Why Presbyterian Divestment Feels Like Anti-Semitism


From the Pews: The Presbyterian divestment votes doesn’t look like harmless nonviolent protest from Israel.

This article originally appeared in the Forward, June 25, 2014. Reproduced from there by permission of the Forward.

— by Jane Eisner

In a hotel ballroom in Jerusalem jammed with journalists from all over the Jewish world, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivered a rambling speech that covered everything from Iran’s nuclear ambitions to an Israeli cow that he claims produces more milk than any other cow in the world. Really.

But I want to focus on his riff about the Presbyterians.

[Read more…]

A Nation Grieves: Israeli Teens Kidnapped by Hamas Found Dead

— by Alex Lipton, Consulate General of Israel to the Mid-Atlantic Region

Following extensive searches led by the Israel Defense Forces, the Israel Security Agency and the Israel Police, the bodies of Eyal Yifrach (19), Gilad Sha’er (16) and Naftali Frenkel (16), who were kidnapped by Hamas terrorists on June 12, 2014, were discovered today in the area northwest of Hebron.

A community memorial service will be held today, July 1st at 6:30 p.m. at Congregation Mikveh Israel, 44 North 4th Street, Philadelphia.

All of us, who for the past 18 days have been hoping and praying for the boys’ safe return home, grieve today along with their families.

More after the jump.
Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, referred to the developments at a security cabinet meeting yesterday:

In the name of the whole of Israel, I ask to tell the dear families — to the mothers, the fathers, the grandmothers and the grandfathers, the brothers and sisters — our hearts are bleeding, the whole nation is crying with them.

Israel’s outgoing president, Shimon Peres, said that “Israel bows its head”:

For 18 days we hoped and prayed with one voice that we would find the boys safe and well. With this bitter news all of Israel mourns their deaths. Along with our deep sense of loss we remain committed to bringing the terrorists to justice. Our resolve in the fight against terror will only strengthen and we will ensure that murderous terrorism of this sort will not dare to rear its head again.

What Does Hamas-PLO Unity Mean?‏


PLO leader Mahmoud Abbas, left, and leader of the Hamas political bureau, Khaled Mashal.

— by Steve Sheffey

Israel suspended peace talks with the Palestinian Authority (PA) last week following reports that the PLO intended to form a unity government with Hamas, a terrorist organization that refuses to recognize Israel.

The Obama administration, AIPAC and many lawmakers highlighted the dangers of the PLO’s path. And yet, others noted that a unity government could present new opportunities for reaching a two-state solution.

But it has not happened yet, and we do not know if it will. Similar attempts have failed before. Also, we do not know what the terms will be if it does happen, and whether Hamas will change any of its positions.

More after the jump.
According to a PLO fact sheet released on Friday, under the reconciliation agreement with Hamas, the “PLO will continue negotiating a peace agreement with Israel, supporting non-violence to end the occupation and upholding previous agreements signed with Israel. The interim government will adhere to those commitments and the PLO’s political agenda.”

If that is true, then this arrangement could bring us closer to peace. Indeed, the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, said on Saturday that the unity government will recognize Israel, reject violence, and recognize the legitimacy of international agreements.

Can we rely on Abbas’s word? I would not. But I would wait for his assurances to be proven false before taking action.

Some lawmakers have already threatened to cut off funding for the PA because Hamas a is terrorist group, and it is illegal for the U.S. to provide funds to terrorist-designated groups. But the State Department argues that until we get more information, we will not know whether the law requires the U.S. to cut off funds.

If you are not familiar with Hamas, read its charter (covenant), especially Article 7, which calls on Muslims to kill Jews, and Article 13, which says that “so-called peaceful solutions and international conferences, are in contradiction to the principles of the Islamic Resistance Movement.”

Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, wrote in his website, “Instead of choosing peace, Abu Mazen formed an alliance with a murderous terrorist organization that calls for the destruction of Israel.”

Abu Mazen has formed an alliance with an organization whose covenant calls for Muslims to fight and kill Jews. Hamas has fired more than 10,000 missiles and rockets at Israeli territory and has not halted terrorist actions against Israel even for a minute.

The agreement between Abu Mazen and Hamas was signed even as Israel is making efforts to advance the negotiations with the Palestinians. It is the direct continuation of the Palestinians’ refusal to advance the negotiations. Only last month Abu Mazen rejected the framework principles proposed by the United States. Abu Mazen has refused to even discuss recognizing Israel as the national state of the Jewish People. He violated existing agreements by unilaterally applying to accede to international treaties and then formed an alliance with Hamas.

Whoever chooses the terrorism of Hamas does not want peace.

The Obama administration backed Israel. Last week the State Department spokesperson, Jen Psaki, said that “it’s hard to see how Israel can be expected to negotiate with a government that does not believe in its right to exist” and that “Any Palestinian government must unambiguously and explicitly commit to nonviolence, recognition of the state of Israel, and acceptance of previous agreements and obligations between the parties.”

The George W. Bush administration pressured Israel into allowing Hamas to participate in the 2006 Gaza elections, thus conferring on Hamas a legitimacy it could not have otherwise achieved, and rescinded $289.5 million in loan guarantees for Israel as punishment for what Bush considered illegal settlement activity. But the Obama administration has never pressured Israel to act contrary to what Israel perceives as its best interests.

AIPAC said that, “The announced formation of a Hamas-Fatah unity government represents a direct affront to Secretary of State John Kerry and a severe blow to Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts.”

Hamas is an Islamist terrorist organization that seeks Israel’s destruction and attacks innocent civilians. Any Palestinian government that includes Hamas cannot be a negotiating partner unless it meets longstanding Quartet demands ensconced in U.S. law: recognize Israel, reject violence, and accept previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements.

Yet, a Hamas-PLO agreement could lead to peace. In his column in Haaretz, Barak Ravid noted that “it was Netanyahu, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, and their colleagues in the cabinet who argued that Abbas doesn’t really represent the Palestinian people and no progress could be made so long as the PA didn’t control Gaza.”

The reconciliation agreement, if implemented, could provide a response to exactly these arguments by creating a government that represents all the Palestinians.

The reconciliation agreement is also an opportunity because Hamas’ serious problems might force the organization to change direction, as happened with Yasser Arafat and the PLO after the 1991 Gulf War. The unity deal calls for Hamas to join the PLO and accept its principles — which includes the recognition of Israel and acceptance of the Oslo Accords and the Road Map. The significance of this agreement is also that for first time, Hamas seems willing to give up some of its grip on the Gaza Strip in favor of a unity government.

Implementation of the agreement will also mean elections for president and the Palestinian parliament, which have not taken place for years. Given the precarious condition of the Hamas in Palestinian public opinion, especially in the Gaza Strip, new elections will almost certainly decrease its political power. New elections will also renew Abbas’ mandate — or bestow greater public legitimacy on whoever might be elected in his stead — making the Palestinian leader a stronger, more stable and more reliable partner for Israel.

And to those who say Israel cannot negotiate with Hamas, Ravid reminded that Netanyahu “reached at least two written agreements with the Gaza terror group; one in the 2011 deal in return for the kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit, and the second confirming the cease-fire that ended Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012.”

But can and will Hamas change its stripes? In his blog in The Forward, J.J. Goldberg explained that, “It’s highly unlikely that Hamas will agree between now and the end of the year to tear up its founding platform and formally embrace the principle of a Palestine partitioned into two states for two peoples.”

Militant religious movements don’t jettison their catechisms that fast. It is quite possible, however, that Abbas and his Fatah negotiators could obtain Hamas agreement to accept domestic portfolios in a unity government while Fatah holds the foreign affairs and security slots and handles peace negotiations with Israel. Some Hamas leaders have suggested such an arrangement in the past, with the understanding that if the negotiations produce an agreement and it’s approved in a Palestinian referendum, Hamas will accept the public’s will and live with it without endorsing it.

It’s not such a hard arrangement to understand. After all, Netanyahu heads up an Israeli government that hasn’t approved the two-state principle he himself says he embraces. Indeed, two of his coalition’s four parties, including Naftali Bennet’s HaBayit HaYehudi-Jewish Home party and Bibi’s own Likud, are formally, flatly opposed to Palestinian statehood. Put differently, they haven’t recognized the Palestinians or their right to a state. Bibi’s made it clear that he considers himself mandated to conduct negotiations toward a goal that his own party and a majority of his coalition oppose. If he’s as serious about peace as he says he is, he ought to be able to accept a Palestinian negotiating partner that operates under the same rules he does.

Can Bibi seize this opportunity? In Bloomberg, Jeff Goldberg made some good points:

Israel doesn’t get to pick its enemies. It has to make peace with the ones it has. Hamas is one of those enemies. And Netanyahu’s argument doesn’t take into consideration that, theoretically at least, the Palestinian Authority could, over time, help moderate Hamas and bring it more into the two-state fold.

But who am I kidding? Maybe both of Netanyahu’s superficially contradictory beliefs are true. Maybe he can’t make peace with a divided Palestinian entity. And maybe he can’t make peace with a unified Palestinian entity. Maybe he can’t make peace with any Palestinian entity because members of his own political coalition are uninterested in taking the steps necessary for compromise.

I hope Jeff Goldberg’s second paragraph is wrong, but Israel gets to elect its leaders, and Israel, not the U.S., will have to live, or die, with the risks it makes for peace and the chances they choose not to take.

We in the U.S. should not pressure Israel to act against its perceived interests. Rather, we should do all we can to bring the parties together and create an environment conducive to progress, recognizing, as President Obama does, that only the parties to the conflict can solve the conflict.

Click here to sign up to Steve Sheffey’s newsletter.

The One Real Obstacle to Israeli-Arab Peace


Israel’s former deputy minister of foreign affairs, Danny Ayalon, explains the historical facts relating to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

They say that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

The positions of the Palestinian Arabs in the latest round of peace talks, being pushed by Obama Administration and Secretary of State John Kerry, and the concessions being expected of Israel by the U.S. and media, will most certainly lead to a failure.

In the parallel universe in which Israeli-Palestinian Arab peace negotiations take place, the Palestinian Authority’s outright abrogation of prior agreements (Oslo Accords) and rejections of prior proposals (Camp David 2000 and 2008, which were pretexts for engaging in a terrorism war, the intifadah) must be placed back on the table as the starting point for the next round.

More after the jump.
A senior Palestinian official, Nabil Shaath, recently told the news agency Ma’an, “The minimum of what we were offered in the year 2000 hasn’t been reached, not to mention that the U.S. has failed to exert pressure on Israel to guarantee Palestinian rights.” He also said, “we will not recognize Israel as Jewish state.”

This is what the Palestinian Authority (PA) complains about, and what the media expects. Is there no price to pay for intransigence and rejection? Or defeat in war?

In every other situation throughout the world, when two parties are negotiating for something, there is the expectation of compromise, recognition and respect for the other side. Yet, none exists on the Palestinian-Arab side, nor do the media hold them to account.

Moreover, the PA President, Mahmoud Abbas, has a limited and questionable authority: His term has expired five years ago, and he only “rules” the West Bank/Judea and Samaria. The Gaza Strip is under the thumb of Hamas: an elected terrorist Islamic resistance movement, whose genocidal intentions against Jews and Israel are evident and proudly displayed.

There is no proof that even if Abbas signs an agreement, it will be honored by Hamas, or even that it will be binding on the PA.

Israel is held to impossible standards by the media. While the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has vowed to take any proposals and frameworks agreed to in negotiations directly to the Israeli people to vote and approve, what will the PA do? No one has ever said, nor pressed them to find out, if such an agreement will be endorsed by their people.

While Israeli actions to defend itself are routinely cast as obstacles to peace, it is the PA’s refusal to recognize a Jewish state, in any borders, which is rarely described by the media as an obstacle, when it is the sin qua non element essential to mutual recognition and an end to the conflict.

Israel’s rights, positions, opinions — those of a free democratic people — are marginalized, in favor of the seemingly poor, victimized, minority “Palestinian People.” The Palestinian Arabs are neither seen as part of the greater Arab nation (of 22 countries and 400 million), nor as people with their own country (Jordan, whose population consists of 2/3 “Palestinians,” on 78% of the Palestine Mandate, that was designated for the national Jewish homeland).

Israel has merely 6.2 million Jews, plus another 1.2 million Arabs living as equal citizens, in a country of 8,000 square miles, versus the 5 million square miles of the Arab world. These Arabs have many more rights and much more freedom than they do anywhere else in the Arab world.

As the indefatigable Kerry shuttles to square the circle of bringing the Israeli-Palestinian Arab negotiations to an agreement, it is instructive to focus on where the biggest obstacles to a peace deal really lie.

Israel’s Security Needs Minimized

The international media have been willing to blame Israeli “settlements” — even on land that has been under Israeli control since their capture in the defensive war of 1967, and per the Oslo Agreements of 1993; and “restrictive security practices” in PA-controlled areas (i.e. checkpoints); and even the Israeli-built security barrier, which has prevented innumerable terrorist attacks and saved countless lives on both sides, as the biggest obstacles to Middle East peace.

Recently, the European Union’s envoy to Israel warned that if peace talks with the Palestinian Arabs fail, Israel was likely get blamed for it due to construction in “West Bank settlements.” What is rarely ever discussed are Israel’s strong rights to the land, both historic and legal. Israel has recently begun to redress this by its issuance of the Levy Report, which has not yet been formally adopted by the government.

The late Israeli prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin of the Labor Party, was considered by many in his time a pro-peace leader. But as Kenneth Levin wrote in The Times of Israel, like the authors of the U.N. Security Council’s Resolution 242, Rabin “recognized that Israel’s pre-1967 armistice lines left the nation too vulnerable to future aggression.”

He insisted Israel must hold onto a significant portion of the West Bank to block traditional invasion routes and to protect both Jerusalem and the low-lying coastal plain, the latter home to some 70% of the nation’s population. In his last speech in the Knesset before his assassination, Rabin declared:
The borders of the State of Israel, during the permanent solution, will be beyond the lines which existed before the Six-Day War. We will not return to the 4 June 1967 lines, and these are the main changes, not all of them, which we envision and want in the permanent solution:
  1. First and foremost, united Jerusalem, which will include both Ma’ale Adumim and Givat Ze’ev – as the capital of Israel, under Israeli sovereignty, while preserving the rights of the members of the other faiths, Christianity and Islam, to freedom of access and freedom of worship in their holy places, according to the customs of their faiths.
  2. The security border of the State of Israel will be located in the Jordan Valley, in the broadest meaning of that term.
  3. Changes which will include the addition of Gush Etzion, Efrat, Beitar and other communities, most of which are in the area east of what was the “Green Line,” prior to the Six-Day War.
  4. The establishment of blocs of settlements in Judea and Samaria [the West Bank].

Nothing has changed in the last eighteen years that would diminish Israel’s need to retain the areas referred to by Rabin. The topography of the region has, of course, not changed, and the nations around Israel have not become more peaceful or more reconciled to Israel’s existence.

In fact, with the breakdown of the Arab Spring into violent civil wars on its borders (Syria, Lebanon, Egypt), and with a nuclear, terrorist-sponsoring Iran looming, the situation is even more precarious.

Israel cannot afford a major security threat aimed at the heart of the country from organizations whose charters call for its destruction. As Levin wrote, “Netanyahu’s views on defensible borders for Israel essentially conform to the parameters laid out by Rabin.”

Land for Peace, or for War?

In the Arab media, the Palestinian Arabs reveal what a farce the peace negotiations are: Abbas Zaki, a member of the Fatah Central Committee, explained on Syrian television that the PA would agree to a treaty with Israel if a Palestinian state is established on the 1967 lines, which would only be the beginning of a multi-stage plan to achieve their ultimate goal: a Palestinian State on the remains of the destruction of Israel.

It is also conveniently forgotten, and rarely mentioned by the media that the Palestinian Arabs have rejected a co-existent, mutually-recognized peace with a Jewish state living along side it six times: in 1937, 1948, 1956, 1967, 2000 and 2008. They have never missed an opportunity to reject obtaining their own sovereign state, if it means that they must recognize Israel.

Netanyahu has repeatedly stated Israel is prepared to recognize a Palestinian state. However, the essence of the problem is the lack of reciprocity: the Palestinian Arabs’ continual and absolute rejection of recognizing Israel as the nation state of the Jewish People. Without this, there will be no genuine peace, nor any hope for an end to the conflict.

Recently, Asharq Al-Awsat published an interview with the chief Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat, in which he baldly claimed that Israel murdered Yasser Arafat — a lie which has been debunked repeatedly — and could do the same to Abbas. Erekat stressed that the Palestinian Arabs will not agree to have talks extended beyond the allotted nine months, set to end next month.

More notably, Abbas specifically rejected Kerry’s framework, and told President Obama that:

  • he rejected  Netanyahu’s demand that he recognize Israel as a Jewish state;
  • he refused to abandon the demand for a “right of return” for the allegedly millions of Palestinian Arabs and their descendants; and
  • he refused to commit to an “end of conflict.”

In essence, this is a rewording of the famous Three Nos from the Arab League issued at Khartoum in 1967: “No peace, no recognition, no negotiation with Israel.”  

As a result, Israel has indicated that it may not release a fourth and final group of Palestinian prisoners at the end of this month (a condition Israel agreed to in entering the current talks, last July) if Abbas does not first agree to extend the talks beyond their scheduled termination in April.

This is just further verification that the Palestinian Arabs cannot bring themselves to forge an agreement with the Jewish state: Putting an end to the conflict ends the raison d’etre of the Palestinian Authority and its culture of victimhood.

Anti-Israel Incitement Ignored

While Israeli society has steadily moved over the years toward accepting Palestinian-Arab self-determination, this has not been shared on the Palestinian-Arab side.

The incitement rampantly permeates through Palestinian culture, in its schools, textbooks, mosques, and media and has ensured that an entire generation of Palestinians has been brainwashed and fed a diet of hatred towards Jews and Israel.

The demonizing of Jews as subhuman, the de-legitimitation of a Jewish state regardless of its borders, the negation of Jewish history, and the glorification of terrorists who have murdered Jews is endemic.

To its credit, the New York Times has published a story on Palestinian Arab incitement, prompted by the Israeli government’s recent release of its PA Incitement and Culture of Peace Index:

Adolf Hitler is quoted on the websites of Palestinian Authority schools; a young girl appears on Palestinian television describing Jews as “barbaric monkeys, wretched pigs” and the “murderers of Muhammad,” the Islamic prophet; maps on the Facebook page of the Palestinian presidential guards do not show Israel; President Mahmoud Abbas himself embraced as “heroes” released Palestinian prisoners who killed Israelis.

As HonestReporting has observed, “This focus on Palestinian responsibilities marks a refreshing and welcome departure from the New York Times’ usual knee-jerk, blame-Israel-for-all, approach.”

At an Israeli Cabinet meeting last January, Netanyahu remarked: “The Palestinians are continuing their campaign of inciting hatred, as we have seen in the last few days with their refusal to recognize Israel as a state for the Jewish people… This is the main issue that we’re discussing with [Kerry].”

He added, “We are not foreigners in Jerusalem, Beit El or Hebron. I reiterate that, in my view, this is the root of both the conflict and the incitement — the non-recognition of this basic fact.”

Netanyahu concluded, “True peace cannot exist without stopping the incitement against Israel and educating for peace. The refusal of the Palestinians to recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish People and declare the end of national demands — this is the root of the conflict. This is also the reason why we are insisting on significant security measures, so that we will be able to defend ourselves by ourselves in any situation.”

Two States for One People

PA officials and leaders have repeatedly stated that one of their red lines is the “right of return” which will flood Israel with potentially millions of descendants of refugees who left Israel during the 1948 War, and the concomitant refusal to allow any Jews to live in the Palestinian State.

Not only is this designed to destroy the Jewish nature of Israel proper, it is pure racist in ideology and effect — And it is not a secret. This is a non-starter for Israel.

Last month, Tom Wilson wrote that “Abbas’s spokespeople in Ramallah announced the PA’s new set of red lines in any negotiated peace settlement. Each and every one of these red lines blows to pieces anything Kerry was about to propose, as it does to the prospects for an agreement between the two sides in general.”

In this way Abbas artfully dodges a scenario in which the Israelis would agree to a peace plan and the Palestinians would come under pressure not to derail yet another effort to resolve the conflict. Abbas’s new red lines block just about every concession that the Israelis, and even the U.S., have requested.

Abbas demands: a total Israeli withdrawal from all territories that went to Israel in 1967; that Israel complete that withdrawal within three to four years; that the Palestinians not be required to recognize the Jewish state; that east Jerusalem be specified as the capital of a Palestinian state; the release of all Palestinian prisoners; and resolving the refugee issue along the lines of UN General Assembly resolution 194, which in essence means sending those Palestinians claiming to be refugees, not to a Palestinian state, but to Israel, thus terminating the existence of the Jewish state Abbas refuses to recognize.

Would the U.S. Release Prisoners for Negotiations?

Israel was urged by Kerry to release more than 120 Arab convicted prisoners, many of whom murderers, as a “good will gesture,” just to entice the Palestinian Arabs to come to the negotiations. No concessions, of course, were asked of the Arabs.

Yet, the Obama Administration made sure to express reservations about the release of one man: Othman Amar Mustafa. It turns out he had killed an American.

Nadav Shragai reported in Israel Hayom that “Haaretz military correspondent Amos Harel revealed that the Judea and Samaria branch of the Hamas military wing is being run by remote control by a group of terrorists who were included in the prisoner exchange after being sentenced to life sentences for their roles in the murder of Israelis.”

These prisoners were banished to the Gaza Strip as part of the Shalit deal. It turns out that in the last two years, the Shin Bet security agency has intercepted at least 80 attempted terrorist attacks in Judea and Samaria, plots that were masterminded by this particular group of released convicts.

Per Shragai, the bottom line is appallingly evident: According to statistics compiled by the Defense Ministry, nearly half of the 13,000 terrorists whom Israel has released since 1985 within the framework of agreements, gestures, and diplomatic outlines resumed terrorist activities either as planners of attacks, executors of attacks, or accessories.

Hundreds of Israelis have already been killed by freed terrorists and 3,000 have been maimed. The 1,150 terrorists freed as part of the Jibril exchange in 1978 went on to serve as the backbone of the leadership during the First Intifada. At least half of the 7,000 terrorists freed following the signing of the Oslo Accords were reintegrated into terrorist organizations and took an active role in the Second Intifada.

This is the price Israel is being forced to pay just to sit at the negotiating table with these alleged “peace partners.”

The Importance of UN Resolution 242

As Ambassador Dore Gold has written in Israel Hayom, “now is the time to recall exactly what Israel’s rights are in its territorial dispute with the Palestinians over the future of the West Bank,” specifically the rights enshrined by the U.N. Security Council Resolution 242.

According to Gold, over the years Resolution 242 has “evolved into the basis of the entire peace process, including the 1979 Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty, the 1991 Madrid peace conference, the 1993 Oslo Accords, the 1994 Jordanian-Israeli peace treaty, and draft agreements with Syria.”

Back in 1973, on the eve of the Geneva Peace Conference, the U.S. even provided a letter of assurance to Israel that it would prevent any party from tampering with Resolution 242. Israeli diplomacy sought to protect Resolution 242 as though it was a crown jewels of the Jewish state.

The most prominent feature of Resolution 242 is its famous “withdrawal clause,” which did not require Israel to withdraw to the pre-war 1967 lines: it only stated that there had to be a pull back “from territories,” and not “all the territories.” Any Israeli withdrawal had to be to “secure and recognized borders.”

Moreover, as Gold pointed out, according to Resolution 242, Israel was entitled to these lands without having to “pay for it with its own pre-1967 territory.”

There is no language in 242 regarding land swaps, nor any corridor crossing Israeli sovereign territory so that the “West Bank” could be connected to the Gaza Strip. Actually, per Gold, these diplomatic innovations were thought of by negotiators in the 1990s, but Israel in no way is required to agree to them, pursuant to Resolution 242.

Finally, Resolution 242 says nothing about Jerusalem, that is to be a separate issue entirely. Of course, it is Israel’s position that the city is to be united and never divided again.

The world saw clearly what happened when Jordan illegally occupied Judaea and Samaria, including Jerusalem, from 1948 to 1967: It destroyed more than 50 synagogues in the Old City, and denied Jews access to the Temple Mount. Under Israeli rule, the city has been unified, and all citizens and religions have free access to religious sites, and the ability to practice openly.

The Biggest Problem in the Middle East?

The Obama Administration, through Kerry, is trying yet again to force the parties to conclude an agreement, while the issues raised for the “solution” are not the real issues that will lead to a successful one.  

The U.S. continues to see only Israel’s so-called “illegal occupation” of the West Bank, the Palestinian refugee issue, and the issue of Jerusalem as the capitol of the newborn Palestinian state, as the main obstacles to conclude the peace agreement.

Inconceivably, the U.S. continues to believe that by solving this intractable conflict, the remaining issues in the Middle East will be voila, solved, and harmony and tranquility will reign over the region. Despite, of course, the utter chaos in the surrounding Egypt, Lebanon and Syria.

Abbas is not the man of compromise the media portrays him to be, and his people have deliberately not been prepared for peace, but instead brainwashed for hatred, violence and terrorism. He cannot deliver the goods, nor does he want to bring the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to an end.

The only end that is acceptable among the Palestinian Arabs is “peace of the entire Palestine” — which means destroying Israel — and nothing less.

Lee Bender is the co-author of Pressing Israel: Media Bias Exposed From A-Z, and co-President of Zionist Organization of America — Greater Philadelphia District.

Cartoons courtesy of Yaakov “Dry Bones” Kirschen, and The Cartoon Kronicles.

Netanyahu: Scarlett Johansson Should Be Applauded

— by Steve Sheffey

In his AIPAC keynote speech last Tuesday, Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, emphasized that Iran is an “outlaw terrorist state” that should not be permitted to enrich uranium:

Pressure is what brought Iran to the negotiating table in the first place, and only more pressure will get [them] to abandon their nuclear weapons program. Greater pressure on Iran will not make war more likely; it will make war less likely — because the greater the pressure on Iran and more credible the threat of force on Iran, the smaller chance that force will ever have to be used.

Netanyahu made a case for the peace process, noting that peace with the Palestinians would open up the possibility of establishing formal ties between Israel and the Arab world, leading to great economic and other gains in the region.

More after the jump.
Barak Ravid wrote in Ha’aretz that, “For the first time in a major speech, Netanyahu used ‘leftist’ language and stressed ‘the fruits of peace’ that Israel will enjoy if it reaches an agreement with the Palestinians. For a moment one could have thought that it was Shimon Peres at the podium or, God forbid, John Kerry.”

Bibi asked how anyone could “fall for the BS in BDS”:

Today the singling out of the Jewish people has turned into the singling out of the Jewish state… attempts to boycott, divest, and sanction Israel, the most threatened democracy on Earth, are simply the latest chapter in the long and dark history of anti-Semitism.

Those who wear the BDS label should be treated exactly as we treat any anti-Semite or bigot. They should be exposed and condemned. The boycotters should be boycotted.

Everyone should know what the letters B-D-S really stand for: bigotry, dishonesty and shame. And those who oppose BDS, like Scarlett Johansson, they should be applauded.

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Josh Shapiro’s Letter to Prime Minister Netanyahu

Josh Shapiro, chairman of the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners, is urging Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to keep the Israeli Consulate in Philadelphia open. Recently, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced it is considering closing the consulate.

In a letter dated November 26, 2013, Shapiro wrote that the consulate “is critical to the continuance of the longstanding relationship between the people of Israel and our region.” Shapiro went on to say that the consulate “is of vital importance to our respective nations’ common interests and its continued operation will serve to enhance the mutually beneficial economic and business connection between Israel and our region in Southeastern Pennsylvania.”

In the letter, Shapiro references Netanyahu’s upbringing in Montgomery County during which the future Prime Minister graduated from Cheltenham High School. “The Greater Philadelphia region is an economic hub for Israel, processing 25 percent of Israel’s nearly $20 billion in exports to the United States each year,” Shapiro wrote, adding that the presence of the Israeli Consulate in Philadelphia is integral in that process.

Shapiro is active is many Jewish and pro-Israel organizations in the area. He has traveled to Israel six times, and has met Netanyahu twice.

Rethinking Plans to Close Israeli Consulate in Philadelphia

— by Rabbi Neil S. Cooper

Among the wonderful aspects of our Jewish community in Philadelphia is the close relationship we have with the State of Israel.  We do not take that relationship for granted.  It comes as the product of hard work, constant communication and, perhaps most importantly, personal contact. The close personal contact we have with Israel in Philadelphia comes from the warm relationship which we have with the Israel Consulate and, specifically, the Consul General.

I was saddened to receive the news that the government in Israel is considering closing our Consulate.  Understanding the financial burdens which weigh on the State of Israel, I am sympathetic to the need to cut costs in many programs.  At the same time, the work of the Consul General and the Consulate creates the close and warm bond which we feel toward Israel, ultimately impacting positively on Israel’s economy through our support.  We benefit from the Consul and his office through his personal presence at so many of our synagogues and Jewish Institutions.  He provides a friendly and knowledgeable voice for the State when he speaks, contributing strong support for Israel when she is attacked, a voice of reason, warmth and encouragement for those of us who work to support Israel.

More after the jump.
If you feel as I do, please read the open letter from the Philadelphia-Israel Chamber of Commerce and compose your own letter to be sent to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, The Office of the Prime Minister, 3 Kaplan Street, Jerusalem.

Please click here to view the online petition against the closure.  

If we raise our voices together, I am confident that we will be heard.    

Netanyahu: “I Wish We Could Believe Rouhani’s Words”

Yesterday, at the United Nations General Assembly, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged vigilance in protecting the world from Iran’s nuclear ambitions:

The Jewish people’s odyssey through time has taught us two things: Never give up hope. Always remain vigilant. Hope charts the future. Vigilance protects it. Today, our hope for the future is challenged by a nuclear-armed Iran that seeks our destruction.

In the wake of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s recent campaign to present a moderate face, Netanyahu reminded the world body that the new Iranian president has a long history in his country’s nuclear weapons program.

More after the jump.
Netanyahu said:

Rouhani was also Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator between 2003 and 2005. He masterminded the strategy which enabled Iran to advance its nuclear weapons program behind a smokescreen of diplomatic engagement and very soothing rhetoric. Now I know Rouhani does not sound like Ahmadinejad. But when it comes to Iran’s nuclear weapons program, the only difference between them is this: Ahmadinejad was a wolf in wolf’s clothing and Rouhani is a wolf in sheep’s clothing — a wolf who thinks he can pull the wool over the eyes of the international community. Like everyone else, I wish we could believe Rouhani’s words. But we must focus on Iran’s actions. And it’s the brazen contrast, this extraordinary contradiction between Rouhani’s words and Iran’s actions that is so startling.

B’nai B’rith International has issued the following statement in response:

B’nai B’rith would very much like to see the issue of Iran’s nuclear program resolved in a way that puts Iran out of the nuclear weapons business. At the same time, we cannot dismiss 20 years of deception by Iran.

Iran’s centrifuges continue to spin. Tehran has made several feints before while negotiating the nuclear issue, and has continued to hide and build its nuclear program. This is why we must remain skeptical of Iran’s intentions this time.

Kerry and Netanyahu Discuss Israeli-Arab Final-Status Negotiations


Kerry and Netanyahu in Israel last month.

Yesterday, a Senior State Department official issued the following statement about Secretary of State John Kerry’s meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu:

Following-on President Obama’s and Vice President Biden’s meetings with Prime Minister Netanyahu, Secretary Kerry met with the Prime Minister at the State Department this afternoon. Secretary Kerry and Prime Minister Netanyahu discussed a range of issues, focusing primarily on the ongoing final status negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians and how the United States, in its facilitating role, can continue to help these talks succeed. They also discussed Iran and Syria. Secretary Kerry underscored our unshakable commitment to Israel’s security and noted that we will continue to work closely with Israel on our shared interests, especially to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Transcript of Kerry and Netanyahu’s remarks follow the jump.
Secretary of State John Kerry and and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before their meeting, September 30, 2013 in the White House Treaty Room

SECRETARY KERRY:  Good afternoon, everybody.  It’s my great pleasure to welcome the Prime Minister of Israel here and to the State Department.  I think – (audio feedback).  Ta-da.  (Laughter).

Obviously, I’ve had a number of very generous, warm welcomes as I have visited Israel and the Mideast frequently.  I think I’ve been probably the most frequent visitor; I should get frequent flyer miles for my visits to the Prime Minister’s office.

PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU:  We couldn’t afford it.  (Laughter.)

SECRETARY KERRY:  But it is more than safe to say that the Prime Minister and I are every meeting forging a better and better relationship, a stronger and stronger friendship on a very personal level.  And I’m very grateful to him for his very generous welcomes to me, the amount of time he has spent with me in Jerusalem working through very complicated but very, very important issues.

Israel, as everybody knows, is a very special friend to the United States of America.  And we have just had a very constructive luncheon with the President and a very important meeting before that with a larger group of people.  And now the Prime Minister and I will talk about both Iran, the Middle East peace process, Syria, and issues of concern.

We are committed to continuing to work constructively to move forward on the peace process, though it is always difficult, complicated.  We know that.  But we’re working in good faith.  I have confidence in the Prime Minister’s commitment to this effort, and I also want him to know that as we reach out to respond to Iran’s efforts to purportedly change its relationship with the world, we do so very aware of and sensitive to the security needs of Israel and the demands for certainty and transparency and accountability in this process.

So I look forward today to furthering our conversation, and I’m very, very happy to finally welcome the Prime Minister here to the State Department.

PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU:  Mr. Secretary, thank you.  John, it’s good to be with you.  We have if not the whole world, a good chunk of it to discuss, and we do so as friends and as people seriously committed to both achieving security and a durable peace.  These are hard things to achieve, but none better than you and us to try to do it together.

SECRETARY KERRY:  Thank you.  Thanks, partner.  

Obama: “Words Are Not Sufficient” for Iran

President Barack Obama met today with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Oval Office. The two discussed the situations in Syria, Egypt and Iran. After their meeting, Obama and Netanyahu carried short remarks.

About Syria, Obama said:

We are both pleased that there is the possibility of finally getting chemical weapons stockpiles out of Syria. But I think we both share a deep concern that we have to be able to verify and enforce what has now been agreed to at the United Nations. Chemical weapons inside of Syria obviously have threatened Syrian civilians, but over the long term also pose a threat to Israel. And we want to make sure that we get those indiscriminate, horrible weapons out of there.  

About Egypt, he said:

We continue to have concerns about what has happened in Egypt, but we also are committed to a constructive relationship with Egypt, in part because of the important role that the Camp David Accords and the Egypt-Israeli peace serve not only for the stability and security of both those countries, but also for security in the region and U.S. security.

About Iran, the President said:

It is imperative that Iran not possess a nuclear weapon. That is important for American security; it is important for Israeli security; it’s important for world security, because we do not want to trigger a nuclear arms race in the most volatile region in the world. And given the statements and actions from the Iranian regime in the past — the threats against Israel, the acts against Israel — it is absolutely clear that words are not sufficient, that we have to have actions that give the international community confidence that, in fact, they are meeting their international obligations fully, and that they are not in a position to have a nuclear weapon.

Netanyahu commented:

I believe that it’s the combination of a credible military threat and the pressure of those sanctions that has brought Iran to the negotiating table. I also believe that if diplomacy is to work, those pressures must be kept in place. And I think that they should not be lessened until there is verifiable success. And, in fact, it is Israel’s firm belief that if Iran continues to advance its nuclear program during negotiations, the sanctions should be strengthened.

Netanyahu also referred to the peace process with the Palestinian Arabs:

We know that for peace to endure, it must be based on Israel’s capacity to defend itself, by itself. And I hope that we can achieve an historic transformation that will give a better future for us and our Palestinian neighbors, and, who knows, one day with our other neighbors as well.

After the remarks, Obama was asked about the expected government shutdown at midnight, and replied:

The Senate has passed a bill that keeps the government open, does not have a lot of extraneous issues to it, that allows us then to negotiate a longer-term budget and address a range of other issues, but that ensures that we’re not shutting down the government and we’re not shutting down the economy at a time when a lot of families out there are just getting some traction and digging themselves out of the hole that we’ve had as a consequence of the financial crisis.

Full remarks after the jump.
Obama: Well, it’s a pleasure to welcome Prime Minister Netanyahu back to the Oval Office. I think I’ve had the pleasure of hosting him more often than just about any other world leader, and hopefully this will provide just some small measure of repayment for the wonderful visit that I had in Israel this spring. And I want to thank him and his family and his entire team for the tremendous hospitality that we had when we were there.

The Prime Minister and I were just talking about the fact these are hectic times, and nowhere is that more true, obviously, than in the Middle East. And so we had an opportunity for a wide-ranging discussion about a range of issues.  

I commended him for entering into good-faith negotiations with the Palestinian Authority in discussing how we can resolve what has been, obviously, one of the biggest challenges for a very long time in the region. And both Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas have assigned outstanding negotiators. They have been engaging in serious conversations. And our goal continues to be to help facilitate — not dictate, but facilitate — the kinds of genuine negotiations that will result in two states living side-by-side in peace and security.

And we have a limited amount of time to achieve that goal, and I appreciate the Prime Minister’s courage in being willing to step forward on behalf of that goal.

We had an opportunity to discuss the situation in Syria. Obviously, we have a broad set of strategic concerns in Syria. We are both pleased that there is the possibility of finally getting chemical weapons stockpiles out of Syria. But I think we both share a deep concern that we have to be able to verify and enforce what has now been agreed to at the United Nations. Chemical weapons inside of Syria obviously have threatened Syrian civilians, but over the long term also pose a threat to Israel. And we want to make sure that we get those indiscriminate, horrible weapons out of there.  

And so we are consulting with the international community on these issues, and I shared with the Prime Minister our belief that we have to move with speed and dispatch in actually making sure that the agreement that was arrived at in the United Nations is followed through on.

In addition, we have the larger question of how to deal with the civil war that’s taking place in Syria. And given Israel’s significant interest in the spillover effects of activities there, we will be consulting very closely with them.

We had an opportunity to discuss Egypt, and I shared with him what I said at the United Nations just a week ago, which is that we continue to have concerns about what has happened in Egypt, but we also are committed to a constructive relationship with Egypt, in part because of the important role that the Camp David Accords and the Egypt-Israeli peace serve not only for the stability and security of both those countries, but also for security in the region and U.S. security.

So we will continue to work with the Egyptian government, although urging them and pushing them in a direction that is more inclusive and that meets the basic goals of those who originally sought for more freedom and more democracy in that country.

And we had an opportunity, obviously, to discuss Iran. Both the Prime Minister and I agree, since I came into office, that it is imperative that Iran not possess a nuclear weapon. That is important for American security; it is important for Israeli security; it’s important for world security, because we do not want to trigger a nuclear arms race in the most volatile region in the world. And given the statements and actions from the Iranian regime in the past — the threats against Israel, the acts against Israel — it is absolutely clear that words are not sufficient, that we have to have actions that give the international community confidence that, in fact, they are meeting their international obligations fully, and that they are not in a position to have a nuclear weapon.  

What I also shared with the Prime Minister is that, because of the extraordinary sanctions that we have been able to put in place over the last several years, the Iranians are now prepared, it appears, to negotiate. We have to test diplomacy. We have to see if, in fact, they are serious about their willingness to abide by international norms and international law and international requirements and resolutions. And we in good faith will approach them, indicating that it is our preference to resolve these issues diplomatically.

But we enter into these negotiations very clear-eyed. They will not be easy. And anything that we do will require the highest standards of verification in order for us to provide the sort of sanctions relief that I think they are looking for.

So we will be in close consultation with Israel and our other friends and allies in the region during this process, and our hope is that we can resolve this diplomatically. But as President of the United States, I’ve said before and I will repeat that we take no options off the table, including military options, in terms of making sure that we do not have nuclear weapons in Iran that would destabilize the region and potentially threaten the United States of America.

In all of this, our unshakeable bond with the Israeli people is stronger than ever. Our commitment to Israel’s security is stronger than ever. And we are very much looking forward to continuing to work with our friends in Israel to make sure that the U.S. security interests are met, Israel’s security interests are met, but hopefully that we can also bring about greater peace and greater stability in a region that has been racked with violence and tensions for far too long.  

And I appreciate the Prime Minister’s views. He is always candid, and we’re always able to have not only a good working relationship at the prime ministerial level, but also because of the outstanding work that our staffs do.

So, Mr. Prime Minister, welcome.  

Netanyahu: Mr. President, thank you for welcoming me and my delegation on what I know is a very busy day for you in Washington today.  

There are many things on your plate, but I know that you know and the American people know that there is no better ally — more reliable, more stable, more democratic — other than Israel in a very raw, dangerous place. So I welcome the opportunity that we’re having to discuss how we work closely together to address the enormous challenges that face both of us. And I think of those, the most important challenge is preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

I appreciate deeply the fact that you have made clear that you remain committed to this goal. I also appreciate the statement you made that Iran’s conciliatory words have to be matched by real actions — transparent, verifiable, meaningful actions.  

Iran is committed to Israel’s destruction. So for Israel, the ultimate test of a future agreement with Iran is whether or not Iran dismantles its military nuclear program. We have a saying in Hebrew, we call it mivchan hatotza’a (“the test of outcome”) — you would say it in English, what’s the bottom line? And the bottom line, again, is that Iran fully dismantles its military nuclear program.  

In this regard, I want to express my appreciation to you for the enormous work that’s been done to have a sanctions regime in place to thwart Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons. I believe that it’s the combination of a credible military threat and the pressure of those sanctions that has brought Iran to the negotiating table.

I also believe that if diplomacy is to work, those pressures must be kept in place. And I think that they should not be lessened until there is verifiable success. And, in fact, it is Israel’s firm belief that if Iran continues to advance its nuclear program during negotiations, the sanctions should be strengthened. It’s the combination, I believe, that has guided your policy and our policy so far, that is good credible military threat and strong sanctions I think is still the only formula that can get a peaceful resolution of this problem.

Mr. President, we discussed many of these, but I want to use this opportunity to thank you, Secretary of State Kerry and others in your administration for helping to advance peace between Israel and the Palestinians. I remain committed to that peace. And I hope that our efforts — our common efforts — would lead to a secure and lasting peace.  

We know that for peace to endure, it must be based on Israel’s capacity to defend itself, by itself. And I hope that we can achieve an historic transformation that will give a better future for us and our Palestinian neighbors, and, who knows, one day with our other neighbors as well.

So I want to thank you again for your hospitality, for your efforts, and it’s very, very good to see you again.

Q: Mr. President, are you resigned to a government shutdown at this point? And given how close we are to the midnight deadline, have you had any conversations with Speaker Boehner over the past few days?

Obama: I am not at all resigned. And I’ll have a chance to obviously speak more to this. I’m going to have a Cabinet meeting this afternoon and may have some further thoughts for the press as the day goes on. But the bottom line is that the Senate has passed a bill that keeps the government open, does not have a lot of extraneous issues to it, that allows us then to negotiate a longer-term budget and address a range of other issues, but that ensures that we’re not shutting down the government and we’re not shutting down the economy at a time when a lot of families out there are just getting some traction and digging themselves out of the hole that we’ve had as a consequence of the financial crisis.

I’ve said before, Congress has two responsibilities: Pass a budget, pay the bills. And I am not only open to but eager to have negotiations around a long-term budget that makes sure that we’re investing in middle-class families, helping the economy grow, giving people who are working hard a leg up, and greater security and stability and deals with some of our long-term challenges in terms of debt and deficits.

But the only way to do that is for everybody to sit down in good faith without threatening to harm women and veterans and children with a government shutdown, and certainly we can’t have any kind of meaningful negotiations under the cloud of potential default, the first in U.S. history.

There’s not a world leader, if you took a poll, who would say that it would be responsible or consistent with America’s leadership in the world for us not to pay our bills. We are the foundation of the world economy and the world financial system. And our currency is the reserve currency of the world. We don’t mess with that. And we certainly don’t allow domestic policy differences on issues that are unrelated to the budget to endanger not only our economy but the world economy. So I suspect that I will speaking to the leaders today, tomorrow, and the next day.

But there’s a pretty straightforward solution to this. If you set aside the short-term politics and you look at the long term here, what it simply requires is everybody to act responsibly and do what’s right for the American people.  

All right?  Thank you very much, everybody.  Thank you.