So much to discuss within a rapidly shifting scenario.
I begin with a clarification of my previous stated position on Netanyahu, Obama, and the outposts. There were a handful of readers who saw in my recent words a shift towards appeasement, and G-d forbid, that is not what I intended to convey.
I had the impression that Netanyahu believed that agreeing to take down a few outposts would allow him to acquire greater support from Obama for being tough on Iran. What I call a quid pro quo, which is not the same as appeasement.
Here in Israel we are facing down the Iranian threat directly. I was not recommending, and would never, ever recommend, appeasement of Iran. I am mightily contemptuous of Obama’s terribly dangerous tendency to appease. I believe it likely that we will attack Iran and I support that. But I am mindful that acquiring certain bunker busters from the US can make us more effective, and that not having the US object to our flying over Iraq can make our mission enormously easier (and provide it with greater chance of success). And, yes, I reasoned that IF (this is the critical qualifier) taking down a few outposts is the cost of acquiring these things, it would be a trade that is worth making. I still reason so. This is what I heard in Netanyahu’s comments.
My position was that we must not get so caught in the ideology of protecting our right to some part of the land that we miss out on an opportunity to better protect all of the land and all of the people, vis-a-vis a more effective attack on Iran. I believe Netanyahu speaks truth when he says we are not living in normal times.
However, what I wrote about was “a few outposts.” Not all of them, and certainly nothing in the way of large settlements. I acknowledged as I wrote that going this route presents the danger of a slippery slope. What reassured me was the position of key members of the gov’t, who are watching Netanyahu and demanding that he (or Barak) not do wholesale taking down of settlements. I trust Benny Begin, and Moshe Ya’alon, and Yisrael Katz, etc. etc., more than I trust Netanyahu. And I had what I consider fairly solid reason to believe that Netanyahu knew full well what his constraints would be with regard his own government.
I also had reason to believe that a token — taking down a tent here, a few shacks there — would be what we would see, in order to give Obama the semblance of “movement” towards peace, and not a whole lot more. And yes, from a purely ideological position, those few shacks are the same as a settlement of 40 or 50 families. But this has not been my focus because of the existential threats we face. Sometimes, I believe, we have to settle for the best deal we can get, on balance, within a given set of parameters.
Please note, I have been taking my cue in part from the settlers, who are rather sanguine about what’s happening because they know with these small outposts they can re-build and re-build until they are victorious. That, in the long run is what matters.
At any rate, I thank those who wrote to me with heartfelt anguish and prompted some serious thought and discussion. I take none of this lightly, ever. Many nights, I lose sleep over these issues.
But the situation is now changing, and there is a great deal more to consider. My earlier words may become moot, my perspective superseded by new situations and new information.
Obama met with Abbas on Thursday. With the holiday of Shavuot upon us, I had no chance until now to write about what followed from that meeting. There are a number of factors to consider:
Obama surprised me in one respect regarding what he reportedly said to the media after the Abbas meeting. He actually mentioned PA incitement, an issue rarely addressed. What he said was that Abbas had to “continue to make progress on reducing incitement.”
I believe we have to grab hold of this issue as if we were pit bulls, who bite down and don’t let go. So much is said about settlements as “an obstacle to peace.” (See below) But this is nonsense, because were there to be some peaceful arrangement, settlements could be (not should be, but could be) negotiated out of existence. That is, their presence does not block peaceful negotiations from advancing.
But incitement is another matter all together. The hatred for us that has been inculcated by the PA in the Palestinian population cannot be negotiated out of existence. We cannot have peace with these Arabs at our periphery, or in our midst, unless and until they accept our presence and our right to be where we are. Unless and until they no longer believe that Allah wants them to martyr themselves in a jihad to destroy us. Unless and until they understand that Jews are entitled to dignity.
Palestinian Arabs need to be told consistently by their leadership that genuine peace with us is a good thing. That there is an ancient Jewish history in Jerusalem. That our presence in the land is acceptable and not an affront. And no where is this more urgently needed than in the schools, where the textbooks that are used are invidious and undermine any genuine possibility for peace.
The work to change the textbooks must begin immediately.
This, above all, must be a demand we hold fast to, with the premise, always, that no peace is possible otherwise. That the PA hasn’t demonstrated peaceful intent, otherwise. That it’s a farce to make demands of Israel, otherwise.
We are being put on the defensive, and this is a necessary offensive stance. And it’s absolutely valid.
The PA will not agree to make these changes. The ideology of radical Islam is too mainstream (especially with the growing influence of Hamas). No PA leader could change the line this radically and expect to remain a leader, never mind to live.
To demand this is to unmask the insincerity of Palestinian Arab statements.
But I would demand this not of Abbas, but of Obama, first:
“Mr. President, if you are sincere about promoting ME peace, this is essential. If you cut the PA slack on this, you are destroying chances for peace and putting the lie to your intentions.”
“Mr. President, work on changing the horrendously inciteful PA textbooks must begin immediately. This is an absolute prerequisite for peace. You must make this demand a priority.”
“Mr. President, PA textbooks teach that martyrdom for Jihad is blessed by Allah. They teach that Jews have no rights in Jerusalem or the land of Israel. How can you ask Israel to make peace with the Palestinian people when this is what they are taught?”
And the time to start is now.
Fax: 202-456-2461 Comment line: 202-456-1111
e-mail form via: http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact/
It seems that Obama intends to cut us no slack on the issue of settlements. He is demanding (and Hillary has reiterated this) a total settlement freeze, even with regard to natural growth.
This means if a young man returns to his community after serving in the army and wants to marry and build a home near his family, he cannot. Of if young couples in a neighborhood have a number of small children, a new nursery school (gan) cannot be built. This is the case even if the new home or nursery school would be built entirely within the existing boundaries of the community and not extended a single meter into “contested area.” In fact, a new room could not even be added to an existing home, if a family became larger.
Commentators are observing that this represents an essential change from previous American policy.
But Obama cannot ultimately demand anything. For we are a sovereign nation. The response I’m picking up from various gov’t officials is mixed.
From Daniel Herschkowitz, S
cience Minister and head of Habayit Hayehudi: The American demand to prevent natural growth is unreasonable, and brings to mind Pharaoh who said: ‘Every son that is born ye shall cast into the river.’
“If there is a family that expands from one child to four or five, what should we tell them – to ship the children off to Petah Tikva? This is an unacceptable demand, even [even?] if it comes from the Americans, and Israel should reject it decisively.”
From Eli Yishai, Interior Minister and head of Shas: “The American demand to freeze construction means expulsion for young people living in large locales. I hope the US administration understands that. If not, I don’t want to be an apocalyptic prophet saying we’re facing struggle and confrontation. The concessions they’re demanding of us are a security impediment we cannot withstand.”
But then we have Information Minister Yuli Edelstein (Likud):
“The recent days prove what luck we have that it is Netanyahu’s government conducting talks on West Bank natural growth and construction in Jerusalem. Just imagine someone else, he would have led us to an entanglement lasting generations.
“We aren’t headed for a confrontation with the White House but rather for understandings…”
And Welfare Minister Isaac Herzog (Labor):
“The current American administration sees things differently than the last two presidents did. Construction is being undertaken around Jerusalem according to understandings with previous administrations. Israel wants very much to reach understandings, and Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s upcoming trip to Washington proves it.”
At which point an unease moves in….
So it’s time to sound the alarm with Netanyahu, who to this day has not agreed to freeze settlements. Let him know that you’re behind him as he stands strong, that you are outraged by what Obama is demanding. Remind him that Israel is a sovereign state and does not have to give in to demands from abroad. Implore him to instruct Barak not to cave on settlements when he is in Washington.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org (underscore after pm)
There is one other point of interest I noted with regard to Obama’s comments. This provides a glimmer of hope.
Obama said: “…obviously Prime Minister Netanyahu has to work through these issues in his own government.”
This seems to indicate that Obama knows that Netanyahu can take issues regarding outposts and settlements just so far before he will be blocked. Thus it’s important to make sure this is the case. And so, I would encourage, lastly, communication with key ministers of the gov’t, imploring them to stand strong and to block any Barak/Netanyahu initiative that takes down major outposts or freezes settlements. Express your outrage with Obama and say you’re counting on them to carry the day.
Minister Moshe Ya’alon: email@example.com (no fax given) office phone: 02-640-8891
Minister Yisrael Katz: firstname.lastname@example.org fax: 02-6496-525 office phone: 02-640-8174
Minister Benny Begin: email@example.com (no fax given) office phone: 02-640-8022
Yuli Edelstein: firstname.lastname@example.org fax: 02-6758919 office phone: 02-6408-392
For additional ministers: http://www.knesset.gov.il/mk/eng/MKIndex_Current_eng.asp?view=1
Then we have an article, “Israel and the Axis of Evil,” written by Caroline Glick right before Shavuot, in which she says: “No destruction of Jewish communities will convince Obama to act against Iran.” She says a great deal more, and I would like to return to her in a day or two. But here I wish to say simply that if the evidence points to her being correct, if there is going to be no quid pro quo, as Netanyahu had indicated — either naively or hopefully or disingenuously — then there is no reason to countenance taking down of outposts.
In point of fact, another outpost was dismantled last night. This was at Shvut Ami, near Kedumim in Samaria. What was dismantled? One hut; six young people were sent away, without violence. There was talk immediately after of putting up the hut again, but, according to Arutz Sheva, for now the youths have decided to take up residence in a cave on the property, as a cave is difficult to dismantle.
And so, yes, ideologically this is the same as a more significant outpost. But, really, one hut? One has the feeling that Barak is going for what creates the least fuss.
I note as well that the office of the defense minister has declared that it will not, at least not now, take down nine homes in Ofra — a significant settlement northeast of Jerusalem in Samaria — that have been declared “illegal.” What we’re seeing here is evidence that the defense minister indeed has latitude as to what should be dismantled and that politics play a role in the decision process. In fact, the situation in Ofra serves as a model of exactly how politicized this whole issue of “illegal” is.
This, too, I would like to return to in due course.
I welcome a statement reported by the Washington Post that an Abbas associate made following Abbas’s visit with Obama:
“It will take a couple of years” for Obama to force Netanyahu from office.
It is to be welcomed because of the stupidity of the remark, and because it serves to stiffen the spines of members of our government.
The question is whether this was a unilaterally stupid remark, or one based on something said by Obama off the record. My purely intuitive hunch is that it’s the latter. And that’s certainly the take as well of Likud Faction Chair MK Ze’ev Elkin, who commented, “With all due respect to the United States…we are an independent democratic country…”
Dear friends, bear with me, as the number of issues to address seems to overwhelm my time and ability to address them all. My UNRWA report awaits my serious and reasonably undivided attention. I will post as I can.
“The Good News Corner”
— An Israeli company called Opgal has developed the Fever Detection and Alarm System, which can spot persons with fevers in a crowd in transportation hubs such as airports and train stations. This may have potential in combating pandemics. Drawing on non-invasive heat sensor technology and cameras, the system requires no installation of equipment and is relatively inexpensive to utilize. Persons pegged as feverish would be stopped for culture swabs or further questioning.
— Special Israeli security companies are greatly in demand for providing protection against pirates on the open seas who attack cruise ships and commercial liners. Israeli anti-pirate teams are deemed the best trained and are proving effective. They function on board in hidden capacities (e.g., as life guards) so that pirates collecting intelligence won’t be aware of them. The Israeli teams also use hi-tech optic systems to identify pirate ships a distance away.
— A kibbutz called Kishorit, in northern Israel, has become a model of how to provide full living experience for adults who are mentally challenged — whether because of autism, schizophrenia, or other problems. The roughly 150 members, who are resident for life (a facility for seniors is being developed), have established the largest organic goat farm in Israel, run a TV station and have developed a line of toys. Their efforts are supported by a strong sense of community and an aesthetic environment that is comforting.