Tag: 1967 Borders



Caroline B. Glick
Jerusalem Post, August 5, 2011

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has explained repeatedly over the years that Israel has no Palestinian partner to negotiate with. So news reports this week that Netanyahu agreed that the 1949 armistice lines, (commonly misrepresented as the 1967 borders), will be mentioned in terms of reference for future negotiations with the Palestinian Authority seemed to come out of nowhere.

Israel has no one to negotiate with because the Palestinians reject Israel’s right to exist. This much was made clear yet again last month when senior PA “negotiator” Nabil Sha’ath said in an interview with Arabic News Broadcast, “The story of ‘two states for two peoples’ means that there will be a Jewish people over there and a Palestinian people here. We will never accept this.”

Given the Palestinians’ position, it is obvious that Netanyahu is right. There is absolutely no chance whatsoever that Israel and the PA will reach any peace deal in the foreseeable future. Add to this the fact that the Hamas terror group controls Gaza and will likely win any new Palestinian elections just as it won the last elections, and the entire exercise in finding the right formula for restarting negotiations is exposed as a complete farce.

So why is Israel engaging in these discussions?

The only logical answer is to placate US President Barack Obama.

For the past several months, most observers have been operating under the assumption that Obama will use the US’s veto at the Security Council to defeat the Palestinians’ bid next month to receive UN membership as independent Palestine. But the fact of the matter is that no senior administration official has stated unequivocally, on record, that the US will veto a Security Council resolution recommending UN membership for Palestine.

Given congressional and public support for Israel, it is likely that at the end of the day, Obama will veto such a resolution. But the fact that the president has abstained to date from stating openly that he will veto it makes clear that Obama expects Israel to “earn” a US veto by bowing to his demands.

These demands include abandoning Israel’s position that it must retain defensible borders in any peace deal with the Palestinians. Since defensible borders require Israel to retain control over the Jordan Valley and the Samarian hills, there is no way to accept the 1949 armistice lines as a basis for negotiations without surrendering defensible borders.

Say what you will about Obama’s policy, at least it’s a policy. Obama uses US power and leverage against Israel to force Israel to bow to his will.

What makes Obama’s Israel policy notable is not simply that it involves betraying the US’s most steadfast ally in the Middle East. After all, since taking office Obama has made a habit of betraying US allies.

Obama’s Israel policy is notable because it is a policy. Obama has a clear, consistent goal of cutting Israel down to size. Since assuming office, Obama has taken concrete steps to achieve this aim. And those steps have achieved results. Obama forced Netanyahu to make Palestinian statehood an Israeli policy goal. He coerced Netanyahu into temporarily abrogating Jewish property rights in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria. And now he is forcing Netanyahu to pretend the 1949 armistice lines are something Israel can accept.

Obama has not adopted a similarly clear, consistent policy towards any other nation in the region. In Egypt, Syria, Iran, Turkey, Libya and beyond, Obama has opted for attitude over policy.

He has postured, preened, protested and pronounced on all the issues of the day.

But he has not made policy. And as a consequence, for better or for worse, he has transformed the US from a regional leader into a regional follower while empowering actors whose aims are not consonant with US interests.

Syria is case and point. President Bashar Assad is the Iranian mullahs’ lapdog. He is also a major sponsor of terrorism. In the decade since he succeeded his father, Assad Jr. has trained terrorists who have killed US forces in Iraq. He has provided a safe haven for al-Qaida terrorists. He has strengthened Syrian ties to Hezbollah. He has hosted Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other Palestinian terror factions. He has proliferated nuclear weapons. He reputedly ordered the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri.

Since March, Assad has been waging war against his fellow Syrians. By the end of this week, with his invasion of Hama, the civilian death toll will certainly top 2,000.

And how has Obama responded? He upgraded his protestations of displeasure with Assad from “unacceptable” to “appalling.” In the face of Assad’s invasion of Hama, rather than construct a policy for overthrowing this murderous US enemy, the Obama administration has constructed excuses for doing nothing. Administration officials, including Obama’s ambassador to Damascus, Robert Ford, are claiming that the US has little leverage over Assad.

But this is ridiculous. Many in Congress and beyond are demanding that Obama withdraw Ford from Damascus. Some are calling for sanctions against Syria’s energy sector. These steps may or may not be effective. Openly supporting, financing and arming Assad’s political opponents would certainly be effective.…

Today there is a coalition of Syrian opposition figures that include all ethnic groups in the country. Their representatives have been banging the doors of the corridors of power in Washington and beyond. Yet the same Western leaders who were so eager to recognize the Libyan opposition despite the presence of al-Qaida terrorists in the opposition tent have refused to publicly embrace Syrian regime opponents that seek a democratic, federal Syria that will live at peace with Israel and embrace liberal policies.

This week, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton held a private meeting with these brave democrats. Why didn’t she hold a public meeting? Why hasn’t Obama welcomed them to the White House? By refusing to embrace liberal, multi-ethnic regime opponents, the administration is all but ensuring the success of the Turkish bid to install the Muslim Brotherhood in power if Assad is overthrown.

But then, embracing pro-Western Syrians would involve taking a stand and, in so doing, adopting a policy. And that is something the posturing president will not do. Obama is much happier pretending that empty statements from the UN Security Council amount to US “victories.” If he aims any lower his head will hit the floor.

Obama’s preference for posture over policy is nothing new. It has been his standard operating procedure throughout the region. When the Iranian people rose up against their regime in June 2009 in the Green Revolution, Obama stood on the sidelines. As is his habit, he acted as though the job of the US president is to opine rather than to lead. Then he sniffed that it wasn’t nice at all that the regime was mowing down pro-democracy protesters in the streets of Tehran and beyond.

And ever since, Obama has remained on the sidelines as the mullahs took over Lebanon, build operational bases in Latin America, sprint to the nuclear finishing line, and consolidate their power in Iraq and Afghanistan.

[Last] Wednesday, the show trial began for long-time US ally former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak and his sons. During last winter’s popular uprising in Egypt, Obama’s foes attacked him for refusing to abandon Mubarak immediately.

The reasons for maintaining US support for Mubarak were obvious: Mubarak had been the foundation of the US alliance structure with the Sunni Arab world for three decades. He had kept the peace with Israel. And his likely successor was the Muslim Brotherhood. But Obama didn’t respond to his critics with a defense of a coherent policy. Because his early refusal to betray Mubarak was not a policy. It was an attitude of cool detachment.

When Obama saw that it was becoming politically costly to maintain his attitude of detachment, he replaced it with a new one of righteous rage. And so he withdrew US support for Mubarak without ever thinking through the consequences of his actions. And now it isn’t just Mubarak and his sons being humiliated in a cage. It is their legacy of alliance with America.

Recognizing that Obama refuses to adopt or implement any policies on his own, Congress has tried to fill the gap. The House Foreign Affairs Committee recently passed a budget that would make US aid to Egypt, Lebanon, Yemen and the PA contingent on certification that no terrorist or extremist organization holds governmental power in these areas. Clinton issued a rapid rebuke of the House’s budget and insisted it was unacceptable.

And this makes sense. Making US assistance to foreign countries contingent on assurances that the money won’t fund US enemies would be a policy. And Obama doesn’t make policy—except when it comes attacking to Israel.

In an interview with The New York Times [last] Thursday, Muammar Gaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam Gaddafi said he and his father are negotiating a deal that would combine their forces with Islamist forces and re-establish order in the country.

To a degree, the US’s inability to overthrow Gaddafi—even by supporting an opposition coalition that includes al-Qaida—is the clearest proof that Obama has substituted attitude for policy everywhere except Israel.

Acting under a UN Security Council resolution and armed with a self-righteous doctrine of “Responsibility to Protect,” Obama went to war against Gaddafi five months ago. But once the hard reality of war invaded his happy visions of Lone Rangers riding in on white stallions, Obama lost interest in Libya. He kept US forces in the battle, but gave them no clear goals to achieve.

And so no goals have been achieved.…

If nothing else, the waves of chaos, war and revolution sweeping through Arab lands make clear that the Arab conflict with Israel is but a sideshow in the Arab experience of tyranny, fanaticism, hope and betrayal. So it says a lot about Obama, that eight months after the first rebellion broke in Tunisia, his sole Middle East policy involves attacking Israel.


Barry Rubin

Rubin Reports, July 30, 2011

Israel’s historic position toward the territories captured in the 1967 war has been: Israel will control this land until it can achieve peace or at least a better situation for itself by leaving them. Jordan made peace. And [Israel] agreed to pull out of most of the Gaza Strip and much of the West Bank when the PLO promised (that’s a key word and a promise not kept) to make peace.

In contrast, Israel later [totally] withdrew [militarily] from the Gaza Strip and dismantled all of the settlements there for two reasons. First, as a gesture that it hoped would show its desire for peace and would promote that goal. Second, because it seemed better to have its forces on a defensible line.… Nevertheless, this policy did not work out so well and Israel ended up in a worse strategic situation without making any serious gains (arguably the reverse was true) in international support.

Regarding the West Bank, the lesson of the Gaza Strip withdrawal and also the southern Lebanon withdrawal have been learned. There, Israel turned over all of the populated sections (except for a small portion of Hebron) to the Palestinian Authority. Since 1993, no new settlements have been established (there have been small new outposts against government policy though the government has not always removed them) or expanded in their size. The status quo isn’t wonderful but it is quite tolerable.

Recently, a number of people—many of them with a wide public audience—in the West have started clanging the bell that Israel must clear out of the West Bank as soon as possible or else face a terrible situation. Their arguments have no merit.…

What are these arguments? That more Palestinians are being born. So what? That Israel won’t be a democratic state if it continues to control part of the West Bank? If Israel survived as a democratic and decent society for decades when it ran everything in the Sinai Peninsula, the Gaza Strip, and all of the West Bank, it can certainly do so when it controls just part of the West Bank where virtually no Arabs live.

Another argument is that the regional situation is worsening. Well, when you are facing greater security threats on your borders is not the best time to shrink your borders further and turn total control of land over to those who either don’t want to make peace or who soon would be bullied, persuaded, or overthrown by those who want to tear up the commitments and renew the conflict. And that would be renewing the conflict on terms much less favorable to Israel.

There is the argument that once a piece of paper was signed that there would be perfect and lasting peace with no more problems. But both the politics of the [Palestinian Authority] and events in Egypt show that’s ridiculous.

So finally there is the fall-back argument: We must do something! We must try! Do what? Make things worse? Of course, trying means more busy work for the highly paid official and non-government peace processors. Free air fares! Banquets! Papers and articles to write! Meetings to go to! Pretending to be important and doing great things!

And just because they can imagine a wonderful peace in their heads—rather than understand what’s going on in the heads of people in Lebanon, Egypt, Syria, Iran, Gaza, and the West Bank—they deem that sufficient to inflict their glorious visions on others.… In most cases, what [the professional peace processors] are doing is akin to press[ing] buttons at random on a complex piece of machinery with no understanding of how it works, having barely read the manual, and being totally indifferent to the consequences for others who live in the building.…

As long as the status quo is preferable to the alternative, the status quo looks pretty good. You don’t compare the status quo to your fantasies but to realistic alternatives, weighing the material price for each risk or concession.

And if conditions ever change so that real and lasting peace based on compromise is actually possible—and it won’t be soon—that situation can be met with a changed Israeli policy.

Until then, or at least until they start acting responsibly instead of playing dice with our lives, the peace processors can, to quote an Egyptian proverb, “Go drink the Nile.”


Charles Bybelezer

As reported by the Jerusalem Post, “[Israeli] Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said on Monday that Israel and the US were working on a document saying the parameters for returning to negotiations with the Palestinians would be based on the speech US President Barack Obama gave at AIPAC in May, and spelling out in greater detail what Obama meant by…a return to the 1967 lines, with mutual agreed swaps.”

In Netanyahu’s words, “we are interacting with the US to put together a document [for an agreement with the Palestinians] using language from Obama’s second speech [the AIPAC speech].”

Paradoxically, Mr. Netanyahu then proceeded to say that “The Israeli goal is direct negotiations with the Palestinians, without preconditions.”

Go figure.

That Mr. Netanyahu is considering conceding to Obama’s demand that Israel retreat to the “1967 borders” as a basis for future negotiations with the Palestinians, irrespective of “conditions” or “guarantees” (which, by all accounts, would uniquely comprise the intangible and non-binding Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state), is a mystery, for, if the report is true, it represents the prospective coming of full circle of a man who has historically been labeled as “hawkish.”

This transformation—which could be said to have begun in 2009 at Bar Ilan University, when Mr. Netanyahu formally endorsed for the first time the creation of “Palestine”—has culminated in the crossing of a “red line” (also known as the 1949 Armistice lines): To date, Israel’s repeated concessions to the Palestinians, though risky and dangerous, have for the most part been containable.

Gaza, for example, following Israel’s 2005 unilateral withdrawal, has essentially become an Iranian-sponsored jihadist war zone dedicated to Israel’s destruction, but nonetheless one that Israel can subdue militarily. Furthermore, the self-negating effects of Israel’s incessant pandering to the “international community’s” pressure—at the expense of its unequivocal legal and historical rights, as well as its moral authority—which contribute to (some might even say justify) the wretched global campaign to delegitimize the Jewish state, have thus far been manageable, primarily offset by a booming economy driven by Israel’s collective creative power.

Yet Israel’s retreat to the 1967 lines is universally considered as a suicidal prospect.

Despite “promises” of “land swaps,” what is bound to happen is that once the “1967 borders” becomes accepted “peace process” lexicon, Palestinian terror will make certain that no agreement is reached until such time, perhaps years from now, when the world again—predictably—reneges on its “commitments” vis-à-vis the Jewish state by foregoing the term “land swaps” altogether.

Hence, if Mr. Netanyahu accepts the “Obama principles,” Israel essentially will be agreeing to ingest a fatal poison (1967—really 1949—borders), whose lone “concessions” (land swaps) will be in the hands of the Palestinians. And the sole “voice” encouraging the Palestinians to administer said medicine will be Obama’s—if he is re-elected, which is increasingly moot.

Moreover, should Netanyahu comply with Obama, he also would be effectively acceding to dividing Jerusalem (the Western Wall, for example, the Jewish people’s holiest site, resides outside of the 1967 boundaries), notwithstanding repeated glorious assertions to the contrary: “Some 44 years ago, IDF troops realized the vision of the prophets…and restored Jerusalem’s glory.… Jerusalem was united, and will never be divided again, etc.”

Despite all this, there is still hope.

This past May, Mr. Netanyahu gave Israel—along with all those in the Diaspora who passionately advocate for Israel’s Likud Prime Minister and his Party’s platform—the first real glimmer of hope for reconciliation with the Palestinians since the Oslo process collapsed under the weight of the first Intifada. What Mr. Netanyahu provided was unbridled leadership; that is, he did not bend to American pressure or break to “popular” demand, but rather stared down the most powerful man in the world and rebuked Obama’s May 19 “Arab Spring” speech—the prelude to Obama’s somewhat watered-down (“damage control”) speech to AIPAC three days later.

Mr. Netanyahu affirmed: “For there to be peace, the Palestinians will have to accept some basic realities. The first is that while Israel is prepared to make generous compromises for peace, it cannot go back to the 1967 lines—because these lines are indefensible.… Remember that, before 1967, Israel was all of nine miles wide. It was half the width of the Washington Beltway. And these were not the boundaries of peace; they were the boundaries of repeated wars, because the attack on Israel was so attractive.”

The continued infusion of truth into the public discourse by strong, principled Jewish leaders—who place Israel’s ongoing security above all else—is the only chance Israel has to ever forge lasting agreements with its neighbors. And that this has a positive effect on the American electorate, Israel’s only real international support, is reflected in continuously high pro-Israel poll figures.

If Mr. Netanyahu fails to realize this and succumbs to Obama, the Prime Minister will not only be jeopardizing the dim prospects for peace, he will also be resigning himself to a patently false narrative: that Israel is fighting a losing battle, and therefore must preemptively concede to its enemies.

As a keen student of history, Mr. Netanyahu should know that there is no light at the end of the tunnel of appeasement.

There is only the abyss.

(Charles Bybelezer is the Publications Chairman
at the
Canadian Institute for Jewish Research.)


Joshua Mitnick

Wall Street Journal, August 3, 2011


Israel signaled it was willing to negotiate with the Palestinians based on the 1967 border of the West Bank, injecting a potentially significant territorial concession into discussions aimed at restarting peace talks.

Such a position would mark a reversal for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who during a White House visit in May publicly and forcefully rejected President Barack Obama’s call for a peace deal based on 1967 borders and modified by mutual land swaps.

A senior Palestinian official called the offer “a joke.” U.S. officials said they saw it as political posturing intended to pressure the Palestinians to abandon a campaign to win recognition at the United Nations General Assembly in September.

Israel and the U.S. see progress on peace as a way to possibly avert a U.N. vote. They have held discussions with the Palestinians in recent months to agree on a set of parameters on which to start peace talks. Israeli President Shimon Peres has met on behalf of Mr. Netanyahu with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and other top Palestinian negotiators.

An Israeli official, describing the offer in careful terms, said Mr. Netanyahu could begin negotiations on borders based on a formula “similar to the language used in Obama’s speeches,” but added that the Israeli leader wouldn’t explicitly endorse the U.S. position on the 1967 line. Such a position would destabilize his…coalition.

Mr. Netanyahu insists that a negotiated solution on a border must reroute the Green Line, the border that marked the West Bank before Israel captured it from Jordan in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, to include blocs of Israeli settlements built since 1967, and take into consideration Israeli national security.

Israel would also demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state as part of the package, the official said. The Palestinians have rejected this.… “It’s a joke,” said Nabil Shaath, a senior official in Fatah, the party of Palestinian President Abbas. “There is nothing serious that Mr. Netanyahu has offered. The word 1967 has become utterly meaningless. It means that we start from 1967 but we never go back to it.”

A senior U.S. official expressed skepticism that the Israeli position will spur a breakthrough, saying Mr. Netanyahu’s statements in recent days look more like “positioning” than an aggressive move to ignite the peace process.… During Mr. Netanyahu’s visit to the White House, he called the 1967 lines “indefensible.…”

For Israel, agreeing to the 1967 line would mean recognizing that most Jewish settlements in the West Bank would be part of a future Palestinian state. During an address to Congress in May, Mr. Netanyahu acknowledged that some of the settlements would be part of a Palestinian state.

Danny Danon, a member of…Mr. Netanyahu’s Likud Party, predicted the prime minister would lose the support of hard-line allies if he agreed to Mr. Obama’s formula.… A former adviser predicted Mr. Netanyahu wouldn’t break with the right, as he did when he made territorial concessions to the Palestinians in 1998 at a peace summit in the U.S. Some analysts say that move led to his defeat at the polls the following year.…


P. David Hornik

FrontPage, August 3, 2011


Media reports quote anonymous Israeli officials saying Israel has decided, after all, to negotiate a two-state arrangement with the Palestinians based on the 1967 borders. The reports have a certain shock value; reading between the lines, the shock dissipates somewhat.

APcalls it a “dramatic policy shift” and cites a report on Israel’s Channel 2 TV that said Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is now “basically accepting the framework” of the 1967 lines, broached by President Obama…last May.… AP quotes [an Israeli] official: “We are willing in a framework of restarting the peace talks to accept a proposal that would contain elements that would be difficult for Israel and we would find very difficult to endorse.” AP continues: “Part of the reason, he said, was that Israel is seeking to persuade the Palestinians to drop their initiative to win UN recognition of their state next month….”

As for AFP (Agence France-Presse), its report has an Israeli official saying that “Israel has been working with Washington and members of the international peace-making Quartet [the U.S., UN, EU, and Russia] to draw up a new framework that could relaunch stalled talks.…” This official…tells AFP that…“The formulation is something like: the goal for the talks is two states for two people and [the Palestinians] recognizing Israel as a Jewish state.”

Britain’s Daily Telegraph claims it, too, has been tipped off, trumpeting that “the Israeli prime minister has bowed to U.S. pressure by agreeing for the first time that a Palestinian state should roughly follow the contours of the 1967 ceasefire lines separating the West Bank from Israel.…”

The first two reports also quote Palestinian reactions to the alleged major Israeli concession; to put it mildly, they don’t sound impressed. AP narrates that “Palestinian officials said they had not received such a proposal from Israel”—that is, to drop their UN initiative in return for Israel adopting different language on borders.… Palestinian officials said Monday they plan to begin mass marches against Israel’s “occupation” of the West Bank on Sept. 20, the eve of the UN vote.… AFP quotes Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat urging Netanyahu to “announce his position in front of the world and the international media”…[while] dismissing the reports as a PR exercise.

Indeed, the Jerusalem Post reports Netanyahu as having “expressed pessimism” to the Israeli cabinet “about returning to talks with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, saying he seems to be determined to bring Palestinian statehood recognition to a UN vote in September.” Hence, Netanyahu said, Israel was “working to ensure a US veto in the UN Security Council.…”

[This] statement should put all of the above in perspective.

In other words, while the U.S. administration has expressed opposition to the Palestinian push to get a state declared unilaterally at the UN, and while it has been speculated or even assumed that the U.S. would veto such a proposal in the Security Council, the U.S. has never come out and confirmed this.

Such ongoing reluctance regarding a veto should surprise no one. When last February the Obama administration vetoed a Palestinian-inspired Security Council resolution to declare all Israeli communities in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) and parts of Jerusalem “illegal,” UN Ambassador Susan Rice compensated the Palestinians by tarring all such communities as “illegitimate,” deploying some of the harshest and most abusive language against Israel ever used by the U.S.

The result, then, is that Israel is still in limbo and under a lot of pressure, leading it to signal a certain—though not total, and hedged with important conditions—capitulation to Obama.

Who, for his part, appears to remain stuck in his grim obsession with Palestinian statehood despite the Palestinians’: continuing systematic anti-Israeli incitement and glorification of terrorism; contemptuous refusal, now extending over two years, to negotiate with Israel; staunch negation of its right to exist as a Jewish state; and not-so-veiled threats of further violence.…


Seth Mandel

Contentions, August 2, 2011


The Associated Press touched off a round of Knesset-ology yesterday when it reported, based on an Israeli TV report, Benjamin Netanyahu “has agreed to negotiate the borders of a Palestinian state based on the cease-fire line that marks off the West Bank.” The story termed this a “dramatic policy shift.”

Was Netanyahu now capitulating to President Obama’s declaration that negotiations start at the 1949 armistice lines? Did something change? Unfortunately, the subsequent articles in the Israeli and American press weren’t much help. Both sides are being vague about what it actually means, but it’s all based on one question: whether the 1949 armistice lines (also referred to as the 1967 lines) should be treated as though they constitute an international border. Curiously, however, we were given a reminder this week of an actual international border where U.S. assets have been attacked and its clear boundary recognition ignored. Yet the president, far from giving a national speech hectoring the leader of that country (as he did to Netanyahu) seems unmoved.

Last week, Eli Lake reported U.S. intelligence officials have confirmed a previous claim by Georgia that a bomb blast at the American embassy in Tbilisi last year was carried out by the Russian military. “It is written without hedges, and it confirms the Georgian account,” an American official told Lake.

In a follow-up, Lake reported the Russian intelligence (GRU) officer suspected, Maj. Yevgeny Borisov, remains at his post in the Georgian province of Abkhazia—a clear swipe at American officials’ concern.… Normally, intelligence officers who are exposed by another government are recalled home and their careers are cut short.”

In today’s edition of the New York Times, Ellen Barry received a response from Russia’s foreign ministry to Friday’s Senate resolution describing Abkhazia and South Ossetia as “occupied by the Russian Federation.” The statement was utterly dismissive of the U.S. government’s right to declare borders in Russia/Georgia: “The statement of the American senators about this testifies either to illiteracy of international law, or else complete disregard for the real facts.…”

The Russian line is since it declared South Ossetia and Abkhazia to be its possession, the matter is solved. The U.S. has not fought the Russians on this, because we’re trying to get their cooperation on other matters. It is interesting to see—whether or not you agree with the president’s position on either issue—the difference in the way the administration practices statecraft with regard to Russia and Israel.

Russia invaded another country’s sovereign territory, crossing international borders and refusing to give up their claim to land inside Georgia. Our response is not to challenge them on it. Israel, however, is quite clearly our ally with whom we have a great relationship that benefits our national interests in the Middle East. The White House’s response is to browbeat Netanyahu into recognizing lines that are explicitly not international borders to bring him in line with the president’s disregard for Israelis living on the other side. It’s quite a contrast.


Efraim Karsh & Asaf Romirowsky

Wall Street Journal, August 5, 2011


As September approaches, many are waiting with bated breath to learn if Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will deliver on his threat to unilaterally declare an independent Palestinian state and seek recognition of it through the U.N. But in putting the Palestinian demand for statehood to a vote, Abbas will end up subverting the international organization’s longstanding solution to the Arab Israeli-conflict—U.N. Security Council Resolution 242—with unpredictable results.

Passed in the wake of the 1967 Six Day War, resolution 242 established the principle of “land for peace” as the cornerstone of future peace agreements between Israel and the Arabs, to be reached in negotiations between the two sides. Israel was asked to withdraw “from territories occupied in the recent conflict”—the Sinai Peninsula, the Golan Heights, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip.

The absence of the definite article “the” before “territories” was no accident: Issued a mere six months after Israel’s astounding triumph over the concerted Arab attempt to obliterate the Jewish state, the resolution reflected acceptance by the Security Council of the existential threat posed by the 1949 armistice line, memorably described by Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban as “Auschwitz borders.” The Security Council expected negotiations between Israel and the Arabs to produce a more defensible frontier for Israel, one consistent with, in the words of the resolution’s other key formulation, the right of every state in the region “to live in peace with secure and recognized boundaries.”

In the 44 years that have followed, Israel has persistently striven to make peace with its Arab neighbors. It withdrew from the Sinai Peninsula, constituting more than 90% of the territories occupied in 1967, as part of its 1979 peace agreement with Egypt. Repeated efforts to persuade Syrian President Hafez Assad to follow in Egypt’s footsteps came to naught, however.

As for the Palestinians, their rejection of resolution 242 was absolute. In 1967, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) rejected the U.N. proposal as a plot “concocted in the corridors of the United Nations to accord [with] the Zionist racist colonial illegal occupation in Palestine,” acceptance of which constituted “a treasonable act not only against the Palestinian people but against the whole Arab nation.” When the Carter administration informed Arafat of its readiness to inaugurate Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, should he accept resolution 242, the PLO chairman categorically turned the offer down. “This is a lousy deal,” he told an intermediary. “We want Palestine. We don’t want bits of Palestine.”

It was not until 1988, more than two decades after the resolution’s passage, that the Palestine National Congress grudgingly accepted resolution 242. While this marked a major shift in PLO public diplomacy, Arafat remained committed to the PLO’s phased strategy of June 1974, which stipulated that any territory gained through diplomacy would merely be a springboard for the “complete liberation of Palestine.” Shortly after the PLO accepted 242, Arafat’s second in command, Salah Khalaf (better known by his nom de guerre of Abu Iyad), declared that “the establishment of a Palestinian state on any part of Palestine is but a step toward the whole of Palestine.” Two years later, he reiterated this view at a public rally in Amman, pledging to liberate Palestine “inch by inch from the [Mediterranean] sea to the [Jordan] river.”

Arafat remained committed to the PLO’s phased strategy even after signing the 1993 Oslo Accords. Five days before the signing, he told an Israeli journalist that one day there would be a “united state in which Israelis and Palestinians will live together”—that is, Israel would cease to exist. Even as he shook Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s hand on the White House lawn, Arafat was assuring the Palestinians in a pre-recorded Arabic-language message that the agreement was merely an implementation of the PLO’s phased strategy.

The public diplomacy of Arafat and his successor, Mahmoud Abbas, also ran contrary to the letter and spirit of 242. The Palestinians have consistently misrepresented the resolution as calling for Israel’s complete withdrawal to the pre-June 1967 lines, while claiming that its stipulation for “a just settlement of the refugee problem” meant endorsement of the Palestinian “right of return”—the standard Arab euphemism for Israel’s destruction through demographic subversion. They also sought to undermine the resolution’s insistence on the need for a negotiated settlement, seeking time and again to engineer an internationally imposed dictate despite their commitment to a negotiated settlement through the Oslo process.

When Israel offered at the American-convened July 2000 peace summit in Camp David to cede virtually the entire territory of the West Bank and Gaza Strip to the nascent Palestinian state and made concessions with respect to Jerusalem, Arafat responded with a campaign of terror unmatched in the history of the Jewish state. Seven-and-a-half years later, at yet another U.S.-sponsored summit, Mr. Abbas rejected Israel’s offer of a Palestinian Arab state in 97% of the West Bank and all of Gaza, and categorically dismissed the request to recognize Israel as a Jewish state alongside the would-be Palestinian state, insisting instead on full implementation of the “right of return.”

Since the inauguration of the Obama administration, Mr. Abbas has dropped all remaining pretenses of seeking a negotiated settlement, striving instead to engineer international enforcement of a complete Israeli withdrawal without a peace agreement, or, indeed, any quid pro quo. Were the U.N. General Assembly to fall for the Palestinian ploy, it will not only reward decades of duplicity, intransigence, and violence and betray its own formula of “land for peace,” but will be introducing a new and dangerous stage in the century-long feud between Arabs and Jews: that of “land for war.”

(Mr. Karsh is director of the Middle East Forum [Philadelphia] and professor of Middle East and Mediterranean Studies at King’s College London. Mr. Romirowsky is adjunct scholar at the Middle East Forum and a doctoral student at King’s College London.)






Jerold S. Auerbach
Jerusalem Post, June 20, 2011


Israel is confronting increasingly virulent worldwide challenges to its legitimacy.

An expanding chorus of politicians, journalists and academics relentlessly denounces the Jewish state as a racist, apartheid abomination. The resemblance between their shrill diatribes and the rhetoric of anti-Semitism during the past 2,000 years is not coincidental.

Few people remember that the Jewish state was born amid its own domestic legitimacy crisis. Its echoes still reverberate through the country, and may yet determine its future. In June 1948, six weeks after declaring independence, Israel confronted internal conflict that raised the specter of civil war. Surrounded by invading Arab armies, the fledgling Jewish state seemed on the verge of reenacting the first-century tragedy of fratricide that terminated Jewish national sovereignty for nearly two millennia.

To prime minister David Ben-Gurion, the arrival of the Altalena—a ship that sailed from France with desperately needed munitions and fighters—was the spearhead of a right-wing putsch to overthrow the government. Alleging a menacing challenge to the state and to his own authority, Ben-Gurion seized the opportunity to quash his detested right-wing political opposition, led by Menachem Begin.

His order to destroy the ship ignited a two-day battle in which 19 Jews were killed by their Jewish “brothers.”

The Altalena remains a sorrowful reminder that groundless hatred—condemned in Judaism ever since the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE—tormented the Jewish people even at their wondrous moment of national rebirth.

In recent years, that doomed pariah ship has occasionally resurfaced from buried memory to roil Israeli politics. On the Left, Israelis still claim that Begin’s Irgun got what it deserved for daring to challenge the authority of the state. For those on the Right, however, Ben-Gurion acted with ruthless determination to delegitimize, if not destroy, his despised political opposition.

Israel’s internal legitimacy problem focuses on Jewish settlers in the West Bank, biblical Judea and Samaria. Some rabbinical authorities have justified military disobedience in response to settlement evacuation orders from the government—citing the precedent of conscience-stricken soldiers who disobeyed orders to fire on Altalena fighters.

Some religious soldiers have been discharged or jailed even for expressing opposition to settler expulsion. Others (following the precedent set by thousands of secular Israelis who refused military service during the first Lebanon war) have indicated their unwillingness to participate. It seems inconceivable that Israeli soldiers would—ever again—shoot fellow Jews. But the Altalena precedent hovers over the Jewish state as a perennial reminder of the tragic possibility of internecine violence.

The current crusade to delegitimize Israel as a racist, apartheid state occupying someone else’s land has become an international obsession. Pressure from the United Nations (and the Obama administration) to offer “land for peace” is unlikely to relent. Even Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, during his recent Washington visit, indicated his willingness to relinquish settlements (and remove settlers) outside the larger “blocs” closest to Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

Should that happen, Israelis may confront yet again the wrenching choices of 1948: When must political decisions and military orders be obeyed? When is disobedience justified? Who decides? Secular and religious Israelis have been unable to agree upon terms of Zionist unity that will finally resolve their enduring struggle over internal legitimacy. Any attempt by their government to expel tens of thousands of Jews from their homes, effectively undermining religious Zionism by eradicating its geographical base, could be catastrophic.

It might even provoke a confrontation that would make the battle over the Altalena, which erupted 63 years ago on June 21, seem like a minor historical blip. In Israel, once again, Jews could become brothers at war.

(The writer is the author of Brothers at War: Israel and the Tragedy of the Altalena.)


Michael Oren
Foreign Policy, June 6, 2011


“We shall destroy Israel and its inhabitants,” declared Palestine Liberation Organization leader Ahmad al-Shuqayri. “As for the survivors—if there are any—the boats are ready to deport them.” A half-million Arab soldiers and more than 5,000 tanks converged on Israel from every direction, including the West Bank, then part of Jordan. Their plans called for obliterating Israel’s army, conquering the country, and killing large numbers of civilians. Iraqi President Abdul Rahman Arif said the Arab goal was to wipe Israel off the map: “We shall, God willing, meet in Tel Aviv and Haifa.”

This was the fate awaiting Israel on June 4, 1967. Many Israelis feverishly dug trenches and filled sandbags, while others secretly dug 10,000 graves for the presumed victims. Some 14,000 hospital beds were arranged and gas masks distributed to the civilian population. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) prepared to launch a pre-emptive strike to neutralize Egypt, the most powerful Arab state, but the threat of invasion by other Arab armies remained.

Israel’s borders at the time were demarcated by the armistice lines established at the end of Israel’s war of independence 18 years earlier. These lines left Israel a mere 9 miles wide at its most populous area. Israelis faced mountains to the east and the sea to their backs and, in West Jerusalem, were virtually surrounded by hostile forces. In 1948, Arab troops nearly cut the country in half at its narrow waist and laid siege to Jerusalem, depriving 100,000 Jews of food and water.

The Arabs readied to strike—but Israel did not wait. “We will suffer many losses, but we have no other choice,” explained IDF Chief of Staff Yitzhak Rabin. The next morning, on June 5, Israeli jets and tanks launched a surprise attack against Egypt, destroying 204 of its planes in the first half-hour. By the end of the first morning of fighting, the Israeli Air Force had destroyed 286 of Egypt’s 420 combat aircraft, 13 air bases, and 23 radar stations and anti-aircraft sites. It was the most successful single operation in aerial military history.

But, as feared, other Arab forces attacked. Enemy planes struck Israeli cities along the narrow waist, including Hadera, Netanya, Kfar Saba, and the northern suburbs of Tel Aviv; and thousands of artillery shells fired from the West Bank pummeled greater Tel Aviv and West Jerusalem. Ground forces, meanwhile, moved to encircle Jerusalem’s Jewish neighborhoods as they did in 1948.

In six days, Israel repelled these incursions and established secure boundaries. It drove the Egyptians from the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula, and the Syrians, who had also opened fire, from the Golan Heights. Most significantly, Israel replaced the indefensible armistice lines by reuniting Jerusalem and capturing the West Bank from Jordan.

The Six-Day War furnished Israel with the territory and permanence necessary for achieving peace with Egypt and Jordan. It transformed Jerusalem from a divided backwater into a thriving capital, free for the first time to adherents of all faiths. It reconnected the Jewish people to our ancestral homeland in Judea and Samaria, inspiring many thousands to move there. But it also made us aware that another people—the Palestinians—inhabited that land and that we would have to share it.

As early as the summer of 1967, Israel proposed autonomy for the Palestinians in the West Bank and later, in 2000 and 2008, full statehood. Unfortunately, Palestinian leaders rejected these offers. In 2005, Israel uprooted all 8,000 of its citizens living in Gaza, giving the Palestinians the opportunity for self-determination. Instead, they turned Gaza into a Hamas-run terrorist state that has launched thousands of rockets into Israel. Now, the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank intends to unilaterally declare statehood at the United Nationswithout making peace. It has also united with Gaza’s Hamas regime, which demands Israel’s destruction.

In spite of the Palestinians’ record of rejection and violence, Israel remains committed to the vision of two states living side by side in peace.… [But] we need defensible borders to ensure that Israel will never again pose an attractive target for attack.

For this reason, Israel appreciates U.S. President Barack Obama’s opposition to unilaterally declared Palestinian statehood and negotiations with Hamas, which refuses to recognize Israel, uphold previous peace agreements, and disavow terrorism. Similarly, we support the president’s call for the nonmilitarization of any future Palestinian state that must be capable of assuming “security responsibility.” In his recent address to a joint meeting of the U.S. Congress, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu affirmed the president’s statement that the negotiated border will be “different than the one that existed on June 4, 1967.”

Forty-four years after Arab forces sought to exploit the vulnerable armistice lines, it remains clear that Israel cannot return to those lines. And 44 years after the United Nations, through Resolution 242, indicated that Israel would not have to forfeit all of the captured territories and must achieve “secure and recognized boundaries,” the unsecure and unrecognized armistice lines must not be revived. Israel’s insistence on defensible borders is a prerequisite for peace and a safeguard against a return to the Arab illusions and Israeli fears of June 1967.


Charles E. Shepard

Jerusalem Post, July 6, 2011


This week marks the 35th anniversary of the operation
to rescue hijacked Air France passengers in which the heroic commander was killed.

Yoni Netanyahu was only a flash in Harvard’s pan, an undergraduate for a year and a summer, a hard working student living off campus, remembered by only a handful of people in Cambridge. But for those few, Netanyahu—the sole Israeli commando to die in the July 4 assault on the airport in Entebbe, Uganda—was a man worthy of profound admiration, an extremely intelligent person who, in the words of his one-time adviser, had a “truly unique sense of dedication that you just don’t find in people very often, regardless of their age.”

Netanyahu’s Harvard friends, like Seamus P. Malin ‘62, his adviser in 1967-68 and the current director of financial aid, are wary that their eulogies be mistaken for run-of-the-mill posthumous praise, and they offer eerily similar descriptions of Netanyahu’s extraordinary qualities.

“This place does attract some pretty unusual individuals,” Malin says, “so it is not therefore a big deal to say you’ve come across somebody who is going to be a future senator or a bigwig in national or international life. But there are few people that you do meet whom you genuinely feel add to you as a person and really make being here and being associated with them in some way a fuller development of your own life.”

In that sense, Malin adds, Netanyahu’s death left an “emptiness because he was a person who lived a kind of exemplary personal life, without being schmaltzy about it, that made you kind of feel warm when you were with him. A conversation with him always made you think about your own life in a way you wouldn’t have thought about it if he hadn’t popped in to see you.…”

Although born in New York in 1946, Netanyahu was raised from age two on in Israel, and his close friends remember him as “Yoni,” a nickname derived from the Hebrew equivalent of his first name.

In the early 1960s Netanyahu returned to the United States as his Polish-born father, a Judaic studies scholar who now heads Cornell’s department of Semitic languages and literature, took a teaching position at Dropsie College in Philadelphia. But after graduating from a high school outside the city in 1964, Netanyahu returned to Israel and entered the Israeli armed forces as a paratrooper.

But Netanyahu had not decided to become an Israeli career officer. To the contrary, according to one of his closest friends at Harvard, Elliot Z. Entis ‘67, Netanyahu wanted very much to be a physicist before he came to Harvard… Netanyahu applied here, perhaps because of the presence of Entis, whom he had befriended at camp in New Hampshire during high school. Harvard accepted him enthusiastically; Kaufmann, who worked as an assistant director of admissions in 1967, describes Netanyahu as an “incredibly strong” candidate with a similarly impressive record and set of recommendations.

Netanyahu’s smooth transition from solider to academic was destroyed by the June 1967 Six Day War, an experience that “changed Yoni incredibly,” Entis says… Seeing many of his friends die set off a process of inner turmoil that ultimately would lead Netanyahu—who was himself seriously wounded in the left elbow during the fighting—to leave Harvard, to become a career officer, to “resolve that what he believed in he would have to live by,” as Entis says.…

What sticks in everyone’s mind is Netanyahu’s overwhelming concern for Israel. Repeatedly, when he dropped in to chat with Malin, Netanyahu would say, “I just shouldn’t be here. This is a luxury. I should be at home. I should be defending my country.” Thus Malin was not surprised in the spring of 1968 when Netanyahu dropped in to announce his plans to return, explaining that “Harvard is a wonderful place to be, but I just can’t justify being here.…” That fall, Netanyahu enrolled at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, but soon he was back in the army.…

On February 1, 1969, I volunteered for renewed service in the army, and I have stayed in it ever since. During this period my rank was raised from first lieutenant to captain, and will be raised again to that of major on April 1 of this year. I am presently serving as a commander of a highly selective unit in the paratroopers.”

Entis visited Netanyahu in Israel in 1972 and found that he was largely unchanged. But the job had taken its toll; while Netanyahu had managed to avoid serious injury in his frequent antiterrorist activity, his wife, Tooti, was soon to leave him. “It was really a question of a man’s job getting in the way of his marriage,” Entis says.…

Despite his return to Israel and uncommonly rapid rise in the military rank, Netanyahu never abandoned his hopes to return to Harvard. Repeatedly he wrote the College to check the procedures for re-entry, never completely accepting his friends’ assurances that he would be welcome back any time. Finally, in January, 1973, Netanyahu informed Harvard that he planned to resume his studies immediately after freeing himself from active duty the upcoming June.

[In 1973, Netanyahu] return[ed to Harvard], enrolling in three half-courses—one over the conventional load. But, for reasons unknown, Netanyahu decided in August that he would not return in the fall. Less than two months later the October war erupted, again compelling Netanyahu to postpone his Harvard education.…

“The October War wasn’t the first war I went though, though it was certainly the hardest and most bitter. I came out of this round all in one piece (this time) though I lost many good and dear friends. Things aren’t quite the same as they were before… I still look forward to returning to Harvard sometime in the future, when things quiet down here.…”

Yoni Netanyahu loved math, and half his freshman year courses were in the natural sciences—Math 1a and 1b and Physics 1b and 12a. But…there was not much he could do with math as a 30- year-old army officer. So Netanyahu hoped to concentrate on international relations when he returned.…

Signs of this shift were apparent in his studies in the summer of 1973. Netanyahu’s three courses were all in Government—a survey of the history of political theory from Machiavelli to Marx, a conference course with Karl W. Deutsch, Stanfield Professor of International Peace, and a study of governments of the Middle East. Netanyahu’s grades—two A-’s and one A—were apparently typical of his performance at Harvard. Entis, like Netanyahu’s other friends at Harvard, stresses that the Israeli was brilliant, an “incredibly good” chess player who intellectually “was a constant surprise.…”

Netanyahu’s Harvard friends knew that he often spearheaded Israeli operations against Palestinian guerillas, and when they heard of such commando raids they usually thought of the short, stocky, thin-faced, steely-eyed Netanyahu, who, Malin says, “really looked the part of a guy you don’t mess around with.” But oddly enough…when those friends read about the raid that freed over 100 hostages being held by Palestinian sympathizers, their minds focused on the liberated, not the liberators.

Entis, who now works in a District of Columbia management consulting firm, didn’t consider that Netanyahu might have been involved until he saw his friend’s name on the front page of The Washington Post, news that “hit me right between the eyes.” But Entis’s reaction—like that of Netanyahu’s other friends who eulogized him last week—didn’t stop with tears. Entis’s devotion to his work in business is far weaker than Netanyahu’s was to Israel, and his friend’s death moved him to scrutinize his own life. “One of the problems in America is that we are a nation of relatively uncommitted people. Yoni had an ideal, and when he died, it made you think about your own life,” Entis explains. “It’s also a question of relative values. Yoni was willing quite literally to put his life on the line. That’s quite unusual. And there are even fewer people who derive that devotion internally.”





Ben Smith

Politico, June 29, 2011


David Ainsman really began to get worried about President Barack Obama’s standing with his fellow Jewish Democrats when a recent dinner with his wife and two other couples—all Obama voters in 2008—nearly turned into a screaming match.

Ainsman, a prominent Democratic lawyer and Pittsburgh Jewish community leader, was trying to explain that Obama had just been offering Israel a bit of “tough love” in his May 19 speech on the Arab Spring. His friends disagreed—to say the least. One said he had the sense that Obama “took the opportunity to throw Israel under the bus.” Another…admitted he’d lost faith in the president.

If several dozen interviews…are any indication, a similar conversation is taking place in Jewish communities across the country. Obama’s speech last month seems to have crystallized the doubts many pro-Israel Democrats had about Obama in 2008 in a way that could, on the margins, cost the president votes and money in 2012 and will not be easy to repair.…

The immediate controversy sparked by the speech was Obama’s statement that Israel should embrace the country’s 1967 borders, with “land swaps,” as a basis for peace talks. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seized on the first half of that phrase and the threat of a return to what Israelis sometimes refer to as “Auschwitz borders.” Obama’s Jewish allies stressed the second half: that land swaps would—as American negotiators have long contemplated—give Israel security in its narrow middle, and the deal would give the country international legitimacy and normalcy.

But the noisy fray after the speech mirrored any number of smaller controversies. Politically hawkish Jews and groups such as the Republican Jewish Coalition and the Emergency Committee for Israel pounded Obama in news releases. White House surrogates and staffers defended him, as did the plentiful American Jews who have long wanted the White House to lean harder on Israel’s conservative government.

Based on [numerous] conversations, it’s hard to resist the conclusion that some kind of tipping point has been reached.

Most of those interviewed were center-left American Jews and Obama supporters—and many of them Democratic donors. On some core issues involving Israel, they’re well to the left of Netanyahu and many Americans: They refer to the “West Bank,” not to “Judea and Samaria,” fervently supported the Oslo peace process and Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from Gaza and believe in the urgency of creating a Palestinian state.

But they are also fearful for Israel at a moment of turmoil in a hostile region when the moderate Palestinian Authority is joining forces with the militantly anti-Israel Hamas.… Some of these traditional Democrats now say, to their own astonishment, that they’ll consider voting for a Republican in 2012. And many of those who continue to support Obama said they find themselves constantly on the defensive in conversations with friends.…

The qualms that many Jewish Democrats express about Obama date back to his emergence onto the national scene in 2007. Though he had warm relations with Chicago’s Jewish community, he had also been friends with leading Palestinian activists, unusual in the Democratic establishment. And though he seemed to be trying to take a conventionally pro-Israel stand, he was a novice at the complicated politics of the America-Israel relationship, and his sheer inexperience showed at times.

At the 2007 AIPAC Policy Conference, Obama professed his love for Israel but then seemed—to some who were there for his informal talk—to betray a kind of naivete about the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians: “The biggest enemy” he said, using the same rhetoric he applied to American politics, was “not just terrorists, it’s not just Hezbollah, it’s not just Hamas—it’s also cynicism.”

At the next year’s AIPAC conference, he again botched the conflict’s code, committing himself to an “undivided Jerusalem” and then walking it back the next day.

Those doubts and gaffes lingered, even for many of the majority who supported him.

“There’s an inclination in the community to not trust this president’s gut feel on Israel and every time he sets out on a path that’s troubling you do get this ‘ouch’ reaction from the Jewish Community because they’re distrustful of him,” said the president of a major national Jewish organization, who declined to be quoted by name to avoid endangering his ties to the White House.

Many of Obama’s supporters, then and now, said they were unworried about the political allegiance of Jewish voters. Every four years, they say, Republicans claim to be making inroads with American Jews, and every four years, voters and donors go overwhelmingly for the Democrats, voting on a range of issues that include, but aren’t limited to Israel.…

That, perhaps, is the crux of the political question: Pro-Israel Jewish voters and activists…are largely die-hard Democrats, few of whom have ever cast a vote for a Republican to be president. Does the new wave of Jewish angst matter?…


John Podhoretz
Contentions, July 5, 2011


The talk of the Jewish world today is that Gallup has found no significant change in the president’s popularity among Jews after the controversies of the past few months. Gallup measures his approval at 60 percent, statistically unchanged from the 64 percent previously measured—but significantly changed from the 80 percent he registered a few months into 2009. So an argument is raging about what this means—an argument that largely misses the point about the nature of the difficulty between Obama and the Jewish community. For those Jews whose support for the president was going to be affected by his behavior toward Israel, the damage was pretty much done last year. In one sense, then, what the president’s behavior this year has done is to make it unlikely his popularity among Jews will rise again to the levels it once enjoyed. So by continuing to behave in a manner many of us perceive as hostile, he has solidified some opposition among those who were enthusiastic about him in 2008.…

This doesn’t mean Jews won’t vote for him again, and in landslide numbers, in 2012—especially if the Republicans put up someone Jews decide to despise. But which Jews vote or don’t vote for Obama doesn’t matter all that much except when it comes to conversations around the seder table.

Where it matters—where Obama’s team is clearly worried and where it is seeking to come up with counterarguments to give to surrogates—is money. It’s one thing to cast a single vote as the member of a small minority community to which outsized attention is paid. But Jews are uncommonly generous givers, both philanthropically and politically, and while they might still cast a vote for Obama, they might give him nothing. Or half what they gave him in 2008. And that decline in enthusiasm might be reflected not only in giving to the reelection campaign, but to Democratic campaigns generally. That’s the real fear, and that’s the real problem for the Democrats. They have Jewish support at the ballot box. They can bank on that. They’re worried they won’t be able to bank on Jewish support in the other sense of the term, and that worry is very real, and very realistic, and can’t be argued away.



Jerusalem Post, July 5, 2011


Judging from voting trends during the past three decades, Democratic President Barack Obama can rest assured that he will receive a majority of Jewish votes in the 2012 presidential election. Even Ronald Reagan, who was the only modern Republican presidential candidate to seriously challenge Democrats’ dominance among Jews, mustered just 39 percent of the Jewish vote in the 1980 elections. Subsequent Republican candidates have received anywhere from 11% to 24% of the Jewish vote. In the last elections, John McCain received 22% to Obama’s 78%.

That said, a report by Ben Smith in Politico at the end of June, which has generated quite a bit of attention, claims to have located a possible “tipping point” in American Jewish opinion. Obama’s falling out with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, during the latter’s May visit to Washington, purportedly has forced more center-left Jews to reconsider their political loyalties ahead of next year’s presidential race.…

It might very well be an exaggeration, however, to claim that the US president is losing the Jewish vote over his policies vis-a-vis Israel. As JTA’s Washington bureau chief Ron Kampeas blogged recently, [American Jewish Committee] surveys in the past four years have shown that Israel has consistently ranked no more than fifth on American Jewish voters’ priority list. Ranking higher are domestic matters such as unemployment, house prices and health care, and international military conflicts in which US soldiers’ lives were under constant danger.

In addition, a recent Pew Research Center poll found that Americans in general (there was no breakdown for Jews) perceive the Obama administration to have a fundamentally positive approach to Israel. In a survey conducted just days after Obama’s May 19 State Department speech and his May 22 AIPAC address, 50% said the president was striking the right balance in the Middle East situation, while 21% said he favors the Palestinians too much.…

Regardless of the Pew poll results, however, there may have been a turn for the worse in the White House’s position on Israel, as Elliott Abrams, a senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Washington-based Council on Foreign Relations, argued in an interview with The Jerusalem Post’s Herb Keinon that appeared in Friday’s paper.

A prime example pointing to such a shift is Obama’s refusal to reaffirm former president George Bush’s 2004 letter, endorsed in overwhelming majorities in both houses of Congress. A central element in the letter was its rejection of the notion that any Israeli-Palestinian agreement would include a full and complete return to the 1949 armistice lines. Obama, in contrast, has insisted on using the 1949 borders as the basis for talks, with land swaps to compensate the Palestinians for territories beyond the armistice lines that remain under Israeli control. In essence, this means Israel will be forced, according to Abrams, to “give up sovereign Green Line territory to keep the Kotel,” a “ridiculous” demand that seriously weakens the Israeli negotiating position.

Another example given by Abrams is the Obama administration’s different approach to the United Nations. The Bush administration cast nine vetoes blocking anti-Israel resolutions in the Security Council over an eight-year span, out of a conviction that the UN is inherently biased against Israel. In contrast, the Obama administration “is desperate to avoid vetoes,” Abrams said.

Abrams also implied that until now Obama might have been constrained by domestic politics and that in a second term he might feel freer to place more pressure on Israel. Perhaps this helps explain the Palestinians’ success in using their September statehood bid in the UN to put pressure on Israel.

Obama will undoubtedly continue to enjoy wide support among American Jewry. But it is a sobering thought…that this does not mean his Mideast policies will be good for Israel.


Daniel Greenfield

Daniel Greenfield Blog, July 5, 2011


Every election season brings another round of predictable essays about the Jewish vote. Variations of these essays have been going round and round for decades without getting anywhere. So let’s begin by demystifying the Jewish vote.

The Jewish vote is not a single entity. There is no monolithic Jewish vote, because there is no monolithic Jewish community. The Jewish community is small, but in its own way it is as complex and diverse as American Christians are. Which is to say that there’s a Jewish spectrum covering everything from Baptists to Unitarians. And politically everything from Rand to Marx.

Let’s begin by breaking down the Jewish vote into thirds as a way to get a larger overview of the picture on the ground.

The first third is conservative. They may be socially conservative, economically conservative or both. This covers everything from Hasidic Jews who are worried about moral decay to gay millionaires who are fans of Ayn Rand. It covers the Russian Jewish immigrant who is active in the Tea Party and the former liberal living in the suburbs who slowly finds herself drifting to the right. This group will vote Republican if there are available and viable candidates.…

The second third is liberal. This group ranges from hard core leftists to more mainstream liberals. It will rarely if ever vote for Republicans, unless they are of the Bloomberg type, and even then it will usually vote for the party’s choice. It is strongly socially liberal and for big government. It is somewhat liberal on foreign policy issues. Its positions on Israel vary from hard core antis to pro-peace and pro-security.

This is the progressive camp. Its influence significantly outweighs its numbers, because it includes a greater share of academics, media figures, writers, organization executives and other opinion leaders. When someone claiming to represent the Jewish community speaks out on an issue, it’s usually one of them. And rising to the top without being in this camp is difficult.

The final third is moderate or middle of the road. This group is squishy, it typically does not hold very strong political opinions. It usually follows the majority or whatever the conventional position seems to be. It believes that government should help people, but is less enthusiastic about many social issues. It is fairly pro-Israel, but believes that the Democrats and Republicans are both equally pro-Israel. But members of this group do sometimes begin to worry about radicals like Carter or Obama.…

When serious doubts are raised, then members of this group become the swing vote. The entire group never shifts, but percentages of it do.

This is just a rough snapshot. These numbers derive from a Jewish community in flux. Underneath this there are deeper demographic issues. For example the Jewish vote becomes more conservative out West, and more liberal back East.…

The Jewish population has been slowly drifting out of the central areas in New York and California to the suburbs and beyond. The Northeast now holds less than half of the Jewish population in America. The South and the West each host about a quarter. The Republican House Majority Leader is a Jewish man from Virginia. A geographical shift does not mean an immediate political shift, but politics are often contextual. The kind of voting that makes sense in New York City, does not always make sense in Arizona.

Then there’s immigration. The Jewish immigrants of the 1990’s and onward tend to be Russian or Middle-Eastern and conservative. Unlike the Russian and Eastern European immigrants of the 1890’s-1930’s who were fleeing right wing tyrannies, the 1990’s Russian and Eastern European immigrants were escaping totalitarian left-wing regimes. And that has given them a worldview closer to the Cubans. The Middle-Eastern immigrants also tend to be socially conservative, with a bias toward free enterprise.…

The biggest demographic factor however is religious. Following a general pattern in American religious life, the more conservative religious movements are marrying earlier and having more children. Among Jews that means a rising demographic trend for the orthodox, who are claiming a larger percentage of the 18-29 population. The trend is not as definitive as in the UK, where three out of every four Jewish births are orthodox, but it will still define the future.

How significant is this? In a 2011 survey, 67 percent of Orthodox Jews found the Tea Party “refreshing”. Some exit polls [after the 2008 U.S. election] placed the Jewish vote for Obama at 78 percent. But Orthodox polling showed that the 78 percent went the other way, with McCain polling at 78 to Obama’s 13.…

The Jewish vote will not change overnight, but its trajectory is slowly shifting. The American Jewish population in a generation will be more conservative, less urban and less tied to the dinosaur leftist organizations that have exerted a death grip on Jewish life. It will be a day when The Forward is gone, the ADL is history and the Federations have lost their Jewish identity and have merged with other charities into a non-denominational grouping.…

The Jewish vote will look more like the way it did before the full impact of Eastern European immigration altered the scales. Roughly divided between both parties. And the political clock will have been turned back to the early 20th century.





Baruch Cohen


In memory of the beloved Malca, z’’l

We must not forget Jonathan Pollard, nor must we keep silent!

Pollard’s genuine and only concern was the security of Israel, the most faithful and closest ally of the U.S.

U.S. security was not altered by Pollard’s activity. In 1985, the year of Pollard’s arrest, the U.S. defense intelligence establishment was suffering a wave of humiliations, as far more dangerous spies were uncovered in the intelligence community. None of the information given by Pollard jeopardized U.S. interests.

The Pollard case represents a test case for American justice. The Obama administration has an opportunity now to restore pride in America’s tradition of fair and open-minded after 25 years of injustice. Jonathan Pollard has served more than his time and deserves to be released!

Jewry in the U.S., in Israel, and all over the world must not rest until Pollard—who spied for an American ally, after all, not for an American enemy, and has served 25 years for his deeds. Enough is enough!

Justice must be done.

President Obama, and now is the moment to show that America remains capable of doing and can overcome bias and revenge!

We must not keep quiet! Do not be silent!

Free Pollard—Today!

(Baruch Cohen is Research Chairman at the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research.)


Jay Solomon

Wall Street Journal, June 17, 2011


The Obama administration and European governments are stepping up efforts to revive Arab-Israeli peace talks, saying they have little time to head off a Palestinian drive to seek a United Nations vote on statehood.

The White House [last] week dispatched its top Middle East negotiators, Dennis Ross and David Hale, to the region to try to gain Israeli and Palestinian agreement to resume negotiations based on parameters President Barack Obama laid out last month [i.e. utilizing Israel’s borders before the 1967 Six-Day War as the baseline for new talks].…

In recent days, Mr. Obama has sought to build public support for his position on the peace process, which has been strongly criticized by both Republicans and Democrats. On June 10, the White House’s senior director for the Middle East, Steven Simon, told Jewish-American leaders that the international community had roughly a month to convince Mr. Abbas to give up his campaign at the U.N.… Mr. Simon said the Palestinians appeared “forthcoming” in responding to Mr. Obama’s calls for a resumption of negotiations based on the 1967 lines, but that Israel needed more convincing.

Mr. Netanyahu has called Israel’s borders before the Six-Day War “indefensible” and criticized Mr. Obama’s position as a backtracking from previous U.S. commitments.…


Dore Gold

Weekly Standard, June 20, 2011


When President Barak Obama first made his controversial reference to the 1967 lines as the basis for future Israeli-Palestinian negotiations on May 19, 2011, he introduced one main caveat that stuck out: the idea that there would be “mutually agreed swaps” of land between the two sides. He added that both sides were entitled to “secure and recognized borders.” But the inclusion of land swaps also raised many questions.

Several months after Israel captured the West Bank and Gaza in the 1967 Six Day War, the U.N. Security Council defined the territorial terms of a future peace settlement in Resolution 242, which over the decades became the cornerstone for all Arab-Israeli diplomacy. At the time, the Soviets had tried to brand Israel as the aggressor in the war and force on it a full withdrawal, but Resolution 242 made clear that Israel was not expected to withdraw from all the territories that came into its possession, meaning that Israel was not required to withdraw from 100 percent of the West Bank.

Given this background, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin made clear in his last Knesset address in October 1995 that Israel would never withdraw to the 1967 lines. He stressed that Israel would have to retain control of the Jordan Valley, the great eastern, geographic barrier which provided for its security for decades since the Six Day War. He didn’t say a word about land swaps. For neither Resolution 242 nor any subsequent signed agreements with the Palestinians stipulated that Israel would have to pay for any West Bank land it would retain by handing over its own sovereign land in exchange.

So where did the idea of land swaps come from? During the mid-1990s there were multiple backchannel efforts to see if it was possible to reach a final agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. The Palestinians argued that when Israel signed a peace agreement with Egypt, it agreed to withdraw from 100 percent of the Sinai Peninsula. So they asked how could PLO chairman Yasser Arafat be given less than what Egyptian president Anwar Sadat received.

As a result, Israeli academics involved in these backchannel talks accepted the principle that the Palestinians would obtain 100 percent of the territory, just like the Egyptians, despite the language of Resolution 242, and they proposed giving Israeli land to the Palestinians as compensation for any West Bank land retained by Israel. This idea appeared in the 1995 Beilin-Abu Mazen paper, which was neither signed nor embraced by the Israeli or the Palestinian leaderships. Indeed, Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas) subsequently denied in May 1999 that any agreement of this sort existed.

There is a huge difference between Egypt and the Palestinians. Egypt was the first Arab state to make peace, and in recognition of that fact, Prime Minister Menachem Begin gave Sadat all of Sinai. Moreover, the Israeli-Egyptian border had been a recognized international boundary since the time of the Ottoman Empire. The pre-1967 Israeli boundary with the West Bank was not a real international boundary; it was only an armistice line demarcating where Arab armies had been stopped when they invaded the nascent state of Israel in 1948.

In July 2000 at the Camp David Summit, the Clinton administration raised the land swap idea that had been proposed by Israeli academics, but neither Camp David nor the subsequent negotiating effort at Taba succeeded. Israel’s foreign minister at the time, Shlomo Ben-Ami, admitted in an interview in Haaretz on September 14, 2001: “I’m not sure that the whole idea of a land swap is feasible.” In short, when the idea was actually tested in high-stakes negotiations, the land swap idea proved to be far more difficult to implement as the basis for a final agreement.

After the collapse of the Camp David talks, President Clinton tried to summarize Israeli and Palestinian positions and put forward a U.S. proposal that still featured the land swap. But to his credit, Clinton also stipulated: “These are my ideas. If they are not accepted, they are off the table, they go with me when I leave office.” The Clinton team informed the incoming Bush administration about this point. Notably, land swaps were not part of the 2003 Roadmap for Peace or in the April 14, 2004 letter from President Bush to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

It was Prime Minister Ehud Olmert who resurrected the land swap idea in 2008 as part of newly proposed Israeli concessions that went even further than Israel’s positions at Camp David and Taba. It came up in these years in other Israeli-Palestinian contacts, as well. But Mahmoud Abbas was only willing to talk about a land swap based on 1.9 percent of the territory, which related to the size of the areas of Jewish settlement, but which did not even touch on Israel’s security needs. So the land swap idea still proved to be unworkable.

Writing in Haaretz on May 29, 2011, Prof. Gideon Biger, from Tel Aviv University’s department of geography, warned that Israel cannot agree to a land swap greater than the equivalent of 2.5 percent of the territories since Israel does not have vast areas of empty land which can be transferred. Any land swap of greater size would involve areas of vital Israeli civilian and military infrastructure.

Furthermore, in the summaries of the past negotiations with Prime Minister Olmert, the Palestinians noted that they would be demanding land swaps of “comparable value”—meaning, they would not accept some remote sand dunes in exchange for high quality land near the center of Israel. In short, given the limitations on the quantity and quality of territory that Israel could conceivably offer, the land swap idea was emerging as impractical.

In Jerusalem, the old pre-1967 armistice line placed the Western Wall, the Mount of Olives, and the Old City as a whole on the Arab side of the border. From 1948 to 1967, Jews were denied access to their holy sites; some 55 synagogues and study halls were systematically destroyed, while the Old City was ethnically cleansed of all its Jewish residents. If land swaps have to be “mutually agreed” does that give the Palestinians a veto over Israeli claims beyond the 1967 line in the Old City, like the Western Wall?

The land swap question points to a deeper dilemma in U.S.-Israel relations. What is the standing of ideas from failed negotiations in the past that appear in the diplomatic record? President Obama told AIPAC on May 22 that the 1967 lines with land swaps “has long been the basis for discussions among the parties, including previous U.S. administrations.” Just because an idea was discussed in the past, does that make it part of the diplomatic agenda in the future, even if the idea was never part of any legally binding, signed agreements?

In October 1986, President Ronald Reagan met with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in Reykjavik, Iceland, and made a radical proposal that both superpowers eliminate all of their ballistic missiles, in order to focus their energies on developing missile defenses alone. The idea didn’t work, Reagan’s proposal was not accepted, and the arms control negotiations took a totally different direction. But what if today Russian president Dmitry Medvedev asked President Obama to implement Reagan’s proposals? Would the U.S. have any obligation to diplomatic ideas that did not lead to a finalized treaty?

Fortunately, there are other points in President Obama’s recent remarks about Israeli-Palestinian negotiations that can take the parties away from the 1967 lines and assuage the Israeli side. At AIPAC, the president spoke about “the new demographic realities on the ground” which appears to take into account the large settlement blocs that Israel will eventually incorporate. Using the language of Resolution 242, Obama referred to “secure and recognized borders,” and added: “Israel must be able to defend itself—by itself—against any threat.”

However, for Israelis, mentioning the 1967 lines without these qualifications brings back memories of an Israel that was 8 miles wide, and a time when its vulnerability turned it into a repeated target of hegemonial powers of the Middle East, that made its destruction their principle cause. Sure, Israel won the Six Day War from the 1967 lines, but it had to resort to a preemptive strike as four armies converged on its borders. No Israeli would like to live with such a short fuse again. The alternative to the 1967 lines are defensible borders, which must emerge if a viable peace is to be reached.

(Dore Gold, a former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations,
is president of the
Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.)


Stewart Weiss

Jerusalem Magazine, June 17, 2011


To be a Jew is to have a long and accurate memory. While we hold that to forgive is a sacred obligation—a mitzva, even—it can be downright fatal to forget.

When Barack Obama was first running for president, a friend of mine called and urged me to support him, both in person and in print. Now, this friend knew that for some odd reason, I do not have that all-too-common American Jewish malady of automatically voting for every Democrat on the ticket, regardless of his policies or personality. He knew that I tended to side with the Republicans, whom I see as more sympathetic to my views on Israel’s security, the settlements and Jerusalem. But he tried to persuade me to change my vote with a potent argument.

“Do you see how isolated Israel is in the world today?” he argued. “Virtually no one takes our side anymore; not in the United Nations, the European Union, the world media or the universities. The name ‘Israel’ has become a pejorative curse-word across the globe. But Obama can change all of that. He has immense credibility in all the circles where Israel is defamed; he can promote Israel’s cause and change Israel’s negative image with his brilliant powers of persuasion. You can depend on him for that!”

I was almost convinced that Obama could be trusted to safeguard Israel. But today, almost three years later, when the Jewish state—by virtually all accounts—is infinitely more isolated and more maligned than ever before, I remember that conversation and realize just how foolish it would have been to place my faith in Obama. No, I cannot depend on the U.S. president, for he is a failed Messiah—at least as far as Israel is concerned.

Nor can I depend on any country in Europe, that other bastion of “enlightened” civilization. Not Germany, which swears it will safeguard us from another Holocaust, yet is one of Iran’s largest trading partners. And not England, which sold us out in 1948 and which, despite having a large and active Jewish community, is the seat of rabid anti-Israelism on the continent.…

The fact is, there are only two parties on which I can depend. One is God.… And the other is the Palestinians.

Yes, the Palestinians. Though they thoroughly, obsessively hate us—polls consistently show that a solid majority of Palestinians, at every level, want us violently thrown out of the region—they always come through and bail us out. Whenever we start to waver and seriously consider making far-ranging and dangerous concessions, whenever we wonder wistfully whether maybe just this once they really do want to make peace with us, they save us from disaster by showing their true colors. They hit us over the head with such blatant rejectionism that only the most gullible do-gooder would acknowledge them as serious partners.

When then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak was ready to make radical, dangerous concessions at Camp David in 2000, Arafat the intransigent saved us by refusing to take “yes” for an answer, shocking even Bill Clinton, who had hosted the PLO leader during his term of office more than any other foreign leader. And when, in 2008, the other Ehud, prime minister Olmert, unilaterally proposed sending Israel back to pre-’67 borders, it was the PA that got cold feet and backed away at the last moment.

And now, just at the moment when Obama has formulated his grandiose peace plan—based largely on still more Israeli concessions—the Palestinians shoot him down once more: by forging an unholy alliance with Hamas, partnering up with a Nazi-like ideology that makes crystal-clear its unending desire to wipe Israel off the face of the map; by the outrageous op-ed penned by Mahmoud Abbas in the New York Times—the “audacity of lies,” I call it—in which he attempts to rewrite the historical record in a fashion that would make even Paul Bunyan blush; and by utterly, completely rejecting [Binyamin] Netanyahu’s speech in Congress even before the applause had died down.

Is there any pie-in-the-sky, eternal optimist who would still enter into an agreement with liars and libelers such as these? Even Obama must have gnashed his teeth as the Palestinians screamed out loud and clear: No compromise, no conciliation, no concessions. “If only they could just keep their mouths shut and pretend to accept Israel,” he must have thought, “I could get the Israelis to buy into this fiasco.”

But, praise to God, the Palestinians rescued us once again. Like Pharaoh, who just couldn’t let our people go and so had that “sinking feeling” at the Red Sea, and like the Jordanians, who just couldn’t hold back from joining an already defeated Egyptian-Syrian axis in 1967 and so lost the Old City and the West Bank, the Palestinians simply cannot contain their deep-seated conviction that this land just ain’t big enough for the both of us. Thanks to you, Palestinians, for chasing away the illusions and letting us all see the truth.

(Mr. Weiss is director of the Jewish Outreach Center of Ra’anana.)


Seth Mandel

FrontPage, June 17, 2011


A year ago, veteran American Mideast negotiator Aaron David Miller wrote a much-talked about article for Foreign Policy (FP) magazine in which he disavowed any hope for the Arab-Israeli peace process. Called “The False Religion of Mideast Peace: And Why I’m No Longer a Believer,” the piece detailed his disillusionment with what began with the Clinton administration’s Mideast peacemaking, of which he was a participant, in the 1990s. The main casualty of the failure of the administration’s efforts throughout that decade, Miller had written, was hope. “And that has been the story line ever since: more process than peace.”

But that line, buried 3,000 words into the 5,000-word cover story, should have been featured more prominently. It’s the point. Because if there’s one thing that has been proven time and again in the course of Arab-Israeli negotiations, it’s that you cannot have both peace and the process; it’s one or the other.

Just in time for the first anniversary of the FP story, Miller has another one striking similar themes. The main difference this time is that Miller now exhorts President Obama to join him in hopelessness. Called “The Virtues of Folding,” Miller’s message is simple: give up—at least for now.

“Thirty months in, a self-styled transformative president with big ideas and ambitions as a peacemaker finds himself with no negotiations, no peace process, no relationship with an Israeli prime minister, no traction with Palestinians, and no strategy to achieve a breakthrough,” Miller writes.

To be sure, the process of which Miller was a part caused so much damage to the lives of Israeli Arabs and Jews that we should be perfectly content to let him retire without protest. But Miller has still—unbelievably—refused to learn the primary lesson from all his years of failure: the peace process was over before Miller ever got involved.

That doesn’t mean that neither side wants peace. Most Israelis have always wanted peace, and if the polls are accurate many Palestinians want peace as well. It’s the process that has always stood as the principal hindrance to peace. The process allows the Palestinian leadership to soak up foreign money. It allows the United Nations—via its Relief and Works Agency—to keep generations of Palestinian families mired in poverty by assigning them a nonsensical “refugee” status that encourages the Arab leaders of their country of residence—Syria, Lebanon, Jordan—to preserve their identities as second-class citizens. And it forces Israel to make tangible concessions in return for promises.

Contrary to popular mythology, the peace process didn’t begin with the Paris peace conference and the Oslo accords; that’s where it ended. Here is Yitzhak Rabin—the symbol of the peace process for many, especially on the left—speaking to the Knesset in 1992: “From this moment on, the concept of a ‘peace process’ is irrelevant. From now on we shall speak not of a ‘process’ but of making peace.”

This was echoed by Palestinian legislator and terrorist Leila Khaled (who once led a bungled attempt on Rabin’s life): “You know, it’s a process, but it’s not a peace process. It’s a political process where the balance of forces is for Israelis and not for us and they have all the cards to play with and the Palestinians have nothing to depend on, especially (when) the PLO is not united.… We are from the other side, against the whole process.”

Rabin’s quote perfectly encapsulated the Israeli position—we want real peace, not endless blathering, photo ops, and empty promises. And Khaled represented the Palestinian leadership’s preference for a process whose underlying goal was explicitly not peace.

Of course, the Palestinians got their way. Rabin couldn’t convince the rest of the world that the peace process had ended (not that he put in enough effort on that front). That makes the Palestinian threat to call for a vote at September’s UN General Assembly on Palestinian statehood so ironic. The vote is the Palestinian expression that they now believe the entire peace process has concluded—and any European country that votes for Palestinian statehood is expressing that same sentiment.

Every Western leader who has called for Israel to return to the negotiating table has done so using the same formulation: “Negotiations are the only way toward a comprehensive and lasting resolution to the conflict,” in the words of the joint statement from the G-8 countries. You either believe that or you don’t. A vote for Palestinian statehood at the UN is a public pronouncement that you don’t. In which case, I would expect that every country that votes for statehood understands they have forfeited their credibility on pressuring Israel to negotiate. The hectoring ends at Turtle Bay.

Those who support this ridiculous stunt at the UN are also acknowledging another aspect of the peace process: negotiations have always been a scam to pilfer what rightfully belongs to the Israelis. For example, through biblical history, modern history, 20th century history, and Israeli history, there is an unmatched Jewish national attachment and possession of Hebron. The Arabs of pre-state Israel massacred the town’s Jewish residents in 1929, and the world has been rewarding them for it ever since. Shechem is already under Arab control. The Palestinians have been negotiating with the purpose of establishing in the international community’s opinion some right to Jerusalem. They have succeeded in this with the Europeans, and Obama’s suggestion that the two sides start with the 1967 lines is the closest the Palestinians will likely ever get with the United States.

Therefore, the negotiating process has yielded all it can for the Palestinians, and the rest they will attempt to take—as they have indicated consistently throughout the years—by force. This is what is behind the UN statehood gambit. If this is the end of the peace process—again—it may be for real this time.





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Conrad Black

National Post, June 4, 2011


As befits a modest country unaccustomed to leading the world other than by homogenized measurements of the quality of life, Canada seems not to have noticed that Stephen Harper has kicked off his new term as head of a majority government with the assumption of the moral leadership of the world (in the usual unobtrusive Canadian way); and even more astoundingly, has done so by successfully contradicting the President of the United States.

Canadian prime ministers have only rarely publicly taken issue with American presidents, and never successfully. John Diefenbaker did a U-turn and refused nuclear warheads in Canada, but bought the American missiles that were supposed to deliver them anyway; John F. Kennedy quietly disdained the whole affair, and Mr. Diefenbaker was voted out as prime minister in 1963. Lester Pearson gave Lyndon Johnson his under-informed and unoriginal views on Vietnam in a convocation speech in Philadelphia, and LBJ conspicuously ignored him. Pierre Trudeau opposed Ronald Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative (which produced the Euro-missile Treaty and led to the end of the Cold War), and his inane pursuit of arms control was ignored by Reagan and every other leader in the world except…the subsequently overthrown and executed Romanian President Nicolae Ceaușescu, and the terminally forgettable head of the unlamented state of East Germany, Erich Honecker. Jean Chrétien dissented from the American invasion of Iraq, and was ignored by George W. Bush, and the operation proceeded.…

But at the G-8 meetings in Paris last month, Stephen Harper prevented the group’s approval of Barack Obama’s call for Arab-Israeli peace “on the basis of the 1967 borders.” It was an outright veto by Canada, standing up to the Americans, and in non-confrontational dissent to all the others, who were prepared to let this stale bromide pass yet again. Mr. Harper had done the same thing at a Francophonie Conference in 2006, but that was only France, which has been playing footsie with the Arabs ever since Charles de Gaulle departed Algeria in 1963, leaving the oil behind and importing the Islamic problem into France. By killing it in the G-8 (U.S., Germany, Japan, the U.K., France, Italy, and Russia), Stephen Harper became the moral leader of the world’s statesmen, as the first head of an important country to debunk the 1967 fraud upon which the Arab-Israeli crisis, the longest-running and most definitive moral litmus test in the geo-political world (and least successful extended negotiation in history) is based.…

The Arabs started and lost the 1967 War; and in wars, the status of aggressors and defenders, and of winners and losers, is not interchangeable. The pre-1967 borders were entirely accidental, and left Israel nine miles wide at its narrowest, and the Western Wall and Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem in Arab hands. They had no legitimacy and even the United Nations resolutions called for agreed and defensible borders, and a two-state solution. Israel has accepted a two-state solution and Palestine, its government comprised of both Hamas and Fatah, has not, and has shown no disposition to agree on borders, especially any that Israel could defend. It has been clear for decades that the pattern of international intervention in the Middle East has been to promote tangible and practically irrevocable concessions of land by Israel in exchange for insubstantial, easily and instantly revocable professions of reduced hostility, supposedly culminating in peaceful co-existence, from the Arabs. This is the problem of Land For Peace: Israel cedes the land but gets no closer to peace.

President Obama’s urging of the parties two weeks ago to “work it out” is a shabby euphemism for Israel to concede more land in exchange for more empty words in Arabic from the same entities that have yet to implement the Oslo obligation pledge of 1993 to acknowledge the right to exist of Israel as a Jewish state. That is what negotiations mean: preemptive, unilateral, ex gratia concessions by Israel, which is already the most legitimate country in the world, as Israel was created by unanimous vote of the United Nations Security Council permanent members, not merely admitted as a founding member or applicant. It is also the only one of the world’s 195 countries (including Taiwan, Palestine and the Vatican) under serious and constant threat of being eliminated as a country and exterminated as a population.

Also to be “worked out” under the Obama formula is the right of return, which is a euphemism for America abandoning its long commitment to Israel as a Jewish state while the Palestinians displaced from what is now Israel when that state was set up in 1947, may return in numbers to be negotiated, both to Israel, destabilizing it as a Jewish state, as well as to the Palestinian State to be established to accommodate them.

Those who oppose the existence of the State of Israel, for whatever motive, know that unless there is an unanswerable nuclear attack on Israel, which will not be possible even if Iran deploys deliverable nuclear weapons, given Israel’s retaliatory capability, Israel can be eliminated only by extracting gradual concessions. Keep bickering about settlements, while Palestine receives international recognition as an independent state; keep arguing about borders as the Palestinian population bulks up from returning alleged fugitives on both sides of the disputed and indefensible border; and never agree until the two states are one big, happy bi-sectarian and multi-cultural commonwealth. Then, absorb, enslave, expel, or massacre the Jews, yet again, as so often in their history, while the world sits in professedly righteous silence.

It might be that the world would be a quieter place without Israel. Europe, desperate for non-Muslim immigration, especially of skilled people, would probably admit the Jews, as would the countries of the Americas and the Antipodes, unlike the policy of most of the countries in these areas in the 1930s and 1940s, when half the world’s Jewish population was murdered, in what Mr. Churchill called “the long night of Nazi barbarism…made more sinister and more protracted by the lights of perverted science.” But it would be a collective capital crime on the soul and conscience of Western Civilization.

If what Obama, heir to the presidents who saved the Old World, sponsored Israel, and contained and defeated totalitarian communism, is advocating comes to pass, our civilization, morally, will die before, and less honourably, than that of the Jews, from which it came. And only Stephen Harper and the incumbent pope, among the world’s prominent current leaders, will have seriously dissented.

Whatever may come, Mr. Harper has brought great distinction on Canada, largely unrecognized, as proverbially happens among one’s countrymen, and upon himself.


Marvin Hier & Abraham Cooper
JTA, June 1, 2011


Pundits already are busy deciphering the performance of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his new foreign policy team at the just completed Group of Eight Summit in France. The G-8 meeting was convened amid pivotal crises ranging from global debt to human rights to nuclear energy safety, and how to nurture the complex Arab Spring impacting on 400 million people in the Middle East.

Canada is no injury-time substitute in this game. It has paid in blood and treasure in Afghanistan, is involved in the NATO campaign in Libya against Moammar Gadhafi and is a respected international aid donor.

So this time, what Harper had to say surely got a serious hearing from his peers, including President Obama, as nations as diverse as Russia, England and Japan strove for consensus.

They found some. The official communique discussed the role of the Internet, nuclear safety and support for development of the sub-Sahara region in Africa. G-8 leaders also apparently agreed that Gadhafi and Yemen’s president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, must go. On Syria, however, the leaders could agree only that they were “appalled” by the regime’s actions and demanded an end to the killings of protesters. Most significant, the leaders sent a powerful signal of continued support for the Arab Spring by announcing $20 billion in assistance for the democratic transformations in Egypt and Tunisia.

And then the G-8 leaders added, “We are convinced that the historical changes throughout the region make the solution of the Israeli-Palestine conflict through negotiations more important, not less.… We urge both parties to engage without delay in substantive talks with a view to concluding a framework agreement on all final status issues.”

That declaration came close to doing something that the overwhelming majority of protesters from Tunisia to Damascus never asked for: linking their drive for freedom to the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Historically, such emotional pandering has been cynically deployed by every Mideast tyrant, from Saddam Hussein to Bashir Assad, to deflect from serious domestic problems. And it never helped a single Palestinian.…

It is no secret that Harper was the only G-8 leader who rejected Obama’s new push for a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders. Harper ultimately prevailed against the pressure to go along with the posturing of the majority.

While consensus building, especially in diplomacy, is an important goal and powerful tool, Harper’s position is that this time the majority is wrong. For Israelis who have fought five wars and absorbed suicide bombers and thousands of missiles, size counts. Even including the West Bank and the Golan Heights, Israel is 2,700 square miles smaller than Vancouver Island.

Israelis cannot go back to an “adjusted” version of its indefensible pre-1967 lines—dubbed the “Auschwitz borders” by the late Foreign Minister Abba Eban. If they did, they would still be facing 60,000 Iranian-supplied missiles from Hezbollah at the Lebanese border in the North and genocidal Hamas in Gaza. Israelis also would have to fear a renewed wave of suicide bombers who could literally walk from the West Bank into major Israeli urban areas, including Jerusalem.

Speaking of the Holy City, since 1967, the undivided city has facilitated millions of pilgrims—Jewish, Christian and Muslim—and maintained the status quo of the Muslim presence on the Temple Mount, the holiest site of Judaism. No Israeli would ever agree to have to show their passport in order to pray at the Western Wall.

Stephen Harper has gained the trust and admiration of citizens of Israel and supporters of the Jewish state. On core issues of human rights, the United Nations and the Middle East, he has often broken loose from the obscurity and safety of the pack and exhibited real leadership.…

Harper often has been a lonely voice struggling against the din of politically correct attacks on Israel’s legitimacy and security. We can only hope that as he begins his new term as Canada’s leader that his lonely voice of reason will help calm the roiled Middle East and help set the stage for Israeli-Palestinian talks based on mutual respect and sacrifice.

(Rabbi Marvin Hier is the dean and founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center.
Rabbi Abraham Cooper is the center’s associate dean.)


Charles Bybelezer

Canadian Institute for Jewish Research, June 4, 2011


As someone who relates as closely to the land of his Forefathers as to the land of his birth, my “Canadianness” has for most of my life been relegated to the status of afterthought. But in fact a metamorphosis is currently taking place: I am growing fonder by the day of the country that is my home—Canada.

I need not convince anyone of Canada’s present standing as Israel’s most stalwart defender; this role has been assumed by Israel’s government, whose voice is much louder and infinitely more persuasive than my own. And for good measure, the Canada-Israel relationship is fundamentally strong, and morally correct.

This bond was further strengthened last week, when Canada afforded Israel an important diplomatic victory. At a summit in Deauville, France, Canadian Prime Minster Stephen Harper defied the overwhelming pressure exerted upon him by seven of the world’s most powerful countries and refused to include in the G8 leaders’ final communiqué any reference to an Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 borders (not as a stipulation for signing an “historic” peace agreement with the Palestinians, mind you, but rather as a precondition for jump-starting negotiations). In the words of one European diplomat familiar with the internal proceedings, “The Canadians were really very adamant, even though Obama expressly referred to 1967 borders in his speech last week.”

In the words of Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, during an appreciative phone call to his Canadian counterpart John Baird following the conference, “Canada is a true friend of Israel.”

It is not an exaggeration to say that at no point during Israel’s tumultuous history, has the Jewish state enjoyed such unwavering support from a country of Canada’s stature. Canada is by no means a superpower—its words do not carry the weight of a U.S., for example—nor is Canada a “game changer” in the international political arena. However, Canada is also not a “Palestine”-endorsing third world dictatorship, nor is Canada deserving of the bevy of stereotypical criticisms levied against it: “eh, Canada, eh.”

What Canada is, though, is a country globally perceived as moral, as good, as true. Canada maintains a position in the world that is both respected and admired (just ask the countless number of U.S. citizens who travel overseas with the Canadian maple leaf prominently displayed on their backpacks.) And so, when Canada stands side-by-side with Israel, the world takes notice. If Canada is just—and we know it is—then perhaps so too is Israel. This effect is real.

Canada has transformed into what the U.S. used to be claimed to be, Israel’s best friend. Under Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s leadership, Canada has routinely cast the lone vote against anti-Israel resolutions in the UN Human Rights Council, including a 2009 vote to condemn Israel’s Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, and a 2007 vote to place Israel’s “human rights violations” permanently on the Council’s agenda. Mr. Harper also infused a much-needed counterweight to the overwhelming anti-Israel discourse in the UN following Israel’s 2006 military incursion into Lebanon, calling Israel’s intervention a “measured” response to Hezbollah’s relentless terrorism.

Under Prime Minister Harper’s leadership, Canada has twice been the first country, preceding even Israel, to announce a boycott of the UN’s Durban conference (both Durban II in 2009 and the upcoming Durban III anti-Israel hate fest scheduled for September); Canada has greatly reduced government funding for anti-Israel “NGOs”; Canada has slashed its contribution to UNRWA, the UN organization founded to perpetuate the Palestinian refugee crisis; Canada has steadfastly supported Israel’s legitimate “blockade” of the Gaza Strip; Canada has repeatedly refused to criticize Israeli “settlement” construction in the Jewish people’s biblical heartland.

In 2006, Canada was the first country after Israel to cut off financial aid to the elected Hamas government, going so far as to openly refer to Hamas as “genocidal”; in 2009, when Venezuela expelled Israel’s diplomatic Mission, Canada swiftly moved in to represent Israeli interests in Caracas; Canada recently vehemently denounced the group Canadian Boat to Gaza, for its plan to sail to the Strip as part of a 12-boat flotilla next month; Canada continues to call for the immediate release of captive Israeli solider Gilad Shalit. The list goes on and on…and on…and what a marvellous list it is. But, most significantly, and in the words of Jerusalem Post editorialist Evelyn Gordon, Canada has “succeeded in making pro-Israel positions both respectable and electable.”

Yet this consensus was not always so widespread.

Indeed the skeptics were out in full force on November 8, 2010, the day Mr. Harper, at a conference on anti-semitism held in Ottawa, most explicitly avowed his loyalty to the Jewish state, the day he delivered the most impassioned pro-Israel speech ever given by a foreign leader. Perhaps, in retrospect, the doubters had merit; Harper’s words were indeed sensational. And a plethora of less overt promises had been made before  to the Jewish state by other “leaders”, only to be violated at the first possible opportunity.

On that day, Mr. Harper affirmed: “When Israel, the only country in the world whose very existence is under attack, is consistently and conspicuously singled out for condemnation, I believe we are morally obligated to take a stand.… Whether it is at the United Nations, or any other international forum, the easy thing to do is simply to just…go along with this anti-Israeli rhetoric…and to excuse oneself with the label of ‘honest broker.’ There are, after all, a lot more votes, a lot more, in being anti-Israeli than in taking a stand. But, as long as I am Prime Minister…Canada will take that stand, whatever the cost.”

Mr. Harper’s comments may very well have been consigned to the too-good-to-be-true annals of history, if not for the fact that Mr. Harper himself can be described in this manner. Mr. Harper’s words resonate loudly today—he has steadfastly adhered to his convictions; he has fulfilled his oath to the Jewish people; he has been honest. Desptie serious backlash. Mr. Harper stared down the perverse global campaign to demonize Israel, along with its pervasive acceptance amongst the world’s political elite, and said no—no to tyranny, and yes to what is right, to what is true, to Israel.

This is the definition of integrity; it is the tangible representation of honor, a badge that Mr. Harper has earned, deserves, and proudly wears. It is the badge sported by a principled man, a true friend of Israel.

Yet Mr. Harper, like you and me is not perfect. And as good friends do, he must also be critiqued when it is warranted. For on the day of his unprecedented speech—November 8th 2010—Mr. Harper did, in fact, blunder.

On that day, Mr. Harper made one mis-step—it seems that, contrary to the Prime Minister’s assertion, there are not, “after all, a lot more votes, a lot more, in being anti-Israeli than in taking a stand.” This was undeniably disproved when the Canadian people on May 2nd bestowed upon Mr. Harper his first Conservative majority government.

(Charles Bybelezer is Publications Chairman at the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research.
He can be reached at charles@isranet.org.)





The Canadian Institute for Jewish Research cordially invites you to its

23rd Anniversary Gala

Wednesday, June 15, 2011
Congregation Shaar Hashomayim
450 Avenue Kensington, Westmount, Quebec, Canada



Former Israeli Defense Minister and Ambassador to the U.S.


Also Featuring

Prof. Barry Rubin

Outstanding internationally-renowned Middle East analyst


Tax receipts will be issued for the maximum allowable amount


For additional information. or to register for the 23rd Anniversary Gala,
please call Yvonne at 514-486-5544 or contact us by e-mail at yvonne@isranet.org





“Palestinian Ambassador to Russia Fayyad Mustafa said that a deal to release kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Schalit will soon be finalized.… ‘The negotiations between Israel and Hamas, ongoing in Cairo with Egyptian mediation, are close to completion,’ Mustafa said, without providing further details. Commander of Hamas’s military wing in the Gaza Strip Ahmed Jabri [is currently] in Cairo to discuss the release of Schalit with senior Egyptian officials.… According to Palestinian sources, Defense Ministry Diplomatic-Security Bureau Amos Gilad [is] also in Cairo participating in discussions.… Former Egyptian ambassador to Israel Muhammad Bassiouni was quoted in Egyptian paper Al Masry Al Youm on Thursday as saying that an agreement to release Schalit could be reached within hours.…” (Jerusalem Post, June3.)




Janice Arnold
Canadian Jewish News, June 2, 2011


Moshe Arens, Israel’s Defence and Foreign Affairs minister in the 1980s and ‘90s, will make a rare public appearance in North America to speak in Montreal. Now 85, Arens will be the keynote speaker at a dinner benefiting the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research (CIJR) June 15 at Congregation Shaar Hashomayim.

The independent Israel advocacy organization was thrilled when Arens accepted its invitation. “I think it’s a clear endorsement of the efforts of CIJR,” said associate director David Pariser.…

First elected to the Knesset in 1974, Arens chaired its committee on foreign affairs and security from 1977 to 1982. He was then ambassador to Washington for a year before entering the cabinet. Born in Lithuania, he spent his youth in the United States before making aliyah in 1948.…

[Mideast analyst Barry Rubin, the Gala’s other guest speaker], is director of Israel’s Gloria Center, edits Middle East Review of International Affairs and has written a number of books, including his most recent, Lebanon: Liberation, Conflict and Crisis. He’s a frequent commentator in newspapers and on U.S. and British TV.…

The CIJR, founded 23 years ago by Concordia University professor Frederick Krantz, runs activities aimed at defending Israel and the Jewish People against delegitimization and keeping the Zionist spirit alive.…

The gala is usually held in August, but the CIJR decided June might be better because fewer people are away. The daytime conference that usually precedes it will be held separately this year, in November, on combating the delegitimization of Israel.

The evening will introduce CIJR’s new national chair, Joseph Shier of Toronto, who succeeds Irwin Beutel. With its first-ever non-Montreal lay leader, the CIJR hopes to increase its presence in Toronto and across Canada.

Charles Bybelezer, who joined the CIJR last year, is responsible for its publishing activities: the e-mailed Daily Briefing, a digest of articles related to Israel or the Middle East, as well as Israfax and Israzine, and the student periodical Dateline: Middle East.

He and volunteer Baruch Cohen comb through 75 to 100 articles a day for the Briefing and for a databank. Now available online, the databank contains thousands of articles on the Mideast and Jewish issues.

Among the CIJR’s new projects is retooling its website to include a weekly interactive blog and live streaming of regular roundtable discussions. Another is training students to counter anti-Israel activity on campus. Its Student Israel Advocacy Seminar, a training series given by volunteer professors from Montreal universities, will be revamped and hopefully become a credit course through Concordia.

The CIJR also hopes to raise funds to appoint a resident Israel studies professor, a paid position that would oversee its academic program.


Moshe Arens

Haaretz, May 31, 2011


It’s been a long time since these words were spoken by an Israeli prime minister. “In Judea and Samaria, the Jewish people are not foreign occupiers,” Benjamin Netanyahu said in his address to both houses of the U.S. Congress, and the representatives of the American people rose and cheered. Former Israeli prime ministers passively accepted the slurs hurled at Israel over the years at home and abroad that Israel was an “occupier” in the areas beyond the 1949 armistice lines. Even Ariel Sharon in his last years in office began referring to the Israeli presence in Judea and Samaria as the “occupation.”

This false role that Israeli prime ministers regretfully assumed in the name of the people of Israel, causing inestimable damage to Israel’s image throughout the world, helped embed the concept that this “occupation” was an evil that had to be eliminated. It was no mean feat that Netanyahu had the courage to deny the falsehood of the “occupation” in speaking to Congress.…

The many disappointed Israeli commentators who had hoped that Netanyahu would herald the end of the “occupation” had no difficulty finding excuses for the rousing reception his words received in Washington. One went so far as to write that even if Netanyahu had been reading from the telephone book he would have received standing ovations. Others remarked that no significance should be attached to the enthusiastic reception his words received in Congress, reminding the reader that all Israeli prime ministers had been greeted by standing ovations when addressing Congress.

But they just forgot to mention that those former Israeli prime ministers addressed Congress on occasions when their policy was completely coordinated with the White House. This time it was different. Netanyahu spoke to Congress after he had made it clear that he did not agree with Barack Obama’s call for Israel to withdraw to the “1967 lines,” and he reiterated that position in his speech.

So now come the self-anointed Israeli experts on the American system of government and explain to their readers that in the United States, foreign policy is made by the president and Congress plays no part. So it really doesn’t matter if the present Congress is especially friendly and supportive of Israel and the positions of the democratically elected government of Israel if it has no voice in making foreign policy.

But these “experts” are only displaying their ignorance of the checks and balances in the United States between the president and Congress, a system that extends to foreign policy. While executive authority rests with the president, he is limited in pursuing a foreign policy that runs counter to the position of the majority in Congress.

In any case, even these “experts” must understand that Netanyahu’s reception in Congress was an impressive demonstration of the strong bond between the people of America and the people of Israel. They might also take a look at the Washington Post headline the day after Netanyahu’s appearance in Congress, which stated that senior Democrats had criticized the president. When a few days later Obama took part in the G8 meeting in Europe, he was probably surprised when the prime minister of Canada, Stephen Harper, objected to the inclusion of the “1967 lines” in the G8’s resolution on the Middle East. North of the U.S. border there is another great friend of Israel who seems to agree with Netanyahu.

Obama probably realizes by now that he made a mistake when he said the “1967 lines” should serve as the baseline for territorial negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. Somebody should have told him that for most Israelis the “1967 lines,” those that Abba Eban in his famous UN speech referred to as the “Auschwitz borders,” are like a red rag to a bull.

Another person probably made a mistake on this occasion. The leader of the Israeli opposition, Tzipi Livni, without giving it a moment’s thought, used the opportunity to criticize the prime minister, announcing that Netanyahu should have accepted Obama’s proposal. She is likely to discover that withdrawal to the “1967 lines” is going to make for an unpopular Kadima platform in the next election.

(Mr. Arens is Israel’s former Defense Minister, Foreign Affairs Minister, and Ambassador to Washington. He will be the keynote speaker at CIJR’s upcoming Gala, scheduled for June 15.)


Louis Rene Beres

FrontPage, June 3, 2011


Mr. President, the “two-state” approach to peace between Israel and “Palestine,” strongly reaffirmed in your recent meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, accepts the position of an Israeli “occupation.” Yet, even the most cursory look at pertinent world history would reveal several compelling reasons to reject any such position. Organized Arab terrorism against Israel began on the very first hour of Israel’s independence, in May 1948. Indeed, virulent anti-Jewish terrorism in the British Mandate period had even taken place many years before Israel’s statehood.

What about the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO)? It was founded in 1964, three years before Israel came to control the West Bank (Judea/Samaria) and Gaza. Mr. President, what was the PLO planning to “liberate” between 1964 and 1967? The answer, of course, must be all of Israel within the “green” armistice lines” of 1949. These are precisely the 1967-borders that you have recently identified as the appropriate starting point for current peace negotiations.

What should we now know about the PLO? Significantly, it was declared a “terrorist organization” in a number of U.S. federal court decisions, including Tel-Oren v. Libyan Arab Republic (1984).

More than five years ago, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, seeking peace with the always-recalcitrant Palestinians, forcibly expelled over 10,000 Jews from Gaza and northern Samaria. Immediately, these areas were transformed by Hamas from productive growing and living areas to terrorist rocket launching sites. Today, in obvious synergy with a new regime in Cairo—a military governing council soon to be intimate with powerful elements of the Muslim Brotherhood—Egypt’s newly reopened Rafah border is creating an unobstructed terrorist path directly into Israel.

Mr. President, why aren’t the Palestinians reasonably expected to cease deliberate and random violence against Israeli civilians before being admitted into the community of nations? Isn’t it already clear that they seek something other than an “end to occupation.” Isn’t it already very likely that both Fatah and Hamas still regard all of Israel as “occupied” territory. After all, their official maps, long familiar in Washington, still include all of Israel as part of “Palestine.”

Mr. President, without an alleged “occupation,” there could remain no possible legal or moral justification for Palestinian policies of relentless terror. Nonetheless, the fact that “occupation” is a contrived legal fiction has had little or no impact upon your own administration’s position on Palestinian statehood. Nor, somehow, has it occurred to your administration that both Hamas and Fatah still find their common ideological mentors in Hitler and Goebbels, two figures for whom the prospective rulers of a nascent “Palestine” are ardent objects of unhidden admiration.

Mr. President, at its core, your policy toward Israel and “Palestine” reveals certain incremental bewitchments of language. Over the years, Arab patience in building an expanding Palestinian state upon mountains of Israeli corpses has been achieved systematically by linguistic victories. However untrue, the ritualistic canard of an Israeli “occupation” has been repeated so often that it is now generally taken as irrefutable fact.

Mr. President, why is it simply disregarded that Israeli “occupation” followed the multistate Arab aggression of 1967. Egypt, Syria and Jordan (now in the throes of a so-called “Arab Spring”) have never even denied this aggression. And who bothers to recall that these very same Arab states were also the principal aggressors in the explicitly genocidal Arab attacks that began on May 15, 1948, literally moments after the new Jewish State’s UN-backed declaration of independent statehood.

Mr. President, please recall that a sovereign state of Palestine did not exist before 1967, or before 1948. Nor did UN Security Council Resolution 242 ever promise a state of Palestine. A state of Palestine has never existed. Never.

Even as a non-state legal entity, “Palestine” ceased to exist in 1948, when Great Britain relinquished its League of Nations mandate. During the 1948-49 Israeli War of Independence, West Bank and Gaza came under incontestably illegal control of Jordan and Egypt respectively. These Arab conquests did not put an end to an already-existing state or to an ongoing trust territory. What these aggressions did accomplish was the intentional prevention of any Arab state of Palestine.

From the Biblical Period (ca. 1350 BCE to 586 BCE) to the British Mandate (1918—1948), the land named vengefully by the Romans after the ancient Philistines was controlled only by non-Palestinian elements. A continuous chain of Jewish possession of the land was legally recognized after World War I. At the San Remo Peace Conference in April 1920, a binding treaty was signed in which Great Britain was given mandatory authority over “Palestine.” This authority was based on the expectation that Britain would prepare the area to become the “national home for the Jewish People.” Previously, since 1516, the Ottoman Turks had ruled the area cruelly, as an undesirable provincial backwater.

Palestine, according to the Treaty, comprised territories encompassing what are now the states of Jordan and Israel, including the West Bank and Gaza. Present day Israel, Mr. President, comprises only twenty-two percent of Palestine as defined and ratified at the San Remo Peace Conference.

In 1922, Great Britain, unilaterally and without any lawful authority, split off seventy-eight percent of the lands promised to the Jews, all of Palestine east of the Jordan River, and gave it to Abdullah, the non-Palestinian son of the Sharif of Mecca. Eastern Palestine now took the name “Transjordan,” which it retained until April 1949, when it was renamed “Jordan.” From the moment of its creation, Transjordan was closed to all Jewish migration and settlement, a clear betrayal of the British promise in the Balfour Declaration of 1917, and a patent contravention of its Mandatory obligations under international law.

On July 20, 1951, a Palestinian Arab assassinated King Abdullah in reprisal for the latter’s hostility to Palestinian aspirations and concerns. Regarding these aspirations, Jordan’s “moderate” King Hussein, nineteen years later, during September 1970, murdered thousands of Palestinians under his jurisdiction.

In 1947, several years prior to Abdullah’s killing, the newly formed United Nations, rather than designate the entire land west of the Jordan River as the long-promised Jewish national homeland, enacted a second partition. Ironically, because this second fission again gave complete advantage to Arab interests, Jewish leaders reluctantly accepted the painful and unjust division. The Arab states did not. On May 15, 1948, exactly twenty-four hours after the State of Israel came into existence, Azzam Pasha, Secretary General of the Arab League, declared to a tiny new country founded upon the still-glowing ashes of the Holocaust: “This will be a war of extermination, and a momentous massacre.”

This declaration has been at the very heart of all subsequent Arab/Islamist (now including Iranian) orientations toward Israel, including those of the “moderate” and U.S.-supported Fatah. Even by the strict legal standards of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, Arab actions and attitudes toward the microscopic Jewish state in their midst have remained authentically genocidal. Jurisprudentially, what they have in mind for Israel is formally called crimes against humanity.

In 1967, the Jewish State, as a result of its unexpected military victory over Arab aggressor states, gained unintended control over West Bank and Gaza. Although the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war is codified in the UN Charter, there still existed no authoritative sovereign to whom the Territories could possibly be “returned.” Israel could hardly have been expected to transfer them back to Jordan and Egypt, which had exercised unauthorized and terribly harsh control since the Arab-initiated “war of extermination” in 1948-49. Moreover, the idea of Palestinian “self-determination” had only just begun to emerge after the Six Day War; it had not even been included in UN Security Council Resolution 242, which was adopted on November 22, 1967.

The Arab states convened a summit in Khartoum in August 1967, concluding: “No peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with it[.]” The Palestine Liberation Organization had been formed three years earlier, in 1964, before there were any “Israeli Occupied Territories.”

Mr. President, your proposed two-state solution derives from an historical misunderstanding of Israel and “Palestine.” Even if Prime Minister Netanyahu were to agree to a complete cessation of all so-called “settlement” activity, no quid pro quo of any kind would be forthcoming from any quarter of the Arab/Islamic world. On the contrary, for Israel, any two-state solution would conclusively codify another Final Solution.

(Louis Rene Beres [Ph.D., Princeton, 1971] is the author of many books
and articles dealing with military affairs and international law.


Fouad Ajami
Wall Street Journal, June 1, 2011


It had been quite a scramble, the prelude to the vote on Nov. 29, 1947, on the question of the partition of Palestine. The United Nations itself was only two years old and had just 56 member states; the Cold War was gathering force, and no one was exactly sure how the two pre-eminent powers, the United States and the Soviet Union, would vote. The Arab and Muslim states were of course unalterably opposed, for partition was a warrant for a Jewish state.

In the end, the vote broke for partition, the U.S. backed the resolution, and two days later the Soviet Union followed suit. It was a close call: 10 states had abstained, 13 had voted against, 33 were in favor, only two votes over the required two-thirds majority.

Now, some six decades later, the Palestinians are calling for a vote in the next session of the General Assembly, in September, to ratify a unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood. In part, this is an appropriation by the Palestinians of the narrative of Zionism. The vote in 1947 was viewed as Israel’s basic title to independence and statehood. The Palestinians and the Arab powers had rejected partition and chosen the path of war. Their choice was to prove calamitous.

By the time the guns had fallen silent, the Yishuv, the Jewish community in Palestine, had held its ground against the combined armies of Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Iraq. Its forces stood on the shores of the Red Sea in the south, and at the foot of the Golan Heights in the north. Palestinian society had collapsed under the pressure of war. The elites had made their way to neighboring lands. Rural communities had been left atomized and leaderless. The cities had fought, and fallen, alone.

Palestine had become a great Arab shame. Few Arabs were willing to tell the story truthfully, to face its harsh verdict. Henceforth the Palestinians would live on a vague idea of restoration and return. No leader had the courage to tell the refugees who had left Acre and Jaffa and Haifa that they could not recover the homes and orchards of their imagination.

Some had taken the keys to their houses with them to Syria and Lebanon and across the river to Jordan. They were no more likely to find political satisfaction than the Jews who had been banished from Baghdad and Beirut and Cairo, and Casablanca and Fez, but the idea of return, enshrined into a “right of return,” would persist. (Wadi Abu Jamil, the Jewish quarter of the Beirut of my boyhood, is now a Hezbollah stronghold, and no narrative exalts or recalls that old presence.)

History hadn’t stood still. The world was remade. In 1947-48, when the Zionists had secured their statehood, empires were coming apart, borders were fluid, the international system of states as we know it quite new. India and Pakistan had emerged as independent, hostile states out of the partition of the subcontinent in 1947, and Israel had secured its place in the order of nations a year later. Many of the Arab states were still in their infancy.

But the world is a vastly different place today. The odds might favor the Palestinians in the General Assembly, but any victory would be hollow.

The Palestinians have misread what transpired at the General Assembly in 1947. True, the cause of Jewish statehood had been served by the vote on partition, but the Zionist project had already prevailed on the ground. Jewish statehood was a fait accompli perhaps a decade before that vote. All the ingredients had been secured by Labor Zionism. There was a military formation powerful enough to defeat the Arab armies, there were political institutions in place, and there were gifted leaders, David Ben-Gurion pre-eminent among them, who knew what can be had in the world of nations.

The vote at the General Assembly was of immense help, but it wasn’t the decisive factor in the founding of the Jewish state. The hard work had been done in the three decades between the Balfour Declaration of 1917 and the vote on partition. Realism had guided the Zionist project. We will take a state even if it is the size of a tablecloth, said Chaim Weizmann, one of the founding fathers of the Zionist endeavor.

Sadly, the Palestinian national movement has known a different kind of leadership, unique in its mix of maximalism and sense of entitlement, in its refusal to accept what can and can’t be had in the world of nations. Leadership is often about luck, the kind of individuals a people’s history brings forth. It was the distinct misfortune of the Palestinians that when it truly mattered, and for nearly four decades, they were led by a juggler, Yasser Arafat, a man fated to waste his people’s chances.

Arafat was neither a Ben-Gurion leading his people to statehood, nor an Anwar Sadat accepting the logic of peace and compromise. He had been an enemy of Israel, but Israel had reached an accord with him in 1993, made room for him, and for a regime of his choice in Gaza. He had warred against the United States, but American diplomacy had fallen under his spell, and the years of the Clinton presidency were devoted to the delusion that the man could summon the courage to accept a practical peace.

But Arafat would do nothing of the kind. Until his death in 2004, he refrained from telling the Palestinians the harsh truths they needed to hear about the urgency of practicality and compromise. Instead, he held out the illusion that the Palestinians can have it all, from the River Jordan to the Mediterranean. His real constituents were in the refugee camps in Lebanon and Syria and Jordan, and among the Palestinians in Kuwait. So he peddled the dream that history’s verdict could be overturned, that the “right of return” was theirs.

There was hope that the Arafat legacy would go with him to the grave.The new Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas had been a lieutenant of Arafat’s, but there were hints of a break with the Arafat legacy. The alliance between Fatah and Hamas that Mr. Abbas has opted for put these hopes to rest. And the illusion that the U.N. can break the stalemate in the Holy Land is vintage Arafat. It was Arafat who turned up at the General Assembly in 1974 with a holster on his hip, and who proclaimed that he had come bearing a freedom fighter’s gun and an olive branch, and that it was up to the U.N. not to let the olive branch fall from his hand.

For the Palestinians there can be no escape from negotiations with Israel. The other Arabs shall not redeem Palestinian rights. They have their own burdens to bear. In this Arab Spring, this season of popular uprisings, little has been said in Tunis and Cairo and Damascus and Sanaa about Palestine.

The General Assembly may, in September, vote to ratify a unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood. But true Palestinian statehood requires convincing a decisive Israeli majority that statehood is a herald for normalcy in that contested land, for Arabs and Jews alike.

(Mr. Ajami is a professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies
and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution.)





We’re sitting right now on the ridge and we’re seeing the Old City. Shortly we’re going to go in to the Old City of Jerusalem, that all generations have dreamed about. We will be the first to enter the Old City.… The Temple Mount is in our hands! I repeat, the Temple Mount is in our hands!”—Lt. General Mordechai (Motta) Gur, commander of the first IDF brigade to advance through the Old City of Jerusalem toward the Temple Mount and the Western Wall on June 7, 1967, describing by radio the bringing of Jerusalem’s holiest site under Jewish control for the first time in 2000 years. General Rabbi Shlomo Goren, chief chaplain of the IDF, then sounded the Shofar signify Jerusalem’s liberation. (CAMERA, May 31, 2011.)




Baruch Chohen

In loving memory of Malca z’l


“I will plant them upon their land, and they shall never again be plucked out of the land which I have given them.” Amos 9:15


As we celebrate Jerusalem Day, we should recall and be proud of the history of our people, Israel. It was King David who captured Jerusalem and completed the unification of the tribes of Israel between 1000-961 B.C.E.


By taking Jerusalem, King David wiped out the last alien enclave in the hills of the Hebrew country and the one hostile fortress that stood between the two portions of the Israelite kingdom. Moreover, the capture of Jerusalem was as necessary to Israel’s independence as it was to the unification of the Israeli tribe. These and other reasons were behind David’s next spectacular move which was to have a far-reaching and great impact on history, making Jerusalemthe capital of Israel!


B’shana habaa B’Yerushalaim Ha’bnuyah!


Jerusalem The Eternal Capital Of Israel—Selected Quotes


“Jerusalem which is bound firmly together binds the Jews to one another.” (Psalm 122:3)

“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.”(Psalm 122:6)

“In the din and tumult of the age, the still small value of Jerusalem remains our own music.”—IsraelZangwill, 1921

“No city in the world, not even Athens or Rome, ever played as great a role in the life of a nation for so long a time as Jerusalem has done in the life of the Jewish people.”—David ben Gurion, 1947


There Stood—by Paul Celan


There stood
A splinter of fig upon your lip,

There stood
Jerusalem around us,

There stood
The bright pine scent
Above the Danish skiff we thanked

I stood
In you.


Gil Troy

Jerusalem Post, May 31, 2011


I hate disappointing the worrywarts, but today, Jerusalem Day, 2011, 44-years after its reunification, Jerusalem is a remarkably functional city, a surprisingly peaceful city, a delightfully magical city. The city I experience daily is not the city described in the headlines. It does not feel like it is in eclipse, nor does it feel like a powder keg. I absorbed New York’s fear of crime in the 1970s, Boston’s racial tension in the 1980s, and Montreal’s linguistic complexity in the 1990s much more intensely. While jogging through the Old City daily, I feel lucky to live in such a livable city.

Jerusalem invites time-traveling in profound ways while doing mundane tasks. Every day, crossing the footbridge over the Cinemateque looking toward Mount Zion, I observe a panorama of peace reinforced by a symphony of silence, with the Tower of David crowned by its Israeli flag and Muslim crescent, church spires and minarets, the new city’s modern construction to my left and the older houses abutting the Old City to my right. The sweeping Old City walls dominate front and center.

These days, I confess, I think more about recent history than the walls’ ancient history, built by Suleiman the Magnificent 500 years ago but evoking Abraham binding Isaac, King David designating King Solomon, thousands of years earlier. Mahmoud Abbas’s rewriting of the history of 1947, which passed the New York Times’ editorial muster, Barack Obama’s obsession with the 1967 lines, have me wishing Jerusalem’s stones could talk, confirming what really happened when Zionists founded Israel in 1947-1948, when Israelis liberated Jerusalem in 1967, and during the difficult intervening years.

My daily plunge into this past begins with Jerusalem’s 19 years of rupture, as I traverse what was the barbed-wire-and-mine-strewn No-Man’s Land. To my right, the Cinemateque looms, a center of Israel’s edgy, often critical, vibrant democratic culture, contradicting false cries of McCarthyism. To my left, the red-roofed houses of Yemin Moshe unfold, beside Moses Montefiore’s 1857 windmill. I think about the poor people who lived in this, the first neighborhood outside Jerusalem’s walls, during the State’s first years. And I wince imagining their terror when, periodically, Jordanian snipers would shoot. The Jordanian army always reassured the UN that a soldier had gone crazy—again and again.

Scampering up Mount Zion, holy to us and our Christian brethren, I wonder what the fifty soldiers following Captain Eli Kedar thought while hustling along this alley on June 7, 1967. Did they remember the failure to free the besieged Jewish Quarter from this alley in 1948? Did they know the last Jew to leave the Jewish Quarter, headed to Jordanian prison for nine months, was a 15-year-old, Eli Kedar? Did they appreciate their commanders’ genius in mostly attacking from behind, via Lions Gate? Did they know Israel began the war two days earlier with only 71 troops in Jerusalem? Were they aware that, even while the Jordanians shelled Jerusalem, Israeli Prime Minster Levi Eshkol offered peace to Jordan’s King Hussein, making the war one of self-defense and any resulting territorial gains not an illegal occupation? Did they sense they were about to correct the historic mistake of the city’s division, returning the Holy Temple’s remnants to Jewish sovereignty after 2000 years? Did they appreciate their army’s sensitivity in deploying archaeologists to try preserving holy sites? Probably, most simply thought about going home—which 759 Israelis after six days never did.

Entering the Jewish quarter I again ponder the nineteen years preceding the Six Day War when Israel—living under Barack Obama’s 1967 borders—were banned from the Old City, although the UN never validated Jordanian control. Those, ahem, illegal occupiers trashed Jerusalem’s synagogues. Contrast that bitter past to the redemptive sights and sounds of kids playing and praying, the burger bars adjoining archaeological museums, the glorious dome of the Hurva synagogue, which means ruins: bombarded by Jordan in 1948; rebuilt and rededicated last year.

Crossing the Jewish Quarter, then the Arab market, seamlessly, safely, I exit through Jaffa Gate. Sixty-four years ago, on December 2, 1947, just days after the UN proposed partitioning Palestine on November 29, Arabs shouting “Death to the Jews!” looted the Jewish commercial center across the way, at the entrance to today’s David Village. This was the Palestinian response to the compromise the Jews accepted. Mahmoud Abbas’s recent New York Times column lied, claiming the Zionists rejected compromise, then “expelled Palestinian Arabs to ensure a decisive Jewish majority in the future state,” when the Arab rejectionists chose violence—and continue to reject a Jewish state.…

In Six Days of War, Michael Oren quotes Arik Akhmon one of the first Israelis in 1967 to enter the Western Wall plaza, as bullets whizzed by. Although not religious, Akhmon recalled, “I don’t think there was a man who wasn’t overwhelmed with emotion. Something special had happened.”

Jerusalem is a real city which cannot “overwhelm” residents daily—life intrudes. But every day I note something “special” about the place, its history or mystery, its sights or smells, its old memories or new achievements. Today, Yom Yerushalayim, let’s honor its secret ingredient, the people it attracts, connected to Jerusalem’s lush past, enlivening the city during its complex yet compelling present, and shaping a safe, spiritually-rich, yet charmingly commonplace future keeping the city magical and livable.

(Gil Troy is Professor of History at McGill University
and a Shalom Hartman Research Fellow in Jerusalem.


Yonatan Sredni

Arutz Sheva, May 31, 2011


Some people rank the importance of the day’s events by which stories top the newscasts. For me, I look to see what the American late-night talk-show hosts are joking about. While stories about Israel often hit the front page of US papers, they rarely break into David Letterman’s or Conan O’Brien’s opening monologues.

The exception to the rule occurred last week in the wake of US President Barack Obama’s speech on the Middle East which was followed up by Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s address to both houses of Congress.

The Tonight Show’s Jay Leno, and his Jewish joke-writers, pulled no punches attacking the President: “President Obama suggested that Israel should go back to the pre-1967 borders. Native Americans said, “Why stop there? Let’s go back to the pre-1492 borders.”“

Leno followed up that joke with another jab at Obama later in the week: “Obama was also in England, where the Queen suggested that we go back to the pre-1776 borders.”

But the truth is that 1967 lines are no laughing matter. It’s not only about not being able to ‘go back’ in history, just like one cannot go back to 1492 or 1776. The issue at hand, which Netanyahu strongly stressed in Washington, is security. Netanyahu clearly stated that Israel, “cannot return to indefensible 1967 lines”.

All the talk about the 1967 lines could not be timelier. This Tuesday night and Wednesday is Yom Yerushalayim (Jerusalem Day). Jerusalem Day commemorates the reunification of Jerusalem and the establishment of Israeli control over the Old City (including the Western Wall) during the Six Day War in June 1967. On May 12, 1968, the government proclaimed a new holiday—Jerusalem Day—to be celebrated on the 28th of Iyar, the Hebrew date on which the divided city of Jerusalem became one.

The Chief Rabbinate of Israel declared Jerusalem Day a minor religious holiday to thank God for the six-day victory and for answering the 2,000-year-old prayer of “Next Year in Jerusalem”. Religious Zionists gather for special holiday prayers on this day, and some hold special festive meals and wear holiday clothing.

On March 23, 1998, the Knesset passed the Jerusalem Day Law, formally making the day a national holiday.

But the fact is, Jerusalem Day need not be a holiday just for Jews. Since it affects people of all faiths who now have the ability to worship freely in Jerusalem, people of all faiths should embrace it. As Netanyahu stated in his speech at Congress last week, “And as for Jerusalem, only a democratic Israel has protected the freedom of worship for all faiths in the city. Throughout the millennial history of the Jewish capital, the only time that Jews, Christians, and Moslems could worship freely, could have unfettered access to their holy sites has been during Israel’s sovereignty over Jerusalem. Jerusalem must never again be divided. Jerusalem must remain the united capital of Israel.”

I used to get annoyed because as wonderful as Jerusalem Day is, ‘Jerusalem Day’ has become just that—a day for Jerusalem. Unfortunately, outside the capital this important day goes by virtually unnoticed.

Jerusalem will have its parades, its 1 a.m. march to the Kotel from the Merkaz HaRav Yeshiva and the afternoon flag march of youth organizations in the streets of the Old City with festive dancing at the Kotel, its Jerusalem flag with the lion on it flapping in the wind. It’s neither Jerusalem nor her residents that I am worried about.

Travel outside the capital and you will hardly see any signs of this holiday at all. Sure, many communities across Israel and the Diaspora hold festive prayer services or concerts for Jerusalem Day. Noami Shemer’s classic ballad “Jerusalem of Gold” is sure to be sung countless times across the nation this week. But ask the average non-Jerusalemite Israeli on the street what’s special about this Wednesday and you will likely get a blank stare.

Will the Israeli press cover Jerusalem Day at all this year, or will they regulate it to their back pages and end of their newscasts, along with the weather reports? Will there be television programs about Jerusalem on Tuesday night or will they take a backseat to whatever passes as “prime time TV” these days (maybe the Israeli version of Survivor, filmed on the other side of the globe)?

Has Jerusalem Day become a sad joke? Overall, there seems to be little awareness of Jerusalem Day outside the capital. The Ministry of Education recently announced that 50% of Israeli students in public schools had never visited Jerusalem at all.

So what can be done to raise Jerusalem awareness? Well, efforts are now being made to organize trips to Jerusalem (which will include visits to important sites like the Kotel, Yad Vashem, Ammunition Hill, the Knesset, etc.) for all Israeli schools. This is certainly a step in the right direction.

But perhaps we owe a ‘debt of gratitude’ to President Obama for mentioning the 1967 lines. Had he not said what he said, it is doubtful that Prime Minister Netanyahu would have so strongly defended his own position that returning to the 1967 was not an option. In an unexpected way, Obama and Netanyahu brought about some major awareness about 1967, which is what Jerusalem Day is all about.

At every Jewish wedding, just before the groom stomps on the glass, the following verses from Psalms (reminding us in times of gladness that the Temple in Jerusalem has yet to be rebuilt) are said: “If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand wither, let my tongue cleave to my palate if I do not remember you…if I do not set Jerusalem above my highest joy.” (137, 5-7)

I believe the key to those verses is in the last phrase—“above my highest joy.” We need to emphasize that “Jerusalem is number one.”

Of course we won’t forget about Jerusalem. But let’s also remember that Jerusalem Day is not a joke, it’s important. Jerusalem is no laughing matter.

And to all those who still don’t know that it’s Jerusalem Day, well then, the joke’s on you.


Isi Leibler

Jerusalem Post, May 11, 2011


Jerusalem, referred to over 600 times in the Bible, has represented the cornerstone of our Jewish identity for more than three millennia since it became the capital of King David’s Israelite monarchy. It remained at the core of our spiritual longings following the second dispersion when for 2,000 years our forefathers faced Jerusalem in their daily prayers, yearning for a return to their ancestral homeland. Moreover, even throughout their exile, Jews retained a significant presence in their Holy City and since the 1840s have constituted the largest group inhabiting the city.

Jerusalem also has major religious significance for Christians and Muslims, both of whom denied freedom of worship to other religions when they ruled over the city. During the Jordanian control of the Old City from 1948 to 1967, in flagrant breach of armistice agreements, Jews were refused all access to holy sites, and synagogues and graveyards were desecrated and destroyed. And the world remained silent.

Since the reunification of Jerusalem in 1967, the government of Israel—for the first time—ensured that all faiths could freely worship and maintain their religious institutions. If anything, the Israeli authorities discriminated against Jews, denying them the right to worship on the Temple Mount lest Muslims took offense.

Yet to this day many Palestinians deny that there ever was a Jewish presence in the city and make preposterous allegations that the Jewish holy sites, including the Temple, were Zionist fabrications concocted to justify “the Jewish colonialist enterprise.”

To this end they have been systematically destroying archeological evidence on the Temple Mount.

In addition, we are now faced with a determined campaign in which most of the world, including the Obama administration, is pressuring us to once again divide Jerusalem. Even prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, an architect of the Oslo Accords, on the eve of his assassination warned the Knesset that Jerusalem must remain united. And indeed in this day and age the concept of dividing cities is considered retrograde.

We are also painfully aware of the appalling track records of many Islamic states which deny freedom of worship to non-Muslims. The record of the Palestinians in this context is particularly vile, and we should be under no illusions how they would behave if they gained control of the holy sites.

But beyond this there is also the question of security. Every Israeli withdrawal in recent years has led to emboldening the jihadists and intensified aggression and terror. A division of Jerusalem would virtually guarantee that a corrupt or impotent Palestinian Authority or a rabid Hamas would be tempted to launch terror actions against neighboring Jewish areas.

Jerusalem Day should therefore not merely be a day of celebration. It should also be a day in which we pledge that, irrespective of the creative solutions devised to provide greater autonomy for Arabs in Jerusalem, the city must never be divided and Israel must remain the custodian to guarantee freedom of worship to Jews, Muslims and Christians.

Alas, today, many of us tend to overdramatize the challenges confronting us and display a penchant for self criticism which approaches masochism. Jerusalem Day should be a day when we give thanks to the Almighty for His intervention and pay tribute to those who fought against overwhelming odds to reunite the city and establish our national homeland.

Despite successive wars, facing ongoing terror and still being surrounded by enemies pledged to destroy us, Israel is here to stay. Seven and half million Israeli citizens, three quarters of whom are Jews, have achieved a demographic critical mass and notwithstanding the many doomsday predictions, the Jewish state can never be undone.

And despite an absence of natural resources, we have transformed our country into a veritable economic powerhouse which has achieved miraculous progress in science, technology, industry and agriculture. Tiny Israel has more hi-tech start-ups and companies listed on NASDAQ than any country other than the US. Our arts and cultural development is expanding and we continue producing Nobel Prize winners.

We have undergone a religious revival and today there are more Jews in Israel learning Torah than in any age in Jewish history.

We have successfully absorbed millions of Jews, the majority being Holocaust survivors and refugees finding haven from oppression. They originate from all four corners of the globe ranging from Western olim to Ethiopians. And while the integration process has still a long way to go, no society in the world has succeeded in absorbing such a mass of immigrants and molding them into a nation.

We see the shocking global resurgence of anti-Semitism, mankind’s oldest and perennial hatred, throughout the Western world. Many Diaspora Jews, especially in Europe, have reached the obvious conclusion that there is no future for their children in societies that treat them as pariahs. In contrast, our children live without ever experiencing the pain and humiliation of discrimination or being treated as inferior. For them Jewish identity is natural and requires no justification. The world applies double standards against us. With millions of innocent human beings murdered or denied human rights, we Jews remain the people who dwell alone.

The bitter lesson of our history has been that while we are obliged to forge alliances, ultimately we must rely on our own resources, rather than the goodwill of others. That is why we should continuously celebrate the fact that after 2,000 years of persecution, degradation and exile, the creation of a Jewish state has now empowered us. We must realize that so long as the majority of our people remain determined, our future rests in our own hands Those who wail about our shortcomings and the corruption within our ranks should realize that it is a mark of a healthy society when it transparently discloses its weaknesses and exacts harsh punishment on leaders who transgress.

We failed to achieve peace with our neighbors because we lack a peace partner. For years we deluded ourselves into believing that providing Arabs with land would achieve peace, only to belatedly realize that the Palestinian goal was neither peace, nor an independent state for themselves. Their primary objective was to deny legitimacy to Jewish sovereignty in the region.

When in years to come, our neighbors ultimately come to the realization that they can never vanquish us, they will follow the example of Egypt and Jordan—and appoint leaders who will peacefully coexist and enjoy prosperity with us.

I often contemplate what our grandparents would have thought during the dark years of the Holocaust had someone predicted to them that the Jewish people would rise like a phoenix from the ashes to resurrect a Jewish homeland which would become the greatest success story of our century. That is the theme that should run through our minds as we celebrate Jerusalem Day. And it should make us smile.





Bret Stephens

Wall Street Journal, May 24, 2011


Say what you will about President Obama’s approach to Israel—or of his relationship with American Jews—he sure has mastered the concept of chutzpah.

[Last] Thursday at the State Department, the president gave his big speech on the Middle East, in which he invoked the claims of friendship to tell Israelis “the truth,” which to his mind was that “the status quo is unsustainable, and Israel too must act boldly to advance a lasting peace.” On Friday in the Oval Office, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offered his version of the truth, which was that the 1967 border proposed by Mr. Obama as a basis for negotiating the outlines of a Palestinian state was a nonstarter.

Administration reaction to this reciprocal act of friendly truth-telling? “That was Bibi over the top,” the New York Times quoted one senior U.S. official, using the prime minister’s nickname. “That’s not how you address the president of the United States.” Maybe so. Then again, it isn’t often that this or any other U.S. president welcomes a foreign leader by sandbagging him with an adversarial policy speech a day before the visit.…

The contempt was again on display Sunday, when Mr. Obama spoke to the AIPAC policy conference in Washington. The speech was stocked with the perennial bromides about U.S.-Israeli friendship, which brought an anxious crowd to its feet a few times. As for the rest, it was a thin tissue of falsehoods, rhetorical legerdemain, telling omissions and self-contradictions. Let’s count the ways.

For starters, it would be nice if the president could come clean about whether his line about the 1967 line—“mutually agreed swaps” and all—was path-breaking and controversial, or no big deal. On Sunday, Mr. Obama congratulated himself for choosing the hard road to Mideast peace as he prepares for re-election, only to offer a few minutes later that “there was nothing particularly original in my proposal.”

Yet assuming Mr. Obama knows what he’s talking about, he knows that’s untrue: No U.S. president has explicitly endorsed the ‘67 lines as the basis for negotiating a final border.… Mr. Obama would also know that in 2009 Hillary Clinton had described this formula as “the Palestinian goal.” Now it’s Mr. Obama’s goal as well, even as he insists that “no peace can be imposed.”

Then there was Mr. Obama’s use of his favorite professorial trope: “Let me repeat what I actually said.” What followed was a rehearsal of what he supposedly said on Thursday.

But Mr. Obama’s problem isn’t, as he supposes, that people aren’t paying close enough attention to him. On the contrary, they’ve noticed that on Thursday Mr. Obama called for Israel to make territorial concessions to some approximation of the ‘67 lines before an agreement is reached on the existential issues of refugees and Jerusalem. “Moving forward now on the basis of territory and security,” he said, “provides a foundation to resolve these two issues in a way that is just and fair, and that respects the rights and aspirations of Israelis and Palestinians.”

Mr. Obama neglected to mention these points on Sunday, hence the telling omission. But the essence of his proposal is that Israel should cede territory, put itself into a weaker position, and then hope for the best. This doesn’t even amount to a land-for-peace formula.

That’s not all. Mr. Obama got some applause Sunday by calling for a “non-militarized” Palestinian state. But how does that square with his comment, presumably applicable to a future Palestine, that “every state has a right to self-defense”? Mr. Obama was also cheered for his references to Israel as a “Jewish state.” But why then obfuscate on the question of Palestinian refugees, whose political purpose over 63 years has been to destroy Israel as a Jewish state?

And then there was that line that “we will hold the Palestinians accountable for their actions and their rhetoric.” Applause! But can Mr. Obama offer a single example of having done that as president, except perhaps at the level of a State Department press release?

What, then, would a pro-Israel president do? He would tell Palestinians that there is no right of return. He would make the reform of the Arab mindset toward Israel the centerpiece of his peace efforts. He would outline hard and specific consequences should Hamas join the government.

Such a vision could lay the groundwork for peace. What Mr. Obama offered is a formula for war, one that he will pursue in a second term. Assuming, of course, that he gets one.


Barry Rubin
FrontPage Blog, May 21, 2011


President Barack Obama’s speech on Middle East policy did more damage to U.S.-Israel relations than anything said by any previous president during the almost forty-year alliance between the two countries. Yet, ironically, the speech wasn’t intended to be on Israel at all; Obama apparently thought he was being friendly toward Israel.…

The crisis, then, was caused by three factors: The ignorance of the Obama Administration over the issues involved; Obama’s chronic lack of friendliness toward Israel; and his refusal to recognize the threat from revolutionary Islamism.

His speech mainly focused on a totally uncritical evaluation of the current upheavals in the Arab world. The idea that Egypt is about to become a radical state, that the Egypt-Israel treaty is jeopardized, and that Israel is now facing the prospect of a renewed enemy to its southwest with twelve times its own population simply has not entered Obama’s calculations.

In other words, Obama is asking Israel to make risky concessions at the very moment when its security situation is potentially at its worst in the last thirty years. The assumption that Arab states would not launch a conventional war on Israel—which has prevailed since Egypt moved toward peace in 1978—no longer holds.

The fact that the president blithely sees no danger whatsoever from the Egyptian situation or the current upheavals in the region—a point that was the main theme of his speech—reduces his credibility with Israel to zero.

A second factor that makes Obama’s timing dangerously thoughtless is that he is rewarding the Palestinian Authority (PA) after it made a cooperation deal with the revolutionary Islamist group Hamas. Of course, Hamas is an openly antisemitic organization that makes no secret of its refusal to recognize Israel, its pride in committing terrorism, and its intention to commit genocide against Israel’s Jews.…

In practice, Obama accepts the entry of Hamas into the PA government, just as he accepts that of Hezbollah into Lebanon’s government, and the Muslim Brotherhood into Egypt’s government. While the president’s rhetoric on Israel and the Palestinians is studiously “even-handed” his policy is clearly on the other side, that of Israel’s and America’s enemies.

I don’t think Obama realizes this fact. But who cares? That’s what he’s doing and it is catastrophic for the United States, its Arab allies, and Israel.

But there’s more! In his speech Obama took a tough verbal stance against the PA’s plan to get the UN General Assembly to grant Palestine independence unilaterally in September.… While it is nice to know that the Obama Administration will vote against the proposal—one can’t take anything for granted with this president—that’s not what’s most important. In line with his principle of not taking leadership, Obama isn’t lobbying strenuously to press other countries to oppose the measure or the PA to drop the idea, and certainly isn’t threatening to punish them if they do.

Thus, this fiasco, which destroys even the chance for any Israel-PA talks in 2011 and perhaps for far longer, is partly the result of American passivity.

Yet the list of administration mistakes on these issues is still not complete. In his speech, Obama proposed a plan. Again, he tipped his hat at Israel by saying that he wouldn’t try to impose a solution—no doubt thinking that would win him praise from Israel—but then made a proposal that totally tramples on Israel’s interests.

Obama’s idea was that Israel would withdraw from the remainder of the West Bank and turn it over to the PA in exchange for unspecified security guarantees. Palestine could become a state and the issues of Jerusalem and refugees would be postponed.

The effect of such an outcome would be to throw away all of Israel’s leverage on the remaining issues; free the Palestinians to do what they wanted; and exchange real strategic assets (land) for promises written on paper (security guarantees). Given the PA’s past practices and the European-American implementation of their own pledges, that would be very flimsy paper indeed.

Then there is Obama’s refusal to give credit to Israel for the ways it has already shown its desire for peace, readiness to make concessions, and willingness to take risks in order to resolve the conflict. He never mentions that Israel has already withdrawn from the Sinai Peninsula, returned small amounts of territory to Jordan, pulled completely out of Lebanon and the Gaza Strip, and given the PA all the Arab-populated portions of the West Bank (except a small area in Hebron).

Most annoying of all, in discussing what Israel has done “wrong” in the speech he said that Israeli settlement activity is continuing. Since Israel froze construction for nine months at Obama’s request (and the PA then refused to talk) one might expect some gratitude on the president’s part for Israel’s cooperation and some criticism for the PA’s refusal to do what Obama asked.

If Obama refuses to acknowledge, much less reward, Israeli cooperation and concessions in the past, Israelis and Israeli leaders know that he won’t do so in future. If Obama refuses to maintain past U.S. pledges to Israel—like the country being able to annex settlement blocs and support for Israel being recognized by the PA as a Jewish state in a peace agreement—Israelis have no faith in any promises including security guarantees he offers in future.…

Israel is not going to allow a president with no credibility, who clearly doesn’t understand what’s at stake, fails to support his Arab allies, is soft on his Iranian and Syrian enemies, doesn’t learn from his past errors, is sacrificing U.S. interests in the region, and pays no attention to what’s happening in Egypt, to determine its future.

And it isn’t just Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who thinks that way. There’s a national consensus on the issue. For almost two and a half years, Israel has played along with Obama, working hard to avoid friction, because the relationship with the United States is of tremendous importance. There was some hope that Obama would learn from experience or, at least, the bilateral relationship could muddle through his four-year term.

Now, however, in large part because of the revolution in Egypt definitely headed toward radicalism and probably toward Islamism, and the PA’s readmission of Hamas—as well as Obama’s failure to learn much about the Middle East and Israel’s situation—that effort has come to an end.

[Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center, and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. Mr. Rubin will be speaking at the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research’s June 15th Gala.]


Steve McCann
American Thinker, May 22, 2011


The President of the United States has willingly and with forethought placed…Israel, whose existence America has guaranteed since 1948, in an untenable situation by his attempt to impose a course of action that, if not followed by Israel, will further…cause international sentiment to turn against [the Jewish State].…

President Obama is attempting to force a settlement on terms dictated by the Arabs in the Middle East. By setting as a pre-condition the surrender of territory commensurate with the pre-1967 boundaries in any negotiations with the Palestinians, he has instead guaranteed further conflict.…

In case the President isn’t aware, about this time 73 years ago there was an eerily similar situation taking place in Europe. Czechoslovakia was a country formed out of the re-drawing of boundaries after the horrific slaughter of World War I and the surrender of Germany and Austria. Much of the Czech border was adjacent to what was left of Germany, but it was a defensible border against a nation which for decades exhibited a particularly aggressive stance against its neighbors.

The new nation quickly developed its own economy, government and military while avoiding much of the financial and political chaos taking place in Germany during the 1920’s and 30’s. However, along its border with Germany was a region called Sudetenland which contained many ethnic Germans, who for the most part were quite content to live within the boundaries of Czechoslovakia.

Adolf Hitler upon assuming power in Germany almost immediately began [plotting to] re-institute the old German-speaking empire in Europe. Once he realized that the other strong Western European powers would not stand in the way of his immediate ambitions, such as the re-occupation of the Rhineland (controlled by France), he cast his eye toward Czechoslovakia.

In April of 1938, Hitler, together with his allies in the Sudeten Nazi party, issued a demand that Sudetenland be made autonomous and allied with Nazi Germany. [This] request, if granted, would leave Czechoslovakia unprotected, as almost all its border defenses were located in this region.… The Czech government refused to acquiesce to these absurd demands.

Hitler then, knowing that the governments of France and the United Kingdom were set on avoiding war at any cost, ratcheted up his demands and threatened to begin a war by invading Czechoslovakia. Both France and Britain advised the Czech government to accede to Hitler’s wishes or they would not support the country in the event of a war.

Hitler and his henchmen then began to foment unrest in the Sudetenland, which prompted military action by the Czech army in an attempt to restore order. Hitler then claimed that the Czech were indiscriminately slaughtering Sudeten Germans (a wholly false accusation). He demanded that the French and British [permit a] German takeover of the region. They agreed and issued an ultimatum to the Czechs, making their commitment to Czechoslovakia’s existence contingent on accepting Hitler’s demands.

The Czechs reluctantly accepted; however Hitler then increased his demands once more insisting that the claims of ethnic Germans in Poland and Hungary also be satisfied which would have the effect of further decreasing not only Czechoslovakia’s border with Germany but also its border with Poland to the north and Hungary to the South.…

The Czech government refused…and began to mobilize its military. On September 28, the Prime Minister of Great Britain, Neville Chamberlin, appealed for a conference with Hitler on this matter along with France and Italy. Czechoslovakia was not invited.

A deal was reached the next day. The German army was to occupy the Sudetenland by October 10, 1938, and an international commission would decide the fate of the other disputed areas; Hitler agreed that he had no further designs on the country and would leave the balance of the Czechoslovakia in peace. The allies would therefore guarantee the survival of the remainder of the country.

Czechoslovakia was informed by Britain and France that it could resist Nazi Germany alone, as they would not honor their defense agreements with Czechoslovakia.… Given that option the Czechs capitulated.

Neville Chamberlin flew back to London and proclaimed this Agreement, now known as the “Munich Pact”, together with a new peace treaty with Germany as “Peace in our time.”

Within six months Czechoslovakia ceased to exist as:

1) October 1938: Germany occupied the Sudetenland

2) October 1938: Poland occupied parts of northern Czechoslovakia

3) November 1938: Hungary occupied parts of southern Czechoslovakia

4) March 1939: The remaining Czech territories were annexed and became part of Germany

Hitler having so successfully intimidated and bullied the European allies over Czechoslovakia and other territory then set his sights on Poland which was invaded in September of 1939 thus triggering the most devastating war in the history of mankind.

It is not a casual observation to notice how many parallels there are with the saga of Czechoslovakia and today’s Israel.…

[In this respect], Barack Obama, [due to] his recent actions, has forced a major question to be asked: will the United States reprise the role of France and Britain in 1938? Will Israel be intimidated and bullied into accepting terms that will have as their end-game the dissolution of the country?

Despite numerous efforts over the past forty years by Israel to negotiate and surrender some land, among other concessions, nothing has accomplish[ed] peace with the Palestinians…[nor will it] until all parties [are] equal[ly] commitment to peace.… It would do well for the President to understand history…[for his] attempt to force a settlement by appeasing the Arab street at the expense of Israel will only lead to a potential world-wide conflagration as Iran and it’s…allies will only be emboldened to seek more concessions and ultimately war.


Evelyn Gordon
Jerusalem Magazine, May 23, 2011


Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is undoubtedly agonizing right now over…[how] to mitigate the damage caused by US President Barack Obama’s bombshell last week: the unprecedented demand that Israel withdraw to the 1967 lines without getting an end to the conflict in exchange, without such key issues as the refugees or Jerusalem even being addressed. Not even Europe or the Arab League ever went that far.

I don’t know what Netanyahu should say. But I know one thing that he and other leading Israeli politicians desperately need to stop saying: that Israel’s survival depends on signing a peace agreement with the Palestinians. For nothing so badly undermines Israel’s position among all three of the relevant audiences—the Palestinians, the international community and Israelis themselves.

Five years ago, no Israeli leader would have dreamed of asserting that Israel’s survival depends on anything any other nation does or doesn’t do: The whole point of Zionism was to restore control over Jewish fate to the Jews themselves.

But in a 2007 media interview, then-prime minister Ehud Olmert famously declared that “If the day comes when the two-state solution collapses…the State of Israel is finished.” And in the few short years since then, that astounding claim seems to have become de rigueur for Israeli politicians. Even Netanyahu himself echoed it at the official memorial ceremony for late prime minister Yitzhak Rabin last October, claiming that his own political camp, the center-right, has also now “acknowledged that it’s impossible to survive in the long run without a political settlement.”

Yet even if Israeli leaders believe this, it ought to be obvious that they shouldn’t say it, because it completely eradicates Israel’s leverage in negotiations with the Palestinians. If all the Palestinians have to do to ensure Israel’s eventual demise is to keep saying “no” to every offer of statehood, what conceivable incentive would they ever have to compromise? Why should they settle for the West Bank and Gaza if merely waiting a few decades would give them pre-1967 Israel too?

Such statements are equally devastating to Israel’s effort to obtain international backing for its positions. Ever since the Oslo process began in 1993, Israel has been trying to convince the world that any agreement must accommodate its needs on issues like the refugees, Jerusalem, the settlement blocs and security arrangements. And ostensibly, it holds a very powerful bargaining chip: the threat that there will be no agreement if these needs aren’t met.

Yet if Israel’s very survival depends on the existence of a Palestinian state, then it is in no position to bargain; it will ultimately have to accept an agreement on any terms the Palestinians care to offer. Beggars, after all, can’t be choosers. And if accommodating Israel’s needs isn’t actually necessary to obtain a deal, why should the international community—which has never been sympathetic to Israel’s positions to begin with—support these positions?

Worst of all, however, is the impact such statements have on the Israeli public. After all, most Israelis have long since concluded that no peace deal is achievable in the foreseeable future. Thus if Israel’s future truly depends on such a deal, the country has no future. And if so, why stay here? Why shouldn’t any Israeli who can simply leave? Life in Israel has always entailed many difficulties; the prize that makes them all worth enduring is Jewish sovereignty—the Jewish people’s ability, for the first time in 2,000 years, to determine its own fate. But if that prize is in fact beyond reach, why keep making the effort?

Indeed, such statements could well become self-fulfilling prophecies.… If our leaders have convinced themselves that only peace can save Israel, they will never even seek alternative strategies for surviving without peace, much less develop and implement them.

Theodor Herzl famously declared that “if you will it, it is no dream.” But to will anything, you must first be able to conceive of it. And that, ultimately, is the great challenge facing Netanyahu.… He must reverse five years of disastrous public discourse and persuade Israelis, and the world, that survival without peace is indeed conceivable. And then he must develop strategies to turn that idea into reality.





Robert Satloff

Washington Institute for Near East Policy, May 19, 2011


President Obama…sketch[ed] out a new paradigm for U.S. engagement with the Middle East in his State Department “winds of change” speech this afternoon, in which he raised the goal of reform and democracy to a top-tier U.S. interest. Nevertheless, after critiquing Arab regimes that have used the Arab-Israeli conflict to distract their peoples from the important business of reform, he undermined the potency and effect of his own message by unveiling a new—and controversial—set of principles guiding U.S. efforts to promote Israeli-Palestinian peace.

Specifically, the peace process principles he articulated constitute a major departure from long-standing U.S. policy. Not only did President Obama’s statement make no mention of the democracy-based benchmarks injected into this process by President Bush in his June 2002 Rose Garden speech (which might have been appropriate, given the overall theme of his speech), he even included significant departures from the “Clinton Parameters” presented to the parties by the then president in December 2000:

  • President Obama is the first sitting president to say that the final borders should be “based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps.” (The Clinton Parameters—which, it is important to note, President Clinton officially withdrew before he left office—did not mention the 1967 borders, but did mention “swaps and other territorial arrangements.”) The Obama formulation concretizes a move away from four decades of U.S. policy based on UN Security Council Resolution 242 of November 1967, which has always interpreted calls for an Israeli withdrawal to a “secure and recognized” border as not synonymous with the pre-1967 boundaries The idea of land swaps, which may very well be a solution that the parties themselves choose to pursue, sounds very different when endorsed by the president of the United States. In effect, it means that the U.S. view is that resolution of the territorial aspect of the conflict can only be achieved if Israel cedes territory it held even before the 1967 war.
  • Regarding IDF deployment, President Obama said that the Palestinian state should have borders with Egypt, Jordan, and Israel, and referred to the “full and phased” withdrawal of the Israel Defense Forces. This statement implies categorical American opposition to any open-ended Israeli presence inside the future Palestinian state. This differs from the Clinton Parameters, which envisioned three Israeli “facilities” inside the West Bank, with no time limit on their presence.
  • Although the president noted that he was endorsing a borders-and-security-first approach, leaving the subjects of refugees and Jerusalem for future negotiations, this is an odd reading of the relevance of those two issues. For Palestinians, the refugee issue may be powerfully emotive, going to the core of Palestinian identity; for Israelis, however, it is as much an issue of security as ideology. For the president not to repeat previous U.S. government statements—e.g., that Palestinians will never see their right of return implemented through a return to Israel—is to raise expectations and inject doubt into a settled topic.

Perhaps more than anything else, the most surprising aspect of the president’s peace process statement was that it moved substantially toward the Palestinian position just days after the Palestinian Authority decided to seek unity and reconciliation with Hamas. Indeed, the president seemed nonplussed that Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, has opted for unity with Hamas, a group the United States views as a terrorist organization. This reconciliation with Hamas “raises profound and legitimate questions for Israel,” the president noted—but evidently not questions so profound and troubling to the United States that they would impede a shift in U.S. policy that advantages the Palestinians.

Also odd was the fact that the president offered no implementation mechanism to translate these ideas into real negotiations. He named no high-level successor to Sen. George Mitchell, the peace process envoy who just resigned, nor did he specifically call for the immediate renewal of negotiations.

Despite this absence of a new mechanism, the likely next step is for Palestinians to take up the president’s call, ask for renewal of negotiations on precisely the terms the president outlined—borders that are “based on the 1967 lines with mutual swaps,” with no reference to refugees or other issues on which the Palestinians would make major compromises—and wait for Israel to say no.

Now en route to Washington, Israeli prime minister Netanyahu has already issued a statement objecting to the president’s focus on the 1967 borders. The two leaders may find a way to blur their differences over the principles outlined today, given their partnership on strategic issues and mutual interest in political cooperation and amity. But the approach to Israeli-Palestinian peace enunciated today has within it the seeds of deepening tension and perhaps even rift between the two sides—the very distraction from the focus on democratic reform the president said he wanted to avoid.

(Robert Satloff is The Washington Institute’s executive director
and Howard P. Berkowitz chair in U.S. Middle East policy.


Glenn Kessler

Washington Post, May 20, 2011


“The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states.”—President Obama, May 19, 2011

This sentence in President Obama’s much-anticipated speech on the Middle East caused much consternation Thursday among supporters of the Jewish state. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who will meet with Obama on Friday, adamantly rejected it.

For people not trained in the nuances of Middle East diplomacy, the sentence might appear unremarkable. However, many experts say it represents a significant shift in U.S. policy, and it is certainly a change for the Obama administration.

As is often the case with diplomacy, the context and the speaker are nearly as important as the words. Ever since the 1967 Six-Day War between Israel and its Arab neighbors, it has been clear that peace with the Palestinians would be achieved through some exchange of land for security. Indeed, Israelis and Palestinians have held several intensive negotiations that involved swapping lands along the Arab-Israeli dividing line that existed before the 1967 war—technically known as the Green Line, or the boundaries established by the 1949 Armistice agreements.

So, in many ways, it is not news that the eventual borders of a Palestinian state would be based on land swaps from the 1967 dividing line. But it makes a difference when the president of the United States says it, particularly in a carefully staged speech at the State Department. This then is not an off-the-cuff remark, but a carefully considered statement of U.S. policy.

Here is a tour through the diplomatic thicket, and how U.S. language on this issue has evolved over the years.

The Facts

The pre-1967 lines are important to both sides for setting the stage for eventual negotiations, but for vastly different reasons.

From an Israeli perspective, the de facto borders that existed before 1967 were not really borders, but an unsatisfactory, indefensible and temporary arrangement that even Arabs had not accepted. So Israeli officials do not want to be bound by those lines in any talks. From a Palestinian perspective, the pre-1967 division was a border between Israel and neighboring states and thus must be the starting point for negotiations involving land swaps. This way, they believe, the size of a future Palestinian state would end up to be—to the square foot—the exact size of the non-Israeli territories before the 1967 conflict. Palestinians would argue that even this is a major concession, since they believe all of the current state of Israel should belong to the Palestinians.

After the Six-Day War, the United Nations set the stage for decades of fitful peacemaking by issuing Resolution 242, which said that “the establishment of a just and lasting peace in the Middle East” should include the following principles:

1. Withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict.

2. Termination of all claims or states of belligerency and respect for and acknowledgement of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every State in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force.

Since the resolution did not say “the territories,” it has become a full-time employment act for generations of diplomats. Nevertheless, until Obama on Thursday, U.S. presidents generally have steered clear of saying the negotiations should start on the 1967 lines. Here is a sampling of comments by presidents or their secretaries of state, with some explanation or commentary.

“It is clear, however, that a return to the situation of 4 June 1967 will not bring peace. There must be secure and there must be recognized borders.”—President Lyndon Johnson, September 1968

“In the pre-1967 borders, Israel was barely ten miles wide at its narrowest point. The bulk of Israel’s population lived within artillery range of hostile armies. I am not about to ask Israel to live that way again.”—President Ronald Reagan, September 1, 1982

“Israel will never negotiate from or return to the 1967 borders.”—Secretary of State George Shultz, September 1988

Starting with President Lyndon Johnson, right after the Six-Day War, U.S. presidents often have shown great sympathy for Israel’s contention that the pre-1967 dividing line did not provide security.

“I think there can be no genuine resolution to the conflict without a sovereign, viable, Palestinian state that accommodates Israeli’s security requirements and the demographic realities. That suggests Palestinian sovereignty over Gaza, the vast majority of the West Bank, the incorporation into Israel of settlement blocks.… To make the agreement durable, I think there will have to be some territorial swaps and other arrangements.”—President Bill Clinton, January 7, 2001

In his waning weeks in office, Clinton laid out what are now known as the “Clinton parameters,” an attempt to sketch out a negotiating solution to create two states. His description of the parameters is very detailed, but he shied away from mentioning the 1967 lines even as he spoke of “territorial swaps.”

“In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli population centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949, and all previous efforts to negotiate a two-state solution have reached the same conclusion. It is realistic to expect that any final status agreement will only be achieved on the basis of mutually agreed changes that reflect these realities.”—Bush, letter to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, April 14, 2004

When Sharon agreed to withdraw Jewish settlers from the Gaza Strip, Bush smoothed the deal by exchanging letters that supported the Israeli position that the 1967 lines were not a useful starting point. The letter infuriated Arabs, but it helped Sharon win domestic approval for the Gaza withdrawal. Interestingly, despite Israeli pleas, the Obama administration has refused to acknowledge the letter as binding on U.S. policy.

“We believe that through good-faith negotiations the parties can mutually agree on an outcome which ends the conflict and reconciles the Palestinian goal of an independent and viable state based on the 1967 lines, with agreed swaps, and the Israeli goal of a Jewish state with secure and recognized borders that reflect subsequent developments and meet Israeli security requirements.”—Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Nov. 25, 2009

When the Israeli government announced a partial settlement freeze, Clinton responded with a statement that specifically mentioned a state based on 1967 lines, but as a “Palestinian goal.” This was balanced with a description of an “Israeli goal.”

Originally, the Obama administration had hoped both sides would have agreed to acknowledge such goals as a starting point for negotiations—known in the diplomatic trade as “terms of reference.” When that effort failed, Clinton issued the concept in her own name. She would repeat the same sentence, almost word for word, many times over the next 1½ years.

The Bottom Line

In the context of this history, Obama’s statement Thursday represented a major shift. He did not articulate the 1967 boundaries as a “Palestinian goal” but as U.S. policy. He also dropped any reference to “realities on the ground”—code for Israeli settlements—that both Bush and Hillary Rodham Clinton had used. He further suggested that Israel’s military would need to agree to leave the West Bank.

Obama did not go all the way and try to define what his statement meant for the disputed city of Jerusalem, or attempt to address the issue of Palestinians who want to return to lands now in the state of Israel. He said those issues would need to be addressed after borders and security are settled. But, for a U.S. president, the explicit reference to the 1967 lines represented crossing the Rubicon.


Alan M. Dershowitz
Jerusalem Post, May 20, 2011


President Barack Obama should be commended for his emphasis on Israel’s security and his concern about Hamas joining the Palestinian Authority without renouncing its violent charter. But he made one serious mistake that tilts the balance against Israel in any future negotiations. Without insisting that the Palestinians give up their absurd claim to have millions of supposed refugees “return” to Israel as a matter of right, he insisted that Israel must surrender all of the areas captured in its defensive war of 1967, subject only to land swaps.

This formulation undercuts Security Council Resolution 242 (which I played a very small role in helping to draft). Resolution 242, passed unanimously by the Security Council in the wake of Israel’s 1967 victory, contemplated some territorial adjustments necessary to assure Israel’s security against future attacks. It also contemplated that Israel would hold onto the Western Wall, the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem and the access roads to Hebrew University, without the need for any land swaps. Land swaps would only be required to make up for any areas beyond those contemplated by Resolution 242. The Obama formulation would seem to require land swaps even for the Western Wall.

Any proposed peace agreement will require the Palestinians to give up the so-called right of return, which is designed not for family reunification, but rather to turn Israel into another Palestinian state with an Arab majority. As all reasonable people know, the right of return is a non-starter. It is used as a “card” by the Palestinian leadership who fully understand that they will have to give it up if they want real peace.… Obama’s mistake was to insist that Israel give up its card without demanding that the Palestinians give up theirs.

Obama’s mistake is a continuation of a serious mistake he made early in his administration. That first mistake was to demand that Israel freeze all settlements. The Palestinian Authority had not demanded that as a condition to negotiations. But once the President of the United States issued such a demand, the Palestinian leadership could not be seen by its followers as being less Palestinian than the President. In other words, President Obama made it more difficult for the Palestinian leadership to be reasonable. Most objective observers now recognize Obama’s serious mistake in this regard. What is shocking is that he has done it again. By demanding that Israel surrender all the territories it captured in the 1967 war (subject only to land swaps) without insisting that the Palestinians surrender their right of return, the President has gone further than Palestinian negotiators had during various prior negotiations. This makes it more difficult for the Palestinian leadership to be reasonable in their negotiations with the Israelis.

It is not too late for the President to “clarify” his remarks so that all sides understand that there must be quid for quo—that the Palestinians must surrender any right to return if the Israelis are expected to seriously consider going back to the 1967 lines (which Abba Eban called “the Auschwitz lines” because they denied Israel real security).

If President Obama is to play a positive role in bringing the Palestinians and the Israelis to the negotiating table, he should insist that there be no preconditions to negotiation. This would mean the Palestinians no longer insisting on a settlement freeze before they will even sit down to try to negotiate realistic borders. The President did not even ask the Palestinians to return to the negotiating table. Nor did he ask them to drop the condition that he, in effect, made them adopt when he earlier insisted on the freeze.

The President missed an important opportunity in delivering his highly anticipated speech. We are no closer to negotiations now than we were before the speech. My fear is that we may be a bit further away as a result of the President’s one-sided insistence that Israel surrender territories without the Palestinians giving up the right of return. I hope that Prime Minister Netanyahu’s visit to Washington may increase the chances of meaningful negotiations. I wish I could be more optimistic but the President’s speech gave no cause for optimism.…


Jerold S. Auerbach
American Thinker, May 20, 2011


Next Tuesday, four days after he meets with President Obama, Prime Minister Netanyahu will address Congress. With Israel now confronting a triple-security threat that leaves the country more vulnerable than at any time since the outbreak of the Yom Kippur War in 1973, it is imperative for the Israeli leader to stand firm.

Netanyahu’s planned “peace initiative” has been undermined by recent events. With its peace treaty with Egypt fraying since Mubarak’s forced departure, Gaza will surely become a Hamas arsenal. Reconciliation between Hamas, sworn to Israel’s destruction, and the Palestinian Authority, too weak to resist, will trap Israel between Palestinian pincers in Gaza and the West Bank. Looming in September is United Nations recognition of Palestinian statehood, another step in that organization’s persistent delegitimization of Israel.

Pressure continues to mount, from the international community and from the Obama administration, for Israel to relinquish the West Bank for a Palestinian state—and, presumably, “peace.” That is a delusion.

It is time for Netanyahu, in his address to Congress, to decisively reject the seductive but menacing mantra of “land for peace.” His recent declaration that the Palestinian Authority can have peace with Israel or with Hamas, but not both, was reassuring. His conditions for peace, recently outlined to the Knesset, sounded firm: Palestinian recognition of Israel; its refugee problem to be solved outside Israel’s borders; settlement blocs to remain part of Israel, with Jerusalem as its united capital. But they are insufficient.

The West Bank mountain ridge forms the major land barrier against an attack from the east that could decimate the coastal plain (including Tel Aviv), where 70 percent of Israelis live. The widely despised Jewish settlements located there are not the primary obstacle to peace; enduring Arab hostility to a Jewish state is. Between 1948 and 1967, there were no settlements—and still no peace.

The prime minister might use his opportunity to remind the world that the West Bank, biblical Judea and Samaria, is the biblical homeland of the Jewish people. Two thousand years of ancient Jewish history unfolded there. If there is Jewish land anywhere in the world, it is there.

Until after the Six-Day War, however, this land was Judenrein. Only then, following yet another failed Arab attempt to annihilate the Jewish state, could Jews return to live in their historical homeland. More than 300,000 Israelis have done so. Surrounding settlements with a Palestinian state will destroy them and undermine Israeli security. The alternative—Israeli expulsion of tens of thousands of Jews who live outside the settlement blocs—is no better.

Finally, given relentless international efforts to delegitimize Israel, Prime Minister Netanyahu might remind critics that Jewish settlement, protected by international guarantees ever since 1922, is fully consistent with international law.

The League of Nations Mandate then cited “the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine and the legitimacy of grounds for reconstituting their national home in that country.” After Great Britain lopped off three-quarters of Palestine for Trans-Jordan (the first Palestinian state), Jews were assured the right of “close settlement” in the remaining land west of the Jordan River. That right has never been rescinded.

Article 80 of the United Nations Charter explicitly protected the rights of “any peoples or the terms of existing international instruments to which members of the United Nations may respectively be parties.” Drafted in 1945 by Jewish legal representatives (including Ben-Zion Netanyahu, the Prime Minister’s father), it preserved the rights of the Jewish people to settle in all the land west of the Jordan River.

Settlement critics often cite Article 49 of the Geneva Convention, adopted in 1949 in the shadow of the Holocaust, as a restriction on settlement. They are mistaken. Drafted to prevent a repetition of the forced Nazi and Soviet deportations of civilian populations, it declared that an “Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.”

This provision has no applicability to Jewish settlements. Neither during nor since the Six-Day War did Israel “deport” Palestinians from the West Bank or “transfer” Israelis there. Settlers acted on their own volition to restore a Jewish presence in the Jewish homeland—precisely as Zionist kibbutzniks had earlier done in the Galilee and Negev.…

Prime Minister Netayahu’s speech should be framed with reminders of these international guarantees, the historic Jewish attachment to the Land of Israel, and the menacing security situation that Israel will confront should its ancient homeland be abandoned. The consequences for Israel of surrendering its legitimate security and its historic and internationally guaranteed land claims would be dire, if not fatal.…

Netanyahu’s willingness to [compromise] Jewish land, first demonstrated when he capitulated to Clinton administration demands under the Oslo II Accords, is a disturbing harbinger. Last year he acceded to President Obama’s insistence on a ten-month freeze on settlement construction—in return for nothing. Even after the freeze expired, with no discernible Palestinian willingness to resume peace negotiations, Netanyahu tacitly acquiesced to its continuation.

Appeasement paved the way for one horrific Jewish tragedy. It is imperative for Israel’s Prime Minister to state, clearly and unequivocally, that the Jewish state will not become another Czechoslovakia, sacrificed by “friends” to please its enemies. Clinging to the fantasy of land for peace can only deepen Israel’s alarming vulnerability.

(Jerold S. Auerbach is the author of Brothers at War: Israel and the Tragedy of the Altalena.)