Thursday, March 21, 2013

Arlene Kushner: Why Obama's Trip To Israel Is A Failure

From Arlene Kushner:
March 21, 2013

The Party's Over


If indeed there ever was a party, except in people's imaginations.
I must confess something here.  I understand better today how Obama got re-elected.  I'm seeing his charm up close and when he turns it on, it's considerable.  Then it becomes a question of what to accept as real....
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I want to start with the last event of Obama's day here, because it irks me so greatly.
I am referring to his talk to  600 university students at Binyanei Ha'uma -- the Jerusalem Convention Center. 
Let me quote what Ruby Rivlin, former speaker of the Knesset, said about the president's decision -- which he called "worrying" -- to speak at the Convention Center rather than the Knesset:
"Three American presidents [Carter, Clinton and Bush] have spoken on the Knesset stage, as well [Egyptian President Anwar] Sadat and leaders from Europe.  President Obama should speak to the people of Israel through its elected representatives."
Because of apparent concern on the part of Obama that members of the Knesset might interrupt him if he spoke in the Knesset or demonstrate on behalf of Pollard, Rivlin, at the request of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and National Security head Ya'akov Amidror reached an agreement with MKs that there would be no disruptions.  And these agreements were reported to the Americans.
Said Rivlin,  
"Unfortunately, despite these agreements...President Obama decided not to visit the Knesset, a decision which is in bad taste....The Knesset is a symbol of Israeli sovereignty, and with all due respect to the president, it cannot be ignored."  (Emphasis added)
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Myself, I think the concerns about being interrupted were an excuse, and nothing more, for what Obama did.  Young people are more impressionable, less critical.  He wanted to set a tone, deliver a message.  And I consider what he did to be manipulative.
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So what did he say to the young people?
President Obama
Credit: Algemeiner
There was the requisite amount of feel-good stuff --  more than requisite for my taste.  Actually, over the top with repeated Hebrew phrases thrown in and gushing about how he really always had a good relationship with Prime Minster Netanyahu (yea, right). 
And then, then he pushed his positions, and they've made me angry.  No, very angry.
When he addressed the issue of Iran, he said:
"All of us have an interest in resolving this issue peacefully. Strong and principled diplomacy is the best way to ensure that the Iranian government forsakes nuclear weapons. Moreover, peace is far more preferable to war (sic), and the inevitable costs – and unintended consequences – that would come with it. Because of the cooperation between our governments, we know that there remains time to pursue a diplomatic resolution. That is what America will do – with clear eyes – working with a world that is united, and with the sense of urgency that is required." (Emphasis added)
Excuse me!  These young people are Israeli citizens, and their prime minister has said, unequivocally, that he does not believe diplomacy will work unless there's a credible military option -- and one that would be exercised if necessary.  How does Obama, a guest in our country, totally discount this and say that diplomacy is the best way. Not, "it is my opinion that..." or "I hold on to the hope that..."  But an unequivocal statement of his own that contradicts and doesn't even give a nod to what Netanyahu thinks.
And then he speaks about what is possible with regard to timing "because of the cooperation between our governments."  Dirty pool. He and Netanyahu do NOT agree on the timing, and yet he gives the impression that this agreement exists. 
The "cooperation" has to do with intelligence that is shared, not with the conclusions drawn from the intelligence.  It is important that this distinction be clear.
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On the subject of Iran, allow me to move back to what was said at the press conference yesterday.  It was a positive thing, that Netanyahu made it clear that we are responsible for our own security and will cede this to no one -- and that he said Obama acknowledges this as our right.
However, there's a "but..." here.  Because we don't know what was said behind closed doors, we don't know if Obama convinced Netanyahu to wait longer than he would prefer to wait before acting.  My inner (intuitive) sense is that he may have. And we don't know if Obama has agreed to back us or provide logistical assistance if we move militarily.  There's a great deal we don't know.
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And then Obama made his pitch for the "peace process." 
Here he did some qualifying of the "you may not agree with me, but..." sort.  But then proceeded to make a case for a "two state solution" that is unbalanced.  And pie in the sky. And deceptive.
"...So I believe that the Israeli people do want peace, and you have every right to be skeptical that it can be achieved.

"But today, Israel is at a crossroads. It can be tempting to put aside the frustrations and sacrifices that come with the pursuit of peace...

"I want you to know that I speak to you as a friend who is deeply concerned and committed to your future, and I ask you to consider three points.

"First, peace is necessary. Indeed, it is the only path to true security..." (Emphasis added)
Let's stop right here for a moment.  Necessary?  It would be nice, if it were possible. But it's not.  "The only path to true security"?  Sure, if it were true peace.  But what Obama  envisions -- a "peace agreement" -- simply puts us at risk.
And what a crock, that he is concerned for our future.  He's concerned for his political success and a host of other things.
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"Second, peace is just."  (Emphasis added)
What glib nonsense this is -- designed to appeal to the sense of justice of an idealistic student population.  The real issue is one of whether the peace agreement would be "just" in its particulars.  For many of us, justice means Jews keeping the land that has been ours going back 3,000 years, and which international law ceded to us early in the 20th century -- in recognition of that ancient bond with our homeland.
For Obama it's something else entirely: 
"...the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination and justice must also be recognized. Put yourself in their shoes – look at the world through their eyes. It is not fair that a Palestinian child cannot grow up in a state of her own, and lives with the presence of a foreign army that controls the movements of her parents every single day. It is not just when settler violence against Palestinians goes unpunished.  It is not right to prevent Palestinians from farming their lands; to restrict a student’s ability to move around the West Bank; or to displace Palestinian families from their home."  (Emphasis added)
This paragraph is so distorted in its representation of the reality that it is sickening.  Every child has a right to "her own state"?  What about a Kurdish child, for example?  And it is not true that the Palestinian child's parents are controlled in their movements every single day -- not if they live in a PA city and go about their business peacefully.
And settler violence unpunished?  I'd need him to clarify this, which he states as fact.  What about the horrendously increased level of  Palestinian violence, which he mentions not at all.  And on and on...
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"...while I know you have had differences with the Palestinian Authority, I believe that you do have a true partner in President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad. Over the last few years, they have built institutions and maintained security on the West Bank in ways that few would have imagined a decade ago. So many Palestinians – including young people – have rejected violence as a means of achieving their aspirations." (Emphasis added)
Sigh... a true partner in President Abbas... Uh huh.  As to maintaining security, I alluded to this myth yesterday.  The IDF is maintaining security.  If there are two states -- Heaven forbid -- the terrorists will flock in droves to the new Palestinian Arab state.
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"Which leads to my third point: peace is possible. I know it doesn’t seem that way. There will always be a reason to avoid risk, and there’s a cost for failure. There will always be extremists who provide an excuse to not act." (Emphasis added)
True peace with the Palestinian Arabs is NOT possible.  But he would have it that anyone who recognizes this is an "extremist."
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"...There will be many voices that say this change is not possible. But remember this: Israel is the most powerful country in this region. Israel has the unshakeable support of the most powerful country in the world. Israel has the wisdom to see the world as it is, but also the courage to see the world as it should be."
Go for it, he's telling the young students.  Don't listen to the "extremists" and those who say it isn't possible.  Here I am, the president of the United States, speaking directly to you and saying it is possible:
"Today, as we face the twilight of Israel’s founding generation, you – the young people of Israel – must now claim the future. It falls to you to write the next chapter in the story of this great nation."
Manipulative is not even a strong enough word for how Obama conducted himself here.  Take a lesson.  Under no circumstances is this a man to be trusted.
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Now let's back up just briefly, to the visit Obama made to Ramallah this morning. 
According to multiple reports, the tone was decidedly different from what it had been in Israel.  No joyous flag waving.  There was a large demonstration of hundreds just a short distance from the Muqata (PA  headquarters in Ramallah) that could be heard when Obama arrived. The crowd -- organized by an Islamist group called Hizb ut Tahrir -- called for him to leave.  
Yesterday, Khaled Abu Toameh, writing in the JPost, reports, a group of Palestinian lawyers filed a request with the PA prosecutor-general that Obama be arrested. That this was about US Army involvement in the death of a Palestinian journalist ten years ago (when Obama wasn't even on the scene) indicates a good measure of hostility to the US in segments of Palestinian Arab society.
Obama and putative PA president, Mahmoud Abbas, met for 90 minutes and then held a press conference.  Both parties were largely unsmiling, although Israel National News reports Obama was noticeably warmer to PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad (long a favorite of the West).
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What is clear is that during the press conference, Obama was attempting to play down the issue of "settlements," which, ironically, is the one he himself had advanced as a precondition to negotiations early in his first term.  Apparently he has learned at least this from his mistakes -- for he fomented a hardening of Abbas' position.
He had told Netanyahu that "settlement" expansion was not "constructive" or "appropriate."  Now at the press conference he suggested that focus in negotiations should be on "core issues": establishment of a Palestinian state and guarantees of Israeli security. 
"That's not to say settlements aren't important. That's to say if we solve those two problems, the settlement issue will be resolved," he said.  "If the expectation is that we can only have direct negotiations when everything is settled ahead of time, then there's no point in negotiations. It's essential to work through this process even if we have concerns on both sides. We can push through these things, not use them as excuses not to do anything.

"..."Israelis must recognize that continued settlement activity is counterproductive to the cause of peace, and that an independent Palestine must be viable, that real borders will have to be drawn.

[While] "Palestinians must recognize that Israel will be a Jewish state, and that Israelis have the right to insist upon their security."
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But Obama couldn't close the Pandora's box he had opened last year.
Responded Abbas:
Everybody considers settlements more than a hurdle toward a two-state solution. The [United Nations] security council issued more than 13 resolutions, not only condemning settlements but demanding ending and removing them because they're illegal. We're demanding nothing other than the implementation of international law. The issue of settlements in clear."
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Well, for the record, it's not "clear" at all.  The Levy Report, which examined a host of legal and historical parameters, determined that the "settlements" are not illegal. 
Also for the record: Before Obama raised the "settlement" issue, a great deal of negotiating took place while building was going on.  Nothing in the Oslo Accords prohibits settlements.
But if Obama wants to push "peace" forward -- which means bringing Abbas to the table -- where will he go from here?  According to PressTV, Abbas political advisor Nimr Hammad quoted Abbas as having told Obama during their meeting:
"A resumption of negotiations is not possible without an Israeli settlement freeze in the West Bank and east al-Quds [Jerusalem],"
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Has Obama already made a demand of  Netanyahu that in the interests of "peace" he freeze building past the Green Line?  Will Kerry be expected to deliver that message next week?
What we will need to watch for is a de facto building slowdown that is not officially announced.
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Obama spoke at the press conference today about "real borders" having to be drawn.  This addresses another hot button issue about which little is being said publicly:  Abbas demands Israel's pullback to the '67 line, and Obama has gone along with this.  What was discussed between Obama and Netanyahu on this issue?
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Yesterday, a group of Palestinian Arabs set up a protest camp at E1, the area that runs between Ma'aleh Adumim and Jerusalem, and upon which we are supposed to build (if approval ever comes through in the face of international protests).  Some 200 Arabs erected 15 tents as a message to Obama that he was favoring Israel. Last night the IDF handed out eviction notices. But you can count on it -- they will not be evicted until Obama has gone home.  While there should be no delay, let's hope there's speedy action thereafter.
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This morning, four rockets were aimed at Israel from Gaza.  One hit a home in Sderot, damaging it considerably and traumatizing the family.  Another hit an open area near the Gaza border, and two others landed inside of Gaza.  Hamas denied that anyone inside Gaza had shot rockets.
Israeli officials said there would be a response "at the time and place" of their choosing.  It is obvious that this will not happen until Obama is gone.  Somehow, regrettably, a response is considered to have the potential to create a "diplomatic incident."  While it rather seems to me that a friend, visiting, and disturbed by the violence imposed on innocent Israelis, would quite understand a response.  Obama did say he was our best friend, didn't he?  And he did condemn the attack.
I suspect this may also be delayed until after Kerry's second visit.
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© 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. 
If it is reproduced and emphasis is added, the fact that it has been added must be noted.


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