Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Borders do not exist

GS Don Morris, Ph.D.

Interesting how the old adage, "what goes around, comes around" has made its appearance again here in the Middle East. Story after story is reporting the rather old and worn out mantra of "return to the 1967 borders." Headlines on both sides of the argument abound:

No return to pre-1967 borders: Israel

Abbas wants return to pre-1967 borders

Israeli FM rules out return to 1967 borders

Hamas: Ceasefire for return to 1967 border

There you have it-everyone referring to the "borders." The fact is this has been used as a term for decades by initially the media, then the local populations, then the academics followed by the governments involved. Surely I must be mistaken when I say there are no legally fixed borders. Explanation will follow in a moment. It has been a most convenient strategy, inadvertently reinforced by Israel years ago, to have been used by our enemies' to their advantage. Implicit within the term borders is the notion that one country stops and another entity begins. If we have towns on the "other side of the border" then we are "occupying" their land and we must now "leave and give back the land to its rightful owners." A very good strategy and it has worked to a limited degree thus far. Time to set the record correct-again.

Let's re-set the stage: "At the conclusion of the War of Independence, in 1949, all of the Arab countries who invaded Israel signed cease fire agreements with Israel, starting with Egypt on February 24 and concluding with Syria on July 20. These agreements specified the interim borders between Israel and the Arab states, as decided by the outcome of the battles." These became known as the "Armistice Line" and later it was called also the "Green Line…The Armistice Agreements brought the fighting of the War of Independence to an end, but did not actually end the war between Israel and its Arab neighbors."1

In a legal sense, what is today called a border is indeed nothing more than an arbitrary line between Israel proper and it surrounding Arab neighbors. The lines were originally called armistice lines and morphed into the "green line" as time went on. The end result "on the ground" was as follows:

Egypt territory was restored to its previous line; however, in the Gaza Strip where Egypt continued in control.

The border with Lebanon was the same previous line.

The border with Syria was the same previous line.

Now it gets interesting, Jordan retained control of the hill country historically known as Judea and Samaria. This territory was renamed the "West Bank" and Jordan also controlled the Old City of Jerusalem.

It is important to understand one critical fact that your media and pundits either with hold from you or are ignorant and have not completed their homework. In the Armistice Agreements, the ceasefire lines are defined as follows:
5(2). In no sense are the cease-fire lines to be interpreted as political or territorial borders and their delineation in no way affects the rights, demands or positions of any of the parties to the cease-fire agreements regarding the final disposition of the Palestine question.

5(3). The fundamental objective of the cease-fire lines is to serve as a line beyond which the armed forces of each of the parties will deploy.1

From 1949 to 1967, the areas of Gaza and Judea and Samaria were illegally placed under the control of Egypt and Jordan respectively. Arabs and Jews continued to live within these same areas during this time. From a political and military point of view, the 1947 U.N. partition plan served as reason for the legal declaration of a Jewish State.

Fast forward to June 1967. Israel was forced to defend herself against Arab aggression. It took six days and all of their armies were defeated. Mind you, during this entire time, 1949-1967 the "Armistice Lines remained-again a demarcation for placement of armies but never represented an official border. Once again the issue of borders reared its "head". After the 1947- 48 war, the Arabs refused to recognize Israel, and insisted the boundaries were only ceasefire lines, and this remained their legal status. The Arab nations were given another opportunity to recognize Israel and settle upon borders. Instead, the Arab League declared: "no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with it ….

What to do-almost 20 years and still no legal borders. Almost during this same timeline, when the territories were under Egyptian and Jordanian control and power, no request was ever made for a "Palestinian State". Equally true is that the people living in these territories were Arab tribes and social clans who dealt with the daily issues of life.

The International community stepped forward. After the 1967 War, President Lyndon Johnson also rejected the idea that Israel should withdraw to the pre-war frontier: "There are some who have urged, as a single, simple solution, an immediate return to the situation as it was on June 4.... this is not a prescription for peace but for renewed hostilities."

The Joint Chiefs of Staff concluded in 1967: "From a strictly military point of view, Israel would require the retention of some captured territory in order to provide militarily defensible borders." More than three decades later, Lieutenant General (Ret.) Thomas Kelly, director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the Gulf War, reiterated Israel's strategic concern: "It is impossible to defend Jerusalem unless you hold the high ground....An aircraft that takes off from an airport in Amman is going to be over Jerusalem in two-and-a-half minutes, so it's utterly impossible for me to defend the whole country unless I hold that land."2

Curiously, on the last day of the war, orders were given to the Israelis at the front to stop their movement-it took some time to get the information to them and where they physically stopped the new "Green Line" was created. The eastern borders of Israel are yet to be decided. Moreover, UN Resolution 242, the foundation stone of Arab-Israeli negotiations, explicitly avoided requiring an Israeli retreat to the 1967 lines, its drafters believing those were indefensible.

Resolution 242 calls for the recognition of Israel's right to exist, an end to the state of war maintained by the Arab world against Israel and secure and recognized boundaries for Israel. 242 does NOT require Israel to return to the non-secure borders of pre-1967.3 The Arab nations and the leaders of the Arabs living in Gaza and Judea and Samaria have, to this day, used UN 242 as the guiding legal principle for legally determining internationally recognized borders.

Remember, Jordan actually annexed the territories called Judea and Samaria-this was done illegally and was only recognized by Great Britain and Pakistan. Nonetheless, Jordan operated as though this territory belonged to them. After the six-day war, Israel began its administration of these areas west of the Jordan River to this day. The best descriptor for these areas is clearly they are "disputed territories" and have been for decades.

After the battles and the Yom Kippur War in October of 1973, another Arab attack upon Israel, a period of instability followed. It should be noted that most of Jordan's population east of the Jordan River are people known as Palestinians-fact is some 70% of Jordan is comprised of this group. The country is run by another group of people known as the Hashemites. Much has been written on this time in history and it is not the intent of this piece to review the unintended consequences of Jordan ultimately renouncing all claims (1988) to the disputed territories of Judea and Samaria. At this point, still no border between Israel proper and the disputed territories.

It is now 2009, we have had any number of "peace processes", and you all should know them by name. They have all failed to produce borders and certainly peace is as elusive as is the "Man in the moon'. Of course, the facts do not matter to the Arab nations and peoples who profess to be our enemies. They do possess a great deal of "chutzpah" that resonates within their own populations and now we have President Obama who has bought into the misrepresentation "hook, line and sinker." For a supposed intelligent man, his knowledge of the history and understanding of the facts is only surpassed by his ignorance of this area. I am attempting to be gentle with this characterization and to jolt his supporters with the truth. They have embarked upon a ME strategy that will fail for all, have incredible security ramifications for the USA and/or they mean to destroy Israel. There are no other outcomes should the Obama team continue down the path of arrogance.


1. Palestine Facts, "What determined Israel's borders after the 1948 War of Independence?",

2. "Israel Education Initiative: The 1967 Border", World Jewry,

3. "What happened in 1967 that caused Israel's borders to change?," Smooth Stone Blog, Jan. 3, 2007

Monday, May 25, 2009

What's in a name?

GS Don Morris, Ph.D.

It is politically expedient and advantageous to continue to call Israeli citizens living in the disputed territories "Settlers". The term is used to demonize the people and thus separate them from "us". If a government has an agenda to abandon an area inhabited by citizens it is critical that the individuals living on that land be delegitimized in the eyes of the larger general public. By attaching a value of good/bad upon the two groups of people the government strengthens its position of power. Repeat this term, as has been done for decades and you end up today with the problem facing all Israelis-what to do with the disputed territory. People have come to believe that we actually are not entitled to any of the disputed territories. The government coupled with specific political entities here in Israel and with the assistance of the local media, all have helped create a situation that is contrary to Israel's security.

Who are those living in the disputed territories? They are fellow citizens, yes, Israeli citizens doing their best to live each day as everyone inside the proper of our country. They are no different than you and I with one exception-they believe vehemently in their choice to live among the various townships founding Judea and Samaria. Not withstanding the fact that the Israeli government encouraged and assisted with this movement after 1967, these Israeli citizens are willing to take a stand and are willing to engage in behavior that is consistent with their beliefs-some of us call this integrity.

At any point in time since 1967 the term of "settler" and "settlements" could have been aborted. However, each step of the way as Israel was emerging from multiple attacks by our Arab "neighbors" the terms remained. The reason is again simple; certain politicians needed to create disassociation between the citizens living inside and outside Israel proper. They need to do this to promote their own agenda and this strategy has worked; they gained power and remain in power in part because they are against "the settlers" who have become the "obstacle to peace." This is incorrect, inaccurate and not true but it resonates well: divide and conquer. We have allowed this to occur in our tiny country.

Rather than stand with one another against our common enemies, we choose to do what no Arab enemy has been able to do for all these years. Defeat us from within and no bullets need to be fired. Fact is, all our enemies need to do is cause a problem every now and then; we galvanize for a few short moments but soon return to all the previous accusations. Dependent upon what the composition of the government is, the so-called "settler" problem is once again used as a scapegoat. Repeated over and over and citizens become tired, disillusioned and want the easy way out of the situation. Of course, given one's perception of the citizens living in Hebron, Frat and other townships, it becomes a facile process to throw your fellow citizens under the international bus. It is so easy as you think it has no direct connection to your daily lives. Nothing could be further from the truth-this for another post.

Imagine if in 1948 those settlers who were here in Israel had decided to engage in the same "gaming strategies" and discounter those choosing to live in the Galilee! I understand this dilemma and do not use the word "settler" to describe Israeli citizens living in towns and townships in the Judea and Samaria territories-it is mandatory we come together at this moment in history. We are all residents in our respective Israeli locales-our enemy is watching every moment of our angst!

Between the Lines: American Needs to Be an Honest Broker

Unmentioned in the articles about the Obama administration's pressure on Israel to strangle development of Jewish communities in the disputed territories - while simultaneously allowing unfettered growth of Arab settlements - is the damage it does to America's credibility.

Those who (wrongly) believe American pressure on Israel is vital to the prospects for peace ought to be very concerned.

For those people, Israel can afford to make one-sided concessions because it can trust the United States. Yet here is another example showing American commitments to Israel are ephemeral.

Israel accepted the so-called road map largely because, despite its one-sidedness, it was performance based. This essentially meant, for the first time, supposedly Israel wouldn't be forced to make even more concessions before the Palestinian Arabs upheld their end of the current step.

Israel also included some reasonable reservations in its acceptance
and those reservations were understood and, according to the article in the Washington Post, excerpted below, agreed to by the United States.

Those understandings were also implicit in President Bush's letter to Ariel Sharon recognizing the major Israeli communities in the disputed territories would obviously be incorporated into Israel proper under any conceivable agreement.

The Bush Administration itself undermined the "road map" with the Annapolis meeting, which completely violated the principles of the road map.

The Palestinian Arabs have actually gone backwards in terms of their complying with their only important commitment in the first stage, eliminating their terror infrastructure.

Yet the Obama administration is not only ignoring the fact that the Palestinian Arabs are going backwards, but violating our own commitments to Israel.

The upside is that ultimately it will be up to the Arabs, including the Palestinian Arabs, to recognize it is in their own interests to live in peace with Israel; while America can - although it generally has not - play a helpful role, its role has never and likely never will be critical in promoting peace between the Arabs and Israel.

However, those who believe otherwise ought to be very concerned and should be strongly lobbying the Obama administration to stop undermining the credibility of the United States of America.

U.S. Urges Israel to End Expansion

Excerpted from The Washington Post. The full article may be read at <>.

Settlement Issue Is Complicated by Bush Agreement

By Glenn Kessler and Howard Schneider

Washington Post Staff Writers

Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Obama administration is pressing the Israeli government to halt the expansion of Jewish settlements in Palestinian areas, U.S. and Israeli officials said, seeking a visible symbol of progress on peace that might inspire Arab states to consider normalizing relations with Jerusalem. The administration's effort is being accompanied by greater willingness by U.S. lawmakers to complain publicly about settlements, but it has been complicated by an unwritten agreement on the issue between Israel and the United States reached during the Bush administration.

"Natural growth" refers to population expansion as a result of births, adoptions and the like -- a position successive Israeli governments have rejected, though it is an Israeli obligation in the 2003 peace plan known as the "road map." The Bush administration accommodated Israeli concerns with a secret understanding that allowed for growth in settlements that Israel hopes to keep in any peace deal with the Palestinians.

Regev said the Israeli government is relying on "understandings" between former president George W. Bush and former prime minister Ariel Sharon that some of the larger settlements in the occupied West Bank would ultimately become part of Israel, codified in a letter that Bush gave to Sharon in 2004. In an interview with The Washington Post last year, Sharon aide Dov Weissglas said that in 2005, when Sharon was poised to remove settlers from Gaza, the Bush administration arrived at a secret agreement -- not disclosed to the Palestinians -- that Israel could add homes in settlements it expected to keep, as long as the construction was dictated by market demand, not subsidies.

Elliott Abrams, a former deputy national security adviser who negotiated the arrangement with Weissglas, confirmed the deal in an interview last week. "At the time of the Gaza withdrawal, there were lengthy discussions about how settlement activity might be constrained, and in fact it was constrained in the later part of the Sharon years and the Olmert years in accordance with the ideas that were discussed," he said. "There was something of an understanding realized on these questions, but it was never a written agreement."

Regev said Israeli and U.S. negotiators are discussing the degree to which the terms of the 2004 letter will apply under the new administration, but U.S. officials indicated that Obama wants to move beyond the 2004 letter and hold Israel to its commitments under the road map. "The bottom line is we expect all the parties in the region to honor their commitments, and for the Israelis, that means a stop to settlements, as the president said," a senior administration official said.

Ignoring the morality of attempting the strangulation of Jewish communities in the disputed territories while promoting the growth of Arab settlements in those territories and the fact that Israel did not agree to a total construction freeze, where is the pressure on the Palestinian Arabs to adhere to their commitment to dismantle their terror infrastructure, not to mention ending incitement, including teaching hatred of Jews in their school systems?

Saturday, May 23, 2009

So, You Want to Be a State

GS Don Morris, Ph.D.

So much has been written and said about the situation near the Mediterranean Sea. So many suggestions and each one has failed in its purpose. Analysis of these attempts indicates that they make certain assumptions that either cannot be agreed upon by both sides and are thus imposed upon both sides or perhaps the assumptions are incorrect. Some people state this is an issue of territory. Others indicate it is all about moral equivalency-an entire people have been displaced and now the international community must make amends. This piece makes no attempt to alter each reader's perception of the aforementioned concepts. For the sake of argument I am assuming we have found common agreement on the reasons why another nation state must be created.

Seems to me that there are certain requirements for an entity to possess as it makes a request to enter the world community of nations. What might some of the requirements be?

An independent State:

  • Has space or territory that has internationally recognized boundaries (boundary disputes are OK).

  • Have people who live there on an ongoing basis.

  • Has economic activity and an organized economy. A country regulates foreign and domestic trade and issues money.

  • Has the power of social engineering, such as education.

  • Has a transportation system for moving goods and people.

  • Has a government, which provides public services and police power.

  • Has sovereignty. No other State should have power over the country's territory.

  • Has external recognition. A country has been "voted into the club" by other countries.1

Nations are culturally homogeneous groups of people, larger than a single tribe or community, which share a common language, institutions, religion, and historical experience. When a nation of people has a State or country of their own, it is called a nation-state.1

Ah, but it is not this simple. Many individuals suggest that nations, states and countries are all the same. However, others take exception to this simplistic rationalization. They are not the same. The problem arises because there isn't a universally agreed definition of 'country' and because, for political reasons, some countries find it convenient to recognize or not recognize other countries.2

It is reasonable to ask, how is a country defined? Typically you discover that one of three methods is used to define if a group is a country:

1. The Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States was a treaty signed at Montevideo, Uruguay, on December 26 1933.

The convention set out the definition, rights and duties of statehood. Most well-known is Article 1, which set out four criteria for statehood, as quoted below.

The state as a person of international law should possess the following qualifications:
(a) a permanent population;
(b) a defined territory;
(c) government; and
(d) capacity to enter into relations with the other states.

Article 3 of the Convention also declares that statehood is independent of recognition by other states, so a country can exist even if other countries don't recognize it.

2. The Declarative theory of statehood is based on the 4 criteria specified in the Montevideo Convention.

3. The constitutive theory of statehood defines a state or country as a person of international law if, and only if, it is recognized as sovereign by other states. This means that so long as enough other countries recognize you as a country, you ARE a country, even if you don't have control over your territory or a permanent population.2

It does appear that the following component is necessary for a group a state or nation: A region, territory, or large tract of land distinguishable by features of topography, biology, or culture.

One can write a treatise on this topic alone and it may not get us any closer to resolving the ME difficulties by the Sea. One can argue, and many have, that there is no such group called Palestinians. Of course as human beings people exist, it has been argued that until 1967 what are known now, as Palestinians are descendants of tribal Arabs living in this region of the world. They fail the test of commonality required to make application for a nation or a state. I leave that for others to discuss.

It does seem to me that the international community must first ask itself to define the requisite components a group of people must possess, that are necessary to assume the title of state, nation or country. After all we have identified the necessary criteria for securing bank loans, business loans, for becoming members of Olympic teams, for adopting children, for declaring food safe to eat and water safe to drink. We have created criteria for acceptance into social clubs-why now does the international community not apply the same reasoning to this situation? Instead, the politically expedient action is to simply insist on the "two-state solution."

Currently states are and/or have made application to the European Union. In 1993, the EU held a meeting in Copenhagen and created political criteria for new members- Here is the agreed upon membership criteria requirements that the candidate country must have achieved:

  • Stability of institutions

  • Guaranteeing democracy,

  • Rule of law,

  • Human rights, and respect for and protection of minorities?"

Can you honestly say that the Palestinian Authority state even remotely meets such criteria? What moral justification is there, then, for forcing a vulnerable Israel, threatened by an irredentist Palestinian state, to help establish it when a powerful European Union refuses to take much smaller risks in the case of Turkey?3 So I call upon all of those "2-state solutioners" (OK, no such word) to take several steps back, define the necessary criteria for any entity to become a recognized and accepted state and then begin the analysis with respect to the disputed territory issue-by the Sea. After consensus is reached on the criteria, should this not be followed by a time period in which said entity demonstrates adherence to the criteria? If not, why? We certainly demand this of every other human behavior. This idea of nation or state identity involves a process. By definition then this means a change from one condition to another and this requires time. Therefore, the next step is to clearly identify the behavioral condition changes and create a timeline that supports the condition to be realized. It is at this point and only at this point that a state, demonstrating any integrity, can be formed. I say, let's get to it.


1. Matt Rosenberg, "Defining an Independent Country,"

2. "What is a country, and how is a country defined?" The geography site,

3. Daniel Doron, Say No To A Palestinian State, May 16, 2009,

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Solution: Implies common agreement on the problem and …

GS Don Morris, Ph.D.

May 20,2009

The following headlines have made the printed pages of newspapers and internet sites around the world:

Netanyahu Pressured from All Sides on '2-State Solution.'

Will Obama Try to Force Arab Two-State Plan on Israel?

Fatah says yes to the Two-state solution

Former PM Blair indicates 2-state solution is the only way forward

These represent but a few of the thousands of headlines and follow up stories that have made their way to the readers' eyes these past 12 days. Of course almost every Western country has indicated Israel must move forward toward the formation of another Arab state on its borders. The Arab world is generally supportive of the idea and the enemies of Israel understand it is a great political leverage tool to be used against Israel-for the moment. So why now is there a rush, again, for creating yet another Arab state? Political expediency is the correct answer! This is not a new idea. What, if anything, is new? The Arab governments, many EU leaders and enemies of Israel and the USA believe with an Obama in the Whitehouse, Israel can be forced to "make a deal" thus satisfying most of the parties-with the exception of Israel. This is the endgame for "the solution".

Since 1948 and actually for several decades before this date, multiple "solutions" have been offered and ultimately rejected. All of these solutions are based upon faulty thinking and poor assumptions regarding all concerned parties and thus have no chance for a workable out come.

Solutions require a problem or problems exist and that the problem(s) has (have) been properly identified. Solutions are based upon assumptions: all participating parties want a viable outcome that can be compatibly shared one with the other; all participating parties agree what the desired outcome looks like thus giving a target to reach; value systems of participants are compatible; compromise by all parties is required.

Only individuals directly impacted by the situation are the primary players. In this case, it is Israelis and Palestinians. It is necessary to say to both sides that there are three choices before them: you can have a compliant solution, an imposed solution or no solution at all. Each of the three outcomes requires "conditions of support"-those conditions that ensure the stated outcomes are given the best opportunity for success.

How to begin

Begin anew-no one is beholding to any previous concepts, words or documents. Identify only that which all parties can agree-do not get "caught up" with history, blame, whine or condemnation-focus only upon what you can commonly agree upon-thus no preconditions exist. This frees those doing the bargaining i.e., negotiating, to put their "proverbial cards on the table." Step One: To start, each side should declare if it wants peace. If no, ask is there anything we can agree upon that is common to both sides' interests? If no, cease discussion-do not waste anybody's time, resources or energy and stop "fooling yourselves and the international community." If yes to either of the previous two questions each side must define what "peace means" and what it looks like on the ground. If areas of agreement exist, again specificity of description is imperative. Both sides ultimately must agree on what peace or common interests look like on a daily basis. Avoid getting into boundaries, social, economic or political interactions-focus solely upon the definition of peace. If this is accomplished, precede to Step Two.

From the general definition/agreement you have regarding "peace," each side identifies what it is willing to give and to do that directly supports the definition. Avoid history, blaming and remain focused upon this job. Each side presents its "willing support behaviors list." Now, declare what is common among the two lists-you have the basis for an initial agreement.

Step three: Together establish a timeline and actual implementation of the support behaviors. When requisite, identify timeline(s) and declare the duration of the support behavior before it is agreed that each side has met this benchmark. Decide at what point each side has fulfilled its obligations to demonstrate you truly want peace, as previously defined.

Step Four: now that you have demonstrated the ability to have actions consistent with words aka integrity, trust can begin to be developed. Begin the identification process for components that are observable and quantifiable-share with one another. Again, create consensus before moving to Step five.

A final word

So far all we hear are imposed upon solutions. The word "solutions" really means externally manipulated political decisions forced upon participating entities. The parties imposing the "solution" ignore the facts and are therefore more concerned with a political outcome that is going to best benefit them. Nothing new, the world has been turning on this axis since the creation of human beings. Furthermore, these same political agents ignore the fact that both sides of an issue must agree what the problem is and they must operate within the same value system-otherwise the only possibility is for an imposed solution to be implemented. Given that the latter is not true, today, for Israel and the "Palestinian Arabs", an imposed solution decided upon by only the two participating sides has any chance for short term success aka "cold peace". The international community needs to back away; it is the reason this "conflict" has endured. You have all been reinforcing the incorrect behaviors and actions. Let us tell the truth once and for all.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Remarks by PM Netanyahu and US President Obama

This is the transcript of the remarks made by Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu after their meeting in The White House. It may be found here.

Most of the remarks by both men were quite reasonable and appropriate, but there were a few areas where President Obama demonstrated a misunderstanding of reality, indicating the likelihood he will, like almost all new presidents, take some actions that will be counterproductive.

We highlight and comment on three such instances. We also mention an key step the United States needs to make to help create a real peace process.
And I shared with the prime minister the fact that, under the road map and under Annapolis, there is clear understanding that we have to make progress on settlements; that settlements have to be stopped in order for us to move forward.

President Obama is correct that there needs to be progress on settlements, but the progress that needs to be made is the opposite of what he wrongly asserts.

Opposition to the residence of Jews in disputed areas of Judea and Samaria is a continued sign the Palestinian Arabs and their supporters are not interested in peace. If the Palestinian Arabs are ever interested in peace, there is no more reason Jews can't live in any areas ultimately under Arab control than Arabs not being able to live in Israel.

One of the most effective steps the American Administration can take is to forthrightly assert the Palestinian Arabs have to get used to the idea of living together with Jews, that kicking Jews out of their homes and not allowing normal development of their communities is both morally wrong and a roadblock to peace.
I think the humanitarian situation in Gaza has to be addressed. … On the other hand, the fact is that if the people of Gaza have no hope, if they can't even get clean water at this point, if the border closures are so tight that it is impossible for reconstruction and humanitarian efforts to take place, then that is not going to be a recipe for Israel's long-term security or a constructive peace track to move forward.

Palestinian Arabs living in Gaza know the only thing making their lives difficult is their insistence on launching terror attacks, including Kassam rockets, on Israeli civilians.

Pressuring Israel to improve the situation in Gaza simply lets those responsible off the hook, encourages the continuation of terrorism, is counterproductive to peace and ultimately harms the people living in Gaza.
Having said that, if there is a linkage between Iran and the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, I personally believe it actually runs the other way. To the extent that we can make peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis, then I actually think it strengthens our hand in the international community in dealing with a potential Iranian threat.

At the start of the Oslo Experiment, there were realistic hopes for a fairly expeditious solution to the Palestinian Arab-Israeli portion of the Arab-Israeli conflict, but the misconceptions of President Clinton and President Bush helped dash those expectations. Those misconceptions were in the same vein as the ones President Obama seems to have, that concessions by Israel can bring about a monumental change in the behavior of the Palestinian Arabs and in their goal of destroying Israel.

Peace is now much, much further away than it appeared at the start of the Oslo Experiment; it will likely take decades to undo the damage of Oslo.

Meanwhile, Iran is an immediate threat; it cannot wait generations. At best, the misconception that there can even be any real progress in moving the Palestinian Arabs towards peace with Israel will delay dealing with the ticking Iranian nuclear bomb threat.

The Key Omitted Step

Not surprisingly, the single most important symbolic step the United States could take to advance the cause of an Arab-Israeli peace was not mentioned: Moving our American embassy to where it belongs, Israel's capital city of Jerusalem.

No other single step can send the message that we will not continue to bend over backwards to appease Arab intransigence; no other single step can send the message that we will be an honest broker.

Remarks by US President Barack Obama and Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after their meeting

The White House, Washington, D.C.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: I first of all want to thank Prime Minister Netanyahu for making this visit. I think we had a extraordinarily productive series of conversations, not only between the two of us but also at the staff and agency levels. Obviously this reflects the extraordinary relationship, the special relationship, between the United States and Israel. It is a stalwart ally of the United States. We have historical ties, emotional ties. As the only true democracy in the Middle East, it is a source of admiration and inspiration for the American people.

I have said from the outset that when it comes to my policies, towards Israel and the Middle East, that Israel's security is paramount. And I repeated that to Prime Minister Netanyahu. It is in U.S. national security interests to assure that Israel's security as a independent, Jewish state is maintained.

One of the areas that we discussed is the deepening concern around the potential pursuit of a nuclear weapon, by Iran, something that the Prime Minister has been very vocal in his concerns about. But it's a concern that is shared by his countrymen and women, across the political spectrum.

I indicated to him the view of our administration that Iran is a country of extraordinary history and extraordinary potential, that we want them to be a full-fledged member of the international community and be in a position to provide opportunities and prosperity, for their people, but that the way to achieve those goals is not through the pursuit of a nuclear weapon. And I indicated to Prime Minister Netanyahu, in private, what I have said publicly, which is that Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon would not only be a threat to Israel and a threat to the United States but would be profoundly destabilizing in the international community, as a whole, and could set off a nuclear arms race, in the Middle East, that would be extraordinarily dangerous for all concerned, including for Iran.

We are engaged in a process to reach out to Iran and persuade them that it is not in their interest to pursue a nuclear weapon and that they should change course. But I assured the prime minister that we are not foreclosing a range of steps, including much stronger international sanctions, in assuring that Iran understands that we are serious. And obviously the prime minister emphasized his seriousness around this issue as well. And I'll allow him to speak for himself on that subject.

We also had an extensive discussion about the possibilities of restarting serious negotiations on the issue of Israel and the Palestinians. I've said before and I will repeat again that it is, I believe, in the interest not only of the Palestinians but also the Israelis and the United States and the international community to achieve a two-state solution in which Israelis and Palestinians are living side by side in peace and security. We have seen progress stalled on this front. And I suggested to the prime minister that he has a historic opportunity to get a serious movement on this issue during his tenure. That means that all the parties involved have to take seriously obligations that they previously agreed to.

Those obligations were outlined in the road map. They were discussed extensively in Annapolis.

And I think that there is no reason why we should not seize this opportunity and this moment for all the parties concerned to take seriously those obligations and to move forward in a way that assures Israel's security, that stops the terrorist attacks that have been such a source of pain and hardship - that we can stop rocket attacks on Israel - but that also allow Palestinians to govern themselves as an independent state that allows economic development to take place, that allows them to make serious progress in meeting the aspirations of their people. And I am confident that in the days, weeks and months to come, that we are going to be able to make progress on that issue.

So let me just summarize by saying that I think Prime Minister Netanyahu has the benefit of having served as prime minister previously. He has both youth and wisdom, and I think is in a position to achieve the security objectives of Israel, but also bring about historic peace. And I'm confident that he's going to seize this moment and the United States is going to do everything we can to be constructive, effective partners in this process.

Mr. Prime Minister?

PRIME MIN. NETANYAHU: President Obama, thank you. Thank you for your friendship to Israel and your friendship to me. You're a great leader - a great leader of the United States, a great leader of the world - a great friend of Israel, and someone who's acutely cognizant of our security concerns. And the entire people of Israel appreciate it, and I speak on their behalf.

We met before, but this is the first time that we're meeting as president and as prime minister. And so I was particularly pleased in your reaffirmation of the special relationship between Israel and the United States.

We share the same goal and we face the same threats. The common goal is peace. Everybody in Israel, as in the United States, wants peace. The common threat we face are terrorist regimes and organizations that seek to undermine the peace and endanger both our peoples.

In this context, the worst danger we face is that Iran would develop nuclear military capabilities. Iran openly calls for our destruction, which is unacceptable from any standard. It threatens the moderate Arab regimes in the Middle East. It threatens U.S. interests worldwide. But if Iran were to acquire nuclear weapons, it could give a nuclear umbrella to terrorists, or worse, could actually give terrorists nuclear weapons. And that would put us all in great peril. So in that context, I very much appreciate, Mr. President, your firm commitment to ensure that Iran does not develop nuclear military capability, and also your statement that you're leaving all options on the table.

I share with you very much the desire to move the peace process forward. And I want to start peace negotiations with the Palestinians immediately. I would like to broaden the circle of peace to include others in the Arab world, if we could, Mr. President. It's a distant vision, but one that we shouldn't let go. Maybe peace with the entire Arab world.

I want to make it clear that we don't want to govern the Palestinians. We want to live in peace with them. We want them to govern themselves, absent a handful of powers that could endanger the state of Israel. And for this there has to be a clear goal. The goal has to be an end to conflict. There will have to be compromises by Israelis and Palestinians alike. We're ready to do our share. We hope the Palestinians will do their share, as well.

If we resume negotiations, as we plan to do, then I think that the Palestinians will have to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, will have to also enable Israel to have the means to defend itself. And if those conditions are met - if Israel's security conditions are met and there's recognition of Israel's legitimacy, its permanent legitimacy - then I think we can envision an arrangement where Palestinians and Israelis live side by side in dignity and security and in peace. And I look forward, Mr. President, to working with you - a true friend of Israel - to the achievement of our common goals, which are security, prosperity and, above all, peace.

Q: Mr. President, you spoke at length, as did the prime minister, about Iran's nuclear program. Your policy of engagement, how long is that going to last? Is there a deadline?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: You know, I don't want to set an artificial deadline. I think it's important to recognize that Iran is in the midst of its own elections. As I think all of you - since you're all political reporters - are familiar with, election time is not always the best time to get business done. Their elections will be completed in June, and we are hopeful that, at that point, there is going to be a serious process of engagement, first through the P-5- plus-one process that's already in place, potentially through additional direct talks between the United States and Iran.

I want to reemphasize what I said earlier, that I believe it is not only in the interest of the international community that Iran not develop nuclear weapons, I firmly believe it is in Iran's interest not to develop nuclear weapons because it would trigger a nuclear arms race in the Middle East and be profoundly destabilizing in all sorts of ways. Iran can achieve its interests of security and international respect and prosperity for its people through other means, and I am prepared to make what I believe will be a persuasive argument that there should be a different course to be taken.

The one thing we're also aware of is the fact that the history, at least, of negotiations with Iran is that there is a lot of talk but not always action and follow through. And that's why it is important for us, I think, without having set an artificial deadline, to be mindful of the fact that we're not going to have talks forever.

We're not going to create a situation in which talks become an excuse for inaction while Iran proceeds with developing a nuclear - and deploying a nuclear weapon. That's something, obviously, Israel's concerned about, but it's also an issue of concern for the United States and for the international community as a whole.

My expectation would be that, if we can begin discussions soon, shortly after the Iranian elections, we should have a fairly good sense by the end of the year as to whether they are moving in the right direction and whether the parties involved are making progress, and that there's a good-faith effort to resolve differences. That doesn't mean that every issue would be resolved by that point, but it does mean that we'll probably be able to gauge and do a reassessment by the end of the year of this approach.

Q: Mr. President, aren't you concerned that your outstretched hand has been -- (off mike) -- especially Ahmadinejad, Musharraf, much equivalent -- (off mike) -- by the deadline? If engagement fails, what then, Mr. President?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, it's not clear to me why my outstretched hand would be interpreted as weakness.

Q (Off mike)

PRESIDENT OBAMA: I'm not sure about that interpretation.

Look, we've been in office a little over a hundred days now, close to four months. We have put forward a clear principle that, where we can resolve issues through negotiations and diplomacy, we should. We didn't expect, and I don't think anybody in the international community - or anybody in the Middle East, for that matter - would expect that 30 years of antagonism and suspicion between Iran and the United States would be resolved in four months. So we think it's very important for us to give this a chance.

Now, understand that part of the reason that it's so important for us to take a diplomatic approach is that the approach that we've been taking, which is no diplomacy, obviously has not worked. Nobody disagrees with that.

Hamas and Hizbllah have gotten stronger. Iran has been pursuing its nuclear capabilities undiminished. And so not talking - that clearly hasn't worked. That's what's been tried.

And so what we're going to do is try something new, which is actually engaging and reaching out to the Iranians. The important thing is to make sure that there is a clear timetable of - at which point we say these talks don't seem to be making any serious progress. It hasn't been tried before, so we don't want to prejudge that. But as I said, by the end of the year, I think we should have some sense as to whether or not these discussions are starting to yield significant benefits, whether we're starting to see serious movement on the part of the Iranians.

If that hasn't taken place, then I think the international community will see that it's not the United States or Israel or other countries that are seeking to isolate or victimize Iran; rather it is Iran itself which is isolating itself by being unwilling to engage in serious discussions about how they can preserve their security without threatening other people's security, which ultimately is what we want to achieve.

We want to achieve a situation where all countries in the region can pursue economic development and commercial ties and trade, and do so without the threat that their populations are going to be subject to bombs and destruction. That's what I think the prime minister is interested in, that's what I'm interested in, and I hope that ends up being what the ruling officials in Iran are interested in as well.

Q: Mr. President, Mr. Prime Minister, can you react to King Abdullah's statements of a week ago that we really are at a critical place in the conflict and that if this moment isn't seized and if peace isn't achieved now, soon, that in a year, year and a half, we could see renewed major conflict, perhaps war? Do you agree with that assessment?

PRIME MIN. NETANYAHU: I think we have to seize the moment. And I think we're fortunate in having a leader like President Obama and a new government in Israel and perhaps a new understanding, in the Arab world, that I haven't seen in my lifetime.

And you're very kind to me, calling me young, but I'm more than half-a-century old. And in my 59 years, in the life of the Jewish state, there has never been a time when Arabs and Israelis see a common threat the way we see it today and also see the need to join together, in working towards peace, while simultaneously defending ourselves against this common threat.

I think we have ways to capitalize on this sense of urgency. And we're prepared to move, with the president and with others in the Arab world, if they're prepared to move as well.

And I think the important thing that we discussed, among other things, is how to buttress the Israeli-Palestinian peace tracks, which we want to resume right away, with participation from others, in the Arab world, how we give confidence to each other that we're changing the reality, changing the reality on the ground, changing political realities top down as well, while we work to broaden the circle of peace.

So I think that the sense of urgency that King Abdullah expressed is shared by me and shared by many others. And I definitely know it's shared by President Obama.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Look, I think, there's an extraordinary opportunity. And the prime minister said it well.

You have Arab states in the region - the Jordanians, the Egyptians, the Saudis - who, I think, are looking for an opportunity, to break this long-standing impasse, but aren't sure how to do it and share concerns about Iran's potential development of a nuclear weapon.

In order for us to potentially realign interests in the region in a constructive way, bolstering - to use the prime minister's word - the Palestinian-Israeli peace track is critical. It will not be easy. It never has been easy.

In discussions, I don't think the prime minister would mind me saying to him or saying publicly what I said privately, which is that there is a recognition that the Palestinians are going to have to do a better job providing the kinds of security assurances that Israelis would need to achieve a two-state solution; that, you know, the leadership of the Palestinians will have to gain additional legitimacy and credibility with their own people, and delivering services. And that's something that the United States and Israel can be helpful in seeing them accomplish. The other Arab states have to be more supportive and be bolder in seeking potential normalization with Israel. And next week I will have the Palestinian Authority president, Abbas, as well as President Mubarak here, and I will deliver that message to them.

Now, Israel is going to have to take some difficult steps as well. And I shared with the prime minister the fact that, under the road map and under Annapolis, there is clear understanding that we have to make progress on settlements; that settlements have to be stopped in order for us to move forward. That's a difficult issue. I recognize that. But it's an important one, and it has to be addressed.

I think the humanitarian situation in Gaza has to be addressed. Now, I was along the border in Sderot and saw the evidence of weapons that had been raining down on the heads of innocents in those Israeli cities, and that's unacceptable. And so we've got to work with the Egyptians to deal with the smuggling of weapons, and it has to be meaningful, because no prime minister of any country is going to tolerate missiles raining down on their citizens' heads.

On the other hand, the fact is that if the people of Gaza have no hope, if they can't even get clean water at this point, if the border closures are so tight that it is impossible for reconstruction and humanitarian efforts to take place, then that is not going to be a recipe for Israel's long-term security or a constructive peace track to move forward.

So all these things are going to have to come together, and it's going to be difficult. But the one thing that I've committed to the prime minister is, we are going to be engaged. The United States is going to roll up our sleeves. We want to be a strong partner in this process.

I have great confidence in Prime Minister Netanyahu's political skills but also his historical vision and his recognition that during the years that he is prime minister this second go-round, he is probably going to be confronted with as many important decisions about the long-term strategic interests of Israel as any prime minister that we've seen in a very long time. And I have great confidence that he's going to rise to the occasion, and I actually think that you're going to see movement in -- among Arab states that we have not seen before.

But the trick is to try to coordinate all this in a very delicate political environment. And that's why I'm so pleased to have George Mitchell, who is standing behind the scrum there, as our special envoy, because I'm very confident that, as somebody was involved in equally delicate negotiations in Northern Ireland, he's somebody who recognizes that if you apply patience and determination and you keep your eye on the long-term goal that the prime minister articulated, which is a wide-ranging peace, not a grudging peace, not a transitory peace, but a wide-ranging regional peace, that we can make great progress.

Q: Mr. President, the Israeli prime minister and the Israeli administration have said on some occasions that only if the Iranian threat will be solved, they can achieve a real progress on the Palestinian track. Do you agree with that kind of linkage?

And to the Israeli prime minister, you were speaking about the political track. Are you willing to get into final-status issues, negotiations like borders, like Jerusalem, in the near future, based on the two-state solution? And do you still hold this opinion about the linkage between the Iranian threat and your ability to achieve any progress on the Palestinian track?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, let me say this. There is no doubt that it is difficult for any Israeli government to negotiate in a situation in which they feel under immediate threat. That's not conductive to negotiations. And as I've said before, I recognize Israel's legitimate concerns about the possibility of Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon when they have a president who has in the past said that Israel should not exist. That would give any leader of any country pause.

Having said that, if there is a linkage between Iran and the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, I personally believe it actually runs the other way. To the extent that we can make peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis, then I actually think it strengthens our hand in the international community in dealing with a potential Iranian threat.

Having said that, I think that dealing with Iran's potential nuclear capacity is something that we should be doing even if there already was peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians. And I think that pursuing Israeli-Palestinian peace is something that is in Israel's security interests and the United States' national security interests, even if Iran was not pursuing a nuclear weapon. They're both important, and we have to move aggressively on both fronts.

And I think that, based on my conversations with Prime Minister Netanyahu, he agrees with me that they're both important. That's not to say that he's not making a calculation - as he should - about what are some of the most immediate threats to Israel's security, and I understand that. But, look, imagine how much less mischief a Hezbollah or a Hamas could do if in fact we had moved a Palestinian-Israeli track in a direction that gave the Palestinian people hope. And if Hizbullah and Hamas is weakened, imagine how that impacts Iran's ability to make mischief, and vice-versa. I mean, so obviously these things are related, but they are important separately.

And I'm confident that the United States working with Israel can make progress on both fronts.

PRIME MIN. NETANYAHU: We've had extraordinarily friendly and constructive talks here today. And I'm very grateful to you, Mr. President, for that.

We want to move peace forward. And we want to ward off the great threats. There isn't a policy linkage. And that's what I hear the president saying. And that's what I'm saying too and I've always said.

There's not a policy linkage between pursuing simultaneously peace, between Israel and the Palestinians and the rest of the Arab world, and trying to deal with removing the threat of a nuclear Iran.

There are causal links. The president talked about one of them. It would help obviously unite a broad front, against Iran, if we had peace between Israel and the Palestinians. And conversely if Iran went nuclear it would threaten the progress towards peace and destabilize the entire area and threaten the existing peace agreement.

So it's very clear to us. I think we actually - we don't see closely on this. We see exactly eye to eye on this that we want to move simultaneously and in parallel on two fronts: the front of peace and the front of preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear capabilities.

On the front of peace, the important thing for me is to resume negotiations as rapidly as possible. And to my view is less one of terminology than one of substance.

I ask myself, what do we end up with? If we end up with another Gaza - the president just described, to you, those rockets falling out of Gaza - that is something we don't want to happen. Because a terror base next to our cities that doesn't recognize Israel's existence, calls for our destruction and acts for our destruction is not our view of peace.

If however the Palestinians recognize Israel as the Jewish state, if they fight terror, they educate their children for peace and to a better future, then I think we can come at a substantive solution that allows the two peoples to live side by side in security and peace.

And I add prosperity because I'm a great believer in this.

So I think the terminology will take care of itself if we have the substantive understanding. And I think we can move forward on this. I have great confidence in your leadership, Mr. President, and in your friendship to my country, and in your championing of peace and security. And the answer is both come together. Peace and security are intertwined. They're inseparable. And I look forward, Mr. President, to working with you to achieve both.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Good. Thank you, everybody.


Jewish Voices Claiming to Be for Peace but Sabotaging It

This was found at

It's an example of misguided people claiming to be working for peace but actually acting in ways which make peace less likely while criticizing one of the strongest Jewish voices working diligently for peace, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

We post it here with some comments.

Guess what's outside the AIPAC conference

United States: catalyst for peace or financier of conflict? Ask Congress to investigate tax dollars used to harm civilians in Gaza.

So says the sign on this truck, parked outside of the site of the AIPAC Conference going on May 3-5, which was paid for by Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP). It is nice to know that AIPAC will not get into and out of town without some comment on its perennial function: to get the US Congress to continue military aid and funding to Israel, free and clear without any limitations on its uses.

[Actually, there are significant limitations on the uses by Israel of American military aid, but why let the facts get in the way of biased argument?]

Palestinians on the ground in Gaza during Israel's invasion reported "Made in USA" on weapons used to kill innocent civilians including entire families and over 400 children. Phosphorous bombs, DIME munitions, the planes the dropped them, the tanks that shelled homes and even UN facilities where many civilians sought refuge in vain, were of American origin.

[JVP is apparently unaware that Hamas has long been waging war against Israeli civilians and increased the intensity of that war after Israel turned all of Gaza over the the Palestinian Authority. JVP is also apparently unaware that Hamas deliberately operates from within residential areas, making civilian casualties inevitable, but despite this Israel took extraordinary measures and managed to keep casualties among innocents to an historically low level during its defensive operation in Gaza.]

JVP's message:

Here's a little something we've kept to ourselves until today... Why? Well, we wanted to make sure the truck pictured here was already rolling on the streets in front of the AIPAC Conference and the US Capitol.

In our line of justice work, you never know if a contract will get canceled at the last minute, or if other, bigger trucks will show up on the scene.

But we're happy to report we're on the ground in Washington, DC along with volunteer activists who are handing out flyers and talking to attendees.

[Their presence was more obvious to themselves than to those attending the AIPAC Policy Conference; I never once saw their truck during the three days of the conference.]

From May 3-5, AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, is holding the country's largest annual gathering of activists, students and political leaders dedicated to "supporting Israel."

[Left out is that they are dedicated to supporting not just Israel, but Israel's so far unrequited quest for peace along with the American-Israeli reliationship, one which is important for both countries and which is based on the shared values of America and Israel, values which JVP purports to support but so often works against.]

But we wanted to be there with our message because we think their right-wing agenda actually harms Israelis, harms Palestinians and harms all of us who want justice, peace and stability in the region.

As Vice-President Joe Biden and countless members of Congress make their appearance at the annual AIPAC Conference in DC, they are being met with JVP's message of hope and accountability about US funds and Gaza.

[Nowhere is there a message about the key roadblock to peace: the continued refuasal of the Palestinian Arabs and their leadership, including the so-called "moderate" government of Abu Mazen/Mahmoud Abbas, to accept the reality of the democratic, Western-oriented Jewish state of Israel.]

They will see that many of us--you and me--care for both Israelis and Palestinians and ask our government to do the same.

[The best way to promote the best interests of both Israelis and Palestinian Arabs is to pressure the leadership of the Palestinians to end their strategic campaign of hatred, terrorism and rejectionism and negotiate, free from threats, a reasonable compromise ending the conflict which they and their brethren began and have perpetuated for more than half a century.]

Surely at the conference many will speak about peace. In fact, the conference platform talks about 'peace principles.' But simply talking about peace is cheap.

[Exactly. JVP talks about peace, but effectively works to make peace less likely.

If JVP wants to stop being counterproductive, it should start acting intelligently to promote peace. One good start would be to support one of the strongest Jewish and non-Jewish voices for peace, AIPAC.]

AIPAC insists on more unconditional military aid to Israel, without taking stock of--or even mentioning--the attacks on civilians in Gaza.

[JVP insists on stripping the ability of Israel to defend its civilians, "without taking stock of--or even mentioning--the attacks on civilians" from Gaza.]

AIPAC decries any divestment from the Israeli occupation--do they even know there's an occupation?

[Is JVP aware that what little was left of the Israeli occupation which was left after most of Gaza was turned over to the Palestinian Authority in 1994 was completely ended in 2005? Is JVP aware the "moderate" branch of the Palestinian Authority governing most of Judea and Samaria would quickly fall, leaving the area to Hamas and ending any chance for peace for even more generations, were Israel to follow JVP's advice?]

--but pushes for divestment from Iran. We are there now to remind them that there are real people and real lives being destroyed by US support for the occupation.

[See above.]

Please help us bring accountability to Washington, DC. It's our money, our choice.

[It is our money and our choice. Thus far, the American people and their representatives have wisely chosen to support our only real friend in the Middle East, the only real force for peace.]


If you would like to help JVP cover the $5,000 it cost to put this important message in front of the AIPAC attendees, and the journalists covering them, click HERE.

[Fortunately, JVP, which would more accurately be called Jewish Voices inadvertantly working against Peace, was virtually invisible as more than 6,000 real supporters of peace made their voices heard in our nation's capital.]

Thursday, May 14, 2009

AIPAC Policy Conference Observations: On Attempting to Delegitimize Israel

Over the last few years, my respect for AIPAC Executive Director Howard Kohr has risen dramatically.

My first impressions were not wonderful, coming at the time anti-semitic Israel-haters at the Justice Department were trying to lynch Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman. I thought at that time AIPAC should have stood behind Rosen and Weissman, both for moral and strategic reasons. I still believe firing them was a serious mistake which has undermined the effectiveness of AIPAC and harmed both America and Israel.

Since then, I've found Kohr's speeches at AIPAC's Annual Policy Conferences extremely insightful.

The heart of his speech is always the focus of the key issues AIPAC members will be bringing up at their Congressional lobbying sessions on the last day of the conference, but he usually includes another theme.

His theme this year was the drive to delegitimize Israel, including the screeds by Walt, Meersheimer and Jimmy Carter and the "BDS" (boycott, divestment, sanctions) campaigns.

The first words of his speech were "We all know Israel is a target. No nation --none --is the target of so many lies, so much contempt, smear, and double standard. But this is different. What we are experiencing today, the rhetorical war of words, is a concerted effort, a campaign, part of a larger strategy."

He pointed out that "in the United Nations Human Rights Council, of the 33 resolutions since its creation, 26 target Israel." Real human rights abuses, like the genocide in Darfur, abuse of women in Saudi Arabia, oppression of almost everyone in Iran and the constant rocket attacks by Hamas, Hezbollah and other Arab terror groups are ignored.

He pointed out these attacks "are part of a broader campaign not to simply denigrate or defame Israel, but a campaign to de-legitimize Israel in the eyes of her allies. The epicenter of this campaign may be in the Middle East, but the campaign doesn't stop there. It echoes in the halls of the United Nations and the capitals of Europe. But the campaign doesn't stop there. It is voiced without shame and without sanction in meetings of the international organizations that claim peace and partnership as their mandate."

Kohr's observations have been greeted with glee by Israel-haters, who take them as evidence that they are making headway in their drive to destroy Israel. Most do no use those words and falsely claim they are interested in peace, but that is their thrust. They are trying to rally their storm troopers, claiming the supporters of the only democracy in the Middle East are on the defensive.

As usual, they are wrong. However, as Howard Kohr sagely explained:

I'm not saying that these allegations have become accepted. But they have become acceptable. More and more they are invading the mainstream discourse, becoming part of the constant and unrelenting drumbeat against Israel. These voices are laying the predicate for a abandonment. They're making the case for Israel's unworthiness to be allowed what is for any nation the first and most fundamental of rights: the right to self- defense.

It is critical for us to see what is happening, critical that we not allow ourselves to simply shrug and say we must be thick-skinned and that we've heard all this and worse before. When these voices take the very words and symbols that evoke the horrors done to Jews -- the name of Nazi, the charges of genocide and apartheid, the symbol of the swastika -- and turn them against Israel and her people, they're engaging in a process of dehumanization that we know all too well. They are preparing us for a world in which Israel stands alone, isolated, and at risk.

It's an interesting distinction: the lies, distortions and smears, motivated by hatred and in most cases anti-semitism, are not accepted but have become acceptable. That is an unacceptable situation.

Supporters of Israel have been very reluctant to point out the anti-semitism behind most of the criticisms of Israel, a situation which has been so taken advantage of that the Israel-haters often make hysterical claims about charges of anti-semitism when no such charges have been made - even though such charges generally would have been on target.

While it's important to not falsely voice accusations of anti-semitism (after all, one of the strongest weapons supporters of Israel have is our credibility), it's time to stop giving the anti-semites a free ride. It's time to stop being defensive and reactive and put forth the case for Israel proudly and vigorously.

The case for Israel has rested on two bases, Israel's value to America and the shared values between America and Israel. In other words, America has supported Israel because it's good for America and because it's the right thing to do.

Israel's value to America today is no less than it was during the Cold War, even if it cannot be explained in 30 second sound bites, and that case needs to be made.

More important, because America, like Israel, is committed to morality almost as much as to self-preservation, is the case that support for Israel is right. It's a relatively easy case to make to all but the hateful (who are hopeless anyway) and the ignorant.

The message brought by Howard Kohr had long been in the back of my mind, but I never before heard it clearly articulated.

Let the supporters of Israel, a state whose existence and legitimacy are under attack by states which, in a just world, would be under continual attack for human rights abuses and unable to justify their own existences, meet the challenge not by being defensive, but by repeating the truth, loudly and clearly.

Monday, May 11, 2009

American Israelis Urge Netanyahu to Resist Obama Pressure for More Concessions; Call for American "Gestures" to Israel

For Immediate Release
May 10, 2009

The American Israeli Action Coalition (AIAC) today called upon Prime Minister Netanyahu to resist all efforts by the Obama Administration to pressure Israel to make further concessions to the Palestinians at this time.

AIAC is a non-political, non-partisan, issue-oriented NGO whose purpose is to express the united voice of the more than 250,000 Americans living in Israel.

Harvey Schwartz, AIAC Chairman, stated that "high officials of the Obama Administration, such as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vice-President Joe Biden, as well as others, have recently called upon Israel to make further unilateral concessions to the Palestinian side. Such calls are, frankly, insulting, coming before the new Netanyahu Administration has even had the opportunity to complete its policy review.

The Obama Administration's apparent muscle-flexing against Israel, while kow-towing to anti-American two-bit dictators such as Iran's Ahmadinejad, Syria's Assad, Venezuela's Chavez and Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah is outrageous and doomed to failure. The Americans in Israel know that the American citizenry is not in favor of this drastic policy turn and will not accept it. We urge Prime Minister Netanyahu to resist all Obama Administration pressure to adopt any policy which is not in Israel's best interest."

Schwartz further stated that "recent media reports as well as statements from Obama confidante's point to the adoption by the Administration of a 'blackmail' policy regarding the Iranian nuclear threat, warning Israel that U.S. support on this threat is to be conditioned upon Israel making further unilateral concessions to the Palestinians. As Americans, many of whom were recently in the United States, we know that this odious policy is rejected by the overwhelming majority of Americans, who are fair-minded and recognize that it is the Palestinians who are the impediment to peace, not Israel. They are fully aware that the Iranian nuclear threat and the Peace Process are entirely disparate issues , and that the Obama Administration's attempt to link the two is contrary to America's best interests and the unacceptable abandonment of America's most loyal friend in the Middle East. AIAC calls upon the U.S. Congress to deliver the clear message to the Obama Administration that it should abandon such policy forthwith".

"Rather than insisting that Israel make further gestures to the Palestinians as 'confidence-building measures' ", continued Schwartz, "it is time for the United States to make gestures to Israel as confidence-building measures. Among such gestures should be:

1. The immediate release of Jonathan Pollard;

2. The unequivocal demand that Hamas immediately release Gilad Schalit;

3. Announcing that the Obama Administration will adopt a more conciliatory policy toward Israel;

4. Confirming that the United States recognizes Israel as a Jewish State and insisting that all Arab countries (as well as the Palestinians) do the same; and

5. Granting $900,000,000 of additional funding to Israel (the same amount which the U.S. pledged to the Palestinians) to cover the cost of reconstruction of those portions of Israel which were damaged or destroyed by the Hamas shelling of Southern Israel and the Hezbollah shelling of Northern Israel."

Aaron Tirschwell, AIAC's Executive Director, stated that "the Obama Administration has gotten off on the wrong foot with Israel. Adopting the confidence-building measures listed above would be a good start to getting back on the right track".

AIAC is devoted to effectively recruiting and activating the more than 250,000 expatriate American citizens in Israel in order to create a united voice that will be heard by the governments and people of the United States and Israel on issues that pertain to the continued safety and security of Israel and the Jewish people worldwide.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

About the Retirement of a Jewish Israel-Hater

By Barry Gordon, PRIMER Board Member

About ten years ago I sat in an auditorium at CCSU with seven panelists on the stage. Four Palestinians and three Jews. During the course of the discussion, I was nearly overcome with a panic attack. Each panelist spent ten minutes demonizing and expressing their hate for the State of Israel. Professor Mezvinsky was the leader of the event. I had been to Pro-Palestinian rallies before, but this one was a present and future danger to the State of Israel and the Jewish people. Each speaker was, by any standard, extremely biased. They monopolized the full ninety minutes in front of hundreds of students and faculty.

The only supporters of Israel were Ethan Felson, the CCSU Hillel Advisor, and myself. We listened in horror to the demonization of Israel and its supporters. Not only were they seeking the end of Israel as a Jewish State, but they were threatening our insurance policy for Jews living in the diaspora. I was thinking to myself, where is the Jewish community? The ground was burning under all of us. Somehow I got the courage to stand up and started to question Mezvinsky and company. I accused Mezvinsky of "derelict of duty" as a teacher by not presenting both sides of a conflict. His response was, "The meeting is over!" Minds werepoisoned.It was hard to believe, it was anti Israel speaker was the daughter of a Rabbi, another anti Israel speaker was a Holocaust survivor and Mezvinsky was born into an Orthodox family. I didn't know what to do, so I called my colleague from Camera/Primer, Sid Laibson.

We spoke to the Dean of the School, the President, and even made a call to the Attorney General's office. We got nowhere. As far as they were concerned, academic freedom was the shield to spread biased, hateful information.

Finally we spoke to Bob Fishman of JFACT. We began to craft a defense/offense policy. During the past ten years we have covered all Pro Palestinian sessions. We received help from staffat CCSU including Lynn Talit and Ms. Braverman. Israeli scholars began speaking there frequently and finally Shimon Peres was the speaker in front of perhaps a thousand people. Mezvinsky and his Palestinian friends just sat there while Peres received a thunderous ovation.

Mezvinsky has announced his retirement from CCSU, but you haven't heard the end if him yet....he will be writing letters, making speeches, joining think tanks and demonizing Israel and its supporters as long as he can. I hope the next time a situation like this develops, the Jewish community will wake up and do what has to be done.

Counterproductive "Peace Activism"

On May 10, The New Haven Register published a troubling article about an upcoming trip to the Middle East by "peace activist" Mark Colville.

The reporting in the article itself appears to be responsible and the reporter even included some context omitted by Colville. It is also unclear whether Colville is an unwitting dupe or is deliberately spreading misleading, inaccurate anti-Israel propaganda.

Preliminary Comments

Colville asserts "My intent is not to come back with a certain political line," but he clearly goes with an extreme, anti-Israel bias.

He says "The ultimate goal is, the violence has to stop," but ignores the fact that it is one side, the Palestinian Arabs, who force the continuation of violence by their refusal to negotiate in good faith and their insistence on using violence and terrorism as a strategic tool. Indeed, the Hamas, Fatah and PLO charters all clearly insist violence must be used.

Colville also says "Justice and peace have got to come to that area." However, it is impossible to ever undo the injustice caused by six decades of Arab terrorism, war and rejectionism. It's telling that those to whom the most injustice has been done, the Israelis, do not insist on justice but merely insist on peace, while it is the perpetrators of the injustice, the Arabs (including the Palestinian Arabs), and their supporters who insist on justice.

More Extensive Comments

Comment: "They hope to deliver $20,000 in medical supplies to victims of bombings committed by both Israel and Hamas, the Palestinian governing body. Colville said his group wants to speak with victims on both sides of the conflict."

Analysis: One wonders how much of that will actually be delivered to Israeli victims and whether Colville will actually listen to Israeli victims. He also here, as elsewhere, implies a moral equivalence between the Israeli victims, who were deliberately targeted by Hamas and other Arab terror groups, and the Arab victims, who were really victims of their own decision, freely electing a terror group and allowing it to take control of the Gaza Strip, use it as a base for attacks on Israeli civilians and use the civilians in Gaza as human shields.

Comment: "Telling the story from the victims' perspective is the most important thing," he said. 'We want to bring back that personal history."

Analysis: Nonsense. Victims are likely to have very skewed perspectives.

One also wonders how much he will listen to Israeli schoolchildren telling of their kindergartens being hit by Kassams. One wonders how many Palestinian Arab victims will tell of Kassams and other weapons being stored in their homes or being caught in a crossfire when Hamas terrorists attacked Israelis from their neighborhoods.

Comment: "Colville was careful to say, 'There is no justification for launching bombs at civilians,' no matter whether the bombs are made by U.S. military suppliers to Israel or by Hamas members in their basements."

Analysis: This both creates a false equivalence and is misleading, since it implies both Hamas and other terror groups and Israel launch bombs at civilians. While Hamas and the other Arab terror groups deliberately launch bombs at civilians, Israel doesn't.

Comment: "But he also said, when I asked him how the conflict originated, 'The occupation (of Gaza by the Israeli government) is the cause of the violence.'"

Analysis: Carville is either ignorant or deliberately lying. There is no occupation of Gaza by Israel, which completely left Gaza in 2005. Even before that, almost all of Gaza was turned over to the Palestinian Authority about a decade earlier, near the start of the Oslo Process.

The cause of the violence is simply the refusal of the Palestinian Arabs to live next to the Israelis in peace.

Comment: "'These are people who are besieged, surrounded, blockaded, starved,' he said. 'It's a slow strangulation.'"

Analysis: Gaza shares a border not only with Israel, but with Egypt. Israel has no legal or moral obligation to assist a hostile people continually attacking its own citizens. Nonetheless, even during Operation Cast Lead, Israel kept transferring massive amounts of humanitarian assistance to the residents of Gaza.

Comment: "Colville stressed his group also hopes to interview Israeli civilians in Sderot, where many Hamas bombs have landed.

"But he said he was enraged and joined protests in New Haven last December when the Israeli government launched missile attacks on Gaza which reportedly killed about 1,400 Palestinians. (Israel was responding to missile attacks from Gaza that killed Israeli civilians.)"

Analysis: Colville seems to be very selective in his outrage. Arab terrorists in Gaza have launched about 8,000 Kassam and other rockets at Israeli civilians since 2000, when the Palestinian Authority rejected the establishment of an Arab state in the disputed territories, yet there seems to be no indication of any outrage expressed by Colville about them.

The fact that more than 1,000 Arabs died, the majority terrorists, is regrettable, but the responsibility for their deaths lies with their own leaders, who forced Israel to respond to continued and unacceptable rocket attacks on Israeli cities and towns.

(More accurate information about casualties is reported at

Comment: "Colville noticed while doing fundraising for his trip that this is a polarizing issue. 'The general mood around our country is, we stop up our ears when the discussion comes up about Palestinian rights.'"

Analysis: Most people would probably stop up their ears if an analogous set of rights was brought up, the rights of Al Qaeda. Actually, more attention has been given to the rights of the Palestinian Arabs than to the rights of just about any other group in the world. Their "rights," along with the demonization of Israel, dominates the United Nations and the infamous United Nations Human Rights Council.

If Colville is interested in promoting the rights of people whose rights are generally ignored, he should start promoting the rights of the Israeli children living within rocket range of Gaza.

The following is the full text of the article.

New Haven Register

Working to give a peace a chance in a place that only knows conflict


Randall Beach can be reached at or 789-5766.

[The article was published with a photo with the following caption: Melanie Stengel/Register
New Haven peace activist Mark Colville is in the Middle East to speak to war victims.]

WHEN MARK COLVILLE sat down with his wife and their kids to tell them he was going to Gaza and Israel on a peace mission, a dialogue ensued on the importance of taking personal risks.

'The kids are worried because they're aware of the violence of the situation,' Colville said as we sat at his kitchen table Tuesday, three days before he began his journey. 'It's been a rough go, trying to get my family together on this.'

His five children, aged 6 to 20, and his wife, Luz Catarineau, supported Colville's previous peace outings, including an unsuccessful attempt to get into Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba and opposing paramilitary occupations in Colombia.

Although they also support his latest effort, they are more concerned than ever before about his safety.

'We had to do a lot of talking about the risks,' Colville said, 'and why take the risks.'

This was his answer: 'We're Catholics here, trying to be Christians, to imitate Christ. You have to take some personal risks, that put yourself where Christ might have been. We have the freedom to do this; it's important to use that freedom.'

Colville, 47, and his family live at the Amistad Catholic Worker House on Rosette Street in the Hill neighborhood of New Haven. They run a community soup kitchen there.

Colville is going to the Middle East with five other members of a Catholic Worker peace team. They have the backing of Nobel Peace Prize winners Mairead Maguire and Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, as well as actor Martin Sheen, who is helping pay for a driver and translator.

But Colville admitted, 'We don't know exactly what to expect. The six of us are all experienced in nonviolent conflict resolution. We'll go in that spirit. But we expect conflict and confrontation from authorities on all sides.'

Colville has never been to the Middle East before and does not speak Arabic. Compared with his past trips, 'This is a little more unknown.'

Their schedule called for them to land in Egypt Friday and attempt to enter Gaza. Their 10-day itinerary also includes Israel.

They hope to deliver $20,000 in medical supplies to victims of bombings committed by both Israel and Hamas, the Palestinian governing body. Colville said his group wants to speak with victims on both sides of the conflict.

'Telling the story from the victims' perspective is the most important thing,' he said. 'We want to bring back that personal history.'

Colville explained the person-to-person approach that is the Catholic Worker tradition. 'In areas of poverty, war and violence, these people need to be personalized. You go to the person who's affected and open yourself to sharing that person's fate. You build relationships and humanize the situation.' Colville was careful to say, 'There is no justification for launching bombs at civilians,' no matter whether the bombs are made by U.S. military suppliers to Israel or by Hamas members in their basements. But he also said, when I asked him how the conflict originated, 'The occupation (of Gaza by the Israeli government) is the cause of the violence.'

'These are people who are besieged, surrounded, blockaded, starved,' he said. 'It's a slow strangulation.'

These are some of the people he wants to interview. 'It's a war zone and these families are caught in the middle, with no way out.'

Colville stressed his group also hopes to interview Israeli civilians in Sderot, where many Hamas bombs have landed.

But he said he was enraged and joined protests in New Haven last December when the Israeli government launched missile attacks on Gaza which reportedly killed about 1,400 Palestinians. (Israel was responding to missile attacks from Gaza that killed Israeli civilians.)

Colville noticed while doing fundraising for his trip that this is a polarizing issue. 'The general mood around our country is, we stop up our ears when the discussion comes up about Palestinian rights.'

But he said he cannot accept his government giving $2.5 to $3 billion every year in unrestricted military aid to Israel.

Colville said he had been doing a lot of praying, asking that his group be allowed to make contact with the many victims of violence.

'Many religions share that belief in reaching out to others. That's the core of Christianity, Judaism and Islam. All of us need to get back to the core morality of these great faiths.'

Here's the final thing Colville said at his kitchen table: 'My intent is not to come back with a certain political line. The ultimate goal is, the violence has to stop. Justice and peace have got to come to that area.'

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

AIPAC Policy Conference: Excerpts Taken from the Words of Joe Biden

These are highlights from Biden's speech at the AIPAC Policy Conference. Most of the language is Biden's, even when there aren't quotation marks. I will post some of my observations about the conference after I get a chance to catch up. I include just one comment within the post.

The Obama-Biden administration is committed to changing the trajectory of the country and the trajectory of the world, but one thing will not change: the commitment of the United Sates to the peace and security of Israel.

My commitment to Israel began at my father's dinner table. At my father and mother's home, we sat down to dinner to have conversation and only incidentally to eat.

As a Senator, I made my first overseas trip to Israel, which turned out to be on the eve of the Yom Kippur War.

He described a conversation with Golda Meir. She described the difficult situation of Israel, with two million people facing 60 million Arabs. While being photographed, she said he looked worried but mentioned the Jews had a secret weapon: "we have nowhere else to go."

The president and I both know we will be judged not by our commitment but by the results we wil have achieved. We believe the results we want by changing the direction of American foreign policy and restoring the ability of the United States to lead. In the Middle East, the status quo has not worked very well.

We are intensely focused on avoiding the grave danger of a nuclear armed Iran, which would make every country in the world less secure and poses an existential threat (to Israel).

Instead of arresting the danger, in the last six years the danger has grown. That is why we are attempting direct engagement with Iran. If those efforts aren't successful, we have greater international support to pursue other items.

We know we don't have unlimited time to make this assessment.

Iran has taken a role arming Hezbollah and Iran and undermining our friends. The continuing of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict strengthens Iran's destabilizing influence.

The President decided we must take risks on behalf on achieving peace for Israel.

The truth is the fact that peace has not occurred does not mean peace can not be achieved.

Progress towards peace has only been possible when people have been willing to think differently and take steps to reach peace.

You're not going to like what I'm going to say, but Israel has the responsibility (commitment under the road map) to stop building new settlements and dismantle settlements.

[One may admire the forthrightness of the Vice President while also noting this was one of the aspects of the road map which was counterproductive, appeasing Arab intransigence, and also noting that Israel has not been building new settlements and has dismantled some of the outposts which are illegal not because of international law - under which they are perfectly legal - but because they were built in defiance and with the permission of the Israeli government.]

The world must continue to make clear to Hamas the legitimacy it wants will come only when it meets the three conditions long ago set forth.

We demand the immediate and uconditional release of Gilad Shalit.

Peace between Israel and Syria could reshape the region. Well make sure it does not come at the expense of Israel's security.

We know the path we've been on in recent years will not result in peace and security for Israel and for the Palestinians.

We know there are differences in this room over the way to move forward. The critical question is not where we stand today but what we see for tomorrow and how we can get there.

Delaying the pursuit of these goals is not an option.