We’ve been there, done that.
Plans for building in Jerusalem east of the Green Line are announced, and the world goes slightly berserk. It is really tiresome.
Word from the government here is that 1) these building projects are just in the first stages (is this supposed to give people hope that maybe they’ll never finalize?), 2) that the plans were announced many weeks ago, and, 3) that some on the left (Peace Now, which has a propensity for this behavior was mentioned) deliberately called media attention to it now to cause Netanyahu problems while he is in the States.
An editorial from the Wall Street Journal criticized Obama for taking this on all the way from Jakarta:
“…So what did President Obama talk about upon arriving in Jakarta yesterday? Israeli construction projects.
“Why Mr. Obama chose to pick this fight from the distance of Southeast Asia is anyone’s guess. Israel’s decision to proceed with the building of some 1,000 housing units in the Har Homa neighborhood of municipal Jerusalem-a ‘settlement’ only in the most jaundiced sense of the term-was made in October. Israeli governments of both the right and left have encouraged similar building projects since Jerusalem was reunified in 1967. And construction of the new housing will not begin for months if not years.
“None of that deterred Mr. Obama, who warned the Israeli government that ‘this kind of activity is never helpful when it comes to peace negotiations.’
“…All Israel has done is insist that Jews have a right to live anywhere in their capital city, something that might be controversial in Ramallah but ought not to be in Washington. Mr. Obama’s public endorsement of the Palestinian view of what constitutes a settlement only puts the negotiated peace he seeks further out of reach.”
Jonathan Tobin — whose piece in Commentary is entitled “Charm Offensive Ends as Obama Panders to Muslim World” — reflects similar and even more serious concerns:
“Obama chose to use his visit to Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation, as the venue for comments directly criticizing Israel…
“…now that the election is over, Obama is back to his old tricks, seizing upon an announcement that can have no impact on any theoretical peace deal in order to pander to a Muslim world that seeks Israel’s destruction. By making a statement about Jerusalem while in Indonesia, Obama is signaling that the United States regards Jewish Jerusalem as being no different from the most remote settlement in the West Bank: an illegal outpost that must be destroyed and its inhabitants removed. Such a statement helps fuel the Arab irredentism that has been the primary obstacle to peace since Israel’s birth in 1948.
“Obama’s pandering to the Muslim world is also a signal to Jewish Democrats that their party’s leader is once again throwing Israel under the bus in pursuit of popularity in the Third World…”
Prime Minister Netanyahu’s response to Obama was pointed and on the mark, as far as it went. His office put out a statement that said:
“Jerusalem is not a settlement; Jerusalem is the capital of the State of Israel. Israel has never accepted upon itself restrictions of any kind on construction in Jerusalem…including during the ten months in which construction was suspended in Judea and Samaria.
Israel sees no connection between the diplomatic process and planning and building policy in Jerusalem, which has not changed in 40 years. All Israeli governments in the past 40 years have built in all parts of the city. During this period, peace agreements were signed with Egypt and Jordan, and for 17 years, diplomatic negotiations have been conducted with the Palestinians. These are historical facts. Construction in Jerusalem has never hindered the peace process.
The disagreements with the US over Jerusalem are well-known. They are not new and have continued for 40 years. We hope to overcome them and continue to advance the diplomatic negotiations.
In a TV interview yesterday, the prime minister elaborated:
“You are talking about a handful of apartments that really don’t affect the map at all, contrary to impressions that might be perceived from certain news reports.”
Mr. Netanyahu will not be holding his breath waiting for an opportunity to end the disagreements with the US over Jerusalem. That much is clear.
If I have unease it is because his statements are only about Jerusalem and say nothing about Judea and Samaria and building there. Tomorrow he meets with Clinton regarding ways to re-start the process.
As would be expected, PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat has milked this for all it’s worth: “The international community must respond to Israel’s unilateral measures by instantly (instantly?) recognizing a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders(sic).”
The international community must intervene immediately, he said, to salvage the two-state solution, which would be a “natural response” to the measures of Jerusalem. “…Palestinians could no longer remain idle in the face of Israel’s practices that consolidate the occupation…”
The man’s a clown, albeit a potentially dangerous one.
For a sense of deja vu about this issue, as well as an explanation of the strategic significance of Har Homa, see Lenny Ben-David’s blog, here:
Also lending an air of deja vu to the news is Obama’s statement yesterday (alluded to by Tobin, above) that,
“With respect to outreach to the Muslim world, I think that our efforts have been earnest and sustained…
“We don’t expect that we are going to completely eliminate some of the misunderstandings and mistrust that have developed over a long period of time, but we do think that we’re on the right path.”
This is going to increase US security, you see.
I wrote recently about the problem of rock-throwing by Arabs. Nothing is more perverse and difficult to explain than the fact that Israeli ambulances are attacked with rocks even though Arabs have full and equal access to Israeli medical care. An Israeli ambulance might be carrying an Arab patients — or, actually, an Arab doctor.
Khaled Abu Toameh, who is doing a splendid series of articles with Hudson-NY, addresses this issue:
According to the Iranian news agency Fars, Hamas Deputy Foreign Minister Ahmed Yousef in Gaza has extended an invitation to Iranian president Ahmadinejad to visit. This will give a boost to the “resistance front.”
On the brighter side, I have this from an inside source: Anne Bayefsky’s report on the forthcoming Durban III to take place in NYC in September 2011 notwithstanding, there may be reason to hope that this will not materialize.
Bayefsky’s information is solid in terms of what is being discussed in the halls of the UN. But my source is well enough connected to be aware of political goings-on that might “discourage” the plans.
I pondered recently whether it would be necessary sometime soon to take pre-emptive military action against our enemies at our borders. I have no information on this, but find it at least minimally reassuring that there is indication that the IDF is at work planning new strategies for the next time — strategies that would help to protect our fighters in the context of urban fighting and deal with an enemy that uses its own people as human shields. It is felt that civilian populations will have to be evacuated from cities or towns that will be attacked, either in Lebanon or Gaza.
Presumably this will allow Israel to more readily hit rocket storage and launching sites.
November 8, 2010
In speaking with VP Biden yesterday, PM Netanyahu reportedly steered the conversation to the issue of Iran. According to Israeli sources, what he said was, “The only way to ensure that Iran will not go nuclear is to create a credible threat of military action against it if it doesn’t cease its race for a nuclear weapon.”
A “credible” threat is one that the other side takes seriously: The US would have to mean it.
Don’t know how Biden replied, if at all he did reply, but Defense Secretary Gates, speaking to reporters in the course of his visit to Australia, did:
“I disagree that only a credible military threat can get Iran to take the action that it needs to end its nuclear weapons program.
“We know that they are concerned about the impact of the sanctions. The sanctions are biting more deeply than they anticipated and we are working very hard at this.”
Foolish man. Foolish government. Netanyahu hadn’t asked the US to attack Iran now. A credible threat of attack down the road would seriously intensify the impact of the sanctions.
Netanyahu is also foolish, however. This on a different matter:
Last week, 109 (of a total of 120) members of the Knesset drafted a letter to President Obama regarding the release of Jonathan Pollard and asked PM Netanyahu to carry it to the States.
They did this in light of recent events, including published testimony by Deputy Secretary of Defense, Lawrence Korb, in which he charged that Pollard was given a life sentence in violation of a plea agreement which Pollard honored and the US violated, and that then Secretary of Defense Casper Weinberger made false accusations that have since been debunked.
Netanyahu, shamefully, refused to carry the letter, saying that he has raised the issue on his own several times and didn’t need such a letter. Raised the issue? Have you heard about this in recent months? I sure haven’t. Quite the contrary.
There may be more going on — certainly that has been suggested to me. But if nothing else, this smells like cowardice: an unease about being associated with anything controversial (or perhaps even mildly irritating to Obama) — no matter that it would be the right thing to do — so as to not rock the US boat when we are hoping to not be pressured on matters such as a freeze on building.
And there is something else that feels to me like a caving, an effort to avoid being controversial, even if it means taking a stand that is foolish or lacks integrity:
PM Netanyahu will be in NYC today and will be meeting with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon. What is obvious is that, at what ever level this is possible, he seeks to dissuade Mr. Ban from encouraging a unilateral declaration of statehood by the Palestinian Arabs.
But what we have learned is that, according to senior Israeli government forces, Netanyahu intends to tell Mr. Ban that Israel will be withdrawing from the northern part of the Druze village of Ghajar. (More accurately, he will be bringing this before the Cabinet first.) This village, you see, sits half in Israel and half in Lebanon, with the international blue line running through it, and — as we control the village — pressure has been placed on us to pull back.
Theoretically, the turn-over would be overseen by UNIFIL — the UN Interim Forces In Lebanon, which Aaron Lerner refers to as the UN Interim Farce In Lebanon. He is prepared to do this, in the words of Lerner, even though:
“He [Netanyahu] knows full well that UNIFIL has studiously avoided interfering with Hezbollah’s deployment in south Lebanon.
“And he knows that UNIFIL’s failure is 99.9% due to the interest of the UNIFIL commanders and their bosses at the UN to avoid conflict with Hezbollah and other interests…
“And he also knows that Israeli monitoring activity is considered by UNIFIL, and in turn the UN, to be just as serious a problem (if not more) than the activities of Hezbollah.”
Lerner sees this as a security matter.
I see it as something else. Many if not most of the villagers have Israeli citizenship, and have expressed fear of living under Lebanese rule (which ultimately means Hezbollah control). MK Ayub Kara (Likud), one very solid man, is himself a Druze, and has sworn to “fight with my last drop of blood” against Israeli withdrawal.
A YNet article on the issue cites residents of Ghajar:
Said the village spokesman, “Unfortunately, as usual, we are getting updates on what fate has in store for us through the media.
“No government source has informed us of such a move, which will directly influence our lives and the fate of our children.”
While another resident said, “Just like the other citizens of Israel, we deserve fair treatment…”
Doesn’t seem to me that Netanyahu is making us proud.
There are so many matters to touch upon, my friends, that it is obviously impossible to look at everything. But I do want to allude to a few more issues:
We are contending with a major social problem that does not make the news very often: There is a major influx of people from Africa who are illegally entering our country across our border with Sinai. When I say “major influx” I am referring to 700 since the beginning of November (which means in the last eight days, a new record!) and almost 11,000 since the beginning of 2010.
Some are legitimately political refugees, some are coming from places of poverty and hardship and seeking a better life. Most in recent days are from either Sudan or Eritrea. The irony here, you see, a very bitter irony in light of constant “human rights” accusations made against us, is that the word has gone out in Africa that Israel is the best place to be. We treat them better than any of their neighboring countries would. We don’t, for example, shoot them in the back, as Egyptian soldiers have been known to do. And no one dies of starvation on the street; volunteers from a host of agencies seek to help.
But the simple inescapable fact is that we are a small nation and not equipped to cope with this. Many are going to neighborhoods in the south of Tel Aviv, which have turned into a “little Africa.” A host of social problems ensue. While they are certainly not all “bad” people, because they are poor and at loose ends, they congregate on the streets. Sometimes they do a good deal of drinking, sometimes they are violent. The crime rate in areas where there are large numbers of Africans is way up.
And the question is what to do. Netanyahu has been talking about a fence at the border with Egypt, but so far there is no fence. Then there is the question of who can be deported — when is it safe and when returning someone to his country of origin is to place him at genuine risk.
The UN, if it were remotely what the UN should be, would be dealing with this.
Speaking of the UN: It is planning to hold Durban III in New York City in September 2011 — ten years after Durban I took place in Durban, South Africa. Durban I was memorable as a horror of anti-Semitism and anti-Israel venom. Durban II was bad, but not as bad. I have heard Gerald Steinberg, Director of NGO-Monitor, speak about this: What Israeli organizations did, he said, was learn from Durban I how to play the game. There was actually a Jewish/Israeli voice at Durban II, in the face of, in spite of, the anti-Israel venom.
Anne Bayefsky, of Eye on the UN, provides an overview of what’s coming:
There will be much more to say here about preparations and legal maneuvers as time draws close.
It’s not a major housing start by any means, and yet it has political significance.
The Jerusalem District Planning and Construction Committee today approved the construction of 32 housing units in Pisgat Ze’ev, which is located beyond the Green Line.
What is significant is that this was done while our prime minister is in the US and meeting with officials. Remember the furor that ensued when housing starts were announced while VP Biden was in the country.
With this was an announcement from the Interior Ministry that there will be 978 new apartments built in the Har Homa neighborhood, and 320 in Ramot, both also over the Green Line.
Steve Rosen has written an article for the Middle East Quarterly — “The Arab Lobby: The European Component” –that merits serious attention. The Daily Alert summary of this pieces reads:
“The strongest external force pressuring the U.S. government to distance itself from Israel is not the Arab-American organizations, the Arab embassies, the oil companies, or the petrodollar lobby. Rather, it is the Europeans, especially the British, French, and Germans, that are the most influential Arab lobby to the U.S. government. The Arabs consider Europe to be the soft underbelly of the U.S. alliance with Israel and the best way to drive a wedge between the two historic allies. Europe is not hostile to Israel on every issue, and not every European intervention with U.S. officials is meant to move U.S. policy in the Arab direction. But, on the whole, the Arab road to Washington runs through Paris, London, and Berlin.”
You might also want to see Moshe Elad’s piece on “Obama’s Next Failure,” which will be the “peace process”:
“Obama and his advisors fail to understand that the Middle East crisis cannot be resolved with ‘Yes we can’ slogans. Several previous presidents realized that the issue is complex, problematic, and beyond their abilities, thereby taking a step back. But not Obama. He will continue to exert pressure until he prompts a collapse…”
“On the one hand, the Palestinian Authority has neither the desire nor the ability to reach a historic compromise with Israel. On the other hand, the PA is having trouble withstanding the American and European pressure to implement such compromise.”
A correction and a tentative correction:
 First time ever that I’ve had to correct a correction. Eric Cantor is slated to be majority leader, not whip. Sorry, my terminology was off. (With thanks to an alert Lawrence W.)
 As to the $200 million per day that Obama is alleged to be spending in India, there has been a denial of this from the White House — although, of course, no figures were provided to counter the charge. My reference to this yesterday was based on an extensive number of sources. As reliable a source as The Washington Times had written that the Obama entourage “will spend enough to bankrupt a small nation.” The figure came originally from an Indian official who is said to have had access to information on arrangements — security, accommodations for 3,000 people, etc. One source I’ve since located says that this figure of $200 million/day applies not to the entire 10 days of the Asian trip, but only to the two days being spent in Mumbai — where there was a major terrorist attack in 2008. This source cites information about “13 heavy-lift aircraft with high-tech equipment, three helicopters and 500 US security personnel” having arrived in India eight days ahead of Obama’s visit. I mention this now because my intention, always, is to be as accurate as possible. And in this case, there is no certainty as to what is going on.
“The Good News Corner”
Israel — having developed innovative drip irrigation technologies and related systems — is the most knowledgeable of nations when it comes to making the desert bloom.
Now Israel is sharing know-how with poor African nations that are facing desertification and water scarcity — which lead to hunger and poverty.
There are various programs at work, with many Israeli partners, including: Ben Gurion University (which is in Beersheva, in the desert), irrigation companies, private equity funds, and in some cases the Foreign Ministry via its Center for International Cooperation. Efforts are being expended in South Africa, Senegal, Niger and elsewhere to provide local farmers with the tools they need. In the Eastern Cape, in S. Africa, there has been a 400% increase in agricultural output.
(An historical note here: Israel was doing this sort of thing in the ’60s and early ’70s, but most African nations broke ties with Israel, in solidarity with the Arab states, after the Yom Kippur War of 1973. It is an excellent thing that relationships are being solidified once again.)