Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Kushner - From Israel: That Sound You May Hear...

Arlene Kushner
Arlene from Israel
29 November '11

Is yours truly, banging her head against the wall.

Prime Minister Netanyahu has just announced that Israel may release to the PA tax funds that have been held since the PA applied for acceptance by UNESCO as a full member.

"Israel will examine this possibility, in light of the current calm situation," he said, indicating that the PA has slowed its unilateral steps at the UN.

It was at this point that head banging suddenly seemed appropriate to me. The reality is that the PA decided not to call for a Security Council vote on membership in the UN because it had become clear that the vote would not pass -- not because of a Palestinian Arab change of heart.

But what does Netanyahu say? "We see things quieting down on the Palestinian side -- they decided to stop these steps. We didn't need a veto in the Security Council. It's in the Palestinian interest to stop."

Wait. Wait. Israel and the US had both lobbied members of the Security Council with sufficient effectiveness so that there would not have been a quorum voting and the PA request would not have gone through, even without that veto. That's why a veto wasn't needed. It was in the Palestinian interest to refrain from calling a vote because it would have made them look like failed fools at the end of the day.

As to applying to other UN agencies for membership following its success with UNICEF -- the PA leadership fully intended to do this, but was specifically asked by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon not to because the agencies would suffer financial repercussions.

Thus the "calm." It came about by virtue of diplomatic victories over the PA, not because its leaders had mellowed.

As to the declared PA intention to seek enhanced observer status at the General Assembly, Netanyahu says the PA has tabled this. This is the first I have heard this and I'm trying to learn more about what went on behind the scenes, if this is the case.

But for this we need to reward Abbas?


It was easy to see this sort of thing coming. And here's the clincher:

Netanyahu says that the PA's "union with Hamas is ceremonial, and does not have concrete results."

But it's in process. It may have concrete results and it may not. We should cut Abbas -- who has declared intention to form a unity government, "a resistance government" with Hamas -- slack because it hasn't happened yet? He just announced that joint elections will be held May 4.

This sort of "well, the PA interaction with Hamas doesn't really mean anything" approach was also thoroughly predictable. But I had expected this from the US and the EU, and down the road a bit, if there is a coalition rather than true unity.

To hear it already, from my prime minister...


The next question, then, is what the motivating factor was for Netanyahu to make these statements. We can guess at the US/EU pressure that was put upon him -- predicated on some notion, still, that this would entice Abbas to the table. For he also said, "The real goal, as far as we're concerned, is negotiations without preconditions." Followed by an explanation of why Abbas tried to avoid them (so as to avoid paying a price), and how unreasonable PA demands have kept those negotiations from happening.

So, do we need to be grateful that there were not more significant Israeli concessions -- such as freezing all construction beyond the Green Line -- being proposed by the prime minister?


What I am glad about is that Netanyahu rejects out of hand suggestions from the Israeli left that, as a gesture, Marwan Barghouti be released from Israeli prison (where he deserves to remain for all of his days). The argument offered is that Barghouti would serve as a leader for the PA.

Netanyahu's very "right on!" comment: "Barghouti could take the PA to other directions, as part of his desire to compete with Hamas. Just because he has leadership abilities doesn't mean he should be let out."


One other factor that may be playing into the prime minister's announcement was hinted at in a statement by an unnamed source in the prime minister's office: "We're not interested in leading the PA to collapse."

Have statements been made to the prime minister regarding Israel's responsibilities were the PA to collapse (assuming the EU, the US, and the UN would let it collapse)?

At any rate, the unnamed source said there would be an assessment made monthly regarding release of funds.


Tough, straight-talking Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman is exceedingly unhappy about the projected release of the funds to the PA. At a faction [Yisrael Beitenu] meeting, he said:

"I've heard the infantile claims about the money belonging to the Palestinians, as if they can use the money to murder or incite to murder. [Mahmoud Abbas] meets the 1,000 terrorists that have been released...and calls them 'freedom fighters.' He gives them $5,000 and more money for an apartment. He says the money is for their security force but it's not true."

Abbas, charges Lieberman, is "subsidizing terrorists," especially as there continues to be incitement in PA-produced text books.

Lieberman claims that reporters got it wrong last week when they wrote that he said he would leave the coalition if the money is released:

"We [Yisrael Beitenu] will oppose giving the money to the PA. We won't leave, but we'll do everything possible to make sure the money isn't transferred to the PA."


Well, Egypt has had two days of elections -- which have proceeded without violence but with indications of multiple irregularities. I have no intention of trying to explain its exceedingly complex electoral system. If you would like to understand it better, you might see Reuters, here:

And Arutz Sheva had this to say about the elections:

"The election in Egypt features a six-foot long ballot list of 3,009 candidates, and symbols for political parties. One-third of the Egyptian public is illiterate, so authorities use symbols instead of names of political parties.
"There are 2,357 independent candidates vying for 57 seats and 1,452 party candidates for 112 other seats. Voters pick one party and two independent candidates, but the complicated process has left many people confused."


Yesterday, Israeli President Shimon Peres -- with the full knowledge and sanction of the prime minister -- had a cordial face-to-face one-hour meeting in Amman with Jordan's King Abdullah II; it was kept secret until Peres had returned home by helicopter. More important than the content of the meeting, which covered such issues as settlements and negotiations, was the mere fact of the meeting at a time when the region is in chaos and headed towards anti-Israel Islamist leadership -- note particularly Morocco and Tunisia, with Egypt on the edge.

This was a bold statement by Abdullah regarding his readiness to remain a moderate and to retain ties with Israel -- and should not be taken lightly. Abdullah has made some remarks of late that have been both startling and unfortunate from the Israeli perspective -- making it obvious that he was walking a tightrope and feared for the stability of his Hashemite kingdom. This meeting then is welcome.

Perhaps even more welcome is the report in the JPost that officials in the prime minister's office said there was good contact between that office and Abdullah's office.


We might mention here, as well, a veiled allusion Netanyahu made recently with regard to contacts with some Arab countries. What is being assumed is that there are enhanced, covert, contacts between Jerusalem and places such as Saudi Arabia because of shared concerns about Iran.

The difference, of course, is that while Jordan's king is ready to go public regarding a relationship with Israel, the others will not.


Isfahan, a major city in Iran where key nuclear facilities are housed, suffered a major explosion yesterday -- or possibly two consecutive explosions. That's all I know about this particular occurrence, as solid information is scarce, the Iranians are heavily into denial and cover up, and speculations abound. Can't even say if the nuclear facility was directly hit -- it may be the case that it was not. What makes it suspect is that an Iranian news agency reported an explosion and then withdrew the report.

But what I do know is that there was extensive damage to an Iranian army base after an explosion on November 12, which killed a chief architect of the Iranian missile program.

And I further know of at least one former head of the Mossad who is opposed to a military strike on Iran because he thinks other means of disabling Iran's efforts are possible.

Every "problem" -- be it a supervirus or an explosion -- that Iran encounters does slow down in its path towards nuclear capability even if it doesn't disable it.

Sabotage here? Cannot say. All we can do is sit tight.


Iranian students, furious about increased British sanctions against Iran, stormed Britain's embassy in Iran today. Before the police re-gained control, the British flag and documents in the building had been burned. Six hostages were taken, but then released.

Just two days earlier, Iran had officially downgraded its diplomatic relations with Britain because of those sanctions.

Dare we hope that this will be a bit of a wake-up call for Britain?


Some four or more (I'm picking up varying reports) Katyusha rockets were fired from Lebanon into northern Israel last night, near the communities of Ma’alot and Kfar V'radim. There were no injuries.

The IDF returned fire (I assume simply in the direction from which the rockets came)., An obscure Al Qaeda-linked group called the Brigades of Abdullah Azzam took credit for the attack -- this is the same group that was associated with hitting Eilat from the Sinai at one point. One report indicates that at least some of the rockets were fired from the Rumaysh region, which is a Hezbollah stronghold; Hezbollah has had no comment. And there are charges that those launching the attack were proxies for Syria.

Israel is holding the Lebanese government responsible.


Today, November 29th, kaf tet b'november is a significant date in Jewish history although many are unaware of it.

From Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs:

"In February 1947, Great Britain, which had controlled the mandatory territory since 1917, decided to turn the issue of the Palestinian Mandate over to the United Nations. The UN established a Special Commission on Palestine (UNSCOP), which recommended the establishment of two states - Arab and Jewish - in the area and Jerusalem as an international enclave.

"The Jewish population - while dissatisfied with the small size of the territory allotted to their state in contradiction to the promises made by the League of Nations in 1922, as well as the plan to sever Jerusalem from the state by internationalizing it - accepted the compromise. In sharp contrast, the Arab states and the Arab residents of the Mandatory territory
rejected UNSCOP’s recommendations out of hand.

"The UN General Assembly held a vote on the partition plan and on 29 November 1947. UNGA Resolution 181 was adopted by 33 to 13, with 10 abstentions.

"The Arab rejection of the partition plan was not confined to a political act. The Arabs of the Mandate territory launched a large-scale terrorist campaign against their Jewish neighbors. This was followed by the invasion of Israel by five Arab armies who wanted to destroy Israel when it proclaimed its independence on 14 May 1948.

"The Jewish population defended itself against the Arabs' declared plans to 'throw the Jews into the sea' but at a heavy cost of 1% of their total population and great damage to the new state.

"The Arab population of the Mandate territory also suffered as a result of their refusal to accept the partition plan. Many heeded their leaders' calls to flee, others left after being caught up in the fighting. The large numbers who stayed in Israel became full citizens, with equal rights. Nevertheless, the Palestinian refugee problem had been created. It was to be kept alive artificially by the Arab and Palestinian leadership till the present day, while the comparable Jewish refugee problem was resolved by the nascent state of Israel.

"At war's end, Egypt had control of the Gaza Strip and Jordan annexed the West Bank. Neither saw fit to establish a Palestinian state in the territory they were to control for 19 years.

"While UNGA Resolution 181 expressed the will of the international community for the establishment of a Jewish state, Israel still had to meet all the requirements of UN membership to be accepted into the organization. After Security Council approval, Israel took its seat as the 59th member of the United Nations on 11 May 1949."


A couple of additional facts:

Jerusalem was to be internationalized separately only for 10 years, after which a referendum of its residents was to be held regarding the state to which it would belong. Jews were a majority in Jerusalem at that time. Had this been carried out, there is reason to believe that Jerusalem might well have gone to Israel. In any event, even though two states were proposed, at no time was it suggested by the UN that Jerusalem should be divided between those two states -- it was envisioned always as one municipal entity, a unity.

It was Britain that had held the Mandate for Palestine and Britain that had turned over to the General Assembly the matter of what to do with Palestine once the Mandate ended. And yet, when the partition plan was voted upon in the UN, Britain abstained.


You can hear an actual audio recording of the UN vote here: .


For a Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs quiz on these events, see here:

© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.

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