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October 21, 2009: US – Israel Relations

November 23, 2009

The United States and Israel are today holding the biggest-ever joint missile defense drill ( the Juniper Cobra 10 exercise) that will take into account threats from Iran, Hezbollah and Syria.  A thousand US military personnel will participate along with an equal number of Israelis; the Israeli Arrow 2 Theater Ballistic Missile Defense System and the American Navy’s AEGIS Ballistic Missile Defense System will be tested, along with the US Patriot advanced capability anti-missile missiles.

This exercise has been in the planning for two years, and American military officials arrived months ago to help set things up.  Radar stations — including the Israeli Green Pine and Super Green Pine systems and the US Forward Based X-Bank Tactical radar — have been erected around the country.  Seventeen American navy ships are in Israel’s territorial waters and air force planes will be involved.

Is this a panacea that protects us in a way that makes deterrence against Hezbollah and Syria unnecessary, or makes it irrelevant if Iran goes nuclear?  Of course not.

Does it make me feel a good measure safer?  Indeed it does.  Iran has to know that we’re not sitting ducks and that they very well might not have the advantage of a successful first strike.

Yesterday President Peres opened the “Facing Tomorrow Conference” here in Jerusalem. President Obama sent a opening message to the conference via video.  The US – Israel relations, he said, were “more than a strategic alliance.”

He then pushed for an assumption of some measure of responsibility towards making peace happen now:  “…our moment in history is filled with challenges that…invite pessimism…We can defer action…or we can meet the challenge…”


When the president refers to a situation that invites pessimism, he is, undoubtedly, speaking for himself as much as anyone else.  He has confronted only frustration in what he naively imagined would be his speedy success in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian (Arab) conflict.  In the course of what he has been dealing with, there is no question but that the tone he has adopted towards us has become less strident.


But, my friends, do not imagine that all is sweetness and light.

In today’s edition of Yisrael Hayom (Israel Today), diplomatic correspondent Shlomo Tzesna reports that our government has rejected an American plan that would have called for a summit to be held in a month that would have been followed by intensive final status talks.  Those talks would have been based on an Israeli commitment to reach an agreement for the establishment of a Palestinian state within two years, and would also have required us to commit to a massive withdrawal from Judea and Samaria.

This is the stuff of nightmares. What matters most is the continuing capacity and will of our prime minister and his government to continue to say no.


A word about what’s happening here:  Obama has backed himself into a corner with the talk of a Palestinian state within two years.  It’s not just Obama, although he’s been more strident in his approach.  It was true of his predecessors as well. There’s always a precipitous rush with regard to finalizing arrangements, always talk — ludicrous talk — about a limited “window of opportunity.” 

Never is there straight talk about the Palestinians not being prepared for self-rule, not having infrastructure or civil agencies in place.  No talk about building a genuine civil society over a generation or two, with cessation of incitement and renunciation of violence.  There is simply, quick, quick!

Not only is this talk foolish, it’s dangerous.  Because once expectations are raised, the Palestinian Arab response, when those expectations aren’t met, is violence.  There is particular concern about that now, as the US is training PA security forces — forces that are being told that they are helping to build a state. Once they see they are not going to have their state within two years, against whom do you imagine they will turn their newly honed military skills?

There’s a precedent for this: every time the CIA has trained PA forces, they ended up, in some measure or other, turning against us.


After Obama’s message was delivered yesterday, Netanyahu spoke.  He challenged Abbas to say publicly what is said behind closed doors: “…to say the truth about peace…and the true way to achieve it.”

This is mere rhetoric.  Netanyahu knows full well that Abbas is weak and running scared.  He cannot speak truth and cannot moderate (see below) if he values his life.

And for now there will be no negotiations.


The Security Cabinet met yesterday.  There was some interest within that body in debating the desirability of appointing a committee of inquiry to examine Goldstone Report charges. But it was never brought up, because Defense Minister Barak blocked the discussion.  So, here we are again: I don’t usually agree with him, but sometimes he is very right indeed.

Israel thoroughly investigated charges at the end of Operation Cast Lead.  We conducted ourselves superbly and have no further need to justify ourselves. 

What was determined was that a team — under the jurisdiction of the Foreign Ministry — would be established to fight the Goldstone charges.  Preparation will be done for debate in the UN Security Council, should the report be brought there.


I’m finding, astonishingly, some shifting of attitudes in unlikely places:

One of the sources critical of Israel that Goldstone used in his report was Human Rights Watch.  Now Robert Bernstein, who founded this organization, has written a stunning op-ed in the New York Times:

“…I must do something that I never anticipated: I must publicly join the group’s critics. Human Rights Watch had as its original mission to pry open closed societies, advocate basic freedoms and support dissenters. But recently it has been issuing reports on the Israeli-Arab conflict that are helping those who wish to turn Israel into a pariah state…

“When I stepped aside in 1998, Human Rights Watch was active in 70 countries, most of them closed societies. Now the organization, with increasing frequency, casts aside its important distinction between open and closed societies.

“Nowhere is this more evident than in its work in the Middle East. The region is populated by authoritarian regimes with appalling human rights records. Yet in recent years Human Rights Watch has written far more condemnations of Israel for violations of international law than of any other country in the region.

“Israel, with a population of 7.4 million, is home to at least 80 human rights organizations, a vibrant free press, a democratically elected government, a judiciary that frequently rules against the government, a politically active academia, multiple political parties and, judging by the amount of news coverage, probably more journalists per capita than any other country in the world — many of whom are there expressly to cover the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“Meanwhile, the Arab and Iranian regimes rule over some 350 million people, and most remain brutal, closed and autocratic, permitting little or no internal dissent. The plight of their citizens who would most benefit from the kind of attention a large and well-financed international human rights organization can provide is being ignored as Human Rights Watch’s Middle East division prepares report after report on Israel.

“Human Rights Watch has lost critical perspective on a conflict in which Israel has been repeatedly attacked by Hamas and Hezbollah, organizations that go after Israeli citizens and use their own people as human shields. These groups are supported by the government of Iran, which has openly declared its intention not just to destroy Israel but to murder Jews everywhere. This incitement to genocide is a violation of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

“Leaders of Human Rights Watch know that Hamas and Hezbollah chose to wage war from densely populated areas, deliberately transforming neighborhoods into battlefields. They know that more and better arms are flowing into both Gaza and Lebanon and are poised to strike again. And they know that this militancy continues to deprive Palestinians of any chance for the peaceful and productive life they deserve. Yet Israel, the repeated victim of aggression, faces the brunt of Human Rights Watch’s criticism…”



Then we have from the Guardian (UK), that bastion of anti-Israel opinion, a marvelous commentary by Harold Evans that speaks of the Goldstone Report as “a moral atrocity.” (“Judge Goldstone has been suckered into letting war criminals use his name to pillory Israel.”)

“Aren’t the British sickened by the moral confusions of their government? …Now we have the sickening spectacle of Britain failing to stand by Israel, the only democracy with an independent judiciary in the entire region.

“It was to be expected that the usual suspects of the risible UN Human Rights Council would be eager to condemn Israel for war crimes in defending itself against Hamas. If you treat people as the Chinese do the Tibetans…or as the Russians eliminate Chechen dissidents; or as the Nigerians tolerate extrajudicial killings…or as the Egyptians get prisoners to talk (torture) and the Saudis suppress half their population … well, go through the practices of all 25 states voting to refer Israel to the security council for the Gaza war, and you have to acknowledge they know a lot about the abuse of humans. Anything to divert attention from their own atrocities.

“…Britain didn’t just abstain. It shirked voting at all…

“…No doubt there were blunders. A defensive war is still a war with all its suffering and destruction. But Hamas compounded its original war crime with another. It held its own people hostage. It used them as human shields. It regarded every (accidental) death as another bullet in the propaganda war. The Goldstone report won the gold standard of moral equivalence between the killer and the victim. Now Britain wins the silver. Who’s cheering?”


And so there is hope, my friends. Use these articles as broadly as you can.  (I thank the many people who shared them with me.)


It’s good news that Israel’s Ambassador to the US, Michael Oren, will not be attending the J Street  conference, in spite of intense pressure on him by J Street to do so.  A statement released by the embassy alluded to “concerns over certain policies of the organization that may impair the interests of Israel.” 

The embassy will be sending a lower level staffer not to “participate” but to “observe” what goes on.

Hopefully this decision will reflect upon the credibility of this organization and give pause to some US officials who were thinking of attending.  A handful of Congresspersons who were listed as participants have already withdrawn because they said they hadn’t been aware of the positions of the organization.  Some said that the decisions to attend had been made at staff levels.

J Street has cancelled the poetry reading session of Josh Healey, whom I wrote about yesterday, because there has been publicity about his “poetry,” which associated Gaza with Auschwitz, and spoke of “writing numbers on the wrists of babies born in the ghetto called Gaza.”

A splendid example of how important it is to get the facts out and reveal the true (anti-Israel) face of matters.


You might want to see Lenny Ben David’s latest piece, which directs some pointed questions at J Street director Jeremy Ben-Ami.



And it would be in order to send PM Netanyahu a note of appreciation for his decision (for ultimately it was his decision) to keep Oren from attending.

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:  pm_eng2@it.pmo.gov.il (underscore after pm)


PA president Abbas is now saying that if Hamas doesn’t sign the reconciliation agreement very soon he’s going to order elections for January 24, which is when elections are actually supposed to be held.

But without that “reconciliation” Hamas will not permit voting to take place in Gaza.


King Abdullah of Jordan has been a real disappointment for some time now.  At the moment, he’s in Italy and granted an interview to a paper there. What he said was:

“I’ve heard people in Washington talking about Iran, again Iran, always Iran.  But I insist on, and keep insisting on the Palestinian question: the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the most serious threat to the stability of the region and the Mediterranean.”

Not remotely do I believe he actually thinks this.  So I ask what advantage this brings him, what forces he’s chosen to align himself with. 

Just the other day he released a statement regarding the need to protect the Al Aksa Mosque on the Temple Mount.  My response: “Come on!  Abdullah?  Who surely knows this is nonsense?”  Abdullah is aware that for many years after 1967 Jordan (not the PA) staffed the Wakf that managed the Temple Mount and found Israel ever “accommodating.”  He’s not one of the crazies of the Islamic Movement.  Or he hasn’t been until now.


Perhaps Abdullah’s current positions can be linked to what’s happening in Turkey.  A Post editorial on this subject offers this analysis:

“Turkey’s turn against Israel is best understood in the context of its evolutionary transformation from the secular, nationalist and Western-oriented ethos of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk to the dogmatic, radical, pan-Islamic and Middle Eastern attitudes of its current rulers. It is senseless for Israelis to ask ourselves what we did to cause Arab, Persian and now Turkish rulers to ascribe the most villainous of intentions to us – for example, conspiring to demolish Muslim shrines on the Temple Mount, or relishing the systematic murder of Arab children. Israel did not lose Turkey any more than it lost Iran or the “moderate” Palestinians.

“The Palestinian national movement under Mahmoud Abbas and Salaam Fayad has been outmaneuvered by Hamas. Any move Abbas now makes in the direction of moderation gets pounced upon as perfidy. This environment has led even a sensible man like Fayad to hold cabinet deliberations on whether Israeli soldiers are stealing the organs of Palestinian youths.”


We are approaching the 20th anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall, of the movement towards democracy and human rights and freedoms in central Europe. A hopeful time, historically, when events suggested growing enlightenment. 


But what a difference two decades has made. I cannot help but compare this with the opposite movement now within large parts of the Arab/Muslim world, away from enlightenment and human freedoms.  A movement towards radicalism and repression.





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