Wednesday, October 23, 2013
Monday, October 14, 2013
Sheldon Adelson doesn’t know much about the Middle East
From The Forward, Josh Nathan-Kazis’ report on “Will Jews Exist?”, a forum at which Sheldon Adelson spewed forth on a variety of subjects. Of Adelson’s opinions, better read to be believed, I think:
- On the Palestinians: “If they truly want peace, it’s very simple to say to all their henchman, lay off the terrorism for five years.”
- Whether Netanyahu will bomb Iran without U.S. permission: “[Former Israeli prime minister Ehud] Olmert is a political person. His wind blows in the direction of the polls. [Netanyahu] is not a political person. [His] wind blows in the direction of his ideology, and his deep and unwavering support and love for the Jewish people and the state of Israel. I am absolutely convinced that Bibi says what he means, means what he says, and if he says that Iran is an existential threat, he would not live…without taking some kind of action.”
- A preemptive U.S. nuclear strike on unpopulated areas of Iran as a negotiating tactic: “Then you say, ‘See! The next one is in the middle of Tehran. So, we mean business.’”
- Muslims: “I don’t know the difference between the Shia and the Sunnis.”
- More on the Palestinians: “There’s no such thing as a Palestinian. Do you know what they are? They call themselves southern Syrians.”
- His opposition to a two-state solution: “To go and allow a Palestinian state is to play Russian roulette.”
Tuesday, August 6, 2013
30,000 Israelis - 10,000 more than last year and largely young people - attended the Yitzhak Rabin memorial in Tel Aviv.
Yonatan Ben Artzi, the grandson of Yitzhak Rabin, called on Prime Minister Netanyahu to make peace: “My grandfather was murdered over peace, and you owe us all peace. You have a unique opportunity to take advantage of the world situation for peace. It won’t be easy or popular. But it’s your time to close a circle and bring us peace.” http://bit.ly/1elqfap
Tuesday, July 30, 2013
The Israel Democracy Institute (IDI) has published its July peace index which shows that Israeli Jews remain deeply pessimistic about the peace process.
Although a majority of Jews say the Israeli government really does want to resume the talks (63pc) and trust Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to conduct the negotiations such that Israel’s security will be safeguarded (60pc), 80 percent see the chances of producing a peace agreement now as moderately low or very low. 58 percent believes moreover that there would not be majority support for a peace agreement that includes an Israeli withdrawal from the territories and evacuation of settlements if a referendum were held tomorrow.
Why is this? Well, 64 percent of Israeli Jews do not believe that the Palestinian leadership genuinely want to resume talks for a final status agreement, on the one hand. But on the other, and this is in some way linked to the first reason, Israeli Jews do not necessarily support the individual components of a peace agreement:
Some 77% oppose Israeli recognition in principle of the right of return, with a small number of Palestinian refugees being allowed to return and financial compensation for others; 62.5% oppose a withdrawal to the 1967 borders with land swaps; 58% oppose evacuating settlements except for Ariel, Maaleh Adumim, and the settlement blocs; and 50% oppose transferring the Arab neighbourhoods of Jerusalem to the Palestinian Authority with a special arrangement for the holy places.
Friday, June 28, 2013
The Middle East peace process was officially re-launched on Monday by Secretary of State John Kerry, who appointed Martin Indyk as Washington’s special envoy to the region and the talks. As part of a trust-building exercise and to establish an agenda for talks, Kerry invited the Israeli and Palestinian negotiating teams — led by Tzipi Livni and Saeb Erekat — to his home for an iftar dinner to break the Ramadan fast.
Ha’aretz’s Barak Ravid adds:
The delegations will also meet with Kerry again in the State Department building Tuesday to continue talks on the principles for conducting the negotiations, the issues up for discussion and a timetable for further meetings. At the end of the day, a joint press statement will be read out by the secretary of state that will officially declare the start of negotiations.
The counters of a settlement between Israel and Palestine are well-known. (Ben Birnbaum mapped it all out earlier for a piece in The New Republic). Security, Jerusalem’s holy places, and refugees can only be decided, however, after the future border between Israel and Palestine is established in principle. This seems a good a time as ever, then, to remind ourselves of the tool the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace created to help explore this problem.
The issue, in essence, is deciding now many Israelis can be incorporated into the State of Israel without wrecking the viability and contiguity of the future Palestinian state. As such, Palestinian negotiators often identify five so-called ‘red-line’ settlements that they believe should be evacuated, Birnbaum reminds us: Givat Ze’ev; Ma’ale Adumim; Efrat; Har Homa; and Ari’el.
In my map, I concur with the PA that Har Homa and Ari’el must be relinquished: the former is placed in an awkward spot relative to Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and other settlement blocs, and as such cannot be attached to Israel in a way that won’t harm contiguity. As for Ari’el, it being some kilometres deep into the West Bank would require a large talon of land for incorporation. Again, such a move would not only undermine the wholeness of Palestine but also create an unstable border between the two countries.
As to the others, however, Efrat and Givat Ze’ev form part of larger blocs (Gush Etzion and Jerusalem’s northern suburbs), while Ma’ale Adumim at this point is simply too large to be evacuated — it is not some hilltop settlement inhabited by crazies and loons but a city in its own right full of secular-religious commuters and their families. As such, it must become part of Israel via a connecting road from French Hill and Mt. Scopus, as terrible a solution as that sounds and will be.
Wednesday, April 24, 2013
If Netanyahu believed in peace, he’d leave the Likud
Depending on when you read this, is it possible that the disembowelling of the Likud by the most fanatical and idiotic of annexationists will have been completed.
The process has been short and swift. Prior to the last election, Likud primary voters selected a party list lousy with reactionary, myopic territorial maximalists: Ze’ev Elkin; Yariv Levin; Tzipi Hotovely; Miri Regev; Moshe Feiglin; and Ofir Akunis. In so doing, Likud voters pushed out a number of Revisionist Zionists who were considered to be too mushy, due in part to their respect of the most basic precepts of domestic and international law and norms: Michael Eitan; Dan Meridor; and Benny Begin.
Chief among those to benefit from the primaries was Danny Danon, a cheap and shallow charlatan and shameless self-promoter whose very name ought to make one’s skin come alive in irritation. Twenty-fourth on the Likud list in 2009, Danon shot up to fifth place in 2013, thus securing ninth place on the joint Likud Beiteinu list and the right after the election to demand for himself a cosy cabinet position.
All this is remarkable considering Danon is an astonishingly vapid and incurious man with no notable legislative or intellectual accomplishments who somehow became a deputy speaker in the last Knesset and Deputy Defence Minister in this one. Indeed, considering his main political proposal consists of annexing most if not all of the West Bank, never mind the Palestinians who live there, one might say his very existence is an anti-intellectual endeavour, or at least one not grounded in the real or substantial.
Danon’s principal interest, in fact, when not propagating land theft or attempting to suppress and denigrate Israel’s minorities is augmenting his international media profile and personal brand, doing whatever is necessary to grab five more minutes of airtime. This unappetising combination of self-aggrandisement and philosophical emptiness was best demonstrated when he considered inviting Glenn Beck – a man who has at the very least flirted with anti-Semitism in his criticism of George Soros – to address the Knesset Immigration, Absorption, and Diaspora Affairs Committee, about which he knows nothing at all. Only a shameless dope would consider this to be a tasteful or desirable thing to do.
Tuesday, April 16, 2013
The beginning of the end of the Yugoslav Wars
Initialled on Friday afternoon and approved by both parliaments on Monday morning, the concord between Serbia and Kosovo seems to have so swiftly altered the status quo in the Balkans that it has been presumptuously labelled historic, well before the first condition of that deal has even been implemented.
Brokered by Baroness Ashton and the European External Action Service, the agreement between Serbia and Kosovo is undoubtedly of tremendous significance, since it provides a pathway to the normalisation of relations between two states that have been in a state of antagonism since the disintegration of Yugoslavia in 1991. Under its terms, Kosovo’s sovereignty will for the first time extend to “every corner of its territory”, as their Prime Minister Hasham Thaçi termed it, with Serbia and Kosovo’s Serb minority recognising the authority of the government in Prishtina over the Serb-majority provinces.
As such, Serbia has agreed to dismantle the parallel institutions it has established in Kosovo which presently control local security, healthcare, education, and the judiciary in the places north of Mitrovica. In return, a new Association of Serb Municipalities will be established, afforded broad powers over local affairs. In particular, the Kosovan government has committed to changing the ethnic composition of the police force and the judiciary to better reflect the balance between the Albanian majority and the Serb minority.
It is not yet guaranteed that this pact will hold, of course, nor the terms implemented. The proposal to dismantle Serbian institutions and accept Prishtina’s sovereignty over Serb areas might still face staunch opposition on the ground in Serbian Kosovo itself, where nationalist sentiment is strong and the tricolour Serb flag flown. But, while it cannot be deemed historic now, this agreement between Kosovo and Serbia does have the potential to be historic. It has the potential to reshape the entire region, and finally bring to a conclusion the bloody ethnic and nationalistic Yugoslav Wars.
Thursday, March 21, 2013
Shimon Peres speaks to the Israeli press
In the days prior to Yom Ha’atzmaut, President Shimon Peres did the rounds with the Israeli press, giving interviews to The Jerusalem Post, Yediot Aharonot, and The Times of Israel (plus the Hebrew-language press). The themes were wide-ranging and expansive, and so I have selected a few choice comments from the various interviews:
Peres on the peace process:
I think there are no two ways about it, and there will be peace. No on can live in the current intermediate situation. But look what is happening: There is no intifada in the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip, and Hamas is losing public support. You ask yourselves when peace will come. I do not know. I have a handless clock. It doesn’t matter what time it is, because tomorrow morning you can wake up and see a new reality. No one has any idea, but I do think that by the country’s 70-year celebrations, there will be peace. I want to hope. It is not just optimism. (Yediot Aharonot)
Peres on the new government:
This is the first government whose foundation is more social than political. The question is if it is possible to make social reforms without peace? I am not sure about that. I don’t think that if the housing and food prices are reduced, it will bring peace. No peace has a price – what we will gain socially we will lose politically. In my opinion, we must continue (raising) two banners – one social and one political. We have no choice. (Yediot Aharonot)
Peres on Jewishness:
Since we didn’t have land, we are living on our knowledge. That’s in our DNA. People ask me what is the greatest contribution of the Jewish people to the rest of the world. My answer is: dissatisfaction. A good Jew cannot be satisfied. It’s not Jewish. That’s what makes us great contributors to creativity. We are seekers of betterment. (The Times of Israel)
Peres: Peace to prevail by Israel’s 70th birthday [Yediot Aharonot]
From Shimon Peres on Israel’s birthday, a very healthy dose of dissatisfaction [The Times of Israel]
Wednesday, March 20, 2013
What Barack Obama said about peace
President Obama made the fullest and most complete case for peace and the two-state solution that I have heard from any world leader today in his speech in Jerusalem. Touching on the legacies of Yitzhak Rabin and Menachem Begin, and drawing on the work of Ariel Sharon and the novelist David Grossman, Obama told Israeli students that peace is necessary, peace is just, and peace is possible.
On the necessity of peace:
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.
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 nonsecular 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.
by Ben Birnbaum, The New Republic, March 19, 2013
It was on the 16th of September, 2008, in my study at the prime minister’s residence in Jerusalem. We were sitting there after having lunch with our staff, our assistants. I think Yanki [Olmert’s assistant] was in that lunch as well. And afterwards, we went to my study, just Abu Mazen and myself. And we went on talking for two hours. I pulled out the map, I showed him the map. I showed him how I am prepared to make the swaps (in areas which surprised him. For instance, part of it was in the north, not far from Tirat Zvi, just across from the border. Part of it was not far from Jenin. So in areas which were good areas, not just a desert part somewhere down the line near Kerem Shalom all of it. No, it was spread across the border lines evenly, more or less—partly near Jerusalem and partly near Lachish and partly in the Judean Desert and partly near Gaza. So he saw all of it).
Without E1. E1 was supposed to remain in the State of Israel. And Ariel was supposed to stay in the State of Israel. Look, what I proposed to him was 6.3 percent of the territory that we will then keep inside Israel, and I proposed to him 5.8-percent swap, plus the free-passage [corridor between the West Bank and Gaza]. Now, how do you measure the free passage? Only as a half-percent? Maybe you can measure it by more. But I left a certain margin so that in the event that he will come to me and he will say, ‘No, I want it 5.8,’ so the swap will be 5.8 against 5.8 and the free passage will be measured less than a half-percent. So I left it for the fine-tuning process, for the last fine-tuning process. But this was more or less). He looked at it and he said, ‘This is quite serious. I have to admit this is very serious.’ He was rather surprised himself that after all these days and talks and meetings and meetings and meetings and meetings, I finally put down on the table something which was for me, it was a heartbreaking process, to offer to him that Jerusalem will be split.
…I said to him, “Sign! Sign it! President, sign it now.” He said, ”well, you know, I have to think about it.” I said, “Don’t think about it. Sign it now. I want to tell you one thing: In the next fifty years, there will be no prime minister in Israel who will propose to you something similar to this.” If you are not going to sign it now, you are going to lose an historical opportunity and you will live to regret it. Sign it. Let’s take a decision. He said, ‘well, you know, I am not an expert in maps, so I must ask an expert on maps to look at it. So I said, ‘OK, it doesn’t have to take a long time. You know, why not tomorrow morning, my expert and your expert—together with Saeb Erekat and Shalom Turjemann [Olmert’s top aide]—they will be sitting together, and together with Saeb and the other side’s map expert and our map expert, they will go through the specific points that you may want to ask [about] and [have] explain[ed] to you, and all of this. So he said, ‘fine.’ So we called to the room Saeb Erekat and Shalom Turjemann. And we said, ‘tomorrow morning, you have to sit with the map experts and conclude this argument. It may take you a few hours, take your time, and as long as it takes, but I want you to conclude it tomorrow because I want to sign it this week.’
by Jeffrey Goldberg, The Atlantic, March 18, 2013
Though he acknowledges the role Netanyahu plays in maintaining Jordanian stability, he is not optimistic about Israel’s future. King Abdullah is known as an advocate of two states for two peoples—Israel secure in its pre-1967 borders, Palestine to be established in Gaza and the West Bank—but when I asked him in January how much time he thought was left to implement this idea, his answer surprised me. “It could be too late already for the two-state solution,” he said. “I don’t know. Part of me is worried that is already past us.”
If it were too late, what would that mean?
He responded with a single word: “Isratine.” That’s a neologism popularized by the late Muammar Qaddafi to describe his vision of a joint Arab-Jewish state. If Israel doesn’t agree to a Palestinian state quickly, Abdullah said, “apartheid or democracy” will be its choice. “The practical question is, can Israel exert permanent control over Palestinians who are disenfranchised ad infinitum, or does it eventually become a South Africa, which couldn’t survive as a pariah state?”
There are some Israelis, I said, who value Israel more as a Jewish state than as a democratic state. “The only way you’re going to have a Jewish part is if you have a two-state solution. That’s the Jewish part,” he said.
I asked him whether he believed President Obama wants to work on Middle East peace. “That’s the million-dollar question,” he said. He added that John Kerry clearly does. “We have a second-term president,” Abdullah said, suggesting that only a president in his second term has the maneuverability, and the experience, to oversee an effective peace process. “This is the last moment. Can it be achieved in four years? Are we too late? After four years, it’s over.”