Tuesday, June 30, 2009

No US agreement reached at Barak Mitchell meeting;Barak is Optimistic: I'm smiling because it's free

Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who, upon entering his meeting with US special envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell in New York, was asked whether the smiles on his face and on Mitchell's face meant they were close to reaching an agreement, said, "The meaning of this is that smiles don't cost money."However, Barak added, "We are more optimistic than ever.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak and U.S. special Mideast envoy George Mitchell agreed during their talks in New York this week that Israel must take action toward easing access for Palestinians in the West Bank and halting settlement activity.

Their four-hour discussion brought Israel and the United States closer to ending its dispute over settlement construction, a source close to Barak said.

Mitchell did not explicitly tell Barak that Israel must impose a complete freeze on settlements - as the U.S. has been demanding - but rather emphasized that Jerusalem must take "action" on the matter, according to a Defense Ministry statement following the talks.

Asked whether Israel would declare a temporary settlement
building freeze, Barak told reporters following the meeting: "I think that it's a little bit too early to predict.

"We are considering every positive contribution Israel can make towards the taking off of a significant important peace effort," he said.

While significant progress was made in the talks, said the source close to Barak, differences remain over a number of subjects.

"There is still disagreement, but the direction is positive and there is a good dialogue," a source close to the defense minister said.

My Partner for Peace - Netanyahu reaffirms support for Lieberman after Sarkozy remarks

(Haaretz).Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday he has complete confidence in Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, a day after Channel 2 reported that French President Nicolas Sarkozy had told him to "get rid" of Lieberman.

"[He] is fully committed to peace and security," said Netanyahu. "Lieberman constitutes an important part of the elected government of the democratic State of Israel."

The premier made the comments before a group of over 20 European ambassadors at Jerusalem's King David hotel. Netanyahu noted that he had consulted with Lieberman prior to a major foreign policy speech he delivered two weeks ago, in which he declared support for a demilitarized Palestinian state.

"Foreign Minister Lieberman will play an important role in implementing the policy presented in the speech," he said.

The second-in-command of Lieberman's Yisrael Beteinu party said Netanyahu should have "banged on the table" in response to Sarkozy's attack on Lieberman.

"If I was the prime minister, and those statements were made in my presence, I would have banged on the table and protested," Landau told Army Radio. "That is how a prime minister who preserves his country's dignity should behave."

Monday, June 29, 2009

PM Netanyahu Hosts Representatives of Orphaned Bar Mitzvah Boys from Around Israel

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today, in his Jerusalem office, hosted six 13-year-old boys, representatives of 107 bar mitzvah youths, orphans from all parts of Israel, who prayed together this morning at the Western Wall and who will celebrate their bar mitzvah banquet at Binyanei Hauma in Jerusalem. The bar mitzvah project is sponsored by Chabad in Israel.

Prime Minister Netanyahu told the youths: "This is a very moving moment in the life of any Jewish boy. The values that you absorb now will accompany you throughout your lives." The Prime Minister invited the boys into the Cabinet room in order to see the place where the most important decisions in the country are made.

The fathers of two of the six boys were murdered by Palestinian terrorists. Yonatan Shok's father, Yosef, was shot and killed on 16.12.05. Neriah Cohen's father David, was shot and killed on 14.7.01

Knesset Brushes Off No-Confidence Motions

(IsraelNN.com) The Knesset easily defeated two motions of no-confidence in the government on Monday.

One by the Kadima party, accusing the government of leading Israel into international isolation, only got 31 votes, compared to 52 votes against and one abstention.

The other, proposed by the predominantly Arab parties over what they called continued construction in Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, was defeated by a margin of 55-11, with 16 abstentions.

Sarkozy to Netanyahu:Replace Lieberman with Livni; Lieberman responds: replace Carla

(Haaretz).French President Nicolas Sarkozy has urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to "get rid" of hard-line Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Channel Two reported on Monday.

The Foreign Ministry responded to the report by lambasting the French leader for his "intolerable intervention in internal Israeli affairs."

French Love - Sarkozy with Livni?

Sarkozy spent a good portion of his meeting with Netanyahu last Wednesday discussing the composition of the Israeli official, according to the report.

The French president reportedly told Netanyahu that while he usually scheduled talks with Israel's top foreign envoys on visit to Paris he could not bring himself to meet with Lieberman."I have always accepted Israeli foreign ministers, and I loved to have Tzipi Livni here at the Elysee, but with (Lieberman) I can't," he was reported as saying with a wave of his hand. According to Channel Two, this statement was accompanied by disparaging hand gestures.

Sarkozy then advised Netanyahu to fire Lieberman and bring former foreign minister Tzipi Livni back into the coalition, according to the report. Netanyahu reportedly told Sarkozy that Lieberman came across differently in private than his public appearances would suggest.

French far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen also comes across as a nice person in private, Sarkozy reportedly responded, to which Netanyahu replied that Lieberman was not Le Pen and that there was no basis for comparison. Sarkozy then responded that he did not intend to compare.

The prime minister's bureau did not respond to Sarkozy's remarks nor deny them, but the office of Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman did respond with a strong condemnation.

"If the words attributed to the president of France are correct, the interference of a president of a respected democratic state in the matters of another democratic state is a grave and intolerable thing. We expect that that regardless of political stance, every political body in Israel will condemn this callous attack by a foreign state in our domestic affairs."

Washingtonpost Editorial: End the Spat With Israel

(Jackson Diehl-WashingtonPost).The upheaval in Iran offers the Obama administration a host of fresh foreign policy opportunities. Not the least of them is a chance to creep away from the corner into which it has painted itself in the Arab-Israeli peace process.

President Obama began with a broad strategy of simultaneously pressing Israel, the Palestinians and Arab states to take concrete steps toward peace. By the time Iranians took to the streets, it had allowed that broad front to be narrowed to a single point: a standoff with the Israeli government of Binyamin Netanyahu over whether "natural growth" would be allowed in Jewish settlements outside Israel's 1967 borders.

Pressuring Israel made sense, at first. The administration correctly understood that Netanyahu, a right-winger who took office with the clear intention of indefinitely postponing any Israeli-Palestinian settlement, needed to feel some public heat from Washington to change his position -- and that the show of muscle would add credibility to the administration's demands that Arab leaders offer their own gestures. But, starting with a statement by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in May, the administration made the mistake of insisting that an Israeli settlement "freeze" -- a term the past three administrations agreed to define loosely -- must mean a total stop to all construction in the West Bank and even East Jerusalem.

This absolutist position is a loser for three reasons. First, it has allowed Palestinian and Arab leaders to withhold the steps they were asked for; they claim to be waiting for the settlement "freeze" even as they quietly savor a rare public battle between Israel and the United States. Second, the administration's objective -- whatever its merits -- is unobtainable. No Israeli government has ever agreed to an unconditional freeze, and no coalition could be assembled from the current parliament to impose one.

Finally, the extraction of a freeze from Netanyahu is, as a practical matter, unnecessary. While further settlement expansion needs to be curbed, both the Palestinian Authority and Arab governments have gone along with previous U.S.-Israeli deals by which construction was to be limited to inside the periphery of settlements near Israel -- since everyone knows those areas will be annexed to Israel in a final settlement. Before the 2007 Annapolis peace conference organized by the Bush administration, Saudi Arabia and other Arab participants agreed to what one former senior official called "the Google Earth test"; if the settlements did not visibly expand, that was good enough.

Netanyahu, whose poor relations with Washington contributed to his ouster from office during a previous stint as prime minister, has been relatively quick to come around. In recent weeks he has delivered a speech in which he agreed for the first time to Palestinian statehood. In the West Bank Israel is removing military roadblocks, turning four more towns over to Palestinian security forces and taking the first steps to remove settlements it deems illegal.

Poll: Hamas popularity falls in both West Bank and Gaza

(Haaretz).Discontent with Hamas over slow-moving Palestinian unity talks and Israel's ban on Gaza reconstruction aid have led to a sharp decline in the Islamist group's popularity, an opinion poll showed on Monday.

The survey by the Jerusalem Media and Communications Centre (JMCC) put public support for Hamas in the West Bank and Gaza Strip at 18.8 percent, compared with 27.7 percent in its previous poll in January.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah faction is now more popular than Hamas with a 34.9 percent rating, up from 26 percent in January, according to the poll of 1,199 people.

According to the poll, 26.5 percent of those surveyed blamed Israel for the deadlock in the Hamas-Fatah dialogue while 23.5 percent pointed a finger at Hamas and 15.5 percent said Fatah was responsible.

Netanyahu, Rivlin to meet to end legislation row

(Haaretz).Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is scheduled to meet Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin for the first time in a few weeks, after the two former allies fell out over several bills Netanyahu wanted to submit to the Knesset.

The two were supposed to meet last week, but Netanyahu cancelled the meeting allegedly due to his imminent trip to Europe. Likud sources, however, said that the meeting was cancelled since Netanyahu was annoyed that Rivlin had postponed the vote on several bills proposed by the coalition, to which Rivlin was opposed since he saw them as strengthening the executive at the expense of the legislative.

The sources also said that the formerly cordial relationship between the two has suffered a destructive blow to the extent that they have not exchanged a word over the past few weeks. It is believed that Netanyahu's policy speech two weeks ago, in which he endorsed the two-state solution, let Rivlin down.

It is believed Netanyahu and Rivlin will try to re-establish their relationship.

Netanyahu, Livni meet for security briefing

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met Monday with Opposition Leader MK Tzipi Livni (Kadima). The two reportedly discussed various security issues.

French President Sarkozy: Livni made mistake not joining Netanyahu Gov't

(Yisrael Hayom).In his meeting with Netanyahu and political figures from Israel last week ,President Sarkozy deviated from diplomatic language and claimed:"Livni did a major Mistake remaining outside the government, I was looking out for Unity".

"Livni did a severe mistake and I do not understand her decision. We are talking about a state and what is good for it, not everything needs to be political balancings".

Sarkozy added: "that after the Bar Ilan speech that was made by Netanyahu ,its on to Livni to be harnessed to this course. She had to do this before but now for sure".

Sarkozy emphasized that during Livni's next visit to Paris he intends to tell it to her directly.

Netanyahu to Putin: Stop selling missiles to Iran

(Haaretz).Relations between Israel and Russia have grown tense over a significant change in Moscow's attitude regarding the possible sale of S-300 air defense missiles to Iran. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin and asked him to prevent the arms deal from going through.

The deal between Russia and Iran for the sale of the air defense system was signed more than a year ago, but external pressure, primarily from the United States and Israel, led the Russian political leadership to delay its implementation.

The Russian response to Israeli inquiries on the matter had been that they do not intend to complete the deal. The same message was reiterated during Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's visit to Israel last month.

A senior political source in Jerusalem said that in recent weeks there has been noticeable change in Russia's position on the matter of the arms sale.

The deterioration was first noticed during the visit of Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman to Moscow several weeks ago. Lieberman, who prides himself on his close ties with the Russian leadership, was surprised to hear the Russians presenting a position on the missile deal contrary to their earlier stance.

Medvedev told Lieberman that Russia has a signed contract with Iran and some payments had already been made.

"It is a lot of money," Medvedev told Lieberman. "There is an economic crisis at this time and we are having a very difficult time," the Russian president explained to the Israeli minister.

According to a report in the daily Maariv, Medvedev had even suggested to Lieberman that Israel purchase the defense system instead, or convince a third country to buy them.

Meridor: 'Natural Growth' was part of Road Map agreement with US

(Ynet)."We never had a deal with the Republican administration, we had an agreement with the United States," Minister of Intelligence Services and Israel's Atomic Energy Commission Dan Meridor said Monday, during a foreign press briefing in Jerusalem.

Speaking of the Road Map agreement, struck between the US and former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's government, Meridor said that "the relations between the two countries are based in mutual agreements, and agreements must be upheld.

"In 2003, Israel accepted the Road Map plan and the government voted in favor of it, while filing 14 reservations. It is part of a larger agreement, some of which was in writing and some of it was oral, that has been implemented for the past six years.

"We never had a deal with the Republican administration; we had an agreement with the United States. Yes, it entailed halting settlement expansion, including for "natural growth," and it was in writing, but there were understandings as to the nature and the interpretation of the suspension.

"These understandings were a part of the agreement. Its written part and its oral part compliment each other."

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Mofaz:'Livni can't make tough decisions'

(Jpost)."She's a nice person, you can sit and have a drink with her, but we're not in a club; she just doesn't have the ability to make tough decisions," Kadima No. 2 Shaul Mofaz told Army Radio Sunday morning, referring to party leader Tzipi Livni who, heading the largest opposition party, also serves as head of the opposition.

"An absurd situation has arisen," Mofaz continued. "The voter wanted Labor in the opposition and Kadima in the government, but Livni sent Kadima to the opposition and Labor into the government."

"One the one hand, [Prime Minister Binyamin] Netanyahu was dragged along by pressure from [US President Barack] Obama and [French President Nicholas] Sarkozy, but on the other hand she [Livni] is stuck on the whole Annapolis issue - a conference whose main significance was in the sheer fact that it took place."

He called on Livni to agree to join a unity government if it accepts the principle of "two states for two peoples," although he said that currently the government was "avoiding a diplomatic solution."

Blow to Kadima - Chaim Ramon to resign from Knesset

(Ynet).After a long career in politics, Knesset Member Haim Ramon (Kadima) will tender his formal resignation on Monday, ahead of taking on the business world. As required, Ramon will submit his resignation to Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin.

Ramon will also bid farewell to his Kadima fellows on Monday, and is expected to address the Knesset for the last time on Wednesday.

Nevertheless, Ramon is not abandoning politics altogether and will be named head of the Kadima Council, as Chairwoman Tzipi Livni still wishes to lean on his expertise.

A source in the centrist party said that "Ramon will still be in the picture, and it is clear that in the future, after the political situation changes, he will be able to be a minister if he wants to."

Rumors of Ramon's nearing retirement from politics have been circling for years, especially since he kept saying he intended to do so.

Considered a shrewd politician, Ramon nearly hung up his political boots right before the Kadima primaries, but Livni was able to get him to change his mind and seek a place on the party's Knesset roster. Ramon agreed, but when Benjamin Netanyahu was tasked with forming the government, and with Kadima's subsequent move into the Opposition, he made up his mind to quit.

PM urges Opposition to support peace principles

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu used Sunday's cabinet meeting to urge the Opposition to "act responsibly", calling on its members to show their support for the political principles he detailed during his visit to Europe last week, principles he said were given "due attention".

These principles, Netanyahu said, include the need for a recognition of Israel as the Jewish state, international defense guarantees, a demilitarized Palestinian state, the need to find a solution to the refugee problem outside of Israel and declaring an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Within the Opposition, the prime minister already has the support of Knesset Member Otniel Schneller (Kadima), which called on his fellow parliamentarians to support "The government's struggle with the Americans and the world over the matter of natural growth."

PM Netanyahu's Remarks at the Start of the Weekly Cabinet Meeting

Following are excerpts from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s remarks at the start of the weekly Cabinet meeting today (Sunday), 28.6.09:

"Last Thursday, I returned from an important and successful round of talks with Italian and French leaders. The goal of the visit was to brief them on our principles for a peaceful solution as I expressed them in my Bar-Ilan University speech, and persuade them that this is the correct, just and practical path to achieve an agreement between us and the Palestinians.

Over three days, I met with Italian President Giorgio Napolitano, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, French Prime Minister Francois Fillon and French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde, as well as with leading Italian and French opinion-makers and commentators, and I found that my interlocutors were attentive. Regarding the principles that we presented, I saw that there was a genuine international willingness to accept them as foundations for peace.

The first principle is the need for explicit Palestinian recognition of the State of Israel as the national state of the Jewish People. The second need is the demilitarization of a Palestinian state in such a manner that all of Israel's security needs will be met. The third item is that there must be international backing of these security arrangements in the form of explicit international guarantees. The fourth item is that the problem of refugees must be resolved outside the borders of Israel. The fifth item is the need that the agreement be an end to the conflict. This is to say that the Palestinians will not be able to raise additional claims following the signing of a peace agreement.

These principles are very solid and were raised very clearly by myself and by those in my delegation, which included Finance Minister Dr. Yuval Steinitz and Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan, and I think, I know, that they expressed a very broad national consensus."

Friday, June 26, 2009

Mofaz wants Kadima to join coalition in plan for sovereign Palestinian state with temporary borders

(Jpost).Kadima MK Shaul Mofaz, the party's No. 2 politician, will next week unveil a plan for temporary Palestinian statehood, urge the government to accept it and seek to bring Kadima into the coalition, Mofaz told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday.

Mofaz will reveal the plan in a press conference and then start selling it
to his party's institutions as well as the government. He said Thursday he
was confident it would be accepted by his party, the cabinet and the
international community.

"The government doesn't have its own plan yet, and American pressure will
require the government to have a plan that maintains our security
interests," Mofaz said. "Implementing the plan requires a national unity
government. If the government will accept my plan, I will convene Kadima's
institutions to talk about approving entering a government that would
implement it."

The plan calls for establishing a Palestinian state with temporary borders
within two years, and setting final borders three years later.

Mofaz would seek to reach an internationally brokered interim agreement by
the end of this year.

"I don't believe we should try to reach an agreement on all the outstanding
issues and only then start implementing it," Mofaz said. "That didn't work
in Oslo, Camp David or in Annapolis. I say, let's start working on a
Palestinian state with temporary borders now."

"She thinks we need to agree on everything before implementation," Mofaz
said. "I think that if we don't start implementing an interim agreement,
there will never be a final deal. I think most of Kadima would agree with my
plan and whoever doesn't would be dividing Kadima."

Mofaz reiterated that he did not see Livni as prime ministerial material and
that she had failed at everything she had done.

"She needs to get experience in key government positions," he said. "She had
two opportunities to form a government, and she failed. That's why she can't
be prime minister yet, and Kadima voters realize that now."

Netanyahu's successfull European 'grand tour'

(Haaretz)......The physical toll of his first months as prime minister were clearly noticeable in the course of Netanyahu's European tour. At the news conference with Berlusconi both mean appeared tired, each for his own reasons. A few hours before taking off for Rome on Monday Netanyahu was still dealing with efforts to defuse the tussle between Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz and Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer over who is responsible for supervising the wages of senior officials at the central bank. Time management is a critical issue for Netanyahu.

Netanyahu went to Europe with two goals in mind: To put his failed trip to Washington behind him through warm hugs from two of his closest friends in Europe, and to market the message of his Bar-Ilan speech to the European political leadership and to European public opinion.

Relatively speaking, he was successful. Berlusconi and Sarkozy accepted the principle of a Jewish state and did not fall off their chairs over the demand that a future Palestinian state be demilitarized. The French call Netanyahu "the American Bibi" and they were actually surprised that he would end up at loggerheads with President Barack Obama.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Ehud barak serving as Netanyahu's bulletproof vest

(Yoel Marcus-Haaretz).There is a unique beverage on sale in France that goes by the name "B And B," a mixture of Benedictine liqueur and brandy. One's palate is not so enamored with this combination because one of them invariably overrides the other, and neither taste really does it. We, too, are beginning to realize that our leadership is comprised of another B and B, Bibi and Barak, a situation wherein it is unclear who controls whom.

The fascinating political phenomenon is that while many are gossiping about the fact that Bibi Netanyahu has not managed to surround himself with good advisors and worthy spokespeople, and the disarray in his bureau is snowballing, the truth is that Bibi has turned Ehud Barak into his chief advisor and spokesman.

Just recently, a meeting between Bibi and U.S. envoy George Mitchell was canceled after it became clear that the government has no intention of acceding to the administration's demand to halt settlement construction. The prime minister quickly tapped Barak to travel early next week to meet with Mitchell and senior administration officials in Washington, in order to tie up loose ends,So, instead of the meeting with Mitchell that was canceled, Bibi is dispatching Barak to Washington as an envoy and political advisor, particularly as a bulletproof vest.

Uzi Baram says that Bibi has turned Barak into both his advisor and his errand boy. A senior political correspondent described Barak's new position as Bibi's consigliere, an advisor who is sent to carry out tasks not under his direct jurisdiction. When asked why he always defends Bibi, Barak responded: "He will surprise people yet. He needs me more than I need him."

Bibi made two statements that angered the U.S. administration. During his meeting with Berlusconi in Rome, he described Iran as the biggest threat, thus embarrassing the Obama administration, which is trying to dim the flames in Iran and begin a dialogue with the regime there. The other faulty comment made by Bibi was his statement that preoccupation with the settlements is a waste of time.

From the moment Bibi returned to Israel from the U.S., he cultivated his image as one worthy of greatness thanks to his service in the elite Sayeret Matkal commando unit. Veterans of the outfit cringe every time he boasts of his time in the unit.
Since Netanyahu's return, he changed his American name, Benjamin Nitai, to Binyamin Netanyahu, and has met Barak head-to-head. Bibi attacked Labor, but he never attacked Barak personally. Even when Barak dealt a shocking blow in the 1999 elections, Bibi knew in his heart that Ehud is the senior of the two and left politics for a while.

After Sharon defeated Barak by half a million votes and Barak, too, abandoned his party to pursue business interests, he lost his self-confidence and searched for someone to lean on. It is very convenient for him that Bibi is prime minister and he is defense minister. In practice, both of them could be members of the same party. Barak was never addicted to the peace camp. In the vote on the Oslo 2 agreement, for example, he abstained, angering then prime minister Yitzhak Rabin who then said that he was finished with Barak.

Both Bibi and Barak belong to the species of those who were beaten and scathed, only to emerge and survive.

Lieberman slams U.S. on Iran, settlements

(Haaretz).The West's failure to forcefully back the reformist protesters in Iran and its willingness to hold a dialogue with the Islamic regime sends a "bad message," Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman told TIME magazine.

In a not-so-veiled reference to the Obama administration's willingness to hold negotiations with Tehran over its nuclear ambitions, the Israeli foreign minister said the recent election upheaval was a missed opportunity for the West.

"This really fanatic extremist regime is still in power, and the young people who are ready to fight and die for change are not getting any real support from the West," Lieberman told TIME. "The fact that this regime continues to be an acceptable partner for dialogue is really a bad message. It shows the bad guys are winners."

Lieberman said the Obama administration is wrong to press its demand that Israel cease all settlement construction in the West Bank and that it was unrealistic for Washington to expect the government to "suffocate our own people."

"We are trying to formulate some understanding with the U.S.," Lieberman told TIME. "We don't speak [with the Americans] of building new settlements. We don't speak of expansion. We try to build only within existing construction lines."

"We cannot suffocate our own people. You know, babies are born. People get married. We cannot stop life. People want to build a synagogue or a kindergarten."

The foreign minister added that he did not accept the linkage made by many in the West between confronting Islamic radicalism and solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

"With 9/11 and terrorist acts in London, Madrid, Bali, in Russia, I can't see any linkage with the Israeli-Palestinian problem," Lieberman told TIME, adding that the conflict in the region was a "clash of values between civilizations."

Lieberman repeated his willingness to meet with Arab leaders to discuss establishing peaceful relations with Israel.

Confident Netanyahu returns from Paris,Italy Visit: Was a Success

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has retuned to Israel after visiting Italy and France. Both visits, he said, were a success.

EU: 'Gilad Shalit transfer to Egypt imminent'

(Haaretz). European diplomatic sources said Thursday that kidnapped Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit will be transferred to Egypt in the coming hours or coming days. This information has yet to be confirmed by Israeli officials. According to the European sources, Shalit's transfer is the first stage of an agreement between the various Palestinian factions, assisted by Egyptian mediation and done in coordination with the United States and with the support of Syria. Advertisement Shalit will be used as a "deposit" toward the completion of a prisoner exchange between the Palestinian factions, the sources said. The agreement will include the exchange of prisoners and the opening of crossings between Israel and the Gaza Strip. According to Egyptian officials, a deal will be signed between Fatah, Hamas and other Palestinian factions by July 7 at the latest. The deal would put the Gaza Strip under the leadership of a joint committee subordinate to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, and not under the control of the government of Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Mofaz attacks Livni: "She is addicted to the spins, She never finished a serious logical course "

(From Maariv today)In private talks with his associates Mofaz attacks Livni for not entering the Gov't and claims that Livni is addicted to the spins of her advisers and strategists that spur her to execute courses that are political erroneous.
They are these that convinced her that if she will remain in the opposition, Netanyahu will fall and Kadima will receive 45 mandates in the next elections.

"Its hard for me to see her as Prime Minister,She never finished a serious logical course fromthe beginning to the end ", Mofaz said to his associates, "Even Ehud Olmert can say that he did something, executed a whole course".

Netanyahu in Paris meets with Sarkozy: No Palestine without demilitarization

(AP).Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday that his suggestion of a demilitarized Palestinian state was gaining international ground and was the only solution for Middle East peace.

"The idea of a demilitarized state will in course become accepted," Netanyahu said after meeting the leaders of France and Italy.

"If it is not accepted, there will not be an agreement," he told following his meeting in Paris with French President Nicolas Sarkozy. "It cannot be that there is a Palestinian state and the struggle will continue within it."

Netanyahu reiterated his stance that Israel had no intention "of expropriating additional land" for settlements, but that it had a right to build within existing settlements.

"All we want is for [the settlers] to have a normal life," he said.

He praised the French president as "an old friend of Israel and a great champion of peace and security for our country and the Middle East."

Speaking to reporters in Paris, Netanyau downplayed the tensions with the U.S. Differences could occur "among the best of friends," Netanyahu said, adding that Israel was in the process of clarifying its settlement policy to Washington.

"We have an unbreakable bond of friendship with the United States," Netanyahu added.

"I asked for the postponement of the meeting," Netanyahu said about the talks he had planned to hold with Mitchell in the French capital. "Mr. Mitchell agreed immediately. We believed we had to clarify several issues and statistics. The defense minister will do this on Monday in the United States."

"We will continue the contacts, with goodwill and with the intention of reaching understandings that will advance a peace process - a diplomatic process between us and the Palestinians, and I hope between us and the rest of the Arab world."

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Netanyahu may resume talks with Hamas for Shalit deal

(haaretz).Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday that he would not rule out the renewal of negotiations with Hamas in an attempt to secure the release of captured Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit.

Netanyahu, who spoke to reporters in Rome after meeting with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, said that he had given instructions "to every government agency to combine their efforts in order to bring about the release of Shalit."

Netanyahu denied Arab media reports that Shalit would be transferred to Egypt in the coming days and said that "I cannot confirm that I heard such information and if such a thing was about to happen, I would be informed about it."

The reports claimed that the abducted soldier would be transferred from the Gaza Strip, where he has been held for nearly three years, to Egypt "within the hour."

Aluf Ben on PM Netanyahu's Brilliant Politicain moments

(Aluf ben-Haaretz)...Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: Your skills as a statesman remain unproven against Barack Obama, but as a politician you have your brilliant moments. The Bar-Ilan speech cornered Tzipi Livni, pilfering her positions. For years Livni has demanded that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state and that a future Palestine be demilitarized. From now on, these demands are registered to your name, and Livni is neutralized in the opposition, finding it hard to attack you. She will not dare call for a freeze to the settlements, after Obama made his views clear, fearing she will appear too far on the left.

Indeed, a nice move, but more important is the bone you threw to the settlers by appointing one of their leaders, Uri Ariel, to the Judicial Appointments Committee. The people at the settlements and outposts considered this a lot more substantive and influential than your declarations on a Palestinian state. Under the current government, the right's main goal is to crush what it considers the left's control of the Supreme Court. This conquest would complete the 1977 revolution; it's much more important for the settlers than another hilltop or outpost. It turns out you have not given up your struggle against the "elites" - you're just dealing with them one at a time. Now the judicial system is in your sights, having minimized the power of treasury officials. Very sophisticated.

To opposition leader Tzipi Livni: Your "angry" games of opposition versus coalition are unnecessary, misunderstood by the public, and have pushed you into a corner as a small-time politician - where you should not be. You started well as a stateswoman, so keep this up and do not be drawn by silliness.

Warm welcome for PM In Italy - Italy backs Netanyahu's peace plans

(AP) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu got a warm and supportive welcome Tuesday from Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi, while postponing a potentially less comfortable meeting with President Barack Obama's Mideast envoy.

At a joint news conference after talks lasting about two hours, Berlusconi endorsed Netanyahu's plan for a future demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes Israel as a "Jewish state." That means that Palestinians must give up any notion of refugees who left what is now Israel — or their millions of descendants — resettling in their former homes.

And although the U.S. says emphatically that Israel must call an immediate halt to all forms of Jewish settlement activity in the West Bank, Berlusconi was more gentle, speaking only of the need for Israel "to send signals" on stopping settlement.

"It was a very warm welcome," an upbeat Netanyahu briefed Israel-based journalists traveling with him after the Berlusconi meeting. "It would be hard to find a better friend."

Both men also discussed Israel's concerns about what many Western countries say are Iran's nuclear arms ambitions.

Standing next to Netanyahu, Berlusconi said Italy's economic ties to Tehran had always had the blessing of Israel and the U.S., and would continue as long as Washington approved.

Both leaders said they discussed at length the situation in Iran following the disputed June 12 election that returned hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to power. Opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi says he was the true winner, and his supporters have protested for days to demand a new election.

Netanyahu said the violent crackdown on the protesters "shows the true nature of this regime" that is making governments everywhere reassess their relations with Tehran.

"I believe that the courage shown by the people of Iran in facing bullets in the streets for the sake of freedom is something that deserves the salute of free men and women everywhere," he said.

BIBI'S AMERICA - Rasmussen Israel/Palestinian Survey:81% Americans - Palestinian should accept Israel's existance as Jewish State

(RASMUSSENREPORTS).In terms of Middle Eastern policy, is Barack Obama too supportive of Israel, not supportive enough of Israel, or are his policies about right?

Too supportive of Israel 10%
Not supportive enough of Israel 35%
His policies are about right 48%

As part of a Middle Eastern peace agreement, should Palestinian leaders be required to acknowledge Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state?

Yes 81%
No 7%
As part of a Middle Eastern peace agreement, should Israel be required to accept the creation of a Palestinian state?

Yes 57%
No 20%
How likely is it that Palestinian leaders will acknowledge Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state?

Likely 27%
Not Likely 60%
How likely is it that Israel will accept the creation of a Palestinian state?

Likely 43%
Not Likely 46%
Survey of 1,000 likely voters was conducted June 21-22. The margin of error is +/- 3 percentage points.

Inside the numbers:

Sixty-three percent (63%) of Republicans say Obama is not being supportive enough of Israel, but 78% of Democrats say his policy is about right. Unaffiliated voters are much more closely divided between those two positions.

Republicans are far more skeptical than Democrats that Palestinian leaders will recognize Israel’s right to exist. Voters not affiliated with either party share that skepticism.

Jewish Leader Morton Klien: Obama May Be 'Most Hostile President to Israel’

(Newsmax).President Barack Obama’s refusal to take a stand on protests in Iran stands in sharp contrast to demands he has made on Israel, Morton Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America, says in a Newsmax interview.

“I think he should take a strong stand to support the protesters in Iran who want to transform that society into one that promotes democracy and human rights,” Klein says. ”But while meddling in Israel’s affairs and making specific demands, he explicitly states he refuses to meddle in Iran’s policies and has said almost nothing.”

Klein says leaders of Jewish organizations are rethinking their support of Obama in light of his attitude toward Israel.

“There are many leaders in the organized Jewish world who have privately discussed this issue with me, and say they are deeply concerned about Obama’s actions and policies toward Israel, and now they’re rethinking their support for Obama during the campaign and the election,” says Klein, whose organization of 30,000 members is the oldest pro-Israel group in the country.

Based on the president’s speech in Cairo on June 4 and many of his foreign policy appointments, Klein thinks Obama “may become the most hostile president to Israel ever.”

Obama’s speech was “inimical to Israel and supportive of the stream of false Palestinian Arab claims concerning Israel,” Klein says. “He is relentlessly pressuring Israel while applying virtually almost no pressure on the Palestinian Authority to fulfill its written obligations.”

As a child of survivors of the Holocaust, Klein says he was particularly offended by Obama’s comparison of the suffering of Palestinians with the Nazis’ murder of 6 million Jews during the Holocaust.

“I found this to be an abominable, odious, and ridiculously false analogy,” he says.

Klein disputes Obama’s reference to Palestinian Arabs trying to establish a state for 60 years.

“They could have had a state in 1937,” he says. “They turned it down. They could have had a state in 1948. From 1948 to 1967, when they controlled all of Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem, they never attempted to establish a state. In 2000, they were offered a state on almost all the disputed territories. They turned it down. So this is a completely false claim that they’ve been trying to establish a state for 60 years.”

Netanyahu's meeting with US Mideast envoy cancelled

(AFP) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's meeting Thursday with the US special envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell, has been cancelled, and talks moved to next week between Mitchell and the Israeli defence minister, an Israeli official said.

"The scheduled meeting has been cancelled. In its place there will be another meeting on Monday in Washington between Defence Minister Ehud Barack and the US special envoy," an Israeli official told AFP on Tuesday.

"This delay will enable us to throw light on topical questions which are now hanging in the air and have not been resolved," he said, without elaborating.

Netanyahu had been scheduled to meet with Mitchell in Paris after talks with French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

As PM heads to Europe,First lady Sarah stays in Israel

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's wife, Sara, will not be joining him on his upcoming trip to Europe following a last-minute decision made Tuesday morning.

The Prime Minister's Office said Monday night that Sara Netanyahu would be accompanying her husband on his visits to Paris and Rome, but later described her decision to stay in Israel as "personal".

According to the PM's Office, Mrs. Netanyahu decided not to leave the country due to her eldest son's matriculation exams and her youngest son's summer holiday. In addition, she is said to be committed to different activities at her workplace.

Netanyahu on Italy TV: Settlements debate is a waste of time

(Haaretz). Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday that international "arguing" over Israel's stance on settlements was impeding progress on the Middle East peace progress.

In an interview with Italy's RAI TV, Netanyahu insisted that settlement activity in East Jerusalem and the West Bank must be viewed as separate issues, as Jerusalem is an inseparable part of Israel. He also said that Israel has been forthcoming with its intentions to halt construction while still allowing for natural growth in existing communities, which he called "an equitable position which reflexes our willingness to enter immediately in peace negotiations and get on with peace."

"I think that the more we spend time arguing about this, the more we waste time instead of moving towards peace," he said. Netanyahu called his endorsement of a Palestinian state without military capabilities, which he presented in a policy speech at Bar Ilan University earlier this month, a "winning formula for peace." "If we are asked to recognize a Palestinian state as the nation-state of the Palestinian people, then the very least is that the Palestinians should recognize Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people," he told RAI TV. "What does Palestinian self determination have to do with Qassam rockets or with deadly missiles?" he said, with regard to the notion of demilitarization, which invited a slew of criticism following his address. "The answer is nothing. They should have, the Palestinians, all the powers to govern themselves but not the powers to threaten the State of Israel." "So a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes the Jewish State of Israel I think is the winning formula of peace," he said. "I can not understand why anybody who wants peace should reject it." When asked about the crisis which has erupted in Iran following the contested results of Tehran's presidential election, Netanyahu said he believed "now that the true nature of this regime has been unmasked." "I think that people now can understand many of the things that we have been talking about all these years," he said. "This is a regime that oppresses its people and this is a regime that threatens everyone with the denial of the Holocaust, the call for the elimination of Israel, with the sponsorship of terrorism throughout the world and with the attempt to develop nuclear weapons, which they can give to terrorists around the world." He called Iran's nuclear program "an international danger" that "should be dealt with by an international effort led by the United States" and not by Israel alone. Netanyahu also repeated remarks he made to the German newspaper Bild, in which he declared that peace between Israel and Iran could be possible under a new leadership in Tehran. "If there will be a change in Iran, this would work in the other direction, and would give peace a tremendous opening, peace between Israel and the Palestinians, peace between Israel and Arab States that share our concerns," he said. "I think that this is as much a challenge as it is an opportunity. It is as much an opportunity as it is a challenge. I am very hopeful that we can meet the challenge and exploit the opportunity for peace." Netanyahu's interview took place in Italy, the first stop in his first state visit to Europe during his second term as prime minister.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Netanyahu to focus on Iran during European visit

(Reuters) - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu heads on Tuesday to Europe, where he will urge tougher moves against Iran's nuclear program and face opposition to his refusal to halt Jewish settlement expansion.

The trip to Rome and Paris follows Netanyahu's conditional endorsement, under U.S. pressure, of the internationally-backed goal of Palestinian statehood, a change of direction that Palestinians said fell short of their independence aspirations.

Israeli officials said Netanyahu planned to focus on what Israel sees as an Iranian quest for nuclear weapons in his talks with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi on Tuesday and French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Wednesday.

"Words alone will not solve the problem, and actions are necessary," one of the officials said, giving a preview of what Netanyahu intends to tell the two leaders.

Where is Mofaz? Livni promises to continue the Fight

Netanyahu: I will make Gilad Shalit's return a personal responsibility

(Haaretz).Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday that he will make the return of captive Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit a personal responsibility.

Netanyahu also vowed to instruct all relevant policy and security authorities to "carry out every effort to return Gilad alive and well, as soon as possible."

The prime minister made his statement during a meeting of the Likud faction in the Knesset. He directed his comments at Shalit's father Noam, who was in attendance at the meeting.

Netanyahu added that he will make Shalit's return one of the central themes of his upcoming meetings with European leaders in Italy and France.

PM Netanyahu hints:"We are still not largest Party";Sources: Kadima MKs may switch to Likud

(Ynet).Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at a Likud faction meeting, "We are still not the largest faction in Knesset."

Sources from his party claimed that Netanyahu's comment was meant to hint that after the approval of the "Mofaz Law", that will change the rules so that a rebel faction will no longer need to constitute a third of a party's MKs to break away, several Kadima faction members will switch over to Likud.

PM netanyahu's remarks at weekly Cabinet meeting

At the weekly Cabinet meeting today (Sunday), 21.6.09:

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu discussed the diplomatic speech that he
gave at Bar-Ilan University last week:

"The importance of the speech was in defining Israel's national consensus on
achieving a peace agreement. The items that I presented are not conditions
for the start of negotiations. We do not condition the start of
negotiations on any conditions; on the contrary, we insist that there be no
pre-conditions either by our side or by the other side. But I certainly
came to express fundamental positions that are vital for Israel's future,
for the existence of a genuine peace with its neighbors and for the
maintenance of its security, since there is no peace without security.

The two main points that I sought to emphasize were: First of all, that we
are talking about two states for two peoples and one of these is the Jewish
People, and the Jewish People are entitled to a national state of their own.
Of course, there are non-Jews in it and they enjoy full civil rights but the
state is a state of the Jewish people, with the symbols, language and
holidays of the Jewish people, and with the ability of every Jew to
immigrate here and become a citizen, what is incorrect regarding the
so-called 'right of return.' This will not be implemented in the State of

It was important to me to emphasize that the Palestinian side must recognize
Israel as the national state of the Jewish People just as we are being asked
to recognize the Palestinian state as the national state of the Palestinian
people. Moreover, a peace agreement must put an end to their claims in this
regard and to all claims, and put an end to the conflict.

I think that according to these remarks which were made, certainly by
previous prime ministers, I think that we are serious in our desire to
achieve a peace agreement. We want to be serious in this demand, which we
are making on the other side, as one of the two main components of the

The second issue, of course, is demilitarization because security will not
be achieved except by demilitarization and demilitarization does not detract
from the Palestinian self-determination. I do not understand why, for the
purpose of Palestinian self-determination, they need Kassams and GRAD
missiles. I can understand that they need a strong police force and
security services; we are encouraging this but they do not need tanks,
artillery or missiles. But we, on the basis of our experience and what has
happened in the places we evacuated, are entitled - more than any other
country in the world - to demand that the Palestinian state be a
demilitarized state.

Therefore, on these principles - recognition of Israel as the national state
of the Jewish People and an end to claims, and the clear demand that the
international community guarantee effective demilitarization measures - I
think that we have thereby covered the areas of a very broad consensus among
the Israeli public. They could have been concealed; they could have been
unclear. I think that what was done sharpened the foundations of the
national consensus that is necessary to achieve peace.

I insisted on these matters in my talks with foreign leaders. We will
discuss them today and I will continue to raise them in my talks in Europe."

The Day Rivlin lost the Presidency again,caving into Opposition demands

Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin decided to block two of the three bills at the heart of the parliamentary stalemate from reaching the Knesset floor on Monday in the hope of putting an end to the crisis.

Rivlin determined that only the so-called Norwegian Law would be put up for vote in the plenum, while the powder-keg "Mofaz Law" would be held until a later date in an attempt to allow coalition and opposition lawmakers to fine-tune the legislation.

Although the Knesset speaker is a staunch opponent of legislation that he thinks would undermine the legislature's authority - a position that has put him on a collision course with his party chairman, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Rivlin denied Sunday that there had been any worsening of relations between the two men.

Giving in to the Opposition as he fails to Support party and Prime minister's stance, in order to gain their support as he decides to Run for President after Shimon Peres , puts him in position of losing his own party's support and the Coalition block to rally under his candidacy when the day comes.

Kadima on Monday announced that it would cease protest measures against the coalition following a decision by Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin to shelve several coalition-sponsored bills.

"Following the understanding that the plenum will not be deliberating 'survivability bills,' the heads of the opposition parties have decided for the time being to freeze the acts of protest," Kadima's spokesperson said in a statement released Monday after a meeting between the leaders of opposition parties.

"The opposition sees the current result as a significant achievement aimed at preventing harm to democracy and safeguarding the Knesset's status," the message continued, noting that the opposition parties would be at liberty to continue and even exacerbate their struggle, if "political pressures" cause a retreat from the understandings

Netanyahu: Change in Iran could bring peaceful Israel ties

(Haaretz).Peaceful relations between Israel and Iran would be possible if new leadership took power in Tehran, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in an interview with a German newspaper.

"There is no conflict between the Iranian people and the people of Israel and under a different regime the friendly relations that prevailed in the past could be restored," Netanyahu told German daily Bild.

Hardline Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has called the Holocaust a "great deception" and said Israel should be wiped from the map, was officially re-elected in a June 12 vote that the opposition has denounced as a fraud.

The election has provoked the most violent unrest in Iran since the 1979 Islamic Revolution which ousted the U.S.-backed shah. Iran has accused the West and its media of playing a role in fomenting unrest.

Netanyahu said he had "no doubts" that Iran's citizens would choose a different government if allowed to vote freely.

"What we have seen in Iran is a powerful desire on the part of the Iranian people to be free," he said.

In the interview, Netanyahu also touched on ties with the Palestinians.

He said Israel shared the view of other governments around the world that the Palestinians should be allowed to live peacefully and freely alongside Israel.

"What hasn't been expressed clearly enough was the consensus that exists on the Israeli side and that has characterized successive governments," he said.

"We want to live peacefully next to the Palestinians and we don't want to govern them. We want them to have all the powers to govern themselves -except those handful of powers that could threaten Israel."

But he reiterated there were conditions to Israeli recognition of a Palestinian state, including that such a state be demilitarized and that it recognise Israel as a nation.

"We don't want to have another Iran next to our borders," Netanyahu said.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Netanyahu on NBC "Meet the Press":Iran's regime has been ‘unmasked’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that he would not second-guess U.S. President Barack Obama's approach on Iran, following the Tehran government's political crackdown.

In an interview with NBC's Meet the Press, Netanyahu said that the world was sympathetic to the Iranians protesting the recent contested election, but added it was unclear whether the unrest would spur change in Tehran's policies.

"I have no doubt everybody in the world is sympathetic to the Iranians' desire for freedom," Netanyahu said on NBC's "Meet the Press" when asked about the street demonstrations that have erupted in Iran since the disputed June 12 election.

Obama has been criticized by Republicans and others for stepping up more inin defense of Iranians protesting the outcome of the presidential election.

Netanyahu told NBC that he knows Obama wants the Iranian people to be free, adding that free people everywhere were amazed by the willingness of the Iranian people to stand up for their rights.

"I think it's too early to say what will transpire in Iran and on the international stage," said Netanyahu, who spoke from Israel. He reiterated Israel's position that Iran must not be allowed to develop nuclear weapons.

Transcript - Prime Minister Netanyahu on NBC's Meet the Press

Senate Majority Leader Disagrees with Obama on Israel Policy

(IsraelNN.com) Senate majority leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) disagreed with U.S. President Barack Obama on his tough policy against Israel in a public letter he sent last week.

Reid declined to call on Israel to end construction in Judea and Samaria in his letter, as Obama has done, and instead said the PA must take the initiative in the peace process.

“I believe negotiations will be successful only with a renewed commitment from the Palestinians to be a true partner to peace,” Reid told Obama. “All parties must recognize Israel’s right to exist, end terrorism, and respect previous agreements made with Israel.”

The Democratic Senator also disagreed with Obama's claim that an Israeli-PA peace agreement would facilitate his efforts to prevent Tehran from developing nuclear weapons.

“It is also vital [the Israeli-PA] process not take away from your commitment to deal with the ongoing threat from Iran,” he said. “I believe that resolving the problem of Iran’s nuclear program will help facilitate the Arab-Israeli peace process."

In addition, Reid recognized “the historic kingdom of Israel, which was established more than 3,000 years ago" in his letter, in contrast to Obama who was criticized for singling out the Holocaust as the basis for Israel's existence in his speech in Cairo.

Likud and labor Ministers argue on Palestinian State at Cabinet meeting

(Haaretz).An argument broke out during a cabinet meeting Sunday between Labor parliamentarians and a number of Likud ministers, after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu outlined his diplomatic forays planned for the coming months.

Several Labor MKs called on Netanyahu to advance the peace process with greater urgency, with Transportation Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer calling for the prime minister to head to Egypt to advance peace talks by way of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

Minority Affairs Minister Avishai Braverman added that "We must advance the diplomatic process so there will not be one state for two peoples here".

The remarks by Labor MKs were met with disapproval by Likud ministers, indcluding Benny Begin, who said "it is our right to be a Jewish state and to continue living in Judea and Samaria".

Begin also echoed Netanyahu's statement from his Bar-Ilan speech, in which he said a future Palestinian state must be demilitarized, saying "there is no such thing as a state without missiles, the missile will come after there is a country."

Strategic Threats Minister Moshe Ya'alon (former IDF chief of staff) said "there is no partner on the Palestinian side, we just give, and we get nothing."

Netanyahu late for cabinet meet due to 'foreign object' in eye

(Haaretz).Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday said the PM was late to a weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on Sunday, due to 'a foreign object in his eye', aides said.

Netanyahu was treated by an eye doctor and managed to make it to the meeting, ten minutes late.

Friday, June 19, 2009

EXCLUSIVE: PM Netanyahu cancels meeting with Livni caring for her health

All of Benjamin Netanyahu's meetings were cancelled last Friday after the driver of one of the prime minister's close associates tested positive for swine flu, Haaretz learned on Saturday. This was apparently to verify that the prime minister had not been infected. The canceled meetings included a discussion with opposition leader Tzipi Livni (Kadima) to address the opposition MKs' boycott of Knesset sessions.

The meetings were cancelled after Netanyahu's office was informed that the driver of the wife of his military secretary, Major General Meir Kalifi, had come down with swine flu.

According to Amnon Abramovitch: Netanyahu worried for the Health of Livni and even updated her on that, and that the only reason for the cancellation of the Meeting between the Two that was supposed to take place today.

Conference of Presidents call with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Ron Dermer

(Hadassah Blog)Conference of Presidents call with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Ron Dermer (Director of Communications and Planning for the Prime Minister)

Ron Dermer opened the call by giving an overview of Sunday’s speech, pointing out its importance in uniting the country around a vision of peace and security. Dermer added that the Prime Minister talked about the essence of the conflict. He wants to make sure that the root causes of the conflict are addressed and as such, set out two core principles — a Jewish state and a Palestinian state. Only when Palestinians acknoweldge that Israel is a Jewish state can all other issues can be resolved. Dermer emphasized that there should be two states for two people.

It is also essential that a Palestinian state be demilitarized. Disengaging from Gaza has been a very difficult experience. If the West Bank had missiles, imagine all of the short range rockets that could make life miserable everywhere in Israel. PM Netanyahu has no intention of governing the Palestinians; they can have a flag and an anthem. However, he wants to make sure that there are certain restrictions on Palestinian’s sovereign power, i.e., no alliances with Iran, no full control over borders and airspace which could allow in smuggled weapons.

Palestinians need to show that they can enforce law and order. PM Netanyahu called on our allies to make sure that Israel has assurances that a Palestinian state would not endanger the state of Israel. Specifically, he’s looking for international agreements that the sovereign powers of the Palestinian state would be restricted. This would ensure that if the Palestinians did violate the agreement by acquiring military power, Israel would have the right to act. It’s not that Israel would rely on international troops, like in Lebanon; Israel would retain the right to enforce its own security.

The issue of natural growth in the settlements has recently become a flash point. PM Netanyahu said three things: Israel won’t build new settlements and will not expropriate new land, but that until we have an agreement, a community needs to be able to carry on with normal life. He may be fine with the substantive position that there will be no expansion in the borders of a settlement, so long as building can still take place within the current borders of the settlement.

At this point, Prime Minister Netanyahu joined the call. He told us that his purpose in giving the speech was to unite the people. The speech reflects the views of the overwhelming majority of Israelis, the world Jewish community and friends of Israel. He added, if Israel is going to recognize a Palestinian state, then the Palestinians should recognize Israel as a Jewish state. Although Israel has non-Jews living in the country with equal rights, it is still the national state of the Jews. Israel is prepared to have a peaceful state next to it, but given what Israel has experienced, the state has to be demilitarized — that seems obvious, but as Meacham Begin once said, “sometimes the obvious has to be stated explicitly.” Israel and the U.S. are now discussing settlements, but Israel is very appreciative of President Obama’s recognition in Cairo of the unbreakable bond between the U.S. and Israel. Israel has now called for the immediate start of negotiations — there are no preconditions for beginning negotiations. We need to unlock the economic potential of the Palestinians — our friends could easily take a small economy like the Palestinians and kick it up.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Poll: only 6% see US administration as pro-Israel

(Jpost).Only 6 percent of Jewish Israelis consider the views of American President Barack Obama's administration pro-Israel, according to a new Jerusalem Post-sponsored Smith Research poll.

The poll, which has a margin of error of 4.5%, was conducted among a representative sample of 500 Israeli Jewish adults this week, following Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's speech in which he expressed his support for a demilitarized Palestinian state.

Another 50% of those sampled consider the policies of Obama's administration more pro-Palestinian than pro-Israeli, and 36% said the policies were neutral. The remaining 8% did not express an opinion.

The numbers were a stark contrast to the last poll published May 17, on the eve of the meeting between Netanyahu and Obama at the White House. In that poll, 31% labeled the Obama administration pro-Israel, 14% considered it pro-Palestinian and 40% said it was neutral. The other 15% declined to give an opinion.

Israelis' views of Obama's predecessor in the White House, George W. Bush, are nearly the opposite. According to last month's poll, 88% of Israelis considered his administration pro-Israel, 7% said Bush was neutral and just 2% labeled him pro-Palestinian.

Lieberman has a vision for first stage of peace talk

(Haaretz)- Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Thursday outlined his vision for the first stage of peace talks with the Palestinians, saying that the parties must begin negotiations with points "where there are no disputes." "There is more than one issue of dispute with the Palestinians, so I would like to start from the point where there are no disputes," he added, speaking in Washington, D.C., where he met with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. "We can begin with the roadblocks, the outposts, the establishment of a single security apparatus, the smuggling of illegal weapons, a [security and governance] pilot project like in Jenin, which we would like to expand." Advertisement Lieberman said that there is no point in focusing on the issue of the settlements. "If we begin with sensitive issues, like Jerusalem, the whole thing will break down," he said. He added that he believes Israelis and Palestinians must develop a "positive dynamic" and then engage in direct talks. "When we adopted that mad process of disengagement [from Gaza] and we evacuated 7,000 Jews, the result was that Hamas came to power," Lieberman said. "I think that today if we create a positive dynamic we must then begin talks with the Palestinians. Each side has a right to its views, we have a position of our own, and Abu Mazen [PA President Mahmoud Abbas] has a stance of his own, and we need to begin talks without preconditions."

On the Opposition rude behaviour this week

(Yossi verter-Haaretz)..... Rivlin believes the behavior of Kadima, and especially its leader, Livni, is intolerable. "The way Kadima is treating the prime minister is extremely offensive," he said this week. "To talk to the prime minister in crude language, 'Be a man, Bibi,' or 'Give it up, Bibi' - that is nearly the limit of what is permissible in a parliament. I'm not surprised that the prime minister has had enough."

It could have been a great week for the opposition: It could have crowed over Netanyahu and Steinitz caving in to the Histadrut labor federation in the budget deliberations; it could have made political capital from the value-added tax on fruits and vegetables; and it could have ridiculed Netanyahu for his about-face over two states. Instead, the opposition simply disappeared.

Opposition MK's sing at Knesset committee to slam Coalition '

(Ynet).The escalating crisis between Israel's coalition and opposition took a musical twist Thursday evening – three Kadima Knesset members broke into song during a Knesset committee meeting, ignored the chairman's pleas to stop, and were eventually forcefully removed by ushers.

The discussion regarding the reform in the Israel Land Administration got underway Thursday morning and featured a long series of biting remarks by opposition and coalition members throughout the day.

However, at one point, Kadima MK Otniel Schnler took out a sheet of paper with the lyrics of a patriotic Israeli song and started singing into the microphone. Meanwhile, two his party members, Yoel Hasson and Nachman Shai, joined the singing.

MK Schnler's later told Ynet that he was protesting the fact that "they want to sell the State of Israel," referring to the proposed land reform, backed by the coalition. Meanwhile, MK Hasson stressed that state-owned land is the "Jewish people's most significant asset," and warned that "it must not be handed over to private hands." MK Shai summed up the bizarre events by saying it was a protest that "came from the heart."

Meanwhile, a planned meeting Friday between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Opposition Chairwoman Tzipi Livni was postponed for the third time. In the meeting, the two were expected to discuss the escalating coalition-opposition crisis, among other issues.

Shvakim Panorama Poll: Support demilitarized Palestinian state 44.5%

Shvakim Panorama poll for Israel Radio'sHakol Diburim:
Do you support or oppose a demilitarized Palestinian state next to the State of Israel?
Oppose 33.8%
Support 44.5%
Other replies 21.6%
Kadima voters:Oppose 7.7% Support 83.4% Other 8.9%
Likud voters: Oppose 38.4% Support 41.2% Other 20.4%
Labor voters: Oppose 7.7% Support 87.5% Other 4.8%

Should Kadima join the Government in the wake of PM Netanyahu's Bar Ilan address?
Yes 41.4%
No 38.7%
Other 19.9%
Kadima voters: Yes 59.3% No 34.9% Other 5.8%
Likud voters; Yes 54.6% No 34.7% Other 10.7%
Labor voters: Yes 54.3% No 33.8% Other 11.9%

In light of the meeting of the Labor Party Central Committee in another 10 days should Labor remain in the Government or leave?
Remain 63.9%
Leave 15.3%
other 20.8%
Kadima voters: Remain 72.2% Leave 15.2% Other 12.6%
Likud voters: Remain 73.4% Leave 14.7% Other 11.9%
Labor voters: Remain 81.0 Leave 11.9% Other 7.1%

Dutch Party of Freedom MP: 'Israel is West's first line of defense'

(Haaretz). Israel will be a major part of Geert Wilders' next film on Islam, the rightist Dutch legislator said last week in an interview for Haaretz. Wilders said that the sequel - which focuses on "Islamization in the West" - will show "how the forces of Islamization are specifically targeting Israel in a fight against all free societies." He added: "The film will demonstrate that the fight against Israel is not territorial, and hence Israel is only the first line of defense for the West. Now it's Israel but we are next. That's why beyond solidarity, it is in Europe's interest to stand by Israel."

The Party for Freedom - which has only nine seats in Dutch parliament - won five seats in the June 4 European elections, making it the second largest of all Dutch parties in Brussels. A recent poll shows that if elections were held now, the Party would become the country's largest or second largest

Israel under Benjamin Netanyahu is, according to Wilders, safer because it doesn't automatically accept the two-state solution. But he added: "I am more concerned now about Israel's situation because of the positions of U.S. President Barack Obama." The president's speech in Cairo "shocked" Wilders, he says. "Until now Israel could rely on the U.S. for support even when the Europeans failed to offer it. Now Israel will have a tougher time," he added.

"The two-state solution is an internal Israeli matter and I hesitate to interfere. But my personal belief is that there is a two state solution for the Palestinians. One of those states is called Jordan," he added. Wilders also said that Obama's preference for dialogue with Iran despite its ongoing drive to obtain nuclear weapons - according to Western intelligence reports - is "intolerable."

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Netanyahu's revolution

(Ari Shavit-Haaretz). A week ago my piece about the seven-word formula - a demilitarized Palestinian state alongside a Jewish Israeli state - appeared on this page. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu adopted this formula, making it the cornerstone of Israeli policy in his "Bar-Ilan speech" on Sunday. Netanyahu, however, added two fundamental elements to the formula: a solid international guarantee that the Palestinian state is indeed demilitarized, and a clear Palestinian recognition of Israel's being a Jewish state. According to his worldview, the international guarantee to limit the sovereignty of Palestine completes the international guarantee that Herzl requested for Israel's establishment. Advertisement But the Palestinians must recognize the nation-state of the Jewish people in order to prove that they have accepted the Jews' right to sovereignty in the Land of Israel. Netanyahu's peace is threefold - Israel accepts the Palestinian state, the Palestinians recognize the Jewish state and the international community ensures that the Palestinian state doesn't endanger the Jewish state's existence. In a certain sense, Netanyahu's move is in keeping with Ariel Sharon's approach. The prime minister realized that he was trapped in a "corral" (as Sharon described it), pushed into a corner and isolated by international pressure. Thus, like the post-2000 Sharon, he decided to break out of the corner and take the initiative. Netanyahu accepted the principle of dividing the land in a controlled manner to avoid an imposed partition. In order to prevent a swift, dangerous retreat to the 1967 borders he proposed a painful compromise. Thus he found himself uttering the two taboo words he had sworn he would never say: Palestinian state. In another sense, Netanyahu's move is in the style of Ehud Barak. Like post-2000 Barak, he realized that neither the world nor the Israeli public understand what Israel is fighting over. Like Barak, Netanyahu grasped that when the battle line is the occupation and the settlements, Israel is in an inferior position. Therefore, like Barak, he decided to move Israel's position to the commanding heights. As Barak challenged the Palestinians at Camp David, Netanyahu challenged them at Bar-Ilan University. By focusing the debate on the core issues, Netanyahu shifted the Israeli-Palestinian front line from the "natural growth" in the settlements to the issue of survival and the right of the Jewish national home to exist. In a third sense, Netanyahu's statement was a step along the path of Yitzhak Rabin. Rabin was murdered believing that Jerusalem must remain united and the Jordan Valley must remain in Israeli hands. Rabin was murdered believing that the final status arrangement would be based on establishing a Palestinian state with limited sovereignty. After the Bar-Ilan speech, Netanyahu, too, believes the final status arrangement will be based on establishing such a Palestinian state. Ironically and tragically, the hated Bibi has become the one continuing Rabin's path. And yet, Netanyahu is not Rabin, Barak or Sharon. He is not a security-oriented Mapainik but rather a revisionist statesman. As a student of Zeev Jabotinsky, Netanyahu fomented a conceptual revolution. Unlike these three predecessors, he is not trying to protect Israel by means of security arrangements, but rather by means of seminal principles. Unlike them he is not trying to engineer a practical arrangement, but rather to establish peace on a clear, solid ideological foundation. Unlike them he is standing proudly, insisting on Jewish history, Jews' rights and the principle of Jewish sovereignty. He may or may not succeed. He might lead the country to peace, or bring it to war. But he made a move of revolutionary significance. Netanyahu not only took a courageous personal step, he generated an intellectual, ideological turnabout. With the seven-word formula he changed the discourse on the conflict from its very foundations. He set an unprecedented challenge before the Palestinian nation and the international community. After the Bar-Ilan speech the question on the world agenda is not only when and where the Israelis will withdraw, but what the Palestinians, Arabs, Europeans and Americans will do to ensure that the great Israeli withdrawal does not end in disaster.

Climbing down the Tree? Opposition considering taking part in Knesset's State Budget session

The opposition is considering taking part in the Knesset's House Committee session on canceling the Arrangements Act on Thursday, an opposition source told Ynet.  The opposition's factions on Wednesday abstained from voting on the State Budget in its first reading. An opposition source said, "Tomorrow's session is crucial to how the State Budget will look in the next two years. Even if we participate, it will not be the end of the protest."

Earlier Today the Knesset approved with a majority of 61 the budget in the first reading , without hours of debates and session into the night as the opposition boycutted the session.

Lieberman to Clinton: Israel won't freeze settlements

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman told U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Wednesday that Israel could not accept the Obama administration's demand to "completely" halt activity in West Bank settlements. "We have no intention to change the demographic balance in Judea and Samaria," Lieberman said during his talks with the secretary of state in Washington. "Everywhere people are born, people die, and we cannot accept a vision of stopping completely the settlements. We have to keep the natural growth." Still, he said, Israel "ready for direct negotiations with the Palestinians."

Meanwhile, Clinton reiterated that the U.S. viewed a total settlement freeze as "important and essential" step toward achieving peace between Israel and the Palestinians. She said that special Mideast envoy George Mitchell would look at a "number of critical concerns" regarding settlements. "There are a number of critical concerns, many of which overlap in their impact and significance, that will be explored in the coming weeks as Senator Mitchell engages more deeply into the specifics as to where the Israelis and the Palestinians are willing to go together." Clinton also said that Israeli leaders have in the past shifted their stance on the issue, and expected the current government to evolve in the same fashion.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Opposition members storm out of Knesset session;Likud: Opposition's conduct shameful

Opposition Knesset members stormed out of the plenum session Monday, in protest of the coalition's political conduct.

Opposition Knesset members boycotted the Knesset discussions Tuesday in protest of the coalition's conduct. Opposition MKs are saying that the coalition has been violating parliament's rules of conduct.

The Likud published a format statement denouncing the opposition for storming out of the Knesset plenum Monday afternoon.

"The Opposition's shameful conduct was degrading to the Knesset. Its members had better learn what responsible opposition is," said the statement.

'Speech improved diplomatic standing'

(Jpost).Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, as well as senior officials in his office and in the Foreign Ministry, expressed satisfaction on Monday that his speech the night before had succeeded in throwing the diplomatic ball squarely back into the US, EU and Palestinian court.

Diplomatic sources pointed with approval to the response to the speech issued by US President Barack Obama, who said the prime minister's address at Bar-Ilan University was an "important step forward."

Obama made no mention in his response to the fact that Netanyahu made clear that he had no intention of freezing all settlement construction.

One government source said there was a "positive feeling" in the Prime Minister's Office that the speech was well received in the West, even if it was panned in the Arab world, and that Netanyahu succeeded in "putting a number of diplomatic balls in the air, and taking the diplomatic initiative."

According to this source, people will now be asking the Palestinians why they are not willing to return immediately to the negotiating table with Israel and why they won't recognize Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people.

In Europe, too, according to government officials, the reaction to the speech was tepid to warm, but apparently enough for the EU foreign ministers to issue a statement following a discussion about the speech and the Middle East peace process that did not significantly differ from those put out by this body when Ehud Olmert was prime minister.

Netanyahu succeeded to Unify the Nation behind him

David Hazony - Sometimes you cannot understand the greatness of a speech until you hear the spectrum of reactions to it. Netanyahu’s speech was heavy on style and light on new content: He made a shift from refusing to recognize the possibility of a Palestinian state toward allowing for one under very specific conditions: (i) It must be demilitarized; (ii) No refugees will be moved into Israel; (iii) it must recognize Israel as a Jewish state, and (iv) Jerusalem will remain unified.

Yet the impact of the speech on Israel has been stunning. Most of it I’m picking up on radio and television , consisting of almost uniform praise; from settlers in Ofra who were pleased that he not only promised to allow them to live “normal” lives, but also praised their strength and Zionist values, all the way to Yael Tamir, a Labor-party rebel who has refused to participate in the coalition because it is too far right, but who nonetheless declared the speech to be a “very important step in the right direction” because of its recognition of a Palestinian state — a sentiment echoed by the opposition Kadima party as well.

The responses to Netanayahu’s speech reflect a consensus in Israel that is only growing stronger by the day: Nobody wants to rule over the Palestinians, nobody wants to see the West Bank become another Hamastan like Gaza, nobody wants to be told that their country exists at the expense of their suffering, and nobody thinks peace is around the corner. But everybody agrees that if the Palestinians would drop the violence and just try to live – to build an economy and a demilitarized civilian life alongside Israel, then Israelis would have a much easier time talking about statehood.

The greatness of his speech, in other words, was not in its eloquence or its boldness. It was in its unique ability to express the unified thinking of an entire nation

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Consensus Leader - Haaretz poll: Netanyahu approval rating leaps after policy speech

(Yossi Verter-Haaretz).For the Israeli public, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's speech on Sunday evening was a big success. Right and left, Kadima and Likud, new immigrants and old-timers all found something they liked in the address at Bar-Ilan University.

Netanyahu's approval rating has jumped 16 percentage points from a low of 28 percent the day after the cabinet debate over the budget on May 14. The 44 percent achieved yesterday comes a day after the speech.

Public support for Netanyahu's speech is sky-high,And most of the public thinks the right thing is the combination found in Netanyahu's address: right-wing rhetoric mixed with the desire for peace, an undivided Jerusalem, opposition to the return of Palestinian refugees, a demand for defensible borders, and the words that made the big headline - a demilitarized Palestinian state.

Netanyahu hit a bull's-eye in the Israeli public consensus with his speech. This is reflected in the results of a Haaretz-Dialog survey conducted yesterday under the auspices of Prof. Camil Fuchs of Tel Aviv University. The numbers show that when Netanyahu deals with leadership on defense and policy matters without scare tactics, the public supports him.

The conclusion:maybe he should speak to the public more often, on condition that he says what the public wants to hear.

The Israeli public overwhelmingly supports Netanyahu's speech - 71 percent. According to the poll, the prime minister said the right things and the television event Sunday night will help Israel in the international arena.

Netanyahu built a broad consensus in his speech, the survey shows. He will use this support to maneuver his policies with the Americans.

In terms of internal Israeli politics, Netanyahu put himself in the center of the political map. Most Kadima voters, 49 percent, say Tzipi Livni should join the coalition as a result of the speech, while 37 percent of Kadima voters disagreed.

Another political achievement is how Netanyahu managed to keep onside his own political base, Likud, even as he added supporters from other parties, mostly Labor and Kadima.

The survey shows that 90 percent of Likud voters, an incredible figure, agreed with what Netanyahu said in his speech
.In addition, 73 percent of Likud voters say Netanyahu said the right things.

Obama: "Positive movement" in Netanyahu speech

(Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama said on Monday he saw "positive movement" in a speech by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in which he endorsed a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, and again urged Israel to halt settlement construction.

"I thought that there was positive movement in the prime minister's speech," Obama said.

Obama, after talks with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, said he saw the possibility for restarting serious peace talks between Israel and the Palestinans.

But he insisted that Israel must meet its "road map" obligations to halt construction of Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank and the Palestinians must put an end to violence against the Jewish state.

PM Netanyahu on CBS about his desire to Peace and the election's in Iran:"I'v Opened the door to peace".

Watch CBS Videos Online

Netanyahu Interview: Full Text

Ben Caspit - Ma'ariv:A giant leap for Binyamin Netanyahu

(Ben Caspit in Ma'ariv)....It was one small step for the peace process, on giant leap for Binyamin Netanyahu. Even the most difficult of treks has to start somewhere. Yesterday, at Bar Ilan University, Netanyahu took his first small and hesitant step.... If Netanyahu had the slightest belief that there was some chance that the Palestinians would be capable of acquiescing to any of the conditions he had set, he would have refrained from saying what he did. The right wing will say today that now the slippery slope has begun, the left wing will say that this was too little too late, but what is really important is what the Americans will say. They are saying that this is an important first step. Now they are waiting for additional ones.

Netanyahu spoke for half an hour yesterday. Thirty minutes of sheer right wing rhetoric aimed at concealing one small leftist statement.

One, single, isolated but significant statement. In the end he uttered those horrible words, what he had only alluded to until today. He said "Palestinian state" and was able to remain alive. Looked to his right, looked to his left, felt for his vital organs and realized much to his amazement: everything is still where it should be, in peace (and security).

Netanyahu wrapped up his painful concession yesterday with almost impenetrable defensive layers. This was not a political initiative, this was an Independence Day speech, or perhaps an address for the eve of Memorial Day. Netanyahu was visibly excited, he erred here and there, which actually goes to show that he is human after all and thus provided some validation to his words. An Obama he is not, but his words yesterday worked for something like three quarters of the people residing in Zion. From this aspect, he did a pretty good job. If he had delivered this speech before the UN, maybe someone might have been convinced. The "courage and integrity" which he promised were equally divided between the two sides: for almost half an hour Netanyahu displayed honesty and integrity in our favor, and for about half a minute in their favor. However - and one must not forget this - Netanyahu did his best to return home in one piece. To leave Bar Ilan University standing on two feet. In this sense, he was successful. He said the frightening words and ran. Whoever says that only the right wing can make concessions of this kind is correct. Ariel Sharon proved this. Netanyahu has to prove this now.

Merkel calls Netanyahu, invites him to Germany

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has spoken at length with Binyamin Netanyahu in a telephone call in which she invited the prime minister to visit Germany in the near future.

Germany's government said in a statement the two leaders spoke Monday evening. Merkel welcomed Netanyahu's policy speech as a "first, important step in the right direction toward realizing a two-state solution."

Ambassador Michael Oren on CBS

"Well, I don't understand why recognizing Israel as a Jewish state is a non-starter. Israel is being asked to recognize the Palestinian right to self determination," Michael Oren, Israeli ambassador to the U.S., said Monday on CBS' The Early Show. "I honestly can't see a peace treaty that's not based on mutual recognition. As for disarmament, we're in a dangers part of the world.

"We can't have a situation where a Palestinian state will import rockets such as Hamas has done and shell the cities.

Netanyahu defends speech to Likud party Members: "This is the policy that I have chosen"

(Ynet).After having uttered the least favorite pair of words in the right-wing hemisphere, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu braced himself for an onslaught of domestic criticism on Monday as he faced his own party. But the reception he got turned out to be more lukewarm than cold.

"There are new and continuous international circumstances that compelled me, in my role as prime minister, to make a decision," Netanyahu told the assembled Likud ministers and MKs.

"This is the policy that I have chosen," Netanyahu said, adding that the establishment of a Palestinian state is not a question for the entire world.

"The demand for mutual recognition and demilitarization is crucial because we know what kind of place we live in," the prime minister continued, and said that it was a fundamental demand backed by the entire Israeli public.

Netanyahu shared that a minister from the Labor party thanked him for saying what Labor truly thinks but does not dare say.

Netanyahu asked for unity within the party ranks. "The American response was positive. It would be misleading to say that the road is paved, but our situation is better today than before," he said.

Round One to Netanyahu; Speech was solid success

(powerlineblog)...from the look of things, the speech is a solid success.

The main purpose of the speech, I imagine, was to articulate a position on relations with the Palestinians, including the possibility of a Palestinian state, that is consistent with Netanyahu's understanding of Israel's interests and would be viewed as reasonable by most Israelis. Articulating such a position would likely head off any efforts by President Obama to undermine Netanyahu's political fortunes. For if Netanyahu's position were viewed as reasonable, then any crticism by Obama would seem unreasonable, and thus would not harm Netanyahu appreciably.

Netanyahu appears to have succeeded. The best evidence is that the U.S. is reacting positively to the speech. This must mean the Obama administation realizes that Netanyahu struck the right chord with the Israelis and that criticizing the speech would only cause Obama to lose credibility with them. Obama has already lost enough credibility by virtue of his unreasonable position on settlements, from which Netanyahu did not back down today. It is not in his interest to lose more.

In expressing satisfaction with the speech, the administration probably had to swallow hard. First, as noted, Netanyahu did not back down on settlements -- he upheld the right of settlers to expand settlements through "natural growth" construction. Second, although Netanyahu spoke of a Palestinian state, he insisted that such a state be de-militarized, which arguably means it would not be a true state. In addtion, Netanyahu took a hard line on other issues, such as the "right of return" ("we need a clear agreement to solve the Palestinian refugee problem outside of the borders of the State of Israel") and Hamas (the Palestinians "must overcome Hamas. Israel will not sit down at conference table with terrorist who seek to destroy it").

But swallow hard the administration did. It described the speech as "an important step forward" and choose to focus on Netanyahu's "endorsement" of the goal of a Palestinian state to exist alongside Israel, while not commenting on the "de-militarized" part.

Thus ends, I hope, Round One of Obama vs. Netanyahu. I give it to Netanyahu, narrowly.

Both men can now return to their corners -- Netanyahu to figure out what, if anything to do about Iran; Obama to focus on his takeover of large chunks of the U.S. economy. There will be more rounds, but perhaps not for a while