Prepared for the |
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
View this page at www.dailyalert.org|
March 19, 2010
Israeli Polls: Obama's Attack "Out of Proportion" - Gil Hoffman (Jerusalem Post)
Opposition to Obama's Tactics Builds - Jennifer Rubin (Commentary)
Iran Accused of Arming Taliban - Tom Coghlan (Times-UK)
Hamas Minister Calls for Jews to Be Annihilated (MEMRI)
See also Hamas TV: Rome Will Be Conquered by Islam (MEMRI)
See also U.S. Sanctions Hamas' Al-Aqsa TV (MEMRI)
Gazans Find Luxury in Thriving Gold Bazaar - Mai Yaghi
Palestinians Struggle to Impose Settlements Boycott (AFP)
On PA Television for Kids, Israel Is Only a Fairy Tale - Ben Hartman
Pakistan Indicts Five Americans on Terrorism Charges - Alex Rodriguez and Richard Serrano (Los Angeles Times)
Standard and Poor's Affirms Israel's "A" Rating - Daniel Bases and Jeffrey Benkoe (Reuters)
Netanyahu's Son Wins National Bible Quiz - Felicity Kay and Esther Judah (Jerusalem Post)
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Thursday to propose confidence-building measures to get Middle East peace talks back on track, U.S. and Israeli officials said. Netanyahu's proposals were sufficient for the Obama administration to send special envoy George J. Mitchell back to the region in a bid to start indirect talks between Israelis and Palestinians. The Obama administration in recent days has significantly toned down its public rhetoric on the dispute. (Washington Post)
See also Israel Suggests Steps to Aid Peace Talks - Mark Landler and Isabel Kershner
A statement issued by the Israeli government said that Israel's proposal had won the unanimous support of the seven members of Mr. Netanyahu's inner cabinet. A senior U.S. official familiar with the conversation between Mr. Netanyahu and Mrs. Clinton described the Israeli response as less than definitive. "It is fair to say they have come back to us and given us some ideas, and some ideas to work with," the official said. "There are areas where we have to have some clarification, and when you get something to work with that's a good thing." The reluctance of both sides to talk about the specifics of the Israeli response seemed to reflect a desire by both sides to avoid portraying Washington and Jerusalem as engaged in a tug of war. (New York Times)
See also Israel to Engage in "Trust-Building" Moves in Wake of Row with U.S. - Barak Ravid
Israel is willing to carry out trust-building moves in the West Bank in order to facilitate peace talks with the PA, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly told U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Thursday. He reportedly conveyed a detailed list of gestures Jerusalem was willing to perform in order to restart negotiations with the Palestinians. The Prime Minister's Office stated following the conversation that there was "a real effort by Israel to aid the U.S. administration in renewing negotiations though trust-building measures with the Palestinian Authority." (Ha'aretz)
Vice President Joe Biden told ABC News in an interview Thursday that the U.S. and Israel need to "get over" the latest flare-up in tensions and insisted, "Israel's security is undeniably in our interest to make sure it is absolutely secure." Biden called the Israeli announcement of new building in Jerusalem last week "provocative" and said it was "obviously designed by some in Israel to undermine a peace process George Mitchell, our negotiator, finally got back on track." Biden denied a report that he told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Israel's position on settlements puts U.S. troops at risk. "No, I never said that," the vice president said. (ABC News)
The so-called Quartet peacemakers meeting in Moscow on Friday called on Israel and the Palestinians to return to peace negotiations with a goal of reaching a final settlement that would create an independent Palestinian state within 24 months. They reiterated their condemnation of Israel's latest move to add Jewish housing in disputed east Jerusalem, but did not escalate criticism of the Jewish state. Secretary of State Clinton said she expects to see Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu in Washington next week. ''We are all committed to the launching of proximity talks between the Israelis and Palestinians,'' Clinton said. (AP-New York Times)
The U.S. needs to deliver "straight talk" to the Syrian leadership on stabilizing Iraq and cutting links to Hizbullah in Lebanon, President Obama's nominee for ambassador to Damascus Robert Ford, a career diplomat, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Tuesday. Ford said Syria should shut down remaining foreign fighter networks feeding militants into Iraq. He would tell Syria it must cooperate with international nuclear inspectors and that U.S. sanctions won't be dropped unless Syria stops supporting Hizbullah in Lebanon and arming it with rockets and other weapons used against Israel. (Bloomberg-Business Week)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
78 of the 120 members of Knesset have signed or expressed their support for a letter in support of Jewish neighborhoods beyond the 1967 boundaries of Jerusalem. The letter called on Prime Minister Netanyahu to stand strong regarding Israeli sovereignty in the Jewish neighborhoods. (Jerusalem Post)
The UN secretary general and the EU foreign policy chief were quick on Thursday to condemn a rocket attack which killed a migrant worker in southern Israel. The EU's top diplomat, Lady Catherine Ashton, was visiting Gaza when militants launched the rocket. Ashton said: "I condemn any kind of violence, we have got to find a peaceful solution to the issues and problems." UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement: "All such acts of terror and violence against civilians are totally unacceptable and contrary to international law." Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai declared Hamas responsible for the rocket fire. (Reuters-Ha'aretz)
See also Hamas Responsibility in Rocket Attacks? - Ron Ben-Yishai
It's quite clear that the frequent rocket fire from Gaza in recent days was carried out as result of Hamas incitement and the calls by its leaders for an intifada. It's also possible that Hamas turned a blind eye to preparations for the rocket attacks even if it knew about them. (Ynet News)
See also Hamas Boosts Patrols in Wake of Lethal Rocket Attack - Ali Waked
Following Thursday's lethal rocket attack from Gaza, Hamas security forces increased their patrols in the area where the rocket was launched. (Ynet News)
The Israel air force hit six targets, including tunnels and a weapons manufacturing site, in Gaza on Friday in response to a rocket attack on Thursday that killed a Thai foreign worker in Netiv Ha'asara. Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon said, "With or without Goldstone, Israel will defend its citizens. Today we see how absurd the Goldstone report was." Asked whether recent tensions with the U.S. could limit Israel's ability to respond, Ayalon said, "We have never asked the permission of anyone to defend ourselves." (Ha'aretz)
Thai worker Mane Singauephon had come to the small community of Netiv Ha'asara more than three years ago to support his wife and child back home. He was killed when a rocket fell through the roof of a greenhouse where he worked on the border with Gaza. A paramedic said he had been hit in his head, back and left arm. Yair Farjun, head of the Ashkelon Coast Regional Council, said, "Ten workers witnessed the death of their friend" and had "experienced a terrible trauma. Social workers spoke to them on an individual and group basis through a translator."
In the past decade, rockets have battered this farming community, founded in 1982 by evacuees from Sinai. Before the IDF went into Gaza in January 2009, rockets hit daily in the area of the moshav, sometimes several times a day. (Jerusalem Post)
The Ministry for Minority Affairs on Wednesday announced a government plan to invest NIS 800 million ($215 million) in Israel's minority population. The plan will invest the funds in ten selected towns during the next five years, and will focus on job development, infrastructure, upgrading the transportation network, and preparing plots of land for construction. (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
It's beginning to look as though a week-long confrontation between the Obama administration and Israel over Jewish housing construction in Jerusalem may be winding toward a negotiated settlement. By seizing on the issue of Jewish settlement in Jerusalem, President Obama has, for the second time in a year, started one of the few fights that the U.S. cannot win with Israel.
According to press reports, Clinton demanded that Netanyahu reverse the decision by a local council to advance the construction of 1,600 new units in a Jewish neighborhood outside Israel's 1967 borders. Netanyahu would never take that step. First, he might be barred from doing so under Israeli law; more importantly, building new Jewish housing in Jerusalem is one of the few issues that virtually all Israelis agree on.
The Israeli hope is that rather than continue to press this self-defeating demand, Obama will accept Israeli assurances that the new neighborhood will not be constructed anytime soon; it is, in fact, two or three years from groundbreaking. Coupled to that would be an Israeli pledge to avoid publicizing further construction decisions in Jerusalem.
Palestinian and Arab leaders, too, have been quietly frustrated with the debate on settlements - they believe the focus should be on the creation of a Palestinian state, not on the construction of a few more homes in an area they have already tacitly conceded to Israel. Obama reopened this toxic issue in what looked like a fit of pique. He would be wise now to quickly settle and move on. (Washington Post)
Why did President Obama choose to turn a gaffe - the announcement by a bureaucrat in Israel's Interior Ministry of a housing expansion in a Jewish neighborhood in north Jerusalem - into a crisis in U.S.-Israeli relations? The neighborhood is in Jerusalem, and the 2009 Netanyahu-Obama agreement was for a 10-month freeze on West Bank settlements excluding Jerusalem.
Clinton's spokesman publicly announced that Israel was required to show in word and in deed its seriousness about peace. Israel? Israelis have been looking for peace - literally dying for peace - since 1947, when they accepted the UN partition of Palestine into a Jewish and Arab state. (The Arabs refused and declared war. They lost.) Israel made peace offers in 1967, 1978 and in the 1993 Oslo peace accords that Yasser Arafat tore up seven years later to launch a terror war that killed a thousand Israelis. The Palestinians have not once accepted an Israeli offer of permanent peace, or ever countered with anything short of terms that would destroy Israel.
Under Obama, Netanyahu agreed to commit to acceptance of a Palestinian state; took down dozens of anti-terror roadblocks and checkpoints to ease life for the Palestinians; assisted West Bank economic development; and agreed to the West Bank construction moratorium, a concession that Secretary Clinton herself called "unprecedented." And Clinton demands that Israel show its seriousness about peace? Now that's an insult. (Washington Post)
The Israelis will not allow the future of Jerusalem to be decided by a riot-backed fiat of the Muslims, whose claims on the city are inflated. OK, I will concede that Muhammad did ride his winged steed Al Buraq on his Night Journey to Jerusalem and, from there, ascended on a ladder to see Moses and Jesus in heaven. Otherwise, however, Jerusalem is to Islam what any other city with a big mosque is. And this particular city was ignored over the many centuries and especially when it was under the dominion of King Hussein of Jordan. But it lives centrally and vividly as the City of David to his people and to the faithful of Jesus who walked there - that is, in the two traditions whose cardinal books are centered in Zion. Jerusalem becomes sacred to Muslims when it is governed by Jews or Christians, Jews in particular.
The fact is that neither George Mitchell nor Hillary Clinton nor the president himself has wrangled a single concession from the Palestinian Authority, not one. In fact, the whole structure of the talks is built on yet another concession from Israel. Proximity talks are a big retreat from reality, when the Palestinians want only to talk with the Americans.
Obama seems to think that he is the superego of the conflict and that his function is to hand out dicta on how to end it. But he has no dicta for the Palestinians and plenty for the Israelis. The fact is that he does not particularly like Israel. (New Republic)
The current crisis, ostensibly about construction in Jerusalem, was manufactured by the Obama administration. Every Israeli government since 1967, of left or right, has asserted that Jerusalem is Israel's capital and has allowed Israeli Jews to build there. The current crisis stems from the announcement of plans - not actual construction - in a part of the city five blocks from the 1967 lines and in a neighborhood that very clearly will remain part of Israel after any negotiated settlement. To escalate that announcement into a crisis in bilateral relations and "condemn" it - using a verb we apply to acts of murder and terror, not acts of housing construction - was a decision by the U.S. government, not a natural or inevitable occurrence. The Obama administration is imposing new demands on Israel, and building tensions in the bilateral relationship, in an effort to destabilize the governing coalition in Israel. It is a shameful way to treat an ally. The writer is a Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. (Council on Foreign Relations)
The unauthorized announcement on new housing units in the Jerusalem area was a diplomatic bumble. But the Obama administration's decision to "condemn" this mistake was a much larger blunder. The problem is the underlying misunderstanding that our government's outburst reflects. It should be no surprise that when the U.S. distances itself from Israel it does not win influence with the Arab world. What happens is the Arab world follows suit and backs away from the peace process and Israel. The damage, however, does not end with the peace process. The whole flap is a distraction from the most urgent task, which is to stop Iran from going nuclear. If President Barack Obama wants to advance Mideast peace, he should not be picking another counterproductive fight with Israel, and in so doing distracting from the real and urgent Iranian threat. The writer is Adjunct Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. (Council on Foreign Relations)
In the view of the peace processors, offering part of Jerusalem for inclusion in a future Palestinian state is a concession that will be necessary in exchange for Palestinian agreement to halt terrorism and recognize Israel as a permanent presence in the Middle East. The problem is that Israel has offered this concession on at least two previous occasions. Both times, Palestinian leaders said no deal.
No Palestinian leader can make peace with Israel any time soon. What we call Israel is considered by members of Hamas as an "endowment from Allah to the Muslims." As such, not a square inch can be given away to Jews or other infidels, no matter what concessions are offered in return. More secular Palestinians may not view it in these terms. But they know that signing a peace treaty with Israel, as Egyptian President Anwar Sadat did, would invite the fate Sadat received: He was gunned down by members of an Egyptian jihadist group. The writer is president of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. (Scripps Howard)
After a diplomatic crisis last week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been working to bring calm to the region, while U.S. President Barack Obama inexplicably appears to be trying to escalate tensions. In the weeks leading up to this crisis, the winds of war had already been blowing. Calls for a new "intifada" (uprising) were heard across the fractured Palestinian political landscape. Then came the crisis. Israel announced plans for a housing project in east Jerusalem - a move that sparked considerable anger among the Palestinians, who overwhelmingly seek to usurp Jerusalem from Israel and make it their own.
Rather than issue a quiet rebuke, the Obama administration saw an opportunity to put Israel on the defensive. Israeli apologies were not enough. The plan was clearly to extract concessions from Israel in future peace talks. Longing for a rift in the staunch alliance that has existed between Israel and the U.S. since Israel's inception in 1948, the Palestinians marveled at one that appeared. The Palestinians took their cue from the White House. Several prominent Palestinian leaders called upon Arabs living in Israel to march upon Jerusalem to "protect it from the Jews." On Monday and Tuesday, Palestinian youths came out in force to burn tires and throw rocks at Israeli soldiers. Drawing out this diplomatic crisis has only fanned the flames of hatred on the Palestinian street. The writer is vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. (FOX News)
See also Taking Cue from U.S. Anger, Mahmoud Abbas Digs in Heels - Joshua Mitnick (Christian Science Monitor)
The administration's amped-up rhetoric has done real harm to the "peace process" by damaging the trust with the Israeli government, while also giving Palestinians a much-desired excuse to back out of the planned "proximity talks." More important, the fixation and verbal assault on Israel's zoning announcement could send precisely the wrong signals to the Arab world about the importance of thwarting Iran's nuclear ambitions.
It was not lost on Israeli officials that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu went against the wishes of his own coalition government earlier this year in accepting a 10-month freeze on all development in the West Bank, which even Mrs. Clinton at the time recognized as a major step forward. Jerusalem was not included in the freeze, however. The Israeli government will be leery of acceding to any U.S. demands, believing that whatever compromises might be struck could be rendered meaningless as soon as President Obama becomes angry again.
No matter how many applause lines Mrs. Clinton delivers at AIPAC next week, the damage of the past week cannot and will not be undone in a single speech. If the fallout is limited to setting back progress on talks that likely wouldn't have yielded much anyway, then Israel will consider itself lucky. (Washington Times)
Full disclosure: I support a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians - consistent with Israel's security. But even I, a strong supporter of the peace process, was shocked when I heard my own government "condemn" Israel and "summon" its ambassador to the State Department shortly before the Sabbath last Friday to be read a harsh letter of condemnation by the department's second-highest official. And if that isn't enough, statements were immediately leaked to the press indicating that the U.S.-Israel "relationship" was "at risk."
How could the U.S. government use such language about a democracy that has been America's most loyal ally in the world on virtually all issues, a nation that shares our core values - protecting civil rights, women's rights, due process and free speech - not only for Israeli citizens, but for over one million Israeli Arabs as well? The writer was former special counsel to President Clinton in 1996-98. (The Hill)
The Obama Administration has gone out of its way to curry favor with the Arabs and criticize Israel. Having succeeded in alienating most of the Israeli public, the administration sent Vice President Joseph Biden to Jerusalem to convince Israelis they have a friend in the White House, but Biden couldn't stick to the script and managed to reinforce their fears rather than reassure them. Biden was prepared to say all the right things, and did say many of them, but when he decided it was necessary to publicly blast Israel for announcing the construction of more homes in its capital, he frittered away any chance he had of accomplishing his objective.
The biggest problem with Biden's condemnation is that it reinforced the view that the administration's policy is tilted off the table in favor of the Arabs. For more than a year now, Arab leaders have stuck their fingers in Obama's eye and refused to cooperate in any way with his initiatives. The Palestinians have been equally persistent in demonstrating by word and deed that they have no desire whatsoever to discuss peace. Meanwhile, Biden and the rest of the administration have not uttered a word of criticism.
If Biden really wanted to do something for the Palestinians, he would not feed their latest tantrum. Instead, he should point out to Abbas that the longer he waits to negotiate an agreement with Israel, the more Jews will be living in the areas he wants and the less land he will get in the end. Had Jimmy Carter said this to Yasser Arafat 30 years ago when 12,000 Jews lived in the West Bank, the conflict might have been resolved. Now, nearly 300,000 Jews live in that same area. Whose side is time really on? (Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles)
Hamas leaders are seeking to escalate Palestinian unrest over the supposed Israeli threat to Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem as they seek to supplant the West Bank Palestinian Authority of Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad. By returning the focus of the conflict to the explosive issue of Islamic pride and outrage over the loss of holy places, Hamas can present itself as the natural leader of the Palestinians, and its opponents as collaborators. The flood of rhetoric from Hamas leaders derives from a concerted attempt to regain the political initiative on the Palestinian side. Hamas is seeking to foment a new uprising, based on Islamic fury.
The mobilizing of anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish opinion on the basis of an imaginary threat to the Aksa Mosque has a long history. The most recent example was the decision to trigger the second intifada in 2000 after Ariel Sharon's visit to the Temple Mount. But as far back as 1929, agitators used arrangements for prayers at the Western Wall to incite country-wide attacks on Jews. (Jerusalem Post)
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict isn't territorial. It's existential. Israelis are now broadly prepared to live with a Palestinian state along their borders. Palestinians are not yet willing to live with a Jewish state along theirs. That should help explain why it is that in the past decade, two Israeli prime ministers - Ehud Barak in 2000 and Ehud Olmert in 2008 - have put forward comprehensive peace offers to the Palestinians, and have twice been rebuffed. For Hamas, Tel Aviv is no less a "settlement" than the most makeshift Jewish outpost on the West Bank.
Then there is the test case of Gaza. When Israel withdrew all of its settlements from the Strip in 2005, it was supposed to be an opportunity for Palestinians to demonstrate what they would do with a state if they got one. Instead, they quickly turned it into an Iranian-backed Hamas enclave that for nearly three years launched nonstop rocket and mortar barrages against Israeli civilians. The sad fact is that the most important thing Israel's withdrawal from Gaza accomplished was to expose the fanatical irredentism that still lies at the heart of the Palestinian movement.
Israel withdrew from Gaza with assurances from the Bush administration that the U.S. would not insist on a return to the 1967 borders in brokering any future deal with the Palestinians. But Hillary Clinton reneged on that commitment last year, and now the administration is going out of its way to provoke a diplomatic crisis with Israel over a construction project that is plainly in keeping with past U.S. undertakings. In the past decade, Israelis have learned that neither Palestinians nor Europeans can be taken at their word. That's a lesson they may soon begin to draw about the U.S. as well. (Wall Street Journal)
March 11 marked the 32nd anniversary of the deadliest terrorist attack in Israel's history, and this year the PA honor the leader of the attack, Dalal Mughrabi, by naming a town square outside Ramallah after her. In March 1978, the squad of Palestinian terrorists led by Mughrabi entered Israel by boat from Lebanon between Haifa and Tel Aviv. By day's end, they had murdered 38 innocent men, women and children.
The first person Mughrabi and her gang of terrorists encountered was Gale Rubin, an American photojournalist taking photos of birds near the beach. They killed her. They then hijacked a bus full of happy families returning from a Saturday excursion. On their way to Tel Aviv, the terrorists shot at passing cars and killed more innocent people. The terrorists tied all the men's hands to the bus seats. When Israeli security forces stopped the bus, the terrorists ran out while throwing hand grenades into the bus, setting it on fire. The men inside were burned alive.
The three of us writing this article each have experience with Palestinian terrorists. Seven years ago, on March 5, 2003, our children were killed by a Palestinian suicide murderer who exploded the bomb he was carrying on a city bus in Haifa. We don't believe people who murder children should be held up as heroes. Years of brainwashing from a very young age, religious television channels and mosque lessons make people believe that death is better than life; that killing innocent people, without distinction, will improve Palestinian life.
Israelis want a genuine peace with our neighbors, but as long as Palestinian society glorifies terrorists and murderers such as Mughrabi and the ones who killed our three children, we cannot believe that Palestinians are ready to live in peace with us. (Los Angeles Times)
The Response to Israel's Announcement Is Disproportionate - Ron Prosor (Telegraph-UK)
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