Monday, March 03, 2014

Arlene Kushner on Obama's Threats on Israel in Preparation for Netanyahu

From Arlene Kushner:
March 3, 2014

“Threats Don’t Scare Israelis”

As a matter of fact, when we are threatened, our spines are stiffened. 

In this instance, I am referring to threats implied by Obama in an interview with Jeffrey Goldberg for Bloomberg View.  It had made news a couple of days ago that he wanted to be “more directly involved” in those so-called “peace negotiations.”  And so here we are, with the president demonstrating his “diplomatic skills”:
"What I do believe is that if you see no peace deal and continued aggressive settlement construction and ... if Palestinians come to believe that the possibility of a contiguous sovereign Palestinian state is no longer within reach, then our ability to manage the international fallout is going to be limited.

“In today’s world, where power is much more diffuse, where the threats that any state or peoples face can come from non-state actors and asymmetrical threats, and where international cooperation is needed in order to deal with those threats, the absence of international goodwill makes you less safe. The condemnation of the international community can translate into a lack of cooperation when it comes to key security interests. It means reduced influence for us, the United States, in issues that are of interest to Israel...

“The window is closing,” he declared, and it’s time for Netanyahu to “seize the moment” with regard to Kerry’s framework agreement.

Seize the moment?  That means caving on all demands that are unacceptable to Abbas, so the PA will be accommodating.

And “aggressive” settlement construction?  THAT, my friends, is a truly aggressive statement by Obama.
“When I have a conversation with Bibi, that’s the essence of my conversation,” Obama told Goldberg, “If not now, when? And if not you, Mr. Prime Minister, then who? How does this get resolved?”
The unmitigated gall of the man, twice over.  It is, first, outrage that he should borrow from the words of our sage, Hillel, as he attempts to pressure the prime minister of Israel.  And then, that he should put the onus on Israel, as if it is in our hands, alone, to bring “peace.”


All of this is a build-up for the scheduled meeting between Netanyahu and Obama today.
On getting off the plane in Washington DC, Netanyahu said (emphasis added): 
"The tango in the Middle East needs at least three.  For years there have been two - Israel and the US. Now it needs to be seen if the Palestinians are also present. In any case, in order for us to have an agreement, we must uphold our vital interests. I have proven that I do so, in the face of all pressures and all the turmoil, and I will continue to do so here as well."

The message: Mr. President, you don’t scare me.

For this we can tell our prime minister, “Right on, hold strong!”


But I say forthrightly that, while I am obviously pleased about Netanyahu’s declarations of refusal to be pressured, I am not content that it is yet enough.  Before flying to the US, as well, he spoke about Israel’s vital interests:
“I will stand steadfast on the State of Israel’s vital interests, especially the security of Israel’s citizens.

“In recent years the State of Israel has been under various pressures. We have rejected them in the face of the unprecedented storm and unrest in the region and are maintaining stability and security. This is what has been and what will be.”
But are Israel’s interests limited only to issues of stability and security (as important as these are)?? Are there not issues also of Israeli rights – rights that are almost never enunciated?

If there were stability in the region and no security threats to Israel, then it would be OK to pull back behind the “1967 border” (sic) and to share Jerusalem as a capital with a Palestinian Arab state?
Most unequivocally no and no!


The campaign that I co-chair, Legal Grounds: The Campaign for Promoting Israel’s Rights -  is determined to change the status quo and reach the day when the government of Israel speaks for Israeli rights.  Altogether too much time has been lost already, and it is certainly time to begin.

Let me take a moment, then, to provide legal background on our rights in the land.  This is a brief version, condensed in a manner that will hopefully provide ready accessibility.  It is for your information, and for you to use in speaking to others, writing letters to the editor, posting on blogs and websites, and more.  The point is that it depends on all of us to set the legal/historical record straight.
It is broadly drawn from material provided for us by international lawyer Dr. Harel Arnon (with emphasis added):

  • Judea and Samaria were part of the area designated in 1922 by the League of Nations for the British Mandate of Palestine - for the establishment of a homeland for the Jewish people only.  The Mandate drew its wording from the decisions of the San Remo Conference of 1920.

  • The United Nations General Assembly voted in 1947 for partition of Palestine.  However, contrary to accepted opinion, this vote was not a binding decision, but rather a recommendation. The United Nations Security Council took no action in response to this recommendation, in part because of objections from the Arabs.  In other words, the status of Judea and Samaria was not changed following the partition recommendation: It remained part of the territory which, according to the Mandate, was intended for the establishment of a home for the Jewish People.

  • Jordan’s entry into Judea and Samaria in 1948 as part of a military action it had initiated (not for defense purposes), was illegal. By the same argument, it can also be said that the Jordanian annexation was also illegal. Even the Arab League condemned Jordan for annexing Judea and Samaria.

  • In 1967 Israel took control of Judea and Samaria from Jordan, which had annexed the area in contravention of international law. Israel did this during a defensive war, which makes its actions legal.

    Therefore, during the Six Day War, Israel took control of areas that were not part of any other legal sovereignty – stateless areas – and which had, in any case, been designated for the Jewish People. From a legal point of view, Israel could not be classified as a conqueror.

  • Judea and Samaria are not “Palestinian” as the “Palestinians” were never a nation. There has never been a “Palestinian State”. Today there is an argument, and just an argument, made by the Arabs living in Judea and Samaria, regarding their right to an independent state. This is a political argument and Israel is not required to accept it, even if much of the world identifies with this argument.

  • Furthermore, the right to self-determination, in the legal sense, only took form in international law long after 1967, from the 1980s onwards.  And this even before we begin examining the question as to whether the Arabs in Judea and Samaria have such a right.

  • Laws of occupation apply to a situation in which territory is taken by one state from another state. For this reason, they are not relevant and do not apply to Judea and Samaria.

As a result, the settlements are not illegal.
All the injunctions and restrictions placed on an occupying nation are not relevant to Judea and Samaria.
Legal claims regarding Israeli occupation are no more than the adoption of an Arab national narrative.  Nothing more than that.
One other point to be mentioned here:  It is frequently said that the settlements are a violation of article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilians (1949). But, as a Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs briefing indicates, “both the text of that convention, and the post-World War II circumstances under which it was drafted, clearly indicate that is was never intended to refer to situations like Israel’s settlements. “  This was intended to apply to situations in which populations were coerced into being transferred.  It was drafted in order to prevent a repeat of the behavior of the Nazis and the Russians during WWII.  

Read: The Settlements Issue: Distorting the Geneva Convention and the Oslo Accords
You might also want to see, and share, this article that cites Dr. Arnon, whom I refer to above: The 'Legal Grounds' for Israeli Settlements


See, as well, Times of Israel editor David Horovitz with regard to the Obama statements in his Bloomberg interview. “For Netanyahu, a bombshell battering by Obama” (emphasis added):

“Until he read the breaking news of President Obama’s earth-shattering interview with Bloomberg’s Jeffrey Goldberg on Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu might have anticipated that Monday’s meeting was going to be one of his less confrontational and unpleasant sessions of frank, allied diplomacy with his good friend Barack.

“Sure, the stakes were always going to be high: The president was going to be urging Netanyahu to assent to Secretary of State John Kerry’s framework proposal for continued peace talks. And the prime minister was going to be urging Obama to toughen his demands on Iran, to ensure that the ayatollahs are deprived of the wherewithal to build the nuclear weapons they swear they don’t want to build, just on the off chance that they might be lying.

“But Netanyahu, his aides had long been indicating, was ready to accept the framework proposals — as a non-binding basis for further negotiations. So no need for confrontation there. And he must have had little hope that he was going to shift Obama’s stance on Iran, however powerful he believes his arguments to be. So not much point in confrontation there, either.

“But then came that bombshell Bloomberg battering.

The timing could not have been any more deliberate — an assault on the prime minister’s policies delivered precisely as Netanyahu was flying in to meet with him, and on the first day, too, of the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC’s annual tour de force conference across town.

At the very least, that might be considered bad manners, poor diplomatic protocol, a resounding preemptive slap in the face: I’ve just told the world you’re leading your country to wrack and ruin, Mr. Prime Minister. Now, what was it you wanted to talk to me about?

More substantively, the president’s comments reinforce years of grievance that have accumulated in Netanyahu’s circles and some distance beyond, to the effect that the president ignores the inconsistencies, duplicities and worse of the Palestinian Authority and its leader Mahmoud Abbas, while placing exaggerated blame for the failure of peace efforts at the door of the Israeli government.

“As they read through the transcript of the interview, Netanyahu and his aides were doubtless bemoaning what they see as Obama’s obsession with settlements, to the exclusion of almost any other issue on which the Israelis and the Palestinians are deadlocked. They would certainly have been lamenting that the president’s public display of disaffection will hardly encourage the Palestinians to adopt more flexible positions on such other core issues as their demand for a ‘right of return’ for millions of Palestinians to Israel. And they might have been wondering if some of the Obama ammunition had been fired precisely now as a mark of his displeasure with AIPAC, the irritating lobby that just won’t keep quiet on pressuring Iran.

“...That Obama chose to highlight his concern [about the counterproductive nature of settlements] in such ominous and pointed terms, going so far as to warn that it would become harder in the future for the US to protect Israel from the consequences of its misguided West Bank building, would suggest that he has all but despaired of Netanyahu’s willingness to rein in construction. Otherwise, surely, he would have held his fire, and first consulted face-to-face with the prime minister.

For one thing is certain, the president’s resort to a newspaper interview on the eve of their talks to issue near-apocalyptic warnings about the disaster Netanyahu risks bringing upon Israel is just about the last thing likely to bolster the prime minister’s confidence in their alliance, and just about the last thing likely to encourage Netanyahu to further alienate his hawkish home base by taking steps such as halting building outside the settlement blocs.”
Read: For Netanyahu, a bombshell battering by Obama
A couple of points of clarification here, related to what was said by Horovitz:
There has been talk, not officially verified, that Netanyahu had declared himself ready to freeze building in areas outside of the main settlement blocs. This had lead to a furor raised by the Knesset Land of Israel Caucus. In light of this (which already indicates more bending than our prime minister should be doing), the pressure being put on him by Obama is all the more vile and outrageous.
As to that “framework” agreement, it’s still floating in the air, incomplete because Kerry hasn’t been able to get it together – for he finds himself unable to draft a document that both sides would sign on to.  It is said that it would be a non-binding document to which the parties would have the right to voice “reservations,” a pointless exercise.
There are rumors that it might not be completed by the end of the allocated nine-month negotiation period, which leads to questions about an extension of the time frame.  There is some very serious talk about how this situation links to the presumed obligation of Israel to release a fourth group of Palestinian Arab prisoners (about which there will yet be much to say).
Just four days ago, according to the Times of Israel, “Abbas ‘exploded with rage’ at Kerry over insane’ framework proposals.”
This happened in the course of a meeting between Abbas and Kerry in Paris.  Abbas was outraged, first, because the framework proposed that the Palestinian capital would be in one neighborhood of Jerusalem and not in all of “east” Jerusalem as the PA demands. 
Please understand: what is referred to as “east Jerusalem” is everything over the Green Line (the armistice line of 1949, which Abbas calls the “1967 border”).  And not all of this area is even east of western Jerusalem – some neighborhoods are to the north or south.  What Abbas is demanding would mean that the Temple Mount and the Kotel, as well as well established and solidly Jewish neighborhoods such as Gilo and French Hill would all be part of a Palestinian Arab capital.
And then, Abbas was furious because the framework suggested there would be settlement blocks in Judea and Samaria retained by Israel.
”...a Palestinian official who spoke Friday on condition of anonymity said that the US secretary’s proposals could not serve as the basis for a framework deal, as ‘they do not take into account the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people.’” (Emphasis added)
Read: Abbas ‘exploded with rage’ at Kerry over ‘insane’ framework proposals

But never fear, the American administration has a default position regarding what to do when Abbas becomes intransigent: lean harder on Israel.


According Haaretz, the Americans are contemplating different maneuvers in the face of the obstinate positions of Abbas, with a great deal of dissension in the State Department and the White House regarding how to proceed. 

On the one hand, 

“senior Palestinians say that, in light of the poor talks between Abbas and Kerry, the Americans are considering foregoing a written document and making do with general verbal agreements.”

On the other, 

“A senior Israeli official intimately involved in the talks said some of Obama’s top advisers are considering a dramatic all-or-nothing move – setting out an American document with principles for solutions to the core issues. Netanyahu and Abbas will have to say yes or no to it. If the answer is no, the Americans will leave the peace process until the parties agree.”
Read: U.S. pessimistic Israeli-Palestinian framework deal can be reached by end of March

The Americans should only get smart enough to walk away from their attempts to “make peace.”  But the bottom line is that no one yet really knows how they’re going to play it.


The primary reason Prime Minister Netanyahu is in Washington DC is to deliver a speech at the AIPAC Policy Conference tomorrow. Please see here an article about an initiative of Legal Grounds, which took the form of a letter, endorsed by persons and organizations of prominence, urging Netanyahu to speak for Israel’s rights in the course of his AIPAC talk:

Read: Legal Groups Urge PM to 'Tell the World We're Not Occupiers'


Because of the time difference between the US and Israel, I will put this out now and reserve for my next posting all comments about the press conference likely to follow the Netanyahu-Obama meeting today.  In truth, I expect very little will be said.

My focus next will almost certainly be on Netanyahu’s AIPAC address, and on Iran.  While I am, clearly, very eager for our prime minister to make a statement about our rights, it is broadly understood that his primary focus will be Iran.

Yesterday, at the start of the AIPAC Policy Conference, there was a high profile political panel that discussed the Iranian situation.  Avi Dichter, former head of Shin Bet, declared that, “There is no debate amongst the intelligence services word-wide about the seriousness of Iran to build (a) nuclear weapon...If you cannot deal it, kill it.”

You can see the 30-minute panel discussion here (from Former Shin Bet Chief Dichter on Iran Nuclear Program: ‘If You Cannot Deal It, Kill It’): 


© 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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