Unfortunately, with print communication there is no way to convey the absolute sarcasm with which I mean this. The beginning of the “proximity talks” is not a big deal at all.
On Saturday, both the PLO and Fatah gave the go-ahead to Abbas for these indirect talks. Mitchell had met with Netanyahu twice already, and then met with Abbas and company and headed home. This first round of talks was labeled “positive.” Mitchell left a team behind and will return in two weeks.
I know of no honest analyst who predicts anything good coming from these talks. They are a charade, with each side doing what seems in its best interests — to keep the international community and Obama at bay, to keep the donations coming to the PA, etc. But entering talks is not the same as going anywhere in the course of those talks.
State Department spokesman Phillip Crowley said yesterday that both sides had taken some “constructive” steps.
The PA, with Abbas’s statement that he would work against incitement “of any sort.” This I flatly do not believe. Abbas will refrain from naming any new squares after terrorists and everyone will say it is a wonderful step in the right direction. But the fact is that the school books are rife with incitement, and unless a project is undertaken to start printing revised versions of these texts, the rest is a joke. A whole generation of young people is learning that jihad is good, Israel is not legitimate, and all the rest.
For our part, it has been announced that Netanyahu pledged not to do any construction in Ramat Shlomo for two years. This is the neighborhood in Jerusalem, past the Green Line, for which we announced plans to construct 1,600 new apartments while VP Biden was here — an incident that Obama parlayed into a crisis.
There were hints of this coming. It smells like a disgusting effort to make amends for the horrible crime of having “embarrassed” the vice president.
However…Netanyahu, in a statement to the Likud faction today, provided a different take on this: He said he made no commitment regarding freezing Ramat Shlomo construction. He said at the time of the hullabaloo regarding the announcement, he had made it clear that for bureaucratic reasons there would not be any construction for some time. This is true; I remember this.
Now he explains, “When the Americans asked us to estimate when construction will begin, I said that I don’t believe it will begin before the two-year period ends. This is just a factual description of the project’s status.”
What he is saying is that he had made it clear that the project would move slowly, for bureaucratic reasons, and that this was turned around as if he had made a commitment to freeze or stall the construction. Note that he refers to “before the two-year period ends.” What two year period? The period during which Obama wanted construction frozen. He told the US, look, it’s going to take that long anyway.
There was no US announcement of a freeze elsewhere in Jerusalem, and our government insists there is none. Netanyahu has himself said, again, that there is no Israeli commitment to stop construction in Jerusalem.
My response: Show me, don’t tell me. I want to see building being done. And I’m waiting.
PA representatives are still saying that they entered these talks because of assurances by the US — among which was an assurance that there would not be building in Jerusalem.
So, who’s lying?
According to Ariel Kahane, writing in the Hebrew Makor Rishon on Friday, the American Ambassador to Israel, the Consul in Jerusalem and other official representatives of the United States in Israel regularly meet with the Israeli ministers associated with construction in Jerusalem to get detailed information about projects planned for Jerusalem.
“This ongoing interest is thought to have a chilling effect.”
See the entire story (in translation):
Of concern to me is the continual insistence by the US that if one side seriously undermines the process that side will be “held accountable” and the process will continue. What the hell does that mean?
How much is the US planning on imposing itself on us?
Abbas says nothing has changed: talks cannot continue unless there is a total building freeze. If (a big if?) we should actually do some construction in Jerusalem past the Green Line, Abbas will cry foul and Obama will point a finger, even though we had never agreed to this, and say we’re being obstructionist. And then what?
Not for a fraction of a second, by the way, do I believe Obama would charge Abbas with being obstructionist in any case. And there were commitments from Abbas beyond the avoidance of incitement — a commitment, for example, to stop acting against Israel in international forums.
There is so much information flying around on the Internet, much of it is sent to me by loyal readers and others. But I want to caution one and all to take care, because often what sounds like a legitimate report, or warning, turns out to have no solid backing.
“You cannot believe everything you read” goes double for the Internet. And I would advise against sharing with others material from unnamed or dubious sources because it “sounds” official or credible.
There is some very good news today: The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has officially accepted Israel into its ranks as a full-fledged member.
A careful assessment of our financial status was undertaken before we were accepted — with a major report issued. We also had to pass certain legislation regarding intellectual property and patents.
This is a big deal both because it is a sign of our acceptance within the larger international community, and because it is acknowledgement of the solid financial standing of Israel. The developed countries (I believe some 31 belong to the OECD) have now recognized Israel as an advanced, developed country. For 20 years we attempted to get in, and could not.
It did not hurt, I am certain, that the OECD’s Secretary General, Jose Angel Gurria (Mexican) is a great fan of Israel and a personal friend of Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz. Likely this was a factor in securing us a fair hearing, at last.
This stamp of approval will have the added benefit for us of attracting foreign investments.
It should be noted, by the way, that the PA, its commitments not withstanding, attempted to block us from securing this membership: the PA foreign minister sent a letter to OECD countries requesting a delay in the vote because “Israel infringes on Palestinians’ human rights, violates OECD values.”
Of great concern here is the growing pressure with regard to Israel signing the NPT and relinquishing whatever atomic weapons we may have. As I indicated earlier, there is a significant shift on the part of the US in this regard. Defense Minister Barak is the only one I’ve encountered to date who says this represents no threat to Israel: “I do not believe there is a real threat to Israel’s traditional stance.”
Let us hope not.
“The Emperor has no clothes” by American political consultant Michael Fenebock, writing on YNET, provides a look at the way that establishment Jewish organizations function. I don’t agree with everything he says, but in this I am certainly in agreement:
“Mainstream Jewish organizations and their leadership are most often driven by the need to placate a left-wing donor base and by a fear of losing their insider status.” We should not minimize that “insider status.”
“It’s certainly no over-exaggeration to say President Obama and his administration have played the mainstream Jewish leaders like a violin.”
Painful — and shameful — stuff.
I raise this here because we so badly need the support of the mainstream Jewish organizations in the US, and it has been so absent of late.