Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Elder of Ziyon: No cornerstone? No matter, we'll riot anyway

Elder of Ziyon: No cornerstone? No matter, we'll riot anyway

DoubleTapper: Dubai Assasination Team Sells Groceries

DoubleTapper: Dubai Assasination Team Sells Groceries

Israel Matzav: Iran tried to buy a nuclear weapon in 1987

Iran tried to buy a nuclear weapon in 1987

If there's still anyone out there who is not convinced that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons, please consider this. Iran tried to buy a nuclear weapon from Pakistan's AQ Khan (the father of the Islamic bomb) in 1987.

Documents obtained by Simon Henderson, a research fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and a former journalist, offer crucial evidence that Iran's nuclear program is not wholly for civilian purposes as it claims - but aimed at developing an atomic bomb.

Henderson told Haaretz he has acquired material written by the scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan - popularly known as the father of Pakistan's bomb program - while under house arrest between 2005 and 2009.

...

[A]ccording to Henderson, Pakistan omitted to pass to its Western allies a sensitive report detailing visits to Pakistan in the late 80s by two Iranian officials, who Khan said offered $10 billion in exchange ready-made atomic bombs.

...

The report, obtained by Henderson, reveals that in 1987 or 1988 Admiral Ali Shamkhani, a former senior commander in Iran's Revolutionary Guard and minister of defense from 1997 until 2005, arrived in Pakistan with an entourage of officials.

Shamkhani offered to buy the nuclear devices on the spot and came prepared to take them home with him, Khan said.



Israel Matzav: Iran tried to buy a nuclear weapon in 1987

Israel Matzav: Just a soul whose intentions are good

Just a soul whose intentions are good

This one requires a little mood setting, so let's go to the videotape. Try to imagine Bibi Netanyahu singing this to Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.



Former Defense Minister Moshe Arens says that Bibi and his cabinet sounded like this song when they fell all over each other to apologize to the Obama administration last week. And Arens says that they were way out of line.

Since it was well known in Washington that the Netanyahu government had not frozen building activity in Jerusalem, and that therefore not only construction there was continuing but also the routine planning activities that precede construction, the blame was now being put on the "timing." Presumably, if the planning committee had held its session a few days before Biden's arrival there would not have been a problem. Or, had it met a few days after Biden's departure and he left here under the impression that planning activities had been suspended in Jerusalem, only to find out differently on his arrival in Washington, there would have been nothing to get excited about.

"Timing" is important when investing in the stock market, but it is of little relevance here. There is no substitute for the truth when dealing with friends and allies. And the truth in this case is that while the Israeli government has frozen construction in Judea and Samaria for 10 months, there has been no such freeze in any part of Jerusalem, and certainly no holdup of planning procedures. There was no need for all this groveling by Israeli spokesmen. On the subject of Jerusalem, the government of Israel and the administration in Washington simply disagree.

Throughout the U.S.-Israeli relationship there have been disagreements on certain issues. They are inevitable, even among the best of friends. But generally, the disagreements have not been taken public, but have been discussed in confidential exchanges between representatives of the two governments. U.S. President Barack Obama, however, has taken a new approach, which he signaled at his speech last June in Cairo, where he publicly called on Israel to stop settlement activity.

The rationale of this approach was presumably to accelerate the negotiations between Israel and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. But what the Americans must be finding out to their chagrin is that this approach is actually making it more difficult, if not impossible, for Abbas to come to the negotiating table. Whereas in the past he negotiated with Israel while settlement activity continued, without setting prior conditions, Obama's Cairo speech left Abbas no choice but to demand the cessation of settlement activity in Judea and Samaria as a condition for entering negotiations. After all, he cannot be less Palestinian than Obama.

Netanyahu did what he did because he was afraid to incur the Obama administration's wrath. But what he has discovered over the course of the last week is that the only way not to incur the administration's wrath would be to let his coalition fall apart by taking actions that are against Israel's interests and not in line with his coalition agreement. Obama wanted to force Bibi to choose. He has apparently chosen. Now Obama will have to decide whether he wants to take this one to the wall or whether he will learn to live with Bibi's choice and absorb a lot less actions that conflict with America's interests than he has tolerated from the likes of Egypt, Syria, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

What could go wrong?


Israel Matzav: Just a soul whose intentions are good

Israel Matzav: How Israel could solve Obama's Iran problem

How Israel could solve Obama's Iran problem

Barack Obama has much bigger problems in Iran now than does Israel. Iran is able to ruin Obama's plans to get American troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan by holding the terror card in Iraq and by allying itself with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

Meanwhile, Obama is frozen into inaction on Iran's nuclear program by his own rhetoric and his devotion to 'engagement.' What's an ally to do? The blogger Spengler (who is anonymous) at Asia Times says that Israel should act in its own best interest, because that's ultimately in America's interest too.

The Obama administration's shrill tone towards Israel reflects its domestic political weakness as much as its strategic problems. According to a March 7 poll by The Israel Project, Americans take the Israeli side against the Palestinians by a margin of 57% to 7%, with the rest neutral. A Gallup Poll released February 28 gives the margin at 63% to 15%, with 23% neutral. Only 30% of respondents told Gallup that they expect a peace agreement between Israel and the Arab states.

More to the point, 60% of respondents in a March 2 Fox News poll said they believed force would be required to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, while only 25% believe that diplomacy and sanctions will work. Fifty-one percent of Democrats and 75% of Republicans polled favored the use of force. Obama's job approval for handling Iran was at only 41%, with 42% disapproving.

An Israeli strike against Iran's nuclear facilities would polarize American opinion. And if the Obama administration attempted to punish Israel for doing what most Americans seemingly want to do in any event, the balance of American sentiment - if available polling data are any guide - would shift away from Obama and to Israel. Obama's party would pay at the polls in November.

No one cares about the Palestinians; to the extent that the charade of Israeli negotiations with the weak and divided Palestine Authority comes into consideration, it is because Washington still hopes that a show of progress might be helpful in addressing more urgent concerns in the Persian Gulf and Central Asia. Obama's investment in rapprochement with Iran is not a sentimental gesture: it is the pillar on which American regional policy rests.

...

One might speculate that a Republican administration - at least one headed by Senator John McCain - would have encouraged Israel to extricate the US from its present Zugzwang (imperative to move when any move is damaging) by attacking Iran's nuclear program. That, after all, is what allies are for. There is no Obama administration as such; there is only Obama, who appears to run the entire show out of his Blackberry. As David Rothkopf wrote in his Foreign Policy blog March 12, Obama's is "an administration in which seeking the favor of the president has taken on an importance that is in fact, much more reminiscent of the historical czars than is the role being played by anyone with this now devalued moniker".

As I wrote on this space February 18: "Israel has a strategic problem broader than the immediate issue of Iran's possible acquisition of nuclear weapons: it is an American ally at a moment when America has effectively withdrawn from strategic leadership. That leaves Israel at a crossroads. It can act like an American client state, or a regional superpower. Either decision would have substantial costs."(See The case for an Israeli strike against Iran, Asia Times Online, February 18)

The best thing that Israel can do for the United States in its time of befuddlement is pursue its own interests, for American and Israeli security concerns have one overriding commonality: the need to prevent rogue states in the region from acquiring nuclear weapons. In the the present test of wills between Washington and Jerusalem, the smart money is on David rather than Goliath.

Read the whole thing. It's kind of long but fascinating (I don't have a lot of patience for reading long articles these days - only for writing them. But I read this one).
Israel Matzav: How Israel could solve Obama's Iran problem

Israel Matzav: Obama's Sister Souljah moment

Obama's Sister Souljah moment

Michael Fenenbock explains that a Sister Souljah moment occurs when a politician loudly rebukes an ally to show that they are not beholden to that ally. That certainly sounds like what President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton did to Israel last week. Fenenbock says we have to fight back.

The political truth is that the Obama Administration will get away with their “hammer the Jews” strategy unless there is a political price to pay in the 2010 American elections.

Which brings us to an interesting juncture. A crossroads has been reached. Will the two-state train continue to roar down the track or can it be derailed?

To fully comprehend the circumstance we must take into account an important development. Right now the Obama Administration is in a politically weakened condition.

...

For President Obama the 2010 midterm election is a looming disaster.

There is organized, determined opposition to the president and his policies. His opposition is almost universally supportive of Israel. His antipathy toward the Jewish state is not shared. “Hammer the Jews” is not a consensus policy in America. A two-state solution is not a foregone conclusion.

Many who oppose the Administration see an opportunity to make their own point about a myopic Obama foreign policy that coddles terrorists at home, bows to the Saudi king abroad, offers public apologies to Islam, and twists the arm of its allies.

The president is vulnerable. The opposition intends to cause damage. Real damage. Political damage. The kind they pay attention to.

President Obama’s political advisors have embraced this “Sister Souljah moment.” They have chosen Jerusalem as the ground for their big fight.

The ball is now in our court.

We should take up the challenge.



Israel Matzav: Obama's Sister Souljah moment

Israel Matzav: Palin rips Obama on Israel

Palin rips Obama on Israel

Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin ripped the Obama administration in a prepared statement, contrasting its policy of 'engaging' with enemies to its tough talk to guess which ally (Hat Tip: Memeorandum).

In the midst of all this embracing of enemies, where does the Obama Administration choose to escalate a minor incident into a major diplomatic confrontation? With Iran, Cuba, Sudan, North Korea or Burma? No. With our treasured ally, Israel.

Last October, Secretary of State Clinton recognized Israel's desire for peace in the Middle East and praised Israel's “unprecedented” concessions for agreeing to halt settlement construction in the West Bank, a concession that did NOT include halting construction of apartments for Jews in Jerusalem. Even last week after planned construction was announced, Vice President Biden still expressed “appreciation” for the “significant” steps taken by the Israeli government to address this minor issue. Now, however, we see the Obama Administration has decided to escalate, make unilateral demands of Israel, and threaten the very foundation of the US-Israel relationship. This is quickly leading to the worst crisis in US-Israel relations in decades, and yet this did not have to happen. More importantly, it needs to stop before it spirals out of control. Vice President Biden should rein in the overheated Obama Administration rhetoric and chill the political spin masters' fire as they visit the Sunday media shows to criticize Israel.

Once again, the Obama Administration is missing the boat on a very, very important issue. They need to go back to the basics and acknowledge Palestinian leaders have not progressed any peace process since President Obama was elected. As Israel makes concessions (and is still criticized by the Obama Administration), Arab leaders are just sitting back waiting for the White House to further pressure Israel. The Obama Administration needs to open its eyes and recognize that it is only Iran and her terrorist allies that benefit from this manufactured Israeli controversy.

Read the whole thing.

I wonder where she got the idea of having Biden rein in Obama. I don't believe anyone is capable of reining in Obama (in fact, his dogmatism is one of his weakest points). And despite all the rhetoric over the last week about the poor, injured Joe Biden, I don't have the impression that the White House takes him all that seriously.

The American electorate is the only entity capable of reining Obama in. And it won't have another shot at doing that until November.

But man did it feel good to hear Sarah Palin call us a 'treasured ally.'


Israel Matzav: Palin rips Obama on Israel

Israel Matzav: Petraeus' fodder for anti-Semites?

Petraeus' fodder for anti-Semites?

On Sunday, I blogged a Foreign Policy blog post in which former Arafat aide Mark Perry claimed that US Centcom commander David Petraeus had sent a team to brief US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Michael Mullen that "there was a growing perception among Arab leaders that the U.S. was incapable of standing up to Israel, that CENTCOM's mostly Arab constituency was losing faith in American promises, that Israeli intransigence on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was jeopardizing U.S. standing in the region, and that Mitchell himself was (as a senior Pentagon officer later bluntly described it) "too old, too slow...and too late.""

I'd like to revisit that story from two angles. First, General Petraeus testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday morning. I have some of that testimony for you. And second, I'd like to look at the question of whether what Petraeus said provided fodder for anti-Semites.

Laura Rozen has details on General Petraeus' testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee. It's a mixed bag. On the one hand, Petraeus said that he supports Mitchell's efforts in the Middle East, belying the claim that Petraeus said that Mitchell himself is "too old, too slow...and too late." On the other hand, Petraeus confirmed the importance to the Arab countries of resolving the Israeli - Arab conflict, thereby giving credence to the Arab countries' line that the road to resolving all problems in the Middle East goes through Jerusalem. But neither Rozen's post nor Petraeus' prepared testimony (56-page pdf link) says anything close to the words that Perry put into Petraeus' mouth about "a growing perception among Arab leaders that the U.S. was incapable of standing up to Israel, that CENTCOM's mostly Arab constituency was losing faith in American promises, that Israeli intransigence on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was jeopardizing U.S. standing in the region." Petraeus also denied having asked that Israel (including Gaza, Judea and Samaria) be transferred from EUCOM to CENTCOM.

Here's some what Rozen posted:

“Isn’t the issue not the issue of settlements as much as it is the existence of the state of Israel,” McCain said in the long run up to his question. “Its neighbors with some exceptions have dedicated themselves to the extermination of Israel …. So maybe you could put it all into the larger context of what needs to be done to reduce tensions on the U.S.’s closest ally and friend in many respects. And what needs to be done to defuse” tensions.

McCain then threw in a softball question, by asking Petraeus, and isn’t it true that you greatly support Sen. Mitchell’s efforts.

“Absolutely true,” Petraeus said emphatically.

In his prepared testimony, Petraeus listed the Israeli-Arab conflict as the first “cross cutting challenge to security and stability” in the Centcom area of responsibility [AOR]. “The enduring hostilities between Israel and some of its neighbors present distinct challenges to our ability to advance our interests in the AOR,” he wrote. “The conflict foments anti-American sentiment, due to a perception of U.S. favoritism for Israel. Arab anger over the Palestinian question limits the strength and depth of U.S. partnerships with governments and peoples in the AOR and weakens the legitimacy of moderate regimes in the Arab world.”

“Meanwhile, al-Qaeda and other militant groups exploit that anger to mobilize support,” his testimony continued. “The conflict also gives Iran influence in the Arab world through its clients, Lebanese Hizballah and Hamas.”

In the section on Iran, Petraeus also wrote that: “A credible U.S. effort on Arab-Israeli issues that provides regional governments and populations a way to achieve a comprehensive settlement of the disputes would undercut Iran’s policy of militant ‘resistance,’ which the Iranian regime and insurgent groups have been free to exploit.”

“Additionally, progress on the Israel-Syria peace track could disrupt Iran’s lines of support to Hamas and Hizballah,” he wrote.

Perry's article in Foreign Policy also included the following statement:

The January Mullen briefing was unprecedented. No previous CENTCOM commander had ever expressed himself on what is essentially a political issue; which is why the briefers were careful to tell Mullen that their conclusions followed from a December 2009 tour of the region where, on Petraeus's instructions, they spoke to senior Arab leaders. "Everywhere they went, the message was pretty humbling," a Pentagon officer familiar with the briefing says. "America was not only viewed as weak, but its military posture in the region was eroding."

Perry claimed that briefing was the basis for Biden's accusation that Israel was endangering US troops. In an interview with the Jerusalem Post, the Anti-Defamation League's Abe Foxman called that accusation 'dangerous,' implied that it is anti-Semitic, and stressed the importance of combating it.

“This is probably one of the most serious charges that we have ever heard,” Foxman said.

“Israel is a country that has never asked American soldiers, even in its darkest moment, to risk its lives to defend it. From time to time there have been suggestions of security pacts, where the US would have to come to Israel’s aid, and all the leaders of Israel have said that the last thing they would want is for US soldiers to risk their lives to defend Israelis,” he said.

The charge that supporting Israel endangers US soldiers, Foxman said, comes from the “linkage fantasy,” a point of view that “if you just resolve this conflict, everything else will fall into place: Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, America’s war with fundamentalist Islam.”

[Bar Ilan University Political Science Professor Eytan] Gilboa, meanwhile, said that if not combated aggressively, this argument – if it gains traction among the American public – could undermine the widespread support in the US for Israel.

“All Americans support their troops,” he said, adding that this particular argument was “very dangerous.”

Read the whole thing. Perry is probably an anti-Semite. He took whatever Petraeus said (and probably what Biden said as well) and blew it out of proportion. Still, the fact that the US commander of CENTCOM is willing to accept Arab excuses for not cooperating with the United States is a sad reflection on the failure of American efforts to forge alliances with Arab countries. Perhaps the US needs to reconsider some of those alliances.

UPDATE 8:57 PM

Barry Rubin has more on Petraeus' testimony here.

Israel Matzav: Petraeus' fodder for anti-Semites?

Israel Matzav: Netanyahu's freedom of action

Netanyahu's freedom of action

Dr. Aaron Lerner argues that the Obama administration's attacks on Prime Minister Netanyahu have freed the Prime Minister from attempting to placate Obama. According to Lerner, Netanyahu can now act in Israel's best interests without worrying about what America might think.

At the start of the Ramat Shlomo incident Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had to carefully and painstakingly weigh his moves as he attempted to placate Washington without causing a crisis in his own party and the ruling coalition.

This all changed when, over the course of the weekend, it became clear that the Obama team had decided to exploit the Ramat Shlomo incident to try and oust Netanyahu by forcing him to take actions that they themselves expected would ultimately break up his ruling coalition.

This simplified matters considerably.

Fine tuning was no longer relevant.

And thus, a clearly relieved Netanyahu was able to take a very clear stand today that construction would continue, as it has ever since 1967, in all of Jerusalem. And he reiterated that the settlement housing construction freeze would indeed end as promised after ten months.

As I've mentioned a couple of times, the real lesson Bibi learned in 1999 was to keep his coalition together and not, as is commonly believed abroad, not to 'screw up' Israel's relationship with the United States.

But the real question is what will happen if the Labor party threatens to withdraw from the coalition when the 'settlement freeze' ends unless Bibi extends it or makes 'progress' with the 'Palestinians.' At that point, I hope that Bibi has the courage to keep going with a Right wing only coalition. But I'm not sure he does.

Aaron takes this in a different direction. Read the whole thing.

Israel Matzav: Netanyahu's freedom of action

Love of the Land: Obama has crossed the line

Obama has crossed the line


Isi Leibler
Speaking Candidly from Jerusalem
16 March '10

The bureaucratic fashla [blunder] of our dysfunctional government to forestall the announcement of a new housing project in Jerusalem during the visit of US Vice President Joe Biden provided a pretext for the Obama administration to launch one of the harshest condemnations ever leveled against us by a US government. But while the timing of the announcement was appalling, it involved no breach of undertaking.

In fact, the Obama administration had previously publicly praised the Israeli government for making a “major concession” by imposing a settlement freeze which explicitly excluded Jerusalem.

The campaign was personally orchestrated by President Barack Obama. His Vice President Biden accused us of “endangering US lives in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.” Despite Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s abject apology, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton accused him of “insulting” the US. Obama’s chief political adviser David Axelrod even claimed that the Israeli government was deliberately undermining peace talks.

These hostile outbursts must be viewed in the context of the fact that despite strong ongoing support for Israel by the American people, the US-Israel relationship has been on a downward spiral since the election of the new administration. Former Mossad head Ephraim Halevy attributes this to Obama’s determination to rehabilitate Islam’s global tarnished image.

Yet his strategy of “engaging” Islamic rogue states has been disastrous. The effort to prevent the nuclearization of Iran by appeasing the Iranian tyrants backfired with the ayatollahs literally mocking the US. The response of Syrian President Bashar Assad to US groveling and the appointment of an ambassador to Damascus, was to host a summit with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Hizbullah terrorist leader Hassan Nasrallah and ridicule the US demand that he curtail his relationship with Iran. President Obama did not consider this “insulting,” prompting the editor of the Lebanese The Daily Star to say that “the Obama administration these days provokes little confidence in its allies and even less fear in its adversaries.”

(Read full article)


Love of the Land: Obama has crossed the line

Love of the Land: What About The Arab Apartheid?

What About The Arab Apartheid?


Khaled Abu Toameh
Hudson New York
16 March '10

How come the Lebanese students who recently talked about Israel's "war crimes" in the Gaza Strip during Israel Apartheid Week on many North American college campuses had nothing to say about the fact that tens of thousands of Palestinians have been massacred in Lebanon over the past four decades?

Dozens of refugees were killed and hundreds wounded in the three-month offensive that also destroyed thousands of houses inside the refugee camp. Reporters said it was the worst internal violence in Lebanon since the civil war that hit the country between 1975-1990. And just three years ago, the Lebanese Army used heavy artillery to bomb the Nahr-al-Bared refugee camp in north Lebanon.

Yet who has ever heard of a United Nations resolution condemning Syria or Lebanon for committing horrific atrocities or discriminating against the Palestinians?

The Lebanese, Syrian and Jordanian students and professors who took part in the anti-Israel events on campuses have clearly "forgotten" that their regimes probably have more Palestinian blood on their hands than Israel. In the early 1970s, the Jordanians slaughtered thousands of Palestinians in what has become known as Black September. Can somebody point to one United Nations resolution condemning that massacre?

And where was the United Nations when Kuwait and several Gulf countries expelled more than 400,000 Palestinians in one week? The exodus took place in March 1991, after Kuwait was liberated from Iraqi occupation. Ironically, the first week of March is being celebrated on university campuses as Israel Apartheid Week with no reference to the mass expulsion of Palestinians from the Gulf.

(Read full article)

Related: Let's launch 'Arab Apartheid Week'


Love of the Land: What About The Arab Apartheid?

RubinReports: Three great articles on the US-Israel Crisis

Three great articles on the US-Israel Crisis

Two of Israel's leading journalists on the moderate left, who don't like Netanyahu, have written a great article repeating the basic points I've been trying to make with excellent clarity about how the Obama Administration is alienating Israelis:

"America's response to the government's approval of 1,600 new housing units in Ramat Shlomo in northeast Jerusalem is excessive. While it extends a hand to Iran, which continues in its effort to acquire a nuclear bomb; and reaches out to Syria as it arms Hezbollah with advanced weapons, it seems the Obama administration has made a conscious decision to aggravate a diplomatic crisis with the Netanyahu government."

They add:

"Attempts to imply that Israeli policy is endangering the lives of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan, and even Iraq, verge on an insult to the intelligence - U.S. citizens particualrly. Afghans don't care about Ramat Shlomo, or about the Palestinians and Netanyahu. They have problems of their own to deal with. As far as extremist Islamists are concerned, the seven-year presence of American forces on Iraqi soil is a good enough excuse to attack Americans.


"Efforts by Obama's senior adviser, David Axelrod, to imply otherwise in television interviews are dishonest. The only people who to suffer from Israeli policy decisions are the Palestinians and neighboring states that have peace agreements with Israel - Jordan and Egypt. Not a single U.S. soldier in Afghanistan is at risk because of 1,600 housing units in Jerusalem."

And they note that this U.S. policy actually damages any chance for a peace process, or even quiet, by making the Palestinians feel they can get more by being more aggressive in demands and perhaps through violence:

"But perhaps what is most important is this: Palestinians see the Obama administration's decision to attack Israel as an invitation to adopt a more confrontational line....But the PA has smelled blood....So why not start a riot and blame the Israelis, especially when the U.S. government is doing the same.
Meanwhile, the Washington Post gets it, too in an editorial

"Mr. Obama risks repeating his previous error. American chastising of Israel invariably prompts still harsher rhetoric, and elevated demands, from Palestinian and other Arab leaders. Rather than join peace talks, Palestinians will now wait to see what unilateral Israeli steps Washington forces.... If the White House insists on a reversal of the settlement decision, or allows Palestinians to do so, it might land in the same corner from which it just extricated itself....If this episode reinforces that image, Mr. Obama will accomplish the opposite of what he intends."

Then there's David Rothkopf at Foreign Policy:

"The bigger message that will be unintentionally have been delivered to the world at the end of all this is that the United States is willing to get fierce with its friend Israel over a perceived insult but that we are likely to remain ineffective in the face of self-declared Iranian enemies' efforts to destabilize the entire Middle East with nuclear weapons. This is not only a problem for the president because the outcome is so dangerous. It's also that "tough on your friends, weak with your enemies" is neither a common trait among great leaders nor is it a particularly good campaign bumper sticker."


RubinReports: Three great articles on the US-Israel Crisis

RubinReports: Why What General Petraeus said is Wrong about the Middle East (or is it just being misinterpreted?)

Why What General Petraeus said is Wrong about the Middle East (or is it just being misinterpreted?)

By Barry Rubin

General David Petraeus is a smart guy, one of the smartest in the U.S. government at present. But he’s no Middle East expert. Let’s examine two remarks he made in his congressional testimony. Before we do, though, promise me you will read paragraph 17 because there's a very explosive point made there you won't find anywhere else. Agreed? OK, let's go.

Please note, by the way, that what he actually said is far milder than earlier leaks claimed. In addition, of course, Petraeus has to support White House policy, whatever he really thinks or knows. The Defense Department's recent Quadrennial review, also written to please the White House, contained not one mention of Iran's drive to get nuclear weapons or the threat of revolutionary Islamism. And he also has advisors who tell him the wrong stuff.

Statement One:

“A credible U.S. effort on Arab-Israeli issues that provides regional governments and populations a way to achieve a comprehensive settlement of the disputes would undercut Iran’s policy of militant ‘resistance,’ which the Iranian regime and insurgent groups have been free to exploit.”

On the surface this makes a lot of sense. But let’s examine it closely. Let’s assume there is a comprehensive settlement to which the Palestinian Authority (PA) agrees. It isn’t going to happen but this is for demonstration purposes.

In order to get an agreement, the PA would have to make some concessions, let’s keep them to the minimum for our discussion. At a minimum, it would have to say that the conflict is at an end, recognize Israel, renounce Palestinian claims to all of Israel, and agree to settle all Palestinian refugees in Palestine. In addition, it might have to make some small territorial swaps, not get every square inch of east Jerusalem, and agree to some limits on its military forces.

What would happen?

First, none of this would apply to the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip. Hamas, Hizballah, Syria, Iran, Muslim Brotherhoods, and many others would renounce this as treason. Hamas would continue to attack Israel; its forces in the West Bank would stage cross-border raids into Israel and try to seize power in the West Bank.

Would the kind of people who are now prone to support revolutionary Islamism then say: “What a fair settlement. This settles all our grievances. Thank you, America for being so wonderful!”

While to many Western observers such a reaction would seem logical this is not what would happen. The Western onlooker is assuming a pragmatic, facts-based response rather than an ideological response based on massive disinformation by governments, media, religious leaders, and political movements.

They would say, paraphrasing the words of an ancient Chinese military theorist: The enemy retreats, we advance. They are weak and fearful. The day of victory is near! They would denounce the puppet Palestinian state as a Western lackey. They would redouble their efforts to sabotage the settlement.

Moreover, it would change nothing regarding their goal of overthrowing their own governments.

What about the U.S. effort being “credible?” Credible to whom? It might be credible to the New York Times but will it be credible to al-Safir in Lebanon, to pick a newspaper at random? No matter how hard the United States tries it will not satisfy the criteria of those who profoundly mistrust America as inevitably infidel, imperialist, or both. It might be credible to an upper middle class intellectual in Cairo who has been educated in the West but will it be credible to the masses who believe in conspiracy theories?

Would people in Egypt or Jordan not support the Muslim Brotherhoods there, to give only one example, because there was a “credible” peace process? Would anyone in Iraq or Afghanistan behave differently at all, distracted by their struggle to gain or hold power and to fight communal rivals because of such a “credible” process? The idea is absurd.

And if what Petraeus says on this point is true, why aren’t the regimes—and the PA, too--doing everything in their power day and night to bring about such a settlement? Why do they just keep repeating: You owe us, it’s all your fault. Solve the problem?

Why didn’t, say, Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip trigger a rush by Arab regimes to help establish and maintain a stable, moderate regime there?

PARAGRAPH 17
BUT WAIT! There's something remarkable here. Why should we assume--as most people remarking on the testimony have--that a "credible" effort means pressuring Israel for concessions? Actually, if there's going to be a credible effort it requires pressuring the PA, which has been the main force opposing a serious peace process. Remember it was the PA who wrecked the peace process in 2000, and it was the PA which refused to negotiate for 14 months. Maybe there is no credible process because the current U.S. government has never once publicly criticized the PA! So, how about this: In order to have a credible effort, the U.S. government must tell the PA to stop incitement to murder Israelis, to start preparing their people for a two-state solution, to agree to compromises of its own. That's the most important step to having a credible effort. Petreus never said that it is Israel which is blocking such an effort. And it isn't Israel. Of course, Petraeus never said it was Israel's fault. Perhaps he knows that. After all, if Israel doesn't build one more apartment in east Jerusalem--something the PLO agreed it could do in 1993 as part of the framework for negotiations, something the U.S. government accepted last November--nothing would change.

Here’s Petraeus’s second statement:

“Additionally, progress on the Israel-Syria peace track could disrupt Iran’s lines of support to Hamas and Hizballah.”

Why would this be so? What does Hamas care about the Israel-Syria track? Why should Iran give less support to Hizballah as a result? After all, Hizballah is trying to take over Lebanon, not the Golan Heights.

Presumably, the subtext here is that Syria would be so happy to be making progress that it would subvert Iran’s relationship to Hamas and Hizballah. But why should Damascus undercut its relationship with Tehran just to have talks with Israel? Shouldn’t we remember the 1991-2000 period when there was “progress on the Israel-Syria peace track” and yet it had no effect on Syria’s relationship with Iran or the two Islamist revolutionary movements?

The truth is that Syria knows it can give support to these groups and hold negotiations with Israel. True, Syria would not foment an attack by Hizballah on Israel that would set off a war (which it did foment in 2006) but it isn’t doing that any way. Hizballah is busy trying to take over Lebanon. The best guarantee that Hizballah won’t attack Israel at least for a while is the drubbing it received at Israel’s hands in 2006, even though Hizballah will never admit that.

Let’s suppose there would be intensive Israel-Syria talks. Would that reduce by one dollar or by one gun the support Iran is giving to Hamas and Hizballah? Of course not.

Of course, to be fair to Petraeus, he only said “could” disrupt not would disrupt.

Oh and another "Paragraph 17":

Might not progress on the Israel-Syria track require a tougher U.S. stand on Syria so that Damascus would understand that it cannot back Hizballah (disrupting Lebanon) and Hamas (helping to make any Israel-Palestinian peace process impossible) while still getting U.S. concessions. How about, U.S. to Syria: If you ever want to get the Golan Heights back you better change your policy!

So perhaps Petraeus could be interpreted in a totally different way.

Yet the telling thing about the kind of points made by Petraeus--at least as they are generally interpreted--is that they are ridiculously easy to puncture. I wonder if he knows that also.

Like so much said about the Middle East, the two statements analyzed above--at least as they are generally interpreted (yes, the repetition is on purpose) might make sense to someone who wandered off the street into the middle of the movie and who hadn’t seen the first hour. Moreover, if there is close to a monopoly in the universities and mass media, where contrary arguments like those made above virtually never appear, it is even easier to reach such conclusions.


RubinReports: Why What General Petraeus said is Wrong about the Middle East (or is it just being misinterpreted?)

DoubleTapper: Today in Jewish History

Today in Jewish History

597 BCE: The first conquest of Jerusalem by Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar occurred. In the Bible, the event is recorded in 2 Kings 24:1ff. and in 2 Chronicles 36:5-8. It is also implied in the early chapters of Jeremiah and Ezekiel.

1743: The New-York Weekly Journal reported that a Jewish funeral procession in New York was attacked by a mob. According to "one learned Christian" witness to it, the mob had, "insulted the dead in such a vile manner that to mention all would shock a human ear."

1900: Theodore Herzl, the founder of modern Zionism, in his never ending quest to have the rich and powerful support the creation of a Jewish homeland in Eretz Israel, had a luncheon with Eulenburg-Hertefeld, the German ambassador in Vienna.

1917: Provisional government of Russia voided many anti-Jewish laws and restrictions. This was the so-called Kerensky Government which replaced the Czar. Unfortunately, Kerensky and the forces of democracy were overthrown by Lenin and his Bolsheviks.

1935: Fourteen Jewish American athletes and their manager David White set sail on the SS Conte di Savola. The athletes will participate in the Maccabiah, the Jewish Olympics, scheduled to open in April in Tel Aviv, Palestine. Due to unexpected financial difficulties, it was not known until the last minute if the team would be able to go to Palestine. Thirty teams were expected to compete in the games up from the twenty-five teams that competed in the inaugural Jewish Olympics held in Tel Aviv, Palestine in 1932.

1936: Jews in Palestine protested the worsening conditions under which the Jews of Poland were living. Polish Jews were dealing with everything from a government threat to end Kosher slaughtering to actual Pogroms. The Jewish National Council of Palestine conducted a mass protest meeting and the Jews of Tel Aviv, Palestine shuttered their shops for one day.

1942: The first 1,600 Jews were deported from Lublin to Belzec. Another 10,000 would follow the next week

1943(9th of Adar II, 5703): An SS officer was killed by a Jew named Kotnowski at Lvov. In reprisal, the Germans hung 11 Jewish policemen from the balconies overlooking the main street of the Ghetto. Also over 1,000 Jews were taken away and shot.

1947: The British announce plans to end Martial Law in Tel Aviv, Palestine and adjacent areas effective tomorrow.

1947: An explosion ripped through press room and tourist information center in the Jerusalem, Palestine in the offices of the Jewish agency. While some said the attack was the work of “Jewish terrorists” and highlighted the split between Yishuv and militant extremists, the Irgun denied responsibility and said the attack may have been the work of the British.



DoubleTapper: Today in Jewish History

Israel Matzav: Europe's pretext for procrastination

Europe's pretext for procrastination

Baroness Catherine Ashton, the EU's foreign policy chief, is in the Middle East this week, and Emanuele Ottolenghi says that it's time for Ashton to stop letting the Israeli - 'Palestinian' dispute drive all of Europe's other interests in the region.

By prioritizing the Palestinian-Israeli dispute over other regional goals, the EU is allowing its interests to be at the mercy of the Palestinians' intramural power contests and Israeli's coalition politics, not to mention Arab tyrants and the greater radical Islam movement.

With tunnel-vision for a Palestinian-Israeli solution, Europe is bowing to supposedly moderate Arab regimes that are recalcitrant about promoting democracy, strengthening civil society, fighting corruption, and improving governance. As they are no doubt telling Ms. Ashton during her first visit to the region, they are prepared to help in the quest for a negotiated Palestinian-Israel solution, but in exchange, Europe must forgo its demands for change inside their own societies. Perhaps that's why, in Ms. Ashton's speech in Cairo on Monday, she contented herself with pressing Hosni Mubarak's repressive autocracy to join efforts to "move from conflict management to conflict resolution" between Israelis and Palestinians. Meanwhile, she made no mention of the woes suffered by more than 80 million Egyptians, not once uttering the words "rights," "governance," or "democracy."

And so it goes: Authoritarian Arab regimes whose policies run contrary to European interests and values get off the hook, while Israel—a democracy and Europe's best economic partner in the area—stays in the doghouse.

Europe can't afford to delay addressing other pressing regional problems because of a stalled Palestinian-Israeli peace agreement. Good governance and respect for human rights in the Maghreb or the Levant are not impeded by the Palestinian-Israeli dispute. Indeed, respectable leadership at home is something the EU should require of its Arab interlocutors in exchange for economic aid, direct investment, and political partnerships. It is risible to use the absence of Palestinian statehood as a pretext to disregard most Arab countries' need for internal reforms, and to ignore their unfulfilled commitments with the EU Association Agreements.

Similarly, denying Israel an upgrade in relations makes little sense. Europe and Israel share values and interests: Israel is a representative democracy, it is an open society, it has a vibrant free press, and it is a robust economy with much to offer Europe thanks to its dynamic, innovative, high-tech-oriented business environment. Israel is an island of stability in a sea of confusion, and an oasis of freedom in the authoritarian desert the Middle East continues to be. Seeking a closer political and economic relationship with Israel thus makes perfect sense and should not be made hostage to a peace process that for almost 10 years now has shown few signs of progress anyway.

All true. But don't hold your breath waiting for Europe to suddenly stop placing the Israeli - 'Palestinian' dispute at the top of the list. For many European countries (e.g. Sweden) this isn't about values or interests: It's about anti-Semitism or about fear of how their Muslim populations would react if Europe normalized relations with the hated Jews.

Ashton herself is enough of an Israel hater that she's not going to be the one to push for change.

Read the whole thing.


Israel Matzav: Europe's pretext for procrastination

RubinReports: How Can Turkey's Government be a U.S. Ally if it's an Ally of Iran?

How Can Turkey's Government be a U.S. Ally if it's an Ally of Iran?



By Barry Rubin

Syria's government newspaper says Turkey is an ally of Syria and Iran. Iran's president says that Turkey is an ally of Syria and Iran. And now the prime minister of Turkey says basically the same thing. Yet much of the West is blind to what is right there out in the open.

The latest development is an interview that Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan gave to the BBC totally defending the Iranian regime and claiming that country has no intention of developing nuclear weapons. (Do you think the Obama Administration will persuade Erdogan to support sanctions when he insists that there is no problem at all?)


Erdogan called Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a "friend." He said, "Countries with nuclear weapons are not in a position to turn to another country and say: 'You are not supposed to produce nuclear weapons.'" The Turkish prime minister insisted:

"Iran has consistently spoken of the fact that it is seeking to use nuclear energy for civilian purposes and that they are using uranium enrichment programmes for civilian purposes only....That is what Mr Ahmadinejad has told me many times before."

Well as the old labor union song put it about coal miners in Kentucky:

"They say in Harlan County
There are no neutrals there.
You'll either be a union man.
Or a thug for J.H. Blair
Which side are you on?"

The Turkish regime and its new friends--which include Hamas and Hizballah--know which side that government is on, when will the U.S. government notice?



RubinReports: How Can Turkey's Government be a U.S. Ally if it's an Ally of Iran?

Love of the Land: America's Shiny New Palestinian Militia

America's Shiny New Palestinian Militia


Daniel Pipes
National Review Online
March 16, 2010

"The stupidest program the U.S. government has ever undertaken" – last year that's what I called American efforts to improve the Palestinian Authority (PA) military force. Slightly hyperbolic, yes, but the description fits because those efforts enhance the fighting power of enemies of the United States and its Israeli ally.

First, a primer about the program, drawing on a recent Center of Near East Policy Research by David Bedein and Arlene Kushner:

Shortly after Yasir Arafat died in late 2004, the U.S. government established the Office of the U.S. Security Coordinator to reform, recruit, train, and equip the PA militia (called the National Security Forces or Quwwat al-Amn al-Watani) and make them politically accountable. For nearly all of its existence, the office has been headed by Lt. Gen. Keith Dayton. Since 2007, American taxpayers have funded it to the tune of US$100 million a year. Many agencies of the U.S. government have been involved in the program, including the State Department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security, the Secret Service, and branches of the military.

The PA militia has in total about 30,000 troops, of which four battalions comprising 2,100 troops have passed scrutiny for lack of criminal or terrorist ties and undergone 1,400 hours of training at an American facility in Jordan. There they study subjects ranging from small-unit tactics and crime-scene investigations to first aid and human rights law.

With Israeli permission, these troops have deployed in areas of Hebron, Jenin, and Nablus. So far, this experiment has gone well, prompting widespread praise. Senator John Kerry (Democrat of Massachusetts) calls the program "extremely encouraging" and Thomas Friedman of the New York Times discerns in the U.S.-trained troops a possible "Palestinian peace partner for Israel" taking shape.

(Read full article)


Love of the Land: America's Shiny New Palestinian Militia

Love of the Land: Now, Who Said Those Insulting Provocative Words on Jerusalem?

Now, Who Said Those Insulting Provocative Words on Jerusalem?


Yisrael Medad
My Right Word
15 March '10

I wonder to what degree Obama, Emanuel, Clinton and Axelrod would go apoplectic over this, sent to me by RL:

Whereas the State of Israel has declared Jerusalem to be its capital;

Whereas from 1948 to 1967 Jerusalem was a divided city and Israeli citizens of all faiths were not permitted access to holy sites in the area controlled by Jordan; Whereas since 1967 Jerusalem has been a united city administered by Israel and persons of all religious faiths have been guaranteed full access to holy sites within the city;

Whereas the President and the Secretary of State have demonstrated their strong desire to achieve a just and lasting peace in the Middle East and have worked diligently toward that end;

Whereas ambiguous statements by the Government of the United States concerning the right of Jews to live in all parts of Jerusalem raise concerns in Israel that Jerusalem might one day be redivided and access to religious sites in Jerusalem denied to Israeli citizens; and the search for a lasting peace in the region:


(Read full post)

Love of the Land: Now, Who Said Those Insulting Provocative Words on Jerusalem?

Love of the Land: Background: How Obama team attacks liberated Netanyahu

Background: How Obama team attacks liberated Netanyahu


Dr. Aaron Lerner
IMRA
15 March '10

At the start of the Ramat Shlomo incident Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had to carefully and painstakingly weigh his moves as he attempted to placate Washington without causing a crisis in his own party and the ruling coalition.

This all changed when, over the course of the weekend, it became clear that the Obama team had decided to exploit the Ramat Shlomo incident to try and oust Netanyahu by forcing him to take actions that they themselves expected would ultimately break up his ruling coalition.

This simplified matters considerably.

Fine tuning was no longer relevant.

(Read full post)

Love of the Land: Background: How Obama team attacks liberated Netanyahu

Israel Matzav: We can't trust the 'Palestinians' or Europe. Can we trust the US?

We can't trust the 'Palestinians' or Europe. Can we trust the US?

Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Bret Stephens doesn't get everything right, but he does get a couple of important points. The conflict is existential. The expulsion from Gaza has shown what Israel is likely to get if it gives up territory in Judea and Samaria. And Israel has a lot of good reasons for mistrusting the US:

Then there is the test case of Gaza. When Israel withdrew all of its settlements from the Strip in 2005, it was supposed to be an opportunity for Palestinians to demonstrate what they would do with a state if they got one. Instead, they quickly turned it into an Iranian-backed Hamas enclave that for nearly three years launched nonstop rocket and mortar barrages against Israeli civilians. Israel was ultimately able to contain that violence, but only at the price of a military campaign that was vehemently denounced by the very people who had urged Israel to withdraw in the first place.

As it happens, I supported Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza, bloody-minded neocon though I am. On balance, I still think it was the right thing to do. By 2005, Israel’s settlements in the Strip had become military and political liabilities. But there is a duty to take account of subsequent developments. And the sad fact is that the most important thing Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza accomplished was to expose the fanatical irredentism that still lies at the heart of the Palestinian movement.

The withdrawal exposed other things too. For years, Israel’s soi-disant friends, particularly in Europe, had piously insisted that they supported Israel’s right to self-defense against attacks on Israel proper. But none of them lifted a finger to object to the rocket attacks from Gaza, while they were outspoken in denouncing Israel’s “disproportionate” use of retaliatory force.

Similarly, Israel withdrew from Gaza with assurances from the Bush administration that the U.S. would not insist on a return to the 1967 borders in brokering any future deal with the Palestinians. But Hillary Clinton reneged on that commitment last year, and now the administration is going out of its way to provoke a diplomatic crisis with Israel over a construction project that—assuming it ever gets off the ground—is plainly in keeping with past U.S. undertakings.

In the past decade, Israelis have learned that neither Palestinians nor Europeans can be taken at their word. That’s a lesson they may soon begin to draw about the U.S. as well. Which is a pity for many reasons—not least because it gives the settler movement every excuse it needs to keep rolling right along.

Mr. Stephens - a former JPost editor in chief - needs to consider the possibility that expelling all the Jews from Gaza was the wrong thing to do. And I'd love to hear why - given that he admits that there is no chance for peace - he still finds 'settlement building' objectionable. It's time to stop deluding ourselves that peace with the 'Palestinians' is on the horizon and to hold territory in trust for them. Maybe if they saw that they were losing more and more land, they would come to the table and negotiate rather than demand.

But he does get some other things right. Read the whole thing.

Israel Matzav: We can't trust the 'Palestinians' or Europe. Can we trust the US?

Israel Matzav: Is David Landau getting his wish?

Is David Landau getting his wish?

Are Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton trying to do what George Bush and Condi Rice wouldn't?

Israel Matzav: Is David Landau getting his wish?

Elder of Ziyon: "Violence erupts" - all by itself!

Elder of Ziyon: "Violence erupts" - all by itself!

Elder of Ziyon: Two Malaysian pre-teens married to middle-aged men

Elder of Ziyon: Two Malaysian pre-teens married to middle-aged men

Elder of Ziyon: Comment headache open thread

Elder of Ziyon: Comment headache open thread

Elder of Ziyon: So today is the day!

Elder of Ziyon: So today is the day!

Elder of Ziyon: WaPo slams Obama's Middle East missteps

Elder of Ziyon: WaPo slams Obama's Middle East missteps

Netanyahu on the Offense: Jerusalem Building to Continue - Politics & Gov't - Israel News - Israel National News

Netanyahu on the Offense: Jerusalem Building to Continue - Politics & Gov't - Israel News - Israel National News

Mitchell Delays Return Trip, US Waiting for Netanyahu - Politics & Gov't - Israel News - Israel National News

Mitchell Delays Return Trip, US Waiting for Netanyahu - Politics & Gov't - Israel News - Israel National News

GOP Leads Backlash against Obama; Democrats Uneasy - Politics & Gov't - Israel News - Israel National News

GOP Leads Backlash against Obama; Democrats Uneasy - Politics & Gov't - Israel News - Israel National News

Fatah Honors Mass Terrorist after Biden Leaves - Defense/Middle East - Israel News - Israel National News

Fatah Honors Mass Terrorist after Biden Leaves - Defense/Middle East - Israel News - Israel National News

Brazil's Leader Snubs Mt. Herzl but Will Visit Arafat's Grave - Politics & Gov't - Israel News - Israel National News

Brazil's Leader Snubs Mt. Herzl but Will Visit Arafat's Grave - Politics & Gov't - Israel News - Israel National News

Soldier Wounded by PA Rioters - Defense/Middle East - Israel News - Israel National News

Soldier Wounded by PA Rioters - Defense/Middle East - Israel News - Israel National News

Despite Apology, Danon Backs Netanyahu - Politics & Gov't - Israel News - Israel National News#replies

Despite Apology, Danon Backs Netanyahu - Politics & Gov't - Israel News - Israel National News#replies

Israel Matzav: CAMERA reports on Madrid's El Pais

CAMERA reports on Madrid's El Pais

Two weeks ago, I reported on anti-Semitism in Spain. One of the reasons that may be behind that anti-Semitism is the extreme anti-Israel bias of the Spanish media. CAMERA reports on the anti-Israel bias at Madrid's El Pais, Spain's largest newspaper.

Are Israelis aware of the Israel-bashing and demonizing carried out in the Iberian press?

Do they know, for example, the case of Madrid's El País? With 430,000 daily copies and an Internet readership of over two million, El País is considered the “leader of the mainstream press in Spain.” And alongside every single article about Israel on the website of this pre-eminent newspaper is a profile of Israel that lists Tel Aviv as the country's capital.

In its section “Corresponsales” (reporters), El País explains that reporter Juan Miguel Muñoz reports from “Jerusalem, Near East.” No other reporter is identified like this as based in a geographic area; they are all in a named country (except those who report on the EU from Brussels).

ReVista de Medio Oriente, a Spanish media watchdog organization, asked El País' editors why this different treatment of Israel. About their placement of Israel's capital in the “Near East,” they said that Muñoz “reports from Jerusalem on Lebanon and Syria too” — hardly a convincing answer on the face of it, and even less so because the reporter almost never writes about those countries but writes practically daily on Israel. About Tel Aviv as the capital of Israel, the editors told ReVista that the “directive to maintain this designation the way it is comes from the paper's directors and can't be changed.”

Analysis of Muñoz's biased reporting has been published at ReVista for two years and recently, a further, in-depth review examined all his articles in El País during an arbitrarily-selected three week period in January and February of 2010. The study showed that Muñoz mainly picked up material from the “local press” (as he calls the Israeli press) and re-wrote it in Spanish. He selectively chose topics that cast Israel in a negative light and presented them without context, creating an image of a nation populated by lunatics and killers.

In this vein, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu is portrayed continuously as cynically posing for the press, and his concerns about Iran are all cast as politically motivated rather than justified on security grounds.

In two such articles (February 7th and 10th) Muñoz includes not even one sentence on Iran's threats to world order. Although many nations in the West and Middle East are increasingly alarmed at the peril posed by a nuclear Iran, to read and believe Muñoz is to conclude only Netanyahu has problems with Iran (and they are actually just political posturing). “Benjamin Netanyahu has a fixation: To stop Iran's nuclear program”, Muñoz writes. “Possessing atomic weapons, and not a signer of the Non Proliferation Treaty, Israel will not accept losing the monopoly in the Middle East.”

It gets worse. El Pais made a Palinesque attack on Prime Minister Netanyahu's 15-year old son Avner for winning the recent bible contest in Jerusalem. Read the whole thing.


Israel Matzav: CAMERA reports on Madrid's El Pais

Israel Matzav: When the shoe was on the other foot

When the shoe was on the other foot

The fact that the overwhelming majority of those members of Congress coming out to support Israel are Republicans is not a good sign. Once upon a time, Israel was a bi-partisan issue. Jennifer Rubin takes us back to the good old days.

[I]n 1991, three founders of the Republican Jewish Coalition — Max Fisher, George Klein, and Dick Fox — penned a letter to then President George H.W. Bush strongly protesting the cutoff of loan guarantees as a lever to get (yes, nearly two decades and not much has changed) Israel to knuckle under at the bargaining table (then it was Madrid). It is the bipartisan support for Israel in Congress and in the United States at large which has been critical to the maintainence of a robust and warm alliance between the two countries. That it is fraying now, when the most critical national-security threat to both (Iran’s nuclear ambitions) looms large, is especially troubling. And that, in the statements from pro-Israel Republicans, AIPAC, the ADL, and others, is what the administration is being asked to focus on. But then, they have no solution or game plan — it seems — on Iran. So beating up on Israel passes the time and excuses, in their own mind, the inactivity on that most critical issue.

A bipartisan coalition in support of Israel, in which stated principles trump partisan loyalty and political convenience, has been the cornerstone of the U.S.-Israel relationship. We are reminded now that for a president to enthusiastically lead, rather than decimate, that coalition is essential. What’s indispensible is a U.S.president who does more than mouth platitudes about our enduring relationship with the Jewish state. What is needed is a president who does not adopt the rhetoric and the bargaining posture of intransigent Palestinians waiting for the U.S. to deliver Israel on a platter. Can our relationship survive without such a president? We are regrettably going to find out.

I guess this isn't so different from health care after all, is it? (For those of you in Israel who are not following what's going on in the US, the so-called Obamacare bill socializing American health care has not managed to attract a single Republican vote in either house).

America's first post-partisan President anyone? Maybe it was George H.W. Bush. He managed to unite everyone against him, at least on Israel. Unfortunately, most of the Democrats are putting party over principle in this dispute - at least so far.

Israel Matzav: When the shoe was on the other foot

Israel Matzav: Boehner, McCain slam Obama

Boehner, McCain slam Obama

House Minority leader John Boehner (R-Oh.) has slammed the Obama administration for its treatment of Israel (Hat Tip: Memeorandum).

"The administration has demonstrated a repeated pattern since it took office: while it makes concessions to countries acting contrary to U.S. national interests," Boehner (R-Ohio) said in his statement. "It ignores or snubs the commitments, shared values and sacrifices of many of our country’s best allies."

Boehner argued that the President should be more concerned with the behavior of Iran rather than Israel.

That's fair.

In the afternoon, Senators John McCain (R-Az.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Ct.) took the Senate floor to act as a tag team ripping the Obama administration.

McCain kicked things off asking (from a rough transcript) if it really helps to “have public disparagement by the secretary of state, by the president’s political adviser on the Sunday shows,” and whether it wouldn’t be better to “lower the dialogue, talk quietly among friends, and work together towards the mutual goals that we share.” Lieberman responded:

[The U.S.-Israel relationship is] one of the strongest, most important, most steadfast bilateral alliances we have in the world because it is not based on the temporal, that is matters that come and go, or politics and diplomacy. It’s based on shared values, shared strategic interests in the world and unfortunately now on the fact that the United States and the Israelis are also targets of the Islamic extremists, the terrorists who threaten the security of so much of the world.

Lieberman then went on to explain that a “bureaucratic mistake” was allowed to become a “major, for the moment, source of division” between the U.S. and Israel. He continued that this is “an area of Jerusalem that is today mostly Jewish” and that while the Israeli government contends that Jews have the right to build and live anywhere in its eternal capital, “this particular part of Jerusalem is in most anybody’s vision of a possible peace settlement going to be part of Israel.”

Read the whole thing.

Let's go to the videotape.



Others slamming the Obama administration for its treatment of Israel include Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fl.), the leading Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and Senator Sam Brownback (R-Kan.).

Israel Matzav: Boehner, McCain slam Obama

Israel Matzav: Mr. Mitchell stays home

Mr. Mitchell stays home

US Special Middle East envoy George Mitchell is not coming to Israel today (Tuesday) as planned.

US Special Envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell has decided to postpone his visit to the region, the US embassy informed the President's Office on Tuesday.

The meeting between President Shimon Peres and Mitchell will therefore be postponed. No official announcement has yet been made by the Prime Minister's Office or by the Embassy.

Haaretz adds that the trip is on hold "pending an Israeli response to a series of American demands."

Mitchell is thought to have delayed his travel plans until late Tuesday but may now cancel his visit to Israel altogether, instead flying straight to Moscow for talks with the 'Quartet' of Middle East peace mediators - the European Union, the United Nations, the United States and Russia.

"We want to make sure that we have the commitment from both sides that when he travels we can make progress," State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said.

The 'quartet' is due to meet in Moscow on Thursday.

On Monday night, Prime Minister Netanyahu said that Israel would continue to build everywhere in Jerusalem just as every government has since 1967. The Obama administration responded by saying it was waiting for an 'official Israeli response.'

According to Haaretz, Israel tried to convince Mitchell not to change his plans to travel here today.

Late Monday night Israel's foreign ministry was still in last ditch negotiations to dissuade Mitchell from calling off his trip.

"Mitchell is hesitant as he is not convinced that the timing of the visit, at a moment of high tension between Israel and the U.S., is genuinely conducive to advancing negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority," a senior Israeli official told Haaretz.

According to a report in The Washington Post Tuesday, U.S. officials say that Mitchell's visit will remain on hold until the White House receives an Israeli response to key demands.

Israel must reverse its approval for construction in Ramat Shlomo, make a "substantial gesture" towards the Palestinians and publicly declare that all of the "core issues" in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including the status of Jerusalem, be included in upcoming talks.

The three conditions, set by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in a 43-minute telephone call to Netanyahu on Friday, have not been publicized by the U.S. - but Israel is expected to provide a formal answer on Tuesday, the Post reported.

A later JPost report quotes the US embassy in Tel Aviv as saying that the trip was delayed because of 'logistics' and not because of the ongoing crisis in relations.

The US Embassy in Tel Aviv on Tuesday morning confirmed that US Special Mideast envoy George Mitchell will not arrive in Israel on Tuesday evening as planned, but denied reports that the trip was postponed because Washington was waiting for a formal Israeli response over its concerns on an east Jerusalem housing plan.

Sources in the embassy said Mitchell postponed his visit due to "logistical reasons" and will come sometime after a meeting of the Middle East Quartet - the US, UN, EU and Russia - in Moscow Thursday.

The special Mideast envoy has consultations in Washington on Tuesday and will not be able to have meetings here following that and still make it to the Quarter meeting, the sources told The Jerusalem Post.

Let me add one more element to the mix: Late on Monday night, Foreign Policy's The Cable blog reported that some people in the Obama administration believe that Clinton went too far on Friday and has asked Netanyahu to do things that he cannot do.

Some insiders fear that asking Netanyahu for things that he might not be able to deliver, the administration is actually making a return to talks more difficult than it has to be. For example, it's not clear that Netanyahu is in a position to unilaterally reverse the settlement announcement.

More importantly, the tenuous trust between Netanyahu and the White House is more strained now, a diplomatic source said, wondering aloud why Netanyahu would be reassured that if he did walk back the settlements announcement that would be the end of the kerfluffle.

"By setting down a public marker in this way, out beyond what can be expected from any Israeli government, we are literally repeating the mistakes the administration made in the spring and has yet to recover from," said one Middle East hand. "If the administration wants Israel to trust them, and hopes they will discuss substance in indirect talks, this is the absolute opposite of an ideal approach."

Here's how I believe that the sequence of events played out:

1. Netanyahu told the Likud that the government will continue to build in Jerusalem like all Israeli governments have since 1967.

2. Clinton said that the US was waiting for a formal response, but canceled Mitchell's trip and leaked a story that Mitchell would not come back here until the US gets what it wants from Netanyahu.

3. Someone managed to get to Clinton or Obama and make them realize that they were giving Netanyahu no choice other than to refuse to do America's bidding or call new elections. New elections in Israel would put the country on hold for three months in terms of the 'peace process' moving forward, and based on current surveys would result in an even more Right wing government that would be less willing to make 'concessions' to the 'Palestinians' (yes, the polls show Likud gaining seats and Kadima and Labor both losing them). So the Obami backed off and claimed Mitchell wasn't coming because of 'logistics.'

Will Mitchell be here next week? Honestly, unless he has a coherent strategy and reasonable requests, I'd rather he stay home. Besides, Netanyahu is going to Washington next week.

Israel Matzav: Mr. Mitchell stays home

Israel Matzav: Kadima: 'We'd also build in Jerusalem'

Kadima: 'We'd also build in Jerusalem'

The Obama administration may be dreaming of having a Kadima-led government replace Netanyahu. But if they think that it's going to change anything, they're wrong, at least when it comes to building in Jerusalem. Yes, Kadima would build in Ramat Shlomo too.

MK Ronit Tirosh (Kadima party) said in response to the tensions with the Obama administration that there were a Kadima led government, it would also be building houses for Jews in Jerusalem.

If the President of the United States hopes to divide the political map in Israel over the issue of our right to build in Jerusalem, Kadima will not be a partner to such a move," Tirosh said and added that "however unfortunate the timing of the [announcement of the building was], no Israeli government has ever agreed to a freeze on Jewish building in Jerusalem."

Yes, she's one MK, but I'm sure the rest of her party would agree with her. Did the Obami miss this? Every Israeli government since 1967 has taken the position that Jerusalem will remain united under Israeli control, and has built in Jerusalem accordingly. Every government from Peres' and Rabin's and Olmert's on the Left to Begin's and Shamir's and Netanyahu's on the Right. Jerusalem is one of the very few things in this country on which we nearly all (or at least nearly all the Jews) agree.

That Obama picked a fight over Jerusalem shows that he wanted to pick a fight. It may be the fight he has the least chance of winning. Is he fighting to show his Arab friends that he's willing to pick a fight with Israel? Possibly. But if so, he will pay a heavy price.

Israel Matzav: Kadima: 'We'd also build in Jerusalem'
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