The Truth about Netanyahu, Iran, and Congress

“It’s about Iran, stupid!” In a nutshell, that phrase sums up the discussion of whether or not Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu should go ahead and speak to a joint session of Congress. That statement is as true for many of his detractors as it is for supporters of the Prime Minister. Supporters believe that Netanyahu needs to shout from the rooftops about the dangers posed by a “bad deal” with Iran, while many of the critics of the proposed speech are concerned that, because of the politics involved, attention is being diverted away from addressing the issue and may make it more difficult for Democrats to confront the President over a policy with which they themselves are concerned.

Of additional concern for progressive Israel advocates is the vitriol and pressure leveled on Democratic members of Congress to take a public stand on this issue which could both harm their support from benefactors and harm their ongoing support for Israel. While the latter impact of such a speech may be limited, many supporters of Israel will consider a boycott of the Prime Minister’s speech to be a boycott of Israel, unforgivable. Right now, it appears that only a relatively small number of Democratic Congresspersons will boycott and there are good reasons that the number remains small.

Initial charges of a breech in protocol have been proven unfounded and retracted. There was no protocol violation in either the extension of an invitation to PM Netanyahu by the Speaker of the House, nor in its acceptance. The White House was notified prior to both steps in keeping with protocol. Traditional practice is that the White House is consulted. This allows the White House to convince Congressional leaders not to issue an invitation if there are issues about which Congressional leaders do not know that may impact their decision.

If the charge that the invitation is insulting because the President and Prime Minister have fundamental disagreements over how to address Iran’s nuclear program, then I suggest that we have a much bigger problem to address. It is simply not acceptable to launch a boycott of Israel or the Israeli Prime Minister specifically because of partisan politics. Would either party ever boycott a speech by the leader of Britain or France who happened to be on the other side of the political spectrum from them? Of course not. Nor is it acceptable to boycott the Israeli Prime Minister because you don’t like what he has to say. That would be a boycott of Israel every much as attempts to divest from Israeli companies because of Israeli policies is such a boycott.

Finally, such a boycott now is not provided the cover of the argument that the speech should not be given due to the proximity of the Israeli elections. Israeli election officials have cleared the speech and issued the Prime Minister guidelines so as to avoid accusations of electioneering.

The issue is truly about Iran, my friends. It is about the fact that information about the negotiations that has been released so far is frightening in its implications for Israeli security and for realistic hopes to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. In fact, if what was revealed by the Associated Press on February 3rd is accurate, the pending deal is extremely dangerous for Israel and for us all, amounting to an abdication of the responsibility to fulfill the spirit of promises, if not their letter, made both to Israel and to the American people. If these currently proposed parameters of such a deal were well understood by Israelis there would be little or no support for the deal among Israelis along with increased demands for Israel’s Prime Minister to speak out against it.

The reports are that negotiators may have already agreed to allow Iran to keep 10,000 known centrifuges spinning. This is after previously promising not to allow Iran to keep more than a couple of thousand and in spite of the fact that, because nuclear fuel is readily available and may be freely donated to Iran by several nations who have volunteered to do so, no centrifuges are even necessary for Iran to have a peaceful nuclear program. The more operating centrifuges, the faster enrichment may take place and the faster weapons grade material may be acquired.

Among the concessions currently being discussed include the dialing back of efficiency of the centrifuges, something that could easily be altered going forward. Iran would be mere months away from acquiring the necessary materials should they choose to do so by simply reversing the reductions in efficiency and could do so on a substantial number of centrifuges in a matter of weeks, allowing it to move forward with enrichment without the outside world even knowing.

With a political process that operates at a snail’s pace and an America highly unlikely to be able to quickly approve and arrange necessary military operations, such a delay in enrichment capability is not a sufficient guarantee even with fully effective and free monitoring of all suspect sites. History has taught us clearly that Iran could easily wait until just before an inspection to protest it for some reason, then conduct negotiations for a period of months about the inspection, and then accomplish its goals with little or no ability of inspectors to even see what was happening. Would the United States conduct air strikes and ground operations in an immediate response to any such breech in the deal without negotiations first? Promising to do exactly that would be an essential guarantee. Yet it is almost impossible to fathom that the United State would promise that or that anyone would believe the promise.

What we see in the proposed agreement as discussed in the Associated Press article is not a means of preventing Iran from advancing its nuclear weapons program, but is instead a means of escorting them to the threshold free of threat or sanctions in the hope that Iran will not subsequently choose to violate the agreement. It is indeed an agreement worthy of comparison to seeking “Peace in Our Time,” clearly allowing the advancement of a nation taking every opportunity to act in conflict with that premise. Let us hope that it too doesn’t lead to the deaths of millions and another genocide of the Jewish people at the hands of those pledged to commit one.

I may be jumping the gun on this one. The President may conclude a better deal than the one presented by the Associated Press. There may be an agreement that substantially limits the number and efficiency of centrifuges, but so far reports are not of such an agreement. There may be provisions to declare any breech of the agreement to be considered an act of war with immediate consequences to follow, but I can’t imagine that such language would be found in it, nor that action would actually be forthcoming if it were.

Say what you will about whether or not PM Netanyahu should continue with plans to deliver a speech to Congress, a speech likely to be boycotted by only a small percentage of the members of one party. I certainly have found myself wavering back and forth about whether or not it would be the best decision for PM Netanyahu to go through with the presentation. If such an agreement as described above is in fact what is being discussed now between the United States and Iran, it must be opposed strongly. Benjamin Netanyahu should not be the only Israeli or Jewish leader screaming from the rooftops at the US Congress to act against it and progressive Democrats must be among them.

Ultimately, the real question is not whether or not Benjamin Netanyahu can prevent a bad Iran deal with a speech to Congress. Instead, the question is “Will anyone else???”

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Should Netanyahu address Congress?

The broohaha surrounding Prime Minister Netanyahu’s impending address to Congress has manufactured a rift between two allies where none does, or should, exist and has reduced a substantive conversation to a simplistic ad-hominem attack.

I write this as someone who has never voted Likkud and will not support Netanyahu in the forthcoming elections. I agree with those who argue that Netanyahu, among other objectives, wants to use his address to Congress as a platform to increase his chances of continuing to serve as Israel’s prime minister, something that appears more than likely to happen.

That having been said, the emergence of Iran as a regional power in the Middle East with a potential nuclear capability is far too serious an issue to be ignored. I urge everyone to read David Suissa’s remarks in the Jewish Journal.

As he, in my opinion, correctly observes: “With the stakes so high and the deadline for a deal so close, it’s about time we had this crucial debate.”

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Time to Reconsider and A Word of Warning

The current state of the disagreement concerning PM Netanyahu’s speech to Congress is damaging to bipartisan Israel advocacy with many leaders finding themselves forced to choose between respecting the President and respecting the Israeli Prime Minister, to the US-Israel relationship under this and potentially under future Democratic Presidents because of hostility created now, as well as to addressing the vital security issue of the Iranian nuclear weapons program which is, in theory, the purpose of PM Netanyahu’s speech.

Challenging the President’s policy on Iran need not happen in the House Chamber at all. Significantly damaging Democratic support for Israel and hampering the ability of Democrats to aid in advancing Israeli advocacy generally and for a good deal with Iran specifically must not happen at all. That said, it is time for PM Netanyahu to consider an alternative to speaking before Congress on March 3rd.

Israel lives in a very dangerous neighborhood. The Iranian threats, plural, to Israel’s security, well-being, and even existence are real. It is understandable why the Prime Minister should be concerned about the impact that any nuclear agreement with Iran might have and that Israeli leaders should advocate for the best possible agreement that might be achieved. There is real fear by Israelis of an agreement that leaves Iran as a nuclear threshold state mere months away from clandestinely producing a nuclear weapon in an environment with limited or no real military threats being made against it and limited ability to inspect the many known much less unknown facilities by the nations pledging to prevent it from crossing that threshold.

Yet also a major threat to Israel’s security would be substantially weakened bipartisan support in the US Congress and in the American public generally. The ability to speak about the threat of Iran before Congress should not be accepted at the cost of substantially weakening bipartisan support.

This is why it is time for the Prime Minister to reconsider accepting the invitation to speak before Congress on March 3rd.

However, a word of warning.

The idea that boycotting the Israeli Prime Minister should be acceptable because of American party politics is deeply disturbing. I know of no other national leader who has ever faced such a boycott threat from either political party’s leaders. Israel, Israelis, and Jews are all too often singled out for different treatment both positively and negatively. The fact that the sole time the President of the United States and leaders of a major political party have publicly declared a boycott against attending a speech given to Congress by any nation’s political leader happens to be against the leader of the Jewish state should be of the utmost concern to members of the American Jewish community. If it is in fact the case that disagreement over policy differences justifies claiming insult and then that justifies a boycott, we have entered a new and frightening era for Israel advocacy and for the Jews in America.

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Wiping Israel off the Map

There is something pathetic about the fact that Collins Bartholomew should have chosen to publish an atlas in 2014 in which the State of Israel does not exist.

A spokesman for the company is reported as having excused the fact by commenting that leaving Israel off the map reflected “local preferences” and that including a map that incorporated Israel would have been “unacceptable” to its customers in the Gulf.

I looked at Philips’ Record Atlas published by George Philip & Son back in 1958 and noted that Israel appeared on its maps of the Eastern Mediterranean. More than half a century later, what was then taken for granted is now open to question.

Collins’ Primary Geography Atlas for the Middle East, which is available in paperback, PDF and Kindle format, is described by Amazon as being “An ideal school atlas for young primary school geographers.”

We are informed that its content “is specifically designed for schools in Middle East countries. It enables students to learn about the world today by exploring clear and engaging maps, study satellite imagery, understand key facts and statistics.”

One of those “key facts” is that, more than 65 years after Israel was admitted as a member of the United Nations, the Jewish State does not exist!

The lack of preparedness of some to recognize the State of Israel is not only a blot on Collins’ professional integrity but more seriously impedes progress towards a resolution of the Israel/Palestinian conflict.

Palestinian children are inculcated with the belief that Israel does not exist and that it is only a matter of time until the “Zionist entity” will in the words of Iran’s former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (remember him?) be “wiped off the map”.

There is a psychological principle that our ability to build a future as individuals is dependent at least in part upon our preparedness to accept the past, recognize reality and move on.

What is true for individuals is also true for peoples and nations. The preparedness of the Arab world in general and the Palestinians in particular to see Israel on the map is a prerequisite for any hope of a resolution of the Israel/Palestinian conflict.

There is something ironic about the Palestinian Authority turning to the UN Security Council and the International Court of Justice for official recognition at the very time that “local preferences” demand that a reputable publisher wipe Israel off the map! 

While the heat is on Collins Bartholomew for the time being, it really needs to be turned on those Gulf States that find Israel’s very existence “unacceptable”.

 

 

 

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If Only We Could Will Amnesia

In our tradition, we “pray for the peace of Jerusalem.” We call forth visions of a time, as we pray, when broken things will be made whole, when strife will cease, when the world will be at peace. We imagine an idealized Jerusalem whose streets are filled with the celebration of brides and grooms and the shouts of children at play. We have seen those streets filled will joy and celebration time and again since the founding of the modern nation of Israel. Yet, the reality that we see before us today is not that Jerusalem, but one filled with darker emotions and too often mourning.

Rav Joseph Soloveitchik said that:

The student of Torah is like the amnesia victim who tries to reconstruct from fragments the beautiful world he once experienced.

We have experienced a taste of Messianic Era Jerusalem: joyous celebrations of life in the Western Wall Plaza, the walls of Old City lit up with colorful lights by the Jaffa Gate, crowded streets filled with people from around the world, of all races, of all faiths, living together. Prayers and songs offered in innumerable languages have risen to the heavens each day, advancing hope for the coming of that day. We long to reconstruct that Jerusalem from memory or to construct it from visions.

Today, we would like to forget for a while, to let go. If only we could remove from our minds the visions of brutality and hatred, blood stained prayers for peace, the sounds of gunfire and the ensuing screams of agony and pain from the families of teachers of Torah, who were viciously torn from the world as they prayed for the reconstruction of its beauty. Would that we could forget their deaths and all of the anger and hatred. If only we could will amnesia upon ourselves.

But for now, let us remember those who perished literally Kidush Hashem, as they sanctified God’s name, in the midst of offering T’filah this morning in Har Nof, only few kilometers north of Yad Vashem:

Rabbi Aryeh Kupinsky.

Rabbi Avraham Shmuel Goldberg.

Rabbi Kalman Levine.

and

Rabbi Moshe Twersky, grandson of Rav Joseph Soloveitchik.

May we also remember a hero, Officer Zidan Saif of the Druze village of Yanuh-Jat, the first police officer on the scene of the attack, who died this afternoon from injuries suffered this morning.

May their names be remembered for a blessing.

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J Street’s Absurd Manipulation of Poll Data

J Street is one of the worst offenders I have ever seen when it comes to misrepresenting statistics for political purposes. On election night, it conducted a poll about which it is has published conclusions.
Here’s what J Street says about support for an Iran deal

And here’s what it says about support for an “Active” US role in the peace process

J Street also said in an email sent out to supporters that by 2 to 1 American Jews feel that Netanyahu’s policies are hurting the US-Israel relationship.
I strongly urge those concerned to look at the actual poll upon which its recent Tweets and statement are based, but I will do my best to offer insights on the poll itself. It can be found at this link or at the address below.
Let’s start with the “Active Role” question. Here is the poll question and results.
Q.32 Now, something different. Do you support or oppose the United States playing an active role in
helping the parties to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict?
Total
Strongly support …………………………………………………………….43
Somewhat support…………………………………………………………..42
Somewhat oppose …………………………………………………………..10
Strongly oppose ………………………………………………………………6
Total Support……………………………………………………………….85
Total Oppose ………………………………………………………………..15
Support – Oppose ………………………………………………………….69
What does “SOMEWHAT SUPPORT” mean? If that means, NOT PRESSURING ISRAEL. Then you could add to it “Somewhat Oppose” and “Strongly Oppose” and conclude that 57% oppose the pressuring of Israel that J Street supports. But wait a minute! Helping the parties could be primarily pressuring the Palestinians and barely criticizing the Israelis! So even concluding that 43% support the kind of role for which J Street advocates would be incorrect!
The next four questions are not only more telling, but DAMNING:
Q.33 (SPLIT A) Would you support or oppose the United States playing an active role in helping the
parties to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict if it meant the United States publicly stating its disagreements
with both the Israelis and the Arabs?
Total
Strongly support …………………………………………………………….32
Somewhat support…………………………………………………………..41
Somewhat oppose …………………………………………………………..18
Strongly oppose ……………………………………………………………..10
Total Support……………………………………………………………….72
Total Oppose ………………………………………………………………..28
Support – Oppose ………………………………………………………….45
(ref:USROLEB)
[400 Respondents]
Q.34 (SPLIT B) Would you support or oppose the United States playing an active role in helping the
parties to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict if it meant the United States publicly stating its disagreements
with Israel?
Total
Strongly support …………………………………………………………….17
Somewhat support…………………………………………………………..31
Somewhat oppose …………………………………………………………..28
Strongly oppose ……………………………………………………………..24
Total Support……………………………………………………………….48
Total Oppose ………………………………………………………………..52
Support – Oppose ………………………………………………………….-3
Respondents clearly do not strongly support publicly criticizing Israel, much less pressuring Israel as is seen in question 36 below.
Q.35 (SPLIT A) Would you support or oppose the United States playing an active role in helping the
parties to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict if it meant the United States exerting pressure on both the
Israelis and Arabs to make the compromises necessary to achieve peace?
Total
Strongly support …………………………………………………………….32
Somewhat support…………………………………………………………..42
Somewhat oppose …………………………………………………………..16
Strongly oppose ……………………………………………………………..10
Total Support……………………………………………………………….74
Total Oppose ………………………………………………………………..26
Support – Oppose ………………………………………………………….48
(ref:USROLEC)
[400 Respondents]
Q.36 (SPLIT B) Would you support or oppose the United States playing an active role in helping the
parties to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict if it meant the United States exerting pressure on Israel to make
the compromises necessary to achieve peace?
Total
Strongly support …………………………………………………………….19
Somewhat support…………………………………………………………..28
Somewhat oppose …………………………………………………………..29
Strongly oppose ……………………………………………………………..24
Total Support……………………………………………………………….46
Total Oppose ………………………………………………………………..54
Support – Oppose ………………………………………………………….-8
(ref:USROLEC1)
And look at the questions about the Gaza war!
Q.38 Do you approve or disapprove of Israel’s military action, known as Operation Protective Edge, that
took place in Gaza this summer?
Total
Strongly approve…………………………………………………………….47
Somewhat approve………………………………………………………….33
Somewhat disapprove………………………………………………………15
Strongly disapprove …………………………………………………………5
Total Approve ………………………………………………………………80
Total Disapprove…………………………………………………………..20
Approve – Disapprove ……………………………………………………61
(ref:PEAPP)
Q.39 Regardless of whether you approve or disapprove of the military action that Israel took in Gaza this
summer, do you think it made Israel more secure, less secure, or had no impact on Israel’s security?
Total
More secure…………………………………………………………………..55
Less secure ……………………………………………………………………14
No impact……………………………………………………………………..31
More secure – Less secure……………………………………………….41
80% strongly or somewhat approve with Israel’s actions in the Gaza war with most of those being “STRONGLY Approve.”
Now for another “Aha!” moment! J Street said 84% of respondents supported A DEAL WITH IRAN. Look at the poll question below! J Street’s poll question isn’t even remotely close to how they presented the data!!! They published the data as if the question were for ANY deal. This question if for a highly restrictive deal!
Q.43 Now, imagine that the U.S., Britain, Germany, France, China, Russia, and Iran reach a final
agreement, which restricts Iran’s enrichment of uranium to levels that are suitable for civilian energy
purposes only, and places full-time international inspectors at Iranian nuclear facilities to make sure that
Iran is not developing nuclear weapons. Under this agreement, the United States and our allies will reduce
sanctions on Iran as Iran meets the compliance benchmarks of the agreement. Would you support or
oppose this agreement?
Total
Strongly support …………………………………………………………….32
Somewhat support…………………………………………………………..52
Somewhat oppose ……………………………………………………………9
Strongly oppose ………………………………………………………………6
Total Support……………………………………………………………….84
Total Oppose ………………………………………………………………..16
Support – Oppose …….
And regarding Netanyahu’s policies and harm to US-Israel relations, here’s the real question and its responses.
Q.49 Now, something different. Do you think Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s policies have helped
Israel’s relations with the United States, hurt Israel’s relations with the United States, or had no impact on
Israel’s relations with the United States?
Total
Helped …………………………………………………………………………21
Hurt …………………………………………………………………………….40
No impact……………………………………………………………………..40
Helped – Hurt…………..
This data means that 61% feel that Netanyahu’s policies either have improved relations or had no impact versus only roughly 40% who disagree and there is no measure of the extent of that disagreement. In other words, there is no way to know how much people feel like Netanyahu’s policies have harmed the relationship. Furthermore, a blatantly obvious question is missing. Where is the question about whether or not they feel that President Obama’s policies have helped, hurt, or had no impact on the US-Israel relationship? That might have been interesting to know, unless they deliberately didn’t want to know the answer. My guess is that many people will put some blame on both sides if given the option.
This poll was conducted and then interpreted in such a way as to lead to false and misleading conclusions about the views of the American Jewish community regarding Israel. It is shameful.
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The State of the Peace Process. What is a Reasonable Resolution?

Palestinian Observer State officials are threatening to bring a resolution before the UN Security Council that essentially calls for all of their demands to be met. The US will veto the proposal. Nothing will be accomplished. The only result will be that the Palestinian side will make it once again appear that the US is protecting Israel from having to make concessions for peace. The reality continues to be that what is possible for Israel to concede in regard to resolutions of the conflict is not enough for the Palestinian side to prioritize reaching an agreement over and above continuing to fight; and what is demanded by the Palestinian side is seen as more harmful by Israeli leaders than continuing to face violence and anti-Israel activism.

The idea that there is an obvious solution to the conflict with generally agreed upon parameters misrepresents the reality. Here are five major issues:

  1. There is no solution that addresses the reality in Jerusalem that can please both sides and there are many solutions that would result in nightmare scenarios for the future.
  2. While the “Right of Return” of Palestinian refugees to homes in Israel is almost certainly not a viable possibility, no alternative is likely to be politically, much less religiously, acceptable to Palestinians.
  3. There may have been discussions about “territorial swaps based on the 1967 lines,” but there are numerous problems that are obfuscated by that simple summation.
  4. Movement of people between Gaza and the West Bank may be necessary for Palestinian unity, but it is a security nightmare for both Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
  5. Finally, Israeli control over the Jordanian border seems to be mandatory for the foreseeable future in order to meet current security concerns.

Let’s start by looking at the last of the five. International forces have all failed miserably to halt sectarian violence. Suggestions that any such force could step in and prevent Islamic militants from moving into the West Bank and causing problems for both the Palestinian Authority and Israel are laughable. International forces in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, the Sinai, Sudan and other places in the region have proven incompetent in maintaining security, preventing rearming of militant groups, or even in preventing major wars and genocides. This means that any agreement will necessarily have Israeli troops on the Jordanian border for a long time into the future.

Movement between the northern and southern West Bank could be easily ensured, even if access between Jerusalem and the Dead Sea was maintained. However, with the level of militancy in Gaza at present, traffic between the Palestinian territories will need to be closely monitored. There is no way that people could simply be allowed to travel through Israeli territory on their way to and from Gaza at this point. Remember that Egypt currently has sealed off its own border with Gaza because of threats coming from Gaza and that Israel has fought multiple wars with militant groups based in Gaza. There are ways to substantially increase economic cooperation between the territories, but because of the weaponry available in Gaza, all shipments will need to be closely monitored for years going forward from a peace agreement.

The basis of the idea of “territorial swaps” is that the Palestinians need enough territory and the proper kind of territory to form a viable state. It is not that the Palestinians are entitled to all of what was Jordanian occupied territory 1948-1967. The latter concept is an impediment to  negotiations for, among other reasons, because it violates the most basic concept of the negotiations. Israel must have secure borders after a peace agreement. Without them, future violence is ensured and any agreement that the two sides reach will not be worth the paper on which it is written. The 1967 lines were far from secure.

The Separation Barrier, with some possible exceptions, runs along the path that provides the necessary security against terrorism that Israel requires. Thus it is the current route of the Separation Barrier, not the 1967 lines, that is the most viable basis for negotiations. There are opportunities for that path to be altered during negotiations and some Israeli settlements may end up on the Palestinian side following such negotiations.

The idea of “territorial swaps” itself is problematic because it specifically implies two falsehoods. First, it implies that the Palestinians have a right to negotiate from a position that they never held, namely authoritative control over the West Bank, and that their claim to that much land, much less all of that specific land, is superior to Israel’s claim to it. While there may be public sentiment to that effect across much of the world, it is a legal fiction. Control of the land is an obviously essential characteristic of any valid claim to it. Legal control passed from the Ottomans to the British to Jordan to Israel with each in turn applying its own national laws to the territory, demonstrating control. Moreover, the concept of “territorial swaps” would involve trading one piece of land for another. Would the Palestinians really consider land near Gaza or abutting the southern West Bank as equivalent to neighborhoods around Jerusalem or in the Galilee? Of course not. The presentation of this concept as a basis for negotiations is then extremely flawed.

The Right of Return would seem to be the easiest of the problems to overcome. There is no way that Israel can bring in hundreds of thousands, much less several million, Palestinians and maintain the character of Israel as a Jewish state. Neither can Israel bring in hundreds of thousands of people hostile to its existence and not face civil war and strife. Reasonable alternatives to the Right of Return include restitution, but any financial settlement for properties would likely be far less than actual value today and would certainly not be preferable in many cases to ownership of the land. By way of comparison, Holocaust survivors have received millions of dollars in restitution for losses which at the time of the restitution agreement were worth well into the tens, if not hundreds, of billions of dollars.

Finally, there is no resolution to the situation of Jerusalem that will please both sides and there are few solutions that will maintain the security of the city, its economic and civic viability, and access to its archaeological and holy sites for people of all faiths. Jews will be able to securely access the Old City of Jerusalem with its holy sites only if they remain under Israeli sovereignty.

Furthermore, there is no way to maintain security in the area of the holy basin, the area centered on the Temple Mount, unless Israel controls the entire basin from the top of the hill of the Mount of Olives to the west. Neither is it possible for Silwan, to the south of the Temple Mount, to be under Palestinian control for the same reason. To be honest, the entirety of City-of-David-connected Silwan should be a nationally controlled archaeological park and a major tourist site. The area between the northern access to the Temple mount and Hebrew University on Mount Scopus also must realistically remain under Israeli sovereignty or Hebrew University will be cut off from the rest of Jerusalem.

One could argue, and many do, that the neighborhood of Isawiya, northeast of Mount Scopus, could be put under Palestinian sovereignty along with areas to the southeast of Silwan such as Abu Dis. The area known as E1, between the large Jerusalem suburb of Malei Adumim and Mount Scopus, also abuts Abu Dis and is an obvious connector between the southern and the northern West Bank.

E1 is an area that would make sense to be included in the territory of each side, but to place it on either side of a barrier would create a major problem. If it is on the Palestinian side, Malei Adumim becomes an island, surrounded by Palestinian territory. No Israeli government could allow this. If E1 remains Israeli, someone traveling from Bethlehem to Ramallah through Abu Dis and Anata would have to travel at least ten additional miles to do so, going around Malei Adumim unless a road were constructed that allowed for travelers to cross from south to north through E1. Such a road or tunnel would become essential in such a scenario. Meanwhile, northern Jerusalem’s near suburbs like Ramat Shlomo are certain to remain on the Israeli side in any reasonable peace agreement.

What is holding up an agreement is not any possible concession from Israel, but a willingness on the part of the Palestinian side to admit the reality of what I discussed above. This means that no amount of pressure brought on Israel by European nations or the United States can realistically do anything to advance the peace process. The only affect of such pressure is harm to Israel. In order to advance the peace process, America and European nations need to help the Palestinian side reach an understanding of a reasonable resolution that is viable.

For the most part, Israel has already accepted what it can and must concede for peace. The question is simply, “Will the Palestinian side choose to accept it at the negotiating table if it is offered?” The answer to that depends on which is more painful, accepting a peace they don’t like or continuing to fight a battle that cannot be won and at the cost of suffering and death in every generation.

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No Cause for Celebration

This morning’s Ynet carried an AFP banner photograph of a Palestinian child brandishing a semi-automatic weapon as Gaza celebrated its “victory” over Israel in the recent war of attrition. 

In its never ending campaign of deception, Hamas seeks to persuade war weary Gazans that it was all worthwhile, that the borders will now be open to free trade and that an airport and seaport will be constructed.

The inability of the Palestinian leadership to face facts and come to terms with the existence of a Jewish state in the Middle East will continue to lead them down a path paved with delusion, frustration and disappointment.

Gazans have paid an incredibly high price for having once again chosen to rain rockets down on Israel’s cities and kibbutzim. More than 1,000 civilians have been killed and much larger numbers injured. They and their families will bear the physical and emotional scars of this war for the rest of their lives.

They say it will take up to 10 years to repair the damage caused to infrastructure, homes and commercial properties in a war that lasted just 50 days.

Meanwhile, the mood in Israel is not one of celebration. While the rockets and the mortars have ceased and air raid sirens are no longer sending us rushing to our shelters, there is nevertheless a sense that the outcome of Operation Defensive Edge was not clear-cut or decisive and that this could have been just another round in a never ending conflict.

People are looking at Israel’s military and civilian casualties and are wondering what has really been achieved and at what a price in both human and material terms. Hamas was not forced to surrender unilaterally much to the disappointment not only of many in Israel but also of Egypt’s military rulers.

Israel cannot afford to return to the status quo ante. Next time Hamas will have more sophisticated rockets and other weaponry and will be better placed to target Israel’s civilian population.

Had not Amir Peretz faced down skeptics and pushed for the development of the Iron Dome rocket interceptor system during his term as Minister of Defence, the current war would have turned out very differently. Israel would have had no alternative other than to launch a ground offensive and many more soldiers would have lost their lives.

It is significant that Prime Minister Netanyahu did not bring the proposed current ceasefire to his Cabinet for approval. Had he done so, he would not have found the majority he needed.

Now all will depend upon the outcome of indirect negotiations scheduled for next month. Israel cannot afford to accede to Hamas’ demands for an airport and seaport without placing the nation in serious danger. Were the Palestinians to agree to Israel’s demand for a demilitarized Gaza Strip, it would be another matter. However, that isn’t about to happen. 

If any progress is to be made, it will have to take place in a much broader political context in which the Palestinian aspiration for statehood is addressed and Israel’s legitimate security concerns are met.

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“We reject this State that calls itself Israel”

On Saturday 2 August 2014 George Galloway, MP for Bradford West, attended a political party meeting of the far-left in Leeds, Yorkshire. With the Palestinian flag draped behind him, he proclaimed:

We have declared Bradford an Israel-free zone. We don’t want any Israeli goods. We don’t want any Israeli services. We don’t want any Israeli academics coming to the university or the college. We don’t even want any Israeli tourists to come to Bradford, even if any of them had thought of doing so. We reject this illegal, barbarous, savage state that calls itself Israel. And you have to do the same.

(With respect, having visited Bradford frequently, I think it hardly unlikely that any Israeli tourist would wish to add it to the list of places in the UK worth visiting!)

It is that same maverick George Galloway who visited Iraq in 1994 and delivered a speech to Saddam Hussein, which concluded with the words: “Sir, I salute your courage, your strength, your indefatigability.”

According to a 2011 census, Bradford’s population is close to 30% Asian or Asian British. It has the third highest percentage of South Asians of any city in England and Wales. Given the number of Muslims living there, Mr. Galloway’s remarks about Israel will no doubt have been well received by many of his constituents. However, he has a problem.

It is reported that Israeli water treatment company “Mapal” has provided its technological solutions to Anglian Water, supplying around 6 million homes, and Thames Water supplying around 14 million customers in the London area. What is Mr. Galloway going to drink when he is at Westminster representing Bradford West?!

However, that is not the point. As Europe’s Muslim population continues to grow, politicians will increasingly be challenged to define their position on the Israel/Palestinian conflict. Defending Israel is not going to be popular and that will impact, as it already has, upon Europe’s relationship with the Jewish State.

Returning to Mr. Galloway; if he were not the biased, bigoted person that he is, he would surely sit down with Israelis and hear their views on the Middle East conflict. However, that is not about to happen. Already back in October last year he walked out  of an Oxford University debate declaring: “I don’t debate with Israelis.”

Posted in Boycott, Boycott of Israel, International Criticism | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why Does Hamas Fight?

Why Does Hamas fight?

Every time Hamas fights, the West pressures Israel to give them a concession to stop. This encourages Hamas to keep fighting rather than to negotiate, strengthens them in their ability to fight, and harms Israel in the long run. Israel has generally given in.

But not this time. The cost for Israel to continue this game is too high. Any circumstance in which Hamas is strengthened will result in the death of more Israelis and Israel is obligated to prevent that.

The way to bring peace to both peoples and promote prosperity for the people of Gaza is to completely nullify any hope that violence will result in progress. Moves toward peace must be met with improvement for sure. Yet moves toward violence must result in increased suffering, not betterment.

This is why ceasefire talks continue to fail.

In spite of growing antisemitism and the threat of boycotts, Israel will not give in, because it cannot give in. It is that simple. The next flare-up of this conflict may well see rockets strike Ben Gurion Airport, the Towers in Tel Aviv, or Hotels in Jerusalem and terrorism resulting in terrible carnage. It is not an option for Israel to offer concessions and to hope that Hamas decides not to exploit them as they have every other time.

For the US to help bring peace, it must not only avoid pressuring Israel to make concessions, but it must demand of our allies very publicly that they also refrain from pressuring Israel as well. Hamas must see that support for Israel will not be undermined if they continue fighting. Israel’s obligation–not merely its “right”–its obligation to defend itself must not only be defended in public by our President and Secretary of State, but actively supported. Otherwise, the fighting and the suffering will go on.

 

Posted in We Are For Israel | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments