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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.


Father Roy writes:   An international conference will be held in Helsinki next month.  The date is yet to be announced.  The conference will have a definite goal and a specific purpose.  Will the conference receive media attention?  Will the deliberations at the conference be accurately reported?   Peace, Roy

Click here: Iran to take part in nuclear-fre… JPost 

Iran to take part in nuclear-free Middle East talks

Ambassador to the IAEA says Iran “decided to participate” in international conference in Finland on creating nuclear-free zone.

BRUSSELS – Iran, accused by the West of seeking to develop a nuclear weapons capability, said on Tuesday it would take part in a proposed international conference in December on creating a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran now finally has decided to participate at the conference in Finland, in Helsinki, in December on a Middle East (nuclear) free zone,” Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran’s ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency, told reporters in Brussels.

No date has yet been set for the meeting in the Finnish capital later this year on establishing a zone without nuclear arms and other weapons of mass destruction in the volatile region and there are questions over whether it will take place.

Israel, which has drawn frequent Arab and Iranian condemnation over its presumed nuclear arsenal, has not yet said whether it will attend the proposed Helsinki conference.

Soltanieh was in Brussels to attend in an invitation-only seminar, organized by think-tanks, to promote efforts to hold the conference.

Several Israelis were also present at the seminar, according to Mark Fitzpatrick, an expert on nuclear non-proliferation from Britain’s International Institute for Strategic Studies think-tank, who was involved in organizing the event.

Iran has held years of on-off negotiations with Western powers over its nuclear program, which Tehran says is for peaceful purposes but which the West suspects is aimed at developing nuclear weapons.

Israel, the only regional state not to belong to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, has said it would sign the NPT and renounce nuclear arms only as part of a broader Middle East peace deal with Arab states and Iran that guaranteed its security.

Israel has never confirmed or denied having nuclear arms under a policy of ambiguity aimed at deterrence, has made clear it believes the Middle East is not yet ready for the creation of a zone free of such weapons.


Father Roy writes: Bibi and Avigdor Liegerman have joined forces prior to Israel’s next elections which probably will be held in February of 2013.  Bibi has promised Lieberman the portfolio of his choice.  Most of us know where Bibi stands on the issues: Israeli strike on Iran nuclear plants will only serve to calm Mideast.  Lieberman is known for taking strong stands himself:  Israel will never return the Golan Heights… JPost There is sometimes contention/competition between the two men.

Ehud Olmert willbe a contender if he can get his legal difficulties straightened out (charges of bribery, corruption, etc.)  Tzipi Livni says she’s not going to play “second fiddle” to anybody.  It will be interesting to note which candidate Uri Avnery and the others at TOI … which is “The Other Israel” … led by www.gush-shalom.org… … will end up supporting.  It’ll be fascinating to observe Israel’s “vibrant” democracy in full operation between now and February: ‘Apartheid state’ claim sets off firestorm in Israel.   

Israelis always take great interest in America’s Presidential elections.  Perhaps it’s time for Americans to return the favor.  Bibi went so far as to campaign in Florida for one of our candidates.  Pasted below is an article featuring Yair Lapid who is regarded by some as a “rising star” in Israeli politics.  Lapid is reported to have a special appeal for women voters.  They think he looks like a “film star”.  Please read on.


Yair Lapid

Yair Lapid (picture from the Wikimedia Commons)

Lapid slams Left, Right over approaches to peace 

By YONAH JEREMY BOB10/30/2012 22:34

Yesh Atid leader gives 1st major diplomatic-security speech, says party won’t sit in gov’t that won’t return to table of peace process.

Yesh Atid party leader Yair Lapid, speaking from the Ariel University Center on Tuesday night, said his party “won’t sit in a government that won’t return” to the peace table, in his first major speech of election season on diplomacy and security issues.Lapid criticized the Right for only coming to the negotiating table with “a gun” and the Left for only coming with “an olive branch,” saying there must be a balanced approach. He did not completely define what that meant

, but he did imply that Israel must be ready to make sacrifices.Lapid indicated that his primary goal was maintaining a Jewish majority, which could only be done by negotiating peace with the Palestinians based on the “two states for two peoples” vision, and not based on unilateral withdrawals or ignoring the Palestinians.

On the other hand, he did specify that he would not withdraw from any of the settlement blocs, from the Gush bloc to Ariel, the site of the speech.

Citing Ariel as a red line and delivering his speech from there was significant, as while it is a large settlement it is also one of the settlements situated most deeply into the West Bank – and media reports have indicated in the past that some Israeli leaders did not view Ariel as a red line.

Lapid also said he had two “iron rules.” He would not recognize Palestinians’ right of return for their refugees. He claimed that part of his basis was that international law does not allow people to pass on the right of return to land to their descendants.

On Jerusalem, Lapid said that he would not divide the capital and would maintain sovereignty.

The language he used on this issue went further than the ambiguous refusal to divide it, which some politicians use as a code for leaving open the possibility of a city split by sovereignty, but not by a fence or concrete border.

However, he did not explicitly negate sharing some part of Jerusalem with the Palestinians.

He did add that Jerusalem is the “heart” of the country and that “the return to Zion” was speaking of a “return to the Tower of David” in Jerusalem, and not to “the Azrieli Tower” in Tel Aviv.

Lapid’s chief criticism of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on the peace process appeared to be that he had “wasted four years” by not going to the table with a serious “intent” to make an agreement.

He excoriated Netanyahu for using the “there is no peace partner” argument as a cover for not taking the process seriously.

Lapid quoted former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin who said that we may not like the Palestinians, but we are stuck with negotiating with them, and cannot try to “make peace with the Norwegians” and achieve peace.

He also spoke directly to the settlers, saying that he recognized them as having an important role as a “bridge between past and future,” but, likely referring to protests against withdrawals, also said that they must accept government decisions “even if they disagree.” On Iran, Lapid chastised Netanyahu for overemphasizing the military option. He said that while the option must “remain on the table,” the focus must be on the goal of stopping Iran from making a nuclear weapon.

The Yesh Atid party leader implied that since Israel could only set Iran back, but not fully stop it, Israel must work harder than it has in the past to rally world support.

He added that “we must not do the world’s work, we must convince the world that it needs to act on behalf of all of us.” Some commentators have argued that only greater sanctions or a US strike can fully stop Iran’s weapons program.

While Lapid did not formally endorse this view, it appeared to be the direction in which he was going.

Lapid said that while peace with the Palestinians was a “strategic” interest for Israel and “not merely tactical,” another advantage to peace would be the world’s increased willingness to listen to Israel on Iran.

Several hundred people and media packed the Raab Hall at Ariel, with protesters trying to disrupt Lapid’s speech on both sides of the aisle. Right-wing protesters held signs saying “Lapid will throw me out of my house,” while a group of Meretz Youth volunteers held a demonstration outside of the auditorium. They then entered and threw fake bills with Lapid’s face on them on stage, implying he was a sell-out.

The Meretz spokesman did not know about the incident when asked, and said that the group of activists from Meretz Youth “carry out a lot of activities – both ones organized with us and ones that they organize on their own.”

Leading up to the speech, Lapid has been unveiling the names of many leading members of his Knesset list, holding multiple press conferences each week.

Meanwhile, Ma’ariv journalist Ofer Shelach quit his job on Tuesday. Media reports indicated he would be joining forces with Lapid, which the Yesh Atid spokeswoman did not deny, but she also refused to confirm it for the time being.

The spokeswoman also confirmed that Shelach had a heavy influence on Lapid’s policy speech in Ariel.


Father Roy writes: Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote (someplace) that tensions in society can be “creative”.  I’ve done no highlighting in the article pasted below.  It’s self-explanatory.  If one reads the article on the Internet, one can learn a bit about Peter Smith, the man who wrote the article.  Peter is a Presbyterian.  Breaking News:  Jimmy Carter backs Christian leaders’ letter.  


Church leaders, Jews spar over letter on Israel

Tensions have risen once again between Jewish and several Protestant denominations, including the Louisville-based Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), in the wake of a letter sent by several church leaders calling for a congressional review of U.S. military aid to Israel.

The letter has also stoked controversy within the Presbyterian Church itself.

The letter, sent earlier this month by leaders from several Protestant denominations as well as of Orthodox and Catholic groups, denounces what it calls “widespread Israeli human rights violations committed against Palestinian civilians, many of which involve the misuse of U.S.-supplied weapons.”

Several Jewish groups responded by canceling a previously planned meeting with Protestant leaders, saying it showed a “betrayal of trust” by the church groups.

“The objectionable actions of Israel enumerated in this letter to Congress are either taken out of context, severe exaggerations or outright false,” Matt Goldberg, director of the Jewish Community Relations Council in Louisville, wrote in a recent statement.

“…Additionally, to focus singularly on Israel when other nations receiving American foreign aid (such as Egypt, Pakistan, Jordan, Afghanistan and Iraq) have far worse human rights records is insulting,” he wrote.

The Rev. Gradye Parsons, stated clerk of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), said the letter reflects the denomination’s longstanding call for a two-state solution in the Middle East and for U.S. aid to Israel to be subject to conditions, such as a halt to Israeli settlements on the West Bank. The 2010 General Assembly of the denomination, he said, called on him to send a letter to Congress raising concerns that military aid to Israel has not been used in compliance with U.S. law regulating the use of such aid. He said the 2012 assembly similarly called for U.S. government accountability on this matter.

Parsons said now was the right time to send the letter. “The whole issue of West Bank settlements is off everybody’s radar because of everybody’s legitimate concern about Syria, Egypt Iran” and other global hot spots, Parsons said in an interview. “We weren’t even talking about it.”

He echoed sentiments in the letter that the church leaders supported Israel’s right to exist in security.

The letter said:

“We want to be clear that we recognize that Israel faces real security threats and that it has both a right and a duty to protect both the state and its citizens. However, the measures that it uses to protect itself and its citizens, as in the case with any other nation, must conform to international humanitarian and human rights law.”

In the past decade, Presbyterians have repeatedly considered pulling investments from Israel but balked at votes at its biennial General Assemblies after vigorous debate within the church — debate that also drew in Jews, Christian Arabs, Muslims and others outside the denomination.

Earlier this year, an assembly narrowly rejected a proposal to divest from three American companies identified as aiding the Israeli occupation, although the assembly did call for a consumer boycott of Israeli products manufactured in the occupied territories, such as Dead Sea cosmetics.

Also this year, Methodist and Episcopal conventions rejected divestment proposals, but a Quaker group did vote to divest from two companies seen as involved with the occupation.

Parsons said the church does recognize the responsibility on all sides:

“There are things that the Palestinians need to do to move toward peace. There are things the Israeli government needs to do. At the end of the day, I want any parent that lives in Israel or Palestine to put their child to bed without any worry about any harm coming to them.”

The recent letter by the coalition of church groups was also signed by high-ranking officials in the National Council of Churches, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the United Methodist Church, the Quaker-affiliated American Friends Service Committee, the Mennonite Central Committee, the American Baptist Churches U.S.A., the United Church of Christ and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).

Representatives of the Orthodox Peace Fellowship and two Roman Catholic groups, the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns and the Conference of Major Superiors of Men, also signed.

The letter was signed by more liberal and mainline church groups that historically have had warm interfaith ties with Jews and have worked with them on interfaith projects.

But on the topic of Israel, such church groups have increasingly criticized Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands as the heart of the Middle East conflict, whereas more conservative evangelical groups have taken vocally pro-Zionist positions. (The recent Billy Graham near-endorsement of Mitt Romney explicitly cited support for “candidates who base their decisions on biblical principles and support the nation of Israel.”)

A Presbyterian caucus, Presbyterians for Middle East Peace, disputes Parsons’ stance, saying that General Assembly votes have called for a “balanced approach” to the standoff and fails to note human rights violations under the Palestinian Authority and Hamas.

Parsons said the debate is difficult but necessary.

“I hope that people that have been in dialogues in one way or another for half a century can find ways to talk about things that are difficult.”

The letter cited such things as reports of the killings of civilians by the Israeli military, Jewish settler attacks on Palestinian targets, restrictions on Palestinians’ movement and the use of prohibited military weapons. It says allowing U.S. aid to continue without any review “will only serve to sustain the status quo and Israel’s military occupation of the Palestinian territories.”

Goldberg wrote that Israel does not deliberately target civilians, “as opposed to the terrorist organizations such as Hamas that exclusively target civilians.”

Groups the pulled out of a planned meeting with Protestants last week include the American Jewish Committee, the Anti-Defamation League, B’nai B’rith International, the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the Rabbinical Assembly, the Union for Reform Judaism and the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism.

They are instead calling for a summit with church leaders to discuss the controversy.


Father Roy writes:   Peers, if I had my way … which I seldom do … this development would be discussed in depth and at length by Christians in every local congregation in the country …  and prior to the November elections.  Peace, Roy 

ADL quits interfaith dialogue following churches’ letter on Israel aid

The Anti-Defamation League withdrew from participating in a national Jewish-Christian interfaith dialogue after church leaders asked Congress to reevaluate U.S. military aid to Israel.

The ADL in a statement called the request “a serious breach of trust by mainline Protestant Church leaders” participating in the annual interfaith meeting, which will be held on Oct. 22.

The religious leaders from the Lutheran, Methodist and United Church of Christ churches, and the National Council of Churches sent a letter to Congress members on Oct. 8 calling for an investigation into possible violations by Israel of the U.S. Foreign Assistance Act and the U.S. Arms Export Control Act. The violations would make Israel ineligible for U.S. military aid.

The letter also decried what it called “a troubling and consistent pattern of disregard by the government of Israel for U.S. policies that support a just and lasting peace,” citing Israel’s failure to halt settlement activity despite repeated U.S. government requests.

“In light of the failure of any of the church leaders to reach out to us, we have decided not to attend this interfaith meeting,” saidAbraham Foxman, ADL’s national director. “The blatant lack of sensitivity by the Protestant dialogue partners we had been planning to meet with has seriously damaged the foundation for mutual respect, which is essential for meaningful interfaith dialogue.

“It is outrageous that mere days after the Iranian president repeated his call for Israel’s elimination, these American Protestant leaders would launch a biased attack against the Jewish state by calling on Congress to investigate Israel’s use of foreign aid. In its clear bias against Israel, it is striking that their letter fails to also call for an investigation of Palestinian use of U.S. foreign aid, thus once again placing the blame entirely on Israel.”

Foxman called on other Jewish organizations to “understand the level of disrespect the American Jewish community is being shown here” and to also withdraw from the conference.