Saturday, 28 November 2009

Love of the Land: Bibi's bad week

Bibi's bad week

Caroline Glick
27 November 09

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu weakened Israel this week. And he did so for no good reason.

Thursday's headlines told the tale. The day after Netanyahu bowed to US pressure and announced a total freeze on Jewish construction in Judea and Samaria for ten months, Yediot Aharonot reported that the Obama administration now wants Israel to release a thousand Fatah terrorists from prison.

The Americans also want Israel to allow US-trained, terror-supporting Fatah paramilitary forces to deploy in areas that are currently under Israeli military control. Moreover, the Americans are demanding that Israel surrender land in the strategically crucial Jordan Valley to Fatah.

And these are just American preconditions for starting negotiations with the Palestinians. According to Yediot, if those talks ever begin, the White House will demand that Israel accept a Palestinian state in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and Gaza and agree to ethnically cleanse all the areas of Jews.

So far from winning American support or at least causing the White House to ease its bullying, US President Barack Obama sees Netanyahu's decision to implement a militarily irrational, bigoted policy of prohibiting Jews from building in Israel's heartland as a drop in the bucket.

THE TRUTH is that Israel should not be in the business of negotiating the right of Israeli cities and villages to exist and prosper. The notion that it is acceptable to demand that Jews not be permitted to live in Judea and Samaria - or anywhere else in the world - is not a notion that Israel should countenance.

That being said, putting the so-called "settlements" genie back in the bottle is a tall order. After all, Israel agreed to place it on the table in the 1993 Oslo agreements and made its willingness to dry out Jewish communities explicit with its acceptance of the so-called road map in 2004. To take Israeli communities off the agenda it would be necessary to repudiate these deals.

Given what it will take to remove Jewish communities from the negotiations chopping block, it makes sense that Netanyahu has not moved in that direction since taking office. But willingness to discuss these communities is not the same as giving them away for nothing. In discussing the dispositions of these towns and villages, at a minimum Netanyahu should have taken advantage of the fact that the Americans, the Europeans and the Arabs all consider the so-called "settlements" to be the most important obstacle to peace.

(Continue to full article)

Love of the Land: Bibi's bad week

Love of the Land: Dershowitz, for the Opposition

Love of the Land: Dershowitz, for the Opposition

Love of the Land: Is British anti-Semitism in danger of getting out of control?

Is British anti-Semitism in danger of getting out of control?

Robin Shepherd
28 November 09

Last week, Oliver Miles, Britain’s former ambassador to Libya and a pillar of the country’s foreign policy establishment, put his thinking cap on, put pen to paper and came up with the following thoughts in a column in the Independent newspaper about the presence of the esteemed historians Martin Gilbert and Lawrence Freedman on the board of the UK’s latest Iraq Inquiry:

“Both Gilbert and Freedman are Jewish, and Gilbert at least has a record of active support for Zionism,” he said. “…if and when the inquiry is accused of a whitewash, such handy ammunitionwill be available. Membership should not only be balanced; it should be seen to be balanced.” (My italics)

In other words, Jews are an embarrassment. Ban them.

Hold that thought. Now consider the words of the celebrated journalist Richard Ingrams — a man who once said he does not open emails about Israel if the writer appears to have a Jewish last name — writing in the same paper today.

Read the rest of this entry »

Love of the Land: Is British anti-Semitism in danger of getting out of control?

Love of the Land: Islamic Imperialism: The Ongoing Tragedy of the Middle East

Islamic Imperialism: The Ongoing Tragedy of the Middle East

Thomas O. Hecht
BESA Perspectives 97
25 November 09

Samuel Huntington predicted that only the Islamic civilization would re-emerge as the nemesis to the West. Recently, there is a rebirth of the Islamic struggle to reassert control over parts of the world, with jihad, or its modern manifestation – international terrorism – as its tool. The US is losing its dominance in the Middle East and is gradually being replaced by Iran. The Western world is in urgent need of a leader who will powerfully defend Western values against the growing influence of radical Islam.

Samuel Huntington remains relevant as ever. His book, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of the World Order (1996), presented a thesis that ran counter to the zeitgeist euphoria over globalization and a borderless world after the end of the Cold War.

Huntington unequivocally stated that the end of the Cold War would bring about a clash of civilizations. He inferred that soil, ethno-cultural devotion, and religion-based energy would claim and define the world in conflict. Huntington also drew a map of the world which can be described as "The West and The Rest." He recognized other less challenging civilizations – Hindu, African, Buddhist – but to him in the post-Cold War world, only the Islamic civilization would re-emerge as the nemesis to the West. According to Huntington, "The twentieth century conflict between liberal democracy and Marxist Leninism was only a fleeting and superficial historical phenomenon compared to the continuing and deeply conflicting relations between Islam and Christianity." Unfortunately, the West displays weakness and lack of courageous leadership.

Islamic History

A review of the onslaught of Islam, from its foundation in the seventh century to its current attempts to dominate the world, elucidates the gravity of the challenge currently faced by the West. Bernard Lewis has noted that since its birth, Islam has sought to merge religion and state authority, and to expand its influence. Christian awareness of the new competing Islamic faith began almost immediately after its advent with the triumphant emergence of the new religion from its Arabian homeland and its spread eastward to the borders of India and China, and westward across North Africa and the Mediterranean Islands into Europe. Islamic penetration of Western Europe ended with the Christian re-conquest of the Iberian Peninsula in 1492. The struggle lasted eight centuries.

(Read full article)

Love of the Land: Islamic Imperialism: The Ongoing Tragedy of the Middle East

Love of the Land: The wonderful wizard of Hope (Arkansas)

The wonderful wizard of Hope (Arkansas)

Sarah Honig
Another Tack/JPost
26 November 09

His real name, according to author L. Frank Baum, was Oscar Zoroaster Phadrig Isaac Norman Henkel Emmannuel Ambroise Diggs. Since it's a bit cumbersome, the bearer of this moniker squeezed it down to the initials only, which came out as O.Z.P.I.N.H.E.A.D. From the third letter onward the acronym spells "pinhead," not desirable for an ambitious individual, even if it does hint at the truth. Obfuscating that truth and enhancing his image, therefore, necessitated a further trim, leaving only OZ.

Mr. Diggs, originally of Omaha, Nebraska, made his none-too-impressive living as a circus magician. For promotional purposes he painted the OZ logo boldly on the hot-air balloon he used for some of his none-too-impressive tricks.

His fortunes dramatically improved after said balloon once drifted to the Emerald City. There, this otherwise ordinary con artist found himself worshiped by the naïve denizens as the all-knowing Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Incredibly they hung on to the presumed supreme sorcerer's every word, and he did his utmost to sustain the myth.

Just like former US President William Jefferson Clinton (born Blythe), originally of Hope, Arkansas. Whenever hot air ferries this political magician over to our backwater, the natives incredibly hang on to his every word, inane and hackneyed as it may be. This possibly is the last spot on Earth in which he is still worshipped as a great wizard and he laps it up. Seeming to do his darnedest to enlighten his benighted fans, he in fact does his utmost to sustain the myth.

DURING HIS latest speechifying extravaganza, Slick Willie (as fellow Arkansans called him) pontificated when memorializing Yitzhak Rabin: "Had he not lost his life on that terrible November night, within three years we would have had a comprehensive agreement for peace in the Middle East."

No kidding.

It's a stretch to believe the wizard was sincere. He must have at least dimly recalled that the Oslo pipedream had revealed itself a haunting nightmare. Packed passenger buses were blown up and what Rabin euphemistically dubbed "victims of peace" were slaughtered in our streets.

There are more than a few indications that Rabin himself was already growing increasingly edgy and unsure. The great historical irony is that he may have been assassinated on the verge of awakening from the hypnotic Osloite delusion. Rabin resolutely opined against a Palestinian state, the re-division of Jerusalem and ceding the Jordan valley. There can be no certainly that by 1998 he'd have marched dutifully down the path outlined for him by Shimon Peres and Clinton. It's all moot. It's conjecture.

(Continue reading)

Love of the Land: The wonderful wizard of Hope (Arkansas)

Love of the Land: An Empty Gesture

An Empty Gesture

Ira Sharkansky
The Shark Blog
26 November 09

Reading the announcements of government officials is more of an art than a science. It is appropriate to weigh the use of certain words rather than others, and take note of what a statement does not say. No one, including those involved in its preparation, can claim certainty as to how it should be read, much less what it can lead to as one statement provokes others from allies and antagonists.

Consider Prime Minister Netanyahu's announcement that his government has agreed to a freeze of new housing construction in the West Bank (excluding Jerusalem) for a period of 10 months in an effort to persuade the Palestinians to begin negotiations toward a peace agreement.

While members of the government trumpeted the announcement as a gesture that should move the Palestinians, It did not take long for commentators to declare it a dead letter. Sure enough, within a day ranking Palestinians reiterated their new position that they would only start negotiations when there was a total freeze of construction (homes and other facilities), including the post-1967 neighborhoods of Jerusalem.

What does all this mean?

One interpretation is that it reflects the teething problems of the American president. When he and his secretary of state emphasized the need to freeze settlements, and included Jerusalem in the mandate, they brought the Palestinians to assert a demand they had not made before during 17 years of negotiations.

Another interpretation, not altogether different, is that the talk of negotiations is a game without end played by numerous governments. If officials are wise and have noticed what has happened since Oslo, they should realize that negotiations go nowhere as long as the Palestinians adhere to their mantras of refugee rights and 1967 borders. Since Gaza fell into the hands of Hamas, the chances of an agreement are even less. The Fatah party of Mahmoud Abbas is barely holding on to the West Bank, propped up by Americans, Israelis and others. Should Abbas dare to show flexibility, his hold on power would be even more tenuous.

Even though wise leaders may recognize that reality, they cannot admit it, and give up the quest for peace. Who could do that when the future of the Holy Land is at stake? Moreover, there are unwise leaders in the bunch who may really believe in fairies and other delights, like peace between Israel and Palestine. With them beating the drums, and especially if they are the powerful Americans with a popular leader (who no other leader can publicly call naive), then the chorus joins in the pursuit of peace.

(Continue reading)

Love of the Land: An Empty Gesture

Love of the Land: Bad ideas and where they come from

Bad ideas and where they come from
26 November 09

Israel’s Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu declared a 10-month settlement freeze in Judea and Samaria Wednesday, in order to “encourage resumption of peace talks with our Palestinian neighbors.”

Predictably, the Palestinian Authority (PA) rejected it, because it allows Israel to finish buildings under construction and does not include Jerusalem, which PM Netanyahu correctly said “is not a settlement”.

Right-wing parties then attacked Netanyahu for “spitting in the face of those who were promised only a year ago that he would lead a change from the expulsion policies of [former Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon.” (MK Yakov Katz of the National Union party).

Certainly Netanyahu could have predicted both of these outcomes. So why did he do it? And why did his cabinet approve it?

Here’s another item:

In an effort to bolster Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in the face of a potential mass prisoner swap with Hamas, the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) “pardoned” over 90 wanted Fatah militiamen on Thursday on condition they refrain from engaging in terrorist activity.

Under the deal, the 92 fugitives – all members of Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigades, Fatah’s military wing – will be allowed to move freely throughout Palestinian cities within Area A of the West Bank. One of the fugitives included in the deal is Ala Sankara, who was the Al-Aksa commander in the Balata refugee camp near Nablus…

Israel is concerned that a massive prisoner deal with Hamas would undermine Abbas and boost Hamas’s popularity on the Palestinian street ahead of general elections.

In other words, if Hamas gets more terrorists on the street than Fatah, then it will be more popular. And the government wants to support Fatah. It’s hard to see how this will help, considering that Hamas will probably get hundreds, possibly more than a thousand freed, including convicted murderers, in the coming exchange for kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit. And they can claim that they did by means of ‘resistance’, not collaboration, always a plus in Palestinian circles.

(Continue reading...)


Love of the Land: Bad ideas and where they come from

Love of the Land: A threat to democracy?

A threat to democracy?

Latest insubordination cases must be analyzed in context of Gaza pullout

Yoel Meltzer
Ynet/Israel Opinion
27 November 09

Following recent incidents of soldiers expressing their refusal to evacuate Jews from their homes and the subsequent punishment some of the soldiers received, calls have been heard to both punish the rabbis responsible for encouraging such behavior as well as to stop the funding of specific hesder yeshivot. Moreover, one of the reasons given for such a harsh response is that behavior of this sort by Israeli soldiers threatens the very fabric of Israeli democracy.

Whether or not this claim is true and regardless of how one wants to define "Israeli democracy," it is disingenuous to analyze such behavior in a way that is disconnected from the larger social and historical context. A proper analysis of the phenomenon cannot be divorced from the traumatic influence that the 2005 Gaza disengagement had on large segments of Israeli society.

The events leading up to the disengagement started with Ariel Sharon and his Likud Party’s landslide victory against Amram Mitzna and Labor. In addition to Sharon enjoying a high popularity rating prior to the elections, the runaway victory was all but sealed by the fact that many voters were simply terrified of Mitzna and his proposal for a one-sided withdrawal from Gaza. At the time such an idea was only taken seriously by the fringe Left, a group which in many ways was the antithesis of the traditional Likud voter base.

Nonetheless, Sharon proceeded to adopt the exact policy that had just been overwhelmingly rejected. Realizing that such change of direction was clearly against the platform of his own Likud party, Sharon eventually brought the plan to a vote by party members. Not surprisingly, Likud members overwhelmingly rejected it by more than a 20 point margin and thus handed Sharon a stinging defeat. However, rather than following the wishes of his voters, Sharon went forward with his plan.

(Read full article)

Love of the Land: A threat to democracy?

Love of the Land: What's really behind the housing freeze? A plan against Iran - or spinelessness?

What's really behind the housing freeze? A plan against Iran - or spinelessness?

Weekly Commentary by
Dr. Aaron Lerner
26 November 2009

There are two possible explanations for the housing construction freeze Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu just announced:

The freeze could be Israel's "pound of flesh" to facilitate the launching of a critical operation to thwart Iran's nuclear weapons program.

Or the freeze could no more than an attempt to appease the international community in general and the Obama Administration in particular.

I fervently hope that the former is the case.

Then again, I also hoped that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was retreating from the Gaza Strip as part of a secret plan worked out with America to act against Iran rather than a move to get the criminal justice system off of his back.

That apparently wasn't the case.

If the freeze is in fact an attempt to appease the world then Mr. Netanyahu should pack his bags tonight.

Granted, the freeze is considerably less than what the Obama team first demanded. But it only serves to encourage more pressure for Israeli concessions in the future.

And the world's appetite for Israeli concessions is insatiable.

Love of the Land: What's really behind the housing freeze? A plan against Iran - or spinelessness?

Love of the Land: No Jews Allowed

No Jews Allowed

Obama's west bank plan : Dry Bones cartoon.

Obama's plan for Peace on the West Bank is not new.

The Nazis invented two words for it.
"Judenfrei" refers to "freeing" an area of all of its Jewish citizens. "Judenrein" (literally "clean of Jews") was also used. This had the stronger connotation that the area had been cleansed of Jewish blood.-more

Love of the Land: No Jews Allowed

RubinReports: Hillary's Bombshell: Obama Administration Subtly Launches Dramatic Policy Change on Peace Process

Hillary's Bombshell: Obama Administration Subtly Launches Dramatic Policy Change on Peace Process

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By Barry Rubin

In a one-paragraph statement welcoming Israel’s ten-month-long freeze on building apartments in existing West Bank settlements, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made a major statement. The dramatic new U.S. stance on Israel-Palestinian Authority peace agreement is camouflaged by brevity and subtle wording. But make no mistake: this is one of the most important foreign policy steps the Obama Administration has taken.

Here is the statement in full:

"Today's announcement by the Government of Israel helps move forward toward resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We believe that through good-faith negotiations the parties can mutually agree on an outcome which ends the conflict and reconciles the Palestinian goal of an independent and viable state based on the 1967 lines, with agreed swaps, and the Israeli goal of a Jewish state with secure and recognized borders that reflect subsequent developments and meet Israeli security requirements."

Clearly, this approach builds on the 2000 Camp David meeting and the December 2000 plan of President Bill Clinton. Ironically, the latter is called the Clinton plan, so the name need not change since now it is renewed and extended by another Clinton.

These 77 words are worth analyzing in great detail. First, there is what the United States is offering the Palestinian side:

“The Palestinian goal of an independent and viable state based on the 1967 lines, with agreed swaps…”

One should first ask, which Palestinians? Hamas and Islamic Jihad don’t favor this approach and Hamas still runs the Gaza Strip. To pretend that Israel can or should make a peace treaty with the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority (PA) which has no authority over the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip is ludicrous. Whatever deal Israel makes with the PA, it could—indeed, probably would--be attacked by Palestinians from Gaza the next day. The conflict cannot be ended by anything the PA does by itself. Without a real commitment to overthrow Hamas the United States can never make peace.

The second issue is that what Clinton lists is not the entire Palestinian goal since the PA also demands a right for all Palestinians to go and live in Israel, thus subverting that country and destroying the state. This is no mere throw-away line but a very strongly held demand. Anyone who thinks that the PA is just going to drop it—no matter how much land or money it is given—knows nothing about Palestinian politics.

The word “based” in the phrase, “based on the 1967 lines” is carefully chosen to imply flexibility as to where the exact border would be drawn. In fact, the PA has always said that it must get the 1967 boundaries completely, never mentioning the word “swaps.” Therefore, when Clinton says that this is a Palestinian “goal” she is wrong.

It tells a great deal that the idea of “swapping land” so that the PA gets the equivalent of the same number of square miles as Jordan ruled before 1967 is an Israeli idea, another example of Israel’s willingness to compromise. Remember that the original Israeli position was that it annex about four percent of the West Bank.

Hence, by whittling down the demands she is making the typical negotiators' error of putting forward a false stance and then finding out the negotiation fail. But at the same time, however, Clinton is trying to define how the United States sees a reasonable Palestinian demand that it will accept. In other words, she is implying: this is all you're going to get.

There is also Clinton’s formulation of what Israel gets:

“The Israeli goal of a Jewish state with secure and recognized borders that reflect subsequent developments and meet Israeli security requirements."

This incorporates several Israeli demands:

--“An outcome which ends the conflict”: Israel insists that any peace treaty will explicitly end the conflict. Makes sense, right? But the PA refuses to agree to this principle. The reason is, of course, that it does not view getting an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and east Jerusalem as an end to the conflict but only as stage one of a longer-term effort to wipe Israel off the map.

-- “Jewish state”: Israel wants Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state. Why: To show a real acceptance on the Palestinian side. In addition, though, it has a very practical side, avoiding a Palestinian claim to recognize “Israel” and then doing everything possible—like flooding it with Palestinian Arabs—to transform it into an Arab and/or Islamic state. (“Binationalism” is just a cover word to hide a step in that direction.)

--“With secure and recognized borders”: Israel wants borders recognized as a sign that full peace exists. The word “secure” here implies security arrangements to prevent future attacks.

--“That reflect subsequent developments”: This is a fascinating and new phrase. What can it mean other than this: Since so many Jews have moved into settlements, this new factor must be taken into account in shifting the borders. This is the Obama Administration’s version of its predecessor’s idea that Israel could keep “settlement blocs,” large towns built up along its border like the Etzion bloc and Maale Adumim. It could also be applied to Jerusalem, though that sensitive word is not mentioned in the statement.

--“And meets Israeli security requirements”: Another and stronger reference to security guarantees.

How will this statement be received in Israel? This raises a fascinating question: Was it coordinated with the Netanyahu government as part of the freeze deal? If so, the Netanyahu government has certainly proved itself to be flexible and peace-oriented. Certainly, there isn’t everything Israel wants in this statement yet it does encompass some important points taken out of the cabinet’s position on peace arrangements.

The more I think about this point, the more it makes sense to me that the position is a gesture toward Israel. This is a statement that favors Israel's position while still offering the Palestinians, in the mind of the administration, enough to make them happy (wrong) and enough to show the world that the United States is even-handed (right for Europe; wrong for the Arab world). It isn’t a blatantly pro-Israel stance but does incorporate key elements of what Israel wants to an extent greater than where the United States has gone before.

It also offers the Palestinians, or at least the PA, what it says it wants. Well, not exactly but in a way that Americans think is reasonably close. Unfortunately, that’s not the way the PA thinks. For more than thirty years the United States has been trying to formulate plans on the basis of what it thinks will satisfy Palestinian goals—the first Camp David meeting, the Reagan plan, the second Camp David meeting, and a thousand plans, conferences, statements, and initiatives in between.

Each time they fail because they aren’t addressing what the Palestinian leadership really wants. And today that is further complicated by there being two Palestinian leaderships.

The United States has endorsed the Israeli position that the PA must recognize Israel as a Jewish state, this is a big step forward and a victory for Israel.

ps: (in response to a reader's question asking if this means the United States demands that Israel return to the 1967 borders):

It does NOT say the 1967 borders. Israel's formula for the last 15 year has been: "with minor modifications" to the borders. I definitely don't think this will lead to any breakthrough--the Palestinians will reject it and there is no treaty in sight for decades. In that sense, what it offers the Palestinians is not important because they will say no to everything short of all they want without their making any concesions.

Compare this statement to the Israeli government's own program as well as to Israel's position in the 2000 Camp David meeting and the subsequent [Bill] Clinton plan in December 2000. It is quite comparable. It includes recognition of the Jewish state, security arrangements satisfactory to Israel, changing the border, and end of conflict are four of the main six points. The fifth, resettling Palestinian refugees in a Palestinian state--no return, is unquestionably going to be endorsed by the United States. The sixth, a demilitarized Palestinian state, is also not mentioned either way.

Of course, Jerusalem is an important issue not explicitly mentioned here. But Clinton statement of ["that reflect subsequent developments"] also must apply to Jerusalem, thus legitimizing post-1967 Israeli neighborhoods there. This is very significant.

As I said, this is not a statement endorsing everything Israel would like to have. But it is the best conceivable position that the United States, and especially the Obama Administration, could conceivably take.

RubinReports: Hillary's Bombshell: Obama Administration Subtly Launches Dramatic Policy Change on Peace Process

RubinReports: The Trouble with Soft Diplomacy: Endless Resolutions on Iran, No Resolution of the Issues

The Trouble with Soft Diplomacy: Endless Resolutions on Iran, No Resolution of the Issues

By Barry Rubin

In its own view, the Obama Administration has won a considerable foreign policy victory in the International Atomic Energy Agency vote to condemn Iran’s nuclear program. Winning such triumphs is the whole goal of a patient policy by the Obama Administration to cultivate wide support for criticizing Iran. The problem is that this is not the same thing as doing something about Iran.

The key development is that only three countries—Cuba, Venezuela, and Malaysia—supported Iran. China and Russia backed the U.S. position. It is being implied that this signals the possibility that they might support material sanctions against Tehran.

But that’s not true and thinking otherwise shows a real structural failure in how even supposed experts nowadays think about international affair. Voting for a resolution is a substitute for taking action, a fact that might prove to be the bane of the Obama Administration.

In addition, while the resolution is being touted as tough, it I based on an incontrovertible set of simple facts. Iran was criticized for two things: continuing to defy the previous UN resolutions by enriching uranium and building a secret nuclear facility.

It’s like passing a resolution to criticize, rather than arrest, someone you just saw pump a half-dozen bullets into a murder victim and then being pleased that it was nearly unanimous.

What’s really significant is that it is now clear the United States, having missed its September deadline for raising sanctions, is now going to miss the December deadline as well. The question is whether that process will even have begun before 2009 ends.

Iranian delegate Ali Asghar Soltanieh, in his response, told us everything we need to know about Tehran’s position and future developments:

"Neither resolutions of the board of governors nor those of the United Nations Security Council...neither sanctions nor the threat of military attacks can interrupt peaceful nuclear activities in Iran, [not for] even a second."

I believe him, except for the “peaceful nuclear activities” part. But guess what? This supposedly tough resolution doesn’t exactly contradict that point. It only expresses "serious concern" that Iran's refusal to cooperate with inspections means "the possibility of military

dimensions to Iran's nuclear program" cannot be excluded.

So that’s it. In November 2009 the United States after almost a year of effort by the Obama Administration persuaded a UN to vote that Iran might be developing nuclear weapons but it can’t tell and insists that Iran abide by promises it made years ago.

What makes this important enough for you to be reading about at this moment is that it is a model for the kind of multilateral, soft diplomacy that is now in fashion. Indeed, the U.S. government has not even announced yet that Iran is obviously refusing to make a deal. Statements by Western countries indicated that Tehran was being given one more chance for the one hundredth time.

At some point in the not-distant future, the idea is that President Obama will make one of those, “We interrupt this program to bring you a special message from the president of the United States” moments that begin, “My fellow citizens…” In other words, he springs into decisive real action and does something tough.

One is beginning to suspect that this moment will never come on any international issue.

As a British officer said after the Battle of Bunker Hill in the American Revolution, one more victory like this and there may be no one left to report it. After a certain point, someone who believes that soft power is sufficient must be soft in the head.

RubinReports: The Trouble with Soft Diplomacy: Endless Resolutions on Iran, No Resolution of the Issues

RubinReports: The US-Israel Construction Freeze Deal and What it Means

The US-Israel Construction Freeze Deal and What it Means

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By Barry Rubin

Finally, we know the long-awaited terms of the U.S.-Israel agreement on freezing construction on settlements. It is a good plan and represents a considerable, but well-crafted albeit unilateral concession by Israel. No licenses will be granted or apartments started on the West Bank for the next ten months. And Israel doesn’t consider east Jerusalem to be part of the West Bank.

The U.S. government praised the decision, after all it was pretty much what President Barack Obama has been trying to obtain for nine months and has worked hard to negotiate. "We believe the steps announced by the prime minister are significant and could have substantial impact on the ground," said George Mitchell, Obama’s special mediator.

But, of course, it will have no impact whatsoever. On the contrary, the Palestinians and Arab states will complain that it isn’t enough, that it doesn’t mean anything, and that they have more demands. Their openly stated demand is that Israel just hand over all the West Bank and east Jerusalem in exchange for nothing.

In giving something in exchange for no material gain or even a gesture from the other side, Israel can only hope that the president appreciates this gesture and remembers that he did not deliver on his promise to get some concession from the Arab side to match it.

But will it be appreciated and even kept by the Obama Administration? Will the world, or even Europe, give Israel any credit for taking one more effort to show that it wants peace? Is it going to be widely understood as demonstrating—unfortunately—that the other side doesn’t? Is this going to affect the knee-jerk media view of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as “hardline”?

Well, probably “no” but it’s worth a try. Obama will be president another three to seven years and he should be shown that Israel wants peace and is willing to cooperate with his efforts to a reasonable extent.

But that’s also why there’s a time limit. It’s not a high price to pay or keeping the United States happy and showing President Barack Obama that Israel wants peace, is cooperative, and is willing to make him look good.

Certainly, it won’t please the Palestinians, for reasons different from what you might think, Palestinian Authority (PA) leader Mahmoud Abbas is not so happy. He’s complained in an interview that Obama is "doing nothing right now" regarding the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

"I hope he'll take a more important role in the future," Abbas said. The Palestinians "are waiting for the United States to put pressure on Israel so it respects international law, so it takes up the road map….It can do two things: put pressure on the Israelis so they reject settlements, and put pressure so they accept withdrawing to the 1967 borders."

Can you see the humor in this? Here’s Obama who campaigned and continues to say that his predecessor was “doing nothing” on the issue and that’s why it hadn’t been solved. Could Obama have possibly tried harder? He made it his most outspoken issue, talked about it constantly, met with leaders, put forward plans, pressured Israel, reached a deal with Israel that involved considerable Israeli concessions, and asked for—but didn’t receive—Arab help.

Could the lesson be more obvious? The problem isn’t Obama or Netanyahu; it’s Abbas. He is the one refusing to negotiate with Israel and is making a president who promised talks within two months look bad. He betrayed his promises to Obama not to try to turn the Goldstone report into a mob to lynch Israel.

Why is Abbas behaving this way, because he’s frustrated that progress isn’t being made? This claim is rather ironic since he’s the one blocking progress. The real reason is that he wants Obama to get him everything he wants without him making any compromises or concessions.

It isn’t going to happen. And the Palestinians, Arabs in general, and lots of Muslims will blame Obama. This must be a shock to him since he tried so hard and leaned over backwards to make them happy. And this disrespect is coming from Abbas, leader of the group which Obama has tried hardest to help in the whole world.

Ironically, too, this is the first real foreign policy success for the Obama Administration after ten months in office. Yet the White House isn’t eager—or not likely to be successful—in so claiming since so many people never want to credit Israel’s compromises. Once Arab sources criticized Hillary Clinton’s enthusiasm, the administration backed down in its praise and looked for still new, albeit small, ways to show that it is tough on Israel.

Objectively, though, bilateral relations are good, due in no small part to this step.

If the Palestinian side was sincere about negotiating seriously and making peace, it would respond rationally. Ok, they could say, it is only for ten months but we can use that period to make so much progress that it will be extended. Even better, they could understand that if they made a peace treaty and got a state there wouldn’t be any more settlements in the territory they would be ruling (though there would be on land swapped with Israel).

But, of course, Abbas and the PA don’t intend to do anything serious diplomatically in the next ten months, or twenty, or thirty. All he wants is that the United States force Israel to “accept withdrawing to the 1967 borders" and give up demands for settling Palestinians only in Palestine, not Israel; ending the conflict forever; having an unmilitarized Palestine; and insisting that it recognize Israel as a Jewish state rather than an impending victim.

Let’s all watch, see, and draw appropriate conclusion about what actually happens. And for those who didn’t learn this lesson the last half-dozen times—most importantly from the fate of the 1990s’ peace process, Israel’s withdrawal from south Lebanon, Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip—this can be a less costly way of understanding that it is the Palestinian side that is blocking peace and that support for Israel is the proper response to this situation.

PS: Read Netanyahu's statement which has a number of interesting points.

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By Rabbi Avraham Greenbaum

Torah reading: Gen. 28:10-32:3. Haftara: Hosea 12.13-14.10 (Optional addition: Micah 7.18) (Sephardi ritual: Hosea 11.7-12.12).


Last weeks parshah, TOLDOS, completed the story of Isaac, which concluded with Isaac's giving the blessings to Jacob and sending him away from home to find his wife. In our present parshah of VAYEITZEI, Jacob, the "perfect" or "compete" patriarch (since he incorporated the best of both Abraham and Isaac) now takes center stage, and the story of his life and that of his twelve sons occupies the remainder of the book of Genesis.

Jacob's departure from his parental home into exile in Padan Aram and his return from there with a complete family and laden with wealth are paradigmatic for the subsequent history of Jacob's descendants, Israel and the Jewish people. Historically the Israelites were repeatedly forced to leave the ancestral Land of Israel, yet always returned in increased numbers, together with the wealth acquired in exile: the souls of the proselytes and actual material wealth.

* * *


While Jacob's journey of exile to Padan Aram is paradigmatic of all later Jewish exile, his detour on the way there to "THE PLACE" (Gen. 28:11) -- Mount Moriah, "THE PLACE that G-d said to Abraham" (Gen. 22:9), that same FIELD where Isaac went to pray -- is paradigmatic of the GIVING OF THE TORAH. Thus the numerical value of the Hebrew letters of SuLaM, the "ladder" of Jacob's dream (Samech 60, Lamed 30, Mem 40) = 130 = SINaI, where the Torah was given (Samech 60, Yud 10, Nun 50, Yud 10). The Torah itself was given "in exile", in the wilderness. The dream of the ladder and Jacob's actions in response to G-d's promise of protection -- his laying the Temple foundation and his vow to tithe all he acquires for G-d -- are Torah. They are the very essence of the Torah, the GIVING OF THE TORAH for all Jacob's descendants. Jacob's eventual return to this PLACE where he "received the Torah" (see next week's parshah, Gen. ch. 35) is paradigmatic of the return of the Jewish people after exile to build the Holy Temple. The Temple and the Giving of the Torah are one concept.

The PLACE that Jacob "hit" (like you hit a target with an arrow or with a prayer) while on his way to Padan Aram was none other than the spot from which Adam was created: the place destined to bring atonement to all the Children of Adam in all generations through the sacrifical altar that is to stand there in the House of Prayer for all the Nations. This was the place where Noah sacrificed after the flood and this was where Abraham bound Isaac on the Altar. This was the field to which Isaac would return to pray. This place is alluded to in the opening word of the Torah, BeRAiSHIS, the Hebrew letters of which can be rearranged to form the words BAYIS ROSH, "the House that is the Head". As discussed in connection with the parshiyos of the last two weeks, Abraham had conceived of this place as a lofty -- and almost daunting -- MOUNTAIN of spiritual achievement. Isaac had brought the idea nearer to ordinary people by conceiving of it as a FIELD of regular endeavor. It was the innovation of Jacob, the "perfect patriarch", to bring the idea within reach of everyone (for fields, in which Jacob was expert, are still not accessible to everyone): Jacob conceived of the place as a HOUSE. "This is none other than the HOUSE of God" (Genesis 28:17; see Likutey Moharan I, 10).

In the words of the Talmud (Pesachim 88a): Said Rabbi Elazar: What does Isaiah mean when he says, "And many peoples will go and say, 'Come let us go up to the Mountain of G-d to the HOUSE of the G-d of Jacob!'" ? Why the G-d of Jacob and not the G-d of Abraham and Isaac? The answer is: Not like Abraham, who saw it as a Mountain ("as it is said this day, On the Mountain HaVaYaH is seen" -- Genesis 22:14). And not like Isaac, for whom it was a Field ("And Isaac went out to meditate in the Field" -- Genesis 24:63). But like Jacob, who called it a House: "And he called the name of that place Beth El, the House of G-d" (Genesis 28:19).

This passage comes to teach that at the consummation of human history, when "many peoples will go" in search of G-d's truth, the idea through which G-d will be understood by the peoples will be Jacob's idea: the idea of the House -- the Holy Temple. The conception of the Temple as a House brings the idea of devotion to G-d right into the house and home. The Temple is the epitome of all houses. Thus it has a kitchen (the AZARA or central courtyard) and oven (the Altar), a "living room" (the Sanctuary), with its "lamp" (the Menorah) and table (the Showbread Table), and a "bedroom", the Holy of Holies, place of the ZIVUG of the Holy One and the Shechinah (Divine Presence).

The Temple is the universal paradigm of what all of our homes should be, a place for the dwelling of the Divine Presence. At the very center of the Temple vision is the "ladder" that has angels "ascending and descending" on it. This is the ladder of devotion. Our prayers, blessings and simple, everyday "homely" mitzvos and acts of devotion send "angels" ASCENDING upwards to realms that are beyond our comprehension. The ascending angels in turn elicit angels of blessing who DESCEND into this world and into our very lives (such as the angels who accompany us from the synagogue to the home on Shabbos night and who, on seeing that we have made everything ready for Shabbos, bless our table, which is like the Temple altar.) The vow Jacob made upon inaugurating the House of G-d is the paradigm of all the different "vows" or commitments we make involving some kind of self-restraint and sacrifice in order to elevate ourselves spiritually and elicit G-d's protection. These acts of self-sacrifice send up ascending angels, drawing down descending angels of blessing. The foundation of devotion is our COMMITMENT (but without actual vows).

* * *


Given that Jacob conceived of divine service using the metaphor of the HOUSE, it is fitting that the central focus of the story of his life is on how he built his house, namely the household of wives and children who made up the House of Jacob, and how he faced all their subsequent domestic problems -- the kidnap of Dinah, the quarrels and hatred among the twelve brothers, the sale of Joseph and all that followed from it.

The building of Jacob's House could be accomplished only through struggles of many kinds -- for truth, Jacob's quality, is born out of struggle on all levels, material and spiritual. In order to build his House, Jacob had to struggle with two major antagonists: Esau and Laban. Esau embodies the threat to the Holy House from the forces of excess and evil in the material world, ASIYAH. The encounter with Esau is a central theme in next week's parshah: VAYISHLACH. In this week's parshah of VAYEITZEI, the focus is on Jacob's encounter with Laban, whose threat to the Holy House is from the forces of excess in the spiritual worlds. Thus while Esau is portrayed as a HUNTER-WARRIOR, Laban is portrayed as a PRIEST (Rashi on Gen. 24:21, Gen. 31:30ff).

To build his House, Jacob had to rescue the sparks of holiness that were still to be find in the land of the Sons of the East (Gen. 29:19), literally the "Sons of OLD". These sparks of holiness were embodied in Rachel and Leah and their handmaidens, who were to mother the Souls of Israel. In order to rescue them, Jacob had to struggle with Laban, the High Priest of the "Old World", the unrectified World of TOHU (confusion) created by G-d to spawn the realm of evil with which man has to struggle in order to attain his destiny. Laban was the father of Be'or who was the father of Bilaam, also called Bela. Bela the son of Be'or is the first of the Seven Kings of Edom who ruled "before there was a king in Israel" (Gen. 36:31 ff.). These "Seven Kings" allude to the seven sefiros in their "fallen" manifestation as a result of the "breaking of the vessels". Kabbalistically, Bela corresponds to DAAS of the SITRA ACHRA, the evil consciousness that is the opposite of G-dly knowledge and awareness, the root of all the other sefiros. The ARI states that Bilaam-Bela was the incarnation of Laban, who is the very brain of the realm of evil, as indicated by his name, which consists of the letters Lamed (30) Beis (2) corresponding to the 32 Pathways of Wisdom, and Nun (50), corresponding to the 50 Gates of Understanding. Jacob's conflict with Laban continued in Moses fight against Bilaam and his pernicious spiritual influence.

Laban is the arch swindler and deceiver, symbolizing the force in creation that conceals G-dliness through our querks of false-consciousness that make evil seem like good and good seem like evil. Laban TRANSLATES one thing into another (we find an example of Laban as a translator in Gen. 31:47), distorting the entire meaning in the process. Time and time again, it turns out that Laban actually means something entirely different from what he appears on the surface to be saying. White-appearing Laban (Lavan in Hebrew = "white") is actually filthy black.

Since the devotions of Jacob (the Children of Israel) are accomplished by using the homely objects of this world to create the House of G-d through which the Divine Presence may dwell in the world, it is essential to cleanse the world of the mental distortions (the deceptions of idolatrous Laban) that could undermine the entire message of the Holy House.

Each one of us has the personal work of using Jacob's honesty to cleanse ourselves of the inner Labans that have us working for years chasing after phantoms, only to find ourselves sadly deceived...

* * *


Jacob followed the example of Abraham's servant Eliezer (Gen. 24:11) in going to the WELL in order to find his ZIVUG (soul-mate). As father of the people who were to bring the spiritual waters of Torah to all mankind, Jacob expected to find the appropriate soul-mate at the place of the "water-drawers". There Jacob saw his first love, Rachel, whose beauty was visible also on the exterior, as opposed to Leah, whose spiritual greatness was more concealed. The swindle by which Laban motivated Jacob to work for seven years for Rachel but actually gave him Leah, forcing him to work another seven years to get Rachel too, was a harsh lesson in how life may give us what we didn't bank on.

The implicit message in Jacob's deals with Laban, whereby Jacob worked for everything he gained -- his wives, his children and his flocks -- is that honest work is good, even when swindlers lurk. The heavens and earth were made "to do" (Gen. 2:3). "For six days, work shall be done..." (Exodus 35:2): Work is a good thing! Jacob had received rich blessings from Isaac, but that did not mean he had what he gained through sitting back and doing nothing. It was his very conscientiousness in working to earn the promised good that made him deserve the blessings.

The repeated seven-fold cycles in our parshah (seven years of work for Rachel and Leah, the seven days of the marriage celebrations) are bound up with the underlying six-day/Shabbos cycle of creation which comes to rectify the seven fallen sefiros of the world of TOHU spawned by Bilaam-Laban. The holy sparks rescued by Jacob through his "work" -- Rachel, Leah, the handmaidens, their children, and the "flocks", namely the holy souls -- are all reordered in the world of TIKUN (Rectification, the sefiros in their holy manifestation) in the House of Jacob. Here Jacob (corresponding to Zeir Anpin, the unity of G-d) is joined and unified with his wives, Rachel (the revealed world) and Leah (the concealed world).

Jacob's main work and that of his wives was that of BREEDING -- the breeding of children and the breeding of "flocks". This comes to emphasize the centrality of family, education and good breeding in true civilization. The House about which Jacob's Temple comes to teach is not a far-off concept. It is the actual house and home in which we live, where our work must be to educate ourselves and our children to see and manifest G-d in our mundane, everyday activities.

Jacob is the archetype of the faithful employee. He starts off with nothing (according to the Midrash, Jacob was stripped of all his possessions by Esau's son Eliphaz as he set off for Padan Aram). He works conscientiously to benefit and enrich his employer, with scrupulous honesty and devotedness (as expressed in Jacob's eloquent self-defense Gen. 31:38 ff.). Jacob is pitted against a slick liar who keeps on changing the terms of agreements, who sells his own daughters, who watches his nephew work for his wives, children and flocks for 20 years and still says, "They are all mine...."

The practical teaching about the work ethic that emerges from this section of our parshah telling of Jacob's way of working applies to all mankind. It is an important aspect of the universal law against stealing:

"Just as the employer is cautioned not to steal or withhold the wages of the poor man, so the poor man (the employee) is cautioned not to steal the work of the employer by wasting a little time here and a little there so that he spends the entire day cheating his employer. The worker is obliged to be strict with himself in the time he devotes to his employer's work... and he is obliged to work with all his strength. For the righteous Jacob said 'For WITH ALL MY STRENGTH I worked for your father...'. And therefore he took the reward for this even in this world..." (Rambam, Laws of Hiring 13:7)

Those who are inclined to pass the working hours drinking tea and coffee, chatting, making irrelevant phone calls, etc. should take note.

Shabbat Shalom!

Avraham Yehushua Greenbaum

PO Box 50037 Jerusalem 91500 Israel
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