Last Thursday night, Secretary of State Kerry met for 90 minutes with a select group of heads of Jewish American organizations to speak about the “peace process.” Standing with him at this “briefing” were National Security Advisor Susan Rice and special envoy (Middle East “mediator?”) Martin Indyk.
Present were representatives of AIPAC, J Street, the ADL, the American Jewish Committee, the Conservative movement (the Rabbinic Assembly according to the JPost, and perhaps also the United Synagogue), the Orthodox Union, American Friends of Lubavitch, B’nai B’rith International, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the Jewish Federations of North America, Hadassah, the National Jewish Democratic Council, the National Council of Jewish Women and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.
As the meeting was off the record, there was no official report issued; media descriptions relied upon reports from participants. All reports I encountered had the same basic information, but with varying details provided from one to the other. What I’m reading is that Kerry said there was a “strategic imperative” to arrive at a deal soon. Sounding “upbeat” about the possibilities, he said he “feared” for Israel’s future if no deal was reached.
Kerry asked for American Jewish organizational “support” for this diplomatic effort. He is worried about “pressures” on Netanyahu that might sway him away from a deal — as he has to contend with right wing parties in his coalition.
That Kerry represents the ELECTED right wing of the coalition as an “obstacle” to be overcome by Netanyahu — and asks American Jews to encourage Netanyahu to move on a deal with the PA, in spite of that right wing — is simply despicable. It’s dirty pool. It’s Kerry.
This wasn’t a “briefing,” it was political gamesmanship. And it provided Jewish organizations with a “feel good” rationale for pushing Israel to make dangerous concessions to move the “peace” forward: Since Israel will be at risk without a deal (Kerry says so, after all), they are helping the Jewish State. Right?
To show how breathtakingly far removed from reality Kerry is, we need only examine his argument, as reported by the JPost, that:
“the regional strategic environment has become favorable for a peace agreement because opponents of peace have weakened over the past two years.”
Say again? This was supposed to help the Jewish leaders feel confident about it being the right time to push “peace”?
Elliott Abrams, former National Security Advisor, took this on in a blink in a piece today (emphasis added):
“Mubarak is gone and Egypt is unstable; Jordan has seen more demonstrations against the King in the last two years than in the ten before that, and now houses about 600,000 Syrian refugees; Syria is at war and the jihadi presence on Israel’s border is growing. Moreover, American passivity in the face of successful and growing Iranian and Hezbollah activity in Syria, while Iran moves closer and closer to a nuclear weapon, will not seem to most Jewish leaders to help create a ‘favorable regional strategic environment.‘”
And so, once again, friends, I ask — if you are an American Jew — that you contact PM Netanyahu. Let him know that the leaders of American Jewish organizations, who pressure him to move ahead in negotiations with the PA, do not speak for you. Urge him to protect Israel’s interests and rights and not cave to pressure to make concessions.
Fax: 02-670-5369 (From the US: 011-972-2-670-5369)
But wait, there’s more.
According to the Times of Israel (emphasis added):
“Kerry told the leaders that one of the lynchpins of the current peace process is the separation of Israel’s security assurances from the general negotiations, assurances he said would be guaranteed in a separate agreement with the US.
“The security track is being worked out under the auspices of retired Marine Corps general John Allen, who is currently Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s special adviser for the Middle East Peace.”
This, if true, is simply dangerous.
There is no way for me to confirm the veracity of this at official levels, because no one’s talking. And we must remember we have no official report. but rather a description, albeit a solid description, of what was said gleaned from participants.
No one I spoke with today — including a political analyst and an international lawyer who has experience in negotiating with the PA — took this seriously. But I am going to take it seriously enough to respond to it. Lest anyone think it’s a good idea.
We can boil it down to a few main points:
1) Israel has a policy of providing its own security — not outsourcing it to a third party.
2) The US cannot “guarantee” anything for the PA. If the PA has not agreed to it in writing, it’s not agreed to. Period. (The question of whether the PA can be trusted at all, even if it agrees, is a separate issue.)
3) The US, which has a truly troublesome track record on this, cannot be trusted with guarantees to Israel. The most notorious example, of many, is with regard to the letter sent by President Bush to Prime Minister Sharon as part of an exchange in April 2004, concerning the disengagement from Gaza. Included in Bush’s letter (emphasis added):
“As part of a final peace settlement, Israel must have secure and recognized borders, which should emerge from negotiations between the parties in accordance with UNSC Resolutions 242 and 338. In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli populations centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949 [these are what Obama now refers to as the ’67 lines]…”
This was a Memorandum of Understanding, which — while less than a treaty — does carry weight and has diplomatic cachet. Sharon proceeded with the disengagement on the strength of this understanding from the US president.
Five years later, Hillary Clinton, serving as secretary of state in the Obama administration, which has espoused the policy that Israel should return to that ’49 armistice line, stated:
“There is no memorialization of any informal and oral agreements. If they did occur, which of course people say they did, they did not become part of the official position of the United States government.”
Not only was she saying the letter carried no weight, she was duplicitously questioning whether it even existed, when, in fact it was part of the public record.
But if you think the US policy is off the mark with regard to Israeli-Palestinian Arab negotiations, you haven’t heard about the latest idiocy in Egypt.
Last week, two Senators, John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), visited Cairo at Obama’s behest and carried a very strange set of demands from him:
“to release all Muslim Brotherhood leaders being held under arrest and to integrate the party into the new revolutionary government. Otherwise, they warned, the Obama administration will cut off all financial and military aid to Egypt.”
Various Egyptian leaders and their spokespersons subsequently called the two “delusional” and “liars” and accused them of “manufacturing facts” and of “unwelcome interference in Egypt’s internal affairs.”
The Brotherhood regime was a threat to this area and the current military governance in Egypt is the best we might hope for.
And so, my first thought, when I heard about the message delivered on his behalf, was to wonder how much more Obama would manage to damage the US relationship with Egypt.
But then, aware that Obama had also just invited the Brotherhood to meet with him, my mind segued to, Good Heavens! The president of the US is on the wrong side.
And what do you know? Commentator Barry Rubin has carried the thought even further in, “America’s Real ‘Dangerous Slide’ is to Be on the Wrong Side in the World.”
“Would you ever imagine, asks Rubin, “that the leading American newspaper would openly advocate siding with the Islamist forces in the Middle East against all of America’s allies and friends, and I mean with eyes wide open and with full awareness that it sought to overthrow them? Well, the day has come.
“How is the argument for this strategy, which the Obama Administration is already pursuing, being made?” (Emphasis added)
Rubin then explains.
General (ret.) John Allen, mentioned above, is not the only high level US military person to be seen in these parts.
Last week, Gen. Mark A. Welsh, chief of staff of the US Air Force, was here as the guest of Maj.-Gen. Amir Eshel, chief of the Israeli Air Force. This meeting was supposed to be top secret, but Walla leaked information about it — information very meager in details. The JPost says that according to the Walla report, it was the Americans who had requested the “confidentiality, in light of regional tensions and against the background of Israeli threats to strike Iran if it continues developing its nuclear program.” Israeli “threats”?
Actually, very much off the record, I picked up a sense that this meeting was more positive than many recent meetings with US military, vis-a-vis US readiness to discuss what Israeli may be planning with regard to Iran. The Walla report termed the meeting highly productive, having “produced new channels of communications.”
This week, we will have a visit from Gen. Martin Dempsey, chair of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, who will the guest of Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz, IDF Chief of Staff.
They will, quite obviously, be discussing Iran and Syria
The statement from Dempsey’s office: “In Israel, the chairman expects to discuss the United States’ unwavering commitment to Israel’s security, including potential threats from Iran…”
While considering the dangers of an Iran growing ever closer to nuclear capability, and of the obtuseness Obama policy, I want to recommend Caroline Glick’s latest piece, “When failure carries no cost.”
Glick writes at length about “self-described jihadist” US Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, who has finally come to trial, and about the scandalous cover-up of what happened at Benghazi. But what I want to cite here is this (emphasis added):
“Speaking of the frequent US failures in understanding events in faraway lands, Winston Churchill famously quipped, ‘We can always count on the Americans to do the right thing, after they have exhausted all the other possibilities.’
“But what if the other possibilities are never exhausted?… In the absence of public pressure [because of media collusion], the Obama administration has no reason to change course when its policies fail.
“IN ISRAEL’S case, the first place where the lesson of this state of affairs needs to be internalized is in regards to Iran’s nuclear weapons program. Since taking office, Obama has repeatedly claimed that he will not allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons. But in practice, his actions have enabled Iran to vastly expand its nuclear weapons program. Due to his malfeasance, today Iran has arrived at the cusp of a nuclear arsenal. More than his words, Obama’s actions have made clear that he has no intention whatsoever of conducting military strikes against Iran’s nuclear installations to prevent the regime from developing nuclear weapons.
“Obama’s latest ploy for running the clock down is his embrace of the fiction that Iran’s new president, Hassan Rouhani, is a moderate interested, (and perforce empowered), to cut a nuclear deal with the US that would see Iran voluntarily and credibly end its uranium enrichment activities.
“Rouhani’s act – like that of his supposedly moderate predecessors Mohammad Khatami and Ahkbar Hashemi Rafsanjani – is so thin that it can only work on people who will be taken in by anyone…
“The US and Europe are not taken in by Iran because Iran is good at hiding its true intentions. They are taken in by Iran because they want to be taken in. They want to believe that they don’t have to attack Iran and overthrow the regime to prevent it from becoming a nuclear power. They want to believe they can appease Iran by pretending it isn’t a danger…
“Obama will not change course. He doesn’t have to. So long as he maintains faith with the god of appeasement, the US media will protect him. And so long as they protect him, he will pay no price for his failures. So he will repeat them.
“Israel cannot countenance a nuclear Iran. So Israel needs to attack Iran’s nuclear installations.
“No more needs to be said.”
Glimmers of hope, and of strength by Israel’s government:
“Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu sent a letter Saturday evening to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in which he complained that Palestinian Authority (PA) incitement against Israel is continuing even after a return to U.S.-brokered ‘peace negotiations’ between Israel and the PA was announced.
“‘Incitement and peace do not go together,’ wrote Netanyahu. ‘Instead of educating the next generation of Palestinians to live in peace with Israel, the education to terror poisons them against Israel and lays the groundwork for continued violence and terror.'”
Housing Minister Uri Ariel (Habayit Hayehudi) has announced tenders are out for 1,200 new apartments in Jerusalem past the ’67 line (in areas referred to as “east” Jerusalem, but actually not all to the east) and in Judea and Samaria. The bulk of the apartments are to be constructed in Jerusalem –Gilo, Homat Shmuel and Pisgat Zeev. The remainder will be in Ariel, Efrat, Ma’ale Adumim and Beitar Illit.
It will be some time until the apartments are actually up, but this represents movement after a long period of quiet unofficial building freeze or slowdown.
“The Israeli government is working to reduce the cost of living in all parts of Israel. No country receives orders about where it can and cannot build from other countries.
“We shall continue to market apartments all around the country, in the Negev, in the Galilee and in the center, to meet the needs of all the people of Israel. It’s the right thing to do both for Zionism and for the economy.”
Good man! But we knew that going in.
The Israeli government is asking the EU to reconsider its new policy — to go into effect at the beginning of next year — regarding restrictions against funding of projects in Jerusalem over the Green Line and Judea and Samaria. Unless there are EU adjustments, Israel will not sign deals with the EU.
Prime Minister Netanyahu underwent emergency hernia surgery at Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem over night and has been discharged.
More on the prisoner release and the beginning of “peace talks,” as well as on Egypt, 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.