Friday, February 19, 2010

A Salute to Standouts Combating Antisemitism and Anti-Zionism #5: Jacob Kornbluh, Bibi Report/ Bibi Report Live

From Jennifer Hanin at Jennifer's Blog:

Ask Israelis about peace prospects with neighboring Palestinians and chances are most will share their dream of a day when both can live in harmony. Yet we know peace has eluded every Israeli administration of late. But what about Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu? Does he have what it takes to bring peace to the region? Hmm. His supporters would argue that he has the right mix of international diplomacy combined with expertise in foreign affairs, economic liberalization, deficit reduction, anti-terrorism policies and enough chutzpah to get the job done. His detractors would argue that he has no real interest in a two state solution and only buckled last year under intense pressure from the West. But his Bar-Ilan University speech seemed to suggest otherwise.

Let’s gain an inside track from a political analyst who has spent over half his life tracking the PM’s moves, logged numerous hours on his campaign and today publishes a blog and hosts a weekly radio program that pays tribute to “Bibi.”

Part Five: Jacob Kornbluh, Bibi Report/ Bibi Report Live

Known internationally by his first name, Jacob has his pulse on Netanyahu, Israeli politics and the volatile climate in the Middle East. In fact, it’s fair to say that Jacob knows more about Netanyahu and Israel’s thorny politics than most Americans know about their president and current administration.

Yet, bringing peace to Israel and its neighbors has never seemed as critical as it does with a nuclear Iran on the horizon. But is it possible? There is no doubt that Netanyahu extended an olive branch further than any previous Israeli prime minister has, yet Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas and the Arab world replied with disdain. Detractors called his policy shift an about face and said it came too late. Right-wing supporters in his Likud party had mixed feelings – anywhere from praise to comparing his policy shift to a u-turn but ultimately supported it. Left-wing supporters in the Kadima Party said it was a step in the right direction but some went as far as calling it a PR move.

Then there is the “O” factor to consider. U.S. President Obama outlined a one-sided effort for regional peace in his Cairo speech a month earlier that called for a construction freeze on all settlements. Netanyahu not only met this challenge but also reiterated his promise not to build new settlements or expropriate additional land for existing settlements while allowing settlers to maintain normal lives. End result? Netanyahu’s actions won praise for his ability to change directions while Obama’s pointed measures drew criticism from Jews worldwide as the U.S. administration failed to sanction those purporting anti-Israel hatred, violence and terrorism like the Palestinian Authority and Iranian-backed Hamas. Asleep at the wheel? No doubt. How could Obama overlook terrorist-run Gaza with its 59 Palestinian camps teaching hate via the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA)? Obama recently gifted this same agency with an initial $40 million contribution just weeks ago. But guess what? US citizens should be outraged. Supporting refugees might sound noble but NOT when UNWRA employs Hamas terrorists whose sole goal is to teach hatred of Jews and annihilation of Israel. So suddenly building new homes for Israeli families seems irrelevant when it comes to funding terrorist-run Gaza with U.S. taxpayer dollars.

So in all this political posturing, what do Israelis want? Jacob believes that the vast majority of Israelis support a two state solution but only under the conditions Netanyahu set forward in his Bar-Ilan speech. Those include: 1. Recognition: Palestinians must unequivocally recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people. 2. Demilitarization: Territory under Palestinian control must be devoid of an army, without control of its airspace and with effective security measures to prevent weapons smuggling into the territory. Real monitoring is imperative (not what occurs in Gaza today). And the Palestinians must not be able to forge any military pacts.

Jacob drives home the notion that anything less puts Israel in danger of further terrorism. He also emphasizes other parts of Netanyahu’s speech that state there can be no peace if a Palestinian state makes pacts with Hezbollah to the north or Iran. Clearly, this couldn’t be truer. At the end of the day, Jacob is convinced Netanyahu means what he says. He is quick to reiterate what many in the Obama administration have played down: the need for Palestinian concessions. Jacob states what the administration hasn’t, “The Palestinians have to stop asking for everything in order to get what they say they want.” We all want to believe the Palestinians leaders want statehood but that’s hard to swallow with the automatic refusal that comes from the lips of Abbas and other Arab leaders each time Netanyahu (or any previous Israeli PM) make gestures towards peace.

So how many gestures has Netanyahu made? Try many. And how many gestures or concessions has the PA made? Try zilch. At some point, grandstanding from the PA and other Arab leaders has to stop if they want to build productive lives for Palestinians. How else will they ever trade refugee camps and dependence for homes and independence? Jacob urges those that are unsure of the PM’s motives to listen to his Bar Ilan University speech and note his vision: “In my vision of peace, two peoples live freely, side-by-side, in amity and mutual respect. Each will have its own flag, its own national anthem, its own government.” Israel is well aware it can’t afford to repeat the mistake of the Gaza pullout. If we rewind, we see Israel faced with worldwide pressure to pull its military forces out of Gaza only to receive a blanket of missiles targeting civilian homes and schools. Surprised? Hardly. This isn’t the first time Hamas or the Palestinian Authority invaded after Israel withdrew military forces from Gaza. Acts of goodwill don’t deserve an onslaught of missiles. That is exactly the danger Israel deals with at nearly every step.

But we know that demilitarization works as it has for Japan since post World War II. Besides renouncing war, Japan also maintains a policy against exporting military hardware. Trading war for prosperity should be no problem if the PA wants a state. In fact, if they are serious about helping their people prosper then signing an agreement to demilitarize and making a policy against arms transportation or forging pacts with other forces or countries shouldn’t be a deal breaker. History shows this works. Jacob points to the Haaretz poll published two weeks ago as further proof for the PM. The poll showed that 53% of Israelis said that failing to create a Palestinian state would not make Israel a bi-national state.

So what can Netanyahu do to promote peace? Jacob believes Netanyahu is the best advocate to bring a viable peace agreement that the majority of Israeli citizens will accept. Jacob cites the most recent example of freezing settlement construction as an unprecedented move and the best example at the PM’s willingness to make peace. Netanyahu froze settlement construction in all settlements even in the largest settlement blocs that will undoubtedly be part of Israel in any peace agreement. Previously, PM Sharon, U.S. President George W. Bush and even PA president Abbas accepted peace in talks with Israeli PM Ehud Olmert. But while other leaders failed in championing peace despite their intensive talks with the PA, Netanyahu’s plan starts from the bottom up. Proof of his success? Try Netanyahu’s economic peace plan that is working in the West Bank. Palestinians must demand more from their leaders. If their leadership stalls, accepts international handouts over self-reliance and returns to terror and intifada, then the Palestinian people continue to lose.

Jacob is convinced that Netanyahu is serious as he recounts what Netanyahu recently said to European ambassadors over lunch: “Test me.” Netanyahu is referring to the fact that he will surprise the PA if they negotiate with him. He is willing to make concessions but they must too. Jacob reiterates that the majority of Israel will accept an agreement that Netanyahu achieves between Israel and the PA just as the Israeli people have supported the PM’s recent moves that received cabinet approval. While Netanyahu has succeeded in showing measurable compromise, Palestinians are empty-handed. Obama on the other hand is largely ineffective in the Middle in that none of his efforts have persuaded Iran or the PA to move forward with peaceful initiatives. Obama’s sanctions on Iran were highly ineffective and his construction freeze on settlements in Israel shows that he is unaware of the real danger. Jacob refers to this as Obama’s naivety when dealing with the Middle East.

Then there is special envoy George Mitchell to consider. While Mitchell made headway resolving the IRA incitement in Northern Ireland, the IRA’s motives are unlike those in Gaza. For instance, the IRA wanted Northern Ireland free of England unlike the Palestinians (or Iran) who vowed to blow Israel off the planet. The stakes Israel is dealing with are quite different from Northern Ireland and putting a freeze on settlement construction blames Israel. Open your eyes Obama. Why not sanction groups that teach hatred to kids, import arms and recruit suicide bombers? Hmm. Penalizing Israel seems a tad un-American.

So how can we stop Hamas and the PA from teaching violence and hatred in UN schools? Jacob references what Netanyahu told his cabinet a few weeks ago, “It is not only missiles and rockets that endanger security and push peace further off. Words can also be dangerous..." Until Obama is able to influence the Arab world to stop teaching hatred, inciting violence and celebrating terrorist deeds, peace will always take a backseat to bloodshed. This begs another looming question: when will the Middle East acknowledge Israel? Tough to say. Jacob refers to the saying, “Your enemy is my enemy.” As Israel receives threats from Palestinians, Syrians, Egyptians and Saudis, those same countries are in jeopardy of losing control to Islamic extremists. Many Islamic militant groups like Hamas, Hezbollah, Al Qaeda, the Muslim Brotherhood and others are in cahoots with Iran. Sadly, no one wins. The existential struggle between Hamas and Fatah, and between Israel and Iran, is even more pronounced between Iran and many of the Sunni states of the region. Iran is determined to undermine many of the understandings that countries have reached with one another within the Arab world. With Ahmadinejad at the helm, Iran poses a credible threat to many of the regimes in the region. So far, Iran has not hid its ability to incite unrest using various proxies, and a nuclear Iran could render that threat even more palpable. Just today, the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed that Iran is working on a nuclear warhead. A regional nuclear arms race will likely ensue, bringing even more instability to an already volatile region.

This is why it’s in the best interest of all parties in the region to encourage peace between Israel and its neighbors. Luckily, a few promising developments are occurring. So what can the PA do to secure peace for its people? Plenty. Let’s look at other successful examples. Israel and Egypt signed a peace agreement 30 years ago thanks to the courageous leadership of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin. Just 15 years ago, Israel and Jordan signed a peace agreement courtesy of the brave leadership of Jordanian King Hussein and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. Just think. Following in these leaders footsteps could help Abbas make history and do what former Palestinian President Yasser Arafat couldn’t: put his people on the path to peace and prosperity.

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