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March 14, 2014: Edmond Levy - In Memoriam

This Tuesday, former High Court Justice Edmond Levy died at age 72.










Credit: The Yeshiva World

Levy was born in Iraq and came to Israel with his family when he was 10.  Roughly a decade after becoming a lawyer and opening a practice, he was appointed as a military judge.  Subsequently, he moved to the Kfar Saba Magistrate Court, and then to the Tel Aviv District Court.  In 2000, he was appointed to the High Court, where he remained until his 2011 retirement.

Levy had a sterling reputation for integrity and sensitivity to the common man.  He was said to be devoid of the elitist mentality that affects many on the High Court.  As a traditionally observant Jew with a right wing political orientation, he was considered an anomaly within the more leftist and secular High Court culture.  In certain circles he was revered for this orientation.  It should be noted that he was adamantly opposed to the disengagement (sic) from Gaza. 

For all of this he has earned our respect and admiration.


When all of this is said, however, what Edmond Levy has been best known for in the last couple of years is the major report that bore his name: this is his legacy.
In January, 2012, Prime Minister Netanyahu appointed a committee to examine the status of Israeli building in Judea and Samaria. Levy headed the committee, and was joined by international lawyer and former ambassador Alan Baker and Tehiya Shapira, retired Tel Aviv District Court Judge.
Their Report - “The Status of Building in Judea and Samaria,” released on July 8, 2012 – concluded that because of both historical and legal factors, the decades-long presence of Israel in Judea and Samaria is not “belligerent occupation”; that Israel’s situation is unique (sui generis); and that Israel has the legal right to settle in Judea and Samaria. 

After two decades of Oslo thinking, which had shifted the mentality of many in the government towards the Palestinian narrative, this was a brave conclusion, long over-due and of huge importance.

We have it on good authority, that when the prime minister first received the Report, he was positive about it. But then he took the measure of the left wing opposition he was going to face, and tabled it. It was never even brought before the Ministerial Committee on Settlements for discussion.


In the late fall of 2013, I began, with co-chair Jeff Daube, a major campaign to promote Israel’s legal grounds in Judea and Samaria ( 

The Levy Report has been a key part of the documentation we are using in the campaign.  Thus am I keenly aware of Edmond Levy’s efforts: I feel a special appreciation for his contribution and believe that the nation owes him a debt of gratitude.

There is talk in many quarters now about renewed efforts to promote the adoption of the Levy Report.  I think that would be the very finest way to honor his memory, while serving Israel at the same time.

May Edmond Levy’s family be comforted among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem, and may his memory be for a blessing.


© 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. 
If it is reproduced and emphasis is added, the fact that it has been added must be noted. 

Posted on Friday, March 14, 2014 at 04:02AM by Registered CommenterArlene in , , , | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

March 13, 2014: Purim and Its Lessons

Today, as I write, is Tannit Ester (the Fast of Esther), which precedes Purim.  In the Megillat Esther – the story of Purim – Esther fasts before taking action to save her people from annihilation.

This Shabbat is Shabbat Zahor, when the weekly Torah reading is supplemented with a reading of Devorim (Deuteronomy) 25:17-19.  “Remember what Amalek did to you when you left Egypt,” we are commanded.  Amalek ambushed the Israelites from behind, attacking the weak. “You must erase the memory of Amalek from under the Heavens. Do not forget.”

We are taught that in every generation an Amalek or Amalek pro-type rises up to destroy us.  It is our task to be vigilant, and strong in our own defense.


Saturday night and Sunday, Purim will be celebrated. We read the book of Esther (from a scroll), which tells of the attempt by Haman to destroy us.  We then are commanded to rejoice that we were saved.   In Jerusalem (which was a walled city), Shushan Purim is celebrated a day later.

Credit: David Victor

I share all of this today because it echoes with such relevance for our situation.  We dare not ignore the lessons.

We are facing Iran, with which we have yet to contend.  And we are dealing with radical Islamists at our door:

Yesterday, the south of Israel was pelted with some forty to sixty rockets.  Thank Heaven, there were no casualties and very little damage.  Islamic Jihad took credit and said that this was the start of a campaign. 

They claimed that the attack was in retaliation for the death of three of their operatives on Tuesday: The Air Force struck in Gaza after three members of Al-Quds Brigade, the armed wing of Islamic Jihad, had shot mortars across the border into Israel, attempting to hit IDF forces near Gaza. 


It should also be noted that, according to Israeli assessments, Islamic Jihad was to be a recipient of the rockets that were intercepted last week. 

It is some while since I have written about Iran’s growing support for Islamic Jihad.  At one point Hamas had fallen out of favor with Iran, which then turned to strengthen Islamic Jihad. But that situation has shifted.  What my source has now advised me is that Iran has worked to make peace between the two terrorist groups, and that now the armed wings of Islamic Jihad and Hamas cooperate.  Hamas retains political control of Gaza – and Islam Jihad, which wants to focus only on that jihad and not government issues, does not challenge Hamas in this regard.


Israel responded to this attack swiftly and with reasonable force.  Terrorist infrastructure was hit with 29 air strikes and warnings were sounded.  Said Netanyahu: “If there won’t be quiet in the south, there will be noise in Gaza,”  Defense Minister Ya’alon echoed this: When it’s not quiet in southern Israel, it won’t be quiet in Gaza — so that the terrorists will regret their rocket fire.” 

This reflects Israel’s quiet for quiet policy.  The idea is that we have sufficient deterrence power so that the terrorists think twice before hitting us. Along with others, I will suggest that this is insufficient.  Those rockets that would have been, as it is said, a “game changer” were intercepted in the Red Sea. And Egypt, for its own reasons, has closed down over 90% of the smuggling tunnels from the Sinai to Gaza.  However (and this is a big “however”), the terrorist forces have already stockpiled thousands of rockets, and are constantly building more inside of Gaza, and improving their capability.  As long as they don’t launch those rockets, Israel leaves them alone to keep building.

This, too, is something I have not written about for some time now, because other matters have deflected focus on this.  But there is something maddening about knowing that an enemy at our border is being permitted to increase its stockpiles of weapons to be used against us. In the end, it is shortsighted policy, for that enemy (or multiple enemies) can launch those weapons at us in large numbers at a time of their choosing.
Aaron Lerner, director of IMRA has addressed this and called for Israel to take out those weapons caches:

The problem, as always, is that the weapons are hidden in civilian areas.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has gone much further and is calling for us to re-take Gaza:


There are reports, confirmed, of a strengthening of al-Qaeda associated Salafi forces inside of Gaza – who say they are ready to hit Israel at any time.,7340,L-4496964,00.html

When it comes to dealing effectively with Gaza, it does not seem that time is on our side. 


What we see, with all of this, is the evidence proof-positive, from a perspective of security, why any withdrawal of Israel from Judea and Samaria would be a colossal mistake.

Which leads us to the “peace process,” and a statement Kerry just made at a Congressional hearing. The secretary of state has been described in many ways, but I see him as a pit bull: once he sinks his teeth in, he does not let go:

Kerry conceded that "The level of mistrust is as large as any level of mistrust I've ever seen, on both sides," and that there were "gaps .... some of them very significant," and that “Certain narrative issues are so powerful and so difficult that neither leader is going to definitively cede on them at an early stage of the negotiation."

But does this deter his efforts? Nah... "I still believe it's possible, but this particular challenge, inches are acceptable...And we're going to keep moving the way we're moving.",7340,L-4498422,00.html

What I deeply resent is that he also said, "Each of them [Netanyahu and Abbas] has helped to inch forward."  He does this – draws an equivalency between the two sides that is absolutely fallacious. What, precisely, has Abbas done, other than add on new stipulations?


Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament Elmar Brok last week requested of Israeli Ambassador to the EU David Walzer that a special European Parliament delegation be permitted to examine the prison conditions of the Palestinian Arab prisoners in Israel.

Lieberman’s response was on the mark: They would be allowed to come if an Israeli delegation would be permitted to examine European prisons.

A source within the foreign ministry said this request had been coordinated with the PA: It was clear that this is a desire to accuse Israel and publish conclusions that were prepared for a foretold condemnation.",7340,L-4496215,00.html


I also see this as a good move:

“An IDF force lying in ambush shot dead an Arab terrorist who was preparing to throw rocks at Israeli cars traveling on Road 60, north of Jerusalem. The incident took place near Givat Asaf, in the Binyamin region, on Monday evening.”

The ambush was set up after a growing number of rock attacks had put civilians and soldiers at risk.  These rocks – sometimes boulders and chunks of concrete – maim and kill, and for too long, the risk they pose was not addressed seriously enough.  Talk about deterrence: if rock throwers know they might get shot, they are likely to think twice.


Now, to end this posting I return to where I began, with Purim. For all the warnings it teaches, for all the import of its messages, at the end of the day, Purim is a time for silliness and laughter and celebrating.

And so, in that spirit, I share two silly (non-traditional but very pleasing) videos.

Ya’alili communicates joy and lightheartedness:

And the Maccabeats express Jewish pride at Purim time. The Queen Esther in this video is very lovely:

And so, Purim Sameach!



Credit: Beth-David


© 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. 
If it is reproduced and emphasis is added, the fact that it has been added must be noted.


Posted on Thursday, March 13, 2014 at 06:18AM by Registered CommenterArlene in , , , | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

March 11, 2014: Preposterous

That’s the diplomatic, political charade called “the peace process.”  And it is only growing more outrageous with every passing week. 

I would like to begin with a superb article - “The Palestinian narrative: The missing link in the ‘peace process’ – by Eric R. Mandel, Founder of the Middle East Political and Information Network.  It clearly and cogently identifies underlying fallacies inherent in current attempts to arrive at a “two state solution” (emphasis added):

”Secretary of State Kerry’s well-meaning attempt to forge a framework agreement between the Israeli and Palestinian governments is based on the conventional Western perspective of conflict resolution. Western democratic nations that sign treaties overwhelmingly respect the words on the paper they sign.

”But what happens when western democracies ask a democratic nation to sign a western- style treaty with an adversary that values tribe and clan over the nation-state? What happens when one party’s narrative is almost totally based on the negation of the other? While the media look through conventional glasses at the prospects for an Israeli- Palestinian framework agreement and pose certain questions, the view for those truly interested in a lasting peace should be through a more nuanced lens. Such an analysis raises questions that are more difficult.

Is a lasting Israel-Palestinian peace achievable if only one side accepts the legitimacy of the other’s narrative? To begin to resolve the conflict, American and Israeli negotiators should consider a western-style treaty only with concurrent recognition of the narratives of both parties. Diplomatic maneuvering, no matter how well meaning, can not lead to a lasting peace in this region without addressing the fundamental narratives of the adversaries.

”...It is essential to understand how Palestinian Arabs think and what they believe. The Palestinian Arab national identity is almost exclusively defined by negating the Israeli narrative, including Israel’s legitimate right to exist as a Jewish state, with precious few positive Palestinian nationalistic qualities.

Palestinian Arabs mark their historical time by memorializing what others perpetrated upon them. The quintessential narrative marked in time is the ‘Nakba,’ the catastrophe of the creation of the State of Israel.

”Delegitimizing Jewish historical connections to the land extends from mosques to school textbooks, from the PA press to the PA leadership.

”...On a recent trip to the Middle East, I interviewed members of the PA, PLO, Hamas, the Jordanian Parliament, and the Muslim Brotherhood.

”They all shared the same talking points about the Jews living in Israel. Uniformly, Israel is considered a colonialist enterprise – illegally imposed, and populated by foreigners with no legitimate right to the land. Almost all believe that Israel continually commits ‘war crimes,’ targets Arab civilians, and oppresses defenseless native Palestinians.

Violence committed against Jewish civilians is rationalized as the only legitimate avenue available to an oppressed people.

This troubling narrative is not confined to Hamas, but is part of the DNA of Palestinian Arabs whether they reside in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Judea, or Samaria.

”Compounding the problem is the western belief that all peoples of the world share its universalistic perspective. It is certainly true that Palestinians want to feed their families and prosper, but the West simply cannot comprehend that any people in the 21st century would choose self-defeating options over economic opportunity.

If choosing a better life means giving up on the goal of erasing Israel from the map, then unfortunately too many would choose ideology over prosperity.”


I urge you to share this broadly. 

The failure of the West to understand the mindset of Muslim/Arab culture and perspectives is an on-going problem.  And this problem extends to far more than what is alluded to in this article. There is, for example, the precept in Islam that permits lying and deception for the sake of a larger religious purpose (taqiyya).  This behavior, which the Muslim Arab considers fully acceptable within certain parameters, sends a Westerner’s mind into a tailspin.  There are still reasonably sophisticated Westerners who do not understand that it is what Abbas says in Arabic to his own people, and not what he says in English for the Western media, that matters.

What the author alludes to regarding ideology trumping prosperity is also significant.  There are justifications offered for Muslim Arab violence based on their presumably intolerable situation, which is said to lead to a state of desperation.  But studies show that it is not those in despair who are motivated to perpetrate violence, but these imbued with a radical ideology.

And lastly, with regard to cultural perceptions, there is the author’s brief allusion to an adversary that values tribe and clan (hamula) over the nation-state.  This carries ramifications that are poorly understood by many.  It may, for example, be in the strategic best interest of the PA to take out members of Hamas who foment trouble in Judea and Samaria.  But members of the PA security forces will not go after members of Hamas who are in the same clan.  It is to that clan and not to the concept of the developing state that they have first loyalty.


Mandel suggests that for the sake of real peace Israelis are willing to show understanding for at least some of the Palestinian Arab perspective - for example, by exhibiting compassion for “the descendants of Palestinian Arab refugees who have been used as pawns by autocratic Arab regimes.”  (More on these so-called refugees below.)

I would carry this further.  Unfortunately, within our Israeli society there are those on the left who have so thoroughly assimilated the Palestinian narrative, post-Oslo, that they have lost their sense of Jewish entitlement in the land.  This is a situation to be mourned, and corrected. 


And what of that “peace process”?

I am weary almost to the point of tears with the conflicting rumors in the media:  Kerry has already released his framework but the parties have pledged not to talk about it; Kerry is having trouble putting together the framework and it might not be ready by late April; the framework will simply advance American ideas and both parties will be able to voice reservations; Kerry may simply settle for a verbal understanding without anything written. And on, and on.

In the end, it will all come to nothing.


As time goes on, what we are seeing is that Abbas continues to harden his positions.  Not only is there no compromise, he adds more red lines.

Please see this video from MEMRI of Abbas speaking, just five days ago.

Among the the positions he advances:

[] No Israeli presence over the 1967 line. Not a single settlement bloc to remain – every stone placed on the land since 1967 is illegal.

[] No recognition of Israel as the Jewish State.

Mandel, in his article, above, makes the case that the Palestinian Arabs cannot accept the legitimacy of a Jewish state because it flies in the face of their narrative.  And he is correct.  But there is also another reason: It would make it impossible to push on the issue of “Right of Return” (see the next point).

[] “Right of Return” for all five million Palestinian Arab refugees and their descendants, with Israeli citizenship.  A good way to destroy Israel from within.


That “right of return,” in point of fact, does not exist, even though the Arabs refer to it as an “inalienable” right.

The reference point they use for this is United Nations General Assembly Resolution 194.  This was adopted before the War of Independence was over, and it was opposed by the Arab states because of its implicit recognition of Israel – which the Arab states were still in the process of trying to destroy militarily. 

After the war, the Arab states returned to one article of the entire resolution, as “proof” of the “right of return.”  Actually, only one clause within that article.

That clause resolved that, “the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date...”

There immediately followed a host of questions regarding what is a “practicable” date, and, more significantly, whether the refugees would live at peace with their Jewish neighbors – a dubious proposition to say the least.  Given that requisite for return, very few would qualify – especially today, as they have been subjected to decades of incitement against Israel.

But that’s just the beginning, because another clause within that very same article instructed, “the Conciliation Commission to facilitate the repatriation, resettlement and economic and social rehabilitation of the refugees...”  Resettlement? Then clearly this resolution was offering alternatives besides “return” (repatriation) – i.e., “return” was not a “right,” but rather one alternative for resolving the problem of refugees.

Last and most significantly, there is this: This was a General Assembly resolution. The General Assembly makes recommendations only, which are without enforceability or weight in international law.

There are still “refugees,” or the descendants of those refugees – also classified as refugees - almost 65 years after Arabs fled from the newly founded Israel, because UNRWA has vigorously perpetuated this political charade and kept the “refugees” in limbo rather than helping them to resettle.


Given his full set of stipulations, it is clear that Abbas is not going to sign on to a final agreement with Israel, and most likely not on to Kerry’s framework agreement, should he ever produce one.  At this point, Abbas has received the backing of the Arab League, which is telling him to “stand firm,” make no concessions, and continue to refuse to recognize Israel as the Jewish state.

To exacerbate the situation, there is the Fatah Central Committee member Abbas Zaki, who recently declared that “No of us, especially not in Fatah [Mahmoud Abbas’s party], has ruled out the military option.  We have not forgotten our principles and goals...”  He refers to “our entire legacy of struggle which can be resorted to when the time is right.”

And just days ago, a former PA negotiator, Mohammed Shtayyeh, told AP that “the gaps between the sides are growing rather than shrinking...We don't have terms of reference,  which means we and the Israelis are reading from different books."


And so, you may ask, Nu?  What’s happening on Israel’s part.

Well, our prime minister, who forthrightly and properly tells the world to stop deceiving itself with regard to Iran and face the truth, will not take his own advice in this context. 

What Netanyahu is doing – and this continues to be his MO – is to bend over backwards to show the world that he is trying his best to work on possible plans that might succeed. 

No point in belaboring it here, but he spoke about how we will have to relinquish some settlements, and then, following a backlash from the right wing of the coalition, said that no, not a single settlement would be dismantled.  Most recently he proposed some obscure plan modeled on the very complex border arrangement that exists between Belgium and Holland, with each having enclaves within the other nation; totally inapplicable to our situation.

I do not believe that he believes for a second that any of this will ever materialize, and I find myself with an inclination to run my head into the wall. 

I do understand that he anticipates that the PA intends to blame us for the failure of the talks and head for the UN. What he is trying to do is mitigate the negative world responses – both legally and in terms of BDS – that we may have to contend with.  But we’re going to get smacked no matter what he does, and I long for him to call a press conference and say, “Enough! Look at the evidence of the failure of PA cooperation.”

There is a great deal more to day, and I will continue in my next posting...


© 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. 
If it is reproduced and emphasis is added, the fact that it has been added must be noted.


Posted on Tuesday, March 11, 2014 at 02:05PM by Registered CommenterArlene in , , , , , | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

March 10, 2014: Just Call Me Dubious

When last I wrote, I said I would be watching for the US response to the Israeli capture of the ship – operated under Iranian direction - that was carrying rockets intended for Gaza. As it turns out, besides the boiler plate response we might have expected, there was something else:

A State Department spokesperson put out a statement suggesting that the US was prepared to act to take this ship before Israel made its move.  “The White House directed the Department of Defense to monitor the vessel," Jen Psaki said.  In fact, the US was prepared to take "unilateral steps" to stop the ship, but then Israel “volunteered” to handle the situation and the US stepped back.

A logical analysis renders this description of the situation ludicrous.  First, the US does not track Iranian weapons ships as Israel does: this particular operation required months of exceedingly sensitive covert action and special intelligence. We are the masters at this.

And then, why would Obama want to have the US intercept such a ship, thereby angering the Iranians – a report described the Revolutionary Guard as furious - when he is in difficult negotiations with them?  The president’s MO is appeasement, not confrontation. You may remember that it was revealed after the fact that the reason Obama halted a planned missile hit on Syria was because Iran requested he not do it.

Lastly, if, for reasons that are not immediately clear, Obama had wanted to stop that ship, what are the chances that he would have opted to then step back and let Israel do it?


And so, as you can readily see, I was exceedingly dubious about this story from the moment I read it.

And then – surprise! - I found this (emphasis added):

“Asked about US involvement in the commando attack, the [senior IDF] officer said that the US was informed of the relevant details ahead of the raid, but did not take an active part in collecting information that led up to it.”

So the US hadn’t even taken part in collecting information about the ship, never mind having set in place plans to stop it.  This means, of course, that at some high level (presumably the very highest) in the State Department, a decision was made to misrepresent US involvement in the situation.

Shocking?  Not at all..just part of the State Department MO.  Remember Benghazi and the claim that a US ambassador was murdered because of a video making fun of Mohammad.


I will not belabor the question of why this was done, other than to speculate that they didn’t want to appear as if they were not part of what was going on – that they were, so to speak, one-upped by Israel.  This claim, if believed, would have served to diminish Israel, which in point of fact acted superbly.

As to a boiler plate response on this, White House press secretary Jay Carney made it clear that from the US perspective it was entirely “appropriate” to continue negotiations in spite of what went on with the ship.  There is no rethinking of the parameters of the negotiations taking place.


The weapons cargo ship, the Klos C (on left in picture below), escorted by two the Israeli Navy ships INS Hanit and INS Hetz, was brought into the port at Eilat on Saturday.


Credit: Times of Israel

Its contents, when unloaded by Yahalom, an engineering unit for special operations, were found to consist of:

40 Syrian-made M-302 missiles with a 90-to-160 kilometer (60-to-100 mile) range
181 mortar shells, 120 mm caliber
About 400,000 bullets, 7.62 mm caliber

The full import of these weapons was explained by an IDF official (emphasis added):

"There are rockets in this shipment with a 160 kilometer range. If you do the math, they could reach Haifa. These are new rockets that threaten the majority of Israeli citizens. It is not right to simply say, 'There are so many rockets in Gaza, what would a few more matter?' These are a lot of rockets, with longer ranges and with bigger warheads. A missile like this in the hands of Hamas or Islamic Jihad gives them strategic capability."


The  17 crew members of the Kos C are being questioned on board the ship and then will be free to leave with the ship.


A major press conference was held today in Eilat, attended by international press and foreign dignitaries who will have an opportunity to see the weaponry.  One of Netanyahu’s goals was showing the world “the true face of Iran”: today Tehran hides shipments of long range missiles, tomorrow it will hide "nuclear suitcases."

Unfortunately, there is no evidence that the world is interested in seeing it.

Netanyahu challenged Catherine Ashton, EU foreign policy chief - as she was preparing to go to Iran on Sunday - to directly confront the Iranians on the matter of the Kos C.  He might have saved his breath. Ashton, who made the trip at the invitation of Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Jarad Zarif, delivered the following statement (emphasis added):

I have come to Iran with the message of goodwill of 28 European countries...this is a start for the development of cooperation between Iran and the EU.

The EU fully acknowledges the Islamic Republic of Iran’s importance and role in the region; accordingly, talks have taken place during this trip for cooperation between the two sides on different issues.”

Assuming that this report from the Fars News Agency about Ashton’s statement is true, then I would say she has surpassed herself.  Talk about inexcusable pandering!  That she entered Iran on the heels of the capture of weaponry intended by Iran for use against Israel by terrorists and then spoke about the goodwill of 28 EU countries is vile. 

So confident is Iran that it has the upper hand now, that after meeting with Ashton, Iranian politician Ali Akbar Velayati criticized the US policy towards Iran:

“The measures adopted by American officials under the pretext of pressure from the Zionists [Israel] are not acceptable,  Such actions by the Americans serve as an obstacle in the way of an international agreement between the P5+1 and the Islamic Republic.”


I have written extensively about the horrendous negotiating situation between P5+1 and Iran.  Iran has been cut all sorts of slack with regard to the “right” to enrich, while sanctions have been cut back so that it is no longer hurting economically as it had been.

This is for an “interim” period, during which a final agreement is supposed to be hammered out. The chances that the end result will be an arrangement that deprives Iran of the capacity to produce a nuclear weapon is close to nil.   Even Ashton, who is kissing up to the Iranians, has admitted that there are no guarantees that a successful deal will be reached.  And this is “successful” in EU terms.  A final agreement, she said, will be “difficult, challenging and there is no guarantee that we will succeed.”

The claim that the sanctions can be reinstated if things don’t work out is fallacious.  The entire sanctions network against Iran is falling apart, with nations and companies running to do business with the Iranians.


Behrouz Kamalvandi, spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, recently gave an interview on Iranian TV in which he said that in the Joint Plan of Action, signed in November. Iran "got more than it gave," and that Iran’s nuclear commitments were "temporary and non-obligatory." He emphasized that, “The commitments made by Iran can be retracted." (Emphasis added)

See Kamalvandi in this MEMRI clip:


With regard to negotiations with the Palestinian Arabs, Prime Minister Netanyahu is conducting himself in a manner that is increasingly maddening and bewildering. Precisely what is the man talking about? I frequently want to ask (and I will come back to that in my next post). 

Yet at one and the same time, he is on the mark with regard to his warnings about Iran.  His statements and policies in this respect demonstrate a good measure of clear thinking and readiness to confront hard truths. 

I believe that anyone who does confront those hard truths, and takes a serious and painful look at the situation, will ineluctably arrive at the conclusion that Iran must be hit. Nothing else will prevent its rush to achieve nuclear capability.

What I fervently pray, then, is that at some point soon, our prime minister stops sounding those warning that are not heeded by the world, and gives the word for the only action that can made a difference.


© 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. 
If it is reproduced and emphasis is added, the fact that it has been added must be noted.


March 5, 2014: Iran

Truth be told, I had expected Prime Minister Netanyahu to focus on Iran in his AIPAC talk yesterday.  I had been planning to use his speech as a kick-off point for a discussion about Iran.  Instead, yesterday, I went in various other directions.  And today, there is a different, decidedly more ominous kick-off point for focus on Iran.

I am going to make this brief because, not knowing how broadly this information will be broadcast outside of Israel, I want this out:

The information has surfaced that early this morning Israeli naval commandos from the elite unit Shayetet 13 seized a ship in the Red Sea that was carrying dozens of advanced Iranian rockets intended for delivery to terrorists in Gaza.

The cargo ship, the Klos C, was sailing under a Panamanian flag.  Its 17-man crew did not resist when their ship – which is now being brought to Eilat – was boarded in international waters.  The crew was comprised of several nationalities (none Iranian) who were apparently oblivious to the nature of the cargo the ship was carrying.

According to Israeli military spokesman Lt.-Col. Peter Lerner, dozens of M302 rockets – hidden behind bags of cement that were labeled in English “Made in Iran” - were found on-board.  They would have had the capacity to strike deep into Israel. 


 IDF soldiers inspect a missile found on board Klos-C in a commando operation Wednesday morning. The military says the ship was carrying an Iranian arms shipment headed for Gaza (Photo credit: IDF)

Credit: IDF

The blood runs cold when one considers what might have happened, had the ship not have been intercepted. All credit is due the IDF, which carried out what Lerner referred to as a “complex, covert operation.” It met with success because of a “combination of in-depth intelligence and enhanced operational capabilities.” 

IDF Chief of Staff, Lieutenant General Benny Gantz, who supervised the operation, gave the order to Major General Ram Rothberg, head of the Israeli navy, to seize the ship.


If the IDF tracking of the weapon cache was “complex,” it is because the route of the rockets covered a great deal of ground: The rockets were flown from Syria - where they had  been assembled according to Iranian technology - to Iran, where they were loaded on the ship. From there they were went first to Iraq (why, is not clear) and when intercepted were headed towards Sudan, which was still 1,500 miles away.  It is anticipated that, had they reached Sudan, the rockets would have been smuggled overland through Egypt to Gaza.  This route from Sudan to Gaza is hardly a new one. 

Brigadier General Moti Almoz, spokesman for the Israeli Navy,made it clear at a special press conference today: “Iran was behind the shipment.”

Netanyahu, who is currently in LA, made a brief, clear statement following the release of this information (emphasis added):

“As it conducts talks with [world] powers, as Iran smiles and utters pleasantries, the same Iran is sending lethal weapons to terror organizations…via an intricate network of clandestine global operations…in order to hurt innocent civilians.”

This is the real Iran and this country must not be allowed to have nuclear weapons. We will continue to do whatever is necessary to protect Israeli citizens.”

Take the time to see this brief video of Netanyahu in a similar expression of concern: it is in his tone of voice that the seriousness and import of the issue are conveyed;


I will return in another posting with more on Iran, including information on how Obama and other heads of state who are “negotiating” with Iran respond to this.  I want to see how they reconcile this with their image of a new, more “moderate” Iran.


© 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. 
If it is reproduced and emphasis is added, the fact that it has been added must be noted.


Posted on Wednesday, March 5, 2014 at 10:10AM by Registered CommenterArlene in , , , , , | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

March 4, 2014: Tracking an Insane Time

There are few things more insane than Arabs throwing large rocks at cars, and thereby causing lethal injury to children. But this is what I begin with today.

It is a year ago that Adva Biton was driving in her car with other members of her family, including three children, when an Arab terrorist threw a concrete block at them.  It caused Adva to loose control of the car, which rammed into a truck and ended up trapped beneath it.  Other members of the family were moderately injured. But little Adele Biton, then two, was critically injured.  A full year later, she is still unconscious, and sits that way in a wheel chair.  Her family stays with her constantly, and hopes to bring her home, where she will secure all sorts of therapeutic treatment.

The request here is that you pray for Adele Biton. Adele Bat Adva.  Pray for her recovery daily and continue to pray until we learn that, with the help of Heaven, she has regained her life.


Credit: jewsnews


Prime Minister Netanyahu has not yet addressed the AIPAC Policy Conference as I begin this posting.  But I am eager, nonetheless, to look at what has transpired in the last day, and to share some analysis.

Before going into his lengthy closed-door meeting with President Obama in the White House last night, our prime minister conducted himself with firmness at an opening press conference.  He stood his ground.

I admit, I cringe when he speaks about two states for two peoples – but this is how he is playing it.  Yet, this aside, he said, quite explicitly, that he knows the position he represents is not the conventional wisdom, but it is the truth. 

Netanyahu tracked all that Israel has done “for peace” in the last 20 years, i.e., since the beginning of Oslo.  And then he took a look at what Israel has gotten in return from the Palestinian Arabs: rockets launched on our civilians, incessant incitement, etc. 

Chiding Obama before the cameras, he said:

“Israel has been doing its part, and I regret to say that the Palestinians haven’t. The people of Israel know that it’s the case.


Declared Netanyahu (emphasis added):

“What we want is peace – not a piece of paper...real peace... based on mutual recognition.

Israel, the Jewish state, is the realization of the Jewish people’s right to self-determination. I think it’s about time they recognized a nation state for the Jewish people.  We’ve only been here for about 4,000 years.”

You can see a video of Netanyahu saying this via the above link.  What he says here is, I believe, as close as we’ll get right now to his speaking for our rights.  And it’s solid in several respects.  He speaks about the self-determination of the Jewish People, and about our presence in the land for 4,000 years.  This effectively counters all those Arab claims that they were here first. 

The great irony, of course, is that the very areas the Palestinian Arabs claim as theirs are the ones that were central to our heritage over those 4,000 years.  Hevron, Beit El, Shilo are all in Judea and Samaria.  Eastern Jerusalem, which the Palestinian Arabs want as their capital, WAS Jerusalem: the Temple Mount, the City of David, etc.  Our prime minister, by implication is laying our claim and – let us hope – moving in the direction of giving the PA an answer regarding their outrageous demands.  What is clear as clear can be is that these areas of ancient Jewish heritage belong to the Jewish people and should never be surrendered to anyone else.


You will note in the above video that the tone Obama used in welcoming Netanyahu was far more moderate and pleasant than the tone of his vile article had been.

Raphael Ahren gives us a most plausible explanation in The Times of Israel: “With Putin making trouble, Obama goes easy on Netanyahu” (emphasis added):

“The Ukraine crisis changed everything. After the unusually harsh comments US President Barack Obama made in an interview with Jeffrey Goldberg last week – it was published on Sunday — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was expected to receive another verbal lashing Monday in the Oval Office. But Obama’s tone was surprisingly gentle.

“Obviously, the president knows not to offend his guests by attacking and accusing them in person. But there’s more to the sudden change of tone. Obama’s interview with Goldberg took place last Thursday, before the Russian-Ukrainian crisis escalated. By Monday, Obama understood that Russian President Vladimir Putin was serious about his ambitions regarding Crimea, and that a possible military showdown near the Black Sea could become the defining moment of his presidency.

“The US public isn’t really that worried about Iran becoming a nuclear threshold state, and the fact that Bashar Assad is still killing in Syria doesn’t keep many Americans awake at night. While in the eyes of Israelis, and the Sunni Arab states in the region, Obama is a weak leader who cannot be trusted to enforce the red lines he occasionally draws, when he has no other choice, the average Joe in the US has other worries.

But the Crimea crisis, a throwback to the Cold War, is a different ballgame. Putin’s challenge to the West, and particularly the US — which has vowed that “there is a huge price to pay” for violating Ukrainian sovereignty – is a bigger headache for Obama than the entire Middle East. And the last thing the president needs right now is a public spat with Netanyahu, who enjoys near-universal admiration in Congress. And Obama might need Congress if he is to act decisively against Moscow’s territorial appetite in Eastern Europe.

“Does that mean that the US administration is going to decrease pressure on Israel in the coming weeks and months? Certainly not.”


With all of the distressing import of what is going on now, there are moments that are amusing – inadvertently so, but amusing nonetheless.

Secretary of State Kerry spoke at AIPAC last night and assured his listeners that, “we will never let the West Bank turn into another Gaza.”

Yes, sure, absolutely. 

What I would like to know is how he would expect to achieve this, once his goal of turning Judea and Samaria over to the Palestinian Arabs should be realized (Heaven forbid!).  The scary part is that Kerry may believe this can be managed, which would indicate precisely how little the US administration understands the Arabs here.

We know that Hamas is just waiting to take down the PA, once it should achieve statehood.


But here’s another look – offered by Khaled Abu Toameh - at just how weak Abbas is.  (Emphasis added)

“As Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas continues to talk with Israel and the U.S. about ways of achieving peace in the Middle East, senior members of his ruling Fatah faction have stepped up their efforts to remove him from power.

“These efforts seem to be worrying Abbas these days more than anything else, including U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's proposed ‘framework agreement’ for peace between the Palestinians and Israel – which has thus far been rejected by Abbas and the Palestinian Authority [PA] leadership.

“The internal squabbling in Fatah casts doubts on Abbas' ability or willingness to sign any peace agreement with Israel.

“These are not mere tensions or disagreements among politicians. Rather, they mark the beginning of an inevitable split that could result in the creation of a rival, anti-Abbas Fatah group, headed by some of his arch-enemies.”

“Abbas’s challenger is former Fatah Central Committee member and former PA security chief Mohammed Dahlan.  Sources close to Abbas accuse Dahlan of ‘secretly planning a coup against the PA leader. According to the sources, Dahlan, who has been living in exile in the United Arab Emirates for the past four years, has his eyes set on the Palestinian Authority presidency and regards himself as a successor to Abbas.’”

“...Recently, Abbas dispatched a high-level Fatah delegation to the Gaza Strip, prompting many Palestinians to speculate that the purpose of the trip was to achieve reconciliation with Hamas. But it quickly transpired that the Fatah delegation, headed by Abbas loyalist Nabil Sha'ath, was sent to the Gaza Strip as part of Abbas's attempt to crush a Dahlan-engineered rebellion against his leadership.

“...Some reports have suggested that Sha'ath and members of his delegation had to flee the Gaza Strip three days after their arrival following threats to their lives from Dahlan and his supporters. According to the reports, Sha'ath even appealed to Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh to beef up security at the hotel where he was staying in Gaza City, out of fear that disgruntled Fatah activists might assassinate him or members of his delegation.

“...Palestinians in Ramallah said that the increased tensions in Fatah mean that Abbas is beginning to lose his grip over the faction -- a fact that Kerry and his team would not be able to ignore if and when they force Abbas to sign any agreement with Israel.

“...Once, the claim was that Abbas does not represent the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, who are under the control of Hamas. Today, however, it is not incorrect to argue that Israel's peace partner, Abbas, does not even represent his own party.”


Just this week, as I was tracking Obama statements on the “peace process,” I noted that, when he spoke about the closing window of opportunity,” he mentioned that no one knew how long Abbas would be in power.  His implied message was one of “striking while the iron was hot,” so to speak. 

But my thought then was that this was outrageous – proposing an agreement with Abbas when it seemed he might be out of power soon, and there would be no telling what would come next.  If a stable continuity of power were expected, then rushing to sign with Abbas would not be necessary.  This smelled like Obama attempting to grab his moment of diplomatic victory and to hell with what might happen to Israel thereafter.

And so, Kerry promises the US would not let the “West Bank” turn into another Gaza. Does he also promise to make sure Fatah radicals opposed to a peace agreement do not seize control after that agreement were signed?


Apparently as of two days ago, Abbas was saying that he would continue negotiations beyond the nine months only if “Netanyahu declares a freeze in settlement construction and releases additional prisoners beyond the next installment.”

Well, we cannot take Abbas at his word, as he makes innumerable threats.  But what he is saying – this was in a Ramallah meeting with MK Zahava Gal-on, head of the very left Meretz party - is that if these conditions are not met, he will quit negotiations and go to the international courts.

His chances of having Israel meet these demands is nil. 

As to“the next installment of prisoners” – all presumably having committed their terrorist crimes before Oslo - there is a heightened mood in the country in opposition to their being released.  Netanyahu had committed to this as a way to bring Abbas to the table, but although there have been three groups released to date, there has been nothing forthcoming from the PA.  What is more, this time the PA is insisting that Arabs with Israeli citizenship be included.  Totally and completely unacceptable in the eyes of much of the nation.

And to demand even MORE than this, just so we might have the privilege of sitting at the table with his negotiators?

As to a full settlement building freeze, Minister of Intelligence and Strategic Affairs Yuval Steinitz (Likud), who is in Washington DC with Netanyahu, told Israel Radio today that this is not even on the table.


Why does Abbas make these threats?  Because he finds they work. His experience has been that the US is so eager to keep him at the table that he merely has to propose these actions and the Americans turn to pressure Israel.

But this time it isn’t going to work.  Had the Americans not catered to him all this time, we’d be in a different place.


The good news is that Steinitz also reported that Israel is receiving wall-to-wall Congressional support.

The Washington Post reported that after his conference with Obama, Netanyahu met with House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) on Capitol Hill. Cantor said the Palestinians must “accept Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state” and “uniformly and aggressively” combat terrorism while confronting, not condoning, “incitement against the Jews.”


Now, my friends, as I complete this posting, Netanyahu has spoken at AIPAC.  I will return to this in my next post as necessary – I would like to locate a transcript, to be certain I haven’t missed anything of import. But I am fairly sure it will not be necessary.

What I can say here is that I was underwhelmed. No drama, no fire and brimstone. He spoke cautiously and, as one commentator put it, showed “a kinder, gentler Netanyahu.” He even seemed to be marking time as he spoke. Whatever I may share next time is simply likely to circle back on content we’ve all heard from him in different contexts: Iran must not be permitted capacity for nuclear development -  “I will do what I must to defend the Jewish State of Israel;” additional sanctions on Iran are necessary; the PA must recognize Israel as the Jewish state but true peace would do great things for the region; Israel is nice and treats wounded Syrians and Syria is inhumane; the BDS movement is immoral; etc. The low point perhaps: “Who believes the BS of the BDS movement?” Not his finest moment.

Netanyahu is treading with care.  The best that can be said, perhaps, is that he did not declare any concessions for the sake of “peace.”  And, once again, at least, he spoke about the long-standing Jewish connection to Judea and Samaria.

I am reminded that we do not know what went on in his talk yesterday with Obama.  Netanyahu spoke about “good meetings,” but said nothing more.

You can see a topic-by-topic summary of his talk 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. 
If it is reproduced and emphasis is added, the fact that it has been added must be noted. 

Posted on Tuesday, March 4, 2014 at 11:45AM by Registered CommenterArlene in , , , , , , , | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

March 3, 2014: Threats Don't Scare Israelis

As a matter of fact, when we are threatened, our spines are stiffened. 
In this instance, I am referring to threats implied by Obama in an interview with Jeffrey Goldberg for Bloomberg View.  It had made news a couple of days ago that he wanted to be “more directly involved” in those so-called “peace negotiations.”  And so here we are, with the president demonstrating his “diplomatic skills”:
"What I do believe is that if you see no peace deal and continued aggressive settlement construction and ... 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.
“In today’s world, where power is much more diffuse, where the threats that any state or peoples face can come from non-state actors and asymmetrical threats, and where international cooperation is needed in order to deal with those threats, the absence of international goodwill makes you less safe. The condemnation of the international community can translate into a lack of cooperation when it comes to key security interests. It means reduced influence for us, the United States, in issues that are of interest to Israel...
“The window is closing,” he declared, and it’s time for Netanyahu to “seize the moment” with regard to Kerry’s framework agreement.
Seize the moment?  That means caving on all demands that are unacceptable to Abbas, so the PA will be accommodating.
And “aggressive” settlement construction?  THAT, my friends, is a truly aggressive statement by Obama.
“When I have a conversation with Bibi, that’s the essence of my conversation,” Obama told Goldberg, “If not now, when? And if not you, Mr. Prime Minister, then who? How does this get resolved?”
The unmitigated gall of the man, twice over.  It is, first, outrage that he should borrow from the words of our sage, Hillel, as he attempts to pressure the prime minister of Israel.  And then, that he should put the onus on Israel, as if it is in our hands, alone, to bring “peace.”
All of this is a build-up for the scheduled meeting between Netanyahu and Obama today.
On getting off the plane in Washington DC, Netanyahu said (emphasis added):
"The tango in the Middle East needs at least three.  For years there have been two - Israel and the US. Now it needs to be seen if the Palestinians are also present. In any case, in order for us to have an agreement, we must uphold our vital interests. I have proven that I do so, in the face of all pressures and all the turmoil, and I will continue to do so here as well."
The message: Mr. President, you don’t scare me.
For this we can tell our prime minister, “Right on, hold strong!”
But I say forthrightly that, while I am obviously pleased about Netanyahu’s declarations of refusal to be pressured, I am not content that it is yet enough.  Before flying to the US, as well, he spoke about Israel’s vital interests:
“I will stand steadfast on the State of Israel’s vital interests, especially the security of Israel’s citizens.
“In recent years the State of Israel has been under various pressures. We have rejected them in the face of the unprecedented storm and unrest in the region and are maintaining stability and security. This is what has been and what will be.”
But are Israel’s interests limited only to issues of stability and security (as important as these are)?? Are there not issues also of Israeli rights – rights that are almost never enunciated?
If there were stability in the region and no security threats to Israel, then it would be OK to pull back behind the “1967 border” (sic) and to share Jerusalem as a capital with a Palestinian Arab state?
Most unequivocally no and no!
The campaign that I co-chair, Legal Grounds: The Campaign for Promoting Israel’s Rights - - is determined to change the status quo and reach the day when the government of Israel speaks for Israeli rights.  Altogether too much time has been lost already, and it is certainly time to begin.
Let me take a moment, then, to provide legal background on our rights in the land.  This is a brief version, condensed in a manner that will hopefully provide ready accessibility.  It is for your information, and for you to use in speaking to others, writing letters to the editor, posting on blogs and websites, and more.  The point is that it depends on all of us to set the legal/historical record straight.
It is broadly drawn from material provided for us by international lawyer Dr. Harel Arnon (with emphasis added):
Judea and Samaria were part of the area designated in 1922 by the League of Nations for the British Mandate of Palestine - for the establishment of a homeland for the Jewish people only.  The Mandate drew its wording from the decisions of the San Remo Conference of 1920. 

►The United Nations General Assembly voted in 1947 for partition of Palestine.  However, contrary to accepted opinion, this vote was not a binding decision, but rather a recommendation. The United Nations Security Council took no action in response to this recommendation, in part because of objections from the Arabs.  In other words, the status of Judea and Samaria was not changed following the partition recommendation: It remained part of the territory which, according to the Mandate, was intended for the establishment of a home for the Jewish People.

►Jordan’s entry into Judea and Samaria in 1948 as part of a military action it had initiated (not for defense purposes), was illegal. By the same argument, it can also be said that the Jordanian annexation was also illegal. Even the Arab League condemned Jordan for annexing Judea and Samaria.

►In 1967 Israel took control of Judea and Samaria from Jordan, which had annexed the area in contravention of international law. Israel did this during a defensive war, which makes its actions legal.

Therefore, during the Six Day War, Israel took control of areas that were not part of any other legal sovereignty – stateless areas – and which had, in any case, been designated for the Jewish People. From a legal point of view, Israel could not be classified as a conqueror.

►Judea and Samaria are not “Palestinian” as the “Palestinians” were never a nation.  There has never been a “Palestinian State”. Today there is an argument, and just an argument, made by the Arabs living in Judea and Samaria, regarding their right to an independent state. This is a political argument and Israel is not required to accept it, even if much of the world identifies with this argument.

►Furthermore, the right to self-determination, in the legal sense, only took form in international law long after 1967, from the 1980s onwards.  And this even before we begin examining the question as to whether the Arabs in Judea and Samaria have such a right.

►Laws of occupation apply to a situation in which territory is taken by one state from another state. For this reason, they are not relevant and do not apply to Judea and Samaria.

As a result, the settlements are not illegal.

All the injunctions and restrictions placed on an occupying nation are not relevant to Judea and Samaria.

Legal claims regarding Israeli occupation are no more than the adoption of an Arab national narrative.  Nothing more than that.


One other point to be mentioned here:  It is frequently said that the settlements are a violation of article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilians (1949). But, as a Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs briefing indicates, “both the text of that convention, and the post-World War II circumstances under which it was drafted, clearly indicate that is was never intended to refer to situations like Israel’s settlements. “  This was intended to apply to situations in which populations were coerced into being transferred.  It was drafted in order to prevent a repeat of the behavior of the Nazis and the Russians during WWII.


You might also want to see, and share, this article that cites Dr. Arnon, whom I refer to above.
See, as well, Times of Israel editor David Horovitz with regard to the Obama statements in his Bloomberg interview. “For Netanyahu, a bombshell battering by Obama” (emphasis added):
“Until he read the breaking news of President Obama’s earth-shattering interview with Bloomberg’s Jeffrey Goldberg on Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu might have anticipated that Monday’s meeting was going to be one of his less confrontational and unpleasant sessions of frank, allied diplomacy with his good friend Barack.

“Sure, the stakes were always going to be high: The president was going to be urging Netanyahu to assent to Secretary of State John Kerry’s framework proposal for continued peace talks. And the prime minister was going to be urging Obama to toughen his demands on Iran, to ensure that the ayatollahs are deprived of the wherewithal to build the nuclear weapons they swear they don’t want to build, just on the off chance that they might be lying.

“But Netanyahu, his aides had long been indicating, was ready to accept the framework proposals — as a non-binding basis for further negotiations. So no need for confrontation there. And he must have had little hope that he was going to shift Obama’s stance on Iran, however powerful he believes his arguments to be. So not much point in confrontation there, either.

“But then came that bombshell Bloomberg battering.

The timing could not have been any more deliberatean assault on the prime minister’s policies delivered precisely as Netanyahu was flying in to meet with him, and on the first day, too, of the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC’s annual tour de force conference across town.

At the very least, that might be considered bad manners, poor diplomatic protocol, a resounding preemptive slap in the face: I’ve just told the world you’re leading your country to wrack and ruin, Mr. Prime Minister. Now, what was it you wanted to talk to me about?

More substantively, the president’s comments reinforce years of grievance that have accumulated in Netanyahu’s circles and some distance beyond, to the effect that the president ignores the inconsistencies, duplicities and worse of the Palestinian Authority and its leader Mahmoud Abbas, while placing exaggerated blame for the failure of peace efforts at the door of the Israeli government.

“As they read through the transcript of the interview, Netanyahu and his aides were doubtless bemoaning what they see as Obama’s obsession with settlements, to the exclusion of almost any other issue on which the Israelis and the Palestinians are deadlocked. They would certainly have been lamenting that the president’s public display of disaffection will hardly encourage the Palestinians to adopt more flexible positions on such other core issues as their demand for a ‘right of return’ for millions of Palestinians to Israel. And they might have been wondering if some of the Obama ammunition had been fired precisely now as a mark of his displeasure with AIPAC, the irritating lobby that just won’t keep quiet on pressuring Iran.

“...That Obama chose to highlight his concern [about the counterproductive nature of settlements] in such ominous and pointed terms, going so far as to warn that it would become harder in the future for the US to protect Israel from the consequences of its misguided West Bank building, would suggest that he has all but despaired of Netanyahu’s willingness to rein in construction. Otherwise, surely, he would have held his fire, and first consulted face-to-face with the prime minister.

For one thing is certain, the president’s resort to a newspaper interview on the eve of their talks to issue near-apocalyptic warnings about the disaster Netanyahu risks bringing upon Israel is just about the last thing likely to bolster the prime minister’s confidence in their alliance, and just about the last thing likely to encourage Netanyahu to further alienate his hawkish home base by taking steps such as halting building outside the settlement blocs.”


A couple of points of clarification here, related to what was said by Horovitz:

There has been talk, not officially verified, that Netanyahu had declared himself ready to freeze building in areas outside of the main settlement blocs. This had lead to a furor raised by the Knesset Land of Israel Caucus. In light of this (which already indicates more bending than our prime minister should be doing), the pressure being put on him by Obama is all the more vile and outrageous.

As to that “framework” agreement, it’s still floating in the air, incomplete because Kerry hasn’t been able to get it together – for he finds himself unable to draft a document that both sides would sign on to.  It is said that it would be a non-binding document to which the parties would have the right to voice “reservations,” a pointless exercise.

There are rumors that it might not be completed by the end of the allocated nine-month negotiation period, which leads to questions about an extension of the time frame.  There is some very serious talk about how this situation links to the presumed obligation of Israel to release a fourth group of Palestinian Arab prisoners (about which there will yet be much to say).


Just four days ago, according to the Times of Israel, “Abbas ‘exploded with rage’ at Kerry over insane’ framework proposals.”

This happened in the course of a meeting between Abbas and Kerry in Paris.  Abbas was outraged, first, because the framework proposed that the Palestinian capital would be in one neighborhood of Jerusalem and not in all of “east” Jerusalem as the PA demands. 

Please understand: what is referred to as “east Jerusalem” is everything over the Green Line (the armistice line of 1949, which Abbas calls the “1967 border”).  And not all of this area is even east of western Jerusalem – some neighborhoods are to the north or south.  What Abbas is demanding would mean that the Temple Mount and the Kotel, as well as well established and solidly Jewish neighborhoods such as Gilo and French Hill would all be part of a Palestinian Arab capital.

And then, Abbas was furious because the framework suggested there would be settlement blocks in Judea and Samaria retained by Israel.

”...a Palestinian official who spoke Friday on condition of anonymity said that the US secretary’s proposals could not serve as the basis for a framework deal, as ‘they do not take into account the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people.’” (Emphasis added)
But never fear, the American administration has a default position regarding what to do when Abbas becomes intransigent: lean harder on Israel.
According Haaretz, the Americans are contemplating different maneuvers in the face of the obstinate positions of Abbas, with a great deal of dissension in the State Department and the White House regarding how to proceed. 
On the one hand, “senior Palestinians say that, in light of the poor talks between Abbas and Kerry, the Americans are considering foregoing a written document and making do with general verbal agreements.”
On the other, “A senior Israeli official intimately involved in the talks said some of Obama’s top advisers are considering a dramatic all-or-nothing move – setting out an American document with principles for solutions to the core issues. Netanyahu and Abbas will have to say yes or no to it. If the answer is no, the Americans will leave the peace process until the parties agree.”
The Americans should only get smart enough to walk away from their attempts to “make peace.”  But the bottom line is that no one yet really knows how they’re going to play it.

The primary reason Prime Minister Netanyahu is in Washington DC is to deliver a speech at the AIPAC Policy Conference tomorrow. Please see here an article about an initiative of Legal Grounds, which took the form of a letter, endorsed by persons and organizations of prominence, urging Netanyahu to speak for Israel’s rights in the course of his AIPAC talk:
Because of the time difference between the US and Israel, I will put this out now and reserve for my next posting all comments about the press conference likely to follow the Netanyahu-Obama meeting today.  In truth, I expect very little will be said.
My focus next will almost certainly be on Netanyahu’s AIPAC address, and on Iran.  While I am, clearly, very eager for our prime minister to make a statement about our rights, it is broadly understood that his primary focus will be Iran.
Yesterday, at the start of the AIPAC Policy Conference, there was a high profile political panel that discussed the Iranian situation.  Avi Dichter, former head of Shin Bet, declared that, “There is no debate amongst the intelligence services word-wide about the seriousness of Iran to build (a) nuclear weapon...If you cannot deal it, kill it.”
You can see the 30-minute panel discussion 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. 
If it is reproduced and emphasis is added, the fact that it has been added must be noted.


February 25, 2014: Facing Challenges Strong

There is no end to the challenges we are facing here, but I believe I am seeing greater resilience on the part of Israelis – in both official and unofficial positions - with regard to dealing with them.  Let this be a trend that continues and grows.

Occurrences described below touch upon significant issues; my goal is not just to report, but to provide some clarity.


On February 12, European Union President Martin Shultz addressed the Knesset.  In the course of his remarks, he spoke about the Israeli blockade of Gaza without considering the rockets being launched from Gaza on Israeli civilians, and he referred to an inequity in water sources, with a situation in which “Palestinians get 17 liters of water for every 70 Israelis get.” 

Naftali Bennett, head of Bayit Hayehudi, then stood up and called upon his entire faction to leave the Knesset in protest because of falsehoods and insult to Israel.

Shultz later admitted that he received the information about water from a Palestinian Arab and had not taken the time to check further. 


The issue of water usage and fallacious claims about Israel depriving Palestinian Arabs of their fair share of water are grist for the anti-Israel mill.  Here, I would like to refer you to a study that sets the record straight.

In a recent BESA Center study, hydrologist Prof. Haim Gvirtzman of the Institute of Earth Sciences at the Hebrew University, drew on previously classified data to examine Palestinian Arab water claims against Israel; he also examined international law to show that the Palestinian Arabs have little basis for their water demands.

“ recently released for publication by the Israeli Water Authority – 15 years after the signing of the Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement...shows that currently there is almost no difference in per capita consumption of natural water between Israelis and Palestinians.

“Nevertheless, the Palestinian Authority claims that it suffers from water shortages in its towns and villages due to the Israeli occupation and cites international law in support of its claims...

“But contrary to Palestinian claims, Gvirtzman demonstrates that Israel has fulfilled all of its obligations according to the agreements it signed in 1995 with the Palestinian Authority, and in fact has exceeded them. The PA currently consumes 200 MCM of water every year (with Israel providing about 50 MCM of this) – which, under the accords, is more than Israel is supposed to provide a full-fledged Palestinian state under a final settlement arrangement.

“Gvirtzman shows that large difference in water usage that existed in 1967, when the administration of Judea and Samaria was handed over from Jordan to Israel, has been reduced over the last 40 years and is now negligible. As well, the per capita domestic water consumption of the Palestinians is significantly higher than the minimum human needs defined by the World Health Organization.

“In contrast, the Palestinians have violated their part of the agreement by drilling over 250 unauthorized wells, which draw about 15 MCM/Y of water, and connecting these pirate wells to its electricity grid. Moreover, the PA has illegally and surreptitiously connected itself in many places to the water lines of Israel's Mekorot National Water Company – stealing Israel's water.

“Palestinian famers also routinely overwater their crops through old-fashioned, wasteful flooding methods. Gvirtzman says that at least one-third of the water being pumped out of the ground by the Palestinians (again, in violation of their accords with Israel) is wasted through leakage and mismanagement. No recycling of water takes place and no treated water is used for agriculture.

“In fact, 95 percent of the 56 million cubic meters of sewage produced by the Palestinians each year is not treated at all. Only one sewage plant has been built in the West Bank in the last 15 years, despite there being a $500 million international donor fund available for this purpose. ‘The Palestinians refuse to build sewage treatment plants,’ Gvirtzman says. ‘The PA is neither judicious nor neighborly in its water usage and sewage management.’”


This past Sunday, the Kohelet Policy Forum – founded and chaired by Prof. Moshe Kopel - held a conference on the issue of Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish People.  You hear a great deal about this currently because of the negotiations issue (which I will return to), but this question significantly transcends matters of negotiations.

Kohelet has been promoting Israel as the Jewish nation-state and has drafted a bill intended as basic law, which is being advanced by members of the Knesset.  Israel does not have a constitution – basic law functions as its constitution.

Groups (such as the pro-Palestinian Arab NGO Adalah) that oppose Israel as a Jewish state, claim that Israel cannot be democratic if it is Jewish.  This is simply anti-Zionist nonsense. 


Minster of the Economy Naftali Bennett (head of Habayit Hayehudi) made this clear in his statements during a panel discussion at the Kohelet conference.  There must be “zero tolerance” for national identities other than Jewish in Israel.  At the same time, “no minister has worked as obsessive as me to integrate Arabs economically from an individual perspective.” (Emphasis added)

And there you have it: clarification of the distinction between individual and national rights – a distinction that is regularly obscured by anti-Zionists.

Arab citizens must have the same civil rights, the same protection as individuals under the law, the same opportunities for employment, medical care and education, the same social welfare benefits, etc. As individuals.

At the very same time, since Israel is the Jewish nation-state, we have a right to the Jewish star on our flag, to an anthem that refers to the Jewish soul, to the primary use of Hebrew in the nation, to the use of the Hebrew calendar for marking national holidays, etc. Those who argue that all of this is “unfair” to Arab citizens are making a fallacious  argument intended to weaken us.


Please see this briefing for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs by Dr. Joshua Teitelbaum on this very issue.  From that brief (emphasis added):

“...Ninety years ago at the San Remo Conference following World War I (April 1920), the Supreme Council of the Principal Allied Powers determined the allocation of the Middle Eastern territories of the defeated Ottoman Empire and decided to incorporate the 1917 Balfour Declaration supporting a Jewish national home in Palestine into the British Mandate for the territory, a move which confirmed international recognition of the right of Jewish self-determination.

“The language adopted at San Remo was a triumph for Zionism, which saw a national solution to the problem of the Jews. It recognized the existence of the Jews as more than individuals who subscribed to a certain religion - Judaism – but rather as a corporate group deserving of national expression, in this case in the form of a national home. And this home was to be in Palestine, the ancient homeland of the Jews. The language agreed upon at San Remo was, as British Foreign Secretary Lord Curzon put it, ‘the Magna Carta of the Zionists.’ It was clear at the time that the term ‘national home’ really meant a state.”


Another issue of enormous contention has to do with our rights on the Temple Mount (Har Habayit).  There is much happening with regard to this today, but I am going to simply mention it and return to the issue later, after a debate in the Knesset is concluded.  Taking the lead in the Knesset is Moshe Feiglin (Likud).

What is clear is that Jewish rights on the Mount are being denied, and that this is a political hot potato that is likely to lead to violence because that’s the way the Arabs wish to play it.  Israeli police had to quell a riot on the Mount today.


Last night there was an attack on a Hezbollah stronghold on the Syrian-Lebanese border.  Reports from various Arab sources are conflicting:

“Lebanon’s Daily Star reported overnight Monday that the strikes targeted a weapons shipment meant for Hezbollah. Citing unconfirmed reports, Al Arabiya said the strikes were on a moving convoy carrying ballistic missiles from Syria to Lebanon, to be put to use by the Shi’ite organization.

“The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the target was a Hezbollah ‘missile base.’”

There was talk of two separate strikes, and the possibility that a missile launching base was hit.

While there is no official confirmation – it would hardly make sense to doubt that it was Israel that launched the attack.  "We are doing everything that is necessary in order to defend the security of Israel," Prime Minister Netanyahu said during a press conference today.


And those negotiations?  Kerry is still “fine-tuning” his guidelines and the rumors continue to fly.  Officially, Abbas is still saying that he will not recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people.  Unofficially there are leaks indicating that Abbas might be ready for some compromise on this. 

This makes me exceedingly dubious for it smacks of a concession that is worded such that it would not really be a concession at all.  We’re looking at the prospect of some diplomatic fancy footwork that makes it appear that Abbas has given on this point but that in actuality puts the squeeze on Netanyahu.  (For example, from my own head: “We agree that many Jewish people believe that Israel is their nation state.”) 

It is unfortunate that Netanyahu made this “the issue” that would define his readiness to move ahead.  It should, rather, have been part of a package of red line issues that included such things as a cessation of incitement.


You might be interested in this article, “We Don’t Want a Palestinian State, We Just Want to Live Well,” which reflects the attitude of some Palestinian Arabs weary of PA grandstanding at their expense.  It provides a whole different, and more honest, perspective - and makes a mockery of the current “peace process.”


© 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. 
If it is reproduced and emphasis is added, the fact that it has been added must be noted.


Posted on Tuesday, February 25, 2014 at 12:17PM by Registered CommenterArlene in , , , | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

February 23, 2014: Headway

When it comes to speaking out about Israel’s legal grounds in Judea and Samaria, there is no giving up.  There is only persistence in moving ahead. 
As some of you are already aware, progress is being made on the Legal Grounds campaign that I co-chair with Jeff Daube.  We are now calling it Legal Grounds: The Campaign for Promoting Israel’s Rights, rather than a campaign to promote the Levy Report, because this approach is more broad-based.  The Levy Report is encompassed within that broader scope.
Last week, MK Robert Ilatov (Yisrael Beitenu) chaired a Knesset session on BDS (Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions).  MK Ilatov hade been convinced by our argument that such a session had to look at our legal grounds, along with other issues (such as the role of “human rights” NGOs).  And so, enfolded within that session was a brief talk by international lawyer Harel Arnon, whom we brought in response to MK Ilatov’s request that we supply the speaker.  Dr. Arnon, who received his doctorate in law from Harvard University, has co-authored a book on international law in Judea and Samaria. 
MK Ilatov was so pleased with Dr. Arnon’s talk, that he, along with other MKs, is planning a full session on the legal grounds issue, to be arranged in consultation with Dr. Arnon, after Pesach.
I am sharing here a link to his talk, which he gave in Hebrew, along with English subtitles.  Please! see it, share it broadly, and save it for future reference. 

If the subtitles don’t come up automatically, click on the captions box, and be sure to advise others to do this as you share.
I am confident that many people will find this valuable.  Hopefully, over time we will provide other similar talks on video, for your information and sharing.
Dr. Arnon says in his talk that most of the world accepts as truth the Palestinian Arab narrative even though it is not based on any finding of a legal tribunal.  We live in an age, he says, in which if a lie is repeated often enough it becomes accepted as truth.  We believe, he said, that if we repeat the truth again and again and again, there is a chance people will become convinced by that simple truth.
So that is our task – mine and yours: to repeat the truth again and again and again – as that information is provided by experts.
We’ll be looking at other subjects in another posting very soon.
© 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. 
If it is reproduced and emphasis is added, the fact that it has been added must be noted.


Posted on Sunday, February 23, 2014 at 12:55PM by Registered CommenterArlene in , , , | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

February 16, 2014: Dealing with Farce

Sometimes, my friends, I take a look at one or another political/diplomatic situation, and I think, “This is just sooo outrageous.  So counter-intuitive in terms of how things ‘should’ be. How do I deal with it?”  Actually, on occasion it occurs to me that if a satirical film were made incorporating some of the events we are witnessing, critics would pan it as too far-fetched.  Such is the world about which I try, however humbly, to provide some perspective. 

Today I want to begin with the horrors to our north in Syria, where, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights [an anti-Assad group], the death toll from the civil war has now exceeded 140,000, including more than 7,500 children and over 5,000 women.

The UN has stopped updating its records on those killed, because gathering the information has become too dangerous.  So we can call this an obscene farce. 

An official for the Observatory says the toll is probably considerably higher – by as much 60,000 – than what is cited, because both sides deliberately try to obscure the amount of damage they’ve endured.

“The Observatory would like to point out that these statistics do not include the fate of more than 180,000 people missing inside the regime’s prisons.  Nor does it include more than 7,000  detained by regime forces and armed groups loyal to it, or the hundreds of people kidnapped [by rebel groups.]

“It is shameful that the international community has done nothing to show that it will defend human rights...The Syrian people dying are just statistics to them.”
In the second decade of the 21st century – the world has learned less than nothing.


It has been noted that since a second round of peace talks for Syria began a month ago, the rate of deaths has increased: the month has been the bloodiest of the civil war.

And those talks have fallen apart, yielding nothing.  A stalemate in the talks yesterday led to their collapse after 30 minutes.  The Assad regime balks at discussion of a transitional government, and insists on focusing on combatting terrorism (with the government definition of “terrorists” encompassing a good part of the rebel forces). 

International mediator Lakhdar Brahimi issued an apology to the Syrian people for the lack of progress in the talks.  “I am very very sorry and I apologize to the Syrian people that their hopes, which were very very high here, that something will happen here.” 


No date has been set for the next round of talks, but Brahimi has suggested that the first day be devoted to stopping violence and combatting terrorism, with discussion of a transitional government to then follow.

“Unfortunately the government has refused, which raises the suspicion of the opposition that in fact the government doesn’t want to discuss the TGB [transitional governing body] at all.

“In that case, I have suggested that it’s not good for the process, it’s not good for Syria that we come back for another round and fall in the same trap that we have been struggling with this week and most of the first round.  So I think it is better that every side goes back and reflect and take their responsibility: do they want this process to take place or not?”


These are rhetorical questions Brahimi is posing: the answers are obvious.  And that’s what makes it such a farce.  There is no way to approach two warring parties and come to a peaceful compromise unless both parties are on board, and this is clearly not the case. Assad is fighting for his political and literal life.  Period.  He will not come to terms unless he is required to do so, and the sort of force that is necessary to compel him is simply not forthcoming.

Allow me to remind my readers that in late August of last year, Obama was set to hit Syria with a few Tomahawk Cruise missiles fired from well off-shore, as retribution for (or warning with regard to repetition of) Assad’s use of poison gas on his civilian population.  Then, very suddenly Obama called off the operation (referred to by Kerry as “incredibly small”) that had been in place.

It later emerged that Obama refrained from hitting Syria at Iran’s behest. The president was deep into negotiations with Iran, which is every bit as much a farce if not more so (and I shall return to this); Obama was in appeasement mode.


A “tremendous diplomatic victory” was then said to have been put in place, with Obama acceding to a Russian plan for Syria to surrender its weapons of mass destruction.  See? Problem solved.  Except I didn’t see, nor did a whole lot of other observers.  Was there a reason to trust either Syria or the Russians on this?

Now it turns out that Syria has missed a deadline for turning over its cache of chemical weapons, with only 5% of its supply having been surrendered yet.  At first it was said this was simply a logistical delay, and that it would happen.  Now there are reports that Assad is stocking piling the weapons in the region of the country that is an Alawite stronghold (west Syria and along the coast around Latakia up to the Turkish border), against the time when he may be forced to relinquish control of other parts of Syria.  A sort of “insurance.”


Obama had no compunction in saying in his State of the Union address that Syria's chemical weapons "are being eliminated" thanks to American diplomacy.

However, my very favorite administration statement on the situation came from White House Press Secretary Jay Carney last week. Officials were keeping up the pressure on Assad regime, he explained: "They have an obligation here. They have committed to doing this."



At the end of last week, Obama met in California with Jordanian King Abdullah, whose country is struggling under the onslaught of fleeing Syrian refugees.   In the course of his broader statement, the president said that:

“There will be some intermediate steps that we can take applying more pressure to the Assad regime and we are going to be continuing to work with all the parties concerned to try to move forward on a diplomatic solution.”,7340,L-4488467,00.html

I would suggest here that the American president is the very embodiment of tragic farce.


There is a great deal more to say, and I will return to this. 

I close the subject for today by noting, hardly for the first time, that there are no easy answers, no good guys, in this situation.  The more moderate rebel forces – which were not adequately supported by the US when they might have been - have in some considerable measure been coopted by more radical groups, with outside forces coming in; the situation is enormously complex.  The nation of Syria, such as it was, is on its way to self-destruct.


Let us turn then, just briefly here, to some issues regarding our putative “peace partner.”  This is no less farcical.

A group of some 250 left-wing Israeli students - whose own positions I see as terribly sad, because they so thoroughly miss the boat - paid a call today on Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah.

Abbas told them that there can be no discussion of Jews living in “Palestine” because “settlers cannot be compared to Palestinians who have lived here for thousands of years.”

And here, too, I have a favorite line: 

“I admit,” Abbas is quoted as saying, “that there is Palestinian incitement, which plagues chances of peace. But it can't be used as an excuse to not reach a deal."


Abbas says (above) that Hamas is with him in peace efforts. 

Hamas, however, says that it would treat NATO forces (which Abbas proposed replace the IDF) as an occupier on “Palestinian” territory.  Declared a Hamas spokesman, Sami Abu Zuhri, "No Arab country will agree to the desecration of one centimeter of its lands.",7340,L-4488500,00.html

Were (and this is purely hypothetical) the PA truly on board for peace, it would be pointless in any event to negotiate: the PA, whatever Abbas’s claims, does not represent all of the Palestinian Arabs.  In point of fact, Hamas would be likely to overtake the PA, were the IDF to pull out.  And Hamas is anti-peace.

This is all an exercise in futility. And there is considerable reason to believe that Abbas is on his way to calling it quits.


© 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. 
If it is reproduced and emphasis is added, the fact that it has been added must be noted.



Posted on Sunday, February 16, 2014 at 12:40PM by Registered CommenterArlene | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint