BigMo’s Blog

Politics and Economics in Israel

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

Crime Against Humanity

Ben-Dror Yemini, Maariv, 21.8.09
On Sunday (16.8.09), I wrote an article entitled “Author of Report Against Israel Supported Munich Massacre” which dealt with Joe Stork, the man who presented the severe Human Rights Watch (HRW) report last week (13.8.09) which said that 12 Palestinian civilians, including children, were shot to death by IDF soldiers even though they were waving white flags.

The article received widespread coverage and many references, and apparently struck a very sensitive chord with the organization. Up until now, the organization did not respond to claims of anti-Israel bias; on occasion, it arrogantly belittled the claims. This time the organization deviated from its habit. Two days later (18.8.09), Stork sent a letter to Maariv in which he tried to deal with the claims that were made against him. The letter is presented in full below, both for reasons regarding the right of response and in order to make it clear that the letter, in effect, only strengthens the claims against the organization in general and against Stork in particular. Following is Stork’s letter in full, with remarks added in order to set the record straight.

The Israeli government and Ben-Dror Yemini [‘Author of Report against Israel Supported Munich Massacre’] seem to share a “shoot the messenger” approach when it comes to addressing painstakingly researched criticisms of the Israel Defense Forces’ actions in Gaza. Instead of addressing these detailed findings, they spread malicious misinformation about me and my organization, Human Rights Watch.

Stork is right. One must deal with the message, not the messenger. But sometimes, in extreme cases, there are grounds for focusing on the messenger. Let us assume that a former Ku Klux Klan activist would issue a report against Afro-Americans. Would the report be important or the messenger? The comparison is not far off the mark in the current case. Stork opposed the recognition of Israel and was even one of the founders (!) of a group that admired the murder of the Israeli athletes in Munich. Stork also recommended that the left-wing body should withdraw if the PLO decided to negotiate with Israel. May we not doubt the objectivity of such a man?

On August 13, Human Rights Watch released a report detailing instances in January in which Israeli soldiers killed Palestinian civilians who were waving white flags to convey their civilian status. Government spokespersons sought to dismiss the report by calling Human Rights Watch biased. But to date no critic has disputed the facts about the seven incidents in the report, in which soldiers shot and killed 11 unarmed civilians, including four children and five women.

And indeed, it is becoming clear that HRW carried out negligent and non-serious work. All of the incidents appearing in the report were known to the IDF. The report itself did not add anything. Moreover, the claim that, “no critic has disputed the facts about the seven incidents,” is a total lie. On the contrary, regarding five of the seven incidents, it was decided to open Military Police investigations, meaning that the IDF is carrying out a serious inquiry. If there are discrepancies – they are being thoroughly examined.

HRW adopts the opposite method. Videos have been published of Hamas personnel exploiting civilians and hiding behind white flags. These were even published on You Tube. Is there even one word – one! – about this in the HRW report? Of course not.

In the same video, it should be pointed out, the terrorist hides in a house from which civilians are waiving white flags. The terrorist was apprehended. The civilians were not hurt. It is no coincidence that the film’s findings were not refuted in the HRW report because when the target is painted in advance – the delegitimization of Israel – the facts will not confuse Stork and his people. While photographic testimony that refutes the findings of the report receives no comment, the testimony of Palestinians living in the shadow of Hamas’s reign of terror receive top billing. Is this testimony serious? NGO Monitor responded to this and refuted HRW ‘s claims. But Stork, as is his custom, takes no notice.

Many claims have been made against Israel. Israel did not ignore them. On the contrary, many of these claims were refuted in detail, in a 163-page Foreign Ministry report that was issued on 29.7.09. The HRW report, which was issued two weeks later (13.8.09), ignores most of them, just as the video was ignored because this is what HRW does. Stork is not even interested in checking; he wants delegitimization.

Now, again instead of addressing our research, Mr. Yemini has launched a personal attack on me, which the Israeli government has dutifully translated and distributed. The quotes he attributes to me are more than 30 years old. Most of them I do not recognize, and they are contrary to the views I have expounded for decades now. For instance, selective excerpts about the Munich massacre come from an unsigned editorial that appeared 37 years ago where at the time I was one of seven volunteers that produced the publication. All my work since then shows that I would never support such an attack. For nearly 40 years, I have been documenting, writing, and speaking out on injustices by virtually all of the governments and many non-state armed groups in the Middle East. This work is readily available – including at Middle East Report magazine, which I edited through 1995, and at Human Rights Watch since then – but Mr. Yemini did not include these many statements, undoubtedly because they did not support his claims. Had he looked at the hundreds of statements, articles and reports I’ve written since the 1970s, he would have found exposés of Saddam Hussein’s murderous regime and my report for Human Rights Watch on war crimes by Palestinian suicide bombers. I have dedicated much of my adult life to the protection of human rights for all and to fighting the idea that civilians can be attacked for political reasons. Ma’ariv and Mr. Yemini owe me an apology.

Indeed, it is clear that Stork does not deny even one of the claims that I raised. He simply claims that they are his remarks from many years ago. Has Stork disavowed his very problematic past with the Middle East Research and Information Project (MERIP)? Indeed, in an article he wrote in 1993 on US-Israel relations, Stork expresses very similar positions to those he expressed in his MERIP days. Moreover, many footnotes in the same article direct the reader to remarks written in MERIP years before. This means that not only has there been no turning point but a reiteration and continuation of the past. And it should be clear that Stork was for the Israelis just as the KKK activist would be for the Afro-Americans.

Let us continue. Stork claims that HRW published condemnations of Saddam Hussein and Palestinian suicide terrorists. This is the case, there indeed were additional reports. But these reports do not pass the proportionality test. Among countless human rights violations around the world in which Israel has a marginal and small place, HRW sees fit to issue countless reports precisely on Israel, a disproportionality that indicates a pre-selected goal and Stork’s special logic. Even when HRW issues a condemnation of a Palestinian action, Stork adds clarifications of his own [in a 2001 BBC report]: “Most of the [Palestinian] security officers have been in Israeli jails.” Yes, the Stork of the past is no different from the Stork of today.

Stork’s headline-grabber has to do with the equivocal support issued by MERIP in the wake of the Munich massacre: I was “one of seven volunteers,” he tries to claim. Not exactly. Stork was one of MERIP’s founders and the chief editor of the journal which published a statement in support of the massacre. It is a pity that Stork does not read his own CV as it appears on HRW’s official website. The determination that the action was “an important boost in morale” for the Palestinians is part of the sequence of other remarks, including opposition to recognizing Israel, encouraging Arab countries to struggle against Israel, etc.

I believe that today, Stork would not issue a statement in support of massacring athletes. But Stork has merely gone from the highest rung on the anti-Zionist ladder to the next one lower down. But he is still on the same scale. He was and remains in the ranks of the anti-Israel Left. NGO Monitor and Prof. Gerald Steinberg will soon publish a book that analyzes a decade’s worth of HRW publications and the people behind them, including Stork himself. But Stork is above criticism. It is possible to assume that he did not bother to study NGO Monitor’s detailed response to the HRW report. This allows Stork to claim that there were no responses. This is what he does. When Steinberg previously issued a biting and substantive criticism, Stork arrogantly responded that he is not at all interested in criticism against him.

Israel, in contrast to Stork, takes notice of the criticism against it. It checks itself. Not all criticism of Israel deserves to be dismissed. Israel also makes mistakes. But Stork is a special personality. He is both radically anti-Israeli and unwilling to be criticized. Is it possible to accept the “criticism” of such a man?

Stork is not alone. When he began to work at HRW, he had no special expertise in the field. His only talent was a series of articles that were exceptionally hostile to Israel. That is not surprising. The Director of the Middle East Department, Sarah Leah Whitson, arrived at HRW after having been in a pro-Arab body. This is legitimate. Is there a chance that someone from the Anti-Defamation League would be accepted to HRW?

Global human rights are in a predicament. The UN Human Rights Council has turned into the Dark Regimes Rights Council. Saudi Arabia, Iran and Libya have an automatic majority. Non-governmental organizations, such as HRW, were supposed to stand against such bodies. But in reality a sad thing happened, Whitson flew to Saudi Arabia recently to raise funds for HRW. And they don’t even understand that they have a problem. This is how non-governmental bodies have transformed antagonism towards Israel to the main issue. They are biased to the extreme. They place Israel in the same category as Sudan, and publish weak protests on the suicide and rocket industries, just to discharge a perfunctory obligation.

Israel is contending with the Hamas regime, the official covenant of which is the closest thing to Nazi ideology. This is a group that calls for the elimination of the State of Israel, the malicious murder of Israeli citizens, gratuitous Jew-hatred, and many of its speakers talk candidly about taking over the West. How exactly is a democratic country supposed to confront such an entity, indoctrinated in the ideology of hatred, murder and incitement? Why is Europe permitted to fight the Taliban – which threatens Germany or Spain much less – with much harsher measures, but Israel is prohibited from fighting a body like Hamas?

It is permitted to criticize Israel. But HRW has lost the moral right to do so. He who in the past has called for the elimination of Israel; he who supports, directly or indirectly, the boycott of Israel, cannot become an objective critic. There is a need for an international struggle for human rights. But bodies such as HRW hurt this important struggle. They become the prop of the world’s darkest regimes. Instead of saying unequivocally that such a regime, such an ideology, such an element – has no right to exist, the HRW is waging a struggle that is not a criticism of Israel, but rather wild slander against Israel. True, there is marginal criticism against Hamas. But criticism of Israel is the main point. And therefore, for the sake of returning human rights to its proper standing, it is time for HRW to cleanse its ranks.

The very existence of a group like Hamas is a crime against humanity. Stork and HRW find it difficult to understand this. On the contrary, in their crude attack, in their delegitimization of Israel, they are parties to this crime.

August 24, 2009 Posted by | Middle East | , , , | Leave a comment

Unintended Consequences

President Obama would do well to take a step back from his six-month policy of pressuring Israel to make unwarranted concessions and consider the “Law of Unintended Consequences.” After little more than a half-year in office, the US has better relations with almost every country in the world, except the one that has been its most faithful ally for the past forty years – Israel. That is not to say that his policies have borne fruit everywhere: Afghanistan, Iran, North Korea and Venezuela continue to be thorns in the American side.

Meanwhile, his administration’s unrelenting pressure on Israel is leading to the formation of a grand coalition of conservative and right-wing political parties. There is an increasing movement within the right-wing of the Kadima part to split and join Likud, bringing with them 7 – 9 mandates in the Knesset. Likewise, about one-third of the practically defunct Labor party, led by Defense Minister Ehud Barak, is growing increasingly alienated from party activists and second-tier leaders.

If these factions were to join with Likud, this new entity would have between 37 and 39 mandates in the Knesset. Furthermore, a coalescence of the center-right conceivably opens the door for the two settler-dominated parties with their seven mandates to join a future coalition, creating a center-right bloc of 44 to 46 seats. This would allow it to resist some of the more extreme demands from Aguda, Shas and Israel Beitanu; it may even allow for the dismissal of one of these parties from the current coalition.

This is the “nightmare scenario” for Barack Obama, a truly right-wing government in Israel with a solid parliamentary majority.  Obama’s  administration was pushing for a Kadima-led government before ballots were even cast in Israel back in February. How did this situation come about? It is the Law of Unintended Consequences in action.

In the waning days of the Bush 43 administration, erstwhile Kadima leader Tzipi Livni was treated with more pomp-and-circumstance than a lame-duck foreign minister with meager accomplishments deserved. Meaningless treaties between the US and Israel vowing to combat terrorism and weapons smuggling were signed. These treaties did not stop one katyusha rocket from being smuggled or launched at Israel. These facts were not lost on the Israeli public.

When Barack Obama was sworn in as his country’s forty-fourth president, his administration very publicly began to brow-beat Israel, in the midst of its own general election. Their favorable disposition to the untried and untested Livni was made clear to all. The left-leaning broadcast media in Israel, as well as the left-leaning newspaper were full of dire predictions regarding the consequences of a Netanyahu-led government. These facts were not lost on the Israeli public.

What was the result? The Israeli public overwhelmingly voted for center-right and right-wing parties, handing the center-left and left-wing one of their worst defeats since Menachem Begin’s 1977 triumph.

As pointed out by numerous commentators in Israel, and now increasingly in the US, Obama’s next mistake was to unilaterally abrogate past “gentleman’s agreements” between the US and Israel on settlements, and make US opposition to settlements the salient feature of his new foreign policy.

As Daniel Pipes has shrewdly observed, this was combined with an approach that attempted to neutralize domestic support for Israel in the US. So far, this has generated few dividends. Obama has failed to deliver on both Iran and a more conciliatory Palestinian Authority. This, combined with the pressure on Israel, is starting to erode his own domestic support among the American Jewish community.

Will the Likud successfully split the Kadima and Labor parties? It is more likely to happen with Kadima, which unlike all other Israeli parties has no ideological, ethnic or religious platform. Many see it as being led by opportunists. Furthermore, it has yet to establish a coherent program that it can promote in contrast to Likud policies.

Yet, Israeli politics are among the most dynamic and ideologically based in the world, and what is certain is that there will be several more twists and turns before the final act is played out.

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

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

Palestinians Respond Loud & Clear to Obama – but is anybody listening?

On-line business paper, The Globes, reported that the Palestinians are pressing Saudi Arabia to cancel a tender to build a high-speed railway in that country, which was won by a French company.  Why?  Because the company is part of a consortium building a light-rail project in Jerusalem.

The French companies involved in the Jerusalem light rail project, are led by Alstom and Veolia.  Alstom (the supplier of the trains) and Veolia (the project operator) have been with the Jerusalem light rail project since its inception several years ago.  The companies have been admirable for standing up to the political pressure put on them, especially since the second intifada in 2003.  Alstom is a 20% partner in the consortium.

Of course, if you have been in Jerusalem lately, you are only too painfully aware of the utter chaos the project has been playing with traffic in the city. Behind schedule, over budget and wreaking havoc on downtown business, it is a wonder that an Alstom-led consortium won another contract of this type! Perhaps the Saudis figure that the Israelis paid for Alstom’s learning curve.

Of course, the tender-winner’s poor performance is not the reason the Palestinians are giving for the pressure they are bringing to bear, which also includes law-suits in French courts.  The see Jerusalem – at least East Jerusalem – as their future capital.  Ignore the fact that they have no historical claims to the city.  Ignore the fact that there is no example of a divided city that ever worked.   Ignore the fact that residents of Jerusalem – Muslim, Christian and Jewish – might want a more convenient way to get from one end of the city to another.

And, of course, ignore Barack Obama’s pleas that they stop acting like children having a tantrum and start acting like responsible leaders.  Is President O. going to lift up the phone and make a call to Palestinian Authority headquarters in Ramallah?   Probably not.  Because hypocrites don’t do that sort of thing.  You see, it would be admitting that his pretty words failed!

June 11, 2009 Posted by | Israel, Middle East, Obama | , , , , | Leave a comment

The Long Spiral Down

Qalqilya, West Bank/Judea & Samaria
Dateline: 31 May 2009

Two Hamas gunmen, three Palestinian policemen and a passerby were killed in gun battles in the West Bank on Sunday, when Palestinian Authority (PA) security forces loyal to President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah faction, which administers the West Bank, raided a neighborhood in the city of Qalqilya to arrest gunmen of the rival Hamas group, which rules the Gaza Strip. This follows raids by PA security forces the previous day, which netted 22 Hamas supporters.

Tensions have been high between the rival parties since Hamas seized the Gaza Strip in June 2007 after routing Fatah forces loyal to Abbas. The June 2007 coup d’état culminated in summary executions of PA security force members in the streets of Gaza City. Several incidents in which Fatah supporters were thrown to their death from the roof tops of high-rise apartment buildings were documented and even caught on film.

This past winter, the Israeli government attempted to end Hamas rocket fire on southern Israel. Operation Cast Lead (OCL) was a partial success, with an uneasy – and unofficial – truce going into effect in January. After OCL, Hamas admitted to having executed or knee-capped approximately 20 more Fatah supporters DURING the fighting with Israel. This is the kind of state America and Europe would like to see established on Israel’s borders.

Why are European, and now American leaders, so eager to embrace such a terrorist organization? Hamas violently seized power. Hamas used the territory it controls to launch a guerilla war against the sovereign territory of Israel. Hamas has used the territory it controls to undermine the authority of another Arab state, Egypt. Hamas violently suppresses political opposition. Hamas continues to plot the demise of the Palestinian Authority in Area A of the West Bank/Judea & Samaria.

Could it be that Gordon Brown, Nicolas Sarkozy and Barack Obama have come to the conclusion that Western Civilization no longer needs to defend its values of secularism, pluralism, and individual liberty? Are terrorism, murder, authoritarianism and censorship the new values of London, Paris and Washington, D.C.? Has the “Free World” concluded that a state like Israel, which proclaims these same values and struggles daily to uphold them is no longer worthy of their support? Or have the so-called leaders of Western Civilization grown tired and weak of upholding the freedoms they supposedly cherish?

There are many who believe that just that has happened: Western Civilization has begun a long, slow death spiral. It no longer has the cultural, economic or military will to defend itself. Israel is just one small “outpost” in the sea of Islamic Civilization and a tactical “advance to the rear” might by the old men in America and Europe a few years of peace and quiet. Perhaps, but not likely.

May 31, 2009 Posted by | Middle East | , , , , , | Leave a comment

An Action-packed Spring

Key Dates to Watch

There are a number of key dates coming up on calendars throughout the Middle East in the upcoming months. American President Barack Obama will be hosting an official visit of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on May 18. Some time between now and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ May 28 official visit to Washington, D.C., the Palestinian leader will be forming a new government. It will most likely be without archrival Hamas. Elections will be held in Lebanon on June 7, followed shortly thereafter in Iran on June 12. Fun, Fun, Fun!

The likely winners of all this activity, both diplomatic and electoral, are likely to be the world new media. These talking heads will undoubtedly be racking up thousands upon thousands of airline miles from flights and hotel stays. Hotels and restaurants won’t due to badly, despite the fact that media-types are poor tippers. Despite the hundreds – perhaps thousands – of airline tickets sold, the world’s airlines will continue to struggle.

What?! Won’t there be any new diplomatic breakthroughs? How about some new treaties being signed? Certainly there will be at least one or two electoral upsets, right? Not likely, not likely and – wait for it – not likely.

Most likely Diplomatic Outcomes

Prime Minister Netanyahu will unveil his long-awaited plan for re-starting dialogue with the Palestinians, which will be received in Washington with some form of “cautious optimism.”  It will also be received with some form of “restored hope,” just as is everything that crosses the American President’s path is.   He will also ask President Obama to set a time-table for negotiations with Iran on the nuclear issue, which the latter has already refused to do.  Finally, the Prime Minister will try to pick-up a few gadgets for the boys back home (KC-135 refueling tankers, more bunker-buster bombs, some B2s, etc.)

President Abbas will unveil his standard list of complaints against Israel and reject the latest Israeli peace plans as inadequate.  Palestinian diplomacy is more akin to Japanese kabuki theater than it is to diplomacy: everyone knows the story line, the choreography and the limited skills of the actor. Finally, the Palestinian President will ask for 1) more financial aid, 2) more training for his “army,” and 3) a guarantee of asylum should #1 and #2 be ineffective in staving off a Hamas takeover.

Expect Obama to take a vacation at Camp David sometime in early June.

Most likely Electoral Outcomes

The electoral campaign in Lebanon has been refreshingly non-violent, so far. This should end about 10 minutes after they finish counting the ballots.  If Hizbullah does as well or better than the last parliamentary election, they will claim that they deserve to be included in the ruling coalition with senior ministries going to their party. If Hizbullah does as well or worse than the last parliamentary election, they will claim that they deserve to be included in the ruling coalition with senior ministries going to their party.  Get the picture?  They’re like Israel’s Kadima Party, except they have guns and aren’t afraid to use them.

As for Iran, there’s not much polling data to go by.  There are two official candidates.  Supreme Leader (Ayatollah) Ali Khamene’i picked the Guardian Council (a select group of clergy), who approves all the presidential candidates and decides who is fit to run for office (sort of like the relationship between the Christian fundamentalists and the Republic Party). So, whoever wins is going to be “kosher” by the standards of the Islamic Republic.  If Hizbullah actually does do as well or better than last time in the Lebanese elections, this might be a boost for the Iranian incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Should Hizbullah “win” in Lebanon and Ahmadinejad win in Iran, Henry Kissinger will probably be getting a call from President Obama.  The President will explain to our dear old friend that the advice he’s been getting from Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden and George Mitchell hasn’t really helped him all that much.  Henry is still working off the frequent flyer miles he earned in the Nixon adminstration.

May 2, 2009 Posted by | Middle East | , , , , , , | Leave a comment