Friday, December 23, 2011

Kushner - From Israel: Stances That Are Welcome

Arlene Kushner
Arlene from Israel
22 December '11

It makes me crazy when overly cautious representatives of the Israeli government tiptoe in such a fashion that they convey the impression that they are unsure of Israel's rights. But this is not the case here.

The government (or more accurately, the Foreign Ministry), weary of meddling European governments with a pro-PA stance, has delivered a strong message to France, Britain, Germany and Portugal -- the four EU nations currently sitting on the Security Council. For these four nations released a joint statement on Tuesday that: condemned building in Judea and Samaria and eastern Jerusalem (which sends "a devastating message"); addressed the "disturbing escalation of violence by settlers;" and called for parties to "present as soon as possible to the Quartet comprehensive proposals on territory and security."

From the Foreign Ministry, then, came a message that, "interfering with Israel's domestic affairs, including on issues that are to be solved within the framework of direct talks, does not enhance the status they wish to be granted."

This is Avigdor Lieberman's voice, loud and clear. Which is why this statement doesn't tiptoe. It would be more productive, suggested the Ministry statement, if these countries attended to the extreme violence in Syria, helping Arab countries to develop democracies, and stopping Iran's nuclear threat.

"If, instead of contributing to stability in the Middle East through these steps, they invest their efforts in inappropriate bickering with the one country where there is an independent justice system that knows how to handle lawbreakers of all kinds, they are bound to lose their credibility and make themselves irrelevant.

"The European UNSC members have chosen to do what is easy and unnecessary, rather than muster their courage to do that which is difficult and necessary."

I love it!


The issue addressed by these nations that most irritated officials was the call for the proposals to be submitted to the Quartet. Israel's position is that three-way negotiations are a waste of time and that proposals should only be submitted at the table when there are face-to-face negotiations. And, in fact, just last week representatives of the Quartet said the same thing -- that the parties should submit proposals to each other in direct talks.

The position of the four nations making the statement was directly in line with what the PA is claiming: that proposals are supposed to go to the Quartet. They submitted their proposals, they are saying, but an obstructionist Israel has not done so.

Then too, Israeli diplomats were greatly irked by the fact that demands upon Israel are very specific, while what is expected of the PA is left in general terms.

The four nations attempted to predetermine the outcome of the negotiations by calling (in line with PA demands, of course) for the '67 lines as border and Jerusalem as the capital of two states. But these are matters to be determined only via negotiations.

How these European nations speak is not news. What is of import is the strength of the Israeli response.


This week, Mahmoud Abbas met in Turkey with Amna Muna, who lured an Israeli teenager to his death by pretending to establish a romantic relationship with him via Internet. She was released as part of the Shalit deal.

The prime minister's office had plenty to say about this, including a statement that, "Instead of promoting peace and reconciliation the Palestinian leadership seems to be putting extremist murderers up on a pedestal."

But I don't believe I caught any condemnation from EU nations who want to see Abbas refrain from such behavior in the interests of peace.


The US on the issue of Iran: Mixed messages and a thoroughly confusing situation. We've had American officials dispatched here to warn us not to attack Iran, and we've seen the president eager to avoid "offending" Iran with what might be seen as "a declaration of war," as he attempted various diplomatic means of controlling the situation.

But it now seems that Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta -- who is one of those people who had been sent to Jerusalem to warn us -- speaks out of both sides of his mouth. For he has now given an interview on CBS in which he says that Iran might have the bomb within a year. The US has the ability to attack anywhere in the world, he told his interviewer. The US will not allow Iran to go nuclear, and will take any steps necessary to stop it.

A change of heart as he faces the frighteningly imminent countdown? Acceptance of evidence presented by Israel (Barak was just in Washington)? Or politicking in an election year?

Who knows. What I do know is that it will take more than words from an Obama administration official to convince me that the US is serious on this matter.


What makes Panetta's words seem like more than politicking is another interview -- the timing of which is no coincidence -- given to CNN by US Chief of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey:

The US, he said, is formulating a plan for attack on Iran: "I am satisfied that the options that we are developing are evolving to a point that they would be executable if necessary."

Well, this is reassuring. But we have to ask what took them so long. They should have had such plans all along. This does seem to indicate a readiness by Obama to maybe, perhaps, possibly consider such an option. For it goes without saying that such plans would be activated only if the president gave the word.

The General further said that:

"We are trying to establish some confidence on the part of the Israelis that we recognize their concerns and are collaborating with them on addressing them."

And a statement by Defense Minister Barak seemed to confirm this:

"The change in American statements on Iran are a very important development. If any of my meetings with American officials contributed to this, then I'm happy about it. It is also important that the Iranians hear this, because it shows them that there are consequences."

"...The US is standing behind Israel in a way it has not done for a long time now, with more determination and depth..."

Yes, I know, the reality must be separated out from the politics here. Barak has been an Obama buddy. But this offers a reasonable measure of hope.


According to Israel Hayom:
"Intelligence recently provided to the US by Israel regarding developments in Iran, and threats of the use of force by the Israel Defense Forces against Tehran's nuclear program, played a central role in the uptick of comments by senior US defense officials against Iran this week.

"Furthermore, the assessment in Israel is that several other U.S. allies in the Middle East have made it clear to Washington that if it does not seriously intend to stop Tehran's nuclear march, these countries would have to conduct a reassessment of their strategic positions – a reassessment not necessarily in Washington's favor."


Tomorrow is Shabbat, and with the celebration of Chanukah, and precious time with grandchildren, it is likely to be a few days until I post again.

It is impossible to touch upon every subject of concern. I have not mentioned Thomas Friedman's anti-Israel positions, or the subsequent and very appropriate refusal of Netanyahu to write something for the NY Times.

Far more significantly, I will want to return to issues touching upon Egypt, where the situation is hardly stable. The military has been flexing muscle: Not without violence, they have been working to put down protests against military rule. From the perspective here, their last ditch effort to control the country, as unsatisfactory as it is in multiple ways, beats control by the Islamists.

What is startling however is that, according to the Jordanian paper, Albawaba, Dr. Yusri Hamad, spokesman for the Egyptian Salafi Nur party, has said that the party would be expressed willing to sit down with Israel under certain conditions; this would not contravene Islamic law, he said. While party leader Dr. Emad Abdul Ghafoor declared, "We must respect the treaties signed by Egypt." However, his statement linked the treaty with Israel to establishment of a Palestinian state.


I think we can learn the lesson at least a couple of times over just in this posting alone -- that world events are fluid and unpredictable, and as much as the pundits think they know what is going to happen, in point of fact we have to sit tight and watch it all unfold. Praying, at the same time, of course.


Let me here wish all of my Christian friends on this list a joyful holiday.


© 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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