Administration’s Strong Condemnation of Ezra Schwartz’s Murder

Ezra_Schwartz_Funeral_11222015-0552-635x357Ezra Schwartz was murdered by Palestinian terrorists on Thursday, November 19, while en route to deliver food to Israeli soldiers. He was an 18-year old American citizen just out of high school and on a gap program in Israel.

All terrorist victims tug at our hearts, but Ezra’s murder hit home hard. Even those of us who did not know him personally know kids just like him who participate in similar programs, including our own kids.

At times like these, we expect solace and recognition from our own government. Within days, President Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry, State Department Spokesman John Kirby, and U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro had all condemned the attack, specifically mentioning Ezra. President Obama and Secretary Kerry personally called the family to convey their condolences.

Yet even before Shabbat ended on November 21, some of us were expressing outrage — not at the terrorists who murdered Ezra, but at the administration, even though Dan Shapiro condemned the attack almost immediately and even though the State Department (which is run by John Kerry, who reports to President Obama) condemned it on November 20.

Maybe some of us were not aware of the condemnations, but before we criticize the administration’s response to such an awful tragedy, do we not owe it to ourselves and our friends to verify before posting? It is not that hard with Google. Maybe some of us did not know that the ambassador to Israel (the official U.S. representative in Israel) and the State Department both report up to the President and speak for him. The President uses spokespeople of necessity because there are so many pressing issues and so little time.

On Monday, November 23, the day after Ezra’s funeral, Kerry spoke to the family and condemned the attack. Kerry mentioned Ezra again the following day, adding that “Israel has every right in the world to defend itself and it has an obligation to defend itself.”

President Obama also called the family on Monday and condemned the attack in the strongest terms.

Is the day after his funeral, the second day of shiva, really too late?

Perhaps we should reserve our anger for the terrorists and acknowledge that the administration’s response to this tragedy was more than sufficient. And to the extent we have questions, let us get answers before assuming the worst.

Should our first instinct be to wonder whether the President condemned a self-evidently horrific attack? Should our first priority be to look at our watches to see if he spoke out in time? My guess is that those who were concerned–whose sincerity I do not doubt and to whom this would never have otherwise occurred–were prompted by social media that ultimately came from the usual suspects, that small but vocal segment of our community for whom nothing President Obama does is good enough.

It’s an easy game to play, straight out of Negative Politics 101: Accuse any politician of not responding, then of not responding fast enough (because it will never be fast enough), and then of issuing a response that was not strong or thorough enough (because more can always be said). And when it is the president, complain that the person speaking for the president was not at a high enough level (it will never be high enough).

Those who shared this misleading information were the victims of yet another partisan Internet hoax. The blame rests with the people who started these rumors and petitions in the first place, making them look as official and legitimate as possible, knowing that they would be shared and recirculated by people who were genuinely grieving for Ezra Schwartz. The purveyors of these falsehoods knew all too well that Mark Twain was right: A lie can travel half way around the world before the truth can put its pants on.

President Obama has earned the benefit of the doubt. Neither his personal differences with Prime Minister Netanyahu nor the steady stream of invective from some quarters of the American Jewish community has prevented him from strengthening the U.S.-Israel relationship.

President Obama supported record levels of aid to Israel and raised military and intelligence cooperation between the U.S. and Israel to unprecedented levels. Unlike his predecessor, President Obama enthusiastically supported and funded Iron Dome, which has saved countless Israeli lives. President Obama, at Bibi’s request, immediately intervened to save the lives of the Israeli diplomats trapped in the Israeli embassy in Egypt (do you know their names? Probably not — because Obama saved them). Also at Bibi’s request, President Obama immediately ensured fast U.S. help with the Carmel forest fires. And now we are complaining that a phone call to Ezra’s family the day after his funeral was not fast enough?

Unlike his predecessors, President Obama’s record of support for Israel at the U.N. is 100%. He even vetoed a Security Council resolution on settlements deliberately worded to match long-standing U.S. policy on settlements (to make it harder for the U.S. to veto) just to affirm the principle that the conflict must be resolved by the parties to the conflict, not one-sided international pressure on Israel.

And what about Iran? If Congress had blocked the Iran deal, we might be at war with Iran or preparing for the imminent possibility of a nuclear-armed Iran. I still do not know whether to be amused or saddened by claims that we could have held the sanctions regime together, even though all of our allies said it would fall apart and even though the same people who accuse President Obama of failing to lead somehow expected him to use his Jedi mind control techniques to hold it all together.

I still marvel that the same people who accused President Obama of undue reluctance to use force (even though he killed Osama bin Laden and has ordered over 6,000 airstrikes against ISIL) said out of the other side of their mouths that if Congress blocked the deal, we could stop Iran with force. Who did they think would authorize it? The Iran deal removed the biggest threat to Israel and world peace and is already emerging as one of our greatest foreign policy achievements. With all that is going on in the world today, imagine where we would be if President Obama had not taken Iran off the table.

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Kerry: Iranian Nuclear Bomb Prohibited Forever

 Secretary Kerry gave a detailed analysis of the reasoning behind the Iran Nuclear Deal, as well as the concern for Israel's feelings about Iran.  He firmly stated frequently that Iran would be prohibited "forever" from creating a nuclear bomb. photo by Bonnie SquiresSecretary of State John Kerry spoke passionately and firmly in support of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran in a speech at Philadelphia’s National Constitution Center.

Secretary Kerry analyzed the reasons why the Congress and the U.S. must approve the deal. He gave a detailed analysis of the reasoning behind the deal, as well as the concern for Israel’s feelings about Iran. He stated frequently that Iran would be prohibited “forever” from creating a nuclear bomb.

Senators Bob Casey (PA) and Chris Coons (DE) had already gone public with their support of President Obama and Secretary Kerry. However, right before the speech began Jeffrey Rosen, the CEO of the National Constitution Center (NCC), had gotten word that Senator Barbara Mikulski (MD) had become the 34th Senator to indicate support, guaranteeing the failure of the Republicans to override the expected veto by President Obama for the projected negative vote by Senate Republicans.

Netanyahu Declines to Meet Democratic Senators Before Congressional Speech

Biden (left) and Boehner (right) look on as Netanyahu speaks before Congress.

Biden (left) and Boehner (right) look on as Netanyahu speaks before Congress.

DEBKA reported that Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, declined an invitation for a closed-door meeting with Democratic Senators next week in a letter to Senators Richard Durbin and Dianne Feinstein:

Though I greatly appreciate your kind invitation, I believe that accepting it at this time could compound the misperception of partisanship regarding my upcoming visit.

DEBKA added that National Security Adviser Susan Rice, the latest U.S. administration official to attack Netanyahu, sharply called his forthcoming speech on Iran to Congress “destructive to the relationship between the two countries” in an interview with Charlie Rose Tuesday night:

What has happened over the last several weeks by virtue of the invitation that was issued by the speaker and the acceptance of it by Prime Minister Netanyahu two weeks before his elections is that on both sides there have been injected some degree of partisanship.

It is not only unfortunate but it is also destructive of the fabric of the relationship. It has always been bipartisan and we want to keep it that way. When it becomes injected with politics, that’s a problem.

Earlier, Secretary of State John Kerry said in reference to the prime minister that “anybody running around right now jumping in to say, ‘Well we don’t like the deal,’ or this, or that, doesn’t know what the deal is.”

Previously, Netanyahu remarked on his upcoming speech:

This agreement, if signed, will allow Iran to become a nuclear threshold state – meaning that, with the powers’ consent, Iran will get a license to develop atom bombs – and this is a country which openly declares its intention to destroy the state of Israel. That is why I will go to Washington to speak before the US Congress, because the U.S. Congress may be the last defense before it is signed.

New Sanctions Won’t Stop Iran

Allowing a state-sponsor of terrorism to possess nuclear weapons is unacceptable.

A nuclear-armed Iran would threaten Israel’s existence and set off a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.

450px-Arak_Heavy_Water4

Heavy water reactor in Arak, Iran.

Strong economic sanctions, enforced by the Obama administration and made effective by the international coalition President Obama built and maintained, did not stop Iran’s progress toward acquiring nuclear weapons. The tougher the economic pressure, the harder Iran worked on developing its capabilities.

However, tough sanctions did bring Iran to the negotiating table. Under the Joint Plan of Action (the interim agreement), Iran finally agreed to halt, and in some cases roll back its nuclear program in return for a limited, reversible sanctions relief.

Iran’s economy still suffers from the tough sanctions that remain in place, giving Iran a tremendous incentive to continue negotiating toward a comprehensive agreement. But time no longer works against the U.S., and will not work against it for as long as both it and Iran continue to comply with the interim agreement.

President Obama has repeatedly stated that his goal is to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons; that all options, including the military option, are on the table; and that if the talks fail — he rates their chance of success as 50-50 at best — then not only will the limited sanctions relief end, but he will ask Congress for tougher sanctions.

Sanctions alone will not stop Iran. It would be irresponsible not to ratchet up the sanctions if talks failed, but if talks do fail, sanctions will be even less likely than negotiations to stop Iran. The only remaining option will then be military action, and while it might stop Iran in the short term, it will guarantee that Iran will do all it can to eventually acquire nuclear weapons.

That is why negotiations remain our best hope for stopping Iran, and that is why, with so much at stake, Congress would be foolish to take any action that could even arguably violate the interim agreement, create uncertainty, or call our good faith into question.

The interim agreement expires in July, but Secretary of State John Kerry has said that the deadline for reaching agreement on a framework is the end of March. If we get there, the next three months would be spent hammering out the details. So as a practical matter, we will know if we are likely to have a deal in two and a half months, and negotiations are proceeding based on that expectation.

However, new Iran sanctions legislation will soon be proposed.

A draft of the new Kirk-Menendez bill, the Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2015, would impose sanctions if the interim agreement expires without a long-term, comprehensive solution that will prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. Congress should debate the bill and schedule a vote in early April.

The bill contains a provision allowing the President to waive sanctions, if he feels that it is necessary to conclude a comprehensive agreement. However, this is a draft, and it could change prior to introduction in the Senate.

Even a bill whose terms do not take effect until the expiration of the interim agreement will violate the interim agreement, if it becomes law while the interim agreement is still in force. Passage of such a bill would be viewed by Iran and the U.S.’ allies as needlessly provocative and as a sign of bad faith.

Moreover, this bill would do nothing prior to the expiration of the interim agreement except poke a finger in Iran’s eye, and maybe the administration’s eye too. Why risk poisoning the atmosphere in the midst of delicate negotiations?

Even if one believes that the bill would not violate the interim agreement, even if one believes that it would not impair negotiations, why take that chance? Regardless of when the bill is enacted, new sanctions would only kick in after the expiration of the interim agreement. Why pass this bill now instead of waiting just two and a half months?

It can only be worse off if this bill passes now; it cannot be better off, and if this bill does scuttle the talks, the world will rightly blame the U.S., making it much less likely that its allies would join in tougher sanctions. And without the cooperation of those allies, the sanctions called for in this bill will be much less effective.

British prime minister, David Cameron, one of the U.S.’ key allies on Iran, urged Congress last Friday not to pass sanctions legislation. Cameron said that such legislation would “fracture unity” among the international coalition that is confronting Iran.

Would passing a bill now send a signal to Iran? What signal? The President has already made clear that we will impose more sanctions if talks fail, and no one doubts that Congress will accede to his request.

The only signals this bill would send are signals to the U.S.’ allies, that it does not care what they think; and signals to hard-liners in Iran, that maybe they should now threaten the U.S. with action should talks fail; or worse, that they might as well break off negotiations now.

Why Does Israel Still Transfer Money to the PA?


In forming this technocratic government, Hamas agreed to conditions it was never previously willing to accept, such as giving Abbas veto power over all ministers and approving the formation of a government in which it has no ministers, which is why this unity government might succeed.

— by Steve Sheffey

The pro-Israel community is concerned about the new Palestinian unity government.

Rep. Brad Schneider (D-IL), a lifelong advocate for a strong U.S.-Israel relationship, a supporter of a two-state solution, and a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, issued a statement on the subject last week:

I remain deeply concerned that the Palestinian Authority continues to move forward with a reconciliation government that includes the internationally-recognized terrorist group Hamas. Hamas continues to advocate violent action against Israel, and its political leadership refuses to recognize Israel.

Hamas’ participation in a unity government raises serious doubts as to the Palestinians’ commitment to a negotiated peace with Israel and raises significant questions regarding future U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority.

While I support efforts by the Palestinian Authority to form government institutions capable of representing the Palestinian people, a unity government with Hamas, without Hamas agreeing to the “Quartet Conditions,” which includes renouncing violence, recognizing Israel and honoring past agreements, will hinder the peace process and will not result in a future Palestinian state.

President Abbas must understand the two-state agreement can only be achieved through good faith negotiation with Israel. I hope he and his government will take the steps to further the prospects for peace for his people and the region.

More after the jump.
AIPAC called on Congress to suspend aid to the Palestinian Authority (PA), while Congress “conducts a thorough review of continued U.S. assistance to ensure that U.S. law, which prohibits to a Palestinian government in which Hamas participates or has undue influence, is completely followed and implemented.”

The Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago wrote that the “inclusion of Hamas at any level of a Palestinian government undermines the goal of the United States and Israel for a negotiated settlement to the Israel-Palestinian conflict.”

Israel criticized the decision of the U.S. to work with the new Palestinian unity government. But the White House pointed out that the same day the technocratic Palestinian unity government was established, Israel transferred more than 500 million shekels (about $145 million) to the PA government.

Haaretz reported that a senior White House official said, “It is unclear to us why some in the Israeli political leadership are staking out such a hard line public position that is fundamentally at odds with their own actions.” The official added that the transfer “was no accident and reflects the Israeli establishment’s clear interest in maintaining a functioning and stable PA that can effectively administer Palestinian areas.”

Israel has no interest in seeing the PA collapse and their actions this week reinforce this clear-eyed understanding, despite what some Israeli officials are saying publicly.

Our position has consistently been that the threshold for working with a PA government is that it recognize the Quartet principles and doesn’t include or share power with Hamas. It is against our interest — and Israel’s interests — to cut ties with and funding to such a PA government. A functioning, stable PA serves our interests, Palestinian interests, and Israeli interests.

Secretary of State John Kerry reiterated that the “U.S. does not recognize a government with respect to Palestine because that would recognize a state and there is no state.”

Hamas is a terrorist organization. It has not accepted the Quartet principles. It continues to call for the destruction of Israel. It continues even as it moves into this new posture. And so we are obviously going to watch closely what happens, but we will… work with it in the constraints that we are obviously facing.

Unless Kerry is mistaken on the facts, the U.S. is not required by law to cut off funding. Kerry said last week that Abbas “made clear that this new technocratic government is committed to the principles of non violence, negotiations, recognizing the state of Israel, acceptance of the previous agreements and the Quartet principles.”

Based on what we know now about the composition of this technocratic government, which has no minister affiliated to Hamas and is committed to the principles that I describe, we will work with it as we need to, as appropriate.

The purpose of this technocratic unity government is to administer affairs in the West Bank and Gaza for purposes of having election in six months.

No one disputes that Hamas is an unrepentant terrorist organization. But neither Israel nor the U.S. believes that any of the ministers in the unity government are members of Hamas. Hamas is very weak as a result of restrictions imposed by Egypt, so it is in both Israel’s and the PA’s interests to capitalize on this weakness by forcing Hamas out of power in Gaza by elections.

In forming this technocratic government, Hamas agreed to conditions it was never previously willing to accept, such as giving Abbas veto power over all ministers and approving the formation of a government in which it has no ministers, which is why this unity government might succeed.

If the Palestinian Authority collapses, not only would Israel have to take over administration of the West Bank — which Israel does not want to do — but Israel would also lose the security cooperation that has virtually eliminated terrorist attacks from the West Bank into Israel. Perhaps that is why, despite its rhetoric, Israel continues to transfer money to the PA — and so should we.

Congress should work with the Administration to ensure that we have not been misled as to the composition of this unity government, and to monitor this unity government for acts that would render it ineligible for U.S. aid. Suspending aid now could imperil U.S. and Israeli security and administrative interests. It might be more prudent to suspend aid only if and when we have evidence that continued U.S. assistance would violate U.S. law.

The goal is to remove Hamas from power and create a government that can negotiate meaningfully with Israel, but the risk is that Hamas will use this government to expand its influence. A Palestinian government without Hamas that can negotiate on behalf of the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza is the ideal partner for peace. We must be careful not to take rash action.

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Is the US-Israel Special Relationship Altered?


Anyone in Israel who is pleased with Obama’s speech does not completely understand its destructive implications.

— Kenneth R. Myers, Esq.

Since Harry S. Truman, every U.S. president has had the opportunity to engage in Middle East war, peace or both. We in the U.S. are result-oriented, giving politicians little credit for “best effort.” We like strong leaders, so the failed peace encounters can only damage the Chief Executive’s popularity.

One might tire of such engagements. Indeed, since both principal parties walked away from the latest round of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, less has been said in the U.S. about the problem. In Obama’s major address on foreign policy at the U.S. Military Academy commencement ceremony Wednesday, there was no mention of the Israel-Palestinian “peace process.”

More after the jump.
On Thursday, in the Israeli paper Yedioth Ahronoth, commentator Alon Pinkas wrote: “It was an ‘all-inclusive’ speech that President Obama gave yesterday at the graduation ceremony at West Point Academy. All-inclusive, except for Israel and the peace process. Not even as a footnote.”

[Obama] made no mention of “our” Middle East. Not with affection and concern, and not with criticism and frustration. Neither as a U.S. foreign policy objective nor as a U.S. interest. He voiced neither a commitment to the ally Israel nor an aspiration to grant the Palestinians a state of their own. The “peace process” is yet another conflict flashpoint in the world, and the U.S. has grown weary of its failed attempts to mediate and resolve it.

Pinkas added that Wednesday morning, “in an appearance that was broadcast by three networks, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry did not mention the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at all.”

This matters to us, U.S. Jews, as well as to Israel. The perceived centrality of the U.S.-Israel relationship, or the apparent disregard of that relationship, is likely to influence nuclear negotiations with Iran, subtly altering both the Iranian and the American strength of purpose and will. But that is just one likely effect of the failure of talks.

U.S. Jews have little basis today to press their government for re-engagement in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the voice of AIPAC is not likely to be heard to urge a course that the Government of Israel does not want. Israel appears to be satisfied to let matters ride as they are, awaiting a day when a more desirable, or at least more desirous, peace partner may emerge on the Palestinian side.

Although a quiet has settled in for the present time, we and Obama know too well that the problems are unresolved and very unlikely to go away. As Pinkas concluded, “Anyone in Israel who is pleased with [Obama’s] speech does not completely understand its destructive implications.”

Kerry’s Support of Israel Is Unquestionable


Kerry and Israel’s foreign minister, Avigdor Liberman.

— by Steve Sheffey

Last Sunday, The Daily Beast reported that it obtained a tape (which it has not released) of Secretary of State John Kerry at a private meeting with unidentified “world leaders,” in which he said that if a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not reached soon, Israel will risk becoming “an apartheid state”:

A two-state solution will be clearly underscored as the only real alternative. Because a unitary state winds up either being an apartheid state with second-class citizens — or it ends up being a state that destroys the capacity of Israel to be a Jewish state.

If this sounds familiar to you, you are right. In 2010, then-Israeli Defense Minister (and former Prime Minister) Ehud Barak said that if Israel does not achieve a peace deal with the Palestinians, Israel will become either a binational state or an apartheid state.

More after the jump.
Barak said that “The simple truth is, if there is one state” including Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, “it will have to be either binational or undemocratic… if this bloc of millions of Palestinians cannot vote, that will be an apartheid state.”

Barak is the most decorated soldier in Israel’s history. Tzipi Livni and Ehud Olmert are among the other Israeli leaders who have used the term “apartheid” similarly.

After Ehud Barak made his remarks in 2010, did the Zionist Organization of America and the Emergency Committee for Israel call on him to resign? Did Protect Our Heritage PAC urge its members to flood the Israeli embassy with protest calls? Did other organizations send stand-alone emails condemning his remarks?

None of that happened. But it did happen the day after Kerry’s remarks were reported, before he even had a chance to respond.

Kerry did not say Israel was an apartheid state. He said that if it does not reach a two-state solution, an apartheid state is one possible outcome.

One South African judge, Richard Goldstone, eloquently explained in The New York Times in 2011 why it is so wrong and inappropriate to call Israel and apartheid state:

In Israel, there is no apartheid. Nothing there comes close to the definition of apartheid under the 1998 Rome Statute: “Inhumane acts… committed in the context of an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime.”

Israeli Arabs — 20 percent of Israel’s population — vote, have political parties and representatives in the Knesset and occupy positions of acclaim, including on its Supreme Court. Arab patients lie alongside Jewish patients in Israeli hospitals, receiving identical treatment.

Barak, Olmert, Livni, and Kerry were wrong to use the term not because they said Israel was an apartheid state — it is clearly not and they clearly did not — but because the term is so charged, loaded, and capable of misinterpretation. Using that term was a mistake.

But the over-reaction was also a mistake. If Kerry had really said Israel was an apartheid state, then the reaction would have been appropriate. But he did not, and it is clear even from the Daily Beast report what he meant.

The correct response, from a pro-Israel advocacy standpoint, would have been to tone down the response, lay off the panic button, and remember that Kerry has been a strong friend of Israel throughout his decades-long career. We have enough real enemies without creating for ourselves imagined ones.

Unfortunately, some of our right-wing friends just could not resist this “gotcha” moment. This forced centrist and even center-left organizations to join in, lest they be accused by the right or by certain of their donors of being soft on the apartheid accusation.

The result is that we have got the world entertaining the absurd notion that the U.S. Secretary of State might think that Israel is an apartheid state. Even the best public relations firm could not have given the Palestinians a better earned media bonanza. Nice job, guys.

Below is the full text of the strong statement Kerry released on Monday:

For more than thirty years in the United States Senate, I didn’t just speak words in support of Israel, I walked the walk when it came time to vote and when it came time to fight. As Secretary of State, I have spent countless hours working with Prime Minister Netanyahu and Justice Minister Livni because I believe in the kind of future that Israel not only wants, but Israel deserves. I want to see a two state solution that results in a secure Jewish state and a prosperous Palestinian state, and I’ve actually worked for it.

I will not allow my commitment to Israel to be questioned by anyone, particularly for partisan, political purposes, so I want to be crystal clear about what I believe and what I don’t believe.

First, Israel is a vibrant democracy and I do not believe, nor have I ever stated, publicly or privately, that Israel is an apartheid state or that it intends to become one.  Anyone who knows anything about me knows that without a shred of doubt.

Second, I have been around long enough to also know the power of words to create a misimpression, even when unintentional, and if I could rewind the tape, I would have chosen a different word to describe my firm belief that the only way in the long term to have a Jewish state and two nations and two peoples living side by side in peace and security is through a two state solution. In the long term, a unitary, binational state cannot be the democratic Jewish state that Israel deserves or the prosperous state with full rights that the Palestinian people deserve. That’s what I said, and it’s also what Prime Minister Netanyahu has said. While Justice Minister Livni, former Prime Ministers Barak and Ohlmert have all invoked the specter of apartheid to underscore the dangers of a unitary state for the future, it is a word best left out of the debate here at home.

At least some organizations might have acted differently if they had just waited 24 hours.

The Anti-Defamation League welcomed Kerry’s statement:

While we may disagree from time to time, we have never doubted Secretary Kerry’s commitment to Israel’s security and his good faith efforts to find a fair, equitable and lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He is a true friend of Israel. His statement makes that clear, and we consider this chapter closed.

Israel’s ambassador to the U.S., Ron Dermer, said that Israel deeply appreciates Kerry’s efforts to advance peace with the Palestinians, that Kerry did not threaten Israel, and that “his decades of support for Israel reflect an abiding commitment to Israel’s security and its future.”

Bloomberg’s Jeff Goldberg, who acknowledged that he too has used the term “apartheid” to describe Israel’s possible future as well as today’s realities, explained why he no longer uses that term:

The problem is not inside Israel; the problem is on the West Bank. The settlers who entangle Israel in the lives of Palestinians believe that they are the vanguard of Zionism. In fact, they are the vanguard of binationalism. Their myopia will lead to the end of Israel as a democracy and as a haven for the Jewish people. The regime they help impose on Palestinians is cruel, unfair and unnecessary. Rather than label this regime in an incendiary fashion, I now prefer simply to describe its disagreeable qualities.

But if Kerry, following Barak’s lead, wants to warn about a possible apartheid future for Israel, I’m not going to condemn him as anti-Israel. Israeli leaders must open their minds to the possibility that he has their long-term interests at heart.

In the New Yorker, John Cassidy explained what we can learn from this episode:

As the prospects for a permanent peace deal between the Israelis and Palestinians deteriorates, the standard of the debate in this country’s capital is deteriorating with it. Rather than supporting efforts to find peace, as they did in the not-so-distant past, Republicans are increasingly using Israel as a wedge issue to divide Democrats, raise money, and mobilize their own supporters…

That’s just politics, you (or Macbeth) might say — “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” To some extent, I would agree. But if there’s ever going to be an end to this wretched problem, somebody — and it’s almost certainly going to have be an American President or Secretary of State — is going to have to rise above politics and bring the two sides together. What just happened to John Kerry demonstrated why that’s getting even harder to do.

The goal of pro-Israel advocacy is to bring the U.S. and Israel closer, not to create divisions for partisan gain. That is why so many pro-Israel members of Congress from both parties wisely refrained from public comment. Following Kerry’s statement and the statement of support for Kerry from Israel, there is really not much more that can or should be said.

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Flyers Call on Ukrainian Jews to “Register”


Leaflet distributed in Donetsk, Ukraine, calls for all Jewish people over age 16 to register as Jews. (Photo: The Coordination Forum for Countering Antisemitism)

Translation from NCSJ:
Dear citizens of Jewish nationality! Due to the fact that leaders of the Jewish Community of Ukraine support the Bandera junta in Kiev and are hostile to the Orthodox Donetsk Republic and its citizens, the main headquarters of the Donetsk Republic declares the following:

  • Every citizen of Jewish nationality older than 16 years, residing in the territory of a sovereign Donetsk Republic has to go to Donetsk Regional Administrator to see the Nationalities Commissioner, Office 514, for registration. The registration fee is $50.
  • Persons should have with them with cash in the amount of $50 for registration, a passport to mark their religion, and documents of family members, as well as ownership documents for their properties and vehicles.
  • In case of failure to register, the perpetrators will lose their citizenship and will be deported outside the republic, with their property confiscated.

— by Elka Looks, Jewish Community Relations Council

The Jewish Community Relations Council was appalled to learn that flyers were distributed in the Ukrainian City of Donetsk calling on Jews to “register” their household with the local Nationalities Commission Office.

The flyers required Jews to bring a $50 fee to cover the placement of a “religious nationality” mark in passports, and to register their property and possessions with local authorities. Jews who failed to comply would face deportation. The flyers were signed in the name of Denis Pushilin, the leader of Donetsk’s pro-Russian separatists, who led the takeover of several government buildings and claimed the city as the Donetsk Republic.

According to the National Conference Supporting Jews in Russia Ukraine, the Baltic States & Eurasia (NCSJ), which has been in direct contact with Donetsk Jewish community leaders, authorities have rejected any association with the flyers, and Pushlin has denied authorship. The origin of the flyers, which were distributed by three individuals wearing ski masks and the flag of the Russian Federation near the Donetsk synagogue, remains unknown.

According to the NCSJ’s statement on this deplorable matter, they are “continuing to work with local Jewish leaders and national officials to do everything possible to find those responsible for this outrageous and reprehensible act, and to hold them accountable.”

JCRC commends Secretary of State John Kerry and U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt, both of whom swiftly and unequivocally condemned the flyers. We were also pleased to see the local, national and even international media coverage this heinous act received; we and the world cannot stand idly by.

Kerry Said What?


Kerry from 0:55:00 to 1:00:00 is not portraying Israel as the villain; in fact, he goes out of his way to praise Prime Minister Netanyahu.

— Steve Sheffey

Secretary of State John Kerry, a strong supporter of Israel, testified last week that both parties — Israel and the Palestinians — have recently taken unhelpful steps, but he continues to work to bring the two sides together, as he should.

Don’t want to deal with the implications of climate change? Deny it! Don’t like the Obamacare sign up numbers? Make up your own! Don’t want Israel to give up the West Bank? Wish away the demographic facts! Don’t like how your candidate is doing in the polls? Invent your own numbers! (No link — just ask President Romney how to do it.)

Experiencing cognitive dissonance because contrary to everything you were told or secretly wished to believe, President Obama has turned out to be a strong friend of Israel? Then invent a conflict!

During President Obama’s first term, we were treated to rumors about a snub of Prime Minister Netanyahu at the White House that turned out to be completely false and headlines about forcing Israel to return to the 1967 borders that turned out to be utter nonsense. Last week, the Republican Jewish Coalition and others claimed that Secretary of State John Kerry blamed Israel for the latest impasse between Israel and the Palestinians.

More after the jump.
Fortunately, Kerry’s April 8 testimony was videotaped. Here in relevant part is what he said (bolding emphasized in Kerry’s voice):

Both sides, whether advertently or inadvertently, wound up in positions where things happened that were unhelpful. Clearly, [the Palestinians] going to these treaties is not helpful, and we have made that crystal-clear… Unfortunately, prisoners were not released on the Saturday they were supposed to be released. And so day went by, day two went by, day three went by. And then in the afternoon, when they were about to maybe get there, 700 settlement units were announced in Jerusalem and, poof, that was sort of the moment. We find ourselves where we are.

Ron Kampeas:

“Memo from reality: Reciting an accurate chronology is not ‘blaming,’ it is reciting an accurate chronology.”

State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said that “John Kerry was again crystal clear today that both sides have taken unhelpful steps and at no point has he engaged in a blame game. He even singled out by name Prime Minister Netanyahu for having made courageous decisions throughout process.”  

I haven’t been able to find a transcript of the hearing, but if you really care about this, at least watch just the key five minutes where this issue is discussed. At about 55:00 (the video is 2-1/2 hours long) Kerry says that the administration supports recognition of Israel as a Jewish state and the question is when (not if) during the negotiations the Palestinians will recognize Israel as a Jewish state. Kerry next explains what led to the impasse. Watch Kerry from 55:00 to 1:00:00, just five minutes, and you’ll see that Kerry is not portraying Israel as the villain; in fact, he goes out of his way to praise Prime Minister Netanyahu.

Jeff Goldberg is right:

Kerry, one of the last of a generation of intuitively, emotionally pro-Israel Democratic leaders, is not delusional to think that Israel is in trouble. Nor is he delusional to believe — as he does — that the average Palestinian on the West Bank is made miserable by the policies of Israeli occupation authorities. Nor is he delusional to believe that Palestinians already inclined to hopelessness might rise up in the absence of a Palestinian state and begin a third uprising…

Kerry believes that Netanyahu is capable of [risking his political career for a final deal]. Which is why he is sticking with the peace process, despite all the criticism. Kerry may be wrong about Netanyahu, and he may be wrong about Abbas. But he is not wrong to keep trying.

The peace process is not a favor to the Palestinians. No matter how unreasonable the Palestinians may be, no matter how incendiary their rhetoric and counterproductive their actions, it remains in Israel’s best interests to reach an agreement that will allow Israel to vacate most of the West Bank. Israel cannot occupy the West Bank indefinitely and remain both Jewish and democratic. We might not like it, but that’s reality.  

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The One Real Obstacle to Israeli-Arab Peace


Israel’s former deputy minister of foreign affairs, Danny Ayalon, explains the historical facts relating to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

They say that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

The positions of the Palestinian Arabs in the latest round of peace talks, being pushed by Obama Administration and Secretary of State John Kerry, and the concessions being expected of Israel by the U.S. and media, will most certainly lead to a failure.

In the parallel universe in which Israeli-Palestinian Arab peace negotiations take place, the Palestinian Authority’s outright abrogation of prior agreements (Oslo Accords) and rejections of prior proposals (Camp David 2000 and 2008, which were pretexts for engaging in a terrorism war, the intifadah) must be placed back on the table as the starting point for the next round.

More after the jump.
A senior Palestinian official, Nabil Shaath, recently told the news agency Ma’an, “The minimum of what we were offered in the year 2000 hasn’t been reached, not to mention that the U.S. has failed to exert pressure on Israel to guarantee Palestinian rights.” He also said, “we will not recognize Israel as Jewish state.”

This is what the Palestinian Authority (PA) complains about, and what the media expects. Is there no price to pay for intransigence and rejection? Or defeat in war?

In every other situation throughout the world, when two parties are negotiating for something, there is the expectation of compromise, recognition and respect for the other side. Yet, none exists on the Palestinian-Arab side, nor do the media hold them to account.

Moreover, the PA President, Mahmoud Abbas, has a limited and questionable authority: His term has expired five years ago, and he only “rules” the West Bank/Judea and Samaria. The Gaza Strip is under the thumb of Hamas: an elected terrorist Islamic resistance movement, whose genocidal intentions against Jews and Israel are evident and proudly displayed.

There is no proof that even if Abbas signs an agreement, it will be honored by Hamas, or even that it will be binding on the PA.

Israel is held to impossible standards by the media. While the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has vowed to take any proposals and frameworks agreed to in negotiations directly to the Israeli people to vote and approve, what will the PA do? No one has ever said, nor pressed them to find out, if such an agreement will be endorsed by their people.

While Israeli actions to defend itself are routinely cast as obstacles to peace, it is the PA’s refusal to recognize a Jewish state, in any borders, which is rarely described by the media as an obstacle, when it is the sin qua non element essential to mutual recognition and an end to the conflict.

Israel’s rights, positions, opinions — those of a free democratic people — are marginalized, in favor of the seemingly poor, victimized, minority “Palestinian People.” The Palestinian Arabs are neither seen as part of the greater Arab nation (of 22 countries and 400 million), nor as people with their own country (Jordan, whose population consists of 2/3 “Palestinians,” on 78% of the Palestine Mandate, that was designated for the national Jewish homeland).

Israel has merely 6.2 million Jews, plus another 1.2 million Arabs living as equal citizens, in a country of 8,000 square miles, versus the 5 million square miles of the Arab world. These Arabs have many more rights and much more freedom than they do anywhere else in the Arab world.

As the indefatigable Kerry shuttles to square the circle of bringing the Israeli-Palestinian Arab negotiations to an agreement, it is instructive to focus on where the biggest obstacles to a peace deal really lie.

Israel’s Security Needs Minimized

The international media have been willing to blame Israeli “settlements” — even on land that has been under Israeli control since their capture in the defensive war of 1967, and per the Oslo Agreements of 1993; and “restrictive security practices” in PA-controlled areas (i.e. checkpoints); and even the Israeli-built security barrier, which has prevented innumerable terrorist attacks and saved countless lives on both sides, as the biggest obstacles to Middle East peace.

Recently, the European Union’s envoy to Israel warned that if peace talks with the Palestinian Arabs fail, Israel was likely get blamed for it due to construction in “West Bank settlements.” What is rarely ever discussed are Israel’s strong rights to the land, both historic and legal. Israel has recently begun to redress this by its issuance of the Levy Report, which has not yet been formally adopted by the government.

The late Israeli prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin of the Labor Party, was considered by many in his time a pro-peace leader. But as Kenneth Levin wrote in The Times of Israel, like the authors of the U.N. Security Council’s Resolution 242, Rabin “recognized that Israel’s pre-1967 armistice lines left the nation too vulnerable to future aggression.”

He insisted Israel must hold onto a significant portion of the West Bank to block traditional invasion routes and to protect both Jerusalem and the low-lying coastal plain, the latter home to some 70% of the nation’s population. In his last speech in the Knesset before his assassination, Rabin declared:

The borders of the State of Israel, during the permanent solution, will be beyond the lines which existed before the Six-Day War. We will not return to the 4 June 1967 lines, and these are the main changes, not all of them, which we envision and want in the permanent solution:

  1. First and foremost, united Jerusalem, which will include both Ma’ale Adumim and Givat Ze’ev – as the capital of Israel, under Israeli sovereignty, while preserving the rights of the members of the other faiths, Christianity and Islam, to freedom of access and freedom of worship in their holy places, according to the customs of their faiths.
  2. The security border of the State of Israel will be located in the Jordan Valley, in the broadest meaning of that term.
  3. Changes which will include the addition of Gush Etzion, Efrat, Beitar and other communities, most of which are in the area east of what was the “Green Line,” prior to the Six-Day War.
  4. The establishment of blocs of settlements in Judea and Samaria [the West Bank].

Nothing has changed in the last eighteen years that would diminish Israel’s need to retain the areas referred to by Rabin. The topography of the region has, of course, not changed, and the nations around Israel have not become more peaceful or more reconciled to Israel’s existence.

In fact, with the breakdown of the Arab Spring into violent civil wars on its borders (Syria, Lebanon, Egypt), and with a nuclear, terrorist-sponsoring Iran looming, the situation is even more precarious.

Israel cannot afford a major security threat aimed at the heart of the country from organizations whose charters call for its destruction. As Levin wrote, “Netanyahu’s views on defensible borders for Israel essentially conform to the parameters laid out by Rabin.”

Land for Peace, or for War?

In the Arab media, the Palestinian Arabs reveal what a farce the peace negotiations are: Abbas Zaki, a member of the Fatah Central Committee, explained on Syrian television that the PA would agree to a treaty with Israel if a Palestinian state is established on the 1967 lines, which would only be the beginning of a multi-stage plan to achieve their ultimate goal: a Palestinian State on the remains of the destruction of Israel.

It is also conveniently forgotten, and rarely mentioned by the media that the Palestinian Arabs have rejected a co-existent, mutually-recognized peace with a Jewish state living along side it six times: in 1937, 1948, 1956, 1967, 2000 and 2008. They have never missed an opportunity to reject obtaining their own sovereign state, if it means that they must recognize Israel.

Netanyahu has repeatedly stated Israel is prepared to recognize a Palestinian state. However, the essence of the problem is the lack of reciprocity: the Palestinian Arabs’ continual and absolute rejection of recognizing Israel as the nation state of the Jewish People. Without this, there will be no genuine peace, nor any hope for an end to the conflict.

Recently, Asharq Al-Awsat published an interview with the chief Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat, in which he baldly claimed that Israel murdered Yasser Arafat — a lie which has been debunked repeatedly — and could do the same to Abbas. Erekat stressed that the Palestinian Arabs will not agree to have talks extended beyond the allotted nine months, set to end next month.

More notably, Abbas specifically rejected Kerry’s framework, and told President Obama that:

  • he rejected  Netanyahu’s demand that he recognize Israel as a Jewish state;
  • he refused to abandon the demand for a “right of return” for the allegedly millions of Palestinian Arabs and their descendants; and
  • he refused to commit to an “end of conflict.”

In essence, this is a rewording of the famous Three Nos from the Arab League issued at Khartoum in 1967: “No peace, no recognition, no negotiation with Israel.”  

As a result, Israel has indicated that it may not release a fourth and final group of Palestinian prisoners at the end of this month (a condition Israel agreed to in entering the current talks, last July) if Abbas does not first agree to extend the talks beyond their scheduled termination in April.

This is just further verification that the Palestinian Arabs cannot bring themselves to forge an agreement with the Jewish state: Putting an end to the conflict ends the raison d’etre of the Palestinian Authority and its culture of victimhood.

Anti-Israel Incitement Ignored

While Israeli society has steadily moved over the years toward accepting Palestinian-Arab self-determination, this has not been shared on the Palestinian-Arab side.

The incitement rampantly permeates through Palestinian culture, in its schools, textbooks, mosques, and media and has ensured that an entire generation of Palestinians has been brainwashed and fed a diet of hatred towards Jews and Israel.

The demonizing of Jews as subhuman, the de-legitimitation of a Jewish state regardless of its borders, the negation of Jewish history, and the glorification of terrorists who have murdered Jews is endemic.

To its credit, the New York Times has published a story on Palestinian Arab incitement, prompted by the Israeli government’s recent release of its PA Incitement and Culture of Peace Index:

Adolf Hitler is quoted on the websites of Palestinian Authority schools; a young girl appears on Palestinian television describing Jews as “barbaric monkeys, wretched pigs” and the “murderers of Muhammad,” the Islamic prophet; maps on the Facebook page of the Palestinian presidential guards do not show Israel; President Mahmoud Abbas himself embraced as “heroes” released Palestinian prisoners who killed Israelis.

As HonestReporting has observed, “This focus on Palestinian responsibilities marks a refreshing and welcome departure from the New York Times’ usual knee-jerk, blame-Israel-for-all, approach.”

At an Israeli Cabinet meeting last January, Netanyahu remarked: “The Palestinians are continuing their campaign of inciting hatred, as we have seen in the last few days with their refusal to recognize Israel as a state for the Jewish people… This is the main issue that we’re discussing with [Kerry].”

He added, “We are not foreigners in Jerusalem, Beit El or Hebron. I reiterate that, in my view, this is the root of both the conflict and the incitement — the non-recognition of this basic fact.”

Netanyahu concluded, “True peace cannot exist without stopping the incitement against Israel and educating for peace. The refusal of the Palestinians to recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish People and declare the end of national demands — this is the root of the conflict. This is also the reason why we are insisting on significant security measures, so that we will be able to defend ourselves by ourselves in any situation.”

Two States for One People

PA officials and leaders have repeatedly stated that one of their red lines is the “right of return” which will flood Israel with potentially millions of descendants of refugees who left Israel during the 1948 War, and the concomitant refusal to allow any Jews to live in the Palestinian State.

Not only is this designed to destroy the Jewish nature of Israel proper, it is pure racist in ideology and effect — And it is not a secret. This is a non-starter for Israel.

Last month, Tom Wilson wrote that “Abbas’s spokespeople in Ramallah announced the PA’s new set of red lines in any negotiated peace settlement. Each and every one of these red lines blows to pieces anything Kerry was about to propose, as it does to the prospects for an agreement between the two sides in general.”

In this way Abbas artfully dodges a scenario in which the Israelis would agree to a peace plan and the Palestinians would come under pressure not to derail yet another effort to resolve the conflict. Abbas’s new red lines block just about every concession that the Israelis, and even the U.S., have requested.

Abbas demands: a total Israeli withdrawal from all territories that went to Israel in 1967; that Israel complete that withdrawal within three to four years; that the Palestinians not be required to recognize the Jewish state; that east Jerusalem be specified as the capital of a Palestinian state; the release of all Palestinian prisoners; and resolving the refugee issue along the lines of UN General Assembly resolution 194, which in essence means sending those Palestinians claiming to be refugees, not to a Palestinian state, but to Israel, thus terminating the existence of the Jewish state Abbas refuses to recognize.

Would the U.S. Release Prisoners for Negotiations?

Israel was urged by Kerry to release more than 120 Arab convicted prisoners, many of whom murderers, as a “good will gesture,” just to entice the Palestinian Arabs to come to the negotiations. No concessions, of course, were asked of the Arabs.

Yet, the Obama Administration made sure to express reservations about the release of one man: Othman Amar Mustafa. It turns out he had killed an American.

Nadav Shragai reported in Israel Hayom that “Haaretz military correspondent Amos Harel revealed that the Judea and Samaria branch of the Hamas military wing is being run by remote control by a group of terrorists who were included in the prisoner exchange after being sentenced to life sentences for their roles in the murder of Israelis.”

These prisoners were banished to the Gaza Strip as part of the Shalit deal. It turns out that in the last two years, the Shin Bet security agency has intercepted at least 80 attempted terrorist attacks in Judea and Samaria, plots that were masterminded by this particular group of released convicts.

Per Shragai, the bottom line is appallingly evident: According to statistics compiled by the Defense Ministry, nearly half of the 13,000 terrorists whom Israel has released since 1985 within the framework of agreements, gestures, and diplomatic outlines resumed terrorist activities either as planners of attacks, executors of attacks, or accessories.

Hundreds of Israelis have already been killed by freed terrorists and 3,000 have been maimed. The 1,150 terrorists freed as part of the Jibril exchange in 1978 went on to serve as the backbone of the leadership during the First Intifada. At least half of the 7,000 terrorists freed following the signing of the Oslo Accords were reintegrated into terrorist organizations and took an active role in the Second Intifada.

This is the price Israel is being forced to pay just to sit at the negotiating table with these alleged “peace partners.”

The Importance of UN Resolution 242

As Ambassador Dore Gold has written in Israel Hayom, “now is the time to recall exactly what Israel’s rights are in its territorial dispute with the Palestinians over the future of the West Bank,” specifically the rights enshrined by the U.N. Security Council Resolution 242.

According to Gold, over the years Resolution 242 has “evolved into the basis of the entire peace process, including the 1979 Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty, the 1991 Madrid peace conference, the 1993 Oslo Accords, the 1994 Jordanian-Israeli peace treaty, and draft agreements with Syria.”

Back in 1973, on the eve of the Geneva Peace Conference, the U.S. even provided a letter of assurance to Israel that it would prevent any party from tampering with Resolution 242. Israeli diplomacy sought to protect Resolution 242 as though it was a crown jewels of the Jewish state.

The most prominent feature of Resolution 242 is its famous “withdrawal clause,” which did not require Israel to withdraw to the pre-war 1967 lines: it only stated that there had to be a pull back “from territories,” and not “all the territories.” Any Israeli withdrawal had to be to “secure and recognized borders.”

Moreover, as Gold pointed out, according to Resolution 242, Israel was entitled to these lands without having to “pay for it with its own pre-1967 territory.”

There is no language in 242 regarding land swaps, nor any corridor crossing Israeli sovereign territory so that the “West Bank” could be connected to the Gaza Strip. Actually, per Gold, these diplomatic innovations were thought of by negotiators in the 1990s, but Israel in no way is required to agree to them, pursuant to Resolution 242.

Finally, Resolution 242 says nothing about Jerusalem, that is to be a separate issue entirely. Of course, it is Israel’s position that the city is to be united and never divided again.

The world saw clearly what happened when Jordan illegally occupied Judaea and Samaria, including Jerusalem, from 1948 to 1967: It destroyed more than 50 synagogues in the Old City, and denied Jews access to the Temple Mount. Under Israeli rule, the city has been unified, and all citizens and religions have free access to religious sites, and the ability to practice openly.

The Biggest Problem in the Middle East?

The Obama Administration, through Kerry, is trying yet again to force the parties to conclude an agreement, while the issues raised for the “solution” are not the real issues that will lead to a successful one.  

The U.S. continues to see only Israel’s so-called “illegal occupation” of the West Bank, the Palestinian refugee issue, and the issue of Jerusalem as the capitol of the newborn Palestinian state, as the main obstacles to conclude the peace agreement.

Inconceivably, the U.S. continues to believe that by solving this intractable conflict, the remaining issues in the Middle East will be voila, solved, and harmony and tranquility will reign over the region. Despite, of course, the utter chaos in the surrounding Egypt, Lebanon and Syria.

Abbas is not the man of compromise the media portrays him to be, and his people have deliberately not been prepared for peace, but instead brainwashed for hatred, violence and terrorism. He cannot deliver the goods, nor does he want to bring the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to an end.

The only end that is acceptable among the Palestinian Arabs is “peace of the entire Palestine” — which means destroying Israel — and nothing less.

Lee Bender is the co-author of Pressing Israel: Media Bias Exposed From A-Z, and co-President of Zionist Organization of America — Greater Philadelphia District.

Cartoons courtesy of Yaakov “Dry Bones” Kirschen, and The Cartoon Kronicles.