Archive for March, 2010


Sometimes an authority figure – a parent, a sober friend to an alcoholic, a supervisor or a senior partner – has to make it clear that there are consequences to someone’s actions. This has been the missing piece from the United States’ “special relationship” with Israel for a very long time. Barack Obama understands this very well.

Steadily, over the course of the Clinton and W. Bush Administrations, Israel has gotten more and more comfortablewith obstructing the possibility of a two-state solution. Over that time, and far more than in the 25 years between 1967 and 1992, successive Israeli governments have expanded the settlement project massively and tightened the physical hold on East Jerusalem.

Both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush looked the other way. They did that for different reasons; Clinton felt it was too much to take on with a peace process so recently started and Bush simply supported Israel’s attempt to create Greater Israel. (more…)

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In my latest piece for Zeek Magazine, I continue to follow the developments in the US’ conflict with Israel over East Jerusalem, and how important it is that the US stand fast on the new reality here: that the world can no longer tolerate Israel treating what even they agree as a final status issue as having already been decided.

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Well, color me stunned.

In my most recent article, I described Benjamin Netanyahu as having won his roll of the dice in the wake of the Israeli announcement of new Jerusalem building while Joe Biden was trying to restart the peace process.

I spoke too soon. Perhaps one can say my expectations of the Obama Administration had been lowered and so the recent developments come as a pleasant surprise. But pleasant it is, and the welcome stance from Washington is going to force some recalculations in Israel. How much of a recalculation is going to depend on how steadfast Obama can remain in the face of what is likely to be a growing backlash.

Obama is explaining things these days to Netanyahu

The Obama Administration may have accepted the excuse that the timing of the announcement of 1,600 new housing units in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo was a bureaucratic foul-up. But the Israeli apology, which went out of its way to make it clear that it was only the timing that was seen to be at fault, was not sufficient for Washington.

By stressing that the only problem was the fact that the announcement came while Joe Biden was in Israel trying to start “proximity talks” between Israel and the Palestinians, Israel put the Obama Administration in a bad position. If Washington accepted the apology and let the matter go, the talks were doomed because it would have meant, to the Palestinians and the rest of the Arab world, that the US was not objecting to the expansion of a Jewish settlement in East Jerusalem. Even if they had continued, American credibility would have been so low as to make the talks pointless.

It is almost certain that such would have been precisely the course the Clinton or Bush, Jr. Administrations would have followed. But, recalling the early days of his administration, Obama broke that pattern. (more…)

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In my latest piece for Zeek Magazine, I look at the ramifications of Israel embarrassing Vice President Joe Biden this week.

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Maybe proximity talks are about to start between Israel and the Palestinians. Here’s my take, and why I don’t think, in and of themselves, such talks mean very much at all.

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Those of you who live in the New York or Philadelphia areas can come see me speak on March 17 and 18.

On March 17, from 7:30-9:00 PM I’ll be speaking at Union Temple at 17 Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn.

On March 18, from 12:30 to 3:00 PM, I’ll be speaking at Community College of Philadelphia at 1700 Spring Garden Street.

I hope to see some of you at these venues.

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I don’t usually do this, but this report is so well put together and so important, it bears re-printing in its entirety. It was produced by Lara Friedman of Americans for Peace Now and Hagit Ofran of Peace Now’s Settlement Watch. The good, the bad and the ugly of the settlement freeze is here for your review.

The Settlements Moratorium: A Three-Month Accounting

Settlements in Focus, Vol. VI, Issue II 

March 1, 2010

On November 25, 2009, the Government of Israel announced a 10-month moratorium on settlement construction and planning.  As we noted from the outset, the impact of this decision – both on the ground and on the Obama Administration’s efforts to launch new Israeli-Palestinian negotiations – will depend mainly on the good faith (or lack thereof) that characterizes the government of Israel’s implementation of the moratorium.

Almost three months ago we offered an early accounting of the moratorium and its impacts, in the form of a “balance sheet” showing the positive (assets), negatives (liabilities) and potential positives/negatives (accounts receivables).

Now, three months into the moratorium, we believe it is time to update this balance sheet.  The results are mixed.  While the moratorium has clearly had some positive ramifications, both in terms of slowing some settlement planning and construction and putting settlers on the defensive, this positive impact has been outweighed – especially in terms of impact on the political process – by an almost constant stream of Israeli government actions, decisions, and policies that seriously call into question its good-faith commitment both to the moratorium and to peace negotiations. 

It has also been outweighed by the development of a very problematic Israeli political narrative which holds that Netanyahu has done his part by declaring the moratorium and now the burden for action rests entirely with the Palestinians – regardless whether the implementation of the moratorium is being carried out in good faith.

So let’s get to the balance sheet. (more…)

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