Tuesday, September 28, 2010

FM Lieberman at UN: "The solution must be a two staged one"; tells World powers to solve iran threat first

(Ynet).Israel and the Palestinians should focus on "coming up with a long-term intermediate agreement, something that could take a few decades," Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman told the UN General Assembly on Tuesday.

"We are ready for a fair solution and we are ready to cooperate with the international community. However, we are not ready to compromise our national security or the vital interests of the State of Israel".

According to the foreign minister, reaching a comprehensive peace agreement in the coming years is unrealistic. He said a long-term intermediate agreement would allow the Palestinians economic growth and freedom of movement while giving both sides ample time to "raise an entire new generation that will have mutual trust and will not be influenced by incitement and extremist messages."

Lieberman added that "the guiding principle for a final status agreement must not be land-for-peace but rather, exchange of populated territory.

"Let me be very clear: I am not speaking about moving populations, but rather about moving borders to better reflect demographic realities," he said.

Addressing the Iranian threat, Lieberman said, "Just as the Khomeini Revolution had nothing to do with the Palestinian issue, so too is the Iranian decision to develop nuclear weapons unrelated.

"In truth, the connection between Iran and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is precisely reversed. Iran can exist without Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah, but the terrorist organizations cannot exist without Iran. Relying on these proxies, Iran can at any given time foil any agreement between Israel and the Palestinians or with Lebanon".

"Thus, in searching for a durable agreement with the Palestinians, one which will deal with the true roots of the conflict and which will endure for many years, one must understand that first, the Iranian issue must be resolved".

In response to Abbas' announcement that he would officially respond to the settlement freeze issue after the Arab League convenes on October 4, Lieberman said, "If the Arab League is seeking challenges to deal with, there are many in the Arab world. Hundreds of people are killed each week in terrorist attacks, and poverty and despair cry out to the heavens.

"Instead of solving these problems, the leaders of the Arab League prefer to run away from them, and blame Israel for all their internal problems. Instead of dialogue, they prefer to incite the masses against the Jews".

As Abbas freezes talks, Israel wins in well deserved Blame game war

(BEN SMITH-Politico).Israelis and Palestinians have yet to achieve any substantive progress in the nascent peace talks that resulted from President Barack Obama’s high-profile push for negotiations, but a subtle shift in the political balance between the two antagonists seems clear: Israel is now winning the blame game.

The blame game always proceeds on a parallel, subterranean track to actual negotiations, the cynical mirror of the process’s insistent optimism. Some prominent figures on both sides barely disguise their assumption that peace talks will fail, as they almost always do.

Even those who are committed to the prospect of peace and publicly optimistic about it are cautious enough to keep an eye on the possibility of failure, ready with a pointed finger if talks collapse so that the other side is left with what former Secretary of State James Baker once referred to as the “dead cat” of prospective blame.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has “managed to leave the dead cat at the doorstep of both the Obama Administration and [Palestinian Authority President] Mahmoud Abbas,” said Aaron David Miller, a former U.S. peace negotiator who is a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

Last summer, Israel owned the dead cat. Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made plain their view that Netanyahu’s failure to stop all settlement construction on the West Bank was the obstacle to resumed talks, and after an ill-timed construction announcement, Clinton’s office released details of the unusual 43-minute tongue-lashing she delivered to the Israeli.

Obama then brought Netanyahu and Abbas to the White House early this month with the exhortation to begin direct talks. Looming over the celebratory announcement that they would was the impending expiration of Israel’s moratorium on new settlement construction.

Now that the moratorium has expired, the Obama administration has completed a subtle tilt toward Israel’s point of view. The problem is no longer Israel’s actions: It’s the Palestinian insistence that one issue – settlements – be resolved before talks can begin.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is now feeling some of the heat reserved last year for Netanyahu, and facing the prospect that if he fulfills his promise to withdraw from talks, he will bear the full blame for their collapse.

“The onus is on the Palestinians not to walk away. That’s not fair but it’s the way it is,” said Hussein Ibish, a fellow at the American Task Force on Palestine, which backs the talks. “There are people on both sides who have no confidence [in the peace process] and so the name of the game is who gets blamed. Which is why the Palestinian can say a million times that they’ll walk out — but they can’t.”

The shift is the subject of quiet self-congratulations among hawkish Israelis and their American allies. After the difficult start of his relationship with Obama and his humiliation at the hands of Clinton’s, Netanyahu sought to give Obama one thing he wanted: An absolute promise to being peace talks.

Part of the blame game is the pretense that no such game exists, and officials on both sides said their sole focus is the talks themselves.

“It is not our mind that we want to avoid being blamed or not being blamed. What is of concern to us is to try to create the atmosphere conducive to real political discussions to put an end to the Israeli occupation,” said Areikat.

“No one’s taking any victory laps here –the victory is only if the talks continue,” said Oren

US Senate with Bibi! 87 Senators urge Obama to shift pressure on to Abbas

Now that the Israeli settlement moratorium has expired, the world is looking to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to see if he will follow through on his threats to step away from the negotiating table. Here in Washington, lawmakers are looking to President Barack Obama to lean on Abbas to stay put.

Eighty-seven U.S. senators have already signed on to a letter, which was initially circulated only three days ago, calling on Obama to publicly pressure Abbas to continue with the direct peace talks begun Sept. 1 in Washington.

The senators sent the letter (PDF) to Obama on Monday. It stated that "Neither side should make threats to leave just as the talks are getting started," a thinly veiled reference to Abbas's multiple statements that he would leave the talks if the moratorium was not extended.

The senators also praised Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for staying at the table even though the beginning of the process was marred by violence.

"Following the brutal murder of four innocent Israeli civilians by Hamas militants at the start of the negotiations, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not abandon the talks, We also agree with you [Obama] that it is critical that all sides stay at the table."

Abbas isn't showing his cards yet, and has promised not to make any decisions about whether to continue the negotiations until after he consults with the Arab League on Oct. 4.

The senators' letter also called on the Arab League to do more to support the Palestinian Authority.

Some pro-Israel groups in Washington, which have perceived Obama as willing to publicly pressure Netanyahu but not Abbas, are lending their support to the senators' message.

"AIPAC strongly applauds this overwhelming, bipartisan statement supporting these important direct talks, and making crystal clear to President Abbas that staying at the table -- without preconditions or threats -- is the only path to peace," said AIPAC spokesman Josh Block.

Monday, September 27, 2010

US express disappointment of their own tree climbing - and place the blame on Israel

The United States said on Monday it was disappointed by Israel's decision to allow its partial moratorium on construction in Jewish settlements on the occupied West Bank to expire.

U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley told reporters U.S. Middle East envoy former U.S. Senator George Mitchell was in touch with Israeli and Palestinian officials and a lower-level U.S. team would visit the region this week for follow-up talks.

"We are disappointed, but we remain focused on our long-term objective, and we'll be talking to the parties about the implications of the Israeli decision," Crowley told reporters.

"We recognize that given the decision yesterday we've still got a dilemma that we have to resolve and there are no direct negotiations scheduled at this point but we will be in touch with the parties to see how we move ahead," Crowley said.

Crowley said that he hoped the Arab League will continue to support direct Israeli-Palestinian peace talks following Israel's decision to allow its partial settlement building freeze to expire

"We will have further conversations with key countries in the coming days and we hope that the Arab League meeting will continue to affirm its support for the process," Crowley told reporters.

Crowley said the U.S. is focused on its long-term goal of promoting negotiations on a two-state solution in which an independent Palestinian state exists beside a secure Israel. Crowley encouraged constructive actions toward reaching that goal.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

MK Danny Danon to Obama: Respect the right to live in a sovereign Israel

MK Danny Danon (Likud) on Sunday called on US President Barack Obama "to respect our [Israel's] democracy and right to live in a sovereign Israel".

Danon, speaking in English, was at an event to mark the end of the ten month settlement freeze in which settlers lay the foundations for a new kindergarten in Kiryat Netafim.

The Likud MK said that "we have a lot of respect for you [Obama] but the building freeze did not move the peace process forward and it did not stop the violence or incitement".

Danon asked his fellow brothers for forgiveness "for treating them like second class citizens.Today we continue with the Zionist vision.".

Switching back to Hebrew Danon called on Netanyahu to be strong, even against Obama's threats. "We are behind you," he continued.

"Likud is returning to the right track, Everyone will come back and we will continue to build".

ICEJ thousands of Christians Call for United Jerusalem During Feast of Tabernacles

(charismamag). Christians from around the world are gathering in Israel this week to show support for an undivided Jerusalem during the annual Feast of Tabernacles, which began Thursday.

The weeklong celebration hosted by the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ) also marks the organization's 30th anniversary, which is to be commemorated Friday with a reception at the Zionist organization's international headquarters.

Some 6,000 Christians from nearly 100 nations are expected to convene in Jerusalem throughout the week, generating roughly $15 million for the local economy.

"The Christian embassy has established a remarkable record of standing in support of Israel and a united Jerusalem over the past three decades, whether through our many humanitarian projects across the land, our advocacy efforts worldwide or our annual feast gathering in Jerusalem," said Rev. Malcolm Hedding, ICEJ executive director. "We look forward to celebrating our 30th anniversary with our Israeli friends and guests."

In opening remarks Thursday, Netanyahu thanked the Christian tourists for their consistent support, in a video greeting:
"Year after year you come from over a hundred countries to march through the streets of Jerusalem; and in doing so, you remind the people of Israel that we are not alone, You remind us that there are people across the world who recognize that in returning to Zion, the Jewish people have returned home."

PM Netanyahu Addressing the Feast of Tabernacles 2010 from ICEJ on Vimeo.

Orthodox Rabbi Shlomo Rifkin and Benny Begin, a member of the Knesset and the son of former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, participated in the ICEJ's anniversary event Friday.

ICEJ leaders say this year's feast is dedicated to reaffirming Christian support for a united Jerusalem under Israel's sovereignty-an issue that led to the organization's founding in 1980. In that year the last 13 embassies left Jerusalem for Tel Aviv in protest of the Knesset's passage of the Jerusalem Law, which named Jerusalem the capital of Israel.

This year's feast is "in part to reinforce the founding principle of the embassy to stand with the 3,000-year-old Jewish claim and connection to the city," said ICEJ spokesman David Parsons. "We're expressing our commitment to that original mandate that we were given by the Lord."

Below is the Transcript of PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU’S remarks to the FEAST OF TABERNACLES 2010:

Good Evening. Welcome to Jerusalem. Welcome to the eternal undivided capital of the State of Israel and of the Jewish people.
I want to congratulate all of you on celebrating 30 years of standing firmly by Israel’s side. Three decades ago when some countries decided to move their embassies out of Jerusalem, you decided to come to Jerusalem.

At first you came by the dozens, then you came by the hundreds; now you come by the thousands.Year after year you come from over a hundred countries to march through the streets of Jerusalem; and in doing so, you remind the people of Israel that we are not alone. You remind us that there are people across the world who recognize that in returning to Zion, the Jewish people have returned home.
This land is our homeland. It’s the same land where the Jewish patriarchs prayed, where our prophets preached, and where our kings ruled. It’s the same land from which 2000 years ago spanned forth a message of universal peace and love that would spread across the world.

There are those who still deny the history of the Jewish people in this land. There are those who still refuse to recognize that Israel is the Jewish State – the nation state of the Jewish people. What these people refuse to say, you declare with pride. You declare it with pride, without hesitation, without reservation. You celebrate the right of the Jewish people to be sovereign in its homeland, to ingather its exiles, and to rebuild Jerusalem.

So on behalf of my country, and on behalf of my people, I say thank you. Thank you for your moral clarity. Thank you for your solidarity. Thank you for supporting the one and only Jewish State. Thank you.

Aluf Benn / The winner in the settlement row is Netanyahu

(Aluf benn-Haaretz).Benjamin Netanyahu appears to be the winner of the construction-freeze crisis: The 10-month suspension of building in the settlements will not be extended and the prime minister has given up nothing. Peace talks with the Palestinians will continue, the coalition is as strong as ever, and the government enjoys some freedom of movement regarding the settlers and the U.S. administration.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, his threats to the contrary, will not scuttle the peace talks that have barely begun just because Netanyahu isn't extending the freeze. U.S. President Barack Obama, preaching for the moratorium to continue, can't force it on Netanyahu on the eve of the congressional elections when his party's leaders are calling for negotiations to continue without regard to the settlements.
Gush Etzion - AP - Sept. 9, 2010.

Abbas and Obama will swallow the end of the freeze and wait for Israel to stumble by approving a provocative building plan. Then they will try to trap Netanyahu again and threaten him with a diplomatic crisis or endanger his coalition. This is what happened with Ramat Shlomo in Jerusalem, when Israel announced more construction while U.S. Vice President Joe Biden was visiting in March.

Netanyahu will try to leverage his success in the freeze crisis to show his camp that he really is the strongman of his election slogans. The signal to the right is clear: I'm no dishrag as you've portrayed me, but a cautious, responsible navigator who sometimes has to keep his head down and make tactical concessions until the wave passes. Trust me to guard the Land of Israel in the same fashion.

After the cabinet approved the freeze on November 25, it was said that "the government will apply the policy of previous administrations in the matter of construction in Judea and Samaria." The previous administrations' policy can be summarized this way: With the diplomatic process stalled and Israel isolated internationally, settlement expansion also halted. When peace seemed just around the corner and Israel enjoyed good international relations, the settlement project flew forward.

This is how it was in the days of Menachem Begin (peace with Egypt and 100 new settlements in the West Bank ), Yitzhak Rabin (the Oslo Accords and the paving of bypass roads bringing the settlements closer to Israel's center ), Benjamin Netanyahu (building Har Homa after the Hebron Agreement ), Ehud Barak (thousands of new apartments in the occupied territories on the way to the Camp David Summit ), and Ehud Olmert (increased construction around Jerusalem after the Annapolis Conference ).

This is the settlement paradox: They expand in direct proportion to advances in the diplomatic process. When there is no peace, there is no construction, and when there are contacts, ceremonies and optimism, hundreds of new homes sprout up in the hills of the West Bank. Anyone who wants to stop the settlements has to throw a wrench in the negotiations. And those who want to fill the territories with settlers must encourage the givers-and-takers. To put it simply, Peace Now should fight against peace talks, and the Yesha Council of settlements should pay for plane tickets to Washington and Annapolis.

One may assume it will be the same with Netanyahu. After he releases some of the immediate pressure and calms the settlers down, letting a few homes be built in proportion to gestures made to the Palestinians, he will delay plans for further construction in the West Bank. These plans will have to wait for an improvement in the diplomatic process. They will be authorized when Netanyahu and Abbas have drawn closer; then pressure will be put on Israel once again. Building will speed up again, concentrated in blocs to strengthen Israel's negotiating position on borders, and to create more facts on the ground.

This policy will also serve as Netanyahu's carrot and stick regarding the Yesha Council. The settler leaders displayed their control in the field during the freeze. Concerns that there would be provocative building violations gradually receded. Netanyahu bribed the settlers by returning their preferential economic status, and they quieted down. Now he will say to them: There is no freeze, but it's not worth your while to build provocatively at points of friction, which will only increase American pressure. Show maturity and responsibility; your turn will come.

At the end of the freeze, Netanyahu finds himself exactly where he wants to be: at the political center, without having made decisions that would force him to choose a side. All the balls are in the air: The Labor Party and Kadima got the diplomatic process they wanted, and the right got renewed construction in the West Bank. The real decisions, if there will be any, have been left for next summer, just before the deadline on negotiations for an Israeli-Palestinian agreement.

Until then Netanyahu can swing right and left, demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state, hint on an approaching breakthrough with the Syrians, and hope with all his might that Iran will do something provocative that will challenge America and its allies to take serious steps against it.

Bumpy road to pass - Settlement building freeze in West Bank set to expire tonight

A contentious issue between Israelis and Palestinians that some say could derail Mideast peace talks is set to reach a milestone on Sunday.

Israel's moratorium on settlement construction in the West Bank is scheduled to end Sunday. Israelis and Palestinians are in the initial rounds of face-to-face peace talks, and Palestinians have said a restart by the Israelis would be reason enough to end talk.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas struck a hard line in a speech to the UN General Assembly yesterday, saying that Israel had to choose between settlements and peace.

He accused Israel of flouting UN resolutions and "relentlessly carrying out oppression, arrests and detentions, killings, destruction, demolition of homes, siege, settlement expansion, apartheid wall, violating and undermining the rights of our people and presence in their homeland without consequence."

He said Israel should be forced to meet its obligations, especially to stop construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and to dismantle "the annexation apartheid wall."

"Despite the historic injustice that has been inflicted upon our people," Abbas said, "our wounded hands are still able to carry the olive branch from the rubble of the trees that the occupation uproots every day."

Despite the Palestinians' stated refusal to compromise, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat reamined in the United States yesterday for more discussions.

Abbas met with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in New York on Friday, who asked him not to make good on his threat to end talks. He also met with U.S. special envoy George Mitchell yesterday.

Israel's chief negotiator Isaac Molho also is staying in New York for discussions with Mitchell and U.S. President Barack Obama's adviser Dennis Ross.

Sources close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that so far, all of Israel's proposals that would enable limited construction have been rejected by the Palestinians.

On Friday, Netanyahu met in Jerusalem with Quartet envoy Tony Blair, who flew over from New York to try to persuade Netanyahu to extend the freeze. Netanyahu told Blair he would not be able to get the cabinet to approve such a move.

Netanyahu called his advisers to his Caesarea home Friday to discuss possible solutions, and held another meeting at his Jerusalem residence last night.

One of the ideas that have been raised is to extend the freeze for another three months, and set that as a deadline by which Israel and the PA must reach an agreement on borders – so that Israel would then know exactly where it was free to build.

Another idea, a variation of the same theme, is to extend the moratorium by another three months, but exclude from this moratorium some 2,000 units for which all the necessary permits have been granted and on which building could start immediately.

Among other ideas that have been raised are the following:
• Agree to the number of units that can be constructed each year, based on natural growth;
• Allow building in the large settlement blocks in areas adjacent to the existing construction line, but allow only the construction of public buildings needed for natural growth in all other settlements;
• Agree to gradual construction now, and to extend the moratorium at the beginning of the year, when the talks move into a more advanced stage;
• Allow housing construction in the largest settlements – Ma’aleh Adumim, Betar Ilit, Modi’in Ilit and Ariel – but construction for public building only in the rest of the settlements.

The Palestinian newspaper Al Ayyam reported yesterday that the Americans told the Palestinian leadership that they understood its position regarding the freeze and that Obama had said so in his speech to the UN General Assembly last week.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman told reporters, "We are urging Israel to extend the moratorium and we are also making clear to the Palestinians that we do not believe that it is in their interest to walk out of the talks."

Meanwhile, four U.S. Congressmen are circulating a letter calling on Obama to pardon convicted spy Jonathan Pollard in a bid to further the peace process, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported.

Pollard has served 25 years of a life sentence for spying on the United States for Israel.

According to the JTA, the congressmen - Barney Frank of Massachusetts, Adolphus Tanner and Anthony Weiner of New York and Bill Pascrell of New Jersey's Eighth Congressional District - have signed the letter and are circulating it in Congress.

The letter says pardoning Pollard would show Obama's good will toward Israelis.

PM Netanyahu: Fidel Castro has a deep understanding of Jewish history

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed his appreciation on Saturday over remarks by Cuban leader Fidel Castro, who said that Israel has a right to exist in an interview earlier this month.

"The remarks attributed to Castro demonstrate his deep understanding of the history of the Jewish people and the State of Israel," Netanyahu said.

In an interview published on Wednesday, the former Cuban president told The Atlantic reporter Jeffery Goldberg, when asked whether Israel has a right to exist as a Jewish state, "Yes, without a doubt."

Subsequently, Goldberg asked Castro whether Raul Castro, the current president of Cuba and Fidel's brother, would reestablish relations with Israel, the 84-year-old leader replied that "these things take time."

Castro referenced the Holocaust in the interview, saying "Now, let's imagine that I were Netanyahu, that I were there and I sat down to reason through [the issues facing Israel], I would remember that six million Jewish men and women, of all ages were exterminated in the concentration camps."

President Shimon Peres also addressed Castro's remarks, saying that the Cuban leader's support of Israel had "moved me very much."

"I must confess that your remarks were, in my opinion, unexpected and rife with unique intellectual depth," the president wrote in a message addressed to Castro.

"Your words presented a surprising bridge between a harsh reality and a new horizon," Peres continued. "I thank you from the bottom of my heart. You proved that even those who are distant from each other can be close."

In an earlier installment of the Goldberg interview, Castro urged Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to stop slandering the Jews, devoting much of a five-hour conversation to the issue of anti-Semitism.

Obama Urges UN Members to Stand Behind Israel in Peace Talks

(Bloomberg).President Barack Obama told the United Nations that the allies of Israel and the Palestinians must match words with deeds to support the peace process or risk more years of bloodshed.

Obama used the stage of the General Assembly’s opening in New York to renew the U.S. commitment to Israel’s security and urge Arab nations to move forward on normalizing relations with the Jewish state.
“Peace must be made by Israelis and Palestinians, but each of us has a responsibility to do our part as well.”
Obama said those who count themselves as friends of the Palestinians in the Arab world must seize the opportunity for a peace agreement that will lead to a Palestinian state. They can do that by supporting the Palestinian Authority financially and politically and by coming to terms with Israel’s existence, he said.
“Those who long to see an independent Palestine rise must stop trying to tear Israel down.”
He also pledged firm U.S. backing for Israel.
“After 60 years in the community of nations, Israel’s existence must not be a subject for debate, It should be clear to all that efforts to chip away at Israel’s legitimacy will only be met by the unshakeable opposition of the United States.”

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Senators from both parties to Obama: Don’t let Abbas slink away from peace talks

(FP).A bipartisan group of senators are circulating a new letter urging President Obama to speak out publicly to pressure the Palestinian leadership not to abandon the Middle East peace talks.

Lawmakers, who have also bristled at the administration's public pressure on Netanyahu, are now calling on Obama to make it clear to Abbas that even if the freeze isn't extended, he should stay at the table.

"Neither side should make threats to leave just as the talks are getting started," the group of senators wrote in the letter (PDF) dated for release Sept. 24, obtained by The Cable.

The initial draft is signed by Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Bob Casey (D-PA), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), and Richard Burr (R-NC), but they circulated a "dear colleague" letter (PDF) Monday calling on more lawmakers to join.

The senators praised Netanyahu for staying at the table even though the beginning of the process was marred by violence.
"Following the brutal murder of four innocent Israeli civilians by Hamas militants at the start of the negotiations, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not abandon the talks,We also agree with you that it is critical that all sides stay at the table."
Experts said the letter was a gentle push for the Obama administration to sharpen his stance toward Abbas as the end of the freeze rapidly approaches.

"Obviously this is a direct message to President Abbas, and President Obama, that many in Congress...want the Palestinian leadership to stop making what they see as threats and to put public pressure on the Palestinian Authority to move their position," said one Capitol Hill insider who had seen the letter.

"Many Capitol Hill office see Abbas quitting the talks over the settlements as him using the same issue he was clinging to when trying to set preconditions for the talks in the first place."

Abbas hints at settlement compromise - draws back threat of quitting the talks

(Haaretz).Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has signaled that a renewal of settlement construction in the West Bank would not necessarily end peace talks, attendees at a dinner with the Palestinians leader in New York told Haaretzץ

According to a transcript of the event in New York, the Palestinian president said: "I can't say I will leave the negotiations, but it will be very difficult to continue if Netanyahu will announce that he will start building."

Speaking to a closed meeting of Jewish American leaders in New York late Tuesday, Abbas made clear that he wanted to continue the dialogue with Israel and signaled that he was backing away from his ultimatum, but he also urged Israel to extend the building restrictions for several months while the sides negotiate the final borders between Israel and a future Palestine.

"Let's demarcate the border now in a short time so that the Israelis can build on their side of the border, at that time, Israelis will be free to build in their territory and the Palestinians the same."

Some 50 leaders of Jewish American organizations as well as former diplomats and policymakers attended the meeting with Abbas, who was in New York for the General Assembly of the United Nations. The two-hour gathering was sponsored by the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace.

Netanyahu: Settlement building shouldn't end Mideast peace talks

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday he had hoped the upcoming expiration of Israel's settlement freeze would not prompt the Palestinians to walk out of recently relaunched peace talks, adding that peace talks had taken place for 17 years without West Bank building disrupting them in any way.

The following are the Comments to the Press by Prime Minister Netanyahu during his visit to Sderot, 21 Sep, 2010

Prime Minister Netanyahu: "My goal is not to conduct a process but to complete it. My goal is to reach an historic peace agreement between us and our Palestinian Authority neighbors. Now, I think that I expressed this in my 14.6.09 Bar-Ilan University speech one of the two most important principles for completing such a peace, and that is my willingness – and that of Israel – to recognize a Palestinian national state. We say that the Palestinian people have a right to a national state of its own. And we also say that the Palestinians must recognize the right of the Jewish people to a national state of its own. They need to recognize the Jewish state. The fact that they do not recognize it, that they are trying to avoid such a simple statement, raises doubts. It raises questions on the Israeli side. Why do you not agree? Why? Why are you using all kinds of excuses? You say: we do not call Israel by name. I spoke about the name of the Palestinian state? I did not; I spoke about its essence. I called it the national state of the Palestinian people. And when the Palestinians refuse say something so simple, the question is – why? You want to flood the State of Israel about refugees so that it will no longer have a Jewish majority? You want to tear off parts of the Galilee and the Negev into mini-states? And the citizens of Israel who are not Jewish? In a peace agreement, there will be simplest symmetry: Israel recognizes the Palestinian state – and the Palestinians recognize the Jewish state. This is so simple. It is so just, so correct and so urgent. I say to Abu Mazen: Recognize the Jewish state."

Question: "Mr. Prime Minister, as you have said, I would like to receive a simple answer. What will happen next Monday? Are you going back to build, build everywhere, build only in a few places, build in a restrained manner? What exactly will happen next Monday? Did you think it will lead to a rupture in the talks? Will you or one of your people raise the issue of releasing the spy Jonathan pollard in exchange for an extension of the freeze? And if I may, the Chief-of-Staff recently said that a rupture in the talks would lead to a wave of violence, is this also your concern?"

Prime Minister Netanyahu: "I very much hope that Abu Mazen will stay in the talks and that he will not turn his back on peace. Whoever leaves the talks in effect turns his back on peace because we will only achieve peace at the negotiating table. I called for accelerated negotiations within one year in order to achieve a framework agreement. How will we achieve this? Not at the table? Only if we are at the table. Now, the issue of construction has been at in dispute for 17 years and we have had peace talks, including in the last year of the previous government, which Abu Mazen said were good talks and they were held while construction was going on. We made a gesture of ten months so that we might enter into negotiations. I regret that we entered them after more than nine months had passed. We said, "There will be no preconditions," because one cannot say five minutes later, "But there are precondition." The intention is to hold peace negotiations and reach an agreement on two states: One is a state for the Jewish People, a national state, a Jewish state – and one is a Palestinian national state, a Palestinian state. I believe that this is possible, but we must stay in the negotiations. By Sunday, you can ask me again. By Monday, you ask me several times. You asked me another question. There is no need for a special event to raise the issue of Jonathan Pollard. I spoke about this at my first meeting with US president Barack Obama and I have spoken with the Americans since then, several times, regardless. We are trying to bring Jonathan, to return him to the country after 25 years in an American prison."

Question: "Sir, over the last two days, the issue of a referendum has been raised by [Likud] MK [Ofir] Akonis. Do you, in fact, support this?"

Prime Minister Netanyahu: "I told MK Ofir Akonis that I would consider it. I will consider it because I am looking, or it is clear to me at least that regarding any agreement I bring, if we can indeed complete the period of negotiations and courageously reach an agreement that will both preserve security and ensure recognition of Israel, if we reach such an agreement, then it is self-evident that it will need to be decided upon by the people one way or another. There are several ways in which this could be decided on by the Israeli public and it is clear to you that on such a thing or such a decision, a majority is what a national decision requires. There are various ways to achieve this. I will consider the way that MK Akonis is proposing."

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Netanyahu Talks with the Conference of Presidents of MAJO on Peace process and Turkey

(PMO.gov.il).I want to wish you and all the participants in this phone conference Shana Tova, a year of security and prosperity and, G-d willing, peace.

A few weeks ago, we began direct negotiations on the final status issues. Now I’m eager to continue them, and eager to complete them. We’ve been calling for direct negotiations for 18 months. We have asked that these negotiations be conducted without preconditions, so we were very pleased when they began, and hope they’ll continue without preconditions.

There are two things that I think made a great impression on me. One is the commitment of President Obama and Secretary Clinton to assist in the process in our quest for peace. And I share that commitment. We want peace. We know what peace would mean for our people. We know what it would mean for our neighbors. We know what it would mean for the region. The second thing that made an impression on me was what I said a minute ago: the fact that there was an understanding that we don’t turn our disagreements into preconditions for talks. Because if we do, we’ll never get anywhere. After all, we’ve been trying to solve this conflict and it’s being going on for over 90 years, and we disagree on quite a number of things. Believe me, every day the Palestinians do things I don’t like: whether it’s incitement in the schools or media, or an international campaign that they back to delegitimize Israel.

Just yesterday, a Palestinian Authority court ruled that the sale of Palestinian land to Israelis is punishable by death. You know, all these things do not square well with me, and my colleagues often question why is it that we’re staying in the talks. Some have even questioned why I’m having peace talks with President Abbas when half of the Palestinian people are controlled by Hamas, which is a terror organization that openly calls for our destruction. I’m mentioning all of these things – and there are many others that I could raise here – because these could afford me many reasons to walk away from the table. But I haven’t walked away from the table. I want to give these talks a chance to succeed. And I very much hope that President Abbas will have the same attitude. I expect him to sit down with me even when we disagree, and to work with me through those disagreements in a sincere effort to forge an historic compromise, which I believe is possible.

We got rid of the preconditions before the talks. We can’t reintroduce them five minutes after the talks begin. We have to sustain a negotiation. My goal is to reach a framework agreement with the Palestinians within one year. I brought that up first because I believe it’s doable. Now I know there are many skeptics, but the skepticism that I hear is less about the timeframe – that is a year – and more about whether the Palestinian leadership is truly prepared to make an historic compromise that will end the conflict once and for all. And again I stress – if I have such a partner who is prepared to make an historic compromise, as I am, I think one year should be enough time to reach a framework agreement for peace.

For negotiations to succeed, we both have to meet. The two of us will have to meet face to face and discuss the major issues with a degree of discretion. I think we’ll have to build a relationship of trust that will enable us to grapple with the very difficult challenges we face. I suggested one-on-one meetings every two weeks over the coming year, and thus far we’ve had very substantive discussions. We’ve agreed, as part of the idea of discretion, not to discuss the details of our discussions. But I can speak to you about the principles that are guiding me in these talks. I laid out two of those core principles – two foundations for a lasting peace – in my speech last year at Bar-Ilan University. And these two foundations of peace are recognition and security. Let me speak briefly about both.

First about recognition: It’s time for the Palestinians to do something they have refused to do for 62 years. It’s time for them to say yes to a Jewish state. Now what does it mean to recognize the Jewish state, or the nation-state of the Jewish people?

It means that the Palestinians recognize the right of the Jewish people to self-determination in our historic homeland. I recognized the Palestinians’ right to self-determination and sovereignty. They must finally recognize the Jewish people’s right to self determination and sovereignty.

And just as the Jewish state has granted Jews around the world the right to immigrate to Israel, a Palestinian state could decide to grant Palestinians around the world the right to immigrate to their state. But Palestinian refugees do not have a right to come to the Jewish state.

A Jewish state also means that no one has a right to carve out sub-states within the Jewish state. There are well over 1 million of citizens of Israel who are not Jewish. They have equal rights, civil rights, but they don’t have national rights. They have a right to vote, to be elected, and to be full and equal participants in Israel’s democracy. But they don’t have a right to have their own separate state.

Why is this recognition important?

It’s important because the Palestinian leadership must begin to make clear to its own people that they are making a permanent peace with the Jewish people, a people that has a right to be here, a right to live in its own state and in its own homeland.

Ultimately, there will be no getting around this issue. For someone who is prepared to make lasting peace with Israel, no statement could be simpler: I recognize Israel as the Jewish state, the state of the Jewish people.

Now, mind you I’m not demanding of others what I am not prepared to do myself. At Bar-Ilan University last year, I said I was prepared to recognize a Palestinian state. This is the essence of peace: the nation-state of the Palestinian people.

I think President Abbas has to decide. He cannot skirt the issue. He cannot find clever language designed to obfuscate or to fudge it.

He needs to recognize the Jewish state. He needs to say it clearly and unequivocally. He needs to say it to his own people in their own language.

Remember that famous commercial – Just Do It? I think for the Palestinian leadership, it’s even simpler: Just Say It. Say that you recognize Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people. Say that you recognize the Jewish state.

This is the first point, and I think this is the essence of the problem that we’ve been facing all these years, the failure or the refusal to recognize the State of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people.

The second problem we face is security – I’m going to speak briefly about that too.

We do not want a repeat of what happened after Israel withdrew from Lebanon and Gaza. Those territories were turned into Iranian sponsored terror bases from which thousands of rockets were fired at Israel.

We have to ensure that we have solid security arrangements on the ground. We have to ensure that we can prevent the import of weapons from territories that we would vacate as part of a peace agreement with the Palestinians. And we have to make sure that we can address the potential threats to peace that will inevitably come. The first one you’ve seen – you’ve seen it in Lebanon, you’ve seen it in Gaza. These are the attempts – unfortunately successful in both those places – to smuggle a massive amount of weapons: rockets, missiles and other weapons from Iran to its proxies in the territories.

And then there are other threats: the threats of the reemergence of a potential Eastern front or from an internal change in Palestinian politics, and also there are other threats.

Let me give you an example of a country with which Israel had excellent relations – we had diplomatic ties, trade and economic ties – very robust – cultural exchanges, security ties, you name it – that country was called Iran. Overnight, however, our relationship changed.

What we need to understand is that a peace agreement by itself does not preserve the peace. We need to understand that the only peace that will hold in the Middle East is a peace that can be defended.

I have made clear that in order to defend the peace we need a long-term Israeli presence on the eastern side of a Palestinian state – that is, in the Jordan Valley. I have also said that while I respect the Palestinians desire for sovereignty, I am convinced that we can reconcile that desire with our need for security.

I have to say another thing: I don’t believe that under these circumstances, international troops will do the job. Experience has shown that countries seldom sustain a long-term military commitment abroad in places where their troops are subject to constant attacks. This is not true in places where those troops aren’t subject to constant attacks, but you can find many examples of these two kinds of deployments, and I leave it to your imagination. You can see what happened to the international forces that were placed, for example, in Gaza before Hamas took it over. There were European forces; they were called EU BAM, and when the Hamas took over Gaza, and the fighting started, these forces simply disappeared. They evaporated very quickly.

We live in a very tough neighborhood, and the peace will be tested constantly. The only force that will be prepared to sustain a long-term commitment is a force that is absolutely convinced that it is defending its own people from attack. And if we have learned anything from history, it’s that the only force that can be relied on to defend the Jewish people is the Israeli Defense Force.

I’ve said that security arrangements can be reassessed over time, but to say that an Israeli long-term presence is unacceptable from the start, it is simply – I believe – not a serious proposition. It’s a proposition that ignores all the experience we’ve had since the peace process began. It ignores the rise of Iran. It ignores the rise of rocket warfare. It ignores reality. And I think there is a serious problem with it logically. I’m not telling you where Israeli sovereignty will be and will not be, but if I take examples from other countries which have the placement of troops from other lands there, even for many years, nobody has seriously said that because Germany and Korea and Japan had U.S. troops on their soil, this was seen as an affront to their respective sovereignties. Quite the contrary. So the principle that is announced, I think is questionable, and more importantly, it’s adaptation to reality, to the reality that we live in, is also questionable. I think it’s just not compatible with the reality that has happened.

I think we’ve made enormous strides for peace inside Israel. I think the political landscape has changed. I think that we have shown great flexibility for peace, but at the same time, Israel has shown a great concern and even a hardening of its positions on security and I think this is warranted by the experiences we’ve had in the last decade in which the territories that we vacated were taken up by Iran’s proxies from which they targeted us with suicide attacks and rocket attacks. We want peace, but it has to be a secure peace and it there have to be solid security arrangements on the ground to ensure the peace – for us and for our Palestinian neighbors, and maybe for the entire neighborhood.

I believe there’s a way that we can resolve these difficult issues. I don’t think they’re insurmountable. I believe that an agreement is possible.

But to succeed, President Abbas and I have to be willing to stick it out even when we disagree. We have to be willing to address the issues with an open mind.

We have to be flexible and creative in finding compromises that are anchored in a realistic assessment of what is possible. I expect Palestinian flexibility, not the same positions they’ve held over the last 10 or 15 years, but a real change just as we’ve shown that change, because I think you get peace when both sides move to that point in the center where peace is possible.

And we always have to keep in mind the enormous benefits to both our peoples that would come if we can defy the skeptics and forge an historic peace. If it’s up to Israel, that’s going to happen. If it’s up to me, it will happen.

Let me wish all of you a good year, a Gmar Tov and a chag sameach. Shana tova, a year of peace.

Barak on Fox news: History will judge Obama administration if Iran turns Nuclear

"Part of the way history will judge" the current US administration is whether Iran "turned nuclear" under its watch, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said overnight Tuesday.

In an interview with Fox News, Barak said Iran could obtain nuclear capabilities within a year-and-a-half to two years, adding that its continued construction of underground facilities would make a strike more complicated.

"We don't have to be frightened by the declarations of (Iranian President Mahmoud) Ahmadinejad, but at the same time we have to take Iran's determined movement toward nuclear military capability and its insistence on cheating and (deceiving) the whole world – we have to take it seriously; I believe that the whole world has to take it seriously," the defense minister, who is on an official visit to the US, told "On the Record with Greta Van Susteren.

"A nuclear Iran will be the end of any non-proliferation regime; it will start an arms race towards nuclear capacity among several members of the Middle Eastern community - it will give a tailwind to (global jihad)," he said.

According to Barak, the sanctions imposed on Iran "might not suffice," adding, "We have to start considering what follows if sanctions won't work."

Monday, September 20, 2010

Peres addresses UNGA: Israel will continue to exist and aspire to peace with its neighbors

President Shimon Peres told the UN General Assembly Sunday that the two-state solution is the only one that will bring peace between Israel and the Palestinians, and that Israel was ready to enter into negotiations with Syria.

The president spoke of the way in which Israel has developed. "I speak on behalf of a small people, and a tiny land. We knew rebirth despite the murder of one third of our people – the Shoah. We were alone. Our land was attacked seven times in 62 years – again, we were alone," he said.

"In spite of wars, we made peace with Egypt and Jordan. The territorial dispute with Lebanon has ended and acknowledged so by the UN. We left Gaza on our own initiative – completely. We are now negotiating with the Palestinians in order to realize the two-state-solution: A Jewish state – Israel, and an Arab state – Palestine. There is no other peaceful alternative, and I believe that we shall succeed."

"We believe that every person was created in the image of the lord – and there's just one lord who calls not to hate, not to threaten, not to seek superiority, and not to kill. Israel will continue to exist and aspire to peace with its neighbors. There is enough room for friendship in the Middle East."

In conclusion, Peres brought up two "burning challenges" for the assembly. "First, to harness science and technology to increase food production, and second, to stand together against terror. A hungry world will never be peaceful. A terrorized world will never be governable. We should unite around a common hope," he said.

Below is the full speech:

History was written in blood. Most wars were waged over territory.

Today, science, creativity and knowledge replaced land as the source of wealth. Land can be conquered. Not science. Science is global, borderless. Armies can't conquer it.

Yet, still, Lawless terrorists spread violence caused by ideological differences, social gaps and sheer fanaticism. The new millennium must liberate the world, from bloodshed, from discrimination, from hunger, from ignorance, from maladies.

Modern science is capable to provide new answers. In the coming ten years there will be an explosion of knowledge. Computation power increased a million folds in the last 25 years. Scientists are venturing into the brain.

Mr. President,

I speak on behalf of a small people, and a tiny land. We knew rebirth despite the murder of one third of our people. The Shoah. We were alone. Our land was attacked 7 times in 62 years. Again. We were alone.

Never giving up on hope, we developed science. We found that the future is in our hands. We learned that people can enrich land, no less than land can nourish the people.

Israel is the product of pioneering human spirit – not of financial capital.

In spite of wars, we made peace with Egypt and Jordan. The territorial dispute with Lebanon has ended and acknowledged so by the UN.

We left Gaza on our own initiative. Completely. We are now negotiating with the Palestinians in order to realize the two-state-solution:

A Jewish state, Israel. An Arab State- Palestine. There is no other peaceful alternative. And, I believe that we shall succeed. We are ready to enter in direct negotiations with Syria immediately.

Mr. President

We are committed to the Millennium development goals. We share the burden of saving the world from war and hunger. Without peace, poverty will remain. Without food – peace will not prevail.

Statesmen have to mobilize political power to achieve peace. Scientists can enable the land produce more food. We developed an agriculture based on science.

Our farmers produce 8-folds per acre compared with the nation's early days. The need for water was cut in half. We employed desalination, recycling, drip and electronic irrigation and bio-engineering to create new seeds and richer crops.

Five decades ago, an Israeli farmer produced food for 15 persons. Today, he produces for 120.
The farmer's contribution to the GDP equals that of a high-tech engineer. To cultivate land, you have to cultivate education and improve health.

So we introduced free compulsory education for all, from age 5 to 18. It brought an end to illiteracy and provided us with the highest rate of scientists per square mile in the world. The National health-care system provides world-class treatment for every citizen.

We are also one of the only countries in the world that entered the 21st century with more trees than it had when it entered the 20th century.

Mr. President,

I am confident that our path is available to everyone. Our experience is replicable. We are ready to share our experience as we did already with many countries –– both through UN agencies and bilaterally.

Our call includes also nations that don't have diplomatic ties with us.

Mr. President,

The other day, the formal leader of Iran declared there's no future for Israel in the Middle East. I believe that the Middle East has room for every person, every nation, every religion.

We believe that every person was created in the image of the lord – and there's just one Lord who calls not to hate, not to threaten, not to seek superiority, and not to kill. There is enough room for friendship in the Middle East.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In my youth I was a member of a Kibbutz, cultivating poor land. I owned, like all members, two shirts and two pairs of pants. There was a third pair of pants: made of flannel reserved for grooms only.

I was lucky to wear them for two full days during my wedding. The main dish in the kibbutz was eggplants. Meat was available once a week, but not every week. There was no private money and little collective money.

We were poor and happy. The sort of happiness felt when a person as is turning desert into garden. Today the kibbutz has a thriving agriculture and a profitable guest house. Food is plentiful. It is in the kibbutz, in scarcity, where I learned to respect pioneers. And developed an affinity to creative minds and laborious hands. Actually, my early dream was to see the world as a great kibbutz. Free, peaceful, productive.

Mr. President,

I call upon this gathering to address the two burning challenges: first, to harness science and technology to increase food production. And second, to stand together against terror. A hungry world will never be peaceful.

A terrorized world will never be governable. We should unite around a common hope. The cradle of our children shall be the cradle of our vision.

12 years later - US offers Release of Pollard in exchange for 3 Month Settlement freeze

(FOXnews).According to Israel's Army Radio there is a new initiative to secure the release of Jonathan Pollard (serving a life sentence in US prison for spying for Israel) in return to the extension of the settlement freeze.

Political source at the PMO said the initiative based upon the belief that many right wing ministers opposing the settlement freeze would find the release a remedy, though painful, to the settlement freeze extension.

According to the Army Radio, the Israeli source submitted the request to the US administration. The American response was not available.

Dani Dayan, head of Yesha Council (settler's organization) was quoted as saying

"This is an ugly blackmail. No one wants Pollard's release more then we do, but we understand that accepting such a deal can harm Israel's vital interests"

A source at the Prime Minister office told Fox News on condition of aninimity, they will not comment on the issue.

Jonathan Pollard was convicted in 1987 for espionage and is serving a life sentence in the US. Previous attempts to release him faced objection both by US presidents and head of CIA.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Colin Powell: Iran Sanction Increase Won't Stop Nuclear Program

(Bloomberg) -- Former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said new sanctions on Iran to persuade it to stop enriching uranium won’t work because the Islamic republic is “determined to have a nuclear program.”

Powell, who was also once the top U.S. military officer, says he doesn't think "the stars are lining up" for an attack on Iran's known or suspected nuclear sites. The U.S. accuses Iran of hiding plans to build a bomb; Iran denies that.

Powell says the U.S. may have to accept that, while trying to deter Iran from building or using a bomb.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

President Peres will represent Israel and Gov't policies at the UNGA

(Jpost).President Shimon Peres left for New York on Saturday night to represent Israel at the summit meeting of the United Nations General Assembly, convened by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to accelerate progress toward achieving the UN’s Millennium Development Goals, the deadline for which is 2015.

The summit meeting, to which leaders of all UN member states have been invited, will take place in New York from September 20-22.The major goal of the summit meeting is to find a more rapid means of significantly reducing poverty, hunger, disease and childbirth fatalities.

While in New York, Peres, together with other world leaders, will also participate in the annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative.

The CGI was established by former US president Bill Clinton in 2005 to turn ideas into action and to help the world move beyond the state of globalization to a more integrated global community of shared benefits, responsibilities and values.

Peres will address the millennium summit, as will US President Barack Obama, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Nicolas Sarkozy of France.

In the course of his address to the UN, Peres will explain that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is unable to agree to an extension of the moratorium on construction, simply because, given the mood in Israel, it would be a pledge he would be unable to keep.

The president’s speech, at 11:30 AM EST on Monday, will be broadcast live on Israeli TV.

On Tuesday, Peres will speak at a special CGI session devoted to the Middle East, with the participation of other regional leaders including Turkish President Abdullah Gul and the Crown Prince of Bahrain Sheikh Salman al-Khalifa. In addition to presenting his vision of peace, Peres will emphasize the dangers hovering over the world at large if Iran is permitted to continue with its nuclear program.

Peres will also take advantage of the opportunity to meet on a one-to-one basis with other world leaders, the aim being to get them to understand the severity of the Iranian threat – not only in terms of its nuclear projects, but also insofar as Iran supports terrorism in its ambition to rule the Middle East; and after that the world.

Between his addresses and his meetings with world leaders, Peres will give several media interviews with the aim of conveying Israel’s message as far afield as possible.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Republican Leaders lash out at Obama on Israel; "America stands with Israel,"

Leading Republican leaders took the podium on friday to criticize President Obama on his treatment of Israel,at the Voters value summit in Washington, one of the biggest religious right conferences of the year, where thousands of Evengelical christians, conservative catholics and Jews gather, speakers at the event included Mike Huckabee, Jim DeMint, Michelle Bachmann, Rick Santorium, Mike Pence , Mitt Romney and Christine O'Donnell. The summit will have a “2012 Presidential Straw Poll,” with the winner to be announced Saturday afternoon.

Rep. Mike Pence Chairman of the House Republican Conference, took a tough stance, accusing Obama of abandoning Israel – Pence said he was “appalled” by Obama’s criticism of controversial building in Jerusalem:
"I Never thought I'd see the day an American administration would denounce Israel for rebuilding Jerusalem"

"Let the World know this if nothing else: America stands with Israel!".
Mitt Romney the frontrunner in the GOP 2012 field according to polls and predictions gave Obama a 'F' grade on foriegn policy:
"The President's foreign policy has not compensated for his failure at home. Under his engagement policy, North Korea has tested nuclear weapons, launched long range missiles, and sunk a South Korean ship. And Iran has funded Yemeni insurgents, armed terrorists, and accelerated its nuclear program. He gave Russians their number one foreign policy objective--abandonment of our Eastern Europe missile defense--and got nothing in return. He insulted Israel at the United Nations and forgot to mention that Hamas has launched thousands of rockets into that country...."

Thursday, September 16, 2010

"Netanyahu is the only figure in Israel who is both willing and able to lead the country toward Peace"

(Israel Harel- Op. Haaretz).Most opinion leaders, both abroad and in Israel, have developed a personal dislike of Benjamin Netanyahu. This prevents them from dispassionately analyzing, with intellectual honesty, the huge ideological about-face he has undergone, and which is sweeping him in the direction they themselves so strongly favor.

Practically speaking, Netanyahu is the only figure in Israel who is both willing and able to lead the country toward major concessions in Judea and Samaria and the establishment of a Palestinian state.

Supporters of withdrawals and evacuations claim that Netanyahu is a hypocrite, that he is maneuvering and juggling and making unreasonable demands of the Palestinians (though if Israel is to withdraw in order to preserve the state's Jewish majority, why is the demand that they recognize Israel as the national home of the Jewish people unreasonable? ), or demands that they cannot possibly accept, such as conceding the right of return (though if the demand for withdrawal is justified by the desire to preserve a Jewish majority, why not make forgoing the right of return, the Palestinians' chief instrument for thwarting such a majority, a sine qua non?).

When the head of the Likud party uses the term "two states for two peoples," or calls Judea and Samaria "the West Bank," these terms reflect an ideological turnabout. And the logical consequence is a strategic turnabout: The prime minister is trying to outmaneuver not the Americans or the Palestinians, but rather the members of his own party - that large political camp that chose him as its head to conduct a policy antithetical to that of the Kadima-Labor government, just as he repeatedly promised to do.

Netanyahu's dramatic turnabout is being dismissed - or at best, improperly understood - because many of his critics never adhered, as he did, to a fervent, binding belief, and do not understand the inner storms in the heart of a leader who is abandoning beliefs he imbibed with his mother's milk. They are alienated from the historical significance that Netanyahu, in his writings and speeches, attributed to those parts of the country they so ardently desire to transfer irrevocably to the sovereignty of another people. Thus they cannot grasp the fact that Netanyahu, via his statements, has embarked on a road from which there is no turning back.

For what is the uprooting from Gaza, which destroyed 25 settlements, compared to what is coming in Judea and Samaria, where communities and individuals will be evacuated from the heart of the land in which we became a people, in which we developed our identity and culture, and to which we returned at such a heavy price in blood? If they treated Ariel Sharon as an etrog - a precious object to be carefully guarded - then they ought to be treating Netanyahu as the most valuable etrog of all.

If Netanyahu still adhered to the Likud's principled position, he could explain his willingness to make concessions as stemming from American pressure, especially since Israel faces an existential threat. Any rabbi would agree that when it comes to saving the nation from the Iranian bomb, national pikuah nefesh (saving a life ) takes precedence over Judea and Samaria.

But a man like Netanyahu, a man of dignity and honor, would not take the path of deceit. His heart and his mouth were one in the past, and they are one now.

Perhaps in Yom Kippur's "Kol Nidre" prayer, Netanyahu can find something to help him cope with the cognitive dissonance caused by the dramatic turnabout in his political personality. The thrust of the prayer is the worshiper's declaration that he repents of all his vows and obligations, including those from the past. These, the worshiper declares, are "absolved, forgiven, annulled and void, and made of no effect."

And God, we are promised, accepts, understands and forgives. If that is true in heaven, it is all the more true of the Likud party and the cabinet.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

PM Netanyahu hosts Abbas in Jerusalem clarifying that the Settlement freeze will expire Sept. 26

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hosted Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at his official residence in Jerusalem on Wednesday, in what special U.S. envoy George Mitchell described as a sign that both leaders believe a peace deal can be achieved.

During their meeting in Jerusalem Wednesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas that Israel plans to resume construction in the West Bank settlements once the moratorium expires on September 26.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and special Mideast envoy George Mitchell also took part in the two-hour meeting at the PM's official residence, where Israeli, Palestinian, and American flags were displayed.

"The prime minister is hosting Abu Mazen (Abbas) in his home in friendship and benevolence, but during the talks themselves, he will insist adamantly on Israel's security needs. There are no compromises on this matter," a senior official in the Prime Minister's Office said.

At the opening of the meeting, a smiling Netanyahu said he was happy to host Abbas, adding that "we have much work to do." Abbas, also smiling, humorously responded by saying the two leaders "haven't met in a while."

When asked prior to their meeting in Jerusalem if they had made progress during their two sessions of meetings at the Sinai resort of Sharm El-Sheikh, Netanyahu told reporters: "We're working on it ... It's a lot of work. And I am glad to have the opportunity to welcome President Abbas and Secretary Clinton here pursuing peace, and I think we should get on with [it]."

The Palestinian leader signed the guestbook at the PM's residence, writing "Today I returned to this house after a long period of absence in order to continue the talks and the negotiations, in hope of arriving at an eternal peace in all the region, and especially peace between the Israeli people and the Palestinian people."

Following the meeting, Mitchell said that Abbas and Netanyahu had discussed difficult issues "up front" and seemed to making progress on the contentious issue of settlement construction in the West Bank.

Ambassador Oren in LAtimes: Yes! We do care about Peace, despite our experience of disappointment

(Michael B. Oren O-Ed in LAtimes-responce to Times Magazine). Imagine that you're a parent who sends her children off to school in the morning worrying whether their bus will become a target of suicide bombers. Imagine that, instead of going off to college, your children become soldiers at age 18, serve for three years and remain in the active reserves into their 40s. Imagine that you have fought in several wars, as have your parents and even your grandparents, that you've seen rockets raining down on your neighborhood and have lost close family and friends to terrorist attacks. Picture all of that and you'll begin to understand what it is to be an Israeli. And you'll know why all Israelis desperately want peace.

Recent media reports, in Time magazine and elsewhere, have alleged that Israelis — who are currently experiencing economic growth and a relative lull in terrorism — may not care about peace. According to a poll cited, Israelis are more concerned about education, crime and poverty — issues that resonate with Americans — than about the peace process with the Palestinians. But such findings do not in any way indicate an indifference to peace, but rather the determination of Israelis to build normal, fruitful lives in the face of incredible adversity.

Yes, many Israelis are skeptical about peace, and who wouldn't be? We withdrew our troops from Lebanon and the Gaza Strip in order to generate peace, and instead received thousands of missiles crashing into our homes. We negotiated with the Palestinians for 17 years and twice offered them an independent state, only to have those offers rejected. Over the last decade, we saw more than 1,000 Israelis — proportionally the equivalent of about 43,000 Americans — killed by suicide bombers, and tens of thousands maimed. We watched bereaved mothers on Israeli television urging our leaders to persist in their peace efforts, while Palestinian mothers praised their martyred children and wished to sacrifice others for jihad.

Given our experience of disappointment and trauma, it's astonishing that Israelis still support the peace process at all. Yet we do, and by an overwhelming majority. According to the prestigious Peace Index conducted by the Tamal Steinmetz Center for Peace Research at Tel Aviv University and released in July, more than 70% of Israelis back negotiations with the Palestinians, and nearly that number endorse the two-state solution. These percentages exist even though multiple Palestinian polls show much less enthusiasm for living side by side in peace with Israel, or that most Israelis believe that international criticism of the Jewish state will continue even if peace is achieved.
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Indeed, Israelis have always grasped at opportunities for peace. When Arab leaders such as Egyptian President Anwar Sadat or King Hussein of Jordan offered genuine peace to Israel, our people passionately responded and even made painful concessions. That most Israelis are still willing to take incalculable risks for peace — the proposed Palestinian state would border their biggest cities — and are still willing to share their ancestral homeland with a people that has repeatedly tried to destroy them is nothing short of miraculous.

It's true that Israel is a success story. The country has six world-class universities, more scientific papers and Nobel Prizes per capita than any other nation and the most advanced high-tech sector outside of Silicon Valley. The economy is flourishing, tourism is at an all-time high and our citizen army selflessly protects our borders. In the face of unrelenting pressures, we have preserved a democratic system in which both Jews and Arabs can serve in our parliament and sit on our Supreme Court. We have accomplished this without knowing a nanosecond of peace.

We shouldn't have to apologize for our achievements. Nor should outside observers conclude that the great improvements in our society in any way lessen our deep desire for peace. That yearning was expressed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the recent White House ceremony for the start of direct negotiations with the Palestinians. Addressing Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas as "my partner in peace," Netanyahu called for "a peace that will last for generations — our generation, our children's generation and the next."

For Israelis who don't have to imagine what it's like to live in a perpetual war zone, that vision of peace is our lifeline.

Calev Ben-Dor/ Different division of negotiation issues could help move peace talks forward

Calev Ben-Dor-Ynet).Much ink has been spilled on the direct talks between the government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority and their chances of success.

While the issues to be discussed are highly significant, what is more noteworthy is the way those issues are grouped together in clusters for the negotiation teams. As the typology of issues predetermines the division of labor among negotiation working groups, and because each group usually performs a ‘give and take' in order to create an internal 'package,' the way in which these negotiation issues are divided has a systemic impact on the deal reached.

A more relevant negotiations agenda typology would be designed around the clusters of those issues that are likely to shape Israel's relations with a future Palestinian state. Such an approach may also make it easier to actually reach and implement a deal.

Rather than borders, security, refugees, Jerusalem, water and economic arrangements, Israel might consider a new division of 'intrusive issues', 'conventional issues', 'personal security issues', and 'historic issues.’

This re-division would change which group discusses each issue. Rather than being divided into different clusters, as per the current division, municipal arrangements in Jerusalem, or maintenance and operation of water sources would be negotiated in the cluster of 'Conventional Issues.' Arrangements on movement and access within Jerusalem or the Holy Basin, or agreements for movement through the entry and exit points between Israel and the Palestinian state would be dealt with in the 'Personal Security Issues' cluster.

Additionally, the question of final borders, refugees, sovereignty over the Temple Mount, and damages for the occupation would all be discussed in one group, that of 'Historic Issues'.

Finally, the question of a safe passage between the West Bank and Israel, or Palestinian access to the Israeli port at Haifa – issues that 'intrude' into Israeli sovereignty, could be discussed together with Israeli requests to 'intrude' into Palestinian sovereignty, namely control over Palestinian airspace or demilitarization.

By regrouping issues in this way, the existing tendency to “close agreements” within each working group can be better leveraged. This, in turn, will help achieve a different systemic outcome. For example, linkage between different issues – such as the Palestinian demand for a safe passage and the Israeli demand for control over Palestinian airspace – can be used to create a balance of interests that may lend itself to greater stability. Alternatively, compromises by one side over Jerusalem or borders may be linked to compromise by the other side over refugees.

Israelis and Palestinians disagree deeply on issues that touch the core of their national-religious-historical identity, and changing the typology of negotiation issues won't suddenly solve them. However, it would make it easier for the negotiating teams to achieve a stable two-state reality that offers both peoples a better future.

Four reasons not to be cynical - The advantages of talking over fighting can't be discounted

(P. Edward Haley-CSmonitor opinion).It is impossible to know whether this latest round of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, which began Sept. 2 in Washington, will lead to peace.

There are huge obstacles.

Among them are domestic politics in Israel, which features a government led by conservative nationalist and religious parties. Compromise with the Palestinians is anathema to many within this fragile coalition, and its supporters.

The Palestinians are so deeply divided that they govern different geographic areas and are as opposed to one another as they are to Israel.

Many Americans, meanwhile, point to past failures and warn against future concessions. Now that Israel is relatively safe, they say, why force it to take steps that could turn the relatively quiet West Bank into another Gaza or Lebanon?
Talking rather than fighting

This is the usual way of counting risks in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but it overlooks the advantages of talking rather than fighting. They are significant, so significant that they outweighed the reservations of the two sides and persuaded them to accept President Obama's invitation to talk.

The first and greatest advantage of peace talks is to slow the killing. Those who argue that Israel's assaults have stopped Palestinian attacks forget the balance sheet of the past decade. A conservative estimate is that since the second intifada began in 2000, more than 700 Israelis have died as a result of Palestinian attacks, and more than 6,300 Palestinians have been killed by Israel.

Second, negotiations promote peaceful economic and political development. During the mid-1990s, the Oslo peace process encouraged the launching of bilateral economic initiatives such as Israeli and Palestinian joint ventures, most of which were destroyed by later warfare.

Third, as talks proceed, a precious web of civil society will begin to take shape between Arab and Jew, knitting together dentists, teachers, water experts, farmers, and others who join one another for mutual advantage regardless of nationality. These kinds of spontaneous associations were enormously helpful in bringing peace to Northern Ireland, but they falter in the face of violence and war.

Fourth, peace talks put the emphasis on refraining from attack and reprisal. In this way, negotiations dilute the fear and uncertainty that favor radical movements, such as Hamas and Hezbollah, that were born out of strife and have grown stronger with it.

For Israel, the most immediate gain from the opening of talks has been to reduce its international isolation. Israelis across the political spectrum understandably resent what they see as global bias against them. But relations with other governments, especially with previously friendly governments such as Turkey, have been damaged by Israel's heavy-handed unilateralism.

The talks need not solve every problem immediately in order to improve the well-being of Israelis and Palestinians, but if the parties fail to move convincingly toward peace, the benefits of "jaw-jaw" will be lost to "war-war."

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Poll: US Support For Israel increased following restart of talks: 58% - Netanyahu is commited to Peace

Support for Israel among Americans has jumped following the resumption of Middle East peace talks, according to poll findings released Tuesday.

58 percent thought the U.S. should support Israel – a jump of 7 percent on a similar poll in July.

A majority of respondents (58 percent) also thought Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was committed to making peace, while 40 percent thought the same of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

“Support for Israel among Americans remains strong and steady,” said pollster Neil Newhouse of Public Opinion Strategies.

Overall, Americans by a six to one margin believe Israel is more committed to reaching a peace agreement than the Palestinians. By almost two to one (63 percent to 34 percent) they thing the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is mostly about religion and ideology rather than a conflict mostly about land.

Sixty one percent also said Israel should continue to inspect and control commerce going in and out of the Gaza Strip to prevent supplies that might be used for military purposes. Only 30 percent thought Gaza, controlled by Iran-backed Hamas, should be fully open to commerce.

Clinton: Israel must extend Settlement freeze; Netanyahu heads to Washington

(Haaretz. INN). Israel and the Palestinians need to resolve a dispute over the expiry of an Israeli moratorium on West Bank settlement construction that threatens to scupper their nascent direct peace talks, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Monday.

Speaking as she flew to Egypt for a second round of direct Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, Clinton said the two sides would get "down to business" and she repeated the U.S. view that Israel should extend its moratorium on new settlement construction in the West Bank.

"The United states believes that the moratorium should be extended," Clinton told reporters, echoing a view taken by U.S. President Barack Obama.

But she then put some of the onus on the Palestinians to take unspecified steps to help Netanyahu to extend the freeze.

"This has to be understood as an effort by both the prime minister and the president to get over the hurdle posed by the expiration of the original moratorium in order to continue negotiations," she said.

"There are obligations on both sides to ensure that these negotiations continue," she added.

She also sought to counter widespread pessimism that the first direct peace talks after a 20-month hiatus are unlikely to lead to success given the political divisions in Israel and among the Palestinians.

"For me, this is a simple choice: no negotiations, no security, no state," Clinton said as she began her journey to the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, where the talks will take place on Tuesday.

"There is no prospect for success in the absence of direct negotiations," she added.

Clinton is to meet separately with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Sharm el-Sheikh before holding a three-way meeting. She will hold another three-way meeting in Jerusalem on Wednesday.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will fly to Washington DC Sunday, in a surprising development reported by Channel 1 national television Tuesday evening. The station's political reporter Ayala Hasson said the trip is "90% certain" to take place and that it seems to reflect some kind of political development, but that the nature of the development is not known.

Sharm Summit: No Porgress on Settlement Issue, but Talks kick off in confidential start

Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas met in Sharm el-Sheikh Tuesday and discussed “core issues” of a possible solution to the decades-long conflict over the Land of Israel. The term "core issues" usually refers to Israeli concessions, including the status of Jerusalem and the holy sites within it, as well as final borders and the Arab demand that descendants of Arab residents who fled decades ago be allowed into Israel. Before the meeting, Netanyahu had insisted that recognition of Israel as a Jewish state and addressing security issues were the primary issues for Israel.

The talks were hosted by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and US Special Envoy for Middle East Peace George Mitchell also took an active part in the talks that reportedly got off to a "rocky start" in the morning.

The day began with separate bilateral meetings that Mubarak held with Netanyahu, Abbas and Clinton. Clinton then also held bilateral meetings with Abbas and Netanyahu separately.

This was followed by a 100 minute meeting attended by Netanyahu, Abbas, Clinton and Mitchell.

The second round of direct negotiations began in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt on Tuesday and will continue Wednesday when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will meet in Jerusalem.

According to officials who took part in the talks, the Israeli negotiation team suggested holding one of the meetings between Netanyahu and Abbas in Ramallah, as a goodwill gesture to the Palestinians. It remains unclear whether the Israeli security establishment will approve such a meeting or suggest it be held in Jericho instead.

According to the western officials, no progress was made during the Sharm summit on the settlement construction issue. The construction moratorium is set to expire on September 28, but the US is pressing Israel to extend it.

The talks focused on finding a solution that maintain the stability of Netanyahu's government without causing the Palestinians to quit the talks.

Despite the difficulties, Israel is considering a number of gestures to the Palestinians, including the release of prisoners, transferring certain areas in the West Bank to full Palestinian control and continuing the construction freeze in areas outside the main settlement blocs.

The sources said the Israeli negotiators mentioned the possibility of extending the moratorium.

During the talks in Sharm, the American delegation, headed by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, reprimanded the Israelis and Palestinians, and called on both sides to project optimism and not create a negative atmosphere.

US envoy George Mitchell told reporters in Egypt, "President Abbas and Prime Minister Netanyahu continue to agree that these negotiations, whose goal is to resolve all core issues, can be completed in one year.

According to Mitchell, the drafting of a framework agreement for a “permanent status” solution is now “well under way.” The parties agree, however, that negotiations must be kept strictly confidential.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Settlers shift pressure from Netanyahu to key holder Obama and US Congress

(Jpost).The Council of Jewish Communities in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip changed its tactics on Monday when it decided to shift pressure to end the 10-month construction moratorium in Judea and Samaria from Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to US President Barack Obama.

The decision came after Obama revealed over the weekend that he had asked Netanyahu to continue the moratorium and then the prime minister hinted that the freeze could partially continue. The settlers said they realized that Obama holds the key to the decisions that will be made before the freeze is set to end at midnight between September 25 and 26.

“Obama is the most hostile American president toward Israel in recent history,” council director-general Naftali Bennett said. “He’s trying to twist Netanyahu’s arm into tearing apart the Land of Israel and risking Israel’s very existence. But we’re not a puppet state that Obama can control. The overwhelming majority of Americans understand that Israel is a tower of democracy in an ocean of radical Islam.

“We’re asking the American Congress to tell Obama to respect Israel and respect its independence and not make us commit national suicide,” Bennett said.

Activists will begin their effort with ads in English-language newspapers, including The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday and key American media outlets on Wednesday.

“A Message to the American President and Members of the United States Congress,” the ads read. “The Ministers of the Government of Israel and the Members of the Knesset below have all publicly declared their support for a complete and unconditional end to the ‘building freeze.’” The ad includes past quotes from ministers and MKs about ending the freeze, including Netanyahu, who said in December, “I want to make this clear – this freeze is a temporary, one-time affair. We’ll resume building as we did before.”

Jeff Daube, director of the Zionist Organization of America’s Israel office, endorsed the council’s decision to shift its pressure to Obama.

He said ZOA was working hard to ensure that members of Congress were made fully aware of the need to end the freeze on time and that Netanyahu should know that if he kept his promise to end the freeze, his decision would be supported by US leadership in the legislative branch and a significant majority of Americans.

“Pressure from President Obama to impose a continued freeze is a good idea,I just disagree with his target – Netanyahu. The Obama administration should pressure [Mahmoud] Abbas, instead, to permanently freeze the PA’s outrageous, anti-peace behavior, starting with incitement in its media and schools, racist pronouncements calling for a Judenrein Palestinian state, denied recognition of Israel as the Jewish state, and rocket fire and other acts of terror directed at Israeli civilians.”