Posts tagged palestine
Bloomberg: When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits the White House tomorrow, President Barack Obama will tell him that his country could face a bleak future — one of international isolation and demographic disaster – if he refuses to endorse a U.S.-drafted framework agreement for peace with the Palestinians. Obama will warn Netanyahu that time is running out for Israel as a Jewish-majority democracy. And the president will make the case that Netanyahu, alone among Israelis, has the strength and political credibility to lead his people away from the precipice.
In an hourlong interview Thursday in the Oval Office, Obama, borrowing from the Jewish sage Rabbi Hillel, told me that his message to Netanyahu will be this: “If not now, when? And if not you, Mr. Prime Minister, then who?” He then took a sharper tone, saying that if Netanyahu “does not believe that a peace deal with the Palestinians is the right thing to do for Israel, then he needs to articulate an alternative approach.” He added, “It’s hard to come up with one that’s plausible.”
Unlike Netanyahu, Obama will not address the annual convention of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a pro-Israel lobbying group, this week — the administration is upset with Aipac for, in its view, trying to subvert American-led nuclear negotiations with Iran. In our interview, the president, while broadly supportive of Israel and a close U.S.-Israel relationship, made statements that would be met at an Aipac convention with cold silence.
Obama was blunter about Israel’s future than I’ve ever heard him. His language was striking, but of a piece with observations made in recent months by his secretary of state, John Kerry, who until this interview, had taken the lead in pressuring both Netanyahu and the Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, to agree to a framework deal. Obama made it clear that he views Abbas as the most politically moderate leader the Palestinians may ever have. It seemed obvious to me that the president believes that the next move is Netanyahu’s.
“There comes a point where you can’t manage this anymore, and then you start having to make very difficult choices,” Obama said. “Do you resign yourself to what amounts to a permanent occupation of the West Bank? Is that the character of Israel as a state for a long period of time? Do you perpetuate, over the course of a decade or two decades, more and more restrictive policies in terms of Palestinian movement? Do you place restrictions on Arab-Israelis in ways that run counter to Israel’s traditions?”
During the interview, which took place a day before the Russian military incursion into Ukraine, Obama argued that American adversaries, such as Iran, Syria and Russia itself, still believe that he is capable of using force to advance American interests, despite his reluctance to strike Syria last year after President Bashar al-Assad crossed Obama’s chemical-weapons red line.
“We’ve now seen 15 to 20 percent of those chemical weapons on their way out of Syria with a very concrete schedule to get rid of the rest,” Obama told me. “That would not have happened had the Iranians said, ‘Obama’s bluffing, he’s not actually really willing to take a strike.’ If the Russians had said, ‘Ehh, don’t worry about it, all those submarines that are floating around your coastline, that’s all just for show.’ Of course they took it seriously! That’s why they engaged in the policy they did.”
I returned to this particularly sensitive subject. “Just to be clear,” I asked, “You don’t believe the Iranian leadership now thinks that your ‘all options are on the table’ threat as it relates to their nuclear program — you don’t think that they have stopped taking that seriously?”
Obama answered: “I know they take it seriously.”
How do you know? I asked. “We have a high degree of confidence that when they look at 35,000 U.S. military personnel in the region that are engaged in constant training exercises under the direction of a president who already has shown himself willing to take military action in the past, that they should take my statements seriously,” he replied. “And the American people should as well, and the Israelis should as well, and the Saudis should as well.”
I asked the president if, in retrospect, he should have provided more help to Syria’s rebels earlier in their struggle. “I think those who believe that two years ago, or three years ago, there was some swift resolution to this thing had we acted more forcefully, fundamentally misunderstand the nature of the conflict in Syria and the conditions on the ground there,” Obama said. “When you have a professional army that is well-armed and sponsored by two large states who have huge stakes in this, and they are fighting against a farmer, a carpenter, an engineer who started out as protesters and suddenly now see themselves in the midst of a civil conflict — the notion that we could have, in a clean way that didn’t commit U.S. military forces, changed the equation on the ground there was never true.”
He portrayed his reluctance to involve the U.S. in the Syrian civil war as a direct consequence of what he sees as America’s overly militarized engagement in the Muslim world: “There was the possibility that we would have made the situation worse rather than better on the ground, precisely because of U.S. involvement, which would have meant that we would have had the third, or, if you count Libya, the fourth war in a Muslim country in the span of a decade.”
Obama was adamant that he was correct to fight a congressional effort to impose more time-delayed sanctions on Iran just as nuclear negotiations were commencing: “There’s never been a negotiation in which at some point there isn’t some pause, some mechanism to indicate possible good faith,” he said. “Even in the old Westerns or gangster movies, right, everyone puts their gun down just for a second. You sit down, you have a conversation; if the conversation doesn’t go well, you leave the room and everybody knows what’s going to happen and everybody gets ready. But you don’t start shooting in the middle of the room during the course of negotiations.” He said he remains committed to keeping Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons and seemed unworried by reports that Iran’s economy is improving.
On the subject of Middle East peace, Obama told me that the U.S.’s friendship with Israel is undying, but he also issued what I took to be a veiled threat: The U.S., though willing to defend an isolated Israel at the United Nations and in other international bodies, might soon be unable to do so effectively.
“If you see no peace deal and continued aggressive settlement construction — and we have seen more aggressive settlement construction over the last couple years than we’ve seen in a very long time,” Obama said. “If Palestinians come to believe that the possibility of a contiguous sovereign Palestinian state is no longer within reach, then our ability to manage the international fallout is going to be limited.”
We also spent a good deal of time talking about the unease the U.S.’s Sunni Arab allies feel about his approach to Iran, their traditional adversary. I asked the president, “What is more dangerous: Sunni extremism or Shia extremism?”
I found his answer revelatory. He did not address the issue of Sunni extremism. Instead he argued in essence that the Shiite Iranian regime is susceptible to logic, appeals to self-interest and incentives.
“I’m not big on extremism generally,” Obama said. “I don’t think you’ll get me to choose on those two issues. What I’ll say is that if you look at Iranian behavior, they are strategic, and they’re not impulsive. They have a worldview, and they see their interests, and they respond to costs and benefits. And that isn’t to say that they aren’t a theocracy that embraces all kinds of ideas that I find abhorrent, but they’re not North Korea. They are a large, powerful country that sees itself as an important player on the world stage, and I do not think has a suicide wish, and can respond to incentives.”
This view puts him at odds with Netanyahu’s understanding of Iran. In an interview after he won the premiership, the Israeli leader described the Iranian leadership to me as “a messianic apocalyptic cult.”
I asked Obama if he understood why his policies make the leaders of Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries nervous: “I think that there are shifts that are taking place in the region that have caught a lot of them off guard,” he said. “I think change is always scary.” source – Bloomberg
The last thing that Hamas and the Palestinians want is peace with Israel. They hate Israel with a passion that was born when Ishmael was a child. They glory in death, destruction and the shedding of Jewish blood.
Times of Israel – The Hamas government in Gaza celebrated the graduation on Monday of paramilitary camps geared at training high-school children “to follow in the footsteps of the suicide martyrs.
The camps, titled “the pioneers of liberation,” are run by Hamas’s ministries of education and interior. Some 13,000 students in grades 10-12 participated in the one-week training camps this year, compared to 5,000 last year when the program was launched, Israeli sources with knowledge of the program said.
The corps of instructors consists mainly of active members of Hamas’s security forces, and the curriculum includes weapons training, first aid, self defense, marching exercises and “security awareness” classes on identifying Israeli spies.
Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, Interior Minister Fathi Hammad and Education Minister Usama Mzeini attended the graduation ceremony on Monday, each delivering fiery speeches stressing the importance of military training in developing a new generation of Palestinian combatants.
“Beware this generation,” Haniyeh said, addressing Israel. “This is a generation which knows no fear. It is the generation of the missile, the tunnel and the suicide operations.”
The Hamas prime minister added that female trainers are also on staff “to oversee the training of the young women to follow in the footsteps of the female suicide operatives.”
Hammad, the interior minister, said the training was in preparation for the coming war with Israel.
“This generation is a sapling from God on earth. It will harvest the enemies of God and be the pride of all nations,” he said.
Hamdi Shaqura, deputy director of program affairs at the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, a Gaza-based watchdog, said that his organization issued no statement on the training.
“To the best of my knowledge no other organization in Gaza issued a statement either,” he told The Times of Israel.
Omar Dawabha, an eleventh-grader who took part in the training, was quoted on the website of Hamas’s interior ministry saying that “he learned how to safeguard our rights and principles.” Another student, Mohammed Abu Nar, addressed the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem at the graduation ceremony.
“We are the pioneers of liberation, we are coming to purify you from the Zionists,” he said. source – TOI
(Reuters) – Secretary of State John Kerry sketched out a plan on Sunday to spur Palestinian growth with up to $4 billion in private investment, but did not say where the money would come from.
Kerry drew a picture of prosperity in the West Bank that could spread to Israel and Jordan, while acknowledging it would not fully materialize without movement toward peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
Despite deep skepticism in the region, Kerry is trying to revive negotiations after a gap of more than two years and has said both sides must decide soon whether they are ready to make compromises for peace.
While stressing his vision of an economic renaissance was not a substitute for negotiations, the U.S. diplomat appeared to hold out the prospect of rising growth, wages and employment as a way to build trust and provide an incentive to make peace.
“Is this a fantasy? I don’t think so, because there are already great examples of investment and entrepreneurship that are working in the West Bank,” he said at a World Economic Forum on the Middle East and North Africa session with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli President Shimon Peres.
But Kerry did not identify specific companies with plans to set up shop in the West Bank or how he hoped to remove obstacles to Palestinian commerce.
Kerry said a group working under former British Prime Minister Tony Blair is seeking to identify opportunities in tourism, construction, energy, agriculture and high-tech industries in the Palestinian territories, Kerry said.
Their preliminary studies suggest that Palestinian gross national product could rise by as much as 50 percent over three years, with unemployment falling by nearly two thirds to eight percent and wages rising up to 40 percent.
On April 9, Kerry had said he would unveil the initiative in mid-April, saying he, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Abbas had agreed to undertake “new efforts, very specific efforts” to promote economic development and to remove “bottlenecks and barriers” to commerce in the West Bank.
The U.S. secretary of state did not provide details on easing such obstacles. Among the main impediments are Israeli restrictions on the movement and access of Palestinians as they seek to travel among their communities on the West Bank, according to a September 2012 United Nationsreport.
Among the main issues to be solved to end the conflict are borders, the fate of Palestinian refugees, the future of Jewish settlements on the West Bank and the status of Jerusalem.
Kerry acknowledged the deep doubts among Palestinians and Israelis that peace is possible.
“I have heard all the arguments against working for Middle East peace. It is famously reputed to be diplomatic quicksand,” he said. “There is huge cynicism about this journey … but cynicism has never built anything, certainly not a state.”
At one point, he directly challenged the Palestinian and Israeli leaders, saying he hoped Netanyahu and Abbas “don’t allow this conflict to outlast their administrations.
“Negotiations can’t succeed if you don’t negotiate.” He began his speech on a lighter note.
“I have an agreement right here if you want to sign it,” Kerry joked with Abbas and Peres, who were both in the audience. “We’ll get there. We’ll get there.” source – Reuters
Israeli settlers on their morning commute got quite the eyeful Monday morning when they saw a swastika-emblazoned red flag flying near a mosque in Beit Omar, a Palestinian village outside of Hebron.
Thousands of residents of Jewish settlements near Hebron and Bethlehem in Judea (the southern West Bank) drive to and from work on the road from which the flag was visible.
The Tazpit News Agency, which photographed the flying Nazi flag, reports residents “were astounded” to see the symbol under which millions of Jews were massacred during World War II now being prominently displayed by residents of a Palestinian town.
Uri Arnon, who saw the flag, told Tazpit News Agency: “I felt we were going back 75 years, losing our hold on the land. The Arabs no longer feel the need to hide their murderous tendencies, announcing out loud that they wish to destroy us.”
Aryeh Savir of the Tazpit News Agency tells TheBlaze, “The IDF’s [Israel Defense Forces] Coordination Office of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) latest response is that they are waiting for members of the Palestinian electricity company to come in and remove it because it is on power lines.”
Beit Omar, also known as Beit Ummar, is located in a part of the West Bank known as Area B in which the Palestinian Authority runs the day-to-day civilian affairs, while the IDF is responsible for military and national security related issues.
There has been a history of Nazi sympathies among some Palestinians. Most notoriously, the Palestinian leader Haj Amin al Husseini who served as Grand Mufti of Jerusalem during the 1920s and 1930s, was an outspoken Nazi collaborator and even met with Adolf Hitler. He also recruited Muslims to serve in the SS. This famous photo with Hitler was taken in 1941.
Just last week, Columbia University Professor Joseph Massad was widely criticized for posting a column on Al Jazeera’s website in which he claimed that Zionism is anti-Semitic and that there is an “affinity between Nazis and Zionists.” Due to the outpouring of criticism, Al Jazeera removed the column form its site over the weekend. source – The Blaze
“I will also gather all nations, and will bring them down into the valley of Jehoshaphat, and will plead with them there for my people and for my heritage Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations, and parted my land.” Joel 3:2
RAMALLAH, West Bank (CBS/AP) — President Obama called for a free and independent Palestinian state while visiting the West Bank with Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas Thursday.
“Palestinians deserve a state of their own,” Obama said during a joint news conferencewith Abbas in Ramallah.
Obama believes that a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians is possible.
“If we can get direct negotiations started again I believe that the shape of a potential deal is there,” Obama said.
Obama said he told Israeli officials that the White House does not consider settlement activity in the West Bank to be appropriate or constructive. He says Palestinians should not have to confront the daily indignities that come with occupation.
A new poll finds 36 percent of the 500 Israelis who were surveyed believe the president is more pro-Palestinian than pro-Israel, The Jerusalem Post reports. By comparison, 26 percent said Obama was more pro-Israel than pro-Palestinian.
Obama arrived in Israel Wednesday to kick-off his Mideast swing. The president will also visit Jordan before heading back to the White House. source – CBS News
Iran is nuclear because Obama has allowed them to get there
Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says that while Iran is already a nuclear state, it has no intention of attacking Israel. Ahmadinejad was interviewed on the eve of his visit to Cairo, where he will attend the 12th Islamic Summit Conference, due to open there on Wednesday.
Before his trip, he gave a long interview to the editor-in-chief of Egypt‘s newspaper Al-Ahram. Although Al-Ahram ran the entire interview only in its print edition, excerpts appeared on Egyptian websites.
Ahmadinejad said the world must now treat Iran as a nuclear country. “They want Iran to go back to what it was in the past, but they won’t succeed. They assume we’ll give in to pressure; such thoughts are misguided. We’re already an industrial and nuclear country, a country that has conquered space. For years we have been thinking about sending a human being into space, and we will do that, with Allah’s help. We must ensure development and growth and bring them to pass, and the world must acknowledge our progress,” he said, adding that the best solution was cooperation with Iran.
Mentioning the possibility of an Israeli attack on Iran, Ahmadinejad said that while it might be easy to launch missiles or attack using fighter jets, Iran’s response and defense capability were important in this context.
He reiterated that the Zionists were trying to take over the foci of power and wealth throughout the world. “They want to attack Iran, but we’re not preparing any attack against them because the purpose of our program is defense.”
During the interview, Ahmadinejad condemned what he described as massacres committed by Israel. “For us, supporting the Palestinian people is a matter of human importance in every sense. The Palestinians must receive their rights, and the Zionists are moving closer and closer toward the edge.”
He added that his country was opposed to any outside military intervention in Syria, saying that the solution to the crisis there was dialogue between all the Syrian groups. source – Haaretz
Jerusalem is the eternal capital of Israel
“The LORD doth build up Jerusalem: he gathereth together the outcasts of Israel.” Psalm 147:2
Jerusalem (AP) — Israel is planning its biggest construction surge in east Jerusalem in decades in a move that critics argue would cement its grip on the contested territory, further complicate any prospects for peace with the Palestinians, and badly rattle Israel’s already rocky relations with the rest of the world.
With more than 9,000 apartments in various stages of planning and construction, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is reaffirming his opposition to ceding any parts of the holy city to the Palestinians, a compromise two of his predecessors had accepted. The planned construction contributes to completing a ring of Jewish areas around the Arab inner core of east Jerusalem, making it more difficult to one day link it to the West Bank, which surrounds the city on three sides.
The Palestinians, who hope to establish a future capital in the holy city’s eastern sector, say there can be no peace accord without partitioning Jerusalem. They claim the construction push proves Netanyahu isn’t serious about establishing a Palestinian state alongside Israel.
Within the space of a single week, Israeli officials have moved more than 5,000 apartments in east Jerusalem close to the stage where construction can begin, including a project that would build the first new Jewish settlement there in 15 years. With some other 4,000 apartments already being built or about to start, the pace is unprecedented, says Daniel Seidemann, an expert on Jerusalem construction.
Those 9,000 apartments would add almost 20 percent to the existing stock of 50,000 apartments built for Jews in east Jerusalem in the 45 years it has been occupied.
“In the last three months, we’re looking at a surge like nothing we’ve seen in the past since 1967,” when Israel captured east Jerusalem, said Seidemann, who views the construction as an obstacle to peace.
Israel annexed east Jerusalem, with its Palestinian population, immediately after capturing the territory from Jordan and began building housing developments for Jews there. The annexation has not been recognized internationally. Today, more than 200,000 Jews live in east Jerusalem alongside some 300,000 Palestinians.
Polls show a majority of Jewish Israelis favor holding on to all of Jerusalem, and construction in east Jerusalem has not stirred passionate opposition among Jewish Israelis. Most don’t see the Jewish areas of east Jerusalem as illegitimate settlements — preferring to call them “Jewish neighborhoods” — whereas some in Israel vehemently oppose settlements in the West Bank.
Yet there is growing nervousness in Israel about the new east Jerusalem plans, with some fearing the current diplomatic woes could blossom into economic isolation as well, driven by the world community’s clear impatience with Israel’s settling of occupied land.
In the longer term, some in Israel warn, if a division is rendered impossible by filling the occupied sector with Jews, there will be no way to reach a deal on the West Bank as well. The area would be in effect absorbed into the Jewish state, rendering it more bi-national and — unless the Palestinians are given the vote — less democratic.
Palestinians have increasingly framed the issue in those terms, suggesting to Israelis that the construction runs against their own interests. ”The Israeli government is making the two-state solution impossible with this unprecedented settlement building,” senior Palestinian official Yasser Abed Rabbo said this week.
Netanyahu is forging ahead — and polls show that he remains poised for reelection next month. If anything, he is currently feeling heat from a surging religious party on his right.
“With God’s help, we will continue to live and build in Jerusalem, which will remain united under Israeli sovereignty,” he said at the campaign launch event of his Likud-Yisrael Beitenu list Tuesday night.
Such tough talk aims to assuage those on Netanyahu’s right who are skeptical that everything in theeast Jerusalem pipeline will be built, noting that some construction projects were unofficially frozen in the past under international pressure.
If officials do push ahead, the 9,000 could be built within a few years. Other major construction projects in east Jerusalem were either smaller or strung out over a decade, said Seidemann. Hagit Ofran of Peace Now, an anti-settlement watchdog group, also said the pace was unmatched.
According to Seidemann’s figures on the major projects, the big push of the last decade was the Har Homa neighborhood, with 3,200 units built. In the 1990s, 2,200 apartments went up in Ramat Shlomo. In the 1980s, 11,000 apartments were built in Pisgat Zeev. In the 1970s, Israel started building the Neve Yaakov, Gilo, east Talpiyot and Ramot areas, and Seidemann estimates that around 20,000 apartments were built in those areas throughout that decade.
The Jerusalem municipality did not respond to multiple requests for its statistics on planned and actual construction
Netanyahu put settlement construction plans into high gear to punish the Palestinians for winning U.N. recognition of a de facto state of Palestine in east Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza Strip last month. Israel withdrew settlers and soldiers from Gaza in 2005, but still controls the West Bank and east Jerusalem.
In peace talks, Palestinians privately have accepted former U.S. President Bill Clinton’s 2000 proposal that Jewish areas of Jerusalem would remain under Israeli sovereignty under a peace accord, and Palestinian neighborhoods would become part of a Palestinian state.
At the same time, they have spent four decades watching Israeli construction permanently change the face of the city, and see every new housing project in east Jerusalem as yet another obstacle to building their capital there. Building for Arabs in the eastern sector has been limited since 1967, something Palestinians see as an attempt to stifle their presence in the city, though the current municipality denies any discrimination.
The expanding Jewish footprint in east Jerusalem also tightens Israeli control around the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: the Old City, home to the most sensitive Jewish, Muslim and Christian religious sites in the Holy Land. A hilltop compound there is Islam’s third-holiest site, revered as the place where the Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven in a nighttime journey told in the Quran. The same complex is the holiest site in Judaism, home to two biblical temples, with the Western Wall at its foot.
Palestinians have refused to return to the negotiating table unless Israel stops all construction in east Jerusalem and the West Bank, a condition Israel rejects. Talks deadlocked four years ago.
The renewed construction push in east Jerusalem has drawn international condemnation, as have plans to build more than 6,000 more homes for settlers in the adjacent West Bank, where more than 340,000 Jews live among 2.3 million Palestinians.
Last week, the United States used unusually blunt language to criticize the settlement activity, accusing its top Mideast ally of engaging in a “pattern of provocative action” and saying plans of new construction “run counter to the cause of peace.”
The most contentious of these plans involves development of a corridor in the West Bank linking east Jerusalem and the Maaleh Adumim settlement. The Palestinians say this project, known as E1, would make it impossible for them to create a viable state because it would sever east Jerusalem from its West Bank hinterland and drive a deep wedge between the West Bank’s northern and southern flanks.
Israel shelved the project for years under U.S. pressure, but started acting on plans to build 3,400 apartments there earlier this month. Netanyahu’s aides have said construction is years away and his rivals have questioned whether he really intends to build. But the very fact that plans there are advancing has drawn ferocious criticism from Israel’s closest Western allies.
Some of the projects closer to fruition would similarly hinder access from the West Bank. Following action last week, the government can soon ask developers to submit bids to build 2,610 apartments in the Givat Hamatos project — the first new settlement to be built in east Jerusalem since 1997. Once a bid is awarded, construction can begin, though it could take months, if not longer, to reach that point.
Within the following week, officials pushed two other projects totaling up to 2,700 apartments to that same stage. source – Yahoo News