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November 8, 2008: The Beginning

November 8, 2008

Motzei Shabbat (After Shabbat)

I have just learned that Middle East Newsline reported — one day after the election — that Obama had sent key adviser Robert Malley to Cairo, where he met with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, and to Damascus, where he met with Syrian President Bashar Assad, to relay the messages that relations with Egypt would be enhanced and that there would be an attempt to reconcile differences with Syria.

“The tenor of the messages was that the Obama administration would take into greater account Egyptian and Syrian interests,” an aide to Mr. Malley said.

Obama, according to the aide, plans to initiate a diplomatic initiative towards Syria, reversing the policy of President Bush, who regards Syria as a leading supporter of insurgency in Iraq.

The message from Obama to President Mubarak was that the United States would maintain military and civilian aid and sell advanced F-16 aircraft to Cairo.

(Thanks to David Bedein for calling my attention to this Middle East Newsline item.)


I appreciate the efforts of everyone who sent me information on Rahm Emanuel, but ask that no more be sent. I know his father was Israeli, and that he volunteered in the IDF at one point. I know that he is proudly Jewish. All of this, however, begs the question of what his take on Israel is now. Ultimately, it seems to me, the question of whether he is “pro-Israel” may revolve around the definition of what that means.

There are Jews who would declare themselves to be ardent supporters of Israel who think we must move back to the pre-’67 lines, and Jews who think that the US is “helping” Israel by forcing her to make more concessions. None of this is OK with me. If — and I don’t know this yet — it turns out that this is Emanuel’s position, I will not consider him a friend to us or someone who supports what is truly in Israel’s best interest, or, by extension, the US’s best interest, as a strong Israel benefits the US. (And perhaps I should reverse the order of things here, as I recognize that his first responsibility would be to what is in the best interests of the US, but I see no conflict: to weaken Israel, the canary in the mine, is ultimately to harm genuine US interests in this part of the world.)

Daniel Kurtzer — who is an Obama adviser — comes to mind in this regard. He identifies as an Orthodox Jew. Most here consider him an enemy as he puts the responsibility for tensions in the Middle East squarely on Israel’s shoulders and believes that it’s appropriate to push Israel to make concessions.

All I know now about Emanuel is that he was an ardent supporter of Oslo. (Other information shared with me I have not been able to confirm and so will not cite.) And so, as I am fond of saying, we must wait and see.


Speaking of Oslo. We have here in Israel been marking the anniversary of the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, who signed off on Oslo. Dr. Aaron Lerner of IMRA notes that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has neglected once again to include Rabin’s last major message on the subject among the materials posted on a special page by the Ministry to mark this anniversary.

Rabin’s major points (which have been forgotten to a great extent):

* No Palestinian State: “We view the permanent solution in the framework of State of Israel which will include most of the area of the Land of Israel as it was under the rule of the British Mandate, and alongside it a Palestinian entity which will be a home to most of the Palestinian residents living in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

“We would like this to be an entity which is less than a state, and which will independently run the lives of the Palestinians under its authority.”

* No return to ’67 borders: “The borders of the State of Israel, during the permanent solution, will be beyond the lines which existed before the Six Day War. We will not return to the 4 June 1967 lines.”

* Control of Jordan Valley: “The security border of the State of Israel will be located in the Jordan Valley, in the broadest meaning of that term.”

* Gush Katif as model: “The establishment of blocs of settlements in Judea and Samaria, like the one in Gush Katif.”

* All settlements remain intact during interim period: “I want to remind you: we committed ourselves, that is, we came to an agreement, and committed ourselves before the Knesset, not to uproot a single settlement in the
framework of the interim agreement, and not to hinder building for natural growth.”

* (During interim period) “The responsibility for external security along the borders with Egypt and Jordan, as well as control over the airspace above all of the territories and Gaza Strip maritime zone, remains in our


After meeting with Condoleezza Rice yesterday, Secretary of Defense Barak reported to the press that he had told her that with regard to Iran Israel is “not taking any option off the table, and we don’t recommend that others take any option off the table.” By way of emphasis, he added, “We mean what we say.”

He said that Iran continued to “trick the world” with regard to negotiations.


Palestinian reconciliation talks scheduled to take place in Cairo have been called off because Hamas intended to boycott them.




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