Today's Egypt is in Geographically in Africa but its heart is with the Asian Arab States as part of the MASHREQ.
From this follows that many of its activities as part of the African Union, or at the UN, are simply out of place.
Also, Egypt itself never claimed that it was part of the Arab North African Maghreb. In effect it claims leadership of Arab Asia.
The Mashriq or Mashreq (also in use: Mashrek) (Arabic: ????) is, generally speaking, the region of Arabic-speaking countries to the east of Egypt and north of the Arabian Peninsula. It is derived from the Arabic consonantal root sh-r-q (? ? ?) relating to the east or the sunrise, and essentially means "east" (most literally or poetically, "place of sunrise"). It refers to a large area in the Middle East, bounded between the Mediterranean Sea and Iran. It is therefore the companion term to Maghreb (????), meaning "west" (a reference to the Arabic-speaking countries in the west of North Africa). Egypt occupies an ambiguous position: while it has cultural, ethnic and linguistic ties to both the Mashriq and the Maghreb, it is unique and different from both. Thus, it is usually seen as being part of neither; however, when it is grouped with one or the other, it is generally considered part of the Mashriq on account of its closer ties to the Levant (Egypt and the Levant were often ruled as a single unit, as under the Ancient EgyptianNew Kingdom, theUmayyad Caliphate, Abbasid Caliphate, the Fatimid Caliphate, the Ayyubid dynasty, the Mamluks, and for a time under Muhammad Ali Pasha) and similarity between the Egyptian and near Levantine dialects. These geographical terms date from the early Islamic conquests.
This region is somewhat synonymous with Bilad al-Sham, but also includes Iraq and Kuwait. It is occasionally used as a synonym for "non-Maghreb" and in these instances includes Egypt, Sudan, and the Arabian Peninsula.
Some look at the upheaval in Syria through a religious lens. The Sunni and Shia factions, battling for supremacy in the Middle East, have locked horns in the heart of the Levant, where the Shia-affiliated Alawite sect has ruled a majority Sunni nation for decades.
Some see it through a social prism. As they did in Tunis with Muhammad Bouazizi — an honest man who couldn’t make an honest living in this corruption-ridden part of the world — the social protests that sparked the war in Syria started in the poor and disenfranchised parts of the country.
Others look at the eroding boundaries of state in Syria and other parts of the Middle East as a direct result of the sins of Western hubris and Colonialism.
Professor Arnon Sofer has no qualms with any of these claims and interpretations. But the upheaval in Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East, he says, cannot be fully understood without also taking two environmental truths into account: soaring birthrates and dwindling water supply.
Over the past 60 years, the population in the Middle East has twice doubled itself, said Sofer, the head of the Chaikin geo-strategy group and a longtime lecturer at the IDF’s top defense college, where today he heads the National Defense College Research Center. “There is no example of this anywhere else on earth,” he said of the population increase. Couple that with Syria’s water scarcity, he said, “and as a geographer it was clear to me that a conflict would erupt.”
The Pentagon cautiously agrees with this thesis. In February the Department of Defense released a “climate-change adaptation roadmap.” While the effects of climate change alone do not cause conflict, the report states, “they may act as accelerants of instability or conflict in parts of the world.” Predominantly the paper is concerned with the effects of rising seas and melting arctic permafrost on US military installations. The Middle East is not mentioned by name.
But Sofer and Anton Berkovsky, who together compiled the research work of students at the National Defense College and released a geo-strategic paper on Syria earlier in the year, believe that water scarcity played a significant role in the onset of the Syrian civil war and the Arab Spring, and that it may help re-shape the strategic bonds and interests of the region as regimes teeter and borders blur. Sofer also believes that a “Pax Climactica” is within reach if regional leaders would only, for a short while, forsake their natural inclinations to wake up in the morning and seek to do harm.
Syria is 85 percent desert or semi-arid country. But it has several significant waterways. The Euphrates runs in a south-easterly direction through the center of the country to Iraq. The Tigris runs southeast, tracing a short part along Syria’s border with Turkey before flowing into Iraq. And, aside from several lesser rivers that flow southwest through Lebanon to the Mediterranean, Syria has an estimated four to five billion cubic meters of water in its underground aquifers.
From 2007-2008, over 160 villages in Syria were abandoned and some 250,000 farmers relocated to Damascus, Aleppo and other cities. The capital, like many of its peer cities in the Middle East, was unable to handle that influx of people. Residents dug 25,000 illegal wells in and around Damascus, pushing the water table ever lower and the salinity of the water ever higher.
For these reasons the heart of the country was once an oasis. For 5,000 years, Damascus was famous for its agriculture and its dried fruit. Since 1950, however, the population has increased sevenfold in Syria, to 22 million, and Turkey, in an age of scarcity, has seized much of the water that once flowed south into Syria.
“They’ve been choking them,” Sofer said, noting that Turkey annually takes half of the available 30 billion cubic meters of water in the Euphrates. This limits Syria’s water supply and hinders its ability to generate hydroelectricity.
In 2007, after years of population growth and institutional economic stagnation, several dry years descended on Syria. Farmers began to leave their villages and head toward the capital. From 2007-2008, Sofer said, over 160 villages in Syria were abandoned and some 250,000 farmers – Sofer calls them “climate refugees” – relocated to Damascus, Aleppo and other cities.
The capital, like many of its peer cities in the Middle East, was unable to handle that influx of people. Residents dug 25,000 illegal wells in and around Damascus, pushing the water table ever lower and the salinity of the water ever higher.
This, along with over one million refugees from the Iraq war and, among other challenges, borders that contain a dizzying array of religions and ethnicities, set the stage for the civil war.
Tellingly, it broke out in the regions most parched — “in Daraa [in the south] and in Kamishli in the northeast,” Sofer said. “Those are two of the driest places in the country.”
Professor Eyal Zisser, one of Israel’s top scholars of Syria, agreed that the drought played a significant role in the onset of the war. “Without doubt it is part of the issue,” he said. Zisser did not believe that water was the central issue that inflamed Syria but rather “the match that set the field of thorns on fire.”
Rebel troops transporting two women to safety along the Orontes River, which has shrunk in recent years and grown increasingly saline (Photo credit: CC BY FreedomHouse)
Since that fire began to rage in March 2011, the course of the battles has been partially dictated by a different sort of logic, not environmental in nature. “Assad is butchering his way west,” Sofer said. He believes the president will eventually have to retreat from the capital and therefore has focused his efforts on Homs and other cities and towns that lie between Damascus and the Alawite regions near the coast, cutting himself an escape route.
Sofer and Berkovsky envision several scenarios for Syria. Among them: Assad puts down the rebellion and remains in power; Assad abdicates and a Sunni majority seizes control; Assad abdicates and no central power is able to assert control. The most likely scenario, Sofer said, was that the Syrian dictator would eventually flee to Tehran. But he preferred to avoid that sort of micro-conjecture and to focus on the regional effects of population growth and water scarcity and the manner in which that ominous mix might shape the future of the region.
Writing in the New York Times from Yemen on Thursday, Thomas Friedman embraced a similar thesis, noting that the heart of the al-Qaeda activity in the region corresponded with the areas most stricken by drought. Sofer published a paper in July where he laid out the grim environmental reality of the region and argued that, as in Syria, the conflicts bedeviling the region were not about climate issues but were deeply influenced by them.
Egypt, Sofer wrote, faces severe repercussions from climate change. Even a slight rise in the level of the sea – just half a meter – would salinize the Nile Delta aquifers and force three million people out of the city of Alexandria. In the more distant future, as the North Sea melts, the Suez Canal could decline in importance. More immediately, and of greater significance to Israel, he wrote that Egypt, faced with a water shortage, would likely grow more militant over the coming years. But he felt the militancy would be directed south, toward South Sudan and Ethiopia and other nations competing for the waters of the Nile, and not north toward the Levant.
The Nile River, the lifeblood of Egypt’s 82 million people (Photo credit: CC BY Simona Scolari, Flickr)
As proof that this pivot has already begun, Sofer pointed to Abu-Simbel, near the border with Sudan. There the state has converted a civilian airport into a military one. “The conclusion to be drawn from this is simple and unequivocal,” he wrote. “Egypt today represents a military threat to the southern nations of the Nile and not the Zionist state to the east.”
The Sinai Peninsula, already quite lawless, will only get worse, perhaps to the point of secession, he and Berkovsky wrote. Local Bedouin will have difficulty raising animals in the region and will turn, to an even greater degree, to smuggling material and people along a route established in the Bronze Age, through Sinai to Asia and Europe.
Syria, even if the war were swiftly resolved, is “on the cusp of catastrophe.” Jordan, too, is in dire need of water. And Gaza, like Syria, has been battered by unchecked drilling. The day after Israel left under the Oslo Accords, he said, the Palestinian Authority and other actors began digging 500 wells along the coastal aquifer even though Israel had warned them of the dangers. “Today there are around 4,000 of them and no more ground water. It’s over. There’s no fooling around with this stuff,” he said.
Only the two most stable states in the region – Israel and Turkey – have ample water.
Turkey is the sole Middle Eastern nation blessed with plentiful water sources. Ankara’s control of the Tigris and the Euphrates, among other rivers, means that Iraq and Syria, both downriver, are to a large extent dependent on Turkey for food, water and electricity. That strategic advantage, along with Turkey’s position as the bridge between the Middle East and Europe, “further serves its neo-Ottoman agenda,” Sofer said.
He envisioned an increased role for Turkey both in the Levant and, eventually, in central Asia and along the oil crossroads of the Persian Gulf, pitting it against Iran. Climate change, he conceded, has only a minor role in that future struggle for power but it is “an accelerant.”
Israel no longer suffers from drought. Desalination, conservation and sewage treatment have alleviated much of the natural scarcity. In February, the head of the Israel Water Authority, Alexander Kushnir, told the Times of Israel that the country’s water crisis has come to an end. Half of Israel’s two billion cubic meters of annual water use is generated artificially, he said, through desalination and sewage purification.
For Sofer, this self-sufficiency is an immense regional advantage. Israel could pump water east to Jenin in the West Bank and farther along to Jordan and north to Syria. International organizations could follow Israel’s example and fund regional desalination plants, which, he noted, cost less than a single day of modern full-scale war.
Instead, rather than an increase in cooperation, he feared, the region would likely witness ever more desperate competition. Sofer said his friends see him as a sort of Jeremiah. But the Middle East, he cautioned, is a region where “leaders wake up every morning and ask what can I do today to make matters worse.”
Arnon Sofer, a longtime professor at the IDF’s National Defense College, sees a link between the war in Syria and the water shortages there (Photo credit: Moshe Shai/ Flash 90)
Published – The New York Times on-line: May 2, 2013 2 Comments
In any discussion of a negotiated peace between the Israelis and Palestinians, a crucial question involves what the Arab states would do. On Tuesday, the Arab League reaffirmed its 2002 peace initiative and suggested that the proposal could be modified to bring it more in line with American and Israeli ideas.
The welcome announcement could be very significant. Arab leaders deserve credit for reviving the initiative, as does Secretary of State John Kerry for trying to reinvigorate some kind of Israeli-Palestinian dialogue. Mr. Kerry, calling the move a “very big step forward,” said it meant Arab leaders were offering a security arrangement for the region.
The Arab League initiative, approved by all Arab states but rejected by Israel 11 years ago, endorses a two-state solution while promising peace and normalization in exchange for Israel’s withdrawal from the West Bank and East Jerusalem and a “just solution” to the Palestinian refugees issue.
After a meeting on Monday with Mr. Kerry and Vice President Joseph Biden Jr., Qatar’s foreign minister said the league had eased its demand that Israel return to its pre-1967 borders. Instead, the minister accepted the possibility of adjusting those borders with a comparable and mutually agreed “minor swap of land.” Israelis and Palestinians were close to a deal along these lines in 2008.
If there is ever to be a peace deal, Israelis will have to be persuaded that the Arab states, not just the Palestinians, accept their right to exist. And Palestinians will need to feel that the Arab states are behind them.
This is the first hopeful sign in a long time. But it soon ran into trouble from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel who reacted coolly on Wednesday and questioned the fundamental idea of exchanging land for peace. “The root of the conflict isn’t territorial,” he told Israeli diplomats. “The Palestinians’ failure to accept the State of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people is the root of the conflict.”
On Thursday, he said any peace deal would be put to a referendum, which some experts say could be an obstacle. However, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, Mr. Netanyahu’s peace negotiator, welcomed the Arab proposal, as did Ehud Olmert, the former prime minister, and other opposition politicians.
“Mideast peace” has become a throwaway line. But that goal is unquestionably the right course for the Israelis, Palestinians and an increasingly unstable region. Arab leaders, after standing on the sidelines for too long, have made a contribution by giving the two sides something to talk about. Now it’s up to the Israelis and Palestinians, working with the United States, to take it forward.
Arab Peace Initiative, take 2: Major development or ‘scam’?
US Secretary of State John Kerry with Qatar’s Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr Al-Thani, second from left, and Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby, April 29, 2013 (photo credit: AP/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
In 2002, then-prime minister Ariel Sharon tasked his foreign policy adviser, Danny Ayalon, with further exploring the idea of the Arab League’s new peace initiative.
“He sent me to find out if the Saudis were serious,” Ayalon recalled recently, adding that he tried to arrange, through middlemen, a meeting with Adel Jubeir, an adviser to then-crown prince (now King) Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. Earlier that year, Abdullah had proposed the plan, which seemed to offer Israel normalized relations with the Arab world in exchange for territorial concessions, a formula for handling Palestinian refugee claims and the establishment of a Palestinian state.
“We almost met in a restaurant in Washington and at the last minute he didn’t want to meet,” Ayalon said of Jubeir. “We promised it would be under the radar, it would be very low-profile.” The Saudis reneged on the scheduled meeting, and the rest is history — Israel never formally responded to the offer.
Ayalon, who served as deputy foreign minister until earlier this year, said Jerusalem never warmed to the proposal because it was presented on a take-it-or-leave-it basis, with no room for discussions. However, he said in early March, it could serve “as a basis for negotiations in the future, when conditions are much clearer here.”
Two months later, it is harder to argue that the peace initiative’s terms are written in stone. On Monday, the Arab League — which formally adopted the proposal at a March 2002 summit in Beirut — for the first time showed some flexibility in allowing that, to reach a final settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, “comparable,” mutually agreed and “minor” land swaps could be possible.
After both Israeli and Palestinian leaders signaled a certain satisfaction with the Arab League’s move, it seems that a renewal of peace talks may be imminent. But would such talks actually stand a chance? Is the fact that the Arab League now seems to have wrapped its mind around the idea that Israel will never agree to fully withdraw to the 1967 lines enough to enable a breakthrough?
‘In a way, it puts the ball in Israel’s court. It is really now going to be up to Israel to respond to this in some way’
After all, the idea of mutually agreed land swaps has been around for more than a decade, and has been accepted, to varying degrees, by all parties involved. Also, the Saudi-inspired peace initiative asks for more than an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank; some of its demands are ostensible nonstarters for Israel’s newly elected government, such as returning to Golan Heights and dividing Jerusalem.
Still, “this is a significant development in several areas,” said Middle East expert and historian Joshua Teitelbaum. “In a way, it puts the ball in Israel’s court. It is really now going to be up to Israel to respond to this in some way, either through an initiative of its own or beginning to explore the peace process based on the positive aspects of the Arab initiative.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tacitly welcomed the steps to advance the peace process taken by the Arab League. “Israel is ready to start negotiations — anytime, anywhere — without any preconditions,” an Israeli official told The Times of Israel Wednesday. Israeli politicians from the left and the center, ranging from opposition leader Shelly Yachimovich (Labor) to cabinet members such as Minister Yaakov Peri (Yesh Atid), were pleased with the renewed initiative and urged the government to see it as a real opportunity to advance the peace process.
US Secretary of State John Kerry, who hosted the Arab League delegation in Washington that announced its softened stance on the 67 lines, sounded even more optimistic. While the path to a peace agreement was still long, “I don’t think you can underestimate… the significance of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, [United] Arab Emirates, the Egyptians, the Jordanians, and others coming to the table and saying, ‘We are prepared to make peace now in 2013,’” he said.
Teitelbaum, a senior researcher at Bar-Ilan University’s Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, assessed that “chances are not good” for the current government to reach a final-status agreement based solely on the Arab League’s slightly more flexible stance. Yet he called on Jerusalem not let this opening go unnoticed in Arab capitals.
“At times, Israel needs to acknowledge when there’s flexibility on the other end,” he said. “For many years it was a take-it-or-leave-it proposal, and now it’s not anymore. Now they accepted some language that is not entirely objectionable to Israel and many aspects of this peace initiative are acceptable to Israel.”
The author of a comprehensive paper about Israel’s position regarding the Arab peace initiative, Teitelbaum said that despite this week’s modification, there are still many gaps between the Arab and Israeli positions that might prove difficult to bridge.
“There are some nonstarters; they are very difficult and they’re not going away,” noted Teitelbaum, who also serves as consultant for several US and Israeli government agencies. “The question is, tactically, should Israel answer in the positive and say that we have objections to the peace initiative but since now the Arab League has shown some flexibility we will be willing to discuss it in an acceptable forum? That would go a long way toward positioning Israel as a state that is pursuing peace. And it would improve our relations with the United States. It could be a very positive development.”
Netanyahu, Obama and Abbas during a meeting in New York in 2009 (photo credit: Avi Ohayon/GPO/Flash90)
Gershon Baskin, the co-chairman and founder of the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information, concurred.
“Israel has complained that the Arab peace initiative doesn’t take into account changes that have happened on the ground since 1967,” he said. “In agreeing to the principle of territorial swaps, they have in fact adopted what was the position of George W. Bush in his famous letter to Ariel Sharon.”
In April of 2004, the former US president wrote to the Israeli leader that “in light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli population centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949.” Rather, Bush wrote, it is “realistic to expect” that a peace agreement will be on “the basis of mutually agreed changes that reflect these realities.”
Already back in 2000, then-US president Bill Clinton spoke of a “land swap,” in what came to be known as the “Clinton parameters.” At the time, Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak accepted the proposal, albeit with certain reservations. The idea of annexing the settlement blocs to Israel and offering the Palestinians territory from Israel proper in return has since been cited countless times as a model to arrive at a two-state solution.
“We believe the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps,” US President Barack Obama declared in May 2011. This proposition has been accepted, in principle, by both Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and the previous Israeli government under Ehud Olmert. (Netanyahu’s idea of a two-state solution remains unclear.)
So if territorial swaps are a generally agreed-upon concept, is the Arab League’s acceptance of it really such a big deal?
It is, said Akiva Eldar, a veteran Israeli reporter on the peace process. “Up until now, the Americans paid lip service to the Arab Peace Initiative, and Obama mentioned it in his speeches, but there weren’t any official diplomatic contacts to move the process from a bilateral level to a regional peace initiative that also involves the Arab countries,” he said.
“It’s a formal upgrade,” Eldar added. “Up until now, the idea of land swaps was merely an ‘oral tradition.’ Now, the Arab states authorized [Abbas] to reach an agreement that’s based on the Clinton parameters, the road map proposed by the Middle East Quartet, and previous agreements.
It is also important to note that the Arab League’s overture comes at a time of regional upheaval, said Eldar, who wrote for many years for Haaretz and is now a senior columnist at Al Monitor. Despite, or maybe because of, worries about Syria falling apart and Iran heading toward a nuclear weapon, the Arab League is willing to soften its stance vis-a-vis the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
A general view of the Arab League summit in Doha, Qatar, Tuesday, March 26 (photo credit: AP/Ghiath Mohamad)
Even Egypt, which is ruled by the Muslim Brotherhood, supports the adjustment of the 2002 peace offer, Eldar pointed out. “The initiative contains the words ‘normal relations’ [with Israel], which is very hard for an Islamist state to accept, but these words are still there. It’s very significant that today they can talk about this. And it also isolates Hamas, which is not ready to recognize Israel’s right to exist,” he said.
Still, despite the ostensible rapprochement, some pundits don’t see how the mere acceptance of land swaps could help reach a genuine breakthrough.
Barry Rubin, director of the Herzliya-based Global Research in International Affairs Center, thinks the Arab peace initiative is “both a good thing and a scam.” While he agrees that the Gulf States are ready to consider ending the conflict with Israel, partly because they are afraid of Iran and could use good publicity in the West, there are a number of issues he thinks will make peace on the Arab League’s terms impossible.
First of all, Rubin doubts that all countries which signed on to the initiative really mean it. “Are we to believe that the Muslim Brotherhood regime in Egypt, the Hezbollah-dominated regime in Lebanon, and the quirky but pro-Hamas and pro-Muslim Brotherhood regime in Qatar have suddenly reversed everything that they have been saying in order to seek a compromise peace with Israel? Highly doubtful to say the least,” he wrote.
Rubin also points to several provisions in the text of the Arab Peace Initiative that were hardly mentioned in the media coverage this week, and that in his view will kill any prospects of a deal. For instance, the initiative calls for a “just solution to the Palestinian refugee problem,” which he understands to mean that Israel would have to accept “the immigration of hundreds of thousands of passionately anti-Israel Palestinians” within its borders.
However, Israeli proponents of the initiative point to a clause in the draft that states that any solution to the refugee question needs “to be agreed upon,” meaning that Israel will have a definitive say in the number of Palestinians who would enter its territory.
The Arab League initiative also contains several other possible deal-breakers: a demand to make East Jerusalem the capital of a future Palestinian state; a provision allowing Arab states to refuse to take in Palestinian refugees; and a call for Israel to return the Golan Heights to Syria. To whom should Israel give the Golan?, some analysts wonder: Syria is deeply embattled in a bloody civil war, with no side willing — or able — to sign, much less honor, an agreement with Israel.
Yet more optimistic pundits say that none of the issues is unsolvable. With regards to Syria, the Arab League is willing to leave a seat empty for Syria, suggested Eldar, just like Jews do for the Prophet Elijah on seder night.
“Even the Arabs understand that now is not the time; they are not expecting Israel to return to the 1967 lines in the Golan. They are rational enough to know there is no one with whom to conduct negotiations. But it leaves an opening for the moment there is a proper government in Syria,” he said.
The division of Jerusalem is another key element of the Arab Peace Initiative that will likely prevent the current government from accepting it as the basis for peace talks.
Yair Lapid, leader of the Yesh Atid political party, seen embracing Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett in the Knesset, February, 2013. (photo credit: Miriam Alster/FLASH90)
Netanyahu is a staunch opponent of any plan that would divide the city. So are the two key allies in his coalition — centrist Finance Minister Yair Lapid and Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, of the right-wing Jewish Home party.
“I’ve been saying and writing for a long time that there is an Arab partner but there is no Israeli partner,” Eldar said. The only way for the current government to endorse the peace plan is for Lapid “to wake up and realize the potential he has,” he added. “He could bring down the government. But I don’t believe that will happen.”
Baskin, who two years ago initiated the secret back channel between Israel and Hamas that led to the release of Gilad Shalit, believes that a final-status agreement is possible — even with the current government. In the past, more than one Israeli leader pledged never to touch Jerusalem, only to later conduct serious negotiations about its division, he said. “Peace negotiations have a dynamic of their own.”
AN AMBASSADOR is an honest man sent abroad to lie for the good of his country, a British statesman famously wrote some 400 years ago. That is true, of course, for all diplomats.
The question is whether the diplomat lies only to others, or also to himself.
I am asking this these days when I follow the arduous efforts of John Kerry, the new American foreign secretary, to jump-start the Israeli-Arab “peace process”.
Kerry seems to be an honest man. A serious man. A patient man. But does he really believe that his endeavors will lead anywhere?
TRUE, THIS week Kerry did achieve a remarkable success.
A delegation of Arab foreign ministers, including the Palestinian, met with him in Washington. They were led by the Qatari prime minister – a relative of the Emir, of course – whose country is assuming a more and more prominent role in the Arab world.
At the meeting, the ministers emphasized that the Arab Peace Initiative is still valid.
This initiative, forged 10 years ago by the then Saudi Crown Prince (and present King) Abdullah, was endorsed by the entire Arab League in the March 2002 Summit Conference in Beirut. Yasser Arafat could not attend, because Prime Minister Ariel Sharon announced that if he left the country, he would not be allowed to return. But Arafat officially accepted the initiative.
It will be remembered that soon after the 1967 war, the Arab Summit Conference in Khartoum promulgated the Three Noes: No peace with Israel, No recognition of Israel, No negotiations with Israel. The new initiative was a total reversal of that resolution, which was born out of humiliation and despair.
The Saudi initiative was reaffirmed unanimously in the 2007 Summit Conference in Riyadh. All Arab rulers attended, including Mahmoud Abbas of Palestine who voted in favor, excluding only Muammar Gaddafi of Libya.
The initiative says unequivocally that all Arab countries would announce the end of the Arab-Israeli conflict, sign peace treaties with Israel, and institute normal relations with Israel. In return, Israel would withdraw to the June 4, 1967 border (the Green Line). The State of Palestine, with its capital in East Jerusalem, would be established. The refugee problem would be solved by agreement (meaning agreement with Israel).
As I wrote at the time, if anyone had told us in May 1967 that the Arab world would make such an offer, they would have been locked up in an institution for the mentally ill. But those of us who advocated the acceptance of the Arab initiative were branded as traitors.
In his conference with the Arab ministers this week, John Kerry succeeded in pushing them a step further. They agreed to add that the 1967 Green Line may be changed by swaps of territories. This means that the large settlements along the border, where the great majority of the settlers reside, would be annexed to Israel, in return for largely inferior Israeli land.
WHEN THE initiative was first aired, the Israeli government was desperately looking for a way out.
The first excuse that sprang to mind – then as always – was the refugee problem. It is easy to create panic in Israel with the nightmare of millions of refugees “flooding” Israel, putting an end to the Jewishness of the Jewish State.
Sharon, the Prime Minister at the time, willfully ignored the crucial clause inserted by the Saudis into their plan: that there would be an “agreed” solution. This clearly means that Israel was accorded the right to veto any solution. In practice, this would amount to the return of a symbolic number, if any at all.
Why did the initiative mention the refugees at all? Well, no Arab could possibly publish a peace plan that did not mention them. Even so, the Lebanese objected to the clause, because it would leave the refugees in Lebanon.
But the refugees are always a useful bogeyman. Then and now.
ONE DAY before the original Saudi initiative was submitted to the Beirut Summit, on March 27, 2002, something terrible happened: Hamas terrorists carried out a massacre in Netanya, with 40 dead and hundreds wounded. It was on the eve of Passover, the joyous Jewish holiday.
The Israeli public was inflamed. Sharon immediately responded that In these circumstances, the Arab peace initiative would not even be considered. Never mind that the atrocity was committed by Hamas with the express purpose of sabotaging the Saudi initiative and undermining Arafat, who supported it. Sharon mendaciously blamed Arafat for the bloody deed, and that was that.
Curiously – or maybe not – a similar thing happened this week. On the very day the upgraded Arab initiative was published, a young Palestinian killed a settler with a knife at a checkpoint – the first Jew killed in the West Bank for more than a year and a half.
The victim, Evyatar Borowsky, was the 31-year old father of five children – usual for an orthodox man. He was a resident of the Yitzhar settlement near Nablus, perhaps the most extreme anti-Arab settlement in the entire West Bank. He looked like the quintessential ideological settler – blond, bearded, with East-European looks, long payot (side locks), and a large colored kippah. The perpetrator came from the Palestinian town of Tulkarm. He was shot and severely injured. He is now in an Israeli hospital.
Before the incident, Netanyahu had been hard at work to formulate a statement that would reject the peace initiative without insulting the Americans. After the killing, he decided that there was no need. The terrorist has done his job. (As an old Jewish saying goes: “The work of the righteous one is done by others”.)
Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, who is in charge of the (nonexistent) negotiations with the Palestinians, and President Shimon Peres welcomed the Arab statement. But Livni’s influence in the government is next to nil, and Peres is by now a joke in Israel.
IF THE American Secretary of State really believes that he can nudge our government slowly and gradually to “meaningful” negotiation with the Palestinians, he is deluding himself. If he does not believe it, he is trying to delude others.
There have been no real negotiations with the Palestinians since Ehud Barak came back from the Camp David conference in 2000, waving the slogan “We Have No Partner for Peace”. With this he destroyed the Israeli peace movement and brought Ariel Sharon to power.
Before that, there were no real negotiations either. Yitzhak Shamir announced that he was happy to negotiate for ever. (Shamir, by the way, declared that it was a virtue to “lie for the fatherland”.) Documents were produced and gathered dust, conferences were photographed and forgotten, agreements were signed and made no real difference. Nothing moved. Nothing – apart from settlement activity, that is.
Why? How would anyone entertain the belief that from now on everything would be different?
Kerry will elicit some more words from the Arabs. Some more promises from Netanyahu. There may even be a festive opening of a new round of negotiations, a great victory for President Obama and Kerry.
But nothing will change. Negotiations will just drag on. And on. And on.
For the same reason that there has been no movement in the past, there will be no movement in the future – unless…
UNLESS. UNLESS Obama takes the bull by the horns, which, it seems, he is exceedingly unwilling to do.
The horns of the bull are the horns of the dilemma, on which Israel is sitting.
It is the historic choice facing us: Greater Israel or Peace?
Peace, any conceivable peace, the very basis of the Arab Initiative, means Israel’s withdrawal from the occupied Palestinian territories and the establishment of the State of Palestine in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, with its capital in East Jerusalem. No ifs, no buts, no perhapses.
The opposite of peace is Israeli rule over the whole of the land between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, in one form or another. (Lately, some despairing Israeli peaceniks have been embracing this, in the absurd hope that in this Greater Israel, Israel would grant equality to the Arabs.)
If President Obama has the will and the power to compel the government of Israel to make this historic decision and choose peace, may the political price for the president be as it may, then he should proceed.
If this will and this power do not exist, the whole great peace effort is an exercise in deception, and honorable men should not indulge in it.
They should honestly face the two sides and the world and tell them:
An aerial view of the Israeli gas rig Tamar. Photo: Albatross Aerial photography/Nobel Energy/FLASH90.
US energy firm Noble Energy, which is the largest operating partner in Israel’s Tamar Gas Field, has stated that the company has already started to work on possibly launching an energy project between Turkey and Israel, according to Today’s Zalman.
The two regional powers have recently moved to normalize ties after a falling out over the deaths of nine Turkish nationals during a routine raid on a flotilla in 2010.
Company CEO Charles Davidson said in a statement that the possibility is being discussed by the company to pipe the newly discovered Israeli gas to Turkey.
“We are targeting two-fold growth in the upcoming five years. We are planning to double our production as well as our reserves and cash flow,” Davidson said recently while visiting to Israel.
Jordan potash firm in talks with Israel to buy gas
Monday, 18 February 2013
Jordan’s Arab Potash Company has said its 2012 net profits fell 34 percent to 198.8 million dinars ($280 million), mainly because of lower global demand and high fuel costs. (Reuters)
By AFP Amman
Jordan’s Arab Potash Company (APC), one of the world’s largest potash producers, is in talks with an Israeli firm to buy gas to power its plants and reduce production costs, the government said on Monday.
“The APC is in contact with its Israeli counterpart through the American oil and gas firm Noble Energy to examine the possibility of importing gas,” the ministry of energy said in a statement.
“The gas available in the Dead Sea area is a clean and inexpensive source of fuel and the company seeks to use it for its factories on the Dead Sea. But no agreement has been reached so far.”
APC’s main shareholders are the Jordanian government, which owns around 26 percent, the Potash Corporation of Canada with 28 percent and the Saudi-based Arabian Mining Company with 20 percent.
The firm has said its 2012 net profits fell 34 percent to 198.8 million dinars ($280 million), mainly because of lower global demand and high fuel costs.
Egyptian gas covers 80 percent of electricity production demand in Jordan, which imports 95 percent of its energy needs.
But the daily gas flow to the energy-poor kingdom has dropped from 250 million cubic meters (8.8 billion cubic feet) to around 130 million cubic meters after repeated pipeline attacks on Egypt’s pipelines.
Dubai is prone to frequent dust storms.
A new solar panel dust particle remover made in Israel boosts power and cleans off dust at the same time
Solar voltaic panels, which at their best only have about 25 percent efficiency for converting direct sunlight into electricity, have even less efficiency than this when dust and heavy air pollution is factored in. A number of solar innovations can deal with desert dust and sand storms including Martian technology from earth to Mars space programs for ‘zapping’ dust from solar panels on terrestrial unmanned exploration vehicles.
Due to frequent dust and sand storms in the United Arab Emirates (like at Shams solar plant) and other parts of the Middle East, the efficacy of the solar cells is reduced even less if they are afterwards covered with dust. In order to alleviate this problem, a researcher, Sergey Biryukov at Israel’s Ben Gurion National Solar Energy Center came up with the idea of using an electrical field to “charge” the dust particles and repel them from the solar panels.He also specializes in optimizing solar energy output under clouds.
But in his new technique Biryukov applies two electrodes to repel the dust. One electrode charges the particles through a process called field charging, or ion bombardment. This gives all particles, regardless of size, the same charge, Biryukov says. Another electrode bearing the opposite charge then repels the particles. According to another researcher at the Center, David Faiman, the dust particle repelling technique also is useful in periodic cleaning of the panels.
The technique may also be useful in “sorting out” various particle sizes which can be incorporated in other functions, such as producing pharmaceuticals and powdered food, the researchers say.
Watch how electric charge can repel dust:
Areas in the Middle East where fog storms and dust storms are frequent and solar energy is beginning to be incorporated into local electrical systems may well benefit from Biryukov’s technique, one it is put into actual production.
Better yet: Biryukov has created a special computerized control system designed to pick the right moment for cleaning of the dust.
The Ben-Gurion National Solar Energy Center houses 6 Laboratories,
each of which is used for the study of one or more aspect of solar energy conversion.
In addition, research in these laboratories forms part of the study program
for our graduate students, towards a higher degree in Ben-Gurion University…
Passover. This week we will all eat more matzo then we ever thought possible, hear more commentary about the Haggadah and its multiple messages for our time, and sit back in awe and (hopefully) love at the site at of our extended family circle.
But this Pesach, let’s leave some space for one young Muslim who deserves the world’s attention and support. He is not a martyr and desperately wants to avoid becoming one. But as of now, he and his family are in hiding in an undisclosed location in the Netherlands, because of death threats.
His name is Mehmet Sahin, a doctoral student, who has volunteered to reach out to street youth in the city of Arnhem. A few weeks ago he interviewed a group of Dutch-Turkish youth on Nederlands TV2 during which several declared their unabashed hatred of Jews and open admiration of Hitler. “What Hitler did to the Jews is fine with me,” said one. “Hitler should have killed all the Jews,” said another.
While these teens knew all about the fate of iconic Holocaust child victim, Anne Frank, that knowledge did nothing to deter them from expressing their outright hatred of Jews over and over again, and insisting that everyone at their school harbored similar views. When you view the clip you will see that their smirks and body language confirm a deeply-embedded hatred. Watch the video as one boy smiles as he declares: “What Hitler said about Jews is that there will be one day when you see that I am right that I killed all the Jews. And that day will come.”
From where does such bigotry emanate? Here’s a hint. When Mehmet Sahin reprimanded the youngsters and committed to spend however much time it would take to debunk and remove their ignorance and hate, here is how his neighbors reacted: They collected signatures to demand he leave the area. When Mehmet began to receive death threats, the Mayor of Arnhem, Pauline Krikke, urged him to go into hiding.
And that is where he and his family are today.
Is this the best solution that democratic Netherlands can come up with? A Witness Protection Program for a man guilty of fighting anti-Semitism and standing up for the truth? Are there no consequences for the hate and threats emanating from adults? Are authorities going to question the student’s parents or teachers?
One member of the Dutch Parliament, Ahmed Marcouch says he will raise the scandal in Parliament. “It is horrible that someone has to be afraid because he has done something that we all should do – teach children not to hate.”
Against the backdrop of Anne Frank’s legacy, how today’s Netherlands deals with such deeply embedded hatred of Jews will impact not only on the future of Dutch Jewry but also on the future of Dutch society. SimonWiesenthal, the late Nazi hunter was much revered by the post-WWII generation in the Netherlands. In the 21st century some have forgotten his oft-repeated warning: warned: “Hate often begins with Jews, but history proves, it never ends with the Jews.”
Mehmet Sahin has written these words; “Within a couple of days, I will move to another city of the Netherlands. My personal situation/story is a shame of the European civilization because it is inconceivable that such barbarism can occur in this country. After what happened in the last three weeks, I understood the eternal loneliness and pain of the Jewish population. In the rest of my life, I will tell the whole world that we all must resist this aggression…”
Dayenu – enough good guys being martyred. We don’t need another martyr. Those kids in the Netherlands and their peers in Europe need Mehmet Sahin and other heroic messengers of truth, peace and tolerance. While me may not be able to guarantee his future we can let him know today, he is not forgotten. Push the pause button on our Matzoth marathon and take a moment to send a message of solidarity to Mehmet c/o email@example.com and together we will let him know he is not alone.
Rabbi Cooper is associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center.
A Jew is asked to take a leap of action, rather than a leap of thought.
Much of what the bible demands can be comprised in one imperative: Remember!
Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel
Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel was a leading teacher, activist, social critic, theologian, poet, philosopher, and scholar.
Born in Poland in 1907, Heschel received a traditional yeshiva education and obtained traditional semicha, rabbinical ordination, at the age of 16. He then studied at the University of Berlin, where he obtainedhis doctorate, and at the Hochschule für die Wissenschaft des Judentums, where he earned a second liberal rabbinic ordination. As a young man, Heschel studied with some of the best German-Jewish scholars, and even took over for Martin Buber as the head of the Lehrhaus Institute in Frankfurt. Escaping from the Nazis, Heschel found his way to the United States where, after a brief period at Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, he landed at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America (JTS) in 1945. Here, he served as Professor of Jewish Ethics and Mysticism until his death in 1972. During his tenure at JTS, Heschel explored many facets of Jewish thought and spirituality, authoring pioneering studies in modern theology, medieval Jewish philosophy, and biblical and Talmudic literature.
In his works, Heschel’s perspective revealed a combination of spiritual values together with social criticism and political activism. Through this lens, he saw the teachings of Hebrew prophets as a direct call for social action, and dedicated himself to taking direct action in the civil rights movement and protests against the Vietnam War.
The ideas elicited in Heschel’s pursuit of social justice and his analysis of Jewish views of humanity are applicable in so many situations, both modern and historical. Words written in relation to the civil rights movement resonate with the same pursuit of justice and freedom that we recount at the Seder table. It is for this reason that we have created this haggadah supplement, to enhance the traditional tale of Jewish enslavement and
freedom laid out in the Pesach story with the wise words of a Jewish theologian who lived through a contemporary version of the battle for freedom.
The Heschel Center for Sustainability was named in memory of this great teacher. Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel is an inspiration to us in that his life and ideas embody a rare synthesis of values: study and action, theology and ethics, a craving for wisdom and spiritual transcendence alongside a similar desire for peace and justice for all, spiritual depth and radical political activism, scholarship and social action, wonder and
‹radical amazement› at the natural world together with speaking truth to power in the political arena.
Thus, the Heschel Center is guided by his vision – combining politics, social criticism, and spirituality – and his words. As a think-and-do tank, the Heschel Center goes beyond taking a leap of thought and takes the leap of action to create a sustainable world committed to the health of human beings and ecosystems, justice, and the preservation of the commonweal.
We would like to offer a very big thank you to those who contributed to this unique haggadah supplement, volunteering their time and passion to this collaborative project. All of the contributors to this collective work are members of the siach Network, a platform for environmental and social justice activists to converse, connect, and cooperate.
Finally, we would like to wish you a chag sameach. May your charoset be sweet, your maror be pungent, and your matzot nourish body and soul!
Dr. Orli Ronen and the Heschel Center Team
– 2 -
ENDS AND MEANS: SLAVERY, IDOLATRY AND FREEDOM, Dr. Jeremy Benstein
I am an end as well as a means, and so is the world: an end as well as a means. My view of the world and my
understanding of the self determine each other. The complete manipulation of the world results in the complete
instrumentalization of the self… (From Who Is Man?, Stanford University Press, 1965, p. 81)
How proud we are of our victories in the war with nature, proud of the multitude of instruments we have succeeded
in inventing, of the abundance of commodities we have been able to produce. Yet our victories have come to
resemble defeats. … Selling himself into slavery to things, man becomes a utensil that is broken at the fountain…
[The Sabbath exists] to set apart one day a week for freedom… a day on which we stop worshipping the idols of
technical civilization, a day on which we use no money… on which man avows his independence of that which is
the world›s chief idol… (From The Sabbath, Farrar Straus and Young, 1951, p. 3, 27-29)
The Haggadah text and the seder ceremony, according to the rabbis who framed them, should, begin with
the initial degraded condition of the Jewish people, and conclude with our final redeemed status. That much is
but from there ensues an argument as to what the relevant narrative is: what is “true” degradation, and
what constitutes redemption? One position is of course that the most important story is that “once we were slaves, and
now we are free”—the tale of the great social and political transition from slavery to freedom.
but an other view has it that the original wretched status of the Jews was that our ancestors were idolaters, and they were
raised up into a position of faith in the Eternal. Two concepts of «lowly» origins are essentially two framings of Jewish history:
one emphasizing the political/historical dimension, the other the religious/spiritual side.
Despite the surface differences, idolatry and slavery are conceptually related, even linked, and moreover, though they
seem distant from us today – how many slaveholders, slaves or idol-worshippers do you know? – are also closely connected
to contemporary society. What is slavery, deep down?
Simply put, slaves exist to fulfill the needs and commands of others, with no possibility for choice or expression of their own.
Their owners do not acknowledge that slaves have their own dreams and desires, and when they internalize a slave mentality,
slaves begin to see themselves in this way.
Slavery involves taking a person, who is an end unto him or herself, and making that person a means to another’s ends.
In that respect, slavery is not a historical curiosity: even without whips or chains, today, from the traffic in women, to migrant labor,
to all kinds of oppressive social relations—sadly, the idea of slavery, even if not called that, is still very much with us.
And idolatry? What does it mean to worship a mortal person, a force of nature, or money, or power, or our own ego or
needs, instead of an eternal transcendent God? Idolatry takes aspects of physical, temporal reality and ascribes to them
Idolatry means taking something which is a means to other ends (money), or a part oa greater whole (nature, ourselves)—and mistaking it for an end, or for the whole. And in ascribing it divine status, it becomes something worthy of being served, sacrificed for, or “worshipped” in a variety of ways.
Both slavery and idolatry are contemporary threats precisely because of the degradation of the human spirit and the servility they entail. Heschel above connects the two: idolatrous enslavement to elements of the physical world, including the works of our own hands, and slavish idol-worship of things of the spirit.
When we take the need to consume, which is a means for the sake of achieving higher ends, and make it an end in itself, a force that shapes our lives, a goal that we serve and not the other way around—we pay a high price, both materially and spiritually.
And to the extent that there seem to be forces in our society beyond our control, such as economic forces in the worlds of finance and globalization, forces that serve narrow vested interests instead of the greater public good—how can we say we are truly free?
Mistaking mere means for ends in themselves, or true ends for means to other goals, or a small piece of reality for the whole of existence, are categorical «sins» that prevent us from fulfilling our social and spiritual human potential. The holiday of Pesach, with its many questions, is designed to get us to think about that potential, about not only achieving freedom, but using it for the good of all, and for the world of which we are but a part.
Contributed by Dr. Jeremy Benstein, Co-Founder and Deputy Director of the Heschel Center and Director of the
Environmental Fellows program. He holds a PhD in cultural anthropology from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
A PEOPLE IN THE LIKENESS OF GOD – Dror Bondi
The task of Jewish philosophy today is not only to describe the essence, but
also to set forth the universal relevance of Judaism, the bearing of its demands
upon the chance to remain human… We were not born by mere chance as by-
product of migration of nations or in the obscurity of a primitive past. God’s
vision of Israel came first and only then did we come into the world… Judaism
is an attempt to prove that in order to be a man, you have to be more than a
man, that in order to be a people, we have to be more than a people (God in
Search of Man, p. 421-422).
On Passover, we celebrate the birth of our people. What is the meaning of this
celebration? Are we celebrating the birth of our national or religious particularism?
What can be the moral or environmental meaning of such a private party?
Heschel teaches us that the source of our identity as a people is not a national or a
religious particularism, but an intimate relationship with the Universal
living God, with the Creator of all men in His likeness, of all His creation.
Heschel introduces us to a God who trusts in man, who calls upon us to act for social justice and to open our eyes to see
the environment of man as the creation of God. Instead of god as a concept that belongs to the Jewish religion or nation,
Heschel surprises us with the Universal living God who calls upon Israel to be a people in His image.
If a human being is but a human being, an individualist who cares first and foremost for himself and only then thinks
about the other and the environment, than he may become less than human. God trusts man that he can transcend him
self toward the other, that he can be reborn as more than a human being. And a human being who responds to this trust,
who acts in the likeness of God, indeed becomes God’s partner in the redemption of the world.
The phenomenal and innovative claim of Passover is that this very surprising view can also relate to a people, that Israel
is called to be a people more than a people. Namely, as a Jew you simply can’t be as in the paradox of the racist or oppressive
Jew, who destroys, for racism is the very opposite of the basis of his national identity and therefore ceases to be a “Jew”.
After the holocaust, Heschel called the Jewish people to bring this “universal relevance of Judaism” to all the people. We
all have to understand that the moral and environmental actions are not a supplement to our identity but the very essence
of our human, national and religious identity. The exodus will free all the people.
Contributed by Dror Bondi, a Chasid of Abraham Joshua Heschel and devoted to bring his thought to Israel. He wrote a
book and a dissertation on Heschel’s thought and translated the first Hebrew collection of Heschel’s articles. Dror lives
with his family in the Urban-Kibbutz Beit-Yisrael in Jerusalem and teaches Jewish thought at the Ein-Prat Academy.
WE MUST LEARN TO BE SURPRISED, Dyonna Ginsburg
“An individual dies when they cease to be surprised. I am surprised every morning when I see the sunshine
again. When I see an act of evil I don’t accommodate, I don’t accommodate myself to the violence that goes
on everywhere. I am still so surprised! That is why I am against it. We must learn to be surprised.”
By most standards, Moses had proven himself a leader well before God chose to speak to him for the very first time.
Raised in the house of Pharaoh, Moses left the lap of luxury to see the suffering of the Hebrew slaves, his brethren, first-
hand. He stepped up to the plate when no one else did, intervening on behalf of the oppressed, Hebrew and Midianite
alike. He took on the challenge of mediating disputes between people of similar social standing, insisting that wrongdoing
must be addressed even in cases without clear-cut persecutors and victims. He risked his stature and his life to pursue
But, it wasn’t until Moses stopped to look at the burning bush that God chose him to lead the Jewish people out of Egypt
– “When the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto him out of the midst of the bush and said: Moses,
Moses (Exodus 3:3-4).” Explaining why Moses was worthy of a divine encounter, the midrashic compilation Tanhuma
states, “The Holy One blessed be He said to him [Moses]:
You took pains to see. [I swear] on your life that you are worthy of having me reveal myself to you.
”Early in his life, Moses actively went out and “saw pain” (Exodus 2:11). But, it is only later, when he “took pains to see,”
that God initiates contact. What was so special about Moses’ latter behavior?
First, Moses did not let his vision get in the way of his ability to see. Conventional wisdom dictates that leaders are those
with single-minded attention. They don’t get distracted. They keep their eye on the prize. But, such intense focus often
results in tunnel vision, limiting an ability to see and experience new things and perspectives. In contrast, by stopping
to look at the burning bush, Moses looked beyond himself and his concerns – no matter how lofty – and saw the world
Second, Moses was not jaded. A prolonged exposure to suffering can leave leaders, in general, and social change
activists, in particular, hardened. While remaining deeply committed to the larger cause, they lose the ability to see
individuals and their suffering. Moses, however, deemed one bush worthy of his attention; God, therefore, deemed Moses
worthy of His.
Third, Moses understood that oppression is insidious. When subjugation is embedded in a social and economic system, it
is easy to write it off as being part of the natural order. It’s tempting to claim: This is just the way things are. When Moses
looked at the burning bush, he first saw the what – “and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush
was not consumed.” Like most people, he accepted the burning bush at face value without asking questions. What made
Moses special is that he didn’t stop there. He turned around and proceeded to ask why – “And Moses said: I will turn aside
now, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt.”
Like a bush, Pharaoh’s reign appeared to be unscathed by the fire of tyranny raging from within. It took a Moses to understand
that such insidious tyranny can be extinguished only by doing a double-take and asking systemic questions.
Presumably, when God sees Moses stop to see, God sees and appreciates all these things in Moses. But, perhaps, most of
all, God sees and appreciates Moses unknowingly emulating God. Indeed, a mere few verses before Moses stops to see,
it is God who does so. “And it came to pass in the course of those many days that the king of Egypt died; and the children
of Israel sighed by reason of the bondage, and they cried… And God saw the children of Israel, and God took cognizance
of them (Exodus 2:23, 25).” By “learning to be surprised,” Moses walks in God’s footsteps.
Contributed by Dyonna Ginsberg, Director of Jewish Service Learning at The Jewish Agency for Israel and one of the
co-founders of the Siach Network.
ALL ARE RESPONSIBLE, Tess Lehrich
“Indifference to evil is worse than evil itself, that in a free society, some are guilty, but all are responsible.”
(From Reasons for My Involvement in the Peace Movement, 1972)
It seems like tales connected to the Jewish holidays are filled with easily identifiable villains in positions of power who
make it their mission to destroy or to exploit the Jewish people. Think of Antiochus who tried to suppress the Jewish law
and infiltrate the Temple with Greek influence, or Haman, the nasty advisor to King Ahasuerus who set out to exterminate
all of the Jews. These stories all highlight the actions of one man, yet in telling them, we often fail to acknowledge the
compliance of a whole kingdom of people who silently supported the rule of a tyrant. The story of Pesach is no different.
While we sit around the table and tell the tale of Pharaoh in Egypt, his strong hold over the Jewish slaves, and his repeated
refusal to “let our people go”, I encourage you to consider Heschel’s notion of indifference as it relates to this familiar
story. Of course, Pharaoh and his close advisors were the ones making real decisions which kept the Jews in slavery.
Yet all the people of Egypt, by accepting this behavior as the status quo and reveling in the benefits and freedoms that having
slaves enabled them, were responsible for this atrocity.
In the terms of Heschel, it may have been Pharaoh who was guilty, but all of the Egyptians were responsible for the wrong
doings against the Jewish slaves by doing nothing at all to change the situation. It seems like God must have agreed, when
he afflicted the ten plagues upon all the people of Egypt. If Pharaoh, as the king and ruler, was the only one responsible
for the slavery of the Jews, why not skip all the plagues and just go straight to killing the Pharaoh’s firstborn (sparing,
along the way, the firstborn of all the rest of the kingdom)?
Yet God rained down on all the people of Egypt with frogs and lice and cattle disease, all of which had far greater impact
on the citizens of the land than the Pharaoh himself, who was hiding safe in his palace. Although some versions of the Pesach
story reveal that after certain plagues, the citizens of Egypt begged the Pharaoh to let the Jews go free, as the familiar story
reveals, those who complied in the face of evil suffered the consequences of their inaction.
A similar story is unfolding in the world today, as we sit back and watch our environment collapse around us. We place
blame on oil tycoons and big businesses for acting on their personal interests above the interests of society. We agonize
as world leaders fail to come to any substantial agreement on regulating pollution and mitigating the impacts of climate
change. We point to those in power as the evil forces which put us in this terrible situation. We talk about efficiency as a
way of causing the least amount of harm while still allowing ourselves to live the privileged life which we have become
used to. While some of us take active roles in speaking and acting out against climate change, the majority of us are not
yet ready to talk about changing our consumption habits or taking any significant steps to improve our situation. As in the
story of Egypt, it will be all of us who drown in the sea chasing after our modern illusion of comfort.
In the name of Heschel, I urge you this year to consider the following notion; how far removed are we from the people of
Egypt who, satisfied with the status quo and their comfortable lifestyle, remained indifferent in the face of evil? How many
plagues of our own (increasing frequency and strength of hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, and droughts) will it take until
we, too, cry for mercy to our leaders? We are a free society, and we are all responsible for our indifference in the face
of evil. As a people who has stood strong and risen above the forces of evil time and time again, it is our duty to take
responsibility and stand up against the indifference of modern society to today’s evil forces.
Contributed by Tess Lehrich, Resource Development Coordinator at the Heschel Center. She holds a Master’s degree in
environmental studies from the Porter School at Tel Aviv University.
– 6 -
LIVING THE EXODUS LEGACY, Rabbi Or Rose
“At the first conference on religion and race, the main participants were Pharaoh and Moses. The outcome
of that summit meeting has not come to an end. Pharaoh is not ready to capitulate. The Exodus began, but
is far from having been completed.” – AJH
These were the words with which Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel (1907-1972) opened his address at the
1963 National Conference on Race and Religion, in Chicago (“The Insecurity of Freedom,” p. 85).
It was at that same conference that Rabbi Heschel first met Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the keynote speaker at this
national gathering. The two became friends and allies working together for equality and justice, until king was cut down
by an assassin’s bullet in the spring of 1968.
While these men came from very different backgrounds – Heschel from a Hasidic community in Poland, and King from
an African American Baptist community in Atlanta – they shared several qualities that brought them together during a
tumultuous and transformative time in American public life.
Both men came from prominent religious families and were groomed to take up the mantle of leadership of their
Both were passionate believers in a God of compassion and righteousness, who called on humankind to serve
as co-creators of a world suffused with these values. Each turned to their sacred scriptures for inspiration and guidance,
allowing text and life to interpenetrate dynamically. And both were masterful at using their exegetical and linguistic skills,
as well as their charisma, to awaken people’s consciousness and stir them to action.
As one might expect, the Exodus narrative plays an important role in the speeches and writings of these great religious
leaders. In the quotation from Heschel cited above, he reminds us that the universal struggle for freedom is ongoing and
that the figures of Pharaoh and Moses remain important models in a world where far too many people still yearn for
liberation. In fact, in the very next sentence in his address Heschel further concretizes his message with the provocative
statement that “it was easier for the children of Israel to cross the Red Sea” than it was for many African Americans to
“cross certain university campuses.”
One powerful instance in which K ing made use of the Exodus narrative was in his final public address in Memphis, popularly
known as the “I’ve been to the Mountaintop” speech. In this now historic sermon, he describes with great passion the
gratitude he feels for all that he has witnessed in the development of the civil-rights movement over the previous decade.
As he winds down his speech, he compares himself to Moses standing on top of Mount Nebo on the edge of Canaan,
looking out over the Promised Land, knowing that he will not enter it with his people (Deuteronomy 34:1-4). With a new
set of death threats in the air, King speaks openly about own his mortality. “
Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. but I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will,”
King said. “I may not get there with you.But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land!”
Tragically, King was murdered the very next day.
In reflecting on the lives of king and Heschel, one of the many things I respect about these courageous men was their deep
dedication to their respective Christian and Jewish communities and their ability to learn from and work with people from
other religious and secular traditions for equality and justice. In fact, both understood their engagement in multifaith and
cross-cultural campaigns as necessary expressions of their particular religious commitments.
When Heschel returned from the Selma-Montgomery march, he wrote in his diary that walking with King and the other
civil-rights leaders evoked in him the same sense of the sacred he experienced as a child walking through the streets of
Warsaw with the great Hasidic masters in his family. And King, of course, spoke of the profound influence Mahatma Gandhi
had upon him as a Christian nonviolent activist.
As we gather around our Seder tables, reliving the pains and triumphs of our ancient ancestors in their march to freedom, let
us also pause briefly to reflect on the legacies of Abraham Joshua Heschel and Martin Luther King Jr., two great modern
advocates of compassion and justice. May their memories continue to inspire and agitate, awakening us to the challenges
and possibilities of freedom today.
*This reflection is adapted from an earlier blog post from ON Scripture: The Torah Contributed by Rabbi Or Rose,
founding Director of The Center for Global Judaism at Hebrew College (Newton, MA).
– 7 -
EVIL HAS A CONTEXT, Dr. Eilon Schwartz
Not so unlike Egypt of old, Abraham Joshua Heschel was born into a slavery of sorts, the moral nightmare of what
became Nazi Germany, and had his own exodus in 1938 from Fascist Europe, to London and eventually the United
States. But the Jewish people had no savior, no hand that led them out of Egypt. Heschel’s mother was murdered by
the Nazis; two of his sisters died in concentration camps – three of the six million.
As the nightmare’s scope began to be revealed, Heschel wrote an extraordinary essay titled “The Meaning of This War”,
published in February 1944, before D-Day, before liberation was ensured.
Let Fascism not serve as an alibi for our conscience. We have failed to fight for right, for justice, for goodness; as a result
we must fight against wrong, against injustice, against evil. We have failed to offer sacrifices on the altar of peace;
now we must offer sacrifices on the altar of war.
Evil has a context, Heschel tells us. And that context inevitably leads back to us.
Good and evil were perhaps never so clear as at that moment. There was nothing simpler than to see Hitler as a monster.
But Heschel, who experienced the nightmare in the most personal of ways at that very moment, refuses to surrender to
convenient narratives, and urges us to understand that evil emerges from somewhere. Where right, justice and goodness
have been eclipsed, where poverty and despair and indignity have flourished, evil will appear. Heschel leaves it to us to imagine
what our culpability is for the horrors of Europe. Few are guilty, Heschel teaches us, but all are responsible.
Too easily we turn the complexity of our world into neat dichotomies of good and evil, truth and power. We see wrong in
other’s actions and deeds, not in our own sins of omission and commission. But Egypt, we are taught, is neither a one-
time historical reality, nor simply the triumph of good over evil. Egypt is everywhere, always. There is evil, which, when
emerging, must be combated.
But there is the breeding ground for evil, all around us; the great and subtle inequities and insults, which fester and threaten
to break loose, in so many directions. Heschel’s courage, his moral audacity, was to remind us, at the darkest of moments,
how we are all connected, and how we can be, must be, agents for change.
Contributed by Dr. Eilon Schwartz, founder of the Heschel Center along with Dr. Jeremy Benstein in 1994 and Executive
Director until 2012. He is currently the head of Shaharit: Creating Common Cause, a think-tank he established with the aim
of generating a new vision for Israeli society.
– 8 -
TO PRAY IS A DREAM, Rabbi Gideon D. Sylvester.
“To pray is to dream in league with God, to envision His holy visions”
It’s easy to attend a synagogue service, but far harder to pray with passion. Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel who grew
up with the intense prayers of a Hassidic court was withering in his criticism of the synagogues of his day which he
described as, “the graveyards where prayer is buried”, he was equally damning about the rabbis whom he described as
“page-boys” because instead of inspiring their communities with deep scholarship and fervor, all they did was call out
page numbers to communities who had no idea how to follow a service, let alone pray meaningfully.
Turning prayer into a profound experience can be hard, but in describing how we should conduct ourselves at the Seder,
the Mishna offers us some important ideas. It begins by explaining that as we tell the story of the exodus, we should begin
with a dismal and disgraceful story of the Israelites servitude and idolatry, building to a crescendo of joy telling how God
brought us to freedom and enlightenment. This story should take on a personal note as each of us identifies with the narrative
of the Seder:
In every generation, a person should regard himself as if he himself came out of Egypt, for it is written, “It is because of
that the Lord did for me when I came out of Egypt.”
This pattern is underlined in the passage Arami oved avi – (My father was a wandering Aramean) in which we tell
the story of the exodus first hand through the eyes of a Jewish farmer living in Israel and bringing his first fruits to the
Temple. Immediately after this, we sing of praise to God which the Mishna tells us should emerge from a genuine sense of
personal of redemption from the brutal slavery of Egypt and thanksgiving that we can participate in the journey to the ultimate
Therefore, (because of this powerful experience we have described) we are bound to give thanks, to praise, to glorify, to
honor, to exalt to extol and to bless he who made all these miracles for our fathers and for us. He brought us out from
slavery to freedom, from sorrow to gladness, from mourning to a festival day and from darkness to great light and from
servitude to redemption, so let us say before him Halleluiah.
Finally praise is interrupted by the meal and the powerful moment when, we open the door for Elijah who will usher in
the Messianic age – the time when there is no more suffering and injustice and a new era of justice and loving kindness
The seder, its story and its prayers invite us to remember past suffering, to experience the sense of redemption. It calls
on us to imagine and build a world of spirituality and justice. In this magical vision, prayer can no longer be a dry ritual.
Prayer becomes a genuine outpouring of emotion; of gratitude and hope for the future. “To pray is to dream in league
with God, to envision His holy visions”.
Contributed by Rabbi Gideon Sylvester, the British United Synagogue’s Rabbi in Israel and director of the education
program for the Jerusalem branch of the Rene Cassin Fellowship in Judaism and Human Rights. He was formerly Director
of the Beit Midrash for Human Rights at the Hillel House of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
To the Europe and Eurasia and the Near East lists of the US Department of State
- following the President’s trip to the Middle East:
John Kerry Secretary of State
March 23, 2013
The reconciliation between Israel and Turkey is a very important development that will help advance the cause of peace and stability in the region. Prime Minister Netanyahu and Prime Minister Erdogan deserve great credit for showing the leadership necessary to make this possible.
As I discussed with Prime Minister Netanyahu this evening, this will help Israel meet the many challenges it faces in the region.
We look forward to an expeditious implementation of the agreement and the full normalization of relations so Israel and Turkey can work together to advance their common interests.
By JODI RUDOREN and MARK LANDLER – for The New York Times of March 23, 2013.
Israel’s apology for errors in a 2010 raid on a ship bound for Gaza thawed relations with Turkey and gave President Obama a solid achievement as he closed out his visit in Israel and the Palestinian West Bank.
Yisrael Beytenu head Avigdor Liberman holds a press conference at the Knesset on Monday (Photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Former foreign minister Avigdor Liberman slammed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday for his decision to apologize to his Turkish counterpart for the “operational errors” made by Israel during the 2010 raid that led to Turkish fatalities on the Turkish-registered, Gaza-bound ship Mavi Marmara.
“Israel’s apology for the soldiers activity against a terrorist organization is a serious mistake,” said Liberman, who served as Israel’s top diplomat during the height of the crisis with Turkey, and who is also Netanyahu’s No. 2 in their joint Knesset Likud-Beytenu faction.
“Anyone who watched the photos taken on the ship Mavi Marmara understands beyond any doubt that the IDF soldiers acted in self-defense against the activists of the IHH organization, recognized in European countries, including Germany and the Netherlands, as a terrorist organization,” stated Liberman.
Nine Turkish citizens were killed by IDF naval commandos who had come under attack as they sought to commandeer the vessel that was attempting to bypass Israel’s blockade of Gaza. The May 2010 incident led to the freezing of ties between the two former allies, a relationship said to be on the path to normalization following a phone call between the countries’ prime ministers on Friday.
The dramatic reconciliation was brokered by US President Barack Obama shortly before he left Israel on Friday. Netanyahu and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke by telephone and agreed to end three years of dire relations.
In the call, Netanyahu apologized to the Turkish people “for any operational errors that could have led to loss of life” in the Mavi Marmara incident, “and agreed to complete the agreement on compensation,” his office later said in a statement. Erdogan reportedly said he accepted the Israeli apology and said his government would end legal prosecution of Israeli officers and officials involved in the incident.
Erdogan “expressed that it was saddening that relations, which are of vital strategic importance for peace and the stability of the region, have been soured in recent years,” the statement said.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said that before accepting the apology, Erdogan consulted with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
Davutoglu added that all of Turkey’s fundamental demands had been met with Israel’s apology, Reuters reported.
“Such an apology harms the motivation of soldiers and their willingness to go out on missions in the future and bolsters the radical elements in the region,” Liberman said. As foreign minister until resigning to battle a breach of trust charge in December, Liberman was publicly opposed to any talk of an Israeli apology.
Erdogan has become an increasingly bitter critic of Israel in recent years, repeatedly denouncing its policies on the Palestinians, and expressing support for the Gaza-based terror organization Hamas.
On Wednesday, Erdogan clarified a statement he made in February in which he called Zionism a “crime against humanity” on par with anti-Semitism and fascism,” saying he was misunderstood and signaling that a reconciliation might be near.
Speaking to a Danish newspaper, Erdogan said that he knew his remarks caused “some debate” but that “no one should misunderstand what I said.” He said “everyone should know” that his comments were directed at “Israeli policies,” especially as regards to “Gaza and the settlements.”
Liberman, unmoved by the phone call and by Obama’s apparent pressure for a headling of ties, said that “Erdogan’s tirades against Israel at every opportunity, from the attack on the President [Peres] in 2009 at [a public panel at the World Economic Forum's] Davos conference, up to his words few weeks ago — that Zionism is racism and crime against humanity — and his refusal to apologize for this statement explicitly while simultaneously accepting an apology from Israel, harms the dignity and status of Israel in the region and in the world.”
Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, on the other hand, welcomed the attempt at mending ties.
“Reconciliation is a very important step and correct at this time, especially with what is happening in Syria,” Livni said, adding that “Israel, Turkey and the United States have shared security interests.”
The defense establishment also welcomed news of the agreement, though military sources likened Israel’s apology to a half-sincere one given to an aunt when apologizing for not attending the Passover Seder.
IDF chief of General Staff Benny Gantz was reportedly fully briefed on Netanyahu’s plan to apologize to Erdogan. Channel 10 said Netanyahu had also informed his senior Cabinet ministers on his plan ahead of the phone call.
Labor Party Chairman Yachimovich said that the prime minister made the right choice by reconciling with Erdogan.
“Turkey is a regional power and relations with the country are very important to Israel,” Yachimovich said. “Even if the apology to the Turks was done with a heavy heart, it is good that it has been done.”
The Labor party leader went on to explain that “it is better to forgive and do what is wise and beneficial for the state,” rather than focus on Israel’s honor.
“We hope that reconciliation with the Turks after three years of disconnect is the first step towards a new political re-entrenchment that will strengthen our diplomatic and strategic position,” she said.
The reconciliation took place shortly before Obama completed his three-day visit to Israel, in a call from a trailer on the runway at Ben-Gurion Airport. Initially Obama spoke to Erdogan, reports said, and then he handed the phone to Netanyahu.
The move was planned and coordinated by US Secretary of State John Kerry ahead of Obama’s visit, Channel 2 reported.
The US had indicated for some time that it saw an imperative for Israel and Turkey to heal the rift between them, especially given the regional challenges posed by Iran’s nuclear drive and the raging civil war in Syria.
“The timing was good for that conversation to take place,” Obama said later Friday in a speech in Jordan.
“In January the Jordanians held elections, there have been a spate of protests over food prices, strong criticism of the King from some of the monarchy’s heretofore strong tribal supporters. … The fact that Syria is in chaos, sectarian gangs rule Iraq, Egypt is in turmoil, and predictions of a 3rd Palestinian intifada abound places King Abdullah and his Kingdom in a more uncomfortable position than usual.”
President Obama did not make a major speech in Jordan. His meeting with King Abdullah II was private and followed by a joint press conference.
The obligatory two States Solution for the Israeli/Palestinian issue was mentioned but it was obvious – the topic of interest was Syria and the fact that large numbers of refugees from Syria are crossing over to Jordan and Jordan cannot support them alone.
The President suggested a further $200 million US aid to Jordan.
WE SUGGEST THAT IN THE PRIVATE CONVERSATION THE SUGGESTION CAME UP THAT THE FUTURE WILL HOLD A NEW US POLITICAL EFFORT ON SYRIA WITH JORDAN AND TURKEY IN THIS LOOP.
Syrian refugees cross the border from Syria into Jordan, near Mafraq. Jordan provides free health and education services for more than 200,000 U.N.-registered Syrian refugees, according to officials. Photo by Khalil Mazraawi/AFP/Getty Images.
Both countries’ leaders emphasized their strong alliance and commitment to security and peace in the region.
One of the highlights of their discussions was Syria and the growing refugee problem in neighboring Jordan. The Associated Press reported that the nation hosts 500,000 refugees from Syria or about 9 percent of Jordan’s total current population.
In the conference Friday, King Abdullah reported that his government anticipated the number of Syrians in Jordan could potentially double by the end of the year. “That would be like 30 million crossing over the border into the United States,” he said. He added that the Zaatari desert refugee camp is now the fifth largest city in Jordan.
The influx of refugees — Abdullah said the Jordanian government would not close its borders to future refugees — has created social, economic and security concerns in his kingdom. “[We] have opened our arms to many throughout our history, said Abdullah.” But if the $550 million in costs related to Syrians fleeing to Jordan also doubles along with the number of total refugees in Jordan, Abdullah conceded that it will have a tremendous effect on the economy.
In February, the Obama administration disbursed another $60 million in humanitarian aid to the Syrian rebels to provide basic needs for war-torn communities, including sanitation, medical care and food delivery, as well as to build up the organizational capacity of the Syrian Opposition Coalition.
At the press conference Friday, President Obama reiterated the importance to find a political solution and announced his intentions to work with Congress in order to provide an additional $200 million to Jordan to assist in rising costs regarding ever-increasing numbers of refugee.
AMMAN, JORDAN — President Obama and King Abdullah II of Jordan warned Friday of the mounting danger Syria’s widening civil war poses to this neighboring kingdom but offered only fresh demands that the Assad government step down immediately.
Appearing for the first time in an Arab nation since his 2009 address in Cairo, Obama pledged an additional $200 million in aid to Jordan this year to help address the growing needs of almost half a million Syrian refugees, equal to roughly 10 percent of the kingdom’s population.
But Obama, speaking inside a cavernous dark-wood hall alongside the king, also raised the question he said preoccupies his administration regarding Syria. His concern is how the fighting, which has killed an estimated 70,000 people, will shape the religious and cultural makeup of a long-repressed nation.
He warned that Syria could become a beachhead for Islamist extremism, adding “that is why the United States has a stake” in the war’s outcome. Abdullah, too, warned that the increasing sectarian cast to the war threatens to pull the country apart.
Asked by a Jordanian journalist why “the leading superpower” does not intervene in Syria, Obama suggested that the unpredictable nature of the civil conflict has left him no policy option that would guarantee more good than harm, either through a direct military strike or by arming Syrian rebels.
“The sight of children and women being slaughtered that we’ve seen so much I think has to compel all of us to say, what more can we do?” Obama said. “And that’s a question that I’m asking as president every single day.”
But, he added, “ultimately what the people of Syria are looking for is not replacing oppression with a new form of oppression.”
His stop in Jordan was a show of support for Abdullah, who is facing growing calls for deeper political reforms from the same kind of mostly young population that has recently upended governments across the Middle East. He called Abdullah his “good friend” and Jordan “an invaluable ally.”
Obama made his way on a clear spring morning to Mount Herzl, where, with Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres by his side, he stepped toward the granite tomb, marked simply “Herzl” in Hebrew, on which he placed a stone in the Jewish custom.
Then Obama walked to Rabin’s grave, where he laid a stone that administration officials said was taken from the grounds of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington.
Rabin fought for Israel’s independence in 1948, and as a prime minister forged the 1993 Oslo Accords with then-Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat. The two, along with Peres, shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994.
The following year a Jewish extremist assassinated Rabin, and his grave has been a common stop for U.S. presidents since. Obama declined to visit Arafat’s tomb during a visit Thursday to Ramallah, another customary stop for many visiting dignitaries.
“A remarkable man,” Obama said as he shook hands with Dalia Rabin-Pelossof, Rabin’s daughter, one of several family members who joined the president at the gravesite.
After visiting the Holocaust memorial Yad Vashem, Obama set off to visit the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, built on the purported birthplace of Jesus.
A sandstorm grounded Obama’s planned short helicopter ride to Bethlehem, forcing him to drive into the occupied West Bank along a route that took him past the cement barrier Israel built to separate Israelis and Palestinians a few years ago.
Scattered street crowds were on hand as Obama’s motorcade entered Palestinian territory. One group of storekeepers waved and blew kisses at the motorcade.
But there were also a couple of large protest signs. “No return, no peace,” one said, apparently referring to the issue of Palestinian refugees. “Gringo, return to your country,” said another.
MISSION ACCOMPLISHED – TIME FOR TOURISM – AND THIS IS PART OF THE MISSION AS WELL. BY GOING TO PETRA PRESIDENT OBAMA DID A FAVOR TO JORDAN THAT ITS MAIN INCOME IS FROM TOURISM – BY PUBLICIZING ITS MOST IMPORTANT TOURISM SPOT.
PETRA IS JORDAN’S MONEY WELL AND ENDANGERING THIS SOURCE BECAUSE OF THE UPHEAVAL CAUSED BY SYRIA IS UNFAIR.
Obama heads back home after ‘amazing’ Petra tour
US president, who is expected to reach Washington later Saturday, says popular Jordanian tourist attraction is ‘spectacular’
March 23, 2013. The Times of Israel reporting from AP.
US President Barack Obama tours the Treasury in the ancient city of Petra, Jordan, Saturday. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
PETRA, Jordan (AP) — US President Barack Obama set aside the Middle East’s tricky politics Saturday to marvel at the beauty of one of the region’s most stunning sites, the fabled ancient city of Petra, before heading back to Washington.
“This is pretty spectacular,” he said, craning his neck to gaze up at the rock faces after emerging from a narrow pathway into a sun-splashed plaza in front of the grand Treasury. The soaring facade is considered the masterpiece of the ancient city carved into the rose-red stone by the Nabataeans more than 2,000 years ago.
Obama’s turn as tourist capped a four-day visit to the Middle East that included stops in Israel and the West Bank, as well Jordan. The White House set low policy expectations for the trip, and the president was returning to Washington with few tangible achievements to show. Aides said his intention instead was to reassure the region’s politicians and people — particularly in Israel — that he is committed to their security and prosperity.
Curious residents and picture-taking tourists lined the streets of modern Petra as Obama’s motorcade wound toward the entrance to the ancient city. The president, dressed in khaki pants, a black jacket and hiking boots, began his walking tour at the entrance to the Siq, a narrow, winding gorge cutting between two soaring cliffs.
The path opened into a dusty plaza with the massive columned Treasury as its centerpiece. Obama declared the carved monument is “amazing.”
The Bedouins named the building the Treasury because they believed that urns sculpted on top of it contained great treasures. In reality, the urns represented a memorial for Nabataean royalty. Over time, historians have disagreed on the Treasury’s purpose. However, a recent excavation proved that a graveyard exists underneath it.
The Nabataeans established Petra as a crucial junction for trade routes linking China, India and southern Arabia with Egypt, Syria, Greece and Rome. The city flourished until trade routes were redirected in the seventh century, leading to Petra’s demise.
Petra is Jordan’s most popular tourist attraction, drawing more than a half million visitors yearly since 2007. It may be familiar to many people who saw the 1989 movie, “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.” Some scenes were filmed in the ancient city.
High winds and overcast skies nearly grounded Marine One, the presidential helicopter, in the Jordanian capital of Amman, which would have forced Obama to scrap the tourist stop. But the weather cleared enough for him and his delegation to make the hour-long flight across Jordan’s rugged landscape, arriving in Petra under bright sunshine.
The president departed Jordan after the tour and was due back in Washington late Saturday.
NOW SECRETARY OF STATE JOHN KERRY TAKES OVER. WITHOUT MISSING A MOMENT HE IS SATURDAY MORNING IN RAMALLAH AND WILL MEET THE ISRAELI PRIME MINSTER NETANYAHU AND MINISTER-NEGOTIATOR TSIPI LIVNI SATURDAY NIGHT.
As Obama flies home, Kerry gets down to business
US secretary, after meeting with Abbas in Amman, heading back to Jerusalem for talks with Netanyahu and Livni late Saturday.
US Secretary of State John Kerry waves goodbye as he leaves Ankara, Turkey, en route to Cairo, Egypt, earlier this month (photo credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin)
AMMAN, Jordan — US Secretary of State John Kerry is meeting Israeli and Palestinian leaders to further explore options for relaunching stalled peace talks after President Barack Obama’s Mideast trip this week.
Following up on Obama’s visits to Israel and the Palestinian Authority, the State Department said Kerry would see Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the Jordanian capital of Amman on Saturday. After that meeting, Kerry will return to Jerusalem to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
His talks in Jerusalem will also be attended by Justice Minister Tzipi Livni — the new ministerial overseer of Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts — along with Netanyahu’s National Security Adviser Yaakov Amidror and his key negotiator, lawyer Yitzhak Molcho.
The focus: New ideas for enabling a resumption of direct negotiations. Netanyahu has reportedly been considering a package of goodwill gestures – including approval of building requests, and a release of prisoners — designed to encourage Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to come back to the peace table.
Moves to enable a resumption of talks were reportedly discussed by Obama and Netanyahu on Friday morning, with Netanyahu detailing Israel’s security needs in the Jordan Valley under a future accord, and specifying that he wanted to see a “performance-based progression” in the talks — with measurable change on the ground as the criterion for gradual steps toward the “broad agreement” Obama said he was seeking in Ramallah Thursday.
During his first trip to Israel and the Palestinian Authority as president, Obama called for the resumption of peace negotiations. He offered no new plan on how to get there but said Kerry would be spending considerable time on the matter.
“Peace is necessary,” Obama said Thursday in an address to Israeli students in Jerusalem. But he was decidedly more vague about what he or his secretary of state were going to do about it. Obama’s rhetoric throughout the visit seemed to suggest that the will to achieve peace must first and foremost come from the parties themselves, and that he wants to merely assume the position of an honest broker, an interlocutor who doesn’t impose concessions on either side.
It seems that Kerry, however, is eager to engage and try to bring Israelis and Palestinians closer together, and if not reach a final agreement, perhaps an interim solution.
“Kerry very much wants to be active in this area. Obama is cautious about using his presidential political capital, but Kerry is eager to act — which is why he arrived before Obama and will leave after he goes,” Michael Herzog, a veteran of past Israeli peace negation teams, told the Global Post.
In the here and now of global politics, Obama is leaving behind his secretary of state to try to at least get negotiations underway again. Kerry is expected to spend much time in the region in the coming weeks and months.
(Obama’s full speech here. Peres’ full speech here. Netanyahu’s full speech here.)
In Jerusalem – March 21, 2013 – In the Binyanei Haumah – to the People of Israel and the Arab World as well – before an audience of Israeli students and others.
(Obama’s full speech and Rabbi Michael Lerner’s reaction included in this posting.)
Obama’s charm offensive was the top story in today’s Israeli papers, which decidedly agreed: it was a success! But on the tough subjects, Maariv reports that there were no understandings between the US President and the Israeli Prime Minister on the red line for Iran.
It began working almost as soon as he stepped off the plane. When Obama gave his arrival speech on the tarmac at Ben-Gurion Airport, he broke the hostile image he had among Israelis. He began by declaring what he didn’t in his 2009 Cairo speech: that Jews have a 3000-year connection to the land of Israel. This has long been a sore point between Israelis and Obama. Indeed, even the pro-settler party chairman of Habayit Hayehudi, Naftali Bennett, said so afterward. Israel Hayom wrote that many observers consider it a reversal of his Cairo speech – in which he said that Israel was born from the Holocaust. Morevoer, he didn’t even mention a Palestinian state, whereas both President Shimon Peres and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu both did. Netanyahu called the visit a “historic moment” and thanked Obama profusely for his support of Israel.
The sense of warmth and lack of formality was highlighted in the Israeli media. Walking down the red carpet Obama took off his jacket and was followed by Netanyahu. The photo of the two of them jacketless was on the front page of all the papers, noting the casual friendliness between them. Even better were the jokes. Instructed to follow the red lines marked on the floor at the airport, Obama jokingly referred to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: “He’s always talking about red lines.” Netanyahu answered: “It was carefully planned.” See the video here of the best of Obama’s airport comments. Also, you can hear his fairly long exchange with Yair Lapid, the leader of Yesh Atid, who also said he believes he will soon be prime minister. At the airport the operators of the Iron Dome anti-missile battery awaited him and said afterwards they were moved by Obama’s ‘warmth.’ Ynet reported that there was criticism from the US media, which said his visit was symbolic, not substantial. They called his visit a photo-op.
But commentators say Obama’s goal is to make the Israelis like him so that later he can convince them to make peace (see commentary below.) Atlantic magazine columnist, Jeffrey Goldberg told Haaretz+ that Obama is using his visit to ‘create the space to combat Israeli policy.’ He also said that ‘The president is a faithful representative of those American liberals who love Israel but don’t quite understand the path Israel is taking.’ Later, at Peres’ official residence, Obama even charmed Israeli kids who sang to him upon his arrival.
Obama’s plant placed in quarantine – Agriculture Ministry says seedling Obama brought with him to plant in Peres’ courtyard must be checked for possible pests; likely to be returned to President’s Residence. (Ynet)
Ehud Barak: “Israel should launch a daring peace initiative vis-à-vis the Palestinians” - One day after leaving office and on the day that Obama arrives in Israel, the former defense minister publishes an Op-Ed in Wall Street Journal saying, “The status quo leads to a binational state.” (Haaretz Hebrew and Wall Street Journal Op-Ed.)
The president’s entourage, armed to the teeth and ready for anything - Two massive C-17 cargo planes land at Ben-Gurion Airport, bringing two of the president’s Marine One helicopters, Black Hawk helicopters, hundreds of security guards, and a nuclear briefcase. (Israel Hayom)
Israeli doctor ready to operate on Obama – US president has medical team with him, but Israel’s Professor Avi Rivkind is on call in case Obama requires serious care. ‘The Americans were here and examined equipment and the buildings,’ he told Ynet, sharing details of special room ready for any eventuality. (Ynet)
How much will Obama’s visit cost? President Barack Obama’s state visit to Israel will cost more than 40 million shekels ($10.9 million). Cost includes salaries and overtime for security, hotels, transportation, gas and other expenses, such as compensation for the King David Hotel, which is closing an entire wing for the president’s entourage. (Israel Hayom)
Feeling at home - The King David Hotel has hosted heads of state, presidents and even kings – but no one can remember a celebratory reception like the one organized in honor of President Obama. (Yedioth, p. 8)
Facing the (Passover) music at Yad Vashem – Obama to receive musical notes to original Passover melody composed by former chief cantor of Amsterdam, who was killed in Holocaust. (Haaretz+)
US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to visit Israel - Controversial new Pentagon chief to visit Israel in April. “I look forward to strengthening cooperation between the two defense establishments,” Hagel tells Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon. Meanwhile, Putin invites Netanyahu to Moscow. (Israel Hayom)
Time to put an Alawite state on the map (Ely Karmon, Haaretz+) Obama’s visit is an important opportunity for Israel to lobby for a grand agreement between the U.S. and Russia to protect and disarm the Alawite minority in Syria after the fall of Bashar Assad’s regime.
Full text of Obama’s BRILLIANT speech in Jerusalem – March 21, 2013 – The Spring Equinox – A TIME OF RENEWAL:
“So long as there is a United States of America, ah-tem lo lah-vahd” (you are not alone). “
The full text of U.S. President Barack Obama’s speech to Israeli students in Jerusalem on March 21, 2013.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Thank you. Thank you so much. Well, it is a great honor to be with you here in Jerusalem, and I’m so grateful for the welcome that I’ve received from the people of Israel. Thank you. I bring with me the support of the American people — and the friendship that binds us together.
Over the last two days, I’ve reaffirmed the bonds between our countries with Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Peres. I’ve borne witness to the ancient history of the Jewish people at the Shrine of the Book, and I’ve seen Israel’s shining future in your scientists and your entrepreneurs. This is a nation of museums and patents, timeless holy sites and ground-breaking innovation. Only in Israel could you see the Dead Sea Scrolls and the place where the technology on board the Mars Rover originated at the same time.
But what I’ve most looked forward to is the ability to speak directly to you, the Israeli people — especially so many young people who are here today — to talk about the history that brought us here today, and the future that you will make in the years to come.
Now, I know that in Israel’s vibrant democracy, every word, every gesture is carefully scrutinized But I want to clear something up just so you know — any drama between me and my friend, Bibi, over the years was just a plot to create material for Eretz Nehederet. That’s the only thing that was going on. We just wanted to make sure the writers had good material.
I also know that I come to Israel on the eve of a sacred holiday — the celebration of Passover. And that is where I would like to begin today.
Just a few days from now, Jews here in Israel and around the world will sit with family and friends at the Seder table, and celebrate with songs, wine and symbolic foods. After enjoying Seders with family and friends in Chicago and on the campaign trail, I’m proud that I’ve now brought this tradition into the White House. I did so because I wanted my daughters to experience the Haggadah, and the story at the center of Passover that makes this time of year so powerful.
It’s a story of centuries of slavery, and years of wandering in the desert; a story of perseverance amidst persecution, and faith in God and the Torah. It’s a story about finding freedom in your own land. And for the Jewish people, this story is central to who you’ve become. But it’s also a story that holds within it the universal human experience, with all of its suffering, but also all of its salvation.
It’s a part of the three great religions — Judaism, Christianity, and Islam — that trace their origins to Abraham, and see Jerusalem as sacred. And it’s a story that’s inspired communities across the globe, including me and my fellow Americans.
In the United States — a nation made up of people who crossed oceans to start anew — we’re naturally drawn to the idea of finding freedom in our land. To African Americans, the story of the Exodus was perhaps the central story, the most powerful image about emerging from the grip of bondage to reach for liberty and human dignity — a tale that was carried from slavery through the Civil Rights Movement into today.
For generations, this promise helped people weather poverty and persecution, while holding on to the hope that a better day was on the horizon. For me, personally, growing up in far-flung parts of the world and without firm roots, the story spoke to a yearning within every human being for a home.
Of course, even as we draw strength from the story of God’s will and His gift of freedom expressed on Passover, we also know that here on Earth we must bear our responsibilities in an imperfect world. That means accepting our measure of sacrifice and struggle, just like previous generations. It means us working through generation after generation on behalf of that ideal of freedom.
As Dr. Martin Luther King said on the day before he was killed, “I may not get there with you. But I want you to know that we, as a people, will get to the promised land.” So just as Joshua carried on after Moses, the work goes on for all of you, the Joshua Generation, for justice and dignity; for opportunity and freedom.
For the Jewish people, the journey to the promise of the State of Israel wound through countless generations. It involved centuries of suffering and exile, prejudice and pogroms and even genocide. Through it all, the Jewish people sustained their unique identity and traditions, as well as a longing to return home. And while Jews achieved extraordinary success in many parts of the world, the dream of true freedom finally found its full expression in the Zionist idea — to be a free people in your homeland. That’s why I believe that Israel is rooted not just in history and tradition, but also in a simple and profound idea — the idea that people deserve to be free in a land of their own.
Over the last 65 years, when Israel has been at its best, Israelis have demonstrated that responsibility does not end when you reach the promised land, it only begins. And so Israel has been a refuge for the diaspora — welcoming Jews from Europe, from the former Soviet Union, from Ethiopia, from North Africa.
Israel has built a prosperous nation — through kibbutzeem that made the desert bloom, business that broadened the middle class, innovators who reached new frontiers, from the smallest microchip to the orbits of space. Israel has established a thriving democracy, with a spirited civil society and proud political parties, and a tireless free press, and a lively public debate -– “lively” may even be an understatement.
And Israel has achieved all this even as it’s overcome relentless threats to its security — through the courage of the Israel Defense Forces, and the citizenry that is so resilient in the face of terror.
This is the story of Israel. This is the work that has brought the dreams of so many generations to life. And every step of the way, Israel has built unbreakable bonds of friendship with my country, the United States of America.
Those ties began only 11 minutes after Israeli independence, when the United States was the first nation to recognize the State of Israel. As President Truman said in explaining his decision to recognize Israel, he said, “I believe it has a glorious future before it not just as another sovereign nation, but as an embodiment of the great ideals of our civilization.” And since then, we’ve built a friendship that advances our shared interests.
Together, we share a commitment to security for our citizens and the stability of the Middle East and North Africa. Together, we share a focus on advancing economic growth around the globe, and strengthening the middle class within our own countries. Together, we share a stake in the success of democracy.
But the source of our friendship extends beyond mere interests, just as it has transcended political parties and individual leaders. America is a nation of immigrants. America is strengthened by diversity. America is enriched by faith. We are governed not simply by men and women, but by laws. We’re fueled by entrepreneurship and innovation, and we are defined by a democratic discourse that allows each generation to reimagine and renew our union once more. So in Israel, we see values that we share, even as we recognize what makes us different. That is an essential part of our bond.
Now, I stand here today mindful that for both our nations, these are some complicated times. We have difficult issues to work through within our own countries, and we face dangers and upheaval around the world. And when I look at young people within the United States, I think about the choices that they must make in their lives to define who we’ll be as a nation in this 21st century, particularly as we emerge from two wars and the worst recession since the Great Depression.
But part of the reason I like talking to young people is because no matter how great the challenges are, their idealism, their energy, their ambition always gives me hope.
And I see the same spirit in the young people here today. I believe that you will shape our future. And given the ties between our countries, I believe your future is bound to ours. (Audience interruption.)
No, no — this is part of the lively debate that we talked about. This is good. You know, I have to say we actually arranged for that, because it made me feel at home. I wouldn’t feel comfortable if I didn’t have at least one heckler.
I’d like to focus on how we — and when I say “we,” in particular young people — can work together to make progress in three areas that will define our times — security, peace and prosperity.
Let me begin with security. I’m proud that the security relationship between the United States and Israel has never been stronger. Never. More exercises between our militaries; more exchanges among our political and military and intelligence officials than ever before; the largest program to date to help you retain your qualitative military edge. These are the facts. These aren’t my opinions, these are facts. But, to me, this is not simply measured on a balance sheet. I know that here, in Israel, security is something personal.
Here’s what I think about when I consider these issues. When I consider Israel’s security, I think about children like Osher Twito, who I met in Sderot — children the same age as my own daughters who went to bed at night fearful that a rocket would land in their bedroom simply because of who they are and where they live.
That reality is why we’ve invested in the Iron Dome system to save countless lives — because those children deserve to sleep better at night That’s why we’ve made it clear, time and again, that Israel cannot accept rocket attacks from Gaza, and we have stood up for Israel’s right to defend itself. And that’s why Israel has a right to expect Hamas to renounce violence and recognize Israel’s right to exist.
When I think about Israel’s security, I think about five Israelis who boarded a bus in Bulgaria, who were blown up because of where they came from; robbed of the ability to live, and love, and raise families. That’s why every country that values justice should call Hezbollah what it truly is — a terrorist organization. Because the world cannot tolerate an organization that murders innocent civilians, stockpiles rockets to shoot at cities, and supports the massacre of men and women and children in Syria right now.
The fact that Hezbollah’s ally — the Assad regime — has stockpiles of chemical weapons only heightens the urgency. We will continue to cooperate closely to guard against that danger. I’ve made it clear to Bashar al-Assad and all who follow his orders: We will not tolerate the use of chemical weapons against the Syrian people, or the transfer of those weapons to terrorists. The world is watching; we will hold you accountable.
The Syrian people have the right to be freed from the grip of a dictator who would rather kill his own people than relinquish power. Assad must go so that Syria’s future can begin. Because true stability in Syria depends upon establishing a government that is responsible to its people — one that protects all communities within its borders, while making peace with countries beyond them.
These are the things I think about when I think about Israel’s security. When I consider Israel’s security, I also think about a people who have a living memory of the Holocaust, faced with the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iranian government that has called for Israel’s destruction. It’s no wonder Israelis view this as an existential threat.
But this is not simply a challenge for Israel — it is a danger for the entire world, including the United States. A nuclear-armed Iran would raise the risk of nuclear terrorism. It would undermine the non-proliferation regime. It would spark an arms race in a volatile region. And it would embolden a government that has shown no respect for the rights of its own people or the responsibilities of nations.
That’s why America has built a coalition to increase the cost to Iran of failing to meet their obligations. The Iranian government is now under more pressure than ever before, and that pressure is increasing. It is isolated. Its economy is in dire straits. Its leadership is divided. And its position — in the region, and the world — has only grown weaker.
I do believe that all of us have an interest in resolving this issue peacefully. Strong and principled diplomacy is the best way to ensure that the Iranian government forsakes nuclear weapons. Peace is far more preferable to war. And the inevitable costs, the unintended consequences that would come with war means that we have to do everything we can to try to resolve this diplomatically. Because of the cooperation between our governments, we know that there remains time to pursue a diplomatic resolution. That’s what America will do, with clear eyes — working with a world that’s united, and with the sense of urgency that’s required.
But Iran must know this time is not unlimited. And I’ve made the position of the United States of America clear: Iran must not get a nuclear weapon. This is not a danger that can be contained, and as President, I’ve said all options are on the table for achieving our objectives. America will do what we must to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran.
For young Israelis, I know that these issues of security are rooted in an experience that is even more fundamental than the pressing threat of the day. You live in a neighborhood where many of your neighbors have rejected the right of your nation to exist. Your grandparents had to risk their lives and all that they had to make a place for themselves in this world. Your parents lived through war after war to ensure the survival of the Jewish state. Your children grow up knowing that people they’ve never met may hate them because of who they are, in a region that is full of turmoil and changing underneath your feet.
So that’s what I think about when Israel is faced with these challenges –- that sense of an Israel that is surrounded by many in this region who still reject it, and many in the world who refuse to accept it. And that’s why the security of the Jewish people in Israel is so important. It cannot be taken for granted.
But make no mistake — those who adhere to the ideology of rejecting Israel’s right to exist, they might as well reject the earth beneath them or the sky above, because Israel is not going anywhere. And today, I want to tell you — particularly the young people — so that there’s no mistake here, so long as there is a United States of America — Atem lo levad. You are not alone.
The question is what kind of future Israel will look forward to. Israel is not going anywhere — but especially for the young people in this audience, the question is what does its future hold? And that brings me to the subject of peace.
I know Israel has taken risks for peace. Brave leaders — Menachem Begin, Yitzhak Rabin — reached treaties with two of your neighbors. You made credible proposals to the Palestinians at Annapolis. You withdrew from Gaza and Lebanon, and then faced terror and rockets. Across the region, you’ve extended a hand of friendship and all too often you’ve been confronted with rejection and, in some cases, the ugly reality of anti-Semitism. So I believe that the Israeli people do want peace, and I also understand why too many Israelis — maybe an increasing number, maybe a lot of young people here today — are skeptical that it can be achieved.
But today, Israel is at a crossroads. It can be tempting to put aside the frustrations and sacrifices that come with the pursuit of peace, particularly when Iron Dome repels rockets, barriers keep out suicide bombers. There’s so many other pressing issues that demand your attention. And I know that only Israelis can make the fundamental decisions about your country’s future. I recognize that.
I also know, by the way, that not everyone in this hall will agree with what I have to say about peace. I recognize that there are those who are not simply skeptical about peace, but question its underlying premise, have a different vision for Israel’s future. And that’s part of a democracy. That’s part of the discourse between our two countries. I recognize that. But I also believe it’s important to be open and honest, especially with your friends. I also believe that.
Politically, given the strong bipartisan support for Israel in America, the easiest thing for me to do would be to put this issue aside — just express unconditional support for whatever Israel decides to do — that would be the easiest political path. But I want you to know that I speak to you as a friend who is deeply concerned and committed to your future, and I ask you to consider three points.
First, peace is necessary. I believe that. I believe that peace is the only path to true security. You have the opportunity to be the generation that permanently secures the Zionist dream, or you can face a growing challenge to its future. Given the demographics west of the Jordan River, the only way for Israel to endure and thrive as a Jewish and democratic state is through the realization of an independent and viable Palestine. That is true.
There are other factors involved. Given the frustration in the international community about this conflict, Israel needs to reverse an undertow of isolation. And given the march of technology, the only way to truly protect the Israeli people over the long term is through the absence of war. Because no wall is high enough and no Iron Dome is strong enough or perfect enough to stop every enemy that is intent on doing so from inflicting harm.
And this truth is more pronounced given the changes sweeping the Arab world. I understand that with the uncertainty in the region — people in the streets, changes in leadership, the rise of non-secular parties in politics — it’s tempting to turn inward, because the situation outside of Israel seems so chaotic. But this is precisely the time to respond to the wave of revolution with a resolve and commitment for peace. Because as more governments respond to popular will, the days when Israel could seek peace simply with a handful of autocratic leaders, those days are over. Peace will have to be made among peoples, not just governments.
No one — no single step can change overnight what lies in the hearts and minds of millions. No single step is going to erase years of history and propaganda. But progress with the Palestinians is a powerful way to begin, while sidelining extremists who thrive on conflict and thrive on division. It would make a difference.
So peace is necessary. But peace is also just. Peace is also just. There is no question that Israel has faced Palestinian factions who turned to terror, leaders who missed historic opportunities. That is all true. And that’s why security must be at the center of any agreement. And there is no question that the only path to peace is through negotiations — which is why, despite the criticism we’ve received, the United States will oppose unilateral efforts to bypass negotiations through the United Nations. It has to be done by the parties. But the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination, their right to justice, must also be recognized.
Put yourself in their shoes. Look at the world through their eyes. It is not fair that a Palestinian child cannot grow up in a state of their own. Living their entire lives with the presence of a foreign army that controls the movements not just of those young people but their parents, their grandparents, every single day. It’s not just when settler violence against Palestinians goes unpunished. It’s not right to prevent Palestinians from farming their lands; or restricting a student’s ability to move around the West Bank; or displace Palestinian families from their homes Neither occupation nor expulsion is the answer. Just as Israelis built a state in their homeland, Palestinians have a right to be a free people in their own land.
I’m going off script here for a second, but before I came here, I met with a group of young Palestinians from the age of 15 to 22. And talking to them, they weren’t that different from my daughters. They weren’t that different from your daughters or sons. I honestly believe that if any Israeli parent sat down with those kids, they’d say,
I want these kids to succeed; I want them to prosper. I want them to have opportunities just like my kids do. I believe that’s what Israeli parents would want for these kids if they had a chance to listen to them and talk to them. I believe that.
Now, only you can determine what kind of democracy you will have. But remember that as you make these decisions, you will define not simply the future of your relationship with the Palestinians — you will define the future of Israel as well.
As Ariel Sharon said — I’m quoting him — “It is impossible to have a Jewish democratic state, at the same time to control all of Eretz Israel. If we insist on fulfilling the dream in its entirety, we are liable to lose it all.” Or, from a different perspective, I think of what the novelist David Grossman said shortly after losing his son, as he described the necessity of peace — “A peace of no choice” he said, “must be approached with the same determination and creativity as one approaches a war of no choice.”
Now, Israel cannot be expected to negotiate with anyone who is dedicated to its destruction. But while I know you have had differences with the Palestinian Authority, I genuinely believe that you do have a true partner in President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad. I believe that. And they have a track record to prove it. Over the last few years, they have built institutions and maintained security on the West Bank in ways that few could have imagined just a few years ago. So many Palestinians — including young people — have rejected violence as a means of achieving their aspirations.
There is an opportunity there, there’s a window — which brings me to my third point: Peace is possible. It is possible. I’m not saying it’s guaranteed. I can’t even say that it is more likely than not. But it is possible. I know it doesn’t seem that way. There are always going to be reasons to avoid risk. There are costs for failure. There will always be extremists who provide an excuse not to act.
I know there must be something exhausting about endless talks about talks, and daily controversies, and just the grinding status quo. And I’m sure there’s a temptation just to say, “Ah, enough. Let me focus on my small corner of the world and my family and my job and what I can control.” But it’s possible.
Negotiations will be necessary, but there’s little secret about where they must lead — two states for two peoples. Two states for two peoples.
There will be differences about how to get there. There are going to be hard choices along the way. Arab states must adapt to a world that has changed. The days when they could condemn Israel to distract their people from a lack of opportunity, or government corruption or mismanagement — those days need to be over. Now is the time for the Arab world to take steps toward normalizing relations with Israel.
Meanwhile, Palestinians must recognize that Israel will be a Jewish state and that Israelis have the right to insist upon their security. Israelis must recognize that continued settlement activity is counterproductive to the cause of peace, and that an independent Palestine must be viable with real borders that have to be drawn.
I’ve suggested principles on territory and security that I believe can be the basis for these talks. But for the moment, put aside the plans and the process. I ask you, instead, to think about what can be done to build trust between people.
Four years ago, I stood in Cairo in front of an audience of young people — politically, religiously, they must seem a world away. But the things they want, they’re not so different from what the young people here want. They want the ability to make their own decisions and to get an education, get a good job; to worship God in their own way; to get married; to raise a family. The same is true of those young Palestinians that I met with this morning. The same is true for young Palestinians who yearn for a better life in Gaza.
That’s where peace begins — not just in the plans of leaders, but in the hearts of people. Not just in some carefully designed process, but in the daily connections — that sense of empathy that takes place among those who live together in this land and in this sacred city of Jerusalem.
And let me say this as a politician — I can promise you this, political leaders will never take risks if the people do not push them to take some risks. You must create the change that you want to see. Ordinary people can accomplish extraordinary things.
I know this is possible. Look to the bridges being built in business and civil society by some of you here today. Look at the young people who’ve not yet learned a reason to mistrust, or those young people who’ve learned to overcome a legacy of mistrust that they inherited from their parents, because they simply recognize that we hold more hopes in common than fears that drive us apart. Your voices must be louder than those who would drown out hope. Your hopes must light the way forward.
Look to a future in which Jews and Muslims and Christians can all live in peace and greater prosperity in this Holy Land. Believe in that. And most of all, look to the future that you want for your own children — a future in which a Jewish, democratic, vibrant state is protected and accepted for this time and for all time.
There will be many who say this change is not possible, but remember this — Israel is the most powerful country in this region. Israel has the unshakeable support of the most powerful country in the world. Israel is not going anywhere. Israel has the wisdom to see the world as it is, but — this is in your nature — Israel also has the courage to see the world as it should be.
Ben Gurion once said, “In Israel, in order to be a realist you must believe in miracles.” Sometimes, the greatest miracle is recognizing that the world can change. That’s a lesson that the world has learned from the Jewish people.
And that brings me to the final area that I’ll focus on: prosperity, and Israel’s broader role in the world. I know that all the talk about security and peace can sometimes seem to dominate the headlines, but that’s not where people live. And every day, even amidst the threats that you face, Israelis are defining themselves by the opportunities that you’re creating.
Through talent and hard work, Israelis have put this small country at the forefront of the global economy.
Israelis understand the value of education and have produced 10 Nobel laureates. Israelis understand the power of invention, and your universities educate engineers and inventors. And that spirit has led to economic growth and human progress — solar power and electric cars, bandages and prosthetic limbs that save lives, stem cell research and new drugs that treat disease, cell phones and computer technology that changed the way people around the world live.
So if people want to see the future of the world economy, they should look at Tel Aviv, home to hundreds of start-ups and research centers. Israelis are so active on social media that every day seemed to bring a different Facebook campaign about where I should give this speech.
That innovation is just as important to the relationship between the United States and Israel as our security cooperation. Our first free trade agreement in the world was reached with Israel, nearly three decades ago. Today the trade between our two countries is at $40 billion every year. More importantly, that partnership is creating new products and medical treatments; it’s pushing new frontiers of science and exploration.
That’s the kind of relationship that Israel should have — and could have — with every country in the world. Already, we see how that innovation could reshape this region. There’s a program here in Jerusalem that brings together young Israelis and Palestinians to learn vital skills in technology and business. An Israeli and Palestinian have started a venture capital fund to finance Palestinian start-ups. Over 100 high-tech companies have found a home on the West Bank — which speaks to the talent and entrepreneurial spirit of the Palestinian people.
One of the great ironies of what’s happening in the broader region is that so much of what people are yearning for — education, entrepreneurship, the ability to start a business without paying a bribe, the ability to connect to the global economy — those are things that can be found here in Israel. This should be a hub for thriving regional trade, and an engine for opportunity.
Israel is already a center for innovation that helps power the global economy. And I believe that all of that potential for prosperity can be enhanced with greater security, enhanced with lasting peace.
Here, in this small strip of land that has been the center of so much of the world’s history, so much triumph and so much tragedy, Israelis have built something that few could have imagined 65 years ago. Tomorrow, I will pay tribute to that history — at the grave of Herzl, a man who had the foresight to see the future of the Jewish people had to be reconnected to their past; at the grave of Rabin, who understood that Israel’s victories in war had to be followed by the battles for peace; at Yad Vashem, where the world is reminded of the cloud of evil that can descend on the Jewish people and all of humanity if we ever fail to be vigilant.
We bear all that history on our shoulders. We carry all that history in our hearts. Today, as we face the twilight of Israel’s founding generation, you — the young people of Israel — must now claim its future. It falls to you to write the next chapter in the great story of this great nation.
And as the President of a country that you can count on as your greatest friend — I am confident that you can help us find the promise in the days that lie ahead. And as a man who’s been inspired in my own life by that timeless calling within the Jewish experience — tikkun olam -) — I am hopeful that we can draw upon what’s best in ourselves to meet the challenges that will come; to win the battles for peace in the wake of so much war; and to do the work of repairing this world. That’s your job.
That’s my job. That’s the task of all of us.
May God bless you. May God bless Israel. May God bless the United States of America. Toda raba. Thank you.
Related Articles as per Rabbi Michael Lerner and THE TIKKUN MAGAZINE:
from: Rabbi Michael Lerner
Read the full text of Obama’s brilliant but flawed speech (to Israelis today March 21, 2013, in Jerusalem) on line by going to: www.tikkun.org/nextgen/obamas-speech-to-israelis-the-text-and-my-commentary ]\ , prefaced by my commentary which both praises it and shows what is tragically missing from it.Rabbi Michael Lerner is editor of Tikkun magazine, the largest circulation Jewish and interfaith (and atheist welcoming) magazine in the world. RabbiLerner.firstname.lastname@example.org 644 1200For information on Rabbi Lerner’s book” Embracing Israel/Palestine”: go to www.tikkun.org/eip
Rabbi Lerner’s reaction to the Obama brilliant speech.
Rabbi Michael Lerner’s commentary to President Obama.
March 21, 2013
An editorial preface from Rabbi Michael Lerner in the Tikkun publication:
If only Obama could go beyond the brilliant principles he articulated today to Israelis in Jerusalem—to follow through with action based on those principles!!!
Obama had an amazing opportunity to paint a detailed picture of what a peace agreement could look like between Israelis and Palestinians. Very few Palestinians or Israelis have ever heard one of their leaders present such a vision in a way that seemed detailed enough to be plausible.
Instead, President Obama stayed at a very general level—urging people to not fear, reminding them that they are not alone. And those reminders were brilliantly done, and very important. The best was when he asked Israelis to imagine themselves into the consciousness of Palestinians living under occupation—for this alone, Obama deserves our thanks.
But even so, doing what he did can’t break through the consciousness that has been daily shaped by a distorted picture of what is possible, drawn for them by the settlers and right-wing extremists who today run the Israeli government.
This was the moment for the US to say, “here is a plan that can work” and lay it out. I’ve done that in my book Embracing Israel/Palestine (North Atlantic Books, 2012), and when I met personally with Obama in 2006 he agreed with much of that plan.
But Israelis and Palestinians have never been told by the US, “here is what you have to give up and here is what you will get,” and then followed through and laid out the plan. Without that, the words eventually and in retrospect will seem as hollow as Obama’s speech about democracy in Egypt which was then followed by Obama not supporting the Egyptian people when they went to the streets to overthrow their dictator Mubarak.
A U.S. backed plan will not only have to include an economically and politically viable Palestinian state on at least 95% of the 22% of pre-48 Palestine that was left to the Palestinian people after that first war—and trade of 4-5% of the land of the West Bank to Israel in exchange for equally valuable land given to the new Palestinian state. It will ALSO have to include Palestinians allowing Jewish settlers to stay on the West Bank and settle wherever they wish, but only as law-abiding citizens of a Palestinian state who have given up their Israeli citizenship and have accepted an Israeli declaration that it will not interfere with the judicial process inside Palestine if the new state prosecutes those who have illegally seized the personal property and land of Palestinians. It will have to include Israelis acknowledging partial (not full) responsibility for Palestinian refugees, and allowing 20,000 per year—each year for the next 30 years—to return to Israel and live in Israeli housing provided to them on the same basis Israel provides housing for new Jewish immigrants (20,000 a year being a number small enough to not threaten a Jewish majority, but large enough to be a strong symbolic statement of caring for Palestinian refugees). The Arab world will have to acknowledge its responsibility for the one million Jews who fled Arab lands in fear of their lives in response to anti-Zionist riots and murders that terrified the Jews who fled—and provide reparations, just as the international community and Israel will have to join in funding reparations for the Palestinian people who lost their homes, and at a level sufficient to make Palestine a thriving economy and not just one dependent on Israeli jobs. And all sides will have to join with generous support from the international community to fund an international force to work with both the Israeli and Palestinian police forces to repress extremists on both sides who will resort to violence to prevent the implementation of any agreement and to enforce an end to the teaching of hatred in the media and classrooms of both Israel and Palestine.
Without that kind of a concrete vision (and there’s more detailed in Embracing Israel/Palestine), the call for hope and trust will fall on deaf ears. Netanyahu may agree to negotiations, but not to substantive concessions. Only a clear plan from the US would change that, and Obama flubbed the opportunity to present such a plan.
And yet, speaking to the deep fears of the Israeli people is exactly what is needed, and he did it brilliantly. But it won’t change anything until the US is willing to paint the picture of a viable peace agreement with major concessions form each side, and to energetically push for it.
So what is Obama willing to push for energetically? Legitimation of a first strike against Iran for the sin of having the nuclear weapons that Israel and the US already have at much higher levels than Iran could likely achieve. This doctrine will backfire in the long run against both Israel and the US. His most concrete point was not about peace-making, but about war-making against Iran, once again signaling that Israel could take this (illegal by international law and stupid by common sense) first strike and have the full military backing of the US. That approach will do far more damage to the security of the US than anything Jonathan Pollard did, and yet Pollard remains in jail when its time to give him clemency (though I detest his politics). By suddenly discrediting the whole notion of nuclear deterrence, Obama has made Israel and the US less secure. There will come a day when other countries will use the same logic to defend a first strike against Israel or the US. Yet deterrence has worked well in the even worse dictatorships of the Soviet Union, and the Iranian leadership understands that using nuclear weapons would lead to Iran being wiped out as a country by a massive Israeli nuclear counter-attack. Iran is not Nazi Germany, and its leaders are far more interested in perpetuating an Islamic state than ended it in one moment of nuclear war. We ask friends to stop friends from driving when drunk—can’t we expect Obama to ask Israelis to not follow a path that might someday lead to the people of the world ganging up on Israel for this violation of international law?
So even though Obama was saying he spoke as a friend, it was not really what a friend needs to do. A friend needs to stand up against self-destructive behavior. Even if Israel “gets away with” a first strike, backed by the U.S. military, it will earn for itself the enmity of people around the world who rightly fear that such a precedent, which already led to the disastrous Iraq war, will set other countries into believing that they too have a right to take first strikes against countries whom they believe MIGHT at some future time use their weapons in a destructive manner. Moreover, we at Tikkun wish to see the oppressive and dictatorial and hate-generating regime in Iran overthrown by its own people, and an Israeli strike will have the opposite effect, forcing Iranians to rally around its own government and giving the Islamic dictatorship the credential of being the representative of all Iranian nationalists while isolating the forces that wish to overthrow it.
And yet, what Obama did do, in trying to speak to the need for feeling safe that so shapes Israeli consciousness, was done brilliantly, a great first step. Unfortunately, given Obama’s track record on human rights and peace, it is unlikely that the next necessary steps will be forthcoming. So we can appreciate the good, including pushing the peace process back into public consciousness in Israel, but notice and bemoan a huge opportunity lost at the moment before the new Israeli government consolidates itself around Netanyahu-sponsored intransigence.
—Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor Tikkun RabbiLerner.email@example.com
Four years ago, President Obama used his Middle East trip to reach out to the Arab world and try to build a new basis for regional understanding to replace the Bush administration’s post-Sept. 11 policies of fear and vengeance. Mr. Obama failed; skipping Israel and pursuing a poorly conceived peace initiative backfired.
Now, Mr. Obama has made Israel the first overseas trip of his second term. If young Israelis held power, their enthusiastic reaction to his inspiring speech in Jerusalem on Thursday would bode well for making progress toward a two-state solution. But they don’t, and despite Mr. Obama’s much-needed recommitment to peace efforts, he has not yet offered a clear-cut plan for moving forward.
The speech did offer rhetoric that was eloquent and politically astute. It was replete with biblical and cultural references as Mr. Obama tried to do what many had faulted him for not doing previously, connecting with Israelis on an emotional basis and persuading them that he would defend them if necessary, including against an Iranian nuclear weapon. He spoke of the centuries of suffering and exile that Jews had experienced and said that like his own daughters, the children of the border town of Sderot deserve to sleep at night without worrying that Hamas will fire rockets from Gaza.
We should note that rockets were fired from Gaza into southern Israel on Thursday — a reckless and provocative act — while the Israelis showed good faith by avoiding the sorts of defiant acts, like announcing new settlements, that have marred American visits in the past.
Mr. Obama invoked values and dreams shared by Americans, Israelis and Palestinians, including the idea that “people deserve to be free in a land of their own.” He also spoke bluntly about what’s at stake if the status quo persists, given that the Palestinian population on the West Bank and international frustration with Israel are both growing and the Arab world is in turmoil.
Will Mr. Obama also take the risks that will be needed to be a credible mediator and nudge the parties forward? His new secretary of state, John Kerry, is eager to begin and will be in Israel this weekend, but will he have the space to conduct real diplomacy? And is there a sense of urgency on anyone’s part? In recent years, Israel has built so many settlements that the options for finding a two-state solution are dwindling.
Mr. Obama spent four years tweaking his relationship with Israel. On Thursday, he said “peace is possible.” The question is: How much will he, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel and President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority invest to make it happen?
Note: This text was written on Wednesday, a day before
President Obama made his historic speech in Jerusalem. It appears that my text came much closer to his actual speech than I had dared to hope. Some passages are almost identical. Readers may want to compare the texts, to see what he left out.
DEAR CITIZENS of Israel,
I feel the need to speak to you directly, and especially to the young Jewish people amongst you, in order to reach out to your minds and to touch your hearts.
To do so, I gave up the great honor of speaking in your Knesset, as my predecessors have spoken before me. The Knesset, like all parliaments, is composed of politicians, but this time I want to speak directly to you.
I COME as a true friend. A true friend is bound to tell you the truth as he sees it. A true friend does not flatter you. He does not twist the truth to make you feel good.
I know, foreign statesmen and women come to visit your country and feel obliged to tell you how wonderful you are, how brilliant your leaders, how great your achievements. I don’t think that a true friend needs to do this.
When you are drunk, a true friend does not encourage you to take the wheel. A true friend asks you for the keys of the car.
If you are drunk with power and success, a true friend does not egg you on to behave irresponsibly. A true friend asks you to calm down, to reflect, to weigh your next steps carefully.
That is my aim today.
I CAN honestly tell you that I have always admired the State of Israel, which was born just 13 years before I was.
You have created a vibrant state out of nothing. Just a few years after the terrible Holocaust, one of the greatest crimes in the annals of mankind, this ancient people has arisen from the ashes and established itself as a powerful presence among the nations. You have established a flourishing democracy. Your science, agriculture, high-tech industry and all the other accomplishments in many fields have aroused the envy of many. Your military prowess is acknowledged by all.
No one with eyes to see can deny the profound similarities between the history of our two nations. From a small group of pioneers, driven by religious persecution, we have developed into mighty nations. Against huge odds, we have built new civilizations. Each of us has built a shining city on the hill. Both of us have achieved liberty and independence in the middle of a terrible war, which threatened our very existence. Both of us had to fight many more wars, earlier and more recent. Both of us can look back on our past with pride and satisfaction.
But both of us know that this history also harbors dark shadows. We have dealt harshly with the people who lived in our countries before us. We have much to apologize for. We should not suppress the bad while celebrating the good.
THOUGH MENACED by enemies, like all of us, Israel can look forward to a bright future. However, dark clouds threaten these prospects. Some of them, I am sorry to say, are of your own making.
It is of these that I want to speak to you.
For the last four years I have followed events in your country with growing apprehension. Indeed – with great fears for your future.
No nation, great or small, can prosper for long without peace. War is the curse of mankind. It coarsens our spirit, consumes our resources, spreads death and destruction. In our time, with the development of ever more deadly means of mass destruction, war threatens our very existence.
Yet there seems to be among you a curious aversion to peace. Peacemakers are denounced as traitors or enemies. Even I have been termed a “Destroyer of Israel” because of my efforts at the beginning of my first term, to bring about peace between you and your neighbors.
I am told that in your recent election campaign, all parties studiously avoided the word “peace”. That sounds incredible to me. You need peace, perhaps more than any other people on earth.
I am also told that most Israelis, while longing for peace, strongly believe that “Peace is Impossible”. Peace is never impossible, if good men and women earnestly strive for it.
History is full of implacable enemies who made peace after generations of conflict. Look at the peace my country made with Germany and Japan after the deadly struggle not so long ago. Look at the peace between France and Germany after many generations of war. Indeed, Israel herself has made peace and now lives in friendship with Germany, so soon after the Shoah.
Granted that the conflict between you and the Palestinian people is more complex than most, I tell you: peace between you is not only necessary. It is also possible.
PEACE STARTS with seeing your enemy as a human being. With looking him in the eye.
That should be easy for Jews. Do not the Holy Scriptures, our common heritage, tell us that God created all human beings in his image? Did not your great spiritual teacher, Hillel, tell you that the basis of all moral behavior is not to do unto the Other that which is hateful to you?
I am told that lately, there has become evident a rising tide of racism among you, that there have even been incidents of lynching, that many young boys and girls are proud to announce that they are racists.
I find this incredible. Jews? Racists? After centuries as the victims of racist persecution? Barely more than half a century after the Holocaust?
I am a dark-skinned person. Luckily, my forebears never experienced the ultimate evil of slavery. Unlike millions of Africans, my father’s family was not kidnapped from their ancestral village in Kenya. But the evils of slavery are deeply imprinted on my mind. The awful sight of the lynchings is still vivid before my eyes.
So are the freedom marches, in which determined black people braved racist mobs, guns and attack dogs. We shall ever be grateful to the white young men and women who joined these marches, so many of whom were Jews. I just cannot understand: how can any Jew in Israel be a racist, and be proud of it? What on earth do you learn in your schools?
I DID not come here to try and impose a peace plan on you.
Peace should not be imposed. It must flow from the heart. It must be approved by the mind.
Let me share with you, however, a few things that seem to me self-evident:
Peace must be based on what is commonly called the “two-state solution”. Two states for two peoples, for the Israelis and for the Palestinians.
It is not only the best solution – it is the only solution.
Those who bandy about other “solutions” are deluding themselves. There is no other solution.
There must be a Palestinian state, side by side with Israel. Your fathers and mothers were content with nothing less than a state of their own, and the Palestinians will not settle for anything less either. Freedom and independence under their own flag is the right of all human beings. You should be the first to understand that.
The State of Palestine must include all the Palestinian territories occupied in 1967. Any changes to the borders must be agreed between the two sides, and be of equal extent.
Jerusalem, this wonderful old city where we are meeting now, and which fills me with excitement, must be shared by the two peoples. What is Arab should be the capital of Palestine, what is Jewish should be the capital of Israel, recognized at long last by all.
The security of Israel must be safeguarded and guaranteed by the world, especially by the United States of America. And so should the security of Palestine.
Obviously, the millions of Palestinian refugees cannot return to Israel. Justice cannot be restored by imposing a new injustice on the present inhabitants. But we must make a great international effort to compensate the refugees generously, and at least a symbolic number should be allowed to exercise their Right of Return.
These peace terms have been lying on the table for a long time. The time has come – indeed, the time is long overdue – to turn them into a permanent peace treaty. The other Arab nations, whose commendable peace plan has also been lying on the table for many years, should be welcomed as partners in this effort.
My administration will do its duty by signing a solemn guarantee for the security of both Israel and Palestine.
A WORD about the settlements.
The United States has always regarded them as illegal under international law. This is as true now as ever.
Those Israelis who remain on Palestinian territory after the mutually agreed exchange of territories must be repatriated to Israel. As gently as possible. With as much compassion as possible. With as generous compensation as possible. But they cannot stay without the permission of the government of Palestine.
Many of them have settled in the occupied territories for the express purpose of making peace impossible. They must not be allowed to achieve their aim.
I STAND here today, so soon after the swearing-in of your new ministers, before your new government has yet settled down for business, because I feel a great urgency.
Time is passing, settlements are expanding, the chances of peace are diminishing. Therefore we must act now.
If you continue on your present course, disaster will surely overtake you. You are already a minority in the land between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, and your proportion is bound to diminish. Very soon you will be faced by the choice between glorious Israel becoming an odious Apartheid state, a pariah among the nations, or becoming a state governed by the Arab majority. Either way, it will be the end of the Zionist dream.
Don’t tell me, don’t tell yourselves, that there is nothing you can do.
You are the people of the future. The future is your lives.
It is up to you to assure yourselves a life in peace.
A 1759 map entitled The Holy Land, or Land of Israel, showing not only the Ancient Kingdoms of Judah and Israel in which the 12 Tribes have been distinguished, but also their placement in different periods as indicated in the Holy Scriptures by Tobias Conrad Lotter, Geographer. Augsburg, Germany
President Barack Obama heads to Israel late Tuesday for the first foreign trip of his second term, a visit more about maintaining the status quo in a region filled with upheaval than about historic treaties or groundbreaking peace deals. When U.S. presidents have visited Jerusalem in years past, it was for big reasons, usually involving the ends of various conflicts or to make a push for Middle East peace. Obama’s ambitions are a lot smaller.
The President’s hopes for this trip are about getting leaders not to do things, rather than prompting action. In Jerusalem, he needs Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu not to bomb Iran before diplomatic talks have run their course. He also wants Netanyahu to stop, or at least slow, the building of new settlements in Palestinian areas so as to give the peace process a chance. And Obama would like Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas not to report Israel to the Internal Criminal Courts for human rights violations. “This trip is about managing Middle East problems. It’s not about solving them,” says Haim Malka, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “The president’s broad objectives are to convince the Israeli and Palestinian publics that he’s protecting their interests and preventing their leaders from taking any unilateral steps that would undermine U.S. interests and their own,” Malka says.
For an American president, Obama is unusually unpopular among Israelis: he had a 33% approval rating last year. Which is why instead of speaking to the Israeli parliament, Obama chose to do a speech directly to the Israeli people. “Given this is his first trip to Israel as President, we thought that it was very important for him to speak directly to Israelis about the nature of the friendship between the United States and Israel, and the challenges that we’re faced with,” Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes told reporters ahead of the trip. Obama may not change public opinion with a single speech, but courting the Israeli public will help build trust when the President asks their leaders to have faith that America will act to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
Israel worries that Iran is using talks with international powers as a way to stall while building a program that can rapidly enrich enough uranium not just for one bomb, but for many. “Think of the Iranian nuclear weapons program as a horse race: Now, when the bell goes off, a single horse might be able to gallop out of the gate and run a full track in front of spectators,” Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren says. “The Iranian regime, though, wants to unleash 20 horses out of the gate, at the same time,” he says. For Israel, Iran obtaining nuclear weapons is a much more existential threat than for Washington, lying safely 6,000 miles away. Jerusalem’s military opportunity to strike Iran is closing, while the U.S. has a longer timeline to hit Iran’s centrifuges. Obama is asking Israel to trust he’ll protect them when they no longer can protect themselves; that would give negotiators more time to come to a diplomatic resolution.
On the peace process, Obama intends to do a listening tour, visiting with both Israelis and Palestinians and seeing where common ground might be found. Little has been done on a two state solution since U.S. Special Envoy to the Mideast George Mitchell resigned in disgust in May 2011, saying the process had “hit a brick wall.” Secretary of State John Kerry, who will be traveling with Obama, is anxious to take advantage of Israel’s recent election – Netanyahu literally only just formed a government over the weekend – to see if moderate Israeli support can be drummed up for a new round of talks. But no breakthrough is expected on this trip — indeed the White House did everything it could to lower expectations publicly.
Peace talks mean getting the Palestinians to the table as well, and Abbas has not wanted to restart a whole new process, insisting the Israelis go back to the terms he negotiated with the last Israeli government under Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in 2008. Netanyahu has repeatedly insisted the talks begin anew. Abbas is further debilitated by Hamas’s control of the Gaza Strip and the Islamist group’s growing popularity in the West Bank. Without the popular support of all Palestinians, Abbas’s bargaining position is weak and he has little incentive to come to the table. Until the Palestinian factions are united, it will be impossible for Abbas — or any Palestinian leader — to compromise with Israel without losing credibility at home.
Abbas’s only power – and popularity – of late has come when he defied both Israel and the U.S. to petition the United Nations to recognize Palestine as a state. Having Israel tried for human rights violations by the International Criminal Courts is wildly popular among Palestinians and one of the only threats remaining to Abbas. Obama’s job will be to convince Abbas that coming to the table with Israel and the U.S. is in his better interests than going outside the process. Obama must also reassure the Palestinian people of America’s support. To that end Kerry has said he will deliver $700 million in aid to Palestine withheld by Congress after Abbas’s push for statehood at the UN. Since Obama took office in 2009, some 60,000 more Israelis have settled on Palestinian lands, and Obama will press for a freeze or slowing of those developments. The Palestinians are also hoping Israel will release 1,000 prisoners and return some of tax money Jerusalem collected from Palestinians but have held back for months.
Perhaps Obama’s trip will also be highly symbolic. He will view the Dead Sea Scrolls, 2,000-year-old evidence of Israel’s long ties and ancient claim to the land. The President will also visit Mount Herzl, where he’ll lay wreaths at the graves of slain Israeli President Yitzhak Rabin and Zionist Theodor Herzl, who envisioned an Israeli state before the Holocaust. In the West Bank, Obama will visit the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.
The President will wrap his tour in Jordan, where he’ll try to convince King Abdullah not to close his borders to Syrians fleeing the two-year-old civil war, even as Jordan’s economy buckles under the strain of 400,000 refugees with twice that number expected by year’s end.
Jordan’s economy has also taken a hit as tourism has fallen off due to regional unrest and the perception of insecurity. To promote Jordan, Obama will play tourist for a day, visiting the ancient site of Petra with 500 international journalists in tow, demonstrating how safe – and appealing – Jordan’s tourist attractions remain.
Jordan also hopes for more pledges of support from the U.S. for the Syrian refugees and for their own economic reforms.
All of Obama’s efforts this week will be running to stay in place: from pushing Israelis and Palestinians to place international interests above domestic pressures, to bolstering Jordan’s regime against the pressures of the Arab Spring. Sometimes the second term presidents look abroad for a legacy. So far Obama’s second term foreign policy ambitions in the Middle East are hardly lofty: striving for the status quo ante lest things get worse than they already are.
@deconstructiva I claim no expertise in this matter, but I think Israelis — like Americans, only many times as much — are concerned with their own security. If keeping Israelis safe means oppressing Palestinians, that’s a price they’re willing to pay. And that, is my one-sentence summary of what’s preventing any significant alteration in the status quo. As long as Bibi keeps Israelis safe, he’s going to be running their government.
Notwithstanding Stein’s Law (Anything that can’t go on forever, won’t), I don’t see anything in the internal dynamics between the Israelis and the Palestinians that’s going to alter things. But there are plenty of externalities — from Iran’s nuclear program to the Syrian Civil War to the turmoil in Egypt — and eventually one of those is going to break into the current closed cycle of Israeli-Palestinian relations. If you or anyone else can tell me what will happen then, I’d be grateful.
Thanks for an excellent summary, Jay. In the Middle East today, as usual there seem to be all sorts of possibilities for disaster and very few opportunities for improvements on any front. If the most Obama can hope for is not to make things worse, then it’s appropriate that he apply the first principle of healing to this bleeding sore of a geographical area: First, do no harm.
I’m smart enough to know I’m not smart enough to come up with a panacea for what ails the Middle Esat. Fortunately for the Middle East, that’s not my job. Unfortunately for the Middle East, the people whose job it is don’t seem to be doing any better.
Gaza Marathon Canceled After Women Are Barred From Participating.
By FARES AKRAM
Published by The New York Times – March 5, 2013
GAZA — Gaza’s third marathon run, an annual fund-raising event planned for April 10, was canceled after the Palestinian territory’s Islamic leaders barred women from participating, the organizer, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency said on Tuesday.
The ban is the latest in a series of decisions by Hamas, which governs here, seeking to enforce tougher Islamic strictures on an already conservative society. But some of the measures have been unpopular, and enforcement has ebbed and flowed.
Adnan Abu Hasna, a spokesman for the United Nations agency, said the marathon was canceled after Hamas informed the agency that women would not be allowed to take part under any circumstances.
Of the more than 2,400 people registered for the race, some 370 were women, nearly two-thirds of them Gazans.
Hamas had no objection to the participation of girls among the 1,600 schoolchildren set to run.
In a statement, the agency called the development “disappointing.” It said runners who intended to come from outside Gaza to race were still welcome to visit the coastal enclave, and that alternative activities were being studied.
Taher al-Nounou, a spokesman for the Hamas government, said in a text message that his government had informed the United Nations agency that the marathon should respect “some regulations related to the Palestinian people’s traditions and customs.” He said the government regretted the cancellation.
Salma al-Qadoumi, 22, who was among more than 250 female Gazans who intended to run, said she was “saddened and shocked” by the ban. “This is against Islam, because Islam encouraged Muslims to learn sports, and it did not stipulate that it’s only men who should practice sport,” she said.
But Maha Abu Shaban, an economic researcher, supported the ban, to preserve modesty and prevent mixing of males and females “in violation of the religion.”
Mr. Abu Hasna said the fund-raising was to benefit the agency’s summer games programs, which serve about 250,000 children. Hamas also provides summer programs for children here, and competes with the agency for enrollment.
The agency, which takes care of Palestinian refugees in Gaza, the West Bank, and refugee camps in the neighboring Arab countries, suffers from a $66 million shortfall in its budget.
Since taking over Gaza in 2007, Hamas has issued several orders for stricter behavioral codes, mainly about women’s dress. Last month, the Hamas-appointed council of Al-Aqsa University here imposed an Islamic dress code on women.
THE ISRAELI MISSION MAKES HISTORY AT THE UNWITH A CONCERT BY ISRAELI POP ICON RITA, SINGING IN BOTH PERSIAN AND HEBREWFOR THE FIRST TIME EVER IN THE UN GENERAL ASSEMBLY HALL.
by Irith Jawetz, reporting from the UN Headquarters in New York.
On March 5, 2013 the Permanent Mission of Israel to the UN has hosted a special event and first of its kind in the UN General Assembly hall – a concert by the world-renowned Israeli-Iranian singer Rita Yahan-Farouz. The performance was titled “Tunes for Peace” .
Among the attendees were Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, General Assembly President Vuk Jeremic, ambassadors, celebrities, and Jewish and Iranian community leaders.
The stage, which usually serves as a podium for the top diplomats conducting world affairs was transformed into a full fledged “Music Hall” with music instruments, amplifiers, lights and two big screen TVs.
H.E. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon was the first to speak and he started his speech by greeting everybody with the Hebrew word “Shalom”. He said there is no room like this one and it serves to seek peace among nations, preserve Human rights, but sometimes also for concerts. He praised Rita for her desire to reach many cultures through her music, connect people and he hopes this concert will inspire people to strive for peace, justice and Human rights. He thanked the Government of Israel and especially Ambassador Rom Prosor for enabling this important event.
The next speaker was H.E. Mr. Vuk Jeremic, President of the 67th Session of the UN General Assembly. He also thanked Ambassador Prosor and mentioned his personal special friendship with the Ambassador. He announced that he will be going to Israel soon and will be visiting Yad Vashem, since a few members of his family, who saved Jews during the Holocaust will be honored as righteous among Nations. This announcement brought a huge applause from the audience. He mentioned that music has a very important tool for connecting people and nations since biblical times. Music is a universal language and he shares Rita’s hopes that it will bring cooperation between nations.
H.E. Ambassador Ron Proser, Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations, thanked Secretary General and Mrs. Ban for hosting this important event and said that although Mr, Ban is sometimes soft spoken his voice is being heard around the Globe.
He continued by saying that the events in this hall are not always harmonious, but today Rita will make sure her music will bring everybody together, and he was proud to be her “opening act.” In conclusion he said that there are usually many rules in this Hall, but not tonight. The audience may get up and sing along and shake the room. His speech brought the audience to their feet.
After the speeches the General Assembly Hall transformed completely and the concert began. Rita came on stage and the audience welcomed her with huge applause. She has a terrific personality and projected it throughout the whole evening.
Rita and her nine-piece band performed her popular hits in both Hebrew and Persian from Rita’s latest album, “My Joys.”
She sang one song in English which was called “Time for Peace.”
The album, which has received widespread international acclaim, interweaves the Iranian melodies of Rita’s childhood with the rich tapestry of contemporary Israeli music. She introduced herself by saying that she was born in Tehran and emigrated with her parents at the age of eight. She credited her mother for her remarkable singing career by telling us that her mother used to sing the whole day long, even while cooking or doing chores around the house.
Rita mentioned that she hopes that her UN concert, “Tunes for Peace,” will build bridges, foster inter-cultural dialogue, and connect people to people – the very foundations upon which the United Nations was established.
The concert lasted about an hour and brought the hall to its feet. The audience definitely following Ambassador Proser’s closing words in his speech ”Let’s Rock the Hall”.
Let us all hope that politicians will follow Rita’s example!
Israel – a hub of a true Alliance of Civilization developed its medical sector with the help of Jewish refugees from a Europe under Nazi boots. Many Professors at the first modern medical school in the Middle East escaped from Vienna, then part of the joint Austro-Germany under Hitler’s leadership. Today, Jewish refugees from Muslim States – from Morocco to Iran – and Arab/Palestinian-Israelis – are members of the medical staff as well.
This posting is for the benefit of Messrs. Erdogan, Ahmedi-Nejad, and Morsi.
A senior member of the Turkish government, former Finance Minister Kemal Unakitan, recently visited Israel for stem cell treatment. Unakitan, who is suffering from chronic renal failure, served seven years with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government from 2002-2009.
According to Turkish media, the 67-year-old Turkish politician was treated at Tel Aviv’s International Center for Cell Therapy & Cancer Immunotherapy (CTCI) for almost two and a half months.
Chronic renal disease, also known as chronic kidney disease, is a common condition of the worsening and loss of the kidney function. The kidney disease can be treated with a form of dialysis or by a kidney transplant. However, Israel’s groundbreaking methods in stem cell treatments of the disease may help Unakitan avoid a kidney transplant and cease dialysis treatments.
Turkish media reports indicate that Unakitan will visit Israel again for additional treatments in the future.
Israel’s highly advanced medical innovations and treatments have been utilized by patients across the Middle East. The Jewish state has opened its doors to patients of adversary countries, including Iraq and Iran. In 2008, Israel treated a 12-year-old boy from Iran suffering from a brain tumor.
In August 2012, the husband of Suhila Abd el Salam, the sister of Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, was admitted to Beilinson Hospital in Petach Tikva for immediate medical treatment following a serious heart condition. Haniyeh’s brother-in-law opted to come to Israel instead of Egypt for treatment and was transferred at the Gaza border by a Magen David Adom Ambulance.
Ambassador Peter Thompson from Fiji speaks for the G 77 and China at the Arria Formula Non-meeting at the UNSC and the same day speaks also on the MDGs at a different meeting at the UN. We have here both his presentations.
To put it in diplomatic terms, we are amazed how the representative of a Small Islands State participates in the thrashing of its own future by serving the forces of business-as-usual that came about because of the influence the Islamic Oil States have on what at the UN goes under the term G 77 & China.
The Arria formula meeting of the Security Council – by its own definition a Non-meeting – came about as Member States with eyes open – have realized that the UN was incapable of moving on the issue of Climate Change, and this while practically every UN State has already stories to tell about losses from Climate Change – within their own territory or in States they do business with. The most hurt are obvious the Small Island States that might be completely wiped out by the effects of man-made Climate Change committed by other States. As such, transferring the issue to the Security Council, from the moribund UNFCCC and UNCSD, is an attempt to move the issue from the General Assembly UN debating club to the only UN institution that has the power to act. The alternative would be to close this UN, like the League of Nations was closed, and negotiate anew an organization with 193 Nations participating in a decision-for-action new mechanism. Every decent person would say this alternative will be unachievable. So what does Ambassador Peter Thompson, a traitor to the SIDS, mean by his statement on behalf of the negativistic uncounted governments from among the 77+China?
Further, the UNCSD will expire at the 2013 General Assembly meeting this coming September – as per a decision of the Rio+20 meeting June 2012. They will be replaced by a mechanism yet unknown, and dependent on recommendations that will be forthcoming from a special panel that was established in September 2012. The Issues of the MDGs and the newly to be formulated Sustainable Development Goals is also pending in the air – and that is part of the decisions of new UN formulas for 2015 and beyond. The distinguished Ambassador does seem to ignore all of this and try instead to stick with the formula of things that were totally rejected in Rio. Our conclusion is thus in non-diplomatic terms – he is sticking with the old ways that are responsible for the inaction at the UN that resulted in 20 wasted years, and at the same time puts sticks into the possible wheels of the UNSC with which some try to find ways to move out from the UN swamp.
In our postings about the Arria-formula meeting of Friday, February 15th we were able to bring forward the ridiculous Statement made by Egypt that clearly shows, that though it started out differently it got bent in haste to the same conclusions as the G77+China with even not having had the time to reconsider its own numbering system from the previous Arab League bent. The ray of light comes from Pakistan that seemingly decided to cosponsor the call to the Arria formula event, and obviously the SIDS that part now ways with the G77&China that did nothing for them in these lost 20 years.
I acknowledge the presence of Distinguished Panelist and Guest Speakers in today’s event. I thank the Secretary General for his Statement and note the interventions that have been made thus far.
I wish to express a special welcome to the Honorable Tony de Brum, Minister in Assistance to the President of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, I welcome the Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research Professor Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, and the Vice-President and Network Head for Sustainable Development at the World Bank Ms. Rachel Kyte. I also wish to welcome the contributions through video recordings by the President of Kiribati His Excellency Mr. Anote Tong and the Foreign Minister of Australia Senator Bob Carr.
I have the honour to deliver this statement on behalf of the Group of 77 and China.
We note the initiative of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in organizing this Meeting which we note is being convened under the informal Arria Formula of the United Nations Security Council on the subject “Security Dimensions of Climate Change”
The Group of 77 and China reiterates its position that the United Nations Security Council is not the appropriate forum for this discussion. The Group will repeat that the primary responsibility of the United Nations Security Council is the maintenance of international peace and security, as set out in the Charter of the United Nations.
On the other hand, other issues, including those related to economic and social development, are assigned by that same Charter to the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and to the United Nations General Assembly (General Assembly).
The ever-increasing encroachment by the Security Council on the roles and responsibilities of other principal organs of the United Nations represents a distortion of the principles and purposes of the Charter, infringes on their authority and compromises the rights of the general membership of the United Nations.
The Group of 77 and China underlines the importance of the General Assembly, the Security Council and the ECOSOC to work within their respective mandates as set out in the Charter.
General Assembly resolution 63/281 recognized the respective responsibilities of the principal organs of the United Nations, including the primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security conferred upon the Security Council and the responsibility for sustainable development issues, including climate change, conferred upon the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council, and invited the relevant organs of the United Nations, as appropriate and within their respective mandates, to intensify their efforts in considering and addressing climate change, including its possible security implications.
The relevant bodies in the field of sustainable development are the General Assembly, the ECOSOC and their relevant subsidiary bodies, including the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
The Group of 77 and China is of the view that it is vital for all Member States to promote sustainable development in accordance with the Rio Principles, in particular, the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities, and fully implement Agenda 21 and Outcomes of other relevant United Nations Conferences in the economic, environmental and social fields, including the Millennium Development Goals Declaration.
We further emphasize the critical role of the international community in the provision of adequate, predictable, new and additional financial resources, transfer of technology and capacity building to developing countries.
We maintain that the UNFCCC is the primary international, intergovernmental forum for negotiating the global response to climate change. In this sense, we recall that an appropriate response to this challenge should address not only the consequences but mainly the roots of the problem. At the DOHA COP 18, we made progress towards addressing Climate Change through concrete decisions on remaining work under the Bali Action Plan, a Plan of work under the Durban Platform and a Second Commitment Period of the Kyoto Protocol with a clear time line. The Second Commitment Period of Kyoto Protocol, however, lacks ambition and we hope that its level will be enhanced in 2014 as agreed in Doha
Let me emphasize that there is a strong case for developed countries’ emission reductions and mitigation actions to avoid adverse impacts of climate change. In this context, we are extremely concerned that current mitigation pledges from developed countries parties in the UNFCCC negotiations are not at all adequate to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions so as to hold the increase in global average temperature according to what is required by science.
We reiterate the need to coordinate international efforts and mobilize partners to assist the observation networks through regional initiatives such as South Pacific Sea Level and Climate Monitoring, and Caribbean Community Climate Change Center. In this regard, we call upon the relevant agencies and organs of the UN, including OCHA, to reinforce regional broadcastings systems to help island communities during disasters and increase the effectiveness of observation in these regions. Any measures taken in this context need to ensure an integrated approach in responding to environmental emergencies
The response to impacts of climate change and disasters must include the strengthening of the Hyogo Framework for Action for disaster risk reduction, the increasing of assistance to developing countries affected states, including by supporting efforts towards enhancing their national and regional capacities for implementation of plans and strategies for preparedness, rapid response, recovery and development.
The Group would like to underline the fact that developing countries continue to suffer from the adverse impacts of climate change and the increasing frequency and intensity of extreme weather events. Developing countries are the most vulnerable to climate change, and support for their efforts needs to be stepped up.
In this regard, we call for the full and effective implementation of the commitments under the Barbados Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States, the Mauritius Declaration and the Mauritius Strategy for the Further Implementation of the Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States. We reiterate that sea-level rise and other adverse impacts of climate change continue to pose a significant risk to small island developing states and their efforts to achieve sustainable development and, for many, represent the gravest of threats to their survival and viability including for some through the loss of territory.
The Group of 77 and China will continue to pursue the achievement of sustainable development and eradication of poverty, which are our first and overriding priorities, as well as the fulfillment of commitments by developed countries in all relevant bodies.
We strongly reiterate our expectation that the initiative of the Council to hold this debate does not create a precedent that undermines the authority or mandate of the relevant bodies, processes and instruments that already address these issues in all their complexities.
I have the honour to deliver this statement on behalf of the Group of 77 and China.
At the outset, may I express the Group’s congratulations on your appointment as Co-Facilitators on this very important item. I would also like to convey our appreciation for the dispatch of your Informal Food for Thought Paper which you intend to guide our reflections on the modalities and substance of the Special Event and, in particular, underlines the urgency of moving to an early decision on the modalities of the Event.
The Group of 77 notes that the Special Event is not a formal event of the General Assembly but an ad hoc meeting convened on a specific theme, that is, “To follow up on efforts made towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).” This process follows on from the request we made as Members States of the United Nations back in 2010 and it is a review of the efforts undertaken to date towards the achievement of the MDGs.
The Group is of the view that the Outcome of this Special Event must feed into an intergovernmental process for the elaboration of the post-2015 development agenda. Notwithstanding the link between the review of the MDGs and the elaboration of the post-2015 development agenda, the review that this Special Event will undertake must not be subservient to or dependent on other processes under way for the post-2015 agenda.
It is of fundamental importance that the Special Event produces concise and actionable outcomes which will sharpen the focus on achieving the MDGs. This must include means to prioritize funding for MDGs, particularly in line with international agreements on development financing.
Given the importance, complexity and time-sensitivity of the issues that the Special Event must address, the Group welcomes the holding of this event during the High-level segment of the 68th UN General Assembly. However, the Group is concerned that a one-day meeting may not achieve the kind of concrete results that is needed for this final push on MDGs within the MDG period. The Group would therefore like further consideration of the time allotted for this Special Event.
These are our initial thoughts. We will revert with more substantial input during the course of our consultations under your able facilitation. The Group assures you of its continued support and constructive engagement in the preparations and conduct of this Special Event.
(These irregularities in the title are in the original that seems to be guarded from us being able to correct it)
New York,15 February 2013
I would like to thank the distinguished Permanent Representatives of Pakistan and the United Kingdom for organizing this informal meeting of the Security Council to discuss the security dimensions of climate change. I would like to thank the panelists for their presentations and commend the Secretary General for his commitment to engage the United Nations in the global adaptation and mitigation effort against climate change.
Now I would like to stress a few points:
1-Climate change is a clear and present danger. Climate change is a reality. It leads to sea level rise that threatens the very existence of nations that are members of this organization. It leads to extreme weather events that have affected us here at the headquarters of the United Nations. Hurricane Sandy was a vivid example of what many Carribean and Pacific states endure every single year.
2-Climate change is an issue of vulnerability, equity, responsibility, accountability, sustainability, development, and therefore security. It has devastating implications that may trigger conflicts or exacerbate them. It has a very particular nature since those responsible for it are not necessary the ones who are mostly affected by it.
3-Africa, the continent to which Egypt belongs, is the continent that has less contributed to global climate change. Yet it is the most vulnerable to its adverse implications. It is not a coincidence that Africa occupies more than 70% of the Security Council agenda. It is the only continent where one of its worst conflicts has been directly linked to climate change. I am speaking about Darfur, where the Security Council has sent one of its biggest Peace keeping operations. The increasing drought and desertification is definitely exacerbating the causes of conflict in the Sahel. The Middle East, the other region to which Egypt belongs, is the most water scarce place in earth. Studies have predicted that future wars in these two regions would be water wars. The persistent practices of the occupying Israeli forces and settlers in the occupied State of Palestine include a systematic effort to dominate water resources and drive the Palestinians out of their arable land. These are all real conflicts that cause real loss of life and property.
4-Climate change is a disaster, yet it is man-made. The reasons behind it are well known. It is a very special phenomenon, since it hits more the ones that have not participated in causing it. This is why it needs special solutions. The special solution has been developed by the international community in a universal legally binding framework: the United Nations framework Convention on Climate Change.
5-This legal framework contains the agreed principles that address the special nature of climate change. These include the principles of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities; historical responsibility and equity in the distribution of atmospheric space, the priority of development for developing countries. The Kyoto Protocol with its “Clean Development Mechanism” is an attempt to implement some of these principles.
6-This legal framework has passed through a number of important milestones in the last four years. The Copenhagen Accord that failed to convince the vast majority of countries that were not consulted during its negotiation. The Cancun Agreements that salvaged the valid points of the Copenhagen Accord, including the Green Fund that is supposed to gather 100 billion US$ a year by 2020 to adapt to and mitigate, climate change effects. The Durban Platform that aims at developing an additional legal instrument by 2015. The Doha Outcome that included the extension of the Kyoto Protocol.
7-This legal framework aims to redress the imbalance between those responsible for the bulk of climate change provoking emissions and those affected by it. This was a historical breakthrough that attempted to resolve sustainability and equity issues, compared to other frameworks that just formalize the status quo. We hope that the instrument that will be reached in 2015 does not divert from the “redressing approach”.
8-This legal framework has a compliance mechanism that has not worked properly so far. Despite the fact that the Convention and the Kyoto Protocol are the only legal framework available to address climate change in a collective manner, the international community did not exert enough efforts to ensure the universality of the Kyoto Protocol. It did not react to non-compliance with its provisions. It did not react to the withdrawal of one country from the Protocol in 2010. This encouraged others to follow suit.
9-Now we are in a situation where small island states face an existential threat. Where in Africa, the Middle East, and all other continents, conflicts are exacerbated and natural disasters are proliferating, while the international community is still thinking about the shape of the new agreement in 2015, while we all know but do not want to say, that the pledges of the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol will not be enough to stop the global increase in emissions and global warmth, and that the financial cost of adaptation and mitigation exceeds by far the targeted 100 US$ a year by 2020, if the target is reached at all.
HERE THE EGYPTIANS HAD A COUNTING PROBLEM – OR AN EDITING PROBLEM WITH THE INTRODUCTION OF TWO ADDED POINTS THAT BRING THEIR TOTAL TO 11. THESE LAST TWO POINTS TELL US THAT EGYPT SPEAKS FOR THE DEFENDERS OF OIL AND NOT FOR TRULY IMPOVERISHED AFRICANS. THE TRUE ISSUE IS THAT WHEN FIGHTING FOR BOMBASTIC MULTILATERAL AGREEMENTS THIS DOES NOT BRING RESULTS, BUT JUST KICKS THE SOLUTION FURTHER DOWN THE ROAD. THE SOLUTION IS IN SUSTAINABLE ENERGY AND HIS PRESENTATION IS RATHER ONE OF POLITICAL FIGHTING AND NOT SOLUTION FINDING. BRINGING THE TOPIC TO THE SECURITY COUNCIL IS AN EFFORT TO BREAK THE LOGJAM THAT HE SEEMS TO FAVOR. The positive presenter at the meeting was the New Zealand lady, Ms. Stephanie Lee, who simply asked those in the room to listen to the affected countries and to deal with their needs.
(These are our editorial comments – the SustainabiliTank.info editor)
9-The danger of climate change might not be as visible as that of a potential nuclear war. Yet it is definitely more imminent as it is affecting all of us today. We are enduring the impact of the climate war in our daily lives in the form of food insecurity, water scarcity, conflicts over natural resources, increasing costs of energy and the status of the global economy; this in addition to the brutal effects of natural disasters. Yet, in many cases we are looking the other way. The countries that have both the financial and technological capability to lead the global efforts to contain climate change are distracted by trade and competitiveness wars that prevent them from focusing on the real danger that is affecting us all. This is a situation similar to the one that failed to prevent world wars in the past century.
10-Finally, I would like to stress that the Security Council is not the United Nations Organ that is most relevant in addressing the issues of sustainable development including climate change. The main responsibility lies more with the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council. We are aware that the Security Council itself is struggling to reach the necessary consensus among its members on a number of ongoing conflicts that are causing dramatic loss of life and property. Yet, we are confident that this informal discussion will at least raise the profile of climate change. It should complement the work of the General Assembly and the ECOSOC. It should contribute to mobilize the political will to act now before it is too late.
The US Ambassador in Tel-Aviv, Mr. Dan Shapiro, and Secretary of State John Kerry are preparing the visit of President Obama and expect the evolution of realism on the part of the new Israeli Government.
Realism starts with the understanding that Mr. Obama has won the elections in the United States despite attempted interference from Republican factors that tried to use Israel as part of their internal-American warfare. The same factors also ended up weakening Mr. Netanyahu. He has now to decide between being in a minority in his own government, or accept the reality of a coalition that takes as well into account the political interests of Mr. Obama. These are the re-creation of a united Israel that recognizes the needs of a National State, and its attempt at a compromise with a moderate Palestine. America is stronger now in the region then ever before, because it becomes less dependent on Arab oil, and this will have effect in Ryad and in the Gulf States that ought to be expected to lower the opposition they had before to a settlement with Israel.
The bottom line of the above is that President Obama becomes king-maker in Israel, while Netanyahu has lost in his attempt of being King-maker in the United States.
Mr. Obama will have many subjects in his attache case in this trip to the Middle East. The US and Israel have to focus on topics like Iran, Syria, Palestine, Egypt, the political effects and the environment effects of the global dependence on oil, joint efforts to institute new and renewable sources of energy, the future of multilateralism and the UN, the evolution of politics in the Arab World – will there be a spring or a return to the Middle Ages – is above dilemma also in the cards of the politics in Israel and the US as well?Secretary Kerry on his trip will limit the list of topics and the new Netanyahu Government that is established in Israel will have to fit the short list that evolves. Everything is in the timing!
Ahead of US President Barack Obama’s arrival to Tel-Aviv on March 20th, confidantes of Netanyahu in the Prime Minister’s Office told the Maariv paper that their boss “would be willing to make compromises in the negotiations with the Palestinians, but it would depend on the price Israel would have to pay.” Moreover, “Netanyahu understands that things need to advance, he is committed to that, and he is able to show progress,” one said. Next week, Netanyahu’s special envoy, Yitzhak Molcho, travels to the US to discuss ways of renewing the negotiations with the Palestinians. But The Haaretz reports that Netanyahu aides deny the Prime Minister is considering a settlement freeze, which is a basic condition of the Palestinians to restart negotiations.
We find of interest the March 20 date which coincidentally is the day ahead of the Equinox of Spring or the Iranian New Year – which this year is also a stage in the election of a new President in Iran. This gives the date the potential for an interesting surprise relating to Iran.
Israel Hayom, owned by American Republican casino-magnate Sheldon Adelson, writes that the right-wing are concerned that Netanyahu will agree to a settlement freeze and that the Prime Minister’s Office is not willing to comment on the issue. The Yesha Settler Council wants to meet with Obama in order to share the settlers’ perspective directly with him, Maariv reported. One can expect that he will agree to meet with them as he will meet with the Abbas leadership as well.
Two Netanyahu associates gave Yedioth’s esteemed political affairs commentator, Nahum Barnea, completely contradictory predictions about Netanyahu’s future acts. One said that Netanyahu will go far to appease Obama and the European Union on the Palestinian issue. The other, who has completely opposite political views, said Netanyahu’s big act this year will be war against Iran’s nuclear project.
A Blog of the Manhattan based Council on Foreign Relations just posted, in our opinion a mild and thus incomplete view of this early visit by the American President – the title is:
Obama’s Reset Opportunity With Israel.
by Robert M. Danin
February 6, 2013
The White House announced yesterday that Barack Obama will visit Israel in March, his first visit there as president. The decision reportedly follows a January 28 telephone conversation between the president, just starting his second term, and newly reelected Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The visit is a welcome opportunity to reset the U.S.-Israel relationship for the next four years. It is significant that the visit was agreed to and announced even before Prime Minister Netanyahu had an opportunity to put together a new government and establish a new set of priorities and policies for the nineteenth Knesset. It suggests that the White House recognizes that with many Middle East policy challenges ahead on a vast array of regional issues—Iran, Syria, advancing Israeli-Palestinian peace—it is necessary to strengthen a core prerequisite—mutual trust—before the more intensive policy debate can proceed.
To be sure, it is imperative that the United States and Israel, as allies, define their shared objectives together. But Obama’s upcoming visit needs to be less policy and more fundamental—a reaffirmation of the United States’ core connection to Israel, its safety, and desire to help a secure Israel realize its long-term dream of a peace with its neighbors that anchors the country’s long-term security and future in the region.
The president will also visit Ramallah where he can reassure disenchanted Palestinians that the United States genuinely wants Palestine to emerge soon as an independent and democratic state living side by side with Israel in peace and security. It is an opportunity for the United States to demonstrate that support for Israel and support for Palestine is not a zero-sum game. To the contrary, it must be win-win. Only a superpower that embraces both sides—and occasionally employs tough love in the advancement of larger shared objectives—can help the two sides achieve that which they cannot do alone. But this visit to both sides must be about the love.
Obama’s visit to Israel provides the president an opportunity not only to demonstrate that he wishes to establish a new and invigorated relationship with Prime Minister Netanyahu, but to establish a relationship with an even more important partner: the Israeli and Palestinian people. Both sides suffer from a deep and well-earned pessimism about the possibilities about peace with the other.
If indeed the president still believes that peace is both possible and necessary, this is a golden opportunity for him to make the case directly to these two war-weary populations. If comprehensive peace is no longer his immediate objective, given the Middle East’s challenges and upheaval, then it is still critical that the president offers an understanding of the regional dynamics and a commitment to stay engaged with his friends as they struggle in the face of a worrisome future. In short, the president must demonstrate that he gets it from the perspective of the people on the ground.
Just as some criticize the president for not visiting Israel during his first term, some will criticize Obama for going to Israel too early into his second term, before he has a clear set of policy choices he wishes Israelis, Palestinians, and others in the region to make. But this visit will be about something more basic: affirming genuine friendship, and establishing greater trust and a human connection. In doing so, he will demonstrate his commitment to remain engaged in the Middle East, not pivot away at the expense of a region where there is no such thing as benign neglect.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Iran now possesses nuclear technology — something the international community has worked hard to prevent — but despite fears to the contrary, Tehran has no interest in attacking Israel.
International sanctions have been in place against Iran since July 2006, as countries around the world have sought to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons.
Iran has consistently maintained its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, a claim that is treated with suspicion in the west.
“We’re already an industrial and nuclear country, a country that has conquered space,” Ahmadinejad told the Egyptian newspaper al-Ahram on Wednesday, referring to the country’s recent claim that it launched a monkey into space.
Ahmadinejad is in Egypt for an Islamic summit, marking the first time since 1979 an Iranian leader has visited the country. He said his nation has no interest in attacking Israel.
“They want to attack Iran, but we’re not preparing any attack against them because the purpose of our program is defense,” he said, according to an English-language translation of his interview.
He told the Egyptian paper that while Israel might find it easy to launch missiles or attack the country using fighter jets, Iran’s defense capabilities could withstand such an attack.
News of a potential Israeli attack on Iran first circulated in late 2012 when Martin Indyk, the former U.S. ambassador to Israel, predicted a war between the two countries is likely in early 2013. Speaking on the issue in September 2012, Indyk said he thought Iran had at most six months to negotiate a solution to avoid war.
The Iranian leader said the country’s economy is able to withstand the impact of sanctions currently in place, saying that domestic oil production has replaced imports.
One of the most damaging effects of sanctions has been a decline in the value of Iranian oil. Speaking to The New York Times in January, Iran’s oil minister conceded that the value of oil exports had declined by up to 40 percent in the past year.
Ahmadinejad said he wants the world to treat Iran as a nuclear country and that it “will not go back to what it was in the past.”
“They assume we’ll give in to pressure; such thoughts are misguided,” he said.
“For years, we have been thinking about sending a human being into space and we will do that, with [God's] help. We must ensure development and growth and bring them to pass and the world must acknowledge our progress.”
Ahmadinejad again used anti-Israel rhetoric when discussing the Palestinian situation.
Ahmadinejad: We’re a nuclear state, but we won’t strike Israel
Visiting Egypt, president warns of grave consequences should ‘the Zionists’ attack Iran’s nuclear facilities.
Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad meets with Grand Sheik Ahmed al-Tayeb, the head of Al-Azhar, the Sunni Muslim world’s premier Islamic institution on Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2013 (photo credit: AP/Amr Nabil)
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has claimed that his country has attained nuclear capabilities, but will not use them to strike Israel.
In an interview published Wednesday by Egyptian establishment daily Al-Ahram, Ahmadinejad said that even though “the Zionists” are intent on attacking Iran, Iran is “not planning a military strike against them, because our system is defensive.”
On the second day of a three-day visit to Egypt, Ahmadinejad warned Israel against launching a preemptive strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities, saying that such an attack would cause grave consequences for the Jewish state.
“Launching missiles or a fighter jet would not be difficult [for Israel], but what is important is the reaction to such a strike, as well as Iran’s defensive capabilities,” he said.
Speaking of Iran’s technological advances, Ahmadinejad claimed that his country is now “an industrial country, a nuclear and aerospace country.” He told Al-Ahram that for years Iran has dreamed of launching a man into space, and will do so in the future. The Iranian president did not acknowledge that Iran was developing nuclear capabilities for military purposes.
“From now on, the world should treat Iran as a nuclear state,” he said, challenging the West to recognize Iran’s technological advances and cooperate with it.
Zionists, Ahamadinejad argued, are playing a special role in the world, taking control of political positions of power, natural resources and money. They also strive “to monopolize many sectors by destroying cultures and economies and by waging wars.”
Ahmadinejad highlighted the economic woes of the United States, saying it was in the process of transferring its problems to the rest of the world “through the dollars.” America, he added, continues to push its hegemony by “placing its hands in the pockets of others.”
Addressing the Egyptian fear of Iranian-backed Shiite proselytizing, Ahmadinejad denied any official Iranian policy of spreading Shiite Islam in the Arab world, while acknowledging that some individuals may be involved in such activity.
Attending a summit of the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation in Cairo on Wednesday, Ahmadinejad is the first Iranian leader to visit Egypt in 35 years. Following the Islamic revolution in 1979, Iran cut diplomatic relations with Egypt, which sheltered the deposed Shah and signed peace accords with Israel. The Islamic Republic subsequently named a Tehran street after the assassin of Egyptian president Anwar Sadat, Khaled Islambouli.
Egypt Hosts Ahmadinejad in First Iran Leader Visit Since 1979 Revolution.
Tuesday, 05 Feb 2013 09:36 AM
CAIRO — Mahmoud Ahmadinejad arrived in Egypt Tuesday on the first trip by an Iranian president since the 1979 revolution, underlining a thaw in relations since Egyptians elected an Islamist head of state. President Mohammed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood politician elected in June, kissed Ahmadinejad as he disembarked from his plane at Cairo airport. The leaders walked down a red carpet, Ahmadinejad smiling as he shook hands with waiting dignitaries.
Visiting Cairo to attend an Islamic summit that begins on Wednesday, the president of the Shiite Islamist republic is due to meet later on Tuesday with the grand sheik of al-Azhar, one of the oldest seats of learning in the Sunni world.
Such a visit would have been unthinkable during the rule of Hosni Mubarak, the military-backed autocrat who preserved Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel during his 30 years in power and deepened ties between Cairo and the West.
“The political geography of the region will change if Iran and Egypt take a unified position on the Palestinian question,” Ahmadinejad said in an interview with Al Mayadeen, a Beirut-based TV station, on the eve of his visit.
He said he wanted to visit the Gaza Strip, the Palestinian territory which neighbors Egypt to the east and is run by the Islamist movement Hamas. “If they allow it, I would go to Gaza to visit the people,” Ahmadinejad said.
Analysts doubt that the historic changes that brought Morsi to power in Egypt will result in a full restoration of diplomatic ties between states whose relations were broken off after the Iranian revolution and the conclusion of Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel in 1979.
OBSTACLES TO FULL TIES
At the airport the two leaders discussed ways of boosting relations between their countries and resolving the Syrian crisis “without resorting to military intervention,” Egyptian state media reported.
Egypt is concerned by Iran’s support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who is trying to crush an uprising inspired by the revolt that swept Mubarak from power two years ago. Egypt’s overwhelmingly Sunni Muslim population is broadly supportive of the uprising against Assad’s Alawite-led administration.
The Morsi administration also wants to safeguard relations with Gulf Arab states that are supporting Cairo’s battered state finances and are deeply suspicious of Iran.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr reassured Gulf Arab allies that Egypt would not jeopardize their security.
“The security of the Gulf states is the security of Egypt,” he told the official MENA news agency, in response to questions about Cairo’s opening to Iran and its impact on other states in the region.
Morsi wants to preserve ties with the United States, the source of $1.3 billion in aid each year to the influential Egyptian military.
His government has established close ties with Hamas — a movement backed by Iran and shunned by the West because of its hostility to Israel — but its priority is addressing Egypt’s deep economic problems.
“The restoration of full relations with Iran in this period is difficult, despite the warmth in ties . . . because of many problems including the Syrian crisis and Cairo’s links with the Gulf states, Israel and the United States,” said one former Egyptian diplomat.
Speaking to Reuters on the sidelines of preparatory meetings for the two-day Islamic summit, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said he was optimistic that ties could grow closer.
“We are gradually improving. We have to be a little bit patient. I’m very hopeful about the expansion of the bilateral relationship,” he said. Asked where he saw room for closer ties, he said: “Trade and economics.”
Ahmadinejad’s visit to Egypt follows Morsi’s visit to Iran in August for a summit of the Non-Aligned Movement.
Sheik Ahmed al-Tayeb, head of the 1,000-year-old al-Azhar mosque and university, will meet Ahmadinejad at his offices in medieval Islamic Cairo, al-Azhar’s media office said.
Salehi, the Iranian foreign Minister, stressed the importance of Muslim unity when he met Sheik al-Tayeb at al-Azhar last month.
Egypt and Iran have taken opposite courses since the late 1970s. Egypt, under Mubarak’s predecessor Anwar Sadat, concluded a peace treaty with Israel in 1979 and became a close ally of the United States and Europe.
Since 1979, Iran has turned into a center of opposition to Western influence in the Middle East.
Symbolically, Iran named a street in Tehran after the Islamist who led the 1981 assassination of Sadat.
Egypt gave asylum and a state funeral to Iran’s exiled Shah Reza Pahlavi, who was overthrown by the 1979 Iranian revolution.
He is buried in a medieval Cairo mosque alongside his ex-brother-in-law, Egypt’s last king, Farouk.
Ahmadinejad Says Iran Isn’t Looking to Attack Israel, Ahram Says
By Tarek El-Tablawy – Feb 6, 2013 8:26 AM ET Reported by Bloomberg News
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said his nation has no interest in attacking Israel and reached out to Egypt with an offer of aid amid that nation’s economic troubles, the state-run al-Ahram newspaper reported today.
Ahmadinejad, who arrived yesterday in Cairo for an Islamic summit in a trip marking the first to Egypt by an Iranian leader since 1979, said “Zionists,” his standard reference to Israel, “very much want to strike Iran, and we haven’t until now given, and will not give, them this chance,” the newspaper cited him as saying. “They are well aware of our Iranian defensive capabilities.”
The Iranian president said his nation had now become a state with nuclear technology despite western nations’ best efforts to prevent that, according to al-Ahram. Iran is under international sanctions for its nuclear program, an effort which the United States and its allies maintain is aimed at developing weapons. Iran says its nuclear program is for purely peaceful purposes.
Ahmadinejad said Iran’s economy is able to withstand the impact of the sanctions regime currently in place, arguing the nation’s domestic production will take the place of imports, al- Ahram reported.
Reaching out to Egypt, a traditional rival under President Mohamed Mursi’s predecessors, Ahmadinejad said Iran was ready to offer aid and stressed that cooperation between the two countries was key to cementing their strength in the world, the newspaper reported.
While Egyptian-Iranian relations have thawed slightly since Mursi’s June election, the Arab state’s foreign minister said earlier that a full normalization of ties would be left to circumstances and the Iranian president was in Cairo, like other leaders, for an Islamic summit that started today.
When war between Israel and Iran seemed imminent, Israeli graphic designer Ronny Edry shared a poster on Facebook of himself and his daughter with a bold message: “Iranians … we [heart] you.” Other Israelis quickly created their own posters with the same message — and Iranians responded in kind. The simple act of communication inspired surprising Facebook communities like “Israel loves Iran,” “Iran loves Israel” and even “Palestine loves Israel.”
TEDTalks is a daily video podcast of the best talks and performances from the TED Conference, where the world’s leading thinkers and doers give the talk of their lives in 18 minutes (or less). Look for talks on Technology, Entertainment and Design — plus science, business, global issues, the arts and much more.
Find closed captions and translated subtitles in many languages at www.ted.com/translate
Your pictures are mostly of young people. Please know that those of us old enough to be their parents and grandparents, also, love Iran, Israel, Syria, Palestine, etc. We know the power of love and the failure of war. Keep up the valuable word
Whether a Jew or Gentile says that the Jewish state of Israel should not exist, anti-Zionism is a form of racism. Would it make sense to say that you? love the Dutch but just want to see Holland destroyed or dismantled? Israel is arguably the most legally established state on Earth, as the int’l community voted in her favor, whereas most other nations became nations through conquest or without the world’s approval. Israel is here to stay, so deal with it and stop scapegoating Jews for politics.
Meonetallguy, I’ve been called a lot of things, but I’ve never been called stupid. Your frequent name calling says a lot more who you are than it says about me. Your simplistic view of the government being inherently evil is based on extremely simplistic logic. No wonder your head is full of hatred and propaganda. You don’t have a working bullshit filter. It’s not governments that are inherently evil; it’s large? quantities of power that could be evil. Small governments are humble, unlike you.
The power of ONE in action. Each of us CAN contribute to peace. Thank you so much for this lovely backstory on the original image – and yes, I had shared with many when the first? image came out. I rejoice that so much occurred afterward. To those who chose the ‘thumbs down’ for either the video or the message, I wish you peace in your own heart. Compassion to our world and her people!
As for governments. All governments are inherently evil! A government in the beginning appears benevolent & governs in the best interest & service to the people but that quickly turns to an oppresive system where the pyramid is tipped upside down & the people are servants to the corrupt government…history shows it? happens all the time. Here in America we’ve been lied to & misled, have been fed propaganda up to our nostrils. Our politicians have taken this once great nation down an evil path!
Green Prophet is a sustainable voice for green news on the Middle East region. A region with sweeping changes and immense opportunities for sustainable investment and growth, we cover a vast and unexplored territory from Morocco to Iran. The Middle East and North Africa region includes more than half a billion people. Controlling about 60 percent of the world’s oil, and 45 percent of its natural gas reserves, and with little environmental awareness in general and dwindling water resources, the region’s activities are of immense consequence for climate change, human migration, and the future of our planet.
Covering this very unique niche and impressive diversity of the landscape and people, Green Prophet is followed closely by industry game changers, investors, media, and the heads of environment non-profits. Green Prophet’s stories have been featured and linked to on the world’s most influential media outlets including Al Jazeera, AOL News, TIME Magazine, the NY Times and dozens more, connecting us on the ground as the definitive source of green news for the Middle East and North Africa region.
Green Prophet covers Middle East green news that impacts policy, clean tech investments, and environmental education and advocacy. Its award winning writers cover green technology startups and investments in solar and renewable energy, green design, sustainable architecture, fashion, culture and religion, and policy news that impacts the Middle East region. Look for a focus on countries such as the United Arab Emirates, Israel, Qatar, Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia.
The site was founded by Karin Kloosterman, a Canadian often living in and traveling the Middle East.
As a leading voice for what happens in the Middle East, Green Prophet is happy to discuss sponsorship opportunities with you to help mobilize your company’s CSR campaigns. For sponsorship opportunities email contact at greenprophet.com.
Subscribe to Green Prophet’s Weekly Newsletter. This newsletter is published once a week. Like usual, we’ll send you a mix of the best clean technology news, and regional and cultural news from the Middle East. www.greenprophet.com
The Jewish version of Arbor Day Tu B’Shevat is more relevant today than ever. Transformed from a general agricultural holiday into a dedicated arboreal conservation initiative in the early 1900?s, this celebration takes place towards the end of January during the Hebrew month of Shevat. This holiday addresses the travesty that trees previously revered by indigenous people around the globe have become nothing more than commodities in our modern consciousness, something to be grown, skinned, chopped and used in building projects.
But there are so many other reasons to value trees. Not only are they beautiful sentries that transform a flat and dusty landscape, and gracious hosts of important bugs, birds and sometimes mammals too, they also perform a variety of crucial environmental services that most of us don’t see. Followed is a list of five.
Take for instance the problem called Syria that after 60,000 people killed, and hundreds of thousands displaced, during 2011-2012 continuing now in the same way - or a two years of disaster – still does not move the UN Security Council seat-holders to find a way to control the centripetal forces in that Member State.
Arriving to Davos on Thursday morning – to the World Economic Forum – first action of Mr. Ban Ki-moon took was to deliver a special address focusing on Syria and the African Sahel region. The address was noticed by governments, business, and civil society. A unity must be found that allows meaningful action and humanitarian and political efforts must be given security cover. He met the Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu in this context. He also spoke at a meeting on water resources and connected the events in the North Africa – Middle East MENA States to active effects of drought and Climate Change and people migration that spill over to neighboring States that also suffer from environmental degradation.
On the one end of this arc of destruction – by fighting people and by disaster creating activities elsewhere – Mr. Ban Ki-moon met with the Prime Minister of Lebanon – H.E. Mr. Najib Milkati, and a large group of US Members of Congress from the Republican Party – Messrs. Eric Cantor (Virginia), Jeff Fortenberry (Nebraska), Mario Diaz-Balart (Florida), Darrell Issa (Californis), and Ms Kay Granger (Texas). With this unusual group questions of Human Rights and UN reform were as important as the Middle East Peace Process between Israel and its neighbors, as the unrest in the Sahel region on the other side of the MENA arc of destruction and its neighbors of the Horn of Africa, Central Africa, and West Africa.
Regarding Mali, Mr. Ban warned that the crisis is deepening with repeated reports of sexual violence, child soldiers, and reprisals by the Malian army against Tuareg and Arab populations. The African story repeats itself now also in the Western part of the Sahel. A toxic mix of poverty, extreme climatic conditions, weak institutions, drug smuggling, and the easy availability of weapons, is causing now also in this rather new region the dangerous insecurity we know from the other parts of MENA and its neighboring States.
The UNSG came to Davos in order to tell to whoever will listen that the problems of Mali engulf 18 million people of the Sahel, and if we want to address the problems – the whole set of problems will have to be addressed. Ditto when looking at Darfur and the region stretching into the Horn of Africa.
Mr. Ban took a look also at Egypt and Bahrain and expressed his wishes that these two States do not regress into difficult situations as well.
Regarding Mr. Saddam Hussein’s Iraq misadventure into Kuwait, the UN panel allocated from Iraq funds the equivalent of $1.3 billion as reparations to Kuwait.
While the UNSG was making these presentations to leaders, academics, and business tycoons in Davos, his Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, Mr.Peter Launsky-Tieffenthal presented the Ban Ki-moon video address to the 2013 International Day of Commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust, in the UN General Assembly Hall at the New York City Headquarters of the UN. This year’s Memorial Ceremony was held under the secondary title: “THE COURAGE TO CARE.”
The Holocaust, though a very special event without anything in human history to compare it with, according to Mr. Jan Karski, one of the “Righteous Among the Nations” by the Jerusalem Yad Vashem, for his efforts to inform the World of the extermination of the Jews activities of the Nazis of the German Reich, ought nevertheless be remembered when watching crimes performed in full TV light before our eyes and right in front of us.
Jan Karski was awarded posthumously, by President Obama in 2012, the US Presidential Medal of Freedom. and the UN lobby has now an exhibit on display about him as his book “Story of a Secret State” was released this year with details of US inaction while he provided information of what was going on in Europe during WWII. He started out as a Polish Nationalist, but even though faced with the dismemberment of the Polish State – he recognized that what was happening to the Jews was immensely worse.
The US Lobby is displaying as well material about the Holocaust, the extermination machine and the Righteous people who even by saving the life of just one Jew – got themselves the right to be considered as if they saved the whole world. Considering that the UN is ever so often visited by Holocaust deniers, and the UN continuously watching crimes being committed by member States – the event at Headquarters was at least just as important, if not more, as what the UNSG was trying to achieve in Davos.
We bring thus the text of the UNSG video presentation to those assembled at the UN General Assembly Hall on Friday, January 25, 2013.
25 January 2013
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York
Secretary-General, in Memorial Message for Holocaust Victims Day, Hails‘Unsung Heroes’ Who Risked All to Help Targets of Persecution.
The original title was:
VIDEO MESSAGE ON THE INTERNATIONAL DAY OF COMMEMORATION IN MEMORY OF THE VICTIMS OF THE HOLOCAUST.
Airing 25 January 2013
It is a great pleasure to greet all the good friends of the United Nations who have gathered for this observance of the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust. I welcome in particular the Holocaust survivors and World War II veterans who have joined this solemn ceremony.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Courage is a rare and precious commodity. Today, we celebrate those who had the courage to care. Throughout the Second World War, Jews, Roma and Sinti, Soviet prisoners of war and others who failed to conform to Hitler’s perverted ideology of Aryan perfection were systematically murdered in death camps such as Auschwitz-Birkenau.
But some were able to avoid the slaughter. They escaped because a few brave souls risked their lives and their families to rescue Jews and other victims of persecution from almost certain death. Some sheltered the intended victims in their homes; others helped families to obtain safe passage.
Some of the accounts of the rescuers have achieved iconic prominence. But many are known only to those whose lives were saved. This year’s observance is meant to give those unsung heroes the regard they deserve. I thank the Righteous among the Nations Programme at Yad Vashem, which is celebrating its fiftieth year, for identifying and rewarding them. The Holocaust and the United Nations programme has produced an education package on the rescuers that will be used in classrooms around the world.
I also congratulate another crucial partner, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, on its twentieth anniversary. Its theme of “Never Again: What You Do Matters” resonates deeply.
Acts of genocide illustrate the depths of evil to which individuals and whole societies can descend. But the examples of the brave men and women we celebrate today also demonstrate the capacity of humankind for remarkable good, even during the darkest of days.
On this International Day, let us remember all the innocent people who lost their lives during the Holocaust. And let us be inspired by those who had the courage to care — the ordinary people who took extraordinary steps to defend human dignity. Their example is as relevant today as ever.
In a world where extremist acts of violence and hatred capture the headlines on an almost daily basis, we must remain ever vigilant. Let us all have the courage to care, so we can build a safer, better world today.