May 29, 2011
Yours truly is back at the computer -- a tired and very grateful savta: My grandson, my 12th grandchild, was born last Monday. (For those interested in a peek, you can see him at the end of this post.)
It is with great gratitude to Hashem that I write that he is healthy, very alert, and beautiful, and that my daughter-in-law came through exceedingly well.
While I was tending to other matters, a great deal was going on in the larger world. I do not wish to belabor the obvious, and yet, before turning to matters current, I would like to take a look at what has transpired in the last nine days -- with a few commentaries added for good measure.
I left off posting over a week ago by looking at the way in which Obama undercut Netanyahu by making a speech at the State Department that, in essence, called for resolution of the Palestinian Arab-Israeli conflict via return to the '67 lines, and suggested that Israel make "bold" moves for peace before the question of "refugees" or Jerusalem was even settled.
I subsequently learned that Netanyahu knew what Obama was considering before he got on the plane to fly to the US. He had had a long conversation by phone with Hillary Clinton, imploring that the president not go this route. (No US president had ever come out with a statement on the "'67 lines" such as Obama was planning.)
Obama ignored Netanyahu's urgent request. And when the prime minister got off the plane, he was furious.
Observations made by Caroline Glick with regard to the Obama speech were enormously on the mark, and it is worth sharing highlights:
In "Obama's diversionary tactics" she argues that the president deliberately picked a fight with Netanyahu:
"And so it was a stinging rebuke when Obama declared...'The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps.' According to the Washington Post, Obama wrote these lines of his speech himself and Netanyahu was informed of them just as he was scheduled to fly to the US on Thursday evening. Obama gave the speech while Netanyahu was in the air on his way to Washington to meet Obama the next morning. It is hard to think of a more stunning insult or a greater display of contempt for the leader of a US ally and fellow democracy than Obama’s actions last week. And it is obvious that Netanyahu had no choice but to react forcefully to Obama’s provocation.
The question is why would Obama act as he did? What did he wish to accomplish by purposely starting such an ugly fight with Netanyahu?
...On May 4, two weeks before Obama gave his speech, Fatah and Hamas signed a unity agreement.
"...The agreement between Fatah and Hamas makes Hamas a partner in the leadership of the Palestinian Authority. It also paves the way for Hamas to win the planned Palestinian legislative and presidential elections that are scheduled for September just after the UN General Assembly is scheduled to endorse Palestinian statehood. It also sets the conditions for Hamas to integrate its forces and eventually take over the US trained Palestinian army in Judea and Samaria and to join the PLO.
The Hamas-Fatah unity deal constitutes a complete repudiation of the assumptions informing Obama’s policies towards the Palestinians and Israel. Obama perceives the conflict as a direct consequence of two things: prior US administrations’ refusal to 'put light' between the US and Israel, and Israel’s unwillingness to surrender all of the territory it took during the course of the 1967 Six Day War.
The Hamas-Fatah unity deal is indisputable proof that contrary to what Obama believes, the conflict has nothing to do with previous administrations’ support for Israel or with Israel’s size. It is instead entirely the consequence of the Palestinians’ rejection of Israel’s right to exist and their commitment to bringing about Israel’s destruction.
"Obama had two options for contending with the Palestinian unity deal. He could pay attention to it or he could create a distraction in order to ignore it. If he paid attention to it, he would have been forced to disavow his policy of blaming his predecessors in the White House and Israel for the absence of peace. By creating a distraction he would be able to change the subject in a manner that would enable him to maintain those policies.
"And so he picked a fight with Netanyahu. And by picking the fight, he created a distraction that has, in fact, changed the subject and enabled Obama to maintain his policies that have been wholly repudiated by the reality of the Palestinian unity deal.
"By inserting the citation of the 1949 armistice lines into his speech, Obama made Israel’s size again the issue.
"The Hamas-Fatah unity deal actually demonstrates that not only is Israel’s size not the cause of the conflict, it is the main reason that Israelis and Palestinians live in relative peace..."
In an earlier piece, Glick had written about "Obama's abandonment of America."
Here she pointed out that:
"Quite simply, Obama's speech represents the effective renunciation of the US's right to have and to pursue national interests. Consequently, his speech imperils the real interests that the US has in the region - first and foremost, the US's interest in securing its national security. Obama's renunciation of the US national interests unfolded as follows:
"First, Obama mentioned a number of core US interests in the region. In his view these are: 'Countering terrorism and stopping the spread of nuclear weapons; securing the free flow of commerce, and safe-guarding the security of the region; standing up for Israel's security and pursuing Arab-Israeli peace.'
"Then he said, 'Yet we must acknowledge that a strategy based solely upon the narrow pursuit of these interests will not fill an empty stomach or allow someone to speak their mind.'
"While this is true enough, Obama went on to say that the Arabs have good reason to hate the US and that it is up to the US to put its national interests aside in the interest of making them like America. As he put it, 'a failure to change our approach threatens a deepening spiral of division between the United States and Muslim communities.'
"And you know what that means. If the US doesn't end the 'spiral of division,' (sounds sort of like 'spiral of violence' doesn't it?), then the Muslims will come after America. So the US better straighten up and fly right.
"And how does it do that? Well, by courting the Muslim Brotherhood which spawned Al Qaeda, Hamas, Jamma Islamiya and a number of other terror groups and is allies with Hezbollah.
"How do we know this is Obama's plan? Because right after he said that the US needs to end the 'spiral of division,' he recalled his speech in Egypt in June 2009 when he spoke at the Brotherhood controlled Al Azhar University and made sure that Brotherhood members were in the audience in a direct diplomatic assault on US ally Hosni Mubarak.
"And of course, intimations of Obama's plan to woo and appease the jihadists appear throughout the speech. For instance:
"'There will be times when our short term interests do not align perfectly with our long term vision of the region.'
"So US short term interests, like for instance preventing terrorist attacks against itself or its interests, will have to be sacrificed for the greater good of bringing the Muslim Brotherhood to power in democratic elections..."
Read the entire piece, if you have not already done so, please. It's difficult for me to imagine any American who confronts the realities Glick writes about not being very very worried.
Of course, what she is describing is a continuation of the Obama pattern.
Moving back to our scenario:
A week ago Friday, Netanyahu and Obama met in the White House, after which they held a press conference. It was a stunning success for the Israeli prime minister, who sat facing the American president and coolly informed him that what he was proposing for Israel would never happen.
You can see that press conference here:
Last Sunday, just a week ago, Obama spoke to AIPAC. His position had not changed in any significant way. He still said:
"The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states."
He still spoke about a full phased IDF withdrawal from areas past the pre-'67 line.
And he indicated that:
"What I did on Thursday was to say publicly what has long been acknowledged privately. " This is the old, fallacious "we all know where the lines are going to be, so let's stop pretending" routine.
He also said:
"No country can be expected to negotiate with a terrorist organization sworn to its destruction..."
But he didn't follow the logic of this statement and declare that nothing should demanded of Israel until it is certain that the PA is a legitimate negotiating partner. Instead, he continued with:
"And yet, no matter how hard it may be to start meaningful negotiations under the current circumstances, we must acknowledge that a failure to try is not an option. The status quo is unsustainable."
This means Israel is supposed to make "hard choices for peace" in the face of the potential for a Hamas-controlled PA.
Perhaps most outrageously, he said:
"There is a reason why the Palestinians are pursuing their interests at the United Nations. They recognize that there is an impatience with the peace process – or the absence of one."
And precisely whose fault is the absence of a peace process? Now Israel is supposed to move on it, no matter the sacrifice, to keep the PA from the UN.
What Obama did this time was put a softer tone to his same old message. And then he flew to Europe.
On Monday, Netanyahu gave his talk at AIPAC
But more significantly, on Tuesday he gave his historic speech at a joint session of Congress.
It was a rousing success. I had longed for him to speak on Israel's behalf before the world. And he did so, eloquently (emphasis added):
Israel has no better friend than America. And America has no better friend than Israel. We stand together to defend democracy. We stand together to advance peace. We stand together to fight terrorism.
"In an unstable Middle East, Israel is the one anchor of stability. In a region of shifting alliances, Israel is America’s unwavering ally. Israel has always been pro-American. Israel will always be pro-American.
"My friends, you don’t need to do nation building in Israel. We’re already built. You don’t need to export democracy to Israel. We’ve already got it. You don’t need to send American troops to defend Israel. We defend ourselves.
"...So today, the Middle East stands at a fateful crossroads. Like all of you, I pray that the peoples of the region choose the path less traveled, the path of liberty. No one knows what this path consists of better than you. This path is not paved by elections alone. It is paved when governments permit protests in town squares, when limits are placed on the powers of rulers, when judges are beholden to laws and not men, and when human rights cannot be crushed by tribal loyalties or mob rule.
"...Israel has always embraced this path, in the Middle East has long rejected it. In a region where women are stoned, gays are hanged, Christians are persecuted, Israel stands out. It is different.
"As the great English writer George Eliot predicted over a century ago, that once established, the Jewish state will "shine like a bright star of freedom amid the despotisms of the East.” Well, she was right. We have a free press, independent courts, an open economy, rambunctious parliamentary debates.
"Courageous Arab protesters, are now struggling to secure these very same rights for their peoples, for their societies. We're proud that over one million Arab citizens of Israel have been enjoying these rights for decades. Of the 300 million Arabs in the Middle East and North Africa, only Israel’s Arab citizens enjoy real democratic rights. I want you to stop for a second and think about that. Of those 300 million Arabs, less than one-half of one-percent are truly free, and they're all citizens of Israel!
"This startling fact reveals a basic truth: Israel is not what is wrong about the Middle East. Israel is what is right about the Middle East.
"...In Judea and Samaria, the Jewish people are not foreign occupiers. We are not the British in India. We are not the Belgians in the Congo.
"This is the land of our forefathers, the Land of Israel, to which Abraham brought the idea of one God, where David set out to confront Goliath, and where Isaiah saw a vision of eternal peace. No distortion of history can deny the four thousand year old bond, between the Jewish people and the Jewish land."
But then the prime minister spoke about the need to share our land with the Palestinians, and to make sacrifices, when the time is right, for a true peace. Did he say more in this regard than I would have preferred. He did.
But he laid out red lines as well and spoke truth to the world:
"...If the benefits of peace with the Palestinians are so clear, why has peace eluded us? Because all six Israeli Prime Ministers since the signing of Oslo accords agreed to establish a Palestinian state. Myself included. So why has peace not been achieved? Because so far, the Palestinians have been unwilling to accept a Palestinian state, if it meant accepting a Jewish state alongside it.
"You see, our conflict has never been about the establishment of a Palestinian state. It has always been about the existence of the Jewish state. This is what this conflict is about. In 1947, the United Nations voted to partition the land into a Jewish state and an Arab state. The Jews said yes. The Palestinians said no. In recent years, the Palestinians twice refused generous offers by Israeli Prime Ministers, to establish a Palestinian state on virtually all the territory won by Israel in the Six Day War.
"They were simply unwilling to end the conflict. And I regret to say this: They continue to educate their children to hate. They continue to name public squares after terrorists. And worst of all, they continue to perpetuate the fantasy that Israel will one day be flooded by the descendants of Palestinian refugees.
"My friends, this must come to an end. President Abbas must do what I have done. I stood before my people, and I told you it wasn’t easy for me, and I said… 'I will accept a Palestinian state.' It is time for President Abbas to stand before his people and say… 'I will accept a Jewish state.'
"Those six words will change history. They will make clear to the Palestinians that this conflict must come to an end. That they are not building a state to continue the conflict with Israel, but to end it. They will convince the people of Israel that they have a true partner for peace. With such a partner, the people of Israel will be prepared to make a far reaching compromise. I will be prepared to make a far reaching compromise.
This compromise must reflect the dramatic demographic changes that have occurred since 1967. [I.e., Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria.]...
"Under any realistic peace agreement, these areas, as well as other places of critical strategic and national importance, will be incorporated into the final borders of Israel.
"...Israel will not return to the indefensible lines of 1967.
"...As for Jerusalem, only a democratic Israel has protected freedom of worship for all faiths in the city. Jerusalem must never again be divided. Jerusalem must remain the united capital of Israel...
"And Hamas is not a partner for peace. Hamas remains committed to Israel's destruction and to terrorism. They have a charter. That charter not only calls for the obliteration of Israel, but says ‘kill the Jews wherever you find them’...Israel is prepared to sit down today and negotiate peace with the Palestinian Authority. I believe we can fashion a brilliant future of peace for our children. But Israel will not negotiate with a Palestinian government backed by the Palestinian version of Al Qaeda."
You can find a video and transcript of the speech here:
Netanyahu's reception by Congress was extraordinary. I understand that he was interrupted by applause more times than anyone who has ever addressed a joint session of Congress.
A time for Israelis to hold their heads high.
Had he adopted a tough nationalist ideological line (as some undoubtedly would have preferred) that reception would not have been what it was. He would have been attacked as anti-peace and a radical, obstructionist. And in the end, this would not have served Israel well.
And so he spoke of compromises, and I accept that he had to. But such were the red lines he laid out -- all fair and appropriate and in our national interest -- that he knows, as surely as he expects to take his next breath, that it is not going to happen. Abbas is not going to recognize a Jewish state and renounce the right of return, and walk away from Hamas.
This is the Netanyahu style: Let the world see the Arabs as obstructionist. We might quibble with some details of what he said, but essentially I believe he played it brilliantly.
It is being said that Obama's speech promotes war. And this is so. That it inhibits "peace" is not the case, for there was going to be no peace in any event, and it's time this fact were more broadly acknowledged. What Obama has done is make it easier for the PA to be obstructionist -- for they followed Obama's speech by demanding that Israel agree to the '67 line as a starting point if we want them to come to the table.
And now we've moved beyond this:
As of yesterday, according to Reuters, the "peace process follow-up committee" of the Arab League -- following an address by Abbas -- said it would request membership for the state of Palestine at the UN General Assembly's meeting in New York in September. "A Palestinian state in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, with east Jerusalem as its capital."
I hope to devote my next posting to the issue of the UN as venue for establishing a Palestinian state.
My beautiful new grandson:
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.
Technorati Tag: Israel and Gaza and Hamas and Operation Cast Lead.