Sunday, January 31, 2010

Italian PM Berlusconi visiting Israel hints: Disengagement was a mistake

( Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi hinted in an interview published Sunday that the Gaza pullout ("Disengagement") was a mistake, noting that it ended in "burned synagogues" and missiles being fired into Israel.

Berlusconi arrives in Israel Monday for a three-day visit. He will be accompanied by eight Italian cabinet ministers, who will for the first time participate in a joint cabinet meeting with the Israeli cabinet.

The meeting will also highlight bilateral cooperation in the fields of science, technology and culture. A special conference will be held bringing together leaders of Italian business, industry and science and their Israeli counterparts. Three laboratories that were funded by the Italians will be dedicated in the course of the visit.

Speaking to Haaretz regarding the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, Berlusconi criticized Jewish growth in Judea and Samaria: "Israel's settlement policy could be an obstacle to peace. I would like to say to the people and government of Israel, as a friend, with my hand on my heart, that persisting with this policy is a mistake. I welcomed Prime Minister [Binyamin] Netanyahu's courage in his announcement of a 10-month [Jewish residential settlement construction] freeze. It will never be possible to convince the Palestinians of Israel's good intentions while Israel continues to build in territories that are to be returned as part of a peace agreement.”

Berlusconi added, however, that "at the same time, what happened in Gaza should prompt some thought. It is not [acceptable for Israel] to evacuate communities [and then have to] face burned synagogues, acts of destruction, and inter-Palestinian violence and missiles being shot into Israeli territory."

Abbas trying to climb off the ladder: Talks could resume if israel halts Settlements for 3 months

(Ynet).In an interview with the British newspaper The Gaurdian, published Sunday, Abbas indicating that he may be poised this week to accept a US offer for "proximity talks" with Israel through American mediators.

Speaking in London after meeting Gordon Brown and the foreign secretary, David Miliband, the Palestinian leader said he did not know why the Americans "backed off" their demand for a full Israeli construction moratorium in the West Bank.

"If there is any substance in the response from the Israeli side – for example, if they accept the framework of a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders and an end to occupation, with timelines and mechanisms – then there will be progress," Abbas was quoted by the Guardian as saying.

According to the Guardian, Abbas also said he would be willing to resume full face-to-face peace talks if Israel halted all settlement construction for three months and accepted its June 1967 borders as the basis for land swaps.

"These are not preconditions, they are requirements in the road map. If they are not prepared to do that, it means they don't want a political solution," the Palestinian leader told the newspaper.

In the interview, Abbas claimed that negotiations with former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert before the Gaza war had gone further than those held in January 2001 at Taba between Yasser Arafat and Ehud Barak and included "border swaps, Jerusalem and the return of some refugees". However, the Palestinian president told the British daily, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government refused to accept what had been agreed as a basis for further negotiation.

Abbas stressed that "There will be no return to armed struggle," saying such a struggle would "destroy our territories and our country." Hamas itself, he claimed, "is not resisting" – a reference to the organization's effective ceasefire since January last year – "and now they are talking about peace and a truce with Israel".

IDF Deputy Chief of Staff Benny Gantz on Iran, support of terrorism, Goldstone Report

Dip-lo-atomic offensive! Turkish PM criticizes again the IDF and the Israeli leadership

(Ynet).In interview with Euronews, Turkish PM criticizes Israel's conduct in Gaza yet again, saying 'we cannot close our eyes when innocent civilians are ruthlessly killed, struck by phosphorus bombs, infrastructure is demolished in bombing and people are forced to live in an open-air prison'

"Israel should give some thought to what it would be like to lose a friend like Turkey in the future. The way they recently treated our ambassador has no place in international politics," Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said in the aftermath of the diplomatic crisis between Ankara and Jerusalem.

In an interview with Euronews, published Sunday, Erdogan spoke of Turkey's role in the stalled indirect negotiations between Israel and Syria and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's recent statement according to which he prefers France as a mediator.

"We have done our best for Israel-Syria relations. But now we see Benjamin Netanyahu saying ‘I do not trust Erdogan, but I trust (French President Nicolas) Sarkozy’. Do you have to give a name? This is diplomatic inexperience, too. Because when you say this… How can I trust you if you say you don’t trust me?

"We have important ongoing agreements between us. How can these agreements be kept going in this climate of mistrust? I think Israel had better take another look at its relations with its neighbors if it believes it is a world power," said the Turkish leader.

Addressing the Israeli Foreign Ministry's accusations that he had sparked the row by leveling harsh criticism at the IDF over its conduct during the war against Hamas in Gaza, Erdogan told Euronews, "I am telling the truth…And I will keep telling the truth. Turkey has an age-old history as a state. When you talk to such a state you must be careful.

"When innocent civilians are ruthlessly killed, struck by phosphorus bombs, infrastructure is demolished in bombing and people are forced to live in an open-air prison… we can not see this as compatible with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, simply human rights, and we can not close our eyes to all this happening," he said.

The Gaurdian: Israel's view on Iran: Expecting tougher sanctions and a hardening of US Policy

(Rory McCarthy-Gaurdian).Israel's government has long tried to raise international concern about Iran's nuclear ambitions and is likely to welcome the new US deployments in the Gulf if it signals a hardening of policy.

Israel, itself a major but undeclared nuclear power, has been pushing for tougher sanctions against Iran and is wary of those who argue in favour of dialogue and negotiations.

On Saturday the Israeli president, Shimon Peres, held a rare meeting with the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Davos, Switzerland, and asked him to work "in a serious and steadfast manner against Iran's nuclear armament". Peres told him: "A nuclear weapon in the hands of a fanatical regime such as the one in Iran poses a threat not only to Israel but also to the entire world."

The Israeli administration seems so far unconvinced by Washington's approach. Shlomo Brom, a retired general and senior research fellow at the Institute for National Strategic Studies in Tel Aviv, said the current Israeli government was unlikely to be completely satisfied with the Obama administration's policies and said he too believed a stronger line was necessary.

"If the idea is to engage the Iranians and have dialogue and reach a diplomatic solution, I don't think it is possible if the Iranians don't feel some pressure," he said.

It is not clear yet whether the new US deployments might change Israel's thinking about the possibility of a military strike against Iran, perhaps discouraging it from taking any action – which may, in part, be Washington's intention. Although Israeli pilots managed to bomb an Iraqi nuclear site in 1981, it is far less certain that any such Israeli strike on Iran today could hit its targets and far more of a concern that there would be heavy retaliation through militant groups like Hezbollah and Hamas.

Last month, the Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, listed the Iranian threat as Israel's greatest security challenge and said he wanted the international community to take action immediately before Tehran developed the capability to build nuclear warheads. "The time for tough sanctions is now," he said. "If this moment is allowed to pass, what good will sanctions do afterwards?"

Netanyahu's national security advisor Uzi Arad:Palestinian 'refusal' to blame for stalled peace talks

(Haaretz).National Security Adviser Uzi Arad declared on Sunday that the Palestinian Authority's "policy of refusal" was to blamed for stalled peace negotiations.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was "once too strong, once too weak, once is waiting for elections, other times he's moody, and at a different time he's waiting for an Arab League conference," Arad told delegates at the opening session of the annual Herzliya Conference.

"The reasons may change but the Palestinian policy of refusal continues, refusal to negotiate. It's very disappointing," said Arad, warning that such reluctance "will become a problem for the Palestinians."

Nevertheless, Arad said such a stalemate could be overcome and negotiations may well resume.

Alan Dershowitz: Goldstone is a traitor to the Jewish people

( Haaretz).Prominent political commentator Professor Alan Dershowitz slammed jurist Richard Goldstone, the architect of a UN report which accuses Israel of Gaza war crimes, saying he is a traitor to the Jewish people, Army Radio reported Sunday.

Dershowitz and Goldstone have been colleagues and close friends for many years before the UN Gaza probe, but once Goldstone published his report the ties between the two were severed. "The Goldstone report is a defamation written by an evil, evil man," Dershowitz said.

In an interview with Army Radio, Dershowitz said he is appalled by the report and can't fathom how it could have been written by a Jew. He said it is as if a Jew would have written the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and that the jurist is using the fact that his last name is 'Goldstone' to substantiate the report's defamation against the Jewish people.

Blow to rocket smuggling as Hamas military commander Mahmoud al-Mabhouh assassinated in Dubai

(Ynet).Score settled with man behind death of soldiers Avi Sasportas and Ilan Sa'adon. Hamas sources in Damascus issued an official statement on Friday accusing Israel of assassinating one of the movement's military commanders, Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai nine days ago. Israel has yet to respond to the report.

The statement did not mention how the assassination was carried out. However, al-Mabhouh's brother Faiq says he was electrocuted to death. "The first results of a joint investigation by Hamas and the (United Arab) Emirates show he was killed by an electrical appliance that was held to his head," he told AFP by telephone.

Al-Mabhouh is behind the abduction and killing of IDF soldiers Avi Sasportas and Ilan Sa'adon during the First Intifada.

His body arrived in Damascus Thursday night after he was found dead on January 20. The 50-year-old was born in Jabalya, Gaza, and is considered on of the founders of Hamas' military wing, the Izz el-Din al-Qassam Brigades, and served as the movement's representative in Dubai.

Hamas politburo deputy chief Moussa Abu Marzouk said on Thursday, "I believe the Mossad agents and the Zionist enemy are behind the assassination."

(Jpost).The question of whether the assassination of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai earlier this month was carried out by Israel or not is insignificant with regards to the impact his demise will likely have on Hamas and its ability to continue smuggling long-range rockets into the Gaza Strip.

The timing of the assassination comes almost exactly two years after Hizbullah’s military commander Imad Mughniyeh was assassinated in a car bombing in Damascus in February 2008.

Then, too, fingers were pointed at the Mossad. Hizbullah and Iran have yet to find someone capable of effectively replacing Mughniyeh, who in addition to commanding Hizbullah forces was also the guerrilla group’s liaison to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, Syria and Hamas.

Mabhouh appears to have played a similar role on behalf of Hamas. According to the few details known about him, Mabhouh helped establish the Izzadin Kassam in the Gaza Strip in the 1980s and was behind the kidnappings in the first intifada of two Israeli soldiers – Sgt. Avi Sasportas in February 1989 and Pvt. Ilan Sa’adon in May of that year, some of the first abductions carried out by the terror group. Both men were later found dead.

At one point Mabhouh fled Gaza and was reportedly based in Damascus, where he operated alongside Hamas chief Khaled Mashaal. During time he spent overseas, Mabhouh established strong ties in Sudan that he later used to smuggle weaponry from Iran to Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

One report claimed that he was behind the weapons convoy that Israel bombed during Operation Cast Lead and as it was making its way to Gaza through the Sudanese desert.

Mabhouh did, however, succeed in smuggling long-range rockets into Gaza. Proof of this came in late 2009, when Hamas test-fired a missile with a 60-km. range, capable of striking Tel Aviv and believed to have been manufactured in Iran.

Like the assassination of Mughniyeh, Mabhouh’s murder is another blow to the ‘axis of evil’ that threatens Israel and is led by Iran and continues on to Syria, to Hizbullah in Lebanon, and then to Hamas and Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip. It also joins a long list of similar special operations that have taken place in recent years aimed on the one hand at hitting Iran and at the same time at maintaining Israeli deterrence in the region.

Rabbi Shmully Hecht at Yale University, confronts Goldstone-comparing the report to the Dreyfus Affairs

Rabbi Shmully Hecht, advisor to Eliezer, the Jewish society at Yale University, confronted Goldstone last week when he delivered an address on campus. After Rabbi Hecht and supporters held up the sign in the back of the conference room and Judge Goldstone appeared to be flustered, a Yale official interrupted the speech and said, “You have made your point. Take it down now.”

At a reception following Goldstone’s remarks, Rabbi Hecht said he asked the retired South African judge, "Do you firmly believe the Israeli government has a policy of targeting civilians?... I feel sorry for you.”

Rabbi Hecht then asked Goldstone what he will say when evidence shows that "the report was a sham.” Goldstone answered, “Should that occur, I will rejoice.”

The rabbi said he would relate the reply to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and that when the day comes that Goldstone will rejoice, “I will hug you and embrace toy and you will be welcomed back to the Jewish nation, your nation.”

Rabbi Hecht concluded by saying that he “shook his hand, and he looked me in the eye like a troubled Jew.”

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Fatah's Charter released at Fatah General Congress Shows Why Peace Won't Happen

(thejerusalemgiftshop).Many people seem to think that the Israel-Palestinian or Arab-Israeli conflict or the “peace process” is the world’s most important issue. So who's going to determine whether it gets resolved or not? No, not President Barak Obama; no, not Israel’s prime minister; no, not Palestinian Authority (PA) “president” Mahmoud Abbas or Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.

That choice is in the hands of Fatah, which controls the PA and rules the West Bank. Only if and when Fatah decides that it wants a two-state solution and a real end of the conflict based on compromise will that be possible. So the fact that Fatah has issued a new charter seems to be a matter of great important.

The document was translated by the U.S. government and has just been leaked by Secrecy News. You are now reading the first analysis of this charter.

Secrecy News remarks: “The document is not particularly conciliatory in tone or content. It is a call to revolution, confrontation with the enemy, and the liberation of Palestine, ‘free and Arab.’" But then the newsletter continues:

“But what is perhaps most significant is what is not in the document. The original Fatah charter (or constitution) from the 1960s embraced `the world-wide struggle against Zionism,’ denied Jewish historical or religious ties to the land, and called for the `eradication of Zionist economic, political, military and cultural existence.’ None of that language is carried over into the new charter, which manages not to mention Israel, Zionism, or Jews at all.”

Now here’s an important lesson for you. When a radical group is portrayed as moderate based on some position or statement there has to be a catch somewhere. Here’s the tip-off in this case, a single sentence in the new charter:
“This internal charter has been adopted within the framework of adherence to the provisions of the Basic Charter.”
Of course, Fatah has changed a lot from the 1960s. It is less focused on violence (though that doesn’t mean it has renounced terrorism necessarily), less explicitly militant in its demands, more willing to deal in a cooperative manner with Israel. Neither genuine moderation nor remaining intransigence should be exaggerated.

And yet offered an opportunity to become a parliamentary political party, a movement clearly dedicated to peaceful politicking and a diplomatic solution, despite massive Western financial subsidies and frequent expressions of support for a Palestinian state from President Barack Obama, Fatah has chosen to remain a revolutionary organization.
“Let us train ourselves to be patient and to face ordeals, bear calamities, sacrifice our souls, blood, time and effort,” says the charter. “All these are the weapons of revolutionaries.

"You must know that determination, patience, secrecy, confidentiality, adherence to the principles and goals of the revolution, keep us from stumbling and shorten the path to liberation.

"Go forward to revolution. Long live Palestine, free and Arab!”
But the most fascinating aspect of all is the definition of the movement’s structure. Overwhelming power is in the hands of a 23-member Central Committee, including control of Fatah’s military forces. As I have shown previously, the Central Committee elected at the same Congress which formulated this new charter is quite radical. There are few members ready for real peace with Israel. When it comes to making any big decision, Abbas and Fayyad are mere figureheads.

Beneath the Central Committee is an 80-member Revolutionary Committee and, as the next level, a 350-member General Council. The Central Committee chooses a fairly large portion o both groups. Indeed it also selects the Fatah members of the Palestine National Council (the PLO’s legislature); PLO Executive Committee, which rules the PLO; Palestinian Legislative Council (the PA’s legislature); and the PA itself.

What this means is that Abbas and Fayyad do not control the PA, nor can they make peace or even conduct serious give-and-take negotiations. The Central Committee is really in control and the Central Committee is overwhelmingly hardline--at least 16--roughly three-quarters--of the 23 are that way. They still hope to take over Israel and thus reject agreeing to resettle Palestinian refugees in a state of Palestine. Equally, they aren't ready to declare that a two-state solution is the end of the conflict.

Netanyahu's Auscwitz speech - Right of the Jewish people to self-defense amid concern of the Iranian threat

Zvi Bar'el / Obama should admit he doesn't want Mideast peace; Abbas, Obama are responsible for the lack of a peace process

(Zvi Bar'el-Haaretz).Speeches, so it turns out, are an excellent substitute for policy. There's no solution to the problem of radical Islam? Talk about reaching out in friendship to moderate Islam. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is stuck? Talk about the legitimate rights of the Palestinians. The war on Al-Qaida is not progressing? Speak of building a nation in Afghanistan. Iran is being impudent? Issue an elegant warning. Wait a year. Let it be forgotten and then make another speech. Erase all that did not succeed, bypass the major crises and continue on to the next year.

Indeed, President Barack Obama's State of the Union address reveals that what stirred the world's imagination during the past year, what led to his being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, what caused sandstorms in Middle Eastern and Muslim states and sowed terror in Israel - simply popped like a bubble. Not a single word on the Middle East peace process. Only a restrained "promise" to Iran's leaders of "growing consequences." No new outstretched arm to moderate Islam. A word about human rights? Nothing. Just let us make it through the year in peace.

The great vision came down to local politics. To fighting against tribes, gangs, or, in the case of Israel, nationalist parties. Whoever thought that Obama would fulfill the message of Arab-Israeli peace can, like Obama, kick himself for nurturing lofty expectations. But if Obama can chalk up his meager achievements in the Middle Eastern marketplace to inexperience - as if every U.S. president has to reinvent the wheel - that doesn't absolve the Israelis from paying the bill.

The very thought that whoever is elected prime minister of Israel, the United States will take care of things for us reeks of the sin of pride, resulting from the fact that in Israeli eyes there is no connection between politics and policy. We can have a braggart for prime minister, a thug for foreign minister, someone with racist tendences as interior minister, a gourmand for defense minister, a nationalist for minister of national infrastructure and for the minister of culture ... well, okay. But our future - that we place in the hands of the U.S. president. He is the one who must bear for us responsibility for negotiations with the Palestinians, to block, for us, the Iranian bomb, to fight against radical Islam and to worry about our economy. We will enjoy ourselves with our political acrobatics, and he will cook, lay the table and also force us to eat so that we can grow and be strong. If he fails, it is his failure, not ours.

We are, of course, not alone. The existence of failed states like Iraq or Afghanistan depends not only on external assistance but also on decisions made by the State Department, the CIA and the Pentagon. More "organized" states, such as Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Iran and even Syria, conduct their own policies and set an agenda for the U.S., not the other way around. Turkey decided to broaden its influence and its links with the Arab world and with Central Asia; Saudi Arabia dictates moves in the Middle East; and Iran has become a power on its own accord. Syria reclaimed its control over Lebanon and returned to the warm embrace of the Arab center, and now holds significant sway over the future of the Arab-Israeli peace process.

As usual these changes are of no interest to Israel. Obama, like every other U.S. president, continues to be our impresario. Only ours. As such, the real negotiations are with him and not with the Palestinians or the Arab states. When Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreed to limit construction in the territories he was responding not to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, but to Obama. When Netanyahu speaks of resuming negotiations he is addressing not the Palestinian government, but rather Obama. Abbas and Obama, of course, are the ones responsible for the lack of a peace process: Abbas painted himself into a corner, while Obama aimed for the skies with his vision and now cannot deliver the goods. It's his fault, and Israel can celebrate its victory.

Israel slams Goldstone 'misrepresentations' of internal probes into Gaza war

(Haaretz).In written rebuttal to Goldstone report, Israel says it is committed 'to investigating every allegation of violations.'

Israel hit back Friday at claims by a UN report on its Gaza offensive last winter, charging in a written response submitted to UN chief Ban Ki-moon that the so-called Goldstone report was inaccurate, as Israel had abided by rules of war in investigating claims of war crimes.

Israel launched Operation Cast Lead in late December 2008, following heavy rocket fire from Gaza on its southern communities. The UN Human Rights Council commission of inquiry into the three-week offensive was headed by retired South African justice Richard Goldstone.

The Goldstone report charged both Israel and Hamas with war crimes, as well as acts that amounted to crimes against humanity. The UN report found that the conflict was dominated by Israel's military superiority, had killed 1,400 Palestinians and caused widespread damage to properties in Gaza.

But in a 46-page document entitled "Gaza Operation Investigations: Update," Israel emphasized Friday its commitment to "full compliance with the Law of Armed Conflict, and to investigating every allegation of violations, irrespective of the source of the allegation." Click here to view the Israeli response.

Israel describes its report issued Friday as a follow-on to a paper released in July 2009, entitled "The Operation in Gaza: Factual and Legal Aspects." The initial document, Israel says, "addressed a range of factual and legal issues related to the Gaza Operation, including the thousands of missile attacks that necessitated the Operation, and the deliberate Hamas entrenchment in civilian areas which made combat so complex and challenging."

Israel also said Friday that the latest document "is not intended as a comprehensive rebuttal of the Human Rights Council Fact-Finding Report or a catalogue of the Report's flaws. The Paper does, however, note some of the Report's inaccuracies and misrepresentations of Israel's investigative system."

Defense Minister Ehud Barak repeated Israeli criticism of the Goldstone report Friday. In his confirmation that the response had been submitted to the UN, Barak said that the UN document was "false, distorted, and irresponsible."

The human rights council had urged the UN General Assembly to debate the Goldstone report and then refer the alleged crimes to the International Criminal Court at The Hague. That proposal has so far been not been acted upon.

Instead, the General Assembly asked for its own report based on submissions from both sides - following another recommendation from the 547-page Goldstone report that both Israel and Hamas conduct their own investigations.

In the report that Israel handed to the UN on Friday, it emphasized that its system of investigating alleged war crimes is comparable to the systems adopted by other democratic nations.

"To date," the Israeli report states, "the IDF has launched investigations into 150 separate incidents arising from the Gaza Operation. Of the 150 incidents, so far 36 have been referred for criminal investigation. Criminal investigators have taken statements from almost 100 Palestinian complainants and witnesses, along with approximately 500 IDF soldiers and commanders."

Former Palestinian minister: Mr Netanyahu was right about economic development bringing peace, at least for a while.

(Economist)....some Western diplomats and Palestinian officials hint that Mr Abbas, with a helping hand from Arab states, is quietly poised to climb down. They say he is shelving his previous demand for a total settlement freeze and will consent to a plan to set up low-level or indirect talks, to save the Palestinian leader’s face. Mr Abbas, they say, knows he will not find a more sympathetic American president than Mr Obama, so fears frittering his time away. Moreover, the Palestinian Authority (PA), which Mr Abbas heads, depends on American cash.

Still, if Mr Abbas has indeed decided to climb down, it will be a precarious operation. After months of publicly saying he would stand firm, he would have little to show for changing his mind. Mr Netanyahu is hesitant about granting Palestinian requests for a formal “term of reference” acknowledging some of the most crucial issues, such as Jerusalem. Mr Abbas also wants Mr Mitchell to say that the city should be recognised as both states’ future capital. As if to rub salt in Palestinian wounds, Mr Netanyahu attended a tree-planting ceremony in a settlement when Mr Mitchell was still in town. By the by, the Israeli prime minister declared that any Palestinian state would have to be completely encircled by Israeli forces.

Mr Abbas, who has been notably flexible since taking on Yasser Arafat’s mantle since the old man died five years ago, has lousy cards to play. Mr Obama’s administration, perhaps overconfident, persuaded him to agree that it would demand a complete settlement freeze as the price for restarting talks. But when it backed down, Mr Abbas was embarrassingly stranded.

In any event, he seems to lack a strategy. Doubters in his own party, Fatah, as well as his bitter rivals in Hamas, the Islamist Palestinian movement that runs Gaza, are sneering at his failure to make progress and are calling for his replacement; indeed, he has already said he would resign. “For months we’ve done nothing,” says a Fatah stalwart who has sometimes been touted as a successor. “We have no elections, no reconciliation with Hamas, and no negotiations. We’re looking ridiculous.”

Should Mr Abbas dig in his heels for longer, some American intermediaries are looking at alternatives. They are airing a plan promoted by the Palestinian prime minister, Salam Fayyad, to get on with building a state that can then be presented for recognition by the UN Security Council in a couple of years. But few Palestinians would risk relying on the Security Council, where the Americans have a veto, to vote for such a state. Should the Americans and Europeans then balk, Mr Fayyad would look as silly as Mr Abbas.

A more radical suggestion, voiced by other Palestinians, is to dissolve the PA altogether and let Israel take responsibility for the occupation. But even the toughest Palestinian critics of Mr Abbas within the PA tend to be swayed by the personal benefits of the status quo. In any case, many Palestinians are enjoying the West Bank’s rising prosperity. Ramallah, their administrative capital, is bristling with new buildings, electronic and liquor shops and various spin-offs of foreign aid. Ramallah at night glitters with neon lights. Other Palestinian cities, though less flashy, also defy the world’s economic crunch.

Meanwhile, political apathy is setting in. A recent well-publicised meeting where Palestinians were to press their claims to Arab-populated East Jerusalem drew an audience of less than 50. As long as foreign donors pay the PA’s salary bill, few expect a new intifada (uprising). A former Palestinian minister laments that Mr Netanyahu was right about economic development bringing peace, at least for a while.

For those Palestinians, particularly in the rural areas and refugee camps, who are less easily seduced by the lure of the café, the authorities still resort more readily to sticks than carrots. Under the guidance of an American general, Keith Dayton, hundreds of PA security forces have fanned out across Palestinian towns, co-ordinating with Israeli forces to swat Palestinian dissent. Though human-rights groups say the torture of dissidents has dipped, the number of arrests is sharply up.

NYT: Calming Israel and deter Iran - U.S. Speeding Up Missile Defenses in Persian Gulf

(Newyorktimes).The Obama administration is accelerating the deployment of new defenses against possible Iranian missile attacks in the Persian Gulf, placing special ships off the Iranian coast and antimissile systems in at least four Arab countries, according to administration and military officials.

The deployments come at a critical turning point in President Obama’s dealings with Iran. After months of unsuccessful diplomatic outreach, the administration is trying to win broad international consensus for sanctions against the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, which Western nations say control a covert nuclear arms program.

Mr. Obama spoke of the shift in his State of the Union address, warning of “consequences” if Iran continued to defy United Nations demands to stop manufacturing nuclear fuel. And Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton publicly warned China on Friday that its opposition to sanctions was shortsighted.

The news that the United States is deploying antimissile defenses — including a rare public discussion of them by Gen. David H. Petraeus — appears to be part of a coordinated administration strategy to increase pressure on Iran.

The deployments are also partly intended to counter the impression that Iran is fast becoming the most powerful military force in the Middle East, to forestall any Iranian escalation of its confrontation with the West if new sanctions are imposed. In addition, the administration is trying to show Israel that there is no immediate need for military strikes against Iranian nuclear and missile facilities, according to administration officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

By highlighting the defensive nature of the buildup, the administration was hoping to avoid a sharp response from Tehran.

Military officials said that the countries that accepted the defense systems were Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Kuwait. They said the Kuwaitis had agreed to take the defensive weapons to supplement older, less capable models it has had for years. Saudi Arabia and Israel have long had similar equipment of their own.

General Petraeus has declined to say who was taking the American equipment, probably because many countries in the gulf region are hesitant to be publicly identified as accepting American military aid and the troops that come with it. In fact, the names of countries where the antimissile systems are deployed are classified, but many of them are an open secret.

The general spoke about the deployments at a conference at the Institute for the Study of War here on Jan. 22, saying that “Iran is clearly seen as a very serious threat by those on the other side of the gulf front.”

General Petraeus said that the acceleration of defensive systems — which began when President George W. Bush was in office — included “eight Patriot missile batteries, two in each of four countries.” Patriot missiles are capable of shooting down short-range offensive missiles.

He also described a first line of defense: He said the United States was now keeping Aegis cruisers on patrol in the Persian Gulf at all times. Those cruisers are equipped with advanced radar and antimissile systems designed to intercept medium-range missiles. Those systems would not be useful against Iran’s long-range missile, the Shahab 3, but intelligence agencies believe that it will be years before Iran can solve the problems of placing a nuclear warhead atop that missile.

Iran contends that it is not trying to develop nuclear weapons, and that its program is for energy production. The White House declined to comment on the deployments.

But administration officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity said the moves have several aims. “Our first goal is to deter the Iranians,” said one senior administration official. “A second is to reassure the Arab states, so they don’t feel they have to go nuclear themselves. But there is certainly an element of calming the Israelis as well.”

Obama aide Gen. Jones says Iran may lash out at Israel

(AP).President Barack Obama's national security adviser is citing a heightened risk that Iran will respond to growing pressure over its nuclear program by stoking violence against Israel.

The adviser, retired Marine Gen. James Jones, said history shows that when regimes are feeling pressure they can lash out through surrogates.

He said that in Iran's case that would mean facilitating attacks on Israel through Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza. Iran helps arm Hezbollah and Hamas.

Jones also alluded to the prospect of additional international sanctions being applied to Iran as one factor in making Iran feel greater pressure. He said another factor is internal pressure - an apparent reference to street protests against the Iranian leadership over the disputed presidential election last summer.

Obama's SOTU shows he has other priorities; lowered US mediating profile would enhance US-Israel relations

(Yoram Ettinger-Ynet).The exclusion of the Arab-Israeli conflict from President Obama's 2010 State of the Union Address reflects a US order of priorities and, possibly, a concern that mediation in the Arab-Israeli conflict does not advance – but undermines – Obama's domestic standing. In fact, Jerusalem should impress upon the US to reduce its mediation profile, minimize tension between Israel and the American broker, while enhancing strategic cooperation between Israel and its American ally.

Obama's address focused on the US economy in general, and on the 26 year record-unemployment and the 65 year record-budget deficit, in particular. Thus, Obama highlighted a national order of priorities, underlining domestic issues, which preoccupy the public mind and tend to determine the fate of an American president and his political party for success or oblivion. Therefore, the global agenda – and even counterterrorism – were marginalized by Obama's address.

Washington's international agenda does not consider the Arab-Israeli conflict to be a top priority. Obama devoted the few minutes allotted to the international arena to his commitments to evacuate Iraq, to reinforce troops in Afghanistan, to constrain the North Korean nuclear threat, to prevent Iran's nuclearization, to reduce the nuclear arms race, to combat terrorism, to sustain engagement with rivals and enemies and to continue seeking multilateralism in general and with Muslims in particular. The avoidance of any reference to the Arab-Israeli conflict was intentional.

President Obama's involvement with the Arab-Israeli conflict has diverted his attention from issues which are much more important to vital US interests. The pressure exerted on Israel has eroded Obama's support among the American people, which have systematically accorded Israel high levels of support (66%-70%), compared with Obama's free fall in public opinion polls (from 65% in January, 2009 to 47% in January, 2010).

Obama's pressure on Israel has also complicated his relations with friends of Israel on Capitol Hill, whose support is critical to Obama's legislative agenda. He realized Israel's solid support on the Hill when 334 House Members (76% of the House of Representatives) co-singed a letter condemning the "Goldstone Report," compared with only 57 Members (13%) co-signing a letter calling "to lift the closure on Gaza." In fact, President Clinton's precedent suggests that even a live-telecast of Clinton's participation in signing the Israel-Jordan peace treaty – a week before the November 1994 election – was overshadowed by domestic US politics, which devastated the Democratic Party in the mid-term election.

A lowered US profile in mediating the Arab-Israeli conflict would enhance US-Israel relations and the respective interests of both countries. The more involved the US is as a broker, the less involved it is as a unique ally of the Jewish State. The more preoccupied the US is with mediation, the more it is inclined to be swept into disagreements and finger-pointing matches with Israel. The more entangled the US is in attempts to bridge Israeli-Arab gaps, the more attention is paid to that which causes separation between the US and Israel, rather than that which bonds them.

These observations are accentuated by the lead mediation role played by the State Department – which opposed the establishment of Israel and systematically supports the Arab position – and the CIA and the National Security Council, which tend to embrace Foggy Bottom's position on the Arab-Israeli conflict.

President Obama's worldview has exacerbated matters, clarifying the direction of US mediation: "Islam has always been part of the American story;" Israel is not a strategic asset and possibly a liability; Israel belongs to the exploiting West and the Arabs belong to the exploited Third World; engagement and not confrontation with rogue regimes; terrorism is primarily a law enforcement challenge; there is no Islamic terrorism, but Taliban and al-Qaeda terrorism; the UN and Europe are key quarterbacks of international relations; the resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict consists of a withdrawal to the 1949 and 1967 ceasefire lines, repartitioning of Jerusalem, uprooting of Jewish settlements, negotiating the return of the 1948 Arab refugees and possibly exchanging land.

The Arab-Israeli conflict is not the axis of US-Israel relations, which are based on a much more solid foundation of shared values, joint interests and mutual threats. Therefore, the unbridgeable US-Israel gap over the Secretary of State Rogers' 1970 peace plan could not derail the substantial upgrading of strategic US-Israel cooperation, due to Israel's deterrence of a pro-Soviet Syrian invasion of pro-US Jordan.

Furthermore, the Bush-Baker hostility toward the Jewish State and the severe US-Israel tension over the first Intifada, the Reagan Peace Plan and the First Lebanon War could not stop a series of US-Israel memoranda of strategic understanding and the legislation of a substantially expanded US-Israel strategic cooperation, which were derived from Israel's unique contribution to the US posture of deterrence and its battle against terrorism and ballistic missiles.

The Middle East is a constant source of violently unpredictable challenges, which threaten vital US and Israeli interests. In order to effectively face such critical developments, it behooves the US and the Jewish state to maximize the utility of their mutually beneficial strategic common denominator and minimize involvement – such as US mediation in the Arab-Israeli conflict – which erodes the unique bonds between the two countries.

Channle 2: PM Netanyahu's approval is at 51%, only 22% disapprove

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has a reason to smile : A Survey conducted by Giaokotographia for Channel 2 " Meet the press " shows that 20% of the nation's voters Strongly Approve of the way that Netanyahu is performing his role as Prime minister,21% say his functioning as PM is Medium to good ,Only 21% Disapprove.

His overall approval is therefore 51%.

This is the first time since the survey began , from December 31 2009, that the percent of sattisfied over rule the unsatisfied,About a month ago only 22% approved while 32% disapproved.

Its the media,stupid! 56% say media's exaggerated reports on Sarah Netanyahu were belligerent and stolid

A poll conducted by Avi Degani for Channel 2 meet the press shows the following ,40% of those asked answered that the pursuit of the media by the affair of Mrs. Netanyahu's maid was out of portion, and stolid. 16% said that the pursuit was critical to the extreme with regard to the wife of the prime minister. Only 19% presumed that the pursuit was worthy and balanced, and 8% only said that the media was hesitant and restrained.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Labor Minister Herzog: 'Netanyahu's peace intentions may surprise Abbas'

(Haaretz).Labor Party minister Isaac Herzog said Wednesday that he had chosen to join Benjamin Netanyahu's predominantly right-wing government after he became convinced during a private conversation with the prime minister that Netanyahu had a sincere desire to achieve peace with the Palestinians.

Herzog called on Palestinian leadership to put the prime minister to the test, saying that, "if President [Mahmoud] Abbas would sit with Prime Minister Netanyahu in a closed room, he may be surprised."

Herzog's comments came during a conference by the Palestine-Israel Journal to mark the launch of three European Union-funded policy papers on three core issues of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and their impact on the two-state solution.

Senior Netanyahu advisor Ron Dermer, talks with int'l Christian broadcaster Earl Cox on Iran

The Bibi report live show - Jan. 28 - on Anti semitism, and Israel's right that wants peace

Netanyahu Declares City of Ariel ‘Jewish Capital of Samaria’

( Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Friday completed his week-long campaign to reaffirm Israel’s claim on major Jewish population centers in Judea and Samaria, and declared the Jewish city of Ariel “the capital of Samaria.” He planted a symbolic tree in the city, as he did earlier in the week in Gush Etzion, south of Jerusalem, and Maaleh Adumin, located west of the capital and overlooking the Dead Sea.

Friday’s ceremony capped off tree-plantings in honor of the holiday of Tu B’Shvat, the Jewish New Year of Trees. The festival begins Friday night, the beginning of the Sabbath when planting trees is forbidden.

Accompanied by several strong nationalist Likud Knesset Members, the Prime Minister reinforced an about-face in Israel’s policy statements, which previously have concentrated on meeting American demands for “goodwill” measures to the PA. "Everyone who sees the geography here understands how important” are Ariel and the surrounding areas, he said.

Prime Minister Netanyahu added that he was planting not only a tree but also "three principles: Growing strength, Jewish settlement and culture in the heart of our land of our forefathers and where we will remain and build.” His remarks implied that the current temporary 10-month building freeze on new homes for Jews in Judea and Samaria will remain an interim measure, as he previously has promised.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

US Senate passes legislation on Iran sanctions; Clinton: Sanctions will be tough

(PressTV).The US Senate has approved a bill that would allow President Barack Obama to impose new sanctions on Iran over its nuclear energy program.

The sanctions, approved on a voice vote on Thursday, will deny loans and other assistance to US firms that export gasoline to Iran or help expand the country's oil-refining capacity.

The US House of Representatives has already passed similar legislation. Differences between the two bills will have to be worked out before the measure can be signed into law by the president.

The Senate's new legislation will impose a broad ban on direct imports from Iran to the United States and exports from the United States to Iran, except for food and medicine.

It will also require the Obama administration to freeze the assets of some Iranians, including officials with Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps.

54 US House Democrats call on Obama to pressure Israel to end siege of Gaza

Democratic U.S. Reps. Keith Ellison, Betty McCollum, and James Oberstar sent a letter urging President Obama late last week to use diplomatic pressure to resolve the blockade affecting Gaza. Spearheaded by Ellison and Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash., the letter acknowledges the difficult position facing Israel and notes that the blockade is strengthening Hamas. Fifty members of Congress, as well as a number of religious groups and denominations, have signed on to Ellison’s letter.

“The unabated suffering of Gazan civilians highlights the urgency of reaching a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and we ask you to press for immediate relief for the citizens of Gaza as an urgent component of your broader Middle East peace efforts,” the letter urges. “The current blockade has severely impeded the ability of aid agencies to do their work to relieve suffering.”

Among the groups supporting the letter: J Street, The Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation (HCEF), The American Task Force on Palestine (ATFP), The American Near East Refugee Association (ANERA), The Methodist Church, The Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL), and Rabbis for Human Rights.

“We also sympathize deeply with the people of southern Israel who have suffered from abhorrent rocket and mortar attacks,” the letter states. “We recognize that the Israeli government has imposed restrictions on Gaza out of a legitimate and keenly felt fear of continued terrorist action by Hamas and other militant groups. This concern must be addressed without resulting in the de facto collective punishment of the Palestinian residents of the Gaza Strip. Truly, fulfilling the needs of civilians in Israel and Gaza are mutually reinforcing goals.”

read here full letter

Nile Gardiner/ State of the Union: Barack Obama gets an F for world leadership

(Nile Gardiner-The Telegraph).As expected, Barack Obama’s 70 minute State of the Union address focused heavily on the economy and the domestic political agenda.

But the scant attention paid in the State of the Union speech to US leadership was pitiful and frankly rather pathetic. The war in Afghanistan, which will soon involve a hundred thousand American troops, merited barely a paragraph. There was no mention of victory over the enemy, just a reiteration of the president’s pledge to begin a withdrawal in July 2011. Needless to say there was nothing in the speech about the importance of international alliances, and no recognition whatsoever of the sacrifices made by Great Britain and other NATO allies alongside the United States on the battlefields of Afghanistan. For Barack Obama the Special Relationship means nothing, and tonight’s address further confirmed this.

Significantly, the global war against al-Qaeda was hardly mentioned, and there were no measures outlined to enhance US security at a time of mounting threats from Islamist terrorists. Terrorism is a top issue for American voters, but President Obama displayed what can only be described as a stunning indifference towards the defence of the homeland.

The Iranian nuclear threat, likely to be the biggest foreign policy issue of 2010, was given just two lines in the speech, with a half-hearted warning of “growing consequences” for Tehran, with no details given at all. There were no words of support for Iranian protestors who have been murdered, tortured and beaten in large numbers by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s thuggish security forces, and no sign at all that the president cared about their plight. Nor was there any condemnation of the brutality of the Iranian regime, as well as its blatant sponsorship of terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan.

As the example of Iran showed, the advance of freedom and liberty across the world in the face of tyranny was not even a footnote in the president’s speech. I cannot think of a US president in modern times who has attached less importance to human rights issues. For the hundreds of millions of people across the world, from Burma to Sudan to Zimbabwe, clamouring to be free of oppression, there was not a shred of hope offered in Barack Obama’s address.

Obama’s world leadership in his first year in office has been weak-kneed and little short of disastrous. He has sacrificed the projection of American power upon the altar of political vanity, with empty speeches and groveling apologies across the world, from Strasbourg to Cairo. He has appeased some of America’s worst enemies, and has extended the hand of friendship to many of the most odious regimes on the face of the earth. Judging by the State of the Union address tonight, we can expect more of the same from an American president who seems determined to lead the world’s greatest power along a path of decline.

Video: Obama backs Israel, but blames the Right for hindering peace

One year later, Obama's Jewish supporters temper their optimism

( Adam Kredo-washingtonjewishweek).A year ago, Barack Obama's fervent supporters predicted that the Democrat's darling would enter the White House with the wits to right the ailing economy, tackle comprehensive health care reform, negotiate peace in the Middle East and temper Iran's nuclear intentions, to name a few.

These days, those same supporters ‹ now much more tepid ‹ admit to being handed a hearty "dose of reality," as Rabbi Jonathan Maltzman put it.

"Reality has set in for everyone," said Maltzman, the spiritual leader of Congregation Kol Sholom in Rockville, who was one of some 400 to sign onto Rabbis for Obama. "Our expectations were completely out of whack with what he could accomplish over a year."

Jewish voters turned out in droves to vote for Obama, with 78 percent hoisting their hopes for change on the candidate's back. But as the limitations of America's political process become clear, many ‹ like many Democrats and Independents in general ‹ have expressed frustration with what they term the president's sparse list of accomplishments.

For Steve Stone, disappointment has replaced optimism. Asked where exactly the Obama administration had failed, the Fairfax resident shot back, "Oh gosh, let's make a list."

Candidate Obama, Stone continued, speaking just days before the president's State of the Union address this week, "came in preaching this change, but I don't see any of it. He seems to have spent a year just floundering, announcing all kinds of things, but getting nothing done."

Obama was beloved on the campaign trail for his rhetorical flair, but some Jewish supporters lament that the president's gift of gab has all but vanished. In the past year, they say, Obama has been plagued by a growing inability to deliver a coherent message.

In a WJW article published a week before the 2008 elections, Maltzman extolled Obama's "sensitivity toward the average working person," predicting that as president, he would be "more concerned with the average person in every possible way."

Asked last week if he thought Obama's economic policies had been a success, Maltzman timidly said, "I do think we've seen some improvement in the economy."

Stone adopted a harsher tone, saying, "I see the same fear and trepidation that existed a year ago." Worse, he said, Obama has aligned himself with Wall Street bankers and corporate interests. "He appears to have fallen into the Washington trap of taking care of the big boys."

While populist outrage over former President George W. Bush's two-term reign played a prominent role in Obama's election, younger voters were largely responsible for giving him the statistical edge. These days, though, several of them report feeling abandoned by an administration that so heavily courted their vote.

"I was someone who was enamored with [Obama] as a celebrity," said Matt Adler, a 23-year-old District resident who served as the Obama campaign's regional field director in Broward County, Fla.

Initially, Adler said, he believed Obama "would be more accountable to us, [that] young people would push him in the right directions." But as of late, "I don't think we've succeeded entirely in getting that accountability" on a range of progressive issues, such as the push for marriage equality and environmental initiatives.

Despite the formation of a much-vaunted nationwide grassroots network, the Obama administration has seemingly lost touch with its younger advocates, said Joanna Blotner, a 24-year-old District resident. "There's not been a great effort to keep people as motivated as they should be," she said, pointing out that "a lot of the people I've talked to have been very disenfranchised."

As for the president's policies abroad, both supporters and observers say Obama has taken several striking missteps, particularly in the Middle East.

"What American Jews are uncomfortable about is that for many years there was sort of an 'Israel is not criticized' public policy," explained Ron Halber, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington. Obama, however, "has shown a willingness to note policy differences [with the Israeli government] in public."

American Jews, Halber added, had grown "cozy with the notion" that Israel would not be publicly criticized, and ended up jarred by the Obama administration's loud chiding on issues such as settlements.

Stone expressed bewilderment over the administration's handling of the peace process.

"That was just stupid," he said, referring to the United States' initial calls for a complete settlement freeze. "Fine, pick a fight with [Israel]. What does it get you? He just shot himself in both feet with that. How's he ever going to get peace now?"

Others in the Obama camp staunchly defended the president's pro-Israel bona fides, as well as his recent policy decisions.

From the opposite side of the political divide, local Republican activists say that most of their initial fears have been realized.

"I have to say, I didn't think it would be this bad," said Larry Krakover, a GOP organizer from Burke who pointed to, among other things, "the debt, the bloated government Š [and] the demagoguery with regard to the banking industry."

Bradley Wine, a Bethesda resident and member of the Republican Jewish Coalition's board, recounted several tales of Democrats and Independents "who say, 'Boy, I really didn't think it was going to be so bad.' "

Obama: US backs Israel, but sympathizes with Palestinians

At a town hall meeting in Tampa, Fla. Thursday, Obama declined under questioning to condemn Israel for actions against the Palestinians. He said Israel is a strong U.S. ally and that he will never waver from helping Israel keep its people safe in a hostile Middle East,but that Washington must also pay attention to the plight of the Palestinians, Reuters reported.

"We are working to try to strengthen the ability of both parties to have to sit down across the table," he said in Tampa, Florida.

Obama called Israel "one of our strongest allies,It's critical for us, and I will never waver from ensuring Israel's security." and added that "the Palestinians have to unequivocally renounce violence and recognize Israel. And Israel has to acknowledge legitimate grievances and interests of the Palestinians. We have to realize both the Palestinians and Israelis have legitimate aspirations."

Obama said the Israeli premier "is making some effort to move a little bit further than his coalition wants to go."

Obama said Abbas "genuinely wants peace" but has to deal with Hamas, a militant group that refuses to recognize Israel's right to exist. Abbas, a pro-U.S. moderate, is also weakened by Hamas's control of the Gaza Strip while he governs only in the West Bank.

But he cautioned both sides against "mutual demonization" that threatens to jeopardize the resumption of peace negotiations.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Obama: Iran will suffer consequences for stalling nuclear talks

(DPA,Haaretz).Iran will suffer consequences as a result of its refusal to cooperate with the international community on its nuclear program, U.S. President Barack Obama said during his first State of the Union address Wednesday night in Washington.

The U.S. president's comments came as Time Magazine reported late Wednesday night that the Obama administration was preparing to circulate new sanctions against Tehran.

In his speech, Obama warned that Iranian leaders will face "consequences" if Tehran does not come clean about its nuclear goals, which the West suspects are meant to produce a weapon. Iran claims its program is limited to civilian energy uses.

"As Iran's leaders continue to ignore their obligations, there should be no doubt: they, too, will face growing consequences," Obama said.

VIDEO: President Obama on the 65th Anniversary of the Liberation of Auschwitz

Palestinians Scared of Netanyahu - Because he is a serious Statesman

(Sever Plocker - Ynet). The Palestinian leadership has thus far refused to engage in talks with the Netanyahu-led Israeli government. This is not an insignificant matter: The Palestinians engaged in talks with all Israeli governments since the Oslo Accords.

Arafat – yes, Arafat – conducted intensive negotiations with Netanyahu during the latter’s first term in office. Mahmoud Abbas was happy to talk to Ariel Sharon. However, a while after Netanyahu had been sworn-in as Israel’s prime minister for the second time, in April of last year, the Palestinian leadership is coming up with constant excuses in order to avoid significant dialogue with Israel.

The difficulty to explain the current Palestinian position has reached all the way to the White House. Those who carefully read the full Obama interview with Time Magazine realize that he has lost patience with the Palestinians’ elusive conduct. Officials around Obama have spoken harshly: They charged that the Palestinians humiliated the president and screwed up his policy.

What prompts the Palestinian leadership to adopt such stubborn refusal and shun the initiative of a US Administration that may be the most convenient for them? The Palestinians do not wish to negotiate with Netanyahu because they perceive him as a practical politician seeking practical solutions; this is the kind of mess the current Palestinian leadership wishes to stay away from. It doesn’t even want to get close to it.

Palestinian leaders did not mind talks with former PM Olmert, because they knew he had no mandate to finalize any deal, and certainly not a “final-status agreement” which the talks focused on. They in fact liked the futile talks and arguments. Yet when the possibility of a practical agreement first came up and they had to respond to it, they left the talks and did not return.

In the backdrop to the talks with Olmert and Livni was the Bush Administration, which the entire Arab world loved to hate, and whose involvement could be used to explain the failure. Yet with Obama and Bibi negotiations can take a different path. Both of them are politicians who seek results and who are unwilling to waste time on verbal and ideological quarrels.

Palestinian consensus of refusal

Netanyahu, with Washington’s support, therefore offers the Palestinians two parallel tracks. One track will see endless negotiations on a “final-status agreement” where each side will be presenting its version of absolute justice. The second track of dialogue will be practical, closely linked to reality, and brief; it will conclude with the Palestinian Authority being upgraded to the status of state, or at least “state in progress.”

Yet this is precisely what the Palestinian leadership in the West Bank wishes to avoid like the plague.

“We won’t be signing yet another interim agreement with Israel,” a very senior Palestinian figure says in closed-door sessions. “Ever since the Camp David talks, no agreements have been signed with Israel, and the Abbas government will not breach the Palestinian consensus of refusal. We also don’t wish to get our ‘state in progress’ from Israel. We already have it. We got it on our own.”

“The current situation serves us well. Palestine is growing, the security situation is decent, Hamas is under siege in Gaza, and global public opinion endorses us and opposes the occupation. There is no rush for us. The demographic clock is ticking and the option of a bi-national state is being realized. We have no incentive for entering talks with an Israeli prime minister who wants to get down to business, that is, who wants to show results.”

This then is the absurdity of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in 2010. The Palestinians are willing to engage in vague negotiations with the Netanyahu government while knowing in advance that this will not lead to any results, but are unwilling to embark on practical talks as long as there is a chance that this will lead to results on the ground. They fear a situation whereby they will be asked to reject or accept a viable interim agreement, which includes the evacuation of some settlements and the transfer of more land to their control.

The Palestinians are shunning Bibi, because in their view he is a serious statesman.

Ambassador Oren-Huffington Post: Continue to Fight Anti-Semitism

(Michael Oren-Huffington post).Seventy-four years ago, in July 1936, a Jewish journalist from Prague named Stefan Lux burst into the hall of the League of Nations in Geneva. Like many European Jews at the time, Lux was driven to anguish and even madness by the world's indifference to the eruption of anti-Semitism throughout the continent and especially in Nazi Germany. The international community, though, reacted indifferently to the scourge. Indeed, the League was engaged with a long list of issues -- most notably Italy's annexation of Ethiopia -- but not the mounting mortal threat to European Jews. Desperate to draw global attention to Jewry's plight, Lux staged the ultimate demonstration: He ran to the podium, shouted, "C'est le dernier coup!" -- This is the final blow! -- and, producing a pistol, shot himself dead.

Lux's sacrifice was, of course, futile. Wrought by anti-Semitism, his death could be counted among the six million Jews -- together with twice that number of Poles, Christian clergy, homosexuals and Gypsies -- slaughtered in what we collectively call the Holocaust. Still, history's greatest atrocity might have been easily averted had the League of Nations interceded in time or even at all. Subsequent acts of genocide in Cambodia, Rwanda and Darfur were met with similar detachment. Nevertheless, the international community is today largely united around the conviction that silence in the face of mass annihilation is unconscionable. A prominent example of this conviction was rendered by the United Nations General Assembly in 2005 in designating January 27 -- the anniversary of Auschwitz's liberation -- as the International Day of Holocaust Commemoration.

Many events will mark this occasion worldwide, including state visits by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Poland and Germany to lay wreaths at memorials and concentration camp sites. Here in Washington, some 60 ambassadors will assemble in the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and hear addresses from Holocaust survivors and historians, while the White House will send a Presidential Delegation to Krakow, the scene of one of Poland's deadliest ghettos.

Such actions are crucial not only for perpetuating the memories of those who perished but from preventing additional massacres in the future. Even as delegates gathered this week to mourn the Holocaust's victims, a Polish bishop and professor assailed the Jews for exploiting the Holocaust as "a weapon of propaganda used to obtain benefits which are often unjustified." And while it's worthy to applaud the United Nations for initiating a Holocaust Commemoration Day, we should not forget that the U.N. recently hosted Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has repeatedly denied the Holocaust's veracity and called for the elimination of another six million Jews (in Israel).

Anti-Semitism, too, remains rampant in many parts of the world, including Europe. The United Nations has also made a significant contribution to the fight against this oldest of hatreds by recognizing anti-Semitism as a form of racism. Still, immense efforts must be mounted to prevent the airing of TV programs based on the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and to dispel pernicious myths such as Jewish dominance of international finance and the media. Younger generations, in particular, vastly removed from the realities of World War II, must be reminded that the road originating in venomous words led to the ovens of Auschwitz.

By devoting substantive resources to the fight against anti-Semitism and, more broadly, acknowledging the continuing perils of genocide, the Obama Administration has set an example of how other countries can work to prevent 21st century recurrences of the Holocaust. The United Nations and other world bodies have also recognized the danger and have rallied to meet it. Much more energy must be channeled, however, and awareness raised, on the hatred of Jews and other minorities and its potentially murderous consequences. Stefan Lux -- whose name, fittingly, is Latin for "light" -- tried to expose the horrors emanating from indifference. We, more than seven decades later, must never lose sight of that beacon.

President Obama: Israel – the ultimate answer to ignorance, hatred

US President Barack Obama, who spoke at the ceremony marking the 65th anniversary for the liberation of Auschwitz, said that the State of Israel was the ultimate answer to the hatred and ignorance of Auschwitz.

Obama addressed the attendants via a satellite feed, since he could not attend the ceremony in person:

"I want to thank those of you who found the strength to come back again, so many years later, despite the horror you saw here, the suffering you endured here, and the loved ones you lost here. Those of us who did not live through those dark days will never truly understand what it means to have hate literally etched into your arms. But we understand the message that you carry in your hearts....

We have a sacred duty to remember the twisted thinking that led here—how a great society of culture and science succumbed to the worst instincts of man and rationalized mass murder and one of the most barbaric acts in history.

We have a sacred duty to remember the cruelty that occurred here, as told in the simple objects that speak to us even now. The suitcases that still bear their names. The wooden clogs they wore. The round bowls from which they ate. Those brick buildings from which there was no escape—where so many Jews died with Sh’ma Israel on their lips. And the very earth at Auschwitz, which is still hallowed by their ashes—Jews and those who tried to save them, Polish and Hungarian, French and Dutch, Roma and Russian, straight and gay, and so many others.

But even as we recall man’s capacity for evil, Auschwitz also tells another story—of man’s capacity for good. The small acts of compassion—the sharing of some bread that kept a child alive. The great acts of resistance that blew up the crematorium and tried to stop the slaughter. The Polish Rescuers and those who earned their place forever in the Righteous Among the Nations.

And you—the survivors. The perpetrators of that crime tried to annihilate the entire Jewish people. But they failed. Because 65 years ago today, when the gates flew open, you were still standing. And every day that you have lived, every child and grandchild that your families have brought into the world with love, every day the sun rises on the Jewish state of Israel—that is the ultimate rebuke to the ignorance and hatred of this place.

So to those of you who have come back today, I say, no, you are not “former prisoners.” You are living memorials. Living memorials to the loved ones you left here. And to the spirit we must strive to uphold in our time—not simply to bear witness, but to bear a burden. The burden of seeing our common humanity; of resisting anti-Semitism and ignorance in all its forms; of refusing to become bystanders to evil, whenever and wherever it rears its ugly face.

Let that be the true meaning of Auschwitz. Let that be the liberation we celebrate today—a liberation of the spirit that, if embraced, can lead us all—individuals and as nations—to be among the righteous.

May God bless you all, and may God bless the memory of all those who rest here".

Netanyahu in Auschwitz: We will never let the hand of evil harm our people and our state, never again

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told dignitaries gathered at the Auschwitz extermination camp on Wednesday that the Holocaust demonstrates how imperative it is to "warn the world of impending danger," an indirect reference to Iran's nuclear program.

After a short introduction in English Netanyahu switched over to Hebrew. He began his speech with the Aramaic words that open the Kaddish prayer – “yitgadal veyitkadash Shmeh Raba” – “may the name of G-d be grow great and be sanctified” - and said that the last words of many of the Jews who were murdered at Auschwitz were the call of “Shema Yisrael” – "Hear O Israel."

He then said that many of the slain must also have uttered another phrase before their death: “Remember what Amalek did to you – do not forget.”

"The lesson of the Holocaust is that murderous evil must be stopped as early as possible when it is still in its early phases and cannot yet realize its intentions,This lesson must be internalized by all the world's enlightened nations. We, the Jewish people, internalized it well, after losing one third of our nation on the blood-soaked earth of Europe. We learned that we must be prepared to defend ourselves. We have learned that the only guarantee for the survival of our nation is a strong Israel and its army – the Israel Defense Force. We learned that we must alert the nations of the world and be prepared to defend ourselves.”

"We must warn of the impending danger to the rest of the world and at the same time to be ready to defend ourselves,".
"We remember those who froze to death, and if they didn't freeze were gassed and burned in crematoriums. We remember that a third of the Righteous Gentiles, those who risked their lives and more than this, risked the lives of their children and families to save others, were Polish,".

Many of the Holocaust victims shouted or whispered the Shema prayer in their last moments. "They could have shouted: 'Remember what Amalek did to you.' We will always remember what the Nazi Amalek did to us, and we will not forget the new Amalek that has appeared on the stage of history."

"We will not take this lightly and believe that these are empty statements. We will not be calm as if threats and denial of the Holocaust were just blank words. We will never forget and always remember to stand guard."

"I pledge as prime minister that we will never let the hand of evil harm our people and our state, never again," the prime minister said. "I came here from Jerusalem to say to you, 'Am Yisrael Chai'."

President Peres at Bundestag: Never again; The Holocaust must serve as an unequivocal warning in perpetuity

President Shimon Peres delivered a historic speech to members of the German parliament in Berlin on Wednesday afternoon on the occasion of International Holocaust Day, 65 years after the end of World War II.

"No more ignoring blood-thirsty dictators hiding behind masks of demagogy and voicing slogans of murder. They are a threat to the entire world," Peres stressed.

The German parliament heard a translation of the speech, which was carried out in Hebrew. Peres said the Kadish prayer in honor of the Holocaust victims, which include his grandparents, who were burned alive in their town's synagogue.

"While my heart is breaking at the memory of the atrocious past - my eyes envision a common future for a world that is young, a world free of all hatred, a world in which the words "war" and "anti-Semitism" will be dead words," Peres added before reciting Kaddish, the Jewish prayer of mourning.

"In the State of Israel and across the world, Holocaust survivors are slowly retiring from the world of the living. Their number is reduced every day. At the same time, those who were involved in the most despicable work on earth – genocide – are still living on German soil. Please do all you can to bring them to justice," Peres said.

Peres said that hunting down surviving Nazis was not an act of vengeance, but rather an "an educational lesson" for today's youth.

"This is not revenge in our eyes," he said. "This is an educational lesson. This is an hour of grace for the young generation, wherever they may be - that they may remember, and never forget, that they should know what took place, and that they never, absolutely never, have the slightest doubt in their minds that there is another option, other than peace, reconciliation and love."

The president referred to his memories from his hometown of Belarus when it was conquered by the Nazis, as well as to his grandfather's image, which has left a great mark on him to this very day. He went on to speak about the establishment of the State of Israel, saying that if the "delay in its establishment" had been prevented, the Holocaust could have been prevented as well.

"As an Israeli, I lament the tragic delay in the establishment of the Jewish state, which left my people without a haven of rest. I cannot accept the loss of a million and a half children – the biggest human and creative potential which could have changed Israel's fate. I am proud about Israel's revival, which is the moral and historic response to the attempt to wipe the Jewish people off the face of the earth," the president said.

Peres went on to direct his words at Iran. "We are now left with the crucial lesson: Never again. No more racist doctrine, no more feelings of superiority, no more so-called divine authority to incite, murder, break the law, deny God and the Shoah."

"The threats to destroy a people and a state are being made on the backdrop of a development of mass destruction weapons by unreasonable hands, with an insane mind, without speaking the truth."

The president stressed that "in order to prevent another Holocaust we must have peaceful relations with other nations and have respect for the particular culture and universal values, in order to reprint the Ten Commandments once and again."

Peres went on to address the difficulties Israel has been forced to deal with since its establishment, following the war launched by Arab states. "The IDF won this despaired battle, when historic justice and human courage came together.

"But the victories did not end Israel's dangers. We paid a price in wars, we were did not hesitate when forced to pay a price for peace. Today too, we are willing to give up territories in order to reach peace with the Palestinians, who will build their own independent, prosperous and peace-seeking state."

"Like our neighbors, we also identify with the millions of Iranians rising up against dictatorship and violence. Like them, we are against a fanatic regime, which contradicts the UN Charter. A regime threatening destruction, accompanied with nuclear reactors and missiles, and operating terror in its country and other countries."

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Video: Prime Minister Netanyahu at Yad Vashem- Intl. Holocaust Remembrance Day - in English

Peres: Ahmadinejad's regime openly calling for Israel's destruction is preventing peace

(Ynet)."Ahmadinejad's regime is openly calling for Israel's destruction, denying the Holocaust, and preventing peace with the Palestinians. It is destabilizing Lebanon and Yemen and trying to take over Iraq," Peres said in a speech in Berlin Tuesday.

"Today's center of terror is in Iran," Peres said. "Terror is the military wing of Iran's political ambitions. The Iranians aspire to take control of the Middle East, and to destabilize existing regimes."

The president added that Israel would still strive for peace with the Palestinians. "Israel is reaching out its hand for immediate renewal of negotiations. I call on our Palestinian neighbors to respond as soon as possible. The Israeli people support the establishment of two states: A Palestinian state beside the State of Israel living together in peace and mutual respect," he said.

"Peace requires a majority, and an armed minority must not be allowed to thwart it. Hamas is preventing peace and preventing the establishment of a Palestinian state."

The president also spoke of other threats to Israel's security. "Hezbollah is threatening the peace and wholeness of Lebanon, and gathering thousands of missiles to aim at Israel. These missiles are a danger to Lebanon, not just Israel," he said.

"The ayatollahs in Iran, heads of Hamas in Gaza, and leaders of Hezbollah in Lebanon wear religious robes, but the parables are those of a god of war, not of peace. Spiritual corruption abides, and those who regard it forgivingly endanger humanity's basic values. The free world's moral enlistment against this trend is no less important than economic sanctions."

During his speech Tuesday the president also referred to the tragic event. "The memory of the Holocaust will accompany us all along our path," he said, and told of his grandfather, who was murdered by the Nazi regime, and his father, who was captured and miraculously escaped death.

"They taught me not to give in, and especially not to enmity. They taught me to fight for the values that are the essence of our existence. The new Germany has a moral obligation, and its ear is already tuned to the first ringing of a racist voice," he said.

US diplomat against Israeli security guards - Racial comments against Settlers

(YNet).A senior American diplomat recently told representatives of the Israeli Defense and Foreign ministries, "I don't want your security officers to check our cars. What if there are settlers among them? I will not have my people end up like (slain Prime Minister Yitzhak) Rabin."

The remark was made by Tim Laas, the regional security officer at the American Consulate in Jerusalem, during a discussion in the office of Deputy Inspector General Meir Ben-Yishai, head of security at the Israel Police.

The discussion was held following a serious diplomatic incident, which took place about two months ago at the Gilboa crossing in the Jenin area, when a Defense Ministry inspectors stationed at crossing between Israel and the Palestinian Authority stopped a convoy of vehicles belonging to the American Consulate.

The security guards asked the convoy passengers to identify themselves, but the latter refused to open a door or a window and barricaded themselves inside the vehicles in protest of the Israeli demand to run a security check, blocking the crossing for hours.

The discussion's protocol revealed that the American representatives made rude gestures to a female security guard, and one of the Palestinian drivers tried to run over another security guard.

According to another claim, the convoy's passengers attempted to smuggle a Palestinian woman without a stay permit into Israel. The American representatives said in response that the woman was a translator working at the consulate.

Following the incident, the Defense Ministry filed a complaint with the Foreign Ministry against the American Embassy and is considering filing a complaint with the police against the Palestinian drivers.

Laas said during the discussion, "It's inconceivable that American diplomats should have to open a door to identify themselves. I find it unacceptable to have a simple guard run a security check on senior officials and diplomats. We are not a Coca Cola truck."

Merkel: February will be decisive month in West's standoff with Iran

(Haaretz).German Chancellor Angela Merkel told visiting President Shimon Peres on Tuesday that February will be a "decisive" month in the West's diplomatic standoff with Iran over its alleged nuclear program.

Iran's refusal to suspend uranium enrichment would compel the United Nations to impose harsh sanctions against the Islamic republic, Merkel warned.

During a joint press conference with the German leader, Peres praised the chancellor for "her extraordinary friendship" with Jerusalem and "her steadfast stance on the Iranian issue."

Merkel called on the international community to reach consensus on sanctions against Tehran. "The issue of sanctions will be brought to the agenda when France assumes the presidency of the UN Security Council [next month]," Merkel said. "February will be a decisive month."

Israeli officials said that Merkel had already discussed the matter with her French counterpart, President Nicolas Sarkozy.

65 years later - CNN on Auchwitz with 3 survivers and how they have coped since the end of WWII.

PM Netanyahu honors Holocaust victims in Warsaw

(AP) - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has laid a wreath at a memorial to Holocaust victims in Warsaw at the start of a visit to Poland.

Netanyahu met with Poland's Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski on Tuesday and then visited Umschlagplatz, the spot where German Nazis in 1942 loaded about 320,000 Jews from the Warsaw ghetto into cattle cars and sent them by train to the Treblinka death camp.
Netanyahu is also to meet Poland's President Lech Kaczynski and Prime Minister Donald Tusk later in the day.

What Brown’s Election Should Teach Israel

(Evelyn Gordon-Commentarymagazine).Former Israeli ambassador Yoram Ettinger notes that Scott Brown’s upset victory in Massachusetts offers an important lesson for Israelis: that American democracy revolves “around constituents and not around the President, Congress, or political parties.” To Americans, that doubtless seems obvious. But since Israel’s electoral system is not constituency-based, it’s a point often missed by Israeli leaders — with negative consequences for Israel’s foreign policy.

Israel is virtually the only Western democracy that still elects its legislature via closed nationwide lists. Israelis vote for a party, not a candidate, so general election voters have no say over which individuals occupy their party’s Knesset seats. This means they also have no way to punish individual legislators for unpopular positions or poor performance: As long as a Knesset member satisfies his party bosses, he can count on a “safe seat” next election, meaning a slot high enough on the party list to keep him in the Knesset even if the party loses seats.

Consequently, prime ministers have enormous power over rank-and-file MKs, far greater than what U.S. presidents enjoy. A president has no power to get a congressman reelected; that decision lies solely with the congressman’s constituents. But prime ministers have considerable power to get an MK reelected. Though all three major Israeli parties currently choose their Knesset slates via nationwide primaries, these slates are so riddled with “reserved seats” that a premier’s ability to shape his party’s list remains enormous — especially if he maintains good relations with “vote contractors” (key local activists) who can persuade large numbers of primary voters to vote a pre-approved list.

All this causes Israeli premiers to overestimate the U.S. president’s power. And this often leads them to sacrifice Israeli interests to the president’s desires, for the sake of maintaining good relations with Israel’s only ally. What they fail to understand is that reasonable relations can be maintained even without kowtowing to the president’s every whim, because even in the foreign-policy realm, where his power is extensive, he still needs Congress. And he cannot just order congressmen to fall in line. Thus as long as support for Israel remains strong among the American people, and hence in Congress, there are limits beyond which even the most hostile president won’t go.

This understanding is particularly important because even the friendliest presidents generally adopt less pro-Israel positions than either the Congress or the American people desire. Thus, for instance, Congress overwhelmingly passed legislation to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, but every president has utilized waivers to postpone the move.

Having lived in the U.S., current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu largely understands this. But most Israeli premiers don’t. Thus in their dealings with Israeli leaders, one of the most important services American Jewish leaders could perform is explaining how the American system truly works — and how to leverage the American people’s strong support for standing up to a hostile president.

Change we believe in ! Israel's Economy Exceeds OECD Countries

(Yoram Ettinger, Jerusalem- via email).

1. London Economist (January 2010): Israel's 2009 economic performance, in
face of global meltdown, suggests impressive growth in 2010. Israel's GDP
grew in 2009 by 0.5%, compared to an average 3.5% decline in OECD countries:
US - 2.5% decline, Japan - 6.5% decline, Germany - 4.9% decline, Britain -
4.7% decline, Italy - 4.8% decline, Ireland - 7.5% decline, etc. The
Economist projects a 3.7% growth for Israel's 2010 economy and less than 7%
unemployment (7.7% in 2009), compared with a 2.4% OECD growth and 8.8% OECD
unemployment. Israel's inflation is projected to be 1.7%, compared to 3% in
2009 and OECD's inflation of 1.2% (1.3% in 2009).

Morgan Stanley raises growth forecast for Israel to 3.7%, beyond Bank of
Israel's forecast of 3.5% (Globes, Jan. 18, 2010).

Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics (ICBS) reported (Israel Hayom daily,
Jan. 1, 2010) a 2.9% budget deficit (% of GDP), which is higher than the
0.8% of 2008, but dramatically lower than most Western economies, some of
which exceeded 10%. The ICBS also reported a 6.5BN trade balance surplus, a
75% increase in the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange and a 1.3% decline of GDP per
capita, compared with a 2.2% increase in 2008.

2. Israel's high-tech holding its own. The number of Israeli high-tech
companies, which enticed investment, remained high (447 compared with 483 in
2008), attesting to the attraction of Israel to venture capitalists. The
volume of dollar invested decreased significantly, as a result of drying
investment resources and lower market valuations: $1.1BN in 2009, in
comparison with $2BN - 2008, $1.8BN - 2007, $1.6BN - 2006, $1.3BN - 2005,
$1.5BN - 2004 and $1BN in 2003 (Ma'ariv, Jan. 19).

3. Microsoft expands R&D operations in Israel, adding a few scores of
employees to the 600 currently employed (Globes, Jan. 6).

4. Merger & Acquisition of Israeli companies persist. DVTel acquired
Israel's Ioimage for $80MN in stock (Globes, Jan. 13). DotHill acquired
Israel's Cloverleaf for $113MN (Globes, Jan. 6).

5. Overseas VC investment in Israel. China's $1BN Zhejiang Sanhua invested
$9.5MN in Israel's Heliofocus (Globes, Jan. 6). Europe's FilVest, which
specializes in bio-med investment, led a $12MN round of private placement by
Israel's Endogen - FilVest's first investment in Israel (Globes, Jan. 11).
Oracle, Pennsylvania's Susquehanna Growth Equity, Silicon Valley's Hyperion,
Boston's Battery Ventures and Briatain's Stage One Ventures co-led a $10MN
round of private placement by Israel's cVidia (Globes, Jan. 15). invested
$9MN in Israel's Wisair (Globes, Jan. 12). Sequoia Capital participated in a
$3MN fourth round by Israel's SunRad (Globes, Jan. 19). Virginia Life
Sciences Investments led a $3MN seoncd round of private placement by
Israel's Cupron n(Globes, Jan. 20).