UN in the Dock at UPenn

— by Lori Lowenthal Marcus

New York City wasn’t the only place in which the treatment of Israel at the United Nations was under discussion recently.

On Sunday evening, September 25, 2011, Penn Friends of Israel and the International Affairs Association hosted Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, at Houston Hall on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania.

UN Watch is a non-governmental organization the goal of which is to measure the performance of the UN according to its founding mission. Neuer’s topic was, “From Eleanor Roosevelt to Qaddafi: An Insider’s Account of the Rise and Fall of Human Rights at the U.N.”

More after the jump.
Neuer spoke to a packed crowd for well over an hour, during which time he discussed various venues and events at the UN which are perceived by many as biased against Israel. Neuer discussed the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), the Durban Conference on Racism — from which UN Watch was barred — and the recent effort of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to evade negotiations with Israel and instead obtain Palestinian Statehood through the United Nations itself.

Repeatedly critical of certain aspects of the UN, stating that “one dictator, one vote” is often what passes as democracy at the United Nations, and that far too often the only expertise regarding human rights for member nations that sit on the UNHRC is their violations of it, Neuer seemed to surprise at least some members of the audience when he rejected the suggestion that perhaps it was time to do away with the global institution. “It is an indispensable forum,” because at least portions of it such as “the World Health Organization, international labor organizations, food groups, telecommunications,” are essential. “Even such critics as [President] Bush and [former US Ambassador to the UN John] Bolton, didn’t speak in terms of getting rid of the UN.”

Nevertheless, the bulk of Neuer’s talk was devoted to detailing the highly politicized and virulently anti-Israel theme at play throughout much of the United Nations. Of particular concern is what is now known as the Human Rights Council, formerly the Human Rights Commission, but according to Neuer by either name the body is nearly always run, and invariably dominated by the “greatest perpetrators of human rights abuses.” Neuer noted over the course of the past two years, China, Pakistan, Syria, Libya and Saudi Arabia have all held a seat on the UNHRC. And while the world’s worst human rights abuses have often gone ignored, “a disproportionate amount of time is spent singling out one member state for criticism, and that state is Israel” he said.

Neuer gave many examples of the ways in which, in the distorted world of the UNHRC, Israel is frequently presented as the grossest violator of human rights. For example, over the past five years, the Council has passed approximately sixty resolutions condemning a nation for committing human rights violations, forty of which have been directed at Israel. He pointed out that over the past six months more than 2500 Syrians have been massacred by their own government, yet Syria has not received a single rebuke from the UNHRC [between the time of Neuer’s talk and publication, the UN Security Council was presented with a condemnation of Syria’s brutal crackdown on pro-reform protesters, but it was vetoed by Russia and China]. Furthermore, the UNHRC has a standard agenda of ten general action items, one of which is always reserved for “addressing human rights violations against those in the occupied territories,” i.e., condemning Israel.

Another example of the way in which Israel is singled out unfairly at the UN is in the fact that while all countries in the world are divided into regional groups, Israel is barred from membership in the Asian group of which it should be a member, because the Arab nation members refuse to allow it. Yet one more example, amongst several others he gave, is that over the past five years the UNHRC has met in approximately a dozen emergency sessions, half of which were devoted to excoriating Israel. And the basis for those condemnations often ignored the context as, for instance, when Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was abducted in June, 2006, Israel responded with military reprisals, yet only Israel’s actions were condemned, not that of Hamas in abducting the soldier. The Iranian clampdown on non-violent protesters of the Green Revolution of 2011 was never condemned, nor was the brutal government repression of Muslim Uighurs, only efforts by Israel, which efforts were motivated by aggression on the part of its enemy, has been addressed by the UNHRC.

Moving on to the UN General Assembly, Neuer explained that the effort of PA President Abbas to attain statehood through a resolution in the UN is likely to be approved, given that the combined Arab and Muslim Nations have an automatic majority in the GA. But Neuer believes there will not be a significant substantive change if the PA is elevated to non-voting member state status. It already has a contingent present at the UN, it has a place at a table, albeit towards the back of the room, and it has the name “Palestine” already displayed on a nameplate where its representatives are seated. The one area in which the change may have some bearing will be in the PA’s ability to engage, and have others engage on its behalf, in lawfare against the Jewish State.

Elias Okwara, a 23-year old Drexel Junior from Kenya, spent part of last summer in Jordan, as part of his school’s Peace Studies Program. Okwara is in Drexel’s International Area Studies program with a concentration in Justice and Human Rights, and his research focuses on contemporary approaches to international peace and security.

Okwara embraces the global model of the UN, and he had been told that the talk was going to be an anti-UN event. During the brief question and answer session, Okwara asked Neuer about the Goldstone Report, which was the outcome of a UN investigation into Israel’s incursion into Gaza known as Operation Cast Lead. The Report, written by South African jurist Richard Goldstone, “excoriated Israel and exonerated Hamas,” according to Neuer. It accused Israeli leadership of intentionally targeting civilians.

One of the other members of the investigation, Christine Chinkin, prior to her being appointed had signed a letter to the London Times accusing Israel of war crimes. Goldstone himself later recanted much of the most damaging portions of the report, but the UN considers the Goldstone Report, as written, to represent its official view of Cast Lead.

Despite hearing clear criticism of the UN by Neuer, Okwara said that it was “founded on very specific and detailed information, and I could not help but seriously reflect on the issues he raised.”

Okwara was glad he came because despite his own work in the field, he found Neuer’s talk to be “enlightening.” Okwara added, “I am a scholar and a keen believer in the UN, and for a person like me intent on playing my part in the international arena, I have no room to be dogmatic.”

Penn Friends of Israel is a new initiative that was created at the end of the last academic year in response to a perceived need for a group that wasn’t at one end of the spectrum or the other, but rather for a “group in the middle that could bring voices together from across the spectrum.” Noah Feit, president of the student group, started it along with sophomore Jeff Rollman. Feit, a StandWithUs Emerson Fellow, said he was very pleased with the event, both with the size of the audience and its makeup.

“The audience contained those interested in Israel, those passionate about international affairs, local community members, and students from other Philadelphia campuses. One of PFI’s primary goals is to reach beyond the pro-Israel community and to influence opinion by providing accurate information.”

Feit and his colleagues seem to have achieved their goal.

Abbas Demands UN Membership, Netanyahu Defends Israel at UNGA

United Nations, Sept. 23 – Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas presented a bid for full membership in the United Nations on Friday, knowing that he lacked the votes to bring the matter to the Security Council. He then delivered a harsh, distorted, hate-filled speech to the General Assembly.

More after the jump.
Abbas blamed the failure of the peace process entirely on Israel. He said he would not return to negotiations unless Israel freezes building in the territories. Israel is ready to renew negotiations immediately – but without preconditions.

Abbas shocked observers with the harshness of his speech. He stated that a future Palestine should include East Jerusalem, including the Jewish Quarter of the city and the Western Wall, the holiest site in Judaism. And he called for a return to the 1967 lines – which security experts say are impossible to defend.

Abbas also mentioned that he came from the Holy Land, a place holy to Muslims and Christians. He totally omitted any mention of Jewish links to the land of the Bible.

In his 40-minute speech, Abbas also said he would not recognize Israel as a Jewish state.
He condemned the security fence that has saved countless lives, both Palestinian and Jewish, as a “racist annexation wall.”

He called for the release of terrorists held in Israeli jails.

He even condemned archaeology that has uncovered much evidence of the ancient Jewish kingdoms of Israel and Judea.

Abbas also praised his “reconciliation” with Iran-backed Hamas terrorists in Gaza. He condemned Israeli attacks on Gaza but did not mention the thousands of rockets fired from Gaza at Israeli civilians.

Despite his harsh rhetoric, Abbas does not have the votes to pass his resolution. The United States, Germany, Italy and many other key nations oppose granting Palestinian statehood without negotiations with Israel – the only way to reach a final peace agreement.

“This was a counterproductive and harsh speech that offered nothing to Israelis,” said former National Security Council official Richard Haas. “It was a very disappointing speech.”

“Israel wants peace and a Palestinian state,” said The Israel Project’s Founder & President Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi. “Sadly, sometimes they seem to want it more than the Palestinians. I deeply hope that President Abbas will recognize that the issues of security, borders, water and refugees need to be resolved with mutual respect and agreements…and cannot be imposed by the United Nations. He should drop his preconditions and hate and come to peace talks right away. Israel is ready for this conflict to end so both sides can have a better future.”  

Obama Defends Israel and Rebukes Palestinian UDI at the UN

— Marc R. Stanley and David A. Harris

We wish to express our thanks to President Barack Obama for passionately and eloquently standing up for Israel and the Jewish State’s security needs at the United Nations today. In clearly rebuking Palestinian efforts to declare statehood unilaterally through the UN, President Obama could not have made it clearer that he stands with Israel. He communicated to the world — in front of the world’s leaders — that he personally understands and empathizes with all Israelis who have experienced violence and uncertainty. For that and his consistent work to bolster Israel’s peace and security, he has distinguished himself as Israel’s strongest advocate on the international stage.

This morning President Obama reiterated the position that only direct negotiations — not resolutions from the United Nations — will lead to peace between Israel and her neighbors. He did so by restating America’s consistent position that any peace agreement must account for Israel’s security needs.

“America’s commitment to Israel’s security is unshakeable, and our friendship with Israel is deep and enduring. And so we believe that any lasting peace must acknowledge the very real security concerns that Israel faces every single day. Let us be honest with ourselves: Israel is surrounded by neighbors that have waged repeated wars against it. Israel’s citizens have been killed by rockets fired at their houses and suicide bombs on their buses. Israel’s children come of age knowing that throughout the region, other children are taught to hate them. Israel, a small country of less than eight million people, looks out at a world where leaders of much larger nations threaten to wipe it off of the map. The Jewish people carry the burden of centuries of exile, persecution, and the fresh memory of knowing that six million people were killed simply because of who they were. Those are facts. They cannot be denied. The Jewish people have forged a successful state in their historic homeland. Israel deserves recognition.”

Complete transcript of Obama’s remarks follow the jump.
Remarks by President Barack Obama in Address to the United Nations General Assembly

United Nations, New York, New York

10:12 A.M. EDT, September 21, 2011

Mr. President, Mr. Secretary General, fellow delegates, ladies and gentlemen:  It is a great honor for me to be here today.  I would like to talk to you about a subject that is at the heart of the United Nations — the pursuit of peace in an imperfect world.

War and conflict have been with us since the beginning of civilizations.  But in the first part of the 20th century, the advance of modern weaponry led to death on a staggering scale.  It was this killing that compelled the founders of this body to build an institution that was focused not just on ending one war, but on averting others; a union of sovereign states that would seek to prevent conflict, while also addressing its causes.

No American did more to pursue this objective than President Franklin Roosevelt.  He knew that a victory in war was not enough.  As he said at one of the very first meetings on the founding of the United Nations, “We have got to make, not merely peace, but a peace that will last.”

The men and women who built this institution understood that peace is more than just the absence of war.  A lasting peace — for nations and for individuals — depends on a sense of justice and opportunity, of dignity and freedom.  It depends on struggle and sacrifice, on compromise, and on a sense of common humanity.

One delegate to the San Francisco Conference that led to the creation of the United Nations put it well:  “Many people,” she said, “have talked as if all that has to be done to get peace was to say loudly and frequently that we loved peace and we hated war. Now we have learned that no matter how much we love peace and hate war, we cannot avoid having war brought upon us if there are convulsions in other parts of the world.”  

The fact is peace is hard.  But our people demand it.  Over nearly seven decades, even as the United Nations helped avert a third world war, we still live in a world scarred by conflict and plagued by poverty.  Even as we proclaim our love for peace and our hatred of war, there are still convulsions in our world that endanger us all.

I took office at a time of two wars for the United States. Moreover, the violent extremists who drew us into war in the first place — Osama bin Laden, and his al Qaeda organization — remained at large.  Today, we’ve set a new direction.

At the end of this year, America’s military operation in Iraq will be over.  We will have a normal relationship with a sovereign nation that is a member of the community of nations. That equal partnership will be strengthened by our support for Iraq — for its government and for its security forces, for its people and for their aspirations.

As we end the war in Iraq, the United States and our coalition partners have begun a transition in Afghanistan. Between now and 2014, an increasingly capable Afghan government and security forces will step forward to take responsibility for the future of their country.  As they do, we are drawing down our own forces, while building an enduring partnership with the Afghan people.

So let there be no doubt:  The tide of war is receding.  When I took office, roughly 180,000 Americans were serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.  By the end of this year, that number will be cut in half, and it will continue to decline.  This is critical for the sovereignty of Iraq and Afghanistan.  It’s also critical to the strength of the United States as we build our nation at home.

Moreover, we are poised to end these wars from a position of strength.  Ten years ago, there was an open wound and twisted steel, a broken heart in the center of this city.  Today, as a new tower is rising at Ground Zero, it symbolizes New York’s renewal, even as al Qaeda is under more pressure than ever before.  Its leadership has been degraded.  And Osama bin Laden, a man who murdered thousands of people from dozens of countries, will never endanger the peace of the world again.

So, yes, this has been a difficult decade.  But today, we stand at a crossroads of history with the chance to move decisively in the direction of peace.  To do so, we must return to the wisdom of those who created this institution.  The United Nations’ Founding Charter calls upon us, “to unite our strength to maintain international peace and security.”  And Article 1 of this General Assembly’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights reminds us that, “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and in rights.”  Those bedrock beliefs — in the responsibility of states, and the rights of men and women — must be our guide.

And in that effort, we have reason to hope.  This year has been a time of extraordinary transformation.  More nations have stepped forward to maintain international peace and security.  And more individuals are claiming their universal right to live in freedom and dignity.

Think about it:  One year ago, when we met here in New York, the prospect of a successful referendum in South Sudan was in doubt.  But the international community overcame old divisions to support the agreement that had been negotiated to give South Sudan self-determination.  And last summer, as a new flag went up in Juba, former soldiers laid down their arms, men and women wept with joy, and children finally knew the promise of looking to a future that they will shape.

One year ago, the people of Côte D’Ivoire approached a landmark election.  And when the incumbent lost, and refused to respect the results, the world refused to look the other way.  U.N. peacekeepers were harassed, but they did not leave their posts.  The Security Council, led by the United States and Nigeria and France, came together to support the will of the people.  And Côte D’Ivoire is now governed by the man who was elected to lead.

One year ago, the hopes of the people of Tunisia were suppressed.  But they chose the dignity of peaceful protest over the rule of an iron fist.  A vendor lit a spark that took his own life, but he ignited a movement.  In a face of a crackdown, students spelled out the word, “freedom.”  The balance of fear shifted from the ruler to those that he ruled.  And now the people of Tunisia are preparing for elections that will move them one step closer to the democracy that they deserve.

One year ago, Egypt had known one President for nearly 30 years.  But for 18 days, the eyes of the world were glued to Tahrir Square, where Egyptians from all walks of life — men and women, young and old, Muslim and Christian — demanded their universal rights.  We saw in those protesters the moral force of non-violence that has lit the world from Delhi to Warsaw, from Selma to South Africa — and we knew that change had come to Egypt and to the Arab world.

One year ago, the people of Libya were ruled by the world’s longest-serving dictator.  But faced with bullets and bombs and a dictator who threatened to hunt them down like rats, they showed relentless bravery.  We will never forget the words of the Libyan who stood up in those early days of the revolution and said, “Our words are free now.”  It’s a feeling you can’t explain.  Day after day, in the face of bullets and bombs, the Libyan people refused to give back that freedom.  And when they were threatened by the kind of mass atrocity that often went unchallenged in the last century, the United Nations lived up to its charter.  The Security Council authorized all necessary measures to prevent a massacre.  The Arab League called for this effort; Arab nations joined a NATO-led coalition that halted Qaddafi’s forces in their tracks.

In the months that followed, the will of the coalition proved unbreakable, and the will of the Libyan people could not be denied.  Forty-two years of tyranny was ended in six months.  From Tripoli to Misurata to Benghazi — today, Libya is free.  Yesterday, the leaders of a new Libya took their rightful place beside us, and this week, the United States is reopening our embassy in Tripoli.

This is how the international community is supposed to work — nations standing together for the sake of peace and security, and individuals claiming their rights.  Now, all of us have a responsibility to support the new Libya — the new Libyan government as they confront the challenge of turning this moment of promise into a just and lasting peace for all Libyans.

So this has been a remarkable year.  The Qaddafi regime is over.  Gbagbo, Ben Ali, Mubarak are no longer in power.  Osama bin Laden is gone, and the idea that change could only come through violence has been buried with him.  Something is happening in our world.  The way things have been is not the way that they will be.  The humiliating grip of corruption and tyranny is being pried open.  Dictators are on notice.  Technology is putting power into the hands of the people.  The youth are delivering a powerful rebuke to dictatorship, and rejecting the lie that some races, some peoples, some religions, some ethnicities do not desire democracy.  The promise written down on paper — “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights” — is closer at hand.

But let us remember:  Peace is hard.  Peace is hard.  Progress can be reversed.  Prosperity comes slowly.  Societies can split apart.  The measure of our success must be whether people can live in sustained freedom, dignity, and security.  And the United Nations and its member states must do their part to support those basic aspirations.  And we have more work to do.

In Iran, we’ve seen a government that refuses to recognize the rights of its own people.  As we meet here today, men and women and children are being tortured, detained and murdered by the Syrian regime.  Thousands have been killed, many during the holy time of Ramadan.  Thousands more have poured across Syria’s borders.  The Syrian people have shown dignity and courage in their pursuit of justice — protesting peacefully, standing silently in the streets, dying for the same values that this institution is supposed to stand for.  And the question for us is clear:  Will we stand with the Syrian people, or with their oppressors?

Already, the United States has imposed strong sanctions on Syria’s leaders.  We supported a transfer of power that is responsive to the Syrian people.  And many of our allies have joined in this effort.  But for the sake of Syria — and the peace and security of the world — we must speak with one voice. There’s no excuse for inaction.  Now is the time for the United Nations Security Council to sanction the Syrian regime, and to stand with the Syrian people.

Throughout the region, we will have to respond to the calls for change.  In Yemen, men, women and children gather by the thousands in towns and city squares every day with the hope that their determination and spilled blood will prevail over a corrupt system.  America supports those aspirations.  We must work with Yemen’s neighbors and our partners around the world to seek a path that allows for a peaceful transition of power from President Saleh, and a movement to free and fair elections as soon as possible.

In Bahrain, steps have been taken toward reform and accountability.  We’re pleased with that, but more is required.  America is a close friend of Bahrain, and we will continue to call on the government and the main opposition bloc — the Wifaq — to pursue a meaningful dialogue that brings peaceful change that is responsive to the people.  We believe the patriotism that binds Bahrainis together must be more powerful than the sectarian forces that would tear them apart.  It will be hard, but it is possible.

We believe that each nation must chart its own course to fulfill the aspirations of its people, and America does not expect to agree with every party or person who expresses themselves politically.  But we will always stand up for the universal rights that were embraced by this Assembly.  Those rights depend on elections that are free and fair; on governance that is transparent and accountable; respect for the rights of women and minorities; justice that is equal and fair.  That is what our people deserve.  Those are the elements of peace that can last.

Moreover, the United States will continue to support those nations that transition to democracy — with greater trade and investment — so that freedom is followed by opportunity.  We will pursue a deeper engagement with governments, but also with civil society — students and entrepreneurs, political parties and the press.  We have banned those who abuse human rights from traveling to our country.  And we’ve sanctioned those who trample on human rights abroad.  And we will always serve as a voice for those who’ve been silenced.

Now, I know, particularly this week, that for many in this hall, there’s one issue that stands as a test for these principles and a test for American foreign policy, and that is the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

One year ago, I stood at this podium and I called for an independent Palestine.  I believed then, and I believe now, that the Palestinian people deserve a state of their own.  But what I also said is that a genuine peace can only be realized between the Israelis and the Palestinians themselves.  One year later, despite extensive efforts by America and others, the parties have not bridged their differences.  Faced with this stalemate, I put forward a new basis for negotiations in May of this year.  That basis is clear.  It’s well known to all of us here.  Israelis must know that any agreement provides assurances for their security.  Palestinians deserve to know the territorial basis of their state.

Now, I know that many are frustrated by the lack of progress.  I assure you, so am I.  But the question isn’t the goal that we seek — the question is how do we reach that goal.  And I am convinced that there is no short cut to the end of a conflict that has endured for decades.  Peace is hard work.  Peace will not come through statements and resolutions at the United Nations — if it were that easy, it would have been accomplished by now.  Ultimately, it is the Israelis and the Palestinians who must live side by side.  Ultimately, it is the Israelis and the Palestinians — not us — who must reach agreement on the issues that divide them:  on borders and on security, on refugees and Jerusalem.

Ultimately, peace depends upon compromise among people who must live together long after our speeches are over, long after our votes have been tallied.  That’s the lesson of Northern Ireland, where ancient antagonists bridged their differences.  That’s the lesson of Sudan, where a negotiated settlement led to an independent state.  And that is and will be the path to a Palestinian state — negotiations between the parties.

We seek a future where Palestinians live in a sovereign state of their own, with no limit to what they can achieve.  There’s no question that the Palestinians have seen that vision delayed for too long.  It is precisely because we believe so strongly in the aspirations of the Palestinian people that America has invested so much time and so much effort in the building of a Palestinian state, and the negotiations that can deliver a Palestinian state.

But understand this as well:  America’s commitment to Israel’s security is unshakeable.  Our friendship with Israel is deep and enduring.  And so we believe that any lasting peace must acknowledge the very real security concerns that Israel faces every single day.

Let us be honest with ourselves:  Israel is surrounded by neighbors that have waged repeated wars against it. Israel’s citizens have been killed by rockets fired at their houses and suicide bombs on their buses.  Israel’s children come of age knowing that throughout the region, other children are taught to hate them.  Israel, a small country of less than eight million people, look out at a world where leaders of much larger nations threaten to wipe it off of the map.  The Jewish people carry the burden of centuries of exile and persecution, and fresh memories of knowing that six million people were killed simply because of who they are.  Those are facts.  They cannot be denied.

The Jewish people have forged a successful state in their historic homeland.  Israel deserves recognition.  It deserves normal relations with its neighbors.  And friends of the Palestinians do them no favors by ignoring this truth, just as friends of Israel must recognize the need to pursue a two-state solution with a secure Israel next to an independent Palestine.

That is the truth — each side has legitimate aspirations — and that’s part of what makes peace so hard.  And the deadlock will only be broken when each side learns to stand in the other’s shoes; each side can see the world through the other’s eyes.  That’s what we should be encouraging.  That’s what we should be promoting.

This body — founded, as it was, out of the ashes of war and genocide, dedicated, as it is, to the dignity of every single person — must recognize the reality that is lived by both the Palestinians and the Israelis.  The measure of our actions must always be whether they advance the right of Israeli and Palestinian children to live lives of peace and security and dignity and opportunity.  And we will only succeed in that effort if we can encourage the parties to sit down, to listen to each other, and to understand each other’s hopes and each other’s fears.  That is the project to which America is committed.  There are no shortcuts.  And that is what the United Nations should be focused on in the weeks and months to come.

Now, even as we confront these challenges of conflict and revolution, we must also recognize — we must also remind ourselves — that peace is not just the absence of war.  True peace depends on creating the opportunity that makes life worth living.  And to do that, we must confront the common enemies of humanity:  nuclear weapons and poverty, ignorance and disease.  These forces corrode the possibility of lasting peace and together we’re called upon to confront them.

To lift the specter of mass destruction, we must come together to pursue the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.  Over the last two years, we’ve begun to walk down that path.  Since our Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, nearly 50 nations have taken steps to secure nuclear materials from terrorists and smugglers.  Next March, a summit in Seoul will advance our efforts to lock down all of them.  The New START Treaty between the United States and Russia will cut our deployed arsenals to the lowest level in half a century, and our nations are pursuing talks on how to achieve even deeper reductions.  America will continue to work for a ban on the testing of nuclear weapons and the production of fissile material needed to make them.

And so we have begun to move in the right direction.  And the United States is committed to meeting our obligations.  But even as we meet our obligations, we’ve strengthened the treaties and institutions that help stop the spread of these weapons.  And to do so, we must continue to hold accountable those nations that flout them.

The Iranian government cannot demonstrate that its program is peaceful.  It has not met its obligations and it rejects offers that would provide it with peaceful nuclear power.    North Korea has yet to take concrete steps towards abandoning its weapons and continues belligerent action against the South.  There’s a future of greater opportunity for the people of these nations if their governments meet their international obligations.  But if they continue down a path that is outside international law, they must be met with greater pressure and isolation.  That is what our commitment to peace and security demands.

To bring prosperity to our people, we must promote the growth that creates opportunity.  In this effort, let us not forget that we’ve made enormous progress over the last several decades.  Closed societies gave way to open markets.  Innovation and entrepreneurship has transformed the way we live and the things that we do.  Emerging economies from Asia to the Americas have lifted hundreds of millions of people from poverty.  It’s an extraordinary achievement.  And yet, three years ago, we were confronted with the worst financial crisis in eight decades.  And that crisis proved a fact that has become clearer with each passing year — our fates are interconnected.  In a global economy, nations will rise, or fall, together.

And today, we confront the challenges that have followed on the heels of that crisis.  Around the world recovery is still fragile.  Markets remain volatile.  Too many people are out of work.  Too many others are struggling just to get by.  We acted together to avert a depression in 2009.  We must take urgent and coordinated action once more.  Here in the United States, I’ve announced a plan to put Americans back to work and jumpstart our economy, at the same time as I’m committed to substantially reducing our deficits over time.

We stand with our European allies as they reshape their institutions and address their own fiscal challenges.  For other countries, leaders face a different challenge as they shift their economy towards more self-reliance, boosting domestic demand while slowing inflation.  So we will work with emerging economies that have rebounded strongly, so that rising standards of living create new markets that promote global growth.  That’s what our commitment to prosperity demands.

To combat the poverty that punishes our children, we must act on the belief that freedom from want is a basic human right. The United States has made it a focus of our engagement abroad to help people to feed themselves.  And today, as drought and conflict have brought famine to the Horn of Africa, our conscience calls on us to act.  Together, we must continue to provide assistance, and support organizations that can reach those in need.  And together, we must insist on unrestricted humanitarian access so that we can save the lives of thousands of men and women and children.  Our common humanity is at stake.  Let us show that the life of a child in Somalia is as precious as any other.  That is what our commitment to our fellow human beings demand.

To stop disease that spreads across borders, we must strengthen our system of public health.  We will continue the fight against HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.  We will focus on the health of mothers and of children.  And we must come together to prevent, and detect, and fight every kind of biological danger — whether it’s a pandemic like H1N1, or a terrorist threat, or a treatable disease.

This week, America signed an agreement with the World Health Organization to affirm our commitment to meet this challenge.  And today, I urge all nations to join us in meeting the HWO’s [sic] goal of making sure all nations have core capacities to address public health emergencies in place by 2012.  That is what our commitment to the health of our people demands.

To preserve our planet, we must not put off action that climate change demands.  We have to tap the power of science to save those resources that are scarce.  And together, we must continue our work to build on the progress made in Copenhagen and Cancun, so that all the major economies here today follow through on the commitments that were made.  Together, we must work to transform the energy that powers our economies, and support others as they move down that path.  That is what our commitment to the next generation demands.

And to make sure our societies reach their potential, we must allow our citizens to reach theirs.  No country can afford the corruption that plagues the world like a cancer.  Together, we must harness the power of open societies and open economies.  That’s why we’ve partnered with countries from across the globe to launch a new partnership on open government that helps ensure accountability and helps to empower citizens.  No country should deny people their rights to freedom of speech and freedom of religion, but also no country should deny people their rights because of who they love, which is why we must stand up for the rights of gays and lesbians everywhere.

And no country can realize its potential if half its population cannot reach theirs.  This week, the United States signed a new Declaration on Women’s Participation.  Next year, we should each announce the steps we are taking to break down the economic and political barriers that stand in the way of women and girls.  This is what our commitment to human progress demands.

I know there’s no straight line to that progress, no single path to success.  We come from different cultures, and carry with us different histories.  But let us never forget that even as we gather here as heads of different governments, we represent citizens who share the same basic aspirations — to live with dignity and freedom; to get an education and pursue opportunity; to love our families, and love and worship our God; to live in the kind of peace that makes life worth living.

It is the nature of our imperfect world that we are forced to learn these lessons over and over again.  Conflict and repression will endure so long as some people refuse to do unto others as we would have them do unto us.  Yet that is precisely why we have built institutions like this — to bind our fates together, to help us recognize ourselves in each other — because those who came before us believed that peace is preferable to war, and freedom is preferable to suppression, and prosperity is preferable to poverty.  That’s the message that comes not from capitals, but from citizens, from our people.

And when the cornerstone of this very building was put in place, President Truman came here to New York and said, “The United Nations is essentially an expression of the moral nature of man’s aspirations.”  The moral nature of man’s aspirations.  As we live in a world that is changing at a breathtaking pace, that’s a lesson that we must never forget.

Peace is hard, but we know that it is possible.  So, together, let us be resolved to see that it is defined by our hopes and not by our fears.  Together, let us make peace, but a peace, most importantly, that will last.

Thank you very much.  

Abbas Does Not Care for 1967 Borders Either

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas will ask the UN Security Council to recognize a Palestinian state. The United States has promised to veto the resolution, and the Abbas is expected to turn to the United Nations General Assembly for support. While his UN application cites the 1967 borders for the Palestinian state, Abbas stressed that the “real Palestinian borders were laid down by the United Nations in 1947.”

This Partition Plan for Palestine was adopted on November 29, 1947 by the General Assembly of the United Nations. The plan was accepted by the Jewish community living in Palestine, but it was rejected by the Arab community, and the neighboring states. As a result, the plan never went into effect and led directly to war in the British mandate. The 1967 borders (otherwise known as the Green Line) were the ceasefire lines in effect from the end of the 1948 War of Independence to the 1967 Six Day War.

The borders claimed by Abbas were never put into effect, and would divide Israel into disconnected parts, leaving Israel’s capital and all nearby areas completely outside of Israeli control.  

The TIP Sheet Israel Eager to Negotiate Peace with Palestinians but Needs Partner

— by Ari Bildner

  • Israeli Amb. Oren: Israel prepared to give up land for peace.
  • Giving up sacred land “will be painful” and “a risk.”
  • Negotiations can happen any place, time Palestinians want.

Israel is ready to give up land to make peace with the Palestinians, but cannot do so until the Palestinians pursue an agreement with Israel rather than unilateral statehood, Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Michael Oren said on Friday to 19 senior diplomats. The diplomats are visiting Israel on a fact-finding mission sponsored by The Israel Project.

“We are committed to the peace talks. We are willing to negotiate. All we need is a partner,” Oren said in his address to 18 ambassadors and a senior diplomat from four continents who are participating in a five-day trip to Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

More after the jump.  
The peace process, Oren predicted, will be “exquisitely painful. It’s going to deal with areas that are sacred to the Jewish people. We understand that having an agreement with the Palestinians will involve giving up lands. That will be painful, and it will also be a risk, but if they are willing to do that, then we have a government that is willing to do this.”

Instead, PA President Mahmoud Abbas and other PA leaders have spent the past several months trying to garner support for them to unilaterally declare a state and avoid returning to the negotiating table. Abbas abandoned talks with Israel almost a year ago after Israel declined to extend a self-imposed construction moratorium.

The Palestinians’ plans to go to the United Nations General Assembly next month to gain approval for their one-sided quest may make sense on paper, but, said Oren, “in reality it isn’t going to happen. (Abbas) isn’t creating a state because he wants peace; he is doing it to better wage war against Israel. That is why this will never happen. We can’t ignore that reality.”

Added Oren, “We would be the first ones to recognize a Palestinian state if it were on the basis of peace. Unfortunately, that is just not the reality here.”

The Israeli ambassador noted that Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has reiterated his invitation that he is willing to negotiate anywhere, anytime the Palestinians are ready and even went on Arabic TV to extend the offer.

The senior diplomats’ trip is sponsored by The Israel Project, an American non-profit educational organization that provides facts, analysis and background information about Israel and the Middle East to the media, public officials and the public.

The diplomats taking part in the mission are:

Albania: Ambassador Gilbert Galanxhi and Etleva Galanxhi
Barbados: Ambassador John E. Beale and Leila Mol Beale
Belize: Ambassador Nestor Enrique Mendez and Elvira Rosela Mendez
Benin: Ambassador Sagbe Cyrille Oguin and Hortense Dossa Oguin
Bosnia and Herzegovina: Miroslav Vujicic, Chief of the Cabinet of the Chairman of the Presidency
Burkina Faso: Ambassador Paramanga Ernest Yonli
Dominica: Ambassador Hubert John Charles
Dominican Republic: Ambassador Anibal De Castro
Grenada: Ambassador Gillian Margaret Susan Bristol
Haiti: Ambassador Louis Harold Joseph
Liberia: Ambassador William Bull and Cecelia Zina Freeman Bull
Macedonia: Ambassador Zoran Jolevski and Suzana Jolevska
Mongolia: Ambassador Bekhbat Khasbazar
Montenegro: Ambassador Srdjan Darmanovic and Aneta Spaic
Slovakia: Ambassador Peter Burian and Nina Burianova
St. Lucia: Ambassador Michael Louis
Timor-Leste: Ambassador Constancio C. Pinto
Trinidad & Tobago: Ambassador Neil Parsan
Uganda: Ambassador Perezi Kanunanwire and Carolyn Hubbard-Kamunanwire

Netanyahu to Abbas: Say Six Vital Words “I will accept a Jewish state”

— by Alan Elsner and Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, The Israel Project

  • Israel willing to make painful, generous compromises
  • Personal appeal to Palestinian President Abbas
  • Iran nuclear threat a deadly danger to entire world

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, addressing a joint session of the U.S. Congress, said he was prepared to offer the Palestinians a “far-reaching compromise” if their president, Mahmoud Abbas, uttered six simple words: “I will recognize a Jewish state.”

In a wide-ranging speech punctuated by 30 standing ovations, Netanyahu praised the many thousands of brave young people standing up in the Arab world for democratic rights – rights that Israel’s Arab minority have enjoyed for decades.

He also warned that Iran’s militant Islamic leaders remained determined to build nuclear weapons and time was running out to stop them.

And he appealed directly to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to tear up his recent deal with Iranian-backed Hamas, whose Charter calls for murdering Jews wherever possible, and enter peace talks with Israel to achieve a state.

President Abbas must do what I have done. I stood before my people … and I said, ‘I will accept a Palestinian state.’ It is time for President Abbas to stand before his people and say, ‘I will accept a Jewish state’.

Those six words will change history. They will make clear to the Palestinians that this conflict must come to an end — that they are not building a state to continue the conflict with Israel, but to end it.

They will convince the people of Israel that they have a true partner for peace. With such a partner, the people of Israel will be prepared to make a far-reaching compromise. I will be prepared to make a far reaching compromise.

Netanyahu made clear that he was willing to give up parts of the Jewish ancestral homeland of Judea and Samaria, also known as the West Bank, so that a Palestinian state could be established.

No distortion of history can deny the 4,000-year-old bond between the Jewish people and the Jewish land. But there’s another truth. The Palestinians share this small land with us … They should enjoy a national life of dignity as a free, viable and independent people living in their own state.

This also meant that some settlements would not be inside Israel after the establishment of a Palestinian state, while the major suburbs that have been built close to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem would remain Israeli.

Recognizing that a future Palestine had to be economically viable to succeed, Netanyahu said Israel would be generous in the territory it gives up. But he stated once again that he was not prepared to go back to the pre-1967 lines which were impossible to defend and he would not allow Jerusalem to be divided.

Palestinians also had to stop naming public squares after suicide bombers and teaching their children to hate and they had to give up the “fantasy” of one day flooding Israel with the descendants of refugees.

Palestinians from around the world should have a right to immigrate, if they so choose, to a Palestinian state. This means that the Palestinian refugee problem will be resolved outside the borders of Israel.

The Israeli leader joined an exclusive club as the fourth world figure to address a joint session of Congress more than once. The other three were Winston Churchill, the late Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Nelson Mandela.

The first part of Netanyahu’s hour-long address dealt with the wider Middle East region and Iran, where Netanyahu saw the greatest danger to Israel’s peace and security.

The hinge of history may soon turn. For the greatest danger of all could soon be upon us – a militant Islamic regime armed with nuclear weapons. Militant [Islam] could exact a horrific price from all of us before its eventual demise.

Iran’s leaders would only be daunted if the West maintained a credible deterrence, leaving all options on the table, Netanyahu said. He added that Iranian leaders who express genocidal aims should be banned from every responsible forum in the world.

Complete text of speech after the jump.
Speech by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to a Joint Meeting of the United States Congress

May 24, 2011

I am deeply honored by your warm welcome. And I am deeply honored that you have given me the opportunity to address Congress a second time.

Mr. Vice President, do you remember the time we were the new kids in town?

And I do see a lot of old friends here. And I do see a lot of new friends of Israel here. Democrats and Republicans alike.

Israel has no better friend than America. And America has no better friend than Israel. We stand together to defend democracy. We stand together to advance peace. We stand together to fight terrorism. Congratulations America, Congratulations, Mr. President. You got bin Laden. Good riddance!

In an unstable Middle East, Israel is the one anchor of stability. In a region of shifting alliances, Israel is America’s unwavering ally. Israel has always been pro-American. Israel will always be pro-American.

My friends, you don’t need to do nation building in Israel. We’re already built. You don’t need to export democracy to Israel. We’ve already got it. You don’t need to send American troops to defend Israel. We defend ourselves. You’ve been very generous in giving us tools to do the job of defending Israel on our own. Thank you all, and thank you President Obama, for your steadfast commitment to Israel’s security. I know economic times are tough. I deeply appreciate this.

Support for Israel’s security is a wise investment in our common future. For an epic battle is now unfolding in the Middle East, between tyranny and freedom. A great convulsion is shaking the earth from the Khyber Pass to the Straits of Gibraltar. The tremors have shattered states and toppled governments. And we can all see that the ground is still shifting. Now this historic moment holds the promise of a new dawn of freedom and opportunity. Millions of young people are determined to change their future. We all look at them. They muster courage. They risk their lives. They demand dignity. They desire liberty.

These extraordinary scenes in Tunis and Cairo, evoke those of Berlin and Prague in 1989. Yet as we share their hopes, but we also must also remember that those hopes could be snuffed out as they were in Tehran in 1979. You remember what happened then. The brief democratic spring in Iran was cut short by a ferocious and unforgiving tyranny. This same tyranny smothered Lebanon’s democratic Cedar Revolution, and inflicted on that long-suffering country, the medieval rule of Hezbollah.

So today, the Middle East stands at a fateful crossroads. Like all of you, I pray that the peoples of the region choose the path less travelled, the path of liberty. No one knows what this path consists of better than you. This path is not paved by elections alone. It is paved when governments permit protests in town squares, when limits are placed on the powers of rulers, when judges are beholden to laws and not men, and when human rights cannot be crushed by tribal loyalties or mob rule.

Israel has always embraced this path, in the Middle East has long rejected it. In a region where women are stoned, gays are hanged, Christians are persecuted, Israel stands out. It is different.

As the great English writer George Eliot predicted over a century ago, that once established, the Jewish state will “shine like a bright star of freedom amid the despotisms of the East.” Well, she was right. We have a free press, independent courts, an open economy, rambunctious parliamentary debates. You think you guys are tough on one another in Congress? Come spend a day in the Knesset. Be my guest.

Courageous Arab protesters, are now struggling to secure these very same rights for their peoples, for their societies. We’re proud that over one million Arab citizens of Israel have been enjoying these rights for decades. Of the 300 million Arabs in the Middle East and North Africa, only Israel’s Arab citizens enjoy real democratic rights. I want you to stop for a second and think about that. Of those 300 million Arabs, less than one-half of one-percent are truly free, and they’re all citizens of Israel!

This startling fact reveals a basic truth: Israel is not what is wrong about the Middle East. Israel is what is right about the Middle East.

Israel fully supports the desire of Arab peoples in our region to live freely. We long for the day when Israel will be one of many real democracies in the Middle East.

Fifteen years ago, I stood at this very podium, and said that democracy must start to take root in the Arab World. Well, it’s begun to take root. This beginning holds the promise of a brilliant future of peace and prosperity. For I believe that a Middle East that is genuinely democratic will be a Middle East truly at peace.

But while we hope and work for the best, we must also recognize that powerful forces oppose this future. They oppose modernity. They oppose democracy. They oppose peace.

Foremost among these forces is Iran. The tyranny in Tehran brutalizes its own people. It supports attacks against American troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. It subjugates Lebanon and Gaza. It sponsors terror worldwide.

When I last stood here, I spoke of the dire consequences of Iran developing nuclear weapons. Now time is running out, and the hinge of history may soon turn. For the greatest danger facing humanity could soon be upon us: A militant Islamic regime armed with nuclear weapons.

Militant Islam threatens the world. It threatens Islam. I have no doubt that it will ultimately be defeated. It will eventually succumb to the forces of freedom and progress. But like other fanaticisms that were doomed to fail, militant Islam could exact a horrific price from all of us before its inevitable demise.

A nuclear-armed Iran would ignite a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. It would give terrorists a nuclear umbrella. It would make the nightmare of nuclear terrorism a clear and present danger throughout the world. I want you to understand what this means. They could put the bomb anywhere. They could put it on a missile. It could be on a container ship in a port, or in a suitcase on a subway.

Now the threat to my country cannot be overstated. Those who dismiss it are sticking their heads in the sand. Less than seven decades after six million Jews were murdered, Iran’s leaders deny the Holocaust of the Jewish people, while calling for the annihilation of the Jewish state.

Leaders who spew such venom, should be banned from every respectable forum on the planet. But there is something that makes the outrage even greater: The lack of outrage. In much of the international community, the calls for our destruction are met with utter silence. It is even worse because there are many who rush to condemn Israel for defending itself against Iran’s terror proxies.

But not you. Not America. You have acted differently. You’ve condemned the Iranian regime for its genocidal aims. You’ve passed tough sanctions against Iran. History will salute you America.

President Obama has said that the United States is determined to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. He successfully led the Security Council to adopt sanctions against Iran. You in Congress passed even tougher sanctions. These words and deeds are vitally important.

Yet the Ayatollah regime briefly suspended its nuclear program only once, in 2003, when it feared the possibility of military action. That same year, Muammar Qadaffi gave up his nuclear weapons program, and for the same reason. The more Iran believes that all options are on the table, the less the chance of confrontation. This is why I ask you to continue to send an unequivocal message: That America will never permit Iran to develop nuclear weapons.

As for Israel, if history has taught the Jewish people anything, it is that we must take calls for our destruction seriously. We are a nation that rose from the ashes of the Holocaust. When we say never again, we mean never again. Israel always reserves the right to defend itself.

My friends, while Israel will be ever vigilant in its defense, we will never give up on our quest for peace. I guess we’ll give it up when we achieve it. Israel wants peace. Israel needs peace. We’ve achieved historic peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan that have held up for decades.

I remember what it was like before we had peace. I was nearly killed in a firefight inside the Suez Canal. I mean that literally. I battled terrorists along both banks of the Jordan River. Too many Israelis have lost loved ones. I know their grief. I lost my brother.

So no one in Israel wants a return to those terrible days. The peace with Egypt and Jordan has long served as an anchor of stability and peace in the heart of the Middle East.

This peace should be bolstered by economic and political support to all those who remain committed to peace.

The peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan are vital. But they’re not enough. We must also find a way to forge a lasting peace with the Palestinians. Two years ago, I publicly committed to a solution of two states for two peoples: A Palestinian state alongside the Jewish state.

I am willing to make painful compromises to achieve this historic peace. As the leader of Israel, it is my responsibility to lead my people to peace.

This is not easy for me. I recognize that in a genuine peace, we will be required to give up parts of the Jewish homeland. In Judea and Samaria, the Jewish people are not foreign occupiers. We are not the British in India. We are not the Belgians in the Congo.

This is the land of our forefathers, the Land of Israel, to which Abraham brought the idea of one God, where David set out to confront Goliath, and where Isaiah saw a vision of eternal peace. No distortion of history can deny the four thousand year old bond, between the Jewish people and the Jewish land.

But there is another truth: The Palestinians share this small land with us. We seek a peace in which they will be neither Israel’s subjects nor its citizens. They should enjoy a national life of dignity as a free, viable and independent people in their own state. They should enjoy a prosperous economy, where their creativity and initiative can flourish.

We’ve already seen the beginnings of what is possible. In the last two years,

the Palestinians have begun to build a better life for themselves. Prime Minister Fayad has led this effort. I wish him a speedy recovery from his recent operation.

We’ve helped the Palestinian economy by removing hundreds of barriers and roadblocks to the free flow of goods and people. The results have been nothing short of remarkable. The Palestinian economy is booming. It’s growing by more than 10% a year.

Palestinian cities look very different today than they did just a few years ago. They have shopping malls, movie theaters, restaurants, banks. They even have e-businesses. This is all happening without peace. Imagine what could happen with peace. Peace would herald a new day for both peoples. It would make the dream of a broader Arab-Israeli peace a realistic possibility.

So now here is the question. You have to ask it. If the benefits of peace with the Palestinians are so clear, why has peace eluded us? Because all six Israeli Prime Ministers since the signing of Oslo accords agreed to establish a Palestinian state. Myself included. So why has peace not been achieved? Because so far, the Palestinians have been unwilling to accept a Palestinian state, if it meant accepting a Jewish state alongside it.

You see, our conflict has never been about the establishment of a Palestinian state. It has always been about the existence of the Jewish state. This is what this conflict is about. In 1947, the United Nations voted to partition the land into a Jewish state and an Arab state. The Jews said yes. The Palestinians said no. In recent years, the Palestinians twice refused generous offers by Israeli Prime Ministers, to establish a Palestinian state on virtually all the territory won by Israel in the Six Day War.

They were simply unwilling to end the conflict. And I regret to say this: They continue to educate their children to hate. They continue to name public squares after terrorists. And worst of all, they continue to perpetuate the fantasy that Israel will one day be flooded by the descendants of Palestinian refugees.

My friends, this must come to an end. President Abbas must do what I have done. I stood before my people, and I told you it wasn’t easy for me, and I said… “I will accept a Palestinian state.” It is time for President Abbas to stand before his people and say… “I will accept a Jewish state.”

Those six words will change history. They will make clear to the Palestinians that this conflict must come to an end. That they are not building a state to continue the conflict with Israel, but to end it. They will convince the people of Israel that they have a true partner for peace. With such a partner, the people of Israel will be prepared to make a far reaching compromise. I will be prepared to make a far reaching compromise.

This compromise must reflect the dramatic demographic changes that have occurred since 1967. The vast majority of the 650,000 Israelis who live beyond the 1967 lines, reside in neighborhoods and suburbs of Jerusalem and Greater Tel Aviv.

These areas are densely populated but geographically quite small. Under any realistic peace agreement, these areas, as well as other places of critical strategic and national importance, will be incorporated into the final borders of Israel.

The status of the settlements will be decided only in negotiations. But we must also be honest. So I am saying today something that should be said publicly by anyone serious about peace. In any peace agreement that ends the conflict, some settlements will end up beyond Israel’s borders. The precise delineation of those borders must be negotiated. We will be very generous on the size of a future Palestinian state. But as President Obama said, the border will be different than the one that existed on June 4, 1967. Israel will not return to the indefensible lines of 1967.

We recognize that a Palestinian state must be big enough to be viable, independent and prosperous. President Obama rightly referred to Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people, just as he referred to the future Palestinian state as the homeland of the Palestinian people. Jews from around the world have a right to immigrate to the Jewish state. Palestinians from around the world should have a right to immigrate, if they so choose, to a Palestinian state. This means that the Palestinian refugee problem will be resolved outside the borders of Israel.

As for Jerusalem, only a democratic Israel has protected freedom of worship for all faiths in the city. Jerusalem must never again be divided. Jerusalem must remain the united capital of Israel. I know that this is a difficult issue for Palestinians. But I believe with creativity and goodwill a solution can be found.

This is the peace I plan to forge with a Palestinian partner committed to peace. But you know very well, that in the Middle East, the only peace that will hold is a peace you can defend.

So peace must be anchored in security. In recent years, Israel withdrew from South Lebanon and Gaza. But we didn’t get peace. Instead, we got 12,000 thousand rockets fired from those areas on our cities, on our children, by Hezbollah and Hamas. The UN peacekeepers in Lebanon failed to prevent the smuggling of this weaponry. The European observers in Gaza evaporated overnight. So if Israel simply walked out of the territories, the flow of weapons into a future Palestinian state would be unchecked. Missiles fired from it could reach virtually every home in Israel in less than a minute. I want you to think about that too. Imagine that right now we all had less than 60 seconds to find shelter from an incoming rocket. Would you live that way? Would anyone live that way? Well, we aren’t going to live that way either.

The truth is that Israel needs unique security arrangements because of its unique size. Israel is one of the smallest countries in the world. Mr. Vice President, I’ll grant you this. It’s bigger than Delaware. It’s even bigger than Rhode Island. But that’s about it. Israel on the 1967 lines would be half the width of the Washington Beltway.

Now here’s a bit of nostalgia. I first came to Washington thirty years ago as a young diplomat. It took me a while, but I finally figured it out: There is an America beyond the Beltway. But Israel on the 1967 lines would be only nine miles wide. So much for strategic depth.

So it is therefore absolutely vital for Israel’s security that a Palestinian state be fully demilitarized. And it is vital that Israel maintain a long-term military presence along the Jordan River. Solid security arrangements on the ground are necessary not only to protect the peace, they are necessary to protect Israel in case the peace unravels. For in our unstable region, no one can guarantee that our peace partners today will be there tomorrow.

And when I say tomorrow, I don’t mean some distant time in the future. I mean – tomorrow. Peace can be achieved only around the negotiating table. The Palestinian attempt to impose a settlement through the United Nations will not bring peace. It should be forcefully opposed by all those who want to see this conflict end.

I appreciate the President’s clear position on this issue. Peace cannot be imposed. It must be negotiated. But it can only be negotiated with partners committed to peace.

And Hamas is not a partner for peace. Hamas remains committed to Israel’s destruction and to terrorism. They have a charter. That charter not only calls for the obliteration of Israel, but says ‘kill the Jews wherever you find them’. Hamas’ leader condemned the killing of Osama bin Laden and praised him as a holy warrior. Now again I want to make this clear. Israel is prepared to sit down today and negotiate peace with the Palestinian Authority. I believe we can fashion a brilliant future of peace for our children. But Israel will not negotiate with a Palestinian government backed by the Palestinian version of Al Qaeda.

So I say to President Abbas: Tear up your pact with Hamas! Sit down and negotiate! Make peace with the Jewish state! And if you do, I promise you this. Israel will not be the last country to welcome a Palestinian state as a new member of the United Nations. It will be the first to do so.

My friends, the momentous trials of the last century, and the unfolding events of this century, attest to the decisive role of the United States in advancing peace and defending freedom. Providence entrusted the United States to be the guardian of liberty. All peoples who cherish freedom owe a profound debt of gratitude to your great nation. Among the most grateful nations is my nation, the people of Israel, who have fought for their liberty and survival against impossible odds, in ancient and modern times alike.

I speak on behalf of the Jewish people and the Jewish state when I say to you, representatives of America, Thank you. Thank you for your unwavering support for Israel. Thank you for ensuring that the flame of freedom burns bright throughout the world. May God bless all of you. And may God forever bless the United States of America.

Analysis & Opinion: ISRAEL, THE MIDDLE EAST AND THE UNITED NATIONS

by Rabbi Murray Gordon Silberman

A cold wind is blowing across Israel from Araby and parts of the Muslim world causing a severe deterioration in its diplomatic position. Turkey and Egypt, the anchors of its diplomatic and military positions in the region, are now uncertain neighbors. Political developments in the two countries have placed both on an increasingly unfriendly course to the Jewish state. The Arab Spring, which is blossoming into an Islamic political revival, is raising questions whether Egypt will continue to retain its decades- old peace treaty with Israel. Turkey, an erstwhile ally of Israel, has become increasingly  
hostile and cut its diplomatic ties to the bare minimum. The underlying reason for this estrangement is the festering Palestinian question. Egyptians and Turkey hold Israel responsible for refusing to address Palestinian demands that would lead to the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel.

When the youth in much of the Arab world rose up against their autocratic rulers, little if anything of this had to do with the Palestinians or Israel. Their demands were simple enough. Freedom, democratic rule, and respect for human rights were their clarion call. In the ten months since the uprising in the Arab world, the autocratic rulers in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Yemen have been overthrown.

Consider Egypt

No image is more emblematic of this turn of events than former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak being tried in a civilian court as he lies on a cot inside a prison cage. Bashar al Assad in Syria is facing increasingly violent opposition from the people that he and his father have oppressed for more than forty years. And he finds himself isolated not only in most of the international world but among sister Arab states. The Arab League, long considered a toothless body, has imposed political and economic sanctions on the Syrian regime.

As this swirl of events continues to unfold, the Israeli government has been an increasingly concerned onlooker upon what is happening in Arab countries close to and not a far remove from its borders. The United States, Israelʼs closest ally, and which has long dominated Arab politics by its support of the Mubaraks of the region, has lost much of its clout to shape the radically new political reality that is mapping across the Arab world.

The Egyptian revolution is far from complete. The initial euphoria of the revolution that saw the downfall of the hated Mubarak has faded away. Huge crowds have come back to Tahrir Square to protest the continued dominance of the military in the government. Emergency rule remains in effect and thousands have been tried in military tribunals for resisting the security forces. The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, or SCAF, has taken over control of the country, and its chairman Field Marshal Mohammed Hussein Tantawi, who had been Mubarakʼs Defense Minister for twenty years, is now Egyptʼs de-facto ruler. While SCAF was flexing its muscles, Egyptians went to the polls in the first free parliamentary election in memory in which 62 per cent electorate cast ballots. The outcome in this first round of voting gave the Muslim Brotherhood 40 percent of the vote and the fundamentalist Salafist party Al Nour 23 percent. Liberals and secularists trailed far behind.

For Israel this outcome could be a harbinger of a falling out with post-Mubarak Egypt. Mubarak maintained the peace treaty with Israel as a pillar of his foreign policy. To the extent that an elected government reflects popular opinion towards the Jewish state, the treaty could be repudiated or seriously modified. Many Egyptians view Israel with extreme disfavor, as was evident two months ago when a mob attacked the Israeli embassy in Cairo forcing the ambassador and his staff to flee the country. So far the Muslim Brotherhood, the more moderate of the two Islamist factions, has remained quiet in regard to the treaty. It couches Shariah in moderate and ambiguous terms marking a sharp divide with the fundamentalist Al Nour Islamic party. Past Al Nour rhetoric towards Israell has been extremely hostile. So far, there is no indication how SCAF would decide on the treaty, though under the Mubarak regime, the military showed no sign of seeking confrontation with Israel.

Now Consider Turkey

Jerusalemʼs other main ally, Turkey, has turned its back on Israel and has become a sharp critic of its handling the Palestine issue. Until roughly two years ago the two countries were strategic partners in a wide range of military, economic, and political matters. All that has ended. Ostensibly the rupture was brought about by an attempt by a Turkish non- governmental organization with close ties to Ankara to run a flotilla of vessels to breach Israelʼs blockade of Hamas-ruled Gaza. The Netanyahu government did not take kindly to this action. Israeli marines boarded the lead vessel and in the ensuing struggle, nine Turkish citizens lost their lives. Prime Minister Recip Erdogan, undoubtedly the most popular Turkish leader since Ataturk, demanded an apology for the killing of its citizens. Netanyahu countered by stating the Israeli marines were justified in using force and refused to apologize. An apology, he and his hardline foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman argued, was a strategic asset that had to be preserved. Ironically, Israelʼs military establishment and intelligence community did not view an apology as a prized commodity and urged Netanyahu to offer an apology as a way to soften Turkeyʼs growing enmity; Secretary of State Hillary Clinton quietly called on him to bite the bullet and apologize but he refused. Meantime, Erdogan has dug in his heels and in a tour of Arab and African countries, spared no effort to demonize Israel and champion the Palestinian cause.

It would be fanciful to believe that the Turkish prime minister severed his countryʼs strategic ties with Israel over the flotilla affair. Erdogan, an observant Muslim, had long maneuvered to become a leader in the Arab/Muslim world. Keeping the strategic relationship with Jerusalem would doom his ambitions. Under his leadership friendly relations were developed with Iran and close economic and military ties were forged with Syria. On a visit to Cairo, he held his country up as an example of the compatibility between Islamic values and democratic practices. As the Arab Spring brought little comfort to the Palestinian cause, Turkey picked up the cudgels for the Palestinians in the United Nations when Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestine Authority, sought membership in the world organization.

The strategy of forming close ties with Arab/Muslim world has suffered setbacks. Relations with Syria have soured as a result of the popular uprising and Assadʼs brutal crackdown on his own people, which according to the U.N., has led to the killing of 5,000 people. Turkey has granted refuge to many Syrians seeking to escape the murderous security forces and has called on Assad to step down. Despite friendship with Iran, the Turks have incurred the ire of the mullahs in Teheran for allowing the United States to set up a radar system on their soil that would detect Iranian missiles fired at Western Europe and Israel. Turkeyʼs system of combining democratic rule with Islamic values has not escaped criticism in Egypt from the conservative elements of the Muslim Brotherhood and fundamentalist Salafists who call for the imposition of shariah law.

Despite these setbacks, Erdogan remains wildly popular at home. There is a growing feeling that his policies of turning to the East and not the West are basically correct, particularly given European Unionʼs repeated rejections of Turkish membership. And unlike the E.U. which is lurching from one banking and Euro crisis to another and whose economy is mired in recession, Turkey is enjoying robust economic growth and low unemployment. With economic winds to his back, Erdogan remains committed to his political agenda of courting Arab countries and proclaiming his support for the Palestinian cause. Quiet efforts by the Obama administration to nudge Turkey to reconcile with Israel have come acropper; Erdogan has frozen ties with Jerusalem although much of the overtly harsh criticism of the recent past has been muted.

In this sea change in the Turkish/Arab world, Israelʼs right-wing government has lost some of its political footing. It has little or any control over the changes wrought by the Arab Spring. Whatever influence it might have had with Turkey over the flotilla incident it lost because of its refusal to apologize for its action in the flotilla incident. Even if such an apology were forthcoming, it is doubtful that the main lines of Turkish Middle Eastern policy would change. Although is still too early to predict the outcome of the political situation in Egypt in regard to the treaty although it is clear that the two Islamist parties, which have captured 65 per cents of the seats in the first round of parliamentary voting presents an unnerving scenario for Israel.

And We Must Not Overlook Syria

Syriaʼs Arab Spring just might yield some benefits for Israel. It has, for now removed the threat of hostilities with Syriaʼs powerful army which has been preoccupied with putting down the revolt against Assadʼs rule. Perhaps more significantly, it has forced the Hamas political leadership to move its Damascus-based headquarters to Cairo and Doha, the capital of Qatar. This shift to Egypt could moderate Hamasʼs behavior while reducing Teheranʼ ability to threaten clashes with Israel, according to Meir Javedanafar, an Iran expert based in Israel who called the move “a major strategic setback” for Iran. Leaders of the revolt have turned their ire against Hezbollah, Iranʼs proxy in Lebanon, for backing Assad and supporting his goal of crushing the popular uprising.

Regarding the Palestinians

It is indisputable that resolution of the Palestinian question is the sin qua non in achieving for Israel a modicum of reconciliation with Arab countries and Turkey. As of now, negotiations between the Palestine Authority headed by Mahmoud Abbas and the Netanyahu government are at an impasse. Netanyahu has insisted he is prepared to return to the negotiating table without conditions while Abbas has refused to do so as long as Israel continues to promote settlements in the West Bank and build new housing in East Jerusalem. The Israeli Prime Minister is also at odds with President Obama who called for negotiations based on the 1967 borders, a position Netanyahu publicly rejected in his address before the U.S. Congress. While Netanyahu is committed to a two-state solution of the conflict with the Palestinians, his goal is redraw the map of the proposed Palestinian state in a way that is unacceptable to Abbas. In the matter of Jerusalem, he is unalterably committed to the position of a unified Jerusalem under Israeli control. Calls by Hillary Clinton and, in more colorful language by Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, to return to the negotiating table have gone unanswered.

Role of the US presidential elections

It is highly unlikely that the two sides will return to the negotiating table any time soon. U.S presidential elections have already dimmed the prospects of such an event from happening. The Obama administration has for now forsaken any thought of bringing the two sides together lest he be accused by the Republicans of pressuring Israel to make concessions to the Palestinians. The departure of Dennis Ross, Obamaʼs chief Middle East negotiator, is a clear indication of the administrationʼs quiescent position. Both Democrats and Republicans are positioning themselves on the Israel-Palestine issue to win over Jewish voters and Jewish campaign contributions.

The Republican candidates for president have accused Obama of abandoning Israel, or as Mitt Romney has said, “he threw Israel under a bus.” Newt Gingrich has referred to Palestinians as “an invented people.” Netanyahu himself shows no effort to resume negotiations with Abbas. Whenever Abbas takes a political initiative that the prime minister considers anti-Israel such as seeking membership in the U.N. or agreeing to unity talks with Hamas, Netanyahu announces the building of new housing in East Jerusalem which is sure to harden Palestinian attitudes towards a resumption of negotiations. Netanyahu knows that meaningful concessions to Abbas will threaten his grip on power; the hardline nationalists and religious and Haredi parties that are the bedrock of his coalition would almost certainly resign and lead to the collapse of the government.

In the face of this situation, Abbas decided to abandon the negotiating track and turn to the United Nations in the hope of gaining membership in the world organization. He also agreed to meet with Hamas in a bid to unify the Palestinian people. The Obama administration firmly opposed both moves. Direct negotiations between the two sides, Washington insisted, was the only way to resolve the conflict. It also opposed negotiations with Hamas, which the U.S. has branded a terrorist organization. Although Abbas succeeded in gaining full membership in the UNESCO, the Security Council, because of U.S. pressure on several council members, failed to support his bid for U.N. membership status. His attempt to achieve reconciliation with Hamas has so far gone nowhere. Lately, negotiations with Hamas have been renewed but, so far, there are no signs of a breakthrough. Furious at these attempts for U.N. membership and talks with Hamas, Israel responded by announcing the construction of new housing in East Jerusalem and withholding customs and tax revenues in the amount of $100 million it is legally obligated to hand over to the Palestine Authority. After a month watching the P.A. cut back salaries to its employees, Israel, under pressure from Washington and the European Union agreed to restore the money. If the renewed talks succeed and Fatah and Hamas form a unity government, Israel has ruled out the possibility of future negotiations on peace talks.

Western Government Influences

Israelʼs deepening isolation in the region has been the subject of attention in Western government circles. Recently, four European countries members of the United Nations Security Council called on Israel to reverse its settlement building plans, saying they were illegal, sent a “devastating message” and threatened the prospects of a two-state solution. The criticism of Israel has come from Britain, France, Germany and Portugal that it has long counted among its closest European allies, pointing up Israelʼs growing diplomatic isolation over the Palestine issue.

The settlement policy and housing construction and growing violence against Palestinians in the West Bank have prompted left-leaning Israeli non-governmental organizations to escalate their attacks against the government. These organizations have also called for a boycott of goods produced in the settlements raising the hackles of the nationalist and religious parties. Many of these NGOs receive part of their funding from Western European and American sources. In response to NGO criticisms, the Netanyahu government is considering legislation to limit the amount of foreign financial assistance these organizations may receive. No less insidious is the recently adopted controversial Anti-Boycott law which would make it a civil offence for any individual or group advocating an economic, cultural or academic boycott of Israel or the West Bank settlements. An individual or group advocating such a boycott would be subject to fines and other penalties. Speaking at a closed forum in Washington, D.C., Hillary Clinton warned that such restrictions posed a threat to Israeli democracy. Civil rights activists in Israel as well as international human rights organizations have warned of the baleful effects they could have on the country. Reacting defensively, government ministers have rejected these assertions.

Of mounting concern is legislation working its way through the Knesset that would restrict freedom of the press. One of Israelʼs proudest claims is that it boasts the only free press in the Middle East. But journalists and civil rights activists warn this would no longer be true should the proposed media legislation be adopted. On November 20, approximately 500 journalists from different media outlets attended what was billed as an “emergency conference” in Tel Aviv to discuss what they consider unprecedented threats to freedom of the press. The conference protested the lawʼs libel provisions that the journalists say could tie their hands and stymie investigative reporting. The Knesset bill passed its first reading by a vote 42 to 31 the day after the conference. Also of great concern is the growing likelihood that channel 10, famed for its investigative journalism, will be forced to close down at the end of January because a parliamentary committee, at the behest of the prime minister, refused to extend a debt of $11 million to an offical regulatory body. Channel 10 reported on the numerous trips Netanyahu had taken as an elected official to Paris, London and New York before becoming prome minister in 2009. He and his wife flew first class, stayed in baronial hotel suites and, during this travel, lived beyond their means. The bills for this luxury travel were paid for by Netanyahuʼs wealthy friends. The widely viewed report did not make Netanyahu look good in the eyes of the public. Netanyahuʼs refusal to extend Channel 10ʼs debt is seen by observers as his way at getting back at the station.

No less a person than Shimon Peres, president of Israel, and a member of Kadima, has weighed in, saying that Channel 10ʼs efforts to survive, is “a struggle for Israelʼs democratic character”. Addressing other controversial actions by the government, he also stated he was “ashamed” of several bills being considered by the Knesset, believing they would infringe on democracy.

Concerns about a “Putinization of Israel”

Ben Caspit, a senior columnist with the daily newspaper Maariv said he sees a “Putinization of Israel”. “I never dreamed that I would see such things”, he said. Bloggers having also been expressing their fury at libel provisions in proposed Israeli law. The law would allow successful libel plaintiffs to win maximum awards of $80,000 even if they cannot prove they suffered actual harm. The sum represents a six-fold increase in the current maximum. In the event the media outlet in question did not offer the plaintiff the opportunity “to add his full response to the publication” the awards can rise to $400,000. The law, if finally adopted, would begin an era of self-censorship and paralyze investigative reporting, according to former Supreme Court justice Dalia Dorner, who is president of the Israel Press Council, the mediaʼs ethical body. Should that happen, the information space in Israel would shrink.

Israel has long boasted it is the only democracy in the Middle East. These laws, as they now stand, and the stepped up attacks against the Supreme Court, long a bulwark against legislative encroachments on Israeli society, could make such a boast ring hollow. Israel, to be sure, remains a robust democracy, but these turn of events have already cast a shadow over this bedrock of Israeli society.

Summary

With the deterioration of relations with Turkey and the uncertainties over the future course of the revolution in Egypt, Israelʼs diplomatic position in the Middle East has dramatically declined. Under the deposed Hosni Mubarak, Egypt had maintained a “cold peace” with the Jewish state and scrupulously adhered to the peace treaty that had been in force between the two countries for the past thirty years. Although the Islamists who won two-thirds of the seats in the newly elected parliament have issued statements promising not to tamper with the treaty, Israel has reason to be concerned that these promises are not commitments. Relations with Turkey, the other anchor of Israelʼs Middle East diplomacy have also suffered as this powerful Muslim state is seeking to become a prime leader in the Arab/Muslim world. In both these countries, the festering Palestine issue remains at the heart of their growing estrangement from Israel.

Given the intransigence of the Netanyahu government on the Palestine issue and its refusal to make the kind of concessions that could draw P.A. President Mahmoud Abbas back to the negotiating table, there is little hope that any meaningful progress will made in the near future in cutting this Gordian knot. Britain, France, and Germany, Israelʼs closest European friends, have recently sharpened their criticism of Israeli intransigence, thereby deepening its political isolation. Deterioration in its diplomatic situation has prompted the Netanyahu government to curb speech and press criticism of the settlements The anti-Boycott law would make it a civil offence to advocate an economic, cultural, or academic boycott of the settlements. Proposed legislation regarding the media would raise fines to ruinous heights for newspapers or other media that are convicted of libeling an individual or organization. This legislation now making its way through the Knesset is likely would almost certainly lead to an infringement of the freedom of the press. In an effort to protect the settlements, viewed by most of the world as illegal, the Netanyahu government, is restricting time-honored freedoms within Israel proper. The restrictions have drawn criticism from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, warning they pose a threat to Israeli democracy.

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Murray Gordon Silberman served nearly twenty-five years as a senior official in the United Nations Secretariat. Ten years of this time he spent in Vienna. While in the Austrian capital, he served five years as the Vienna correspondent of the Jerusalem Post. After retiring from the United Nations, he worked as a consultant to the American Jewish Committee and was the author of numerous monographs on foreign policy issues. He was also a contributor to the American Jewish Year Book, writing the chapter on Austrian Jewry. Murray Silberman became an ordained rabbi in 2000 after graduating from the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College. He has written numerous articles on the Middle East, Africa and India and is the author of the book Slavery in the Arab World. All his writings appear under the pen name Murray Gordon. Rabbi Silberman currently serves as the Jewish chaplain to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and two nursing homes.

No Process, No Pressure

— Leonard Getz, Co-President, Zionist Organization of America, Greater Philadelphia District

Thanks to a twisted,  yet inevitable turn of events, Israel for the moment is enjoying a reprieve  from the pressure to “make peace”, Prime Minister Netanyahu‘s pleadings to a  disinterested Abbas notwithstanding.  We have President Obama to  thank for this. By unilaterally raising the ante making Israeli construction  in Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem the issue, Obama has made it impossible  for Israel to offer  anything less, and for the Arabs to refuse anything other than a complete and  continuous building halt. Realizing his mistake, Obama has backed off, and  paradoxically enough, Israel is enjoying for the moment a semblance of peace  from the pressures to make dangerous and unilateral concessions that will  surely undermine their security and right to live anywhere in the land of  Israel.

As I write this Representative Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) the first Jewish representative from Arizona fights for her recovery from a gunshot wound to her head and we pray for her speedy  recovery. Back in 2006, she wrote a piece for the Jewish Federation of Southern  Arizona upon her return from visiting Israel. She wrote  

“I got to see firsthand the  sacrifices that Israelis make in the name of security because of the dangerous  state of affairs there…I will always be a strong supporter of Israel. Until  the Palestinian leadership and other hostile regimes are willing to accept  Israel’s right to exist, it will be impossible to achieve  peace.”

 Speaking of the Bush  Administration she also said,

“The failure of the current administration to  continue the peace process has been a loss to America and Israel. That is why  we need a new direction in Washington.”

Like most American, and  particularly Jewish politicians whose observations are correct and whose  hearts are in the right place, their conclusions are usually  wrong.  When  they say “new direction” what they mean is putting different people in charge  who will inevitably go in the same aimless direction that every administration  and, frankly, every Israeli government as gone. What we need is someone with  Star Trek initiative, to boldly go where no “peace process’ has gone  before.

Where should that be? The  dismantling of the United Nations Relief and Work Agency of Palestinian  Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).

For over 60 years the United  States has helped feed a myth that people who are born in a particular country  are refugees instead of citizens of that country, and helped fund a United  Nations agency run by  terrorists. Former UNWRA  general counsel  James G Lindsay said, UNWRA  encourages Palestinians to fight long-lost wars, discourages movement toward  peace and employees thousands of Hamas  terrorists.

If the United States is  serious about peace, it should work towards the withering of UNWRA and let  Israel be.  

Ayalon: “Israel had to end Freeze to avoid seeming weak.”

Admits that Gaza withdrawal was an excruciatingly painful mistake

In the aftermath of Israel’s decision on September 26 to end its ten-month construction freeze within existing West Bank settlements as originally scheduled, one of Israel’s leading diplomats, Danny Ayalon, deputy foreign minister and the number two man in Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu Party tells Shalom TV President Mark S. Golub that Israel had no choice but to end the settlement freeze in order to retain any credibility in the Arab world and in international circles.

In an exclusive interview with Shalom TV conducted with Minister Ayalon in New York City, Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister makes his government’s position clear.

“I’ll tell you Mark, the international scene is cruel. There is no real mercy for the weak and there is no second chance for people who cannot sustain themselves. It’s very cynical, it’s very hypocritical. And that is why we have to stand by our word, so our word will mean something–not just for us but for the international community in the future as well.”

Asked if the recent talks between Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas gives him hope or confidence that a real peace process is underway, Minister Ayalon answers, “Unfortunately at this point I don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel–or if I see the light it is an oncoming train. There is one thing we asked the Palestinians to recognize–that Israel is a homeland of the Jewish People. They refused.”

Mr. Ayalon also makes reference to his meeting with Salam Fayyad in which the Palestinian prime minister walked out of a joint press conference at the United Nations rather than sign a statement saying that the “two state solution” was for “two separate peoples.”

For Mr. Ayalon, Israelis don’t need the Palestinians to acknowledge that “Israel is a Jewish state” for their own self-identity; rather, Israel needs the Palestinians to say it in Arabic “so there will be a finality of conflict and an end of claims.”

“We don’t want a settlement with Palestinians whereby the children of the Palestinians are still taught that Haifa is theirs, Tel Aviv is theirs, Jaffa is theirs; this is what we mean by their recognizing Israel as the “Jewish” state.”

Ayalon, who was one of the chief proponents for Israel’s evacuation of Gaza when he was part of the Ariel Sharon government, is also asked by Golub whether, in retrospect, he feels the unilateral withdrawal from Gaza was a mistake.

“Yes, it was,” says Ayalon candidly, “and in hindsight we shouldn’t have done it because it was excruciatingly painful.”

But, for Ayalon, it is an event from which Israel can learn.

“We have a lesson that we cannot cede territory without a full agreement without a full commitment of the other side–and with enforcement to make sure that no terrorism and no violence can come out of any territory that we will ever leave in the future.”