Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Knesset passes Biennial state budget for 2011-2012; Netanyahu: "This is a good day for Israel"

The state budget for the next two years was approved by the Knesset plenum on Tuesday with 63 lawmakers voting in favor and 33 opposing. The budget for 2011 will stand at some NIS 247 billion ($69.07 billion) while that of 2012 will total at NIS 259 billion ($72.43 billion).

Having been approved by the Knesset's Economic Committee last week, the budget has now passed second and third readings at the Knesset plenum and is final.

Shortly prior to the vote, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: "On a day we are informed of gas finds, on a day we will shortly pass a second biennial budget, on a day one learns that Israel's economy has grown the most out of any other economy in the Western world and created more than 100,000 work places for Israelis – that is a good day for Israel."

After 11 hour of voting, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the biennial budget approved by the Knesset was "good and responsible – both economically and socially, The budget will continue marching Israel in the right direction."

Israel's economy grows 4.5% in 2010, outpaces the average for the world’s developed economies

(Globes, TheMedialine).Israel's GDP rose 4.5% in 2010, in fixed prices, according to preliminary estimates by the Central Bureau of Statistics. Israel's GDP growth was almost double the expected OECD average of 2.7% for the year.

Israel's GDP rose by 0.8% in 2009, and rose by 4.2% in 2008. The 2010 growth figure is unexpectedly strong; economic organizations had predicted 4% growth.

Israel's average unemployment rate of 6.7% in 2010 is well below the OECD average of 8.3%.

The Central Bureau of Statistics cited three noteworthy developments in 2010: the rapid growth of exports, which began in the second half of 2009, ended in the third quarter of 2010; the rapid growth in private consumption, which began at the same time, also slowed; and steady growth continued in investment in fixed assets, including housing starts.

Israel's GDP per capita rose by 2.7% in 2010, after falling 1.1% in 2009, during the severe global economic crisis and the sharp slowdown in Israel's economic growth. Israel's performance in this variable was also above the OECD average of 2.3%.

Business product rose 5.3% in 2010 after rising by just 0.1% in 2009.

Investment in fixed assets, including in residential housing, stands out in particular, rising 10% in 2010, compared with the OECD average of 2.2%.

Israel’s gross domestic product will probably expand 3.6% in 2011, according to a median of 12 forecasters polled by The Media Line. But Israeli growth is on track to outpace the average for the world’s developed economies, which the International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimated in October would be 2.2%.

Exports, led by chemical pharmaceutical and technology, jumped more than 20% in the first 11 months of the year as demand in the U.S. and Europe, Israel’s biggest markets, emerged from recession. But the demand will grow much less this year, with the IMF forecasting imports from the developed world increasing about 5% in 2011, half this year’s rate.

“The situation of the Israeli consumer isn’t bad at all – unemployment is falling and wages are stable. In investment, which had been weak, we saw revival in 2010 and it will continue growing next year,” Ron Eichel, chief economist at Meitav Investment House in Tel Aviv, told The Media Line. Nevertheless, he said GDP would grow 4% next year, matching its 2010 pace.

The growth story comes in sharp contrast to political malaise. Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu’s government has had rocky relations with its key American ally and peace talks with the Palestinians are stalled. The country faces a strategic threat from Iran as well as tensions on its borders with Lebanon and the Gaza Strip.

But business people and investors have largely ignored politics. The Tel Aviv Stock Exchange’s TA 25 blue chip index has risen some 14% this year after a 75% jump in 2009. The shekel reached its strongest in two years at 3.569 in October and on Tuesday traded close to that level. Foreign investment reached $7.8 billion in the first three quarters of this year, 10% more than the same time in 2009.

This year, Israel was welcomed into the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the club of the world’s most advanced economies, while its stock market was upgraded from emerging market to developed-economy by MSCI, whose indices are used by investors as a global benchmark for allocating their portfolios.

Vered Dar, chief economist at Psagot Investment House, said Israel’s economy was positioned strongly enough to weather any crisis abroad. “The potential for drama, if there is any in the U.S. and Europe, will affect our capital markets, less than the real economy,” she said, forecasting GDP growth for Israel of 3.5% this year.

Vice Premier Ya'alon: West has 3 years to stop Iran's Nuclear W/ action beyond sanctions

The United States and its allies have up to three years to curb Iran's nuclear program, which has been set back by technical difficulties and sanctions, Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Ya'alon told Israel Radio on Wednesday.

Saying Iran remained the government's biggest worry, Yaalon did not mention possible unilateral military strikes by Israel, saying he hoped U.S.-led action against Tehran would be successful.

"I believe that this effort will grow, and will include areas beyond sanctions, to convince the Iranian regime that, effectively, it must choose between continuing to seek nuclear capability and surviving, I don't know if it will happen in 2011 or in 2012, but we are talking in terms of the next three years."

"These difficulties postpone the timeline, of course. Thus we cannot talk about a 'point of no return'. Iran does not currently have the ability to make a nuclear bomb on its own, I hope it won't succeed at all and that the Western world's effort will ultimately deny Iran a nuclear capability."

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Poll finds A Majority of Israeli's support PM Netanyahu's final status peace plan as addressed in Bar Ilan speech

Below are the results (via IMRA) of a joint Israeli-Palestinian poll conducted by the Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace at the Hebrew University and the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research in Ramallah. the poll findings among Israeli's show that a majority of Israeli's want peace, but support PM Netanyahu's final status peace plan as addressed in the June 2009 Bar Ilan policy speech.

Saudi Peace plan:
61% of the Israelis oppose and 32% support the Saudi initiative which calls for Arab recognition of and normalization of relations with Israel after it ends its occupation of Arab territories occupied in 1967 and after the establishment of a Palestinian state. The plan calls for Israeli retreat from all territories occupied in 1967 including Gaza the West Bank, Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, and the establishment of a Palestinian state. The refugee’s problem will be resolved through negotiation in a just and agreed upon manner and in accordance with UN resolution 194. In return, all Arab states will recognize Israel and its right to secure borders, will sign peace treaties with her and establish normal diplomatic relation.

Clinton/Geneva Parameters:
52% of the Israelis support the overall Clinton package and 39% oppose it.The Clinton parameters for a Palestinian-Israeli permanent settlement address the most fundamental issues: (1) Final borders and territorial exchange; (2) Refugees; (3) Jerusalem; (4) A demilitarized Palestinian state; (5) Security arrangements; and (6) End of conflict.

Final Borders: 49% support and 43% oppose a Palestinian state in the entirety of the West bank and the Gaza Strip except for several large blocks of settlements in 3% of the West Bank which will be annexed to Israel. Israel will evacuate all other settlements, and the Palestinians will receive in return territory of similar size along the Gaza Strip.

Refugees: 36% support an arrangement in which the solution will be based on UN resolutions 194 and 242. The refugees would be given five choices for permanent residency. These are: the Palestinian state and the Israeli areas transferred to the Palestinian state in the territorial exchange, 52% oppose it.

Jerusalem: 38% agree and 58% disagree to arrangement in which the Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem including the old city and the Temple Mount will come under Palestinian sovereignty, the Jewish neighborhoods including the Jewish quarter and the Wailing Wall will come under Israeli sovereignty, East Jerusalem will become the capital of the Palestinian state and West Jerusalem the capital of Israel.

Demilitarized Palestinian State: 62% support and 34% oppose.

Security Arrangements: 52% support and 39% oppose a compromise whereby the Palestinian state would have sovereignty over its land, water, and airspace, but Israel would have the right to use the Palestinian airspace for training purposes, and would maintain two early warning stations in the West Bank for 15 years. A multinational force would remain in the Palestinian state and in its border crossings for an indefinite period of time.

End of Conflict: 68% support and 25%oppose a compromise on ending the conflict that would state that when the permanent status agreement is fully implemented, it will mean the end of the conflict and no further claims will be made by either side. The parties will recognize Palestine and Israel as the homelands of their respective peoples.

Settlement Freeze: 27% of Israelis support full construction freeze in all settlements, 37% support the continuation of construction only in the settlement blocks which will remain under Israeli rule in a future agreement, and 29% support unlimited construction in all settlements.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Netanyahu in exclusive interview on Channel 10: "Our enemies know, they do not mess with me"

#peace - I am in charge

"If the Palestinians would recognize the legitimacy of Israel as a Jewish state and give up on the right of return, and if security arrangements were agreed upon to his satisfaction, no coalition consideration will stop me.”

“But up until now they are just trying to run away from negotiations, If they enter [talks], and accept those two basic conditions to reaching an agreement, I will not hesitate.”

#peace options

“If we get into the discussions, it could be that we will hit a wall – on [the issue] of Jerusalem, on refugees. It is possible, then, that as a result there will be an interim agreement. I don’t rule out that possibility.”

“This can be the result of a diplomatic process, but not its first aim".

The prime minister said that Lieberman was not “humiliating” him by making statements that ran contrary to his own positions.

#Israel security

"The security situation in the country is incomparably better than it had been two and three years ago,because our enemies know not to mess with me. They are, at least, more cautious. And if they shoot something, they will get it back on the spot. That is a policy I set, and we implement it.”

"It would be a fatal mistake for Hamas to act aggressively".

During the interview, Netanyahu again reiterated that any agreement with the Palestinians would necessitate an Israeli presence on the Jordan River, and that he was opposed to a division of Jerusalem agreed upon by former prime minister Ehud Olmert, whereby the Arab neighborhoods would be turned over to a Palestinian state.

Netanyahu on Channel 10: Hope Still Remains for Real Peace

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in an interview to be aired on Channel 10 on Monday evening that peace negotiations with the Palestinians could result in an interim agreement.
"There could well be a situation that if we enter into talks with the Palestinians and we hit a wall on the issues of Jerusalem and refugees, the result would be an interim agreement, That is certainly a possibility."
The prime minister was responding to a question about Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman's diplomatic plan for an interim agreement, which was reported on by Haaretz on Monday.

The PM dismisses tensions with Lieberman over FM's inflammatory comments about Turkey, peace process: "The foreign minister is not humiliating me, he's expressing his own opinion."
"In the Israeli government system, ministers always express their opinions. There is a coalition, there are different opinions, The final opinion is that decided upon by the government and that which is expressed by the prime minister. That's how it's been in all the governments."
"I set out a clear policy in the Bar Ilan speech. There I said that if the Palestinians recognize the Jewish State and give up the right of Palestinian refugees to return - I mean, if they recognize a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes the Jewish state, I announce here and now I will see it through to the end, I have no doubt that the majority of the people will support this," he added.
Also in interview with Channel 10, Netanyahu said that Israel was ready to express regret over the Gaza flotilla incident but that Israel would not apologize for the actions of its soldiers.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Former Kadima MK Hanegbi: Obama has unique opportunity to gain Israeli support by pardoning Pollard

(TZAHI HANEGBI-Jpost Op-Ed).On November 21, 1985, Jonathan Pollard was apprehended by FBI agents, after having been denied refuge at the Israeli Embassy in Washington.

At that time, I was serving as an adviser to acting prime minister and foreign minister Yitzhak Shamir, and I then served as his bureau chief after his appointment to the premiership less than a year later. From the moment Pollard was arrested until the end of Shamir’s term in 1992, this sensitive subject was a top priority among the three leaders of the unity government: Shamir, Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Rabin.

At the core of Shamir’s considerations stood the aspiration to minimize, as far as possible, the potential damage caused by the breakdown of trust with the US. The excessively heavy price was paid by Pollard. Israel was required by the US to return all the classified documents he had transferred, and it did so, although this strengthened the evidence against him.

Shamir did not act the way he did, and neither did Rabin or Peres, out of indifference. As he explained to us, his close advisers, he strongly identified with the pain and distress of Pollard and his wife.

However, Shamir clearly understood what was entailed by sacrifice for one’s country. At a young age, he had joined the underground fight against the British and fought for Israel’s independence. He lived as a wanted man, was arrested twice and exiled to Africa. After the establishment of the state, he was enlisted into the Mossad and commanded acutely dangerous operations. As one who personally experienced what it was to live under constant threat of exposure, and the consequent catastrophic consequences, Shamir had no doubt that the good of the country must take precedence over the fate of an individual.

MORE THAN a decade passed before the leadership understood that its highest moral priority was to enlist on behalf of this individual, whose actions had constituted a unique service to the security of the country, and even saved the lives of many Israelis. In May 1998, the attorney-general issued an official letter, stating: “The State of Israel acknowledges its obligation to Mr. Pollard, and is ready to assume full responsibility accordingly.” Pollard received Israeli citizenship, MKs and ministers visited him in prison and prime ministers – every one of them – privately asked successive US presidents to release him. None of this helped; 25 years have passed and Pollard is still behind bars.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s announcement that he will make an unprecedented public appeal to President Barack Obama regarding Pollard is a highly significant development.

A series of surveys has examined the level of the public’s trust in the US president since 2008, and consistently indicated that Israelis have a very low degree of support for Obama.

Although in those two years there has not been any significant change in US policy toward Israel, and although security and intelligence cooperation has actually deepened in this period, Obama’s standing has not come close to the levels of popularity enjoyed by previous presidents, like Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton or George W. Bush. The reasons for this are diverse, and almost all of an emotional nature, but at the heart lie two factors: Obama’s failure to visit since taking office and his strong belief in the need to stretch out a hand to the Muslim world, as clearly expressed in his conciliatory speeches in Cairo and Istanbul.

Now, Obama has a unique opportunity to bridge the psychological abyss between him and the people of Israel: to grant a pardon to Jonathan Pollard.

This decision, like no other political or military gesture, has humanitarian justification, and no one in the Palestinian camp or the Arab world could object to it. Quite the reverse, a bold move like this would not only strengthen the ties of the Obama administration to the Jews of his country and Israel, but would also make it easier for Netanyahu to show his appreciation for the president, who is very interested in renewing the deadlocked diplomatic process.

Everyone knows that the punishment Pollard received has become disproportionate to the severity of the crime for which he was convicted. This conclusion has also permeated the ranks of the US government itself. People like Lawrence J. Korb, assistant to defense minister Caspar Weinberger, who at the time led the hard line against Pollard; Michael Mukasey, former US attorneygeneral; and James Wolsey, former head of the CIA, have all expressed similar sentiments. If Obama can muster the courage to work for a pardon for Pollard, it is likely that he will enjoy broad, bipartisan support in Congress.

Foremost, this would of course be wonderful news for Pollard himself. But beyond that, the surprising move could also quickly emerge as a brilliant gambit in the sphere of Israeli-American relations.

FM Lieberman shooting in all directions: PM Netanyahu is unrealistic in hope for Peace, PA is an illegitimate gov't, Turks are liars

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman unleashed a string of vitriol Sunday attacking Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, calling the Turks liars, and labeling the Palestinian Authority as illegitimate.

At a conference of Foreign Ministry diplomats, Lieberman said that it would be impossible for Israel's governing coalition to consolidate a unified foreign policy acceptable to each member.
"Within the reality of the current political situation and the current coalition, it is not possible to present a real policy that would be accepted to everyone, If we were to present a policy program, the coalition simply would not exist anymore".
Lieberman also criticized Netanyahu, saying that his attempt to achieve a peace agreement with the Palestinians that would tend to all core issues within a year is simply unrealistic.
"Even if we offer the Palestinians Tel Aviv and a retreat to 1947 borders, they will find a reason not to sign a peace agreement with us."
Lieberman insisted yet again that the only option is a long-term interim agreement and said that he has an alternative plan that has so far been shelved. "I am ready to present this plan at any moment, but the plan is very different than what other government officials are talking about these days," he said.
"There is no need to enter a dispute with the Palestinians. We have a policy of sticks, not only carrots, It's not in the interest of the Palestinians to continue these moves and if we would have to deal with it, we will."
He went on to personally attack Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, saying that the Palestinian Authority is an "illegitimate government that doesn't conduct elections. We cannot reach an agreement with them."

Lieberman called Turkey's demand for an apology over the IDF raid on the Marmara, in which nine Turkish civilians died, "beyond rude". He said lies were also being heard from Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, "who visits Lebanon and threatens the State of Israel".
"I will not accept the lies we're hearing all the time, I heard the lies and false promises made by the foreign minister who said, 'Look, we are ready to cooperate with Israel, look at how we came to help Israel with the fire in the Carmel and in our stead they would not have done the same.' I want to remind him of the earthquake in 2007, when we sent delegations which were there for weeks. We worked and heard not a word".
"The one who needs to apologize is the Turkish government for supporting terror, the IHH, Hamas, and Hezbollah. There will be no apology, just the opposite, we are expecting one from Ankara."

Friday, December 24, 2010

Republican House Foreign Affairs Committee chairwoman to ‘show Israel that we are strongly in its corner'

U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, made the following statement today about the importance of United States security assistance to Israel:
“Republicans will not use security assistance to Israel as a political tool to excuse separate, unsubstantiated increases in U.S. development aid across the board. Security assistance to Israel advances our security priorities and the return on our investment in this critical U.S. ally is clear, unlike many other of our overseas programs and operations.

“Security assistance to Israel is a top priority for Republicans because our Members understand that it is a vital investment which enhances our nation’s security interests and is a force-multiplier of our efforts to combat extremism in the Middle East. Charges to the contrary are baseless and politically-motivated.”

HILARY LEILA KRIEGER from Jpost has a write up of conversation with the Republican Florida Representative:
For Ros-Lehtinen, security for Israel meshes with other US national security priorities.

“We need to help Israel, we need to show Israel that we are strongly in its corner,” she stressed.

“I think she’ll be terrific on Israel relations issues. I don’t think there’s anybody better,” assessed Morrie Amitay, former executive director of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and currently the head of the staunchly pro-Israel Washington Political Action Committee.

“She’s 100 percent behind making Israel secure. I can’t think of any issue affecting Israel in which she hasn’t been on the right side,” enthused Amitay, whose PAC has funded her campaigns generously over the years and who was close enough to her to attend a celebration in honor of the PhD in education she received from the University of Miami in 2004, 15 years into her tenure in Congress. Ros- Lehtinen started out as a teacher and principal before running for the Florida state legislature and then the US House.

And her roots don’t only extend to Cuba. Her maternal grandparents, who were Jewish, fled Turkey for Cuba, making her Jewish according to Jewish law. He mother ended up converting to Catholicism to marry her father, and she now considers herself Episcopalian.

But Ros-Lehtinen dismissed the idea that her religious background has had any influence on her attitude toward Israel. In fact, she said that she doesn’t like to talk about her Jewish heritage because it can lead people to question her stance on Middle East issues – as well as view her as opportunistic. Her district in southern Florida, after all, has a healthy contingent of Jewish voters.

“I don’t talk about it because people then think, oh all of the sudden... she’s discovered Jewish roots. But I didn’t just discover it,” she explained, “I would have the same thoughts and the same attitudes if I did not have Jewish ancestry.”

THOSE ATTITUDES include strong support for aid to Israel despite a Republican climate hostile to spending, in which foreign aid is seen as particularly vulnerable. Ros-Lehtinen acknowledged the threat, saying, “I don’t know what the leadership wants to do in terms of levels of funding. If they say 5 percent across the board for everybody then that’s the way it is.”

But she also suggested ways of securing Israel aid by having it considered separately as security assistance.

Those prospects, however, don’t sit well with Democrats who are concerned about the implications of distinguishing aid to Israel.

Others on the progressive side of the Jewish community are concerned about her posture toward the Palestinians.

While Ros-Lehtinen said she supports a two-state solution, she expressed concern that current US policies were leading toward a three-state solution as the Palestinians fracture between Hamas and Fatah. She considers Hamas, which openly calls for the destruction of Israel, much more extreme than Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, an independent. But she made clear that doesn’t mean she holds them in high regard.

“This feeling that Abbas and Fayyad are the good guys, if they’re the good guys then we should start praying for Israel’s safety right now, because these are folks who have not wanted to be true partners for peace,” she declared. “They do not recognize Israel’s right to exist as a free, democratic, Jewish state.

They will not abide by prior commitments, they will not sit and negotiate with Israel.”

And she was particularly troubled by the way the US has provided financial assistance to the PA.

“They know they don’t have to do a darn thing; with this administration they will get a blank check and they will always get helped out,” she said. “Try looking at their budgets and try examining where they’re using their money and where our US dollars are going.

If you track US dollars, you’ll never find out where that money goes.”

Her stance on the PA, as on many issues, puts her at odds with the White House, but Ros- Lehtinen isn’t one to shy away from confrontation. In this case, her statements come just as the Obama administration has emphasized state-building as a way of continuing progress on the peace process after talks stalled when Israel refused to extend a settlement moratorium and the Palestinians refused to have direct talks without a freeze in place. The program, which trains PA security forces and builds governing institutions, is heavily premised on the notion that Abbas and particularly Fayyad are men of peace.

“Prime Minister Fayyad has accomplished a great deal in a short amount of time under very difficult circumstances,” maintained Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at a recent event outlining the American commitment to continue to support his program. “Along with President Abbas, he has brought strong leadership to the Palestinian Authority and he has helped advance the cause of a two-state solution by making a real difference in the lives of the Palestinian people.”

Ros-Lehtinen’s opposition could make it harder to get upward of $200 million in annual funding for the PA budget approved, as well as other paths of assistance to the Palestinians.

ROS-LEHTINEN has also been scathing when it comes to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, another major source of funding for Palestinian civilians provided largely by US government donations.

The money is intended to fund schools, hospitals and other basic services for Palestinian refugees, but Ros-Lehtinen labeled it “a propaganda tool to bash Israel” and has included language tightening American oversight of any funds it gives to UNWRA.

The legislation would also forbid the US from holding a seat on the UN Human Rights Council – a forum for repeated attacks on Israel – and would hold back a proportionate share of America’s UN contribution for any funding to the council unless the State Department certifies that member countries aren’t human rights violators and terror sponsors.

Ros-Lehtinen’s UN oversight legislation languished when it was first introduced in 2007.

Now at the committee helm she expects it to move, and will soon hold hearings to draw public attention to what she views as a host of UN ills, including outright anti-Semitism.

Still, the Obama administration reversed a decision made under George W. Bush to participate in the council and prizes multilateralism, making it unlikely to back her measure.

But from Ros-Lehtinen’s perspective, “If Cuba wants to fund the UN Human Rights Council, have at it. We should not be funding it.”

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Netanyahu: The Truth: Israel has taken substantive steps to launch peace talks but PA refuse to engage

(Jpost).The idea that the Palestinian are interested in moving forward on the peace process, but Israel is not, is one of two widely held politically correct misconceptions, Prime Minister Netanyahu said Thursday.

Netanyahu, in a private meeting, said Israel is ready for substantive negotiations, and has taken substantive steps to launch them, but the Palestinians have simply refused to engage: "Israel is ready for substantive negotiations, has taken substantive steps to launch them."

In Netanyahu's view, it is impossible to talk about borders without knowing whether a future Palestinian state will be demilitarized, and whether an Israeli presence will be stationed along the Jordan River.

The second misconception, Netanyahu said at Wednesday's meeting, was one he said was exposed by the WikiLeaks cables: that it is necessary to move on the Palestinian track to get the Arabs to move on the Iranian issue.

Israel wants to make progress on the Palestinian track because it wants peace, Netanyahu said, but the idea that this needs to be done to tackle Iran has been proven as a politically correct non-starter.

Netanyahu also stressed during the meeting that any final accord must include an Israeli security presence on the Jordan River to prevent the type of arms smuggling from Jordan into the West Bank that Israel has seen from Sinai into Gaza, or from Syria to Hizbullah in Lebanon.

Asked if an international force could not do the job, Netanyahu said international forces have worked in places like Japan and German when they were not under attack. But these forces are not effective, he said, in places where there is an attack on the force, or where they have to deal with ongoing hostilities. As proof, Netanyahu pointed to how public opinion has turned in countries with a contingent in Afghanistan when those soldiers have been shot at and killed.

It is clear, Netanyahu said, that any force designed to prevent the smuggling of arms to terrorists would come under attack by terrorists who wanted to get those arms. Only Israelis, he said, could be counted on to effectively do the job.

Netanyahu: World starting to understand that Not Israel but Iran is obstacle to Mideast peace

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that the world is starting to understand that Israel is not the obstacle to Middle East peace, Israel Radio reported on Thursday.

Netanyahu placed the blame for the lack of progress in the peace process on Iran's influence as well as internal divisions within Fatah, the ruling party in the West Bank.

In a meeting with reporters from Russian-language media outlets in Israel, Netanyahu said that the world now knows that Iran's armament is the main problem in the Middle East, not the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The prime minister said the Palestinians are not willing to move forward with the peace process due to Iranian pressure and internal tensions within Fatah.

The world understands that the nuclear arming of Iran is the main problem in the Middle East now, and not the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Netanyahu added.

New Polls: W/ No peace in sight Netanyahu loses Centerist/Left, but No alternative to Netanyahu as PM

Despite drop in satisfaction with current PM, Significantly more Israelis believe that Prime Minister Netanyahu is more fit to hold his post than opposition leader Tzipi Livni, according to a Dialog poll broadcast Wednesday night on Channel 10, taken by Tel Aviv University Prof. Camille Fuchs, the Poll found that 45 percent of Israelis consider Netanyahu more fitting to be prime minister while just 25% prefer Livni.

Ironically, the same poll found that the public’s level of satisfaction with Netanyahu had fallen to 38%, after spiking to 45% on December 8, in the immediate aftermath of the Carmel Forest fire.

A New Wave poll broadcast on Channel 2 found that Kadima holds a three-seat lead over Likud. The poll found that if Barak led Labor, Kadima would win 32 seats, Likud 29, Israel Beiteinu 16, Shas 10, and Labor 7.

But if former Labor leader Amram Mitzna returned to his former post and replaced Barak, Labor would win six more seats. Kadima would win 30, Likud 27, Israel Beiteinu 16, Shas 10, and Mitzna would keep Labor at its current strength with 13 seats.

According to the The latest poll that was carried out this week for Channel 99 (the Knesset Channel) by the Panels polling company, If election were held today, Kadima would hold a narrow lead over Likud 31-29 and Yisrael Beiteinu (13), Shas (10) and Labor (7) would all lose seats. The right-wing block would maintain the 65 seats they hold now, a change from the last six polls carried out by various companies over the past six months and, most recently, two weeks ago, which all predicted an increase in the right-wing block to somewhere between 69-73 seats.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

PM Netanyah to publicly Appeal to US President Obama for Jonathan Pollard's release

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu announced Tuesday in a statement that he will formally, officially and publicly call for the release of Israeli agent Jonathan Pollard in the next few days.

(Communicated by the Prime Minister's Media Adviser)Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today (Tuesday), 21.12.10, decided to accede to Jonathan Pollard's personal request and will, in the coming days, officially and publicly appeal to US President Barack Obama regarding Pollard's release.

The decision to accede to the request, which Prime Minister Netanyahu received in writing, in a letter brought by Esther Pollard, was made following a series of talks and contacts which the Prime Minister and his representatives have held on the issue in recent months with senior US administration officials.

It will be recalled that Prime Minister Netanyahu – during his previous term in office – recognized Jonathan Pollard as an Israeli agent and granted him Israeli citizenship. Later, he personally visited with him in prison. He has raised the issue with US Presidents during both of his terms as Prime Minister.

Prime Minister Netanyahu said that, "I intend to continue acting with determination for Pollard's release, both because of the State of Israel's moral obligation to him and so that he might live with his family and restore himself to health after his prolonged incarceration."

CALL THE WHITE HOUSE NOW: Tel: 202-456-1414 or 202-456-1111

Everyone is urged to participate in this worldwide grassroots effort starting today, by calling the White House daily, every day  to urge President Barack Obama to send Jonathan Pollard home to Israel.

Call between 9:00 AM and 5:00 PM EST. To leave a message for the President, the White House Switchboard can be reached at 202-456-1414. The White House Comment Line can also be reached directly by calling 202-456-1111. Tell the President that releasing Jonathan Pollard would be the consummate act of friendship towards the People of Israel.

Monday, December 20, 2010

PM Netanyahu considering public plea to the US for Johnathan Pollard's release

(INN).Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu met Monday with Esther Pollard, wife of Jonathan Pollard, and representatives of the lobby for his release, and told them he would continue to act for Pollard's freedom.

The group asked Netanyahu to make a public appeal to U.S. President Barack Obama to pardon and release Pollard, and delivered a letter from the famous prisoner containing a similar request. The prime minister asked for 24 hours to consider the idea. If he comes to the conclusion that a public plea would help free Pollard, he promised, he will make it.

Netanyahu canceled his participation in a conference that was held by the Pollard lobby, opting for a post-conference meeting with the top activists instead. The group included - besides Esther Pollard - former Assistant U.S. Secretary of Defense Lawrence Korb, MK Ronit Tirosh (Kadima) and retired Judge Tzvi Tal.

"I took action, in the time of my first term as prime minister, for his release and we indeed were close to this, but unfortunately it did not materialize. As a private citizen, I visited him. Pollard was sent [on his mission] by Israel. I am acting and will continue to work for his release in my present term of office as well."

"I brought this subject up six times over the past few months with the president and the secretary of state and I promise to make an effort for his release in the future as well".

In her address at the conference, Esther Pollard said that the next ten days are the time at which US presidents traditionally sign pardons. She said that time was running out for her husband, whose health is failing.

Israel orders Diplomats: Take 'urgent' action against Palestinian efforts at UN

The Foreign Ministry on Monday ordered every Israeli envoy abroad to begin "urgent" diplomatic activity to thwart Palestinian efforts at drafting a United Nations resolution to recognize unilateral declaration of statehood and put international pressure on Israel to halt settlement construction.

Foreign Ministry Director-General Rafael Barak sent a classified cable to Israeli charges d'affairs to open an immediate public relations campaign on the matter at the bureaus of the premiers, foreign ministers and parliament in each respective country.

"The Palestinian Authority is in the midst of three central political actions aimed at the international community, advancing a UN Security Council resolution condemning settlement construction; getting international recognition of a Palestinian state along the 1967 borders; and improving the diplomatic stance of Palestinian representatives in Europe, East Asia and Latin America."

"The Palestinian proceedings arose from disappointment with American policy and the lack of progress in the political process."

"The issue came to the forefront in Secretary of State [Hillary] Clinton's address to the Saban forum, in which she did not refer to the 1967 borders, in the U.S. House of Representative's resolution against recognizing unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state, in the American announcement that negotiations with Israel had failed, and also in [U.S. envoy George] Mitchell's visit to the region, which disappointed the Palestinians."

"The Palestinian activity was not yet at the helm of "breaking dishes" on the peace process, but were rather processes that could take place alongside negotiations and a settlement freeze."

"The Palestinians were hoping that their proceedings would encourage Barack Obama's administration to take certain steps in their future, including dealing with the 1967 borders and increasing pressure on Israel."

"Advancing a resolution a UN resolution on the issue of settlements won't bring the sides back to negotiations,It can only hurt attempts to renew talks. The settlements issue is one of many matters that must be resolved by the sides within the framework of negotiations on a permanent agreement according to the principles of the 1993 accords. It is not effective nor constructive to isolate the issues."

WikiLeaks cable: US-Israel relations weathered 'rocky start' but has improved since

PM Netanayhu's senior adviser - Director for Policy Planning Ron Dermer confirmed that the US-Israeli relationship had weathered a "rocky start" following the transition to new administrations in both countries during a December 14, 2009 meeting with Senate staff members (Michael Kuiken, Senate Armed Services Committee, and Perry Cammack, Senate Committee on Foreign Relations), the latest US government cable released by WikiLeaks revealed Sunday.

Dermer expressed frustration with the peace process, noting that Israel has taken steps in the effort to convince Abbas to return to the negotiating table to no avail. Dermer said PM Netanyahu's patience has "run out," and that the Israel will make no more concessions in that regard -- it is time for Abu Mazen to "be a leader."

U.S.-Israeli Relations

"Dermer described U.S.-Israeli relations as good and improving, but acknowledged that the relationship between the new Obama and Netanyahu administrations got off to a "rough, rocky start." He noted that changes in administrations in both countries at nearly the same time were "relatively rare" -- both entered office and started formulating policy based on electoral mandates representing change from the previous administrations. Dermer said that the United States and Israel agree on so many things; when an issue of disagreement arises, the media tends to disproportionally accentuate the disagreement -- as was the case earlier in the year on settlements.

"Since this disagreement, Dermer said relations between the two administrations have improved daily, and were "only getting stronger." He noted greater U.S.-Israeli cooperation and coordination, especially with regard to confronting Iran and its attempts to acquire nuclear weapons. Dermer said that President Obama does not get enough credit in Israel for weighing in helpfully on several issues affecting Israel's security, such as the Goldstone Report, problems in the
Turkey-Israel relations, and the recent EU Council statement on East Jerusalem. He also cited the successful Juniper Cobra joint missile defense exercise hosted by Israel in November 2009.

Peace Process

"Dermer noted that the GOI has taken a number of steps in the effort to jump-start the peace process with the Palestinians, but to no avail -- as a result, Netanyahu's patience has "run out," he said. Dermer noted progress on West Bank checkpoints and outpost evacuations, Netanyahu's acceptance of the two-state solution during his June 2009 Bar Ilan speech, allowing "violent" individuals into the West Bank to attend the Fatah party congress, and the recent settlement moratorium. He claimed that 70 percent of the Israeli public opposes the moratorium, this was a difficult decision for Netanyahu, but one he decided to make to restart negotiations.

"Dermer lamented the lack of a partner on the Palestinian side to pursue negotiations. He pointed to an interview Abu Mazen gave to The Washington Post's Jackson Diehl six months ago in which Abu Mazen implied he would "sit back and wait" for the United States to deliver Israel to the negotiating table. Dermer accused Abu Mazen of trying to internationalize the conflict, which he described as a "big mistake." The GOI understands Abu Mazen's political constraints and lack of support from Arab regional partners -- but at the end of the day, Abu Mazen must "be a leader" .

"Dermer said that while Netanyahu is ready to engage at any time, the Israeli public is skeptical regarding the benefits of returning to negotiations with the Palestinians. He noted that it would be "extremely difficult" for Netanyahu to approach the Cabinet at this point regarding negotiations when all the GOI has received in return for its efforts was a "slap-down from the international community" following the Goldstone Report.

'Dermer said Netanyahu does not believe Abu Mazen is as weak as he claims, and that Abu Mazen has the potential to "rise to the occasion" in negotiating peace. However, he said Abu Mazen must make some sort of gesture to return to the table and "prepare his people" for the difficult decisions necessary for peace. Seemingly simple steps such as employing new language or condemning violence and terrorism -- something the GOI believes Abu Mazen has not done since 2003 -- would be very appreciated, Dermer said.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Narrowing gaps on security matters, as the PA accept Israel's security aims

Haaretz reported last week that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu committed to visiting U.S. Middle East envoy George Mitchell that Israel would agree to discuss all the core issues in the indirect negotiations that are expected take place with the Palestinians over the coming months under American mediation.

Up to now, Netanyahu had refused to negotiate borders, settlements or the status of Jerusalem before the issue of security arrangements was resolved.

According to this following report, there is some insight why Netanyahu agreed going further in discussing the borders, Jerusalem and refugees issues as the gaps on the security front may be narrowing.

(Ben Birnbaum-The Washington Times).Palestinian leaders told the Obama administration they are ready to accept nearly any security arrangements for a Palestinian state demanded by Israel, according to a senior official of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).

"We will accept any arrangement short of Israeli military presence on the soil of a future Palestinian state," said Maen Rashid Areikat, the PLOs chief U.S. representative, in an interview with The Washington Times.

Other than an Israeli troop presence, he said, "we are willing to discuss with the Israelis whatever arrangements that can achieve the same objectives that the Israelis desire in the area of security, but with the involvement of third parties in this area - Americans, a combination of forces, United Nations, NATO. Whatever is acceptable to the Israelis, we will not have a problem."

The Palestinian position came in the form of "an official offer" to the Obama administration and was passed on to Israel, he said.

The PLO's Mr. Areikat objected to the word "demilitarization," saying "there is no such thing in international law." But he expressed support for the concept of a Palestinian state with "limited military capabilities," citing the restrictions placed upon Germany and Japan after World War II.

"What we are saying is that we will not possess offensive capabilities," Mr. Areikat said. "The armaments, the military structure that we will have will only be to protect our people, to provide security for our people and for our borders, and to be able to maintain law and order in our future state.

"We don't want to have an air force, we don't want to have ships, we don't want to have submarines. We don't want to spend our resources on an arms race. We'd rather spend that money on developing and building our future state."

He said the planned Palestinian security service would be "a National Guard-style thing."

Mr. al-Omari said he thinks the Obama administration would be wise to seek agreements on security and borders, where the gaps between the Israelis and Palestinians are narrower than on other sensitive issues, such as Jerusalem and Palestinian refugees.

PM Netanyahu: Expose the hypocrisy; Peace process deadlock not the reason for attacks on Israel

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday rejected claims that the standstill in the peace process since his government took power is the reason for the delegitimization campaign against Israel. The prime minister, who spoke before an audience of Jewish leaders and senior officials in various government ministries, said that attacks against Israel aren't based on wars or settlements, but rather are attacks against the existence of the Jewish state.

"There are those who believe that the motive for delegitimization is the policies of one government or another, but they are wrong."

"Even if we succeed in achieving peace, the attacks on Israel's legitimacy will continue. This is because their origin isn't based on the events of 1967 or 1948, The attacks oppose the existence of the Jewish state. We can see throughout history that the attacks have increased particularly when Israel has used its right to defend itself."

Netanyahu said that Israel must act against delegitimization by showing the international community what Israel has contributed to the world and also "delegitimize those who delegitimize us."
“We must expose the hypocrisy of human rights organizations that turn a blind eye to the most repressive regimes in the world, regimes that stone women and hang gays, and instead target the only liberal democracy in the Middle East".
"The search for peace is important and my government will continue to act toward it. We want peace, because we do not want war."

After rejecting Israel's majority ruling leaders call for peace talks, Abbas turns to the left minority in cry for peace

(Ynet).Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas met with meeting with some 100 Israelis at his headquarters in Ramallah on Sunday and told them that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had informed him that he could not extend the settlement construction moratorium because such a move would lead to his government's "collapse."

Among those who took part in the meeting at the Mukataa compound were former Labor Chairman Amram Mitzna, Meretz Chairman Chaim Oron and former Meretz Knesset Member Zehava Gal-On, as well as Likud activists, senior reporters and even a number of ultra-Orthodox representatives.

During the meeting, which was organized by the Geneva Initiative, Abbas claimed that when he told Netanyahu he could not move forward in the negotiations without a settlement freeze, the Israeli premier presented a "list of excuses, and that was the end of it. It was our last meeting at the prime minister's residence in Jerusalem."

Abbas said that before the September summit in Washington, the Americans promised that Netanyahu would agree to continue the building freeze, but that that did not happen. The Palestinian leader also spoke of Ehud Olmert's term, saying the former Israeli prime minister's representatives refused to negotiate during Operation Cast Lead in Gaza.

Abbas told the visiting Israelis that the Palestinians had agreed to the presence of a third party, such as NATO, in their territory following the declaration of an independent state. Egypt and Jordan also agreed to this, the Palestinian leader said.

"I am telling you this because we will not agree to return to the starting point of the negotiations and we cannot forgo the 1967 borders," Abbas said.

He concluded on a personal note. "I have eight grandchildren, and I want them to live in peace and security. You see we have replaced a culture of violence and terror with a culture of peace. We don't want any more bloodshed like what happened in Gaza yesterday.

PA Prime minister Fayyad: We are not looking for a unilateral declaration of statehood

The Palestinian people are not interested in another unilateral declaration of statehood, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad told Channel 2 in an interview taped last week at the Saban Forum in Washington

"We want a state of Palestine, not a unilateral declaration of statehood," Fayyad told the interviewer. He explained that he did not see how a unilateral declaration of statehood would assist the Palestinian cause. "It [a declaration of statehood] is not and will not be a part of our thinking."

Fayyad said he was optimistic that a Palestinian state could be established by August 2011.

“In the past too much time was wasted on the process, but we should not be discouraged because we have failed before, we should not give up,” he said.

Regarding whether the Palestinians would seek a UN Security Council resolution recognizing a Palestinian state, Fayyad said, “We are looking for a state of Palestine, not a unilateral declaration of statehood.”

Asked if the Palestinian people would support a peace agreement, he said that “there has been a fundamental change in the mindset of the Palestinians” and that they were “fully committed to nonviolence.

“I think it’s time for the expectations to be set high, We have to believe that this can happen in order for it to happen.”

US Christians will bring down any US President who reaches a finger to touch Jerusalem or take land away from the Jews

(INN).Award-winning American journalist Dr. Mike Evans, one of the world’s leading experts on the Middle East and author of the book Game Changer, visited Israel’s Knesset on Thursday.

During the visit, Evans told Israel National News TV’s Hezki Ezra that he wrote Game Changer after President Barack Obama said that nuclear weapons in the hands of terrorists would be a “game changer.”

According to Evans, “the core issue” for President Obama “has nothing to do with the Palestinians. It has to do with the ceremony in the White House in which he can get another agreement.”

Obama’s agreement, says Evans, can only be achieved if Israel’s current government is brought down, which he claimed Obama is trying to do “so that he has a partner in peace for his objectives, not your objectives.”

Evans emphasized that Israel “has enormous support” in the U.S. in the form of what he called “Christian Zionists. There’s more than 52 million of them and they’re uncompromising, unapologetic supporters of the State of Israel, and they will take out any American president who reaches a finger to touch the city of Jerusalem or to take the land away from the Jewish people.”

Evans has served as a confidant to leaders in the Middle East for more than two decades. He has met with 52 world leaders, including former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, to whom he recommended Binyamin Netanyahu for his first political appointment. He has appeared on hundreds of network television and radio shows, including Good Morning America, Crossfire and Nightline. His articles have been published in The Wall Street Jorunal, USA Today, The Washington Times, and newspapers worldwide.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Vice Premier Ya'alon/ The Palestinians are the real obstacle to peace

(Moshe Ya’alon Vice premier - Middle East peace process is once again stalled, while Palestinian leaders sadly continue to propagate the myth that Israeli construction impedes progress. Only last Friday, Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said in Washington that “the Israeli government had a choice between settlements and peace, and they chose settlements.”

Unfortunately, what stands between the Palestinians and eventual statehood is their insincerity when it comes to real peace. Israel has repeatedly proposed the independence that the Palestinians ostensibly desire. But instead of concluding a deal with Israel, they have demonstrated a total unwillingness to compromise, often favoring terrorism, as witnessed in the barrage of terrorist attacks that followed the Camp David negotiations of 2000. Is it any wonder Israelis find it ever more difficult to trust the Palestinians?

If there is to be a stable and lasting peace, Israel’s recognition of the Palestinians’ right to self-determination — which successive Israeli governments have affirmed — cannot go unreciprocated. The Jewish people are no less entitled to a state in their homeland, the land of Israel, or to their right to defend it.

The fundamental problem is that the Palestinians continue to reject these inherent rights of the Jewish people. That’s indeed why we do not yet have two states for two peoples: The Palestinians remain steadfast in their refusal to accept that there even exists a Jewish nation that lays legitimate claim to its land. They reject the entire premise of a state for the Jewish people — not only beyond the pre-1967 lines of the state of Israel, but even within its original 1948 boundaries. This, of course, explains why the Palestinians did not pursue independence prior to 1967, when Israel was within the 1949 Armistice lines.

This fact becomes perfectly clear when observing how Palestinian leaders educate their own people. The language of hate is the vernacular of choice for the official Palestinian media, which indoctrinates its audience with the narrative that Jews have usurped their land and have no business being here — and not just in Hebron or Ariel, but even in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv. Palestinian television is notorious for broadcasting what amounts to classic incitement — parading about children who glorify the use of weapons to destroy Israel and accusing Jews of “stealing” cities such as Haifa, which even the U.N. Partition Plan of 1947 included as part of the Jewish state.

There is no chance that peace can come to the region as long as the Palestinians continue to spew this sort of vitriol. The only way forward must involve a bottom-up approach in which Palestinians develop the type of civil discourse that is a prerequisite to reconciliation. Schoolchildren in the Palestinian Authority must be taught to respect the human dignity of their Jewish neighbors, just as Israeli youths are instructed to be tolerant of others — including Palestinians — with whom they may not agree. And all Palestinians must come to terms, once and for all, with the fact that the Jewish people will continue to exercise their historical right to sovereignty in their homeland, a sovereignty that guarantees equal rights for all of Israel’s citizens.

As for the Jewish communities over the 1967 lines, their fate should be decided in permanent status negotiations, as agreed in the Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement of September 1995. In the meantime, Israel has committed not to authorize any construction outside these neighborhoods in the areas under its control since 1967. It’s worth noting that in the past, Israel’s presence in areas under dispute proved not to be an obstacle to the achievement of peace with Egypt.

The fanciful “virtual reality” in which the Palestinians operate — and which they dispense for public consumption — obscures their basic responsibility for the current predicament. And it illustrates why Israel must insist on its security requirements in any future peace agreement. Israel must be able to protect itself against not only physical attack, but also the political, cultural, and strategic assault on its very legitimacy. It would simply be impossible to have a fruitful discussion concerning borders without both addressing the issue of comprehensive security and recognizing Israel’s right to exist as the nation-state of the Jewish people.

Israel remains committed to the cause of peace. We have no desire to govern the affairs of another people. But our acceptance of a viable Palestinian state awaits a similar Palestinian acceptance of the rights of the Jewish people in the land of Israel. Erekat, the Palestinian negotiator, recently wrote that such a step would require a modification of the Palestinian narrative. He’s absolutely right. But until this happens, there can be no chance for peace.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

TIP poll: 51% Americans say the U.S. should support Israel; 44% consider themselves strong supporter of Israel

(Israeli Project).A Majority of U.S. voters believe the United States should support Israel while only four percent think it should back the Palestinians, a new national poll sponsored by The Israel Project has found.

The poll of 800 registered voters showed that 51 percent favored the United States supporting Israel. Some 45 percent viewed the Jewish state positively while 13 percent had a negative opinion. The Palestinians were viewed negatively by 38 percent, versus 16 percent who had a positive view.

Asked who was responsible for the recent breakdown in peace negotiations between the parties, 12 percent blamed Israel and 22 percent the Palestinians, while 18 percent said both sides were responsible. However 43 percent declined to answer the question, indicating a high level of uncertainty among the U.S. electorate.

44% consider themselves personally as a strong supporter of Israel, a decline of 59% in August 2009, 62% of Republicans describe themselves as strong supporter of Israel, while only 32% of Democrats hold the same personal view.

Said Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, Founder and President of The Israel Project, “It is clear that a majority of voters continue to believe the U.S. should support Israel.”

Voters said the best reasons for the U.S. to stand with Israel are that “Israel is our most important ally in the Middle East” (33%), “Israel shares our values including the freedom of speech, religion, press, and the right to vote” (31%), and that “Israel is a partner with the U.S. in our fight against terrorism” (24%).

The poll was conducted by Public Opinion Strategies and Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research on December 12-14, 2010. Of the 800 voters surveyed, 100 were reached via cell-phone and 700 via land-line telephone. The margin of error was plus or minus 3.46 percentage points.

New Majority Leader Cantor: Obama Must commit publicly to veto unilateral Palestinian statehood

(Robert Wiener-NJJN).Eric Cantor, who is about to become the second-highest-ranking member of the House of Representatives and its first Jewish majority leader, said President Barack Obama has failed to address both Israel’s strategic needs and Iran’s “atrocious violations of human rights.”

Speaking Dec. 12 in a packed Buttenwieser Hall at Manhattan’s 92nd Street Y, the five-term Virginia Republican replied that “there was a seeming lack of priority placed on this question” when asked about the president’s approach to Iran’s human rights abuses and possible development of nuclear weapons.

He criticized Obama’s Cairo speech to the Muslim world in 2009. “The inherent message was that Israel is to blame. I thought it was very dangerous."

Speaking of the “religious connection the Jewish people have to the Land of Israel,” the congressman said, “There is something about this administration’s policy that misses that point. It dismisses the strategic nature of the partnership. We have got to be there for our ally.”

He said an American demand for a moratorium on Jewish homebuilding in the West Bank and east Jerusalem “sends a signal that we in this country are not going to be the equal arbiter of the situation when one side demonstrates a commitment to peace over and over again and one side cannot and won’t deliver.”

Cantor praised newly elected members of Congress from the Tea Party for “playing a tremendously important role. Republicans picked up 67 seats in the House.”

Asked whether he worried that those isolationist members might oppose foreign aid to Israel as well as other nations, he said many Americans oppose foreign aid, “but I find it convincing to make the case for U.S. investment in Israel.”

Cantor was criticized by Republicans and Democrats alike last month when he floated separating Israel’s aid package from the total foreign aid package.

“Will Israel do better with a Republican majority in the House?” asked Rosenbaum.

“There has been a shift in attitude toward Israel over the last two years,” Cantor replied. “It has been a shift that many worry about. The strong bond will hopefully be a guide to the way the new Republican House will adjust itself toward a dialogue on foreign policy.”

Asked about Argentina’s recent recognition of an independent Palestinian state, following Brazil’s lead, Cantor responded angrily.

“I want this administration to speak out as loudly as it can that it will veto any attempt to put [a similar] resolution through the UN Security Council,".

Such declarations of unilateral Palestinian statehood are “a warning signal. This is not going to stop, The Palestinians have been on a mission to declare an independent state without Israel’s acquiescence. We know the anti-Israelism that is out there is the newest iteration of anti-Semitism. The Palestinian state and its backers must accept the right of a Jewish state in the Middle East.”

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Rasmussen poll: 29% of Americans Expect U.S.-Israeli Relations To Worsen

A sizable number of U.S. voters continue to believe that relations between Israel and the United States will worsen in the year ahead.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that just 13% of Likely U.S. Voters think America's relationship with Israel will be better in a year's time, the lowest level measure since July. Twenty-nine percent (29%) expect that relationship to get worse over the next year, while 49% say it will remain about the same.

Fifty-seven percent (57%) of voters say Israel is an American ally, while only five percent (5%) view the Jewish state as a U.S. enemy. One-in-three voters (33%) feel Israel is somewhere in between an ally and enemy.

Republicans are more supportive of the country’s relationship with Israel than Democrats are. While 74% of GOP voters consider the Jewish nation an ally, only 45% of Democrats feel the same way.

But Democrats are more hopeful about future relations than Republicans: 20% of Democrats say U.S.-Israeli relations will be better a year from now, a view shared by just 12% of GOP voters.

Mitchell presented document of "unofficial" offers to the PA, No mention of return to '67 borders

(Ynet).S special envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell presented a document of "unofficial" offers to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, London-based Arabic-language al-Hayat newspaper reported Wednesday. But the report adds Mitchell offered no US guarantees.

The paper cited Palestinian officials as saying that according to Mitchell's offer, the discussion on borders would be shared with Egypt and Jordan. He also offered "a logical and just solution for the issue of refugees", an agreement on water distribution, and "a debate on the claims of both sides to Jerusalem".

However,the document offers nothing in the way of a withdrawal by Israel to the 1967 borders, or from east Jerusalem.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said following the meeting that the Palestinian side had presented Mitchell with its view, namely that peace talks should "rely on the international decisions saying a Palestinian state should be established with the 1967 borders, and that east Jerusalem is occupied just like the other Palestinian territories".

Despite the Palestinians' reluctance, talks are to be held indirectly over the next few days. The US will not demand a total halt in West Bank settlement construction, but has told Israel to refrain from making any moves that would lead to another stalemate.

Ambassador Oren: Israel still insists on US security guarantees before Palestinian Border pact

(Bloomberg).Israel will insist on security guarantees before agreeing on borders of a future Palestinian state or halting Jewish settlements, Israeli Ambassador to Washington Michael Oren told Bloomberg News.

Video Here

With the U.S. reviving shuttle diplomacy in the Middle East, “the deeper our sense of security, the more flexibility we can show,” Oren said yesterday in an interview on Bloomberg Television. “Keep in mind that we are looking at a Palestinian state that is going to be right opposite our major cities, right opposite Tel Aviv, right opposite our major airport. We’re taking some immense risks here.”

President Barack Obama’s administration on Dec. 7 abandoned an effort to revive direct peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians. The administration had offered Israel 20 advanced fighter jets as an incentive to freeze Jewish settlements in the West Bank, a Palestinian demand.

Oren said the deal fell apart because Palestinians refused to accept a settlement freeze that didn’t include Jerusalem. Nevertheless, he said Israel still expects to acquire the additional Lockheed Martin Corp. F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, on top of 20 already ordered. The jets “are very much on the table,” he said.

Oren said that security guarantees are paramount and must be agreed upon before any deal over land.

To Israel, “settlements are a subcategory of territory; territory is a subcategory of security".

While “two states for two people” is the Israeli government’s goal, Oren said, those states “wouldn’t follow the borders of the pre-1967 situation, because those were not defensible borders.” Following the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, Israel took control of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, the Sinai Peninsula, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. The Sinai Peninsula was returned to Egypt after it made peace with and recognized the Jewish state.

Oren said Israel fears a “nightmare scenario” where the country is attacked from the East, and is particularly concerned about the porous border between a future Palestinian state and Jordan. Israel wants “a continued Israeli Army presence along that border. It could be phased. It could be reviewed every couple of years to see how things are going,” he said.

Israel also couldn’t survive the return of Palestinians who claim refugee status, Oren said.

“We can’t discuss security without discussing refugees,” he said, referring to what he estimated at 8 million descendants of Palestinians displaced with the creation of Israel in 1948. “Their return would turn Israel into a de facto Palestinian state.”

Oren said efforts by the Palestinians to seek unilateral recognition of an independent state by the UN, South American nations or others “is a disaster. It’s not going to bring about security for anybody.”

Oren criticized the Palestinians as “great experts at getting to ‘no’,” in peace talks. To change that, “someone will have to go down in Palestinian history as the person who made peace with the Jews,” and he hopes that person is Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Ralph Reed/ The US has no right to dictate Israel on it's legitimate national security interests

(Ralph Reed-Newsmax).Tom Friedman offered up this unsolicited advice to Israel in yesterday’s New York Times:
Israel, when America, a country that has lavished billions on you over the last 50 years and taken up your defense in countless international forums, asks you to halt settlements for three months to get peace talks going, there is only one right answer, and it is not “How much?” It is: “Yes, whatever you want, because you’re our only true friend in the world.”
Really? “Whatever you want”?

Does Friedman literally mean to suggest Israel should suspend its own judgment about its legitimate national security interests because the U.S. has defended its right to exist?

Let’s examine this argument more closely.

First, we have provided military aid to Israel and defended its right to exist as a Jewish state because it was in our national security to do so.

Second, it is the height of arrogance to suggest a sovereign country should have internal policies dictated by the United States. There is a minor problem in this formulation. Israel is a sovereign country with a healthy, functioning democracy that is a model for the region.

It has held elections that resulted in a coalition government in the Knesset with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and former Labor Prime Minister Ehud Barak as defense minister.

This government has offered to suspend construction of new settlements, but not within existing settlements, because such a prohibition on internal construction would, for instance, prevent the erection of new schools or health facilities in neighborhoods that need them.

How is this a threat to peace?

I find it fascinating when liberal commentators who routinely accuse the U.S. of arrogance and imperialism advocate the same when they believe it advances what they want, which in this case is a Middle East peace agreement at any cost.

Perhaps Friedman thinks this makes sense because it is the way the Obama administration apparently does business — the WikiLeaks cache of diplomatic cables reveals various countries were offered millions of dollars in aid in exchange for taking terrorist detainees from the Guantanamo Bay facility. But it is absurd to suggest that a U.S. ally should ignore security concerns because it happens to receive aid.

What we have here is yet another example of the persistence of the Bush administration’s policies.

President George W. Bush called for a two-state solution with a Israel within secure borders living side-by-side with a Palestinian state free of terrorism and corruption, but he always made clear that any resulting peace agreement would have to be worked out by the parties themselves, not imposed from outside by the United States.

Obama largely reversed that policy, calling Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to the White House this past September and imposing an arbitrary one-year deadline to reach an agreement.

Obama pressured the Israelis to suspend settlement construction as a good-faith gesture to the Palestinians, and encouraged face-to-face talks between Abbas and Netanyahu. This policy has been a failure.

Now the administration has foresworn the moratorium on settlement expansion and hit the restart button.

As with the recent deal on extending the Bush tax cuts, Iraq, Afghanistan, and closing Gitmo, Obama is finding it more difficult to bend the world to his will than he thought.

From the NYtimes leeter to the Editor:

"Thomas L. Friedman has put into words what I have long felt. I am 58 years old, and for most of my adult life I have been hopefully following the Middle East peace process, from the Oslo accords to the Camp David negotiations to the road map, ad infinitum and ad nauseam.
Throughout decades of suffering the futility of hope about this peace process, there has been but one constant: It’s been all process, no peace.
Yes, it’s time for the United States to step away and let the parties figure it out for themselves".

Tom Fahey
Springfield, Va., 
 * * * * * * * *

"Thomas L. Friedman asserts that Israelis “don’t get it.” As an American and an Israeli, let me assure Mr. Friedman that Israelis do get it. Sadly, we get it all too well.
For more than 43 years, every offer, every compromise has been met with a resounding “no” by the Palestinians. Had Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, accepted the offer made by Ehud Olmert, the former Israeli prime minister, this discussion would not be necessary.
Had Yasir Arafat, the Palestinian leader, accepted the offer of Ehud Barak, the Israeli leader, at Camp David, this discussion would not be necessary.
Israel is one of America’s closest allies. Israel understands this. Succumbing to American pressure for an extended settlement freeze would have had as much effect on solving the disagreement with the Palestinians as it would on solving the economic woes in the United States. None".
Peter Yurowitz
Highland Park, N.J.,

Deputy FM Ayalon: Israel not to blame; World uncritically adopting PA positions prevents peace

Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon writes in an op-ed for the LA Times on Tuesday, that while "the breakdown of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks has predictably resulted in blame laid almost exclusively on Israel," the "events of the last 17 years — since Israeli-Palestinian peace talks began — demonstrate a different story about what has prevented peace," .

Since the Oslo peace accords were signed in 1993, the Israeli position on the peace process has constantly progressed and evolved. That has been best enunciated by the generous offers made by Prime Ministers Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert in 2000 and 2008, respectively. Meeting nearly all of the Palestinian demands, these offers were rejected without further discussion or counteroffer.

The present Israeli government has accepted the principle of a two-states-for-two peoples solution. Israel has contributed to the improvement of the lives of Palestinian to the point where the West Bank's economic growth is greater than almost anywhere in the world; it has removed more than two-thirds of all security checkpoints and initiated a unilateral moratorium on construction in the settlements.

Furthermore, the first act of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu when he entered office 21 months ago was to call for negotiations with the Palestinians anywhere, without preconditions and with all issues on the table.

Unfortunately, the Palestinian position during these 17 years has not moved one inch from its maximalist demands. Isn't it time that the Palestinians are asked directly and openly if they are prepared to make any concessions? Are they prepared to recognize Israel as a Jewish state and the Jewish connection to the Western Wall and Temple Mount? Are they prepared to recognize that there are Jewish refugees in Arab states, and that Israel has very real security concerns?

While the world has unfortunately focused on settlement building, it has gone largely unnoticed that Palestinian leaders are retreating from previously accepted positions, especially the need for a two-states-for-two-peoples solution.

The Palestinians have been extremely successful at presenting Israel as the obstructionist party, even as they have been engaged in a consistent cycle of evasion and rejectionism that has replicated itself many times over almost two decades.

The cycle begins with the Palestinians looking for any excuse not to arrive at negotiations. They run away from an open and honest process, and yet place the onus on Israel for the breakdown of peace talks.

The Palestinians also threaten to unilaterally declare their own state, and on a number of occasions, they have threatened violence against Israel. They have embarked on a political campaign to assault Israel's legitimacy, abusing international forums, such as the United Nations, to try to create anti-Israel momentum.

The recent debate over an extended settlement moratorium is a case in point. From its inception, the current Israeli government cleared the way for direct negotiations with no preconditions. Israel imposed a 10-month moratorium; the Palestinians balked and refused to join direct negotiations. When the moratorium expired, the Palestinians demanded an extension of the very same policy that had not been good enough to bring them to the table for over a year.

Moreover, settlements are a red herring. According to previously signed agreements, settlements and borders are a final-status issue. The Palestinians turned them into a precondition for talks.

While the Palestinians and their supporters wail that the settlements are eating up more of the land they claim for their future state, the real figures suggest otherwise. Today, 43 years since Israel gained control of the West Bank, the built-up areas of the settlements constitute less than 1.7% of the total area.

Both sides would like their demands met, but a negotiated solution is the only way the region will achieve the necessary outcome of a peaceful and historic reconciliation between Jews and Arabs, Israelis and Palestinians. Both sides need to make concessions, and Israel has made many.

For the peace process to move forward and succeed, the international community has to make a historic and brave decision to ignore the pressures of the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Conference in international forums, which provide the rejectionists a prize and push the Palestinians further from the negotiating table. The international community also must reject Palestinian excuses and threats.

There is no substitute for a negotiated solution, and this has to be enunciated strongly to all sides. Pressure should be brought to bear on those who refuse to arrive at the negotiating table, not on those already seated.

Uncritically adopting Palestinian positions prevents peace. The international community should break the Palestinian cycle of evasion and rejectionism.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Netanyahu to Mitchell: I'm ready to discuss all essential Mideast issues

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US special Middle East envoy George Mitchell met for three hours on Monday. The Prime Minister's Office stated that the meeting was "positive and to the point", and that the two spoke of ways to promote the political process, Netanyahu noted that he was willing to discuss all the fundamental issues in the upcoming weeks and months.

Ahead of their three-hour meeting, Netanyahu welcomed the envoy and expressed his seriousness in working together to reach a peace deal:
"We have a lot of work to do. We’re going to work together to establish a new path to achieve a common goal, which is to get a framework agreement for peace that will ensure both peace and security, and I may add prosperity. That’s a worthy objective and I know that the United States Administration, the President, the Secretary of State and yourself are committed to it, as we are and we hope our Palestinian neighbors will participate with us to achieve that in the coming months".
Mitchell emphasized that the Obama administration was intent on pursuing the goal of reaching a final Israeli-Palestinian peace treaty in accordance with the path the two sides laid our during their brief direct negotiations in September:
"That remains our goal. As Secretary of State Clinton said on Friday, and I quote: “Reaching this goal will not be easy by any means. The differences between the two sides are real, and they are persistent. But the way to get there is by engaging in good faith with the full complexities of the core issues, and by working to narrow the gaps between the two. By doing this, the parties can begin to rebuild confidence, demonstrate their seriousness, and hopefully find enough common ground on which to eventually re-launch direct negotiations and achieve that framework. The parties have indicated that they want the United States to continue its efforts, and in the days ahead, our discussions with both sides will be substantive, two-way conversations, with an eye toward making real progress in the next few months on the key question of an eventual framework agreement.”
Visiting Washington DC, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Monday that US brokered talks with the Palestinians "will be meaningful and this is an important development. It should bring us to the real issues of negotiating borders, security, refugees and Jerusalem".