Archive for July, 2012

Relations have never been worse

Wednesday, July 25th, 2012
It's not just policy and perceived interests -- it's personal

It’s not just policy and perceived interests — it’s personal

Aaron David Miller is no ‘Zionist ideologue’ (a phrase that he himself has used pejoratively). He is not a fan of Jewish settlements east of the Green Line, and he has said that

Palestinians deserve an independent state living in peace and security alongside Israel. They’ve suffered enough; their cause is just and compelling.

He recently wrote this about the Levy Commission report, which concluded that Jews have a right to live in Judea and Samaria:

Israeli settlement activity continues unabated. In fact, in a truly bizarre and tortuous bit of twisted logic, a recent report by a committee created by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu actually recommended sanctioning the Israeli activity.

My regular readers know that I applauded the Levy report as a breath of fresh air which could finally bring the government of Israel out of the ghetto it voluntarily created when it ceded its legitimate rights and adopted its enemies’ language of ‘occupation’.

And while I think that Palestinian Arabs have certainly suffered, I also think that the “Palestinian Cause” is no more or less than a racist war against Jewish self-determination — and that the agent of Palestinian suffering has not been Israel, but rather the truly awful Arab leadership.

So Miller and I are not at all on the same page. On the other hand, he has worked for six American Secretaries of State as an adviser on Israeli-Arab negotiations, and has written four books and countless articles on the Mideast. The least we can do is listen to what he says.

And what he says about the prospect of a second Obama Administration is foreboding indeed. After criticizing Netanyahu for not “trusting [his] own instincts” and therefore being untrustworthy himself (yes, I know, “tortuous” and “bizarre” logic), he turns to Obama:

If Bibi seems weak, Obama has left no doubt that he has strong views when it comes to the U.S.-Israeli relationship. And he hasn’t changed his views of Israel or Netanyahu, even if his first failed run at the peace process and the impending presidential election have caused him to back off.

I’ve watched a few presidents come and go on this issue, and Obama really is different. Unlike Clinton and George W. Bush, Obama isn’t in love with the idea of Israel. As a result, he has a harder time making allowances for Israeli behavior he doesn’t like. Obama relates to the Jewish state not on a values continuum but through a national security and interest filter. [I wish! — ed.]

It’s true that the president doesn’t emote on many policy issues, with the possible exception of health care. But on Israel, he just doesn’t buy the “tiny state living on the knife’s edge with the dark past” argument — or at least it doesn’t come through in emotionally resonant terms.

As the Washington Post’s Scott Wilson reported, Obama doesn’t believe the “no daylight” argument — that is, to get Israel to move, you need to make the Israelis feel that America will stand by it no matter what. Quite the opposite: Obama appears to believe that Israel needs to understand that if it doesn’t move, the United States will be hard pressed to continue to give it complete support. [i.e., it will throw Israel to the wolves — ed.]

In this respect, when it comes to Israel, Obama is more like Jimmy Carter minus the biblical interest or attachment, or like Bush 41 minus a strategy. My sense is that, if he could get away with it, the president would like to see a U.S.-Israeli relationship that is not just less exclusive, but somewhat less special as well.

Right-wing Israeli leaders have found ways to cooperate quite closely with American presidents in the past. But this time around, it’s not so easy.

There are just no good answers to the region’s problems. The peace process is stuck, and Iran’s quest for a nuclear weapon seems impervious to sanctions or diplomacy. The Arab world is going through changes that will introduce even more uncertainty into Israeli calculations and make risk-taking on the peace process less likely. And as the president might say, let’s be clear: Netanyahu is not going to offer the Palestinians a deal on Jerusalem, borders, or refugees that they will accept. Indeed, on the issue of a peace settlement, Obama’s views are much closer to the Palestinians than to Israel. [my emphasis]

Whatever one thinks of Miller’s ideological stance, he is a professional who has been around for a long time and who knows all the players. At the beginning of his article, Miller quotes Sen. John McCain’s remark that “Everybody knows that relations with Israel have never been worse,” and after describing some of the bad moments under Presidents Eisenhower, Nixon, Reagan and Bush I, admits that McCain is “on to something.”

The problem is not only one of policy and perceived interests, it is personal, with Obama’s dislike of Netanyahu a matter of public record.

It seems to me that not only are relations between Israel and the US worse than ever, they have the potential to get much worse if Obama is reelected and is no longer constrained by electoral politics.

And now is the worst possible time for this to be the case.

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Jew-washing divestment

Tuesday, July 24th, 2012
JVP "Jew-washing" operatives at Presbyterian General Assembly

JVP “Jew-washing” operatives at Presbyterian General Assembly

I’ve mentioned the Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) organization before, and I’m particularly interested in where they get their money. Their 2010 IRS form 990 shows an income from public contributions and grants of $705,605, they have 6 paid employees and a payroll of $367,186. That is a significant amount of money, and it is deployed very effectively.

For example, as Yitzak Santis and Gerald M. Steinberg tell us, they were instrumental in “Jew-washing” the attempt to pass a divestment resolution at the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (PCUSA):

These were the “Jew-washers” – very visible actors in many such political attacks on Israel, particularly in Christian frameworks.  They are influential beyond their actual numbers, providing a convenient means for cleansing such actions from the stains of double standards, demonization and sometimes anti-Semitism against the Jewish state of Israel, and even Judaism itself.

JVP is spearheading divestment campaigns in several arenas, such as the educational financial services organization TIAA-CREF, and of course on many campuses.

In each case the approach is the same: “look, we are Jews and we think Israel is oppressing Palestinians, and we support boycott-divestment-sanctions (BDS) as a nonviolent way to get Israel to give them their rights and obey international law.”

It is not made clear to liberal Presbyterians and others that the goal of BDS is simply the destruction of Israel. But it’s not a secret. JVP refers us to the official BDS Movement website where we find that “punitive measures” will  continue until

Israel meets its obligation to recognize the Palestinian people’s inalienable right to self-determination and fully complies with the precepts of international law by:

1. Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall
2. Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and
3. Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194.

As the Levy Commission recently found, Israel is not in violation of international law, and it is not occupying or colonizing “Arab lands.” JVP’s ideas of the ‘fundamental rights’ of Arab citizens of Israel goes far beyond what we normally think of as civil rights — for example, these ‘rights’ are said to be violated by Israel’s being a Jewish state — and UN resolution 194 does not require Israel to admit the grandchildren of refugees. Practically, does anyone doubt that an influx of up to 5 million claimants of refugee status to Israel will end the Jewish state?

I think that very few American Jews would go this far. Even the phony ‘pro-Israel’ J Street understands that the BDS movement is beyond the pale. And yet, JVP represents itself as a “Jewish voice!”

Jewish? How about anti-Jewish? Santis and Steinberg continue,

In many cases, Jew-washing is also used to whitewash the blatant theological anti-Semitism that accompanies the church-based BDS attacks on Israel.  One example is Sabeel, a Palestinian Christian group that is very influential in those mainline churches active in the BDS wars.  Its theology includes supercessionism – a reading of the New Testament that considers the Church to have superseded the Jewish people in God’s promises – and deicide – the charge that “the Jews” killed Jesus – that served as the basis for centuries of anti-Jewish persecution.

Giving Sabeel a thorough Jew-wash is JVP’s Rabbinical Council, which in its “Statement of Support for the Sabeel Institute” acknowledges “the more radical incarnations (sic) of some of [Sabeel’s] theological images.”

Yet, Sabeel’s frequent denigration of Judaism as “tribal” and “primitive” and comparisons of Palestinians to Jesus on the cross put there by the Israeli government’s “crucifixion machine,” does not seem to affect JVP’s rabbis, who assert that it is “a mistake to dismiss Palestinian Christian theology wholesale.”

Investigations of J Street’s funding showed connections to Saudi Arabian, Turkish and Iranian interests. JVP has been very secretive about its sources of income, but can you imagine what we’ll find when they slip up?

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Tit for tat?

Thursday, July 19th, 2012
IAF C-130 brings medical teams to Burgas, Bulgaria after terror attack

IAF C-130 brings medical teams to Burgas, Bulgaria after terror attack

Regarding the terrorist bombing in Burgas, Bulgaria on Wednesday, The NY Times reports:

One senior American official said the current American intelligence assessment was that the bomber, who struck Wednesday, killing five Israelis, had been “acting under broad guidance” to hit Israeli targets when opportunities presented themselves, and that the guidance had been given to Hezbollah, a Lebanese militant group, by Iran, its primary sponsor. Two other American officials confirmed that Hezbollah was behind the bombing, but declined to provide additional details.

The attacks, the official said, were in retaliation for the assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists, for which Iran has blamed Israeli agents — an accusation that Israel has neither confirmed nor denied. “This was tit for tat,” said the American official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation was still under way.

Tit for tat?

In my opinion, ‘tat’ was more likely the killing of master Hizballah terrorist Imad Mugniyah in 2008, attributed to Israel. Hizballah has been trying to get revenge since then.

Mugniyah had the blood of literally hundreds of Americans, Jews and others on his hands, being responsible for the Marine Barracks bombing in Beirut in 1983 (241 American and 58 French soldiers dead), the kidnapping, torture and murder of Western diplomats in Lebanon during the 1980’s, the 1992 bombings of the Israeli embassy in Argentina (29 dead) and the Jewish Cultural Center (AMIA) building there (86 dead). There’s much more.

Israel certainly killed Mugniyah, and the world is a better place for it.

I suppose it is also possible that the attack was retaliation for the killings of the nuclear scientists. You would have to ask the Iranians or Hizballah.

Lest you think that these scientists were innocents:

TEHRAN (FNA) — The wife of Martyr Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan Behdast, who was assassinated by Mossad agents [possibly] in Tehran in January, reiterated on Tuesday that her husband sought the annihilation of the Zionist regime wholeheartedly.

“Mostafa’s ultimate goal was the annihilation of Israel,” Fatemeh Bolouri Kashani told FNA on Tuesday.

Bolouri Kashani also underlined that her spouse loved any resistance figure in his life who was willing to fight the Zionist regime and supported the rights of the oppressed Palestinian nation.

Another example was the engineer and “key figure in Iran’s missile program,” General Hasan Moghaddam, killed in an explosion last November. The explosion may or may not have been an accident, but Iranian media reported that Moghaddam had wanted his epitaph to read “He wanted to destroy Israel” (Google translation and original Farsi here).

I would like to ask the “senior American official” if he or she, on reflection, would take back the ill-considered expression “tit for tat.” It sounds as though the official thinks that blowing a bunch of Jewish tourists to bits is equivalent to executing a serial murderer like Mugniyah, or taking out some people who are working overtime to make practical the murder of thousands, even hundreds of thousands, more.

The Obama Administration has made clear that it would consider an overt Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear program a Very Bad Thing. The “tit for tat” remark implies that the speaker disapproves of Israel’s clandestine war against it as well.

Am I going too far when I say that it also implies an attribution of responsibility to Israel for becoming a target for terrorism? Would the official say that if Israel would only play nice, leave the Iranians alone, give the Palestinian Arabs what they want, etc., then nobody would bother them? Is the implication that Israel had it coming?

One wonders if any form of Jewish self-defense can be acceptable.

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Clinton’s really, really bad advice

Tuesday, July 17th, 2012
Secretary of State Clinton meets PM Netanyahu in Jerusalem Monday

Secretary of State Clinton meets PM Netanyahu in Jerusalem Monday

Some days all I can do is shake my head. Consider this news item:

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton held talks Monday evening with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at the end of a day of meetings with Israel’s leaders on Iran, Palestinian peacemaking and America’s desire to see Israel heal its ties with Turkey.

Clinton reportedly urged Netanyahu to mend ties with Turkey and make moves to jump start peace talks with the Palestinian Authority.

So here we have Ms Clinton telling Israel that it should apologize to Turkey because its soldiers defended themselves when Turkish thugs, in a provocation orchestrated by the Turkish government, tried to kill them.

Next, Israel should give in to PLO demands for freezing construction East of the Green Line, releasing prisoners, and who knows what else (the demands change from day to day) in order to restart negotiations which cannot possibly lead to anything but further impossible demands.

The item continues,

The US secretary of state, in Israel as the last leg of a tour through Asia, also told Netanyahu that Jerusalem should transfer small arms to the PA in order to help get the Palestinians back to the negotiating table, according to Ynet news. She also called on Netanyahu to release Palestinian prisoners. Both moves have been mentioned as Palestinian prerequisites for coming back to talks…

Oh — give them more weapons. I forgot that one. Naturally they can’t possibly hold ‘peace talks’ without weapons. You will recall that the PLO will not recognize Israel as belonging to the Jewish people, nor will they stop dedicating children’s summer camps to terrorists like Dalal Mughrabi. In fact, I can’t think of a single compromise or concession that they have ever made in order to move the ‘peace process’ along.

This is how the US treats Israel, an ally. I’m sorry, but this isn’t the relationship you have with an ally. You don’t pressure it to surrender to its enemies, you don’t create obstacles for it — you may remember that it was President Obama who originally came up with the idea of freezing construction in the territories — and above all, you don’t ask it to compromise its security.

But here is the icing on the cake:

Clinton reportedly told Netanyahu he should hurry to achieve peace with Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, since it was not clear who would replace them.

This wins the monthly Bad Advice Award with an oak leaf cluster for Cluelessness: does Clinton think Hamas would honor an agreement made with Abbas and Fayyad? Doesn’t the precedent of the peace treaty with Egypt, which is now being ‘reexamined’ by the new Islamist regime, tell us that you can’t count on treaties made with despots to survive them?

Clinton is asking — telling — Israel to trade land and security, which it cannot easily get back if things don’t work out, for a promise of peace from an illegitimate Palestinian regime (PA elections are long since overdue) that would be overthrown in a moment if the IDF didn’t protect it and the US didn’t finance it.

What a deal!

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Prominent American Jews who are ruled by fear

Monday, July 16th, 2012

The Israel Policy Forum (IPF) is a left-of-center group formerly associated with Clinton Administration officials, which apparently slipped into irrelevance with the eclipse of the ‘peace process’, the violence of the Second Intifada, and the Hamas takeover of Gaza.

It’s back, reconstituted under the sponsorship of philanthropist Charles Bronfman, and with some big names in the American (and American-Israeli) world behind it.

But money and names can’t change reality.

No matter how irrational the land-for-peace paradigm proves, no matter how little support there is for it among ordinary Israelis (who will have to deal with the consequences), no matter how vicious the anti-Jewish hatred spewing from PLO media, no matter how many rockets land in southern Israel, no matter how explicit the Palestinian leadership is about its desire to replace Israel with an Arab state, no matter how often the Arabs pocket concessions and immediately escalate demands, no matter how clear it is beyond any reasonable doubt that further concessions at this point will lead to war, not peace — no matter what, some people simply cannot face the brute fact that there is no possibility of peace with the Palestinian Arabs and the larger Arab world in the foreseeable future.

They have convinced themselves that yet another partition of the land of Israel (or ‘Palestine’ — whatever you want to call it) will end the conflict. It won’t. It will only damage Israel’s ability to defend herself while providing a platform for more demands. Soon we will be hearing about “Arab Haifa, Yafo and Acco,” and then perhaps “Tel Arabiyya.”

This is the lesson of recent history. This is what we have learned from what the Arabs say and from what they do. But the ideological commitment to the impossible ‘solution’ seems to override the ability to learn from events.

Here is the letter that 40 well-known (mostly) American Jews have written to Israel’s Prime Minister, under the auspices of the IPF, calling upon him to reject the report of the Levy Commission, which offered a legal opinion that Israeli settlement in Judea and Samaria is legal under international law. I’ll intersperse comments.

As strong advocates for Israel’s security and well-being as a Jewish and democratic state, we are deeply concerned about the recent findings of the government commission led by Supreme Court Jurist (Ret.) Edmund Levy. We fear that if approved, this report will place the two-state solution, and the prestige of Israel as a democratic member of the international community, in peril.

There is no comment about whether the Levy report is correct in its legal judgment or not; only that its adoption will make it harder for Israel to cede land to the Arabs in pursuit of the imaginary ‘solution’, and that it will anger the “international community,” which, by and large, would prefer that there be no sovereign Jewish state.

It’s important to understand that the legitimacy of the Jewish presence in Judea and Samaria derives from the same source — the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine — as does the Jewish presence West of the Green Line. The line is an accidental boundary with no legal significance. Hence if the Government of Israel were to reject the report, then it could be construed as weakening the case for Jewish sovereignty anywhere. This is a far greater ‘peril’ than the loss of the two-state fantasy.

As you boldly stated in your address to the United States Congress last May, “I recognize that in a genuine peace, we’ll be required to give up parts of the ancestral Jewish homeland.” As you said clearly, doing so is not easy. While the Jewish people indeed share a biblical connection to the lands of Judea and Samaria, you told Congress, “there is another truth: The Palestinians share this small land with us. We seek a peace in which they’ll be neither Israel’s subjects nor its citizens. They should enjoy a national life of dignity as a free, viable and independent people living in their own state.”

If Israel does give up part of the “ancestral Jewish homeland” for peace — if somehow this becomes possible, as it clearly is not today — it will be as part of a comprehensive agreement that recognizes that the Jewish people do have a right to a homeland here. Rejecting the report today implies that there is no such right, before there is even a glimmer of hope for an agreement. Insisting that we have a right to this land doesn’t preclude us from agreeing to part with some of it. And if we don’t have the right, why should we keep any of it?

Securing Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state requires diplomatic and political leadership, not legal maneuverings. We recognize and regret that the Palestinian Authority has abdicated leadership by not returning to the negotiating table. Nonetheless, our great fear is that the Levy Report will not strengthen Israel’s position in this conflict, but rather add fuel to those who seek to delegitimize Israel’s right to exist. At this moment, it is more critical than ever that Israel strengthen its claim in the international community that it is committed to a two-state vision, which is, in turn, central to Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state.

This paragraph is shocking in its open admission of cowardice and assertion that appeasement is better than standing up for our rights! Never mind if it is actually legitimate for Jews to live in Judea and Samaria, let’s say it’s not — so the Arabs will be empowered to demand that we expel those Jews, in the name of ‘peace’ that they will never permit us to have anyway.

Israel’s right to exist is not determined by its degree of commitment to “a two-state vision,” but rather by its rights under international law and its ability to defend itself against encroachments against those rights. The only thing that can come of surrendering those rights de jure is that we will be forced to give them up de facto as well.

There is also the implication — a sure sign of Oslo Syndrome infection — that if only we make this new concession, the “international community” will finally accept us. Have any of the previous withdrawals or concessions to the Palestinians brought anything other than additional demands or rockets and terrorism?

The “international community” has no problem with the racist exclusionary state that the Arabs plan to set up. Of course Jews will not be able to live in an Arab Palestine! But it is very, very concerned about the rights of Arabs living in Israel. Does this asymmetry tell us anything?

The last sentence suggests that we have no options other than surrendering our rights to Judea and Samaria, or annexing all of it and accepting all of its Arab population as citizens. But this is by no means an exhaustive dichotomy.

Finally, look at the language of the letter: “We fear that if approved…,” “Our great fear is…” How revealing! And how inappropriate for representatives of a Jewish people with a sovereign state.

We are confident that with your deep understanding of the gravity of this situation, and your unprecedented political strength, you will ensure that adoption of this report does not take place.

I wonder.

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