Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Arlene Kushner on Obama, Netanyahu and Abbas at the United Nations

From Arlene Kushner:
September 29, 2014

UN Season

You will find that during this High Holiday season – and extending through Sukkot – my postings will be less frequent.  I hope that all who celebrated Rosh Hashana found it meaningful and joyful.


Besides being the High Holiday season, this is also the time of year when a new session of the UN General Assembly starts (hardly to be compared in one breath!).  This means – aren’t we lucky? – that various heads of state and assorted other persons address the GA.

Last Wednesday (which was the eve of Rosh Hashana), President Obama spoke.  Ben Shapiro, a skilled and perceptive analyst – as well as a Harvard-trained lawyer – has written a piece on that speech that summarizes the important points neatly.

Shapiro says Obama’s speech was “chock-full of moronic platitudes, internal contradictions, and morally disgusting sentiments.” He then proceeds to demonstrate this with considerable effectiveness.  I had hoped to cite extensively from this critique, but realize I must focus on other matters here.  And so I will simply call this to your attention, and suggest you read it:


His opening paragraph is not quite my style, but he is on the mark.


And then, sigh, there was the horrendous, and long-winded speech of Mahmoud Abbas before the General Assembly on Friday.  It was fraught with lies and accusations against Israel:

Most reprehensibly, he accuses Israel of having conducted a “war of genocide” against the Palestinian people in Gaza.

First speaking about the fact that three wars have been “waged by the racist occupying State in five years against Gaza...,” he then declares that (emphasis is mine):

“The difference today is that the scale of this genocidal crime is larger, and that the list of martyrs, especially children, is longer...

”And, the difference today is that the devastation caused by this recent aggression is unmatched in modern times...

”This last war against Gaza was a series of absolute war crimescarried out before the eyes and ears of the entire world, moment by moment, in a manner that makes it inconceivable that anyone today can claim that they did not realize the magnitude and horror of the crime.”

You can see the entire speech (if you have the stomach for it) plus commentary by IMRA director Dr. Aaron Lerner, here:



Abbas uses buzz words – genocide, martyrs, war crimes, occupation – without the remotest attention to factual reality.

Of course there is no mention of Hamas – either Hamas’s aggression against Israel or its use of human shields - for he is thoroughly in bed with Hamas (about which more below).

And his exaggeration is stupendous – e.g., “recent aggression unmatched in modern times,” when modern times are witness to Syria, the genuine genocide of Christians, and more.

Declaring that Israel “did not miss an opportunity to undermine the chance for peace,” Abbas says, “The occupation’s campaign specifically targeted the City of Jerusalem and its inhabitants, attempting to artificially alter the spirit, identity and character of the Holy City, focusing on Al-Aqsa Mosque.” 
This is of particular note because it is of a piece with the on-going theme I’ve been writing about  - the attempt by the Palestinian Arabs to undermine and delegitimize Israeli sovereignty, most especially in Jerusalem. (About this exceedingly worrisome situation, too, I will have more to say soon.)

When he refers to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, he means the Temple Mount, which in Arabic is actually Haram al Sharif (often translated as Noble Sanctuary, which has a more generic meaning).  What he has done is attempt to conflate the Mosque with the entire Mount, as if it has no other history or significance.


Of particular note is this comment by Abbas (emphasis added):

”I affirm in front of you that the Palestinian people hold steadfast to their legitimate right to defend themselves against the Israeli war machine and to their legitimate right to resist this colonial, racist Israeli occupation.”

He is claiming the right to be violent.  “Resistance” is a code word for jihad and terrorism.


Threats of violence aside, with this speech, Abbas has begun the game of attempting to secure international backing – via the UN - for a Palestinian state, while delegitimizing Israel.  He says (emphasis added):

“And now, where do we go from here?
“...It is impossible, and I repeat - it is impossible - to return to the cycle of negotiations that failed to deal with the substance of the matter and the fundamental question...

There is no meaning or value in negotiations for which the agreed objective is not ending the Israeli occupation and achieving the independence of the State of Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital on the entire Palestinian Territory occupied in the 1967 war. And, there is no value in negotiations which are not linked to a firm timetable for the implementation of this goal.
“The time has come to end this settlement occupation...

”During the past two weeks, Palestine and the Arab Group undertook intensive contacts with the various regional groups in the United Nations to prepare for the introduction of a draft resolution to be adopted by the United Nations Security Council on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and to push forward the efforts to achieve peace...
“This endeavor aspires to correct the deficiency of the previous efforts to achieve peace by affirming the goal of ending the Israeli occupation and achieving the two-State solution, of the State of Palestine, with East Jerusalem as its capital, over the entire territory occupied in 1967, alongside the State of Israel and reaching a just and agreed upon solution to the plight of the Palestine refugees on the basis of resolution 194, with a specific timeframe for the implementation of these objectives as stipulated in the Arab Peace Initiative. This will be linked to the immediate resumption of negotiations between Palestine and Israel to demarcate the borders, reach a detailed and comprehensive agreement and draft a peace treaty between them.”



This venture is pie-in-the sky.  And I will enumerate here the most basic reasons why:

[] The United States has already called Abbas’s speech “unconstructive,” “provocative,” and “disappointing.”  The American position is that final borders must be resolved via negotiations.  The US almost certainly will veto what Abbas proposes.

[] The United Nations, including the Security Council, cannot create states.  It is not in the hands of the SC to declare a Palestinian State.

[] There is no “1967 border” (it was a temporary armistice line) and no legal justification for the claim that everything to the east of that line “belongs” to a Palestinian state.  In point of fact, SC Resolution 242 does NOT require Israel to return to that line, as it would not provide a secure border; it instead calls for the final border to be determined via negotiations.  What is more, SC Resolution 242 does not MENTION a Palestinian state or a Palestinian people at all.

[]  Resolution 194, to which Abbas refers, does NOT, as the Palestinian Arabs claim ad infinitum, mandate a “right of return.”  It was a resolution of the General Assembly, which can only make non-binding recommendations, and, in fact, put forth a variety of possible ways to resolve the situation, including settlement in a third country.

[] Abbas made no mention of this, but the PLO is in theory committed to the terms of the Oslo Accords, signed with Israel.  The Palestinian Authority, which was supposed to be a temporary administrative entity only, was actually created by the Accords.  Those Accords call for a final status agreement to be achieved VIA NEGOTIATIONS.  Abbas, by this action, is abrogating the Oslo Accords.   Nowhere in the Accords is there any statement that defines all of the land beyond the armistice line as “belonging” to the Palestinian Arabs. That is clear on the face of the matter, as Area C was assigned to Israel fully with regard to civil and military control. It does not spell out a “state” as the necessary conclusion of a final status agreement and it does not preclude building by Israel in area C.


The entire matter of Israel not being an “occupier” is at the core of the Legal Grounds Campaign.  I will come back to this again and again, but here simply note that there is significant legal backing for this position.  Judea and Samaria, at most, are unclaimed Mandate land.  Israel cannot be termed an occupier of this land, which was given to her under international law in the first place.


I note here that Abbas ends by saying that after the UN forces terms on Israel, the Palestinian State and Israel will immediately go to negotiations to settle final matters. What he is doing here is obvious: he knows the PA is supposed to negotiate terms, and, wary of being called on this, has proposed these “negotiations” after the fact.


Abbas spoke at the UN on Friday.  The very day before - after two days of negotiations in Cairo - Fatah and Hamas had announced that they had come to terms for a final agreement on a unity government, under Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah.  That unity government will be taking charge in Gaza.


There are serious questions as to how long this will last, but right now this deal serves them both – it makes Abbas a “player” in what goes on in Gaza, and it allows reconstruction materials and funds to come into Gaza, which suits Hamas and which would not happen in the same way were Hamas alone in charge.  But this might be more realistically viewed as a temporary fiction, destined to ultimately fall apart.

Right now it is of no comfort that PA security forces will join with Hamas forces in Gaza to oversee the Gaza crossings.


There is no question in my mind about the fact that the tone Abbas assumed at the UN reflects this brand new unity reconciliation: he played down negotiations, defended the right to “resist,” focused heavily on Israeli “crimes” in Gaza, etc.  Not only is he factoring in Hamas positions, he certainly knows that there will be no negotiations with Israel as long as Hamas is a participant in the unity government.


Prime Minister Netanyahu is in New York.  He had a very positive meeting with of Indian Prime Minister Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi last night, to discuss Iran and strengthening of bilateral ties.  Earlier yesterday, he lunched with Sec. of State Kerry, at which time. according to news reports, he lashed out regarding Abbas. And he has yet to meet with Obama.

But his primary purpose in coming was to address the UN General Assembly and, presumably, to counter the slanders of Abbas.  This he did early afternoon NY time ( evening Israeli time) – just a short while ago as I write.  He had promoted this talk as one that would be a “razor sharp” retort. And so I held off sending out this post until after he spoke.  But for me the razor was more than a bit dull.

Netanyahu and Abbas speak at the United Nations. Credit: Haaretz
Photo not from the original article


I would not say that Netanyahu’s speech was without good points. They were there, and they make Israel’s case. But they are points we’ve heard from him before:

The possibility of peace is at risk because of militant Islam, whose goal is to dominate the world.  This cancer must be eradicated in all its forms.  But it seems that countries that support hitting ISIS oppose Israel’s attacks on Hamas – even though at bottom Hamas and ISIS are one and the same in their radical Islamic vision.

One place where the militant Islamic dream may be realized is Iran, which will be enormously more dangerous if it has nuclear weapons.  If you wouldn’t let ISIS have such weapons, you cannot let Iran have them either.  Iran’s nuclear capability must be fully dismantled.  To defeat ISIS and leave Iran as a threshold nuclear power is to win the battle and lose the war.

Every time militant Islam succeeds, militants everywhere are emboldened.  Israel’s fight against Hamas is not just for Israel, it is the world’s fight.


Netanyahu then described the propaganda war that Israel had to fight as it was battling Hamas rockets.  In the course of doing this, clearly he was answering the charges of Abbas, but unfortunately was not explicit in saying so. What he did say:

The reality is that Gazan citizens were inadvertently and regrettably being killed because of Hamas’s use of human shields.  Israel sought to minimize the deaths – warning civilians with notices, etc.

“No other country has ever gone to greater lengths to protect civilians of its enemy.  The IDF upheld the highest moral standards of any army in the world.  It deserves admiration, not condemnation.”

What Hamas did was a war crime.  And Abbas, as the head of the unity government, bears responsibility.


He turned then to accusations leveled at the UN Human Rights Council, which – in deciding to investigate Israel and give Hamas a free pass – has things upside down.  The Council has given a clear message to terrorist regimes – use human shields, it works.

What the Council is doing is a manifestation of the return of anti-Semitism that we are now seeing.

Abbas at the podium accused Israel although he himself called for a Judenrein Palestine. “In what moral universe is warning civilians to get out of the way considered genocide?”


So far, OK, if unexceptional.  Some good lines, some good points.

But then... then he began to talk about “historic opportunity.”  We’ve heard this before as well: the new recognition of leading Arab states that they have concerns in common with Israel.  This has the potential for partnership.  These Arab states may help facilitate an Israel-Palestinian peace.

An Israeli-Palestinian peace?  The old template for peace must be updated to allow for Arab participation.

He is willing to make an historic compromise for peace.  Some territorial concession would be necessary. But what is important are “rock solid security arrangements.”  Withdrawal from Lebanon and from Gaza led to terrorist entities in these places.  We cannot allow ISIS into Judea and Samaria.

In any peace agreement, Israel has to be able to defend itself by itself.

This, I would presume, is Netanyahu’s way of countering Abbas’s proposal regarding “Palestine” to the 1967 line.  Such a formulation would not provide the strategic depth that is necessary for Israeli self-defense.  But he does not actually say this.

For me, this is insufficient, a cop-out.

What I had hoped to hear was a crystal clear statement that a Fatah that is joined with Hamas cannot be considered a partner for peace. That there can be no talk of negotiations, as fervently as Israel hopes for peace, until Fatah’s leaders renounce violence. As it is, just days ago, Abbas, right on the UN dais, defended Fatah’s right to violent resistance.  Before there can be peace, Fatah must demonstrate a genuine desire for it.  And this is something we’ve yet to see.

Did Netanyahu – always eager to please – feel the need to mention a willingness to compromise for peace because Abbas had accused Israel of undermining peace?  Truly do I hope that is not the case.

You can see his entire speech here:


© 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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