It’s hardly a new refrain in these postings: the sense that the world is upside-down and crazy. Unfortunately, that sense is only growing stronger.
Several people forwarded to me in recent days a quote from columnist Burt Prelutzky, that says, in essence, when Obama receives his physical, he should have a brain scan, because there has got to be something terribly wrong “with a man who seems to be far more concerned with a Jew building a house in Israel than with Muslims building a nuclear bomb in Iran.”
Not funny at all, really, because it cuts too close to the bone of truth.
From a purely informal source in the US (and I readily acknowledge that this is not confirmed) comes information that a Democratic Congressperson in a key position is saying that even Obama’s people are finding themselves unable to convince the president to cool it a bit on the issue of settlements.
It seems that when it comes to a complete settlement freeze Barack Hussein Obama is mushuga al ha-devar. On this issue he’s crazy — obsessed. Obsession is a good word, for it has been pointed out that if his goal is promotion of a genuine peace negotiation, what he’s doing — which hardens Israeli hearts against him — is counterproductive.
Jackson Diehl, deputy editor of the Washington Post, described the situation accurately when he recently wrote that “Obama began with a broad strategy of simultaneously pressing Israel, the Palestinians and Arab states to take concrete steps toward peace”, but that this has “narrowed to a single point: a standoff with the Israeli government of Binyamin Netanyahu over whether ‘natural growth’ would be allowed in Jewish settlements.”
MK Otniel Schneller, of Kadima, please understand, has now lambasted Obama administration officials, charging that they hold beliefs influenced by “far-Left opinions outside of the Israeli consensus” (about which more below). Schneller, who is interested in promoting a “peace deal” with the Palestinians, says that “the most dangerous thing to the peace process is to push the Israeli public into a corner.” He calls the current Obama demand “extortion.”
The other side of the coin, in terms of what Obama’s position does, is to make the Arabs, who think they have a free ride, more intransigent. The Jerusalem Post editorial today alludes to a recent article by David Ignatius in the Washington Post that quotes an Arab diplomat as telling him that what Arabs demand is not a settlement freeze but rather an imposed settlement.
The editorial carries this one step further, indicating that Obama has also been hearing this from “some in the ostensibly pro-Israel community in Washington, led by J Street.” J Street, funded by George Soros, is at the heart of what Schneller was referring to in terms of “far-left opinions.” J Street may proclaim itself pro-Israel in its own fashion, but in my book it is solidly anti-Israel. And dangerous.
The painful fact is that Soros, having done funding for his campaign, has the ear of Obama. Any American, Jew or non-Jew, who genuinely cares about Israel, and is not yet aware of this, needs to (in the words of the late, great advice columnist Anne Landers) “wake up and smell the coffee.”
The heat is on our government from all sides with regard to freezing of the settlements. From the Quartet, and from various European nations, including those just visited by PM Netanyahu.
Additionally, Sweden, which is no friend to Israel, is poised to assume the EU presidency. NGO-Monitor has just released information detailing “Swedish government funding for radical [anti-Israel] NGOs under the guise of human rights and humanitarian aid.” See http://imra.org.il/story.php3?id=44191.
The question then is how well Netanyahu and company will continue to hold in the face of all of this. There are mixed messages, and concern grows.
We’re hearing talk about a “compromise” on the subject, some way to reach a meeting of the minds between Jerusalem and Washington. That has to be bad news. In some quarters it’s said we may ultimately agree to a “temporary” freeze, for three or six months. That would be very bad news indeed.
Right now DM Barak is in New York, and today held a four hour meeting with George Mitchell.
Immediately before he left, the Defense Ministry revealed that it had approved the construction of 50 homes in the Samaria community of Adam — part of a master plan for 1,500 homes for the Binyamin region. This may or may not have been timed to deliver a message. (In due course I’ll have more to say about these plans.)
Emerging from the meeting, half of which was held privately between the two parties, Barak told reporters that he and Mitchell were “not stuck on the issue” of settlements, and that he had indicated to Mitchell that Israel will consider “any positive contribution to the peace efforts.” He said there were still gaps between the sides (the US stance has not softened), but that efforts would continue to reach understandings.
What understandings? Vague diplomatic talk. We will have to see what emerges, or ensues in follow-up talks. But the reference to gaps, and efforts to downplay the settlements as focus of the talks is encouraging. It would certainly seem that Barak did not acquiesce today to a freeze, even a temporary one, on the building in settlement blocs.
This broadly comports with what YNet had reported: that a forum, which included Barak, PM Netanyahu, Foreign Minister Lieberman, and Ministers Benny Begin and Moshe Ya’alon, met yesterday in preparation for Barak’s meetings with Mitchell. It was decided that settlement construction would not be frozen now, and that there would be an attempt to convince the US that discussion on this could be delayed until talks with the Palestinians were under way.
Talks with the Palestinians? Let us hope they continue to balk. We may have a deliberately devised catch 22 here: with the PA saying they won’t talk because we haven’t frozen settlements.
And so, my friends, it’s time to let our voices be heard again.
Here in Israel, Prime Minister Netanyahu has to be thanked for not caving, and urged as strongly as possible not to cave to Obama in the future.
Fax: 02-670-5369 (From the US: 011-972-2-670-5369)
Phone: 03-610-9898 (From the US: 011-972-3-610-9898)
E-mail: email@example.com (underscore after pm)
In the US, forget the obsessed Obama. Contact your own Senators and Congresspersons. Tell them you are adamantly opposed to pushing Israel on a settlement freeze. Ask them for a greater focus on what the PA will do to stop incitement.
For your Congresspersons:
For your Senators:
Remember, folks, numbers count. Circulate this request, please!
An unsettling sign of caving to Obama, however, has come with agreement on another front: some withdrawal of IDF forces from major PA cities, to allow day-to-day takeover by PA security forces being trained by General Dayton — forces, it should be noted again, that, according to reliable reports, Dayton himself indicated might turn on Israel within two years if they don’t get what they want.
The PA is looking for a situation in which the IDF would be prevented from returning to these cities. The IDF maintains the right to return if necessary.
If this has a deju vu feeling it is because we’ve been on this merry-go-round before. Ultimately, it is the IDF that controls terrorism in those cities, and ultimately, we always have to return.
The concern — the deep concern — is with regard to the security risk in the interim.
French President Sarkozy was way out of line in recently urging Netanyahu, according to a Channel Two report yesterday, to “get rid of Lieberman” and (are you ready for this?) replace him with Livni.
Our Foreign Ministry responded that this represented “intolerable intervention in internal Israeli affairs.” And Netanyahu has in turn responded appropriately, indicating that Lieberman was an important part of the government team. Today he told more than 20 ambassadors from EU nations that he has complete confidence in Lieberman.
All is not grim, however, in spite of the above.
According to Reuters, the US has given assurances that it will continue to support Israel at the UN. Additionally, US loan guarantees have been re-approved.
President Peres left Sunday for a four-day visit to Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan — the first visit by an Israeli president since the establishment of diplomatic relations between Israel and the two Muslim states. He is being accompanied by a delegation of 60 senior officials of leading Israeli companies in the fields of water technology, agriculture, communications, medical technology, and defense.
Azerbaijan stood its ground against an irate Iran, even though Iran re-called its ambassador and expelled Azerbaijan’s ambassador in protest. In fact, according to Yediot Ahronot, an Iranian official went to Azerbaijan a month ago to persuade Azerbaijan to cancel its visit from Peres. Baku’s response: “We don’t tell you whom to meet when you meet with Armenians, and you won’t tell us whom to meet either. Azerbaijan is a sovereign country, and no one will tell it whom to receive.”
So, we have friends, and in this case a Muslim friend, to boot.
According to Arutz Sheva, the “Religious Zionist Budget” will not be cut in the coming year. This budget provides funds for strengthening Jewish identity, supporting hesder yeshivas (which combine Torah study and IDF service), and bolstering youth groups associated with the religious Zionist movement.
Sounding good from here.
Also sounding good: The IDF Spokesperson’s Office has confirmed that the Navy has seized a “Free Gaza Movement” boat, “Arion,” that was headed for Gaza in violation of the Israeli blockade on the Strip. The boat was taken to Ashdod, and the crew detained by the IDF.
This is something the Olmert government never had the guts to do.
And one last, important, piece of good news for today:
Drawing on the principle of “universal jurisdiction,” which is — as I recently wrote — being abused for political purposes, a Spanish court had been proceeding with the investigation of the IAF bombing in Gaza on July 22, 2002 that killed Hamas terrorist Sheikh Salah Shehadeh and 14 others. The original complaint was lodged by the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) and involved war crimes allegations against seven senior Israeli officials, including former IDF chiefs of staff Dan Halutz and Moshe Ya’alon, and former defense minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer.
Today, Spain’s National Court, in a 14 to 4 vote, decided not to proceed with the case. The legal reasoning that was applied has not yet been announced.