Saturday, July 25, 2009

Obama, Israel and the Settlements.


by Sultan Knish


Since Obama has made Settlements the central issue in his attack campaign against Israel, let us take a look at what they are, and what they are there for.

The Settlements occupy the high ground, creating defensible communities surrounding Israel's capital and moving outward. They vary from major cities such as Maaleh Adumim (Red Mountain) that hold populations as large as 50,000 people, to small outposts that are nothing more than a handful of families living in a handful of caravans, with only some firearms, a fence and a few dogs for protection.

The term settlement is used for any Jewish towns, villages or outposts in territory that Israel liberated during the 1967 war, even if those towns and villages had existed before 1948 and were captured by the Egyptians or Jordanians then.

That is the first part of the double standard. So for example, Jordan's armed capture of East Jerusalem in 1948, after a prolonged siege and expulsion of its Jewish residents, was recognized as legal. Israel's recapture of East Jerusalem and reunification of the city in 1967, is treated as illegitimate.

Then there is Kfar Darom (South Village) whose Jewish presence dated back nearly 2000 years. The residents of Kfar Darom lived on land they had bought and paid for, survived Arab attacks over the years, and finally during Israel's War of Independence in 1948, the village's militia managed to hold the Egyptian Army at bay for several months.

The Egyptian forces using armor, artillery and even air attacks were unable to break through a defensive line held by 30 young men and women. Similar defenses of other villages such as Nirim, Yad Mordechai and Negba managed to thwart the Egyptian advance further into Israel. When the residents of Kfar Darom, running out of food and water, were finally evacuated, they had demonstrated the powerful defensibility that individual communities contributed to the country as a whole.

And when the area was liberated from Egypt in 1967, Kfar Darom was once again rebuilt and turned into a thriving community that exported agricultural products around the world. Nevertheless despite the fact that it was actually a rebuilt community, international diplomats insisted on calling it an illegal settlement.

To demonstrate Israel's willingness to make peace, Israel forcibly expelled the residents of Kfar Darom, as part of the Disengagement Plan, which handed over all of Gaza to the Palestinian Authority. Gleeful mobs promptly torched the synagogue. Gaza was taken over by the Islamic terrorist group Hamas and the former Jewish towns of Gaza, built in strategic locations, became prime launching pads for rockets and missiles shot deep into Israeli territory, hitting as far as the city of Ashkelon.

Gaza served as the ultimate lab test for demonstrating why Israel could not afford to hand over any more territory to Islamic terrorists. The handover of Gaza led to Hamas gaining power and to the bombardment of towns and cities well within internationally recognized parts of Israel. Yet now Obama expects Israel to ethnically cleanse as many as 250,000 Jews in order to turn over vital territory to terrorists. There can be no real surprise that Israel isn't interested.

Furthermore Obama expects the Palestinian Authority to be given control over parts of Jerusalem. When Jordan seized East Jerusalem, snipers used it to take potshots into Israeli apartment buildings inside West Jerusalem. Prices for apartment buildings within range of Jordanian positions dropped sharply as a family might be sitting down to dinner, not knowing whether there was a sniper drawing a bead on them while they ate. That was the situation under the fairly stable and moderate Hashemite kingdom. The situation would be unimaginably worse with those Jordanian snipers replaced by Fatah and Hamas terrorists, and the rifles replaced by missile tubes.

What Obama really wants is for Israel to put its own center of government in shelling range from a terrorist group ensconced in its own capital. No rational person should need an explanation for why Netanyahu has said, no.

Obama has presented no serious plan to dismantle and disarm terrorist groups such as Hamas. Instead he is pressuring Israel to make unilateral concessions, to ethnically cleanse its own population and turn over the strategic high ground to the terrorists-- in exchange for nothing.

While Obama presses his demands, using a concentration camp that was part of the Nazi final solution, as part of his PR campaign against Israel, a new outpost has gone up named mockingly after Obama. Like the other "illegal" outposts, it is an attempt by patriotic Israelis to hold the high ground against the terrorists who would otherwise use it to wreak havoc even deeper inside Israel. Their message is that Obama may push for the destruction of their homes, but they intend to keep building long after he is gone.

Obama may have the power, but they are determined to hold the high ground. And the high ground they hold forms a chain, a chain of hilltops that protects the larger cities and towns, which in turn protect major cities such as Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. After all it is only 37 kilometers/22 miles from Tel Aviv to one of the larger settlements. A drive of only 35 minutes is what separates Israel's second largest city from the imminent danger that the settlements are there to prevent. And like the handful of young men and women who daringly fought the Egyptian Army to a standstill, the hilltop youth are prepared to serve that function again, living on the front line in the war against terrorism.



Sultan Knish

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Are settlements illegal?


by Jerold Auerbach


With the recent election of a liberal American president and a conservative Israeli prime minister, pressure on Israel to reach a final agreement with the Palestinian Authority is likely to intensify. According to the conventional political wisdom, peace will require substantial Israeli concessions to the Palestinian Authority regarding the status of Jerusalem, the return of refugees, and the future of Jewish settlements. But the problem that has eluded resolution for sixty years remains: demarcating the permanent, recognized borders of the Jewish state.

Settlements have been a deeply polarizing issue, in Israel and elsewhere, ever since the Israel Defense Forces swept triumphantly through the West Bank of the Kingdom of Jordan in June 1967. Before long, clusters of religious Zionists returned to the once inhabited, then tragically decimated, sites of Gush Etzion and Hebron, south of Jerusalem. They were the vanguard of a growing movement to restore a Jewish presence throughout Judea and Samaria, the Biblical homeland of the Jewish people.

Settlement of the Land of Israel, after all, had defined Zionism ever since the founding of Rishon l'Tzion, the first settlement, in 1882. The "tower and stockade" settlements built overnight by kibbutzniks under British Mandatory rule remained legendary achievements in Zionist annals. With its stunning victory in the Six-Day War, Israel unexpectedly confronted new possibilities to fulfill ancient dreams — and, it is seldom recognized — long-deferred international commitments.

Now, four decades after the first settlers blazed the trail of return, nearly 300,000 Israelis live in more than one hundred settlement communities amid 1.5 million Palestinian Arabs. No Jews anywhere in the world have been as persistently maligned — indeed, as maliciously vilified — as these Jewish settlers. Everyone from Yasir Arafat to Jimmy Carter (who has made a new career of hectoring Israel) has condemned them for occupying Palestinian land and violating fundamental principles of international law, to say nothing of impeding peace efforts.

This allegation has been incessantly propagated by Israeli critics of settlement and by enraged Palestinians who claim that Jewish settlers have stolen "their" land. In Lords of the Land (2007), the first comprehensive survey of the Jewish settlement movement, Israeli historian Idith Zertal and Ha'aretz journalist Akiva Eldar lacerated settlers for their illegal occupation, plunder, destruction, and lawlessness. The "malignancy of occupation," they wrote, "in contravention of international law," has "brought Israel's democracy . . . to the brink of an abyss." By now, The New York Times has reported, "Much of the world" regards "all Israeli settlements in land occupied in the 1967 war to be illegal under international law."

At the core of the settlement critique is the incessant allegation, rarely scrutinized or challenged, that Israeli settlements established in "occupied" territory since 1967 are illegal under international law. It surfaced within Israeli government circles three months after the Six-Day War when Theodor Meron, legal counsel for the Foreign Ministry, sent a memo to Foreign Minister Abba Eban, a copy of which he forwarded to Prime Minister Levi Eshkol. "My conclusion," Meron wrote, "is that civilian settlement in the administered territories contravenes the explicit provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention."

The Geneva Convention, adopted in 1949 in the shadow of World War II atrocities, declared that an "occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies." According to Meron, this provision (Article 49) was intended to forever prevent repetition of the notorious Nazi forced transfers of civilian populations — for "political and racial reasons" — from conquered territory to slave labor and extermination camps. As a youthful prisoner in a Nazi labor camp, Meron had painful personal memories of such population transfers, when hundreds of thousands of Jews were deported from their homes and replaced by foreign nationals. He insisted that the Geneva prohibition was "categorical and is not conditioned on the motives or purposes of the transfer."

Meron's legal opinion, recently rediscovered by journalist Gershom Gorenberg during his research for a critical study of the early years of Jewish settlement, was filed and forgotten — for good reason. It was neither persuasive to his superiors nor an accurate appraisal of the applicability of the Geneva Convention to new Israeli settlements in the former West Bank of the Kingdom of Jordan. Military Advocate General Meir Shamgar, who subsequently became attorney general and then chief judge of the Supreme Court, asserted, "The legal applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention to these territories is in doubt." For legitimate legal reasons, no government of Israel has ever accepted the validity of Meron's argument.

To the contrary: Israeli settlement throughout the West Bank is explicitly protected by international agreements dating from the World War I era, subsequently reaffirmed after World War II, and never revoked since. The Balfour Declaration of 1917, calling for "the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people," was endorsed by the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine, drafted at the San Remo Conference in 1920, and adopted unanimously two years later. The mandate recognized "the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine" and "the grounds for reconstituting their national home in that country." Jews were guaranteed the right of "close settlement" throughout "Palestine," geographically defined by the mandate as comprising land both east and west of the Jordan River (which ultimately became Jordan, the West Bank, and Israel). This was not framed as a gift to the Jewish people; rather, based on recognition of historical rights reaching back into antiquity, it was their entitlement.

Jewish settlement throughout Palestine was limited by the mandate in only one respect: Great Britain, the Mandatory Trustee, acting in conjunction with the League of Nations Council, retained the discretion to "postpone" or "withhold" the right of Jews to settle east — but not west — of the Jordan River. Consistent with that solitary exception, and to placate the ambitions of the Hashemite Sheikh Abdullah for his own territory to rule, Colonial Secretary Winston Churchill removed the land east of the river from the borders of Palestine.

Churchill anticipated that the newly demarcated territory, comprising three-quarters of Mandatory Palestine, would become a future Arab state. With the establishment of Transjordan in 1922, the British prohibited Jewish settlement there. But the status of Jewish settlement west of the Jordan River remained unchanged. Under the terms of the mandate, the internationally guaranteed legal right of Jews to settle anywhere in this truncated quarter of Palestine and build their national home there remained in force.

Never further modified, abridged, or terminated, the Mandate for Palestine outlived the League of Nations. In the Charter of the United Nations, drafted in 1945, Article 80 explicitly protected the rights of "any peoples" and "the terms of existing international instruments to which members of the United Nations may respectively be parties." Drafted at the founding conference of the United Nations by Jewish legal representatives — including liberal American Rabbi Stephen S. Wise, Peter Bergson from the right-wing Irgun, and Ben-Zion Netanyahu (father of the future prime minister) — Article 80 became known as "the Palestine clause."

It preserved the rights of the Jewish people to "close settlement" throughout the remaining portion of their Palestinian homeland west of the Jordan River, precisely as the mandate had affirmed. But those settlement rights were flagrantly violated when Jordan invaded Israel in 1948. The military aggression of the Hashemite kingdom effectively obliterated U.N. Resolution 181, adopted the preceding year, which had called for the partition of (western) Palestine into Arab and Jewish states. Jordan's claim to the West Bank, recognized only by Great Britain and Pakistan, had no international legal standing.

Contrary to Theodor Meron's citation of Article 49, the Geneva Convention did not restrict Jewish settlement in the West Bank, acquired by Israel during the Six-Day War. As Eugene V. Rostow, formerly dean of Yale Law School and undersecretary of state for political affairs between 1966 and 1969, noted, the government of Israel neither "deported" Palestinians nor "transferred" Israelis during or after 1967. (Indeed, beginning with the return of Jews to Hebron the following year, settlers invariably acted on their own volition without government authorization.) Furthermore, Rostow noted, the Geneva Convention applied only to acts by one signatory "carried out on the territory of another." The West Bank, however, did not belong to any signatory power, for Jordan had no sovereign rights or legal claims there. Its legal status was defined as "an unallocated part of the British Mandate."

With Jordan's defeat in 1967, a "vacuum in sovereignty" existed on the West Bank. Under international law, the Israeli military administration became the custodian of territories until their return to the original sovereign — according to the League of Nations mandate, reinforced by Article 80 of the U.N. Charter — the Jewish people for their "national home in Palestine." Israeli settlement was not prohibited; indeed, under the terms of the mandate, it was explicitly protected. Jews retained the same legal right to settle in the West Bank that they enjoyed in Tel Aviv, Haifa, or the Galilee.

After the Six-Day War, a new UN resolution — which Rostow was instrumental in drafting — specifically applied to the territory acquired by Israel. According to Security Council Resolution 242 (superseding Resolution 181 from 1947), Israel was permitted to administer the land until "a just and lasting peace in the Middle East" was achieved. Even then, Israel would be required to withdraw its armed forces only "from territories" — not from "the territories" or "all the territories" — that it administered.

The absence of "the," the famous missing definite article, was neither an accident nor an afterthought; it resulted from what Rostow described as more than five months of "vehement public diplomacy" to clarify the meaning of Resolution 242. Israel would not be required to withdraw from all the territory that it had acquired during the Six-Day War; indeed, precisely such proposals were defeated in both the Security Council and the General Assembly. No prohibition on Jewish settlement, wherever it had been guaranteed by the Mandate for Palestine forty-five years earlier, was adopted.

"The Jewish right of settlement in the area," Rostow concluded, "is equivalent in every way to the right of the existing [Palestinian] population to live there." Furthermore, as Stephen Schwebel, a judge on the International Court of Justice between 1981 and 2000, explicitly noted, territory acquired in a war of self-defense (waged by Israel in 1967) must be distinguished from territory acquired through "aggressive conquest" (waged by Germany during World War II). Consequently, the provisions of the Mandate for Palestine, allocating all the land west of the Jordan River to the Jewish people for their national home, remained in force until sovereignty was finally determined by a peace treaty between the contending parties — now Israel and the Palestinians. Until then, the disputed West Bank, claimed by two peoples, remained open to Jewish settlement.

In sum, the right of the Jewish people to "close settlement" throughout Mandatory Palestine, except for the land siphoned off as Transjordan in 1922, has never been abrogated. Nor has the legal right of Jews to settle in Judea and Samaria, indisputably part of western "Palestine," ever been relinquished. The persistent effort to undermine the legitimacy of Israeli settlements, according to international law expert Julius Stone, has been nothing less than a "subversion . . . of basic international law principles," in which the government of Israel, at best ambivalent about the settlements, has often been a willing accomplice. In the continuing absence of a "just and lasting peace," with an accompanying determination of the scope of Israeli withdrawal from "territories," Israel is under no legal obligation to limit settlement.

World opinion, of course, is another matter. (In his uncritical embrace of Meron's flawed conclusion, Gorenberg cited "the court of world diplomacy" as "the court that mattered.") Ever since the Six-Day war, settlements have provoked unrelenting international hostility toward Israel. A triumphant Jewish state could hardly be expected to win approval from intractable Arab neighbors who had not recognized Israel even before settlements. An international community that in 1975 perceived Zionism as "racism" continues to see Palestinians only as "victims" of Jewish "conquest" and "occupation." Secular Zionists on the political left — long the ruling elite in Israeli intellectual, academic and media circles — are hardly receptive to challenges to their own cultural hegemony from religious nationalist settlers.

So, ever since 1967, Jewish settlements have been widely and loudly — and erroneously — trumpeted as the major obstacle to Middle Eastern peace. They are convenient surrogates for the deep and enduring hostility to the very existence of a Jewish state. That hostility long antedated 1967 and, as Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah, and President Ahmadinajad of Iran endlessly reiterate, it is likely to endure for as long as Israel exists within any boundaries. But neither in the court of world opinion, nor in the State of Israel, are settlement critics entitled to ignore the firm protection for Jewish settlements afforded by international legal guarantees extending back nearly a century, frequently affirmed ever since, and never rescinded.


Jerold S. Auerbach, professor of history at Wellesley College, is a frequent contributor to Midstream, where this article was published in the Spring 2009 issue
( He is the author of Hebron Jews, to be published by Rowman & Littlefield in July, from which this essay is excerpted.

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A self-destructive Iran-Palestinian linkage


by Yoram Ettinger


In May 1948, Secretary of State George Marshall bullied Prime Minister David Ben Gurion against a declaration of independence. Thus, he professed a supposed linkage between the establishment of the Jewish State and the denial of Arab oil supply to the US, on the eve of a potential world war between the US and the USSR. It was Ben Gurion's defiance of pressure, which helped clear-thinking Americans to refute the baseless linkage.

In May 2009, the US Administration intends to roll Israel back to the 1949 Lines, including the repartitioning of Jerusalem. In order to pressure Israel, the Administration contends an ostensible linkage between the stop-Iran-campaign and the Palestinian issue. Just like its 1949 predecessor, the 2009 linkage aims at misrepresenting Israel as a peace obstructionist, which harms US national security.

Will Prime Minister Netanyahu retreat in face of psychological pressure, or will he fend off the pressure, reassuring the US public and Congress that such a linkage is indeed artificial.

THE ATTEMPT TO LINK THE BATTLE AGAINST MEGALOMANIAC IRAN and the resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is detached from Middle East reality. It plays into the hands of Iran, exacerbates Arab radicalism, undermines critical US national security interests and causes a setback to peace.

Iran's megalomania and its drive to obtain nuclear capabilities are a derivative of its 1,400 year old goal to dominate the Persian Gulf and the Muslim World. The pursuit of such a goal is shaped by domestic and Gulf realities, Iran's rivalry against Iraq and Saudi Arabia, US military involvement in the Gulf and the Indian Ocean and the Putin Cloud hovering above the region.

Iran's nuclear ethos has not been driven by the Palestinian issue or the Arab-Israeli conflict. It is independent of Israel's policy and existence.[emphasis added -- ed.]

The US Administration-devised linkage reinvents the Middle East, transforming a 100 year old (Arab-Israel) conflict into the alleged root cause of the 1,400 year old Middle East turbulence. Is there a logical linkage between a potential Iranian takeover of Bahrain and "apostate Saudi Arabia" on one hand, and the future of the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria on the other hand?! Why not a linkage between an end to Iran's subversion of Iraq and an end to IDF counter-terrorism operations in Judea and Samaria?! How about a stretched-linkage between the prevention of Al-Qaida takeover of Pakistan's nuclear capabilities and a total Israeli withdrawal from Judea & Samaria?! And, what about the grand-linkage between an end to Sunni-Shite rift, Sudan's civil war, Lebanon's internal rifts on one hand, and the repartitioning of Jerusalem on the other hand?!

Rahm Emanuel, the White House Chief-of-Staff, claims that a linkage exists, because the Palestinian issue is ostensibly the Arab crown-jewel. Therefore, an Israeli giveaway of Judea and Samaria would, supposedly, appease the Arabs, which would facilitate a broad anti-Iran coalition. However, Arab states have refrained from assisting Palestinians during the 2008 Gaza War, the first and second Intifada and the 1982 Israel-PLO War in Lebanon. They do not shed blood or substantial resources on behalf of Palestinians, but shower Palestinians with rhetoric. Since the 1950s, they have considered Fatah, PLO and Hamas role-models of inter-Arab subversion and back-stabbing, which must be repressed and not advanced. No Arab-Israel war has ever been caused by — or fought on behalf of - the Palestinians. Hence, Gaza, Judea and Samaria were not transferred, by Egypt and Jordan, to the Palestinians following the 1948/9 War. Moreover, Israel's peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan were concluded by bypassing the Palestinian issue, in spite of Palestinian threats and despite Israel's war on PLO and Hamas terrorism. Does Rahm Emanuel assume that Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Dubai and Oman — which consider Iran a clear and present lethal threat — would oppose the removal of the Iranian machete from their throats, as long as there are Jewish communities in Samaria?! Hasn't Emanuel learnt from the 1991 Gulf War that Arab members of a coalition do not produce a meaningful added-value?!

THE LINKAGE CONCEPT ADVANCES IRAN'S FORTUNES. It makes the anti-Iran campaign a hostage in the hands of Palestinian terrorists, diverts some of the criticism away from Iran, provides Teheran with additional time to develop nuclear capabilities and enhances Iran's domestic and regional legitimacy.

The linkage concept creates an unwarranted US-Israel tension, thus adrenalizing the veins of Arab radicals and Palestinian terrorists, erodes Israel's posture of deterrence, pours cold water on the prospects of peace and adds fuel to the fire of terrorism, dealing a blow to vital US and Israeli interests.

Ambassador Yoram Ettinger is a consultant on US-Israel relations as well as the Chairman of Special Projects at the Ariel Center for Policy Research. Formerly the Minister for Congressional Affairs to Israel's Embassy in Washington, DC, Ettinger also served as Consul General of Israel to the Southwestern US. He is a former editor of Contemporary Mideast Backgrounder, and is the author of the Jerusalem Cloakroom series of reports.

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Obama the rookie.


by Mordechai Kedar


Thirty years ago, at the end of 1978 and beginning of 1979, US President Jimmy Carter's blind approach and his obsessive concern for human rights everywhere, and particularly in the Shah-ruled Iran, prompted Khomeini's rise and brought Khomeinism to power. Carter did not permit the Shah to handle the protests against him, that is, to disperse them with gunfire. The result was the ayatollah takeover of Iran and the murder of thousands of Shah supporters. Everything the world suffered, is suffering, and will suffer because of Iran is the direct result of the short-sightedness of an American president who understood nothing in the ways of the Middle East.

The enduring problem of American politicians is that they view the world via their own cultural lenses and think that "if only we engage in dialogue with the others" they will be "like us," "just like everyone else," and "will become nice"; if only we give them jobs and comply with their "just" demands (the right of return, our capital which never had Palestinian significance, unwillingness to recognize our state, etc.) they will go to work in the morning and return in the evening to play with their children and fish.

Obama is currently making the same mistakes Carter did. He naively thinks that through dialogue with the ayatollahs he will achieve what the Europeans have failed to achieve for many years. He refuses to read what many researchers, politicians, and statesmen worldwide write, and refuses to listen to all those concerned by Iran — Arabs, Israelis, and Europeans — who have no doubt that the ayatollahs intend to first take over the Middle East, and later possibly take over the entire world, should they be given the chance.

Only a blind person would not see the manner in which Iran, even before it has turned nuclear, quickly changes the face of the Middle East. Iran's long arms are already tightly grasping Lebanon, Iraq, and Gaza, and are also decisively and powerfully directed at other states such as Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, Oman, Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia.

Only a deaf person would not hear the cries of distress emerging from the Arab world (irrespective of Israel and its concerns,) as its leaders see the Persians, their historically hated rivals, rattling their sabres en route to paying back the Bedouins of the desert, uncultured barbarians in their view, for ruining, in the seventh century, the Persian nation, which was educated, progressive and modern at the time.

Only a blind person would fail to see the preparations undertaken by Iran's Shiite leaders en route to taking their revenge on the Sunnis for 1,350 years of oppression, persecution, and assassinations undertaken by the Sunnis against the Shiite opposition any time and any place they could do it.

Israel's disappearance to make no difference

Obama thinks that if only Israel will be reduced to the size appropriate for it, that is, the 1949 borders (the "Auschwitz borders" in the words of Abba Eban, a peace-loving dove,) the Arab and Muslim world will sit around the bonfire with the Americas and sing. Some members of his team believe that Israel is the source of the problems in the Arab and Islamic world, and that if only peace will prevail between Israel and the Palestinians, the problems of Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan, Lebanon, the Shiites, the Sunnis, al-Qaeda, and the Islamic Brotherhood will be resolved at once.

I hereby offer Obama and his people very important information: Even if Israel decides to evaporate, disappear, and wipe itself off the map, all the other problems will continue to kill, just as was the case when Israel existed.

Only an American president who decided to engineer the Arab and Islamic world in line with American standards can fall and make others fall into the trap of historical mistakes that Carter and Bush fell into, each in their own time and style. As a result of their errors, thousands of people in the region were massacred, killed, and wounded.

The American president conducts himself vis-à-vis the Arab and Islamic world like a rookie trying to command an armored division. Obama is rushing forwarded on an imaginary horse, and the people of the region can only hope that his terrible mistakes will not cost the lives of additional thousands.

The gravest matter of all is that some Israelis played a significant role in shaping Obama's mistakes, and the blood of their brethren, other Israelis, will be the price we shall pay for the actions of those who sold Obama their imaginations, along with several foolish ideas that undermined our security and our self-confidence.


Lt.-Col. (res.) Dr. Mordechai Kedar served in IDF Military Intelligence for 25 years, specializing in Arab political discourse, Arab mass media, Islamic groups, and the Syrian domestic arena. Dr. Kedar teaches in the Department of Arabic at Bar-Ilan University and is a research associate Dr. Kedar is a lecturer at Bar-Ilan University's Department of Arabic.

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Israel betrayed.



by James Kirchick


When Barack Obama was running for president, he vigorously reassured voters of his firm commitment to America's special relationship with Israel. Indeed, he worked to beef up his pro-Israel bona fides long before he even announced his intention to run. In a 2006 speech before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Obama recounted a helicopter tour over the Israeli border with the West Bank. "I could truly see how close everything is and why peace through security is the only way for Israel," he said. In that same speech, Obama called the Jewish State "our strongest ally in the region and its only established democracy." During the primary and general election campaigns, Obama dispatched a stream of high-profile Jewish supporters to canvas Florida, and in a 2008 AIPAC speech, he went so far as to declare that Jerusalem must remain the "undivided" capital of Israel.


For all the qualms that anti-Obama "smears" would depress support in the Jewish community, Jews rewarded Obama with nearly 80% of their votes, more than they gave John Kerry.

Just six months into the new administration, however, it is becoming increasingly clear that those who harbored suspicions about Obama's approach to the Middle East had good reason to be worried. A confluence of factors -- including his administration's undue pressure on Israel, a conciliatory approach to authoritarian Muslim regimes, and the baseless linkage of the failed "peace process" to the curtailment of the Iranian nuclear program -- point to what could become "the greatest disagreement between the two countries in the history of their relationship," as Middle East expert Robert Satloff recently told Newsweek.

This dramatic shift in American policy began several months ago when the administration signaled that it would make the cessation of Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank the centerpiece of its policy to revamp the region. And that approach, mostly hinted at through anonymous leaks, became as good as official when Obama delivered his vaunted address to the Muslim world in Cairo earlier this month. In that speech, Israel (and, specifically, its policy of settlement construction) was the only state to merit specific criticism from the president of the United States. Among all the degradations and injustices in the Middle East, from the abhorrent treatment of women in nations like Saudi Arabia, to Syrian-backed assassinations of pro-sovereignty politicians in Lebanon, to the arrest and imprisonment of gay men in Egypt, the leader of the free world singled out America's one, reliable democratic ally in the region for rebuke.

Obama's strategic worldview assumes that once the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is resolved, other problems in the Middle East will be easier to fix, if not solve themselves. "We understand that Israel's preoccupation with Iran as an existential threat," National Security Advisor Jim Jones told George Stephanopoulos last month. "We agree with that. And by the same token, there are a lot of things that you can do to diminish that existential threat by working hard towards achieving a two-state solution."

BY ESTABLISHING THIS CONNECTION, the fate of the entire region thus hinges upon the resolution of a problem that hasn't had a solution for over six decades. This is an awfully convenient view for those who enjoy the status quo, which is why so many Arab despots cling to it, and it's discouraging to see the Obama administration joining them.

"Linkage" is faulty for two reasons. The first is intrinsic to the peace process itself, as it is going nowhere. And it will continue to go nowhere for at least as long as Hamas -- a terrorist organization constitutionally committed to the destruction of Israel and the murder of Jews -- rules the Gaza Strip, which it has controlled since violently seizing power in the summer of 2007. But it's not just Hamas that remains hesitant to work with Israel. To see the continued intransigence of the Palestinians, witness their bizarre reactions to Benjamin Netanyahu's momentous speech last week, in which the Israeli Prime Minister, for the first time in his career, announced his support for the two-state solution so obsessively demanded by the international community. The Palestinian Ambassador to Egypt denounced Netanyahu's pledge as "nothing but a hoax." The PLO Executive Committee Secretary called Netanyahu a "liar and a crook" who is "looking for ploys to disrupt the peace endeavor." A spokesman for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said that, "The speech has destroyed all peace initiatives and [chances for] a solution." And these are the so-called "moderates."

The second reason why "linkage" is a faulty premise, and why the Obama administration is so foolish to pursue it, is that the problems of the Middle East are not inspired by the lack of a Palestinian state. The biggest crisis in the Middle East right now is Iran's mad quest for nuclear weapons. Nothing even comes close. Even the Arab states -- whose citizens, we are told, cannot rest due to Palestinian statelessness -- are letting the world know that their foremost concern is a revolutionary Islamic theocracy with nuclear weapons (As the dramatic and inspiring street protests in Tehran over the past week have amply demonstrated, what really rouses the Muslim "street" is the venality and cruelty of the region's authoritarian governments, not far-off Zionists reluctant to give Palestinians a state).

These regimes know that Iran, thus armed, will be able to act with far greater impunity that it already does, causing more trouble for coalition forces in Iraq, ordering its proxy armies of Hamas and Hezbollah to ramp up attacks on Israel and stir chaos in Lebanon, and support radical elements throughout the region. It would also set off a regional arms race, with Saudi Arabia and Egypt as the next likely proliferators. Yet the Obama administration does not seem to realize that stopping an Iranian nuclear bomb ought take precedence over the stalled "peace process." In his otherwise admirable remarks about the significance of the Holocaust and the hatefulness of its denial in his Cairo speech, Obama did further damage by paying obeisance to the Arabs' false narrative about Israeli's creation. In neglecting to affirm the Jews' historic claim on the land of Israel, Obama confirmed the Arab belief that they are paying for the crimes of mid-twentieth century Europe. Obama's narrative -- in the minds of his audience -- portrays the Jews, however awful their misfortune, as occupiers, not indigenous neighbors.

The Cairo speech provided Obama with an opportunity to call on the Muslim world to acknowledge that Jews are as much a part of the Middle East and its history as are Persians and Arabs, Sunnis and Shia, Druz and Christians. He failed in that task.

Unfortunately, the President seems to be paying no domestic political price for turning on Israel. Given the historic support that the American public has shown for the Jewish State, this is in and of itself a disturbing sign. But when an American administration's rhetoric and diplomacy render Israel the obstinate actor and portray its supposed recalcitrance as the main obstacle to peace, public opinion will follow.

The percentage of American voters who call themselves supporters of Israel has plummeted from 69% last September to 49% this month, according to the Israel Project. Meanwhile, only 6% of Jewish Israelis consider Obama to be "pro-Israel," a Jerusalem Post poll found, pointing to a disturbing gulf between the two nations. There are even signs of rising anti-Semitism, as a survey by Columbia and Stanford professors found that 32% of Democrats blamed Jews for the financial crisis.

Obama is turning America against Israel, for what exactly? The false hopes of improved relations with Arab nations and a nuclear-equipped Iran. That is not what he promised in his campaign, and neither a fair practice nor a fair trade.

James Kirchick is an assistant editor of The New Republic and a Phillips Foundation Journalism Fellow. This appeared June 21, 2009 in the New York Post

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Friday, July 24, 2009

Jordan Revoking Citizenship En Masse, Fearing Influx of Palestinian Arabs.


by Nissan Ratzlav-Katz

 ( The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan has begun revoking the Jordanian citizenship of those people defined by officials as Palestinians with roots in Judea and Samaria. The new policy robs thousands of residents of the kingdom of civil services, but Jordanian officials say it is intended to head off any Israeli plan to expel Arabs.

The new regulations reverse a decision extending Jordanian citizenship to former residents of Judea and Samaria, on the western side of the Jordan River, after the Hashemite Kingdom formally severed all administrative and legal ties with the regions in 1988. Those Jordanian citizens who have their national ID revoked are allowed to stay on as Palestinian foreign residents, if they obtain special yellow ID cards. However, yellow ID cards are also being revoked in cases in which the card-holder did not visit Judea and Samaria for dozens of years, leading to Israel declaring the individual a non-resident.


Those without a yellow ID become green card holders, with no native status in Jordan whatsoever. The immediate effect of such a change is the loss of rights to such services as state education and health insurance.


Jordan Interior Minister Nayef al-Kadi told the London-based Arabic newspaper Al-Hayat that Jordanian citizenships are not being revoked. "We are only correcting the mistake that was created after Jordan's disengagement from the West Bank," he explained. "We want to highlight the true identity and nationality of every person." However, over 70 percent of the Jordanian people are self-defined as Palestinian.


Jordan ruled Judea and Samaria from 1948 until 1967, when Israel conquered the region. During the 19 years of Jordanian jurisdiction, the Arabs there held Jordanian citizenship, with no moves part of the territories. The Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) charter current at the time explicitly rejected any and all Palestinian claims in Jordanian territory on the eastern side of the Jordan River.


"The main reason behind the loss of nationality is due to the negligence of Palestinians and their failure to have concern for their Palestinian Identity; they indifferently stopped visiting the West Bank for years which encouraged the Israelis to cancel their ID cards," according to an official in Jordan's civil administration quoted in Jordan's The Star newspaper. He added, "They can follow-up and try to gain back their papers from the Israeli government..."


Al-Kadi, however, said, "Our goal is to prevent Israel from emptying the Palestinian territories of their original inhabitants. We should be thanked for taking this measure." He declared that "Jordan is not Palestine, just as Palestine is not Jordan."


It was not revealed how the new policy decision would effect Jordan's Queen Rania al-Yassin, whose parents both come from Tulkarem, in Samaria



Nissan Ratzlav-Katz

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Thursday, July 23, 2009

Tough Love Is No Love at All.


by Steven J. Rosen

Why Obama's approach to Israel is collapsing. Rapidly.


"Obama is not 100 percent right to confront Bibi on settlements," a Clinton advisor blew back at me after my July 1 piece "Cut Bibi Some Slack." "He is 200 percent right!" This from a guy who had argued for years that public confrontation is not the right way to deal with Israel because it undermines the confidence that is a prerequisite for progress in the peace process.

Barack Obama himself addressed the issue in a meeting with American Jewish leaders on July 13. Asked if it were a mistake to let "sunlight" show between the United States and Israel, the U.S. president demurred, "We had no sunlight for eight years, but no progress either."

Obama's conclusion that former U.S. President George W. Bush achieved nothing by working with Israel is amazing, considering that Bush brought the father of the Israeli settler movement, Ariel Sharon, to withdraw every soldier and every settler from every square inch of Gaza in August 2005 in the largest test of the "land for peace" concept in Israeli-Palestinian history. You would think the experience of the Bush years would have led the Obama team to an opposite conclusion: If settlements had been the obstacle to peace, why did Sharon's removal of 8,000 settlers from 21 settlements lead to the rise of Hamas, thousands of Qassam rockets fired at Israel, and war instead of peace?

And they might reflect on the testimony of Elliott Abrams, who negotiated the Bush administration's compromises on the natural growth of settlements that the Obama team now disavows. "There were indeed agreements between Israel and the United States regarding the growth of Israeli settlements on the West Bank," Abrams wrote in the Wall Street Journal. "The prime minister of Israel relied on them in undertaking a wrenching political reorientation ... the removal of every single Israeli citizen, settlement and military position in Gaza. ... There was a bargained-for exchange. Mr. Sharon was determined to ... confront his former allies on Israel's right by abandoning the 'Greater Israel' position. ... He asked for our support and got it, including the agreement that we would not demand a total settlement freeze."

And they should heed the words of Sharon's negotiator in that bargain, Dov Weisglass: "Final-status peace treaties ... will require many American guarantees and obligations, especially in respect to long-term security arrangements. Without these, it is doubtful whether an agreement can be reached. Yet if decision-makers in Israel ... discover, heaven forbid, that an American pledge is only valid as long as the president in question is in office, nobody will want such pledges."

The theory of "tough love" toward Israel is also failing the test, if it is intended to win concessions from the Palestinian side. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who just completed intensive negotiations with an outgoing Ehud Olmert government that was continuing "natural growth" of settlements within the agreed Bush limits, now says the incoming Benjamin Netanyahu government must "stop all settlement activities in order to resume peace talks over final status issues." His chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat, adds, "There can be no half-solutions with regards to the settlements."

This is a hardening of the Palestinian position. Abbas did not cut off negotiations when Olmert said publicly to Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth in April 2008, "It was clear from day one to Abbas ... that construction would continue in population concentrations -- the areas mentioned in Bush's 2004 letter. ... Beitar Illit will be built, Gush Etzion will be built; there will be construction in Pisgat Ze'ev and in the Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem ... areas [that] will remain under Israeli control in any future settlement." Abbas continued meeting with the Olmert government. In fact, Erekat boasted to a Jordanian newspaper a few weeks ago that he and Abbas achieved considerable progress with the Olmert government between the November 2007 Annapolis talks and the end of 2008 in as many as 288 negotiation sessions by 12 committees -- all while the limited growth permitted by the Bush understandings continued.

Now, Obama has generated inflated and unsatisfiable expectations in the Arab world, a belief that the U.S. president can and will force total Israeli capitulation and an absolute freeze. The Los Angeles Times reports, "President Obama's public quarrel with Israel ... is developing into a test of the U.S. leader's international credibility, say foreign diplomats and other observers." Anything less than a 100 percent halt "will not only disappoint the Arabs whom the president has courted, but also will be read by adversaries around the globe as a signal that the president can be forced to back down." Or, as Erekat himself put it on Voice of Palestine radio, "If settlement continues ... Arabs and Palestinians [will] believe that the American administration is incapable of swaying Israel to halt its settlement activities." A prominent Palestinian observer, Ghassan Khatib, states, "Should the U.S. government ... fail to make Israel abide by its international commitments, especially regarding ending the expansion of settlements, it will sabotage efforts to renew the political process."

The Obama people might actually learn something from Abrams, who warns that, when eventually there is a compromise between the Obama and Netanyahu governments regarding settlements, the two sides will put "contrasting spins" on the agreement for their respective audiences. It will be difficult for the Obama administration to explain why there are what will be depicted by critics as loopholes. Maybe then they will ask themselves whether they were wise to do it with a public fight?

For now, they are still on the wrong track. Days ago, Israel's new ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, was warned that the United States wants a halt to construction of 20 apartments in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of Jerusalem. Netanyahu responded, "There is no ban on Arabs buying apartments in the west of the city, and there is no ban on Jews building or buying in the city's east." How could the administration believe that any major Israeli political party could possibly agree to making any part of Jerusalem Judenrein? Just how far do they plan to go with this policy of confrontation?


Steven J. Rosen served for 23 years as foreign-policy director of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), and was a defendant in the recently dismissed AIPAC case. He is now director of the Washington Project at the Middle East Forum and a consultant to the Council for World Jewry.

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