Header Leaderboard

June 17, 2009: Shifting Focus

July 20, 2009

From where I am sitting, there is currently a surfeit of articles and analyses about Netanyahu’s talk. And while, undoubtedly I’ll return to the subject — if not today, then soon — I think it important to widen our lenses a bit and take a look at some other matters.

Before I do, however, I provide here a link to the full speech Netanyahu gave, in English translation. (Scroll down for the speech.) I apologize for having neglected to provide this earlier. This is the full speech; I had found some translations were truncated.



I repeat here, verbatim, substantial parts of a letter to the editor that appeared in the Post on Friday, written by Jan Sokolovsky, an American-Israeli and a lawyer, in consultation with a exceedingly knowledgeable international lawyer. It addresses the question of whether Bush’s 2004 letter to Sharon regarding settlement blocs is binding, and was written in response to an article that said it was not because it was not ratified by the Senate.

It is true that the US Constitution requires approval of two-thirds of the Senate to ratify a treaty. But, in addition to treaties, for over 200 years American presidents have conducted foreign policy by executive agreements, which are generally an exchange of commitments between the president or his agent and the head of state of another country, or his agent.

The Litvinov Agreement signed in 1933 by FDR and the Russian commissar for foreign affairs is an example, providing for US recognition of the Soviet Union in exchange for the assignment to the US of all claims by Russia against US citizens. It was upheld by the Supreme Court in 1942, holding that tit had the same binding effect as a treaty.

Executive agreements have become an essential tool of US foreign policy. In fact, since the 1960s, each year has seen, on average, 250 executive agreements, compared to 30 treaties. Ariel Sharon’s undertaking to withdraw from the Gaza Strip in exchange for the commitments in the Bush letter constituted an executive agreement.

We have every right to continue to rely on those assurances, and should be shocked that the Obama administration appears to have disavowed them. While the president can renege on US commitments…his doing so would call into question this administration’s repeated statements that it intends to abide by international law.


This very issue was in the news just today, as Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman is in Washington and has met with his counterpart, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

She reiterated the demand of Obama that settlements be frozen. But Lieberman told her it wasn’t going to happen:

“People are born and people die in Judea and Samaria, and the settlements cannot be completely frozen.

“Our stance is clear. We have understandings with the previous administration on the matter.”

Right on! Hillary’s response, diplomatically put, was that we haven’t heard the last from them on this yet.


Aaron Lerner, Director of IMRA, yesterday cited a statement by Obama at a press conference, with regard to settlements:

“[Obama:] ‘And there is a tendency to try to parse exactly what this means, but I think the parties on the ground understand that if you have a continuation of settlements that, in past agreements, have been categorized as illegal, that’s going to be an impediment to progress.’

“OK. So he is president of the United States of America. And you are drawing a salary and don’t want to tick off the boss by correcting him.

“But why isn’t there someone on his team – or someone from the outside who has access to him – who can explain to him that there are no ‘past agreements’ that categorize the settlement activity as ‘illegal.’

“That’s ‘agreements.’ The Roadmap wasn’t an agreement. Nor was the Annapolis ‘Joint Understanding on Negotiations.’ The only ‘agreements’ [i.e., signed documents] are the series of Oslo ‘agreements’ and none of them categorize any Israeli settlement activity as ‘illegal.’

“In point of fact, the only construction activity that is illegal in the Oslo agreements is Palestinian construction that is in violation of various mostly security related restrictions.”


I will note here that Condoleezza Rice, as Secretary of State, knew the settlements weren’t illegal. That’s why she would, most irritatingly, refer to settlements as “not helpful,” or “not in the spirit.” As if we had to go above and beyond. But this is worse.


And there’s yet more to say about Obama. (Isn’t there always?)

I was going to address his insistence that he still intends to “dialogue” with Iran, the serious questions of recent electoral improprieties not withstanding. But the situation, with regard to the US position, has morphed from merely seriously stupid to shameful. This is with regard to the refusal of his administration to lend even a modicum of support to those currently protesting in the streets of Iran in the face of considerable repression and official violence.

After a long period of silence, Obama has now said, “I want to start off by being very clear that it is up to Iranians to make decisions about who Iran’s leaders will be.”


As Jeff Jacoby has just written:

“Obama made it clear that he was not going to lift a finger for the courageous throngs in the streets — and that he was keen to engage the junta, no matter how vicious or contemptible its behavior. ‘We will continue,’ he said, ‘to pursue a tough, direct dialogue between our two countries.’ Yesterday he repeated that while he does not like to see ‘violence directed at peaceful protesters,’ it would not be ‘productive’ for the president of the United States ‘to be seen as meddling’ in Iranian affairs.

“But neutrality is not an option. By not unequivocally supporting the Iranian protesters, Obama is aiding their oppressors. Reporting from Tehran the other night, CNN’s Samson Desta noted that Iranian students have repeatedly approached him to say that ‘they want to appeal to President Obama. They say, “Is he going to accept this result? Because if he does, then we are doomed.”‘

“Should it really be so difficult for a president who campaigned for office on the themes of hope and change to raise his voice on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of brave Iranians who are risking their lives to bring hope and change to their country? Where is the president who proclaimed on his first day in office that those ‘who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent . . . are on the wrong side of history?’ If he could say it at his inauguration, why can’t he say it now?

“‘Engagement’ with the foul Ahmadinejad and the turbaned dictators he answers to has always been a chimera; if that wasn’t clear before last week’s brazenly rigged election results, surely it is clear now…”




Bret Stephens, writing in the Wall Street Journal, delivered a similar message:

“On Saturday, spokesman Robert Gibbs said the White House ‘was impressed by the vigorous debate and enthusiasm that this election generated, particularly among young Iranians.’ [Vigorous debate and enthusiasm????] On Sunday, Joe Biden allowed that there ‘was some real doubt’ about the election, but said the U.S. would continue its outreach to Iran anyway…

“This is a strange turn of events. In Cairo two weeks ago, Mr. Obama trumpeted ‘my commitment . . . to governments that reflect the will of the people.’

“Here’s a recent comment from one Iranian demonstrator posted on the Web site of the National Iranian American Council. ‘WE NEED HELP, WE NEED SUPPORT,’ this demonstrator wrote. ‘Time is not on our side. . . . The most essential need of young Iranians is to be recognized by US government. They need them not to accept the results and do not talk to government as an official, approved one.’

“…As for the hope — expressed over the weekend by one unnamed senior U.S. administration official to the New York Times — that Mr. Ahmadinejad would moderate his course in foreign policy to allay concerns about his legitimacy, the president [Ahmadinejad] made his views plain on Sunday. ‘It’s not true,’ he said. ‘I’m going to be more and more solid.’

“…Rarely in U.S. history has a foreign policy course been as thoroughly repudiated by events as his [Obama’s] approach to Iran in his first months in office.” (emphasis added)


What does it take, to get avid supporters of Obama to hang their heads in shame, for what they have wrought?

Coming full circle, this dishonorable and pig-headed policy of Obama’s teaches us what we might and might not expect from him vis-a-vis Israel.


Yesterday, the Post reported that Palestinians associated with Hamas are in Teheran and helping Iranian authorities to crush the street rebellion. They know who butters their bread.

But this doesn’t disturb Jimmy Carter. After meeting with Hamas officials, he announced that he plans to ask President Obama to remove Hamas from the US-designated list of terror organizations.

Carter, the man who was in the White House, and blew it badly, when the current Iranian regime violently grabbed control of the country. No remorse, it seems. No good advice for the current White House resident on making genuine national amends.

What moral obtuseness! What lost opportunity.


I’d like to recommend this article, “Willful Deafness About the Meaning of Two States.” You might find it useful to share with others, to help them understand the parameters of what we are dealing with.

Writes author Peggy Shapiro:

“The Palestinians, Saudis and Egyptians propose two states. The U.N., E.U., U.S. demand two states. Most Israeli governments have agreed to the concept of two states. Other than Israel, none of the proponents of a “two-state” solution ever planned for one of the states to be the Jewish State of Israel.”



“The Good News Corner”

— The Israel Antiquities Authority has announced it will be re-excavating a well-preserved 1,700 year old mosaic floor, approximately 180 square meters in size, which colorfully depicts detailed mammals, birds, fish, and ships of the time. It was discovered in 1996, in the course of widening of a street in Lod (south of Tel Aviv) and was then covered over for protection until the funding could be found to complete the excavation and turn the site into a public attraction.

— Israel is joining with Germany and Ethiopia in launching an agricultural development project in Ethiopia to promote irrigation development activities throughout the country. Israel will be providing the technical know-how.

— There are currently 110 bio-med companies in Jerusalem, with Teva Pharmaceuticals the largest. Now Mayor Nir Barkat has announced plans to raise 100 million NIS to be invested into the industry in Jerusalem in the next five years.

Right now, approximately 43% of all bio-tech research and about half of all clinical research in Israel is done at Hebrew University and Hadassah Medical Center, both in Jerusalem. Additionally, Jerusalem hosts the only technological incubator in Israel dedicated to drug development, BioLine Innovations Jerusalem.




Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *