March 23, 2013
Motzei Shabbat (After Shabbat)
Pesach begins with seder on Monday night and preparations for the holiday are in high gear. I am mindful -- and right now it's hard work to stay mindful -- of what comes first.
And so, I want to wish my readers a joyous and meaningful Pesach.
May the holiday uplift us and inspire us. And may the Almighty be with us now as he was then.
I do not know if I will post again before the holiday begins, or during the week of the holiday. I ask, please, that you hold off on communication to me for the duration.
Were that I had good and uplifting things to report before the holiday begins! But I have to take it as it is.
As time elapses, what Obama did with his "talk" to university students at Binyanei Ha'uma rankles me ever more. I called it beyond manipulative. Let me here add "despicable."
But I wanted to explain, for those who asked me about this, that there was really nothing we could have done to stop it without causing a major incident. The US Embassy, on behalf of the president, arranged the parameters of the talk. We may hate it, we may find it vile. But they were permitted to hold it where they chose and to invite whomever they chose.
And, I will note here, the choices of whom to include were carefully calculated: The U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv invited college students from around the country to submit essays on why they should be invited. Students were selected based on these essays. You can imagine whose essays were selected.
From Ruthie Blum cited here: Obama Visit ‘Strangles’ Israel
This provides a picture of how well orchestrated the whole Obama spectacle was.
But I move on from this bad news to worse. Obama is gone, he went to Jordan yesterday. But not before he had pushed Netanyahu to place a call to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, apologizing for the Mavi Marmara flotilla incident. Apologizing. After three years of properly refusing to do so. We had offered regrets, but not an apology, which implies fault.
The Mavi Marmara -- which came out of Turkey and had Turkish citizens aboard associated with a terrorist organization, the radical Islamist IHH -- was attempting to break the legal blockade of Gaza maintained by Israel to prevent armaments from being brought in by sea. When the captain refused to turn around, Israeli Navy commandos -- expecting very little protester resistance and intending to go to the bridge to get the captain to stop -- boarded the ship by helicopter and found themselves viciously attacked by those in wait for them. In the battle that ensued, Turkish citizens died. See more here: At least Ten die as Israel Navy intercepts Gaza Flotilla
Obviously they had spoken about it earlier during Obama's visit (or shall I say, Obama did his arm-twisting earlier), but in a very bizarre scenario, the call Netanyahu actually made to Erdogan was from a trailer set up on the tarmac at the airport, very shortly before the president was due to fly out. Erdogan asked to speak to Obama first, and then he spoke with Netanyahu.
An official statement from Netanyahu's office shortly thereafter said:
"In light of Israel's investigation into the incident which pointed to a number of operational mistakes, the prime minister expressed Israel's apology to the Turkish people for any mistakes that might have led to the loss of life or injury."
Mistakes??? What about the behavior of the Turks, which were clearly not mistakes? I think this shameful. Please see these two pictures. The first of someone on the Mavi Marmara swinging an iron bar at an unarmed Israeli Navy commando, and the second of an injured IDF soldier on board.
Credit: IDFCredit: AFP
Netanyahu further said there would be Israeli compensation for lives lost, via a fund to be determined.
What makes this doubly hard to swallow is that just a month ago, Erdogan had referred to Zionism as a "crime against humanity" at an Alliance of Civilizations Forum in Vienna.
After the phone call, Erdogan and Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu pronounced themselves satisfied with Netanyahu's apology, which met all their demands. They said they would proceed with normalizing relations with Israel. And they would stop legal proceedings against Israeli military leaders they held responsible for the Mavi Marmara deaths.
Obama, of course, went off as the victor who cemented this diplomatic "achievement":
"The United States deeply values our close partnerships with both Turkey and Israel, and we attach great importance to the restoration of positive relations between them in order to advance regional peace and security."
Today Netanyahu, writing on his Facebook page, provided the "reason" why he did what he did:
"Syria is crumbling, and its massive stockpiles of advanced weapons are starting to fall into the hands of various elements. What we fear most is that terrorist groups will get their hands on chemical weapons."
"Before the Sabbath, I spoke to the Turkish premier. Three years after Israel-Turkey ties had been cut off I decided it was time to restore them. The changing reality around us requires that we constantly reexamine our relations with countries in the region.
"In the past three years the State of Israel has initiated several attempts to resolve the crisis with Turkey.
"It’s important that Turkey and Israel, which both share a border with Syria, are able to communicate with each other and this is also relevant to other regional challenges. In addition, the visit of US President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Kerry created an opportunity to end the crisis. (Emphasis added)
"That is why towards the end of the US president's visit I decided to call the Turkish prime minister on order to solve the crisis and mend the relations between our two nations."
You like the way he says, the Obama visit "created an opportunity"? And then, that he "decided" to call the Turkish premier to end the crisis. All on his own, he decided.
I'm not buying it. If it's important for the two countries to be able to communicate each other over Syria, Turkey -- which is indeed worried about Syria -- should be willing to do so for its own sake, not because of an apology.
I confess disappointment that our new Secretary of Defense, Moshe Ya'alon supported his prime minister and said he did the right thing. Was it naive of me to expect Ya'alon, so soon after appointment, to cross his boss?
Former foreign minister (and foreign minister designate) MK Avigdor Lieberman, at least, got it right, as he often does:
He called Netanyahu's apology a "serious mistake."
"Anyone who has seen the pictures from the Marmara understands - without a shadow of a doubt - that the actions of the IDF soldiers were in self-defense."
MK Yoni Chetboun of Habayit Hayehudi also severely criticized Netanyahu's apology:
"...Turkey is one of the more moderate countries in the Muslim world and it is proper that we have diplomatic relations with it.
"...And yet, Israel does not have the privilege to apologize for its soldiers actions, when they acted in accordance with the principles of the IDF's ethical code and its definition of 'the purity of arms.' The apology amounts to a knife-stab in the back of the IDF's combat soldiers and commanders. It sends a grave message to our soldiers, 'we don't have your backs.' As a soldier and commander in all sectors of warfare I can testify that government backing is critical for the soldier at the front.
"What is more, it constitutes a dangerous precedent that will encourage anti-Zionist organizations to continue [operating] the mechanism of delegitimizing Israel in general and the IDF in particular."
Chetboun, who was an officer in the Golani Brigade's elite Egoz reconnaissance unit and still serves in the reserves, said the apology to Turkey will cause more damage than good.
Chetboun has spoken out before and I have good hopes for him, and for his party. I'm waiting to see if Bennett also comments.
In the end, the enthusiasm of Obama for this "achievement" may be short-lived. Already today according to Turkey's Hurriyet daily, cited by Times of Israel, Erdogan is saying:
"We will see what will be put into practice during the process. If [the Israelis] move forward in a promising way, we will make our contribution. Then, there would be an exchange of ambassadors."He also indicated it wasn't time yet to drop the charges against IDF military leaders. What was satisfactory one day ago, and met all demands, is no longer so.
As I see it, Erdogan reasons that he can get even more from a weak Netanyahu, who was so obviously pressured by Obama into that apology. What more, I cannot say. But this is a dangerous situation.
In dealing with people such as Erdogan, strength is essential. What might be perceived as conciliation and reaching out is seen by the Muslims as weakness. Failure to comprehend this is a major fault of Obama's. I thought Netanyahu knew better, and perhaps at heart he does.
People on the left don't usually get this. Shelly Yachimovich, head of Labor, praised Netanyahu's apology, saying that it's best to "swallow one's pride." And I thought when she said it what a serious misperception of the situation that statement represented. The dignity of our nation is not a small matter.
There are many rumors floating regarding other concessions that Obama extracted from Netanyahu. Undoubtedly there were such concessions, but their nature is not yet clear. It's being said, for example, that Netanyahu agreed to let the US know in advance if we move to attack Iran. It will take a while until we have documentation on some of these rumors. (Note: Debka is not documentation.)
But one thing that's coming at us is clear. The bad cop is in town. Remember my reference to the good cop-bad cop routine. Obama did his thing marvelously well -- full of charm and good humor. Now comes Secretary of State John Kerry, who went to Jordan with Obama and has now returned here.
In Amman, Kerry met with the PA's Abbas. Now Kerry may have come with a plan -- we were told Obama would bring no peace plan but they said nothing about Kerry. This is not a plan for final peace. It's a plan to get Abbas to the table.
King Abdullah of Jordan said he would be pleased to host a meeting between the parties, and what Kerry might be promoting is a "peace summit" in Amman to be attended by officials of Israel, the PA, the US and Jordan.
Really, really bad news if true.
At this point it's rumor, with conflicting information coming through. This may be a fiction of Palestinian Arab imagination, as they see Kerry as someone more sympathetic to them. The Palestinian Arab "ambassador to Jordan" is speaking of a "US pledge to prepare a study and measures to revive a new political process between [Palestinians] and Israelis."
While "A top Jordanian official said that during his meeting with Kerry, he did not 'sense anything new in the US position towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
"'Kerry did not promise anything, and did not commit to anything at all, and did not mention any expected Palestinian-Israeli talks.'"
From other sources I've been reading about suggestions Kerry has for concessions we should make to bring Abbas to the table. This was expected. One of the reported concessions is release of prisoners, something Abbas speaks about all of the time.
But there's yet more (which I hesitate to mention yet) that requires confirmation.
All of this to be watched very closely. I would feel more confident if our prime minister were currently demonstrating spine.
And may the Almighty be with us now as he was then.
© 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.
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