An Israeli Blogger Claims “Jewish State” Demand Initiated by Left in 2001

Israeli Blogger Yaacov Lozowick sent a challenge over Twitter on Sunday to my arguments about Israel’s demand for recognition, not merely of its sovereignty, but as a Jewish state. He states: “the problem with your article, Mitchell, is that the facts are all backwards. Will you retract?”

In an e-mail he sent me, he clarifies: “Contrary to what you write, indeed, contrary to your entire thesis, the demand was first inserted into the negotiations in July 2001… by a group of lefties: Amos Oz, A.B.Yehoshua, David Grossman and others like them.”

Yossi Beilin (l) and Yasser Abed Rabbo (r)

I did not immediately recognize the statement he referred to. My initial thought was that, in any case, what several writers of literature said, however politically active they may be, really didn’t mean much, but I was curious about what he was referring to. So I asked him for citation.

Though Yaacov was not able, due to constraints on his time, to clarify the source, I realized shortly that what he referred to was a Joint Statement organized by Yossi Beilin and Yasser Abbed-Rabbo in July 2001. I had, actually, referred to this statement many times in public talks I’ve given as an example of the extent to which the two-state solution was a real possibility. This project eventually led to the Geneva Initiative.

But, I had to confess, it had been some years since I actually read the text of the statement. Was there something there which indicates that a demand for recognition of Israel as a Jewish state was actually put forward by Beilin and his cohorts? Continue reading

Is This Really The Time For Direct Talks?

In my latest blog post for Meretz USA, I question the wisdom of the big push by President Obama for direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians right now.

Of course, I support direct talks, and indeed believe them to be the only way to eventually settle this conflict. But right now, the Israelis and Palestinians are just not politically able to make the deal. The only way they would is if Obama pressures them very strongly, and with mid-term elections looming, does anyone seriously believe he is about to do anything of the kind?

I hope you’ll check out the article at Meretz USA’s blog.

The Play's the Thing for Bibi and Obama

DC theater at its best. That’s what we had today as the much-anticipated photo-op meeting between US President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took place.

Both parties got what they wanted. Obama had a warm press conference with Bibi, sending the message that American-Israeli relations are as warm as ever and reassuring his Jewish Democratic base (which he is more worried about than he needs to be) that he still loves Israel. He got more statements from Netanyahu committing to a general concept of peace and a lot of praise from Bibi about Obama’s concern for Israel.

PM Netanyahu and President Obama at their press conference after the July 6 meeting

Bibi got a good deal more. Not only was he able to show Israel that the relationship with America remains strong, but he got Obama to publicly imply that the US would continue to back Israeli nuclear ambiguity and to say that he would side with Netanyahu on moving to direct talks with the Palestinian Authority despite there being no indication that actions would be taken to make this politically feasible for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

But in the end, it was just a show. Nothing much changed today, though perhaps Bibi’s closing words, urging Obama to visit Israel, set the stage for the next act.

In the next few days we may find out, that something more important happened behind closed doors between the two. But one thing that was anticipated that seems not to have come about is Obama pressing Netanyahu for an extension of the settlement freeze.

Indeed, just as the meeting began, Americans for Peace Now (APN) delivered a petition with nearly 16,000 signatures urging President Obama to press for that extension. I applaud APN’s effort, and the petition was the right thing to do. But I am also relieved that, apparently, Obama did not heed that call. Continue reading