BigMo’s Blog

Politics and Economics in Israel

Who’s the bigger idiot?

Joe Klein recently interviewed President Barack Hussein Obama for Time Magazine.  Klein’s softball questions and lack of follow-up questions, challenging this soon-to-be one-term wonder, left me asking a simple question: Who the bigger idiot?

It is Klein, who allows himself to be used? Is it Time, for publishing such drivel? Is it Obama, who ladles out this self-serving drivel? Or it the people who will, inevitably, vote for him again?  Here it is, word for word.

Klein: My sense of it is that [U.S. special envoy to the Middle East George] Mitchell spent a number of months negotiating a settlement deal and saw some progress from the Israelis and kind of got blinded by that, because he didn’t see that it wasn’t sufficient progress for the Palestinians.

Obama: I’ll be honest with you. A) This is just really hard. Even for a guy like George Mitchell, who helped bring about the peace in Northern Ireland. This is as intractable a problem as you get. B) Both sides — the Israelis and the Palestinians — have found that the political environment, the nature of their coalitions or the divisions within their societies, were such that it was very hard for them to start engaging in a meaningful conversation. And I think that we overestimated our ability to persuade them to do so when their politics ran contrary to that. From [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud] Abbas’ perspective, he’s got Hamas looking over his shoulder and, I think, an environment generally within the Arab world that feels impatient with any process.

And on the Israeli front — although the Israelis, I think, after a lot of time showed a willingness to make some modifications in their policies, they still found it very hard to move with any bold gestures. And so what we’re going to have to do — I think it is absolutely true that what we did this year didn’t produce the kind of breakthrough that we wanted, and if we had anticipated some of these political problems on both sides earlier, we might not have raised expectations as high. Moving forward, though, we are going to continue to work with both parties to recognize what I think is ultimately their deep-seated interest in a two-state solution in which Israel is secure and the Palestinians have sovereignty and can start focusing on developing their economy and improving the lives of their children and grandchildren.

BigMo: Wow! The Middle East is really hard! What is this, a 6th grade geography test? Europe was a snap, but the Middle East? Wow, man, it was really hard . . . SuperBama had fifteen months on the campaign trail to brush up on the capitals, major rivers, etc., but it is really hard.

BigMo: “if we had anticipated some of these political problems . . . ” isn’t that kind of like, well, the job of the president and his staff? SuperBama took office almost a full three months before Binyamin Netahahu’s coalition was formed. That should have been more than ample time to get a subscription to the Jerusalem Post – or read a cable from the ambassador in Tel Aviv.  Of course, when you spend all your time mugging for the cameras, who has time to read?

January 24, 2010 Posted by | Israel, Middle East, Obama, Palestine | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Never Mssing a Chance to Miss a Chance

There is an old saying, “Every people gets the leaders it deserves.” If this is true, one has to wonder what dark stain the Palestinians have on their political souls that have cursed them live with the so-called leadership of the PLO and Hamas. A quick examination reveals that they have followed murderers – plain and simple – murderers, and allowed themselves to be plundered by these so-called leaders.

The PLO – re-styled since the Oslo Accord of 1993 as the “Palestinian Authority” has had sixteen years to build a functioning government and state, but cannot even collect the garbage on time. The PLO’s princes of terror, ensconced in official positions and granting themselves titles as if they had already achieved their long-sought after state, have systematically looted foreign aid and ruined the economy of the West Bank. Hamas, on the other hand, has erased every sign of development, prosperity, hope and democracy from the area it controls, the Gaza Strip.

One certainly cannot say that the Palestinians are uninformed. Ironically, they enjoy a degree of freedom of the press unavailable to the rest of their Arab brethren. Hamas and the PLO operate rival cable television and radio networks that the average Palestinian has no trouble receiving. This, by the way, is thanks to the electricity that Israel supplies. The Palestinian Authority has failed to build a single power plant capable of supplying even the smallest village.

Likewise, Palestinians have access to dozens of newspapers. Each supports the position of one of the alphabet soup of political parties: DFLP, Hamas, PFLP, Fatah, etc. They even have access to Israeli and Jordanian newspapers on a daily basis, not to mention broadcasts from Israel and Jordan. It might be time-consuming to tease the facts out of the opinions, but this is a responsibility that a citizen – any citizen – must take upon himself: critical thinking. It cannot be delegated, subcontracted or outsourced.

Unfortunately, it would seem that critical thinking is not the Palestinian people’s strong suit. If it were, after sixteen years, one would think that they would reject the incompetence and plundering of the PLO. One would think that they would reject the murder and Islamizing (the two often go hand-in-hand), not to mention the international isolation, that Hamas has visited upon them.

People in East Germany, Romania, the Philippines and many other nations have risen up and forced out cruel despotic leaders. The Free World congratulated them, supported them and welcomed all these countries into the ranks of democratic nation-states. The Arab people, and the Palestinians in particular, seem to lack the moral courage to take it upon themselves and make the difficult decisions that come with liberty and self-governance.

November 8, 2009 Posted by | Middle East, Palestine | , , , | 1 Comment

Moral Relativism, Redux

Here we go again!
The Goldstone Report on the Israel’s actions in Operation Cast Lead have cast a serious pall over the country’s image.  There are numerous controversies during this short, but intense conflict.  There was the number of “civilian” casualties (for some reason, most terrorists don’t like to be identified by wearing uniforms), the “wanton” destruction of “mosques” (which doubled as weapon depots) and civilian property (which also served as Hamas’ bases) and the alleged targeting of UNWRA installations (also used by Hamas as staging areas for attacks).

In a perfect world there would be no war.  However, as we all know, we live in a less than perfect world.  There are conflicts. When faced with the necessity to take up arms and defend one’s home, family and way of life, does one toss his or her moral code aside and do “whatever necessary” to win?  No, this would diminish to a degree the value of those things for which one is fighting. However, Israel actually raised the moral bar in how such a conflict should be conducted – America and Russia should take note.

Not that Robert Goldstone recognized this.  No, his report is one-sided, filled with lies, half-truths and omissions.  It is part and parcel of the Islamic fundamentalist propaganda campaign.  It should be lumped in with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s denials of the Holocaust; the “Zionism is Racism” slur perpetrated by the PLO and Soviet Union; and the Crusader blood libels.

What should we expect?
What should we expect from the men and women we’ve asked to defend us? Can their officers possibly describe to them every situation they might encounter on the battlefield and how to act? Can we expect a young man, who has been trained to act with deadly force, to reflect on the potential morality of every order at the risk of his own life? Actually, Israel does ask this of its soldiers!

We expect the political echelon to formulate clear and well thought-out policies. We expect the general staff to see to prepare and plan. We expect officers to lead their men courageously. We expect them to win. And yes, we expect them to act in the spirit of the moral values which we have asked them to defend. However, there are limitations to this, especially when fighting a barbaric, cruel enemy.

In the midst of battle, we cannot ask an infantry platoon to act as if they are freshmen philosophy students.  An army must fulfill its basic functions.  Or the enemy’s army will fulfill its basic functions and we will be the worse-off for it.  Western societies have come to view every field of human endeavor as one in which all players should have an equal chance to win.  However, war is a zero-sum game: there must be a loser.  I’m glad it was Hamas!

It’s all just a matter of opinion, isn’t it?
Moral relativism is the viewpoint that moral judgment regarding a person’s behavior depend on whether the person believes his actions to be right or wrong.  This view is commonly expressed as “there is no right or wrong, it’s all only a matter of opinion.”  Acceptance of this view is tantamount to saying that morality has no validity.  Taken to its obvious conclusion, there is nothing objectively wrong with one person torturing and killing another, as long as the individual committing these acts sincerely believes that they are not wrong.

“Cultural relativism,” is the view that moral judgments and rules reflect the cultural context from which they are derived and cannot be applied to other cultures or societies. Some who hold this view are skeptical about even the possibility of saying that slavery is wrong in a slave-holding society! Let’s give this a modern spin.

If I am born and raised in a culture that accepts strapping dynamite to my chest and blowing myself up in a supermarket as a legitimate method of protest, then this act cannot be condemned from a moral viewpoint.  It is part of my culture, and you as an outsider have no moral grounds to condemn my act.

The Price of Tea in China
So, what has all this to do with the price of tea in China? This: moral relativism is a weapon that wounds twice.  First, the person or group subjected to the attack is injured.  Second, the moral relativists – the apologists who often sit safely ensconced in university campuses, television studios and trendy coffee houses – demean and dishonor the victims and their own society.

The vast majority of the IDF acted with great restraint.  Enemy wounded received medical treatment.  There were many instances of soldiers risking their lives to remove women and children from harm’s way.  Many times soldiers held their fire, attempting to ascertain who or what was in a building, and in the process exposing themselves to danger.

Hamas is a terrorist organization with no interest in peace with Israel.  It could easily proclaim its willingness to abide by the agreements that the Palestinian Authority (PA) signed with Israel.  It could easily stop shelling Israeli towns and cities.  It could easily acknowledge Israel’s right to exist. Hamas does none of these things.

Hamas smuggles weapons and ammunition into Gaza, in contravention of past Israeli-PA agreements and flouting international law.   It does so brazenly, offering reporters tours of tunnel digging and smuggling operations. It fires missiles and mortar shells at Israeli towns.  Hamas members dress their children in suicide bomber “costumes.”  It sends the mentally impaired to infiltrate Israel wearing suicide belts – murder belts, actually.  During Operation Cast Lead, missiles were stored in schools, weapons fire was directed from the minarets of mosques and attacks were launched from schools and hospitals.

This is their “culture,” their “moral code.”

October 5, 2009 Posted by | Israel, Middle East, Palestine | , , , , , | 2 Comments

A Third Intifada?

August 4, Fatah – the ruling faction within the Palestinian Authority, opened its sixth party general assembly. Let’s ignore the fact that this is only the sixth general assembly in its 45-year history. Let’s ignore the fact that arcane and arbitrary rule-making muzzle many of its younger members. Instead, let’s just take a look at a couple of quotes from today’s opening session.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas condemned Hamas, calling the group “revolutionaries” and “men of darkness.” Yet, sixteen years after the Oslo Accords, nine years after the second Intifada and three years after losing control of Gaza to Hamas, the Palestinian Authority itself continues to act as a revolutionary organization plotting a coup d’état in a basement.

Senior Fatah official Jibril Rajoub said his organization will never abandon the option of armed struggle. “Resistance was and is a tactical and strategic option of the struggle are part of Fatah’s policy” which Israel must acknowledge

The Palestinian Authority – which to all intents and purposes means Fatah – refuses to mature into a government capable of handling even basic services as trash collection. Of course, if it did manage to effectively deal with something as “complex” as the collecting garbage on a regular basis, the PA would have a serious problem on its hands. Palestinians might actually expect them to deliver on an entire myriad of problems that the PA has been ignoring for years. Problems that have no connection to their self-continued conflict with Israel.

Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz responded to early reports on Sunday that the Fatah would update its political platform against recognizing Israel as the Jewish state during its general assembly. “The draft version for Fatah’s meeting is a declaration of war against Israel,” Katz said during a Likud ministers’ discussion ahead of the weekly cabinet meeting. “Fatah’s unwillingness to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, the demand for a withdrawal to the 1967 borders and a complete right of return for Palestinian refugees is tantamount to wiping out the State of Israel from existence.”

Former Shin Bet chief, current Knesset Member, Avi Dichter (Kadima) echoed his comments Monday night. “Fatah’s statements are clearing the way to what may eventually be the third intifada. Once you say that the fight will go on by all means necessary – anyone in their right mind understands that spells an armed conflict. Such a decision by the congress would send us years back.”

Dichter also addressed reports suggesting Fatah may reaffirm and update sections of its charter, particularly those objecting to any recognition of Israel as the Jewish homeland. “It is very clear, even now, that the Palestinians have no intention of missing an opportunity – to miss an opportunity,” he said. If the Palestinians have a cardinal rule, this is it.

If Operation Cast Lead proved anything, it is that the Israel Defense Forces is more than capable of handling the Palestinians. Bluff and bravado are no match for skill and determination. A Netanyahu government is also more likely to prosecute such a military action to its logical conclusion, unlike the craven former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

August 4, 2009 Posted by | Israel, Middle East, Palestine | , | Leave a comment

PM Netanyahu’s Speech – Official Translation

Honored guests,

Citizens of Israel.

Peace has always been our people’s most ardent desire. Our prophets gave the world the vision of peace, we greet one another with wishes of peace, and our prayers conclude with the word peace.

We are gathered this evening in an institution named for two pioneers of peace, Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat, and we share in their vision.

Two and half months ago, I took the oath of office as the Prime Minister of Israel. I pledged to establish a national unity government – and I did. I believed and I still believe that unity was essential for us now more than ever as we face three immense challenges – the Iranian threat, the economic crisis, and the advancement of peace.

The Iranian threat looms large before us, as was further demonstrated yesterday. The greatest danger confronting Israel, the Middle East, the entire world and human race, is the nexus between radical Islam and nuclear weapons. I discussed this issue with President Obama during my recent visit to Washington, and I will raise it again in my meetings next week with European leaders. For years, I have been working tirelessly to forge an international alliance to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

Confronting a global economic crisis, the government acted swiftly to stabilize Israel’s economy. We passed a two year budget in the government – and the Knesset will soon approve it.

And the third challenge, so exceedingly important, is the advancement of peace. I also spoke about this with President Obama, and I fully support the idea of a regional peace that he is leading.

I share the President’s desire to bring about a new era of reconciliation in our region. To this end, I met with President Mubarak in Egypt, and King Abdullah in Jordan, to elicit the support of these leaders in expanding the circle of peace in our region.

I turn to all Arab leaders tonight and I say: “Let us meet. Let us speak of peace and let us make peace. I am ready to meet with you at any time. I am willing to go to Damascus, to Riyadh, to Beirut, to any place- including Jerusalem.

I call on the Arab countries to cooperate with the Palestinians and with us to advance an economic peace. An economic peace is not a substitute for a political peace, but an important element to achieving it. Together, we can undertake projects to overcome the scarcities of our region, like water desalination or to maximize its advantages, like developing solar energy, or laying gas and petroleum lines, and transportation links between Asia, Africa and Europe.

The economic success of the Gulf States has impressed us all and it has impressed me. I call on the talented entrepreneurs of the Arab world to come and invest here and to assist the Palestinians – and us – in spurring the economy.

Together, we can develop industrial areas that will generate thousands of jobs and create tourist sites that will attract millions of visitors eager to walk in the footsteps of history – in Nazareth and in Bethlehem, around the walls of Jericho and the walls of Jerusalem, on the banks of the Sea of Galilee and the baptismal site of the Jordan.

There is an enormous potential for archeological tourism, if we can only learn to cooperate and to develop it.

I turn to you, our Palestinian neighbors, led by the Palestinian Authority, and I say: Let’s begin
negotiations immediately without preconditions.

Israel is obligated by its international commitments and expects all parties to keep their commitments.

We want to live with you in peace, as good neighbors. We want our children and your children to never again experience war: that parents, brothers and sisters will never again know the agony of losing loved ones in battle; that our children will be able to dream of a better future and realize that dream; and that together we will invest our energies in plowshares and pruning hooks, not swords and spears.

I know the face of war. I have experienced battle. I lost close friends, I lost a brother. I have seen the pain of bereaved families. I do not want war. No one in Israel wants war.

If we join hands and work together for peace, there is no limit to the development and prosperity we can achieve for our two peoples – in the economy, agriculture, trade, tourism and education – most importantly, in providing our youth a better world in which to live, a life full of tranquility, creativity, opportunity and hope.

If the advantages of peace are so evident, we must ask ourselves why peace remains so remote, even as our hand remains outstretched to peace? Why has this conflict continued for more than sixty years?

In order to bring an end to the conflict, we must give an honest and forthright answer to the question: What is the root of the conflict?

In his speech to the first Zionist Conference in Basel, the founder of the Zionist movement, Theodore Herzl, said about the Jewish national home “This idea is so big that we must speak of it only in the simplest terms.” Today, I will speak about the immense challenge of peace in the simplest words possible.

Even as we look toward the horizon, we must be firmly connected to reality, to the truth. And the simple truth is that the root of the conflict was, and remains, the refusal to recognize the right of the Jewish people to a state of their own, in their historic homeland.

In 1947, when the United Nations proposed the partition plan of a Jewish state and an Arab state, the entire Arab world rejected the resolution. The Jewish community, by contrast, welcomed it by dancing and rejoicing.

The Arabs rejected any Jewish state, in any borders.

Those who think that the continued enmity toward Israel is a product of our presence in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, is confusing cause and consequence.

The attacks against us began in the 1920s, escalated into a comprehensive attack in 1948 with the declaration of Israel’s independence, continued with the fedayeen attacks in the 1950s, and climaxed in 1967, on the eve of the six-day war, in an attempt to tighten a noose around the neck of the State of Israel.

All this occurred during the fifty years before a single Israeli soldier ever set foot in Judea and Samaria .

Fortunately, Egypt and Jordan left this circle of enmity. The signing of peace treaties have brought about an end to their claims against Israel, an end to the conflict. But to our regret, this is not the case with the Palestinians. The closer we get to an agreement with them, the further they retreat and raise demands that are inconsistent with a true desire to end the conflict.

Many good people have told us that withdrawal from territories is the key to peace with the Palestinians. Well, we withdrew. But the fact is that every withdrawal was met with massive waves of terror, by suicide bombers and thousands of missiles.

We tried to withdraw with an agreement and without an agreement. We tried a partial withdrawal and a full withdrawal. In 2000 and again last year, Israel proposed an almost total withdrawal in exchange for an end to the conflict, and twice our offers were rejected.

We evacuated every last inch of the Gaza strip, we uprooted tens of settlements and evicted thousands of Israelis from their homes, and in response, we received a hail of missiles on our cities, towns and children.

The claim that territorial withdrawals will bring peace with the Palestinians, or at least advance peace, has up till now not stood the test of reality.

In addition to this, Hamas in the south, like Hezbollah in the north, repeatedly proclaims their commitment to “liberate” the Israeli cities of Ashkelon, Beersheba, Acre and Haifa.

Territorial withdrawals have not lessened the hatred, and to our regret, Palestinian moderates are not yet ready to say the simple words: Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people, and it will stay that way.

Achieving peace will require courage and candor from both sides, and not only from the Israeli side.

The Palestinian leadership must arise and say: “Enough of this conflict. We recognize the right of the Jewish people to a state of their own in this land, and we are prepared to live beside you in true peace.”

I am yearning for that moment, for when Palestinian leaders say those words to our people and to their people, then a path will be opened to resolving all the problems between our peoples, no matter how complex they may be.

Therefore, a fundamental prerequisite for ending the conflict is a public, binding and unequivocal Palestinian recognition of Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people.

To vest this declaration with practical meaning, there must also be a clear understanding that the Palestinian refugee problem will be resolved outside Israel’s borders. For it is clear that any demand for resettling Palestinian refugees within Israel undermines Israel’s continued existence as the state of the Jewish people.

The Palestinian refugee problem must be solved, and it can be solved, as we ourselves proved in a similar situation. Tiny Israel successfully absorbed tens of thousands of Jewish refugees who left their homes and belongings in Arab countries.

Therefore, justice and logic demand that the Palestinian refugee problem be solved outside Israel’s borders. On this point, there is a broad national consensus. I believe that with goodwill and international investment, this humanitarian problem can be permanently resolved.

So far I have spoken about the need for Palestinians to recognize our rights. In am moment, I will speak openly about our need to recognize their rights.

But let me first say that the connection between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel has lasted for more than 3500 years. Judea and Samaria, the places where Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, David and Solomon, and Isaiah and Jeremiah lived, are not alien to us. This is the land of our forefathers.

The right of the Jewish people to a state in the land of Israel does not derive from the catastrophes that have plagued our people. True, for 2000 years the Jewish people suffered expulsions, pogroms, blood libels, and massacres which culminated in a Holocaust – a suffering which has no parallel in human history.

There are those who say that if the Holocaust had not occurred, the state of Israel would never have been established. But I say that if the state of Israel would have been established earlier, the Holocaust would not have occurred.

This tragic history of powerlessness explains why the Jewish people need a sovereign power of self-defense.

But our right to build our sovereign state here, in the land of Israel, arises from one simple fact: this is the homeland of the Jewish people, this is where our identity was forged.

As Israel’s first Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion proclaimed in Israel’s Declaration of Independence: “The Jewish people arose in the land of Israel and it was here that its spiritual, religious and political character was shaped. Here they attained their sovereignty, and here they bequeathed to the world their national and cultural treasures, and the most eternal of books.”

But we must also tell the truth in its entirety: within this homeland lives a large Palestinian community. We do not want to rule over them, we do not want to govern their lives, we do not want to impose either our flag or our culture on them.

In my vision of peace, in this small land of ours, two peoples live freely, side-by-side, in amity and mutual respect. Each will have its own flag, its own national anthem, its own government. Neither will threaten the security or survival of the other.

These two realities – our connection to the land of Israel, and the Palestinian population living within it – have created deep divisions in Israeli society. But the truth is that we have much more that unites us than divides us.

I have come tonight to give expression to that unity, and to the principles of peace and security on which there is broad agreement within Israeli society. These are the principles that guide our policy.

This policy must take into account the international situation that has recently developed. We must recognize this reality and at the same time stand firmly on those principles essential for Israel.

I have already stressed the first principle – recognition. Palestinians must clearly and unambiguously recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people. The second principle is: demilitarization. The territory under Palestinian control must be demilitarized with ironclad security provisions for Israel.

Without these two conditions, there is a real danger that an armed Palestinian state would emerge that would become another terrorist base against the Jewish state, such as the one in Gaza.

We don’t want Kassam rockets on Petach Tikva, Grad rockets on Tel Aviv, or missiles on Ben-Gurion airport. We want peace.

In order to achieve peace, we must ensure that Palestinians will not be able to import missiles into their territory, to field an army, to close their airspace to us, or to make pacts with the likes of Hezbollah and Iran. On this point as well, there is wide consensus within Israel.

It is impossible to expect us to agree in advance to the principle of a Palestinian state without assurances that this state will be demilitarized.

On a matter so critical to the existence of Israel, we must first have our security needs addressed.

Therefore, today we ask our friends in the international community, led by the United States, for what is critical to the security of Israel: Clear commitments that in a future peace agreement, the territory controlled by the Palestinians will be demilitarized: namely, without an army, without control of its airspace, and with effective security measures to prevent weapons smuggling into the territory – real monitoring, and not what occurs in Gaza today. And obviously, the Palestinians will not be able to forge military pacts.

Without this, sooner or later, these territories will become another Hamastan. And that we cannot accept.

I told President Obama when I was in Washington that if we could agree on the substance, then the terminology would not pose a problem.

And here is the substance that I now state clearly:

If we receive this guarantee regarding demilitirization and Israel’s security needs, and if the Palestinians recognize Israel as the State of the Jewish people, then we will be ready in a future peace agreement to reach a solution where a demilitarized Palestinian state exists alongside the Jewish state.

Regarding the remaining important issues that will be discussed as part of the final settlement, my positions are known: Israel needs defensible borders, and Jerusalem must remain the united capital of Israel with continued religious freedom for all faiths.

The territorial question will be discussed as part of the final peace agreement. In the meantime, we have no intention of building new settlements or of expropriating additional land for existing settlements.

But there is a need to enable the residents to live normal lives, to allow mothers and fathers to raise their children like families elsewhere. The settlers are neither the enemies of the people nor the enemies of peace. Rather, they are an integral part of our people, a principled, pioneering and Zionist public.

Unity among us is essential and will help us achieve reconciliation with our neighbors. That reconciliation must already begin by altering existing realities. I believe that a strong Palestinian economy will strengthen peace.

If the Palestinians turn toward peace – in fighting terror, in strengthening governance and the rule of law, in educating their children for peace and in stopping incitement against Israel – we will do our part in making every effort to facilitate freedom of movement and access, and to enable them to develop their economy. All of this will help us advance a peace treaty between us.

Above all else, the Palestinians must decide between the path of peace and the path of Hamas. The Palestinian Authority will have to establish the rule of law in Gaza and overcome Hamas. Israel will not sit at the negotiating table with terrorists who seek their destruction.

Hamas will not even allow the Red Cross to visit our kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit, who has spent three years in captivity, cut off from his parents, his family and his people. We are committed to bringing him home, healthy and safe.

With a Palestinian leadership committed to peace, with the active participation of the Arab world, and the support of the United States and the international community, there is no reason why we cannot achieve a breakthrough to peace.

Our people have already proven that we can do the impossible. Over the past 61 years, while constantly defending our existence, we have performed wonders.

Our microchips are powering the world’s computers. Our medicines are treating diseases once considered incurable. Our drip irrigation is bringing arid lands back to life across the globe. And Israeli scientists are expanding the boundaries of human knowledge.

If only our neighbors would respond to our call – peace too will be in our reach.

I call on the leaders of the Arab world and on the Palestinian leadership, let us continue together on the path of Menahem Begin and Anwar Sadat, Yitzhak Rabin and King Hussein. Let us realize the vision of the prophet Isaiah, who in Jerusalem 2700 years ago said: “nations shall not lift up sword against nation, and they shall learn war no more.”

With God’s help, we will know no more war. We will know peace.

June 15, 2009 Posted by | Israel, Middle East, Palestine | , , , , | Leave a comment

Between the Lines of Obama’s Pandering

President Obama’s whirl-wind tour of Saudi Arabia and Egypt earned him many kudos for stating things that previously were not said publicly by American or other world leaders. His speech covered many topics, but it left out important details, contained hidden messages and ignored important Middle East realities. And of course, he sugar-coated it with numerous quotes from the Koran, designed to evoke the applause the man needs more than oxygen.

On detainees
“I have unequivocally prohibited the use or torture by the United States, and I have ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed by early next year.” Naturally, his Cairo audience applauded him.  Would they have applauded if he told them that his administration is now planning to use Bagram Air Force base in Afghanistan as a replace for the tainted Guantanamo?

As MSNBC – hardly a fountainhead of conservatism – reported on June 3rd, the Obama administration is challenging an April 2 decision by U.S. District Judge John Bates that applied the Boumediene (the ruling that granted prisoners at Guantanamo habeas corpus rights to challenge their detention) ruling to some Bagram prisoners.   Administration mouthpieces are arguing that Bates’ ruling would for the first time in American history extend habeas corpus rights to non-Americans (in fact, Muslims) in a theater of war in a foreign territory.

On the Holocaust

“Six million Jews were killed – more than the entire Jewish population of Israel today. Denying that fact is baseless, it is ignorant, and it is hateful. Threatening Israel with destruction – or repeating vile stereotypes about Jews – is deeply wrong, and only serves to evoke in the minds of Israelis this most painful of memories.” Not surprisingly, there were no applause for the President’s admonishment.   Arab attempts to demonize Israel as a Nazi-like state have been going on for years, and this propaganda weapon has become increasingly potent.  Iran, Hamas and Hizbullah are unlikely to surrender it.

There were two audiences for this statement, actually.  One audience was sitting there is Cairo and other Arab capitals and metropolises.  The second one was in Israel.  Combined with the acknowledgment earlier in his speech that there are now 7 million Muslims in the US, the message was to Israel: you are small and your supporters in the US are now outnumbered. American Jewry was instrumental in Bill Clinton’s two victories; not so in Obama’s.

On Palestinian Responsibilities

For many years, the world has treated Palestinian, indeed, most matters related to Arab countries, with kit gloves. The standards applied to Israel were those that America and Europe applied to themselves (or at least told themselves they were). However, these same standards were not applied to the Arab world. It is why Hamas was able to launch 40,000 rockets and missiles at Israel over a two-year period without so much as a whimper from the Eurostinians, or America bogged down in two wars.

Now, President Obama arrives with the message “It is neither a sign of courage or power to shoot rockets at sleeping children, or to blow up old women on a bus.” Adding to this, “Now is the time for Palestinians to focus on what they can build.  The Palestinian Authority must develop its capacity to govern, with institutions that serve the needs of its people.” Unfortunately, the PA must contend with burgeoning population: they fear the cadres of 18 -24 year-old unemployed young men more than they do the Israelis.

Once the undergrads start parsing these and other statements in Obama’s speech, they will see the numerous quotes from the Koran as the pandering they really were.  And maybe Israelis will start to calm down a bit, despite the harsh spotlight that was shined on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

June 5, 2009 Posted by | Middle East, Obama, Palestine | , , , | Leave a comment