Israel, Zionism and the Media

Tag: settlements

BBC Panorama – Price Tag Wars

Whenever the UK media covers the Israel/Palestine conflict I worry about bias and misrepresentation of the facts.

This fear is based on experience over many years.

When the BBC broadcast a special programme about the Mavi Marmara incident last year I and many others were very surprised that the programme came out largely on the side of Israel in terms of who was telling the truth. It was rather less surprising that the BBC should be vilified for it, after all, Israel is always wrong, don’t you know.

On Monday this week, which also happened to be the first day of the Jewish New Year, when most Jews would not be watching TV, the same BBC programme and the same reporter, Jane Corbin, covered the Price Tag phenomenon in Israel and the Palestinian Territories.

Given the fact that the BBC decided to cover the issue, it was lucky Jane Corbin covered it. I thought it was largely fair. However, the Palestinians came out as squeaky clean pacifists despite mention of Arab terrorism.

The Price Tag movement is an extremist, religious settler movement which attacks mainly Arab, but also Israeli targets as a ‘Price Tag’ for any action the Israeli government takes against settlements, such as dismantling those even the Israelis deem illegal.

The aim of the Price Tag movement is to make the government pay in terms of embarrassment and also international disgrace for the actions of its citizens.  The objective is to further populate the West Bank / Judea-Samaria which the Price Taggers believe to be their god-given land. According to their beliefs, no Jew has any right to remove Jews from Eretz Israel.

The programme labelled them ‘terrorist’. The term ‘terrorist’ has been applied by the Israeli government itself. These despicable people are a disgrace to Israel and the Jewish people and there is no justification for their actions. However, the Price Tag people have killed no-one, not yet anyway. Graffiti, torching empty vehicles, setting small fires in mosques, insulting the Prophet and generally behaving like vandals in any other culture is barely terrorism. Compared with the real thing it seemed at times an almost laughable comparison as not all incidents were serious ones. Daubing graffiti is not terrorism. But the language of the Middle East has become so degraded that even Israelis are prepared to use it, probably as a linguistic way of registering their dismay and disapproval.

Most of the acts of ‘terrorism’ secretly filmed, or even with the connivance of the perpetrators, were carried out at night and amounted to very little beyond incitement. Setting fire to mosques or daubing churches is another matter. These are acts of outrageous desecration which are very serious sins according to Jewish religious teachings, let alone contrary to any norm of human behaviour or basic law.

Calling them all ‘terrorists’ creates a moral, or should that be immoral, equivalence between setting a fire in a mosque (and note this isn’t even a fire-bombing. No mosque has been destroyed as far as I know, the worst damage is smoke, burned carpets and Korans) and blowing up a bus full of schoolchildren or a restaurant full of diners.

I do not wish in anyway to diminish the seriousness of the crime. What I find a little hard to accept is the debasement of language which is an attempt, ultimately, to diminish full-blooded terrorism. Calling these people terrorists lets real terrorists off the hook. One incident where people were seriously burned in their car is a hate crime and could, justifiably, be considered ‘terrorism’.

Unfortunately, Israel is not doing enough, in my opinion, to stop this. Any ‘settler’ found guilty of these crimes should be given exemplary punishments. It is not an easy crime to prevent. Nevertheless, it must be stamped on, and very hard.

The programme shape-shifted somewhat. It seamlessly morphed from a programme about Price Tag to an examination of settlements, especially illegal ones (even under Israel law) and the tensions between settlers and Palestinians.

I felt genuinely sorry for some of the Arab victims of settler vandalism and intimidation who seemed to be entirely innocent people just trying to get on with their lives. This impression of mine was surely shared by any decent person who watched the programme. But that impression was not really examined; very little time was given to Arab incitement, Arab terrorism, Arab vandalism. It appeared that the Arabs were completely innocent victims if you didn’t listen or want to listen to the odd allusion to attacks and murders of children.

Whatever the Arabs do can never excuse the behaviour of the Price Taggers or indiscriminate settler violence which is actually targeting the Israeli government and deliberately trying to provoke Arab reaction – the Price Tag.

The context of settlements was addressed in the program in standard terms – occupation, illegal, land grab, god-given land etc. It was made clear, however, that these people were extremists but their atypical behaviour (if you take Israel as a whole) and beliefs were not really stressed. For someone ready to believe the worst about Israel, the programme provided ample evidence. For those with a more nuanced and balanced approach, it would have been clear that these criminals are considered such in Israel and under Israeli law. This is in stark contrast, of course, to Arab terrorists who are national heroes and richly rewarded for actually murdering people. That comparison was never made.

But, I have to say, the program could have been a lot more hostile and damaging. It will reinforce the prejudices of those already convinced of evil Israel. It will embarrass people like me, but only because unless Israel is perfect, it is irredeemably evil and this is the narrative we confront daily. We are always being forced to be defensive because Israelis are just like everyone else, not perfected paragons of virtue that the world demands they be.

BBC, Panetta, Israel and the blame game

Good ol’ Beeb are at it again.

It seems even the most simple message is spun against Israel, lacks context and distorts intentions.

This was the headline in an article posted earlier this week:

Israel risks Middle East isolation, warns US official

The BBC News website has long touted lies and half-truths which have become accepted ‘facts’.

Israel is becoming increasingly isolated in the Middle East, US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta has warned.

Didn’t anyone notice that, apart from Turkey, it has always been isolated despite two cold peace treaties. ‘Isolated’ should really be ‘threatened’, but no-one will say that. It’s not diplomatic. So they have to put the blame on Israel.

US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta did, indeed, say this but here is what he said verbatim:

“It’s pretty clear that this dramatic time in the Middle East, where there have been so many changes, that it is not a good situation for Israel to become increasingly isolated, and that’s what’s happening,” Mr Panetta told journalists aboard a US Air Force plane en route to the Middle East

As reported later in the article. But the BBC has to editorialise, of course.

He said Israel should restart peace talks with the Palestinians and restore good relations with Turkey and Egypt.

Can you see what they did there? The verbatim quote states a fact and provides the reason for this isolation; the BBC spin on this puts the entire onus on Israel to initiate diplomatic procedures.

But what is the reality?

1. He said Israel should restart peace talks with the Palestinians

Yes, and Israel has repeatedly stated that they are willing to negotiate without preconditions. Prime Minister Netanyahu said so at the UN. It is the Palestinians who are refusing to talk because they want Israel to  stop building settlements, the convenient excuse provided to them by the same President Obama who came out, at last, (nothing to do with re-election, of course) on Israel’s side on the question of a Palestinian unilateral declaration of statehood at the UN last month.

But wait, the BBC acknowledges…

Israel has agreed to participate in such talks, but the Palestinians want Israel to stop building more homes for settlers in the occupied territories.

Israel announced last week it planned to build 1,100 more homes in a settlement in occupied East Jerusalem

So it is Israel’s fault because they are building homes. In fact the ‘settlement’ in question is Gilo which is a contiguous suburb of Jerusalem and would remain part of Israel in any final settlement agreement. Everyone knows that.

In fact there have been no new settlements, just additions to existing ones. And, as I have always wondered, if Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas genuinely believes that settlements will one day be part of Palestine, then surely Israel is building his future state for him. The whole idea of settlements, love ’em or hate ’em, is a complete red herring which was never an impediment to ‘peace talks’ previously.

It’s also a convenient one – for the Palestinians. If Israel were indeed to stop building, why should we believe that Abbas won’t do what he did last time; Israel had a 10 month moratorium on settlement building on the West Bank (but not Jerusalem, granted) and in the 9th month Abbas said he would agree to talks only if that moratorium were extended.

So who’s stopping the talks? You judge.

The argument is ‘how can we negotiate with someone who is building on our land?’ But the point of the negotiations is to decide whose land it is. And wouldn’t you want to negotiate sooner rather than later if you believe that ‘facts on the ground’ are being changed.

2. …and restore good relations with Turkey

I have dealt with Turkey on previous occasions. Turkey wants Israel to apologise for the deaths aboard the Mavi Marmara, pay compensation to the families of the IHH terrorists  who tried to lynch Israeli soldiers, and lift the maritime blockade of Gaza. Only then will Turkey restore relations with Israel.

So not only does Turkey want Israel to apologise for its soldiers’ attempt to save their own lives, they also want Israel to commit suicide by allowing Iranian missiles free passage to Gaza.

And Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan continues to try bully Israel and provoke Israel into an action which will provide him with his apparently sought-after military conflict.

So it is Israel, then,  according to the BBC spin, that must mend the fences with a country which not only severely downgrades diplomatic, military and economic co-operation but does so because it, Turkey, failed to protect its then ally, Israel, from assault by its citizens planning to break a legal maritime blockade (Palmer Report conclusion).

With friends like this…

3. … restore good relations with … Egypt.

Eh? Who’s responsible for this cooling of relations then?

Was it Israel who allowed the gas pipeline from Egypt to Israel to be blown up six times?

Was it an Israeli politician who said that the treaty between the two countries is not necessarily valid for all time?

Was it Israelis who attacked Egypt’s embassy and almost lynched six Egyptian nationals?

Was it Israel who allowed its citizens to carry out a terrorist attack near a southern Egyptian town?

Was it Israel who childishly prevented the sale of palm leaves for a religious festival (subsequently sourced from Gaza, ironically)?

Who is it that has Mein Kampf and The Protocols of the Elder of Zion freely available, widely read and almost universally believed?

However Panetta did say:

As they take risks for peace, we will be able to provide the security that they will need in order to ensure that they can have the room hopefully to negotiate

Now that could be read as putting the onus on Israel. I read this as an Obama-ese way of saying “If you halt settlement building, we’ll ensure the security of the state post final settlement agreement”. The ‘how’ is moot.

It could mean, as the BBC spins it:

Mr Panetta said the US would make sure Israel maintained its military superiority in the region, but should use this advantage to press for peace.

It is rather ignorant to believe that military superiority will stop missiles and suicide bombers.

So it’s Israel who should make the first move, right? Israel has to make the concessions whilst it is obvious to anyone of any intelligence that the Palestinians just want one concession from Israel: Israel.

As long as that does not change, Israel will have no security and every concession strips it of another layer of protection.

Biden and Bibi love-in scuppered by Israeli incompetence

Oh dear, oh dear. Oy va avoy!

Here is that nice vice-President Joe Biden arriving in Israel to try to get the annual peace talk talks about peace talk talks going again and what happens? His best pals embarrass him and themselves because Israeli politics seems incapable, sometimes, of understanding what ‘joined-up’ means.

You should probably know that since President Obama decided that the way to overcome six decades of Palestinian rejectionism was to get tough with Israel, his target for this toughness has been ‘settlements’. Stop! he says, it’s the settlements that are the reason why Palestinians won’t talk or talk about talks. Even though a settlement freeze was not a prerequisite of the many previous attempts to establish a Palestinian state (because, let’s face it, that’s what it’s really about), suddenly, with this brilliant insight, this veritable epiphany, Mr Obama gave the Palestinians, and the world’s press (including some in Israel) an excuse a) to reject and b) beat Israel over the head.

Along comes Bibi and what does he do? A 10 month moratorium on further settlement construction EXCEPT (and this is a big ‘except’) in Jerusalem (East that is as no-one cares about West). This doesn’t stop the Israelis from finding some excuses, legal or otherwise, of doing some further construction in existing ‘settlements’.

This moratorium was clearly designed as a sop to the Americans, a supplication to show good faith. It was of course (and understandably) pooh-poohed by Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian President.

After much background negotiating the Palestinians at last agreed to ‘indirect’ peace talks. This means they won’t sit with the Israelis but act through an (American) intermediary. Abbas somewhat negatively said that he doubted the talks would achieve anything and should be limited to four months. I won’t discuss at this time the reasons why I don’t think Abbas wants  a deal but at least he is giving the impression that he will talk to someone who will act as a carrier-pigeon to the Israelis who will then indulge in something that is called ‘shuttle diplomacy’ which has been put forward as an Olympic sport for 2016.

So what happens when Joe Biden arrives to meet his old friend Bibi? Here’s a flavour of the shmooze that went on (get the bucket ready now):

Prime Minister Netanyahu: Vice President Biden, Joe, welcome to Israel and welcome to Jerusalem.  We’ve been personal friends for almost three decades.  Can you believe it’s been that long?

Vice President Biden: No, you’re getting older, Bibi.  I don’t know…

It get’s worse, stay with me.

Prime Minister Netanyahu: And you remain younger all the time.  And in all that time you’ve been a real friend to me and a real friend to Israel and to the Jewish people and you’ve come to Israel many times since you first came here on the eve of the Yom Kippur War.  But now you’re coming as the Vice President of the United States of America and this is deeply appreciated and for me deeply moving.

A tad patronizing, maybe?

I also appreciate the Administration’s effort to advance peace in the region.  I know that this has been difficult and has required a great deal of patience, but I’m pleased that these efforts are beginning to bear fruit and we have to be persistent and purposeful in making sure that we get to those direct negotiations that will enable us to resolve this conflict.

I look forward to working with President Obama, and with you and your entire Administration to forge an historic peace agreement in which the permanence and legitimacy of the Jewish State of Israel is recognized by our Palestinian neighbors and in which Israel’s security is guaranteed for generations to come.


I think we heard this before – Nixon, Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush….

Vice President Biden: Thank you very much.  Mr. Prime Minister, it’s a pleasure to be back.  It’s been too long between visits here and it is true that you and I have been friends a long, long time and a matter of fact, when each of us were in the minority, occasionally I’d get a phone call at home and I’d call you as well to get a sense of what’s going on.  Our friendship is real, but what’s even deeper is the relationship between the United States and Israel.

….  The relationship between Israel and the United States has been and will continue to be a centerpiece – a centerpiece of American policy and it’s been that way since Israel’s founding in 1948.

….  Bibi, you heard me say before, progress occurs in the Middle East when everyone knows there’s simply no space between the United States and Israel.  There is no space between the United States and Israel when it comes to Israel’s security


Well I’m glad he qualified the ‘no space’ thing because there’s plenty of space from where I’m standing.

President Obama and I strongly believe that the best long-term guarantee for Israel’s security is a comprehensive Middle East peace with the Palestinians, with the Syrians, with Lebanon, and leading eventually to full and normalized relationships with the entire Arab world.  It’s overwhelming in the interest of Israel, but it’s also overwhelming interest to the Arab world and it’s in our interest as well.

This is what my younger son calls ‘stating the bleedin’ obvious’.

And so Mr. Prime Minister, toward that end, I’m very pleased that you and the Palestinian leadership have agreed to launch indirect talks.

This is called ‘bigging up’ in today’s parlance.

We hope that these talks will lead and they must lead eventually to negotiations and direct discussions between the parties.

Well, ‘hope’ is one of Obama’s key words and a word that almost defines Israel.

The goal is obviously to resolve the final status issues to achieve a two-state solution with Israel and a Palestine living side by side in peace and security.

Something which Bibi is not convincingly signed up to, the two-state solution, that is. Palestinians believe in a one-state solution – Palestine. To think otherwise is dangerous but Israel and the US and the world like to pretend that Abbas and co. are not like Hamas; they want a two-state solution. Yes, but only as a first step to a one-state solution.

An historic peace is going to require both parties to make some historically bold commitments.

This means Israel will have to make all the concessions and the Palestinians will reject them as not going far enough. This will be after months of tough negotiations with everyone getting very excited about a ‘peace deal’ only to end in rejection and probably more violence and Israel blamed for not agreeing to destroy itself. Been there before I believe.

You have done it before and I’m confident for real peace you would do it again.

See what I mean?

Over the last year, Mr. Prime Minister, you have taken significant steps, including the moratorium that has limited new settlement construction activity and you have significantly increased freedom of movement across the West Bank.

O-oh, he mentioned settlements – this was before the Israelis kicked him up the backside and then thumbed their nose at him.

You still got that bucket ready? Well here goes.

Prime Minister Netanyahu: I will say that agreements are dependent on the arrangements not on paper, but on the ground.  Here’s a piece of paper that reflects an arrangement on the ground.  We have planted a circle of trees in Jerusalem in memory of your mother; Catherine Eugenia Finnegan Biden because you have said many times that she was a source of immeasurable strength which I recognize in you, Joe.  We planted a tree to serve as a tribute, a circle of trees next to the leaders of the nations.  We have a forest of the leaders of the nations and right next to it are the trees that we have planted in memory of your mother as a tribute to her immeasurable strength and I want to offer it to you on your visit to Israel.

Vice President Biden: Well, thank you very much.  If you don’t mind my saying Mr. Prime Minister, my love for your country was watered by this Irish lady who was proudest of me when I was working with and for the security of Israel, so it’s a great honor.  Thank you very much.

(full text here)

And immediately after this the Jerusalem authorities announced the approval of 1600 new homes in East Jerusalem. This led to an unprecedented condemnation from Biden

The substance and timing of the announcement, particularly with the launching of proximity talks, is precisely the kind of step that undermines the trust we need right now and runs counter to the constructive discussions that I’ve had here in Israel.

– he could hardly do otherwise – and the Palestinians latching on to the opportunity to threaten withdrawal from the indirect talks – maybe they’ll agree to indirect talks about indirect talks? After all, it was they who wouldn’t speak directly.

After all that schmaltz, to have it pushed in your face is unpalatable even for a philo-Israeli like Biden.

The actual truth about the approvals for more building is that a) Israel has never seen East Jerusalem as a settlement and there is no moratorium in place there b) This was a stage in a long process of approval quite separate from State politics c) Even approved, building may not start for years.

However, the timing was unforgivable and even though Bibi told Biden that he did not know, there is something rotten in this State when a municipality can cause such a diplomatic embarrassment at such an important time. Furthermore, it serves to confirm all the prejudices of those determined to undermine Israel and gives further fuel to its enemies.

When will they ever learn.

Mosque attack shames Israelis and endangers Jews everywhere

Koran (Reuters) I have always determined that this blog is not propaganda but tells the truth even when it hurts.

Last Friday a mosque in the West Bank town of Yasuf was vandalised; a library of holy books was set on fire and graffiti in Hebrew was written on he floor of the mosque. Apparently these graffiti were of a racist nature. In addition there was mention of “price tag” which is the extreme Jewish right-wing settler strategy to make the Israeli government pay for every concession it makes with regard to settlements, most notably the recent settlement freeze announced by the Netanyahu government in response to US pressure and as a statement of Israel’s genuinely seeking a return to the negotiating table.

I condemn this attack completely and without reservation. It is morally inexcusable; to set fire to any building to promote any cause is irresponsible in the extreme and potentially a risk to life; it goes against Jewish law to make unjustified attacks against any holy site and, therefore, the perpetrators are breaking their own moral code.

But such an act goes beyond just moral turpitude. It blackens the name of Israeli Jews and endangers the life of Jews everywhere who may be subject to retaliation. It does what it sets out to do: risk any peace initiative, cause more fear and hatred in the hearts of Palestinians. It also provides an excuse for future violence and gives fuel to those who want to label and libel all Israelis and Jews for the actions of a few.

The Jerusalem Post reported some reactions which are instructive:

Defense Minister Ehud Barak condemned the attack. In a statement issued by his office, Barak said he viewed the attack with grave severity and called it “an act of extremism designed to hurt any attempt by the government to make progress” toward renewing peace talks with the Palestinians. Barak said he had instructed the defense establishment to find those responsible as quickly as possible…..

Kadima and opposition leader Tzipi Livni [said] that the vandalism was a “severe, despicable act of provocation” and stress[ed] that the perpetrators must be brought to justice.

“While a human rights march goes on in Tel Aviv, in Samaria extremist elements set fire to a mosque,” she said during a Herzliya speech on Friday afternoon. “We must turn to introspection and contend with what is happening within Israeli society.”…..

Danny Dayan, head of the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip said in response to the incident that he hoped police would find those responsible. “Whoever did this is not helping the settlements,” Dayan said. “This is a wrong and foolish act.”

In contrast, right wing activists and politicians pointedly refused to condemn the act and blamed the government – a sad reflection on some elements in Israeli society.

But let us, nevertheless, reflect briefly; as despicable as this attack was, such attacks against holy sites are rare; no-one was injured although in scuffles with police afterwards there were minor injuries; the building was not destroyed. None of this is an excuse or mitigation but I am suggesting that the intent here was more against Israeli government policy than against the Palestinians, but I’m aware that such niceties may be lost of many.

Sometimes positives come from such heinous acts. Ha’aretz also reports:

Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi Yona Metzger on Monday visited the West Bank village of Yasuf, where days earlier a mosque was torched allegedly at the hand of settlers angry over the 10-month construction freeze.

“I came here to expression my revulsion at this wretched act of burning a place holy to the Muslim people,” Metzger told the residents after he was escorted into the village under the protection of the Israel Defense Forces and Palestinian police. “This is how the Holocaust began, the tragedy of the Jewish people of Europe.” …..

On Sunday, a delegation of Israelis from the West Bank settlement bloc of Gush Etzion brought copies of the Koran to villagers to replace those destroyed in the attack.

The group, led by peace activist Rabbi Menachem Froman, met the village elders at a nearby checkpoint after being held up for several hours by the IDF.

“Our going to the village can bring about a resolution of the conflict,” said Froman, of the southern West Bank settlement of Tekoa.

“The people who spread hate in the region are those who invented the method of ‘price tag.’ They should be cast out of here,” Froman said, referring to the term used by right-wing activists for actions opposing anti-settlement moves by the government.

“We want to create new conditions between Jews and Arabs. Arson in a mosque is an attempt to sow hatred between Jews and Arabs. Jewish law also prohibits damaging a holy place.” Froman said.

At the end of the meeting, Froman presented a Koran to the village leader, Munir, who thanked the delegation for “coming here to identify with us against violence.”

Whatever your views on settlements, this at least shows that the perpetrators of the crime are a minority, a dangerous minority, and Israel must act against them to protect Palestinians and also prevent an escalation.

So far the response from the Palestinians is muted which is a positive sign – but things can change quickly.

There is also a clear danger here for Israeli with the tactic of “price tag” creating an internal problem for Israel which will be exploited by those who want to bash Israel and cause a potentially dangerous fault-line in Israeli society. The fault-line has existed for a long time but could now become seismically active.

Palestinians don’t miss another opportunity to miss an opportunity

As Abba Eban, the distinguished Israeli diplomat, politician and writer, once said of the Arabs but true of today’s Palestinians, they never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.

As I reported yesterday, Israeli Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu proposed and has now had approved a 10 month moratorium on settlement building in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank). This specifically excludes necessary building on existing settlements but also stipulates there will be no appropriation of land.

But the big omission is that Jerusalem is exempt from the moratorium, which is consistent with Israel’s position that Jerusalem is the indivisible capital of the Jewish people and it will build for Jews, Arabs and anyone else wherever it wishes within the city.

But this provided a get out clause for the Palestinian leadership as I predicted.  The Jerusalem Post reports

Saeeb Erekat:

He said Wednesday’s announcement by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was aimed more toward appeasing American pressure than truly trying to reconcile with Palestinians.

“At the end of the day Netanyahu needs to make peace with us, the Palestinians, he doesn’t need to make peace with Americans,” Erekat told Army Radio. “If that is what he wants, that is his business. The last I know, Washington is 6,000 miles from Jerusalem, while Jericho is 67.”

The Palestinian Authority:

Already on Wednesday, the Palestinian Authority strongly rejected Netanyahu’s plan, and reiterated its refusal to return to the negotiating table with Israel.

Nabil Abu Rudaineh, a spokesman for PA President Mahmoud Abbas, announced that the Palestinians rejected the plan because it did not include Jerusalem.
Are the Palestinians afraid of peace? Why do they place preconditions on negotiations? With President Obama as the least tolerant US President of Israel for some time don’t they have an opportunity here? They seem to be stymied by their own rhetoric and see any concession as weakness. Maybe the problem is that peace will mean acceptance of Israel and they just do not want a Jewish State. After 61 years they still can;t bring themselves to accept the reality of Israel and prefer to continue a struggle that they believe they are winning; not by military means but politically.


Everyone knows that Israel, in the past, have always made concessions for peace, the Palestinians none. Rejectionism is so deep-seated in the PA and Fatah that it will need a new generation of true moderates and true seekers of peace to negotiate and create the state that Palestinians want. But they have to realise that this state will not include Israel and this is something the current generation just cannot accept. As for Hamas, they will never make peace with Fatah, let alone Israel.


It is noticeable that the US puts enormous pressure on Israel but the Arab states don’t appear to put any on the Palestinians.


So who really wants peace?

Settlements – let’s see if the Palestinians really want to talk

Today the Israeli Government Press Office announced that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu  has proposed a 10 month suspension of new construction permits in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank)

As part of the efforts to give momentum to the peace talks with the Palestinian Authority and advance Israel’s comprehensive national interests, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will today (Wednesday), 25.11.09, ask the Security Cabinet to approve a ten-month suspension of new residential construction permits and new residential construction starts in Judea and Samaria.

Prime Minister Netanyahu told Security Cabinet members at the start of today’s meeting that, “In the international circumstances that have been created, this step will promote Israel’s broad national interests.  This is neither simple nor easy but it has many more advantages than disadvantages.  It allows us to place a simple fact before the world: The Government of Israel wants to enter into negotiations with the Palestinians, is taking practical steps in order to do so and is very serious in its intentions to promote peace.”

This follows a real bruhaha about the permits to extend the Jerusalem neighbourhood of Gilo. Just about every newspaper outside Israel claimed Gilo was a settlement; but as Maurice Ostroff has demonstrated in the Jerusalem Post it is nothing of the sort:

THE REALITY is that Gilo is very different than the outposts in the West Bank. It is not in east Jerusalem as widely reported. It is a Jerusalem neighborhood with a population of around 40,000. The ground was bought by Jews before WWII and settled in 1971 in south west Jerusalem opposite Mount Gilo within the municipal borders. There is no inference whatsoever that it rests on Arab land.

But back to the point: Netanyahu has thrown down the gauntlet. He is saying we have now gone as far as is politically possible to meet US and Palestinian Authority demands. Your move.

But now let’s see what the PA thinks of next. Having received this concession it will no doubt find an excuse to reject it and demand even more. This is the usual game. Demand until Israel can no longer say yes, and then paint them as the obstacle to peace. I hope I’m wrong, but I doubt it.

Obama and the concept of even-handedness

I’ve been away for a bit and it’s given me a chance to mull over what President Obama (isn’t it strange how quickly we’ve got used to that) was up to in Cairo.

Many observers have taken this speech apart and pointed out how it has ushered in a whole new era of US-Israel politics where Israel can no longer get a free pass from the US and where the new administration has shifted US policy to a tough stance with the Israeli government on the question of settlements and, to a lesser extent, on easing restrictions in Gaza. The impression given is that it is Israel that has to make these concessions to move the peace process forward and that these demands are part of the Road Map agreements, blah, blah.

Many have pilloried the Cairo speech, many have praised it. It all depends on your viewpoint. If you have thought that Israel is the main impediment to the “peace process” then you will applaud Obama’s “tough love” stance. If you have believed that the Palestinians’ refusal to engage honestly in final status negotiations is the problem, then you will be appalled by Obama’s speech.

As so many have picked over the bones of the speech since the beginning of last month, I want to concentrate on the “big idea” behind the speech and why Obama wanted to follow the path of “even-handedness” .

Ah. But was it even-handed or was it heavily biased toward the Muslim world which was such a sea-change for an American president that it just seemed even-handed.

OK. Let’s just say the intention was even-handedness, not in the speech itself but in positioning the US in the eyes of the Muslim world as a more honest broker. To do this Obama had to be seen to be tough with Israel whilst paying little more than lip-service to what the Palestinians and the Arab world have to deliver.

Unfortunately for Israel, to redress the balance (or what Obama wanted to be seen as balance) he had to come down heavy on Netanyahu. This is transparent and not particularly credible posturing; most Arab and Muslim politicians said, “fine, but now we want action”. Subsequent exchanges between Jerusalem and Washington have gradually turned up the heat, evinced responses, but not had very much obvious effect on Israeli government policy.

Indeed, what is clear, is that the Israelis are keen on pursuing their own agenda to push forward the peace process and the two prominent signs of this are firstly, a rapid series of roadblock dismantlements on the West Bank accompanied by the recent “handover” to the Palestinian Authority of responsibility for day to day security in Judea and Samaria. Secondly, a measured expression of  the need for and the reasons behind Israel’s demand that the PA recognises Israel as the national home of the Jewish people. Of course, the settlement issue does not go away but there is a marked improvement in the life of Palestinians on the West Bank. Gaza and Hamas are a different matter, however.

But back to Obama.

Why ingratiate himself and his country with the Arab world? What are the US interests in any peace settlement in the Middle-East? Why does Obama want to be seen to be even-handed? What are the US national interests in rapprochement with the Muslim world, especially the Arab world and Iran? Is this the vanity of power? Does Obama see himself as a Messianic figure conferring peace and goodwill to the world? If so, what about North Korea, Sudan, Zimbabwe, Venezuela, Cuba?

The answer is more simplistic than than the real issues that lie behind the questions. What is the major threat to the free world at the moment? Islamist terror and the spread of Jihadi philosphy. But, if Pakistan falls, if Afghanistan is re-Talebanised, if Iraq falls apart, if Iran acquires nuclear weapons?

The major impediment to neutralising Islamist extremism, according to the simplistic narrative of the US government, is the Arab-Israeli conflict. If you get that out of the way, all done and dusted, everyone reconciled, not only is that a huge Obama-legacy moment but it removes the excuse of the Israli-Palestinian conflict to foster the anti-US animus in the Muslim world. It takes the legs from under the Jihadi movement because the conflict which most animates them has been removed.

So goes the narrative. In fact, it’s a charade built on a hope, built on delusion.

Obama may well believe that he can persuade moderate Arabs and Muslims to defeat the Jihadis amongst them and move their societies into the 21st century, engaging with the West whilst retaining their own culture and history. A world where East and West meets and each learns from the other with mutual benefit and increased prosperity. If you remove the main cause of conflict, the world will be a better and safer place and we will will bathe in the light of the Pax Obama.

Nice story. But it is all based on a major misconception that Israel, Zionism and the Palestinians are the real cause of  Jihadism. In fact, they are just an excuse, a recruiting seregant, a source of malign and indignant rhetoric.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict will not end Islamism. The Jihadis will only be satisfied with the destruction of Israel and the Islamisation of the West. The Israelis and Palestinians must be reconciled but only because it is morally imperative that there be a just solution, not as part of an American global peace strategy.

In light of this, despite misgivings about the new Israeli government, so far, I agree with many of the things they are doing and the independent stance they are taking. For the Israellis, asking for more concessions from them without addressing the real nub of recognition of Israel as the national home of the Jewish people, just does not wash.

Meanwhile, I wait to see how the Obama strategy pans out. Don’t hold your breath.

Netanyahu, roadblocks and the alternative peace plan

There’s something afoot in the West Bank which is going widely unreported in the media.

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has been widely reported as either rejecting or being equivocal about a two-state solution and he is therefore depicted as being an impediment to progress on any “Peace Plan”.

The view of the new government is that previous attempts at peace have only lead to Israeli concessions and Palestinian violence. The Netanyahu plan for the Palestinian Authority controlled West Bank is an amelioration of restrictions, increased economic co-operation, removal of settlements deemed illegal by the Israeli courts and a strategy of raising Palestinian living standards.

All this is tempered by an insistence on the right to expand existing settlements which is widely regarded as being an infraction of the Road Map and decidely frowned upon by the Obama adminstration which sees settlement freeze as a first step towards a “peace plan” and bringing the Arab countries on side.

But look at what is actually happening in the West Bank which is hardly reported and which the Israelis appear to be coy about or at least showing their usual woeful inability to win any propaganda battle.

The IDF today revealed the following:

Yesterday, June 2nd, 2009, the Rimonim and Bir Zeit roadblocks located in the Binyamin region, near Ramallah were removed. This step was taken following a meeting between [various IDF chiefs] and the Head of the Palestinian Security Forces in charge of civilian affairs in the Palestinian Authority in Judea and Samaria, Hassin el-Sheik.

… it was decided, in accordance with decisions made by the Israeli government, to take various steps which would significantly improve the daily life of Palestinian civilians in the Judea and Samaria region. A number of security coordination meetings have taken place this year, resulting in a range of steps designed to widen Palestinian free movement, to strengthen the Palestinian Security Forces and the Palestinian economy.

The Rimonim roadblock, located east of Ramallah was completely removed yesterday, allowing free passage from the city to the Jordan Valley area. The Bir Zeit roadblock, located north of Ramallah, which was also removed yesterday, now allowing quick passage from the city to the villages to the north.

Furthermore, Atzira A-Shamalia, a central checkpoint located near Nablus, will now operate 24 hours a day, easing movement in the area.

These steps were taken to widen the free movement of the Palestinian population and are in addition to the 145 roadblocks which were removed in the past year.

During the meeting, it was also decided to finalize the process granting Palestinian businessmen permits to pass through Israeli crossings into Israel. This will allow the businessman and public figures who play an important role in the Palestinian economy greater freedom to conduct their business.

So it’s no wonder that Mahmoud Abbas told the Washington Post

“in the West Bank we have a good reality . . . the people are living a normal life.”

The IDF still operates in the West Bank. It has to to protect Israeli citizens and to thwart terror attacks. But increasingly the Palestinian Authority police, many of whom are trained in the US, are managing to control Hamas and even cooperate on security with Israel.

The situation is always complex; there have been PA inspired attacks and even clashes with the IDF, but it is an improving situation.

So this is the Netanyahu peace plan: if you improve a people’s standard of life and their daily conditions, they will be less inclined to hate, less inclined to lose what they have by continued aggression, more inclined to live side by side.

This is not a final settlement. It delays it. But what are the Israelis to do? Whilst Obama remains obsessed with settlements the PA has already admitting rejecting former President Ehud Olmert’s offer of 97% of the West Bank without any serious attempt at negotiation. Whilst all Palestinian leaders, including Hamas, remain maximalist and look forward to the destruction of Israel there can be no meaningful negotiation because there is no sincerity from the Palestinians, merely political manipulation to move ever-closer to their maximalist goal of a Palestinian state “from the river to the sea”.

And what does King Abdullah of Jordan mean when he says:

“If we delay our peace negotiations, then there is going to be another conflict between Arabs or Muslims and Israel in the next 12-18 months.”

What does he have in mind? How much more than Ehud Olmert, Bill Clinton and Ehud Barak have previously offered is required for peace. How much of Israel is to be dismantled or destroyed for the sake of this peace?

The answer to that queston appears to be: all of Jerusalem, all of the West Bank, the Golan Heights and allowing up to four million “refugees” into Israel. This is not a recipe for peace but for an escalation in the conflict, pushing the Israelis further to the Right.

But even that is only a first step, not for Hamas who refuse to recognise Israel and want to kill all Jews, not for Hizbullah who refuse to recognise and want to kill all Jews, but for the Palestinian Authority run by Fatah who have never given up their goal of destroying Israel; they have just changed tactics.

This is the reality that is brushed under the carpet by everyone except the Netanyahu government. This is why he sees Iran as the pressing problem and not gesture politics with duplicitous peace partners.

The Saudi Plan vaunted by King Abdullah of Jordan which would normalise relations between Israel and the Arab/Muslim world is attractive, but not at any price. It was Lord Carendon, the UK’s UN ambassador in 1967 who said of Abba Eban’s offer of reconciliation with the Arab states: “Never in the history of warfare did the victor sue for peace, and the vanquished refuse”. Now we have the vanquished setting the terms of that peace.

After forty years of refusals from one side and unilateral concessions from the other it is, as always, Israel who is being cast as the impediment to peace and the Arabs as the dovish peace-makers.

And President Obama is encouraging this perception in what may prove to be a misguided attempt to reduce tensions by pursuing rapprochement between the US and the Muslim, especially the Arab, world.

To do this he has to write his new world order as a palimpsest of Middle East history. But that very history may yet leech through his attempts to obliterate it.

All Quiet on the West Bank Front

The current world media, and indeed the Palestinian and left-wing Israel narrative about Israel’s activities on the West Bank tells of road-blocks, a so called “apartheid” wall, unwarranted restrictions on movement of Palestinians and general emiseration of life.

But here’s a funny thing. Palestinian Authority President, Mahmoud Abbas has just been to Washington. In an interview with the Washington Post he made (albeit translated) the following astonishing statement:

“I will wait for Hamas to accept international commitments. I will wait for Israel to freeze settlements,” he said. “Until then, in the West Bank we have a good reality . . . the people are living a normal life.”

Normal life! Good reality! If everything is so dandy, what’s the beef?

The truth is that whatever the aspirations and long-term goals of the PA things have got a lot better recently. I’m not saying there is normality as that would be untrue. But Abbas sees new possibilities with Obama. Abbas can wait to achieve his goals whilst the US, Europe and, ironically, Israel pour billions of dollars into the development of the West Bank and what would be a future Palestinian state. Yes. He can wait.

Abbas also revealed what former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert offered him, and this says it all about Abbas, Obama’s policy, the possibility of peace and the PA’s true intentions:

Abbas acknowledged that Olmert had shown him a map proposing a Palestinian state on 97 percent of the West Bank — though he complained that the Israeli leader refused to give him a copy of the plan. He confirmed that Olmert “accepted the principle” of the “right of return” of Palestinian refugees — something no previous Israeli prime minister had done — and offered to resettle thousands in Israel. In all, Olmert’s peace offer was more generous to the Palestinians than either that of Bush or Bill Clinton; it’s almost impossible to imagine Obama, or any Israeli government, going further.

Abbas turned it down. “The gaps were wide,” he said.

What!!! He turned it down? Just like his predecessor, Yasser Arafat at Camp David and Taba in 2000/2001 who was made a similar offer, rejected it and began the Second Intifada. Why does the world say it is Israel that is the main stumbling block to peace? Each time Israel offers more, not less (as would be the case in any other conflict where the answer to peace negotiations is violence not a counter-offer). “The gaps were wide”. What does Abbas want for heaven’s sake? Well we know what he wants: the right of return for 4 million Palestinians and ALL of the Old City of Jerusalem (he does not reveal waht Olmert offered there but Barak in 2000 offered to divide the city). In other words he will settle for nothing less than the destruction of Israel demographically.

Now, perhaps, we can see why the Netanyahu government sees no point to further negotiations with the PA. What more is there to discuss at the moment? What will Israel get in return for freezing settlement expansion or dismantling settlements? It’s a stand-off. It’s a bit like the final scene in “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” with each side circling round the other and waiting for someone to blink.

Obama to Netanyahu: stop settlement expansion and we’ll talk about Iran

Netanyahu to Obama: do something about Iran or we’ll continue with (existing) settlement expansion

Obama to Abbas: stop saying horrible things about Israelis (you can’t use the words “vile anti-Semitic propaganda” in the even-handed world of Obama). Make nice with Hamas.

Abbas to Obama: I can wait. Get rid of Netanyahu or get him to unequivocally accept a two-state solution. I’m not playing ball with George Mitchell until you do that, so no talks with moderate Arab states to help the process. I can wait for Hamas.

Abbas to Netanyahu: (silence)

Netanyahu to Abbas: (silence)

As the Post concludes:

What’s interesting about Abbas’s hardline position, however, is what it says about the message that Obama’s first Middle East steps have sent to Palestinians and Arab governments. From its first days the Bush administration made it clear that the onus for change in the Middle East was on the Palestinians: Until they put an end to terrorism, established a democratic government and accepted the basic parameters for a settlement, the United States was not going to expect major concessions from Israel.

Obama, in contrast, has repeatedly and publicly stressed the need for a West Bank settlement freeze, with no exceptions. In so doing he has shifted the focus to Israel. He has revived a long-dormant Palestinian fantasy: that the United States will simply force Israel to make critical concessions, whether or not its democratic government agrees, while Arabs passively watch and applaud. “The Americans are the leaders of the world,” Abbas told me and Post Editorial Page Editor Fred Hiatt. “They can use their weight with anyone around the world. Two years ago they used their weight on us. Now they should tell the Israelis, ‘You have to comply with the conditions.’ “

So all is quiet in the world of Abbas. He knows that Netanyahu’s options are limited. The next Israeli government might offer even more. Iran might do the job he always dreamed of. Hamas can stew in Gaza because why should he do anything that wil make life for Israel easier. He can squeeze Hamas on the West Bank and take them out when necessary. In fact, by doing so, as the Jerusalem Post reports, he is putting pressure on Israel:

In March 2007, a car carrying over 100 kilograms of explosives succeeded in infiltrating downtown Tel Aviv from the West Bank town of Kalkilya. The terrorists’ plan was to detonate the car on Seder night.

The existence of this cell, which was the target of the Palestinian clashes in Kalkilya on Sunday, had been the IDF’s excuse for refusing to scale back its operations in the West Bank city and implement there and in Tulkarm what is being called the “Jenin model.”

Under the Jenin model, the IDF has scaled back operations in that city, removed checkpoints in the area, permitted the deployment of US-trained Palestinian forces and allowed Israeli Arabs into the city to boost the local economy.

The more effective the PA police are in confronting Hamas and thwarting attacks on Israel, the less reason there is for the Israeli Army to be operating there. This, in turn, reduce tensions between Israelis and Palestinians and increases Abbas’s prestige at home and in the world. But, crucially, Israel’s ability to preempt terrorism emanating from the West Bank would be reduced.

And this is really the true nature of the Pax Palestina on the West Bank. They are rapidly approaching de facto statehood with improving social conditions and security; they are working with Israel on a number of projects to improve living conditions; checkpoints are reducing; Israel is acting against settlements that even they deem illegal.

For Abbas it is just a stage on the road to the destruction of Israel. He still cherishes that hope. He still wants 4 million refugees to flood Israel and create a third Palestinian state in the region; he still wants all of Jerusalem; he still tells his people that Jews have no historic connections or claim to the Holy Land; he still tells his people that there never was a Jewish Temple in Jerusalem; he still allows daily incitement against Israelis and Jews; he still allows lies and vicious Jew-hatred to be inculcated into Palestinian children from the earliest age.

Abbas can afford to wait.

What happened to the two-state solution?

I thought, and certainly President Obama thought, that Israel and Palestine were pursuing a two state solution.

The key issues to be resolved with regard to this 60 year conflict are as follows:

1. Borders and security

2. End of belligerence

3. Status of Jerusalem

4. Refugee issues

5. Israeli settlements on the West Bank/Judea-Samaria

It’s very easy to get confused with long litany of “peace agreements” , accords, understandings etc. We have Oslo, Geneva, Camp David, Taba, Annapolis, road map, Saudi Plan and so on.

Despite Ehud Barak offering Yasser Arafat 95-7% of the West Bank, Gaza, East Jerusalem, and compensation for refugees, not only was the offer rejected, without a counter proposal,  to the dismay of all involved, including the Saudi Ambassador, but Arafat issued orders for the Second Intifada covering his own inability to confront the possibility of a just peace and leading to the deaths of thousands of Palestinians and Israelis.

Now the Netanyahu government is turning away from seeking a  final status solution, including the two-state solution and instead is following a course to ameliorate the conditions on the West Bank and to improve the infrastructure and living standards of Palestinians.

At the same time it is saying that it will honour all previous agreements. It’s getting very confusing. Clearly, the Netanyahu government has decided to follow its own agenda in the apparent belief that there is no current partner for peace. Netanyahu is, therefore, giving the distinct impression that he has accepted a sort of de facto annexation of the West Bank as part of Israel but with Palestinian autonomy.

Whilst Netanyahu kicks the two-state solution into the long grass, Mahmoud Abbas and the PA continue with their own maximalist agenda: Jerusalem is Muslim only and Jews have no claims to it or to any of Palestine (that means Israel too).

Let’s take a look at some recent pronouncements:

Yesterday the Prime Minister’s Media Adviser issued the following:

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today (Wednesday), 28.5.09, convened the Ministerial Committee on Improving the Situation of the Palestinian Residents of Judea and Samaria.  At the start of the meeting, he said that advancing economic projects for the Palestinian population of Judea and Samaria would a better economic, social and political reality and would improve the Palestinians’ quality of life and personal welfare.

Note “would be a better… reality”. This means better than pursuing any further peace negotiations which both Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman have rejected as having a history of leading not to peace but to Israeli concessions and Palestinian violence.

The communique continues:

Defense Minister Ehud Barak presented economic projects in the PA, including: The establishment of an industrial zone in the Mukibleh-Jenin area of northern Samaria, the establishment of an industrial zone for the processing and marketing of agricultural produce in Jericho, the establishment of an industrial zone in the Hebron-Tarkumiyeh area, the establishment of an industrial zone in Bethlehem, environmental protection projects (waste disposal and sewage treatment sites) and the establishment of a Palestinian city near Ramallah.  He noted that approximately 100 projects in various fields in the PA areas of Judea and Samaria are currently in various planning stages.

And so it continues. The strategy here appears to be that an economically stronger Palestine with greatly improved living standards would lead to the de-radicalisation of certain elements with Palestinian society on the West Bank. This in turn would lead to the easing of security arrangements and a better quality of life.

Although I can only applaud the improving of Palestinian economic conditions and easing of restrictions, if they result from this strategy, I also have an impression that this is the language of quasi-annexation. It certainly does not address Palestinian self-determination or any of the agenda items at the top of this page.

Yesterday Arutz 7 reported :

Minister of Strategic Affairs Moshe (Boogie) Yaalon believes that the time has come for Israel to “free itself from the failed paradigm” of the “two-state solution.” Yaalon spoke Tuesday at a meeting of MKs dedicated to finding an alternative to the creation of a Palestinian Authority-led Arab state.

While the creation of a PA-led state in Judea, Samaria and Gaza is perceived as a necessity both in Israel and worldwide, such a state would not solve the Israel-PA conflict, said Yaalon. In fact, he said, it is doubtful that the possibility of creating such a state exists, due to Arab and Muslim reluctance to take any step that would imply recognition of Israel or compromise on Arab claims to the entire Land of Israel.

Meanwhile President Obama is advancing his “peace plan” although we only know vaguely what it entails. The Jerusalem Post reported:

US President Barack Obama’s statements about how to advance the peace process do not differ significantly from those of his predecessor, George W. Bush, Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon told The Jerusalem Post…

He denied reports in the Hebrew press that Obama had drafted a Middle East peace plan calling for a democratic, contiguous and demilitarized Palestinian state whose borders would be determined by territorial exchanges with Israel.

According to the reports, the Old City of Jerusalem would be established as an international zone. The initiative would require the Palestinians to give up their claim of a “right of return,” and Europe and the US would arrange compensation for refugees, including passports for those residing abroad.Arab countries would institute confidence-building measures to clear the air with Israel. When Palestinian statehood would be achieved, diplomatic and economic relations would be established between Israel and Arab states.

“I don’t know of any Obama plan that has been finalized,” said Ayalon, who has been briefed on the closed-door meetings between Netanyahu and Obama. “Don’t believe the headlines. What was in the papers was mere speculation, and there is no substance to it,” he said.

So what IS the plan?

Ayalon said his Israel Beiteinu Party would oppose the internationalization of Jerusalem and the relinquishing of Israeli sovereignty in the “holy basin” around the Old City. He said the party would also insist that Israel not take in a single Palestinian refugee, citing legal, moral and historical grounds.

Tzipi Livni now leader of Kadima said in the Knesset:

“We will not be able to keep Jerusalem if we say no to everything, or if out of fear we adopt unwillingness as a policy and frozenness as an ideology,” Livni said. “I believe that it is possible, through proper management, to make the world understand the things that are important to us, and with them we can keep Israel as a national home for the Jewish people and Jerusalem as its eternal capital.”

Wow! She thinks she can make the world “understand” – that’s more ambitious than a peace settlement given the world’s hatred of the only democratic and free country in the Middle East.

And she seems to fear not just losing Jerusalem but Israel itself as the home of the Jewish people!

Silvan Shalom, Vice Premier puts it most succinctly:

“There aren’t two Jerusalems. Jerusalem will not be divided. Jerusalem will remain the eternal capital of Israel. It’s not a promise. It’s a fact. Jerusalem will not be a topic for compromise.”

Now if you think that’s all a bit uncompromising let’s look what the PA are saying.

Again in the Jerusalem Post, reacting to rumours of a Obama’s “peace plan” President Mahmoud Abbas said:

One PA official said Abbas and his aides were currently studying which, he added, included “several positive points.” The official stressed, however, that some of the proposals mentioned in the plan were completely unacceptable to the Palestinians. These proposals, he said, included the talk about resettling Palestinian refugees in Arab countries, swapping lands between the future Palestinian state and Israel, creating a demilitarized state and granting the Old City of Jerusalem the status of an international city.

“The Palestinian position on these issues is very clear,” explained another PA official. “We insist on the right of return for all refugees on the basis of United Nations resolution 194, and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with all of East Jerusalem, including the Old City, as its capital.”

The official said the PA had, in the past, rejected the idea of establishing a demilitarized state and swapping land with Israel.

“The only way to achieve real and lasting peace is by forcing Israel to withdraw from all the territories that were occupied in 1967,” he said.

The interpretation of resolution 194 is highly problematical. 194 does not offer a “Right of Return” nor does it mention Palestinian refugees exclusively. See this article for a full discussion.

The Palestinian position is still maximalist in that it demands ALL of Jerusalem and ALL refugees returning to Israel. As Alan Dershowitz so succinctly puts it:

… the only justification for Palestinians opting to exercise their right of return would be a macropolitical, rather than a microhumanitarian, one. It would be part of a large-scale, carefully orchestrated plan to return millions of Palestinians to Israel in order to overwhelm the Jewish state with a Palestinian majority. (The Case for Peace, John Wiley and Sons, inc. p. 47)

No Israeli government can ever agree to that and the Palestinians know it.

As for Jerusalem, the PA has and continues to make obnoxious statements which deny that Jerusalem was ever Jewish, that the Temple was was not built there, the Torah was altered to lay false historic claim to the Holy Land and all Jewish claims to Israel are bogus. This is nothing less than the negation of Jews and Judaism by denying there clear and evidenced historical connections to the Land of Israel.

June 1st 2008 reporter Aaron Klein provided the following report:

“Jerusalem is Muslim. The blessed Al Aqsa mosque and Harem Al Sharif (Temple Mount) is 100 percent Muslim. The Israelis are playing with fire when they threaten Al Aqsa with digging that is taking place,” said Abbas’ chief of staff Rafiq Al Husseini.

WND also reported March 15th 2007:

The Jewish Temples never existed, the Western Wall really was a tying post for Muhammad’s horse, the Al Aqsa Mosque was built by angels, and Abraham, Moses and Jesus were prophets for Islam.

All this according to Sheikh Taysir Tamimi, chief Palestinian Justice and one of the most influential Muslim leaders in Israel. Tamimi is considered the second most important Palestinian cleric after Muhammad Hussein, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem.

… Tamimi, who preaches regularly from the Al Aqsa Mosque, claimed Jews have no historical connection to Jerusalem or Israel and that the Jewish Temples never existed.

“Israel started since 1967 making archeological digs to show Jewish signs to prove the relationship between Judaism and the city and they found nothing. There is no Jewish connection to Israel before the Jews invaded in the 1880’s,” said Tamimi…

“About these so-called two Temples, they never existed, certainly not at the Haram Al- Sharif (Temple Mount),” Tamimi said.

This is the same Sheikh Tamimi who ranted against Israel in front of Pope Benedict as I reported here.

Previously, a leader of the Waqf, the Islamic authority which manages the Temple Mount, was dismissed for stating the Jewish temples existed on the site of the Al Aksa mosque and that denying it is purely political.

The PA is supposed to be “moderate”. Maximalist positions are not moderate. In fact maximalist Palestinian positions and historical revisionism by its lay and religious leaders only give fuel to the current Israeli government to claim there is no point in pursuing solutions using old formulas which have always been rejected.

So we now have two entrenched positions.

Meanwhile President Obama seems to be moving ahead like someone driving a buggy without the horses.