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September 21, 2012: Before Shabbat

September 21, 2012

The day ends earlier now, and Shabbat comes in sooner.  By next week it will be considerably sooner yet, as we turn back our clocks here on Saturday night.
And so, here I wish simply to touch on a few themes, some of considerable concern:
The first issue to address today circles back on the matter of the Muslim attacks on US installations. I have already alluded to the pathetic rush to apologize that has been exhibited by members of the Obama administration, but it goes beyond that:
The American government is moving towards a policy of throwing out protection of free speech — a first amendment right under the US constitution — in order to stifle criticism of religious groups (read Islam, including radical Islam).  There are some who see this as a step towards legislation that makes criticism of a religion a crime.  Such legislation exists in Europe.
Every American citizen who cares about traditional American values needs to be concerned about this and take action to ensure that such a thing never happens.
See, please, this piece by Lori Lowenthal Marcus, an attorney, regarding video ads, made by the government and paid for by American citizens, that show the president saying, “Since our founding, the United States has been a nation of respect – that respects all faiths. We reject all efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others.”  And Hillary Clinton saying, “America’s commitment to religious tolerance goes back to the very beginning of our nation.” 
Not a word about the American value since the founding of the nation to protect the right of others to speak.
There is the assessment by several analysts that Muslim radicals are specifically utilizing the recent unrest to make demands that America limit free speech.
Caroline Glick, in her piece today, writes (emphasis added):
“[Muslim Brotherhood chief Yussuf] Qaradawi…called on his followers to stop rioting against the US. Rather than attack the US, Qaradawi urged his Muslim audience to insist that the US place prohibitions on the free speech rights of American citizens by outlawing criticism of Islam…
“…Rather than accept this basic truth [that the rioters hate America for what it is] and defend the American way of life, Obama has doubled down in the only way now available to him…He,  his  administration, his campaign and his supporters in the media…have responded with a campaign of political oppression…
“…There is a difference between appeasing parties that have been harmed by your actions and appeasing parties that wish your destruction
To appease a party that hates your way of life, you must change that way of life. The only way America  can appease the Muslim world is for American to cease to be America.”
Do not delude yourselves: this is a war of civilizations.
The fact that Syria, which is in flames, possesses large caches of non-conventional weapons is something that, quite frankly, is scary as  hell.  I have written about this now and again and it’s time for another mention. 
It’s not only Israel, the most obvious target, that is concerned — this generates great unease among the European nations and the US, and there has been talk of various nations sending in troops to secure those weapons (to keep them from getting in the wrong hands), should Assad fall.  Apparently the weapons cache has been divided and parts are now stored in various places in Syria. The greatest worry has been with regard to who among rebel forces might gain use of such weapons.  (Especially here in the Middle East, as we’re seeing again and again, no assumptions should be made about those trying to take down a murderous despot necessarily being nice guys.)
There is always worry that Assad, were his back pushed to the wall, might use them against his own people, his assurances that he would not do so not withstanding.  Additionally there has been unease about the possibility that he might give such weapons to Hezbollah.  Now talk of this has surfaced again — with the suggestion that if things were going badly for Assad he would have a “what the hell” attitude.
See this article on a Syrian test of a chemical missile system:


This is something to be watched closely. And, I trust, our own IDF and Intelligence forces are monitoring very carefully indeed, with intent to move if necessary.  (There has been reluctance to consider bombing these weapons caches because of the air pollution that would result, but who knows…)

I haven’t mentioned our old friend Mahmoud Abbas, putative president of the PA, in a while.  He’s been trumped by bigger stories.  Abbas is desperate, however, as his PA is in terrible straits and there have  been large scale demonstrations protesting one thing and another — most notably a dismal economic situation (about which I hope to have more to say soon).
Abbas’s response to tough times is not to grapple with them with serious intent to improve the situation. Rather he makes grandstand announcements — either as threats (accommodate me, world, or this is what I’ll do) or to convince the PA populace that he’s “doing something.”  Those announcements vary from day to day.  A number of reports have come out in recent days, and I’ve let most of it slip right by me.
One threat has been to renounce Oslo. That one amuses me, because the Palestinian Authority was established by virtue of Oslo — no Oslo, no PA.  But of course they’re not intending it this way.
According to a Saudi paper article the other day, Abbas has notified the PA to find a replacement for him by the end of September, because he’s quitting.  My friends if I had a shekel for every time Abbas said he was quitting, I’d be a wealthy woman today.  Although, I suppose at some point he really will quit.
The last threat, and the one being taken most seriously, is Abba’s intention to go to the UN for Palestinian state recognition.  Yes, that again.
Last time Abbas failed because he tried to go through the Security Council and was stymied.  Now, he says, he intends to bring his request to the General Assembly when he addresses that body on September 27, which is this coming Thursday.
First Abbas said he was going to seek an upgrading of PA status from observer to “non-member state.”  He indicated that he was confident (and in this he likely is correct) that he will have a majority of the Assembly (150- 170 nations) with him.
It happens that I sat in a meeting with an Israeli lawyer who is an expert in international law this past week.  The subject of Abbas’s bid came up at one point, and he said precisely what every other expert in international law I consulted last year told me: the UN cannot create a state.  The PA does not even fulfill the requirements for a state, and what Abbas would be granted, at most, would be “state” status strictly within the UN (with some possible perks that are not fully clear). Period. 
Abbas cannot seek membership in the UN as a state because that requires approval of the Security Council, and he will not secure that. 
He now says that he will also seek a General Assembly specification of the terms for a negotiated two state solution. That is, he wants the UN to declare that Israel must come into negotiations accepting that their basis is the ’67 line (not a border) and that half of Jerusalem is for the Palestinian Arabs.  This is unmitigated nonsense.  Talk.
Abbas claims that increasing PA status in the UN will “help rekindle the peace process.” This too is talk, but an attempt at smart talk: he’s trying to avoid the accusations that he is circumventing the peace process by saying he’s trying to reinvigorate it. Unmitigated nonsense twice over.
Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon has stated that this unilateral step by the PA is unwise because matters should be resolved via negotiations.
The Prime Minister’s office has responded to Abbas’s announcement, but not as forcefully as I would have wished.  Abbas’s direction was termed “a mistake” and a “blow to the peace process.”  But it’s not a “blow,” from which one can recover, if properly identified: it’s the kiss of death as Oslo forbids such unilateral actions.
Spokesman Mark Regev was a big stronger, saying that “such a unilateral action would be viewed as a violation.”  But no, it wouldn’t be “viewed” as a violation, it would BE a violation.
What I see is that the Israeli government is not prepared, not yet, to say, OK, we’ve had it — you refuse to come to the table for the negotiations mandated by Oslo, and you’ve taken unilateral actions; now the deal’s off and we will take our own unilateral actions (such as annexing Area C).
What broader circumstances would have to prevail, and how hard would the PA have to push, before Netanyahu would see it as time for this?  He knows full well that there is no “peace process,” and so  what he says in regard to pursuing the negotiations is just talk, as well.
© 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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