Tuesday, 31 March 2015
Monday, 30 March 2015
While not all Israelis support Netanyahu, most share his fundamental foreign policy concerns.
Prior to the Israeli elections, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu came under fire for securing his right-wing base when he stated, "I think that anyone who is going to establish a Palestinian state today and evacuate lands is giving attack grounds to the radical Islam against the state of Israel."
Those on the left, he cautioned, are ignoring reality by "burying their heads in the sand." From there he went on to say that he would not support such a Palestinian state.
But would any Israeli government support such a state?
Netanyahu ran on a national security ticket and underscored the growing threat of Islamism and Iran. He did not need to remind Israelis about their last war with Hamas in Gaza, but rather pointed to growing regional instability. All represent real predictors of a radicalized West Bank, especially under a Hamas-Fatah coalition. If one looks at Gaza, the West Bank in its current state could easily be transformed into an ISIS like environment, and a clear and present danger to Israel perhaps worse than those Israelis face along their southern and northern borders.
For the majority of Israelis, Netanyahu still represents a reassuring voice.
Moreover, Netanyahu has always argued for a demilitarized Palestinian state. His recent statement was not a policy departure about the kind of neighbor Israel seeks.
Critics have concluded that Netanyahu's pre-election comments abandoned the two-state solution proposed in his 2009 speech at Bar-Ilan University, but a closer look reveals more about animosity towards Netanyahu.
This was only one of the misreadings surrounding the election. The Israeli media badly misread the pre-election signs and exit polls. These showed that while there were a plethora of domestic problems articulated by Isaac Herzog, Tzipi Livni, Yair Lapid and company, the majority of Israelis see the real threat to Israel as Islamist. For them, Netanyahu still represents a reassuring voice.
Diplomatically, the two-state solution is still the basis for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
Diplomatically, the two-state solution is still the basis for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, as advocated by most of the international community, spearheaded by Washington. Reaching it is the official policy of both the government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority, but it is no secret that Hamas does not support this notion, with or without PA President Mahmoud Abbas.
More importantly, from Yasser Arafat to Abbas, we have witnessed generations of Palestinians support rejectionism rather than statehood. They cling to the notion of being a refugee for life rather than a citizen of any country. Neither Herzog nor Netanyahu can overcome this.
In the heyday of the Oslo peace process, the push for an Israeli-Palestinian agreement was done on every possible level, socially, politically and militarily, and even reached a point where being "anti-Oslo" connoted being anti-Israel. But 20 years of bitter experiences later, Oslo has lost its allure and has been replaced by a more skeptical prism of the region.
The alleged centrality of the "settlements" is really an empty issue, which deflects attention from the real issues that obstruct a negotiated settlement. There is little debate over the fact that – should a peace agreement be completed – there will be a redistribution of land. Most of the bargaining is about whether these exchanges will take the shape of a total phased Israeli withdrawal, or exchanging the most populous Israeli towns for lands in the Jordan Valley or Negev desert. But this must be left to the parties to decide and not imposed by outside powers.
The Israeli commitment to a two-state solution predates Netanyahu and represents a consensus that encompasses both the left and the right. As the late Prime Minister Ariel Sharon stated during his UN speech in 2005:
The essence of my Jewish consciousness, and of my belief in the eternal and unimpeachable right of the people of Israel to the Land of Israel. However, I say this here also to emphasize the immensity of the pain I feel deep in my heart at the recognition that we have to make concessions for the sake of peace between us and our Palestinian neighbors. The right of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel does not mean disregarding the rights of others in the land. The Palestinians will always be our neighbors. We respect them, and have no aspirations to rule over them. They are also entitled to freedom and to a national, sovereign existence in a state of their own. I am among those who believe that it is possible to reach a fair compromise and coexistence in good neighborly relations between Jews and Arabs. However, I must emphasize one fact: There will be no compromise on the right of the State of Israel to exist as a Jewish state, with defensible borders, in full security and without threats and terrorism.
Sharon's final caution clearly mirrors that of Netanyahu and represents the majority of Israelis.
Israelis have not lost hope in peace, but they are more prudent about the process. Netanyahu still underscores that "just as Israel is prepared to recognize a Palestinian state, the Palestinians must be prepared to recognize a Jewish state."
Both sides need to make concessions, but Israel's security and Jewish identity concerns deserve as much attention as Palestinian territorial claims.
Asaf Romirowsky is a fellow at the Middle East Forum, and co-author of Religion, Politics and the Origins of Palestine Refugee Relief(Palgrave Macmillan, 2013).
Saturday, 28 March 2015
Dear SFI Colleagues and Friends on Facebook/Twitter,
If you have not yet signed this important petition I urge you to do so NOW!
This conference not only “concerns the legitimacy in international law of the Jewish State of Israel”, as this petition makes clear, but in so doing also seeks to delegitimise Scottish Friends of Israel’s own support for the Jewish State.
Please give it your support and ask your friends and families to do likewise!
Scottish Friends of Israel
Here's the link:
The Academic Friends of Israel
Please sign the petition opposing the 'Antisemitic' Israel conference at Southampton University
Southampton University, one of 24 members of the British Russell Group of Institutions which have distinguished themselves as research-led universities of international quality is to hold a conference on the 17-19 April 2015questioning both the legal and moral right of the state of Israel to exist.
The conference "International Law and the State of Israel: Legitimacy, Responsibility and Exceptionalism" is described by the organisers as “the first of its kind and constitutes a ground-breaking historical event ... it is unique because it concerns the legitimacy in international law of the Jewish State of Israel.”
The event will be addressed by over 80 academics from Universities around the world, including the USA, Britain, Australia and Israel. The organisers, who include Southampton law professor Oren Ben-Dor and George Bisharat, professor at the University of California Hastings College of Law; have said that the conference will “engage controversial questions concerning the manner of Israel’s foundation and its nature, including ongoing forced displacements of Palestinians and associated injustices.” Ben-Dor and Bisharat have committed themselves in the past to the delegitimisation of the State of Israel and its replacement with a Palestinian State.
The majority of speakers at this one-sided conference support a boycott of Israel include Richard Falk, the former United Nations special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories and anti-Zionist Israeli academic Ilan Pappe.
Criticising Israeli policies is acceptable in debate, but denying its right to exist veers into Antisemitism. As French Prime Minister Manuel Valls declared: “Antisemitism, this old European disease…hides itself behind a fake anti-Zionism.” It discriminates against the Jewish people, denying them the right to self-determination which is enshrined in international law. Such historic prejudice lies behind much BDS activity.
In deference to the principle of freedom of speech, The Academic Friends of Israel are not calling for cancellation of the conference. Nor are we calling for a more balanced program. Such bigotry cannot be balanced.
Please sign our petition which calls on the University of Southampton to distance itself from the upcoming conference by removing it from campus, in order to avoid giving the event credibility and official approval to bigotry and Antisemitism.
Thursday, 26 March 2015
British Foreign Office Spokesperson said: “We support the Saudi Arabian military intervention in Yemen"
“We support the Saudi Arabian military intervention in Yemen following President Hadi’s request for support by ‘all means and measures to protect Yemen and deter Houthi aggression.’ As the UN Security Council has made clear, President Hadi is Yemen's legitimate President.
“The recent Houthi actions and expansion in Aden and Taiz is a further signal of their disregard for the political process. Any action taken should be in accordance with international law.
“Ultimately, the solution to the crisis must be a political one. The international community will continue to use diplomatic and humanitarian support to achieve long-term stability, avoid civil war, economic collapse and a deeper humanitarian crisis in Yemen.”
Wednesday, 25 March 2015
“One who is afraid of votes in a ballot box will eventually see stones thrown in the streets,” the president, Reuven Rivlin, said as he ceremonially received the certified results of last week’s election. Later, standing next to Mr. Netanyahu, he described “a difficult election period” in which “things were said which ought not to be said — not in a Jewish state and not in a democratic state.”
Mr. Netanyahu apologized this week for expressing concern in a video about Arab turnout, remarks that the White House, world leaders, American Jews and many inside Israel had condemnedas race-baiting and fearmongering. As he accepted the mandate for a fourth term, the prime minister did not revisit the uproar over those remarks or directly address his pre-election disavowal of support for a Palestinian state, which together have drawn unrelenting criticism from President Obama and his aides.
“Our hands are held out in peace towards our Palestinian neighbors, and the people of Israel know that true peace will only be guaranteed if Israel remains powerful, both in spirit and in strength,” Mr. Netanyahu said Wednesday.
“We greatly appreciate, and will keep our pact with, the closest of our friends, the United States of America,” he continued, “and we will nonetheless continue to act to prevent the unfolding deal with Iran, an agreement which puts in danger us, our neighbors, the world.”
Mr. Netanyahu now has up to six weeks to form a governing coalition, an internecine process of deal-making over ministerial posts and policy positions. He is widely expected to do so with six rightist and religious parties that together won 67 of Parliament’s 120 seats, though some Israeli analysts said the crisis in relations with Washington had increased the pressure on him to form a unity government with the center-left Zionist Union or the centrist Yesh Atid, or both.
Senior members of Mr. Netanyahu’s Likud party and the heads of the ultranationalist Jewish Home and Yisrael Beiteinu factions are all vying for the Foreign and Defense Ministries. Mr. Netanyahu has promised the finance position to Moshe Kahlon, a former Likud minister who formed Kulanu, a faction that focused on economic issues.
On Wednesday, Mr. Netanyahu vowed that the government’s first budget would include steps to reduce the cost of housing and food and dismantle monopolies, tenets of Mr. Kahlon’s campaign.
Mr. Rivlin, a Likud member whose term as president has been marked by outreach to Israel’s 1.7 million Arab citizens and residents, said Mr. Netanyahu should make the government “as inclusive as possible.”
Alongside improving relations with the United States, other “critical missions” for the new government, according to Mr. Rivlin, include returning stability to the political system to avoid another early election, and “healing the wounds, mending the painful rifts, which have gaped open in the past years, and widened further in the course of this recent election.”
Anti-Semitism is rising around the world. So the question becomes: What can we do to fight it? Do education campaigns work, or marches or conferences?
There are three major strains of anti-Semitism circulating, different in kind and virulence, and requiring different responses.
In the Middle East, anti-Semitism has the feel of a deranged theoretical system for making sense of a world gone astray. Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, doesn’t just oppose Israel. He has called it the “sinister, unclean rabid dog of the region.” He has said its leaders “look like beasts and cannot be called human.”
President Hassan Rouhani of Iran reinstated a conference of Holocaust deniers and anti-Semitic conspiracy theorists. Two of Iran’s prominent former nuclear negotiators apparently attended. In Egypt, the top military staff attended a lecture on the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. The region is still rife with the usual conspiracy theories — that the Jews were behind 9/11, drink the blood of non-Jews, spray pesticides across Egyptian lands.
This sort of anti-Semitism thrives where there aren’t that many Jews. The Jew is not a person but an idea, a unique carrier of transcendent evil: a pollution, a stain, a dark force responsible for the failures of others, the unconscious shame and primeval urges they feel in themselves, and everything that needs explaining. This is a form of derangement, a flight from reality even in otherwise sophisticated people.
This form of anti-Semitism cannot be reasoned away because it doesn’t exist on the level of reason. It can only be confronted with deterrence and force, at the level of fear. The challenge for Israel is to respond to extremism without being extreme. The enemy’s rabidity can be used to justify cruelty, even in cases where restraint would be wiser. Israeli leaders try to walk this line, trying to use hard power, without becoming a mirror of the foe, sometimes well, sometimes not.
In Europe, anti-Semitism looks like a response to alienation. It’s particularly high where unemployment is rampant. Roughly half of all Spaniards and Greeks express unfavorable opinions about Jews. The plague of violence is fueled by young Islamic men with no respect and no place to go.
In the current issue of The Atlantic, Jeffrey Goldberg has an essay, “Is It Time for the Jews to Leave Europe?” He reports on a blizzard of incidents: a Jewish school principal who watched a Frenchman of Algerian descent pin his 8-year-old daughter down in the schoolyard and execute her; a Swedish rabbi who has been the target of roughly 150 anti-Semitic attacks; French kids who were terrified in school because of the “Dirty Jew!” and “I want to kill all of you!” chants in the hallway; the Danish imam who urged worshipers in a Berlin mosque to kill the Jews, “Count them and kill them to the very last one.”
Thousands of Jews a year are just fleeing Europe. But the best response is quarantine and confrontation. European governments can demonstrate solidarity with their Jewish citizens by providing security, cracking down — broken-windows style — on even the smallest assaults. Meanwhile, brave and decent people can take a page from Gandhi and stage campaigns of confrontational nonviolence: marches, sit-ins and protests in the very neighborhoods where anti-Semitism breeds. Expose the evil of the perpetrators. Disturb the consciences of the good people in these communities who tolerate them. Confrontational nonviolence is the historically proven method to isolate and delegitimize social evil.
The United States is also seeing a rise in the number of anti-Semitic incidents. But this country remains an astonishingly non-anti-Semitic place. America’s problem is the number of people who can’t fathom what anti-Semitism is or who think Jews are being paranoid or excessively playing the victim.
On college campuses, many young people have been raised in a climate of moral relativism and have no experience with those with virulent evil beliefs. They sometimes assume that if Israel is hated, then it must be because of its cruel and colonial policies in the West Bank.
In the Obama administration, there are people who know that the Iranians are anti-Semitic, but they don’t know what to do with that fact and put this mental derangement on a distant shelf. They negotiate with the Iranian leaders, as if anti-Semitism was some odd quirk, instead of what it is, a core element of their mental architecture.
There are others who see anti-Semitism as another form of bigotry. But these are different evils. Most bigotry is an assertion of inferiority and speaks the language of oppression. Anti-Semitism is an assertion of impurity and speaks the language of extermination. Anti-Semitism’s logical endpoint is violence.
Groups fighting anti-Semitism sponsor educational campaigns and do a lot of consciousness-raising. I doubt these things do anything to reduce active anti-Semitism. But they can help non-anti-Semites understand the different forms of the cancer in our midst. That’s a start.