U.S. ambassador discusses Settlements, Goldstone, Peace process, Iran (plus commentary)

Posted: November 4th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, The Settlements, the US and us | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »
ambassador James Cunningham

ambassador Cunningham

U.S. ambassador to Israel, Mr. James B. Cunningham, gave today a short lecture at the Tel Aviv University on “U.S. Foreign Policy in the Middle East: One Year into the Obama Presidency”. Mr. Cunningham said that the Administration has “a sense of urgency” in trying to bring the renewal of negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, and emphasized several times that “time is not on our side” and that “the status quo is not sustainable”.

The ambassador admitted though that the task of bringing the parties back to the negotiating table “has proved to be very difficult”, and that the administrating is currently looking for “new ways”. Among the reasons for the current standstill Mr. Cunningham mentioned the situation created by the Goldstone report. He also noted that with regards to the settlement issue, the response the administration got from the Israeli government “is less than we hoped for”. Read the rest of this entry »

My own war crime: personal reflections following the Goldstone Report

Posted: October 28th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: this is personal, war | Tags: , , , , , , , | 9 Comments »
Israeli artillery during operation Grapes of Wrath, 1996

Israeli artillery during operation Grapes of Wrath, 1996

When the Goldstone report was first mentioned in this blog, one of the readers asked me what is it exactly that makes me think that the IDF could have committed war crimes in Gaza. I was asked the same question in an e-mail exchange I had with Prof. Richard Landes, who is a passionate advocate of the Israeli point of view, and naturally, extremely critical of Goldstone.

In both cases I replied that my answer was based on what I learned from the media: That includes cases that the IDF itself confirmed, like as the white phosphorus bombing, and others where the Palestinians’ account of events seemed reliable; there were also numerous reports that the IDF “eased up” its fire-opening procedures during operation Cast Lead; and there were other, more subtle indications, such as a high rate of friendly fire casualties and a low rate or enemy fire casualties – which might, but not necessarily, indicate a policy of “shoot first, then ask questions”. None of this is solid evidence, of course. But the same goes for the people criticizing Judge Goldstone’s report – they also based their opinions on second hand information (at best).

More than anything, it seems to me that the discussion regarding the Goldstone report drifted very quickly from the legal sphere of war ethics and laws to pure propaganda: those who wanted to criticize Israel jumped on the opportunity to attack it, and Israel’s defenders automatically responded. It looks as though the Allen Dershowitzs of this world never even considered the possibility that Israel – let alone the IDF – could have committed a crime. At best, they thought, there might have been some “mistakes”, but never ever something intentional. This was their assumption before reading the report, and this is the conclusion they reached after reading it – if they ever bothered reading it at all.

(There is something absurd about whole debate regarding “war crimes”, because moving civilian population into an occupied territory, as Israel does for more than forty years, is a violation of the 4th Geneva Convention, but the Goldstone report deals with a different crime: widespread killing of uninvolved civilians, either by intension, or as collateral damage, when ways to avoid or substantially reduce this damage were available.)

This is what separates the two sides and at the same time shapes their approach to the Goldstone report: Israel’s defenders don’t believe such things could have happened, while those who attack Israel think that it could, and probably did. As for me, as I said, I don’t know for sure what happened in Gaza, but I’m certain in one thing: the IDF has no problem in attacking civilian targets on purpose, and it did so on numerous occasions. The reason I know this is simple: I did it myself. Read the rest of this entry »

Goldstone Report presents real opportunity for the US

Posted: October 17th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, The Settlements, the US and us | Tags: , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

Shmuel Rosner writes in Maariv that the UN Human Rights Council’s endorsement of the Goldstone Commission Report in Geneva on Friday might be the end of the Obama initiative and the effort to renew negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. PM Netanyahu took a similar stand before the vote in Geneva, declaring that endorsing the report will bring the end of the peace process, as it will reward terrorism and strengthen the Hamas (strange to hear this from Netanyahu, who did just about everything in his power to humiliate Abu-Mazen and consequently, help Hamas).

Rosner writes (my Italic):

The administration has three major concerns regarding this report: the Americans understand that Israel is under enormous pressure, and that Goldstone could be the last nail in the Obama initiative’s coffin; at the same time they understand that Abu-Mazen is under great pressure as well, and that it is impossible to ask from him anything that will be seen as a surrender to the US or Israel’s orders; and they also have political concerns: Obama can’t confront the international institutions or to discount and ignore them the way the previous president did.

I disagree. While it is clear the Abu-Mazen is in troubles, I think that the report gives the US a good opportunity to apply effective pressure on Netanyahu, and finally get some sort of declaration on a limited settlement freeze and renewed negotiations, in exchange for an American support for the Israeli position when the report is brought before the UN Security Council.   Read the rest of this entry »

Israel prefers the Hamas (II)

Posted: October 12th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: In the News | Tags: , , , , | Comments Off

Abu-Mazen – who did as Netanyahu ordered and withdrew the demand to discuss the Goldstone report in the UN Council for Human Rights, only to be humiliated publicly by the PM and his Foreign Minister – has learned the real lesson we have been giving the Palestinians for so long: That if you try to do business with Israel, you stand the risk of losing all you have, and in return, you will get nothing but shame and humiliation.

It’s no wonder he changed his mind. What else can he do, after Israel all but declared publicly that the Palestinian president supported the attack on his own people in Gaza?

It has been this way from the first Intifada, when we tried to crash the moderate local leadership, through the unilateral withdrawal and Sharon calling Abu-Mazen “a featherless chicken”, to this very day: Israel has always brought the worst fate on the moderate Palestinians. I guess we truly do prefer the Hamas. Read the rest of this entry »