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October 12, 2009: Empty-Handed

November 10, 2009

After five days in the area, and two meetings with PM Netanyahu, that’s pretty much how US Middle East envoy Mitchell has left Israel.  There will be no announcement of a resumption of negotiations with the PA.  Netanyahu has made it clear that any freeze on settlements (or “moratorium on building,” however that is defined) must be matched by normalization gestures of substance by the Arab world. 


Meanwhile, PA president Abbas, playing hardball, said last night that, “There will be no Israeli-Palestinian peace treaty until the occupation of Jerusalem ends. We are determined to safeguard the Aksa Mosque and Jerusalem.”

So…there will be no Israeli-Palestinian “peace treaty.”

Since the end of the holiday, a fragile quiet has settled over Jerusalem.  Abbas’s comments about “safeguarding” the Mosque are not going to help.


Following what the NY Daily News referred to as “a brief interlude of decency,” Abbas has done a complete turn-about on the matter of the Goldstone Report, instructing the PA envoy to the UN Human Rights Council to seek discussion on it now and not next March: “so that those responsible for crimes against the Palestinian people during the barbaric Israeli operation in the Gaza Strip, when Israel destroyed Gaza, its mosques, its hospitals and its homes, can be brought to justice.”

What is transparently clear is that he is looking over his shoulder at Hamas, as he takes this position.  Now he explains that the suggestion that the discussion on Goldstone be delayed came as a result of the “opposition of several powerful countries” and was not an initiative of the PA.

“We are working to bring to an end to the intra-Palestinian rift and to sign a reconciliation treaty,” he declared, accusing Hamas of exposing its “true intentions” to hurt Palestinian unity efforts by charging that the PA was involved in the delay.

Please, allow me to translate this for you (as it gives me a moment of levity): Abbas is saying that even though the PA withdrew its demand that the Goldstone Report be discussed now, it really had nothing to do with it, and when Hamas leaders get angry with him about this, their true motivation is undermining reconciliation. 

Grappling with this logic, or lack thereof, helps Westerns understand the circumlocutions of the Arab mind and perhaps sheds light on why everything is so difficult here.  Most Westerners have no clue.


Barry Rubin says that the PA has double-crossed the US, and not for the first time.  (Will Obama take serious note of this and respond accordingly?):

“The Palestinian leadership is once again shooting itself in the foot. It is throwing away a real opportunity for a state; it is sabotaging its relationship with Western patrons.

“When it comes down to a choice between continuing the conflict and trying to win a total victory that wipes Israel off the map, or making peace and getting a state, the Palestinian leadership always chooses the former.

“And when it comes to choosing between being a bit more moderate and gaining Western support, or being demagogically radical and appealing to the most radical forces, the Palestinian leadership chooses the latter. The Fatah-dominated PA doesn’t want peace with Israel; it prefers peace with Hamas, its rival that not only murders and tortures Fatah people but – one  more irony – is the main beneficiary of the Goldstone Report.”



At any rate, as there is considerable ill will between members of Hamas and members of Fatah at present, Egypt has come up with a new plan for finalizing an agreement:  The written understanding would be faxed to leaders of each group, who would sign it and fax it back. 

This would truly be a first.  But this way representatives of Hamas and Fatah wouldn’t have to be in the same room and certainly wouldn’t be called upon to shake each others’ hands.

Dr. Khalil Al-Hayya, member of Hamas’s political bureau, told a rally at Islamic University yesterday that Hamas still thinks national reconciliation is the best option for all — it hasn’t been rejected — but is awaiting the opportune moment to sign the agreement.

Abbas is making noises about holding elections soon (an announcement must be made three months prior to the election) if there is no reconciliation.  But Hamas is warning him not to even think about this.

Stay tuned.


Since it seems we’re soon going to be back to square one with regard to risk of the Goldstone Report being sent by the Security Council to the International Criminal Court in the Hague (Netherlands), the issue of a US veto in the Security Council becomes critically important once again.

In spite of apparent pressure on Abbas by Obama, we can take nothing for granted. And so, once again, I ask that you make as much noise as possible in the US:

Contact your Congresspersons:


And your Senators:


Contact President Barack Obama:

Fax: 202-456-2461   White House Comment line:  202-456-1111

E-mail form via:  http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact/

As well as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton:

Fax: 202-261-8577 or 202-647-65434

Main State Department switchboard: 202-647-4000

State Dept. Public Communication Division

(accepts opinions from the public — best to connect here):

Fax: 202-647-2283   Phone: 202-647-6575

E-mail:  secretary@state.gov


Share this by e-mail with others who may be willing to act; talk about the issue so that people understand; call in to talk shows; write letters to the editor.


Problems with the report include the following:

[] The mandate by the Human Rights Council — itself overtly and blatantly anti-Israel — to the Goldstone Commission, which did the investigation, was biased from the beginning: Only Israel that was to be investigated.

[] Hamas, with its use of human shields, was given a free ride.  When a Hamas leader who testified actually referred to human shields, the report concluded that “it did not consider [the statement] to constitute evidence.” Said Goldstone, in open correspondence:  “We did not deal with the problems of conducting military operations in civilian areas [which is what Hamas did].  We avoided having to do so in the incidents we decided to investigate.”

[] The commission was nothing more than a kangaroo court, as there were judges sitting on it who stated before the investigation even started that they knew Israel was guilty.

[] Israel’s right to self-defense is not mentioned once in the report.

[] “Evidence” presented by Palestinians was accepted without corroboration.

[] The report was based in the main on statements by anti-Israel NGOs (e.g., Palestinian Center for Human Rights).  NGO Monitor — which called the report “575 pages of NGO ‘cut and paste'” — found numerous false and unsubstantiated allegations that were included.


Dr. Elihu Richter, of the Hadassah School of Public Health, charged, in the Post:

“I personally submitted a nine-page, annotated and referenced brief to the Goldstone Commission last July showing that the high male-female ratio of fatalities among Palestinians in Gaza argues for the combatant status of many whom human rights organizations classified as non-combatants. However, the Commission was not driven by the evidence, but by its preset agenda.”

Noam Bedein, Director of the Sderot Media Center, who went to testify to the Commission as a private individual who could attest to the suffering of the people of Sderot caused by Hamas rockets, has said that Goldstone actually slept through part of his testimony.


For further background on the issues and the bias of the charges, see here (especially “Article and Reports”):



Today was opening day of the winter session of the Knesset, and it was on this same topic that PM Netanyahu focused:

“The right to have a Jewish state and the right to self defense are two of the basic principles of our people. These two elements are interwoven: Without a state of our own we cannot defend ourselves and without the right to self defense, we cannot run our own country..

“These basic rights are under continuous assault, gaining momentum since the Second Lebanon War and Operation Cast Lead [in Gaza]. We must repel this onslaught.

“Israel will not allow its leaders to be prosecuted at The Hague. We reject this absurd state of affairs.”


Netanyahu has made other points on this subject that merit a mention.  This can stymie the peace process, he says, for Israel will not take risks if our right to self-defense is being denied us.  Never mind that we shouldn’t take those “risks” in any event, for other reasons — the point is valid.  I have no doubt that he intends to give particular parties pause. 

And he has cautioned that nations such as the UK, if they support the report, might find themselves similarly vulnerable in the future — for example, with regard to military action in Afghanistan.


See this piece by Professor Richard Landes.  It is being suggested by Goldstone, he says, that Israel must do a serious investigation of our misdeeds.  But “to paraphrase Ecclesiastes: ‘there’s a time for receiving rebuke and a time for rebuking…’ and the time for rebuke has come.”

And so Landes would recommend another sort of investigation.  Israel should investigate the Goldstone Commission that did the original inquiry: the ways in which legal procedure was ignored. 

“Israel must examine the role of intimidation, of advocacy, and of access in distorting and falsifying evidence, the role of political correctness in making us incapable of discussing the problem and the astonishing lack of critical thinking in assessing witnesses.”



Switching topics, let me also recommend a piece from last Friday by the Jerusalem Post editor, David Horovitz, “Watching and Waiting.”

“Israel had concluded long before the Obama administration took office that it would ultimately need to rely on itself in grappling with Iran. Everything that has unfolded in the last few months has only reinforced the conviction…

“Israel and the US are maintaining close and constructive coordination on the Iranian nuclear crisis. Concerns and assessments are shared effectively. Nothing that was raised by the US in Geneva came as a surprise in Jerusalem…

“But…Jerusalem’s confidence in this administration and its judgment – on Iran and anything else – seems also to have been shaken because of what are considered here to have been costly rookie errors where the Palestinians are concerned…

“In this [Netanyahu’s] government’s thinking, efforts at negotiation with the Palestinians have been set back because of the exaggerated US demands on settlement, and the reality on the ground has grown more tense in the interim.

“That’s bad enough for Israel. But miscalculation by Washington over Iran would have far more profound consequences here.

“Which is why, for all the genuinely excellent coordination between the US and Israel, and the truly wide exchange of information, Jerusalem’s silence over the goings-on in Geneva speaks loudest of all.

“America and the other key world players are doing what they see fit with regard to Iran. As will Israel.”



The vision of tough talking, non-politically correct Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman rather appeals to me.  Last week it was revealed that in a secret memo recently he called for less dependence on the US, with closer ties to developing nations.

Today he is in Kazakhstan, eager to show what is possible in terms of our relationships with genuinely moderate Muslim states.


The political stance of Turkey: Something else troubling to be watched closely.

A multinational military exercise known as the “Anatolian Eagle” maneuvers — scheduled to take place between today and September 24 in Turkey — has been called off because Turkey demanded that Israel not participate. Why?  Some of the planes we would have sent might have been used in bombing runs in Gaza against Hamas.  Once Israel was excluded, the US and Italy refused to participate.   

Since a treaty between Jerusalem and Ankara was ratified in 1996, the two nations have held joint maneuvers 15 times. And so this represents a serious divergence in Turkish policy.  Concern is that the Turkish government, which has been pivotal in certain ways, is shifting from a moderate perspective to one that is more staunchly Muslim.

In light of this, Israeli officials are rethinking military sales and diplomatic support for Turkey, but there are those cautioning that while tensions are now high it is possible that the situation can be redeemed.


Rumors have been flying regarding the fact that Ahmadinejad has Jewish roots.  Here’s a piece in the Guardian by a journalist who grew up in Teheran and says it is not so:



“The Good News Corner”

A room from the Second Temple period was discovered decades ago, buried deep in the ground under the Old City.  But no excavation was done because the ancient stones were not stable enough.  But now a new technique has been developed that allows the walls to be supported while rubble within the room is removed. A concrete roof has been erected at the site, which goes six meters deep, and an iron support structure put in place.

Artifacts from both the First and Second Temple periods have been discovered in the course of the excavation. 

The large room, known as the “Hall of Eras,” will be opened to the public in due course.

(Because of the recent riots on the Temple Mount, authorities have stressed that this room is not under the Mount and that no excavation was done under it.  The charge being made is that we are digging under the Mount in an effort to destroy the Al Aksa Mosque.)




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