It’s gotten so that I cannot deal with the news — both with regard to what key figures are saying and how the media present it — without feeling colossally irked. Stupidity is irritating.
Take this, from today’s JPost, front page:
“For a second straight day, Palestinian Arab eaders have threatened to walk away from upcoming talks if Israel does not extend the settlement construction moratorium on September 26. This has led a government official on Monday to question if the Palestinians “were not looking for excuses to pull out of the talks even before they began.'”
Gasp! How perceptive this official is.
Never mind that Abbas’s reluctance to sit at the table has been smacking us in the face. No, let me rephrase this: Abbas may be reflecting more terror than reluctance. A whole slew of Palestinian Arab groups, as well as some members of his own Fatah, are adamantly opposed to his participating in direct talks. In fact, hundreds of politically-connected Palestinian Arabs have signed a petition warning him not to succumb to pressure to continue if his demands are not met. Explicitly because of the planned direct talks, Hamas indefinitely postponed a meeting with Fatah that had been scheduled for Sunday night.
Abbas at one point had appeared to consent to come to the table (with PLO Executive Committee consent), but then backtracked in face of almost blanket condemnation, and charges of having sold out. He has been given no wiggle room.
On Sunday, Abbas drafted a letter to representatives of the Quartet stating that the PA would pull out if Israel did not extend the freeze; it was delivered by negotiator Saeb Erekat. Israel has a choice, said Abbas: Peace or settlements. And, it must be noted, Abbas is now also demanding a total building freeze in Jerusalem past the Green Line, which he has indicated has prime importance. (This “freeze” apparently includes a cessation of all evictions of Arabs, even if they are illegally occupying their quarters.)
Yesterday — according to the Arab language daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), as reported in the JPost — Abbas asked the PLO Executive Committee for one month to try negotiations before deciding what to do next. He won’t move without at least the PLO Executive behind him.
According to this report, Executive Committee member Hana Amira said that Abbas believes the talks “will fail” after the building freeze expires on September 26. Now, I understand that this is a translation, but the passive voice here fascinates me. As if he will have no part in what will occur. And, more significantly, he speaks as if he has no hope that things will work out, but is simply biding his time until he can pack up and leave.
The report further said that, according to Amira, no official decision was made to give Abbas permission to proceed last Friday — as the news had announced and as I had subsequently written — because there was no quorum present during the discussion.
And here we have the most ludicrous statement of all. According to YNet, a US official here in Jerusalem told reporters that Washington expects the parties to “overcome difficulties” and come to a full agreement in one year. A partial deal “will not satisfy Washington.”
Excuse me? Is satisfying Washington what this is all about?
Said this official, Washington believes that both leaders are ready to confront the difficulties in order to reach peace.
This leaves one speechless.
And so, my friends, if I am a tad flippant on occasion, even though the issues are very serious, it’s because I’ve come to see quite clearly that the inmates are running the asylum.
But here my flippancy ceases.
The US has indicated that it does not expect Israel to agree to any additional freeze prior to the start of negotiations. After all, didn’t Secretary of State Clinton say that talks should begin without pre-conditions? The time to discuss the settlements, we’re being told, is during those direct talks.
And so, the limited time period between September 2 and September 26 will be critical, for that is when the squeeze will be put on Israel most intensively by the US. Focusing even more: State Department spokesman JP Crowley said today that the time to discuss a freeze was on September 2, when the two leaders came together. This is actually prior to the beginning of actual negotiations.
Vice Premier Silvan Shalom (Likud) yesterday told Quartet envoy Tony Blair that Arafat didn’t demand pre-conditions, and neither did Abbas when negotiating with Olmert. He said was “pleased about the renewal of direct negotiations with the Palestinians,” but indicated that adding pre-conditions could derail the process before it even took off.
Does Shalom’s statement constitute a guarantee that Netanyahu will not cave? The prime minister may hold tight. I’m praying he will. He has repeatedly pledged to do so. But a guarantee? Nope. Netanyahu is known for buckling in the face of US pressure.
In part it’s a question of what he thinks his coalition will bear. And so the possibility exists that he’ll offer some compromise. Walking that tightrope is Netanyahu’s style — trying to keep both his own people and the PA/the US happy at the same time, without actually taking a firm, clear, principled stand.
There are two likelihoods in terms of compromise. The first was proposed by Minister of Intelligence Dan Merridor (Likud): Begin construction only in the main settlement blocs that we’d be likely to keep in a final settlement. That would mean, certainly, continued building in Jerusalem.
The second involves subterfuge: Make no announcement that the freeze is extended, but, de facto, don’t build.
My guess is that, thankfully, neither of these options would satisfy Abbas. He has as much as indicated so already. The pressure on him not to cave is so great that nothing less than a full and public concession on our part is likely to allow him to face his critics and also come to the table. Here we have a case (as we would in the negotiations) of the maximum our prime minister can give being less than he can accept.
Now’s the time: Let’s help keep Netanyahu strong by contacting him:
Fax: 02-670-5369 (From the US: 011-972-2-670-5369)
E-mail: Memshala@pmo.gov.il and also firstname.lastname@example.org (underscore after pm) use both addresses
Keep the message very short and simple. The impact is less if the message is too long or involved.
He promised that the freeze would not be extended. The security and the integrity of Israel require that he honor this. Otherwise he is surrendering what should not be surrendered and opening himself to even more demands. Implore him to stand tight. Assure him that you are with him if he does.
Send this out as broadly as you can and ask others to do the same.
It takes three minutes to do this, and it can make a difference. If you care, please take the time to act.
My own guess is that Abbas, who has his running shoes on already and is prepared to take off, is likely to do so. But this should not prevent us from doing what we can to foster strength in Netanyahu. Nothing is to be taken for granted here because the stakes are too high. Even if there are no negotiations, if our prime minister agrees to an additional freeze, in principle he is surrendering territory, and a precedent will be set.
There are readers who are writing to ask me about how negotiations are going to go — where the borders might be, etc. Not for a second do I believe there will be serious negotiations that will go that far. (Heaven forbid!) I am more focused on how Abbas et al might play things after he opts out of talks: How he will spin it so that it’s our fault, whether he will attempt to bring this to the Security Council or push for a “one state solution” instead, or foster additional violence.
One other issue here:
Daisy Kahn is the wife of Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, and is working with him on the Cordoba Initiative to put the mosque near Ground Zero. Statements she has made in response to opponents of the mosque are greatly disturbing and indicate much about how these people operate. In an ABC news program on Sunday, she said, with regard to the opposition:
“We are deeply concerned, because this is like a metastasized anti-Semitism. It’s beyond Islamophobia. It’s hate of Muslims.”
This is very clever and very dirty. “Hate of Muslims.” You are a bigot if you don’t support this project. Who wants to be a bigot? Especially in politically correct America.
And far dirtier: “Metastasized anti-Semitism.” Socking it to the Jews. You don’t like it when people hit on you. If you oppose us, you’re just like them. And metastasized? Even worse than anti-Semitism.
Unfortunately, there are many American Jews who buy into this, and into the “if we can build synagogues, we must let them build that mosque” argument. They fail to differentiate, fearful of saying: “Wait a second, we Jews never initiated an attack on America, so it’s not the same.” “Hold it, there are sensibilities involved here.”
And finally, they are sold on the “constitutional argument” that says there is “freedom of religion” in America. The constitution does not promise a particular locale for constructing a house of worship. The point is missed that the imam would be perfectly free to build his mosque elsewhere.
It’s not without reason that I worry about America.
I understand, by the way, that Daisy Kahn is now about to travel at US tax-payer expense to join her husband, who’s off in some place like Dubai, supposedly singing the glories of Muslim life in the US. But she’s sour on how Muslims are treated in the US, so the US is about to be short-changed.
“The Good News Corner”
Prof. Marshall Devor and Prof. Ariel Darvasi of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, working with international researchers, have discovered a gene associated with chronic pain caused by nerve injury.
While it has long been understood that some people are more susceptible to pain than others, no one knew why. “The immediate significance is the mere awareness that differences in pain perception may have a genetic predisposition,” says Prof. Darvasi. “Our discovery may provide insights for treating chronic pain through previously unthought-of mechanisms.”
The Israel Museum, Israel’s largest museum, which houses the largest art collection in the Middle East, has just completed a two-year renovation project that was financed by 21 worldwide donors and carried out by architectural firms in New York and Tel Aviv.
The Museum, which is situated on 20 acres overlooking the western entrance to Jerusalem, houses 500,000 objects arranged, says museum director James Snyder, to convey “a narrative from the beginning of time till today.”
The Museum has three reconstructed collection wings for archaeology, the fine arts, and Jewish art and life, which are now connected: Visitors can move from the museum’s archaeology holdings to permanent galleries for Israeli art, and on to a newly designed Synagogue Route, that includes a display of four reconstructed synagogues from around the world.
The Museum also includes the Shrine of the Book, and the Billy Rose Sculpture Garden.
The full new, sleek facility reopened this month.