Youssef Magied al-Molqui, who in 1985 led the hijacking of the luxury cruise ship Aquille Lauro has won early release from an Italian prison and has been ordered to leave the country. There's just one problem: According to his attorney, no other country will take the man who is directly responsible for the murder of wheelchair-bound American Leon Klinghoffer, who was thrown into the sea by the hijackers.
I'll bet the US would be willing to take him. Well, maybe not with The One in charge.
Al-Molqui served 24 years of a 30-year sentence that was imposed by the Italian court. During a 2006 furlough, al-Molqui escaped to Spain, but he was recaptured.
Molqui is currently in a holding center, where he is fighting an expulsion order. He has married an Italian citizen, and claims that his marriage should grant him citizenship as well. In addition, Molqui argues that he has no citizenship. As a descendant of Arabs who fled pre-state Israel, Molqui is not eligible for citizenship in his state of birth.
A second hijacker, Ibrahim Abdelatif, was released from prison last year and is also fighting a deportation order. Like Molqui, Abdelatif has no citizenship, as his country of birth, Lebanon, refuses to grant citizenship to descendants of Arabs who fled pre-state Israel.
No end of conflict. Yes, 'right of return.' 'Moderate' Abu Mazen rejects the notion of Israel as a Jewish state.
Let's go to the videotape. A transcript follows.
PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), to the Palestinian Youth Parliament: "The 'Jewish State'. What is a 'Jewish State'? We call it, "the State of Israel'. You can call yourselves whatever you want. You can call yourselves whatever you want. But I will not accept it. And I say this on a live broadcast. It's not my job to define it, to provide a definition for the State and what it contains. You can call yourselves [stutters] the Zionist Republic, the Hebrew, the National, the Socialist [Republic] call it whatever you like. I don't care."
Then why cut off half our land to make a 'Palestinian' statereichlet?
BMI won't show you Israel, but it will point you toward Mecca
British Midland Airways (BMI), which began scheduled service between Tel Aviv and Manchester, England in March, has deleted Israel and all Israeli cities other than 'Khefa' (Haifa in Arabic) from all electronic maps supplied to passengers on its planes to 'avoid offending Muslim sensibilities.' The electronic maps also point passengers towards Mecca while they are in flight.
The company said in response that two planes flying to Tel Aviv were originally intended to arrive in Arab countries and therefore the map was tailored to the passengers and showed mainly sites holy to Muslims.
A "logistic failure" caused the map to be presented on the flight to Tel Aviv, a company statement said, and it will be removed from the planes flying to Tel Aviv. The company was making every effort not to hurt passengers' feelings by adopting a nonpolitical position, the statement added.
BMI flies to Damascus, Tehran and Beirut, among other destinations. I'll bet the Syrians and the Iranians now ask them to take measures to ensure that the planes that fly to Israel don't fly to Damascus or Tehran.
Hariri tribunal releases pro-Syrian generals; coast is clear for Obama - Assad rapprochment
On Wednesday, the UN-backed tribunal looking into allegations that members of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's inner circle ordered the 2005 assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri (pictured), ordered the release of four pro-Syrian Lebanese generals who had been accused of participating in the assassination. The reason given for the release was that a key witness had recanted his testimony.
Hariri was murdered on February 14, 2005 in a truck bombing in which 22 other people died.
With Assad effectively exonerated, the Obama administration announced that it is sending two 'high-level envoys' to Syria in the coming weeks, furthering Assad's emergence from the cold.
The four — Jamil al-Sayyed, Ali Hajj, Raymond Azar and Mustafa Hamdan — directed the chief security and intelligence services and the presidential guard. They were widely seen as henchmen for Syria, which occupied Lebanon militarily for three decades. Widely believed to have ordered Rafik Hariri’s killing, Syria was forced out of Lebanon under local and international pressure a few months later.
Lebanon is preparing for a crucial parliamentary election in June in which Saad Hariri and his political allies, now in the majority, are facing an alliance led by Hezbollah. Many here believe that the tribunal’s decision could cut into Mr. Hariri’s votes by spreading the impression that Syria could escape being brought to account for the assassination of his father and be emboldened to rebuild its influence here.
Lebanese officials had lobbied to have the decision delayed until after the election, but tribunal judicial figures refused, saying they could not take political considerations into account, said a senior court official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the court’s inner workings.
The tribunal’s prosecutor, Daniel A. Bellemare, emphasized that the case was bigger than the four men, who could be called as witnesses or even arrested again if more evidence was found. Tribunal officials have said that indictments could be issued later this year.
But many Lebanese seemed to view the officers’ release as a sign that the tribunal might never bring Mr. Hariri’s killers to justice.
“It is a shock,” said Samir Frangieh, one of Saad Hariri’s parliamentary allies. “Everyone knows who these men were and what they did.”
A U.N. investigation team said shortly after the slaying that it had evidence that Syrian and Lebanese intelligence services were involved. Syria has denied any involvement. Subsequent U.N. reports refrained from making direct accusations.
Fransen's special U.N. tribunal began its inquiry last month, and a conclusion is expected to take years.
Noting the politically charged environment in Lebanon, Fransen urged that the generals "be kept under strict security measures to ensure their safety."
The tribunal gained jurisdiction over the four when it opened on March 1. The tribunal sits in the Hague (Netherlands) and not in Lebanon.
For those of you looking for the connection to President Obama's new envoys, the Wall Street Journal supplies that.
The U.S. outreach comes as a United Nations court announced Wednesday the release in Beirut of four Lebanese generals detained in connection with the 2005 murder of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. The generals' release is seen undercutting U.N. efforts to secure indictments for the murder, and a boon for Syria's political allies inside Lebanon.
You bet those two events are connected.
The two envoys are the same two as the last time: Jeffrey Feltman and Daniel Shapiro. As I pointed out yesterday, Shapiro is a protege of former Indiana congressman Lee Hamilton, who is the architect of Obama's Middle East policy.
By the way, the hoops that the Obama administration expects the Syrians to jump through to reinstate diplomatic relations with the United States have also been significantly lowered according to the Journal.
Washington also wants Syria to be a central player in President Obama's stated goal of achieving a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace. President Assad entered into indirect peace talks with Israel last year aimed at ending their conflict over the disputed Golan Heights region. But Syria is also a principal financier of Hezbollah and hosts in Damascus the political leadership of Hamas, the militant Palestinian organization that Washington designates as a terrorist organization.
U.S. officials said they ultimately want Syria to shed its financial and military links to Hezbollah and Hamas. But initially they would like Syrian support for better monitoring and controlling the groups.
Mr. Moustapha said Syria views Hezbollah and Hamas as legitimate resistance movements fighting Israeli occupation. But he added that Syria could play a role in fostering a dialogue between Washington and the militant groups, something Mr. Obama's administration has declined to do.
"At some point, the U.S. will have to start talking to Hamas, either directly or indirectly," Mr. Moustapha said in an interview. He played down the idea of Syria distancing itself from Iran, as the U.S. and Israel want.
In other words, although Washington ostensibly still wants the Syrians to distance themselves from Iran and to stop supporting Hamas and Hezbullah, we won't let that hold up the talking. And maybe Obama will throw the Syrians a bone by not renewing sanctions against them even if they do maintain their Iran ties and Hamas and Hezbullah support.
Syrian officials said this week they hope the diplomatic thaw could lead to an easing of trade sanctions enacted by the Bush administration. The sanctions were aimed at curbing Damascus's support for militant groups operating in Lebanon and the Palestinian territories.
"If the American president does not renew the sanctions, Syria would consider this the right way for better relations," Syrian Central Bank Gov. Adib Mayaleh said in an interview in Washington on Wednesday.
Israel is warning the European Union that unless it tones down its criticism of the Netanyahu government, it will be shut out of the 'peace process.'
The main target of the offensive is EU External Affairs Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner [pictured. CiJ], who recently called for a freeze in upgrading ties with Israel over its peace process policies.
Several days ago, the deputy director for Europe at the Foreign Ministry, Rafi Barak, began calling European ambassadors in Israel regarding the attitude toward the new government. The first conversations were with France's Jean-Michel Casa, Britain's Tom Phillips and the Charge d'Affaires of the German embassy.
Barak sharply protested the criticism by European ministers and senior EU officials about Israel's government.
Barak singled out Ferrero-Waldner in his rebuke and said her statements were troubling in their form, style and timing.
"We want the European Union to be a partner [in the diplomatic process] but it is important to hold a mature and discreet dialogue and not to resort to public declarations," Barak told the diplomats.
"A public confrontation was created that required Prime Minister Netanyahu, and even opposition head Tzipi Livni, to intervene. We have noted that the large European countries have respected our request and are granting the government time, but it is important that Europe be uniform in this matter," Barak added.
Barak concluded by "warning" that Europe's influence in the area would be undermined by such behavior. "Israel is asking Europe to lower the tone and conduct a discreet dialog," he said. "However, if these declarations continue, Europe will not be able to be part of the diplomatic process, and both sides will lose."
It's about time someone put the Europeans in their place!
94% of 'Israeli Arabs' wouldn't want to live elsewhere
They must really be suffering.
A survey done for Israel's Independence Day shows that 94% of 'Israeli Arabs' would rather live in Israel than anyplace else in the world. Yes, that's an even larger percentage than for Israeli Jews.
As for optimism about the future and desiring to live in Israel compared to elsewhere, about two-thirds of the Arab interviewees were optimistic about the country's future and an absolute majority- 94%-wanted to continue living in Israel.
If you had the choice, would you continue to live in Israel or would you move to another country?
Jews: live in Israel 81% Move to another country 14% Don't know 5%
Arabs live in Israel 94% Move to another country 2% Don't know 4%%
Mark Steyn on Obama's Orwellian picture of the Holocaust
In The Corner, Mark Steyn comments on Michael Ledeen's article regarding Obama's Orwellian picture of the Holocaust, which I excerpted and commented on here.
I take your point that "it may be what he means by 'never again,' but most everybody else means 'we're going to act to throttle the next would-be Hitler'". But I'm not sure everybody else does mean that, not anymore.
The French thinker (if you'll pardon the expression) Alain Finkielkraut says that "Never again" to a European means "Never again power politics. Never again nationalism. Never again Auschwitz" - which sounds like a slightly different order of priorities from yours. And over the decades the revulsion against any kind of "power politics" has come to trump whatever revulsion post-Auschwitz Europe might feel about mass murder. That's why in the early Nineties the EU let hundreds of thousands die on its borders in the Balkans rather than act to prevent it. Indeed, they "acted" only to prevent the Americans coming in and doing something about it, because they found it easier to tolerate the murder of their fellow Europeans than the idea of American military action to stop it.
It's interesting how easily the Obama definition of "Never again" fits that kind of passivity.
I thought about my post some more since last night. Much of what underlies Obama's attitude about the Holocaust is his own narcissism. It didn't happen to him and therefore he cannot relate to it. Think back to that Daniel Ortega speech in Trinidad, where after listening to Ortega slam the United States for about 40 minutes, all Obama could say was 'at least he didn't blame me for the Bay of Pigs.' If he wasn't personally affected by something, Obama has no capacity for empathizing with it. He 'gets' morality plays where he perceives white people beating up on indigenous people of color or Jews and Christians beating up on Muslims. He doesn't 'get' anything that affects other ethnic groupings. (By the way, Michelle Obama, who was 'never proud of America' until her husband was elected, has the same massive blind spot).
A radical Imam has prepared an insult for Pope Benedict during the Pope's visit here in May.
Muslims led by a radical imam in the town where Christianity's founder was raised are not pleased at the prospect of a visit from the head of his church, and have prepared a special insult with which to greet the Pope.
Radical Imam Nazem Abu Salim inspired his followers to string up a banner across the main square of Nazareth with a blatant warning for Pope Benedict XVI: "Those who harm G-d and His Messenger – G-d has cursed them in this world and in the hereafter, and has prepared for them a humiliating punishment."
The words, lifted from the Koran, are translated into English in a small sign next to the banner, which is visible from the Church of the Annunciation, one of the sites the pontiff will visit on May 18.
Abu Salim was clear that the purpose of the banner was to drive the Pope away: "He is not welcome here," he told an Associated Press reporter this week.
I trust that Christians worldwide will go on a rampage at this insult just as soon as they wake up this morning. Heh.
I just wanted to point out this article by Ralph Peters that appeared in Wednesday's New York Post. If any of you haven't seen it, it's worth the time to read it.
Here's a small excerpt.
AFTER a mere 100 days, the "Obama Doctrine" for our foreign and security poli cies has emerged. And it's terrifying.
The combination of dizzying naivete, dislike of our allies, disdain for our military, distrust of our intelligence services and distaste for our own country promises the worst foreign policy of our lifetimes.
That includes President Jimmy Carter's abysmal record of failure.
The core tenets of the Obama Doctrine to date would make a charter member of the Weather Underground cheer:
Islamist terrorism doesn't exist. The term's even been banned from government departments. As Muslim extremists slaughter innocent victims by the thousands, we're assured Islam's a "religion of peace" that contributed profoundly to our country's development. (Huh?)
It's as if 9/11 never happened. The "nonterrorists" drenching the greater Middle East in blood and threatening us as loudly as they can are just victims of our aggression. It's all our fault.
Terrorists do exist, though -- among our returning veterans and amid those Americans who don't subscribe to MoveOn.org's revulsion at our country.
Israel's the obstacle to Middle East peace. Palestinians are all victims. Hamas consists of struggling community activists. The terrorists are in the Israeli military.
Our nukes threaten world peace and we need to get rid of them. Other states only maintain or seek nuclear arsenals because we worry them. If we can get down to zero nukes, peace will reign on earth.
Forget that only our nuclear weapons prevented World War III and that they still deter potential enemies. Just get rid of them, OK?
Our military is dangerous. Beyond Obama's cynically choreographed appearances with our troops, he and his coterie clearly disdain military advice and uniformed service. The administration views our troops as primitive creatures who must be collared and leashed, not as part of any solutions.
Our intelligence services are even more dangerous than our military. The administration's already begun to gut our intelligence capabilities. Carter at least pretended to study the problem. Obama's plunging straight in with the demoralization of our shadow warriors.
It's only torture if we do it.
Read it all. The thing that amazes me the most is how quickly all of our worst nightmares about Obama have come true.
JPost is reporting that the Netanyahu - Lieberman government is going to accept 'some form' of the suicidal Saudi plan in a bid to get the Obama administration to help Israel deal forcefully with Iran.
According to sources close to the policy review being undertaken by the new government, Israel will compromise on the Palestinian issue to obtain more direct and aggressive US assistance on the Iranian front. It is not known if such help includes logistical support for Israeli strikes in the case of a military confrontation with Teheran.
But the acceptance of "some parts" of the plan doesn't mean Israel has accepted it as a whole, the senior official added. "The main problem is the demand for [the return of] refugees. The plan calls for a 'just solution' according to [1948 UN General Assembly] Resolution 194," which calls for refugees "wishing to return to their homes and live at peace" to be "permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date."
According to the official, "Israel has a problem with the term 'just,' which among Arab diplomats can just as easily be a reference to Israel's removal as it can be a call for compromise. Should Israel accept into the country thousands or hundreds of thousands of Lebanese and Jordanians? It's a black hole with no end. It is a red line we will never step over."
According to Foreign Ministry spokesman Yossi Levy, "The Israeli position is known. When we talk about the return of refugees to their homes, the intention is not their personal home, which is impossible in either direction, but to their national home" - a possible future state. "Then there is something to talk about."
A similar principle applied to the Jewish right of return to Israel, Levy noted. The Jews have a right of return to the State of Israel, not to the homes from which Jews were expelled in other countries.
There's a lot more wrong with the 'Saudi plan' than the 'right of return' for the 'refugees.' Among other things, the Saudi plan would also require Israel to retreat to the 1949 armistice line, or what Abba Eban famously called the 'Auschwitz borders' for the indefensibility.
To add insult to injury, what this also means is that Iran is being handed an accomplishment through their development of nuclear weapons without actually having developed them yet. What will happen when and if Iran actually does develop a nuclear weapon? To what other blackmail will Israel be subjected?
While I can see the argument that says that this won't matter anyway - the Arabs have never placed the Saudi plan up for negotiation and will not accept the notion that Israel accepts some parts of it and not others - I fear that this is a slippery slope that will find Israel negotiating against itself in a continuing crescendo of unilateral concessions.
The storm clouds on the horizon are getting thicker.
In its weekly report, Stratfor describes some of the effects of the release of the 'torture memos' - and potentially of a 'truth commission' - on US counter-terrorist intelligence capabilities.
Politics and moral arguments aside, the end effect of the memos’ release is that people who have put their lives on the line in U.S. counterterrorism efforts are now uncertain of whether they should be making that sacrifice. Many of these people are now questioning whether the administration that happens to be in power at any given time will recognize the fact that they were carrying out lawful orders under a previous administration. It is hard to retain officers and attract quality recruits in this kind of environment. It has become safer to work in programs other than counterterrorism.
The memos’ release will not have a catastrophic effect on U.S. counterterrorism efforts. Indeed, most of the information in the memos was leaked to the press years ago and has long been public knowledge. However, when the release of the memos is examined in a wider context, and combined with a few other dynamics, it appears that the U.S. counterterrorism community is quietly slipping back into an atmosphere of risk-aversion and malaise — an atmosphere not dissimilar to that described by the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (also known as the 9/11 Commission) as a contributing factor to the intelligence failures that led to the 9/11 attacks.
Services like the Jordanian General Intelligence Department, the Saudi Mabahith or the Yemeni National Security Agency not only can recruit sources, but also are far more successful in using young Muslim officers to penetrate terrorist groups. In addition to their source networks and penetration operations, many of these liaison services are not at all squeamish about using extremely enhanced interrogation techniques — this is the reason many of the terrorism suspects who were the subject of rendition operations ended up in such locations. Obviously, whenever the CIA is dealing with a liaison service, the political interests and objectives of the service must be considered — as should the possibility that the liaison service is fabricating the intelligence in question for whatever reason. Still, in the end, the CIA historically has received a significant amount of important intelligence (perhaps even most of its intelligence) via liaison channels.
Another concern that arises from the call for a truth commission is the impact a commission investigation could have on the liaison services that have helped the United States in its counterterrorism efforts since 9/11. Countries that hosted CIA detention facilities or were involved in the rendition or interrogation of terrorist suspects may find themselves exposed publicly or even held up for some sort of sanction by the U.S. Congress. Such activities could have a real impact on the amount of cooperation and information the CIA receives from these intelligence services.
As we’ve previously noted, it was a lack of intelligence that helped fuel the fear that led the Bush administration to authorize enhanced interrogation techniques. Ironically, the current investigation into those techniques and other practices (such as renditions) may very well lead to significant gaps in terrorism-related intelligence from both internal and liaison sources — again, not primarily because of the prohibition of torture, but because of larger implications.
When these implications are combined with the long-standing institutional aversion of U.S. government agencies toward counterterrorism, and with the difficulty of finding and retaining good people willing to serve in counterterrorism roles, the U.S. counterterrorism community may soon be facing challenges even more daunting than those posed by its already difficult mission.
I'd be shocked if Israel had no role to play in the United States' counter-terrorist efforts. After all, that's one of the areas in which this country specializes. Not to mention how many of those terrorists target Israel and Jews....
But don't worry. America is in good hands. The world is going to love us. What could go wrong?
At Pajamas Media, Michael Ledeen analyzes Barack Obama's Holocaust Memorial Day speech and concludes that the President has a very Orwellian idea of what we mean when we say "Never again!" (Hat Tip: Power Line). Here's the key part of the article.
He then gave his version of “never again,” and it’s a very odd version indeed. First, he draws hope from the survivors of the Holocaust. Those who came to America had a higher birthrate than the Jews who were already living here, and those members of “a chosen people” who created Israel. These, he says, chose life and asserted it despite the horrors they had endured. And then he goes on:
We find cause for hope as well in Protestant and Catholic children attending school together in Northern Ireland; in Hutus and Tutsis living side-by-side, forgiving neighbors who have done the unforgivable; in a movement to save Darfur that has thousands of high school and college chapters in 25 countries and brought 70,000 people to the Washington Mall, people of every age and faith and background and race united in common cause with suffering brothers and sisters halfway around the world.
Those numbers can be our future, our fellow citizens of the world showing us how to make the journey from oppression to survival, from witness to resistance and ultimately to reconciliation. That is what we mean when we say “never again.”
So “never again” means that we learn from others how to forgive and forget, and ultimately live happily with one another. But that is not what “never again” means, at least for the generation of the Holocaust and for most of those who followed. For them, “never again” means that we will destroy the next would-be Fuhrer. In his entire speech, Obama never once mentions that the United States led a coalition of free peoples against Germany, Italy and Japan, nor does he ever discuss the obligation of sacrifice to prevent a recurrence. Indeed, his examples suggest that he doesn’t grasp the full dimensions of the struggle against evil. Northern Ireland is a totally inappropriate example (nothing remotely approaching a Holocaust took place there), the relations between Hutus and Tutsis in Rwanda and Burundi are hardly characterized by forgiveness, even though the president of Burundi is striving mightily to achieve a peaceful modus vivendi, and as for Darfur, well, despite the tens of thousands who demonstrated on the Mall, nobody has done much of anything to stop the Khartoum regime from slaughtering the peoples of the south.
In the history of modern times, the United States has done more than anyone else, perhaps more than the rest of the world combined, to defeat evil, and we are still doing it. Yet Obama says that we must “learn from others” how to move on, forgive and forget, and live happily ever after. But these are just words, they are not policies, or even actions. And the meanings he gives to his words show that he has no real intention of doing anything to thwart evil, any more than he had any concrete actions to propose to punish North Korea.
Significantly, Barack Obama is a lot tougher on his domestic American opponents than on tyrants who threaten our values and America itself. He tells the Republicans that they’d better stop listening to Rush Limbaugh, but he doesn’t criticize Palestinians who raise their children to hate the Jews. He bows to the Saudi monarch, but humiliates the prime minister of Great Britain. He expresses astonishment that anyone can worry about a national security threat from Hugo Chavez’ Venezuela, even as Chavez solidifies an alliance with Iran that brings plane loads of terror masters, weapons and explosives into our hemisphere from Tehran via Damascus, fuels terrorists and narcotics traffic, and offers military facilities to Russian warships and aircraft. He is seemingly unconcerned by radical Islam and a resurgent Communism in Latin America, even as his Department of Homeland Security fires a warning shot at veterans–the best of America–returning from the Middle East. He seeks warm relations with Iran and Syria–who are up to their necks in American blood–while warning Israel of dire consequences if she should attempt to preempt a threatened Iranian nuclear attack.
I don't agree with everything Ledeen says. Specifically, while he is right to point out that the United States led the Free World in defeating the Nazi menace in World War II, there is a lot more that could have been done that the Roosevelt administration refused to do to alleviate the Holocaust. Such as bombing the railroad tracks leading into the concentration camps and parts of the camps themselves.
But the point of this post is not to remind everyone of American shortcomings 65 years ago. The point is to look at what Obama is saying today and how it shows a deeply troubling concept of what "Never again!" means. Perhaps Ledeen felt uncomfortable saying it, but I don't: Comparing what happened in the Holocaust to the atrocities of Darfur and Rwanda - let alone to Northern Ireland! - cheapens what happened in Europe in the 1940's. Never has a war machine been so systematically turned for so long on a civilian population who had nothing to do with the war at hand. So deep was Hitler's animus for the Jews that had he not expended so much effort in attempting to exterminate them, we might all be driving Volkswagon's today. Never before in human history was a people so dehumanized, turned into 'scientific experiments' or slaughtered with such a brutal efficiency. As much as the Jewish people and the State of Israel may have diplomatic and political interaction with the German people today, we cannot and will not forgive or forget what they did to us, and we will always be on a vigilant lookout for the next despot who puts us in his crosshairs - whether he be Mahmoud Ahmadinejad or Ismail Haniyeh or Mahmoud Abbas or anyone else.
Like being cured of many cancers, 'forgiving and forgetting' are not a realistic option. It's more like a scar that you learn to live with. Ask the families of the terror victims here in Israel who were all over the media here yesterday. Something else Obama will never understand.
This is from a New York Post column by Benny Avni, Israel Radio's New York correspondent.
Japan's Nikkei newspaper last week quoted unnamed sources from "Western intelligence organizations" saying they are investigating a suspicious ship that traveled recently from North Korea to Iran, carrying "several dozen tons of enriched uranium hidden in its cargo." (As a result of the Iranian-North Korean alliance, I'm told, Japan increasingly shares intelligence data with several Middle Eastern countries.)
The most striking thing about the first 100 days of the Obama Presidency is the extent to which the new President has sought to impose his worldview on the United States - and by extension the world - through immediate and sometimes drastic policy initiatives. From the massive expansion in government, to the takeover of private businesses like banks and automobile manufacturers, and to his 'outing' of CIA interrogation techniques, Obama has represented a radical shift in the way the United States does business. No President - at least in my recollection - has so explicitly attempted to stamp the nation and the world with his personal worldview and 'moral compass.' It behooves Americans - and Israelis - to examine what we might be in for in the next three and a half years.
In Sunday's Washington Post, former CIA officer Michael Scheueur rips Obama for his behavior on the torture issue, arguing that Obama's worldview is fantastical and that he has no right to place American lives at risk to implement it (Hat Tip: Lawhawk via Little Green Footballs).
Before enthroning Obama's personal morality as U.S. defense policy, of course, some dirty work had to be done. Last Sunday, Obama's hit man and White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel led the charge by telling the American people that the interrogation techniques are a major recruiting tool for al-Qaeda and its Islamist partners. Well, no, Mr. Emanuel, that is not at all the case. The techniques surely are not popular with our foes and their supporters -- should that be a concern in any event? -- but they do not even make the Islamists' hit parade of anti-U.S. recruiting tools. That list is headed by Washington's support for Arab tyrannies in Saudi Arabia and Egypt, its presence on the Arabian Peninsula and its unqualified support for Israel [Note that Israel is only in third place and that Scheuer is not advocating changing American policies in those three areas. CiJ]. Still, Emanuel's statement surely sounded plausible to Americans who have received no education about our Islamist enemy's true motivation from Obama, George W. Bush, Clinton or George H.W. Bush.
Next, the president used his personal popularity and the stature of his office to implicitly identify as liars those former senior U.S. officials who know -- not "argue" or "contend" or "assert" but know -- that the interrogation techniques have yielded intelligence essential to the nation's defense. The integrity, intellect and reputations of Judge Michael Mukasey, Gen. Michael V. Hayden and others have now been besmirched by Obama because their realistic worldview and firsthand experience do not mesh with the president's desire to install his personal "moral compass" as the core of U.S. foreign and defense policy. And after visiting CIA headquarters last week, the president made it clear that he rejected statements surely made by CIA officers who risked their careers to tell him how many successful covert operations against al-Qaeda have flowed from interrogation information. As with all Jacobins, Obama cannot allow a hard and often brutal reality -- call it an inconvenient truth -- to impinge on his view of how the world should and must be made to work.
Americans and their country's security will be the losers. The Republicans do not have the votes to stop Obama, and the world will not be safer for America because the president abandons interrogations to please his party's left wing and the European pacifists it so admires. Both are incorrigibly anti-American, oppose the use of force in America's defense and -- like Obama -- naively believe that the West's Islamist foes can be sweet-talked into a future alive with the sound of kumbaya.
So if the above worst-case scenario ever comes to pass, Americans will have at least two things from which to take solace, even after the loss of major cities and tens of thousands of countrymen. First, they will know that their president believes that those losses are a small price to pay for stopping interrogations and making foreign peoples like us more. And second, they will see Osama bin Laden's shy smile turn into a calm and beautiful God-is-Great grin.
This kind of worldview may sound familiar to Israelis. If not, it should. It's the uber-moral worldview that has driven the 'Oslo process' since the mid-'90's - the entire notion that because we want peace, the other side must want it. It's a dangerous delusion. It ignores reality. Its results are the kinds of policies that had the IDF sending 23 boys to their deaths in Jenin in 2003 (and still having it termed a 'massacre') rather than using somewhat-less-precise precision bombing from the air that would have caused 'civilian casualties' but saved Israeli lives.
We have only recently started to climb out of our moral stupor in this regard: Haaretz complained last week that during Operation Cast Lead, the IDF was too willing to chance civilians casualties among the 'Palestinians' to save the lives of IDF soldiers. If that's true, I view that as a good, moral and Jewish approach. After all, the Talmud requires that when someone comes to kill you, you must kill him first. And we have elected a Right wing government, which we can only hope and pray will not buckle under American pressure and adopt the policies of the Left.
But there's a second side of Obama's worldview of which Israelis must be wary, and that is his view of Israel itself. This is from an interview with Victor Davis Hanson:
Does Team Obama really believe that a murderous autocratic cabal like Hamas is merely different from a democratic constitutional republic like Israel? At best we have naiveté at the helm (Obama thinks he can mesmerize misunderstood killers), at worst, a genuine feeling that Israel is an aggressive, Western imperialist power exploiting indigenous people of color who simply wish to be free--in other words, the Rev. Wright-Bill Ayers-Rashid Khalidi view of the Middle East.
Unfortunately, I believe that we are facing Hanson's worst case scenario in the Obama administration. If I am correct, then please consider the following: While a besieged democracy may have some right of self-defense in Obama's worldview, "an aggressive, Western imperialist power exploiting indigenous people of color who simply wish to be free" would have much less of a right. Obama's 'moral compass' would require us to give the 'Palestinians' what they want.
The kinds of techniques the CIA used on al-Qaeda have been discussed at length in Israeli society and in its courts. If there is a 'ticking bomb' it should be clear that Israel must act to stop the terror attack that is causing it. Jewish morality - the only morality that should count for Jews - does not expect us to commit suicide to save the life of a terrorist. And it doesn't expect - in fact it probably forbids us - from facilitating the establishment of a terror state in our midst that will cost Jewish lives but fulfill a utopian, European pacifist worldview that is currently in vogue in Washington.
If that causes a break between Israel and the Obama administration, so be it.
A 'Palestinian Authority court' in Hebron has sentenced a 59-year old 'Palestinian' man, Anwat Breghit, to die by hanging for the crime of selling land to Joooos.
Dozens of Arabs have been executed in the past for collaborating with Israel by selling land to Jews, but the court’s ruling is the first time the PA officially has handed down a guilty verdict of treason for the crime. Previous summary executions with the approval of the PA have been met with outcries from human rights organizations.
Jews have spent millions of dollars the past few years to buy land from Arabs in an effort to eliminate all claims against Jewish rights to the land. The PA began fighting the sales in the 1990s, announcing in 1996 that the death penalty would be imposed for selling land to Jews.
Seven Arabs were executed in the same year for “collaborating,” and the PA later admitted that it was responsible for the murders. More executions took place the following years, and one Arab, MohammedAbu al-Hawa [three links. CiJ], was tortured and murdered in 2006 for allegedly selling an apartment building in Jerusalem to Jews.
The Human Rights Watch organization protested to then-PA leader Yasser Arafat at the time, declaring that statements by officials who encouraged punishment for selling land to Jews were ''casting grave doubt on your government's commitment to human rights and the rule of law.''
The PA law was based on a law ordered to be passed by King Hussein in 1973, prohibiting the sale of land in Jordan or in Judea and Samaria by a Jordanian to Israelis. A relatively more moderate law replaced it in 1995 but still effectively barred the sale of land to non-Arabs.
I'm sure that Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International will rush out to protest the barbarism of the 'Palestinian Authority.' Don't hold your breaths waiting.
According to the indictment, Breghit sold property belonging to his village of Beit Omar near Hebron to Israelis from the nearby Jewish settlement of Karmei Tzur.
The sentence still requires Abu Mazen's approval before it is carried out. Anyone want to take bets on whether Mr. Breghit will live long enough for that decision to be made? The AFP report above notes that since 2000, only two 'Palestinians' have had their death sentences carried out. The rest were murdered before a decision could be made.
Fatah and Hamas still fighting? It's the Joooos' fault
In an interview published in the Tuesday edition of London-based pan-Arabic daily al-Sharq al-Awswat, Egyptian foreign minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit had a very simple answer to why Fatah and Hamas cannot get along: It's the Joooos fault.
Aboul Gheit complained that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has taken no positive steps in the peace process with the Palestinian Authority since taking office a month ago.
“The Israeli Foreign Minister says, on his first day in the Foreign Ministry, that Israel has made numerous concessions and that it has given the Arab side [territorial] concessions that are three times larger than the territory it occupies,” Aboul Gheit said. “I see no logic in these words because he is referring to the Sinai. If he has forgotten [the Yom Kippur War in] 1973 I want to remind him of it the fact that Egypt can regain its territory in any possible way.”
In a reference to the failed attempts at reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas, Aboul Gheit added blamed “Israeli stubbornness” for causing the Arabs to toughen their stance.
Poor Ahmed. It seems that - for now at least - the days when Israel makes unilateral concessions to the 'Palestinians' are over.
As to the Yom Kippur War, how's Egypt's Third Army doing these days?
It seems that Israeli Minister of Health Yaakov Litzman is not the only one who is opposed to referring to the virus currently sweeping the world as 'swine flu' (Hat Tip: Memeorandum)
At a news briefing, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack took pains to repeatedly refer to the flu as the "H1N1 virus."
"This is not a food-borne illness, virus. It is not correct to refer to it as swine flu because really that's not what this is about," Vilsack said.
The Paris-based World Organization for Animal Health also objected to the name, saying the virus contains avian and human components and no pig so far has been found ill with the disease.
And there is growing sentiment in the farm sector to call it the North American virus -- although disease expert Anthony Fauci told a Senate hearing the "swine flu" designation reflected scientific naming protocol.
For U.S. pork producers the swine flu name has hurt, forcing government officials into the position of stressing that American pork is safe to eat and that other countries should not ban imports.
Had there been Muslim objections to the name, it would have been changed immediately.
If I asked you to name architect of the Obama administration's Middle East policy, whom would you name? Until I read the article I am about to discuss, I would have named Brent Scowcroft or George Mitchell. Some of you might have named Samantha Power, a few might have said Hillary Clinton, and maybe some would have mentioned Dennis Ross or Dan Kurtzer. According to Ed Lasky, you and I would all be wrong. The architect and real power behind the Obama administration's Middle East policy is a former Democratic Congressman from Indiana named Lee Hamilton.
Hamilton has become an eminence grise, arguably exercising more influence in his sphere than the Secretary of State. He is a veteran Washington player, heads up an estimable foreign policy think tank, and early on became a mentor or Barack Obama. Obama came to Washington with very little real world foreign policy experience. A natural course for such a President would be to seek the counsel of elders -- which fits a pattern for Barack Obama, who seems to have a penchant for looking up to older men for advice (these can be as varied as Frank Marshall Davis from his childhood days to Jeremiah Wright during his Chicago days.)
Hamilton fits the profile. His gravitas also must have been appealing to Barack Obama who needed to overcome doubts about his foreign policy competence. So what does Hamilton believe is the right approach towards Iran and other players in the Middle East? Does he have the leverage to make his ideas official American policy?
The starting points for U.S.-Iran discussions, Hamilton said, would be to "state our respect for the Iranian people, renounce regime change as an instrument of U.S. policy, seek opportunities for a range of dialogue across a range of issues, and acknowledge Iran's security concerns and its right to civilian nuclear power." He said Obama has already signaled that he wants such a conversation, without preconditions.
Any other areas that can be looked upon as polestars to determine Hamilton's views?
The Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group report was drafted under his auspices. That report called for American withdrawal of its forces from Iraq to be coordinated with Iran and Syria -- the principal sponsors of the terrorism that took so many American and Iraqi lives in Iraq. The group also recommended that the US purchase Syrian "goodwill" (an ephemeral asset) by pressuring Israel to surrender the Golan Heights and for Israel to leave the West Bank. Baker-Hamilton also advocated that Israel be forced to accept that Palestinian refugees have a "right of return" to Israel.
The report did not require the dismantling of the terror groups Hezbollah and Hamas (proxies for Syria and Iran) and called for a "unity government" among Palestinians (i.e., including Hamas in the Palestinian government -- a role being pushed by the Obama administration now). The report's main focus seemed to be that the Arab-Israeli conflict was the source of the region's problems (it was startling that a report which was supposed to focus on Iraq turned its attention instead toward Israel). The ISG report stated that the "United States will not be able to achieve its goals in the Middle East unless the United States deals directly with the Arab-Israeli conflict."
This, as of last week, now seems enshrined as official United States policy.
I discussed the Iraq Study Group report several times, most prominently here and here, but most of those discussions centered around the flamboyant James Baker and gave short shrift to Hamilton. If anything, Hamilton may even be more dangerous.
Hamilton, a smooth Washington operator, has been successful at placing his protégés in positions of power in the foreign policy apparatus of the Obama administration. Laura Rozen of Foreign Policy.com wrote about a secret dinner hosted by Hamilton before the inaugural that was populated by Hamilton's protégés and that sought to influence the President-elect's views.
A source close to Hamilton explained that he had a long relationship with Obama, and noted that many former Hamilton staffers had gone on to be key staffers and foreign policy advisors to Obama.
Two Hamilton acolytes occupy key roles at the NSC.
Denis McDonough was the campaign's top foreign policy staffer and is now the U.S. Deputy National Security Advisor. He is a former Hamilton aide and worked for Hamilton on the staff of the House International Relations Committee. Another Hamilton alum is Dan Shapiro who worked for Hamilton as his professional staff member on the Middle East when Hamilton was chairman of the-then House Foreign Affairs Committee. He is now the senior director for the Middle East at the NSC.
Will Barack Obama follow the counsel of Lee Hamilton going forward? He seems to have certainly taken steps that comport with the policy proposals articulated by Hamilton in the past. However, it is still early in Obama's reign. Perhaps other influences and development will come to play a role in the President's foreign policy. But the weather looks rough in the short-term-particularly for Israel. This is according to a man with a vast amount of experience in Washington, who has a close relationship with Barack Obama and has sources within the administration.
"Initiatives are underway that show the United States is going to have some major differences with Israel."
Video: Rabbi Shimon Rosenberg speaks at terror victims' memorial
Rabbi Shimon Rosenberg, father of Rivka Holtzberg HY"D (may God avenge her blood), and father-in-law of Rabbi Gavriel (Gabi) Holzberg, who were murdered at Chabad House in Mumbai in November speaking at the State of Israel's main memorial service honoring terror victims at the military cemetery on Mount Herzl.
I am only sorry that I do not have an English translation for you (if anyone has the time and inclination to do one, I will be glad to add it to this post).
More on this story here (link in Hebrew) and here.
We now have two confirmed cases and two more suspected cases of swineMexican flu here in Israel. This morning, it was confirmed that a 26-year old man who has been hospitalized in Laniado Hospital in Netanya has the virus and this evening it's been confirmed that a 47-year old man who has been hospitalized in Meir Hospital in Kfar Sava has it.
Kfar Saba's Meir Hospital said late Tuesday afternoon that the second person who had contracted the virus was a 47-year-old man who returned to Israel from Mexico two days ago and checked himself in when he felt ill.
It said the Health Ministry tested the man and confirmed he had the strain of the virus present in Mexico that has set off a worldwide health scare.
The hospital said the man was suffering from fever and flu-like conditions, but was expected to make a full recovery. He is being kept in isolation while he is being treated.
Earlier Tuesday, health officials confirmed the country's first case of swine flu in the country.
Health Ministry spokeswoman Einav Shimron said that 26-year-old Tomer Vajim from Netanya, who recently returned from Mexico and has been in quarantine for several days at the city's Laniado Hospital, tested positive for the virus.
Dr. Avinoam Skolnik, Laniado's medical director, said Vajim had recovered and was in "excellent condition," adding that he would remain hospitalized until the Health Ministry approves his release.
In an interview with Channel 1 TV, Vajim said he felt fine.
"I was really scared when they told me I had contracted this kind of flu and that I am the first one," he said. "My family is stressed out. But I feel okay."
Vajim's five-year-old niece was also being held in isolation at the hospital amid concern that she, too, had contracted the virus.
JPost is also reporting that a 42-year old man who recently returned from Mexico was admitted to Hadassah Ein Karem Hospital in Jerusalem with flu-like symptoms on Tuesday.
Israel Radio reported on its 10:00 news that a child has been admitted to Dana Hospital in Tel Aviv and is suspected of having the flu. The child returned from the US on El Al's Saturday night flight from Newark that arrived on Sunday - apparently the same flight as one of the other victims. If you returned from the US on that flight and have flu-like symptoms, please call your doctor.
Meanwhile the Mexicans are concerned by Israel's ultra-Orthodox Health Minister's insistence on calling the virus 'Mexican flu.'
Mexico launched an official complaint to Israel on Tuesday regarding Litzman's suggestion to call swine flu "Mexican flu" in deference to Muslim and Jewish sensitivities over pork.
Mexico's Ambassador to Israel Frederico Salas complained to the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem that the name Mexican flu was bothersome and worrying.
The Foreign Ministry stressed that Israel had no intention of changing the name of the virus and emphasized the friendly ties between Israel and Mexico.
During a press conference Monday, Litzman said the reference to pigs was offensive to both religions and "we should call this Mexican flu and not swine flu."
The Washington Times reports that Barack Obama has the worst approval rating of any American President in 40 years other than Bill Clinton at this point in his Presidency. Worse than Nixon. Worse than his mentor, Jimmy Carter.
At the 100-day mark of his presidency, Mr. Obama is the second-least-popular president in 40 years.
According to Gallup's April survey, Americans have a lower approval of Mr. Obama at this point than all but one president since Gallup began tracking this in 1969. The only new president less popular was Bill Clinton, who got off to a notoriously bad start after trying to force homosexuals on the military and a federal raid in Waco, Texas, that killed 86. Mr. Obama's current approval rating of 56 percent is only one tick higher than the 55-percent approval Mr. Clinton had during those crises.
As the attached chart shows, five presidents rated higher than Mr. Obama after 100 days in office. Ronald Reagan topped the charts in April 1981 with 67 percent approval. Following the Gipper, in order of popularity, were: Jimmy Carter with 63 percent in 1977; George W. Bush with 62 percent in 2001; Richard Nixon with 61 percent in 1969; and George H.W. Bush with 58 percent in 1989.
The holiday edition of the JPost (no hard copy paper tomorrow) features a lengthy interview with foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman. Here are some highlights.
Israel has proved its good intentions, our desire for peace. Since 1978, we gave up territories three times larger than Israel. We invested billions of shekels in the Palestinian Authority. We paid a very heavy price. Thousands of our citizens were killed in terrorist acts. What more can we do?
Without understanding the real reasons for this long-standing conflict, we cannot move forward. That's my view.
Over the last two weeks I've had many conversations with my colleagues around the world. Just today, I saw the political adviser to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the Chinese foreign minister and the Czech prime minister. And everybody, you know, speaks with you like you're in a campaign: Occupation, settlements, settlers...
You mean they speak in slogans?
Yes, slogans. Settlements, outposts. And I ask only one thing: What was the situation before 1967, before we established a single settlement. What was before '48 and '67? Was it peace, was it a heaven here?
It was the same: friction, terrorism, bloodshed. The PLO and Fatah were established before '67 and the Arab countries controlled Judea and Samaria and the Gaza Strip for 19 years, from '48 to '67. Nobody spoke during this time about the Palestinian state. And even before the establishment of the state of Israel, it was the same: friction, tension, terror, riots, pogroms. People try to simplify the situation with these formulas - land for peace, two-state solution. It's a lot more complicated.
You don't need to persuade this newspaper not to speak to you in slogans, but nonetheless, is it not the case that for our sake, to keep a Jewish, democratic Israel, we have to find some way to separate from the Palestinians? And doesn't that mean, in principle at least, statehood? I understand the prime minister's concerns about what statehood brings with it - giving one the right to arm and to pose a threat. But what then is the ultimate goal here vis-a-vis the Palestinians?
Yes, you live here and you understand the situation. I'm not sure that in Europe, that the leadership of the European Union, understand. For them, it's occupation, settlements and settlers.
I view The Jerusalem Post not only as an Israeli newspaper, but as a means to speak to people around the world - supporters and enemies.
We must clarify our position. The real reason [for the deadlock with the Palestinians] is not occupation, not settlements and not settlers. This conflict is really a very deep conflict. It started like other national conflicts. Today it's a more religious conflict. Today you have the influence of some non-rational players, like Al-Qaida. What is Hamas and Islamic Jihad? It's Iran by proxy.
To resolve this conflict, it is not enough to repeat slogans. I don't see any short way for any comprehensive solutions.
From my point of view, we're interested in three things. First of all, as Israeli citizens, the most important thing is security. I don't want to see, every day, every morning, Palestinian missiles striking Sderot.
Second, what is most important for the Palestinians? I think it's also very clear - the economy. Now I say as a settler, we at Nokdim are the biggest employer in our area. I have met many times with Palestinians from the villages around us, who really strongly do not believe in any political process, in peace processes - not in summits, not in conferences, not in declarations...
They have unemployment of 30-40 percent, especially in the Gaza Strip, with families living on $200 a month. Like all normal peoples, they want, first of all, jobs, to feed their families, to provide education for their children, health services, personal security. So the key value for the Palestinians is the economy.
It's not independence? And they didn't vote for Hamas because they want to get rid of Israel? It's the economy?
Why they voted Hamas is an interesting question. It was not independence, and not because they believe in Hamas's radical ideology, but because Hamas established a social services framework - clinics, funds, schools. And the Palestinian Authority, Fatah, on the other hand, during the Arafat regime and after it, was seen as very corrupt in its institutions. That's why Hamas won the elections. The same applies today. The Palestinians want normal lives, a standard of living, jobs.
And the third element, of course, is stability. Economy, security, stability. It's impossible to artificially impose any political solution. It will fail, for sure. You cannot start any peace process from nothing. You must create the right situation, the right focus, the right conditions.
Is our government going to say to the international community and the Americans in particular, 'We're not even going to start trying to make progress with the Palestinians until you stop Iran?
No, no, no, no, no.
That's the impression that's sometimes being created.
No, we must start with the Palestinian issues because it's our interest to resolve this problem. But there should be no illusions. To achieve an agreement, to achieve an end of conflict, with no more bloodshed, no more terror, no more claims - that's impossible until Iran [is addressed], one of the biggest players in our arena...
Where does Hamas and Gaza fit into the plan Israel will present to the Obama administration?
It must be clear that we cannot deal with Hamas in any way. Not directly. Not indirectly. We've tried to clarify our position to Europe. The [three] Quartet conditions must be kept on the table [- recognition of Israel; acceptance of previous agreements; renunciation of violence]. We've clarified that they [Europe] should not move from this, not to change these conditions. Hamas cannot be a partner to any discussions.
Is the goal to bring down Hamas?
Hamas cannot be a partner to any discussions, any talks or any process. I hope that we can suffocate Hamas. It's in our interests, in the interests of the Egyptians, and the Palestinian Authority. As we saw, Hamas is only a proxy of the Iranians here, and they repeat openly every day their intention to destroy us; they're not ready to recognize our right to exist. From my point of view there is only one way: to suffocate Hamas.
How do you achieve that?
We have enough possibilities. If the Egyptians, Palestinians and us build the right strategy, there are many effective ways to do this. Not only militarily. But if Hamas strikes Sderot and other towns in the south, then also militarily.
So you think the Abbas and the PA recognize our right to exist here?
In general, they recognize our right to exist. [I would say that's overly optimistic. CiJ] In my first meeting with Mitchell, I demanded that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish country. It's a very important point for us.
A little more than ten days ago, when the controversy over 'Palestinian' recognition of Israel as a Jewish state first cropped up, I produced a copy of President Truman's letter recognizing the State of Israel and suggested why the words 'Jewish state' might have been crossed out.
What Erekat is apparently arguing is that Truman's having crossed out "new Jewish state" and having written in "State of Israel" means that Truman did not recognize that Israel is a Jewish state. That's nonsense for third reasons. First, the most likely scenario is that Truman was told that the State had a name when he went to sign the letter, and therefore he decided to recognize the State by its name. Second, his first paragraph says that "a Jewish state has been proclaimed in Palestine." Well, if he wasn't recognizing that "Jewish state," what is the meaning of the second paragraph? Third, the United States never threatened to flood Israel with 'refugees,' has no contiguous borders with Israel and has never threatened to 'drive the Jews into the sea.' So once again, Erekat's comparison fails.
In Tuesday's New York Times, Hebrew University professor Shlomo Avineri provides the historical background I was missing:
Shlomo Avineri, a professor of political science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, said Mr. Erekat was misinterpreting the American president’s intention. According to Mr. Avineri, the Truman letter had been prepared hours before Israel declared its independence, before the new country had chosen its name.
It was later corrected by a Truman adviser, Clark M. Clifford, after the declaration of independence in order to call the country by its name, not to deny its Jewish character, Mr. Avineri said.
The Times also notes Abu Mazen's and 'chief negotiator' Saeb Erekat's real intentions behind the refusal to recognize Israel is a Jewish state. It's not just about semantics:
Palestinian negotiators have long refused to recognize Israel’s Jewish character, saying that it would negate the Palestinian refugees’ demand for the right to return to their former homes and would be detrimental to the status of Israel’s Arab citizens.
For those who cannot figure out Abu Mazen's real intentions, please consider this picture from Tuesday's 'Palestinian' papers:
"The argument over recognizing Israel as a Jewish state is not technical or tactical," Foreign Ministry spokesman Yossi Levy told The Jerusalem Post Monday.
"The Palestinians cannot negotiate for a two-state solution where one is Palestinian and the other is Palestinian-to-be," he said. "This is essential; it is the choice between ending the conflict or failing to end the conflict."
A ministry statement said that "recognizing Israel as the sovereign state of the Jewish people is a crucial and necessary stage in the historical reconciliation process between Israelis and the Palestinians. The sooner the Palestinians internalize this basic fact, the sooner the peace between our nations will progress."
The Post also has some interesting quotes from Abbas' speech on Monday night in Ramallah:
"The Israeli government has come up with many new issues and it does not want a two-state solution," Abbas told the Palestinian "Youth Parliament in Ramallah. "We don't accept the term 'Jewish state' and insist on achieving all our rights."
He added: "We say that Israel is a state and the Israelis have the right to call themselves whatever they wish. But I don't accept this. At the Annapolis peace conference we told the Israelis that we only recognize the State of Israel and that they are free to call themselves as they wish."
Abbas also expressed his desire to resume peace talks with Israel on the basis of the Saudi peace initiative of 2002, the two-state solution and the "road map" for peace in the Middle East.
"The [Saudi] peace initiative is no longer an Arab initiative," he said. "It has become part of the road map, which has been endorsed by the Quartet, and as such it's an internationally recognized peace plan. We don't want to impose an Arab-Islamic peace vision on the Israelis, but this is an international plan." [So imposing an 'Arab-Islamic peace vision' wouldn't be okay, but if it becomes an 'international plan' that suddenly makes it okay? CiJ].
He said that the Palestinians conducted peace talks with the previous government in Israel for a year following the Annapolis peace conference in November 2007.
"All the final-status issues were then on the table," he added. "We fulfilled our duties while Israel didn't do anything." [What duties did they fulfill? CiJ]
He said that during the talks, the Palestinians made clear their position regarding all the final-status issues.
"Can anyone deny that Jerusalem was occupied in 1967?" he asked. "And can anyone deny that all the [Palestinian] refugees left their homes in what is Israel today?
"We want to tell the Israelis that east Jerusalem doesn't belong to you because it's an occupied territory. Therefore, you have no right to build in the city. They are also stealing our water and selling it to us. We want to solve the problem of water in accordance with international law." ['Stealing their water' from where? And selling it to them how? They've managed to pollute all the underground acquifers in Judea and Samaria by their unrestricted drilling since 1993. CiJ]
Abbas's comments contrast with former prime minister Ehud Olmert's insistence in March that during talks with the Palestinians, he had "put on the table an offer that dealt with the heart of the problems and all our historic emotional heritage of thousands of years.
"I said to [Abbas], Here you go, just sign. That was six months ago; I haven't heard back yet," Olmert said. [Why do I suspect that for once Olmert is telling the truth? CiJ]
Abbas pledged that if and when he reached an agreement with Israel, he would seek the approval of the Palestinians through a referendum.
There are almost no Israelis who will agree to any kind of 'right of return' or to a deal that does not include an end of conflict provision and a total and permanent cessation of terrorism. But that's not what Abu Mazen wants. Like Hamas, what he really wants is to destroy the Jewish state. Most of us aren't willing to commit suicide yet.
Since 1993, Israel has given the Palestinian Authority legitimacy (the PLO supposedly renounced violence in return for no longer being considered a terrorist organization), territory ( Jericho, Ramallah, Bethlehem, Tulkarem, Kalkilye, Nablus, Jenin and all of Gaza) arms, money and the Palestians have failed to keep a single term (no violence, no incitement against Israel) of the Oslo agreements. Given that Abbas has done nothing for Israel, the question really should be whether or not Abbas (or any leader of the PA) accepts the notion of an independent Jewish state living alongside a Palestinian state. Abbas's latest makes it clear that the answer is most likely "no."
Remembrance Day for Fallen Soldiers and Terror Victims
Like many of my readers, I grew up in the United States of America. For most Americans, Memorial Day is now a Monday holiday that provides a long weekend to enjoy baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and the first barbecue of summer.
I was even once in England on November 11 (which is Veterans Day in the United States, but as I understand it is England's equivalent to Memorial Day). It seemed like everyone was walking around with red poppies on their lapels, but otherwise it seemed like a normal day.
Here in Israel, today is Remembrance Day for Fallen Soldiers and Terror Victims. It's a very different experience from my youth in the United States. No, I'm not talking about the fact that there's a siren that goes off during which everyone is supposed to stand silent at 8:00 pm and 11:00 am. From my perspective, the siren is irrelevant. What's moving about this day is the dirge-like music interspersed with hour after hour of radio interviews with loved ones of people who fell in Israel's battles and in terror attacks - and after nearly 18 years in this country and most of the last eight and a half years telling the outside world about the 'matzav' (situation) - the connection I feel to them. There are 7.4 million Israelis and we have lost 22,700+ soldiers in the line of duty and over 1700 terror victims. You do the math. Everyone here - and I do mean everyone - knows someone or knows someone who knows someone who died.
This afternoon, I had to run out to a doctor's appointment. As I was driving to the appointment, I had the main ceremony in memory of terror victims on the radio - it was taking place nearby at Mount Herzl. Rabbi Shimon Rosenberg got up to speak. For those to whom the name is not familiar, Rabbi Shimon Rosenberg is a resident of Afula in northern Israel - where one of my sons was in yeshiva for two and a half years. Rabbi Shimon Rosenberg is also the father of Rivki Holzberg HY"D (may God avenge her blood). Rivki and her husband Rabbi Gavriel (Gabi) Holzberg HY"D were the Lubavitch emissaries who were murdered in Mumbai in November of this past year. Fortunately, I was pulling into a traffic light as Rabbi Rosenberg spoke about his grandson Moshe (pictured above) - the treasure that his daughter and son-in-law left behind - and his nurse "Miss Sandra," whom he called chasidat umot ha'olam (one of the righteous gentiles. Fortunately - because I almost lost it.
If anyone sees a video of that speech (even in Hebrew without subtitles), please drop me an email and I will try to grab it for you.
בלע המות לנצח ומחה ה' אלקים דמעה מעל כל פנים וחרפת עמו יסיר מעל כל הארץ כי ה' דבר
God will wipe out death forever and erase the tears from every face, and remove His nation's disgrace from the entire land, for God has spoken (Isaiah 25:8).
Hezbullah intimidating Lebanese voters says... Ban Ki-Moon
With a little more than a month to go until Lebanon's elections, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has slammed Hezbullah for intimidating Lebanese voters, as well as for its activities in Egypt and in the Gaza Strip.
In a report to the UN Security Council, Ban said, "The threat that armed groups and militias pose to the sovereignty and stability of the Lebanese state cannot be overstated."
"It creates an atmosphere of intimidation in the context of the upcoming parliamentary elections. It also undermines the stability of the region, and is incompatible with the objectives of Resolution 1559," he added, referring to a 2004 resolution which called for the "disbanding and disarmament of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias."
The UN chief described the groups arsenal as "a direct challenge to the sovereignty of the Lebanese state and an obstacle for the conduct of the normal democratic process in the country."
On Friday, Ban condemned what he said was Hizbullah's interference in the affairs of another country.
"I am alarmed that Hizbullah publicly admitted to providing support to Gaza-based militants from Egyptian territory," he said.
"Such activity indicates that Hizbullah operates outside Lebanese territory and beyond its stated national agenda. I condemn such unwarranted interference in the domestic affairs of a sovereign member state," he said.
Ban renewed his call for Hizbullah to disarm and to transform into "a solely political party."
With Ban Ki-Moon leading the charge against Hezbullah, while the Obama administration permits weapons to fall into Hezbullah's hands, what could go wrong?
Moreover, elections are scheduled in Lebanon for June 7, and it is possible that Hezbullah could end up in official control of the country - including its army.
And, according to DEBKA, when Lebanese president Gen. Michel Suleiman (the one many of you don't recognize in the picture above) signed the arms deal in Ankara Tuesday, April 21 (the Turkish web site says the deal was signed on Thursday, April 23), he pledged publicly to place the Lebanese army at Hezbullah's disposal in any confrontation with Israel.
In December, I reported that the Lebanese army had asked both the US and Iran for weapons. I guess having Turkey make the sale is the Obama administration's way of not sharing a weapons customer with Iran.
I am an Orthodox Jew - some would even call me 'ultra-Orthodox.' Born in Boston, I was a corporate and securities attorney in New York City for seven years before making aliya to Israel in 1991 (I don't look it but I really am that old :-). I have been happily married to the same woman for thirty-five years, and we have eight children (bli ayin hara) ranging in age from 12 to 33 years and eight grandchildren. Three of our children are married and a fourth is engaged! Before I started blogging I was a heavy contributor on a number of email lists and ran an email list called the Matzav from 2000-2004. You can contact me at: IsraelMatzav at gmail dot com