obama

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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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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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As ever, reading Uri Avnery gives me hope that all is not lost in the quest for justice and peace in the Middle East – not quite.

One line from this essay that I will certainly quote again is Avnery’s analysis of Islamophobia (a statement he says he has made before but somehow I had missed it up till now):

“Islamophobia is nothing but the fashionable modern cousin of good old anti-Semitism, seeping from the same sewers of the collective unconscious, exploiting the same old prejudices, transferring to the Muslims all the hatred once directed towards the Jews.”

As to the debate between Obama and Romney, Avnery sees it as a façade, but what else could it be? How can anyone be expected to have a serious discussion on Foreign Policy when the whole debate is designed as a vote-winning exercise? Having said that, even if the statements of the two wanna-be’s does not reflect their true understanding of international politics, it does reflect their understanding of how their voters see the rest of the world. That in itself should be enough to make us all worried.

Father Dave

Uri Avnery

Uri Avnery

October 27, 2012

Drought in Texas

EVERYBODY IN Israel knows this story. When Levy Eshkol was Prime Minister, his assistants rushed up to him in panic: “Levy, there is a drought!”

“In Texas?” Eshkol asked anxiously.

“No, in Israel!” they said.

“Then it doesn’t matter,” Eshkol assured them. “We can always get all the wheat we need from the Americans.”

That was some 50 years ago. Since than, nothing much has changed. The elections in the US in 11 days are more important to us than our own elections in three months.

I HAD to stay awake till 3 am again to watch the final presidential debate live. I was afraid that I would doze off, but I did not. On the contrary.

When two chess players are engaged in a game, there is often a person – we call him a “kibitzer” – standing behind one of them, trying to give him unsolicited advice. During the debates, I do the same. In my imagination, I stand behind Barack Obama and think about the right answer to Romney, before Obama himself opens his mouth.

I must admit that on some occasions during this debate, his answers were much better than mine. For example, I did not think up a stinging reply to Romney’s contention that the US now has less warships then it had a hundred years ago. Obama’s dry reply – that the US army now has fewer horses, too – was sheer genius. The more so since he could not have prepared it. Who could have foreseen such a dumb remark?

Also, when Romney slammed Obama for skipping Israel on his first Middle East tour as president. How to counter such a factual challenge – especially with thousands of Jewish pensioners in Florida listening to every word?

Obama hit the right note. Remarking that Romney had visited with an entourage of donors and fund-raisers (without naming Sheldon Adelson and the other Jewish donors), he reminded us that as a candidate he went instead to Yad Vashem, to see for himself the evil done to the Jews. Touche.

On a few occasions, I thought I had a better answer. For example, when Romney tried to explain away his comment that Russia was the most important “geo-political foe” of the US, I would have reacted with “Excuse my ignorance, governor, but what does ‘geo-political’ mean?” In his context, it was a highfalutin but meaningless phrase.

(“Geo-politics” is not just a juxtaposition of geography and politics. It is a world-view propagated by the German professor Hans Haushofer and others and adopted by Adolf Hitler as a rationale for his plan to create Lebensraum for Germans by annihilating or driving out the population of Eastern Europe.)

I would have talked much more about the wars, Nixon’s Vietnam, the two Bushes’ Iraq, the second Bush’s Afghanistan. I noticed that Obama did not mention that he had been against the Iraq war right from the beginning. He must have been advised not to. 

ONE DID not have to be an expert to notice that Romney did not present original ideas of his own. He parroted Obama’s positions, changing a few words here and there.

Earlier in the campaign, during the primaries, it did not look like that. Clamoring for the votes of the right-wing base, he was about to bomb Iran, provoke China, battle Islamists of all shades, perhaps resurrect Osama Bin Laden in order to kill him again. Nothing of the sort this time. Only a meek “I agree with the President”.

Why? Because he was told that the American people had had enough of the Bush Wars. They don’t want any more. Not in Afghanistan, and certainly not in Iran. Wars cost a lot of money. And people even get killed.

Perhaps Romney decided in advance that it was enough for him to avoid looking like an ignoramus on foreign affairs, since the main battleground was in the economic sphere, where he can hope to look more convincing than Obama. So he played it safe. “I agree with the President…”

THE WHOLE concept of a presidential debate on foreign affairs is, of course, nonsensical.  World affairs are far too complicated, the nuances far too subtle, to be dealt with in this rough way. It would be like performing a kidney operation with an ax.

One could easily get the impression that the world is an American golf course, in which the US can knock the peoples around like balls, and the only question is which player has the more skill and selects the best club. The will of the peoples themselves is quite irrelevant. What are the feelings of the Chinese, the Pakistanis, the Egyptians? Who cares?!

I am not sure that most of the American viewers could find Tunis on the map. So it makes no sense to argue about the forces at work there, make distinctions between Salafists and Muslim Brothers, preferring these or those. All in four minutes.

For Romney, obviously, all Muslims are the same. Islamophobia is the order of the day, and Romney openly pandered to it. As I have pointed out before, Islamophobia is nothing but the fashionable modern cousin of good old anti-Semitism, seeping from the same sewers of the collective unconscious, exploiting the same old prejudices, transferring to the Muslims all the hatred once directed towards the Jews.

Many Jews, of course, especially the elderly in the nursing homes in warm Florida, are relieved to see the Goyim turn on other victims. And since the new victims happen also to be the foes of beloved Israel, all the better. Romney clearly believed that pouring his bile on “Islamists” was the easiest way to garner Jewish votes.

Trying hard to look tougher than Obama, Romney did, after all, come up with an original idea: provide the Syrian insurgents with “heavy arms”. What does that mean? Artillery? Drones? Missiles? And if so, to whom? To the Good Guys, of course. And take care that they do not fall into the hands of the Bad Guys.

What a brilliant idea. But please, who are the Good Guys and who the Baddies? Nobody else seems to know. Least of all the CIA or the Mossad. Dozens of Syrian factions are at work – regional, confessional, ideological. All want to kill Assad. So who will get the cannons?

All this made any serious discussion about the Middle East, now a region of infinite variations and nuances, quite impossible. Obama, who knows a lot more about our problems than his adversary, found it wise to play the simpleton and utter nothing but the most fatuous platitudes. Anything else – for example a plan for Israeli-Palestinian peace, God forbid, could have offended the dear inhabitants of the one old people’s home which may change the outcome in Florida.

ANY SERIOUS Arab or Israeli should have been insulted by the way our region was treated in this debate by the two men, one of whom will soon be our lord and master.

Israel was mentioned in the debate 34 times – 33 times more than Europe, 30 times more than Latin America, five times more than Afghanistan, four times more than China. Only Iran was mentioned more often – 45 times – but in the context of the danger it poses to Israel.

Israel is our most important ally in the region (or in the world?) We shall defend it to the hilt. We shall provide it with all the arms it needs (plus those it doesn’t need).

Wonderful. Just wonderful. But which Israel, exactly? The Israel of the endless occupation? Of the unlimited expansion of settlements? Of the total denial of Palestinian rights? Of the rain of new anti-democratic laws?

Or a different, liberal and democratic Israel, an Israel of equality for all its citizens, an Israel that pursues peace and recognizes Palestinian statehood?

But not only what was parroted was interesting, but also what was left unsaid. No automatic backing of an Israeli attack on Iran. No war on Iran at all, until hell freezes over. No repetition of Romney’s earlier declaration that he would move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. No pardon for the Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard.

And, most importantly: no effort at all to use the immense potential power of the US and its European allies to bring about Israel-Palestine peace, by imposing the Two-State solution that everybody agrees is the only viable settlement. No mention of the Arab peace initiative still offered by 23 Arab countries, Islamists and all.

China, the new emerging world power, was treated with something close to disdain. They must be told how to behave. They must do this or that, stop manipulating their currency, send the jobs back to America.

But why should the Chinese take any notice when China controls the US national debt? No matter, they’ll have to do what America wants. Washington locuta, causa finita. (“Rome has spoken, the case is closed,” as Catholics used to say, way back before the sex scandals.)

UNSERIOUS AS the debate was, it showed up a very serious problem.

The French used to say that war is too serious to leave to the generals. World politics are certainly too serious to leave to the politicians. Politicians are elected by the people – and the people have no idea.

It was obvious that both contenders avoided any specifics that would have demanded even the slightest knowledge from the listeners. 1.5 billion plus Muslims were considered to fall into just two categories – “moderates” and “Islamists”. Israel is one bloc, no differentiation. What do viewers know about 3000 years of Persian civilization? True, Romney knew – rather surprisingly – what or where Mali is. Most viewers surely didn’t. 

Yet these very same viewers must now finally decide who will be the leader of the world’s greatest military power, with a huge impact on everyone else.

Winston Churchill memorably described democracy as “the worst form of government, except for all the other forms that have been tried from time to time.”

This debate could serve as evidence.

Read more from the great Uri Avnery on his website: gush-shalom.org…

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Well said, Alan Hart! His conclusion is particularly telling – “What a tragedy it is that American presidents can only speak the truth when they are out of office.”

We had the same experience here in Australia. Malcom Frazer left an ambiguous legacy as Prime Minister, but what a forthright and prophetic figure he became in retirement!

I suppose the reason for all this is self-evident. It isn’t until our political leaders leave office that they come off the payroll of the major corporations.

Father Dave

Come Back President Carter!

By Alan Hart

October 25, 2012

The third and final debate between President Obama and challenger Romney was so lacking in real and relevant substance about foreign affairs that I had to struggle, several times, to resist the temptation to turn it off and go back to bed.

Romney’s message to America’s voters seemed to be something very like, “On foreign policy I’m not the ignorant, belligerent guy I had to pretend to be in order to secure my party’s nomination.”

Obama’s message seemed to be something like, “Just as his sums don’t add up on the domestic front, my opponent really doesn’t know what he’s talking about on foreign policy matters. As for myself, in a second term I’ll try to do better.” (And was there, reading between the lines, an indication that he thinks he is on course in a second term for fixing the nuclear problem with Iran by negotiations?)

A question that would have been put to Obama by a really good moderator who understands how American actions are fuelling the fire of violent Islamic fundamentalism is this: “Mr. President, are you not concerned that the targeted assassinations by drones which you personally authorize are counter-productive because they are killing so many innocents, men, women and children?”

On Romney’s performance in general I thought the editorial in the New York Times was more or less spot on. Its verdict included the following:

“Mitt Romney has nothing really coherent or substantive to say about domestic policy, but at least he can sound energetic and confident about it. On foreign policy, the subject of Monday night’s final presidential debate, he had little coherent to say and often sounded completely lost. That’s because he has no original ideas of substance on most world issues, including Syria, Iran and Afghanistan. During the debate, on issue after issue, Mr. Romney sounded as if he had read the boldfaced headings in a briefing book – or a freshman global history textbook – and had not gone much further than that. Twice during the first half-hour, he mentioned that Al Qaeda-affiliated groups were active in northern Mali. Was that in the morning’s briefing book?” (I would be very surprised if Romney knows where Mali is).

The editorial concluded:

“Mr. Romney’s closing statement summed it all up. He said almost nothing about foreign policy. He moved back to his comfort zone: cheerfully delivered disinformation about domestic policy.”

The truth telling about the most critical and dangerous problem in the Middle East and arguably the whole world (the Israel-Palestine conflict) was left to former President Carter.

While Obama and Romney were making their final preparations for their final debate, Carter was in Israel. (He was there with the former prime minister of Norway, Gro Harlem Brundtland, and the former president of Ireland, Mary Robinson, on behalf of the Elders, a group of ten of the “great and good” convened by Nelson Mandela in 2007. It seeks to promote human rights and world peace by, “speaking difficult truths and tackling taboos.”)

Carter dared to say, in Israel, that there could be no doubt that Prime Minister Netanyahu was not interested in a two-state solution. And he described the situation as “worse now than it’s ever been for the Palestinians” because of the expanding settlements and lack of prospects for change. He described himself as “grieved, disgusted and angry,” because the two-state solution “is in its death throes.” That, he added, was “a tragic new development that the world is kind of ignoring.”

I presume he meant the world of leaders not peoples; and by obvious implication President Obama was, in Carter’s view, among those who were ignoring what was happening in Israel-Palestine. He said, “The U.S. government policy the last two to three years has basically been a rapid withdrawal from any kind of controversy.” He added: “Every president has been a very powerful factor here in advocating this two-state solution. That is now not apparent.”

What a tragedy it is that American presidents can only speak the truth when they are out of office.

Alan Hart has been engaged with events in the Middle East and their global consequences and terrifying implications – the possibility of a Clash of Civilisations, Judeo-Christian v Islamic, and, along the way, another great turning against the Jews – for nearly 40 years… Alan is author of “Zionism: The Real Enemy of the Jews” – www.alanhart.net…