Archive for November, 2010

Didi Remez, at Coteret, posts a translation of an article in Yediot today. The article is by Alex Fishman, who is second to none in Israel for providing important and keen insight into the thinking of Israel’s security establishment.

Fishman gives an enormous amount of background into the wheeling and dealing between US and Israeli leaders over the past few months around the bizarre gift the US has offered to Israel in exchange for a mere 90-day settlement moratorium. He also explains just how Bibi maneuvered the US into it and how he subsequently found himself in a trap alongside the one he snared Obama in.

An absolute must-read. I include a few excerpts from Coteret’s translation below, but do read the article in full(more…)

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Remember the date. November 22, 2010, the day Israel finally killed the two-state solution.

I know that for me, I will continue to hope that there is some way to still pull two states out of a hat. That’s my heart talking, because both in heart and mind, I very much doubt that a future that does not include a Palestinian state will include either peace or justice. But for at least a while, I’ll probably still hope.

"The nation WITH the Golan," a very popular bumper sticker in Israel

But I can no longer see how it is possible. The Knesset today passed the “referendum law” by a 65 to 33 margin, with some members of Labor and most of Kadima walking out of the vote (though a few MKs from both parties voted in favor). The law dictates that any “retreat” from land that Israel currently claims as its own (meaning the territories it has annexed – the Golan Heights and East Jerusalem – though no country, including the United States recognizes those annexations) must be approved by a public referendum.

While I do believe that the Israeli public would vote to evacuate large parts of the West Bank, I see no possibility that a popular vote would approve leaving Jerusalem, probably including all the “Greater Jerusalem” area.

The bill also makes peace with Syria, which is conditioned on withdrawal from the Golan Heights, impossible. There might be even less public support for the Golan withdrawal than there is for a West Bank one; it’s just discussed less in the media.

What this law does is essentially present a choice to the international community: either force a resolution on the Israeli people or give up on the two-state solution. (more…)

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Across the spectrum of opposition to American Middle East policy, no organization is seen as a greater opponent of ours than the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, AIPAC.

So, when the focal point of the “Israel Lobby” becomes embroiled in a sleazy scandal, one might expect that some of its opponents would succumb to the temptation to sink into National Enquirer-style writing.

And, indeed, that has been the case in many parts of the blogosphere (the mainstream media has not, as yet, picked up on the story). The leaked deposition of Steve Rosen (warning: that link leads to a very large pdf file) and various AIPAC

Steve Rosen, former AIPAC leader

staffers and agents involved in his ongoing lawsuit against his former employers spends a lot of time discussing pornography in great detail, as well as Rosen’s sex life.

Rosen, a 23-year employee of AIPAC was fired in 2005 after being indicted for receiving classified information from a Defense Department employee and passing it on to Israeli officials, though the charges were eventually dropped. Rosen contended that he had done nothing out of the ordinary for AIPAC, while the organization, despite having no policy at that time regarding encounters with classified information, painted Rosen’s (and his fellow accused, Keith Weissman) actions as that of a rogue employee. Rosen responded by suing AIPAC for defamation.

Some of the issues at hand right now hint at matters of real potential importance: the fact that Rosen’s first response to hearing from the FBI wasn’t even to go to his bosses at AIPAC, but rather to his closest contact at the Israeli embassy; Rosen’s and Weissman’s comment to Washington Post writer Glenn Kessler that appear to show they were aware that they had sensitive material that could “get them in trouble”; and, most importantly, Rosen’s implication that he can prove AIPAC defamed him  by revealing “about 180 internal documents showing that officials routinely gathered inside information from government officials about U.S. policy in the Middle East.” (more…)

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The Jewish community as a whole needs to start getting a grip on the insane zealotry inherent in lock-step support of Israel.

As someone who was raised in an orthodox community which supports settlements, anti-Arab racism and the sort of awful tendencies that have gained so much more prominence in both Israel and the American Jewish community in recent years, I also understand that the violence reported below, directed at two personal friends of mine whom I know to be non-violent, is not typical of most supporters of Israeli policies. 

But it is also the inevitable result of zealous nationalism, a force which not only leads so many Jews to support massive human rights violations by Israel but also to a growing split in our community between those who are willing to have a rational discussion about Israel (a group which includes many pro-Israel voices, ranging from supportive but critical ones like mine to others who believe that Israel is usually right but that discussion should remain free) and those who display the fanaticism that extremist nationalism so often produces.

And, while it’s true that criminal extremists like those who attacked my friends in Berkeley are the exception, they are also always to be found when people condone fanatic ideas and excuse behavior we would otherwise condemn because we identify in some way with the perpetrators. Sadly, that describes too much support of Israel, something that certainly need not be.

One can also make the point that criticism of Israel, crucial of course for the rights of Palestinians, is critical today more than ever as Israeli policies and actions lead it to the precipice of national suicide. But for the sake of the Jewish future, we must, in any case, confront the zealous lunacy that support for Israel has become in some quarters. We should, most of us, be able to band together for that.

If any readers would like to express solidarity or support for Alexei Folger or Glen Hauer, the two JVP members who were assaulted yesterday, send me a message using the contact form here and I will pass it along to them.  (more…)

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The US has made its offer to Israel for a 90-day “moratorium” on settlement construction in the West Bank. Some see this as a major setback in US policy. I have to say, it seems to me to be much ado about nothing.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

In exchange for this moratorium, which will include a stoppage of any work begun since the end of the last “freeze” but would not include Jerusalem, the US would grant Israel the following:

  • the U.S. government would deliver 20 F-35 fighter jets to Israel, a deal worth $3 billion
  • if an Israeli-Palestinian agreement is achieved, the U.S. would sign a comprehensive security agreement with Israel
  • The US would fight against “de-legitimization” of Israel, which would include:
    • curbing actions by the United Nations on the Goldstone Report
    • blocking anti-Israel UN resolutions concerning the Gaza flotilla raid
    • defeating international resolutions aimed at exposing Israel’s nuclear program at the International Atomic Energy Agency
    • strengthening pressure on Iran and Syria in regards to their nuclear and proliferation activities. (more…)

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Did Benjamin Netanyahu overplay his hand?

Probably not, but he’s definitely testing the boundaries. That is the only way to explain his going beyond even his own usual hubris and obnoxiousness this week.

What looked at first like more of the same old Bibi nonsense – he comes to the US, Israel announces more building in both East Jerusalem and Ariel – has morphed into something more. The Obama Administration, displaying what is by now its customary weakness in the face of Israeli intransigence, merely said it was “disappointed” with the new construction.

There was little else there of substance, and Israel could simply have gone along its merry way, continuing to build while Bibi whipped the zealous masses into a frenzy in New Orleans. Instead, Netanyahu decided to escalate the matter by stating that building in Jerusalem is completely separate from peace negotiations.

This is a total re-framing of the issue, and one the Americans could not just ignore. They directly contradicted Bibi’s statement, drawing a line in the sand. Again, though, it was a mere statement; there seems to be no consequences from Washington if Bibi continues to defy them. That may change in the next few days, but thus far, Bibi seems to be making it even clearer than before that he will do what he wants with the full knowledge that the United States will do nothing to stop him, even if it makes America look absolutely impotent.

Some see Bibi’s move here as a test of the post-election Obama, a sort of poke to see if Obama is going to be even weaker with an incoming Republican House and smaller Democratic majority in the Senate than he was with the Democrats in full control of Congress. I think it’s actually directed at that incoming Congress and to the Jewish and Christian activists who will bring the pressure next year to prevent any move toward peace.

Bibi is sending a message that he believes the time is ripe, with the incoming Congress, to put the final nail in the coffin of the idea of a Palestinian state. He’s doing it on two fronts: Jerusalem and the major settlement blocs.

Bibi is hoping to re-orient American policy on both of these issues by bringing them more out into the open. (more…)

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Walking down a street in Hebron that was once a bustling market, one sees shut up stores, and sometimes spray painted slogans in Hebrew on them.

Turn up the road near the Ma’arat Ha’Machpela (Tomb of the Patriarchs), which is also the Ibrahimi Mosque, and one can stroll down the deserted Shehadeh Street, and see the same slogans and symbols: rough Stars of David; stylized ones with a fist representing the movement of the late Rabbi Meir Kahane; the words “Kahane tzadak” (Kahane was

Symbol of supporters of Meir Kahane

right); and another common slogan—“Am Yisrael Chai.”

The literal translation is “the nation of Israel lives.” But the resonance for many Jews is much deeper. It represents pride in the Jews’ history of overcoming persecution and adversity and determination and confidence that we will be able to meet any challenges the future might bring.

Now, that slogan has been warped and distorted. It is no longer chanted by idealistic Jews who see their people’s survival as a human story of overcoming adversity. It is not an example to show to other oppressed people or groups facing discrimination.

No, now it is a club being used to bludgeon not only Palestinians, but also anyone who might oppose Israeli policy. It is now a chant of a mindless mass of people, consumed with nationalistic zeal. It is now the slogan bullies paint on terrorized innocents forced out of their homes and businesses in Hebron. And it is now the chant used to ridicule young activists who will no longer tolerate lies, political manipulation and human rights abuses being committed in their name. (more…)

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