exacerbating our crippling national debt. Furthermore, the GOP platform will never call for expanding abortion rights, nor should it. Unfortunately, a large percentage of American Jews will not be able to overcome their emotional support for these issues. For many Jewish Americans, unfettered access to abortions is elevated to the top of their policy positions when deciding between political candidates. It is simply a bridge too far for many Jews, especially the older generation and women, to vote for a conservative who might circumscribe abortion access, no matter how modest the restrictions may be, and regardless of how pro-Israel their policy stance. Not surprisingly, demographic studies show Jewish women and older Jews remain stalwart Democrats. For many Jews, it comes down to Israel vs. unfettered abortions, and far too many Jews choose abortion.
However, recent polling data shows that male Jews under 50 are now more than 50% self-identified Republicans. In addition, Jews donate large amounts of money to the GOP, far larger than their voting numbers would suggest. At times, such as 1984 when Jews voted for Ronald Reagan at a 40% rate, it looked like the GOP brand was becoming less toxic. However, more recently George W. Bush was vilified by much of the Jewish community in spite of his unflagging support for Israel.
Recent polls suggest Obama's support among Jewish voters has fallen by over 30%. This, admittedly, should be taken with a grain of salt, as Obama's support across most demographic lines has also fallen. Furthermore, there is a long time between now and 2012. However, for the first time in my lifetime, there is hope that Jewish voters can no longer be taken for granted by the Democratic Party. The Jewish vote, in the near term, is still the Democrats' to lose. However, if Jewish Republicans continue to make the case to vote Republican, eventually our community will play a historic role in the likely-upcoming GOP wave, starting this November.
The United Nations Security Council voted unanimously on Monday to renew the UNIFIL mandate for southern Lebanon. The problem is that it was renewed 'as is,' which means that it has all the same drawbacks that it has had since UN Security Council Resolution 1701 ended the Second Lebanon War in 2006, especially the fact that UNIFIL is prohibited from acting in certain areas and cannot enter others without a request from the Lebanese Armed Forces.
In a unanimous resolution, the Council said it had determined that "the situation in Lebanon continues to constitute a threat to international peace and security" and had therefore decided to extend UNIFIL's mandate until 31 August 2011.
The Council strongly urged all parties concerned to respect the cessation of hostilities, to prevent any violation of the U.N.-drawn Blue Line separating Lebanon and Israel, and to cooperate fully with the world body and UNIFIL.
It also urged the Israeli government to speed up the withdrawal of its troops from the northern part of the border village of Ghajar in coordination with U.N. peacekeepers.
Lebanon's U.N. envoy Nawaf Salam complained of "brazen" Israeli infringements of U.N. resolutions covering the border, including flights in Lebanese airspace.
“With Iranian and Syrian support through arms, training, and financing –– all of which is a flagrant violation of resolution 1701 and today’s resolution –– Hizbullah builds a deadly arsenal throughout Lebanon, including south of the Litani River and in the area of UNIFIL’s operation,” Waxman told the Council.
Hizbullah’s military build-up, he said, comes as a direct result of weapon transfers which constitute violations of the arms embargo under resolution 1701. Simultaneously, Waxman said, UNIFIL movement is increasingly impeded by Hizbullah.
"Hizbullah’s deadly rearmament endangers Lebanon itself and the wider Middle East as Hizbullah deploys these weapons and builds its military infrastructure throughout the civilian villages of southern Lebanon, adjacent to schools, hospitals, houses of worships, and residential buildings,” Waxman said.
Waxman called for more efforts to create an area free of armed personnel between the Blue Line and the Litani River, saying that Lebanese armed forces “must act responsibly to ensure peace and stability” and do more to differentiate itself from Hizbullah.
Waxman cited a UNIFIL investigation report on the incident on August 3rd when during routine Israeli work south of the Blue Line, Lebanese forces fired direct fire across the Blue Line, killing one Israeli soldier and wounding another.
The Lebanese Army opening fire, “which triggered the exchange, constitutes a serious violation of resolution 1701, and a flagrant breach of the cessation of hostilities,” Waxman said.
Waxman reiterated Israel’s call upon the LAF to respect the Blue Line in its entirety.
Waxman is right, but Israel messed this up a long time ago. The current situation is a result of the structural problems in UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which our then-Foreign Minister, Tzipi Livni, apparently did not understand.
I'd like to show you at least one of the videos that we have been shown at the meeting of the Governing Board of the World Jewish Congress this morning (tomorrow's session is more panels and more given to blogging). This video is about the delegitimization of Israel.
As many of you undoubtedly know, US assistance to the Lebanese Armed Forces has been on hold since the day before the border incident with the IDF. David Schenker has done a detailed analysis of US assistance to the LAF (as bad as they are, giving it up means turning the country over to Hezbullah and Iran), and his come up with measurable standards to which future assistance should be subjected. Here's his bottom line:
But it is also clear that the bar defined by the American vice president has been lowered considerably over the past 15 months. Without some action by the United States that recognizes the profoundly changed circumstances since Biden announced that aid would effectively be conditioned on the composition and the policies of the Lebanese government, any lingering benefits Washington reaps from maintaining the FMF program will disappear.
One way to remedy the situation is for the State Department and congressional appropriators to work out clear, transparent, measurable and verifiable benchmarks by which all sides – including the Lebanese – can evaluate the merit of maintaining assistance to the LAF. The key metric is the relationship between the LAF and Hizbullah.
While some connection between elements of the two institutions is to be expected, especially given the Shi’ite plurality within the LAF, several indicators would provide useful insight into the depth of the relationship. Specifically, going forward, the FMF program should be contingent on a close assessment that measures, among other things:
• LAF response to officers who share intelligence with Hizbullah, “go rogue,” or demonstrate other problematic conduct with regard to the group (e.g., are they disciplined or congratulated?)
• LAF’s role in harboring or otherwise protecting Hizbullah weaponry (e.g., does the LAF play a role in preventing the import of weapons from Syria or their flow south of the Litani or in facilitating it?)
• Flow of personnel between Hizbullah and the LAF (e.g., do officials of Hizbullah’s militia transfer directly into the LAF?)
• Flow of weapons and other material between the LAF and Hizbullah (e.g., does LAF weaponry end up under Hizbullah control?)
• Quality of LAF cooperation with UNIFIL (e.g., do LAF units seem to follow Hizbullah guidance in obstructing the operations of UNIFIL?)
• LAF response to the anticipated indictment of Hizbullah members by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, currently probing the assassination of former prime minister Rafik Hariri (e.g., will the LAF arrest and transfer indicted Hizbullah officials or refuse to implement the tribunal’s request?).
Read it all. If the US is going to keep assisting Lebanon, these standards are a must.
Prime Minister Netanyahu heads to Washington on Tuesday night, where he will have dinner on Wednesday night with President Obama, 'moderate' 'Palestinian' President Mahmoud AbbasAbu Mazen, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Jordanian King Abdullah and others. On Thursday, Netanyahu will attend the first negotiating session of the new round of direct talks, along with Secretary of State Clinton and Abu Mazen.
Credit has to be given where it is due. Except for the lapse of the 'settlement freeze,' which is due to expire in 26 days, Netanyahu has given nothing in these talks. He has refused to commit to extending the freeze, he has refused to accept the 1949 armistice lines as any kind of basis for negotiation, and he has refused to commit to expelling any more Jews from their homes. He has continued to repeat the mantra "negotiations without preconditions," until that mantra became reality. He has refused again and again to return to the disastrous terms agreed to by Ehud Olmert.
So why are we all so nervous here? There are three reasons. First, Netanyahu has also not told Israelis were he stands. Is he going to make real concessions to the 'Palestinians' or is he planning to call their bluff? On Wednesday, MK Danny Danon (Likud) submitted five questions about Netanyahu's red lines. They weren't answered (at least in public) and won't be. I'd like to believe Netanyahu's playing a chess game in which he's going to be patient and wait for Abu Mazen to make the wrong move. But is that really what's going to happen? Netanyahu is known for talking tough, but he is also known for caving in at the end and making sudden mistakes (why, why Wye?). Will that happen again?
Second, in Barack Obama, the US has a President who is far more committed to bringing peacethe 'Palestinian' cause than any of his predecessors. The silver lining in that cloud is that until November 2 when the midterm elections take place, Obama will pay a high political price for pressuring Israel. That will likely let Israel get away with not fully renewing the freeze. But what then? After November 2 until January, Obama will have a lame duck Democratic Congress that may be willing to do whatever he wants. After January, Obama will likely face a Republican-controlled Congress that will severely restrict his ability to push any sort of domestic agenda. Will he turn to foreign policy - and specifically Israel - instead? Will he give up on a second term altogether and seek a legacy as a 'peacemaker' by going all out to pressure Israel? Will he pressure the 'Palestinians' at all? (Rumor has it that he has pressured them in private, but I doubt that it's any more than Clinton pressured Arafat, which was pretty much not at all).
Third, we sit in the middle of several potential explosions. Iran seeks nuclear weapons to destroy us. Hezbullah has thousands of rockets ready to rain down upon us and has de facto control over Lebanon. Hamas has suicide bombers and missiles ready for us as well (Israel Radio reported this morning that Hamas now has rockets with an 80-kilometer range - enough to hit the Sharon region). What will set any of them off? Will the failure of these talks lead to war?
Based on where we stand now, here's what I see happening:
1. The freeze will be extended in time (whether for a whole year or in smaller chunks remains to be seen). It will not apply to 'east' Jerusalem and the 'settlement blocs,' although there may be restrictions on the construction of private homes unofficially (in Jerusalem) and officially (in the 'settlement blocs'). Netanyahu may feel he has to do this to ensure that he is not blamed if Abu Mazen walks out. But this will be enough so that Abu Mazen will not walk out.
2. Obama will place enormous pressure on Netanyahu after November 2 if Abu Mazen doesn't walk out before then. Obama's promise to pressure Netanyahu will keep Abu Mazen at the table. Netanyahu's fallback is his coalition. The coalition and the Israeli public have to keep voicing opposition to what's going on in Washington because that will give Netanyahu the ability to tell Obama that his hands are tied because Israelis aren't willing to do what it will take to seemingly satisfy the 'Palestinians.' If Netanyahu is greeted by massive demonstrations every time he returns from Washington (which hopefully won't be Friday afternoon every time as it will be this week), he can point to those demonstrations and use them to resist pressure from Obama.
3. Netanyahu will eventually call Abu Mazen's bluff over the 'refugees,' an issue with respect to which Abu Mazen has no wiggle room. Netanyahu may even offer to let some small number of 'refugees' return. But it will be an absolute number and it will come with an end of conflict declaration and Abu Mazen will say no.
4. Netanyahu will stick to his guns on the 'settlement blocs' and on Jerusalem. He will continue to insist on controlling the Jordan Valley. I can't promise you he'll stick to his guns on other points, but in the end it won't matter. If everything isn't agreed, nothing is agreed. And Abu Mazen will not agree to an Israeli presence on the Jordanian border, nor will he agree to a demilitarized state.
5. The 'Palestinians' will not be the cause of another war here right now. That will be left to Iran, and will lead to Hezbullah, Hamas, Lebanon, Syria and the 'Palestinians' joining in. Hopefully that will happen before Iran becomes a nuclear power.
The New York Times' Ethan Bronner seems to think a 'Palestinian state' living side by side in peace and security with Israel is just around the corner.
As preparations intensify for a Palestinian-Israeli summit meeting in Washington on Thursday, the crude outlines of a Palestinian state are emerging in the West Bank, with increasingly reliable security forces, a more disciplined government and a growing sense among ordinary citizens that they can count on basic services.
According to Bronner, the only thing that's necessary for 'normal life' in Judea and Samaria is for the Jews to leave.
Of course, the West Bank remains occupied by Israel. It is filled with scores of Israeli settlements, some 10,000 Israeli troops and numerous roadblocks and checkpoints that render true ordinary life impossible for the area’s 2.5 million Palestinians.
Really? What is 'true ordinary life' if not making a living and going out and enjoying oneself after work - precisely what Bronner is describing?
The truth is that there are two major problems preventing the creation of a 'Palestinian state' and until those two problems are resolved, there's not likely to be a peaceful one. The first is, as Bronner is told several times throughout the article, the 'Palestinians' are not yet ready to assume responsibility for their own security. That statement means a lot more than 'the Palestinians aren't yet well enough trained.' It means a lot more than 'the Palestinians have yet to remove the terrorists from their midst.' It means that the 'Palestinian police' have to be willing to treat all people in their jurisdiction equally. It means that they cannot defend only their own respective clans, but must act as a true police force. Will they do that if push comes to shove? I wouldn't bet on it.
The second issue (which probably needs to be fulfilled first) is that the 'Palestinians' have to accept the existence of the Jewish state alongside them with which they claim they are willing to live in peace and security. That hasn't happened yet and it's not likely to happen in the foreseeable future. If it ever did happen, the 'Palestinians' might stop demanding that their state be Judenrein.
That's why most analysts, as Bronner admits, don't see a 'Palestinian state' happening anytime soon.
Video: A reunion of the picture that started it all
Remember this picture?
It was taken ten years ago on the eve of Rosh HaShanna (the Jewish New Year) and Honest Reporting refers to it as the picture that started it all, because it was the picture that led to their existence.
The beaten and bloodied Jewish kid (whom the New York Times referred to as a 'Palestinian' who was being beaten by the border policeman who actually saved his life!) is Tuvia Grossman, then a Chicagoan studying at a yeshiva in Neve Yaakov in Jerusalem, and now a corporate lawyer living in Israel. At the time, Tuvie's Aunt in New York was on my humor list (which soon became my Matzav list - NOT the blog by that name with which I have NO connection - and eventually became this blog), and she put his father in touch with me to try to get the word out that - surprise - the Times told a lie.
The border policeman is Gidon Tzefadi, the 'east' Jerusalem Border Police commander, who is from a northern Druze village.
Here's the video of their reunion. Let's go to the videotape.
And we are on our way showing a video presentation on the delegitimization of Israel.
You can watch a webcast of today's proceedings here. Ronald Lauder is speaking right now.
Lauder says open letter to Obama one of the most important things they have ever done, but gives himself and WJC too much credit for change in American attitude, which has more to do with the reality of upcoming midterm elections.
Peres now speaking.
When Bibi goes to DC determined to represent his people and to implement agreed two-state solution. Peres mentions that 'Palestine' must be demilitarized - says all other solutions are dangerous. Says that he fears that Gaza will be a separate terror state - wants Judea, Samaria and Gaza united and demilitarized. Thinks Bibi is well-prepared and sends him his blessings for success of mission.
Says Obama has changed in last couple of months. Says that direct talks are much more serious than proximity talks and Obama made the right decision to move on. Peres says he was once a postman and that young boy who sent love letter to girlfriend every day ended up with girlfriend marrying the mailman.
Mubarak an important participant and has done more than anyone outside Israel to prevent war in our region. Peres believes Mubarak going to Washington to bring peace.
Talks about Abdullah of Jordan and says that it will be a very interesting gathering uniting the four participants, which is a real wish for peace.
Says it's good that there's an agreed platform of a two-state solution.
Third, a common sense that there's not too much time. The window is open but if it's not used now other events may take away this important occasion (you all know I disagree with this - I don't see any opportunity here and I don't believe that the 'Palestinians' are any more ready for peace now than they were ten years ago - had to put that in).
No Prime Minister has been able to do what he wanted or to avoid doing what he did not want to do. That's the reality.
Says we're witnessing ideological, religious and political confrontation in the Middle East - will it become a Muslim hegemony (many Arabs giving up nation states and willing to accept Muslim hegemony). Arabs made 23 states after British left without a 'Palestinian state.' The 23 states did not meet all expectations. There is now a new appetite to build an empire, not by kings but by religious leaders. The center is Iran.
Iran trying to convert Lebanon into a battlefield. It is sending arms to Lebanon, to Hamas. Gaza is occupied by Hamas and will be free as soon as they stop shooting us.
If Iran goes nuclear, no one will sleep quietly at night.
If we make peace, then the excuse for which they are using Israel for their imperial ambitions will disappear (Peres accepts linkage - I don't believe that's correct).
There's another confrontation between the new world and the old world. There is a clash among civilizations and a clash among nations.
Iran thinks they can run the world but they can't. Peres says there's a double danger - the weapons they're going to develop and their government. Bombs don't fire themselves.
Today most people agree that there should be a 'two-state solution.' We left Gaza and cannot understand why they started to shoot at us as soon as we left (which is only explainable if you understand that the 'Palestinians' want to destroy the Jewish state and not live in two states side-by-side in peace - that's my view again).
[If you have the impression that Peres is rambling a bit, yes he seems to be].
He says there are 21 suburbs in Jerusalem that were never built so why start building them now.
Peres says a good Jew cannot be satisfied. Huh?
He says we have to go back to our moral sources and keep our eyes on the future.
Now in Q&A after long stream of consciousness speech.
Peres says we have to stress positive side to fight delegitimization and that world will come around if we stress the positive side.
Almost forgot to tell you the best part: Peres implied that the Jewish people - and not God - had written the ten commandments.
I thought I was going to be liveblogging Prime Minister Netanyahu speaking to the World Jewish Congress for you at 9:00 am Israel time, but he canceled his appearance (I believe he's leaving for Washington tonight). We're getting Shimon Peres instead.
Teheran will target Israel's Dimona reactor in a retaliatory attack if the Islamic regime is hit by an Israeli or US air strike, a Iranian official told the Arabic-language newspaper Asharq al-Awsat on Monday.
"Teheran is aware that Israel and the United States want to target Iran, but we are also aware that while they actually have the option to launch war, they do not have the option to end it. This is America's and Israel's point of weakness. We know that there is no solution to this point of weakness, thanks to the importance of the Gulf region, America's problems in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the (geographically) small area of the Zionist entity," the anonymous official was quoted by the paper as saying. He also specified that the Dimona reactor would be on the top of Iran's target list in a potential war.
The official added that the Iranian regime did not see any strong reason to reach an accommodation with Israel because of the declining of view of Israel's strategic value among Western countries, including the US. "We believe that the United States is looking for a strong partner in the region as an alternative to its dependence on Israel in the future. We in Iran believe that the United States and the Western nations now view Israel more as a burden and that Israel is incapable of contributing to achieving peace in the Middle East," he said to Asharq al-Awsat.
The official went on to say that the Islamic regime would seek to expand it's presence in Syria and Lebanon as Israel's influence in the region declines and Iran acquires nuclear capability.
I suppose no one should be surprised by this. And we'll find out fairly quickly how well all those anti-missile devices work. I don't expect Iran to succeed.
MK Haneen Zoabi (Balad) was set to appear Tuesday before the UN Human Rights Council's inquiry into the IDF's raid on the Mavi Marmara aid ship and demand that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu be put on trial for his role in the affair.
During her meeting with inquiry officials in Jordan she will also recommend that Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi be tried for their responsibility in the failed raid.
Zoabi assailed the government's conduct during the flotilla affair, criticizing its "criminal and piratical assault" on the Mavi Marmara, which left nine activists dead.
Zoabi herself was one of the passengers aboard the ship at the time of the IDF boarding operation, joining in solidarity with the foreign activists who were attempting to break the blockade on Gaza.
Still waiting for someone to revoke Zoabi's citizenship or put her on trial for treason.
Once again, greed causes Israel to do something really stupid.
Bank Leumi was among the first in Israel to purchase the Iranian Gohare stone, which is named after the ancient city of Gohar-Tappeh in Iran, and quarried mainly in Isfahan, in central Iran. The marble stone, the hues of which combine beige and gray, became popular among Israeli architects, and was soon purchased by many traders in Israel, along with other Iranian marble stone.
But how did marble reach Israel from Iran, a state with which trade is barred by law? Through the ultimate transit station — Turkey. The stone slabs arrive in containers marked “Made in Turkey,” accompanied by Turkish documents, and easily pass through customs agents at the ports. This is only one of the methods for camouflaging the country of production, for goods coming from countries with which Israel does not have trade relations. This does not refer only to marble: Other products also make their way to Israel in a similar fashion, including textile, carpets, candy and of course pistachios.
The order banning trade with the enemy defines Lebanon, Syria and Iran as states with which trade is forbidden. Nevertheless, trade with them takes place on a regular basis, indirectly, through third parties. Whether it is because of globalization, the drive to develop the Israeli economy, or just because it sells, certain goods from enemy countries are prevalent in the Israeli market. How much difference does this make to the Israeli economy, to the Americans or to Ahmadinejad’s pocket?
Is this really necessary? If the average Israeli knew this is going on, would they continue to buy these products? Think how quickly the average Israeli stopped vacationing in Turkey without a word from the government. I think they'd stop buying things they know come from Iran too.
The Kuwaiti newspaper al-Rai reported on Monday that Syria and Hezbullah have agreed to make a joint military command and coordinate between them in any future war against Israel.
Speaking with al-Rai Monday, sources have indicated that Hezbollah and Syria have formed a joint headquarters meant to orchestrate the cooperation between the two forces, which is to be commanded by two officers – one from the Syrian military and one from Hezbollah.
The joint command, the report said, would ensure full cooperation in land, sea, and air warfare, as well as take care of the positioning of anti-aircraft missiles in both Lebanon and Syria in order to confront the possibility of an Israeli nuclear assault.
Recent exchanges between the two organizations reportedly included trading information regarding strategic sites within Israel, including airports and other facilities, as well as dividing up the prospective war fronts between themselves.
The report also stated that Damascus and Hezbollah also worked together on the possibility of joint artillery strike against Israel, as well as drawing up a collective plan for the defense of vital Lebanon, Syria sites in case of an Israeli attack.
The two organizations also reportedly shared information gather by Hezbollah following the Second Lebanon War in 2006, including military conclusions and tactics.
The al-Rai report also stated Syria's contentment with Turkey's recent announcement that it would ban Israeli warplanes from entering its airspace, since it prevents the possibility of an Israeli airstrike from that direction.
Earlier on Monday, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad met with 'Lebanese Prime Minister' Sa'ad Hariri to urge Hariri to support Hezbullah. It also sounds like the Lebanese 'government' will soon be cooperating with Syria.
Lebanese Prime Minister Sa'ad Hariri met with Syrian President Bashar Assad in Damascus early on Monday, to discuss Syrian-Lebanese ties and to consolidate "coordination between the two countries in all fields," Syria's state-run news agency SANA reported Monday.
Hariri has visited Damascus repeatedly this year in a sign of Syria's renewed influence over Lebanon in the years since Damascus withdrew its military in 2005, ending a nearly three-decade hold on Lebanon.
According to the report, Assad called for "calm and dialogue to solve impending problems." He also reiterated his support for the "resistance against foreign threats," and urged Hariri to support Hizbullah.
It has also been reported that the Lebanese Armed Forces will be getting French HOT anti-tank missiles despite American and Israeli objections.
Some 'Palestinians' no longer interested in 'right of return'
The BBC reports that some 'Palestinians' have no interest in returning to their 'ancestral homeland.'
With generations of Palestinians now having lived in Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East, they have established deep roots outside their ancestral homeland.
But it is rare for them to publicly admit these views.
"On the record, because it is politically incorrect to say otherwise, all of them would say 'Yes, we would return to Palestine'. But once you sit with them in private, you hear a very different point of view," says political analyst Sami Mubayyed.
"Why would a businessman leave their comfort zone? Home is where the heart and the money is."
Even the staunchest supporters of the right to return admit that they have split loyalties.
"I feel like I have two countries - Syria and Palestine," says Yasser Jamous, the 23-year-old lead singer of the Refugees of Rap.
The group is made up of five young Palestinians who grew up in Yarmouk refugee camp on the outskirts of Damascus.
They rap about a homeland they have never visited.
Mr Jamous says it is "Palestine first and Syria second" for him, but that he would definitely miss Syria if he moved to a future Palestinian state.
Although Mr Jamous' neighbourhood is identified as a camp, there are no tents or slums in sight. It is a residential area with beauty salons and internet cafes.
The Palestinians who live here are well integrated into society, some even hold government posts.
Sorry, but no one here will make a deal based on "give them a right of return and they won't use it anyway." No one here will take the chance that Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and other Arab countries will start expelling their 'Palestinians' and sending them here. It won't happen.
A government-owned Turkish company has approached an Israeli company that develops radars systems aimed at defending nuclear reactors and border fences, the Yedioth Ahronoth daily reported Wednesday.
The Turkish company has looked into the possibility of purchasing BiScopic Protection system, a high performance stereoscopic vision sensory system for the detection of perimeter intrusion, from Dimona-based Magna BSP Ltd. to boost security along Turkey's border with Kurdistan. Kurdish infiltrations into Turkish territory have increased as of late.
The system, which was was developed by Magna in cooperation with the Nuclear Research Center and the Ministry of Defense, is used by the IDF.
Magna CEO Haim Siboni confirmed that the Turks approached his company. "This just proves that reports of a Turkish boycott (on Israeli goods) don't hold water," he said.
"Israeli security products being sold to the global market are irreplaceable. They may not like us, but they buy from us. As far as the Turks are concerned, we can close the deal tomorrow. But we won't do anything without authorization," Siboni added.
They may want our products, but there are some things in life that are more important than making money. This is one time Israel ought to say no.
What's going to happen on Wednesday and Thursday in Washington? Will Netanyahu agree to extend the freeze? Will Abu Bluff walk out if he doesn't? Here's a story of a simulation that took place this week to see how the talks will go. The bottom line: Obama is the key.
The Jerusalem Post convened on Sunday a group of former top IDF officers currently affiliated with the Council for Security and Peace, an association of national security experts, to play the roles of key players in the peace process and examine what the chances are for success or failure.
Brig.-Gen. (res.) Shlomo Brom, a former deputy head of the National Security Council, played the role of Obama; the council president, Maj.-Gen. (res.) Nati Sharoni, played Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu; retired Col. Shaul Arieli, head of the peace administration (its mandate was to produce working papers on permanent-status issues and act as something of a database for the negotiators) under Ehud Barak during the Camp David talks in 2000, played the role of PA President Mahmoud Abbas; and Brig.- Gen. (res.) Gadi Zohar, former head of the IDF’s civil administration in the West Bank, played the Arab world, primarily Egypt and Jordan, whose leaders will be present at Wednesday’s summit.
The two main conclusions from the simulation were first, that the level of mistrust between Israel and the PA is deep and profound, serving as an obstacle in and of itself without even considering the domestic political challenges each side faces.
Second, the player with the most influence on the outcome of the talks is the United States, which will need to decide, sooner rather than later, how aggressive it wants to be in keeping the sides at the negotiating table and enforcing a peace treaty.
Each player framed his strategies realistically. Obama, according to Brom, is bringing the sides together in an effort to reach an agreement for two primary reasons: first, since in his world view the Israel- PA conflict has a “negative effect on overall stability in the Middle East, from Morocco to Afghanistan” and second as a way to increase the chance of a Democratic victory at the polls in November.
The obstacles to the success of the talks were presented to all of the sides: what Israel will decide regarding the pending expiration of the freeze on settlement construction; Hamas’s potential destabilizing role in Gaza; and Iran’s reaction to success, including the possibility that it will advance with its nuclear program and put Israel before a difficult decision – either attack Iran and knowingly torpedo the talks or continue the talks and allow Iran to go nuclear.
Obama will demand as early as their meeting on Wednesday, according to Brom, that Netanyahu extend the freeze on construction in the West Bank. [I believe he will make that demand on Wednesday. Possibly in front of everyone at dinner. CiJ].
Sharoni, a former head of the IDF Planning Branch, who was playing Israel, said that Netanyahu was likely to agree to a continuation of the freeze within the isolated settlements but to lift it within the settlement blocs, in places like Ma’aleh Adumim and Gush Etzion.
A continuation of the talks, Netanyahu will also likely argue, will enable him to make greater concessions and minimize domestic political risks that could affect his coalition.
The PA and Abbas – played by Arieli – said they would not accept any continuation of building, even within the settlement blocs or east Jerusalem.
Brom, playing Obama, stepped up to the task and did his best to convince Abbas to stay at the negotiation table, pointing out that the US’s original moratorium proposal was for Israel to freeze construction only in isolated settlements and not in the blocs. Netanyahu was the one who had rejected this idea, not wanting to seemingly make a distinction at the time between types of settlements.
In addition, Obama will be able to promise Abbas that he will firstly hold Netanyahu to a strict timetable for the talks – around a year – and will also, if the talks falter, be prepared to make his own recommendations and proposals to solve disagreements that will naturally be closer to the Palestinian position.
“We will promise real US involvement, including proposing ideas how to bridge gaps,” Obama will say.
Even with such aggressive US intervention in the talks, it is not clear that Abbas will be able to deliver, due to his weak political standing in the PA. Last week, for example, Abbas failed to convene the PLO executive committee and has weak support within his own Fatah party. As a result, part of Abbas’s strategy, as presented by Arieli, will be to show Netanyahu’s true face as the side unwilling to abide by international agreements and guidelines, and then call upon the UN Security Council to take up the Israel- Palestinian issue.
For a summary on the issues at stake in the 'peace process,' and how the parties may try to resolve them, go here. Of course, they don't deal with the biggest issue: That the 'Palestinians' will not accept Israel as a Jewish state and are unlikely to sign an 'end of conflict' declaration or mean it if they do sign one.
Josh Gerstein reports on a closed door hearing taking place at the United States Court of Appeals for the 5th circuit in New Orleans on Monday. The hearing relates to the North American Islamic Trust (NAIT), which was one of the organizations named an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation trial (Hat Tip: Memeorandum).
The groups’ request to have the co-conspirator list formally renounced by the district court seems to have languished through a trial and retrial for the Holy Land Foundation and five of its top officers. However, after they were convicted on terrorism-support charges in 2008, Judge Jorge Solis issued a secret ruling in July 2009 on the groups’ demands to strike the Justice Department filing.
I reported exclusively on this blog last year that Solis had, to some degree, split the baby in his decision. “The ruling was ambiguous,” a knowledgeable source told me. “The judge acknowledged the way the whole thing was handled by the prosecutors was not appropriate. On the other hand, he did not really go ahead and reverse the decisions.”
Of the three major Islamic groups, ISNA, which holds title to the land used by a series of American mosques, is the only one that appealed Solis’s ruling.
The appeal to the New Orleans-based Fifth Circuit has ground on in near-total secrecy, though, in a strange twist, neither of the parties to the appeal appears to favor it being sealed. For that matter, though, neither seems to have done much to stop the secrecy in the case from metastasizing. In court filings, NAIT has said it opposes the secrecy but feels compelled to respect Solis’s decision to put his order and some filings related to it under seal.
So if only ISNA appealed the ruling, what is Monday's hearing about? Law Blog assumes that it's about removing the unindicted co-conspirator designation from NAIT, but if they didn't appeal Judge Solis' ruling, how could that be?
UPDATE TUESDAY 7:36 AM
Josh Gerstein has been kind enough to update me by email that he has updated his original post: It was NAIT that appealed and not ISNA (that makes more sense).
He also notes that "he government seems to have taken no position on the secrecy of the briefs or the closure of Monday's arguments."
The Emergency Committee for Israel's latest ad targets Rep. Rush Holt, but its real target, again, seems to be the left-leaning Jewish group J Street.
I'm going to see the Executive Director of ECI this week at a conference, so I can check this if any of you thinks I am wrong, but my sense is that ECI is not specifically going after J Street. Rather, by signing that pro-Hamas letter, 54 Representatives, all Democrats painted targets on their backs and labeled themselves as anti-Israel. ECI is going after any and all of them who are already in trouble in their election races.
On Sunday, I reported that Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef had cursed Abu Bluff and the 'Palestinians' during the rabbi's Saturday night Torah class. The State Department was not too pleased about that.
The State Department has criticized as inflammatory the remarks Saturday of the rabbi who serves as the spiritual leader to the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, which is a member of Israel's governing coalition.
On Saturday, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, 89, spiritual leader to the Israeli Shas party, condemned upcoming Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, and called for the Palestinians and their political leader Mahmoud Abbas to “perish from this world,” Israeli media reported.
“Abu Mazen and all these evil people should perish from this world," Rabbi Ovadia was cited by Israeli media as saying in his weekly sermon, using the nickname for Abbas. "God should strike them with a plague, them and these Palestinians."
The State Department Sunday issued a statement saying it regretted Yosef's "inflammatory statements," and noting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has distanced his government from the remarks.
“We regret and condemn the inflammatory statements by Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. We note the Israeli statement that the Rabbi's comments do not reflect the views of the Prime Minister,” State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said in a statement Sunday.
“These remarks are not only deeply offensive, but incitement such as this hurts the cause of peace," Crowley continued. "As we move forward to relaunch peace negotiations, it is important that actions by people on all sides help to advance our effort, not hinder it.”
But Rabbi Yosef was not inciting anyone to do anything. Please note what Rabbi Yosef said.
"God should strike them with a plague, them and these Palestinians."
Rabbi Yosef wasn't calling for people to murder the 'Palestinians.' He was calling for God to strike them. That's a huge difference. Compare it to the rhetoric on 'Palestinian Authority' television, let alone Hamas, Hezbullah or Iran.
And by the way, 'Abu Mazen' isn't a nickname - it's his nom de guerre (name used in war).
UPDATE 7:55 PM
There is now security deployed outside Rabbi Yosef's house (it's no secret where he lives - link in Hebrew).
Video to be shown in Congress on Monday of 'Palestinians' saying in English what they usually only say in Arabic
David Bedein of Israel Behind the News is going to be in Congress on Monday showing a video called For the Sake of the Nakba, which details the connection between UNRWA and the 'Palestinian Authority,' and how 'Palestinian' children are taught 'martyrdom' in school. For once, you will see and hear the 'Palestinians' saying the same things in English that they say in Arabic. I'll have that video for you below, but first a brief description.
Bedein directs the bulk of his criticism towards UNRWA, who is responsible, among other things, for PA schools both in Gaza and in Judea and Samaria. “UNRWA commemorates the Nakba [catastrophe, the term used by Arabs to describe the creation of Israel, held on May 15, the day after the declaration of the State, ed.] in cooperation with the Palestinian Authority,” he said, and added: “It is a central topic in the PA curriculum.”
The film depicts the walls of an UNRWA school, on which there is a portrait of a female terrorist, a graduate of the school, who committed a suicide attack against Israelis. The portrait of another terrorist is also drawn on the walls of the school.
In order to film "For the Sake of Nakba", Bedein employed an experienced television crew who conducted interviews with teachers, principals and students, all of whom discussed an armed struggle against Israel as an educational target in the PA.
“When everyone else speaks of Judea and Samaria, they speak about all the land,” said Bedein. He mentioned an interview he once conducted with Yasser Arafat, in which he asked the former PA President if he would agree to Israeli sovereignty in places such as Lod and Ramla, well within the pre 1967 borders of Israel. “Arafat told me that he would not agree to such a thing because it is an illegal settlement,” said Bedein. “In contrast, places such as Efrat and Gush Etzion are considered an ‘ordinary’ settlement.”
Bedein believes that for this reason, Arabs did not populate the former communities in Gush Katif. He estimates that approximately a quarter of a million Arabs could have lived in these areas, yet PA leadership prefers not to populate these areas so that it can continue to aspire to receive the 1948 territories. “They consider their land to be Ashkelon, Be’er Sheva and Ashdod, as they told me,” said Bedein. “Even a full withdrawal from Judea and Samaria will not satisfy them.”
According to Bedein, the real stand of the PA must be determined at the beginning of negotiations, and this should be done by Israel simply demanding that the PA stop educating on topics such as the return to 1948 lands, the armed struggle, and the encouraging of shahids (martyrs).
UNRWA on its part has responded to Bedein’s accusations by essentially calling him a liar. “All their spokespeople say that I’m a liar. One spokesman said that the picture [of the female terrorist] is not in the school. Another said that it’s not their school. As far as they’re concerned, every excuse is possible.”
He explained that he was able to enter these regions with a camera without being hurt by the local Arab residents, because “a camera to them is a holy object. They don’t believe that anyone will film something negative about them.”
Let's go to the videotape.
Anyone still think we should be holding 'peace talks' with them?
Jordan's King Abdullah: 'Even without the West Bank, Israel has a demographic problem'
Here's an excerpt of an interview on Israel Television with Jordan's King Abdullah. The interview was shown on Saturday night. In the interview, Abdullah states that Israel will still have a demographic problem even without the 'West Bank,' which of course points to what many Israelis claim: If we ever reach a 'settlement' with the 'Palestinians,' the next step will be for the Arabs to try to break off every majority Arab part of the State of Israel (i.e. parts of the Galilee and the Negev).
Let's go to the videotape. I'll have a transcript afterward (Hat Tip: IMRA).
Oded Granot: You said that you sat with Israelis and nobody could come up with an answer to your question 'how do they see Israel in ten years' time'. Did you allude to the demographic element?
Majesty King Abdullah II: If we take the question as you put it, first of all, the overwhelming majority of Israelis and Palestinians, I believe, do want peace. But the same amount of people are so frustrated that they have given up. That they don't think that it's ever going to happen. So you get people into the mentality of living with the status quo. But what does the status quo mean over the coming years?
There is people that say that Jordan should be Palestine. But how does that work? The Palestinians don't want it. We sure as hell don't want Jordan to be Palestine. The only way that you are going to be able to achieve it is an exodus of Palestinians and the only way that's going to happen is through force and violence. And would the international community and the Israelis endorse that?
But even if you did that, say there was a magic wand that was waived and the Palestinians are out of the West Bank, have you still solved your long term problem?
The Arab Israeli population, after many years, is going to be a challenge demographically to the Jewish State of Israel.
So, the way I look at the future of Israel is that unless we solve our problems today when you are in a position of strength, the options that you have in the future become less and less. And therefore more difficult.
So this concept of kicking this problem down the road. Let's solve it in a year. Let's solve it in two years. I think the dynamics that affect the challenge of Israel becomes far more dangerous.
Today you have 22 Arab Moslem countries total with the Moslem countries 57 nations that want to have this problem solved, because, you have to understand, this is not just a challenge for Israel's security. We also have our own problems in the region.
Forget for a minute that I believe that the whole demographic bogeyman is a lie. Can someone please explain to me why all those Arabs get to stay in Israel but every last Jew would have to be expelled from a 'Palestinian state'?
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-five years, and we have eight children (bli ayin hara) ranging in age from 12 to 33 years and eight grandchildren. Three of our children 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