Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Israel Matzav: White House tries again to claim that it didn't snub Netanyahu

White House tries again to claim that it didn't snub Netanyahu

The White House has tried once again to claim that it did not snub Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu during a White House visit last week.

"I'm puzzled by the notion that somehow it's a bad deal to get two hours with the president almost entirely alone," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said.

"That doesn't seem like a lot of punishment to me."

On Sunday, another senior White House official, David Axelrod, had insisted that no snub was intended to Netanyahu, but added that friends such as Israel and the United States sometimes needed to talk "bluntly" to one another.

It isn't until you compare it with how Obama has treated every other World leader except for the Dalai Lama.

Anyone want to photoshop Netanyahu into that picture so that we can have a real picture of the way he was treated last week?

What's going on, of course, is that Obama is in hot water with Congress with 327 of the House's 435 members - obviously including many Democrats - having signed a letter urging him to 'reinforce' America's relationship with Israel. And over at al-Guardian, the incredulous Arabist conspiracy theorists have attributed that letter to the Evil Israel Lobby.
America's main pro-Israel lobby group is mobilising members of Congress to pressure the White House over its bitter public confrontation with Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister.

The move, by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (Aipac), appears aimed at exploiting differences in the Obama administration as it decides how to use the crisis around settlement building in Jerusalem to press Israel towards concessions to kickstart peace negotiations.

Aipac has persuaded more than three-quarters of the members of the US House of Representatives to sign a letter calling for an end to public criticism of Israel and urging the US to "reinforce" its relationship with the Jewish state.

The open letter, which has been circulating among members of Congress for the last week, says that while it is recognised that there will be differences between the two countries, they should be kept behind closed doors. "Our view is that such differences are best resolved quietly, in trust and confidence," it says.
But of course, Congress doesn't need AIPAC to draft letters for it, and the letter was drafted in Congress.

Al-Guardian goes on to explain that Obama 'cannot' back down.
Robert Malley, a former special assistant to President Bill Clinton for Arab-Israeli affairs, said the administration's decision to take a once routine disagreement over settlement construction in East Jerusalem and turn it in to a confrontation is a reflection of the determination in the White House.

"This episode tells us more about the past and the future than the present. It's a reflection of the accumulated frustration and mistrust of the Netanyahu government by the White House. For the future, they're headed for a collision on the pace and nature of peace negotiations," he said. "We're seeing determination."

A source, who is consulted by administration officials on Israel policy but did not wish to be named, said that having chosen to take Netanyahu on, Obama cannot afford to back away. "The administration's credibility is at stake – in Israel and the Arab world. Netanyahu thought he had the better of it last year after he humiliated the president by rejecting his demand for a settlement freeze. If the administration does not follow through on this, or reaches some compromise that takes the heat off the Israelis, I suspect it will be almost impossible for us to get anything off the ground," he said.
Over at Arutz Sheva they're telling a different story.
[Gibbs] also denied a rumor in the media that the United States was prepared to refrain from vetoing a possible United Nations resolution against Israel’s building for Jews in areas of Jerusalem that were restored to the Jewish State in 1967 but are not recognized by United States as being under Israeli sovereignty. Approximately 300,000 Jews live in the neighborhoods, which include Ramot, French Hill and Gilo.

If the report was a trial balloon, the response appears to have let all the air out as Cabinet ministers line up behind Prime Minister Netanyahu to refuse to agree to a temporary building freeze.

Most of President Obama’s advisers have taken a pro-Palestinian Authority stand, backing its claims to sovereignty over part of the city. Foreign media have reported that President Obama’s public stand against Israel, beginning with his speech in Cairo last June that Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria are “illegitimate,” has placed him out on a limb.

“The administration's credibility is at stake,”one source reportedly said.
Where does this all end? My sense is that the Obama administration is trying to feel around for how much it can get away with pressuring Israel. They are hoping to build on their health care victory.

But the health care victory is starting to come apart as one public company after another is required under the US Securities Laws to disclose how much Obamacare is going to cost it. The costs may well lead to another recession or to the cancellation of some Obamacare provisions. Democrats in Congress are now wondering how smart it was to support Obamacare. They are less likely to be willing to go to the wall for the administration against a country whose support is among the strongest in the United States.

Additionally, many Jewish donors to the Democratic party are unhappy (Hat Tip: Memeorandum). One example of a former Obama supporter who is furious with Obama is former New York Mayor Ed Koch (Hat Tip: Jammie Wearing Fool).
I have not heard or read statements criticizing the president by New York Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand or many other supporters of Israel for his blatantly hostile attitude toward Israel and his discourtesy displayed at the White House. President Obama orchestrated the hostile statements of Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, voiced by Biden in Israel and by Clinton in a 43-minute telephone call to Bibi Netanyahu, and then invited the latter to the White House to further berate him. He then left Prime Minister Netanyahu to have dinner at the White House with his family, conveying he would only be available to meet again if Netanyahu had further information - read concessions - to impart.

It is unimaginable that the President would treat any of our NATO allies, large or small, in such a degrading fashion. That there are policy differences between the U.S. and the Netanyahu government is no excuse. Allies often disagree, but remain respectful.

In portraying Israel as the cause of the lack of progress in the peace process, President Obama ignores the numerous offers and concessions that Israel has made over the years for the sake of peace, and the Palestinians' repeated rejections of those offers. Not only have Israel's peace proposals, which include ceding virtually the entire West Bank and parts of Jerusalem to the Palestinians, been rejected, but each Israeli concession has been met with even greater demands, no reciprocity, and frequently horrific violence directed at Israeli civilians. Thus, Prime Minister Netanyahu's agreement to suspend construction on the West Bank - a move heralded by Secretary of State Clinton as unprecedented by an Israeli government - has now led to a demand that Israel also halt all construction in East Jerusalem, which is part of Israel's capital. Meanwhile, Palestinians are upping the ante, with violent protests in Jerusalem and elsewhere. And the Obama administration's request that our Arab allies make some conciliatory gesture towards Israel has fallen on deaf ears.


In the 1930s, the Jewish community and its leadership, with few exceptions, were silent when their coreligionists were being attacked, hunted down, incarcerated and slaughtered. Ultimately 6 million Jews were exterminated in the Holocaust. The feeling in the U.S. apparently was that Jews who criticized our country's actions and inactions that endangered the lives of other Jews would be considered disloyal, unpatriotic and displaying dual loyalty, so many Jews stayed mute. Never again should we allow that to occur. We have every right to be concerned about the fate of the only Jewish nation in the world, which if it had existed during the 1930s and thereafter, would have given sanctuary to any Jew escaping the Nazi holocaust and taken whatever military action it could to save Jews not yet in the clutches of the Nazis. We who have learned the lessons of silence, Jews and Christians alike, must speak up now before it is too late.

So I ask again, where are our Senators, Schumer and Gillibrand? And, where are the voices, not only of the 31 members of the House and 14 Senators who are Jewish, but the Christian members of the House and Senate who support the State of Israel? Where are the peoples' voices? Remember the words of Pastor Niemoller, so familiar that I will not recite them, except for the last line, "Then they came for me, and by that time, there was no one left to speak up."

Supporters of Israel who gave their votes to candidate Obama - 78 percent of the Jewish community did - believing he would provide the same support as John McCain, this is the time to speak out and tell the President of your disappointment in him. It seems to me particularly appropriate to do so on the eve of the Passover. It is one thing to disagree with certain policies of the Israeli government. It is quite another to treat Israel and its prime minister as pariahs, which only emboldens Israel's enemies and makes the prospect of peace even more remote.
I believe that - especially with midterm elections rapidly approaching - Obama has only a brief window to try to pressure Israel. That window is rapidly closing and will not open again until at least November. That's why Obama is trying so hard to pressure Israel now. If I were advising Netanyahu, I would consider finding an elegant way to cancel that trip to Washington the week after next. There's no sense in making himself available for more abuse. Ed Koch will take care of things for now.

Israel Matzav: White House tries again to claim that it didn't snub Netanyahu

Yaacov Lozowick's Ruminations: New Thread: Shirim Ivri'im

New Thread: Shirim Ivri'im

Songs - or are they poems? - are an extremely important part of Israeli history and culture. There is an ever-growing canon of songs, called Shirim Ivri'im (simply: Hebrew songs), without which one cannot understand how Israelis tick. Since the songs Israelis sing are so crucial, it has long been clear to me one way to tell the evolving story of Israel would be by following these shirim.

This is one of the many books I'd like to write some day, but probably won't.

Yesterday my daughter and I decided it would be a nice idea to write a daily blog post introducing a shir each day from now until Independence Day, in three weeks. We decided to be post-modernist about it (though I mostly agree with Sergio that post modernism is a pernicious invention), by which I mean there will be no attempt to be systematic.

Halicha LeKeisaria - The Walk to Cesarea- was written before the phenomenon of Shirim Ivri'im was invented. The author was Hannah Szenes, 1921-1944. Szenes was born in Hungary, escaped Europe and moved to Mandatory Palestine in 1939, where she settled at the kibbutz of Sdot Yam, a fisherman kibbutz south of Haifa. In 1944 she parachuted into Yugoslavia, crossed the border into Hungary, was arrested, tortured, tried and executed by the Hungarian Fascists. She left behind a number of notebooks with a diary and some poems.

I have no pretensions to be able to translate poetry. Halicha leKeisaria is about a walk along the beach, the beauty of nature, and the yearning that it never end. Szenes wrote this poem shortly before she left, and it all ended.

This version is by Netanella, born in Tel Aviv in 1954 to parents from Uzbekistan. It was recorded in the mid 1970s (my guess: 1974).

Then there's this version. It is by the Breira haTiv'it group, in the late 1970s. HaBreira haTiv'it were (and still are) one of the most interesting creators of Israeli music. They use oriental music (which means, Arab music), sometimes for shirim of their own creation, and sometimes to rework Western music into the Arab format. That's what this one is:

Yaacov Lozowick's Ruminations: New Thread: Shirim Ivri'im

Love of the Land: A deepening crisis between U.S., Israel

A deepening crisis between U.S., Israel

John Bolton
American Security Council
29 March '10

Passover is an unfortunate time to be asking what has gone wrong between America and Israel. Is today's strenuous disagreement over Israel's West Bank housing policy the real problem, or is this controversy merely a symptom of deeper, more profound differences?

Partly because of the extraordinary secrecy surrounding Prime Minister Netanyahu's recent White House meeting with President Obama, much remains hidden from public view. Nonetheless, after 14 months in office, Obama has made clear he sees the U.S.-Israeli relationship very differently than any of his predecessors.

Consider, for example, Obama's September 2009 U.N. General Assembly speech, profoundly anti-Israeli, and to a body where Israel is perennially even more isolated than the United States. There, among other things, Obama called for a "Palestinian state with contiguous territory that ends the occupation that began in 1967."

That, of course, is the Palestinian position. No wonder they are "outraged" at every subsequent Israeli construction project outside the 1967 borders. No wonder Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas told an Arab League summit on Saturday he would not negotiate with Israel until all settlement activity ceases. They see Obama delivering Israel into their hands, and they will simply insist on their optimal position while they measure how well he succeeds.

More fundamentally, Obama assumes, as do many Europeans, that solving or at least making substantial progress on Arab-Israeli issues is key to many other Middle East problems. In particular, he believes there will be no progress against Iran's nuclear weapons program until there is proof that Israel's commanding position has been reduced.

(Read full article)

Love of the Land: A deepening crisis between U.S., Israel

Israel Matzav: Allied against Israel

Allied against Israel

President Obama and French President Sarkozy met in Washington on Tuesday. They agree on one thing: Israel's control over its eternal capital must go.

France is standing with the United States in condemning Israeli settlement activity in east Jerusalem.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy (sar-koh-ZEE') says his own commitment to Israel's security is well known but adds that the settlement activity in an area claimed by the Palestinians "contributes nothing."

Speaking at a news conference with President Barack Obama after their White House meeting Tuesday, Sarkozy praised Obama for trying to engage the two sides in peace talks. Sarkozy said that the "absence of peace" in the region "is a problem for all of us" - and that it feeds terrorism around the world.

I wonder if Sarkozy is even aware that the 'Palestinians' claim the entire land of Israel 'from the River to the Sea.' Perhaps he is, and he believes that Jews living in that area 'contribute nothing.' So where is his 'commitment to Israel's security'?

What could go wrong?

Israel Matzav: Allied against Israel

Israel's Rebirth 'A Boring Story' To U.S. Jews: An Interview with American Zionist Hero Dr. David Gutmann :: The Phyllis Chesler Organization

Israel's Rebirth 'A Boring Story' To U.S. Jews: An Interview with American Zionist Hero Dr. David Gutmann :: The Phyllis Chesler Organization

Israeli Elite Units Since 1948 -Osprey Elite Series 18


some plates
click on images to enlarge

Israel Matzav: Netanyahu isn't Khrushchev

Netanyahu isn't Khrushchev

Roger Cohen wrote a column in Tuesday's New York Times in which he compared Barack Obama's humiliation of Binyamin Netanyahu to John Kennedy's meeting with Nikita Khrushchev in Vienna in 1961. Cohen wrote:

"The former Soviet leader [Khrushchev] thought he could browbeat Kennedy only to discover, in Vienna, that the Kennedy charm was not unalloyed to steel ('It will be a long, cold winter'). Netanyahu was the first foreign leader to think he could steamroll Obama. He earned a frosty comeuppance."

Cohen, who believes that Netanyahu can do no right other than to surrender, and that Obama and Iran can do no wrong, went on to praise Obama for using Netanyahu to establish his bona fides, as Kennedy had used Khrushchev to establish his.

The comparison grated on me, but having been quite young in 1961, I really did not remember the event well enough to answer him. Victor Davis Hanson is a few years older than I am, and came up with five reasons why Cohen's comparison fails. Among them are these:

b) Khrushchev was our enemy trying to destroy freedom from Asia to Eastern Europe; Netanyahu is the head of an allied democracy, one that is a beacon of constitutionalism in a sea of autocracy.

c) The Soviet Union was a massive superpower with thousands of nuclear bombs and missiles and an entire bloc of communist client states; Israel is a tiny country of 7 million and mostly alone; how heroic is it to bully an allied small democracy versus a huge communist dictatorship?

d) Kennedy said later of that summit in Vienna that Khrushchev "beat the hell out of me" — an accurate assessment, since Khrushchev came away determined to press his luck during the Cuban Missile Crisis to come. So we don't know the reaction of the Israelis or Palestinians to all this — only that anytime the U.S. gratuitously seeks to humiliate Israel, we can expect its enemies to see a green light and escalate, whether on the ground in the Middle East, at Arab Summits, or in the UN.

Maybe Obama and Cohen don't believe that Israel is an ally. Read it all.

Israel Matzav: Netanyahu isn't Khrushchev

Love of the Land: Israel's Crisis and Opportunity

Israel's Crisis and Opportunity

Steven M. Goldberg
American Thinker
31 March '10

(Perhaps a bit more on the dire side than my taste, but some interesting points)

Rahm Emanuel famously proclaimed, "You never let a serious crisis go to waste. And what I mean by that is it's an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before." Ironically, although the President's Chief of Staff has proven to be a false friend of Israel, the leadership of the Jewish State would do well to heed his advice.

That Israel is in peril is obvious. Israel's enemies sense the opportunity to destroy it through a perfect storm, a confluence of events that seem to leave Israel reeling and vulnerable. First and foremost is the unmistakable betrayal by the President of the United States, who has loudly broadcast his eagerness to sacrifice the security of the Jewish State to appease the Muslim world. Israel is under enormous duress to surrender vital territory to allow for the creation of a Palestinian state within its borders. That such a development would be catastrophic for Israel is apparent to anyone who knows history. As former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin stated, "The Palestinian state can only emerge on the ruins of Israel."

In addition, Iran is hell-bent on developing nuclear weapons, and it is clear that the international community will do nothing to stop it. President Obama appears to be pressuring Israel to refrain from military action to stop the Iranian threat. Hezb'allah and Hamas have restocked their arsenals of rockets and missiles, which now threaten to reach the center of Israel, including Tel Aviv. The European Union is championing the Fayed Plan, pursuant to which the Palestinian Authority would unilaterally announce the establishment of the Palestinian state, which would shortly thereafter be recognized by the United Nations Security Council. In view of President Obama's indifference and even antipathy to Israel, the United States cannot be counted on to exercise its veto.

(Read full post)

Love of the Land: Israel's Crisis and Opportunity

Israel Matzav: 'Palestinian' journalists to be punished for meeting with Israelis

'Palestinian' journalists to be punished for meeting with Israelis

Five 'Palestinian' journalists - three from Gaza and two from Judea and Samaria - face expulsion from the 'Palestinian Authority'- sponsored 'Palestinian' Journalists Syndicate for traveling to Tel Aviv to meet with Israeli journalists and the head of the IDF Spokesman's office's Arabic language branch.

The syndicate decided to establish a committee to question the journalists who went to Tel Aviv about their motives and the identity of the party behind the invitation.

The syndicate is also planning to hold an emergency meeting next week to discuss punitive measures against Palestinian journalists who defy a ban on normalization of relations with Israel.

Hamas has also condemned the Palestinian journalists as “collaborators.” Hamas officials claimed that some of the journalists were known as supporters of Mohammed Dahlan, a former Fatah security commander in the Gaza Strip.

Several Hamas-affiliated groups said that the journalists who visited Israel would be put on a “black list” – a sign that they would be boycotted by their colleagues and the government institutions.

One of the groups, the Democratic Press Association, called on the journalists to “repent” and express publicly apologize for visiting the “Zionist entity and meeting with Zionist reporters.”

It described the journalists’ visit to Tel Aviv as a “despicable and harmful” act, saying it came at a time when the “Zionist occupation army was killing Palestinians. This visit does not represent the positions and morals of Palestinian journalists.”

Wisam Afifeh, editor-in-chief of Hamas’s Al-Resalah newspaper, said that condemnations were not enough. He called on all Palestinian journalists to “disown” and “distance” themselves from the journalists who were invited to Tel Aviv.

The story was reported by Khaled Abu Toameh, a 'Palestinian' journalist who reports for the Jerusalem Post in order to be able to write freely. Perhaps that says it all.

Israel Matzav: 'Palestinian' journalists to be punished for meeting with Israelis

Love of the Land: McCarthyism!


For all the hysteria, no government is behind the "campaigns against groups and people on the Left."

Seth J. Frantzman
Terra Incognita/JPost
30 March '10

Hardly a week goes by here without the claim, usually by groups on the Left, that people are being silenced and censored by McCarthyism. In an October 2009 article, Benjamin Pogrund claimed that university groups such as Isracampus and Israel Academic Monitor were attacking leftist professors in “classic McCarthyite style.” David Newman of Ben-Gurion University has written that “the academic McCarthyism of the right endangers Israeli democracy and society. It threatens the very basis of freedom of speech.”

The hullabaloo over Naomi Chazan, former Knesset member, professor and chief of the New Israel Fund, in early 2010 resulted in a wave of claims of McCarthyism. An interview with her by Donald Macintyre in The Independent was titled “The new McCarthyism sweeping Israel.” Hagai El-ad of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel claimed “these are classic McCarthy techniques, portraying our organizations as enemies of the state.”

Then earlier this month, the Education Ministry ordered its logo removed from a Web site called Common Ground that is supported by the Abraham Fund, an organization that claims it supports “coexistence.” In response, a senior official at a non-governmental organization claimed that “this is a McCarthyist period we’re going through.” Prof. Daniel Bar-Tal and many others have, in recent years, joined the chorus claiming McCarthyism is growing in Israel.

(Read full article)

Love of the Land: McCarthyism!

IDF M50 Supersherman (1/35) by Alain Taou

Click on the images to enlarge.
See more at :

IAF F-16D in 1/32 scale, By Serge Saenen

This conversion was based on the Hasegawa F-16 C kit (1/32 scale).
Handmade, cockpit and canopy made from scratch.
Click on the images to enlarge.
You can see a lot more (aircraft, vehicle modelling and reference, reviews, books, articles, etc.) at:

IDF Modelling

Israel Matzav: Another shpy is on our side: Amiri defected to US

Another shpy is on our side: Amiri defected to US

Back in December, I reported that an Iranian nuclear physicist named Shahram Amiri defected to the United States during a pilgrimage to Mecca. Now, the CIA has confirmed that report.

An award-winning Iranian nuclear scientist, who disappeared last year under mysterious circumstances, has defected to the CIA and been resettled in the United States, according to people briefed on the operation by intelligence officials.

The officials were said to have termed the defection of the scientist, Shahram Amiri, "an intelligence coup" in the continuing CIA operation to spy on and undermine Iran's nuclear program.

A spokesperson for the CIA declined to comment. In its declassified annual report to Congress [discussed in an earlier post. CiJ], the CIA said, "Iran is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons though we do not know whether Tehran eventually will decide to produce nuclear weapons."

Amiri, a nuclear physicist in his early 30s, went missing last June three days after arriving in Saudi Arabia on a pilgrimage, according to the Iranian government. He worked at Tehran's Malek Ashtar University, which is closely connected to Iran's Revolutionary Guard, according to the Associated Press.

Amiri is said to have worked at the Qom nuclear facility that was announced by the United States in September.

Here's an ABC report on Amiri. Let's go to the videotape.

Israel Matzav: Another shpy is on our side: Amiri defected to US

Anyone still think the US can't stop Iran if it wants to?

Israel Matzav: And then what?

And then what?

Haaretz reports on yet another surrender idea from the Obama administration:

One of the U.S. administration's requests to Israel regarding the peace process with the Palestinians is a four-month construction freeze in all parts of East Jerusalem. In exchange, the United States would pressure Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to hold direct talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu instead of the indirect talks to which the Palestinians have agreed.

An official in Jerusalem said the U.S. administration is demanding that Israel freeze construction in East Jerusalem, including Jewish neighborhoods such as Neveh Yaakov, French Hill and of course Ramat Shlomo, which sparked the recent tensions between Israel and the United States.

The freeze would last four months, the time frame the Arab League has authorized for indirect talks between the Palestinian Authority and Israel.


The Americans say that if Netanyahu agrees to freeze construction for four months, direct talks will be possible between the two sides in that period.

This is what is known in Hebrew as shitat ha'salami (the salami method). You keep slicing off pieces as you head toward your goal of finishing the salami before the other side notices. So let's look at this proposal: During the next four months, which coincide with the less than four months remaining in the now-revoked Arab League approval for the 'Palestinians' to use George Mitchell as a gofer between us and him, Israel will freeze all(?) construction in 'east' Jerusalem (does that include Ramat Eshkol, Ramot and Sanhedria Murchevet?). In return, the US will try to get the 'Palestinians' to agree to direct talks with Israel as was the case until the Obama administration took power. And then? What if the 'Palestinians' haven't agreed to direct talks yet when the four months end? What if they have agreed but they haven't started yet? What if they've agreed and they've started talking but (as will almost certainly be the case) nothing has been resolved yet? Obama will undoubtedly 'ask' Israel to extend the four month suspension, as he already has with the ten month freeze in Judea and Samaria that isn't even up until the end of August. And then?

And while we're at it, why shouldn't the freeze go all the way and freeze Arab construction in 'east' Jerusalem as well? Why are our 'facts on the ground' problematic while theirs aren't?

But it seems that some members of Netanyahu's seven-member inner cabinet are being taken in by this proposal (or are starting to believe the drivel being promoted by Israel's Leftist media):

In discussions of the forum of seven senior cabinet ministers, the general view is that it will be impossible to publicly announce a freeze of construction in East Jerusalem. However, one possibility is that it will be possible to reach a tacit agreement with the U.S. administration on construction in East Jerusalem.


According to this idea, Israel would make it clear to the United States that during the coming four months no massive construction in East Jerusalem neighborhoods would be planned or carried out, enabling Israel to be seen as meeting the American and Palestinian demands.

Fortunately, most of the cabinet seems to be opposed to the idea.

During the forum of seven's discussions, Avigdor Lieberman, Moshe Ya'alon, Benny Begin and Eli Yishai took a more hawkish view of the situation, while Ehud Barak and Dan Meridor recommended that a "creative solution" be found. This solution would offer the administration a "yes, but..." answer, through which Israel would express a number of reservations, with an emphasis on a construction freeze in East Jerusalem.

In an interview with Haaretz in December, Abbas hinted that he could be persuaded to accept a "silent freeze" of construction in East Jerusalem. Abbas said he had proposed in a conversation with Defense Minister Barak that Israel freeze construction in East Jerusalem for six months without announcing it.

Haaretz says that the cabinet won't be meeting on this again until after Pesach (which ends next Monday night) and that Obama has other demands for us about Jerusalem as well.

What could go wrong?

Israel Matzav: And then what?

Israel Matzav: 'Shun Hussein Obama' if US abstains in the UN says...

'Shun Hussein Obama' if US abstains in the UN says...

A Likud MK called on his government to 'shun Hussein Obama' if the United States votes against or abstains in a Security Council vote condemning Israel. So what, you say? Well, here's the key: The MK who made the call is Ayoub Kara, and he's not Jewish - he's Druze.

Speaking Tuesday, Deputy Negev and Galilee Regional Development Minister Ayoub Kara said that if the United States votes against or abstains in a vote in the UN Security Council against Israel, as Washington has supposedly threatened, “Israel must break off all relations with Hussein Obama, and call on the American people to raise their voices against the aggressive American policy.”

Kara called on Likud members and Israelis in general to support Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in his efforts to remain firm on continuing construction in Jerusalem.

Remember when pointing out that Obama's middle name is Hussein was taboo?

And who was it that said that only Jews and Evangelical Christians backed Netanyahu?

Israel Matzav: 'Shun Hussein Obama' if US abstains in the UN says...

Israel Matzav: Video: CIA tells Congress Iran on its way to a nuclear weapon

Video: CIA tells Congress Iran on its way to a nuclear weapon

Here's a Fox News report with former Reagan era Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense KT McFarland in which she discusses a CIA report that warns that Iran is well on its way to developing a nuclear weapon.

She also discusses at length Israel's possible reactions.

Let's go to the videotape.

What could go wrong?

Israel Matzav: Video: CIA tells Congress Iran on its way to a nuclear weapon

Israel Matzav: The religion of Leftism

The religion of Leftism

I have often quipped on this blog that the reason that so many Jews vote Democrat despite that party's widespread antipathy for the State of Israel is that for many non-Orthodox Jews, Judaism has been replaced by Liberalism.

Dennis Prager makes the same essential argument that I've been making, except he refers to Liberalism as Leftism (I suppose to make it sound more radical than I've termed it) and he extends the sickness to include Christians as well.

Leftism, though secular, must be understood as a religion (which is why I have begun capitalizing it). The Leftist value system’s hold on its adherents is as strong as the hold Christianity, Judaism, and Islam have on theirs. Nancy Pelosi’s belief in expanding the government’s role in American life, which inspired her passion for the health-care bill, is as strong as a pro-life Christian’s belief in the sanctity of the life of the unborn.

Given the religious nature and the emotional power of Leftist values, Jews and Christians on the Left often derive their values from the Left more than from their religion.

Now, most Leftist Jews and Christians will counter that Leftist values cannot trump their religion’s values because Leftist values are identical to their religion’s. But this argument only reinforces my argument that Leftism has conquered the Christianity and the Judaism of Leftist Christians and Jews. If there is no difference between Leftist moral values and those of Judaism or Christianity, then Christianity is little more than Leftism with “Jesus” rhetoric and Judaism is Leftism with Jewish terms — such as “Tikkun Olam” (“repairing the world”) and “Prophetic values.”

But if Christianity is, morally speaking, really Leftism, why didn’t Catholics and Protestants assert these values before 19th century European Leftism came along? And, if Judaism is essentially a set of Left-wing values, does that mean that the Torah and the Talmud are Leftist documents? Or are the two pillars of Judaism generally wrong?

As I was reading this article, I started to wonder why Muslims don't seem to be affected by Leftism. Maybe it's because Muslims who abandon their faith in favor of more liberal values (I wouldn't term people like Nonie Darwish, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Mosab Hassan Yousef or Salman Rushdie Leftists) find themselves under death threats from which the Left is unwilling to protect them, whereas Jews and Christians are more inclined to just ignore those who abandon our religious tenets.

Hmmm. (No, I'm not suggesting we start threatening people who abandon our religions with death).

By the way, the picture at the top is the J Street logo with one of their favorite groups' names on it. Hamas is a darling of the Left. One can only wonder why.

Israel Matzav: The religion of Leftism

Fatah Returns to Violence, Wound Border Police in Riot - Defense/Middle East - Israel News - Israel National News

Fatah Returns to Violence, Wound Border Police in Riot - Defense/Middle East - Israel News - Israel National News

Abbas Urged Israel to Topple Hamas in Cast Lead, Says Lieberman - Inside Israel - Israel News - Israel National News

Abbas Urged Israel to Topple Hamas in Cast Lead, Says Lieberman - Inside Israel - Israel News - Israel National News

Hamas Police 'Hold Up' Gaza City's Palestine Bank - Defense/Middle East - Israel News - Israel National News

Hamas Police 'Hold Up' Gaza City's Palestine Bank - Defense/Middle East - Israel News - Israel National News

Congress Pressures Obama to Retreat on Jerusalem - Politics & Gov't - Israel News - Israel National News

Congress Pressures Obama to Retreat on Jerusalem - Politics & Gov't - Israel News - Israel National News

Inner Cabinet Chilly to Obama's Demand for Freeze in Jerusalem - Politics & Gov't - Israel News - Israel National News

Inner Cabinet Chilly to Obama's Demand for Freeze in Jerusalem - Politics & Gov't - Israel News - Israel National News

Deputy Minister: If US Balks at Veto, Shun 'Hussein Obama' - Defense/Middle East - Israel News - Israel National News

Deputy Minister: If US Balks at Veto, Shun 'Hussein Obama' - Defense/Middle East - Israel News - Israel National News

Obama: Iranian Oil Obstacle to Sanctions - Defense/Middle East - Israel News - Israel National News

Obama: Iranian Oil Obstacle to Sanctions - Defense/Middle East - Israel News - Israel National News

Israel Matzav: America's abandoned allies going their separate ways

America's abandoned allies going their separate ways

Israel and Great Britain have a lot in common these days. The two countries, who used to be principal allies of the United States, have both been abandoned by their American friends - or more specifically by the Obama administration.

One would have thought that misery loves company and that the two would be drawing closer together. Such is not the case. Instead, Britain expelled an Israeli diplomat last week over the alleged use of British passports by Israel's Mossad in the liquidation of a terrorist murderer. As if Britain's MI-6 has never forged passports.

But the Brits are taking lessons from Barack Obama. With Obama, just when you think he's extracted his pound of flesh, he comes back and takes more. And such is apparently the case with the Brits as well.

A cross-party group of MPs will call today for a review of the way arms sales are approved after the government admitted British equipment was "almost certainly" used in the assault on Gaza last year.

"It is regrettable that arms exports to Israel were almost certainly used in Operation Cast Lead [the attack on Gaza]," the Commons committee on strategic export controls says in a report published. "This is in direct contravention to the UK government's policy that UK arms exports to Israel should not be used in the occupied territories."

The MPs say they welcome the government's subsequent decision to revoke five export licences for equipment destined for the Israeli navy but "broader lessons" must be learned from a review to ensure British arms exports to Israel are not used in the occupied territories in future.

The article goes on to make a lot of guesses what equipment Israel used during Operation Cast Lead, and what British parts might have been included in that equipment.

Whatever it is, it's not very much. Total British arms exports to Israel in 2008 are said to be 27.5 million pounds. But the point here isn't the quantity but the principle. Operation Cast Lead was a war of self-defense and the British know it. Israel doesn't occupy Gaza and the British know it. If terrorists were firing rockets into England from Scotland or Wales, how long would the British tolerate it? Here's a bet: Nowhere near as long as Israel tolerated rocket fire from Gaza.

What a bunch of hypocrites.

Israel Matzav: America's abandoned allies going their separate ways

Israel Matzav: A quick lesson in Judaism for Robert Stacy McCain

A quick lesson in Judaism for Robert Stacy McCain

Fellow blogger and righteous gentile Robert Stacy McCain attended his first Pesach seder on Monday night. He promptly pronounced himself a ger toshav. Not quite....

While Maimonides referred to a ger toshav as a righteous gentile, it does not follow that a righteous gentile is a ger toshav. A ger toshav is a gentile who lives in Israel (we're still waiting for you to visit Stacy) under certain conditions.

This video will explain what a ger toshav is. You'll see that it's much more than what we commonly refer to as a righteous gentile.

Let's go to the videotape.

As noted toward the end of the video, Maimonides rules that we do not accept the status of ger toshav today. So even if you fulfilled all of the requirements, since most Jews today do not live in Israel, you can't be a ger toshav. (It should be noted that we're actually getting close to the point where most Jews live in Israel, and in a few years, many Jewish law questions may arise from that fact).

There is another kind of ger, which is the more commonly known type of ger today. That ger is known as a ger tzedek - a full convert to Judaism.

The term generally used today for a righteous gentile is chassid umoth ha'olam, which literally translates as... a pious gentile. Stacy, you definitely are one. And when you come to Israel, I'd love to show you around.

(Hoping he'll finally follow me on Twitter and put me on his blogroll - it's harder to get this guy's attention than Alyssa Milano's).

Israel Matzav: A quick lesson in Judaism for Robert Stacy McCain

Israel Matzav: Jihad isn't about the 'settlements'

Jihad isn't about the 'settlements'

Bret Stephens reminds us that even if Israel and the 'Palestinians' made 'peace' tomorrow, it would not solve most of the grievances that militant Islam has against the United States (Hat Tip: Memeorandum).

Now consider Lady Gaga—or, if you prefer, Madonna, Farrah Fawcett, Marilyn Monroe, Josephine Baker or any other American woman who has, at one time or another, personified what the Egyptian Islamist writer Sayyid Qutb once called "the American Temptress."

Qutb, for those unfamiliar with the name, is widely considered the intellectual godfather of al Qaeda; his 30-volume exegesis "In the Shade of the Quran" is canonical in jihadist circles. But Qutb, who spent time as a student in Colorado in the late 1940s, also decisively shaped jihadist views about the U.S.

In his 1951 essay "The America I Have Seen," Qutb gave his account of the U.S. "in the scale of human values." "I fear," he wrote, "that a balance may not exist between America's material greatness and the quality of her people." Qutb was particularly exercised by what he saw as the "primitiveness" of American values, not least in matters of sex.

"The American girl," he noted, "knows seductiveness lies in the round breasts, the full buttocks, and in the shapely thighs, sleek legs and she shows all this and does not hide it." Nor did he approve of Jazz—"this music the savage bushmen created to satisfy their primitive desires"—or of American films, or clothes, or haircuts, or food. It was all, in his eyes, equally wretched.

Qutb's disdain for America's supposedly libertine culture would not matter much were it not wedded to a kind of theological Leninism that emphasized the necessity of violently overthrowing any political arrangement not based on Shariah law. No less violent was Qutb's attitude toward Jews: "The war the Jews began to wage against Islam and Muslims in those early days [of Islamic history]," he wrote in the 1950s, "has raged to the present. The form and appearance may have changed, but the nature and the means remain the same."

Needless to say, that passage was written long before Israel had "occupied" a single inch of Arab territory, unless one takes the view—held to this day by Hezbollah, Hamas, al Qaeda, Jemaah Islamiyah and every other jihadist group that owes an intellectual debt to Qutb, including significant elements of the "moderate" Palestinian Fatah—that Tel Aviv itself is occupied territory.

Bear in mind, too, that the America Qutb found so offensive had yet to discover Elvis, Playboy, the pill, women's lib, acid tabs, gay rights, Studio 54, Jersey Shore and, of course, Lady Gaga. In other words, even in some dystopic hypothetical world in which hyper-conservatives were to seize power in the U.S. and turn the cultural clock back to 1948, America would still remain a swamp of degeneracy in the eyes of Qutb's latter-day disciples.

Of course, the diplomatic Arab countries will not tell you that they agree with Qutb (do you really expect the King of Saudi Arabia to tell Barack Obama that what the Saudis really want is to make the United States an Islamic country?), but they do. Look at how they treat their own populations.

So instead, they complain to the World about 'Little Satan,' which is Israel. Israel is the appetizer. Western civilization is the main course.

Israel Matzav: Jihad isn't about the 'settlements'

Love of the Land: Lady Gaga Versus Mideast Peace

Lady Gaga Versus Mideast Peace

Bret Stephens
Wall Street Journal
29 March '10

Pop quiz—What does more to galvanize radical anti-American sentiment in the Muslim world: (a) Israeli settlements on the West Bank; or (b) a Lady Gaga music video?

If your answer is (b) it means you probably have a grasp of the historical roots of modern jihadism. If, however, you answered (a), then congratulations: You are perfectly in synch with the new Beltway conventional wisdom, now jointly defined by Pat Buchanan and his strange bedfellows within the Obama administration.

What is that wisdom? In a March 26 column in Human Events, Mr. Buchanan put the case with his usual subtlety:

"Each new report of settlement expansion," he wrote, "each new seizure of Palestinian property, each new West Bank clash between Palestinians and Israeli troops inflames the Arab street, humiliates our Arab allies, exposes America as a weakling that cannot stand up to Israel, and imperils our troops and their mission in Afghanistan and Iraq."

Mr. Buchanan was playing off a story in the Israeli press that Vice President Joe Biden had warned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu "what you're doing here [in the West Bank] undermines the security of our troops." Also in the mix was a story that Centcom commander David Petraeus had cited Arab-Israeli tensions as the key impediment to wider progress in the region. Both reports were later denied—in Mr. Biden's case, via Rahm Emanuel; in Gen. Petraeus's case, personally and forcefully—but the important point is how eagerly they were believed. If you're of the view that Israel is the root cause of everything that ails the Middle East—think of it as global warming in Hebrew form—then nothing so powerfully makes the case against the Jewish state as a flag-draped American coffin.

(Read full article)

Love of the Land: Lady Gaga Versus Mideast Peace

Life in Israel: We don't need the US money

Life in Israel: We don't need the US money

Yaacov Lozowick's Ruminations: Then and Now, Better or Worse

Then and Now, Better or Worse

A number of readers took my post on Meir Ariel's "Surviving Pharaoh" song to be a comparison between the early 1980s and now.

This actually wasn't my intention, which was rather to say that long-term perspective is important and quite comforting. We've gotten out of lots of tight spots, and today's isn't even that bad. However, since the comparison was made, I might as well address it directly.

Since the early 1980s the Soviet Union has disappeared, removing the superpower that armed most of our enemies. The disappearance also enabled more than a million Soviet Jews to move to Israel, greatly strengthening us and transforming us in many ways, most of them positive or extremely positive. Nor has the transformation exhausted itself yet.

The Oslo process, tho disastrous in many ways, clarified to Israeli society that it had irrevocably abandoned the dream of controlling all of what was once Mandatory Palestine, while the Palestinians had not abandoned the mirror dream. This dual understanding gave Israel a political coherence and broad consensus which are enormously powerful. The reason we never blinked during the black years of 2001-2003, as the Palestinians did their best to bring us to our knees by systematically murdering civilians, was this re-affirmed understanding of the fundamental dynamic, in which we are right but willing to compromise, while the Palestinians wish us gone and are not willing to compromise.

The economic conditions are incomparable. 25 years ago Israel was limping along; today it's an economic powerhouse (well, compared to its tiny size).

Then there's the relation to the world. In the 1980s Israel was hated by the Arab world, the Communist world, and the so-called Third World. (The Economist once quipped that the Non-Aligned Nations lost the ability to be non-aligned against the West once the Soviet Union was gone). Today Israel is still hated by the Arab world, even by most of the Muslim world, though the animosity has its gradations, and manipulating them can be useful. The Soviet world is no more, but some parts of it are staunchly pro-Israel (Poland, say, or the Czech Republic), or cynically so, such as Russia itself. Much of the Third World deals with us on Realpolitik tracks, such as the Brazilian president, hardly a good friend, who recently visited us for his own purposes. The two most significant changes, however, have been the relations with China and India, both of which are vastly better now than then. Both are ancient civilizations which spent their first two or three millennia having no interaction with the Jews - and thus, no built-in anti Jewish conditioning.

Seen in historical terms, rather than news-cycle ones, the decline of Europe and the rise of India and China is probably a fine thing for Israel and the Jews, so long as we take advantage of them - and we seem to be aware of this.

Yaacov Lozowick's Ruminations: Then and Now, Better or Worse

Yaacov Lozowick's Ruminations: Tactic or Strategy?

Tactic or Strategy?

Barak Ravid reports that the Obama administration is seeking a 4-month building freeze in East Jerusalem, in return for direct talks between Israel and the PA, rather than the silly proximity talks that had or had not been about to start.

If it's a tactic, I'm in favor. Four months isn't very long, and in real talks it will take less than that to demonstrate that the Palestinians have no interest in reaching an agreement, which is the fundamental fact of the matter. (Though it would also allow them the opportunity of proving us wrong, which would be great).

However, Ravid's report also includes this

Haaretz reported on Monday that the U.S. administration had further demands regarding East Jerusalem including the reopening of a Palestinian commercial office there, as well as an end to both the razing of Palestinian homes and the evacuation of Palestinians from their homes.

No homes have been razed for many months, so that demand smacks of the "when did you last beat your wife" trick, except that municipalities enforcing zoning laws are not quite as pernicious as beating one's wife. The reopening of a Palestinian office in Jerusalem, however, is the exact opposite of a freeze. In a freeze everything stops so as to allow negotiators to examine the issue calmly. Opening Palestinian offices where they currently aren't is precisely the opposite.

This raises the issue of the American agenda. If it's getting talks started once again, so as to see where they lead, that's one thing. If it's to force the Palestinian agenda on Israel, that's another matter.

Yaacov Lozowick's Ruminations: Tactic or Strategy?

Israel Matzav: Obama determined to avoid war with Iran at all costs

Obama determined to avoid war with Iran at all costs

There's lots of evidence out there that the Obama administration is determined to avoid a military confrontation with Iran at all costs, including a nuclear Iran.

“It’s one of our highest priorities to make sure that Iran doesn’t possess a nuclear weapon,” he said on March 17, in an interview with Bret Baier of Fox News. The problem is that if keeping Iran from getting a nuclear weapon is one of the highest priorities, the very highest priority seems to be avoiding military conflict at all cost.

“The last thing the Middle East needs now is another war,” Secretary of Defense Robert Gates told the New York Times back in the spring of 2008. Gates noted that he had worked on a policy paper on Iran with Zbigniew Brzezinski at the Council on Foreign Relations in 2004. Gates added: “Based on what I heard from every expert, then and now, I think there’s a risk that an attack would strengthen Ahmadinejad and solidify the Iranian people’s support for their regime.” (Brzezinski is one of those arguing strenuously for containment today.)

In a recent interview with al Arabiya, Hillary Clinton was twice asked directly whether “a military strike is off the table.” Clinton did not offer the standard everything-is-on-the-table caveat—a pointed omission—and went to great lengths to emphasize that military action is “not what the United States was planning to do.”

Gates and Clinton are the administration’s hawks.

The manufactured dispute with Israel may well be additional evidence of the president’s determination to avoid a military confrontation. The Obama administration took what was a minor misunderstanding about Jerusalem housing and made it a serious test of a longstanding alliance. This was no accident.


In private, the Obama administration has repeatedly warned Israel against a preemptive strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities. Isolating Israel in this way sends the same message publicly; it says, in effect, “You think we overreacted to a housing spat in Jerusalem? Try bombing Iran.”

Obama officials are loath to talk about Israel, Iran, and the bomb in public. They offer platitudes, and they focus obsessively on diplomacy that virtually no one thinks will prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power.

If Iran does end up with nuclear weapons, Obama may find his legacy to be that of Neville Chamberlain.

McCain then graduated to an even harsher comparison. He said he had been rereading William Manchester’s biography of Winston Churchill and was struck by the similarities between the naïveté of Neville Chamberlain and the willingness of the Obama administration to accommodate the mullahs. “They’re just flailing. A few days ago the president said he wanted to talk some more,” McCain said, incredulous, referring to Obama’s message on Nowruz, the Iranian new year, which renewed the administration’s offer for negotiations. The overture, following Iran’s dismissal of several previous “final” deadlines for new talks, is “consistent with the thread of appeasement throughout history. It’s that same idea that if we’re nice to our enemies, they’ll do what we want.”

Chamberlain also was more interested in being a social reformer than he was in international affairs.

What could go wrong?

Israel Matzav: Obama determined to avoid war with Iran at all costs

Israel Matzav: Obama's Pesach message: No God, No Jerusalem, No Israel

Obama's Pesach message: No God, No Jerusalem, No Israel

President Obama delivered a Pesach (Passover) message that somehow managed to avoid mentioning God, Jerusalem or Israel.

Obama's letter read: "This evening, Jewish individuals, families, and their friends in America, Israel, and around the world will gather around the Seder table to celebrate the sacred festival of Passover.

"With rich symbols, rituals, and traditions, they will tell the story of the Exodus – the journey of the children of Israel from slavery to freedom, from grief to joy, from darkness to light, and from suffering to redemption."

In the spirit of the season and on the backdrop of the US's diplomatic efforts to launch proximity talks between Israel and the Palestinians, Obama expressed in his letter hope that lessons from the Exodus from Egypt may be learned.

"The enduring story of the Exodus teaches us that, wherever we live, there is oppression to be fought and freedom to be won. In retelling this story from generation to generation, we are reminded of our ongoing responsibility to fight against all forms of suffering and discrimination, and we reaffirm the ties that bind us all," he wrote.

The US president ended his letter saying, "My family and I send our warmest wishes for a joyous and meaningful Passover."

Obama's concept of the 'lessons from the Exodus from Egypt' is so obtuse, it must be answered lest silence be interpreted as acquiescence.

The lesson of the Exodus from Egypt is that God came and redeemed His people from bondage because, as the Rabbis tell us, "they did not change their names [to Egyptian names] and they did not change their language [to Egyptian]." Instead, the Jews maintained their unique identity throughout the 210 years of bondage in Egypt, and as a reward God gave them two mitzvoth (commandments) to perform (circumcision and the sacrifice of the Paschal lamb). Our reward for performing those mitzvoth was that God redeemed the Jews from Egypt.

There was no 'oppression to fought' or 'freedom to be won.' As the Hagaddah relates the story, God himself (not through an angel or a spirit or a messenger, but God himself) came to Egypt and redeemed our forefathers from Egyptian bondage. This had nothing to do with 'suffering and discrimination' in the sense that Westerners think of those words. The story of the Exodus from Egypt is a Jewish story and not a universal one. That's one reason why any Pesach message that omits God is false. It was God who took us out of Egypt. We did not take ourselves out.

But there's more. After three years of making a 'seder' Obama has somehow managed to avoid learning the meaning of the song 'Dayenu,' which is one of the high points of the seder, and is almost universally sung (and not just said). Let's look at its verses and see why the main points of the seder are God, Israel and Jerusalem.

The word Dayenu means "it would have been enough for us [to celebrate]."

There are fifteen stanzas in Dayenu. The first five deal with God's destroying the false gods of Egypt. The next five deal with the miracles that God performed for us after he took us out of Egypt. The final five stanzas discuss why God took us out of Egypt. God took us out of Egypt because we are obligated to do five things for Him:

To observe the Sabbath, which testifies that God created the Heavens and the earth.

To accept His Torah, which He gave to us at the Revelation at Mount Sinai (celebrated seven weeks from now).

To keep and study His Torah.

To live in His land, the Land of Israel.

To build His Temple (in Jerusalem) and to perform the sacrifices there.

When God punished the Jews by destroying the Temple, the last two items were partially taken away from us. While we are still commanded to live in Israel (which is a Rabbinic commandment today rather than a Torah commandment according to most sources) and we are commanded to pray three times a day in lieu of the sacrifices, we no longer have these commandments in their original form. The other commandments remain, because the Sabbath and the Torah are our connection to God and God remains with us even in exile.

I would not expect Obama to known about the Sabbath (although he did once act as a Shabbes goy for an office mate) or the Torah, but one who bothers to learn the words Chag Sameyach in Hebrew ought to be able to figure out that without God, Israel and Jerusalem (the Temple), there is no purpose to Passover and there is nothing to celebrate. Without God, Israel and Jerusalem, Pesach becomes like a White House seder - a meaningless ritual in which one goes through the motions without any idea of what they mean.

Israel Matzav: Obama's Pesach message: No God, No Jerusalem, No Israel

Love of the Land: What Makes This President Different from All Other Presidents?

What Makes This President Different from All Other Presidents?

Jonathan Tobin
29 March '10

As the dispute between the Israel and the United States enters its third week, President Obama’s anger at Israel and his determination to force Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to give in on the question of building in the eastern sector of Israel’s capital is apparently unabated.

Yet this is hardly the first dispute between the two countries. Every administration since 1967 has proposed peace plans and negotiating strategies that Israel disliked or actively resisted. Genuine friends such as Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush, as well as less friendly presidents such as Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush, all pushed hard at times for Israeli acceptance of unpalatable concessions. But in spite of these precedents, Barack Obama has managed to go where no American president has gone before. For all the problems created by all his predecessors about settlements in the West Bank, no previous American leader has ever chosen to draw a line in the sand about the Jewish presence in Jerusalem.

It is true that the United States never recognized Israel’s annexation of the eastern sector of the city after Jerusalem’s unification in 1967. In fact, it has never even recognized western Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. But the new Jewish neighborhoods that sprang up along the northern, eastern, and southern outskirts of the city, as well as the Jewish Quarter in the Old City, were never a source of contention even during the presidencies of Carter and the elder Bush. Indeed, the notion that places such as Ramat Eshkol, Pisgat Zeev, Gilo, and even Ramat Shlomo (the site of the “insult” to Vice President Biden) are considered “settlements” by the United States and thus no different from the most remote hilltop outpost deep in the West Bank is something that has come as a complete surprise to most Israelis, let alone American supporters of Israel.

During the course of his first go at Netanyahu, Obama made it clear that, contrary to a promise given by George W. Bush in 2004, he considered the bulk of settlements situated close to the 1967 borders, which Israelis believe they will keep even in the event of a peace deal, to be just as illegitimate as more controversial communities. In the hope of defusing the argument, Netanyahu reluctantly agreed to a freeze in these towns and villages while still maintaining that Jerusalem could not be treated in the same way. But Washington’s demand that the freeze be extended to eastern Jerusalem signals that Obama clearly believes that, like the big settlements of Ariel and Ma’ale Adumim, the homes of the approximately 200,000 Jews who live in eastern Jerusalem are also on the table.

(Read full post)

Love of the Land: What Makes This President Different from All Other Presidents?
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