Obama’s Peace Process

Many people are engaged in all sorts of speculation about the president’s real feelings regarding Israel. The prognosticators are out in force and I have read numerous articles and opinion pieces that lay out exactly what he is trying to do and why.

Since I haven’t been granted clairvoyance or any other sort of supernatural powers I won’t try to tell you what the president’s feelings are. Truth is that I hope that he doesn’t try to negotiate terms based upon feelings, but upon facts.

And the fact is that the peace process is a thorny and complex issue that cannot be solved by making proclamations that are supposed to make both sides feel good. As just another pundit I am just as qualified as the next guy to say that part of the problem is the attempt to try and view this situation in Western terms.

This isn’t the playground. It is not a school yard brawl or a situation where you can slap a kid on the wrist and tell them to be nice. It is not a place where treating others as you wish to be treated means that it will happen. It is a rough and tumble environment where weakness is seen an invitation to be exploited.

And now the president has provided an opening for such behavior. As I said before, I am not going to suggest that he hates Israel, Jews etc. In some ways it doesn’t matter. He can be doing this out of sheer altruism and a belief that he is helping the world. The end result is still problematic.

One of the biggest obstacles to conducting peace talks is the lack of a unified Palestinian government. Abbas does not speak for Hamas. Hamas does not recognize Israel. That is a pretty big stumbling block.

But there is more. The Washington Post reports that Abbas passed on a very serious and quite generous offer from former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Here is what was offered

  • 97% of the West Bank
  • Right of Return for Palestinian refugees
  • East Jerusalem

Why did he turn it down? Because he felt that the gaps were too wide. In an interview on Al Jazeera Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat lays out why. It comes down to a refusal to provide acknowledgement of a Jewish connection to the Temple Mount.

And that refusal to recognize the Jewish connection, to accept that it is legitimate is a central reason why the peace process will ultimately fail. If Obama really wants to affect change then he needs to try and find a way to bridge that gap.

I don’t know about you, but I am not real optimistic.

(Hat tip: Jewlicious)

Saudi Arabian Hypocrisy

So that wacky prince thinks that he can lecture President Obama about the peace process.

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (CNN — Relations between Arab nations and the United States hinge on American leaders living up to their rhetoric about commitment to lasting peace in the Mideast, Saudi Prince Turki al-Faisal told CNN Saturday.”President Obama, in his statement yesterday, said that he’s genuinely making the effort to accomplish a peaceful resolution,” al-Faisal, who served as Saudi ambassador to the United States from 2005 to 2007, told CNN’s Nic Robertson in an interview Friday.

“We’ve heard this before,” al-Faisal said. “We need to see implementation. We need to see facts on the ground change. We need to see rhetoric change. We need to see presence on the ground.”

He said he was encouraged by Obama’s appointment of George Mitchell as Mideast envoy, saying, “Mitchell comes with a track record of success.” But he suggested Mitchell spend some time in the region to make real progress.

“American envoys, when they’ve dealt with the Middle East, have always come and gone,” he said.

“I think it would be wise for Sen. Mitchell … to pitch his tent in Ramallah or in Jerusalem, let’s say, and spend a year, two, perhaps three years on the ground dealing with the daily aspects of making peace there.” The United States’ backing of Israel, in light of the latest Israeli military operations in Gaza, does not improve its standing in the Arab world, he said.

“What happened in Gaza, people have called it a tragedy,” al-Faisal said. “I’d go further and say it was a catastrophe in all aspects of that word. The killing and the destruction was so barbaric by Israel, and unprecedented in a such a small area like Gaza.

Hmm…The Arabic expression for bite me comes to mind. The chutzpah it takes to say this sort of stuff with a straight face is incredible. To place all of the blame on Israel and to wave his finger in Obama’s face is unmitigated gall.

It is really hard for me take any sort of Saudia Arabian peace initiative seriously. They are morally bankrupt, two faced and exceptionally intolerant to people who do not practice Islam. So when I see them try to lecture us or anyone about what we should do I roll my eyes.

Let’s take a quick look at a recent story about child marriage.

(CNN) — The debate over the controversial practice of child marriage in Saudi Arabia was pushed back into the spotlight this week, with the kingdom’s top cleric saying that it’s OK for girls as young as 10 to wed.

“It is incorrect to say that it’s not permitted to marry off girls who are 15 and younger,” Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al-Sheikh, the kingdom’s grand mufti, said in remarks quoted Wednesday in the regional Al-Hayat newspaper. “A girl aged 10 or 12 can be married. Those who think she’s too young are wrong and they are being unfair to her.”

The issue of child marriage has been a hot-button topic in the deeply conservative kingdom in recent weeks.

Late last month, a Saudi judge refused to annul the marriage of an 8-year-old girl to a 47-year-old man.

This is sick and wrong. There is no justification for this. There is no spinning this to say that it is ok because it is culturally acceptable or religiously ok. Child sacrifiee and slavery once were considered to be acceptable and we don’t do that.

Want another example of their barbarism and why we cannot allow them to dictate morality. How about the time when the religious police murdered school girls fleeing a fire at their school.

Saudi Arabia’s religious police stopped schoolgirls from leaving a blazing building because they were not wearing correct Islamic dress, according to Saudi newspapers.

In a rare criticism of the kingdom’s powerful “mutaween” police, the Saudi media has accused them of hindering attempts to save 15 girls who died in the fire on Monday.

About 800 pupils were inside the school in the holy city of Mecca when the tragedy occurredAccording to the al-Eqtisadiah daily, firemen confronted police after they tried to keep the girls inside because they were not wearing the headscarves and abayas (black robes) required by the kingdom’s strict interpretation of Islam.

One witness said he saw three policemen “beating young girls to prevent them from leaving the school because they were not wearing the abaya”.

The Saudi Gazette quoted witnesses as saying that the police – known as the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice – had stopped men who tried to help the girls and warned “it is a sinful to approach them”.

The father of one of the dead girls said that the school watchman even refused to open the gates to let the girls out.

Or what about the fact that 19 of the 911 hijackers were Saudi Arabian. The sad truth is that we can continue to cite chapter and verse about why the Saudis are among the last people to serve as arbiters of morality. Were it not for their oil money they would be a very poor and backwards nation with all of the relevance to the world that the Congo now holds.

If there is justice in this world we will witness the demise of the cash cow that has permitted these intolerant, small minded, bigots and promoters of terror to thrive.

Crossposted on Yourish.

Time To Stop Pretending- Peace Talks Are Not Based Upon Fairness

Daniel Gordis has another very powerful dispatch called Back to the Mishnah. I encourage to read the whole thing and not just the excerpts that I share with you here.

In this particular dispatch Gordis provides an explanation for why the Palestinians continue to make ridiculous claims about our having no connection to Israel whatsoever.

“Now,” you might be tempted to say, “Isn’t this all just a tempest in a teapot?” After all, who really cares what Abu Mazen or Saeb Erekat say about Israel as a Jewish state? Arafat is dead, and Abu El-Haj is pretty irrelevant to most of the world. What’s the big deal? Let Israel call itself Jewish, and let the rest of the world say and believe what it chooses. Why should we care?

We should care because these people are very strategic. And what they’re engaging in here isn’t mere public relations. What they’re doing is preparing the ground for the next assault not just on the definition of Israel as a Jewish state, but on the Jewish state itself. And if you believe, as I do, that without a Jewish state, the Jews have a bleak future, indeed, then what they’re actually doing is preparing the next assault on the Jewish people, period.

How so? The Palestinians have come to realize that they’re not going to destroy Israel with suicide bombers and Kassams. True, Nassrallah can put up a good fight in the summer of 2006, and lead Israel into paroxysms of self-doubt about the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of the IDF. But even Nasrallah himself later admitted that “You ask me, if I had known on July 11 … that the operation would lead to such a war, would I do it? I say no, absolutely not.” Without planes, without tanks, without the weaponry of Israel’s army, they can train and train and do more and more damage, but they can’t ultimately win. (Iran poses a new sort of threat, of course, but one hopes that that will be dealt with unambiguously before too much more time passes.) Suicide bombers and terrorists can make Israel miserable but they can’t destroy the state.

What then? Well, the Palestinians have decided, the war can be won demographically instead of militarily. And one of the key ways of winning the demographic war is to deny Israel’s Jewish character. For if Israel is not a Jewish state, what reason could there possibly be not to allow the millions of Palestinian refugees back into Israel? Israel’s objection has been, of course, that doing so would turn Jews into a minority in Israel almost overnight. As long as Israel is meant to be a Jewish state, that’s a powerful argument. But if Israel’s not necessarily a Jewish state, then what difference does it make if Jews are a minority? They’re a minority in America is that so terrible? The only reason not to allow the refugees into Israel would be callousness, or worse, racism. “Is racism what the Jews are all about?” Abu Mazen is getting ready to ask the world. It’s actually a pretty clever setup.

That’s why this is not a tempest in a teapot. That’s why smart people like Abu Mazen, Yasser Abed Rabbo and Saeb Erekat utter what sound like idiotic sound bites. They’re not trying to win a debate they’re trying to win a war. And as the Mishnah can be read to suggest, the more you claim, the more you’ll get. So we claim half, they claim the whole thing, and before you know it …

And one more piece for you

Back to the Mishnah. Permit me one more reading, even further out on the proverbial interpretive limb, but still…. It’s not about fairness, or justice. It’s not even about realpolitik and “street smarts.” It’s about love – if you love this contested entity so deeply and such passion that you genuinely believe that it should all be yours, and deep in your heart, you can’t imagine sharing it with anyone else, then your “opponent”, who likes it and wants it – but doesn’t love it – doesn’t stand a chance. Love always wins.

“What’s love got to do with it?” one might ask, with apologies to Tina Turner. Love has everything to do with it. The non-compromising stance of the Palestinians may sound backward or unsophisticated to us, but to their own population, it communicates pure, unadulterated love, and a non-negotiable sense of entitlement. “We love this land. It’s always been ours, and no one else’s. We won’t give it up. It belongs to us, and only to us.” Exactly what we say when we love someone.

And on our side? Love is not to be found in the abundance it used to be. I had occasion to interview a small group of Israeli high school kids a short while back, for a friend in the States who needed the transcript for a project. My only job was to sit around a table with them and talk to them, while a photographer snapped some shots, and a reporter fiddled with a tape recorder.

Read the whole thing. It is worth it.

PA policemen behind last week’s shooting attack

These are the people we’re supposed to make peace with. I hope that Bush and Rice gain some sense real soon.

Palestinian policemen were behind the shooting attack last week which killed Ido Zoldan, a 29 year-old father of two from the settlement of Shavei Shomron, the IDF and Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) revealed Sunday night. Zoldan was killed last Monday night – the day before the Annapolis summit began – when shots were fired at his car as he drove past the Palestinian village of al-Punduk.

The three members of the cell were Palestinian policemen and members of the Palestinian National Security Force, which Israel and the United States have been investing in as part of the international effort to strengthen Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah government.

Defense officials said that the weapon used in the attack was not supplied to the Palestinians by Israel since it did not belong to the official Palestinian security forces. The officials said however that the IDF expected the political echelon to rethink its policy of strengthening Abbas while his policemen were involved in terrorism.

The day after the attack, acting on intelligence, IDF soldiers and Shin Bet operatives raided the village of Kfar Kadum, near al-Pundak and arrested Daper Barham and Abdullah Barahm, both 22-year-old Palestinian policemen and members of Fatah. The third suspect, Fadi Jama, also a policeman, was in Palestinian Police custody.

During their interrogation, the two confessed their involvement in the attack and handed over the weapon used in the shooting to the Shin Bet. They said that they had parked their car on the side of the road and waited for an Israeli car to pass by. Once Zoldan’s car appeared, they merged onto the road, passed him up and opened fire. They told their inteoogratos that they decided to carry out the attack to “scare settlers.”

Annapolis Part II

Earlier this week I voiced my concerns about Annapolis and Condi and company’s desire for a legacy. That is a scary way to try and conduct diplomacy. Anyone who knows anything about negotiations understands that one should negotiate from a position of strength and not weakness.

There is nothing remotely profound in that statement, but it bears repeating over and over. To begin with I am done with asking the Palestinians or any other Arab to recognize Israel. It is narishkeit. It is foolishness. It reminds me of my three year-old. She puts her hands over her eyes and says “daddy you can’t see me.”

Ok, you are right. I can’t see you. Screw Haniyeh, Abbas, Assad and anyone else who wants to play this game. Keep walking in the dark. I hope you trip over a table and break your necks. Because it has become glaringly apparent to me that they see this request for recognition as being a sign of weakness. Take it off off the table. We have what you want, not the other way around.

This is not going to be seen as being popular, especially not within the U.S. As Ralph Peters writes in the New York Post Bush and Co. are starting to look a lot like the Clinton administration.

“In the Middle East, you can’t buy peace. You can only buy time. If we want to help at all, the fundamental requirement is to have realistic expectations.

At present, the situation is aggravated by the Bush administration’s desperate quest for a headline-worthy foreign-policy success – mirroring the Clinton administration in its closing years. But desperation’s a poor basis for dealing with a geopolitical problem of near-infinite complexity, with ill will on every side except our own.

What happens in the course of Middle East “peace” talks under such circumstances? Whether the American administration is Republican or Democrat, it pressures Israel for concessions – since the Arabs won’t make any. Prisoner releases precede each summit; territorial handovers come under discussion.

For their parts, Arab leaders and their representatives assume we’re sufficiently honored if they just show up. We hear no end of nonsense about the great political risks they’re taking, etc. We’re suckers for any fat guy in a white robe with an oil can.”

So in my non professional opinion we need to rethink and restructure. Besides let’s take a moment to look at what is going on here. CNN has some of the interesting news.

The official said some of the 40 nations represented at the summit have offered Israel a chilly welcome, but their participation alone is encouraging.

“The Saudis won’t shake our hands; the Syrians won’t say nice things about us,” the Israeli official said. “But they’re here.”

It warms the cockles of my hearts to read this. The good old Saudis who punish victims of rape and fund terrorists all the while shaking their fingers at Israel as if they really were arbiters of morality.

The fine Syrians bolstered by their pipsqueak leader who are only in attendance because baby Assad is desperately trying to make a name for himself. I never thought that I’d say this, but I would have felt differently had his father been in Annapolis. The man didn’t need to prove that he didn’t wear diapers. But I digress.

Did you see that Iran is holding its own peace conference.

Elham indicated the Tehran meeting would be a riposte to the conference bringing together Israeli and Palestinian leaders which started in Annapolis outside Washington on Tuesday.

“It means that the Annapolis conference is not representing the Palestinians and not talking on their behalf, but on the contrary is moving against their rights,” he said.

The good old Iranians, benefactors of that other Palestinian group. You know the ones I am talking about, Hamas. Remember the guys who currently control Gaza.

“Hamas parliamentarians in Gaza signed a petition declaring their opposition to Palestinian “concessions” in Jerusalem and on the refugee issue, Israel Radio reported Monday.

“Any settlement that does not include the return of the refugees, [Israel’s] ceding of the land and the holy sites, and the release of the prisoners is ridiculous,” Ahmad Baher, deputy chairman of the Palestinian parliament said at the signing of the document. “The attempt to force such a solution led to the second Intifada.”

Among the signatories was Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh.

“The people believe that this conference is fruitless and that any recommendations or commitments made in the conference that harm our rights will not be binding for our people,” Haniyeh said as he entered the Palestinian parliament building in Gaza. “It will be binding only for those who sign it.”

In simple terms Israel isn’t negotiating with representatives of all of the Palestinians, just some of them. And that my friends is just one of the 1,876,098 reasons why Annapolis as currently constructed is doomed to fail.

There is going to be more bloodshed, more pain, more death and more harm and for what? A chance for a lame duck president and company to claim space in a history book. It is just shameful.