Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Arlene Kushner On Israel Standing Its Ground

From Arlene Kushner:

August 17, 2011
"No Caving Here"
This news is only hours old, and too important to be missed: 
Prime Minister Netanyahu has informed Secretary of State Clinton that there will be no apology to Turkey for the killing of nine Turkish citizens associated with a terrorist group last year, when the Mavi Marmara -- a  ship flying under a Turkish flag -- participated in a flotilla attempt to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza.  When Israeli soldiers boarded the ship, Turkish members of IHH, a radical Islamic group with ties to Hamas, attacked them.

Clinton had been pushing our government to make that apology because it was ostensibly going to improve relations between Israel and Turkey -- something that the US was eager to facilitate, in the face of the deteriorating situation in Syria.  
(So eager was the US for Israel to apologize that, according to YNet, Israeli diplomats in Washington reported that US officials even suggested that without such an apology it would be difficult for the US to persuade other nations to reject the Palestinians' UN appeal for recognition as a state.  One more bit of unmitigated nonsense.)
It should be noted that every serious analyst of the situation rejected any notion that an apology, which would have been limited and carefully worded in any event, would have had any effect on the Israeli-Turkish relationship.  Turkey, which was once a secular Muslim state of some moderation, has gone significantly Islamist.  
The evidence for this is clear:  In response to the announcement, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan declared, "As long as Israel does not apologize, does not pay compensation and does not lift the embargo on Palestine, it is not possible for Turkey-Israeli ties to improve."  Lift the embargo on Palestine?
It is gratifying to know that the prime minister has stood his ground.  Appeasement simply weakens us, and this is a time when the last thing we can afford is to appear weak.  The fact is that we were right.
I would like to suggest that you thank Prime Minister Netanyahu for his resolve and his strength on behalf of Israel.  (Folks, a very short message is best, please.)
This decision is gratifying for yet another reason.  I've been watching the tug of war between the various ministers of the government on this issue -- advising pro and con.
It was, unsurprisingly, Defense Minister Barak who had been promoting the idea of a limited apology.  While Foreign Minister Lieberman and Minister of Strategic Affairs Ya'alon were adamantly opposed. 
I do not know the degree to which the prime minister kept his own counsel in this matter, but I have hopes that those with their heads screwed on properly were the ones who held sway in making their case to Netanyahu.  In my humble opinion, there is no ministerial office staffed with more intelligent, "with-it" people than the Ministry of Strategic Affairs. The more influence they have on the prime minister, the safer our nation will be. 
I note this in particular today because it was with enormous disgust and trepidation that I read about Barak's suggestion that -- if you can believe this! -- Israel should offer the PA a series of "goodwill" gestures in an attempt to get Abbas to back down from going to the UN next month.
"This would be a way to get the Palestinians to understand that they have a lot more to gain by working together with us, as opposed to making unilateral moves," one defense official is quoted as having said.
I'm almost ashamed to write this, because I find it so pathetic.  Just how many times are we supposed to offer those "gestures" -- with removal of roadblocks, possible release of Fatah prisoners, and increase in the number of Palestinian Arab workers allowed daily into Israel proposed this time. 
Can it really be that it hasn't dawned on Barak and company that the PA really doesn't want to work with us?  Are their memories so short that they have already forgotten how such gestures in the past have ill served us -- at the worst inviting increased terror attacks and weakening our position -- to no real avail?
Much more on the mark is the campaign that MK Danny Danon (Likud) is about to institute, promoting unilateral annexation of the Jewish communities of Judea and Samaria.
"The Palestinians need to know that they have a lot to lose by taking a unilateral approach."
In general terms, Minister Ya'alon has supported this approach, as has Minister of National Infrastructure Uzi Landau (Yisrael Beitenu) and Minister of Science and Technology Daniel Hershkowitz (Habayit Hayehudi).
The Quartet is not happy with Israel. Again.  This time it's because of the announcement that we will be constructing 277 new housing units in Ariel in Samaria.  We're at a "critical juncture," you see, in efforts to restart negotiations.  
Let strength foster strength, here in Israel.  And let the Quartet be unhappy. Again.
For the record, the city of Ariel, with a population of close to 20,000, is what is usually referred to as "one of the major settlement blocs" -- although I shun the term "settlement."  Under no circumstances is it something that would be turned over to the Arabs even if there were negotiations done in good faith.  Established in 1978, it is known as the "Capital of Samaria," and today boasts a university with a diverse student body.
The building that is now approved will merely allow for the completion of an existing neighborhood where construction had been stopped due to US pressure. Ariel's mayor, Ron Nachman, says that, "It is the first time in 10 years that we received such a permit."
(Dare I feel some hope here?  That after ten years of bowing to US pressure by various Israeli governments on this issue, there is enough backbone to proceed?)

The Palestinian Arab approach to this news -- which can only be considered "cart-before-the-horse" or "point-the-finger-in-the-other-direction" spin -- is laughable:
Nabil Abu Rudainah, a spokesman for Abbas, called the announcement "an Israeli attempt to obstruct and destroy what is left of any effort to revive the peace process."

"Once again, these Israeli settlement measures represent a strong reason calling on us to go to the United Nations and the Security Council to request membership for the state of Palestine and to halt these Israeli measures."
Is there anyone, anywhere, who really believes this stuff?  Certainly Rudainah cannot.
Elliot Abrams has a viable suggestion with regard to the Quartet: Disband it.
"The last time the Middle East Quartet met, on July 11, it was unable even to issue a statement about the key issue before it—the Palestinian effort to get the UN General Assembly and Security Council to declare Palestine a state and admit it to membership. Nor has the Quartet  been able to issue a statement about the attacks the Assad regime has been carrying out this week against Palestinian refugee camps in Syria, which have led thousands of Palestinians to flee their homes.
"But it did on August 16 get itself organized to address what it apparently saw as a graver issue and a greater threat to peace, Israel’s announcement of plans to construct additional housing units in Jerusalem and Ariel.
"Nowadays the Quartet seems able to reach agreement on only one thing: criticism of Israel. This is the lowest common denominator among the United States, EU, United Nations, and Russia, and it is pretty low indeed. If this is the only function of the Quartet, the better path would be to disband it now—for the statements it is making and the statements it seems unable to make combine to bring discredit on all participants.
This is something that cannot be ignored.  It perhaps represents a new low for the Obama administration.
I've written already about the case of Menachem Zivotofsky, an American citizen born in Jerusalem, who was denied the right by the State Department to have a passport that read born in "Jerusalem, Israel."  The passport reads only "Jerusalem," because the US refuses to recognize any sovereignty over Jerusalem.  (This fact has always boggled my mind as we're talking about western Jerusalem within the Green Line -- this means the US  entertains Arab claims to Jerusalem within the Green Line.)  The case will be heard by the US Supreme Court in November.
In anticipation of this, the Obama administration recently arranged for the term "Israel" to be removed from all pictures in a White House photo gallery showing Vice President Biden in Jerusalem.
Charges were then made by supporters of Obama, that during the Bush administration, there was no acknowledgement that Jerusalem was in Israel.  That turns out to not be the case, as digitally archived and frozen documents indicate. 
But what the Obama administration has done has been to alter Bush-era State Department reports stored on State Department servers to which the Obama administration has access. This is particularly the case with regard to the State Department’s FY 2002 and FY 2003 Performance and Accountability Reports.  As Omri Ceren describes in Commentary, "When they were originally written they both had appendices identifying the location of the Jerusalem consulate as 'Jerusalem, Israel.' Some time in the last two weeks that location was changed to 'Jerusalem.'"
How low can it get?  Rhetorical question.
You can see the details, and the way to track this for yourself, here:
King Saud of Saudi Arabia has called on Syria's president Assad to "stop the killing machine." 
What is more, he has re-called the Saudi ambassador to Syria, and Bahrain and Kuwait have followed suit.
And so, let me digress from the major point I had wanted to make here to ask a question: Has Obama recalled the US ambassador to Syria?  Not last I looked (though he was in the States recently for meetings). 
How is it that Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Kuwait are more pro-active on this issue?   I am quite familiar with the US argument -- that more influence can be wielded from inside by "engaging."  You will notice how much influence the US has on murderous Syrian policies.  Much-to-be-regretted evidence of the impotence of the US in this part of the world today.
Michael Singh, writing in Foreign Policy yesterday, says:
"When the story of the Arab Spring is written in Arabic, it is unlikely to reflect well on the United States. In his speech about the Middle East on May 19, US President Barack Obama attempted, and rightly so, to place his administration squarely on the side of pro-democracy activists. As seen from the region, however, US actions are hard to square with the message of May 19; instead, the hallmarks of US policy have been hedging and hesitation.  (Emphasis added)
Jennifer Rubin makes some very disconcerting additional charges  with regard to Obama administration passivity today in her blog in The Washington Post : "Obama tolerates terror operations run out of Syria's embassy [in the US]."
"Syria is taking its war against President Bashar al-Assad’s political opponents global, using diplomats in Washington, London and elsewhere to track and intimidate expatriates who speak out against the Damascus regime...
"Syrian embassy staffers are tracking and photographing antiregime protesters and sending reports back home... Syrian diplomats, including the ambassador to the US, have fanned out to Arab diaspora communities to brand dissidents 'traitors' and warn them against conspiring with 'Zionists.'
"What has the administration done about protecting its own citizens and those already in peril in Syria? Well the FBI has investigated. But all we’ve done, as far as I can tell, is — you guessed it — taken 'very seriously' these reports, according to a State Department flunky."
As to my major point:  It may be that Israel and the Western world have a friend in Saudi Arabia (oh irony of ironies).  There are reports indicating that King Saud is looking for an opportunity to cripple Hezbollah by taking down Assad, who has long been directly involved in arming the terrorist group.  A weakening of Hezbollah would work against the strength of Iran, which the Saudis loathe and fear.  What King Saud is said to be hoping for is a rise of Sunni power in Syria, which would shift the dynamic of the region.
© Arlene KushnerThis material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.

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