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
‘I Speak to You as a Friend …’
By THE EDITORIAL BOARD
Published: March 21, 2013, THE NEW YORK TIMES.
Related: In Israel, Obama Seeks to Offer Reassurance of ‘Unbreakable Bonds’ (March 21, 2013)
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?
The desalination revolution
How Israel beat the drought
This country was on the brink of water catastrophe, reduced to running relentless ad campaigns urging Israelis to conserve water even as it raised prices and cut supplies to agriculture. Now, remarkably, the crisis is over.
By David Horovitz February 26, 2013,
Until a couple of years ago, Israeli radio and TV regularly featured commercials warning that the country was “drying out.”
In one of the most powerful TV ad campaigns, celebrities including singer Ninet Tayeb, model Bar Refaeli and actor Moshe Ivgy highlighted the “years of drought” and the “falling level of the Kinneret.”
As they spoke plaintively to camera, their features started to crack and peel — like the country — for lack of moisture.
So compelling was this ad, so resonant its impact, I hadn’t actually realized it was no longer on the air. Alexander Kushnir put me straight. “We decided it simply wasn’t justified to alarm Israelis in this way any longer,” said Kushnir, who heads Israel’s Water Authority.
How so? Israelis don’t need to watch their water use any more? Isn’t this region one of the world’s most parched? Haven’t we been warned for years that the next Middle East war will be fought over water?
Kushnir’s answers: Yes, Israelis must still be wise with their water use. Yes, emphatically, this is a desert region, desperately short of natural water. And yes, we have indeed been worried for years about the possibility of water shortages provoking conflict.
But for Israel, for the foreseeable future, Kushnir says, the water crisis is over. And not because this happens to have been one of the wettest winters in years. Rather, he says, an insistent refusal to let the country be constrained by insufficient natural water sources — a refusal that dates back to David Ben-Gurion’s decision to build the National Water Carrier in the 1950s, the most significant infrastructure investment of Israel’s early years — led Israel first into large-scale water recycling, and over the past decade into major desalination projects. The result, as of early 2013, is that the Water Authority feels it can say with confidence that Israel has beaten the drought.
Alexander Kushnir, head of the Water Authority (photo credit: Courtesy)
Speaking to The Times of Israel from the authority’s offices in Tel Aviv, Kushnir identifies that refusal to “rely on fate” as the key to a genuine strategic achievement — a rare, highly positive change in an age and a region where most of Israel’s challenges appear to be worsening, not receding, much less disappearing.
“How did we beat the water shortage? Because we said we would. We decided we would,” says Kushnir, a big man with a warm smile and a robust Russian accent. “And once you’ve made that decision, you build the tools to reduce your dependence. We’re on the edge of the desert in an area where water has always been short. The quantity of natural water per capita in Israel is the lowest for the whole region. But we decided early on that we were developing a modern state. So we were required to supply water for agriculture, and water for industry, and then water for hi-tech, and water to sustain an appropriate quality of life.”
The National Water Carrier — which takes water from the Sea of Galilee (Lake Kinneret) south through the whole country to Beersheba and beyond — exemplified Israel’s ambition. Contemplated even before the modern state was founded, its planning and initial construction were “a dominant feature of the first Ben-Gurion government — an unprecedented investment,” Kushnir notes. “It stressed our desire to achieve a different reality.”
Carrying almost 2 million cubic meters a day nationwide, that supply line, together with water from underground aquifers, kept Israel watered through the 70s. By the 1980s, though “we had a bigger population, bigger needs and the natural resources were overstretched. So we experimented with a small desalination plant in Eilat. And we began recycling purified sewage, and bringing industry into purifying water.”
“Use any superlatives you like,” urges Kushnir, to describe the fact that, today, “over 80% of our purified sewage goes back into agricultural use. The next best in the OECD is Spain with 17-18%. It’s so justified energy-wise, and environmentally as well.”
But even these innovations weren’t enough to meet the needs of an ever-growing population through the 1990s and into the 2000s, the more so when the rains failed. Average rainfall in Israel is about 1.2 billion cubic meters. But in relatively dry years, it can sink to 900 million.
As the gulf between available water resources and needs widened, Israeli agriculture moved away from water-intensive crops and pioneered enormously improved efficiency, with trailblazing drip irrigation techniques. Israel also increased the use of brackish water in agriculture. And all that still wasn’t good enough. “We knew we had to be careful not to hurt our natural resources,” says Kushnir. “Ultimately, we had no choice but to reduce the supply of natural water to agriculture, and to increase prices, which hurt our agricultural sector.”
Plainly, this was no long-term solution. Elsewhere in the region, poorly managed countries were over-drilling, over-using, and risking major damage to natural sources. “In Syria, for instance, they drilled wells everywhere and destroyed aquifers,” he says. “They had irrational, erratic water management and a lack of government policy.” Even before two years of civil war began, Syrians turned on their taps and got nothing most days of the week.
“By 2000 our balance was really strained,” says Kushnir. “We would have had to cut back drastically in agriculture or industry or home use and we weren’t prepared to do that. We didn’t want to switch off the water to a population in Israel which has enough problems to deal with.”
The solution was desalination, on a major scale — the third phase in a water revolution that had begun with the water carrier and continued with recycling. The first large desalination plant came on line in Ashkelon in 2005, followed by Palmahim and Hadera. By the end of this year, when the Soreq and Ashdod plants are working, there’ll be five plants — built privately at a cost of NIS 6-7 billion (about $2 billion).
Israel uses 2 billion cubic meters of water per year — which is actually a little less than a decade ago, as efficiencies have been introduced in agriculture (which uses 700 million), and water-saving awareness has permeated. Of that two billion, half will be “artificially” manufactured by year’s end — 600 million cubic meters from those desalination plants, and 400 from purified sewage and brackish water.
“We’re not the world’s biggest desalinators,” notes Kushnir, “but no one has made the shift so fast to a situation where half of its water needs are filled from ‘artificial’ sources. And it means we are now ready for the next decade, without dramatic dependence on rainfall fluctuations.”
Kushnir regards this as a remarkable achievement — “a lesson for the rest of the world,” he says, “or at least those many parts of the world that are grappling with variants of the difficulties Israel has overcome.”
So the “Israel’s drying out” ads have gone off the air, and the panicked warnings are over. But that doesn’t mean Israelis should now wash their cars with sloshing abandon, shower for hours, or hose their lawns (if they’re lucky enough to have one) day and night.
“In our region, you always have to save water,” Kushnir stresses. “There has to be intelligent water use. But I’m not going to scream at people anymore.”
The campaigns were demonstrably effective; they reduced water use by at least 10 percent, Kushnir says. “In 2000, it was 100 cubic meters per person per year. Nowadays it’s 90. That saved us a desalination plant.”
But Israel can afford to relax, at least a little. “Our job is to ensure that when you turn on the tap, water comes out,” says Kushnir. “Well, we’ve done that. People have to continue to be smart. This isn’t London or Washington, DC. You have to use water as appropriate to our region. There has to be awareness that water is a precious resource, and we have to manufacture much of it, and that costs money. The manufacture also creates carbon dioxide and that affects the environment. So, I’m not trying to scare the public. You want water, here’s water. Use it. Use it as you want, but use it wisely.”
Where does Kushnir stand on global warming? Does he see it impacting annual rainfall? “There are dramatic changes in water fall,” he responds. “We need to be prepared for graver, longer droughts. If we see global warming having more of an effect, we’ll have to increase the desalination factor. If not, we’ll stay at the current fifty-fifty.
“Personally,” he goes on, “I’m a bit skeptical that global warming is a consequence of human activity. There is partial proof that human activity has exacerbated it. [But] it might be normal fluctuations. Remember,” he adds, “I’m supposed to be skeptical when I decide where to spend our billions.”
For all the announced success, should we be concerned that it might have come too late — that desalination should have been implemented earlier, reducing the heavy pumping from the Kinneret and the aquifers?
“Yes, we could have started desalination earlier. The damage to our natural resources would have been lighter,” Kushnir agrees. “We came very close to the black lines in the aquifers and the Kinneret which could have caused multi-year damage. Did we do harm? I hope not. But we’re moving away from the black lines now, even from the warning red lines. The immediate refilling and rehabilitation of the Sea of Galilee looks nice, but the aquifers are the key and we’re still 1 billion cubic meters to the optimal levels. Yet we’re legitimately optimistic.” (As of late February, the Sea of Galilee was at 210.24 meters below sea level, its highest level in seven years, which is a healthy 2.65 meters above the “lower red line” and 1.56 meters below the “upper red line” — the point at which the lake is considered full.)
At the same time as desalination has supplemented natural sources, he adds, Israel has also become more efficient in the collection of rainfall. “As we improve, our aquifers will refill. Our springs will fill up. Then we’ll really have done our bit.”
What about the rest of the immediate neighborhood, those who work with Israel, and those who are hostile to Israel?
Kushnir says Israel supplies an annual 100 million cubic meters in total to the Palestinian Authority (30 million) and to Jordan (70 million), in line with formal agreements. He says the PA has failed to develop all the infrastructure necessary to maximize available water, and would reach “reasonable, appropriate levels” if it did so. “They can take quite a lot from the eastern aquifer. There are natural sources they didn’t develop. It’s detailed in the interim agreements.” He also says that among Jewish settlers in the West Bank, water use is similar to that inside sovereign Israel.
Kushnir says he meets with the head of the PA’s water authority, Dr. Shaddad Attili. “We speak to them all the time and we tell them how we managed, including by purifying sewage.”
Attili, for his part, last October accused Israel of charging “extortionate” prices for the water it supplies, and the PA has claimed that Israel’s refusal to let it drill in various locations above aquifers, as well as disappointing results from the developments it has introduced, force it to continue to depend upon those Israeli supplies.
“Our water market is no longer subsidized by the state,” Kushnir responds, “not since 2007.”
As for Jordan, Kushnir says the two countries work together effectively. Ever since the Israel-Jordan border demarcation was adjusted under the 1994 peace accord, Jordan has allowed Israel to maintain its drilling facilities inside what became Jordanian territory in the south, “and we help them in the north.”
It was King Abdullah’s father Hussein who would warn about water shortages prompting the next Middle East war. As far as Kushnir is concerned, the Israeli-Jordanian working relationship where water is concerned assuages any such worry. “There is such good mutual respect and interest,” he says. “We help each other. [Relatively speaking,] they have water; their challenge is how to deliver it. There’s the Red-Dead project where we can argue about the specifics. They’re thinking of desalination in Aqaba. They have a plan for use of brackish water. They can solve their problems overall, and we’ll be happy to help.
Beyond Jordan, though, has the fear of drought-stoked conflict disappeared? Israel, Syria and Lebanon have long contested water rights, and intermittently accused each other of abuses. Gaza faces acute water shortages.
“We know that geostrategic changes in the region can endanger our water sources,” Kushnir allows. “We certainly can’t afford to give up our natural resources.”
Treading delicately, Kushnir notes that, despite the new successes, the Dead Sea, for instance, is “missing billions of cubic meters.” One day, he muses, “Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Israel could potentially redirect the waters of the Litani River,” in Lebanon, to begin to address that challenge. “Of course, he adds, with magnificent understatement, “we would have to be in a situation of constructive dialogue.”
For all that Israel’s new water health is legitimately hailed as a remarkable achievement, that utopian vision — of Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Israel engaged in “constructive dialogue” — would seem beyond the foreseeable ambitions of even the most skilled and optimistic of rainmakers.
A parched Syria turned to war, scholar says, and Egypt may be next.
Prof. Arnon Sofer sets out the link between drought, Assad’s civil war, and the wider strains in the Middle East; Jordan and Gaza are also in deep trouble, he warns.
May 9, 2013, The Times of Israel
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.
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.”
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.
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.”
As reported by Matthew Russell Lee from the UN, it seems that there is a Russian-American agreement to let Assad of Syria continue to fight his opposition as it seems that the Qatar, Arab Sunni proposal,leads to an Al-Qaeda domination in a post-Syria configuration. This might be what some Arab States want to happen, but it is totally unacceptable to the US and other States. Syria is doomed one way or another, and the new reality is that the US will not waste more energy on playing along Arab lines.
UNITED NATIONS, May 9 — On the pending Syria UN General Assembly resolution drafted by Qatar, Russia’s Permanent Representative Vitaly Churkin has now written to all member states, opposing the resolution on procedure, substance and on the May 7 announcement by Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov and US Secretary of State Kerry.
Inner City Press has obtained a copy of Russia’s letter and puts it online, here.
Please see Lavrov’s letter and realize that Syria is being moved to the backburners – even though it is clear that people will continue to be killed or driven into exile. No solution in Syria is now also clear reason for not pushing a Palestinian resolution either – all what we expect now is lot of empty noise.
A recent visitor to Amman reports some senior Jordanians declaring openly that “there never was a place called Palestine. There is no such thing as Palestine, only Jordan.” Such sentiments, while still a minority view, mark a sea change in the long-standing Jordanian deference to the PLO on developments west of the Jordan River. According to one Palestinian, such views are being encouraged by some voices in Fatah, who fear Hamas’ baton more than Amman’s reluctant embrace, and who no doubt believe, as many veterans in Fatah do, that all it will take to turn Jordan into Palestine is a Palestinian decision to do so.
“Jordan is Palestine” is the mirror image of “Palestine is Jordan.” Jordanians identified with the latter are not contemplating a confederal agreement between respective Jordanian and and Palestinian states, but rather the restoration of Jordan’s uncontested place in Jerusalem and the West Bank on the eve of the June 1967 war.
The ruler of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is not to be envied. History and geography have played a cruel trick on the leader of this unlikely country. He is squeezed between more powerful and often warring parties, presiding over a population of subjects thrown together by war and circumstance.To its credit, Jordan has succeeded more often than it has failed to construct a popular and workable, if fragile sense of national identity shared by disparate Palestinian and Transjordanian communities during the last nine decades. However, the self-immolation of Syria, Fatah’s failure to end Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the uncertain promise of the Arab Spring are posing new and unprecedented challenges for King Abdullah II, whose head lies ever uneasy on the royal throne.
The feasting on the corpse that was once Syria poses the most immediate challenge to Jordan, and it was at the heart of recent discussions during the King’s recent visit to Washington in the last week of April. But Jordan’s cascading problem managing the fallout from Syria complements the more essential challenge that has always been uppermost in the mind of Jordan’s political elite as well as its growing Islamic opposition. This challenge, of course, relates to the Palestinian dimension of Jordan’s national identity, and the King’s ability to manage this without his Hashemite or Transjordanian identity suffering as a consequence.
It is against Jordan’s basic nature to make precipitous moves in any direction, yet a dynamic trend favoring a “New Look” in Jordan’s Palestine policy — one that is viewed sympathetically in both Jerusalem and Washington — is hard to ignore.
For many years now Jordan has been confronting a most unwelcome strategic environment to its west, across the Jordan River. Fatah has failed to end Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the growing power of Hamas as a political factor has proceeded in tandem. Fatah is no friend of Jordan, where memories of Black September remain etched in the consciousness of the Jordanian elite. But Jordan long ago was forced by its own failures and by circumstances beyond its control to make its peace with the PLO, not only as the recognized representative of the Palestinian people — at least those residing east of the Jordan River —- but also as a strategic buffer against Israeli, American and Islamic/Arab claims against Amman. The PLO, notably after King Hussein’s 1988 disengagement from the West Bank, became Jordan’s insurance policy against the imposition of a solution at Jordan’s expense to Palestine’s problems in West Bank and Gaza Strip.
To Jordan’s dismay, it is being forced to realize that Fatah and the PLO it embodies cannot perform this task. This conclusion has been debated from time to time in recent years. The barometer of these discussions is Amman’s on-again, off-again dance with Khaled Meshaal and Hamas, most notably the 2009 thaw in relations engineered by Gen. Mohammad Dhahabi, who was at the time head of Jordan’s General Intelligence Department. If Fatah cannot be a Palestinian shield protecting Jordanian interests in a quiescent West Bank, it is argued, then perhaps Hamas should be given a go.
The other option, and the one today at the center of Jordan’s agenda, suggests a fundamental rethinking of Jordan’s exit from the West Bank that began with King Hussein’s failure in 1972 to reach an agreement on Israeli withdrawal with Moshe Dayan and that gained momentum with the Arab League decision to recognize the PLO as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people in 1974. Like Jordan’s unenthusiastic turn in Hamas’ direction, this option reflects Jordan’s despair at Fatah’s failure and is a hedge against Fatah’s capitulation to Israel in a deal that would endanger Jordan’s interest in preventing an influx of Palestinians eastward across the Jordan River.
One example of this trend is the “historic,” if precipitous, agreement between King Abdullah and PLO head Mahmoud Abbas in March confirming the Jordanian king’s stewardship of the holy places in Jerusalem.
“In this historic agreement, Abbas reiterated that the king is the custodian of holy sites in Jerusalem and that he has the right to exert all legal efforts to preserve them, especially Al-Aqsa mosque,” the palace said in a statement. Abbas said that the agreement confirmed “Jordan’s role since the era of the late King Hussein” and that it consolidated agreements established decades ago.
Abbas’ signature marks the first formal Palestinian recognition of Jordan’s central role in Jerusalem and it complements the understanding detailed in Jordan’s treaty with Israel in 1994. The treaty notes that “Israel respects the present special role of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan in Muslim Holy shrines in Jerusalem. When negotiations on the permanent status will take place, Israel will give high priority to the Jordanian historic role in these shrines.”
Abbas’ interest in formalizing Jordan’s role is a function of Palestinian weakness and stands in ironic contrast to the nominal, and apparently symbolic boost for sovereignty won at the UN last November.
The understanding on Jerusalem reflects the PLO’s interest in Amman as a diplomatic safe harbor, protecting against both Hamas and Israel, and Amman’s readiness to reaffirm its interest in Jerusalem at the PLO’s (and Hamas’) expense.
These interests are not inconsistent with the evolving diplomatic strategy being pursued by US Secretary of State John Kerry. For more than a year, Amman has been a key way station of Washington’s diplomacy, much to the dismay of some in Egypt who preside over long-stalled reconciliation efforts. But unlike President Mohammad Morsi, King Abdullah is interested in being identified with any American effort. Even if opposed to the ideas Kerry is now circulating, Jordan has rarely viewed itself as in a position to reject US efforts.
“Palestine is Jordan” has long been the rallying cry of Israel’s right wing. It is now finding an uncertain echo in Jordan.
“We are extremely encouraged by the results of the Secretary’s meetings in Moscow with the President and with the Foreign Minister and salute your achievements in that regard by identifying a path forward,” Judeh said at a meeting with Kerry at the US ambassador’s residence in Rome Thursday.
Jordan’s position, Judeh said, is that there “has to be a transitional period that results in a political solution that includes all the segments of Syrian society, no exclusion whatsoever…preserves Syria’s territorial integrity and unity, and…guarantees… pluralism and opportunity for everybody.”
Judeh said he was heading to Moscow Thursday for further discussions. On Tuesday, Judeh issued a joint call with Iran’s visiting Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi for both sides in Syria’s civil war to enter talks on a transition government.
Kerry, on the final leg of a trip to Moscow and Rome, said Thursday that he had sent US Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford on to Istanbul to meet with the Syrian opposition and begin work to persuade them to come to the peace conference. They have expressed misgivings because it would get underway before any agreement on the departure of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, although US officials insist US policy hasn’t changed and that they do not see any possibility where Assad could remain the leader of Syria.
“The specific work of this next conference will be to bring representatives of the government and the opposition together to determine how we can fully implement the means of the [Geneva] communique, understanding that the communique’s language specifically says that the Government of Syria and the opposition have to put together, by mutual consent, the parties that will then become the transitional government itself,” Kerry said at a meeting with Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow on Tuesday.
Washington and Moscow actually have common ground on Syria, except for the issue of the sequencing of the transition, Russian foreign affairs analyst Fyodor Lukyanov wrote for Al-Monitor Thursday.
“We can say that Russia and the US differ today on only one issue: the sequence of actions,” Lukyanov wrote. “First Assad leaves, then the process of establishing a new political regime in Syria begins, or the other way around. Moscow supports the second version, and Washington the first. As strange as it seems, they are in agreement on everything else: After Assad, there is a risk that Syria will become ungovernable, and the goal of outside forces… is to prevent power from falling into the hands of Islamic extremists.”
The April 29 meeting between US Secretary of State John Kerry and an Arab League ministerial delegation of the Arab Peace Initiative (API) follow-up committee carried a double message.
The first was the United States’ willingness to seriously explore the possibility of resuming negotiations with the aim of ending the Palestinian-Israeli conflict after visits to the region by President Barack Obama and the secretary of state.
Skeptics worry that a division of labor decided by the US president, whereby he focuses on Asia while leaving the Arab-Israeli conflict to his secretary of state, is not very promising, despite the commitment and personality of the latter.
The second message is that Arabs have been waiting for a willingness to dust off the API, as I have previously argued here, and put it on their agenda with the United States. They are showing a readiness to invest in the Palestinian issue at this critical moment in Syria. The meeting should be the beginning of a process that would also involve intensive US-Israeli contacts and other concerned parties in serious negotiations. Such negotiations should be conducted on a basis different from those that have failed to produce results for two decades.
Yet the Arab willingness to accept the principle of territorial swaps — limited as well as symmetrical in terms of area and quality — was seen by others in the United States and Israel conversely: something to precede the negotiations, or to be addressed separately from the basic issue, which is Israel’s acceptance of the June 1967 borders in conformity with UN Security Council Resolution 242.
Indeed, this resolution should be the basis for a settlement of the conflict and of a resolution of the occupation. The Palestinians have indicated many times their acceptance of minor adjustments to the borders of 1967 — adjustments that will be considered only in the context of negotiations for the two-state solution, not before.
Israel must formally accept the 1967 borders instead of engaging continuously in diplomatic acrobatics over the version of the Resolution 242 in which there is an omission of the word “the” before “territories.” Israel’s aim is to suggest that it does not have to withdraw from all the occupied territories and to legitimize its occupation of the territories it wants to annex. Yet the preamble of the resolution clearly states the inadmissibility of territorial acquisition by means of war, thus invalidating the Israeli argument. Minor, symmetrical adjustments are an integrated part and facilitator of that deal, well defined according to Resolution 242. This does not allow for an unknown offer to be made by Israel.
It is equally important that Israel cease all settlement activity, which Obama mildly criticized during his visit as detrimental to the process. Indeed, they represent a real danger to a peaceful resolution because they systematically destroy any possibility of creating a viable Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders.
Also, suggesting Arab normalization with Israel as an encouraging gesture toward Israel, a free gift, further complicates matters. The focus must be on the United States and other third parties committed to peace in the Middle East and aware of the dangers of inaction to spell out the guidelines for reaching peace.
These guidelines are found in relevant UN resolutions and earlier agreements. These third parties should stand firmly by these guidelines. This is how the United States, a third party, could make the serious resumption of negotiations on the basis of a clear timetable and not mere discussion. The aim is to reach a comprehensive peace that includes normalization, as is clearly stated in the API, without amendment, despite what some have insinuated.
It is worth noting that amending the API necessitates a resolution by an Arab Summit, a matter that is neither on the collective Arab agenda nor on the agenda of the delegation. It is needless to revive once more, under different names, interim solutions that will take us nowhere but to further crisis and result in more conflicts.
Ambassador Nassif Hitti is a senior Arab League official and the former head of the Arab League Mission in Paris. He is a former representative to UNESCO and a member of the Al-Monitor board of directors. The views he presents here are his alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of these organizations.
The Middle East is back on the cooking stove slow burner in Washington, and Qatar announced that the Arab proposal of 2002 was not written in stone and it seems clear that as long as the Arabs did not solve the Syrian problem they are in no position to solve the Palestinian problem.
THE NEW YORK TIMES EDITORIAL May 3, 2013:
Israel Hayom wrote about a Qatari prince to visit Israeli Jerusalem and sign an agreement on joint high-tech development with a Qatari investment of Hundreds of millions of Dollars in this joint cooperation.
We found this information on-line 0n page 3 – left lower corner – of the Hebrew edition of the Right-Wing Israel Hayom newspaper. We got directed to it by the English language APN News Nosh of April 28, 2013 which is a Left-Wing media. So, we give it some credibility.
If the following turns out to be a correct description of Qatar readiness to deal with Israel – this is a serious development that can lead to the Arab Gulf States recognition of Israel de-Jure and not just de-Facto.
Qatari prince likely to visit Israel?
The representative of the royal family will arrive to launch the Israeli-Palestinian Center for Business Arbitration in Jerusalem, said Gen. (res.) Oren Shahor, head of Israel Chamber of Commerce. “Qatar is interested in investing hundreds of millions of dollars in developing the hi-tech field and sees Israel as a strategic source for gaining knowledge and technology.”
Summing Up – The implementation of The Israel-Turkey Reconciliation Agreement and Financial help for the survival of Jordan are the Visible Results of the Obama Foray into the Middle East. Not mentioned so far are possible moves on Syria, Cyprus, or Egypt.
To the Europe and Eurasia and the Near East lists of the US Department of State
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.
An ongoing review of President Obama’s Comet swiping the Middle East and what next. The Second Update is about The Deed Israel Holds on the Land as per the the Scrolls in the Israel Museum and his meetings with the President of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas for a general outline of a future Palestinian State at the side of Israel.
THE MOST IMPORTANT ELEMENT OF PRESIDENT OBAMA’S HELICOPTER TOUR OF THE HOLY LAND WAS HIS VISIT AT THE SHRINE OF THE BOOK – VIEWING THE DEAD SEA SCROLLS. THAT WAS A DE-FACTO AND DE-JURE RECOGNITION OF ZIONISM AS THE NATIONAL SPIRIT OF THE RETURN OF A JEWISH NATION TO ITS PLACE OF ORIGIN.
AFTER THIS – THE VISIT TO THE PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES – TO BETHLEHEM AND RAMALLAH – CAME TO EMPHASIZE BEFORE THE PALESTINIANS AND THE ARAB WORLD AT LARGE THAT THERE IS A CLEAR JUSTIFICATION FOR THE US BACKING OF ISRAEL AS A STARTING POINT FOR BRINGING ABOUT THE CREATION OF A PARALLEL PALESTINIAN STATE TO BE FORMED FOR PRAGMATIC REASONS. THE FACT THAT THE PALESTINIANS ARE DIVIDED DOES NOT HELP THIS CAUSE.
President Barack Obama, accompanied by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, views the Dead Sea Scrolls at The Israel Museum in Jerusalem, March 21, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
The day ended with a dinner at the residence of President Peres in Jerusalem.
On Friday, the U.S. president visited Israel’s Holocaust memorial, Yad Vashem, where he called for tolerance against others.
Accompanied by Israeli President Shimon Peres and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Obama spoke after viewing the Hall of Names: a circular room ringed by thousands of volumes containing names of people killed in the Holocaust.
President Barack Obama and President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority walk past an honor guard at the Mugata Presidential Compound in Ramallah, the West Bank, March 21, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Full text of President Obama’s speech in Ramallah
United States President Barack Obama traveled to Ramallah, on the West Bank, where he offered remarks in a joint press conference with President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority.
U.S. President Barack Obama, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at a joint news conference in Ramallah, Thursday, Thursday, March 21, 2013 Photo by AP
Marhaba. Thank you, President Abbas, for your generous words and for welcoming me to Ramallah. I was last here five years ago, and it’s a pleasure to be back — to see the progress that’s happened since my last visit, but also to bear witness to the enduring challenges to peace and security that so many Palestinians seek. I’ve returned to the West Bank because the United States is deeply committed to the creation of an independent and sovereign state of Palestine.
I want to commend President Abbas and his Prime Minister, Salam Fayyad, for the progress that they’ve made in building the institutions of a Palestinian state. And the United States is a proud partner in these efforts — as the single largest donor of assistance that improves the lives of Palestinians, both in the West Bank and Gaza. As your partner, we salute your achievements and we mourn your losses. We offer condolences, in particular, over the loss of your fellow Palestinians last weekend in the tragic accident in Jordan.
Ramallah is a very different city than the one I visited five years ago. There’s new construction. There’s new businesses, new start-ups, including many high-tech companies, connecting Palestinians to the global economy. The Palestinian Authority is more efficient and more transparent. There are new efforts to combat corruption so entrepreneurs and development can expand. Palestinian security forces are stronger and more professional — serving communities like Bethlehem, where President Abbas and I will visit the Church of the Nativity tomorrow.
Moreover, this progress has been achieved under some extremely challenging circumstances. So I want to pay tribute to President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad for their courage, for their tenacity, and for their commitment to building the institutions upon which a lasting peace and security will depend.
I would point out that all this stands in stark contrast to the misery and repression that so many Palestinians continue to confront in Gaza — because Hamas refuses to renounce violence; because Hamas cares more about enforcing its own rigid dogmas than allowing Palestinians to live freely; and because too often it focuses on tearing Israel down rather than building Palestine up. We saw the continuing threat from Gaza again overnight, with the rockets that targeted Sderot. We condemn this violation of the important cease-fire that protects both Israelis and Palestinians — a violation that Hamas has a responsibility to prevent.
Here in the West Bank, I realize that this continues to be a difficult time for the Palestinian Authority financially. So I’m pleased that in recent weeks the United States has been able to provide additional assistance to help the Palestinian Authority bolster its finances. Projects through USAID will help strengthen governance, rule of law, economic development, education and health. We consider these to be investments in a future Palestinian state — investments in peace, which is in all of our interests.
And more broadly, in our discussions today I reaffirmed to President Abbas that the United States remains committed to realizing the vision of two states, which is in the interests of the Palestinian people, and also in the national security interest of Israel, the United States, and the world. We seek an independent, a viable and contiguous Palestinian state as the homeland of the Palestinian people, alongside the Jewish State of Israel — two nations enjoying self-determination, security and peace.
As I have said many times, the only way to achieve that goal is through direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians themselves. There is no shortcut to a sustainable solution.
In our discussion with President Abbas, I heard him speak eloquently about the difficult issues that cannot be ignored — among them, problems caused by continued settlement activities, the plight of Palestinian prisoners, and access to holy sites in Jerusalem. I understand that the status quo isn’t really a status quo, because the situation on the ground continues to evolve in a direction that makes it harder to reach a two-state solution. And I know that the Palestinian people are deeply frustrated.
So one of my main messages today — the same message I’m conveying in Israel — is that we cannot give up. We cannot give up on the search for peace, no matter how hard it is. As I said with Prime Minister Netanyahu yesterday, we will continue to look for steps that both Israelis and Palestinians can take to build the trust and the confidence upon which lasting peace will depend. And I very much appreciate hearing President Abbas’s ideas on what those steps could be.
I want both sides to know that as difficult as the current situation is, my administration is committed to doing our part. And I know that Secretary of State John Kerry intends to spend significant time, effort, and energy in trying to bring about a closing of the gap between the parties. We cannot give up on the search for peace. Too much is at stake.
And if we’re going to succeed, part of what we’re going to have to do is to get out of some of the formulas and habits that have blocked progress for so long. Both sides are going to have to think anew. Those of us in the United States are going to have to think anew. But I’m confident that we can arrive at our destination to advance the vision of two nations, two neighbors at peace — Israel and Palestine.
If given the chance, one thing that I’m very certain of is that the Palestinians have the talent, the drive, and the courage to succeed in their own state. I think of the villages that hold peaceful protests because they understand the moral force of nonviolence. I think of the importance that Palestinian families place on education. I think of the entrepreneurs determined to create something new, like the young Palestinian woman I met at the entrepreneurship summit that I hosted who wants to build recreation centers for Palestinian youth. I think of the aspirations that so many young Palestinians have for their future — which is why I’m looking forward to visiting with some of them right after we conclude this press conference.
That’s why we can’t give up, because of young Palestinians and young Israelis who deserve a better future than one that is continually defined by conflict. Whenever I meet these young people, whether they’re Palestinian or Israeli, I’m reminded of my own daughters, and I know what hopes and aspirations I have for them. And those of us in the United States understand that change takes time but it is also possible, because there was a time when my daughters could not expect to have the same opportunities in their own country as somebody else’s daughters.
What’s true in the United States can be true here as well. We can make those changes, but we’re going to have to be determined. We’re going to have to have courage. We’re going to have to be willing to break out of the old habits, the old arguments, to reach for that new place, that new world. And I want all the people here and throughout the region to know that you will have the President of the United States and an administration that is committed to achieving that goal.
By Alon Pinkas | Mar.22,2013
And FROM GAZA: With no clear peace initiatives to push, US President Barack Obama has received a mixed reception on his visit to Israel and the West Bank from Palestinians, writes Hazem Balousha.
Original Title: Obama Receives Mixed Reception on Mideast Visit
While the visit of US President Barack Obama to Palestine and Israel attracted a great deal of Palestinian media attention, ordinary Palestinian people have been occupied with meeting the needs of their everyday life. The Palestinian political factions, on the other hand, have not been pleased with the American president’s visit and the negative position of the American administration toward the Palestinian cause.
Hamas expressed pessimism about Obama’s visit. Obama visited Ramallah, the city of Hamas’ rival, President Mahmoud Abbas. In a brief statement, Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas’ prime minister, said, “We do not expect that Obama’s visit would lead to any breakthrough in the political equation on the ground. We do not believe that the American policy will help end the occupation. On the contrary, Washington seeks to consolidate and legalize settlements under the banner of peace.”
Haniyeh warned the Palestinian Authority against returning to the negotiating table with Israel under US pressure. “The PA should realize that its future depends on the degree of its commitment to national principles and achieving a deeply entrenched reconciliation,” he said.
In the defense of the Islamic Republic , which is the biggest supporter of Hamas financially and politically, Haniyeh said, “We also reject all efforts designed to make Iran be perceived as the enemy of Arabs instead of Israel, despite our differences regarding some issues.”
Obama was warmly received by the PA during his visit to the cities of Ramallah and Bethlehem, while his photo, along with the American flag, were burned during a march organized by Palestinian factions in Gaza City, in protest at the visit.
Salah Bardawil, spokesman for Hamas, said, “Obama’s speech in Ramallah was a humanitarian speech, in which he appeared as a failed political analyst trying to elude critical questions. He failed to commit to the pledges he has made and is seeking to force the PA to re-launch bilateral negotiations with Israel without any references.”
He added, “Obama has also condemned the resistance, while exonerating the Zionist aggression. The president claimed that he supported the Gaza Strip. He clearly demonstrated his support by sending US-made phosphorous bombs and F-16 warplanes, used to attack the children of Gaza.”
Bardawil stressed Hamas’ refusal of the political settlement, saying that the movement will continue to resist as it is the only way to liberate the land, achieve self-rule and get prisoners released.
The Islamic Jihadist movement in Gaza agreed with Hamas that Obama’s visit aims at pressuring the Palestinian people and the PA to bring forth a political settlement based on American requirements.
In this context, Khaled al-Batch, a leader in the jihadist movement said that “this visit is not to the Palestinian’s people’s advantage. It rather serves the interests of the ‘Jewish State’ and the Israeli military superiority over Palestinians.”
On another note, rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip on Thursday before the arrival of Obama to Ramallah, landing in the southern Israeli town of Sderot, causing damage to a house. During his press conference with Abbas, the US President condemned this attack.
He noted that Palestinians in Gaza are continually confronted with “misery and repression … because Hamas refuses to renounce violence.” He then added, “We saw the continuing threat from Gaza overnight, with the rockets that targeted Sderot.”
Hamas implicitly denied responsibility. The group’s spokesman, Taher al Nunu said in a statement that “The resistance has nothing to do with the rockets, especially as they have been fired during this timing.”
On the other hand, Hizb ut-Tahrir organized marches in protest at Obama’s visit in different areas in Gaza, where protesters raised banners that read “Obama, the child murderer, is not welcomed,” “America is the greatest evil. It must be the enemy,” and “Terrorist America sanctions the killing of Muslims under the pretext of terrorism.”
For his part, Mukhaimar Abu Saada, a political analyst, believes that the visit is positive in general and that Obama’s speech in Ramallah was negative and positive at the same time. He assured his listeners that Palestine is a sovereign independent state. Regarding the settlements, the president said that settlements do not enhance the chances of peace, reneging on what he had said to the American administration to this effect.
Saada explained that Palestinian factions hold Obama accountable for his record during the past four years and for not committing to the promises he made during his speech in Cairo in 2009. The expert said that these positions of the Palestinian factions are defensible, since the American president visits the region to listen only without setting forth any initiative to reach a solution to the Palestinian-Israeli dilemma.
The left-wing Popular Front took the same stance as Hamas towards Obama’s visit. “Obama’s speech is merely sweet talking, as was the case during his first mandate. There is a great discrepancy between his speech about a Palestinian state for the Palestinian people and the American efforts made to prevent the resolution of the UN Security Council to this effect,” said Kaed al-Ghoul, the Front’s spokesman.
The most significant outcome of Obama’s visit to Ramallah is that the US has resumed financing and political supporting. Negotiations, however, are not likely to be resumed any time soon, especially in light of the gap between the Palestinian and Israeli sides regarding settlements. This could pave the way to a new round of mutual accusations between Palestinian factions, mainly between Hamas, on the one hand, and the Palestinian president and Fatah on the other.
Hazem Balousha is a Palestinian journalist based in Gaza City, with a Master of International Relations from Turkey, as well as a BA in journalism. He has worked as a news producer for BBC World Service, as well as contributed to The Guardian (UK), Deutsche Welle (Germany), Al-Raya (Qatar) and many other publications.
An ongoing review of President Obama’s Comet swiping the Middle East and what next. This first Update includes the brilliant Obama Jerusalem Speech of March 21, 2013 (by coincidence the Summer Equinox of Spring Renewal, Nowruz, and Passover), Rabbi Michael Lerner’s reaction, and Uri Avnery’s pre-speech draft.
In Jerusalem – March 20, 2013:
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.
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.
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
Obama in Israel: Running to Stay Put.
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.
President Obama’s visit and the Israeli law of a six weeks limit for government formation, are responsible for setting up a new government under Netanyahu to provide for American-Israeli friendship and policies on Iran nuclear weapons, on safeguarding Syria’s destructive weapons, and on the problem with the Palestinians – this in that order as per the video statement of Mr. Netanyahu for the AIPAC meeting in Washington.
March 4, 2013 2:59 pm
Algemeiner Tags: Ambassador Prosor — anti-aircraft weapons – support for Israel
— Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks by video
at AIPAC 2013 Policy Conference. Photo: Arsen Ostrovsky
The following is the full text of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s March 4th speech at the 2013 AIPAC Policy Conference. For The Algemeiner’s report on the speech click here.
In the spirit of a true Alliance of Civilizations – A member of the Erdogan cabinet in Turkey, the sister of the Hamas leader in Gaza, many members of Gulf Royalty families, even Iranians, are regularly treated in Israel medical institutions – the reality of a Zionist modern Mecca in the Middle East.
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.
March 3, 2013 2:17 pm 3 comments
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.
ISRAEL TRAVELS – By AVIVA AND SHMUEL BAR-AM February 23, 2013
Israeli history: it’s all about roots
The oldest of our ancient trees have lived through wars, religious upheavals, conquests and defeats; the youngest have seen the return of the Jews to their ancient homeland.
For the full article and the terrific photos of tres – please go to:
Legend holds that after the Temple was destroyed, all the trees in the Land of Israel shed their leaves in mourning. All the trees, that is, except for the olive.
“Why are you not sad?” the other trees asked the olive. “You, who provided oil for the sacred menorah, why are you not full of sorrow, as we are?” The olive tree replied: “Can you not see the torment in my heart?” And, indeed, olive trees are twisted and gnarled, as if their hearts are in travail.
Unless their leaves are swaying in the breeze — or falling in a forest — trees rarely make a sound. Yet what if they could talk? As the oldest forms of life in the universe, they could tell riveting stories about long-ago events and the people who made them happen!
The oldest of Israel’s ancient trees have lived through wars, religious upheavals, conquests and defeats; the youngest have seen the return of the Jews to their ancient homeland. Here are but a few, together with their fascinating tales!
1) Atlantic Terebinth in the Kedesh Valley
“And Absalom was riding upon his mule, and the mule went under the thick boughs of a great terebinth, and his head caught hold of the terebinth, and he was taken up between the heaven and the earth; and the mule that was under him went on.” (2 Sam 18: 9)
The stunning 450-year-old Atlantic terebinth located in the Galilee’s Kedesh Valley is considered to be the oldest and biggest of its kind in the country. Indeed, it is so impressive that one of its ancestors could easily have caught Absalom’s heavy mane in its branches.
Today, located inside a charming JNF recreation area along Route 899, the tree can provide shade — or so we were told — for more than 50 people at one time! Adding ambience to the site are several younger terebinth, delightful log-shaped tables and a little footbridge over an intermittent stream. Wheelchair accessible site.
2) Carob and Mulberry at the Galilee town of Pequi’in
Rabbi Shimon Bar-Yochai was a brilliant 2nd Century scholar, during the time of Roman rule in the Land of Israel. One day, in a desperate effort to wipe out every last remnant of Judaism, the Romans decreed that keeping the Sabbath was forbidden and prohibited circumcision. Rabbi Shimon Bar-Yochai spoke out openly against the Roman decrees.
Soldiers were sent to execute the rabbi. According to Jewish tradition, he fled with his son Elazar to Pequi’in — the only town in Israel to have maintained a continuous Jewish presence for the last 2,000 years.
Elazar and his father found refuge in a miniscule cave, living in this tiny niche for 13 years, and subsisting only on the fruit of a carob tree that miraculously appeared nearby — perhaps one of the carob trees that still stands near the cave! To slake their thirst they drank water from a spring that providentially burst through the ground.
Pequi’in grew up around that very special spring, which, for centuries, has been a pilgrimage site for religious Jews. The houses here are the oldest in town, and until modern times this is where villagers would water their animals, do laundry, and wash their dishes. Here they held celebrations, sat spellbound listening to storytellers, and watched magicians perform sleight of hand. Older people gathered here to gossip; young people came here to find a spouse.
Towering about the spring is a mulberry tree, whose leaves are used in producing silk. A symbol of Pequi’in, it appeared until recently, on the 100-shekel bill.
3) Sycamore Fig
Hundreds of years ago, sycamore fig trees covered a sandy hill in today’s Tel Aviv. In the early days of the city – which was established in 1909 – people would bask in their shade, talking, laughing and, perhaps singing upbeat songs about reclaiming the Land of Israel.
Then, in 1953, plans for a cultural center on that very same hill came to fruition. Worried that leveling the hill for construction would destroy the trees, nature lovers raised a huge public outcry. Their campaign to save the trees was partially successful, and a few of these 400-year-old trees survived.
Eventually the lovely Yaakov Park (Gan Yaakov) was developed around the trees, and next to the center — today the Mann Auditorium and the Helena Rubinstein Pavilion for Contemporary Art. Once again, families relax under gorgeous sycamore trees, talking and laughing and solving the problems of the world.
4) Tamarisk trees at Beerotayim
During World War I, the Turkish authorities decided to draft young men from Mikve Israel into the Turkish army. The principal had a better idea: he offered to have his pupils grow beautiful trees and plant them at Turkish army posts. One desert post was at Beerotayim, named for the two wells (“beer”) found within its confines and located along the Turkish railroad line.
Beerotayim (south of Nitzana off Highway 10) is, today, a lush oasis boasting trees of incredible beauty. Nearby, graceful gazelles gaze at visitors with startled looks; perching here and there on the branches is a bird that Israelis call “kova hanazir” (monk’s cap), because the top of its black head is white.
5) Bengali Fig in Tel Aviv’s American Colony
In 1878, Russian-born Baron Plato Von Ustinov bought a house in Jaffa. Originally part of an American Colony that had been abandoned a decade earlier, the building had been serving as headquarters for a group of German Protestants called the Templers. Ustinov, grandfather to British actor Peter Ustinov, turned the large, rambling structure into a veritable palace and created a fabulous garden in the back.
His gardens were overseen by Nissim Alchadaf, one of the earliest pupils at Mikve Israel. Mikve Israel was the first agricultural school in modern Israel, and its landscaped gardens included a Bengali fig tree, planted in 1888 and today considered by many to be the most beautiful tree in the country. Alchadaf planted a Bengali fig in Ustinov’s gardens at around the same time. Although most of the 19th-century garden is no more, the Bengali fig remains standing, in all its glory.
6) Eastern Strawberry Tree on Mount Scopus
Once upon a time, a young man from the Judean Hills was called into the army only a few days before he was to be married. When he didn’t return, the youth’s father took pity on his son’s betrothed and married her himself.
As luck would have it, the son came home soon afterwards and furiously hacked off his father’s head. Eastern strawberry trees immediately sprang up at the spot, their trunks covered with the older man’s blood.
One magnificent Eastern strawberry tree is situated in the very center of the British War Cemetery on Mount Scopus. It is possible that the tree was there even before the British conquered Jerusalem in 1917, and kept in its place because the bark’s blood-red color symbolized the blood that is spilled in the war.
Most of the 2,515 soldiers buried within the peaceful, lovingly maintained cemetery fell in battles over Jerusalem. The troops belonged to Commonwealth forces and were from South Africa, Britain, India, Australia, and New Zealand. A number of Jewish graves are located high on the slope; many of the soldiers who are buried there served together in the Royal Fusiliers.
7) Cedar of Lebanon at Kibbutz Ma’aleh HaHamisha (Ascent of the Five)
Named for five members of their pioneer group who were murdered while preparing the ground for their settlement, Ma’aleh HaHamisha was established in 1938. The following year, four cedar trees were planted next to the communal dining room: two Atlas cedars and two cedars of Lebanon. When Theodor Herzl was reinterred on the mountain that bears his name, one of the latter cedars was replanted near his grave.
Snow had fallen in Jerusalem and on the Jerusalem Hills, a few days before we travelled to Ma’aleh HaHamisha in January to take a photo of the tree: while we were busy filming it from every possible angle, a family from Kfar Saba took excited pictures of a small pile of snow that remained on the ground.
Jerusalem pine tree, Masrek (photo credit: Shmuel Bar-Am)
8) Jerusalem Pine at the Masrek Nature Reserve
As tired, unshaven Palmach forces neared the hostile Arab village of Beit Machsiain 1948, during the War of Independence, one of them observed that a row of tall pine trees resembled the teeth of the comb (masrek) he wished he could run through his unruly hair! In time, HaMasrek became the official name of a nature reserve, today part of the JNF’s Rabin Park.
Despite a forest fire that devastated most of the reserve’s ancient Jerusalem pine trees in 2001, HaMasrek is still lush and green. A circular trail takes hikers to a breathtaking view of the Judean Hills and Plains, while a special sight is the tomb of Sheikh Ahmed al-Ajami. Moslem tradition holds that the sheikh, buried next to the “comb”, was Mohammed’s barber!
Aviva Bar-Am is the author of seven English-language guides to Israel.
Shmuel Bar-Am is a licensed tour guide who provides private, customized tours in Israel for individuals, families and small groups.
The Jordanian Ambassador to the UN, H.R.H Prince Zeid Ra’ad Zeid Al-Hussein, thinks that with outside help some generic peace plan could be forged for the Middle East – could a de-jure recognition by the Arab States of the right of Israel to exist in its neighborhood be such a Jump-start?
CGA – CENTER FOR GLOBAL AFFAIRS
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 20, 2013, 6:30 – 7:45 PM
New York University Downtown – Woolworth Building, Room 430
Contact Information: Email – firstname.lastname@example.org
GLOBAL LEADERS: CONVERSATIONS WITH ALON BEN-MEIR
Prince Zeid is now Jordan’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, a post he held previously from 2000-2007 then was away 2007-2010.
In 2006 Prince Zeid, at 42, was the youngest candidate to run for the position of United Nations Secretary-General, to replace Kofi Annan.
The selection of the S-G normally rotates from one world region to another, and in that year it was Asia’s turn to head the world body, with Jordan being classified as an Asian country by U.N.’s definition, even though it is on the far western edge of the region.
Despite Jordan’s size and location within Asia, the Prince was one of the most highly respected and well-liked candidates in the International Community and his candidacy gave the opportunity to have a Muslim leader as the world’s top diplomat. However large East- and South-Asian countries prevailed and the selection went to Ban Ki-moon.
From 2007-2010 he was Jordan’s Ambassador to the United States of America; then in 2010 he returned to the UN.
Currently, Prince Zeid is Jordan’s “Sherpa” on Nuclear Security. From September 16, 2010 to March 7, 2012, he was the Chairman of the Country-Specific Configuration (of the UN Peacebuilding Commission) for Liberia.
From 2002-2005, he was the first President of the Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. He was also Chairman of the Working Group on the Crime of Aggression at the Review Conference of the Rome Statute in Kampala.
While at the UN he chaired the Consultative Committee for the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) from 2004-2007 and, from 2004-2006, he was the Advisor to the Secretary-General on Sexual Exploitation and Abuse by UN Peacekeeping Personnel.
In 1989, he received his commission as an officer in the Jordanian desert police (the successor to the Arab Legion) and saw service with them until 1994.
Prince Zeid holds a B.A. from The Johns Hopkins University and a Ph.D. from Cambridge University (Christ’s College) and has served as an officer in the Jordanian military.
Prince Zeid is a member of the Advisory Committee to the Institute for Historical Justice and Reconciliation.
He was also a member of the World Bank’s Advisory Council for the World Development Report 2011.
His publications include: ‘A Nightmare Avoided: Jordan and Suez 1956’ in Israel Affairs (Winter 1994), and ‘Religious Militancy in the Arab Middle East: Threats and Responses 1979-1988’ in the Cambridge Review of International Affairs (Spring 1989).
Prince Zeid Ra’ad Zeid Al-Hussein was born 26 January 1964 in Amman, Jordan to Prince Ra’ad bin Zeid head of the Royal Houses of Iraq and Syria and pretender to the Iraqi throne and his Swedish-born wife Margaretha Inga Elisabeth Lind, henceforward known as Majda Raad.
The father, Prince Ra’ad bin Zeid was born 18 February 1936 in Berlin where his father, Prince Zeid (the grandfather) was Iraqi ambassador at the time.
Thus grand-father and -mother were Prince Zeid bin Hussein, of the Hashemite House, and Princess Fahrelnissa Zeid (Fakhr un-nisa), a Turkish noblewoman. Upon the death of his father on October 18, 1970, he inherited the position as head of the Royal Houses of Iraq and Syria. Ra’ad has lived in London and Paris. The Kingdom of Jordan has confirmed his style as His Royal Highness and Prince.
Raad’s paternal first cousin once removed was Faisal II, the last king of Iraq, who was killed in a bloody coup d’etat on 14 July 1958 (Crown Prince Abd-al-Illah was also killed). Following the regicide, Prince Zeid, Raad’s father, took the representation of Iraqi monarchy as the next heir, and was recognized as the Head of the Royal House of Iraq by his remaining agnatic co-heirs of Jordan. They continued to live in London, where the family resided during the coup, as Zeid was the Iraqi ambassador there.
The current Ambassador to the UN, Zeid the son of Ra’ad the son of Zeid the son of Hussein Kink of Heijaz, speaks a perfect British English and seems to be steeped in Western thinking.
He feels that troubles in the Middle East could be eased by turning to non-partisan thinkers or scientists, insulated from political elements, who could present ideas to find ways for solutions. Given the depth of feelings, specially when it comes to Jerusalem, there is no other way out – he said.
Now the situation seems to cry for above approach even more then ever. Now we have more construction by Israelis and the threat of a reaction by the Palestinians going to the International Criminal Court – the ICC. If these issues are moved to the courts this is the end of the search for a two-States solution, he said. There was an Arab peace plan, then there was the 2002 blow up in Netanya – and that was it. Israel stated to seek security in a garrison State surrounded by walls. A garrison democracy that does not talk to anyone while there seems a lack of trust in authority on the Arab side. Can the President’s trip to the region on March 20th help now – by starting something? A vehicle that the Arab side could see as acceptable to some issue? He added – a vehicle for “all of us” not just the Palestinians.
Professor Ben-Meir added that the Jewish Community in the US was “holier then though” and has sympathy for the settlements – I do not think that these people understand the hole Israel is digging for itself – he said. Diplomacy cannot solve this. Time has come for the sides to wake up.
The Ambassador thinks that someone could come and declare what every factor should do – this to avoid the going to ICC. Here Ben-Meir reminded that the danger from Iran shows that time is not on the side of the Israelis nor the Palestinians. There will be serious consequences if we do not solve the problems now. A problem he said is that there is so much mediocrity in public officials today. We cannot name ten people we trust, maybe even not five – he said.
Here I had a chance to ask something I was contemplating for a while – the difference between a de facto acceptance of a situation and grudgingly try to do some moves to peace, or rather a recognition de-jure of a situation, and then try to adjust. What if the Arab States that rejected 65 years ago the right of Israel to exist as an independent unit within an Arab world. would declare that they do now recognize this right and accept it?
Above, without being a declaration of Peace, so it does not indeed give up anything of real value, nevertheless removes the psychological obstacle that in 1948 led the Israelis to believe that nothing they would do for peace will help, when considering the absolute negation of their rights to existence as declared by the Arab side.
The Ambassador answered that something big should be contemplated, if not exactly what I suggested, but nevertheless something that can jump-start a new way of seeing the situation – so he thanks for the idea.
Start with a dramatic step he said. Also, from his own experience as a negotiating intermediary – he would always summarize the common points and write them up as a starting point for next day’s negotiations – this in order to move by incremental steps to show progress.
I had then further chance to talk with the Ambassador and ended the evening happy that I was in the academic environment of the NYU, considering that actually I had first intended to go this evening to the event at the Asia Society that I posted about earlier in the day. I did not get in there as the public relations office at the Asia Society gives no hoot about people that like to ask questions on the record. The meeting there was seemingly sold out to their regular membership with little access to the press. That meeting had also a good panel and was about Iran, but I doubt that it was as free and forthcoming as our event here.
It seems that with outside help some generic peace plan could be forged for the Middle East.
Ahmadi-Nejad in Cairo says he wants the world to treat Iran as a nuclear country that has sent a monkey into space and is capable of sending now a man into space. He does not intend to bomb the Zionist State he said.
Ahmadinejad: We’re Nuclear But Won’t Harm Israel.
Wednesday, 06 Feb 2013 01:30 PM
By Cyrus Afzali for Newsmax
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.
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.
By Elhanan Miller February 6, 2013, 1:33 pm
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.
To contact the reporter on this story: Tarek El-Tablawy in Cairo at email@example.com
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at firstname.lastname@example.org
The three sections below are from the Begin – Sadat Center for Strategic Studies (BESA) at the Bar Ilan University in Israel “Russia’s Declining Influence in the Middle East” by Dr. Anna Geifman, a senior research fellow in the Department of Political Studies at Bar-Ilan University and Professor Emerita at Boston University, and Yuri Teper, a PhD candidate in political studies at Bar-Ilan University.
We find the material lacking as it looks only at Russia in the Middle East and omits looking at the “Middle East in Russia.”
What I mean is the conflicts within Russia stoked by Islamism among the Islamic citizens of Russia which are being kept by force in the Federation but would rather like to be free. It is in religion that they find the only possible outlet and their predisposition to the post Arab Spring Islamization of the Arab Street creates an internal danger in the Russian Federation.
The friendship for Assad’s Syria made sense, like it did for Saddam’s Iraq – that because they were secular leaders with whom they could deal and help stoke doses of anti-Americanism. But the moment the stage moves on to a mix of social and religious leadership this might get trickier.
Further, Putin is not Stalin even though he might like to fit on shoes of a dictator, he is basically a Capitalist and not a Bolshevic. What I mean is what I learned this last Sunday by watching Fareed Zakaria’s CNN/GPS program where he found that Egypt today might be in a stage of de-learning democracy before it had any, rather then of establishing democracy. The example of the way the Bolshevics stopped the evolution of democracy in the Soviet Union is what evolves now in Egypt where Islamism is using methods that were perfected by Communism in order to manage the people away from a really free future. The West is not going to like this and Putin will find it difficult to side with this while keeping an eye on his own backyard as well.
The Israelis’ analysis looks at the region from the angle of their clash with Hamas, but the world at large has other angles and reasons in its viewing the changing Middle East. The world at large loved the potentates as long as they delivered the oil at low price. The Russians like to see this disturbed, and hike the price of oil by disrupting the security of supply from Arab and Iranian sources. For them destabilizing the Gulf would be just dandy, and much more interesting then playing the Hamas card. Stoking religion or secularism in Saudi Arabia would lead to similar results externally, but have different effects internally in Russia. I believe that Lavrov has more to balance in his mind then the fate of Hamas.
The BESA article suggests:
Syria has long been Russia’s closest ally in the Middle East, practically the only one since the end of the Cold War. Lacking the resources to make an impact elsewhere, Russia has maintained a close, though largely one-sided, relationship with Syria, based primarily on supplying Damascus with weapons. Syria paid back with promises of future economic preferences and provided the Russian navy with a maritime supplies base in Tartus, on the Mediterranean coast. It also fed Russian hunger for a great-power status, contributing to the illusion of Moscow’s regional influence.
Despite the central role that Syria played in Russia’s foreign policy, Putin’s efforts during the ongoing civil war in Syria have mostly been confined to diplomacy. Moscow provides President Bashar Assad’s regime with a diplomatic umbrella in the UN, protecting it from harsh resolutions and preventing a possible international intervention. However, it significantly lags behind Iran in helping the Syrian government suppress the uprising. Russia vocally protested against international involvement in the conflict, but has been unable to counter the assistance streaming to the rebels. At the same time, Moscow’s stubborn diplomatic support for the Syrian regime has taken a heavy toll on its relations with the rest of the Arab world.
Moreover, Moscow has apparently been unwilling to endanger its vital economic interests for a flimsy chance to influence the situation in the Middle East. Thus, despite opposing views on Syria, Russia and Turkey achieved a significant breakthrough on the construction of the South Stream gas pipeline to Europe. While Turkey is the second-largest consumer of Russian gas, after Germany, Russia is the weaker side in the relationship, dependent on Ankara’s permission to run the pipeline across its territory.
Russia’s relationship with Hamas began in 2006, after the organization won the Palestinian elections, and strengthened in 2007, when Hamas took control of the Gaza strip. Russia is among the few great powers that maintain official relations with Hamas and do not recognize it as a terrorist organization. In 2006, a Hamas delegation paid an official visit to Moscow and was received by Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, thus gaining valuable international recognition. Since then, Lavrov has met regularly with Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal, who went to Moscow in 2010. Russian officials have justified their country’s position; they claim that having connections on both sides of the conflict will allow negotiation and constructive dialogue towards a resolution. They had previously applied the same approach in the Korean conflict, presumably aiming to maintain Russia’s international significance far beyond the country’s actual capacity to have an effect.
In practice, when the opportunity to make an impact presented itself during the last Israel-Hamas standoff, Russia stayed out of the way, confining itself to firm anti-Israeli rhetoric and empty calls for restraint on both sides. Speaking at a news conference after a meeting with Arab foreign ministers in Riyadh, Lavrov described Israeli actions as “disproportionate” and “entirely unacceptable,” while Putin called on the parties to exercise restraint. At the same time, Russia Today, Moscow’s official international satellite network broadcasting in English and Arabic, persistently aired vicious anti-Israeli propaganda, bordering on incitement.
These statements apparently reflect Russia’s desperate effort to mend its shattered image in the Arab world caused by its support of the Assad regime. Still, it was the US-backed Egypt which played the central role in achieving the ceasefire agreement between Hamas and Israel, reaping the benefits of international prestige. Russia did not have any role whatsoever, and during the whole crisis remained entirely irrelevant.
Their Conclusion is thus: The oil issue is almost automatically assumed to be of pivotal significance for all players involved in the Middle East gambit, especially Russia, whose financial fortunes are directly linked to the fluctuations of oil prices. However, the traditional instability in the region, the latest shockwaves of the ”Arab Spring,” and the escalation of tension between Israel and Iran keep prices high without a special intervention from Moscow. Aside from this, Russia has little to gain from its involvement in the region, as its Middle Eastern politics seem to be more about pride than about financial gains.
Lacking the ability to impact the situation on the ground and losing last bits of diplomatic influence, Russia might be tempted to take a more adventurous stand on Middle Eastern issues in order to restore its ruined status on the Arab street. Yet, as long as the US maintains relations with the new Islamist regimes, Russia’s response will be mainly confined to the diplomatic realm. There is simply no space for the Russians in the new Middle East, as they have little or nothing to offer or contribute to the developing situation. On the other hand, should anything trigger a break in the fragile relationship between the Islamists and the US, and should the Americans retract their support, the Russians will be sure to jump in to fill the vacuum, seeking to regain influence – as they have always in the past – by supporting anti-American regimes. Unable to make serious financial contributions, however, they may try to compensate by offering weapons and diplomatic cover.
The following arrived just in English and Hebrew and points at a meeting that will be held in Israel.
It mentions that an Arab from the Gaza Hamas-held mini-State (Strip) will participate by phone.
He is unnamed and we have no problem envisioning why. Nevertheless we consider this a potentially important event.
Israelis from the left – the Hadash party, and the more centrist Labor party will participate, as well as Arab Israelis – the Bedooui of the Negev.
The residents of the missile stricken region centered around Sderot and up to Ashkelon on the coast, will participate with that across the border Arab to tell both sides that time has come for Israel and the Hamas led mini-State to talk in order to end this bombing non-sense.
It is the civil population of the stricken area Sderot and Gaza that want to lead the way. In Israel you can attempt this legally and have your name listed - in Gaza this is not possible – we know this and we considered the un-named Arab a hero. But then we also publicized that an Egyptian Arab hero, Maikel Nabil, is attempting to bring together closer the Egyptian and Israeli people – this like Israeli heroes Uri Avnery and Abie Nathan did in the past. Progress will be possible when this first – rather one sided meeting – will grow into a movement. Let us help them by telling the world that this is in the cards.
Uri Avnery is a hero of our website and of our times. Born in Germany, former fighter for establishing a State called Israel, politician – now just an activist – was the link between Israel and Yasser Arafat.
Abie Nathan, born in Iran, educated in India, former WWII pilot in the British R.A.F., volunteer fighter-pilot for Israel in 1948, flew solo to Egypt to start talks with President Nasser then brought ice-cream to Egyptian children with his Peace ship.
Peace will not happen unless someone starts it by reaching out and it would be nice if this time the effort starts with an Arab ready to risk his life.
Would it not be nice for Israel to recognize Hamas as the de-facto leader in Gaza (Hamasstan – if you wish) and show readiness to negotiate with them? What is surely needed in step 2 is that the poster be written in Arabic as well.
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The Secretary General of the UN Reafirms the General Assembly Vote on Palestine on the 65th Anniversary of the UN Decision to Recognize A Jewish State and an Arab State Side-by-Side on the Land of the Former British Mandate in Palestine by Interpreting the Vote as a Renewed Call to Direct Negotiations Between the Two Parties. Will Israel Throw Out the Baby with the Dirty Water?
Noting New Status Accorded to Palestine, Secretary-General Tells General Assembly -
‘No Substitute for Negotiations’ in Efforts towards Peace, Two-State Solution.
Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks to the General Assembly on the question of Palestine, in New York, on 29 November:
An important vote has taken place today in the General Assembly.
The decision by the General Assembly to accord Palestine Non-Member Observer State status in the United Nations was a prerogative of the Member States. I stand ready to fulfill my role and report to this Assembly as requested in the resolution.
My position has been consistent all along. I believe that the Palestinians have a legitimate right to their own independent State. I believe that Israel has the right to live in peace and security with its neighbors. There is no substitute for negotiations to that end.
Today’s vote underscores the urgency of a resumption of meaningful negotiations. We must give new impetus to our collective efforts to ensure that an independent, sovereign, democratic, contiguous and viable State of Palestine lives side by side with a secure State of Israel.
I urge the parties to renew their commitment to a negotiated peace. I count on all concerned to act responsibly, preserve the achievements in Palestinian State-building under the leadership of President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad, and intensify efforts towards reconciliation and the just and lasting peace which remains our shared goal and priority.
For our previous posting please see – www.sustainabilitank.info/#28136
65 Years Late to the date – November 29, 2012 – Palestine laid out on the reception table in the UN Anteroom. To understand better the mechanism of a 2012 Palestine we bring up the Persona of Prime Minister SALAM FAYYAD who expressed skepticism about the approach to the UN for a vote on statehood, saying it would be only a symbolic victory.
For an introduction to long last night’s event at the UN General Assembly that extended for many hours before an empty Hall and a line-up of speakers for the record:
Remarks to the press by Ambassador Sir Mark Lyall Grant, Permanent Representative of the UK Mission to the UN, following the UK ABSTAINING on the Vote on the Palestinian resolution at the UN General Assembly – 29 November 2012.
JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Hours after the United Nations voted overwhelmingly to grant de-facto statehood to Palestine, Israel responded on Friday by announcing it was authorizing 3,000 new settler homes in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
An official, who declined to be named, said the government had also decided to expedite planning work for thousands more homes in a geographically sensitive area close to Jerusalem that critics say would kill off Palestinian hopes of a viable state.
The decision was made on Thursday when it became clear that the U.N. General Assembly was set to upgrade the Palestinians’ status in the world body, making them a “non-member state”, as opposed to an “entity”, boosting their diplomatic clout.
The motion was backed by 138 nations, opposed by nine, while 41 members abstained – a resounding defeat that exposed its growing diplomatic isolation.
An Israeli official had earlier conceded that this represented a “total failure of diplomacy” and warned there would be consequences – which were swift in coming.
Plans to put up thousands of new settler homes in the wake of the Palestinian upgrade were always likely, but the prospect of building in an area known as E-1, which lies near Jerusalem and bisects much of the West Bank, is seen by some as a potential game changer.
“E-1 will signal the end of the two state-solution,” said Daniel Seidemann, an Israeli expert on settlements. He added that statutory planning would take another six to nine months to complete, meaning building there was not a foregone conclusion.
About 500,000 Israelis already live in the West Bank and East Jerusalem on land Israel seized in the 1967 Middle East war – territory the Palestinians claim for their independent state.
The United States, one of the eight countries to vote alongside Israel at the U.N. General Assembly, said the latest expansion plan was counterproductive to the resumption of direct Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
ABSURD: Ahead of the U.N. vote, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government had argued that the unilateral Palestinian move breached their previous accords and accused the 193-member world body of failing in its responsibilities.
“The General Assembly can resemble the theatre of the absurd, which once a year automatically approves ludicrous, anti-Israeli resolutions,” said government spokesman Mark Regev.
“Sometimes these are supported by Europe, sometimes they are not,” he added, alluding to the fact that only one European state, the Czech Republic, had voted against the Palestinians.
Nonetheless, analysts said the vote exposed the gulf that had opened between Europe and Netanyahu over his handling of the Western-backed administration of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, and the depth of EU opposition to settlement expansion.
“The government has failed to appreciate the gravity of the challenge to Israel’s fundamental legitimacy in Europe,” said Gidi Grinstein, head of the Reut Institute think-tank.
“The Palestinian bid in the U.N. is turning out to be a bigger defeat than anticipated.”
In many ways, Israel was caught off guard.
Last week it was fighting Islamist militants in the Gaza Strip, grateful to see much of the West offering support for its determination to stop indiscriminate rocket fire from the Palestinian enclave whose leaders preach Israel’s destruction.
The eight-day bombardment ended in a truce that was widely viewed as handing Gaza’s Hamas Islamists a PR boost at the expense of Abbas and the Palestine Liberation Organization, who have renounced violence in favor of diplomacy.
The West pumped billions into Abbas’s administration over the years to bolster a partner for Middle East peace and felt they had to rally to his support in New York. Before the Gaza conflict, the Palestinians said they would win 115 ‘yes’ votes at the United Nations. They ended up with more.
COURT THREAT: By itself, the U.N. upgrade will make little practical difference to the Palestinians or Israelis. However, the new position will enable Abbas to seek membership of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague if he wants.
This is what worries Israel.
The Geneva Convention forbids occupying powers from moving “parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies”, leaving Israeli officials potentially vulnerable to an ICC challenge. Israel says its settlements are legal, citing historical and Biblical ties to the West Bank and Jerusalem.
The Palestinians say they are in no rush to go to the ICC, but the threat is there, putting pressure on Israel to come up with creative solutions to overcome the peace-talks impasse, which the Jewish state blames on Abbas.
“This U.N. vote is a very strong signal to the Israelis that they can’t shove this matter under the carpet for any longer,” said Alon Liel, former director-general of the Israeli Foreign Ministry. “This is a red light for Israel.”
With politicians campaigning ahead of a January 22 election, Israel is unlikely to change course.
Opinion polls suggest Netanyahu’s right-wing bloc will win a new term in office. The coalition includes pro-settler parties, and the prime minister’s own Likud group appeared to shift to the right in primaries this week, making any land-for-peace compromise with the Palestinians look more complex than ever.
His opponents seized on the U.N. vote, with ex-foreign minister Tzipi Livni, aspiring to become Israel’s second female prime minister, blaming a failure of initiative.
“When we do not initiate, we are imposed upon,” she said.
Israeli officials say the Palestinians themselves must show they are ready to make the sort of concessions that they believe are needed to secure an accord – such as renouncing any right to return to modern-day Israel for refugees and their descendants.
However, analysts say that with the elections out of the way, the new government will have a period of calm to try once more to end their decades-old conflict with the Palestinians.
“The strategy toward the Palestinian Authority and statehood is likely to be on the top of the agenda of the next government in the winter,” said the Reut Institute’s Grinstein.
“The outcome of its strategic reassessment may well be active engagement in upgrading the powers and responsibilities of the Palestinian Authority toward statehood, and eventually recognizing the Palestinian Authority as a state.”
If E-1 building goes ahead, the chances of talks resuming will be close to non-existent.