Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Netanyahu: "We will not let Terror decide where Israelis live"

"We will not let the blood of Israeli civilians go unpunished. We will find the murderers, we will punish their dispatchers," Netanyahu said Tuesday evening as he met with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton at a Washington hotel. "We will not let terror decide where Israelis live or the configuration of our final borders. These and other issues will be determined in negotiations for peace that we are conducting."

Netanyahu's spokesman, Mark Regev, said earlier that the attack would not change this week's summit, but served to stress the security concerns that Israel plans to make a central issue in the talks.

"There is no change. We are committed to peace," Regev said.

Clinton said that halting such terror and destruction "is one of the reasons why the prime minister is here today, to engage in direct negotiations with those Palestinians who themselves have rejected a path of violence in favor of a path of peace."

She added: "We pledge to do all we can always to protect and defend the state of Israel and to provide security to the Israeli people. That is one of the paramount objectives that Israel has and the United States supports in these negotiations."

White House condemns Hebron Murder attack "in the strongest possible terms"

In a statement released hours after The deadly attack near the West Bank city of Hebron, killing four Israeli citizens, the White House said the United States condemned the attack "in the strongest possible terms," saying it had also noted that "the Palestinian Authority has condemned this attack."

"On the eve of the re-launch of direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, this brutal attack underscores how far the enemies of peace will go to try to block progress," the statement said, urging the "parties persevere, keep moving forward even through difficult times, and continue working to achieve a just and lasting peace in the region that provides security for all peoples."

The White House condemnation also expressed the United States' "condolences to the victims’ families and call for the terrorists behind this horrific act to be brought to justice."

PM Netanyahu: Talks to be held as scheduled, but No compromise on Israel's security demands

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's plane landed in Washington on Tuesday, ahead of the start of direct peace talks. During his flight, Netanyahu was updated on the details of the shooting attack near Hebron, by his military secretary, Yohanan Locker. Sources from the PM's entourage told Ynet Israel had prepared for the possibility that terror elements may attempt to carry out attacks or fire missiles in an attempt to foil the direct negotiations.

Earlier, a close aide to Netanyahu stressed that "negotiations with the Palestinians will be held as scheduled."

However, the aide stressed that, "Israel's policy of response remains the same as it was in previous attacks. This means there will be a response, and the murderers will pay."

The prime minister instructed security forces and the IDF to bring the terrorists to justice, one of his aides said, and he will "stress in the talks in Washington that this attack supports his unequivocal demands before any agreement – to reach definitions that will protect the law of the State of Israel and the citizens of the State of Israel.

Spokesman Nir Hefez said as Netanyahu arrived to the US: "The criminal murder proves again the need to stand firmly on Israel's stringent security demands, and there will be no compromise on them."

Hefez said Netanyahu had, in response to the killing of four Israelis in a roadside shooting near the West Bank town of Hebron, "ordered (Israeli) security forces to act without political limits to catch the murderers and react aggressively."
Netanyahu plans to hold consultations on Israel's response as soon as he lands in Washington. In the meantime, he is in constant contact with the defense minister, the chief of staff, the Shin Bet chief and various security sources."

Terror attack impacts the talks - Giving Netanyahu no room for compromises unless all security demands are met

(Gill hoffman -Jpost).....It is not the first time a terrorist attack took place while a prime minister was abroad, and it undoubtedly will not be the last. Former prime minister Ariel Sharon dealt with attacks almost every time he went abroad. When a suicide bomber blew himself up at Jerusalem's Cafe Hillel in September 2003, he cut short his trip to India and came home, but in other instances, he didn't.

The attackers intentions were to kill Jews and send a message to Abbas that he should not be negotiating with Israel. But they also tied Netanyahu's hands.

If Netanyahu was considering compromising regarding the construction moratorium in Judea and Samaria when it ends on September 26, now he has no choice but to restart building. Otherwise he would lose his security credentials in addition to his credibility, which are two essential assets for any politician.

Netanyahu's credibility was already being tested before the attack. The settlers ?we are building on your word? campaign was intended to emphasize that the prime minister's integrity was at stake.

Jewish week reports: “The terror attack is exactly what we feared most,” Peled told about 200 journalists in a conference call arranged by the Israel Project, a non-profit group devoted to educating the press about Israel. “In the absence of talks, all the extremist elements spare no effort to undermine efforts for reconciliation.”

Peled said the attack “impacts but shouldn’t derail the talks.”

“This terrible attack is a clear sign that it is imperative to make sure that unless Israel’s security is addressed, it is going to be difficult to have a [Palestinian] state” in the West Bank, he said.

“The timing of this [attack] is deliberate – to try to derail the Palestinians and all those who seek peace in the region from coming and making peace with Israel.”

Peled stressed that Israel was coming to the peace talks “with no preconditions” but that it needed agreement on three key issues. He said that just as Israel is prepared to recognize a Palestinian people and a Palestinian state, so must the Palestinians “recognize Israel as the national state of the Jewish people.” It must, he said, “accept Israel as a fact on the ground and not something that should be addressed” in the future.

He said an agreement must also signal a “final end to the conflict – an end to all claims on Israel.”

And Peled said it must also resolve all issues of Israeli security and settlements.

“We need to be assured that the West Bank will not become a repetition of what happened in Lebanon and Gaza after Israel withdrew from those areas,” he said, alluding to their use as terrorist base camps.

“The greater we feel that our security is being addressed, the greater we can deal with borders and settlements,” Peled said. “This is a moment of opportunity and a reason for some kind of optimism. … [President Barack] Obama is committed to the peace process and the Israeli government is stable and strong. We believe this is conducive to reaching an agreement between the two sides. There is no reason why the two leaders cannot achieve it.”

Monday, August 30, 2010

Cautious Optimism as the U.S. anticipates 'vigorous process' to reach agreement in 1 year time frame

(Haaretz).The United States does not expect to achieve a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians in one meeting, but it is looking forward to a "vigorous process," State Department spokesman Philip J. Crowley said on Monday.

"While the parameters of an ultimate comprehensive peace agreement are well-known, we do not expect to achieve peace in one meeting," Crowley said at a press briefing.

"But I think we want to see the launch of a vigorous process that will involve significant involvement by the leaders themselves, as well as regular interaction with their respective negotiating teams, including the full participation of the United States, supported by other countries in the region and around the world."

The Obama administration believes that an agreement can be reached within a one-year time frame. "That is what our goal is," Crowley reiterated on Monday.

The White House on Monday said it expects both Israel and the Palestinians to show they are "serious about a comprehensive peace."

"That is not to say that it is going to be in any way easy," spokesman Robert Gibbs said on Monday. "This has been tried over the past more than three decades a number of times, and I think it's going to take some time to get through the issues that have stood in the way of that for those three decades."

Others in Washington were also cautiously optimistic on Monday, with some doubting that the one-year timeframe was realistic.

“No one should get into this feeling that’s going to be a magic bullet," B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin told Haaretz.

"I have doubts that it’s going to be accomplished in one year, but there is an old cliché that the proof will be in the pudding," Mariaschin said. "We always have to remain hopeful because we all want to see resolution of this conflict and breakthrough…but we are careful about the expectations and demands."

Middle East analyst Aaron David Miller, meanwhile, said that while a quick, decisive outcome may not be possible, it is more important to keep proper perspective on the negotiations.

“After 20 months of flapping around, bringing together Israelis and Palestinians under a very difficult circumstances, knowing that they can negotiate under great constraint in what could nevertheless be a serious negotiations – that is the proper perspective," Miller told Haaretz.

However, he said, two questions need to be posed: "First - are Abbas and Netanyahu prepared to make really tough decisions on the core issues – security, borders, refugees, Jerusalem? Is Netanyahu prepared to give more than he indicated publicly, and is President Abbas ready to get down from his tree? Second, are they ready to take into account that the outcome has to be based on the balance of interests?"

Netanyahu: I can achieve a lasting peace with Palestiniansbetter than anyone else

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu sought to create a strong image at a meeting with Likud party supporters on Monday, giving his last speech before he leaves to Washington for peace talks. The prime minister was particular to cast himself in the role of his famous Likud predecessor and peacemaker, Menahem Begin, as someone strong enough to create a permanent peace.

"I can do that [achieve peace] better than anyone else. Likud supports real peace, Only a Likud government can bring a peace agreement that will guarantee the security of Israel forever."

Netanyahu went to great pains during his short speech to distinguish his current peace efforts from the failed attempts of more recent prime ministers to bring calm to Israel's borders.

"We won't be satisfied with papers and promises. We won't allow hundreds of rockets as we did after we left Gaza and Lebanon. We want real peace agreements that guarantee the security of Israel for the benefit of peace and prosperity for Israel and its neighbors and if possible the rest of the Arab world,I am not naïve. There are two sides. But I want to give it time and resources,It is not dependent entirely on us, but I intend to give the time and effort required to achieve this. "

The prime minister assured his fellow party members, "You don't need to worry; no one can teach me or my friends what it means to love Israel. Who knows better than you what Likud is willing to do to achieve eternal peace? Real peace is not the break between wars or the break between one terror attack and the next."

Netanyahu went on to say, "Real peace lasts for generations, as we saw in the agreement Likud forged with Egypt under the leadership of Prime Minister Menachem Begin."

Netanyahu also addressed Israel's Arabs citizens in his address, saying, "We want you as a part of Israel, want a full partnership to develop your communities, to improve your education…so every boy and girl will be able to compete in modern society."

He concluded his speech saying, "I hope to find a courageous partner as Begin found in Sadat."

Ambassador Oren: Naysayers Are Not Always Right - Netanyahu, Abbas the New Begin, Sadat

(OP-ED in Newsweek).Israeli prime minister widely described as a hawk, and an Arab leader perilously isolated and reviled by the radicals, enter into peace talks—what chance do they have of succeeding? Not much, according to many commentators writing about the relaunch of direct talks in Washington this week between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The former, say the skeptics, is too unyielding to strike a historic deal, and the latter too fragile. And yet, a similar situation existed more than 30 years ago when Menachem Begin, Israel’s famously hardline leader, met at Camp David with Egyptian president Anwar Sadat, whom the rejectionist Arab states had labeled a traitor. Begin and Sadat surprised the naysayers by reaching a peace accord that has endured through many Middle East crises. Netanyahu and Abbas can triumph as well, provided that the spirit of Camp David is preserved.

That spirit was captured by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who stated that the upcoming discussions should be “characterized by good faith” and conducted “without preconditions.” Begin and Sadat indeed displayed good faith. Though they came to Camp David with many expectations, neither of them demanded concessions up front. Negotiations, they knew, are about exchanging views and compromising, not about dictating the outcome in advance.

Today, Israeli and Palestinian leaders also have expectations. Israel, for example, seeks assurances that any future Palestinian state will not have missiles that can be fired at Israel’s cities or warplanes that can shoot down its airliners. Israel also wants the Palestinians to recognize it as the nation-state of the Jewish people and to end all further claims. And Israelis want the Palestinians to stop naming their town squares after notorious terrorists, and to cease teaching their children that Israel has no right to exist. These provisions are backed by the vast majority of Israelis, but the Israeli government has not cited them as preconditions for talks.
The Palestinians, by contrast, are already threatening to break off the discussions if their conditions are not met. Previously, between 1993 and 2008, Palestinians sat face to face with Israelis while construction in Israel’s West Bank communities continued. Now, even after Netanyahu’s attempt to jump-start peace talks by declaring a 10-month moratorium on such building, the Palestinians say they will walk away from the table unless any further construction for hundreds of thousands of Israelis—most of them living in areas certain to remain within Israel’s borders in any two-state solution—is frozen.

The settlements represent only one of several core issues—borders, security, refugees, and Jerusalem are others—that can be resolved only after the talks begin, not before. There are no easy solutions to any of them. Even if both sides are ready for concessions, the discussions are unlikely to be problem-free. “The enemies of peace will keep trying to defeat us,” Secretary Clinton warned. “Without a doubt, we will hit more obstacles.” This is as true today as it was in the 1970s when the talks between Begin and Sadat encountered angry opposition. Yet the two leaders persevered and produced the first peace treaty between Israel and an Arab state. Netanyahu and Abbas can also overcome resistance and conclude an even more comprehensive agreement.
The key to success lies in the spirit of Camp David. Sadat and Begin were dedicated to peace and determined to achieve it. Their treaty, signed in March 1979, foresaw the day when the Middle East might serve as “a model for coexistence and cooperation between nations.” Prime Minister Netanyahu and the people of Israel remain committed to that vision, as are President Obama and his senior diplomats. Together with Palestinian partners willing to work in good faith, the model envisaged by that earlier—and, in its day, doubted—accord can yet become a reality.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Gallup: Obama's approval among US Jews drop to 61%

Muslim Americans continue to give President Barack Obama the highest job approval rating of any major religious group in the U.S (78%), while Obama receives above-average ratings among Jews - 61%, A drop of 16% since 2009 as Obama's approval rating in June 2009 was 77%.

CHARLES M. BLOW- NYtimes: The most relevant measure, in my opinion, is not simply where the president’s “popularity” currently stands among Jews, but the growth or shrinkage of this standing over time – not just where it is, but where it’s been. And, how does this data compare to similar groups over the same time period?

For the purpose of this analysis, I compared Jews to other groups of enthusiastic Obama supporters. I defined enthusiastic supporters as those who voted 75 percent or more for for him in 2008. This group included blacks, white Democrats, Jews, hispanics aged 18 to 29 and the religiously unaffiliated. I also included all Democrats, liberals and the country as a whole for comparison.

I gave that list to the people at The Pew Research Center, and they graciously combed through their data and provided me with Obama’s average approval rating among each group in 2009 and thus far in 2010.

Here are the results:
* Obama’s approval rating among Jews in 2010 averaged 58 percent.
* This percentage was the lowest of all those representing his enthusiastic supporter groups except one, the religious unaffiliated.
* The percentage change in Obama’s approval rating from 2009 to 2010 among Jews was greater than any of the other enthusiastic supporter groups, greater than Democrats and liberals in general and greater than the nation overall.

Netanyahu: My goal is to reach a stable Peace for us and our children

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Sunday sounded optimistic about the chances for peace between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, ahead of his trip to a peace summit in Washington.

"I am convinced that if the Palestinian leadership approaches these talks with the same degree of seriousness as we will be able to advance toward a stable agreement that will ensure peace and security for both peoples and will contribute to the security and stability of the region." Netanyahu said during the weekly cabinet meeting."

"We insisted that the talks would be held without preconditions, and that's what happened. Our goal is to advance a peace agreement based on the recognition of Israel as the Jewish people's nation state, end the conflict and put an end to the demands from Israel in a bid to form real security arrangements, which would guarantee that the situation in Judea and Samaria won't resemble what happened in Lebanon and Gaza."

The prime minister expressed his hope that "the Palestinian leadership will show the same level of seriousness as we do. If so, we will be able to advance to a stable peace agreement and to stability in the entire region.

"I am aware of the difficulties, I'm not downplaying them, but I know that we will face many obstacles. The question is whether the Palestinians are willing to establish peace for the future generations or just reach a tactical pause. I hope their aspiration for peace is based on recognition and security, stability and economic growth. This is my goal, and I hope it's the Palestinians' goal too."

Pm Netanyahu wont discuss the freeze before talks begin; Freeze part of the core issues at negotiations

(Jpost).Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is expected to reject a call to extend the settlement construction freeze and is likely to make clear again, before he departs to Washington on Tuesday, that the settlements are an issue – like all the other core issues – to be discussed in the negotiations themselves.

Senior government officials have said recently that Netanyahu does not intend to get drawn into a public discussion now on the issue, since it would be tantamount to debating the Palestinians’ preconditions for talks, which he has made clear Israel has rejected.

Government officials have said there is no difference between the Palestinians saying they would not enter the talks until there was a total settlement freeze – preconditions Israel did not accept – and saying that they would walk away from the talks on September 27 if Israel did not extend the moratorium.

Palestinian Authority chief negotiator Saeb Erekat rejected Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s calls for fortnightly face-to-face meetings with PA President Mahmoud Abbas during upcoming peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, Israel Radio reported on Saturday, citing an interview Erekat conducted with the BBC in Arabic.

In the interview, Erekat added that it is too soon to establish who exactly will meet for negotiations, how often they will do so, and where the meetings will take place.

Erekat emphasized that the most important issue determining the success or failure of the talks at this point is Netanyahu’s stance on whether or not to extend the building freeze in the West Bank, scheduled to end on September 26.

Netanyahu is set to leave Tuesday for Washington for the relaunch of the talks. On Wednesday, he is scheduled to meet US President Barack Obama before an evening dinner that will include Obama, Netanyahu, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Jordanian King Abdullah II, and Quartet envoy Tony Blair.

Obama is expected to meet privately with each of the participants before the dinner.

On Thursday at the State Department, Netanyahu and Abbas, in the presence of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and US envoy George Mitchell, will formally relaunch the talks in a brief public ceremony. After that, Netanyahu and Abbas, along with their negotiating teams, will attend their first working meeting, estimated to last three hours.

Netanyahu is expected to leave for Israel from Washington later that day.

The prime minister has made clear that he will lead the negotiations, with the help of a small team headed by his point-man on the Palestinian issue, Yitzhak Molcho. This team will also include on a permanent basis National Security Council head Uzi Arad, director of policy planning Ron Dermer, and representatives of the Foreign Ministry, Defense Ministry and IDF.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Study: Young Jews under age 45 less likely to feel connected to Israel because they are Young

(Via Tablet).Respondents under age 45 were less likely to feel connected to Israel but no less likely to regard Israel as important to their Jewish identities. The study attributes such differences to stages of the lifecycle rather than generational turnover.

Theodore Sasson and Leonard Saxe, who wrote about American Jewish attitudes toward Israel for Tablet Magazine, published an updated study that finds much the same thing at their previous ones: That where younger American Jews are found to feel less of an affinity for Israel, it is—contra Peter Beinart’s big essay—not because they are a new generation with new attitudes, but because they are, simply, younger: “Stages of the lifecycle rather than generational turnover” are to blame.

Other key findings:

• 52 percent believe U.S. support for Israel is “about right”; 39 percent believe it is too weak; nine percent believe it is too strong.

• President Obama’s approval/disapproval rating concerning his handling of the special relationship is 25-37; Prime Minister Netanyahu’s is 25-31.

• Younger American Jews still consider Israel important to their identities, they just feel less connected to the Jewish state than older Jews.

• “Political differences on the liberal-to-conservative continuum were unrelated to measures of attachment to Israel.”

WH Document: U.S. to push for a signed agreement within one year, implemented within 10 years

(Ynet).White House document reveals American preparations for Israeli-Palestinian talks: President Obama to visit Jerusalem and Ramallah, call for painful concessions; permanent agreement to be signed within one year, implemented within 10 years

The Yedioth Ahronoth daily has learned that the Americans will pressure the parties to sign a framework agreement for a permanent settlement within one year, but that the agreement itself would be implemented within 10 years.

The American administration plans to invest every effort to guarantee that the direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians, which will be launched officially next Thursday, will end with an agreement rather than with a crisis, as in previous negotiations.

This time, Obama plans to get into the thick of things himself. Daniel Shapiro, the National Security Council's top Middle East expert, told the leaders of the American Jewish organizations that the president planned to visit Israel and the Palestinian Authority in the coming year.

During his visit, Obama will try to convince the two sides to support painful concessions for the sake of peace.

Several days ago, leaders of the American Jewish organizations held a conference call with three of the top officials determining the Obama administration's Middle East policy – Shapiro, Dennis Ross and David Hale, deputy of US special Middle East envoy George Mitchell.

Yedioth Ahronoth has obtained the protocol summarizing the conference call, written by White House officials. The document provides a fascinating peek into the administration's plans in the near future.

According to the American plan, the Israeli and Palestinian negotiation teams would hold hectic talks in a bid to reach a framework agreement within a year. The intensive talks would be held in isolated sites, so as to allow the teams to calmly discuss the core issues of the permanent agreement: Jerusalem's future, the borders, the settlements and the refugees.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas would be required to hold frequent meetings in order to solve concrete problems and advance the negotiations' stages.

If the talks reach a deadlock, American officials would intervene and attempt to bridge between the sides. In addition, the US would try to convince the Arab states to offer goodwill gestures to Israel and influence the Palestinians to compromise.

The framework agreement aimed at ending the conflict would be signed within a year. From that moment on, the agreement would be implemented gradually over a period of several years.

Ross estimated in the conference call that many elements would try to sabotage the talks. "Our challenge would be to guarantee their success," he stated.

The Jewish leaders asked him what could be learned from the mistakes which caused the previous attempts to solve the conflict to fail. I learned that we must not accept a situation in which the parties say one thing inside the room and something else outside the room, he replied.

In other words, the administration would not regard favorably a situation in which Israeli and Palestinian officials "blast" each other outside the meeting room.

"Can Netanyahu reach an agreement which would gain political support in Israel?" the Jewish leaders asked. Hale replied that Netanyahu had promised he would be able to do that. We view him as a strong partner committed to he process, he said.

Senior diplomatic officials in Israel have revealed, however, that Netanyahu has yet to prepare a firm stand ahead of the direct talks. The government has yet to agree on the outline for the permanent agreement, no to mention the settlement construction freeze.

"Bibi will barely escape Washington," a senior state official estimated.

Minister Dan Meridor, backed by Netanyahu, is trying to convince Ross and Shapiro to agree to the outline he suggested ahead of the end of the settlement construction moratorium on September 26: The building freeze would only continue in isolated settlements, but construction would be resumed in the settlement blocs expected to remain under Israel's control. Only one minister, Ehud Barak, has expressed his support for this idea so far.

Poll: Likud Members to Netanyahu: choose freeze or Likud

(Via IMRA)>Telephone poll of a representative sample of 410 registered members of the Likud party carried out in the last days by Maagar Mohot Survey Institute (headed by Professor Yitzchak Katz for Makor Rishon for the Yesha Council and published on 27 August, 2010 in Maariv

Question: If there is a decision to extend the freeze, will this bring about a break up of the Likud?
Of those with opinion: Yes 54% No 46%
July poll: Yes 39% No 61%

Question: If the freeze is extended will this cause you to consider moving your support from the Likud to Yisrael Beiteinu?
Yes 29% No 71%

Question: If Binyamin Netanyahu decides to to continue the freeze, should Likud ministers accept his position or act with all their power against him?
Oppose 59% Go along with Netanyahu 41%
July poll: Oppose 47% Go along 47%

Question: If the Likud ministers support the continuation of the freeze, will this strengthen or weaken your support for them in the next primaries?
Weaken 52% Strengthen 18%

Question: If Binyamin Netanyahu decides to to continue the freeze, will this strengthen or weaken the chances you will support him in the next primaries?
Weaken 50%

Question: If the freeze is continued, will this weaken or strengthen the odds you will vote for the Likud party in the next elections?
Weaken 41%

Thursday, August 26, 2010

George Will: The peace process is only a mirage - extorting concessions from Israel

(George F. Will-Washington Post). Immersion in this region's politics can convince those immersed that history is cyclical rather than linear -- that it is not one thing after another but the same thing over and over. This passes for good news because things that do change, such as weapons, often make matters worse.

A profound change, however, is this: Talk about the crisis between Israel and "the Arab world" is anachronistic. Israel has treaties with two Arab nations, Egypt and Jordan, and Israel's most lethal enemy is Iran, which is not an Arab state.

Israel has changed what it can, its own near neighborhood. Since 1967, faced with unrelenting Palestinian irredentism, Israel has been weaving the West Bank into a common fabric with the coastal plain, the nation's economic and population center of gravity. Withdrawal from the West Bank would bring Tel Aviv's Ben-Gurion Airport within range of short-range rockets fired by persons overlooking the runways.

Thirty-six years later, Israelis can watch West Bank Palestinian television incessantly inculcating anti-Semitism and denial of Israel's right to exist. Across the fence that has substantially reduced terrorism from the West Bank, Israelis see Ramallah, where Mahmoud Abbas, head of the Palestinian Authority, lives and where a square was recently named in honor of Dalal Mughrabi. In 1978, she, together with 11 other terrorists, hijacked an Israeli bus and massacred 37 Israelis and one American. Cigarette lighters sold on the West Bank show, when lit, the World Trade Center burning.

The Obama administration, which seems to consider itself too talented to bother with anything but "comprehensive" solutions to problems, may yet make matters worse by presenting its own plan for a final settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian problem. Barack Obama insists that it is "costing us significantly in terms of both blood and treasure," although he does not say how. Gen. David Petraeus says Israeli-Palestinian tensions "have an enormous effect on the strategic context." As though, were the tensions to subside, the hard men managing Iran's decades-long drive for nuclear weapons would then say, "Oh, well, in that case, let's call the whole thing off."

The biggest threat to peace might be the peace process -- or, more precisely, the illusion that there is one. The mirage becomes the reason for maintaining its imaginary "momentum" by extorting concessions from Israel, the only party susceptible to U.S. pressure. Israel is, however, decreasingly susceptible. In one month, history will recycle when the partial 10-month moratorium on Israeli construction on the West Bank expires. Resumption of construction -- even here, in the capital, which was not included in the moratorium -- will be denounced by a fiction, "the international community," as a threat to another fiction, "the peace process."

This, even though no Israeli government of any political hue has ever endorsed a ban on construction in Jewish neighborhoods of East Jerusalem, where about 40 percent of the capital's Jewish population lives. Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Yaalon, who says "the War of Independence has not ended" 62 years after 1948, says of an extension of the moratorium: "The prime minister is opposed to it. He said that clearly. The decision was for 10 months. [On] Sept. 27, we are immediately going to return" to construction and "Jerusalem is outside the discussion."

Predictably, Palestinian officials are demanding that the moratorium be extended as the price of their willingness to continue direct talks with Israel -- which begin Sept. 2 -- beyond Sept. 27. If this demand succeeds, history will remain cyclical: The "peace process" will be sustained by rewarding the Palestinian tactic of making the mere fact of negotiations contingent on Israeli concessions concerning matters that should be settled by negotiations.

Inner Cabinet debates alternatives to settlement freeze ending next month

(AFP, Haaretz).Israel's premier and his top ministers are mulling alternatives to the settlement freeze Palestinians are seeking as the two sides prepare to launch a new round of talks next week, media reported on Thursday.

One proposal finding favour is to allow construction in the main settlement blocs Israel intends to annex as part of any peace deal while imposing a "mini freeze" in isolated West Bank settlements, Israeli newspapers reported.

The idea would be to keep the restrictions quiet in order to minimise chances of a public uproar among rightwing Israelis.

"On the one hand, (the prime minister) is interested in showing the Americans an alternative that does not involve massive construction in the territories; on the other, Netanyahu wants to do so without having to declare a construction freeze publicly," the Yediot Aharonot daily said.

A senior minister who belongs to the forum of seven, an informal inner cabinet with which Netanyahu consults on important matters, said yesterday it is likely that the cabinet will ultimately adopt the compromise put forth by Dan Meridor. The deputy prime minister has proposed that Israel resume construction in settlement blocs and areas close to the separation fence come September, but extend the freeze in areas that are unlikely to remain under Israeli control after a peace deal is reached, such as isolated settlements.

A number of ministers said yesterday that the government is likely to adopt this idea and were confident that it would not undermine the coalition or lead to a crisis.

However, while some ministers have made it clear that they will oppose any deal that would undermine settlement construction, others expressed opinions that may serve as the basis of understandings with the Palestinians.

Shas is expected to strongly oppose any freeze in construction, but Yisrael Beiteinu, which is considered more right-wing, is expected to put forth more moderate views.

Ministers said yesterday that if the Yisrael Beiteinu chairman, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, sticks to his current policy and does not leave the coalition, Shas will also stay in the government.

Lieberman has presented his own compromise formula regarding the settlement freeze, which is scheduled to end September 26. He said construction should resume in the settlement blocs and that any building in other settlements would be permitted only to meet "natural growth."

"This has been a formula that has always been acceptable, even to the previous administration," he said yesterday. "People living outside the settlement blocs must not be punished. A settlement like Tekoa, established under Labor, has a new kindergarten class every year. Will we punish those children and their parents because the Labor government convinced them back then to perform a Zionist act?"

But the proposal, taken up by the the forum of seven top ministers in recent days, is unlikely to impress the Palestinians who are seeking a complete halt to settlement construction in the West Bank, including east Jerusalem.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Sarkozy warns world powers will mobilize against Iran to protect threatened states in the region

(Haaretz).French President Nicolas Sarkozy told Iran on Wednesday that failure to reach a credible agreement over its nuclear program would force world powers to mobilize to protect threatened states in the region.

In an annual address to France's ambassadors, Sarkozy laid out his foreign policy objectives as the country prepares to take over the chair next year of the Group of 20 powers and the narrower club of rich countries known as the G8.

"If a credible agreement cannot be reached, Iran's isolation would only worsen, And in the face of worsening threat, we would have to organize ourselves to protect and defend states that feel threatened."

"Everybody knows that there are serious consequences to a policy that would allow Iran to follow its nuclear path, It would see a general proliferation in the region or even military conflict."

Sarkozy said he welcomed the new power plant to be operated by the Russians as long as it adhered to international law.

"I hope that we can find a good agreement in the coming months ... that Iran respects the law and that the concerns of the international community are lifted," Sarkozy said.

Ed Koch: Obama Must visit Israel to improve Relations

(Edward Koch-Newsmax).Charles M. Blow’s Op-Ed in The New York Times caught my eye over the weekend. It was titled, “Oy Vey, Obama.” His piece began, “Is President Obama good for the Jews? For more and more Jewish-Americans, the answer is no.”

Blow pointed out that “in 2008, the ratio of Democratic Jews to Republican Jews was far more than three to one. Now it’s less than two to one.”

He also stated that “some of the president’s most ardent critics and some of Israel’s staunchest American defenders — two groups that are by no means mutually exclusive — have seized on what they see as the administration’s unfair and unbalanced treatment of Israel and have taken their denunciations to the extremes.”

I have condemned the president’s orchestrated campaign to reduce the standing of Israel in the world.

That dangerous and ill-advised campaign has included the denunciations of Israel by Vice President Joe Biden when he recently visited that country, the tirade leveled at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during a 43-minute telephone call, as well as the discourteous treatment President Obama accorded Prime Minister Netanyahu at a White House meeting.

I said at the time, once the trust between Israel and the U.S. has been breached, like Humpty Dumpty, it can never be put together again.

Supporters of Israel have also been angered by the president’s signing of an international agreement singling out Israel as a special culprit under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Israel was urged to sign the treaty, requiring that it give up its current nuclear capability.

Does it make sense for Israel to give up its nuclear capability while Iran draws even closer to achieving that capability and has publicly threatened to obliterate Israel?

Pakistan has the nuclear bomb. Does the world worry that Pakistan will sometime in the future provide the bomb to terrorists, including Islamic terrorists?

North Korea has the nuclear bomb given to it by the father of the Pakistan nuclear bomb. Why did President Obama succumb (the first time an American president has) to the pressures of the Muslim world with Egypt in the lead and thereby threaten Israel’s security?

Blow states, “Fair or not their criticisms are crystallizing into a shared belief among many: Obama is burning bridges with the Jewish community in order to build bridges to the Muslim world.”

He points out that in 2008 Obama “captured 78 percent of the Jewish vote.” The McLaughlin poll in April showed “only 42 percent of American Jews would vote to re-elect President Obama.”

Blow referred to a statement that I made in April: “I have been a supporter of President Obama and went to Florida for him, urged Jews all over the country to vote for him, saying he would be just as good as John McCain on the security of Israel. I don’t think it’s true anymore.”

What should President Obama do to try to restore trust between the U.S. and Israel, and to try to regain some confidence among American Christian and Jewish supporters of Israel?

He should visit Israel. He should have done so when he first took office. Instead, his first international trip was to Cairo in 2009 where, in his first major speech on international affairs, he sought to establish a new and closer relationship with the Muslim world.

It is not too late for him to make a trip to Israel and to personally reassure the Israelis and their supporters that he means it when he says that Israel’s security will never be breached.

FM Lieberman: PA is Not Serious About Peace; Israel has made enough gestures and concessions

(INN).Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman granted an interview to Voice of Israel Radio this morning (Wednesday).

Lieberman told Voice of Israel’s Yaron Dekel this morning: “First of all, the Palestinians are clearly not coming to these talks with good will. They are coming because they were forced to come, but they keep on threatening to leave… There have been many ceremonies over the past years, and this will be another one… Everyone should lower their expectations. We’ve been working on this for 17 years since Oslo; there’s no magic solution that will suddenly grant us an agreement in one year, as the Americans say.”

Lieberman reiterated that the “Cabinet decision that the freeze will last only ten months is clear and unambiguous, and there is no reason for us to perpetuate the freeze after that time. This applies to Jerusalem as well: There are 1,000 housing units in Ramot, 600 in Gilo, Har Homa and elsewhere – does someone really expect us to freeze 1,600 units that have already passed all the stages of the approval process?”

Dekel asked: “And what should be the answer if Obama comes to Netanyahu and says, ‘This time, the talks are really serious, and I ask you, as a gesture of good will, to freeze construction in Judea and Samaria as much as possible.’ What should be his answer?

Lieberman: “The answer is very clear: We have [already] made the gesture. For ten months we have been waiting for the Palestinians to please come to the negotiations. They come at the last month - that’s their problem. On the contrary: We expect the Palestinian side to stop the incitement, stop naming city squares after terrorists, stop inciting against Israel in all sorts of international forums, with boycotts, court cases in the Hague, and not recognizing us as a Jewish state, etc… I think we have made enough gestures and concessions, and have received nothing in return… It can’t be that we always have to pay for the pleasure of sitting at a table with the Palestinians; let them pay as well.”

Lieberman was asked about the likelihood that even if the government decides to resume building, Defense Minister Ehud Barak – as head of the IDF, which effectively controls Judea and Samaria in place of the State of Israel – will not sign the required papers. Lieberman said that Barak’s signature is not required for construction in Jerusalem, nor for some 2,000 units that have already been approved in Judea and Samaria. Pressured to respond to the question on a larger scale, he said weakly, “From what I have heard from Barak, he too accepts the formula that we can build…” He also added that he does not foresee any coalition crisis on the horizon.

Lieberman was asked if he agrees with the idea espoused by some government ministers that building will resume only in settlement blocs, but not in the rest of Judea and Samaria. To this, Lieberman said that “natural growth” must be allowed throughout Judea and Samaria.

Related article:The Carrot and the Stick – When Israel is forced to pay the price in US dollars

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Deputy FM Ayalon to the Iranian people:Israel is committed to defending its citizens and if attacked will act accordingly

(Jpost).Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon this week told the Iranian people by radio that a regional war initiated by Teheran was a distinct possibility, adding that "Israel is committed to defending its citizens and if attacked will act accordingly." The comments, released by the Foreign Ministry in Hebrew on Tuesday, came during a Farsi-language broadcast on Israel Radio in which Ayalon addressed the people of Iran, taking calls and answering questions . The Farsi broadcast originally aired on Monday.

"A fear exists that Iran – as it becomes more pressured by sanctions – will goad those under its patronage in Hizbullah and Hamas to initiate military action against Israel. There’s also a possibility that Iran will make a military move against the Arab Gulf states and harm the flow of oil to the world, in which case the entire situation will degrade into widespread confrontations. Remember that the sanctions are aimed against Iran’s efforts to arm itself with nuclear weapons, and if they don’t elicit results, the United States and other nations might consider other options."

"Israel bears no animosity towards the Iranian people. We have deep respect and aspire to cooperate with them to bring about a better reality in the region. The problem is intrinsic to the Iranian regime and its conduct, particularly regarding the nuclear issue. This is a regime that calls for 'Death to the United States, Great Britain and Israel'. The Iranian regime spreads instability, supports terror, and oppresses its own people. It is impossible to accept atomic weapons in the hands of such a regime.

"The Iranian reactor constitutes a tremendous danger to the stability of the entire region and to world peace in general because, besides nuclear armaments, Iran is also developing a missile system that threatens countries beyond the Middle East, such as Europe. Nuclear weapons in Iran’s hands will enable it to threaten all the Arab governments with its present means (subversive elements in various countries, agents, and so forth). Even now it controls bodies that function as a state within a state, in Lebanon, Yemen, the Palestinian Authority, and other places."

Ayalon called on the "oppressed" Iranian people to protest the dictatorial regime's repeated violations of its citizen's civil rights.

"This is an aggressive dictatorial regime, and all progressive elements throughout the world should take action against it, if only for that reason. Israel congratulates the Iranian people for their efforts to liberate themselves from the burden of the oppressive regime. At international forums, Israel has raised the issue of the suffering of the Iranian people and the cruelty of the regime ruling them. That is the main thing we can do for such an illustrious nation suffering from oppression. But in the end, it is the Iranian people themselves who must take their fate in their own hands and act to achieve their rights. The more the citizens of Iran increase their protest activities, the higher the international support will be."

Blair: Those de-legitimizing Israel are attacking the values others share with her

(Jpost).Quartet representative Tony Blair spoke at a conference on the de-legitimization of Israel at the Inter-Disciplinary Center in Herzliya and said that those in the world who want to de-legitimize Israel are also de-legitimizing those around the world who share Israel’s values and admire its free spirit.

Blair said that the “best answer to the de-legitimization of Israel lies in the character of Israel and in the openness and creativity of the Israelis."

Blair continued saying it was important not only for Israelis to fight against attempts to de-ligitimzie it, but also people around the world who share its values. He said that there were two kinds of de-legimization.

The first, he said, was practiced by Iranian Presdient Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who talks about wiping Israel off the map. That version, he said, is easier to deal with, because it is so open and blatant.

The other, perhaps more pernicious kind, is those who either consciously or not, resist or refuse to accept the idea “that Israel has a legitimate point of view."

Blair, in a very warm speech, said that a consistent conversation he has had with European colleagues is “not to apply rules to the government of Israel that you would never dream of applying to your own government or country."

The Bibi Report live show on Israel 8/23 w/Keith Lepor and Richard Baehr

Monday, August 23, 2010

Netanyahu responds to PA threat : No preconditions ahead of peace talks

(Ynet)."Israel is not setting any preconditions ahead of the direct talks," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said Monday.

Netanyahu's media advisor, Nir Hefetz, said the PM is "justifiably stressing the importance of security arrangements and demilitarization as part of any peace agreement."

Netanyahu was responding to the Palestinians' threat that they would suspend negotiations should Israel resume construction in the West Bank after the moratorium expires on September 26.

The possibility of extending, or ending Israel's moratorium on West Bank settlement construction will be discussed within the context of upcoming direct Middle East peace talks, State Department spokesman Philip J. Crowley said Monday.

Crowley said Monday that the United States believed that "once that negotiation starts, it will be incumbent upon both the Israelis and Palestinians to avoid steps that can complicate that negotiation."

"Settlements are an important issue," Crowley said, adding that Washington expected "to address settlements, as well as the other crucial final-status issues within the context of the negotiation."

The Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs added that the United States was "very mindful of the moratorium and the fact that it comes up for a reconsideration during Septembe," adding, however, that this issue will be discussed "within the negotiation. That's why we want to get the negotiation."

"None of these issues can be resolved outside of this negotiation," Crowley said, adding that the U.S. was "very mindful of the Palestinian position. We're now into direct negotiations; we expect that both parties will do everything within their power to create an environment for those negotiations to continue constructively."

The forum of seven ministers has been debating the matter extensively, and Minister Dan Meridor (Likud) suggested resuming construction only in settlement blocs that are expected to remain under Israeli control as part of any agreement.

PM Netanyahu also insists that construction will resume in all Jewish settlements in accordance with the government's decision, but he is willing to examine Meridor's proposal so as not to be accused of thwarting the direct negotiations.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

EXCLUSIVE: Mahmoud Abbas generous Peace plan: Full Israeli withdrawal to '67 border, release all prisoners

(www1.wafa.ps/arabic via IMRA).Dr. Saeb Erekat, chief negotiator of the PLO, delivered a message from President Mahmoud Abbas to President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, and Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, High Commissioner for Foreign Affairs and Security the European Union.

"The President stressed in his letters to be bound by what is set by the Security Council resolutions and the General Assembly related to the Roadmap, the Arab Peace Initiative and the principles of the Madrid Conference and the agenda of the direct talks, including Jerusalem, borders, settlements, refugees, security, water and the release of detainees within a time limit not exceeding 12 months.

...Quartet's positions calling for the Israeli government to halt all settlement activity, and including natural growth, house demolitions, displacement of populations and the imposition of facts on the ground, especially in and around East Jerusalem.

He stressed that the ...the option of peace and settlement is not an option, and that in the case of the continued settlement activity, they have decided to suspend the negotiations, which could not be sustained if it continues settlement.

And Mr. President, that the shortest way to peace is ending the Israeli occupation of all territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem and the occupied Syrian Arab Golan and the remaining Lebanese territories, and the establishment of independent State of Palestine with its capital East Jerusalem to live in peace and security with Israel on the border of the fourth of June 1967, and solve final status issues, especially the refugee issue based on international legitimacy resolutions related to, and release all the prisoners and bodies of the martyrs as an entry point to end the conflict and achieve comprehensive and just peace and lasting peace in the region".

Op-ed: Appointment of offensive-minded Galant as IDF chief sends clear strong Israeli message to Iran

(Ron Ben Yishai-Ynet).Major-General Yoav Galant’s most prominent characteristic as a military man is his tendency to choose offense over other combat approaches. This was true on the tactical level, when Galant commanded the Flotilla 13 Navy commando unit, and it was also manifested through his strategic approach to resolving problems stemming from Hamas’ rule in Gaza.

Had it been up to him, Operation Cast Lead would have been launched a year to a year and a half earlier. He wouldn’t have waited until December 2009.

Galant also attempted to convince Defense Minister Barak, Chief of Staff Ashkenazi, and his colleagues at General Staff Headquarters to implement an operational plan that was much broader and more ambitious than the one carried out in Operation Cast Lead. His plan was supposed to not only put an end to the rocket barrages directed at southern Israel, but also to terminate Hamas’ rule in Gaza.

Yet Galant’s proposals were rejected, by the defense minister among others, and the plan that was used in the operation was relatively “thin” and limited in scope.

Barak took notice of Galant precisely because of the latter’s offensive approach. The defense minister’s decision to recommend that the government appoint the quiet, introverted general as the 20th chief of staff in IDF history conveys a clear, sharp message: The State of Israel does not intend to remain idle and wait to be attacked by rockets, missiles, and possibly unconventional weapons.

Should one of these strategic threats be realized, or be close to realization, the IDF will be utilized in an offensive, decisive manner and in full force in order to thwart or minimize the threat. This message is aimed not only for the IDF and for Israel’s citizens, but also for states such as Syria and Iran, for Hezbollah, and for the US Administration and European states as well.

The above approach is also accepted by the Ashkenazi-led current General Staff headquarters. The difference between Ashkenazi and Galant has to do with the decision-making process, and mostly with the willingness to take risks. Because of these differences, which culminated in bitter disputes between the two, Ashkenazi and Galant became rivals.

Galant is almost the antithesis of the cautious approach that characterizes Ashkenazi and made the current army chief so popular not only among the Israeli public, but in Washington as well. Barak, who often repeats the mantra “all options are on the table” in the Iranian context, making pilgrimages to see Ashkenazi in the hopes of finding a listening ear for the pleas to put off an Iran strike. We can assume this phenomenon will not repeat itself with Galant at the helm.

Returning from Israel Believing That Peace Is Possible

(Ryan Mauro -PajamasMedia).I’ve just returned home from spending nearly two weeks in Israel, thanks to the Once in a Lifetime project by Stand With Us and the wonderful students at Hebrew University who made it happen. While I was there, rockets were fired from Gaza, prompting retaliatory Israeli airstrikes. The worst violence on the Israeli-Lebanese border since 2006 happened. Yet I come home believing more than ever that peace can be achieved.

It is too often stated that Israeli Jews cannot live with Palestinians, Arabs, or Muslims. I have no illusions about the uncompromising nature of radical Islam, or the tub of mass hatred that young children are forced to bathe in. Until the forces spreading this extremism are stopped, peace is impossible. But I saw very inspiring signs while in Israel.

One of the most common things I hear on talk radio — and at colleges — is that both sides just hate each other too much and are equally guilty. On the Israeli side, I never heard one negative generalization about Palestinians or Arabs. In fact, they are crying out to define themselves outside of the conflict. They express their frustration at terms like “pro-Palestinian” that make it sound as if one can only care for one side. It was repeatedly stated to me that they are fighting radical Islam, not the Muslim world, and not the Palestinians as a people. No discussion of the hardships they face went without the Israeli participant decrying the Palestinians’ own hardships.

In Jerusalem, which stands at the heart of the conflict, I saw Jews and Muslims buying and selling from one another in the friendliest of manners. City officials told the Once in a Lifetime group of bloggers that the vast majority of terrorist attacks in Jerusalem are carried out by those outside of the city. The biggest conflict Jerusalem is having is between secular and ultra-Orthodox Jews, not between Jews and Muslims. Culturally, it can be difficult to distinguish between the secular Jews and the Muslims, as they dress and joke around the same way. Those that live closest to the Jews are the least inclined to hate them.

It is inaccurate to say Jews and non-Jews can’t live peacefully and respectfully together in Israel, because it is already happening. We visited a Muslim village named Abu Ghosh that is excitedly visited by Israeli Jews for its hummus and houses Roman Catholic monks. An outside observer unfamiliar with the conflict would be unable to tell that a conflict existed.

Peace is increasingly possible because extremist propaganda cannot survive exposure and reality. As globalization increases, cultures and peoples interact more, and as we saw in Jerusalem, this creates bonds. There is a huge amount of tension over Israel’s security measures, but the truth is that peace for Israelis is good for Palestinians. After the so-called “Apartheid Wall” was erected, suicide bombings dropped over 90 percent. This led to economic growth and peace for both sides.

Last year the West Bank economy grew between 7 and 11 percent, “helped along by strong economic performances in neighboring Israel.” The progress is visible with restaurants, movie theaters, and small businesses being created — with Israeli help. The Jewish National Fund has planted 3,000 trees in a new city north of Ramallah, and Israelis are actively involved in community planning and agricultural efforts. Ironically, if a Palestinian state is to be created, it will be done with Israeli partnership.

The other hopeful trend is that Palestinians are looking for alternatives. I often say: to know radical Islam is to hate radical Islam. Only 37 percent of those in Gaza view Hamas positively, and 52 percent view the terror group negatively. A full 10 percent more in the West Bank view Hamas positively, at 47 percent. Hamas is more popular where it doesn’t govern than where it does! Less than one-quarter of Israeli Arabs support Hamas or Hezbollah, and 35 percent of Israeli Arabs express a negative attitude towards Jews in general, a sharp contrast to the astronomically high numbers elsewhere in the Arab world.

These statistics tell us that those who are the most exposed to radical Islam and Israeli Jews are most likely to be inoculated against extremism. The solution, therefore, cannot be to create two homogeneous states with little interaction between the two, as if they are rabid bulldogs waiting to tear each other apart. Free flow of information and commerce will be essential.

The biggest obstacle to peace isn’t the settlements or any other land dispute. It is the lack of integration with the world that allows extremist forces to poison minds. As the lines of support from the state sponsors of terrorism are severed, you will see things rapidly change as the truth comes to light. The ideology of radical Islam cannot survive without outside subsidies.

There may be no peace process in the traditional sense of the term, as you cannot accommodate those seeking your destruction, but a process towards peace outside of the official negotiating table is underway. The Israelis I hung out with during my stay, the ones who should be most pessimistic about the prospect for peace, are the most optimistic. And now I see why.

Netanyahu: We can silence the doubters to reach historic peace

Israel and the Palestinians have a chance to surprise the world and strike a peace deal to end decades of conflict, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday.

"We can surprise all the doubters," Netanyahu told ministers at the beginning of the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem.

"To all the skeptics I say that achieving peace is possible, but difficult,I welcome the invitation issued by the United States to launch direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians without preconditions."

Netanyahu added," I have been calling for such talks since the government's establishment, a year and a half ago. I know there is a lot of doubt after 17 years, since the start of the Oslo process, and I can understand why it exists. We wish to calm the skeptics down, but in order to do so we need a real partner to reach out from the Palestinian side."

The prime minister went on to say that in order for the talks to bear fruit, concessions will be required on a variety of issues.

"Negotiations will require both sides to take moves. If there is such a partner, we could reach peace which will be based on three main levels: The first, real security arrangements in the State of Israel; the second, recognizing Israel as the Jewish people's state, including the right of return issue and the solution for the Palestinian refugees, which will be found in the future Palestinian state; and the third level, the establishment of the Palestinian state requires that it be demilitarized and end the conflict, so that it does not continue in any other way."

Netanyahu concluded by saying that "an agreement means ending the conflict. If these three layers exist, peace can be achieved."

Direct Talks are a huge achievement for Israel and a public advanage for Netanyahu

An official Likud statement released by the head of the party’s reaction team, MK Ophir Akunis, called the American announcement on talks without preconditions a huge achievement for Israel.

“It took a year and a half to persuade the international community and the Palestinians that direct dialogue is the only way to try to reach a solution to the conflict,” Akunis said. “This is further proof that when you stand up for your principles and do not give in, you can attain diplomatic achievements.”

Speaking behind closed doors, Netanyahu said the success of the talks will hinge on understandings between the leaders. "I will want to reach agreed principles with the Palestinian leadership and there will be no need for many teams [of negotiators] and hundreds of meetings .... If I get the security that will ensure that no missiles will fall on Tel Aviv, it will be possible to move quickly toward a comprehensive arrangement," he was quoted as saying.

Government Services Minister Michael Eitan also welcomed the start of talks. In a letter he sent to 1,300 Likud activists over the weekend, he came out in favor of continuing the construction freeze in Judea and Samaria, except in the settlement blocs and the Jewish community of Hebron.

Eitan said Israel should already begin evacuating settlers from areas destined to be given to the Palestinians and that IDF soldiers should temporarily live in the homes. He said that in the talks with the Palestinians, Netanyahu should seek an arrangement that would allow some West Bank Jews to remain in their homes in a Palestinian state.

Aluf Benn writes in Haaretz: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is embarking on direct negotiations for a final status agreement with the Palestinians from a better position than his predecessors, Ehud Olmert and Ehud Barak, who were in touching distance of an agreement but encountered Palestinian rejection.

Netanyahu is popular among the public and enjoys unrivaled political strength, unlike Barak, whose coalition broke apart prior to his departure for the Camp David summit. Olmert lost his public backing as a result of the Second Lebanon War.

Any agreement Netanyahu would arrive at would be met with overwhelming public support. Beyond that, the prime minister has another advantage: Expectations for the renewed negotiations are negligible. The small number of people actually interested in the peace process think Netanyahu is bluffing.

Such public apathy is convenient for a politician who wants to turn his back on prior positions without incurring any condemnation, criticism or coalition turmoil. It's what Netanyahu needs to prepare the general Israeli public, the forum of seven inner cabinet ministers and the international community for a change in his approach to managing the conflict.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Ben Caspit/ Has the US administration attitude towards Netanyahu changed or suspended?

(Excerpt from column, Ben Caspit, Maariv Friday Political Supplement).September starts soon. The [settlement] freeze is ending with a bang. Construction will restart at full pace. The bulldozers will swarm the hilltops. Is there any way to bypass this minefield? it’s clear that renewal of construction will halt everything. And if the construction renewal doesn’t do it, then the negotiations themselves, where the parties are as far apart as Galant and Ashkenazi [will]. The question is, what will the Americans do? The congressional elections are in November. After them, Barack Obama will be less restrained. And still, it’s unclear whether he’ll be free to take see to us.

The current change in his attitude is politically motivated. Very many Senators and Congressmen [sic] swarmed Washington [sic] and begged the President to loosen the leash and let Netanyahu be (otherwise the Jewish donors will close their pockets.) After the elections, all that will disappear. Will Obama present an American peace plan? Will a bridging document be placed on the table? That question does not yet have an answer. Not in Washington either [sic]. Obama will have to decide what he prefers: A second term, or to get into the history books and make peace in the Middle East.  In both cases, the returns are not certain. Bu the first option, taking his hands off the conflict and focusing on a second term, is easier. In any case, the real US attitude towards the Netanyahu government hasn’t changed. Inside the room, nothing has changed about how the two parties regard each other. Both parties.

This is exemplified by the following story: A little while back, Rahm Emanuel paid us a visit. A family visit, on the occasion of his son’s Bar Mitzvah. Still, Emanuel conducted some [working] meetings in Jerusalem. In the Prime Minister’s Office, among others. With Netanyahu’s Diplomatic Adviser, Ron Dermer, among others. The meeting was held at one of the offices in “the aquarium” [the Prime Minister's suite]. The tone was not amicable. At some point, it turned into shouting and cursing. Emanuel, as he regularly does, used obscene language. Don’t fuck with me, for example. That word, F... which is off-limits in the American media, appears in every second sentence Emanuel utters. Whoever translates it, does it at his own risk [I guess that refers to yours truly in a roundabout way -- DR]. Dermer, by the way, gave back as good as he got. Emanuel was angry, he claimed, because Dermer briefed certain Americans, Jewish and non-Jewish, against the President and and Emanuel himself. The ruckus at the meeting was bad and hasn’t leaked until now.

Afterwards, Bibi went to Washington and everything calmed down. The question is, what will happen after November. Will Emanuel remain in his position? Will the President still be in an historic [sic] mood. From Netanyahu’s perspective that’s an existential question.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Peace Index: 77% Israeli Jews - world critical of Israel regardless of what does on the Palestinian issue

(Peace Index - August via IMRA).One of the fascinating phenomena concerning the way the Israeli Jewish public views world criticism of Israel and Israel's low status in the international community is the perception of a weak connection between Israel's actions and attitudes toward Israel. In other words, it is assumed that no matter what Israel does, it will always incur foreign criticism. The guiding assumption of the majority is that "the whole world is against us"(56%). Yet an even larger majority 77% asserts unequivocally that it makes no difference what Israel does in the Palestinian context and what policy it adopts; the world will continue to be very critical of Israel in any event.

In other words, these numbers show that while a significant number of respondents (42.5%) disagree with the maxim that the whole word is against us, many of those same individuals believe that Israel's actions and policies are not the main source of the criticism directed at the Jewish state.

On the question of how much Israel should take world opinion into account when making foreign policy decisions, a thought-provoking similarity emerged between the positions of the ultra-Orthodox and of the secular: in both groups a similar majority (54.5% and 52%,) favored taking world opinion into account.

As for paying heed to U.S. positions when formulating Israeli foreign policy, a large majority of the Jewish public, as we saw, favors consideration of the American stance, including a majority of all four groups - secular, traditional, religious, and ultra-Orthodox. However, a clear-cut majority of secular, traditional, and ultra-Orthodox respondents would take U.S. opinion into account, among the religious the finding is borderline (exactly 50% vs. 48%, with 2% responding "don't know").

Despite media reports regarding the rise in negative attitudes toward Israel in many places in the world, a slim majority (53%) of the Jewish public feels that Israel is very or somewhat isolated (vs. 46% who feel it is fairly unisolated or not isolated at all).

In this context of isolation, amid the recent "hot" debate on whether the connection of Diaspora Jewry to Israel, especially among its young generation, is weakening, we asked: "Studies have shown that many Jews in the Diaspora, particularly young people, are becoming distanced from Israel for a variety of reasons. Following are four possible reasons. Please indicate the extent to which you think each contributes to the distancing of young Jews in the Diaspora from Israel, if at all."

It turns out that a majority of the Israeli Jewish public again ascribe the responsibility for the distancing to the other side, this time to the young people of the Diaspora. Respondents attribute a strong influence on the state of Diaspora-Israel relations to the fact that young Diaspora Jews are losing the connection with their Jewish identity. In comparison, Israel's problematic policy regarding the issue of non-Orthodox denominations, which is cited repeatedly in studies and reports, as well as Israel's policy on the Palestinian issue, are seen by the Israeli Jewish public as factors with minor influence on the relationship between the young people of the Diaspora and Israel.

The highest rate of respondents (49%) attributed a strong influence to the general weakening of Jewish identity among young people in the Diaspora. An identical rate of 27% each attributed a strong influence to the fact that Israel does not grant equal status to non-Orthodox denominations and to the fading memory of the Holocaust. Only 22% attributed a strong influence to Israel's policy on the Palestinian issue.

The government received a failing grade for the handling of Israel's foreign relations by the majority (62%) of the Jewish public. Only about a third (34%) see the government's functioning in this realm as moderately or very satisfactory. Surprisingly, the Arab public is more "positive": 47% give the government a good or very good grade and a similar number assign it a bad or very bad one.

The Lieberman effect - Specifically regarding the functioning of Foreign Minister Lieberman, only a minority (35.5%) of the Jews polled think he is contributing to Israel's status in the international community whereas the majority of respondents (51%) think he is moderately or greatly damaging it.

The Peace Index project is conducted under the auspices of the Evens Program for
Conflict Resolution at Tel Aviv University and the Israel Democracy Institute. The survey was carried out by telephone on August 8-9 by the Dahaf Institute. The survey included 601 respondents, who constitute a representative sample of the adult population of Israel.An overview of the Index was published in Yediot Aharonot on August19, 2010.

Finance Minister Shtienitz demands the U.S. to present Iran with unequivocal ultimatum of Military strike

(Ynet).The US should issue a strict ultimatum to Iran, warning that the possibility of a military strike will turn into reality within weeks should Tehran fail to curb its nuclear program, Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz said Thursday.

In the first such statement by a Cabinet member, Steinitz said: "The US must issue a clear ultimatum to Iran, tell it that if it does not change its behavior within weeks, the military option that has been on the table up until now will become relevant."

Steinitz, who is a close associate of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, is familiar with Iran's nuclear program from his service as the chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.

"It’s time for the whole world, under US leadership, to issue Iran a clear ultimatum that if it does not change its ways in a clear and verifiable manner, it can expect an American attack, or at least a naval blockade," he said.

Steinitz refrained from mentioning Netanyahu's stance on the matter, but said the demand for an ultimatum is being made despite certain achievements in diplomacy and other measures adopted by the international community.

He also disputed claims by the by former US ambassador to the UN John Bolton, who said Israel has "days" to attack Iran before Russia fuels its Bushehr nuclear facility.

"Bushehr is only one reactor, and not necessarily the most significant one in respect to the nuclear issue. However, Iran's progress in enriching (uranium) and its aspirations for nuclear weapons continue and must be stopped," the finance minister said.

U.S.: Israel, Palestinians 'very close' to direct Mideast peace talks

The Obama administration said Thursday it is near to securing an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians to resume direct peace talks, while some U.S. officials said an announcement could be imminent.

The State Department said an agreement was "very, very" close but that details were still being worked out. Speaking privately administration officials familiar with the matter said an announcement could come as early as Friday or Saturday. Those officials spoke on condition of anonymity due to the delicacy of the ongoing diplomacy.

"We think we are very, very close to a decision by the parties to enter into direct negotiations," State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley told reporters.

"We think we're well positioned to get there."

To that end, he said Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton had called Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad late Wednesday and spoken Thursday with Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, the special representative of the Quartet of Mideast peacemakers - the U.S., the U.N., the European Union and Russia.

Officials said tentative plans call for Israel, the Palestinians, the Quartet and the U.S. to release separate but near simultaneous statements saying the stalled talks will resume early next month in either the U.S. or Egypt. The U.S. statement is expected to be issued in Clinton's name.

Crowley declined to comment on the arrangements but said that if "we reach the point we hope to arrive at ... we will demonstrate our support for the process and we will outline specifics of where we go from here."

Under a scenario now being finalized, the officials said Israel, the Palestinians, the Quartet of Mideast peacemakers and the United States would release separate but near simultaneous statements saying the stalled talks will resume early next month in either the U.S. or Egypt.

The State Department comment came after last week Haaretz quoted a senior U.S. official saying Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was about to announce the start of direct peace negotiations with Israel in "a matter of days."

Contrary to the optimism in Washington, however, Israeli officials were trying to show toughness regarding preconditions, with one official saying that "Israel is not willing to agree to any preconditions from the back door via a Quartet announcement that will serve as a basis for the negotiations."

"As far as we know, the negotiations may begin in two days, but also in two weeks," the Israeli official added.

Speaking with Haaretz last week, the senior U.S. official said it was still unclear whether President Barack Obama would take part in the inauguration or whether the parties would be invited to Washington for a ceremony.

According to the Israeli official, the ceremony would be held in Egypt under the auspices of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak; the United States would be represented by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

George Will / US Shouldn't Tell Israel to Take 'Risks for Peace'

(George Will via Newsmax).In the intifada that began in 2000, Palestinian terrorism killed more than 1,000 Israelis. As a portion of U.S. population, that would be 42,000, approaching the toll of America's eight years in Vietnam. During the onslaught, which began 10 Septembers ago, Israeli parents sending two children to a school would put them on separate buses to decrease the chance that neither would return for dinner.

Surely most Americans can imagine, even if their tone-deaf leaders can not, how grating it is when those leaders lecture Israel on the need to take "risks for peace."

During Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's July visit to Washington, Barack Obama praised him as "willing to take risks for peace." There was a time when that meant swapping "land for peace" — Israel sacrificing something tangible and irrecoverable, strategic depth, in exchange for something intangible and perishable, promises of diplomatic normality.

Strategic depth matters in a nation where almost everyone is a soldier, so society cannot function for long with the nation fully mobilized. Also, before the 1967 Six-Day War, Israel within the borders established by the 1949 armistice was in one place just nine miles wide, a fact that moved George W. Bush to say: In Texas we have driveways that long.

Israel exchanged a lot of land to achieve a chilly peace with Egypt, yielding the Sinai, which is almost three times larger than Israel and was 89 percent of the land captured in the process of repelling the 1967 aggression.

The intifada was launched by the late Yasser Arafat — terrorist and Nobel Peace Prize winner — after the July 2000 Camp David meeting, during which then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered to cede control of all of Gaza and more than 90 percent of the West Bank, with small swaps of land to accommodate the growth of Jerusalem suburbs just across the 1949 armistice line.

Israelis are famously fractious, but the intifada produced among them a consensus that the most any government of theirs could offer without forfeiting domestic support is less than any Palestinian interlocutor would demand. Furthermore, the intifada was part of a pattern. As in 1936 and 1947, talk about partition prompted Arab violence.

In 1936, when the British administered Palestine, the Peel Commission concluded that there was "an irrepressible conflict" — a phrase coined by an American historian to describe the U.S. Civil War — "between two national communities within the narrow bounds of one small country." And: "Neither of the two national ideals permits" a combination "in the service of a single state." The commission recommended "a surgical operation" — partition.

What followed was the Arab Revolt of 1936 to 1939.

On Nov. 29, 1947, the U.N. recommended a partition plan. Israel accepted the recommendation. On Nov. 30, Israel was attacked.

Palestine has a seemingly limitless capacity for eliciting nonsense from afar, as it did recently when Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron referred to Gaza as a "prison camp." In a sense it is, but not in the sense Cameron intended. His implication was that Israel is the cruel imprisoner. Gaza's actual misfortune is to be under the iron fist of Hamas, a terrorist organization.

In May, a flotilla launched from Turkey approached Gaza in order to provoke a confrontation with Israel, which, like Egypt, administers a blockade to prevent arms from reaching Hamas. The flotilla's pretense was humanitarian relief for Gaza — where the infant mortality rate is lower and life expectancy is higher than in Turkey.

Israelis less than 50 years old have no memory of their nation within the 1967 borders set by the 1949 armistice that ended the War of Independence. The rest of the world seems to have no memory at all concerning the intersecting histories of Palestine and the Jewish people.

The creation of Israel did not involve the destruction of a Palestinian state, there having been no such state since the Romans arrived. And if the Jewish percentage of the world's population were today what it was when the Romans ruled Palestine, there would be 200 million Jews. After a uniquely hazardous passage through two millennia without a homeland, there are 13 million Jews.

In the 62 years since this homeland was founded on one-sixth of 1 percent of the land of what is carelessly and inaccurately called "the Arab world," Israelis have never known an hour of real peace. Patronizing American lectures on the reality of risks and the desirableness of peace, which once were merely fatuous, are now obscene.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Israel becomes a US Partisan issue as Poll finds: America divided in its support for Israel

(Via Haaretz).American support for Israel is waning, as it is becoming a partisan issue showing a huge gap between Republicans strong support of Israel and Democrats with the support of liberal Jews , a poll presented to senior Israeli officials in Jerusalem last week revealed.

The survey was carried out by pollster and strategist Stanley Greenberg and sponsored by the American Jewish organization the Israel Project, which organizes and executes pro-Israel public relations campaigns with a focus on North America, presented the poll's findings to senior Israeli officials, including President Shimon Peres, Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor, as well as officials from the Prime Minister's office.

One of the questions that the poll presented was "Does the U.S. need to support Israel?"

In August of 2009, 63% of Americans polled said that the U.S. does need to support Israel. In June of this year, 58% of respondents shared the same view; by July only 51% of respondents said the U.S. needed to support Israel.

Another question posed by the pole was "Is the Israeli government committed to peace with the Palestinians?"

In December of 2007, 66% of respondents said that the government, then led by Ehud Olmert, was committed to peace with the Palestinians. In June of 2009, a month after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited the White House, only 46% of Americans said they believed the Netanyahu government was committed to peace.

In the months of May and June, there appeared to be a positive change in American public opinion on the matter, with 53% of respondents saying they believe Netanyahu seeks peace. However, in July, only 45% of American said they felt Netanyahu was committed to the peace process. Thirty-nine percent responded that Netanyahu and his administration are not committed to seeking peace with the Palestinians.

Greenberg has analyzed the poll results and says that the section of the American public where Israel is most rapidly losing support is among Liberal Americans who align themselves with the Democratic Party.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Zalman Shoval/ Has U.S. Policy on Israel Changed Since the July 6 Obama-Netanyahu Summit?

(Zalman Shoval-JCPA).President Obama came into office with strong preconceptions about foreign policy and especially about the Arab-Israeli conflict. In Obama's view, the parameters of a future peace settlement were already clear. All that was necessary was to convince the Arab world that America was not in Israel's pocket.

To prove it was not following Israel's lead, the Obama administration decided to force Israel to halt any construction over the Green Line (the 1949 Armistice Line), including within Jerusalem neighborhoods, taking a relatively peripheral issue and making it a decisive element in U.S.-Israel relations. There had been no settlement freeze in the Oslo Agreements, and the U.S. and Israel had reached bilateral understandings during the last decade that allowed Israel to address the needs of its citizens in the settlements without taking additional land in the process.

The main result of the administration's new policy was to encourage the Palestinians to take more hard-line positions. Palestinian Authority head Mahmoud Abbas began to insist on preconditions for direct negotiations which never existed before.

On Iran, the Obama administration felt that progress on the peace process would set the stage for an effective regional coalition against Tehran. The Israeli approach was the exact opposite, stressing that if Iran's nuclear program were neutralized, then that would set the stage for a real peace process, since that would weaken the most radicalized elements in the Arab world who sought to actively undermine any prospects for peace, especially Hamas, Hizbullah, and Syria.

The Obama administration now appears to have concluded that the tactics it employed against the Netanyahu government were self-defeating. But it is premature to establish that it has revised its overall strategic outlook.

Former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon used to say, "What you see from here, you don't see from there" - meaning that there is a difference between how you understand the Middle East before you are in a position of power and how you perceive it when you are in office. Apparently, this truism also could be applied to the Obama administration.

As U.S. policy on the Arab-Israeli conflict failed to produce positive results, leading commentators began to question whether the stress the administration placed on resolving the conflict was misplaced. Aaron David Miller, who was involved in the peace process for two decades in the State Department, questioned in Foreign Policy if this was still a core issue.1 Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations and formerly head of policy planning in the State Department, also argued, "it is easy to exaggerate how central the Israel-Palestinian issue is."2

Why, nonetheless, has the Obama administration stressed the Palestinian issue so much? The answer appears to be a combination of Obama's own ideological proclivities and his own reading of the U.S. national interest. Thus, in April 2010, he declared that conflicts like the one in the Middle East end up "costing us significantly in terms of both blood and treasure." He appeared to be making a link between the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and America's war against radical Islamic groups in Iraq and Afghanistan.

While this harsh statement may have reflected the inner thinking of the administration, it eventually concluded that these tactics didn't work. There were internal political pressures in the U.S. to soften the tone on Israel, especially with the November 2010 mid-term elections coming up.

To many observers, it seems that the Obama administration's policy is really changing on the subject of Iran. On June 9, 2010, at long last, the U.S. reached a consensus in the UN Security Council and pushed through the adoption of new sanctions in UN Security Council Resolution 1929. On July 1, President Obama signed a bill imposing tough new U.S. sanctions against Iran that targeted exports of gasoline and other refined petroleum products to Tehran. It also banned U.S. banks from doing business with foreign banks providing services to Iran's Revolutionary Guard.

Obama's diplomatic contacts also appeared to yield real results. Shortly after Resolution 1929 was adopted, the EU adopted new measures against Iran on July 26. Norway, Canada, Australia, and Japan all announced new steps against Iran, as well. The U.S. and Israel previously had real differences on Iran as the Israeli government was skeptical about engagement. It felt that new Western sanctions should have been put in place already in September 2009. Still, the Netanyahu government greeted the new U.S.-led actions positively.

One of the great U.S.-Israel differences was far more strategic. The Obama administration felt that progress on the peace process would set the stage for an effective regional coalition against Iran. The Israeli approach was the exact opposite: in Jerusalem, government officials often stressed that if Iran's nuclear program were neutralized, then that would set the stage for a real peace process, since that would weaken the most radicalized elements in the Arab world who sought to actively undermine any prospects for peace, especially Hamas, Hizbullah, and Syria. However, the U.S. and Israel never resolved their differences over regional strategic priorities.

There have been some indications that the administration had learned some lessons from its almost obsessive focus on settlements. On July 7, a day after his summit meeting with Netanyahu at the White House, Obama gave an interview to Yonit Levy of Israel Channel 2 television, who tried to bring up the settlement issue:
Question: Will you, by the way, extend - request that Israel extends that settlement freeze after September?

President Obama: You know, what I want is for us to get into direct talks. As I said yesterday, I think that if you have direct talks between Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas), Netanyahu, their teams, that builds trust. And trust then allows for both sides to not be so jumpy or paranoid about every single move that's being made, whether it's related to Jerusalem or any of the other issues that have to be dealt with, because people feel as if there's a forum in which conflicts can get resolved.

Obama did not say that if the Israeli government refused to extend its ten-month settlement freeze, the U.S. would react harshly. He seemed to chastise the Palestinians for becoming paranoid "about every single move that's being made." His priority was to get to direct talks. But that did not mean that the administration's policy on construction in the settlements had changed. He also did not signal whether he was pulling back on his insistence on a freeze in construction in the Jewish neighborhoods of the eastern part of Jerusalem.

In short, the U.S. and Israel still have significant differences over the peace process and the issue of Iran. The Obama administration appears to have learned that the tactics it employed against the Netanyahu government were self-defeating. But it is premature to establish that it has revised its overall strategic outlook. President Obama's prioritization of an American effort to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is likely to continue because he believes that it can transform the difficult relationship between America and the Islamic world that became sharper after 9/11. This approach by the administration is not a question of tactics, but rather a matter of world view. And it is likely to accompany the U.S.-Israel relationship in the months and perhaps years ahead.