Jewish power drove Sotomayor pick, racists say
zaterdag 20 juni 2009
eli kavon , THE JERUSALEM POST
June 16th, 2009
US President Barack Obama, while saying for a second time on Monday that there was "positive movement" in Netanyahu's speech, called once again at a press conference in the White House, alongside visiting Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, for a "cessation of settlements."
"And there is a tendency to try to parse exactly what this means," Obama said, "but I think the parties on the ground understand that if you have a continuation of settlements that, in past agreements, have been categorized as illegal, that's going to be an impediment to progress."
Leave aside for now the famously accomplished speaker Barack Obama's sudden inability to distinguish between nouns and verbs, first apparent in his Cairo speech where he said that "It is time for these settlements to stop" stop doing what? and yet again when he calls for a "cessation of settlements" and opposes a "continuation" of them.
Let's go from the abstract to the concrete and talk about settlements.
Kfar Etzion is a 'settlement': it is east of the 1949 armistice line which is also called the 'Green Line'. Here is an excerpt from something I wrote about it last December ("No room for Jews"):
One of the places that the Palestinians do not wish to compromise on is Kibbutz Kfar Etzion, south of Jerusalem. Part of the Palestine Mandate from 1917 to 1948, and the Ottoman empire before that, it was purchased from local Arabs and settled by Yemenite Jews in 1927. They lived there on and off (they were driven out several times by Arab riots) until 1948 when the invading Jordanian army overran it and executed all but four of its defenders. All of the West Bank and East Jerusalem were made Jew-free by the Jordanians, who illegally occupied the area until 1967, when the kibbutz was reestablished.
So what I am asking Obama to explain is exactly how is Kibbutz Kfar Etzion illegal?
And consider another 'settlement', the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem. Jews had lived there from biblical times, but here is how it became free of Jews in 1948:
In 1948 during the Arab-Israeli War, its population of about 2,000 Jews was besieged, and forced to leave en masse. Colonel Abdullah el-Tal, local commander of the Jordanian Arab Legion, with whom Mordechai Weingarten negotiated the surrender terms, described the destruction of the Jewish Quarter, in his Memoirs (Cairo, 1959):
" The operations of calculated destruction were set in motion . I knew that the Jewish Quarter was densely populated with Jews who caused their fighters a good deal of interference and difficulty . I embarked, therefore, on the shelling of the Quarter with mortars, creating harassment and destruction . Only four days after our entry into Jerusalem the Jewish Quarter had become their graveyard. Death and destruction reigned over it . As the dawn of Friday, May 28, 1948, was about to break, the Jewish Quarter emerged convulsed in a black cloud - a cloud of death and agony."
How can it be that it is in Obama's view illegal for Jews to live in the ancient Jewish Quarter of the old city of Jerusalem?
In general, how is it that the 19-year Jordanian and Egyptian occupation managed to transform parts of Mandatory Palestine into places like Saudi Arabia, where Jews are forbidden to live?
Explain this, Mr. Obama. And while you're at it, explain the significance since it is obviously not an accident of your strange and ungrammatical way of talking about settlements.
-- Vic Rosenthal
vrijdag 19 juni 2009
[TEHRAN BUREAU] Much has been said about the outcome of the Iranian presidential election, which took place last Friday. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's supporters claim that the vote counting was honest. The reformists' supporters hotly dispute that. Extra ammunition has been provided to those who believe that the President was the true victor by the results of a poll taken by the Center for Public Opinion and the New American Foundation between from May 11-20, 2009, asking 1001 Iranians living in Iran for whom they would vote.
According to the poll, 34% of the respondents said that they would vote for the President, while 14% said that they would vote for the main reformist candidate, Mir Hossein Mousavi, a former prime minister.
So, who is right?
There is much evidence to support those who believe that the vote counting was fraudulent.
Let us begin with the American poll. According to the poll, 77% of the respondents said that they want the Supreme Leader to be elected directly by the people; 74% favor full inspections of Iran's nuclear facilities to ensure that it will not be used for non-peaceful purposes; 77% favor normal trade with, and full recognition by the United States; 68% favor Iran's government to help the U.S. in Iraq, and 52% favor recognition of Israel in return for U.S. recognition and open trade. Who espouses such policies? The reformists, not President Ahmadinejad.
90% of the respondents thought that the economy should be the top priority of their government. How has Mr. Ahmadinejad's economic performance been (aside from distributing cash among the poor in the last month of the campaign)? Dismal! Unemployment, inflation, and the costs of housing, fuel, and food have all skyrocketed since 2005.
Then, why is it that, while agreeing overwhelmingly with what the reformists advocate, a plurality of the respondents said that they would vote for the President? The answer lies in the Iranian culture. Iranians are notoriously secretive about their political opinions when they talk to strangers, especially when they are called over the phone. In a country where social and political repression has increased dramatically under Mr. Ahmadinejad, the Iranian people are terrified by the possible consequences of honest answers, especially with respect to their preferred candidate.
Moreover, the poll was finished on May 20, and that was just before the campaigns were taking off. There was a dramatic increase in the support for Mr. Mousavi (as well as Mr. Mahdi Karroubi, the 2nd reformist candidate) only in the last three weeks of the election.
Let us now take a look at the historical trends. In the first round of the 2005 election there were four candidates who belonged to the reformist/pragmatic camp, namely, former president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, and Messrs Karroubi, Mostafa Moeen and Mohsen Mehralizadeh. Together, they collected 57% of the votes cast. Internal polls by the reformists in the last days of the election had indicated that Mr. Mousavi would receive about the same percentage of the vote, plus another 17% for Mr. Karroubi, but the two supposedly received only 35% of the votes. This is against the historical trends in Iran. Let me explain.
In 2005 about 63% of the eligible voters cast their votes, which is typical turnout for Iranian presidential elections. In last Friday's elections, 82% of the eligible voters voted. Based on the historical trends we know that dramatic increases in voting participation benefit the reformists almost exclusively, because a surge in participation is usually due to the fact that liberal-minded Iranians who are not happy with the political system and, therefore, do not always vote, have decided to participate.
For example, in 1997, 80% of the voters cast their votes and elected Mohammad Khatami in a landslide; and in 2000 their votes reflected a reformist-dominated 6th Majles (parliament).
Another good piece of evidence for this claim is that, all the political groups that had boycotted the 2005 elections, but had declared that they would vote this time — that is, most, if not all, of the additional 19% — supported one of the two reformist candidates.
Let us take up another fact regarding elections trends in Iran. 45% of Iran's population is made of ethnic minorities. For example, the Azeri population makes up about 24% of the population. Ethnic minorities always vote overwhelmingly for one of their own, if a viable candidate of their own is running in the election. An example is the votes that Mr. Mehralizadeh, an Azeri, received in 2005 which were almost exclusively by the Azeri population. The votes that Dr. Ali Larijani, a conservative and the present Speaker of the Majles, received in the 2005 presidential election were mostly from the Mazandaran province, his birth place. Mr. Mousavi is an Azeri, and was greeted by huge rallies everywhere he went in the Azerbaijan province and spoke Turkish (the language of the Azeri people). Why should this election be any different? Was Mr. Mousavi unable to defeat Mr. Ahmadinejad even in his home turf?
Likewise, Mr. Karroubi is a Lur, and he received the overwhelming votes of the Luri people, as well as a significant fraction of the Kurdish vote in the 2005 election (the Kurds constitute 7% of the population). At that time, he received a little over 17% of the votes. Many of the groups that had boycotted the 2005 election had declared their support for Mr. Karroubi. So, what is the explanation for the dramatic drop in his vote to only about 280,000 votes this time?
It is often said that Mr. Ahmadinejad is popular in the poor rural areas of Iran. Assuming that it is true, only 35% of the population lives in such areas. So, even if Mr. Ahmadinejad were able to attract an overwhelming 80% of these votes, that could still account for no more 1/3 of the votes that he supposedly received. In addition, even in smaller towns Messrs Mousavi was always greeted by huge crowds.
The day after the election some Iranian university students plotted the total numbers of votes that Messrs Ahmadinejad and Mousavi had supposedly received at every stage of the vote counting against each other. The graph charted an almost perfect straight line, implying that at every stage of vote counting, the President's votes were always about twice that of Mr. Mousavi's. In an article on Tehranbureau.com I pointed out that this was impossible to maintain at all stages of counting, due to all the social, cultural, and political factors that I point to above; I stand by it. The people who made up those numbers basically used a Ponzi scheme for vote counting, since they always maintained a big and constant "return" for those who voted for Mr. Ahmadinejad!
There are other indications that the election was rigged. How did the Fars News Agency, whose budget is provided by Iran's Revolutionary Guards, know only one hour after voting had ended that Mr. Ahmadinejad had been re-elected by 64% of the votes (which is also the final official number)? How did Mr. Ahmadinejad himself know that, when he also announced the same almost at the same time?
Mr. Abolfazl Fateh, an aid to Mr. Mousavi, has said that Mr. Mousavi wrote a letter to the Supreme Leader to complain about all the irregularities that had been reported to his campaign headquarters. Mr. Fateh took the letter to the Supreme Leader's office, and arrived there just one hour after the voting had ended. But, he has said that the people working in that office gave him the distinct impression that the "game" was over and Mr. Ahmadinejad had been re-elected. How did they know that?
The famed Iranian movie director, Mr. Mohsen Makhmalbaf, who has been a spokesman for Mr. Mousavi, also stated in an interview that in the early hours after the election, the Interior Ministry that supervises the elections had called Mr. Mousavi's campaign to inform them that they would be declared the victor and should therefor prepare their victory statement without boasting too much, in order not to upset Mr. Ahmadinejad's supporters. But, then, Mr. Mousavi's campaign center was ransacked by the security agents, and suddenly everyhting changed.
Based on overwhelming evidence, there is but one conclusion: The election was rigged, and the official results are bogus.
EU document scraps Quartet demands
Herb Keinon , THE JERUSALEM POST
In what is perceived in Jerusalem as a mistaken effort to give Hamas room to maneuver, the EU's 27 foreign ministers, in a statement issued Monday, did not call, as in the past, for Hamas to forswear terrorism, recognize Israel or accept previous PLO agreements with Israel.
Government sources in Jerusalem said France led the efforts to keep what has become known as the Quartet's three conditions on Hamas from being included in the European Council's conclusions on the Middle East peace process.
Instead, the statement said the foreign ministers expressed "continued encouragement for inter-Palestinian reconciliation behind [Palestinian Authority] President Mahmoud Abbas and support for the mediation efforts by Egypt and the Arab League."
The foreign ministers called "on all Palestinians to find common ground, based on nonviolence, in order to facilitate reconstruction in Gaza and the organization of elections."
The move to keep the three conditions out of the resolutions comes amid mounting concern in Jerusalem that Europe is slowly moving away from the three conditions on Hamas, which have been adopted both by the Quartet and the UN Security Council.
According to diplomatic sources, the French were trying to give Hamas "a way out," and felt that if the conditions were not always mentioned every statement, it might give the Islamist organization a chance to soften its positions and perhaps give a boost to Egyptian-brokered talks between Fatah and Hamas.
The European foreign ministers issued another statement regarding Israel on Tuesday, this one following the EU Association meeting the day before with Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, in which they essentially said the decision from last year to upgrade ties with Israel would remain in place, but that no steps toward implementing it would be taken at this point.
In December, the EU's foreign ministers approved a significant upgrade in the union's relationship with Israel, including a political upgrade that would include ad hoc summit meetings between Israel's prime minister and all EU heads of government, something that has never taken place before. It also called for Israel's foreign minister to meet with all 27 EU foreign ministers three times a year, the inclusion of Israel in EU peacekeeping forces and for an EU commitment to help Israel better integrate into UN agencies. The upgrade would also enable Israeli participation in a wide variety of EU programs that are currently closed to it.
But, as one senior European diplomatic official said on Tuesday, the upgrade remained in the "in-box," and would not move forward until the EU was satisfied with Israeli progress on the peace process - something not currently the case.
The upgrade was essentially frozen during Operation Cast Lead, and has stayed in that state ever since.
Nevertheless, one senior Israeli diplomatic official noted that the EU foreign ministers did not decide to scrap the upgrade decision, as was being advocated by Belgium and Luxembourg, but rather to drag their feet in its implementation. The Arab countries have for months been lobbying against the upgrade.
"Despite efforts of some countries to cancel what was already agreed upon, their efforts did not succeed," the official said. "Europe repeated its commitment to the upgrade, and we will continue to work toward implementing it, hopefully in the near future."
Palestinian informers given draconian sentences Jun. 17, 2009
Associated Press , THE JERUSALEM POST
A 22-year-old Palestinian woman, who says she became an informer for Israel to earn money that would get her out of prostitution, is going to prison for life. Others convicted of collaboration with Israel by West Bank courts sit on death row.
Such draconian sentences reflect the loathing Palestinian society has for collaborators, even small-time informants or those blackmailed by Israeli intelligence agents into cooperating.
Yet the harsh treatment of collaborators also highlights the complex realities of life in the West Bank, where a US-backed Palestinian government works increasingly closely with Israeli security forces against a common enemy, Hamas. Israel has overall security control in the West Bank.
Such security coordination is unpopular among Palestinians. Some say collaborators have been made into scapegoats to deflect attention from the coordination between Israeli and Palestinian forces, which is aimed at preventing a Hamas takeover of the West Bank.
Palestinian officials say the information they share with Israel helps keep residents safe, while individuals selling information are betraying their country.
"There's no authority that should allow its people to collaborate," said Saleh Abdul Jawad, a Palestinian political scientist.
In the most recent case Monday, a military tribunal in a security compound in the West Bank town of Jenin sentenced 22-year-old Taghreed - her last name was not released - to a life term of hard labor.
The dark-skinned, portly woman, wearing a lace headscarf and blue jeans, remained calm while the sentence was announced. She refused to speak to reporters and none of her family attended the trial, indicating they had washed their hands of her.
The scene played out in a hastily assembled courtroom of plastic chairs, benches and a Palestinian flag.
Earlier, Taghreed had told the court that she turned informer after she left her husband, who had forced her to work as a prostitute and thus turned her into an outcast. The information the woman sold was low-level - nothing that led to arrests by the Israelis, according to military prosecutor Raed Dalbah.
Since 1994, when the Palestinian Authority was established after the Oslo Accords, at least 35 suspected informers were sentenced to death, according to the Gaza-based Palestinian Center for Human Rights. Two defendants were executed by firing squad in Gaza several years ago.
Seventeen alleged informers, both those on death row and those still awaiting trial, were killed in vigilante-style shootings by Palestinians during Israel's war on Hamas in Gaza in January.
It is mostly the vulnerable, like Taghreed, who ultimately become Israeli snoops, often providing information to Israeli intelligence in exchange for money and to access key services like medical care and permits to work in Israel, said Ran Yaron of Physicians for Human Rights, which studies the issue.
They are nonetheless widely despised for helping Israel.
"If I was the judge, I would shoot her on the spot," said a guard outside the courtroom, spitting on the ground to emphasize his disgust at Taghreed.
In the past two years alone, West Bank tribunals have convicted seven people of collaboration, including Taghreed. She was the only one not sentenced to death, though the executions were not carried out.
During the two Palestinian intifadas, vigilante gunmen often killed suspected collaborators, at times with crowds looking on. After Israel withdrew from parts of the West Bank in the 1990s, it relocated hundreds of collaborators to Israel to protect them from retribution.
Palestinian human rights activists say they oppose the death penalty on principle, but most have not rushed to the defense of collaborators.
"We do not think there should be a death sentence," said Hanan Ashrawi, a Palestinian legislator and human rights advocate. "The punishment has to fit the crime. The crime, in the popular imagination, is the most unconscionable crime. It is a betrayal of everything that people hold sacred."
ICRC to Hamas: Let us visit Schalit
Itamar Sharon , THE JERUSALEM POST
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) criticized Hamas on Thursday for its continued refusal to allow the organization's representatives to visit captured IDF soldier Gilad Schalit, as well as its refusal to allow him contact with his family throughout three years of captivity.
In a statement issued Thursday, the ICRC stated: "Since [Gilad Schalit's] capture in June 2006, the ICRC has repeatedly asked Hamas to allow the exchange of Red Cross messages between Gilad Schalit and his family. The most recent requests were made at the highest level, but these and all others have been refused."
"Repeated requests by the ICRC to visit Gilad Shalit to ascertain his conditions of detention and treatment have also been refused," the organization said.
"We welcome the fact that yesterday former US president Jimmy Carter handed Hamas a letter from Gilad Schalit's family to him," said Béatrice Mégevand-Roggo, the ICRC's head of operations for the Middle East and North Africa. "However, this cannot replace the regular and unconditional contacts with his family that Gilad Schalit is entitled to under international humanitarian law. The ICRC regrets that in his case political considerations are judged more important than the simple humanitarian gesture of allowing a captive to be in touch with his family after three years of separation."
Mégevand-Roggo added that the people holding Schalit were entirely responsible for ensuring that his treatment and living conditions are humane and dignified.
In its statement, the ICRC said that it has held several meetings with Schalit's parents, Noam and Aviva, to brief them on its efforts regarding their 22-year-old son.
"We share their concerns. Despite the lack of progress so far we will continue to press for family contacts for [Schalit] and for ICRC access to him," said Mégevand-Roggo.
donderdag 18 juni 2009
Analysis: Netanyahu's demilitarized state
Yaakov Katz , THE JERUSALEM POST
The idea of a demilitarized state that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu spoke about on Sunday is not new vis-à-vis the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. There are also a number of countries that have decided not to maintain a standing military, such as Andorra, whose defense is the responsibility of Spain and France, as well as Costa Rica, which abolished its armed forces in 1948 - these could be used as a role model for such a state.
In his monumental speech, Netanyahu laid out some of the characteristics of the demilitarized Palestinian state he envisions. The state, he said, would not be allowed to import weapons, make pacts with Israel's enemies or close its airspace to Israel.
Some of these characteristics, though, stand in direct contradiction to precedents such as Andorra. A small, landlocked country in Western Europe, Andorra may not have a standing military, but it does have a military pact with Spain and France under which it will receive protection in the event of a conflict. In his speech, Netanyahu said Israel would not allow the Palestinian state to enter into military pacts.
Other possible models are Grenada and Barbados, which do not have militaries but are members of the Regional Security System, an international body established to provide security for the Eastern Caribbean. It is safe to assume Netanyahu would not want the Palestinian state to join an organization made up of Arab countries that would allow Arab military forces to enter the state if needed.
Rather, the understanding in the defense establishment and IDF is that when the prime minister speaks about a demilitarized state he is referring to one without a full-fledged military, but rather one with a police/paramilitary force, comprised of thousands of soldiers/policemen trained by the United States and European Union.
The reason the Palestinians will be allowed to have this force is so they can maintain law and order and at the same time crack down, if necessary, on Hamas and other terrorist groups in the West Bank.
Currently, there are two forces that are being trained in the West Bank. The first, called the "blue police," is being trained by the European Union. This is a regular police force being built from the ground up, with trainees learning forensic and criminal investigation techniques.
The second, more dominant, force is the "green police." Their name, however, is confusing since the force is made up more of soldiers than of policemen.
This unit also goes by the name "Dayton's force," for Lt.-Gen. Keith Dayton, the US security coordinator to Israel and the Palestinian Authority - and the man who is overseeing the training of forces in Jordan.
There are already three battalions in the West Bank and another three are scheduled to deploy there soon. IDF sources recently said Dayton plans to put total of 10 battalions in the West Bank by the end of the decade.
Israel, government officials said, supported Dayton's work since it was part of Netanyahu's "bottom-up" plan, which calls for Palestinian reforms on the ground before a diplomatic resolution to the conflict.
Israel is willing to take calculated risks when it comes to Dayton's force. The first risk was allowing a battalion to deploy in Jenin and to scale back IDF operations there. The second risk was to allow a deployment in Hebron, which is a known hotbed for Hamas and is also home to a small but relatively radical Jewish settler population.
In the meantime, the force is equipped with light body armor and light machine guns such as Kalashnikov rifles. As reported Tuesday in The Jerusalem Post, 50 Russian-made armored personnel carriers are currently in Jordan waiting to be transferred to the West Bank. They are being held up since Israel and the PA are arguing over whether they will be allowed to have heavy machine guns installed on their turrets.
If Palestinian forces continue to prove their effectiveness in the fight against Hamas - as they have in Hebron, Jenin and recently in Kalkilya - Israel will come under growing pressure to withdraw from additional West Bank cities and transfer them to Palestinian control.
This could expedite the establishment of Netanyahu's demilitarized state.
Did you watch the Prime Minister's speech last night?
Yes 53% No 47%
If yes - do you agree with what he said?
Yes 71% No 20% Other replies 9%
Will his speech help to improve the State of Israel's diplomatic and international standing?
Yes 52% No 34% Other 14%
Netanyahu declared in his speech that he agrees to a demilitarized Palestinian state. Why do you think he did this?
55% Surrendered to American pressure
05% True ideological change
33% Thinks the speech serves the interests of the State of Israel
Netanyahu declared his intention to go for peace with the Palestinians. Do you think that what he said was:
14% Did not go far enough towards the Palestinians
55% Exactly correct
19% Too much
Do you think Netanyahu's speech will help advance the peace process with the Palestinians?
Yes 23% No 67% Other 10%
Do you think that a demilitarized Palestinian state will be established in the coming years?
Yes 20% No 70% Other 10%
Should the Kadima Party join the Netanyahu Government in the wake of the speech?
Yes 41% No 39% Other 20%
Kadima voters: Yes 49% No 37%
Haaretz poll: Netanyahu approval rating leaps after policy speech
By Yossi Verter - Haaretz
U.S. President Barack Obama has reservations, the Arabs are protesting and the Europeans are doubtful, but for the Israeli public, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's speech on Sunday evening was a big success. Right and left, Kadima and Likud, new immigrants and old-timers all found something they liked in the address at Bar-Ilan University.
For example, in only a month, Netanyahu's approval rating has jumped 16 percentage points from a low of 28 percent the day after the cabinet debate over the budget on May 14. The 44 percent achieved yesterday comes a day after the speech.
Public support for Netanyahu's speech is sky-high, even though Israelis do not have illusions about the prime minister's motives, which they generally attribute to American pressure. But it turns out that Israelis prefer a prime minister who does the right thing even if he does it for the wrong reasons.
And most of the public thinks the right thing is the combination found in Netanyahu's address: right-wing rhetoric mixed with the desire for peace, an undivided Jerusalem, opposition to the return of Palestinian refugees, a demand for defensible borders, and the words that made the big headline - a demilitarized Palestinian state.
Netanyahu hit a bull's-eye in the Israeli public consensus with his speech. This is reflected in the results of a Haaretz-Dialog survey conducted yesterday under the auspices of Prof. Camil Fuchs of Tel Aviv University. The numbers show that when Netanyahu deals with leadership on defense and policy matters without scare tactics, the public supports him.
But when he is judged on his actions, such as after the budget debacle, the public is not supportive. The conclusion: Netanyahu needs to operate less and lead more. Another conclusion is that maybe he should speak to the public more often, on condition that he says what the public wants to hear.
The Israeli public overwhelmingly supports Netanyahu's speech - 71 percent. According to the poll, the prime minister said the right things and the television event Sunday night will help Israel in the international arena.
However, these positive views do not blind Israelis; they do not believe there will be any real change in the region as a result of the speech. A large majority of Israelis surveyed say the peace process will not see any breakthrough in the wake of the address, and an even larger majority says a demilitarized Palestinian state will not be established in the next few years, as Netanyahu himself now supports.
Netanyahu built a broad consensus in his speech, the survey shows. He will use this support to maneuver his policies with the Americans.
In terms of internal Israeli politics, Netanyahu put himself in the center of the political map. Most Kadima voters, 49 percent, say Tzipi Livni should join the coalition as a result of the speech, while 37 percent of Kadima voters disagreed.
Likud and Labor voters also now broadly support Kadima joining Netanyahu's government, even though his coalition seems more stable than ever.
Another political achievement is how Netanyahu managed to keep onside his own political base, Likud, even as he added supporters from other parties, mostly Labor and Kadima.
The survey shows that 90 percent of Likud voters, an incredible figure, agreed with what Netanyahu said in his speech. Maybe they are aware that a Palestinian state will not emerge as a result, so they are not worried. In addition, 73 percent of Likud voters say Netanyahu said the right things.
The public liked the speech not just because it was based on the Israeli consensus, but also because of its tone: moderate with a desire for peace and casting the blame for a lack of peace on the Arabs.
Vered Jericho Crossing Removed Today; Free Passage of Vehicles and Pedestrians in Area
This action allows for additional free movement of the Palestinian population in the Jordan Valley and Judea and Samaria region. The removal of the Vered Jericho crossing is in addition to over 140 roadblocks and crossings that were removed in the past year.
The IDF will continue to operate in accordance with decisions made by the Israeli government and on the basis of ongoing security assessments. Such actions are meant to further ease the daily life of the Palestinian population in Judea and Samaria, while continuously fighting terror and maintaining the safety of the citizens of the State of Israel.
Jun. 17, 2009
JPost.com Staff , THE JERUSALEM POST
Islamic Movement leader Sheikh Raed Salah gave a talk to Arab students at Haifa University on Wednesday, while Jewish students were not allowed into the lecture hall.
The Jewish students expressed their outrage at how the hard-line sheikh was let into the campus, but the university said it couldn't prevent Salah's entrance, saying that they had their hands tied.
"We didn't invite him, but in the end, for legal reasons, we had to let him in," said the university in a statement.
The head of the extremist northern branch of the Islamic Movement, which denies Israel's legitimacy, holds Israeli citizenship.
During Wednesday's lecture, Salah - who has served a two-year sentence for a series of security offenses, including financing Hamas activities - said that Jerusalem was an "Arab, Muslim and Palestinian issue alone."
In March, Jerusalem police arrested the fiery leader for assaulting police officers at an illegal east Jerusalem gathering.
In January 2008, Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz filed an indictment against Salah, charging him with incitement to violence and racism in a speech he made protesting the archeological dig carried out at the Old City's Mughrabi Gate. During his sermon in Jerusalem's Wadi Joz neighborhood on February 16, 2007, Salah urged supporters to start a third intifada in order to "save al-Aksa Mosque, free Jerusalem and end the occupation."
Salah's speech also attacked Jews, saying, "They want to build their temple at a time when our blood is on their clothes, on their doorsteps, in their food and in their drinks. Our blood has passed from one 'general terrorist' to another 'general terrorist.'" He also said, "We are not those who ate bread dipped in children's blood."
The Jerusalem Post
Jun 17, 2009 19:39 | Updated Jun 17, 2009 20:18
Hamas senior Aziz Dweik to be released
By JPOST.COM STAFF
After three years in an Israeli prison, Palestinian Parliament Chairman Aziz Dweik, of Hamas, is set to be released. The decision was made Wednesday when a military court of appeals rejected a request to extend Dweik's remand by six months.
Dweik's wife told a Palestinian news agency that she was surprised by the decision to release her husband. "I hope the other Palestinian prisoners will be released along with him," she added.
Dweik, 43, was considered a key asset in negotiations to secure the release of IDF soldier Gilad Schalit, who was kidnapped in 2006. He was arrested as part of a group of senior Hamas officials who were detained following the kidnapping. Dweik is regarded as one of the most senior Palestinian officials ever to be detained by Israel.
Since 2006, Dweik served as chairman of the Palestinian parliament, a position which made him in effect Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas's stand-in. He has authored a doctoral dissertation on urban planning from an American university and also served as a professor at A-Najah University in Nablus. When Abbas's term was extended several months ago without holding elections, some Hamas seniors threatened to unilaterally declare Dweik president.
Nobel laureate Wiesel: It'd be foolish to call Obama anti-Israel
By Shlomo Shamir, Haaretz Correspondent
According to Wiesel, Israel "can and should [work] with Obama" on reaching a peace agreement with the Palestinians."
17 June 2009
Abu Obaida said, in a special statement to Al-Qassam website on 16/6/2009 Tuesday: "We will study the possibility of delivering the message carried by Jimmy Carter to the captive soldier Gilad Shalit according to the benefit of the exchange deal".
According to former President Jimmy Carter yesterday, he had a letter from the parents of the captured Zionist soldier to be handed over to Hamas, which in turn would hand it over to the soldier.
Wa'ed assocaition for the Palestinian prisoners called Mr. Carter to look also to 12 thousands Palestinian prisones suffering in the Zionist jails for more than nine years under hard circumistances.
Hamas rejects Carter plea to recognize Israel
Carter visited Gaza on Tuesday and urged Hamas leaders to accept the demands to end an international boycott, which was imposed when the militant group overran Gaza two years ago.
Carter's meeting was itself unusual because of the boycott. The United States, European Union and Israel consider Hamas a terror group and refuse to deal with it directly.
Ahmed Youssef, the deputy Hamas foreign minister, said Gaza's Palestinians were pleased to receive Carter.
"The people think this is a historic visit," Youssef told The Associated Press on Wednesday, describing Carter as somebody very knowledgeable about the conflict and very sincere in the way he understands the conflict.
But Youssef said Hamas turned down Carter's policy requests.
"The visit has not led to a significant change. Hamas finds the conditions unacceptable, he said. Recognizing Israel is completely unacceptable."
According to Hamas ideology, there is no room for a Jewish state in an Islamic Middle East. The militant group has sent dozens of suicide bombers into Israel, killing hundreds.
Even so, some Hamas officials have indicated they could support creation of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, implying a form of tacit acceptance of Israel.
Youssef said the other two international conditions - renouncing violence and accepting past agreements between Israel and the Palestinians - are irrelevant. He said Israel broke a cease-fire, killing many Palestinians, and the state outlined in the partial peace accords would have no substance, no borders and nothing that a real state is.
Carter has said that despite the world boycott, Mideast peacemaking efforts must include Hamas, which took control of the Gaza Strip in 2007, expelling forces loyal to Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, whose government now effectively rules only the West Bank.
Although then-president Carter brokered the 1979 peace treaty between Israel and Egypt, the first between Israel and an Arab country, he is perceived by many Israelis as anti-Israel, siding with the Palestinians in their conflict.
He antagonized many Israelis with his 2007 book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, in which he argued that Israel must choose between ceding the West Bank to the Palestinians or maintaining a system of ethnic inequality similar to that of the apartheid regime in South Africa. Most Israelis strongly reject the comparison.
woensdag 17 juni 2009
Khaled Abu Toameh , THE JERUSALEM POST
The Palestinian Authority leadership's hysterical, hasty and clearly miscalculated response to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's speech at Bar-Ilan University on Sunday night is likely to boomerang because it makes the Palestinians appear as "peace rejectionists."
The PA, perhaps, has every right to be angry with Netanyahu's statements. However, its leaders should have been more careful in choosing the right words to express their sentiments.
Even before he completed his speech, several PA officials and spokesmen used every available platform to declare their total rejection of Netanyahu's ideas, especially with regards to the establishment of a demilitarized Palestinian state and recognition of Israel as a Jewish state.
Some went as far as hurling personal insults at Netanyahu, branding him a liar, a fraud and a swindler. Others hinted at the possibility that, in the wake of his strategy, the Palestinians would now have to resort to another intifada.
PA representatives are now saying that Netanyahu "cannot even dream of finding one Palestinian to talk to."
One senior official in Ramallah announced shortly after the prime minister finished his address that the Palestinians won't resume peace talks with Israel for at least a thousand years.
The harsh response of the PA is the direct result of high hopes that its leaders have pinned on the administration of US President Barack Obama.
Reports about a looming crisis between the administration and Netanyahu over the future of the Middle East peace process, combined with Obama's conciliatory approach toward the Arab and Muslim worlds, created the impression in Ramallah that the Israeli government had no choice but to accept all the Palestinian demands.
Briefing reporters on the eve of Netanyahu's speech, some of PA President Mahmoud Abbas's top aides predicted that, in the wake of increased US pressure, Netanyahu would be forced to give in, freezing settlement construction and accepting the two-state solution.
That's why most of these aides expressed surprise when they heard the prime minister's uncompromising position on most of the sticking issues.
By completely rejecting Netanyahu's offer of a demilitarized state and his demand to recognize Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people, the PA leadership has climbed a high tree from which it will find it difficult to climb down.
As in previous cases, this leadership has chosen to look at the empty half of the glass.
The fact that Netanyahu is even prepared to talk about a Palestinian state is in itself a major achievement. And so what if the future state of Palestine doesn't have an army and an air force? Why would Palestine need tanks and warplanes? Don't the Palestinians already have enough security forces and armed militias? Don't they already have enough ammunition and rockets?
The future state of Palestine will have to invest in government institutions and infrastructure instead of weapons. The Palestinians need jobs and good government more than they need an army and tanks.
True, Netanyahu's speech does not fulfill the entire aspirations of the Palestinians. But it would have been wiser for the PA leadership to also look at some of the positive elements in the speech, such as Netanyahu's acceptance of the idea of a Palestinian state.
Whether Palestine would be demilitarized or not is an issue that the two sides could always continue to discuss through negotiations. But the PA leadership has chosen to say no to this idea, thus playing into the hands of those who have long been arguing that the Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.
When Yasser Arafat back accepted the "Gaza-Jericho First" formula, he knew that he would subsequently receive more territory in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip through negotiations.
Netanyahu has outsmarted the PA leaders in Ramallah by dragging them into the debate over Israel's Jewish character - a demand that the Palestinians have also totally and vehemently rejected.
If anyone has reason to be worried about Israel's desire to be a Jewish state, it's the 1.4 million Arab citizens of the state. But this is an issue that should be solved through dialogue between the Israeli establishment and the Arab citizens. The Palestinians, after all, are fighting for separation from Israel, while the Israeli Arabs are fighting for integration.
It's also unclear why PA representatives are surprised to hear about the demilitarized state and Israel's Jewish character. Former US president Bill Clinton also mentioned the idea of creating a demilitarized state for the Palestinians, as did all of Netanyahu's predecessors. And the demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state is also not new.
Had the PA leadership responded positively to any of Netanyahu's offers, or at least used a less harsh tone in rejecting the entire speech, it's highly likely that they would have triggered a political crisis in Israel - one that would have even threatened the prime minister's coalition. PA leaders and officials should have taken into account the fact that a majority of Israelis - according to recent public opinion polls - favor the two-state solution, regardless of Netanyahu's stance on the issue.
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
June 15, 2009
REMARKS BY PRESIDENT OBAMA
AND PRIME MINISTER BERLUSCONI OF ITALY
IN PRESS AVAILABILITY
5:48 P.M. EDT
...Q Thank you, Mr. President. Of the conditions that Prime Minister Netanyahu laid out yesterday for a Palestinian state, the basis for negotiation, do you think they will likely prove a stumbling block, given the broadly negative reaction from the Arab states and the Palestinians?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, first of all, I think it's important not to immediately assess the situation based on commentary the day after a speech. I think any time an Israeli Prime Minister makes a statement, the immediate reaction tends to be negative on one side. If the other side is making a statement, oftentimes the reaction is negative in Israel.
Overall, I thought that there was positive movement in the Prime Minister's speech. He acknowledged the need for two states. There were a lot of conditions, and obviously working through the conditions on Israel's side for security, as well as the Palestinian side for sovereignty and territorial integrity and the capacity to have a functioning, prosperous state, that's exactly what negotiations are supposed to be about. But what we're seeing is at least the possibility that we can restart serious talks.
Now, I've been very clear that, from the United States' perspective, Israel's security is non-negotiable. We will stand behind their defense. I've also made very clear that both sides are going to have to move in some politically difficult ways in order to achieve what is going to be in the long-term interests of the Israelis and the Palestinians and the international community.
On the Israeli side, that means a cessation of settlements. And there is a tendency to try to parse exactly what this means, but I think the parties on the ground understand that if you have a continuation of settlements that, in past agreements, have been categorized as illegal, that's going to be an impediment to progress. On the Palestinian side, whether it's the Palestinian Authority or other groups like Hamas that claim to speak for the Palestinians, a recognition of the Quartet principles, ensuring that there's a recognition of Israel's right to exist, making sure that past agreements are abided to, that there's an end to incitement against Israel and an end to violence against Israel. Those are necessary pillars of any serious agreement that's to be reached.
And those pillars have to be supported by the Arab states, because Israel's security concerns extend beyond simply the Palestinian Territories; they extend to concerns that they have in a whole host of neighbors where there's perceived and often real hostility towards Israel's security. So I'm glad that Prime Minister Netanyahu made the speech. The United States will continue to try to be as honest as possible to all sides in this dispute to indicate the degree to which it's in everybody's interests to move in a new direction. And I think it can be accomplished, but it's going to require a lot of work and a partnership with key countries like Italy in order to help the parties come together and recognize their own interests.
6:29 P.M. EDT
By Paul Richter - LA Times
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said for the first time Sunday that Israel would be prepared to live side by side with a Palestinian state, but only if world powers guaranteed that it would be "demilitarized." The proposal came in a major statement of his views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that attracted attention worldwide.
"We take the security of Israel very seriously, but we need a solution that works, and this would be very difficult for the Palestinians to swallow," said an official, who declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the diplomacy. American officials "are a long way away from the point where we'd be talking about this kind of arrangement."
He noted that Netanyahu provided no specifics about what would be a complex task. Netanyahu has said previously that Israel could not agree to the creation of a Palestinian state that possessed a military, had full control of its borders or wielded authority over electronic communications.
Despite the criticism, U.S. officials were generally positive about the speech, suggesting that it represented another step toward the high-level negotiations they want to see begin soon between Israelis and Palestinians.
They hailed Netanyahu's acceptance of the idea of a separate Palestinian state, despite the conditions. U.S. officials were willing to overlook the fact that Netanyahu did not agree to the Obama administration's insistence on a complete halt in the growth of Israeli settlements in Palestinian territories.
Palestinian officials bristled at Netanyahu's speech, but U.S. officials portrayed the speech as simply laying out the Israeli opening position in what was likely to be a protracted discussion.
"It's going to be a complicated negotiation," said Ian Kelly, the State Department spokesman.
Netanyahu said in his speech that the Palestinians would need to recognize Israel as a "Jewish state," a comment that was widely taken to mean there would be no right of return for Palestinian refugees.
But Kelly said U.S. officials took the view that it meant only that "the Palestinians need to recognize the right of Israel to exist."
June 14 2009
In his Bar Ilan University speech, Prime Minister Netanyahu accepted President Obama's challenge of frank talk between allies. Before Mr. Netanyahu said yes to the possibility of a Palestinian state at the end of a realistic peace process, he spoke about the roots of the conflict and the narrative, and on these issues, more than anything other, he differed from Obama's Cairo University speech. The conflict, he reminded Washington (and Europe), did not result from the 1967 war, but rather from the intense, consistent and often violent Arab refusal to acknowledge Israel as the ancient homeland of the Jewish people, and to the Jewish right to self-determination in this homeland.
On this fundamental requirement for mutual acceptance, Palestinian leaders continue to maintain the old rejectionist stance. Netanyahu reminded Obama as well as his Israeli critics that even the most moderate Palestinians have been unwilling to acknowledge the Jewish historical roots in this land. Unless this obstacle is overcome, Netanyahu emphasized repeatedly, there was no realistic possibility for a stable and lasting peace agreement.
Similarly, in contrast to Obama's emphasis on Jewish suffering and the Holocaust, both in Cairo and then in Buchenwald with Elie Wiesel, Netanyahu replied that Israel was founded on the basis of historic and political rights, and not in response to antisemitism and suffering. The history of 2000 years of political powerlessness and persecution served to highlight the need for restoration of Jewish self-determination. In the strongest line of the speech, Netanyahu declared that had Israel come into existence earlier, the tragedy of the Holocaust would have been averted. What went unsaid was the degree to which Obama's misplaced emphasis reinforced the Arab narrative in which the creation of Israel resulted from European guilt.
As part of this frank talk, Netanyahu told his audience Israelis, Americans, and Arabs -- that in order to make progress towards a two state solution, the legitimacy of the Jewish state will have to explicitly recognized. In addition, everyone would need to recognize that the problem of Palestinian refugees created by the 1948 war would have to be solved outside of Israel's borders, in contrast to the continued effort to use them to change Israeli demography.
Just as Israel had absorbed mass of Jewish refugees from Arab lands their numbers were roughly equal to the Palestinian refugees and despite the economic difficulties of this process, the Arab states and the world would need to do the same. Without finding a solution to the refugee issue outside Israeli borders, there is no founding for a stable peace agreement.
Netanyahu also spoke frankly to his Israeli constituents the voters for Likud and the other coalition partners that recently returned him to the position of Prime Minister. The taboo on a Palestinian state in any form was broken the international (meaning primarily American) situation required recognition of this reality. The Palestinians ware entitled to their own flag, anthem, and country.
Thus, the issue which ostensibly led to the failure of post-election negotiations with Tzippi Livni and Kadima for a broad coalition government suddenly disappeared. And while Netanyahu called for American and international guarantees that a Palestinian state would be demilitarized, in practice, this will be difficult to ensure, as events in Gaza have demonstrated.
Overall, in this speech, the Prime Minister went somewhat further than both his critics and his supporters should have expected, including acceptance of a settlement freeze, at least with respect to additional territory. On Jerusalem, no new ground was broken, as Netanyahu declared that the city would not be divided, and that the members of all religions would continue to be able to pray at their holy sites. Obama's speech also treated Jerusalem carefully and without details, suggesting agreement (either tacit or explicit) that negotiations on this very complex issue should be left for later.
But this is only an opening position in what all sides recognize will be a difficult negotiation process, primarily between Obama and Netanyahu, and also between Israeli and Palestinian leaders. With the big speeches behind them, both leaders will now have to work on the much more difficult task of translating noble words into successful policies.