Thursday, October 4, 2012

Comment and Analysis: New York TImes, New London Day, Danbury News-Times

Short quotes from three recent items in Connecticut newspapers along with analyses of those quotes.

Item 1:

A letter, entitled "U.S. policies further isolate Israel," written by Ernie Cohen of Norwich and published in The Day on Saturday, September 29, 2012.

"Avraham Berg, former speaker of the Israeli parliament, laments that Israel is falling into theocracy where citizenship depends on belonging to the right synagogue and excluding everyone else."

While the conflicts between the ultra-orthodox and secular Jewish communities in Israel is one of their most serious problems, in quoting Berg the writer grossly exaggerates. In no way is Israel "falling into theocracy" and one's synagogue has absolutely no relationship to citizenship, either for current citizens or for Jews in the diaspora making aliyah.

Note that Avraham Berg has become a French citizen, "is in favor of abrogating the Law of Return and calls on everyone who can to obtain a foreign passport." (See the Ha'aretz article "Burg: Defining Israel as a Jewish state is the key to its end" An Algemeiner article refers to him as a self-hating Israel and an anti-Zionist. He seems to be suffering from a variant of the Stockhold Syndrome.

"Israel's rapidly increasing Jewish population contrasts with an Arab population living behind barbed wire on the West Bank while new Jewish immigrants settle on more Arab lands."

This is absolutely false.

The Arab population is no more "living behind barbed wire" than the Jewish population. A separation barrier, in some places ordinary chain link fence, concrete barriers in some places where fencing is impractical, was built to protect Israeli civilians from the brutal terrorist campaign launched by the Palestinian Arabs after Yassir Arafat rejected peace and the establishment of a Palestinian state in 2000.

Re population increases, the Arab population in Israel is growing at a much faster rate than the Jewish population.

In the last year, the Jewish population grew by 1.8% and the Arab population grew by 2.4%. In the disputed territories, there are no Jews at all in Gaza. In the West Bank, Jews are restricted from building anywhere but within the boundaries of some existing communities, while Arab building, legal and illegal, is rampant. (See

Since Jerusalem was reunited in 1967, the capital city's Jewish population has increased by 157 percent while the Arab population has increased an astounding 327 percent! (See

The Jewish communities in the disputed territories are generally built on land that was either owned by Jews or was state land; very little can be honestly characterized as "Arab land."

"The prolonged occupation and opposition by Israel to Palestinian efforts to become a state is having moral consequences within Israeli society."

The Israeli government is publicly in favor of the establishment of a Palestinian Arab state and has twice proposed the establishment of such a state in virtually all (in 2000) or the equivalent of all (in 2008) the disputed territories. It is the Palestinian Arab leadership, not Israel, which has prevented the establishment of another Palestinian state.

For most practical purposes, the so-called "occupation" ended near the start of the failed Oslo process nearly two decades ago and any remnants remain only because of Arab terrorism and rejectionism.

"Israel today hasn't a single supporter in the middle East."

    Israel has never had a supporter in the Middle East, with the exception of Iran during the rule of the Shah and Turkey until the Islamist government under Erdogan. In each case, it was Islamist hatred rather than any action by Israel which changed friend into enemy.

"Americans have contributed to Israel's isolation by abandoning the peace process and exploiting biblical sentiments for political and military gains."

    It was Mahmoud Abbas, not either America or Israel, who destroyed and abandoned the so-called peace process.

"Christians and Jews alike need to ask themselves: 'If God walked across the Holy Land today, what would he see? Who would he help.'"

    The answer is obvious, but it's not the one which the letter-writer wishes the reader to incorrectly infer.

Item 2:

A New York Times editorial, published in The Times September 28 and republished as a guest editorial in The Day on Saturday, September 29, 2012.

"In dueling speeches, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel focused on drawing a red line for an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities while the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, cataloged his community's many grievances against Israel and tried to revive the fading dream of a two-state solution."

    The editorial writer(s) infer too much; crossing a red line might lead to an attack, but one might conceive of other possibilities. They also falsely imply Netanyahu wants to attack; he's made it quite clear he would like to see Iran's nuclear program ended without military action, but believes that is far more likely to be achieved if there is a credible threat of military action.

    Most of the so-called grievances charged by Abbas were figments of his imagination and consequences of his refusal to make peace, or even negotiate, with Israel. He did nothing to revive the "fading dream of a two-state solution;" indeed, since the death of Yassir Arafat, he's been the chief roadblock.

"Both issues - Iran's dangerous nuclear ambitions and the Palestinian right to a secure state - need to be dealt with seriously, but neither man acknowledged the other side's priority nor articulated a common path forward. Mostly, the speeches showed how far peace efforts have gone off track."

    Netanyahu gave Abbas' anti-Israel rhetoric precisely the amount of consideration it deserved, 67 words. He pointed out: "We won’t solve our conflict with libelous speeches at the UN. That’s not the way to solve it. We won’t solve our conflict with unilateral declarations of statehood. We have to sit together, negotiate together, and reach a mutual compromise, in which a demilitarized Palestinian state recognizes the one and only Jewish State."

    Abbas's rejectionism and refusal to negotiate has made the so-called "peace process" irrelevant, at least until he or a successor exhibits a willingness to negotiate.

    The Iranian nuclear program is arguably the most serious problem facing the world today and it was quite appropriate that the Israeli prime minister devote most of his speech to that problem. (That is not to say, if the world succeeds in keeping nuclear weapons out of the hands of the mad mullahs in charge of Iran, that the consequences of the mislabeled "Arab spring" will not in the future present a more serious problem.)

"Netanyahu told the U.N. that he believes Iran's ability to make a nuclear weapon will be irreversible by next spring or summer, and he argued that a 'clear red line' must be drawn to warn Iran to halt its nuclear fuel enrichment or face military action. While that was a far more specific time frame than he had previously noted, his reference to next year seems to back away from earlier statements that seemed to suggest an Israeli strike much sooner."
    Indeed, Netanyahu made no mention of any attacks on Iran; his emphasis was on preventing military action. In his own words, "Red lines don’t lead to war; red lines prevent war." He gave illustrations of red lines drawn in the past which helped keep the peace: "Look at NATO’s charter: it made clear that an attack on one member country would be considered an attack on all.  NATO’s red line helped keep the peace in Europe for nearly half a century. President Kennedy set a red line during the Cuban Missile Crisis. That red line also prevented war and helped preserve the peace for decades."

    And he pointed out "In fact, it’s the failure to place red lines that has often invited aggression."

"Still, Netanyahu's speech continued to push a campaign that promotes military action when there is time for sanctions and diplomatic negotiations to produce a peaceful outcome. An Israeli Foreign Ministry report, disclosed by Haaretz, an Israeli newspaper, on Thursday, acknowledged as much, saying that sanctions imposed by the U.S. and Europe are having a huge impact on Iran's economy and may be affecting the government's stability. The report urged that the sanctions be tightened further."

    The writers completely misread Netanyahu's intent, which is to prevent the need for military action. While the sanctions have had a significant impact on Iran's economy, they have yet to impact Iran's nuclear weapons program, which has actually been sped up. The point is that the sanctions and diplomatic efforts are unlikely to work unless they are backed up by a credible military threat.

"Abbas' complaints are no less important for both Israel, the Palestinians and the region. Using exceptionally sharp rhetoric, he accused Israeli settlers of undertaking 535 attacks against Palestinians in recent months, and he charged Israel with using settlement expansion and efforts to weaken the Palestinian Authority to destroy the prospect of a two-state solution. Netanyahu made a brief reference to wanting peace with the Palestinians, but there is no hope of meaningful negotiations anytime soon."

    The reason there is no hope for meaningful negotiations anytime soon is that there is no hope that Abbas will end his boycott of negotiations anytime soon.

    Just because Abbas makes outlandish accusations doesn't make those accusations true. Contrast, for example, his absurd accusations of Israel "judaizing Jerusalem" with the enormous Arab population increases in Jerusalem cited above.

    While there have been a relative handful of "price tag" attacks by radical Israelis against both Israeli government facilities and Palestinian Arabs, their quantity and seriousness are dwarfed by the continued Arab terrorism against innocent Israeli civilians. So far this year, well over 400 rockets and mortars have been fired from Gaza at Israeli cities and towns.

    Whereas the Palestinian Authority continues to incite against Israel, glorify terrorists and terrorism,  financially supports murderers of Israeli civilians and insists that Israel release all imprisoned Arab terrorists, the Israeli government acts vigorously against the fringe elements that attack Palestinian Arabs.

"After failing to get a process for talks going early in his term, Obama seems to have given up. Mitt Romney has suggested that he would do even less if he's elected. On the notorious videotaped when he was speaking at a private fundraising event in May, he disparaged Palestinians as "not wanting to see peace anyway" and said his approach was to "recognize this is going to remain an unsolved problem." He seems poised to encourage Netanyahu's intemperate posture toward Iran, no matter the consequences."

    Netanyahu is trying to get the world to prevent letting the mad mullahs in charge of Iran get there hands on nuclear weapons. In other words, he is trying to prevent a nuclear catastrophe and is trying to do that without military action. That's hardly intemperate.

    Regardless of his reasons, Romney's remarks regarding the Palestinian Arabs' disinterest in peace were accurate and, obviously, the Arab-Israeli conflict will remain an "unsolved problem" until both the Palestinian Arabs and the rest of the Arabs start having an interest in making peace.

Item 3:

An op-ed, entitled "Where I Stand; Bibi, bluster and Bain," written by Stephan Lesher of Southbury and published in the Danbury News-Times on Sunday, September 30, 2012.

"It may have gone unnoticed by many, but when Mitt Romney, the bagman from Bain, dismissed nearly half the American people as people who refuse to take personal responsibility for their lives, he also threw the Palestinian people and any hope for a Palestinian-Israeli two-state solution under the bus."

    PRIMER, of course, takes no position regarding any candidate's words or actions relating to anything other than the Middle East. Re Romney's words re the Palestinian Arab unwillingness to make peace, as noted above, they were accurate. In no way did they throw "any hope for a Palestinian-Israeli two-state solution under the bus;" indeed, since he isn't even a government official, he couldn't; on the other hand, at least in the near term, Mahmoud Abbas has already done it.

"Of course, when Romney told 150 donors at a Boca Raton, Fla. fundraising dinner last May (at $50,000 a plate) that 'I look at the Palestinians not wanting to see peace anyway, for political purposes, committed to the destruction and elimination of Israel,' he was simply mouthing the party line from the blustering, bombastic, and eminently dangerous Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, Romney's all-but-open political supporter in the 2012 American presidential race."

    Again, the comments re the Palestinian Arabs were accurate. His comments re Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would have been accurate if made regarding Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, from whose "blustering, bombastic, and eminently dangerous" policies Netanyahu is trying to save the world.

"Indeed, the opposition leader in Israel, Shaul Mofaz, asked of Netanyahu in the Knesset recently, 'Who are you trying to replace? The administration in Washington or that in Tehran.'"

    Israeli politics are sometimes rather impolitic.

"As Netanyahu presses closer and closer to launching a unilateral attack on Iran, and continues relentlessly painting President Barack Obama as naïve in the extreme, it is, as journalist David Remnick wrote recently In the New Yorker, 'hard to overestimate the risks (he) poses to the future of his own country.'"

    It's interesting to note the conflict between Lesher's assertion and The Times' grudging acknowledgment that Netanyahu seemed "to back away from earlier statements that seemed to suggest an Israeli strike much sooner." Of course, consistency in unfair criticism of Israel has rarely been a consideration.

    It's hard to overestimate the risks not preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons would pose not just to Israel and not just to the United States, but to the entire world.

"It might be added that the risk extends to the United States as well because of the overwhelming pressure that would be brought on the administration to take military actions to support Israel in any counterattack."

    The risk extends to the United States because Iran considers us the "Great Satan" while Israel is merely considered the "Little Satan." Israel is the first target right now only because Iran has not yet developed missiles that could strike us. It's reasonable to expect that it will not be long before Iran's efforts to develop longer range missiles bring us into range, at which point they very well might ignore Israel in order to strike directly at us.

"As New York Times columnist Gail Collins suggested recently, the U.S. Congress will take almost any action 'designed to demonstrate total support for whatever Israel thinks a good idea.'"

    Whatever one thinks of Congress, it boggles the mind to take seriously an accusation that all of Congress is unpatriotic.

"What makes Netanyahu's determination to strike out at Iran so monumentally wrongheaded is that he has been ignoring the advice of almost every current and recently retired leader of the Israeli military and the country's major intelligence organizations as well as a clear majority of the Israeli population."

    Once again, Netanyahu is not determined "to strike out at Iran;" he clearly very much wants to avoid having to do so.

"Many of these current and former officials have said in public interviews that they are afraid that such an attack might spark a regional war as well as unify the Iranian people behind the country's none-too-popular regime.
"It is becoming clear that Netanyahu is not only playing to his right-wing supporters in Israel, but to the neo-cons in the US as well."

    Is it not possible that Netanyahu is simply trying to save both his country and the world from the gravest threat both face at the present time?

"The problem is that Romney is picking up on Netanyahu's rejection of Palestinians and of the two-state solution."

    Netanyahu has rejected neither. He has put the Israeli government firmly on record as supporting the so-called two-state solution.

"In its place, the Netanyahu policy of making life as difficult as possible for Palestinians will continue and presumably be adopted by a Romney administration should he somehow succeed in unseating President Obama."

    Au contraire, Netanyahu has worked assiduously to improve the lives of the Palestinian Arabs in the disputed territories, often over objections of Israelis who, justifiably, fear that he has put their lives in danger by removing most of the roadblocks and greatly increasing the numbers of Palestinian Arabs given permission to work in Israel. He has also lobbied foreign governments to increase their assistance to the Palestinian Authority and has even advanced tax money, effectively loaning the Palestinian Authority money, to help with its self-inflicted financial problems.

"The result would be continued and perhaps unending turmoil in the Middle East."

    There will be continued turmoil in the small Arab-Israeli portion of the Middle East until the Arabs, including the Palestinian Arabs, give up on their dream of destroying Israel. And, even in the event of an Arab-Israeli peace - not just a peace between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs - there will obviously be great turmoil in the Middle East for many years to come.

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