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November 21, 2010: Balagan

May 10, 2011

My readers are likely familiar with this Hebrew word, which I use from time to time.  It means confusion, a mess, a muddle.
Thus my choice of this word to describe the negotiations on the freeze that are still pending.  I’ve learned never to say never — especially with regard to occurrences in this part of the world.  But it’s sure looking less likely as time goes on.
The biggest development on this front, as I see it, is a statement by PA president Mahmoud Abbas, after meeting with Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, that:
“Of course … if there is no complete halt to settlements in all of the Palestinian territories including Jerusalem, we will not accept.”
At the very same time, Minister Eli Yeshai, head of Shas faction, has said,  “As of now we oppose an additional freeze.” 
Yeshai explained that, “Rabbi Ovadia (who calls the shots for Shas) wants to see things clearly and only then will he make a decision.”

“The rabbi asked for a US guarantee there will be no freeze in Jerusalem and that there will not be an additional freeze after three months. All Israeli administrations built in Jerusalem, even the left-wing governments, did not stop for one second.”

Well, there ain’t gonna be a “guarantee” from the US regarding our right to continue building in Jerusalem. That much can be stated with some certainty.  Former US ambassador to Israel, Dan Kurtzer, made news the other day when he said that a “clear statement” from the Obama administration that excluded a freeze in eastern Jerusalem would set a “policy precedent” and was “highly unlikely.”

At best there would be a blinking of the eye and a request that we soft-peddled construction east of the Green Line in Jerusalem.  I had alluded to an article in Haaretz last week with regard to what a US official said about this.  Here we have an expanded version of that article:

“[According to a US official] the US administration is not demanding that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declare a formal construction freeze in East Jerusalem, but it expects a halt to Israeli construction in practice, and that Israel will not carry out any other provocative activity.

“The US official said that if a new settlement freeze takes effect, the American administration will continue to pressure Israel to keep things quiet in East Jerusalem during the 90-day period.”




[] Netanyahu top security advisor Uzi Arad has publicly questioned whether we have a negotiating partner in the PA.   This is not exactly a startlingly new observation, but it departs from the politically correct babble his boss has been spouting, and we must ask if he did this with sanction.  Is this a trial balloon for a new approach?

[] Thousands of people demonstrated against the freeze outside of the prime minister’s residence today.  Minister Uzi Landau (Yisrael Beitenu) addressed the demonstrators:

“The Oslo accords are a fatal disease whose traces we can still see inside of us today. Israel has changed its tune…We said we wouldn’t return to the ’67 borders, which are Auschwitz borders. We said we wouldn’t divide Jerusalem or evacuate the settlements. But each year we see the governments are ready to make concessions.”

The demonstrators have said they will be camping outside the prime minister’s house.

[] Members of the Likud Central Committee who are opposed to the freeze have begun circulating a petition supporting those Likud MKs and Ministers who have stood strong.  They have acquired close to 300 signatures to date and hope to secure signatures of the majority of the Committee.  The goal is to provide reassurance to those who in Likud who have opposed the freeze, letting them know the Committee is with them.

[] Last Thursday, MK Shaul Mofaz (Kadima) created a stir when he spoke out against the freeze, warning that Israel would be forced to accept another after this, and then another. While Mofaz is certainly to the right within Kadima, one senses political motivation here; he might be speaking as the head of the much-alluded-to, but somewhat illusory faction within Kadima that was expected several times over to leave Kadima and join Likud.


Tonight our prime minister said that he will not bring the issue of a new freeze to the Security Cabinet until he has a letter from the US.  However, he also declared that “I’m sure the ministers will approve it.”   We’ll see.


On Friday Reuters ran a piece that began:

“Away from the headlines, Palestinians have been trying to advance their statehood agenda in small but symbolic ways in United Nations agencies that fall off the radar for most people.

“But even on the outer reaches of the sprawling UN system, their efforts have been blocked by a United States resolved not to display the slightest tilt toward Palestinians as it tries to act as honest broker in their
halting peace talks with Israel.”

It would be a stretch to believe that the US is eager not to display the slightest tilt towards the Palestinian Arabs.  But this information is interesting nonetheless because it does seem to be the case that the Obama administration is reluctant to foster unilateralism by the PLO as long as there’s a chance that Abbas might come to the table. 

The big question is what happens when all chances of this happening fall apart.


In October The Israel Project commissioned Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research to do a poll of Palestinian attitudes towards peace and negotiations with Israel.  The results have been released:

“A majority of Palestinians in both the West Bank and Gaza favor direct negotiations with Israel…but most are yet to reconcile themselves to the long-term existence of the Jewish state.” (Emphasis added)

30% think the best goal is for a two- state solution that keeps two states living side by side.
60% think the real goal should be to start with two states but then move to it all being one Palestinian state.

58% think this is a time for armed struggle.
36% think this is the time for engagement with Israel.


I want to recommend another excellent piece — “Obama’s Jerusalem Apartheid” by Daniel Greenberg writing as Sultan Knish:

“When Obama attacked Israel for building housing on Jewish owned land in Jerusalem, he was doing more than just pandering to his Muslim hosts with an obligatory dose of Israel bashing. He was diving once again into the ugly pool of bigotry, that first surfaced when he used Joe Biden as a proxy to launch a hate campaign against Israel over the same issue back in March.

“And what it comes down to is Apartheid. Plain and simple.

“Obama does not object to Arab Muslims living in Jerusalem. He objects only to Jews living in Jerusalem. The issue is not about ‘Israelis,’ as the media likes to present it, because Jerusalem Arabs and Jews are all citizens of Israel. What distinguishes them is race and religion.

“The media and the administration only attack the municipal authorities of Jerusalem and the Israeli government for providing housing for its citizens– when those citizens happen to be Jewish. If they are Arab and Muslim, then there’s no problem. If they’re Jewish on the other hand, then the alarm bells go off and the politicians and the press denounce them as enemies of peace. How does one describe that as other than ‘Apartheid’?”



The Cabinet today approved 85 million shekels over five years for improvement of the Kotel (Western Wall) plaza and its environs.  Plans include preservation of  — and improved accessibility to –- archaeological findings, upgrading infrastructures, and development of educational activities for students and soldiers.  A major consideration is accommodating 8 million visitors to the Kotel annually.

The project will be managed by the Prime Minister’s Office and carried out by the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, with the funds coming from the interior, transportation, tourism, public security, defense and education ministries, and the Israel Lands Authority.

Lovely that this should be set in motion, especially now.

But sure enough: inexorably, as night follows day, the PA has now registered a complaint. This plan, you see, is preventing peace.  Said a PA spokesman:

“Israel does not have permission to make changes in the occupied territories, especially in Jerusalem.”

They do go on about this.  We should only be as persistent and consistent in stating our position.


With everything else happening, I had not gotten to this, and so am grateful for a column by Isi Liebler — “Harper and Obama on Israel” — that explores the subject of the great friend we have in Canada, and the way in which the US has failed to provide support.

“…Canada [whose prime minister, Stephen Harper, has taken brave stands on behalf of Israel and against anti-Semitism] was in fact ‘punished’ for its support of Israel when it was ignominiously defeated by Portugal, an almost bankrupt country, in its attempt to obtain a seat at the UN Security Council. All 57 seats of the Organization of the Islamic Conference opposed the Canadian nomination.

“For some, Canada’s defeat under such circumstances will be viewed as a badge of honor. But what made Canada’s defeat even more outrageous was the role of the US. According to Richard Grenfell, a former press officer with the US mission to the UN, ‘US State Department insiders say that US Ambassador Susan Rice not only didn’t campaign for Canada’s election but instructed American diplomats to not get involved in the weekend leading up to the heated contest.’

“David Frum, a speechwriter to former president George W. Bush, also noted that ‘the US government has kept awfully quite about the suggestion that it went missing during the Security Council vote.’

“The US betrayal of its neighbor and long-standing ally is a chilling indication of the depths to which the Obama administration has stooped in its efforts to “engage” and appease Islamic and Third World rogue states.”



JINSA’s report on this subject — “By Failing Canada, We Failed Ourselves” — includes this:

“Thank you, Mr. Harper. Most sincerely, thank you.
“State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley declined to directly address Grenell’s claims (cited above). Asked whether the United States did anything to support Canada, Crowley said, ‘For that particular seat there was a contested election, and we were present. We voted. And beyond that, I’m not going to comment.’
“Watch out for that. Our vote is one of 192 in the body. 
“When the United States wants the right thing, lobbies for it and argues for it, there are a great many countries that will go where we want to go. But if we decide our vote is worth only 1/192nd of the total, we will be overwhelmed by forces in the body that seek to do us – and our friends – ill. If that is the best Israel can expect from the United States – that we will be present and vote our 1/192nd with Israel on principle – the UN will sink even lower than we thought it could.
“Some days, being Canadian looks like a good option.”



© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.



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