Commentary Magazine


Topic: Jerusalem

Jay Carney Caught Flat-Footed

There was a bizarre scene during today’s White House briefing, when White House Press Secretary Jay Carney flat-out refused to say whether the capital of Israel was Jerusalem or Tel Aviv, despite repeated questioning from multiple reporters. The Washington Examiner’s Joel Gehrke reports:

Carney was caught flat-footed when asked which city is Israel’s capital. “I haven’t had that question in awhile,” he said after some hesitation. “Our position has not changed. You know our position.” The reporter said she didn’t know, but Carney moved on to another question.

That answer touched off a somewhat unruly scene, as WND’s Lester Kinsolving interjected that “she doesn’t know, that’s why she asked.” Carney moved on.

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There was a bizarre scene during today’s White House briefing, when White House Press Secretary Jay Carney flat-out refused to say whether the capital of Israel was Jerusalem or Tel Aviv, despite repeated questioning from multiple reporters. The Washington Examiner’s Joel Gehrke reports:

Carney was caught flat-footed when asked which city is Israel’s capital. “I haven’t had that question in awhile,” he said after some hesitation. “Our position has not changed. You know our position.” The reporter said she didn’t know, but Carney moved on to another question.

That answer touched off a somewhat unruly scene, as WND’s Lester Kinsolving interjected that “she doesn’t know, that’s why she asked.” Carney moved on.

The Weekly Standard’s Dan Halper has video of the exchange:

At one point, a visibly uncomfortable Carney says the White House’s “position has not changed.” In March, there was a similar exchange between State Department Spokesperson Victoria Nuland and reporters. The Obama administration has refused to acknowledge Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, in contrast to Obama’s own statements to the AIPAC conference during his 2008 campaign.

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Where in the World is Barack Obama?

Yesterday, the State Department announced that Secretary of State Clinton was leaving on a trip to “France, Japan, Mongolia, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Egypt and Israel,” with “a stop in Israel on July 16-17.” In yesterday’s State Department press conference, a reporter posed a “logistical” question to Director Patrick Ventrell:

QUESTION: For every single country she’s going to, it lists the cities that she’s visiting, except for Israel. So this is a semi-trick question: Is she going to be visiting the capital of Israel?

MR. VENTRELL: The Secretary will be in Israel and she will meet with Israeli officials.

QUESTION: Where?

MR. VENTRELL: At this point, I don’t know where those meetings are going to be, but obviously as we get closer, the team will have more information.

QUESTION: You don’t know if they’ll be in Jerusalem or if they will be in Tel Aviv?

MR. VENTRELL: We can presume that she will visit multiple sites in Israel on this trip.

They just can’t bring themselves to say that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, can they?

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Yesterday, the State Department announced that Secretary of State Clinton was leaving on a trip to “France, Japan, Mongolia, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Egypt and Israel,” with “a stop in Israel on July 16-17.” In yesterday’s State Department press conference, a reporter posed a “logistical” question to Director Patrick Ventrell:

QUESTION: For every single country she’s going to, it lists the cities that she’s visiting, except for Israel. So this is a semi-trick question: Is she going to be visiting the capital of Israel?

MR. VENTRELL: The Secretary will be in Israel and she will meet with Israeli officials.

QUESTION: Where?

MR. VENTRELL: At this point, I don’t know where those meetings are going to be, but obviously as we get closer, the team will have more information.

QUESTION: You don’t know if they’ll be in Jerusalem or if they will be in Tel Aviv?

MR. VENTRELL: We can presume that she will visit multiple sites in Israel on this trip.

They just can’t bring themselves to say that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, can they?

They can’t answer the question of where the capital is, or where Clinton will visit (although the answer to both questions is obvious), lest someone press them on whether Jerusalem is in Israel. Perhaps while she is there on July 16 or 17, Secretary Clinton will be asked if she still takes the position that even symbolically treating Jerusalem as Israel’s capital would jeopardize the non-existent peace process.

Mazeld’s comment to Jonathan Tobin’s post on the trip suggests it would be more significant if Clinton were accompanied by Defense Secretary Panetta and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, which would send a message to Iran that if Israel decides it must act to protect itself in the coming months, it will be backed by the United States.

Which raises an important question as the Iranian centrifuges continue to whirl: Where in the world is Barack Obama?

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On the Third Day

Jewish Ideas Daily continues its weeklong commemoration of the Six-Day War, with a summary of June 7, 1967, the day on which Israeli forces liberated the Old City of Jerusalem from the illegal 19-year-old Jordanian occupation. It was, in the words of an official Israeli remembrance, “a fundamental moment in the history of religious tolerance, opening the city of Jerusalem to worshippers of all faiths, permitting Jews to return to the Western Wall and other holy sites, and allowing Israeli Muslims and Christians to visit those sacred places in eastern Jerusalem from which they too had been barred since 1948.”

In Moshe Dayan, the latest addition to Yale University’s series on Jewish Lives (which will be published on June 18), Mordechai Bar-On offers this description of what happened:

That morning, Dayan gave instructions for troops to enter Jerusalem’s walled Old City. … [Col. Motta] Gur broke through the Lions’ Gate, one of eight gates into the Old City, crossed the compound of mosques on the Temple Mount, and from there descended to the Western Wall. Many of the paratroopers wept. … In the afternoon, Dayan strode through the Old City with General Rabin and General Narkiss. … Dayan inserted a note in a crack of the Western Wall, with three Hebrew words: Lu yehi shalom – “May there be peace.” He also briefly addressed the soldiers and gathered journalists who printed his words in every Israeli newspaper the next day:

“We have returned to our holiest site so as never to part from it again. To our Arab neighbors, Israel stretches out its hand in peace, and the members of other religions may rest assured that all their religious rights and freedoms will be fully protected. We did not come to conquer the holy sites of others or to restrict their religious rights, but to ensure the integrity of the city and to live there with others in brotherhood.”

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Jewish Ideas Daily continues its weeklong commemoration of the Six-Day War, with a summary of June 7, 1967, the day on which Israeli forces liberated the Old City of Jerusalem from the illegal 19-year-old Jordanian occupation. It was, in the words of an official Israeli remembrance, “a fundamental moment in the history of religious tolerance, opening the city of Jerusalem to worshippers of all faiths, permitting Jews to return to the Western Wall and other holy sites, and allowing Israeli Muslims and Christians to visit those sacred places in eastern Jerusalem from which they too had been barred since 1948.”

In Moshe Dayan, the latest addition to Yale University’s series on Jewish Lives (which will be published on June 18), Mordechai Bar-On offers this description of what happened:

That morning, Dayan gave instructions for troops to enter Jerusalem’s walled Old City. … [Col. Motta] Gur broke through the Lions’ Gate, one of eight gates into the Old City, crossed the compound of mosques on the Temple Mount, and from there descended to the Western Wall. Many of the paratroopers wept. … In the afternoon, Dayan strode through the Old City with General Rabin and General Narkiss. … Dayan inserted a note in a crack of the Western Wall, with three Hebrew words: Lu yehi shalom – “May there be peace.” He also briefly addressed the soldiers and gathered journalists who printed his words in every Israeli newspaper the next day:

“We have returned to our holiest site so as never to part from it again. To our Arab neighbors, Israel stretches out its hand in peace, and the members of other religions may rest assured that all their religious rights and freedoms will be fully protected. We did not come to conquer the holy sites of others or to restrict their religious rights, but to ensure the integrity of the city and to live there with others in brotherhood.”

You can listen here to the historic live broadcast of Voice of Israel Radio that day. The following is an excerpt:

Yossi Ronen: There is still shooting from all directions; we’re advancing towards the entrance of the Old City.

[Sound of gunfire and soldiers' footsteps.]

[Yelling of commands to soldiers.]

[More soldiers' footsteps.]

The soldiers are keeping a distance of approximately 5 meters between them. It’s still dangerous to walk around here; there is still sniper shooting here and there.

[Gunfire.]

We’re all told to stop; we’re advancing towards the mountainside; on our left is the Mount of Olives; we’re now in the Old City opposite the Russian church. I’m right now lowering my head; we’re running next to the mountainside. We can see the stone walls. They’re still shooting at us. The Israeli tanks are at the entrance to the Old City, and ahead we go, through the Lion’s Gate. I’m with the first unit to break through into the Old City. There is a Jordanian bus next to me, totally burnt; it is very hot here. We’re about to enter the Old City itself. We’re standing below the Lion’s Gate, the Gate is about to come crashing down, probably because of the previous shelling. Soldiers are taking cover next to the palm trees; I’m also staying close to one of the trees. We’re getting further and further into the City.

[Gunfire.]

Colonel Motta Gur announces on the army wireless: The Temple Mount is in our hands! I repeat, the Temple Mount is in our hands!

All forces, stop firing! This is the David Operations Room. All forces, stop firing! I repeat, all forces, stop firing! Over. […]

Command on the army wireless: Search the area, make sure to enter every single house, but do not touch anything. Especially in holy places. […]

Yossi Ronen: I’m walking right now down the steps towards the Western Wall. I’m not a religious man, I never have been, but this is the Western Wall and I’m touching the stones of the Western Wall.

Soldiers: [reciting the 'Shehechianu' blessing]: Baruch ata Hashem, elokeinu melech haolam, she-hechianu ve-kiemanu ve-hegianu la-zman ha-zeh. [Translation: Blessed art Thou Lord God King of the Universe who has sustained us and kept us and has brought us to this day] […]

Rabbi Shlomo Goren: Baruch ata Hashem, menachem tsion u-voneh Yerushalayim. [Translation: Blessed are Thou, who comforts Zion and builds Jerusalem]

Soldiers: Amen!

[Soldiers sing "Hatikva" next to the Western Wall.]

Rabbi Goren: We’re now going to recite the prayer for the fallen soldiers of this war against all of the enemies of Israel […]

While the Six-Day War is remembered for its stunning brevity, it is also worth considering this observation, from “Six Days Remembered,” Anne Lieberman’s compelling day-by-day summary of the war: “By the last of the six days Israel has achieved a stunning military victory at an equally stunning price in Israeli lives. In terms of proportion of population, Israel loses more lives in six days than the U.S. would during all the years of war in Vietnam.”

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Dividing Jerusalem Is Physically Impossible

In honor of Jerusalem Day, which was celebrated yesterday, anyone who hasn’t yet done so should read Michael Totten’s 2011 City Journal article on why dividing the city that was reunited 45 years ago is not merely foolish, but impossible. There are many good arguments against dividing Jerusalem, and they have been made many times before. What makes Totten’s article unique is that he physically walked the route along which the border would lie under the solution “everyone knows” any Israeli-Palestinian deal must include – a division in which the city’s Arab neighborhoods become part of Palestine while Jewish neighborhoods remain Israeli. For the purpose, he used the Geneva Initiative’s map. Here are some of the absurdities he found:

On a street near the Armenian Quarter, a house that the Geneva Initiative has slated for Israel is wedged between two houses that would go to a Palestinian state. Houses in the Old City are ancient. They lean on one another. It is physically impossible to weave a border between them … Things are even stranger where the Muslim Quarter abuts the Jewish Quarter. Arabs own shops at street level, while Jews own apartments upstairs. According to the Geneva Initiative, the ground floor on that street would be Palestinian and the second floor Israeli.

Even in neighborhoods where Palestinian and Jewish houses aren’t intertwined the way they are in the Old City, the map was utterly impractical:

Take the neighborhood of Abu Tor, on a hill just south of the Old City. The eastern side is Arab, and the western side is Jewish. The Green Line runs through its center. It would be easy enough, theoretically, to make the Green Line the border between Israel and a Palestinian state.

But that border would go right down the middle of a street where Jews live on one side and Arabs live on the other. If a wall or a fence were erected on that border, residents wouldn’t be able to drive down their own street. And if there were no wall or a fence, anyone could cross the border without passing through customs or security: tourists, spies, job-seekers, and suicide bombers. A Palestinian could throw a hand grenade into Israel from inside his living room, and vice versa.

As Totten noted, such a map would be possible only if Israel and Palestine had a completely open border, European Union-style, in which citizens of both nations could freely enter the other with no border checks whatsoever. That is indeed the fantasy envisioned by proponents of dividing the city. But in the real world, it’s completely impossible.

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In honor of Jerusalem Day, which was celebrated yesterday, anyone who hasn’t yet done so should read Michael Totten’s 2011 City Journal article on why dividing the city that was reunited 45 years ago is not merely foolish, but impossible. There are many good arguments against dividing Jerusalem, and they have been made many times before. What makes Totten’s article unique is that he physically walked the route along which the border would lie under the solution “everyone knows” any Israeli-Palestinian deal must include – a division in which the city’s Arab neighborhoods become part of Palestine while Jewish neighborhoods remain Israeli. For the purpose, he used the Geneva Initiative’s map. Here are some of the absurdities he found:

On a street near the Armenian Quarter, a house that the Geneva Initiative has slated for Israel is wedged between two houses that would go to a Palestinian state. Houses in the Old City are ancient. They lean on one another. It is physically impossible to weave a border between them … Things are even stranger where the Muslim Quarter abuts the Jewish Quarter. Arabs own shops at street level, while Jews own apartments upstairs. According to the Geneva Initiative, the ground floor on that street would be Palestinian and the second floor Israeli.

Even in neighborhoods where Palestinian and Jewish houses aren’t intertwined the way they are in the Old City, the map was utterly impractical:

Take the neighborhood of Abu Tor, on a hill just south of the Old City. The eastern side is Arab, and the western side is Jewish. The Green Line runs through its center. It would be easy enough, theoretically, to make the Green Line the border between Israel and a Palestinian state.

But that border would go right down the middle of a street where Jews live on one side and Arabs live on the other. If a wall or a fence were erected on that border, residents wouldn’t be able to drive down their own street. And if there were no wall or a fence, anyone could cross the border without passing through customs or security: tourists, spies, job-seekers, and suicide bombers. A Palestinian could throw a hand grenade into Israel from inside his living room, and vice versa.

As Totten noted, such a map would be possible only if Israel and Palestine had a completely open border, European Union-style, in which citizens of both nations could freely enter the other with no border checks whatsoever. That is indeed the fantasy envisioned by proponents of dividing the city. But in the real world, it’s completely impossible.

First, Israelis wouldn’t accept a border wide open to Palestinian terrorists. An individual Israeli prime minister certainly might; both Ehud Olmert and Ehud Barak reportedly did. But by law, ceding territory Israel has annexed requires the approval of either two-thirds of Knesset members or a majority of the public in a referendum. And given the escalation in terror produced by every previous Israeli-Palestinian agreement, a deal that left Israel’s security totally dependent on Palestinian goodwill would never win the requisite support.

But an open border is also an economic non-starter. Israel’s economy is a powerhouse compared not only to the Palestinian Authority, but to all its Arab neighbors. Hence with an open border, it would be flooded with economic migrants – primarily Palestinians, but also other Arab nationals, who could enter Palestine legally and then cross the borderless border into Israel. Even now, thousands of Palestinians risk imprisonment or even death every day trying to cross the security fence to work in Israel. If the passage were risk-free, the number would skyrocket.

In short, dividing Jerusalem isn’t physically possible. Thus, until the fantasy of division is abandoned, no Israeli-Palestinian deal will be possible, either.

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Today in Jerusalem, Israel

Today is the 45th Jerusalem Day in Jerusalem, Israel – the annual commemoration on the 28th of Iyar, the anniversary of the Six-Day War on the Hebrew calendar, when Israel liberated the eastern part of the city from Jordanian occupation. It is also worth recalling a little history on this day.

After the defeat of Turkey in World War I, President Wilson received a 1919 report from two American commissioners to the Inter-Allied Commission on Mandates in Turkey. The commissioners wrote that they “doubted whether the Jews could possibly seem to either Christians or Moslems proper guardians of the holy places”:

The places which are most sacred to Christians — those having to do with Jesus — and which are also sacred to Moslems, are not only not sacred to Jews, but abhorrent to them … [T]he Moslems, just because the sacred places of all three religions are sacred to them have made very naturally much more satisfactory custodians of the holy places than the Jews could be.

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Today is the 45th Jerusalem Day in Jerusalem, Israel – the annual commemoration on the 28th of Iyar, the anniversary of the Six-Day War on the Hebrew calendar, when Israel liberated the eastern part of the city from Jordanian occupation. It is also worth recalling a little history on this day.

After the defeat of Turkey in World War I, President Wilson received a 1919 report from two American commissioners to the Inter-Allied Commission on Mandates in Turkey. The commissioners wrote that they “doubted whether the Jews could possibly seem to either Christians or Moslems proper guardians of the holy places”:

The places which are most sacred to Christians — those having to do with Jesus — and which are also sacred to Moslems, are not only not sacred to Jews, but abhorrent to them … [T]he Moslems, just because the sacred places of all three religions are sacred to them have made very naturally much more satisfactory custodians of the holy places than the Jews could be.

Wilson ignored the report, and the subsequent Mandate for Palestine issued by the League of Nations and backed by the United States recognized the “historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine” and the “grounds for reconstituting their national home in that country.”

Since 1948, when the State of Israel was re-established, we have had the opportunity to see who has been a “satisfactory custodian” of the holy places, and who was not. When the British Mandate expired in 1948, Jordan illegally occupied the Old City of Jerusalem and proceeded immediately to destroy or desecrate the Jewish presence within it. In the 45 years since the Six-Day War, Israel has protected the holy sites of all three major religions.

The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs has produced a four-minute video that demonstrates the re-division of Jerusalem is technically impossible, is both unnecessary and dangerous, and is opposed by a majority of the city’s residents — both Jews and Arabs. The city has grown dramatically and changed during the nearly half-century since the Six-Day War, and nearly half a million Arabs and Jews (270,000 Arabs and 200,000 Jews) now live in the mosaic of neighborhoods called “East Jerusalem,” intermingled not only in terms of populations and neighborhoods, but vital infrastructures.

This might also be a good day to read Anne Lieberman’s “Six Days Remembered,” her compelling day-by-day summary of the Arab movements in May and June 1967 to prepare to extinguish the 19-year-old Jewish state, which resulted instead in the re-unification of Israel’s capital. Its eternal, undivided capital.

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Making a Federal Case Out of Jerusalem

Last year, I suggested there was no need for President Obama to make a federal case out of Menachem Zivotofsky’s request to have “Israel” designated on his passport as his place of birth, pursuant to a law giving Americans born in Jerusalem the right to that designation if they requested. My idea — which I thought might resonate with Obama — was to blame Bush!

Congress enacted the law in 2002; President Bush signed it, but said he would not enforce it; Obama had campaigned against Bush’s many signing statements, saying a president generally had only two choices – sign a bill or veto it; and Obama could have said he was simply faithfully executing a law his predecessor had signed. If he wanted, Obama could have done what President Clinton did regarding Taiwan: comply with the passport law while declaring American foreign policy remained unchanged. Case closed! But Obama proceeded to the Supreme Court, which ruled the issue can be adjudicated; and because the controversy continues, we may continue to be treated to colloquies like the one at the State Department yesterday.

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Last year, I suggested there was no need for President Obama to make a federal case out of Menachem Zivotofsky’s request to have “Israel” designated on his passport as his place of birth, pursuant to a law giving Americans born in Jerusalem the right to that designation if they requested. My idea — which I thought might resonate with Obama — was to blame Bush!

Congress enacted the law in 2002; President Bush signed it, but said he would not enforce it; Obama had campaigned against Bush’s many signing statements, saying a president generally had only two choices – sign a bill or veto it; and Obama could have said he was simply faithfully executing a law his predecessor had signed. If he wanted, Obama could have done what President Clinton did regarding Taiwan: comply with the passport law while declaring American foreign policy remained unchanged. Case closed! But Obama proceeded to the Supreme Court, which ruled the issue can be adjudicated; and because the controversy continues, we may continue to be treated to colloquies like the one at the State Department yesterday.

State’s spokesperson was tortured with a series of questions about whether Jerusalem is part of Israel. Given the position the administration is still defending in court, she had to refuse to acknowledge even West Jerusalem (where Zivotofsky was born) as part of Israel. She thus repeatedly had to dodge the question, obviously acting on instructions to say only that Jerusalem is an issue to be resolved by negotiations. She gave the same answer to the question, “What is the capital of Israel?”

The reporter might have referenced the State Department website, which identifies Israel’s capital as Jerusalem (and says Israel’s area is 20,330 square kilometers, “including Jerusalem”); or the CIA website, which says the same thing; or the Department of Defense website, which is replete with references to “Jerusalem, Israel” – including a picture of Secretary Gates and Prime Minister Netanyahu “during a working lunch meeting in Jerusalem, Israel.” But for the same reason the White House scrubbed its website of references to Vice President Biden in “Jerusalem, Israel” and scrubbed references even in Bush administration documents, the official policy had to be restated yesterday no matter how the question was asked.

This all could have been avoided if the White House had followed my advice last year; ended the charade about the city that has been Israel’s capital since 1950; and stopped fighting a nine-year old boy’s passport designation in the Supreme Court and beyond. Sometimes I think the White House doesn’t read my posts.

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State Department Spin on Jerusalem Meltdown is Already Wrong

This morning, the State Department will begin to walk back the spectacular meltdown that was yesterday’s press briefing, wherein State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland gave the Palestinians a de facto retroactive veto over Israel’s 1949 decision to make Jerusalem its capital.

The talking point will be that the Obama administration, by insisting that the status of West Jerusalem is subject to final-status negotiations, was only reiterating the explicit policies of past administrations. If that were true, then Obama critics would be making the same points they’ve made throughout this White House’s diplomatic campaign against Israel: that Obama, by making controversies out of issues everyone had been content to leave quietly buried, was unnecessarily damaging the U.S.-Israeli relationship and the prospects for long-term Middle East peace. Read More

This morning, the State Department will begin to walk back the spectacular meltdown that was yesterday’s press briefing, wherein State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland gave the Palestinians a de facto retroactive veto over Israel’s 1949 decision to make Jerusalem its capital.

The talking point will be that the Obama administration, by insisting that the status of West Jerusalem is subject to final-status negotiations, was only reiterating the explicit policies of past administrations. If that were true, then Obama critics would be making the same points they’ve made throughout this White House’s diplomatic campaign against Israel: that Obama, by making controversies out of issues everyone had been content to leave quietly buried, was unnecessarily damaging the U.S.-Israeli relationship and the prospects for long-term Middle East peace.

As it so happens, the claim is false. Previous administrations have recognized Israel’s right to at least part of its capital city. The debate has turned on whether the Jewish State is entitled to “all” of Jerusalem, not whether it’s entitled to any part of the city. It was always about not prejudicing whether Israel would have share Jerusalem with a Palestinian state, not whether the entire city was up for grabs (let alone whether the Palestinians can retroactively veto Israel’s sovereign decision to make the parts of Jerusalem it controlled pre-1967 its capital).

White Houses have declined to move the embassy out of Tel Aviv because it would be treated as a symbolic acknowledgement of Israel’s rights over all Jerusalem, e.g. a statement that Israel wouldn’t have to share the city. Sitting on their hands on the embassy allowed presidents to dodge broader questions, which had the benefit of not running contrary to black-letter American law going back to 1995 recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Until now, no administration has ever put Israel’s sovereignty over Jerusalem as such on the table, or implied that even West Jerusalem was up for grabs. Bush even used to insert language into his waivers stating “My administration remains committed to beginning the process of moving our embassy to Jerusalem.”

Also, there’s this from President Clinton: “the benefits of the agreement… [include] the incorporation of most of the settlers into Israel, and the Jewish capital of Jerusalem recognized by all, not just the United States, by everybody in the world.”

Also, there’s this from President Bush: “Mr. Bush said the Palestinians must elect ‘new and different’ leaders who were not ‘compromised by terror’… As soon as the Palestinians changed their leadership, stopped terrorist attacks on Israel and moved towards democracy, the U.S. would boost their economy and push Israel into meaningful negotiations… He refused to speculate on the three major sticking points: Palestinian demands that Israel return the territory won in the 1967 war, share Jerusalem as the capital and allow millions of Palestinian refugees to return.”

Also, there’s this from Senator Barack Obama. Note that while he took back the part of the speech that spoke of Israel’s capital remaining undivided, even his clarification emphasized “that Israel has a legitimate claim on” at least part of Jerusalem. Apparently that position has changed in the last few years, but the administration shouldn’t be allowed to pretend this is just the way things have always been.

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Re: The Courts and Jerusalem

Jonathan Tobin makes a valuable point about the Zivotofsky case: the law giving Americans born in Jerusalem the right, if they want, to have the State Department put “Israel” on their passports as their place of birth reflects the fact the American people, through their elected representatives, have long recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The idea that American foreign policy would be adversely affected by letting Zivotofsky put “Israel” on his own passport is not a cogent thought.

Chief Justice Roberts’ masterful opinion (which attracted eight votes) provides a way out of the corner into which the administration has painted itself. Because the case will now return to the lower courts for further proceedings, the administration has an opportunity to reflect further on its legal strategy. There is a way in which everyone could win without further litigation – assuming President Obama is willing to learn from what President Clinton did in a similar situation.

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Jonathan Tobin makes a valuable point about the Zivotofsky case: the law giving Americans born in Jerusalem the right, if they want, to have the State Department put “Israel” on their passports as their place of birth reflects the fact the American people, through their elected representatives, have long recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The idea that American foreign policy would be adversely affected by letting Zivotofsky put “Israel” on his own passport is not a cogent thought.

Chief Justice Roberts’ masterful opinion (which attracted eight votes) provides a way out of the corner into which the administration has painted itself. Because the case will now return to the lower courts for further proceedings, the administration has an opportunity to reflect further on its legal strategy. There is a way in which everyone could win without further litigation – assuming President Obama is willing to learn from what President Clinton did in a similar situation.

In 1994, Congress directed the State Department to permit American citizens born in Taiwan to have “Taiwan” put on their passports as their place of birth, instead of the People’s Republic of China, despite American foreign policy recognizing the Communist regime as the only Chinese state. The State Department initially refused to comply on grounds it would adversely affect relations with China – but the Clinton administration eventually complied while issuing a statement that American foreign policy about “one China” remained unchanged.

That is exactly what Zivotofsky’s counsel, Nathan Lewin, suggested to the Supreme Court during oral argument:

This is not in our view a recognition case. This is a passport case. The question is, what goes on the passport, and may somebody self-identify? … If in fact the statute had said “we don’t say Jerusalem is part of Israel, but you can identify yourself as being in Israel,” my – we submit that result can very easily be achieved and was achieved in the case of Taiwan by a public statement by the executive.

The New York Sun notes that Zivotofsky’s case was brought on his behalf by his mother, who sought a passport for him after he was born in West Jerusalem (which has been Israel’s capital since 1950), and that Menachem has now been trying for most of his life to get a passport showing his place of birth as “Israel.” President Obama can decide to keep litigating – making this a huge constitutional issue that will go on for years, or he can adopt the Clinton precedent and end the case now, while issuing a statement that his foreign policy remains unchanged.

It is the obvious way out, but Obama may prefer to have the Justice Department keep litigating, rather than focus attention on his position on Jerusalem (which has been somewhat amorphous in the past and has involved web-scrubbing to boot) – particularly because he will likely be running against a Republican candidate promising to travel to Jerusalem as his first foreign trip, and who probably will not require a court decision for him to put “Israel” on Menachem Zivotofsky’s passport.

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The Courts and Jerusalem

While the country is riveted on the hearing on the constitutionality of ObamaCare, the Supreme Court handed down a ruling on Monday that was also significant. In an 8-1 decision, the high court ruled that a legal challenge to the State Department’s refusal to state on a child’s passport that he was born in Jerusalem, Israel, could proceed. The majority overturned a lower court decision that claimed Congress exceeded its authority when it passed legislation in 2002 requiring that Americans born in the city of Jerusalem be allowed to name Israel as their birthplace in official documents. While all this ruling did was to specify that the administration’s decisions on such questions are not beyond the scope of judicial review, it will allow the courts to try the case, a development that supporters of Israel’s claim to its capital cheered.

Ironically, the lawyers for those demanding the right to name Jerusalem as part of Israel argued that forcing the State Department to follow Congress’ instructions was merely a matter of clarifying a personal status issue rather than making foreign policy. That’s somewhat disingenuous, as the obvious intent of the lawsuit is to force the government’s hand. But though the administration is right to contend that the president has the power to make foreign policy decisions, the tangle over Jerusalem is a poor example of that principle. The question that must ultimately be decided is whether the executive has the power to directly override the law especially on a point where common sense is with the legislature.

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While the country is riveted on the hearing on the constitutionality of ObamaCare, the Supreme Court handed down a ruling on Monday that was also significant. In an 8-1 decision, the high court ruled that a legal challenge to the State Department’s refusal to state on a child’s passport that he was born in Jerusalem, Israel, could proceed. The majority overturned a lower court decision that claimed Congress exceeded its authority when it passed legislation in 2002 requiring that Americans born in the city of Jerusalem be allowed to name Israel as their birthplace in official documents. While all this ruling did was to specify that the administration’s decisions on such questions are not beyond the scope of judicial review, it will allow the courts to try the case, a development that supporters of Israel’s claim to its capital cheered.

Ironically, the lawyers for those demanding the right to name Jerusalem as part of Israel argued that forcing the State Department to follow Congress’ instructions was merely a matter of clarifying a personal status issue rather than making foreign policy. That’s somewhat disingenuous, as the obvious intent of the lawsuit is to force the government’s hand. But though the administration is right to contend that the president has the power to make foreign policy decisions, the tangle over Jerusalem is a poor example of that principle. The question that must ultimately be decided is whether the executive has the power to directly override the law especially on a point where common sense is with the legislature.

The case concerns one Menachem Zivotofsky, the son of American citizens living in Israel who was born in Jerusalem after Congress passed a law specifically stating that the State Department should list the children born in the city as being in Israel. While President Bush signed the bill after its passage, he stated at the time that he would not enforce it, and the Obama administration has continued this practice.

The conflict within the government is clear. In both 1995 and again in 2002, Congress clearly stated that it recognized a united Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. However, the United States has never formally recognized Israel’s claim to any part of the city, keeping its embassy in Tel Aviv and maintaining a separate consulate in the city. The administration, as did its predecessors, refuses to recognize Congress’ power to intervene in the decision regarding the recognition of countries and territories as being strictly a matter of executive privilege. The question is whether any court will be willing to state that Congress has the ability to create such a mandate over the objection of the president.

While the Zivotofskys will now get their day in court, they still claim they are not asking the judiciary to decide a foreign policy question. But that is exactly what they are doing, because the word “Israel” following the word “Jerusalem” on a U.S. passport will be a signal to the rest of the world of American recognition of the Jewish state’s claim to its capital.

But while any president has the right to conduct foreign policy, the right of Congress to set parameters within which the executive may operate is not unreasonable. In his risible sole dissent, Justice Stephen Breyer claimed that allowing Congress to override the president on such a matter may cause harm, the notion that the wisdom of a diplomatic position that denies reality — the fiction that Jerusalem has not always been Israel’s capital and that the unified city has been so for nearly 45 years — should be beyond the capacity of either the legislature or the courts. But this is a poor argument that does nothing to advance America’s interests or the law.

The direct intent of Congress here is not in question. The idea that great harm to the country would be done were the law to be enforced is not proven. Were the courts to allow the Zivotofskys’ challenge to be upheld, it would remind the world of something it should already be well aware: the American people through their elected representatives recognize that Jerusalem is part of Israel.

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End the Human Rights Parody at Geneva

The United Nations obsession with demonizing Israel was once again on display this week in Geneva where the world body’s Human Rights Council voted to investigate the impact of the Jewish presence in Jerusalem and the West Bank on Palestinians. This so-called fact-finding mission is yet another UN kangaroo court that is set up to demonize the Jewish state and to allow the Palestinians to vent their intolerance for Jews in the guise of displaying their victim status. Since the Council has already made it clear that it considers that Jews have no right to live anywhere in the territories and that Israeli policies that make Jewish communities there possible are illegal (an assertion that is palpably false even if it has become a mantra of international diplomacy), the mission is really an indictment rather than an investigation.

The Obama administration deserves credit for the fact that the United States was the only one of the 47 members of the Council to vote against the resolution, which was one of five anti-Israel measures passed in Geneva this week. But this latest proof of the institution’s moral bankruptcy requires a stronger response than the rhetorical shrug of the shoulders that it generated that from Washington. The Council, which prior to this latest session had already devoted 39 out of the 91 actions it has taken since it was reconstituted in 2006 to denunciations of democratic Israel, is a parody of a human rights organization. At a time when the group is either paying mere lip service or flat out ignoring real human rights tragedies, the decision to devote the UN’s resources to another platform for hatred against Israel makes it imperative that the United States withdraw immediately from the Council.

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The United Nations obsession with demonizing Israel was once again on display this week in Geneva where the world body’s Human Rights Council voted to investigate the impact of the Jewish presence in Jerusalem and the West Bank on Palestinians. This so-called fact-finding mission is yet another UN kangaroo court that is set up to demonize the Jewish state and to allow the Palestinians to vent their intolerance for Jews in the guise of displaying their victim status. Since the Council has already made it clear that it considers that Jews have no right to live anywhere in the territories and that Israeli policies that make Jewish communities there possible are illegal (an assertion that is palpably false even if it has become a mantra of international diplomacy), the mission is really an indictment rather than an investigation.

The Obama administration deserves credit for the fact that the United States was the only one of the 47 members of the Council to vote against the resolution, which was one of five anti-Israel measures passed in Geneva this week. But this latest proof of the institution’s moral bankruptcy requires a stronger response than the rhetorical shrug of the shoulders that it generated that from Washington. The Council, which prior to this latest session had already devoted 39 out of the 91 actions it has taken since it was reconstituted in 2006 to denunciations of democratic Israel, is a parody of a human rights organization. At a time when the group is either paying mere lip service or flat out ignoring real human rights tragedies, the decision to devote the UN’s resources to another platform for hatred against Israel makes it imperative that the United States withdraw immediately from the Council.

Of course, given the Obama administration’s blind faith in the value of the UN, that isn’t going to happen. But as this week’s spectacle in Geneva — which included the reception at the Council of a representative of the Hamas terrorist organization — the argument that the United States can moderate the vicious anti-Zionism that runs throughout the world body’s institutions is not credible.

Israel has rightly said that it will not cooperate with the Council inquisition. Some that will say that such a policy only exacerbates the UN’s bias. But the reason the Council, which is stacked with member states where human rights barely exist, gets away with its prejudicial policies is because the West tolerates such behavior.

When the Council, which replaced a previous UN entity that the United States helped pulls the plug on, was brought into being in 2006, advocates for participation said that the new group would not be a platform for anti-Israel incitement as was its predecessor. But those hopes were quickly dashed.

There are those who welcome this double standard by which Israel is scrutinized more harshly than tyrannical regimes because it somehow demonstrates respect for the state’s values. This is nonsensical on two counts.

First, the refusal of the UN to play the same judgmental role in countries like Syria, which is awash in the blood of protesters slain by the Assad regime; or China, where the New York Times drew attention today to the ongoing human rights tragedy in Tibet, where the occupying Chinese have not only repressed dissent but are now engaging in a form of cultural genocide in which the country’s language is being expunged from schools; is itself evidence of racist condescension.

Second, it should be understood clearly that any system of thought by which one people or one nation is treated differently than others is a form of prejudice. In the case of Israel, the singling out for condemnation of the one Jewish state in the world on trumped up charges is evidence of anti-Semitism, not high regard.

The longer the United States continues to play along with this charade of concern for human rights, the less chance there will be of ever cleansing the UN of its anti-Semitic character.

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Will Clinton Repudiate Consultant’s Speech at Anti-Israel Conference?

I wrote earlier this week about the reaction of a representative of Americans for Peace Now about the Arab League’s conference on Jerusalem. The Israel-bashing and denial of Jewish rights and history was so awful it even shocked the representative of a group that is desperately trying to ignore the truth about the unwillingness of the Arab and Muslim world to make peace with Israel. But while less naïve observers expect that  from the Arab League, the news that a person connected to the U.S. State Department delivered a vicious denunciation of Israel at the same conference ought to disturb all Americans.

Kenneth R. Insley Jr., was listed on the Doha conference program as a representative of the State Department though his connection with the administration is somewhat tenuous. But a reading of his remarks at the Arab League conference should call into question any future business between his firm and an administration that has been going all out lately to assert the dubious proposition that the president is the best friend Israel has ever had in the White House. Given that his speech was put forward as representing the views of the State Department, Secretary of State Clinton should repudiate Insley’s assertion that Israel is an apartheid state and his assertion that Jews are racist.

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I wrote earlier this week about the reaction of a representative of Americans for Peace Now about the Arab League’s conference on Jerusalem. The Israel-bashing and denial of Jewish rights and history was so awful it even shocked the representative of a group that is desperately trying to ignore the truth about the unwillingness of the Arab and Muslim world to make peace with Israel. But while less naïve observers expect that  from the Arab League, the news that a person connected to the U.S. State Department delivered a vicious denunciation of Israel at the same conference ought to disturb all Americans.

Kenneth R. Insley Jr., was listed on the Doha conference program as a representative of the State Department though his connection with the administration is somewhat tenuous. But a reading of his remarks at the Arab League conference should call into question any future business between his firm and an administration that has been going all out lately to assert the dubious proposition that the president is the best friend Israel has ever had in the White House. Given that his speech was put forward as representing the views of the State Department, Secretary of State Clinton should repudiate Insley’s assertion that Israel is an apartheid state and his assertion that Jews are racist.

Insley bills himself as a consultant to the U.S. government. His day job is director of public diplomacy at Capital Communications Group, an international consulting firm that has apparently gotten a government contract for coordinating visits for international delegations with various think tanks, congressional leaders, White House and other administration officials. But his main business seems to be promoting anti-Israel hatred. While ignoring Israel’s peace offers and Palestinian rejectionism and terror, Insley did not shy away from pandering to his audience’s appetite for slurs against Israel. After defending Jimmy Carter’s claim that Israel is an apartheid state, he denounced the efforts of some Jewish religious figures to urge people to marry within their faith:

Play this game with me: if you were to substitute the word “white” for “Jewish” and replace the word “Arab men” with “NIGGER,” then to most American ears, it sounds exactly like the pronouncements of racist segregationists in the 1950s and 60s in southern states like Georgia, which where Jimmy Carter is from. I think President Carter knows a thing or two about racial discrimination. And so should the Jewish people. … Perhaps it is understandable to be perceived as racist when you are considered by some to be “God’s chosen people.”

It may well be that Insley’s participation in this hate fest had nothing to do with the State Department. If so, the administration should say so and make sure Insley and his firm are no longer receiving taxpayer dollars for his highly objectionable activities.

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Not a Parody: Peace Now Shocked to Discover Arabs Don’t Want Peace

What will it take to convince supporters of Peace Now the imperative of their organization’s name depends on the Arabs rather than the Jews? After 18+ years of Arab terrorism and rejection of peace offers since the Oslo Accords, it’s hard to say whether anything the Palestinians could do or say would cause them to rethink their myopic view of the world. But give Americans for Peace Now’s Lara Friedman a little credit. After schlepping to an Arab League conference on Jerusalem, she at least had the wit to notice that just about everybody else there was focused on delegitimizing Israel, denouncing its existence within any borders and denying thousands of years of Jewish history.

However, it’s hard not to chuckle a little bit at the indignant tone affected by Friedman in her op-ed published in the Forward as she conveys her shock and dismay to discover the Arab world believes Jews have no rights in Jerusalem or any other part of Israel. She and her group had so convinced themselves all it will take to create peace “now” was for Israelis to support a two-state solution and negotiate, it appears they never took the time or effort to realize the other side has little interest in peace, now or at any other time. This gives her piece the tone of a parody worthy of The Onion even though it was written in deadly earnest. Indeed, it must be considered in writing such an article she has demonstrated the utter cluelessness of her group better than anything the group’s critics could have come up with.

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What will it take to convince supporters of Peace Now the imperative of their organization’s name depends on the Arabs rather than the Jews? After 18+ years of Arab terrorism and rejection of peace offers since the Oslo Accords, it’s hard to say whether anything the Palestinians could do or say would cause them to rethink their myopic view of the world. But give Americans for Peace Now’s Lara Friedman a little credit. After schlepping to an Arab League conference on Jerusalem, she at least had the wit to notice that just about everybody else there was focused on delegitimizing Israel, denouncing its existence within any borders and denying thousands of years of Jewish history.

However, it’s hard not to chuckle a little bit at the indignant tone affected by Friedman in her op-ed published in the Forward as she conveys her shock and dismay to discover the Arab world believes Jews have no rights in Jerusalem or any other part of Israel. She and her group had so convinced themselves all it will take to create peace “now” was for Israelis to support a two-state solution and negotiate, it appears they never took the time or effort to realize the other side has little interest in peace, now or at any other time. This gives her piece the tone of a parody worthy of The Onion even though it was written in deadly earnest. Indeed, it must be considered in writing such an article she has demonstrated the utter cluelessness of her group better than anything the group’s critics could have come up with.

What is so touching (as well as more than a bit comical) about Friedman’s piece is that much of what she says in it is true. For example:

If President Abbas cannot acknowledge Jewish claims in Jerusalem, even as he asserts Palestinian claims (a problem Yasser Arafat suffered from), he should not be surprised if it is more difficult for Israelis and Jews, wherever they are, to believe that he can be trusted in a peace agreement that leaves Jerusalem sites precious to Jews under Palestinian control.

If representatives of the organization that sponsored the Arab Peace Initiative cannot bring themselves to acknowledge the legitimacy of Jewish equities in Jerusalem, they should know that they discredit their own professed interest in peace. …

All throughout the day, it was unfortunately the same story. Participants talked about Jerusalem as if Jewish history did not exist or was a fraud — as if all Jewish claims in the city were just a tactic to dispossess Palestinians.

Friedman is quite right about all of this. But does it really need to be pointed out that she needn’t have traveled to Doha to figure this out? The Palestinians and their cheerleaders have been making this clear for decades. That is why Peace Now in Israel has been discredited by the events that have transpired since the Oslo Accords were signed, and their political supporters in the Knesset have been trounced in election after election. The traditional left in Israel, at least as far as the Palestinian issue is concerned, is barely alive, though you wouldn’t know it from the way many on the Jewish left in the United States talk. The conceit of groups like Americans for Peace Now and J Street — that Israel must be pressured to make peace by the United States for its own good — makes no sense once you realize the Jewish state has repeatedly tried and failed to trade land for peace and the Palestinians have little interest in a two-state solution no matter where Israel’s borders would be drawn.

Friedman archly compares the Arab hate fest she is attending to Jewish conclaves where only pro-Israel speakers participate. This is a bit much as is her insinuation no one who cares for Israel’s future can possibly oppose a partition of Jerusalem that would place Jewish holy places in the tender care of Abbas and his Hamas allies. As she has discovered to her consternation, Palestinians don’t care about Jewish sensibilities, let alone Jewish rights. Her failure to draw any rational conclusions from what she has heard in Doha tells us all we need to know about the irrelevance of Peace Now to any serious discussion about the future of the Middle East.

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Consult Jerusalem’s Palestinians Before Rushing to Divide the City

Here, in one sentence, is the gist of Frank Jacob’s 1,500-word op-ed in the New York Times this week: Divided cities are bad, and we should strive to reunite them – except for Jerusalem, which we should instead strive to redivide, even though it will likely mean building a wall through its heart. “In a place where there’s no middle ground,where you’re either from one side or the other, it’s hard to see how a case can be made that both parts of the city belong together, and should grow together,” he pontificated. “Even [former West Berlin Mayor and German Chancellor] Willy Brandt would agree.”

I have no doubt Brandt would agree if he were still alive; most Europeans do. But here’s who wouldn’t agree: a sizable minority, and quite possibly a majority, of those East Jerusalem Palestinians whom Jacobs and his fellow pundits so blithely advocate tearing away from Israel.

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Here, in one sentence, is the gist of Frank Jacob’s 1,500-word op-ed in the New York Times this week: Divided cities are bad, and we should strive to reunite them – except for Jerusalem, which we should instead strive to redivide, even though it will likely mean building a wall through its heart. “In a place where there’s no middle ground,where you’re either from one side or the other, it’s hard to see how a case can be made that both parts of the city belong together, and should grow together,” he pontificated. “Even [former West Berlin Mayor and German Chancellor] Willy Brandt would agree.”

I have no doubt Brandt would agree if he were still alive; most Europeans do. But here’s who wouldn’t agree: a sizable minority, and quite possibly a majority, of those East Jerusalem Palestinians whom Jacobs and his fellow pundits so blithely advocate tearing away from Israel.

In a November 2010 poll which 1,039 East Jerusalem Palestinians conducted via face-to-face interviews, fully 35 percent said they would prefer remaining Israeli if a two-state solution emerged, compared to only 30 percent who preferred Palestinian citizenship. The remainder declined to answer or said they didn’t know.

Since a Palestinian who openly prefers Israel would be deemed treasonous by most of his compatriots, the fact that a majority of those who actually answered the question nevertheless chose Israel is stunning – especially because the interviews were conducted by Palestinian pollsters (the poll was officially conducted by Pechter Middle East Polls and the Council on Foreign Relations, but they hired a West Bank firm, Dr. Nabil Kukali’s Palestinian Center for Public Opinion, to do the actual interviews). That makes it likely that among those who declined to answer, an even larger majority would have chosen Israel.

The same preference emerged from a different question: Would you relocate to Israel (or Palestine) if your neighborhood of Jerusalem ended up in the other? Fully 40 percent of respondents said they would move to remain in Israel, while only 27 percent said they would move to become part of Palestine. Again, the likelihood is that those who declined to answer would break even more strongly for Israel.

In September 2011, two weeks before the Palestinians formally applied for statehood at the UN, Pechter and the Washington Institute conducted a follow-up poll, again using Kukali’s firm for the actual interviews. This time, 39 percent said they preferred Israeli citizenship and 53 percent preferred Palestinian, seemingly indicating, as the pollsters wrote, that “views have shifted toward this option among the one-third who previously voiced uncertainty or refused to answer.”

But it could equally reflect the fact that amid all the hoopla over the imminent statehood bid, more Palestinians felt acutely uncomfortable publicly stating a preference for Israel, regardless of what they actually thought. This possibility is bolstered by the fact that while 42 percent said they would move to Israel if their neighborhood became Palestinian, only 44 percent said they would move to Palestine if their neighborhood remained Israeli. In other words, all those who publicly preferred Israeli citizenship were willing to move to obtain it. But among those who publicly preferred Palestinian citizenship, many fewer were willing to move to obtain it.

Clearly, none of this makes East Jerusalem Palestinians into Zionists; those who preferred Israeli citizenship mainly cited practical reasons: “freedom of movement in Israel, higher income and better job opportunities, and Israeli health insurance.” But that doesn’t make their preferences less worthy of consideration.

So before Westerners blithely assert that dividing Jerusalem is what’s best for its Palestinian residents, perhaps they ought to pay a little more attention to what those residents actually say.

 

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Turkey to Hamas: Next Year in Jerusalem

No, it’s not Passover yet. That’s the promise, however, from Ömer Çelik, the deputy chairman of Turkey’s ruling party, the Justice and Development Party, which like Hamas is an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood. Meeting with Ismail Haniyeh, the leader of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, Çelik quipped, “We hope we can freely sit and chat in Jerusalem soon.” That would be like Benjamin Netanyahu telling Iraqi Kurdish leader Masud Barzani that perhaps, God willing, the two could sit down in Diyarbakir, the capital of a free Kurdistan.

When the deputy head of Turkey’s ruling party meets with a terrorist leader to encourage territorial conquest, perhaps it’s time for Israel to play hardball.

No, it’s not Passover yet. That’s the promise, however, from Ömer Çelik, the deputy chairman of Turkey’s ruling party, the Justice and Development Party, which like Hamas is an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood. Meeting with Ismail Haniyeh, the leader of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, Çelik quipped, “We hope we can freely sit and chat in Jerusalem soon.” That would be like Benjamin Netanyahu telling Iraqi Kurdish leader Masud Barzani that perhaps, God willing, the two could sit down in Diyarbakir, the capital of a free Kurdistan.

When the deputy head of Turkey’s ruling party meets with a terrorist leader to encourage territorial conquest, perhaps it’s time for Israel to play hardball.

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Hamas Leader’s Tour Theme: Fight “Judaization” of Jerusalem

The tour of Arab capitals being conducted by Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh should throw cold water on the idea that the Hamas-Fatah unity pact will result in greater Palestinian flexibility and willingness to make peace with Israel. Haniyeh, who was in Cairo yesterday as part of his triumphant journey through the Middle East, made it clear that Hamas’ priority remains heating up the conflict with the Jewish state. By using the visit to call upon Muslims and Arabs to fight against what he called the “Judaization” of Jerusalem, the leader of the Gaza-based terror movement shone a spotlight on a new phase of incitement toward violence.

In attempting to rally Muslims to “defend” the city against the Jews, Haniyeh is following in the footsteps of past generations of Islamist leaders who sought to foment violence against Jewish targets. Considering that Hamas’ declared goal is the eviction of Jews from all of the Jewish state, his declaration that Israel is planning an “ethnic cleansing” of the city and, indeed, the whole country, rings false. But, coming as it did at the end of the festival of Chanukah, which commemorates the Jewish effort to hold onto their capital and holy places, his statements ought to sober up any Israelis who thought the unity pact might heighten the chances for peace.

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The tour of Arab capitals being conducted by Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh should throw cold water on the idea that the Hamas-Fatah unity pact will result in greater Palestinian flexibility and willingness to make peace with Israel. Haniyeh, who was in Cairo yesterday as part of his triumphant journey through the Middle East, made it clear that Hamas’ priority remains heating up the conflict with the Jewish state. By using the visit to call upon Muslims and Arabs to fight against what he called the “Judaization” of Jerusalem, the leader of the Gaza-based terror movement shone a spotlight on a new phase of incitement toward violence.

In attempting to rally Muslims to “defend” the city against the Jews, Haniyeh is following in the footsteps of past generations of Islamist leaders who sought to foment violence against Jewish targets. Considering that Hamas’ declared goal is the eviction of Jews from all of the Jewish state, his declaration that Israel is planning an “ethnic cleansing” of the city and, indeed, the whole country, rings false. But, coming as it did at the end of the festival of Chanukah, which commemorates the Jewish effort to hold onto their capital and holy places, his statements ought to sober up any Israelis who thought the unity pact might heighten the chances for peace.

This “anti-Judaization” campaign is part and parcel of a concerted effort by both Hamas and its “moderate” Fatah allies to deny Jewish history and the authenticity of the millennia-old claim of the Jewish people to their capital. This same week, the announcement that a tourist center might be built on the site of the ancient City of David in Jerusalem where archeologists have made important discoveries about the history of the ancient Davidic kingdom generated protests. Palestinian Arabs are offended that this significant historical treasure will be preserved not just because it sits in a part of the city where many Arabs live but also because its presence reaffirms the historical claims of Israel and the Jews to the place.

Last week, another proof of the authenticity of biblical history was provided when the Israeli Antiquities Authority put on display a rare clay seal that was used to authenticate the purity of ritual objects used in the Second Temple which was discovered near the Western Wall. Israeli Cabinet member Limor Livnat called the find “a seal of verification of our right to the Land of Israel.” Her colleague, Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar, also rightly pointed out “these excavations could not have taken place without Israeli sovereignty.”

The point here is not just that Hamas seeks to destroy the State of Israel but that it is also trying to eradicate Jewish history. Many conquerors in the past have attempted to strip Jerusalem of its Jewish identity, but the ancient capital of the Jewish state and Jewish life cannot be “Judaized.” Haniyeh claims he is trying to build support for embattled Muslims in the city but his listeners must know that the last 41 years of Israeli sovereignty over the city is the only time in its history when there has been full religious freedom there. His goal is to end that era and replace it with an Islamist reign of terror. To the extent that any shift in tactics on Hamas’ part causes the West to drop its designation of the organization as a terror group, they will be aiding his campaign against the peace of Jerusalem.

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RE: Egypt Needs Liberalism

There’s not much more to say in a general sense about Michael Totten’s badly needed reality check differentiating liberal democracies — roughly, those that have robust democratic institutions that insulate themselves — from mere democratic spectacles. But it’s worth noting, as a way of beginning to evaluate how the Cairo riots will affect Near East diplomacy, just how much this fundamental point has been neglected in the specific context of Arab-Israeli peacemaking.

For Israel, the cold peace with Egypt and the intermittent peace with the Palestinian Authority have always been conducted against the backdrop of a see-no-evil approach to incitement. As long as Cairo and Ramallah cooperated with Jerusalem on security issues, Israeli and Western diplomats looked the other way as those regimes violated their Camp David and Oslo pledges to undertake normalization.

Put more bluntly: as long as Egypt and the Palestinian Authority helped stymie the terrorists of today, Israel and the West were content to let them go on creating the terrorists of tomorrow. Because at least those regimes were stable!

Those terrorists of tomorrow were made possible through geography textbooks that erased Israel, and through television programs that vilified Jews, and through official government propaganda that scapegoated the Jewish state for every imaginable social ill. As of this morning, the Mubarak regime is parading “protesters” in front of state-TV cameras to explain how they were trained by the Mossad to bring down the regime.

The result is that Egyptian and Palestinian civil society is a feverish cesspool of anti-Semitic conspiracism — recall the minor hysteria a few weeks ago over Zionist attack sharks — while Egyptians and Palestinians continue to very publicly indulge in fantasies of eradicating Israel itself. Read More

There’s not much more to say in a general sense about Michael Totten’s badly needed reality check differentiating liberal democracies — roughly, those that have robust democratic institutions that insulate themselves — from mere democratic spectacles. But it’s worth noting, as a way of beginning to evaluate how the Cairo riots will affect Near East diplomacy, just how much this fundamental point has been neglected in the specific context of Arab-Israeli peacemaking.

For Israel, the cold peace with Egypt and the intermittent peace with the Palestinian Authority have always been conducted against the backdrop of a see-no-evil approach to incitement. As long as Cairo and Ramallah cooperated with Jerusalem on security issues, Israeli and Western diplomats looked the other way as those regimes violated their Camp David and Oslo pledges to undertake normalization.

Put more bluntly: as long as Egypt and the Palestinian Authority helped stymie the terrorists of today, Israel and the West were content to let them go on creating the terrorists of tomorrow. Because at least those regimes were stable!

Those terrorists of tomorrow were made possible through geography textbooks that erased Israel, and through television programs that vilified Jews, and through official government propaganda that scapegoated the Jewish state for every imaginable social ill. As of this morning, the Mubarak regime is parading “protesters” in front of state-TV cameras to explain how they were trained by the Mossad to bring down the regime.

The result is that Egyptian and Palestinian civil society is a feverish cesspool of anti-Semitic conspiracism — recall the minor hysteria a few weeks ago over Zionist attack sharks — while Egyptians and Palestinians continue to very publicly indulge in fantasies of eradicating Israel itself.

These are the wages of making peace with governments while allowing normalization between societies to atrophy. Israel let its partners in peace purchase domestic tranquility by demonizing the Jewish state in terms that often crossed the line into outright bigotry, and so now that its partners in peace are collapsing — Cairo, Palileaks, etc. — we’re in a situation where serious people are talking about a return to cyclical nation-state war-fighting.

If a defensible land-for-peace framework returns — and that’s a real question — normalization will have to become more than a pro forma addendum to treaties. Above and beyond normalization being good in itself, an end to incitement will force regimes to undertake badly needed liberal reforms. If they don’t have the Jewish state to demonize for their problems, they might need to address those problems, and something approaching liberal democracy might begin to take shape.

But instead, our best foreign-policy minds are engaged in white-washing the Muslim Brotherhood into an organization with which we can do business. That’s not true and it’s never been true, but let’s pretend it is.

In that case, it would still be a disastrous decision, since it repeats the same stability-oriented mistakes of the old see-no-evil approach. Under autocracies, anti-Israel incitement suffocated liberal institutions indirectly, by channeling dissent into hatred of Israelis and Jews. A Muslim Brotherhood government would suffocate liberal institutions more directly, insofar as the party would make good on its promises to exclude gender and religious minorities from the highest echelons of Egyptian life.

If the instability in Egypt shows us that there’s a difference between democratic niceties and actual liberal democracy — and it does — then the question becomes one of how to create the conditions for liberal democracy. Viewed through that lens, there’s no real difference between engaging Mubarak and engaging the Muslim Brotherhood. Both are out to undermine the institutions and practices that are preconditions for genuine peace in the Middle East.

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Insights on Egypt from Israel

Maj. Gen. (Res.) Yaakov Amidror, who held several senior posts in the Israel Defense Forces, including head of the IDF division preparing Israel’s National Intelligence Assessment, held a conference call this morning sponsored by One Jerusalem. In discussing Egypt, he said this:

There is no question that this is one of the fruits of the Internet technology — that these are mechanisms which give people the ability to organize without an organization … [T]his is the strength of the opposition: the fact that it was not organized by someone, but is a matter of people who organized themselves.

But when it comes to the next stage …  I mean “We don’t want Mubarak” is okay, but now you want something that can bring you to another stage. For that, you need an organization. And in elections after some months, there are very few organizations who have the ability to organize themselves … [other than] the Muslim Brotherhood. They have a long history, they have very deep roots in the society and when they compete with other elements of the opposition, which do not have these traditions, this organization, these roots, it is a new phenomenon …

In The Case for Democracy, Natan Sharansky warned that elections are never the beginning of the democratic process, but can only occur after the basic institutions of a free society are in place — a free press, the rule of law, independent courts, political parties. It was why he praised George W. Bush’s landmark June 24, 2002, speech conditioning U.S. support for a Palestinian state on prior Palestinian success in building “a practicing democracy, based on tolerance and liberty” — and then opposed the Roadmap, which he viewed as Bush’s abandonment of that condition in exchange for faith in Mahmoud Abbas as a “moderate.”

Sharansky’s insight was that moderation is not a function of a leader’s disposition or promises but of the society he governs: “One can rely on a free society to create the moderate, but one cannot rely on a moderate to create a free society.” In thinking about Egypt and its future, perhaps we can profit from a comparison of the Bush administration’s great achievement — the long, hard slog to create a representative government in Iraq — and the administration’s signal failure: the “shortcut” elections it sponsored in 2006 that produced the victory of Hamas.

The Obama administration’s current approach may be, as former State Department senior adviser Christian Whiton argues, too clever by half — closer to what produced Hamastan than what is necessary for a lasting democratic result.

Maj. Gen. (Res.) Yaakov Amidror, who held several senior posts in the Israel Defense Forces, including head of the IDF division preparing Israel’s National Intelligence Assessment, held a conference call this morning sponsored by One Jerusalem. In discussing Egypt, he said this:

There is no question that this is one of the fruits of the Internet technology — that these are mechanisms which give people the ability to organize without an organization … [T]his is the strength of the opposition: the fact that it was not organized by someone, but is a matter of people who organized themselves.

But when it comes to the next stage …  I mean “We don’t want Mubarak” is okay, but now you want something that can bring you to another stage. For that, you need an organization. And in elections after some months, there are very few organizations who have the ability to organize themselves … [other than] the Muslim Brotherhood. They have a long history, they have very deep roots in the society and when they compete with other elements of the opposition, which do not have these traditions, this organization, these roots, it is a new phenomenon …

In The Case for Democracy, Natan Sharansky warned that elections are never the beginning of the democratic process, but can only occur after the basic institutions of a free society are in place — a free press, the rule of law, independent courts, political parties. It was why he praised George W. Bush’s landmark June 24, 2002, speech conditioning U.S. support for a Palestinian state on prior Palestinian success in building “a practicing democracy, based on tolerance and liberty” — and then opposed the Roadmap, which he viewed as Bush’s abandonment of that condition in exchange for faith in Mahmoud Abbas as a “moderate.”

Sharansky’s insight was that moderation is not a function of a leader’s disposition or promises but of the society he governs: “One can rely on a free society to create the moderate, but one cannot rely on a moderate to create a free society.” In thinking about Egypt and its future, perhaps we can profit from a comparison of the Bush administration’s great achievement — the long, hard slog to create a representative government in Iraq — and the administration’s signal failure: the “shortcut” elections it sponsored in 2006 that produced the victory of Hamas.

The Obama administration’s current approach may be, as former State Department senior adviser Christian Whiton argues, too clever by half — closer to what produced Hamastan than what is necessary for a lasting democratic result.

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Obama’s New Anti-Satellite Weapons Push to Cede Space to the Chinese?

In 2006, the Chinese reportedly used an anti-satellite weapon (ASAT) to blind one of our satellites. In 2007, they definitely used an ASAT to shoot down one of their own satellites. Incidents like these led the Pentagon in 2008 and Secretary Gates in 2010 to assert that China’s ASAT program was meant, respectively, to enhance their power projection and to curtail ours.

So naturally — per Eli Lake’s extensive report this morning — the Obama administration is pushing for a U.S./EU agreement that would severely restrict our ASAT capabilities. Experts who back the administration describe it as a “not exactly binding” minor move, the upshot being that Obama wouldn’t have to secure Senate approval for the measure. But experts and congressional staffers both insist that it would significantly curb what we can do in space and would endanger our ability to develop and deploy both offensive and defensive assets:

[A] congressional staff member said: “There is a suspicion that this is a slippery slope to arms control for space-based weapons, anti-satellite weapons and a back door to potentially limiting missile defense.”… “Because it appears that they are talking about limiting operations … it could be that this is as much an agreement on the law of war as it is on arms control,” Mr. Spring [a defense analyst at the Heritage Foundation] said. “If it is something more like a law-of-war agreement, then you are creating a situation of legal jeopardy for a military commander who is responsible for operating systems in space.”

Presumably, the argument is that if we give up ours, they’ll give up theirs. The muddy, cascading norms argument is always trotted out when people push for unilateral disarmament, which is what opposing space militarization means in an age of Chinese ascendancy. In a full-blown movement, you’ll find the argument buttressed by everything from “at least our side won’t be complicit” moral preening to “it’ll snowball into a global movement, then there won’t be any more sides” activist nonsense. But it’s always there, in part because we have a surplus of foreign-policy experts churning out implausible advantages for their pet policies — and then selling those fanciful pretexts as objective evaluations.

If stopping Israeli construction in a particular Jerusalem neighborhood can placate Afghanis who’ve never seen a map of Israel, is it too much to suggest that unilateral Western gestures on space militarization will cause Beijing to abandon its ASAT program?

Turns out, there’s an answer to that:

The State Department has exchanged language with the EU on the code of conduct. The U.S. and Russia also have begun talks about creating confidence-building measures regarding space-based activities. The U.S. has reached out to China on space issues, but Beijing has declined offers to discuss the issue, according to a senior State Department official. [emphasis added]

Disappointing to be sure, but I’m sure there’s still something else we can give up that would swing them.

In 2006, the Chinese reportedly used an anti-satellite weapon (ASAT) to blind one of our satellites. In 2007, they definitely used an ASAT to shoot down one of their own satellites. Incidents like these led the Pentagon in 2008 and Secretary Gates in 2010 to assert that China’s ASAT program was meant, respectively, to enhance their power projection and to curtail ours.

So naturally — per Eli Lake’s extensive report this morning — the Obama administration is pushing for a U.S./EU agreement that would severely restrict our ASAT capabilities. Experts who back the administration describe it as a “not exactly binding” minor move, the upshot being that Obama wouldn’t have to secure Senate approval for the measure. But experts and congressional staffers both insist that it would significantly curb what we can do in space and would endanger our ability to develop and deploy both offensive and defensive assets:

[A] congressional staff member said: “There is a suspicion that this is a slippery slope to arms control for space-based weapons, anti-satellite weapons and a back door to potentially limiting missile defense.”… “Because it appears that they are talking about limiting operations … it could be that this is as much an agreement on the law of war as it is on arms control,” Mr. Spring [a defense analyst at the Heritage Foundation] said. “If it is something more like a law-of-war agreement, then you are creating a situation of legal jeopardy for a military commander who is responsible for operating systems in space.”

Presumably, the argument is that if we give up ours, they’ll give up theirs. The muddy, cascading norms argument is always trotted out when people push for unilateral disarmament, which is what opposing space militarization means in an age of Chinese ascendancy. In a full-blown movement, you’ll find the argument buttressed by everything from “at least our side won’t be complicit” moral preening to “it’ll snowball into a global movement, then there won’t be any more sides” activist nonsense. But it’s always there, in part because we have a surplus of foreign-policy experts churning out implausible advantages for their pet policies — and then selling those fanciful pretexts as objective evaluations.

If stopping Israeli construction in a particular Jerusalem neighborhood can placate Afghanis who’ve never seen a map of Israel, is it too much to suggest that unilateral Western gestures on space militarization will cause Beijing to abandon its ASAT program?

Turns out, there’s an answer to that:

The State Department has exchanged language with the EU on the code of conduct. The U.S. and Russia also have begun talks about creating confidence-building measures regarding space-based activities. The U.S. has reached out to China on space issues, but Beijing has declined offers to discuss the issue, according to a senior State Department official. [emphasis added]

Disappointing to be sure, but I’m sure there’s still something else we can give up that would swing them.

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Why Did Peace Talks Fail? Abbas Wouldn’t Take the Pen and Sign

The New York Times is reporting today that former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert’s memoirs confirm what has long been known to be true: that in September 2008, Mahmoud Abbas walked away from a peace agreement that would have guaranteed a Palestinian state in virtually all the West Bank, Gaza, and part of Jerusalem.

Excerpts from Olmert’s memoirs were published yesterday in the Israeli newspaper Yediot Aharonot, and his recollections, along with the Palestinian documents released by Al Jazeera this week, provide a fairly comprehensive picture of what went on in the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority in 2008. This week we have been hearing a great deal about how accommodating Abbas was in “conceding” that Jews would be allowed to stay in their homes in Jerusalem and that Israel would not allow millions of descendants of Palestinian refugees to transform the Jewish state into one more Arab one. But the real concessions were, as has consistently been the case since the Oslo process began in 1993, made by Israel.

Olmert’s 2008 concessions were unprecedented. He not only was prepared to give the Palestinians their state; he also gave in on the question of an Israeli security presence along the Jordan River (that border would be patrolled by an international force with no Israelis present); he was prepared to allow Jerusalem’s holy places to be placed in the hands of a multinational committee; and he was even prepared to allow a symbolic number of refugees to settle in Israel while “generously compensating” all others who claimed that status. Read More

The New York Times is reporting today that former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert’s memoirs confirm what has long been known to be true: that in September 2008, Mahmoud Abbas walked away from a peace agreement that would have guaranteed a Palestinian state in virtually all the West Bank, Gaza, and part of Jerusalem.

Excerpts from Olmert’s memoirs were published yesterday in the Israeli newspaper Yediot Aharonot, and his recollections, along with the Palestinian documents released by Al Jazeera this week, provide a fairly comprehensive picture of what went on in the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority in 2008. This week we have been hearing a great deal about how accommodating Abbas was in “conceding” that Jews would be allowed to stay in their homes in Jerusalem and that Israel would not allow millions of descendants of Palestinian refugees to transform the Jewish state into one more Arab one. But the real concessions were, as has consistently been the case since the Oslo process began in 1993, made by Israel.

Olmert’s 2008 concessions were unprecedented. He not only was prepared to give the Palestinians their state; he also gave in on the question of an Israeli security presence along the Jordan River (that border would be patrolled by an international force with no Israelis present); he was prepared to allow Jerusalem’s holy places to be placed in the hands of a multinational committee; and he was even prepared to allow a symbolic number of refugees to settle in Israel while “generously compensating” all others who claimed that status.

These concessions represented grave setbacks to Israeli security and Jewish rights. Israel’s past experience with international security forces along its borders are mixed, though the horrible record of United Nations forces in Lebanon — which allowed terrorists free access to the frontier — is a reminder of the cost of relying on foreign troops to guarantee Israeli security. Similarly, it should be noted that the only period during which Jews — and members of other faiths — have had full access to sacred spots has been since 1967. Prior to that, Jewish access to the holy places was virtually nonexistent. Olmert’s reliance on the goodwill of an international community that has never been particularly concerned with Jewish rights was extraordinary. And as for the refugees, his willingness to allow some back into Israel and to compensate the others completely ignores the fact that the hundreds of thousands of Jewish refugees from Arab countries who were forced out of their homes after 1948 seem to have been completely forgotten in his pact with Abbas.

Olmert would have had a difficult time selling such a terrible deal to Israelis, but the odds are they would have accepted it if it meant that the Palestinians were truly willing to end the conflict. But it never came to that. Why? It was simply because Abbas couldn’t bring himself to take yes for an answer. For all the chatter about how many concessions the Palestinians were willing to make, when it came to actually making peace and taking the best deal possible, Abbas was no different from his old boss Yasir Arafat, who turned down Bill Clinton and the Israelis at Camp David in 2000.

As Olmert tells it, on Sept. 16, 2008, in a meeting at the prime minister’s residence in Jerusalem, the Israeli handed Abbas a map showing his Palestinian state including parts of Jerusalem.

“Abu Mazen [Abbas] said that he could not decide and that he needed time,” Mr. Olmert writes. “I told him that he was making an historic mistake.

“ ‘Give me the map so that I can consult with my colleagues,’ he said to me. ‘No,’ I replied. ‘Take the pen and sign now. You’ll never get an offer that is fairer or more just. Don’t hesitate. This is hard for me too, but we don’t have an option of not resolving this.’”

Abbas and Olmert never met again. Faced with an opportunity to end the conflict and create the Palestinian state that has supposedly been his movement’s goal, Abbas couldn’t take the pen and sign because he knew that the culture of Palestinian politics was such that he could not persuade his people to compromise. The essence of Palestinian nationalism has always been and remains the negation of both Zionism and the legitimacy of a Jewish state. Concede that and there is no Palestinian nationalism. So once again, the Palestinians walked away from peace.

Yesterday Abbas’s top negotiator, Saeb Erekat, claimed in an article in the Guardian that the Al Jazeera documents show that the Palestinians had no partner for peace. We will continue to hear more big lies from the Palestinians and their Western cheerleaders in the future. But the truth is, as Abbas’s refusal to take the pen proves, even the most moderate Palestinian leaders still can’t make peace.

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Partial Freezes, Complete Freezes, and Eskimos

One of the most interesting “Palestine Papers” is the Minutes of a September 17, 2009, meeting between Saeb Erekat (SE), the chief Palestinian negotiator, and Dan Shapiro (DS) of the White House National Security Council, along with several high level State Department people and George Mitchell’s chief of staff.

The Americans urged the Palestinians to commence negotiations even though the U.S. had been able to obtain only a partial building freeze. The discussion in the Minutes represents, in my view, a microcosm of the 17-year peace process.

Erekat expressed his unwillingness to negotiate with Benjamin Netanyahu (BN), since Netanyahu had made his position clear, which was unacceptable to the Palestinians:

SE: … On substance, from day one BN said: Jerusalem the eternal undivided capital of Israel, demilitarized state without control over borders or airspace, no refugees. Once you agree to this we can negotiate a piece of paper and an anthem.

Erekat’s position was that “anything short of 2 states on the 1967 border is meaningless.” He explained his theory on Netanyahu’s strategy:

SE: When Bibi talks about excluding Jerusalem it is to make sure we can’t attend, because he doesn’t want to.

DS: So by not going aren’t you playing into his hand?

SE: You put me in this position! It’s like having a gun to my head — damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

Netanyahu had set forth an adamant negotiating position, but also his willingness to negotiate without preconditions. The Palestinians responded with their own adamant position (nothing short of the indefensible 1967 lines) and their unwillingness to negotiate. If the Palestinians were correct about Netanyahu’s strategy, they were playing right into it — and blaming not themselves but the United States! Read More

One of the most interesting “Palestine Papers” is the Minutes of a September 17, 2009, meeting between Saeb Erekat (SE), the chief Palestinian negotiator, and Dan Shapiro (DS) of the White House National Security Council, along with several high level State Department people and George Mitchell’s chief of staff.

The Americans urged the Palestinians to commence negotiations even though the U.S. had been able to obtain only a partial building freeze. The discussion in the Minutes represents, in my view, a microcosm of the 17-year peace process.

Erekat expressed his unwillingness to negotiate with Benjamin Netanyahu (BN), since Netanyahu had made his position clear, which was unacceptable to the Palestinians:

SE: … On substance, from day one BN said: Jerusalem the eternal undivided capital of Israel, demilitarized state without control over borders or airspace, no refugees. Once you agree to this we can negotiate a piece of paper and an anthem.

Erekat’s position was that “anything short of 2 states on the 1967 border is meaningless.” He explained his theory on Netanyahu’s strategy:

SE: When Bibi talks about excluding Jerusalem it is to make sure we can’t attend, because he doesn’t want to.

DS: So by not going aren’t you playing into his hand?

SE: You put me in this position! It’s like having a gun to my head — damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

Netanyahu had set forth an adamant negotiating position, but also his willingness to negotiate without preconditions. The Palestinians responded with their own adamant position (nothing short of the indefensible 1967 lines) and their unwillingness to negotiate. If the Palestinians were correct about Netanyahu’s strategy, they were playing right into it — and blaming not themselves but the United States!

Shapiro suggested that the Palestinians had a sympathetic U.S. president and should start negotiating, given his commitment to them:

DE: The President has demonstrated a personal and real commitment to you. What you are saying indicates that you tend to discount the President’s commitment. It strikes me that it doesn’t seem to be worth a lot to you.

SE: This is not about personalities or conscience. Bush did not wake up one day and his conscience told him “two state solution.” It’s about interests. We have waited a painful 17 years in this process, to take our fate in our own hands.

But quite a lot happened in those 17 years. They got three offers of a state on substantially all the West Bank and Gaza, with a capital in Jerusalem — and turned all three down. They received all of Gaza and a chance to show they could build a state without threatening Israel — and demonstrated the opposite. They got a U.S. president personally committed to them, who undoubtedly would eventually push “bridging proposals” more to their liking than to Israel’s — and they refused to start negotiations without a complete freeze. A lot of opportunities came their way during those 17 years, while they were “waiting.”

In an old joke, a man tells a bartender he lost his religion after his small plane crashed in frozen Alaskan tundra and he lay there for hours, crying for God to save him, and nothing happened. The bartender says, “wait — you’re here.” “Right,” says the man, “because finally a damned Eskimo came along.” Some day Saeb Erekat will explain to some bartender that he was a negotiator for 17 years but nothing happened, except for all the damned Eskimos who came along.

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