Archive for June 7th, 2009


June 7, 2009
Last update – 02:16 05/06/2009


Obama emerged in Cairo as a true friend of Israel
By Gideon Levy
Neither Tel Aviv nor Ramallah held their breaths Thursday as the American president gave a speech in Cairo; the traffic in both crowded cities continued normally. Tel Aviv was indifferent, Ramallah sunk in desperation: Both cities have already had their fill of nice, historic speeches. 

Nonetheless, no one can ignore the speech given by Barack Obama: The mountain birthed a mountain. Obama remained Obama. Only the Israeli analysts tried to diminish the speech’s importance (“not terrible”), to spread fear (“he mentioned the Holocaust and the Nakba in a single breath”), or were insulted on our behalf (“he did not mention our right to the land as promised in the Bible”). All these were redundant and unnecessary. Obama emerged Thursday as a true friend of Israel. 

The prime minister ordered the ministers to say nothing, but of course they could not help but invade the studios. Uzi Landau said that a Palestinian state is tantamount to an “Iranian state.” Isaac Herzog appeared even more ridiculous when he said that the problem with the settlements is one of “public relations.” In essence, both were busy with the same problem: How can we manage to pull the new America‘s     leg as well? Israeli politicians have never before appeared as pathetic, as small as they did Thursday, compared to the bearer of promise in Cairo. 




Indeed, there was promise in Cairo, of the dawn of a new age. A U.S. president talking about negotiations with Iran without preconditions or tacit threats, even willing to accept Iran having civilian nuclear capability; a president who talked about Hamas as a legitimate organization that represents part of Palestinian society, but that needs to relinquish violence; who spoke with empathy about Palestinian suffering; who spoke, believe it or not, about security not only for Israelis but also for Palestinians; who said that all the settlements are illegal; who called for nuclear disarmament of the entire region. All are sensational messages, headlines whose significance cannot be exaggerated, even if there are those who desperately tried to argue yesterday that “there was nothing new in his speech.” 

Not enough? Obama also spoke in Cairo (!) against denying the Holocaust, about the rights of women and Copts, and on the need for democracy tailored to each society’s culture. 

This is the thinking of a great leader, who walked with wisdom and sensitivity between the Holocaust and the Nakba, between Israelis and Palestinians, between Americans and Arabs, between Christians, Jews and Muslims. How easy it is to imagine his predecessor, George Bush the Terrible, in the same position: a complete opposite. 

Our right-wingers were disappointed that he did not approve at least of Gush Etzion, and the peace lovers were disappointed that he did not offer a timetable. But a speech is just that, and the time for carrying things out is still to come. 

But why waste words? Israeli news shows still opened Thursday with the Dudu Topaz story; that is what really interests Israelis. Never mind Obama; Israel has its own concerns. 

Related articles:  

·  Obama: I’ll personally pursue two-state solution  

·  Israel praises Obama speech, but says its security paramount  

·  Full text of Obama’s speech in Cairo to the Muslim world



Last update – 13:01 07/06/2009 


Livni: Netanyahu endangering U.S. support for Israel 


By Haaretz Service
Opposition leader Tzipi Livni warned Sunday that Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu’s reluctance to declare support for a two-state solution may cause the United States to withdraw its support for Israel. 

“In the past it was clear that Israel wanted to accept the peace process,” Livni told Army Radio. “The government today is not prepared to advance the process and set future borders, and the feeling in the world is that all Israel is trying to do is gain time.”  



Livni’s comments came after 
U.S. president Barack Obama pledged last week to personally pursue a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict during a speech to the Muslim world in Cairo. 

The opposition leader also weighed in on the issue of whether there have been understandings with the U.S. over construction characterized by “natural growth,” a question over which a sharp disagreement has erupted between Israel and its superpower ally. 

“There were no formal agreements on the matter, but an attempt to delineate borders and discuss the question of whether the settlement blocs would remain within Israel‘s bounds,” said Livni, who served as foreign minister in Israel‘s last government. 

She confirmed a statement made by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Saturday that there was no “memorialization” of any informal and oral agreements. 

“If they did occur, which of course people say they did, they did not become part of the official position of the United States government,” said Clinton. 

Related articles:  

·  Saudi FM to U.S.: Cut off aid if Israel doesn’t end occupation  

·  Obama envoy may propose immediate talks on West Bank borders  

·  Clinton: No proof Bush administration approved settlement growth 



Last update – 12:10 07/06/2009
Will Obama envoy push Israel for final border talks?
By Barak Ravid and Assaf Uni, Haaretz Correspondents
Senior U.S. officials, including President Barack Obama’s Mideast envoy George Mitchell, say they might propose immediate talks on setting Israel’s border along the West Bank. 

The move comes in light of Israel’s opposition to a freeze on settlement construction and would determine which settlements will remain in Israel in a final deal that would see the emergence of a Palestinian state. 

The American proposal was raised in recent weeks following Israeli suggestions that there is no reason to cease construction in the large settlement blocs. Such construction would accommodate natural growth. The Israelis say that since those blocs will remain in Israel under a final-status agreement, there is no point in preventing construction. 

The Israeli position was mainly directed at the blocs of Gush Etzion, Alfei Menashe, Ariel, Ma’aleh Adumim and certain areas adjoining Jerusalem. 

The American officials countered by suggesting that they initiate immediate negotiations on the border between Israel and a future Palestinian state. This, the Americans insisted, would make it easier for everyone to decide where settlement construction could take place. 

Israeli sources told Haaretz that they are not entirely sure what the American proposals mean. “We do not know what precisely they intend,” said a senior official who took part in some of the meetings. 

Another official said that “this is essentially a threat and a verbal form of leverage” that is meant to clarify to Israel the American insistence to find a resolution to the issue of settlement construction as soon as possible. 

Mitchell will meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel on Tuesday to discuss the settlements. 

Ahead of Mitchell’s visit, a sharp disagreement has erupted over whether there have been earlier understandings with the United States over construction characterized by “natural growth.” 

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Saturday that “there is no memorialization of any informal and oral agreements. If they did occur, which of course people say they did, they did not become part of the official position of the United States government.” 

Clinton added that “there are contrary documents that suggest that they were not to be viewed as in any way contradicting the obligations that Israel undertook pursuant to the road map … [and] those obligations are very clear.” 

Meanwhile, Obama reiterated during meetings on Saturday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy that the Americans insisted on a freeze in settlement construction. 

In Germany, Obama said that his Cairo speech drew a great deal of attention for his demands of Israel and that “less attention has been focused on the insistence on my part that the Palestinians and the Arab states have to take very concrete actions.? 

However, both Merkel and Sarkozy praised his Cairo address. The chancellor said that ?it was an ideal basis for positive action, especially accelerating the peace process in the Middle East.? She said a solution of two states for two peoples was necessary. 

According to Sarkozy, ?I told the president that we are in complete agreement on the Israeli-Palestinian issue, and how much we support American diplomacy as it seeks to … stop and freeze settlement construction.? 

Netanyahu and his aides, meanwhile, are concerned by the complications over the settlements with the U.S. administration. They say they had not expected that the differences would be so wide. 

Netanyahu believed that any problems in ties with the Obama administration at this time would revolve around Iran?s nuclear ambitions. He was surprised to discover that the new president does not consider himself obligated by the informal understandings between Israel and the Bush administration on natural-growth construction in settlements. 

Ghajar pullout 

Netanyahu told Clinton during his recent visit to Washington that the results of the Lebanese general election will affect Israel?s decision on whether to withdraw from the village of Ghajar on the border between Israel and Lebanon. 

A political source in Jerusalem said Netanyahu had hinted that if Hezbollah wins the parliamentary elections, Israel will put on hold all preparations to pull out from the northern portion of the village. 

Related articles: 

  • Clinton: No proof Bush administration approved settlement growth 
  • Barak: We didn’t bow to Obama on West Bank outpost evacuation 
  • EU seeks to increase pressure on Israel for settlement freeze


    After Cairo, It’s Clinton Time – By Thomas L. Friedman, NYT

    June 7, 2009



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    June 7th, 2009 1:46 pm

    Like a true Jewish tactician, Friedman is following the Netanyahu line of prevarication, derailing and using diversionary means to try to shift Obama’s peace focus on Israeli-Palestinian imbroglio to yet another alternative trouble spot, after Iran is now more or less defanged as diversion. According to him, peace in Iraq should have priority and Hillary Clinton should not waste her time and energy on any peace moves in Israel-Palestinian sector, as it is, according to him, beyond diplomacy.

    One fails to fully grasp the meaning of the phrase -‘beyond diplomacy’, if the alternative suggested by him is that only war in the region will bring peace. Another interpretation of his brushing out diplomacy in Israel/ Palestinian peace effort, could be that he gives out a hint to Israeli hawks to tone down or else? But reading his columns over the time, I doubt if he has guts to risk the flak from his own community, in the US as well as in Israel.

    Ghulam Muhammed, Mumbai

    —    Ghulam Muhammed, Mumbai, India







    After Cairo, It’s Clinton Time



    Published: June 6, 2009

    It’s hard to know whether to laugh or cry after reading the reactions of analysts and officials in the Middle East to President Obama’s Cairo speech. “It’s not what he says, but what he does,” many said. No, ladies and gentlemen of the Middle East, it is what he says and what you do and what we do. We must help, but we can’t want democracy or peace more than you do.


    Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times

    Thomas L. Friedman

    What should we be doing? The follow-up to the president’s speech will have to be led by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. This will be her first big test, and, for me, there is no question as to where she should be putting all her energy: on the peace process.

    No, not that peace process — not the one between Israelis and Palestinians. That one’s probably beyond diplomacy. No, I’m talking about the peace process that is much more strategically important — the one inside Iraq.

    The most valuable thing that Mrs. Clinton could do right now is to spearhead a sustained effort — along with the U.N., the European Union and Iraq’s neighbors — to resolve the lingering disputes between Iraqi factions before we complete our withdrawal. (We’ll be out of Iraq’s cities by June 30 and the whole country by the close of 2011.)

    Why? Because if Iraq unravels as we draw down, the Obama team will be blamed, and it will be a huge mess. By contrast, if a decent and stable political order can take hold in Iraq, it could have an extremely positive impact on the future of the Arab world and on America’s reputation.

    I have never bought the argument that Iraq was the bad war, Afghanistan the good war and Pakistan the necessary war. Folks, they’re all one war with different fronts. It’s a war within the Arab-Muslim world between progressive and anti-modernist forces over how this faith community is going to adapt to modernity — modern education, consensual politics, the balance between religion and state and the rights of women. Any decent outcome in Iraq would bolster all the progressive forces by creating an example of something that does not exist in the Middle East today — an independent, democratizing Arab-Muslim state.

    “The reason there are no successful Arab democracies today is because there is no successful Arab democracy today,” said Stanford’s Larry Diamond, the author of “The Spirit of Democracy.” “When there is no model, it is hard for an idea to diffuse in a region.”

    Rightly or wrongly, we stepped into the middle of this war of ideas in the Arab-Muslim world in 2003 when we decapitated the Iraqi regime, wiped away its authoritarian political structure and went about clumsily midwifing something that the modern Arab world has never seen before — a horizontal dialogue between the constituent communities of an Arab state. In Iraq’s case, that is primarily Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds.

    Yes, in a region that has only known top-down monologues from kings, dictators and colonial powers, we have helped Iraqis convene the first horizontal dialogue to write their own social contract for how to share power.

    At first, this dialogue took place primarily through violence. Liberated from Saddam’s iron fist, each Iraqi community tested its strength against the others, saying in effect: “Show me what you got, baby.” The violence was horrific and ultimately exhausting for all. So now we’ve entered a period of negotiations over how Iraq will be governed. But it’s unfinished and violence could easily return.

    And that brings me to Secretary Clinton. I do not believe the argument that Iraqis will not allow us to help mediate their disputes — whether over Kirkuk, oil-sharing or federalism. For years now, our president, secretary of state and secretary of defense have flown into Iraq, met the leaders for a few hours and then flown away, not to return for months. We need a more serious, weighty effort. Hate the war, hate Bush, but don’t hate the idea of trying our best to finish this right.

    This is important. Afghanistan is secondary. Baghdad is a great Arab and Muslim capital. Iraq has something no other Arab country has in abundance: water, oil and an educated population. It already has sprouted scores of newspapers and TV stations that operate freely. “Afghanistan will never have any impact outside of Afghanistan. Iraq can change minds,” said Mamoun Fandy, of the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

    You demonstrate that Iraqi Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds can write their own social contract, and you will tell the whole Arab world that there is a model other than top-down monologues from iron-fisted dictators. You will expose the phony democracy in Iran, and you will leave a legacy for America that will help counter Abu Ghraib and torture.

    Ultimately, which way Iraq goes will depend on whether its elites decide to use their freedom to loot their country or to rebuild it. That’s still unclear. But we still have a chance to push things there in the right direction, and a huge interest in doing so. Mrs. Clinton is a serious person; this is a serious job. I hope she does it.

    Maureen Dowd and Frank Rich are off today.