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 »

Jewish Terrorism is here again. Anyone still surprised?

Posted: November 1st, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, The Right, The Settlements | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments »

Today at six PM the court order the police requested was lifted, and the Israeli media could finally publish the story everybody knew of for weeks: Another Jewish terrorist was arrested.

Yaakov Taitel, an immigrant from the US, is suspected of killing two Palestinians, placing the bomb that wounded professor Ze’ev Sternhell and rigging the package bomb which left the child of a Messianic Jew seriously wounded. Taitel also admitted to the murder at the Gay youth home in Tel Aviv, but there is no evidence linking him to this crime.

This is the second Jewish terrorist to come out of Rahel Shvut settlements. In 2005 Asher Weisgen, a bus driver, shot and killed four Palestinians near Shiloh in the West Bank. Even so, when you listen to the settlers in the Israeli media this evening, all of what they talk about is “the incitement against the Right”. None of them seems ready to ask some tough question on racist anti-Arab discourse they were promoting, or about the de-legitimization of the left.

What’s funny is that the settlers were pushing their message even before the Taitel’s arrest was made public. As Ido Kenan reveled in his blog, a Right wing PR group named “Mattot Arim” (מטות ערים) distributed a talking points e-mail, in which speakers for the Right were instructed to counterattack by the Left immediately. One of the points reads:

“Assaf Goldring who recently murdered his 3 years old daughter was a left wing activist and a Kibutz member. No right-wing journalist used this to hint that all leftists or Kibutz members are the same as Goldring. It is both unprofessional and rude when leftwing journalists dare to smear the right, the religious or the settlers when something [of this sort] happens.”

Jesus, is this is the best they could come out with? A domestic violence case of some Kibutz member? Obviously, this is the perfect example to the sixty-years-old fact that while hate talk goes in all directions in Israel, bullets fly only from right to left. 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 »

Everything has changed

Posted: June 22nd, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: In the News | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off

UPDATE: I’m going on a vacation, so I probably won’t be posting for the next 10 days or so.

cross-psoted with FPW.

Let’s admit it – there is almost no reliable news as to what is actually happening in Iran. The pictures from the last couple of days don’t show the mass demonstrations of the first few days following the presidential elections. It seems that the number of protesters dropped from hundreds of thousands to just thousands and even hundreds. If this is so, it could be a bad sign for the reformist camp. On the other hand, the political heat is still on: Friday’s warnings from he supreme leader Ali Khamenei not only failed to calm the streets, but seemed to toughen the position of the reformist leaders – Mousavi, Karubi, and above all, Rafsanjani. Again, most of the political drama is probably happening backstage, so we can’t know anything for sure.

Western leaders – probably under public pressure – are starting to take a more committed stand on the reformists’ side. Germany’s Angela Merkel took a firm position in support of the opposition, but the UK government and the American administration still chose their words very carefully. As I wrote before, too-overt support statements could end up doing do more harm than good, but on the other hand, when Iranians are calling “death to the dictator”, the careful language of president Obama seems somewhat out of sync with his inspiring speech in Cairo.

One thing is very clear right now – the Iranian “Islamic revolution” model has suffered a tremendous blow. Even if the Iranian leadership can sort the mess without sharing power with the reformists (something which doesn’t seem very likely now), it is clear that the system as a whole doesn’t enjoy the legitimacy that everyone though it did. The Iranian leadership will have to be a lot more careful from now on, and concentrate on internal stability. It is not sure how much effort it will put on exporting the revolution, and on supporting Hamas and Hizbullah.

Read the rest of this entry »

Obama’s Speech: the Israeli Perspective

Posted: June 5th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, The Settlements, the US and us | Tags: , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

The people behind the excellent Foreign Policy Watch blog invited me to write for them during this summer. I will cross-post most of the stuff here. Here are some thoughts I wrote for FPW yesterday, following Barak Obama’s speech in Cairo.

President Obama touched a variety of subjects on his long-awaited speech to the Arab world today, starting from cultural differences, through religion and finally geopolitics. He mentioned countries and events all across the region, and made many historical and political analogies which could be analyzed and debated. I am not an expert on the Arab world, so I will focus on the two major issues that concerned the Israelis listening to the speech – and they were listening, believe me – which are Iran and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

TO AN ISRAELI EAR, what was interesting in Obama’s speech was that on the surface, the American president didn’t really say anything new. He didn’t need to – the location, as well as the events leading to the speech, made all the difference.

Before we get to hardcore politics, what was most striking and impressive, was the effort Obama took in explaining the special relationship between the US and Israel, and especially his clear words against Holocaust denial, which is becoming somewhat of a phenomenon in several Arab countries. Some people didn’t like the fact that Obama went straight from there to the Palestinian tragedy, but most Israelis I talked to were incredibly impressed by the president’s insistence to speak so firmly on the matter in this particular speech, and in that particular place.

Read the rest of this entry »

Obama’s Middle East Plan

Posted: May 10th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, the US and us | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

The weekend papers dealt mainly with the new policy for the Middle East that US president Barak Obama is supposed to present in the following weeks, maybe even before his meeting with PM Benjamin Netanyahu.

Most pundits and reporters agree on this: the administration is determined to prevent Israel from attacking Iran (it is unclear whether Israel can actually do that on its own, and without flying over American occupied Iraq. On the other hand, it’s hard to imagine the US shooting down Israeli jets). Obama will offer the Iranians some kind of deal – maybe one which will include financial benefits, in exchange for freezing its nuclear program and giving the UN inspectors unlimited access to all facilities.

Read the rest of this entry »

Nonviolence? Israel prefers the Hamas

Posted: April 22nd, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: In the News | Tags: , , , , , | Comments Off

Ibrahim abu-Rakhma, a 31-year-old Palestinian, was killed during Friday’s weekly anti-separation fence demonstration in Bil’in. Abu-Rakhma was shot in the chest with a tear-gas grenade, launched from a distance of some 30 meters from him by IDF soldiers. The soldiers were under no threat at any stage of the demonstration, as this video of the incident clearly shows.

The death of Abu-Rakhma, a civilian from Bil’in who protested the taking of his own village’s land, is not only sad and unjustified, but also carries a bad lesson for both Palestinian and Israelis.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Camp David Casualties

Posted: March 16th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: The Left, The Right | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Shlomo Ben Ami, Israel’s Foreign minister and Internal Security minister under Ehud Barak, was interviewed this weekend by Maariv (in fact, I edited this article). Ben Ami, who took part in the failed Camp David summit between Barak, Bill Clinton and Yasser Arafat, has retired from politics and now heads the Toledo Peace Center. Talking from his office in Spain, he had some warm words for Barak, Ehud Olmert, and most notably, Benjamin Netanyahu, whom he described as a “very intelligent, knowledgeable and brave politician”.

And that’s what he had to say about the peace process:

“There is no such thing as a ‘peace process’ anymore. The idea of two states for two people is irrelevant and unattractive both to us and to the Palestinians… Hamas doesn’t want the two states solution. The Palestinians have reached a very similar situation to ours: they don’t believe that Abu Mazen will bring peace, and they think Hamas will do a better job. We don’t believe that Bibi or Tzipi (Livni) will bring peace as well. And we are all right.”

Q: who then will bring peace?

“We should let the Palestinians have their national unity government, Fatah with Hamas, overcome our emotional barrier, and negotiate with both. It was very foolish not to agree to that in Mecca. I’m not sure that Hamas will oppose (negotiations). Sometimes I think the problem will be with the Fatah.”

And later on:

Q: what shall we talk about with Hamas?

“We should talk about ending the occupation and establishing a Jordanian-Palestinian state in the West Bank… an agreement with a state like Jordan can be maintained. They have order, discipline and real state administration. The Palestinians never had their state, they remain an anarchic movement with no direction, no patron, that’s why it is so hard to reach an agreement with them”.

It is almost unimaginable that Jordan will take the Palestinian state on its tiny shoulders, and on top of all things, accept Hamas as its partner. It will bring only trouble to the fragile kingdom. It seems that much like Ehud Barak and the rest of the Camp David casualties, Ben Ami is so disappointed with the Fatah, that he prefers to negotiate with anyone else. The only problem is that there is no one else. Not really. Whether we like it or not, there is no real alternative to the two states solution.

(On one thing I do agree with Ben Ami: that we have to talk to Hamas. It’s only appropriate. After all, we got our own Hamas elected as well).

Arab Rejectionism

Posted: January 4th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: The Left, war | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Paul Rosenberg from “Open Left” writes on the “Arab rejectionism” argument. Definitely worth reading.

Defenders of Israel’s policies often short-circuit any meaningful dialogue on the Arab-Israeli conflict by reducing the problem to the Arabs and their alleged “rejectionism,” i.e. their refusal to accept Israel’s right to exist.

This argument conveniently removes Israel’s actions from the realm of moral consideration because it implies that changes in Israeli policy will ultimately have no impact one way or another on the ongoing conflict. It is quite difficult for a moral, thinking person to justify Israel’s treatment of the subjugated Palestinians.

Read the rest of his post here.

and now what?

Posted: December 31st, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, war | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

I had a busy week, partly because of the war, and couldn’t update the blog with my thoughts on the events in Gaza. I guess that’s the problem with being a journalist.

I oppose the war. I think it is immoral and unwise.

On the moral side, I don’t agree with the common Israeli point of view, according to which “we left Gaza and they kept firing rockets”. Israel evacuated the settlements, but kept the siege on Gaza, probably in hope that it would topple the Hamas (This policy, of putting the pressure on civilians in hope of replacing the Arab leadership, is not only immoral, but it also failed us again and again, both in the West Bank and in Lebanon). This does not justify the rockets that were fired on Israel, but since Israel refused to even consider removing the siege or ruled out negotiations with the Hamas, it left the other side with very few options.

Read the rest of this entry »