Monday, January 20, 2014

Arlene Kushner on Canadian PM Stephen Harper's Visit To Israel

From Arlene Kushner:
January 20, 2014

Music Sweet to the Ears

There isn’t much we hear these days that can be categorized as “sweet music.”  And so we must relish it whenever we hear even a few bars (which is all we’re likely to get).
The other day, in one more strange and foolish comment, Prime Minister Netanyahu said something about advancing new ideas to invigorate the negotiations.  His latest: We need a fourth settlement bloc, in addition to the three commonly identified: the Ariel bloc, the Ma’aleh Adumim bloc, and the Gush Etzion bloc.  That fourth would be a Beit El bloc, and in exchange we would surrender the Arab area of the Galilee (the triangle) to the Palestinian Arabs.
A non-starter, first because we shouldn’t be talking in terms of just keeping settlement blocs – especially not in exchange for Jewish land inside of the Green line, and second because the Palestinian Arabs would scream plenty about a “new settlement bloc,” while the Israeli Arabs would scream just as loudly about having their Israeli citizenship taken away.  And I do not for a moment think that he is ignorant of these realities.
This proposal – a riff on something Foreign Minister Lieberman proposed recently – seems to me one more attempt to show the international community that Israel is flexible and really trying to “make peace.”  It is not music to our ears, however, and I certainly did not mean to imply that it was.
What is music, rather, is the statement by Housing and Construction Minister Uri Ariel (Habyit Hayehudi) about settlements.  There are only three settlement blocs, he told IDF Radio (Galei Tzahal) yesterday (emphasis added):
the first is Judea, the second is Samaria, and the third is the Jordan Valley.”
 Continued Ariel:
“Nobody is amused by this absurdity [the negotiations], and nobody is buying it. They aren’t willing to recognize the State of Israel as a Jewish state, they wouldn’t recognize this studio [where he was being interviewed by Razi Barkai] as Jewish....

“What nation would give up those hundreds of years? The tombs of its forefathers?

“Can we surrender, can we tire out? 400,000 residents will prove… I think this is sinking in to the Israeli consciousness.

“Even the Australian Foreign Minister has said she doesn’t understand why settlements are illegal.”
Nonetheless, the ever-eager John Kerry is reportedly going to present his “framework document” for the negotiations by the end of January.  As is the norm, we have nothing but rumors to go on.
But what seems to be the case is that Kerry is hedging details and specificity sufficiently to presumably make it tolerable, if not palatable, for both parties.  According to Palestinian Arab sources cited by Al-Hayat, the document consists of “general ideas that are elastic and fuzzy.”  This provides each side with the opportunity to interpret the ideas in the document as it chooses to do so.
That’s all well and good, from Kerry’s perspective, since he wants to avoid offending either party and causing the collapse of the talks that he wishes to extend now beyond nine months.  But if specificity will cause the talks to collapse, then it does not take a rocket scientist to see that there is no realistic hope for an agreement.
According to a JPost article, citing these Palestinian Arab sources, “Sovereignty and control over the border and natural resources will effectively remain in the hands of Israel.”  They said that the 1967 borders would be “cancelled.”
What I make from this, quite simply, is that there is Palestinian Arab discontent because Kerry is not following their line – negotiations based on the ‘67 “borders,” etc.  Beyond that? Who knows.
Reportedly, Jordan’s King Abdullah will be involved in what Kerry is planning next, with Kerry’s document to be announced at the Jordanian port of Aqaba.  We regularly see attempts to buoy Abdullah, as he totters on his throne.  The king has met with both Abbas and Netanyahu in recent days; Netanyahu made an unannounced visit to Jordan last week.
According to Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon, Kerry is due here later this week, and efforts are being made to promote a Netanyahu-Abbas summit under Jordanian sponsorship. This strikes me as a decidedly bad idea.
But I’m hardly the only one who doesn’t like this.  Yesterday, 200 nationalist activists met in Ofra with Deputy Transportation Minister Tzipi Hotevely and other MKs to develop strategy for preventing Netanyahu from making concessions when pressured by the US.
“Talk of keeping only settlement blocs is adopting the path of Yossi Beilin and is a sin against the Right,” Hotevely declared.
“The way to stop such destructive plans is via the Likud  and the coalition. The prime minister must understand that he will have no coalition and he will have no party if he accedes to a diplomatic agreement.”
Head of Habayit Hayehudi, Naftali Bennett, is working along the same lines to secure the support of a sufficient number of MKs to block any proposal Netanyahu might advance that involves concessions.  What is more, he is working with a sufficient number of MKs from the combined Likud-Yisrael Beitenu faction to prevent Netanyahu from replacing Habayit Hayehudi from being replaced in the coalition by Labor.
May Heaven strengthen their efforts.
I see all of this as working in one of two different ways. Either the prime minister might simply see that he doesn’t have the political backing to make concessions, and, choosing not to bring down his government, not go there.  Or, he might use this to strengthen his capacity to say “no!”  In other words, Bennett and Hotevely and company might give him the rationale he is looking for: “Oh, Mr. Kerry, you can see how I have been working for peace. But my government will fall if I do this.  It cannot happen.”
I personally see his tendency to go with the second option. This is why, ever the team player, he’s still making “creative suggestions” to advance negotiations.
I wish I had the time to explore additional issues – such as the fact that the UN apparently thinks telling the truth is bad for peace -  but I have not.  Not today.
I began with the good, and will end the same way...
It is sweet indeed for us here in Israel that Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. who is a forthright and special friend, is visiting us. He was greeted by Prime Minister Netanyahu with great ceremony, which included an honor guard and blaring trumpets:
“You are a great friend of Israel and the Jewish people,” Netanyahu said.  “I am not just saying that, I mean it deeply from the bottom of my heart, and I am speaking for all of the people of Israel.

“...This world is often cynical and hypocritical, and you have shown great moral leadership.  When it comes to fighting terrorism, you know that there cannot be any politically correct double talk, but only unequivocal condemnation and united international action.

“When it comes to anti-Semitism, you have stood up unabashedly at the side of Israel and the entire Jewish people, I think at the side of decency and fairness to everyone: Jews and non-Jews alike. And when it comes to Iran's repeated calls for Israel's annihilation and its unrelenting development of nuclear weapons – you and Canada have stood unflinchingly on the right side of history.

”And finally, when it comes to peace, you recognize that a genuine peace, a lasting peace, must be based on mutual recognition and sound security arrangements on the ground. I think in all this and in so many other things, you have shown courage, clarity and conviction. And in standing up for the truth, your voice, Stephen, has been an indispensable one.”
Just a very short while ago, Prime Minister Harper delivered a marvelous, an extraordinary, talk to the Knesset.  A talk that brought MKs and invited guests to their feet several times, and caused a couple of Arab MKs to storm out in fury. 
But I take pleasure in sharing some highlights (with emphasis added):
“...The friendship between us is rooted in history, nourished by shared values, and it is intentionally reinforced at the highest levels of commerce and government as an outward expression of strongly held inner convictions.

“Laureen and I share [with Jewish Canadians]...the pride and the understanding that what has been achieved here has occurred in the shadow of the horrors of the Holocaust; the understanding that it is right to support Israel because, after generations of persecution, the Jewish people deserve their own homeland and deserve to live safely and peacefully in that homeland.

“Let me repeat that: Canada supports Israel because it is right to do so.

“...But, I would argue, support today for the Jewish state of Israel is more than a moral imperative it is also of strategic importance, also a matter of our own, long-term interests.

“Ladies and gentlemen, I said a moment ago, that the special friendship between Canada and Israel is rooted in shared values.

“Indeed, Israel is the only country in the Middle East, which has long anchored itself in the ideals of freedom, democracy and the rule of law.

“...Those who scorn modernity, who loathe the liberty of others, and who hold the differences of peoples and cultures in contempt. Those who, often begin by hating the Jews, but, history shows us, end up hating anyone who is not them. Those forces, which have threatened the state of Israel every single day of its existence, and which, today, as 9/11 graphically showed us, threaten us all.

“And so, either we stand up for our values and our interests, here, in Israel, stand up for the existence of a free, democratic and distinctively Jewish state or the retreat of our values and our interests in the world will begin.

“...No state is beyond legitimate questioning or criticism.

“But our support does mean at least three things.

“First, Canada finds it deplorable that some in the international community still question the legitimacy of the existence of the state of Israel.

Our view on Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state is absolute and non-negotiable.

“Second, Canada believes that Israel should be able to exercise its full rights as a UN member-state and to enjoy the full measure of its sovereignty.

“For this reason, Canada has spoken on numerous occasions in support of Israel’s engagement and equal treatment in multilateral fora.

“And, in this regard, I should mention that we welcome Israel’s induction this month into the western, democratic group of states at the United Nations.

“Third, we refuse to single out Israel for criticism on the international stage.

“Now I understand, in the world of diplomacy, with one, solitary, Jewish state and scores of others, it is all too easy ‘to go along to get along’ and single out Israel.

“But such ‘going along to get along,’ is not a ‘balanced’ approach, nor a ‘sophisticated’ one; it is, quite simply, weak and wrong.

“Unfortunately, ladies and gentlemen, we live in a world where that kind of moral relativism runs rampant.

“And in the garden of such moral relativism, the seeds of much more sinister notions can be easily planted.

“And so we have witnessed, in recent years, the mutation of the old disease of anti-Semitism and the emergence of a new strain.

“...As once Jewish businesses were boycotted, some civil-society leaders today call for a boycott of Israel.

“On some campuses, intellectualized arguments against Israeli policies thinly mask the underlying realities, such as the shunning of Israeli academics and the harassment of Jewish students.

“Most disgracefully of all, some openly call Israel an apartheid state.

“Think about that.

Think about the twisted logic and outright malice behind that: a state, based on freedom, democracy and the rule of law, that was founded so Jews can flourish, as Jews, and seek shelter from the shadow of the worst racist experiment in history, that is condemned, and that condemnation is masked in the language of anti-racism.

It is nothing short of sickening.

“...Ladies and gentlemen, any assessment – any judgment – of Israel’s actions must start with this understanding:

“In the sixty-five years that modern Israel has been a nation, Israelis have endured attacks and slanders beyond counting and have never known a day of true peace.

“And we understand that Israelis live with this, impossible calculus:

“If you act to defend yourselves, you will suffer widespread condemnation, over and over again.

“But, should you fail to act, you alone will suffer the consequence of your inaction, and that consequence will be final, your destruction.

“...In the democratic family of nations, Israel represents values which our government takes as articles of faith, and principles to drive our national life.

“And therefore, through fire and water, Canada will stand with you.”
Can we clone this marvelous man of integrity a hundred times over?
© 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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