November 2012 Archives

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Father Roy writes:   From Israel’s perspective, the UN has a “tradition” of anti-Semitism.   Peace, Roy 

UN accuses Israel of blocking Gaza reconstruction

Thursday, 08 November 2012

The United Nations Fourth Committee has accused the Israeli authorities of obstructing efforts to reconstruct the Gaza Strip, which was devastated during the Israeli war in 2008/2009. Life in Gaza, claims the UN, will not be viable if the siege is not lifted.

“The mission of reconstructing the Gaza Strip has become more difficult for UNRWA because of Israel’s delayed approval of projects,” said the Committee, which is charged with looking into projects for “decolonisation”. “The delays cost UNRWA $5m in addition expenses, which has to be taken from money donated to help refugees.”

Reduced financial support for UNRWA from donor countries has, warned the Committee, led to a decrease in the level of services offered to Palestinian refugees: “This is dangerous morally and politically.”

The Commissioner General of UNRWA, Filippo Grandi, said: “The agency is still facing two main challenges in affording basic humanitarian services for the Palestinian refugees: widespread conflicts in the Middle East and the scarcity of financial support.”

Mr Grandi was quoted by UN Radio: “In 2020, the population of the Gaza Strip is expected to have risen by 500,000 people and they will need education and work.” He stressed the need to lift the siege on Gaza and kick-start the economy “to provide viable conditions for life”.

Background to the Israel and Palestine conflict

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Father Roy writes:   One wonders what positions our recently “unshackled” President will take on the issues at the Helsinki Conference next month.  Peace, Roy

Obama in Cairo in 2009

Obama in Cairo in 2009

Will Unshackled Politicians Deliver Peace in Palestine?  

Reelected U.S. President Barack Obama is expected to be able to conduct policy with much more vigor.

While on domestic and economic issues he will need to work with a Republican House (the Senate will be Democratic), foreign relations is where the executive branch (the White House and the State Department) has the ability to apply his policies.

America’s first African American president who grew up in several parts of the world should be able to produce a foreign policy much closer to his heart and beliefs without having to worry about another election.

Second-term U.S. presidents, who naturally care about their legacy, often look overseas to find ways for history to remember them.

War and peace cannot be addressed in any part of the world more than in the Middle East, where the U.S. is fighting a war in Afghanistan and will continue to need to win the hearts and minds of Arabs and Muslims.

Obama’s win also signals a clear vote of confidence from American Jews who voted for him. More than 70 percent of U.S. Jews supported the president (unlike American Israelis who supported Romney).

On the Palestinian side, the newly reelected U.S. president can count on a Palestinian leader who, similarly, is not shackled by the need to run for office again. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is determined not to run for office again, which leaves him free to say his mind, as he did last week when he said on Israel TV’s second channel what most Palestinians think.

Abbas declared that Palestine is the territories occupied in 1967 and that most Palestinians (including himself) do not insist on returning to live in their homes in Israel.

Even the head of the Islamic movement Hamas is not planning to run for reelection as the head of the political bureau. Khaled Mishaal, who left Syria and has publicly supported popular rather than military struggle as the way to liberate Palestine, also supports the two-state solution based on the 1967 borders.

So with the reelection of Obama, and with his strong foreign policy record and his tough policy against radical extremist forces around the world, he should be in a good position to push for a vigorous policy in the Middle East.

Solving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict must rank high in Obama’s second term. Obviously new blood and new ideas are needed to give this effort a serious push.

As was proved before, moving ahead in the Middle East will most likely have to be done through a mix of pressure and behind-the-scenes politicking.

The Egyptian-Israeli peace agreement and the initial Palestinian-Israeli memorandum of understanding were prepared in secret. Obviously, once a package deal is agreed upon, it will require public support. Previous experience makes one inclined to believe that the public will most likely support a deal that leaders would agree to.

Almost everyone knows what such a deal would entail. A two-state solution will have to be basically based on the 1967 borders with some land swaps based on equity in percentages and quality of lands.

The refugee issue has been widely discussed and a solution will most likely include an admission by Israel of historic and moral responsibility for causing the refugee problem, in return for most Palestinians opting not to return (possibly a small percentage can be allowed to return over a number of years).

For Jerusalem, also, there are many solutions suggested that can be focused on. The Clinton parameters called for Palestinian neighbourhoods as part of the Palestinian state and Jewish-populated areas that could be part of the state of Israel.

An unshackled U.S. president along with Palestinian leaders yearning for peace can be a perfect formula for progress in this centuries-old conflict. No case can enable the reelected president to etch his legacy and be remembered in history more than the Palestinian case.

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More wisdom from the indomitable Uri Avnery. It does seem bizarre that Avnery would hope for American interference in the upcoming Israeli election, akin to Netanyahu’s recent meddling in the Obama v Romney showdown, but his logic is flawless.

Father Dave

Uri Avnery

Uri Avnery

November 10, 2012

Goodbye to a War

BINYAMIN NETANYAHU and his patron, Sheldon Adelson, betted on Mitt Romney, with the State of Israel as their chip.

They lost.

For Adelson, the betting tycoon, that doesn’t amount to much. Some you win, some you lose.

For Netanyahu, it’s a different matter altogether. He grew up in the US (where he got to know Romney in 1976) and prides himself as a great expert on America. It was one of his strongest cards, since relations with the US are vital for Israel. Now he stands exposed as a know-nothing, together with his ambassador in Washington DC, who was recommended by Adelson.

Does this hurt Netanyahu’s chances in the upcoming Israeli elections? Perhaps. But only if a credible counter-candidate is found, who could repair relations with Barack Obama.

Ehud Olmert is presenting himself as such, and may now join the fray. Some dream of Shimon Peres giving up the presidency to run as a candidate. Peres, who is two weeks older than I, has never won an election in his fifty years in politics. But there’s always a first time, isn’t there?

ISRAELIS ARE, of course, interested mainly in the Jewish vote. It is indeed revealing.

Netanyahu made no secret of supporting Romney to the hilt. US Jews were told that voting for the Republican candidate was voting for Israel. So did they? They did not.

I don’t yet have the detailed statistics, but from results in Florida and other states it seems that the great majority of Jews supported the Democratic candidate, as they have always done.

What does that mean? It means that one of the most basic contentions of Netanyahu and Co. has been shown to be fallacious.

Netanyahu declares almost hourly that Israel is the “nation-state of the Jewish people”. This means that Israel belongs to all the Jews in the world, and that all the Jews in the world belong to Israel. So he speaks not only for the six million Jewish citizens of Israel, but for all the 13 million or so Jews around the globe. (Assuming that no Jews are discovered on Mars.)

Again, this has been proven a fiction. American Jews (or, rather, Jewish Americans) voted as members of the American nation, not of the non-existent Jewish nation. Many of them are certainly sympathetic to Israel, but when it comes to voting, they vote as Americans. Israel plays a very minor role in their concerns. They may give a standing ovation to Netanyahu when he visits, as American Catholics would to the Pope, but they ignore his instruction to vote for a candidate.

This has great implications for the future. In any clash between vital American and Israeli interests, Jewish Americans are first of all Americans. In such a future situation, a similar miscalculation by Netanyahu or his successors may prove fatal.

FOR EXAMPLE, about the Iran war. Israeli hawks can kiss it goodbye.

I doubt that even Romney, had he been elected, would have allowed Netanyahu to attack. Campaign speeches would not have trumped the vital interests of the USA. He, too, would have taken one look at the map of the Strait of Hormuz and shuddered.

Be that as it may have been, there is no chance whatsoever that Obama will now tolerate an Israeli attack. It would have ignited a large scale war with incalculable consequences for the US and world economy.

Americans don’t want another war. They want to get out of Iraq and Afghanistan, in practice ceding both countries to their adversaries. Starting another, and far bigger war in Iran is unthinkable.

This may be, for us, the most important result of these elections.

WHAT ABOUT Israeli-Palestinian peace?

No doubt, chances have picked up.

I don’t want to sound too optimistic. The usual cliché says that US presidents in their second term are free of political pressures and can at long last act according to their conscience. That is certainly true – up to a point.

The President is the leader of a party, and from the first day after an election the party starts to think about the next election. Powerful lobbies like AIPAC don’t cease to exist and will continue to exert a lot of pressure for the Israeli right. Big donors will still be needed. In two years, mid-term elections will come up.

But I hope that Obama will return to his starting position and try to compel both sides to commence serious negotiations. The forthcoming Palestinian application to the UN General Assembly to accept it as a state (with observer status) may be a test. Its acceptance is of great importance, since it would put the two-state solution squarely back on the international table. The US has no veto power there, and it is up to the president to decide whether to apply pressure or not.

The US is like a huge aircraft-[space instead of hyphen]carrier. To turn around it needs a lot of time and space. But even a slight change of course can have a major impact on our lives.

IN ISRAEL, the major question is: Will He Take Revenge?

No doubt, Obama hates Netanyahu, and with good reason. Netanyahu will not receive a warm welcome  in the Oval Office.

But Obama is a cold fish. He will keep his personal feelings in tight check.

But how tight? Will he change his attitude towards Netanyahu and his policies enough to give encouragement or even support to Israeli peace forces? Will he influence the Israeli elections as Netanyahu tried to influence the American ones?

Frankly, I hope so. For Israel’s sake.

Obama’s victory will reinforce the liberal, democratic, secular, social-minded, less-militant spirit throughout the world. If the Israeli government continues on its present course, its isolation in the world will increase dangerously.

Unless we do to Netanyahu what the Americans just did to Romney.

AS EVERYBODY knows, there are some basic similarities between the US and Israel.

Both are immigrant nations. Both were built by white settlers who carried out ethnic cleansing. Both glorify their huge achievements while keeping quiet about the darker sides of their past.

The elections in both countries illuminate another similarity: the ever-growing split between the various “sectors” of society. White male Americans rallied behind Romney, colored Americans and women behind Obama. Demographic factors played a major role. To some extent it was a rearguard action by the dominant white male elite against the new majority of blacks, Hispanics, women and the young.

The split was exacerbated by the Tea Party fanatics. It seems that every few generations the American nation is afflicted by a new wave of insanity – the anti-Anarchist hysteria after WWI, McCarthy after WWII, the Tea Party now. To its immense credit, America has a knack of overcoming these waves.  But the Tea Party killed Romney, in spite of all his desperate flip-flopping.

Israel has a similar split. Society is divided into sectors, which cast their votes on sectoral lines: Whites (Ashkenazim), Orientals, Ultra-Orthodox (Haredim), National-Religious, Russian immigrants, Arabs. The Likud is a party of Orientals dominated by white males. Lieberman’s is the party of the “Russians”. Together with the religious of various stripes they constitute a powerful coalition. Unlike Obama, the Israeli left has not been able up to now to build an effective counter-coalition.

We need an Israeli Obama, who will work with the US Obama for peace.

Before it is too late, please.

For more Avnery articles online, go to zope.gush-shalom.org…

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Peers,I respectfully invite your attention to the article pasted below.  What memories does this article conjure up in your mind?  I have vivid memories of the several times … sometimes in public … that Israel’s Prime Minister attempted to “subordinate” the President of the United States.  At the time, I found it embarrassing to watch.  Netanyahu attempted to humiliate President Obama in oh, such subtle ways.  On one occasion, there in the White House, Bibi seemed to be spitting into the President’s face.  Obama did not lose his dignity (thanks, God).  For subtle reasons (which we can figure out) Obama pretended not to notice.  One wonders how their relationship will evolve and develop now that Obama has been re-elected. 

One also wonders whom the Israelis will choose to lead the “Jewish” state in the future.  Israel’s elections are scheduled to be held on January 22, the day after Obama’s re-inauguration.  Bibi is leading in the polls.  One wonders which candidate TOI will support.  TOI is “The Other Israel” which is the Israeli Peace Bloc.  For a review of TOI, check out:  www.gush-shalom.org… and Uri Avnery (03:29).

Peers, if I were America’s President …. which, of course, I am not …. I would call Benjamin Netanyahu on the telephone this very weekend.  After the usual amenities, I would inform him … simply … in a short declarative sentence:  “Bibi, I have concluded that Iran is not our enemy.”  Netanyahu would be irate, of course.  The never-ending dramantandos would begin.  I would just let him talk.  On and on.  My rebuttal would be:  “Bibi, I have an idea that will save us a lot of time.  I’ll send you a link to a video:  Falk on Palestine, Israel and US (1:06:23).  I would like to discuss Richard Falk’s Weltanschauung with you the next time we meet.  BTW, Falk is Jewish.  Perhaps we can meet on the sidelines at the Helsinki Conference if, of course, Israel can be persuaded to attend.”  Then I would let Bibi talk some more.  I wouldn’t argue with him.  I would find it spiritually dangerous to argue with him.  I might lose my dignity if I were to argue with him.  I might invite him to sit on his thumb and rotate.  No, I would find a civilized way to continue my mission.  I would proceed to the Rose Garden and alert the WHPC that Bibi and I will be discussing the Falk video prior to Israel’s elections.  Peers, please read on.  How do YOU analyze this highly critical situation?

Cheers, Peace, Roy 

Father Roy

Father Roy

Netanyahu Faces ‘Payback’ After Obama Victory?

– Common Dreams staff

“This is probably not a very good morning for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu,” Israel’s Interior Minister Eli Yishai said Wednesday.

Barack Obama and Binyamin Netanyahu at the White House in 2010. (Jason Reed/Reuters)

Netanyahu and his Likud Party had actively supported Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan in what Israeli opposition leader Shaul Mofaz described as “a rude, blunt, unprecedented, wanton and dangerous intervention in the United States election.”

On January 22nd, the day after Obama’s re-inauguration, Netanyahu will face Israeli voters in his own attempt to get re-elected.

The Jerusalem Post wrote Wednesday: “Israel is now 76 days away from its own elections, elections the Obama Administration would just as clearly like to see Netanyahu lose, as Netanyahu would rather have liked to see Republican candidate Mitt Romney win on Tuesday night.

Reuters reports:

Former Israeli ambassador to Washington, Sallai Meridor, suggested that Obama would not easily forget that Netanyahu had created a perception that Israel wanted Romney to defeat him.

Obama is “very strategic, very disciplined”, Meridor said during a panel discussion on the U.S. election at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv.

“But I don’t think we can just assume that what happened between them over past four years will have just evaporated,” he said. “When people fight for their political life and have the perception that their partner is trying to undermine their chances, it’s not going to disappear.”

Attacking Iran?

The bellicose Netanyahu said in an interview broadcast on Israel’s Channel 2 this week: “If there is no other way to stop Iran, Israel is ready to act.”

The Guardian reports:

Obama’s reference in his victory speech to moving “beyond this time of war” indicates his strong aversion to military confrontation with Iran.Two issues will characterize the relationship between the US and Israel over the next year. The first is Iran. Netanyahu has, for now, drawn back from his bellicose rhetoric of earlier this year, clearly indicating in his speech to the United Nations in September that Israel was unlikely to launch a military strike against Iran’s nuclear installations before next spring or summer.

This followed Obama’s refusal, despite Netanyahu’s best efforts, to be forced into specifying the point at which the US would be prepared to take military action, while insisting that remains an option if diplomacy and sanctions fail to halt the Iranian program.

Israel – the political, military and security leadership, as well as the general public – would much prefer joint action with the US, not least because of questions over Israel’s military capability to strike unilaterally. But Obama’s reference in his victory speech to moving “beyond this time of war” indicates his strong aversion to military confrontation with Iran.

The second issue is progress towards a settlement of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. This is the most likely arena for any possible “payback”, especially if Obama decides, as so many previous second-term presidents have, that he wants to make this a legacy issue.

Netanyahu, whose inclination is to “manage” the current situation in which millions of Palestinians live under occupation, rather than advance towards a two-state settlement of the conflict, will attempt to resist pressure.

Background to the Israel and Palestine conflict

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Bishop Richard E. Pates is the Chairman of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Committee on International Justice and Peace.   Peace, Roy 

Bishop Pates To Secretary Clinton: Moves By Israelis, Palestinians Undermine Peace, Human Dignity

November 8, 2012

WASHINGTON—Both Palestinians and Israelis have undermined the possibility of a two-state solution in recent actions and policies, said the chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops(USCCB) Committee on International Justice and Peace in a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

These actions include rocket attacks from Gaza into Southern Israel that “spread fear among Israeli families and damage the Palestinian cause by undercutting the trust necessary for negotiations,” said Bishop Richard E. Pates  of Des Moines, Iowa, November 8. He also decried the Israeli plan to re-route the separation barrier between Israel and Palestine through the Cremisan Valley.

That plan, said Bishop Pates, would “harm 58 Christian families whose livelihoods and living conditions depend on these lands” and “cut families off from agriculture and recreational lands, other family members, water sources, and schools – including depriving Christian Palestinian youth of fellowship with their peers.”

He added, “Moving the wall and disassociating Palestinian families from their lands and livelihoods will incite more resentment against the State of Israel among residents of the West Bank, not less, increasing the frustrations that can lead to violence.”

Bishop Pates affirmed USCCB’s support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinians conflict, the end of the rocket attacks and the reversal of policies like the Cremisan Valley proposal that undermine peace.

“Our Conference reiterates its call for strong U.S. leadership that holds both parties accountable for building a just and lasting peace,” Bishop Pates said. “Leaders on both sides must give Israelis and Palestinians hope for a different future free of fear and full of promise.”

The full text of the letter from Bishop Pates to Secretary Clinton is available online: www.us…