Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Quiet diplomacy or public confrontation?

By EVELYN GORDON 12/23/2013

Surprisingly, the latter may serve Israel better in both its key foreign policy challenges.

Over the coming months, two foreign-policy issues will predominate: the ongoing negotiations between Iran and the six powers over its nuclear program; and American efforts to broker an Israeli-Palestinian deal. In both cases, Israel has vital interests at stake, yet in both cases, these interests don’t necessarily coincide with those of its American and European allies. This raises the question of how Israel can best protect its interests: through quiet diplomacy or public confrontation?

Among both Israel’s chattering classes and American Jewry, the dominant view seems to be that quiet diplomacy would be best. And at first glance, this makes intuitive sense. Israel’s alliance with the US is one of its greatest assets, so a public rupture with Washington could seriously undermine its diplomatic and military deterrence. And while Europe provides neither diplomatic nor military backing, it remains Israel’s largest trading partner; hence an open rupture could undermine Israel’s economic well-being.

Yet Israel’s own recent history demonstrates that public confrontation is sometimes vital to secure diplomatic achievements. To understand why, it’s worth studying two examples.

One is Israel’s acceptance earlier this month into the Western European and Others Group at the UN in Geneva. Previously, Israel was the only country excluded from any regional grouping in Geneva, which meant it was automatically barred from various UN posts that rotate among the different regional groups. Israel was also the only country to which the UN Human Rights Council had dedicated a permanent agenda item – meaning Israel’s alleged human rights violations were criticized at every council session, whereas other countries’ records were scrutinized only every few years. In short, Israel was discriminated against twice over compared to every other UN member.

For years, Israel tried to rectify this situation through quiet diplomacy, but in vain. Though Western allies agreed the situation was unfair, it didn’t negatively affect their own interests, whereas solving the problem would have antagonized Arab and Islamic states that some Western countries had invested heavily in cultivating. Israel’s interests thus diverged fundamentally from those of some of its natural allies – and in that situation, quiet diplomacy is of limited value.

Yet the West’s calculus changed dramatically once Israel switched to open confrontation. Infuriated over the HRC’s decision to launch yet another investigation of Israel even as it ignored massive abuses like the Syrian regime’s slaughter of its own citizens, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman persuaded the government to sever all ties with the council and refuse to participate in its Universal Periodic Review process.

Israel’s Western allies feared this boycott could lead other states to follow suit, thereby emptying the UPR of all content. And since they are deeply committed to this process, they suddenly had a real interest of their own in accommodating Israel’s longstanding concerns. Feverish negotiations thus ensued, and eventually, a compromise emerged. First, Israel would finally be admitted to the WEOG. Second, for the next two years, members of this group would refuse to participate in any debate held under the auspices of the permanent agenda item on Israel (which they don’t command enough votes to repeal). In short, confrontation had achieved what years of quiet diplomacy failed to do.

The second example is sanctions on Iran. Two previous prime ministers, Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert, adopted a low-profile approach to Iran’s nuclear program. They considered it crucial for Iran to be seen as the world’s problem rather than Israel’s, and therefore believed Israel’s interests were best served by working behind the scenes and letting the West lead the public battle. Yet this approach produced meager results. It took four years after Iran’s secret nuclear program was discovered for the UN Security Council to impose its first sanctions, and even then, they were largely toothless – as were additional rounds approved in the following years.

But when Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu took office in 2009, he scrapped the quiet-diplomacy approach and adopted a much more confrontational posture, including vocal threats of Israeli military action against Iran. This ultimately produced the first truly biting sanctions ever imposed on Tehran: America and Europe effectively disconnected Iran from the global banking system, and the European Union also imposed an oil embargo.

Here, too, quiet diplomacy had failed because Israel’s interests diverged fundamentally from those of its allies. First, Israel viewed a nuclear Iran as a much greater threat than they did. As chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey admitted in a rare moment of candor, Israelis “are living with an existential concern that we are not living with.” Second, Europe had a major economic interest in continuing to do business with Iran. Hence to much of the West, the costs of stiff sanctions simply outweighed their benefits.

These calculations changed only when the West concluded that Netanyahu’s threats to attack Iran were serious. Since they believed an Israeli attack would be destabilizing to Western interests, they had a strong interest in trying to forestall it by offering an alternative form of pressure on Iran – stiff sanctions. A senior French official acknowledged this openly last year when he explained why his country now supported an oil embargo it had previously opposed: “We must do everything possible to avoid an Israeli attack on Iran, even if it means a rise in the price of oil and gasoline,” he said.

This history is important for understanding how Israel should deal with its current challenges, since in both the Iranian nuclear talks and negotiations with the Palestinians, Israel’s interests once again appear to diverge fundamentally from those of its allies. The West now seems more interested in reaching a deal with Iran – any deal – than in actually halting Tehran’s nuclear program. And it appears far more interested in creating a Palestinian state than in ensuring that this state doesn’t threaten Israel’s existence.

In short, on both issues, quiet diplomacy is liable to prove ineffective. Hence Israel must be prepared to stand up for its own interests via confrontation. For only if the West has something to lose by not accommodating Israel’s interests will it consider such an accommodation to be in its own interests as well.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

St James’s Church, Piccadilly, installs life size replica of Israel’s security wall

This  is  the  perfect  example  of  how  an  uninformed  public can  be  brainwashed  into  hating  Israel  by  being  shown  only  one  side,  and  a  very  prejudiced  one  at   that, of  a complex  situation.   There  is  no  mention  of  terrorist attacks,  or  suicide  bombings  against  Israel  in  the exhibitions  and  the  public  has  no  way  of  knowing  that  it is  these  that  have  necessitated  the  construction  of  the security  fence.

Norman & Lola Cohen (Chairpersons“BIG”)

The life size replica wall at St James’s Church, Piccadilly for Bethlehem Unwrapped.

Richard Millett Dec. 24th 2013

St James’s Church, Piccadilly, in London’s West End has installed a life size 8 metre tall/30 metre long replica of Israel’s security wall in its courtyard as part of its Bethlehem Unwrapped festival. The replica wall is so vast that it obscures the Church itself.

The replica wall will be lit up at night and for the next twelve days of Christmas (until 5th January) a montage of images and slogans will be continuously projected onto it. Scenes include parts of London with a wall passing through it.
What you won’t see projected onto the replica wall are scenes of bombed out Israeli buses, hotels, pizza restaurants, bars and nightclubs that were ubiquitous in Israel before the wall.
Bethlehem Unwrapped has evening events with anti-Israel polemicists including comedians Jeremy Hardy and Ivor Dembina, musician Nigel Kennedy, columnists Yasmin Alibhai-Brown and Mark Steel, Jeff Halper of Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions and War On Want’s in-house poet Rafeef Ziadah.

Maybe Ivor Dembina will reprise his notorious Holocaust “joke” in which he mocks the Jewish people for wanting to hog the Auschwitz limelight. According to Dembina Jews don’t really want others to know that gays, gypsies and the disabled were also murdered at Auschwitz because we like to see it as “Ourschwitz, not Yourschwitz”.

Had someone made a joke about, for example, Srebrenica they would rightly be excluded but Dembina, host of the Hampstead Comedy Club, is one of the star turns at Bethlehem Unwrapped.

Or maybe poet Rafeef Ziadah will reprise her praising of Islamic Jihad chief Khader Adnan. Adnan, you may recall, is keen to incite Palestinians to become suicide bombers and blow up innocent Israeli children.

Unbelievably, into this political hatefest have stepped the supposedly “non-political” chefs Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi. They will be hosting the “Bethlehem Feast” at the church on Friday January 3rd.

Last night’s unveiling of the replica wall was introduced by St James’s Church Rector Lucy Winkett.
Rector Winkett said the reason behind the replica wall was that when 20 of them visited Israel and the Palestinian territories in October “one of the lasting memories of our time there was this wall” (see clip).

It is a shame Rector Winkett didn’t also visit the graves of Israeli children murdered by Palestinian suicide bombers or Israelis left disabled by them.
The microphone was then handed to Jeff Halper of Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions who left those who made it to the church despite the dreadful weather conditions in no doubt as to what the next twelves days of Bethlehem Unwrapped had in store. Halper has previously expressed his wish to boycott Israel out of existence.

Last night Halper described Israel’s security wall as a “very deadly barrier that people cannot pass” and said “this wall is not built for security…it doesn’t protect Israelis in any way”. He continued “the wall defines the borders of the Israeli bantustan that is being created for Palestinians in an apartheid state…it defines those cantons in which Palestinians will be confined”

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Palestinian red line

Ephraim Inbar 16.12.2013

The media reported that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas rejected the peace proposals submitted by U.S. Secretary John Kerry. The Palestinians leaked that Abbas sent a letter to Kerry reiterating his complete opposition to the demand to recognize "Israel as a Jewish state." This was declared a "red line" the Palestinians would not cross.

This "red line" is not just about semantics, but the essence of the conflict. The Palestinian position amounts to denying the Jews the right to establish their state in their homeland. It also indicates without any doubt that the Palestinians, despite the conventional wisdom, are not ripe for reaching a historic compromise with Zionism, the Jewish national revival movement. A stable peace based on mutual recognition and ending all demands is not in the cards. The weak PA seems to accept partition of Mandatory Palestine into two states (perhaps in accordance with the stages approach championed by the Palestine Liberation Organization), but it still refrains from accepting the legitimacy of the Zionist enterprise.

This is in stark contrast to Israel, which recognized the "legitimate rights of the Palestinians" back at the September 1978 Camp David Accords, and which is ready for generous territorial concessions in order to implement a partition of the Land of Israel/Palestine. The bitter truth is that the asymmetry in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has not changed for over a century. In essence, this ethno-religious conflict is not about territory, although it obviously has a territorial dimension, but about securing the recognition of the other side to national rights in a given territory.

Despite the image of untrustworthiness, Palestinians give great importance to the language used in the documents they are asked to sign. Yasser Arafat, generally viewed by most Israelis as an accomplished liar, refused to sign an agreement in 2000 that included a clause about an end to all demands. For him the conflict could end only by the eventual demise of Israel. Similarly, Abbas cannot bring himself to put his signature to a document which says that the Jews have returned to their homeland. 

We know that the perception of Jews being foreign invaders of Palestine is a fundamental widespread Palestinian attitude, which is instilled in the younger generations in the PA-run schools.

The entrenchment of such attitudes is clear also by the lack of a debate among the Palestinians whether to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. Discussing Jewish rights to the Land of Israel is not conceivable in the current intra-Palestinian deliberations. Not even the so-called Palestinian moderates are calling for a debate among the Palestinians on whether to recognize the right of self-determination of the Jews in their historic homeland. Polls of Palestinians do not ask whether Israel should be recognized as a Jewish state. Normative language mentioning rights and international norms in Palestinian discourse is reserved for Palestinian demands only and is never applied in an attempt to understand what Israelis want.

The efforts of the Palestinian media to negate the Jewish past and historic links to the Temple Mount and even the Western Wall all indicate the ideological commitment to rewrite history. Palestinian archaeology is similarly used to erase all traces of Jewish presence from the land. Even Koranic sources mentioning the links of the Jews to the Land of Israel are ignored. Such Palestinian behavior serves only to prolong the conflict because it does not teach the Palestinians that Jews are part of the history of this land. All these acts are intolerable and must stop before Israel considers signing a comprehensive peace agreement.

It was a mistake not to insist on recognition of Israel being a Jewish state in the negotiations with the Palestinians in the 1990s. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu understands well the need for such recognition on the part of the Palestinians to ensure a historic peace deal and his insistence on getting it in the framework of a comprehensive settlement is right on the mark.

Moreover, Palestinians are different than Egyptians or Jordanians that were not required to accept Israel as a Jewish state. They have no claims to Palestine, while it is the Palestinians and the Israelis who fight for the same piece of land. Since the Israelis recognized Palestinian legitimate rights 35 years ago, it is high time for the Palestinians to learn about the "other" with whom they are in conflict, and reciprocate if they are serious about peacemaking.

Professor Efraim Inbar is a professor of political studies at Bar-Ilan University, director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies and a fellow at the Middle East Forum.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Even Beduin Leaders like the plan!!

Whilst many international news reports have a totally negative view on the plans for the Beduin in the Negev, several brave Beduin community leaders have begun to speak-out in favor of the Prawer-Begin plan, despite threats against them from militant Israeli Arab leaders. (with thanks to DAVID M. WEINBERG 12/05/2013, full article at  http://tinyurl.com/ndxxhjc  

a)               Sheikh Odeh Zanoon is the first Negev Beduin leader to reach agreement with the State of Israel to establish a modern Beduin settlement for his tribe members, near Yeroham.

The 300 families of the Zanoon tribe, currently spread across an area of 20,000 dunams without electricity, running water and roads, will move to a modern settlement of approximately 1,500 dunams. The settlement will be planned with their full participation. Many tribe members doubt Israel’s benevolence, but recognize that the plan constitutes an invaluable opportunity for real quality of life.

b)               Abed Tarabin is also moving his Tarabin clan from an illegal encampment near Omer to a properly- planned Beduin town, New Kfar Tarabin, with government support.

He says that “The government plan isn’t 100% perfect, but it is a great improvement over the current situation of Beduin in the Negev. We can build proper homes on recognized land, demand employment and health and education services, and make other demands of the government, like any other citizen. In our new town, we have asked for and received agricultural and industrial help.”

Tarabin adds, “The opposition to the plan comes from belligerent politicians, making noise for their own purposes. It doesn’t come from real Beduin leaders who are concerned with their people. There is plenty of room in the Negev for everybody, and it is good that the government is working to improve things and is investing money in us.”

c)               Kamel Jum’a Abu-Nadi of Lakia, a Beduin town founded in 1982 as part of a previous government project to settle Beduin in permanent towns, says that “The Begin plan is a fair proposal that seeks to end the saga of Beduin land claims. 85% of Beduin have no land claims; only 15% do, and these claims are holding up the development of the Negev for the Beduin. We simply have to reach a compromise on the land claims, since the government’s NIS 10 billion economic development plan for the Negev will improve our currently- very-bad situation in education, employment, welfare, transportation and other infrastructures.”

d)               Id Abu Rashed, a prominent leader of the Rashed tribe from the town of Abu Qrenat (a Beduin town of 2,700 people expected to grow to 7,000 people by 2020, that lies between Beersheba and Dimona) says that “Those who oppose the Begin-Prawer plan do so for political reasons, not substantive reasons. If you check just who has been demonstrating against the plan, you discover that half of the protesters are Arab-Israelis [i.e., not Beduin] from Israel’s north that are being bussed in from the north in organized fashion. The flags of Palestine that are flown at these demonstrations led by the Arab-Israeli Islamic Movement and its Balad political party in fact damage the reputation of the Beduin in the Negev. The Negev Beduin have no anti-Israel nationalist motivations, nor have they ever in past.”

e)               Hassan Ka’abia, a Beduin officer in the IDF from the village of Ka’abia who now works for the Israel Foreign Affairs Ministry, says that the sedentarization of the Beduin people is necessary and inevitable, and the alternative is poverty, crime and illness.

“This transition,” he says, “difficult as it may be, is fascinating and another piece in the cosmopolitan mosaic that is the modern State of Israel.”

Consequently, the Netanyahu government should be praised, not vilified, by Diaspora rabbis and human rights activists for proposing a comprehensive, judicious (and very expensive!) plan that will both facilitate proper development of the Negev and ensure advancement for the Beduin community.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Behind the Headlines: The Bedouin in the Negev and the Begin Plan

This new policy constitutes a major step forward towards integrating the Bedouin more fully into Israel's multicultural society, while still preserving their unique culture and heritage.

View of Bedouin town of Lakiya in the Negev

The Bedouin in the Negev, numbering approximately 210,000, is one of many communities which comprise Israel's pluralistic society. Unfortunately, historically this community has been ranked low in socio-economic indicators.

Recognizing that the Bedouin of the Negev need assistance, the government of Israel created a comprehensive policy - called the Begin Plan - aimed at improving their economic, social and living conditions, as well as resolving long-standing land issues. 

To this end, Israel has allocated approximately 2.2 billion dollars (8 billion shekels), including over 330 million dollars (1.2 billion shekels) for specific economic and social development projects.

January 2013 policy - named after then-minister Ze'ev Binyamin (Benny) Begin - is designed to solve a wide range of problems affecting the Bedouin population. Among the numerous initiatives that have begun or are planned are the expansion of technological and adult education, the development of industrial centers, the establishment of employment guidance centers, assistance in strengthening Bedouin local governments, improvements to the transportation system, centers of excellence for students and support for Bedouin women who wish to work or start businesses

                               Ahmed Al-Karnawi in his greenhouse in Rahat in the Negev

As part of the Israeli government's efforts to reduce Bedouin unemployment, he and other Bedouin have received government plots to set up small agricultural businesses. Al-Karnawi cultivates  roses (which he exports abroad) and vegetables.

Israel is working with the Bedouin community on all aspects of the Begin Plan. Indeed, the plan was developed through dialogue and in close coordination with the Bedouin: In an attempt to expand on the previous Prawer Plan, Minister Begin and his team met with thousands of Bedouin individuals and organizations during the development stage. As a result, Bedouin traditions and cultural sensitivities were taken into consideration, and a plan was formulated to reinforce the connection of the Bedouin to their culture and heritage.

Furthermore, contrary to some claims, Israel is not forcing a nomadic community to change its lifestyle. The Bedouin in the Negev, who moved to the area starting at the end of the 18th century, began settling down over a hundred years ago, long before the establishment of the State of Israel. By now, most Bedouin citizens live in permanent homes.

Still, one of the major problems facing the Bedouin is housing.  Almost half of the Negev Bedouin (approximately 90,000) live in houses built illegally, many of them in shacks without basic services. Isolated encampments and other Bedouin homes may lack essential infrastructures, including sewage systems and electricity, and access to services such as educational and health facilities is limited.

There are solutions to this problem and to the many other difficulties facing the Bedouin. For example, under the Begin Plan, the government is giving every Bedouin family (or eligible individual) that needs it, a resident plot. These lands are being developed to include all the modern infrastructures and will be granted free of charge. Bedouin families can then build houses according to their own desires and traditions. Those that move will be offered their choice of joining rural, agricultural, communal, suburban or urban communities.

                         A street in the Bedouin village of Drijat, "the first Bedouin solar village"

The village was converted in 2005 to a modern solar village by a governmental project of installing there a multipurpose solar electricity system. Thus, many houses, the school, the mosque and the street lights in Drijat are powered by solar panels.

Most of the Bedouin citizens will remain in their current homes. 120,000 already live in one of the seven Bedouin urban centers or eleven recognized villages. Of the remaining 90,000 that live in encampments or communities that are not zoned, only 30,000 will have to move, most of them a short distance (a few kilometers at most). The other 60,000 will have their homes legalized under Israel's initiative, which will develop their communities and grant the residents property rights.

Much has been made of those Bedouin who will have to move. However, almost half of them (14,000-15,000) have settled illegally within the danger zone of the Ramat Hovav Toxic Waste Disposal Facility. Given the threat to their health, and even lives should there be an incident at the facility, the government of Israel has an obligation to relocate these families.

The Begin Plan will also resolve land claims made by a number of Bedouin in the Negev, most of which have been in dispute for decades. Currently, there are 2,900 land claims regarding 587 square kilometers (227 sq. miles). Although these claims have no legal basis under Israeli law (and were not recognized under the previous Ottoman or British land law systems), Israel wants to resolve the issue. It will do so by adopting a compromise according to which all the Bedouin claimants will receive compensation in land and money equivalent to the full value of the land claimed. The Bedouin will no longer have to engage in lengthy court cases while the compensation process will be based on the principles of fairness, transparency and dialogue

There have been attempts to attack the Begin Plan (which its detractors deliberately misname the Prawer Plan in order to associate it with an outdated proposal). Many of those acting in the international arena against Israel's plan for the Bedouin belong to the camp which seizes upon any opportunity to harm Israel's reputation. Others have purer motives, but have based their opposition on false information distributed by Israel's opponents.

This opposition is unfortunate, particularly for the Bedouin who will benefit greatly from the Begin Plan. This new policy constitutes a major step forward towards integrating the Bedouin more fully into Israel's multicultural society, while still preserving their unique culture and heritage.

Most importantly, the Begin Plan guarantees a better future for Bedouin children. No longer will they have to reside in isolated shacks without electricity or proper sewage. Now they will live closer to schools and will be able to walk home safely on sidewalks with streetlights, alongside paved roads. They will have easier access to health clinics and educational opportunities. Their parents will enjoy greater employment prospects, bettering the economic situation of the whole family. To oppose the Begin Plan is to oppose improving the lives of Bedouin children.

A classroom in the Regional Center for Education and Rehabilitation of Disabled Bedouin Children (suffering from C.P.) in the town of Tel Sheva in the Negev. The center, financed by Israeli governmental ministries, currently accommodates around 140 children with C.P., from pre-kindergarten to post high-school age, and will in the future accommodate 500 pupils.
Whilst there has been strong criticism and demonstrations against the plan, most of the activists are not Bedouin. Local Bedouin complain that outsiders are agitating against the plan. 

Two Bedouin Sheikhs who have not hesitated to criticize former Israeli policies toward the Bedouin, but they now express satisfaction with the plan as can be seen in the video below.


Saturday, November 30, 2013

Obama, Iran, and the Jews Reconsidered

To adapt Winston Churchill: Never in the field of global diplomacy has so much been given away by so many for so little.
Britain and France came to Munich in 1938 as military weaklings. The U.S. and its allies face Iran from a position of overwhelming strength. Britain and France won time to rearm. The U.S. and its allies have given Iran more time to stockpile uranium and develop its nuclear infrastructure.

For a detailed comparison for Munich 1938  and Geneva 2013 see: http://tinyurl.com/qh56lkl
Jonathan S. Tobin  11.25.2013

President Obama hasn’t made it easy on his Jewish supporters. Conservative critics—and if polls are right, the majority of Israelis—have always doubted his intentions toward the Jewish state and suspected him of either tilting toward the Palestinians or, as veteran diplomat Aaron David Miller memorably put it, someone who was “not in love with the idea of Israel.” But for the majority of American Jews who remain loyal Democrats and liberals, Obama was, at worst, a satisfactory ally of Israel, and, at best, the misunderstood victim of smears. At times, the president’s penchant for picking fights with the Netanyahu government over settlements, borders, and even a consensus Jewish issue like Jerusalem caused some liberal true believers like lawyer and author Alan Dershowitz to worry about his intentions. But even when the relationship between Washington and Jerusalem was at its worst during the past five years, the president’s supporters could point to the issue of paramount importance to Israel’s security and claim with some justification that he was as solid an ally as could be asked.
That issue was, of course, the Iranian nuclear threat, and from the earliest days of his first presidential campaign, Obama had made it clear that he would never allow them to gain a nuclear weapon. Though he had also mentioned his desire for a rapprochement with Iran in that first campaign, the president’s rhetoric on Iran was consistent and strong. Critics could point to failed efforts at engagement, his slowness to back tough sanctions, and his reliance on a shaky diplomatic process as undermining that rhetoric. Yet administration backers like columnist Jeffrey Goldberg continued to make the case that on this point there could be no doubting the president’s resolve.
But in the wake of this past weekend’s nuclear agreement with Iran and the evidence that the president has not only ignored Israel’s concerns about the deal (as well as those of Saudi Arabia) but appears to want a d├ętente with Tehran that will upend America’s entire stance on the Middle East, it’s fair to say that the president has put his backers into a new and even more difficult test. Liberals may be lining up to take Obama and Secretary of State Kerry at their word that they have not given up their determination to thwart Iran’s nuclear ambitions and even accept the claim that the deal makes Israel safer. But given the administration’s acceptance of Iran’s “right” to enrich uranium and its apparent belief that it is unrealistic to think that Tehran can be forced to give up its nuclear program, belief in its bona fides on this issue can no longer be consideredanything more than a leap of faith. At this point, American friends of Israel as well as those who understand the grave threat that Iran poses to U.S. interests and security need to face the fact that this president has abandoned them.
The disappointment must be especially acute for Goldberg, who has continued to insist that Obama should be trusted on Iran, even insisting that he would, if push came to shove, order air strikes or do whatever it took to make good on his pledge. Thus, to readthe latest Bloomberg column from this respected journalist is to see what happens when leaders cut their supporters off at the knees. Though the president has made Goldberg’s previous defenses of his Iran policy look silly, he is still hoping that the bottom line here won’t be complete betrayal and therefore tries weakly to rationalize or minimize what has just happened.
Goldberg’s position now is that demands for Iran to give up its nuclear program are unrealistic. That’s a new position for him, as he has never doubted that Iran’s goal was a weapon, a point that he doesn’t abandon even in his latest column when he rightly reminds us that, “Iran’s leaders are lying” about being only interested in a peaceful program. But also new is his belief that the crushing sanctions on Iran that he has been advocating for years would never bring about Iran’s capitulation. Thus he finds himself lamely accepting the administration’s excuse that a weak deal that legitimizes Iran’s nuclear infrastructure and does nothing to roll back the tremendous progress it has achieved on Obama’s watch is “the least-worst option.”
He justifies this surrender of principle by assuring himself, if not us, that Iran won’t take advantage of the opening Obama has given them. An even greater leap is his suggestion that after investing so much effort in this diplomatic campaign, the administration “might just have to walk away” from its new relationship with Iran once it realizes than Hassan Rouhani and the supposed moderates aren’t in charge in Tehran. This is absurd because, as reports about the secret diplomatic track that led to this agreement tell us, Obama’s efforts to make nice with Iran preceded Rouhani’s victory in the regime’s faux presidential election.
Equally absurd is his fainthearted attempt to reassure himself that “everything that has happened over these past months may not amount to anything at all.” Having gambled this much on appeasement of Iran, the administration isn’t backing off. No matter what tricks the Iranians pull in the next six months of talks, they know they’ve got the U.S. hooked and won’t let go. The future of the sanctions regime that neither Obama nor the Europeans ever really wanted is much more in question than Iran’s nuclear program. Only a fool would trust Iran’s word on this issue or believe that once they start to unravel, sanctions could be re-imposed.
All this puts American Jewish supporters of Israel like Goldberg in a tough position.
Liberal critics of Israel, like the J Street lobby that was set up to support Obama’s efforts to pressure the Jewish state to make concessions to the Palestinians, will instinctively back the president in any argument with Netanyahu. And it is true that most Americans are not terribly interested in involving the U.S. in yet another foreign conflict and may accept Obama and Kerry’s false argument that the alternative to a weak deal was war.
But mainstream American Jewish groups, and even most of their moderate and liberal supporters, understand what happened this past weekend was more than just another spat in a basically solid relationship. Try as they might, Obama and Kerry will be hard-pressed to persuade most supporters of Israel that they have the country’s best interests at heart as they embark on a road whose only main goal is to normalize relations with Iran.
Though American supporters of the Jewish state loved his rhetoric during his visit to Israel last spring, the president’s goal here has been to isolate America’s sole democratic ally in the Middle East. As Goldberg aptly pointed out, one of Obama’s prime objectives has been to ensure that Israel cannot act on its own or even in concert with some of its unlikely Arab allies of convenience against Iran. Indeed, that appears to be the only American objective that has actually been achieved with this agreement.
That is why Israel’s supporters cannot hesitate about backing congressional efforts to increase sanctions on Iran despite administration resistance. Jewish leaders were lied to earlier this month when senior officials tried to convince them to back off on lobbying for sanctions (an effort that met with at least partial success at first). They also lied to Netanyahu for months while Obama’s envoys were talking to Iran behind Israel’s back.

Obama has worried Jewish supporters before, but never has he so ruthlessly undermined their faith. The choice for the pro-Israel community is clear. It can, like Goldberg has done, redefine its objectives, and concede defeat on stopping Iran and/or pretend nothing has happened. Or it can find its collective voice and speak out against a terrible betrayal that gives the lie to every Obama statement about stopping Iran. If it chooses the latter, these groups will face the usual “Israel Lobby” calumnies from anti-Semites and Israel-haters who will claim they are undermining U.S. interests. But they cannot take counsel of their fears or be silenced. If they do, they will look back on this moment when it was still possible to mobilize congressional action against this betrayal with regret.

Friday, November 22, 2013

EU right about Western Sahara but wrong about Israel

Commentary: The European Union makes up its own rules for engaging with occupied territories.

 JERUSALEM — The European Union recently affirmed that there is no international legal problem in signing a deal with an occupying power that extends to the territory it occupies, or from foreign companies doing business in occupied territory.

It did so when it provisionally approved a fisheries agreement earlier this month with Morocco that extends into the territory of occupied Western Sahara, which is beyond Morocco’s recognized sovereign territory.

Moreover, the EU actually pays Morocco for European access to Western Saharan resources. On all these points, the agreement directly contradicts what the EU, in negotiations with Israel, calls fundamental principles of international law.

In recent years, Europe has contested Israel’s insistence that its EU agreements do not apply to Israel’s activities in the West Bank. The EU stance has been celebrated by some as an example of European commitment to international law. The EU’s new deal with Morocco appears to be contradicting those principles.

Moreover, the European Parliament’s legal advisor issued a formal opinion earlier this month making it clear that it is the EU’s treatment of Morocco, not Israel, that accords with international law.
By inventing rules of international law, the EU actually sends the message that Israel might never “comply” with international law, because where Israel is concerned, this “law” is a moving target, that can be concocted from thin air.

Morocco invaded Western Sahara in 1975 and has occupied it since, claiming it as its own territory. The Security Council has condemned Morocco’s presence and demanded a complete withdrawal.
In the face of this demand, Morocco has initiated an aggressive settlement policy. As a result, Moroccan settlers may now be the majority in the territory.

The EU, like the rest of the world, does not recognize Western Sahara as part of Morocco, but this has not stopped EU from extending its agreements with Morocco to cover Western Sahara. The Polisario Front is the generally recognized representative of the indigenous people of Western Sahara, and it vigorously opposes the EU deal.

The Moroccan agreement contradicts two central elements of the EU’s legal approach to Israel. The EU says that any application of agreements to the occupied territories would violate international law by “recognizing” Israel’s control. Yet while the EU also refuses to recognize Moroccan claims to Western Sahara, it sees no tension between this and extending its agreements with Morocco to that territory.

The EU says it cannot spend a cent on Israeli-sponsored activities in the occupied territories, while in Western Sahara, Europe will actually pay Morocco for its exploitation of natural resources there.
The controversy over EU deals with Morocco led to a ruling from the European Parliament’s legal advisor. In brief, the official opinion says international law does not prevent Morocco from exploiting the natural resources of the occupied territory, or for the EU to pay Morocco to exploit the resources of occupied territory.

The EU position regarding Western Sahara is consistent with prior international law, including a 2002 opinion by the Security Council’s legal advisor, and a ruling of the French Court of Appeals this summer, as well as the general practice of nations.

The EU is right about Western Sahara — which means it is wrong about Israel.

To be sure, there are differences between the EU’s policies toward Western Sahara and the West Bank; the former is much worse.

In Western Sahara, the EU has licensed the exploitation of scarce natural resources. In the West Bank, the EU seeks to punish pure academic and business activity that do not exhaust resources but only create jobs and opportunities for Arabs and Jews
Moreover, Israel’s economic activity in the West Bank is confined to areas under Israeli jurisdiction by agreement with Palestinian authorities under the Oslo Accords. Morocco’s activities have no limitations, because unlike Israel, it has not turned over most of the territory to Polisario rule.
Ironically, the inconsistency in European policies sends exactly the opposite message from that intended by Europe. In its dealings with Israel, the EU wants to make clear that it opposes settlements
Fair enough. But implicitly, Europe is telling Israel that the problem is not its presence in the disputed territories, but rather that it does not have enough presence; in particular, not enough economic enterprises.

Spanish and French businesses, interested in opportunities in the Western Sahara, are pressing the EU to sign the deal with Morocco.

The Moroccan precedent suggests that if significant Israeli defense, high-tech or biotech enterprises were located in the West Bank, the EU would reduce diplomatic pressures on Israel.

The message Europe wants to send Israel through its tough diplomatic line is that the occupation of the West Bank and settlements are the source of its diplomatic problems. But by not holding any other occupation to the same standard, Europe sends another message: it is not the settlements that bother Brussels — rather, it is Israel itself.

Eugene Kontorovich is a professor of international law at Northwestern University School of Law in Chicago and a senior fellow at the Kohelet Policy Forum in Jerusalem

Monday, November 11, 2013

Lessons on hypocrisy from Syria

By DAVID M. WEINBERG 11/10/2013

All the human rights moralizers are ignoring the frightening plight of Palestinians and Christians in the Syrian civil war. There is, alas, no anti-Israel angle to the story.

The fighting in Syria once again proves the sad old adage that human rights organizations and their advocates in the mainstream Western media are essentially anti-Israel. There is no other way to explain the fact that all these high-and-mighty moralizers are ignoring the frightening plight of Palestinians and Christians in the Syrian civil war.

You see, there is no anti-Israel angle to the story of Palestinian or Christian suffering in Syria.
That suffering can’t really be blamed on the Jews. So nobody cares.

a) UNWRA  reports 250,000 Palestinians have been displaced in Syria since the start of the conflict
b) In May, for example, some 6,000 Palestinians were expelled from their homes in Ein al-Tal, a refugee camp near Aleppo in northern Syria.

The response from the world: Nothing. - SILENCE

c) more than 55,000 Palestinians have been forced to flee Syria to Lebanon and Jordan
d) In Lebanon, the Palestinian refugees join more than 500,000 other Palestinians who live in refugee camps.

International uproar  - ZERO .

IN ISRAEL If six (never mind 60, 600, or 6,000) squatting Palestinian families were forced to move two kilometers out of an IDF firing zone in the southern Hebron hills. There would be UN investigations, international tribunals, condemnations from Western capitals, and much handwringing and moralizing by Amnesty, Human Rights Watch and more.

Actually, this has happened exactly. A grand total of 10 Palestinian families were evicted by an IDF evacuation order

e) At least 2,000 Palestinians have been killed in Syria, by both the rebels and the Syrian army.


IN ISRAEL Now imagine if IDF troops killed 150 terrorists, and inadvertently also killed a few civilians behind which the terrorists were hiding, during a raid meant to destroy enemy missile launchers. There would be UN investigations, international tribunals, condemnations from Western capitals, and much handwringing and moralizing by Amnesty, Human Rights Watch and more.

Actually, this has happened exactly.

The two Palestinian governments – Hamas in the Gaza Strip, and Fatah-led Palestinian Authority in the West Bank – have said or done nothing to draw global attention to the plight of their brethren in Syria. No emergency UN Security Council session to discuss the new Palestinian tragedy. They are more worried about construction of a few homes in Israeli settlements in the West Bank than the lives of thousands of Palestinians in Syria.

f) Syria’s Christians, more than 600,000 of whom have been displaced or fled Syria since the rebellion began. It seems that their fate will be similar to that of the Christians in Iraq, half of whom emigrated, fled or were killed.

In March 2012, Islamist militants went door to door in neighborhoods of Homs, expelling local Christians. Of the more than 80,000 Christians who lived in Homs prior to the uprising, approximately 400 remain today. In May 2012, Christian residents of Qusayr received an ominous warning: Either join the opposition against Bashar Assad or leave.

Soon after, thousands of Christians fled the town.

The Vatican News Agency Fides and Catholic Online magazine reported this week that 45 Christians were recently massacred and thrown into mass graves by Islamists in Sadad, a town of 15,000 mostly Syriac Orthodox Christians located 160 km north of Damascus.

The 4,000-year old Assyrian town’s 14 churches and monastery were defiled and looted. According to Archbishop Selwanos Boutros Alnemeh, Syriac Orthodox Metropolitan of Homs and Hama, about 2,500 families have fled from Sadad. “

Where is the Christian conscience? Where is human consciousness? Where are my brothers?”
But of course, you wouldn’t know about this from the mainstream Western press or from Western leaders.

IN ISRAEL Now imagine that a few Jewish hooligans were to vandalize a monastery or two in Israel.
There would be howls of protest worldwide.

The attack would be covered extensively in just about every newspaper in the world, with a lot of buzz about the supposed brutalization of Israeli society and a radicalization of religious Jewry. There would be UN investigations, condemnations from Western capitals, and much handwringing and moralizing by Amnesty, Human Rights Watch and more.

Actually, this has happened exactly.

When persecution against Palestinians and Christians doesn’t come from the Jews, nobody cares. And this tells me that international howls of protest against Israel related don’t stem from real concern for Palestinian or Christian “victims” of Israel’s heavy hand.