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To Any of You Going to the AIPAC Policy Conference – Please Send Me a Report

February 27, 2014 1 comment

I know that you will have an exciting time with lots of energy and hoopla.  But I am very curious to hear about the tone and content of what transpires.AIPAC Policy Conference

First, I would like to know whether Kerry’s diplomatic push is spoken of in a positive or negative manner.  That is, whether U.S. getting the sides to the table is a good thing or not – NOT whether the chances of success are good.  Not whether there is no partner, etc.  That is, does AIPAC support diplomacy with regard to the Palestinians?

I am interested to hear how much support you hear for a two state solution.  Again, not whether or not it is likely to come about right now – but whether it is a good idea or not that trying our hardest to work towards  that goal or not.  In that regard, do you hear anyone talking about the importance of coming up with some solution to the current Occupation?  Do people think that the status quo can continue indefinitely?  Or, annexation of Judea and Samaria into one Jewish state where the Palestinians have less rights than Jews?  Annexation of Judea and Samaria where it’s one person, one vote? Or, again, Do you hear anyone talking about creative solutions, like saying that it might be a good idea to freeze construction in the West Bank temporarily to see whether this might force the Palestinians to ‘put up or shut up’?

Do you hear anyone talking about very real everyday facts on the ground in the West Bank?  Like in East Jerusalem that Palestinians are being forced from their homes and replaced by Jews?  Or, about Settler violence (so called “price tag” attacks) including burning of olive trees, torching of mosques, and even firing guns at Palestinians by both settlers and even IDF – with almost no legal recourse?  Or the destruction of Bedouin structures (as flimsy as they may be) that are on their own land?  These are facts which are written about in Israeli papers that should be discussed here as well.  In the same way that the rocket firings from Gaza, or the buildup in arms by Hezbollah, or the fact that Hamas is going broke need to be discussed.  (One excellent thing is there isn’t much to discuss about violence from the West Bank against Israelis because as I understand it, in the last two years, thank God, there has only been one killing of a Jew by an Arab from the West Bank.  That is one too many – but frankly if you look into it, I believe that you will find that it is less than the number of Palestinians that have been killed by settlers and IDF during that same time period.)

Next, I am curious to know whether you hear support for diplomacy with Iran – and what the nature of the agreement is that they would support.  I personally am a big supporter of keeping the military option on the table – but even more importantly, I believe that we need to push very hard to make this diplomatic effort work.  Public criticism of the administration makes very little sense given that we are in negotiations at the moment.  Doesn’t this type of rift show weakness, not strength?  Although AIPAC finally backed off pushing the Senate Sanctions bill when the Republicans tried to force a vote (and they are still trying to force a vote by attaching the language to other bills), they essentially ignored Kerry’s specific call during Senate hearings for them to hold off on this bill until the talks had run their course.  If sanctions were supposed to force the Iranians to the bargaining table, then they worked.  It is time to support the negotiations and the negotiators.  While I have heard the argument that the Senate sanctions bill will provide more leverage, that is not the Administration’s position.  The move in the Senate appears to be more grandstanding than anything else – and particularly now that the Republicans are moving to call a vote.  Wouldn’t it be more effective to work behind the scenes to make sure that the Administration drives a hard bargain?

Also, I would like to hear about the diplomatic proposals that are being discussed.  Although it would best if Iran dismantled their entire program – no enrichment, no centrifuges, no missiles – realistically, they will never agree to this.  It would be too much of a loss of face for them both internationally and domestically.  Therefore, be aware that anyone proposing no enrichment is not seriously supporting a diplomatic agreement.  They aren’t necessarily warmongers – but many do in fact know that the Iranians will never accept this, but it is their way of “supporting” diplomacy while knowing that their position has no chance of acceptance.  Listen carefully to people.   Some will say that Iran must be prevented from getting a nuclear Others will say that it must be prevented from having a nuclear capability.  This is a significant difference and you should listen closely for who says which.  If they say capability, they are usually also saying that Iran must eliminate their entire nuclear program – which as I said above is totally unrealistic.

I am particularly interested to know how much talk there is about the consequences of possible military action – and what the speakers say about it.  I haven’t seen the agenda, but I believe that there may indeed be some experts discussing this and I would be interested to know what their assessments are.

Finally, a little prognostication on my part.  My bet is that every Congressman and Senator will say the following:

“Israel is our greatest ally”

“Israel shares our values”

“Iran is the greatest threat to Israel, the US and the entire world”

“Iran is the greatest supporter of terrorism in the world”  [What ever happened to Al Qaeda?]

“The military option must not be taken off the table”  [A very true statement – but how many folks are willing to talk about the exact make up of the military action – and what the resulting risks and consequences might be.  Are folks willing to risk Hezbollah raining down hundreds or thousands of rockets on Israel?  The question needs to be discussed]

“Israel’s security is our number one priority”

“I love Israel [more than the next guy]”

Don’t get me wrong, these are all good things.  Most of these are true statements.  However, the answers are so pat, that they border on pandering – and most important, it is not good if this is the level of sophistication with which these people are going to be basing their votes on when it comes to legislation that has such serious consequences for the US, Israel and the entire world.

Looking forward to hearing about the Conference.  Have a great trip and enjoy!

One Important Piece of Action You Can Take If You Believe In Putting The Brakes On The War Train To Iran

March 3, 2012 Comments off

This weekend, beginning Sunday, we are about to witness one of the most dramatic shows of Jewish political force in the history of the United States.  This is not some anti-Zionist rhetoric – it is simply a fact.  AIPAC is going to have over 10,000 people in the DC Convention Center (myself included) at its Policy Conference [for live ‘fair and balanced’ tweets, check www.twitter/beyondzs] – and will have 30-50% of those attending going to lobby on Capitol Hill.  Normally, I might say mazel tov – tanks G-t so many care about Israel.  But right now, AIPAC is stridently promoting political moves here in the US to lay the groundwork for Israel (alone, or with US overt assistance) to take military action against Iran very shortly.  I believe that they do this with good intention, but with flawed reasoning and almost negligent disregard for the outcomes.  How can they do this without facing strong, forceful pushback?

  • War is easy and its drums are seductive. 
  • F.U.D. (fear, uncertainty and doubt) cry out to the most base human emotions.
  • The politics of our time rewards simplicity and machismo.

So, what is to be done?  Here’s the sales pitch:

J Street is having its own Conference three weeks later – from March 24 – March 27.  J Street’s position is nuanced and urges caution.  Here is an excerpt:

“…Finally, like many American and Israeli security experts such as former Mossad chiefs Meir Dagan and Ephraim Halevy, we believe that a military strike against Iran would be ill-advised. While unlikely to permanently disable Iran’s nuclear program, a military strike would have dire consequences and runs the risk of igniting a broader regional war. A preemptive attack could also strengthen the current regime in Iran and provide an excuse for it to redouble its nuclear efforts. We therefore oppose legislation authorizing, encouraging, or in other ways laying the groundwork for the use of military force against Iran.”

Further details can be found here: http://jstreet.org/policy/issues/iran/.

If you agree with this postion, you can take concrete action by attending the J Street Conference.  Every single person who attends sends a critical counter message to Members of Congress and the President. By doing so, you will be standing up for intelligent debate here at home, for allowing the current round of sanctions time to work, and arguing for a new diplomatic “surge”.

Trust me, Congressmen and women can count – and they will.   There will be a simple calculus taking place politically throughout Washington – they will stack up what they see as the constituency pushing for the “military option” versus the constituency that opposes immediate military action in favor of a calmer, more reasoned and examined approach.   Any of you reading this who are part of the latter group – need to be in D.C. at the J Street ConferencePeriod.

I know that it is difficult for people to get away.  I know that it is expensive in terms of both time and money (although there is financial assistance available).  I know that we all have non-stop schedules.  But (and I know that this may sound narcissistic and overly dramatic) I personally feel that we are at a time not unlike Dr. King’s March on Washington, not unlike Breaking Down the Berlin Wall, not unlike Tiananmen Square.  That is, there are specific moments in time that actually do affect the course of history.   Their outcomes revise the course of world history.  They determine the trajectory of the future.

Is it hyperbole to put this moment in that context?  Perhaps. 

But consider the following:

We are talking about the prospect of America entering its Third War in a little over 10 years with potentially massive consequences in terms of death, destruction and economic upheaval for the U.S., Israel, Iran and the rest of the world.  There can be very little doubt that military action against Iran is going to set a new trajectory for the Middle East – and quite possibly the entire world.

So, is that worth taking two-three days of our time?  I do not ask this rhetorically nor do I question anyone’s answer to that question.

All that I am saying is that from my personal perspective, we are at a watershed moment for our country, for Israel, and for the world as a whole.  We have a chance to do something to influence what direction our government takes.  I urge you to join me at the J Street Conference in D.C. March 24-26 and to meet with your Member of Congress face-to-face on Tuesday, March 27.  Tell her/him directly how you feel.

For anyone who reads this who would like more information on the Conference, you can find it here http://conference.jstreet.org/

For anyone who reads this who would like to consider going and might want more specific details – please contact me at beyondzerosum.gmail.com and let’s discuss.

For anyone who reads this and is so convinced that they want to sign up right away, please go here  http://www.wynjade.com/jstreet12/

Follow BeyondZeroSum at www.twitter/beyondzs

 

For a thoughtful alternative approach to dealing with Iran, see Foreign Policy blog post: Using religion to restrain Iran’s nuclear program 

 

Mid-East Peace? Here Is An Organization You Need To Know About: The Council for Peace and Security

July 27, 2011 2 comments

Gen (Ret) Nati Sharoni - Wouldn't you listen to this General?

Who do you think would be most worried about whether or not Israel has defensible borders?  Who would be most wary of trusting the Arabs?  Who might you think would believe that maintaining the settlements, and particularly the outposts, should be a cornerstone of Israeli defense policy?  The obvious answer would be:  former IDF and security (Shin Bet, Mossad, etc.) officers, right?  Think again.

Some of Israel’s most recognized and decorated soldiers, sailors, airforce personnel, security directors and staff have joined together with other prominent diplomats and academics to form the one thousand strong Council For Peace and Security.  The Council describes itself as a “Non-Profit Organization of Experts on Peace and Security”.  One of the statements in its website’s Profile sums up their point of view:

“It (the Council) considers the support of the Middle East Peace Process to be a necessary component of National Security.” 

The Council’s current President, Gen (ret) Nati Sharoni, is going to be in Chicago speaking this Thursday (July 28) at a private home in the city.  I urge you to come hear him.  If you are interested – please email me directly at beyondzerosum@gmail.com.

To understand more about the Council, here are the Guiding Principles that all members must accept:

  • DELIBERATIONS ON SECURITY ISSUES MUST BE NON-POLITICAL 
  • PEACE IS ACHIEVED BY COMPROMISE 
  • THE OCCUPATION IS CAUSING DAMAGE
  • A PALESTINIAN STATE IS NOT A THREAT
  • JERUSALEM, THE CAPITAL OF ISRAEL
  • A PALESTINIAN STATE IS NOT A THREAT
  • ISRAEL MUST REMOVE PROBLEMATIC SETTLEMENTS
  • ISRAEL MUST RESIST PROVOCATION
  • PEACE WITH SYRIA IS A STRATEGIC NECESSITY
  • THREAT OF WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION 
  • CONSCRIPTION FOR ALL 
  • EQUAL RIGHTS FOR MINORITIES

The members of the Council are not wild-eyed, left-wing radicals whose views can be dismissed with the usual argument of naiveté.  They are seasoned military and security thinkers who have come to the very rational conclusion that Israel’s long term security depends on achieving a two-state solution – as soon as possible.  Disappointedly, I have never heard of the Council For Peace and Security in any of the Jewish circles that I am involved with in the United States. 

To remedy that, J Street is sponsoring nine members to travel the country so that American Jews can listen to the conclusions of these military and security experts.  It is particularly important  because the conclusions they have arrived at are almost 180 degrees opposite from what Mr. Netanyahu’s government is espousing – along with the American Jewish organizations which believe that there should be “no daylight” between American Jews and the Israeli government.  Personally, I think that it is irresponsible  for American Jews not to listen to the point of view of these extremely experienced and battle-hardened military and strategic experts.  Listening only to people who tell you what you want to hear is the easiest way to make tragically wrong decisions.

So, again, if you are available on Thursday night and would like to meet General (Ret) Sharoni (along with Col (Ret) Shaul Arieli), please send me an email at beyondzerosum@gmail.com – and feel free to pass the information along to others who might be interested.

Another Look at the Obama and Netanyahu Speeches Given In May

July 23, 2011 Comments off

Back then, I published a parsing of the speeches given by the President and the Prime Minister.  I believe it is worth republishing this comparison since some may have missed it because the topic may not have been clear from the title.  Back then,  I was upset at how both the MSM (main stream media) and Congress dealt with both the visit in general and more specifically, the speeches that were given. A close analysis of all four speeches shows that they both used virtually the same language in dealing with the topics, yet one would never know it from reading the press accounts or the sound bites of those in the Congress on both sides of the aisle. Additionally, it is worth viewing for yourself the press conference after Obama and Netanyahu’s meeting because you first need to hear what the President said and then listen to Bibi’s response.  My take on it was that rather than Bibi “lecturing” Obama, Bibi simply went off into a soliloquy in which he presented his point of view, but wasn’t really addressing the President.  It would have been nice if at least one journalist had expressed this take on the interchange – but I have yet to see one.

As for Netanyahu’s speeches, one would certainly have expected a warm welcome from the AIPAC attendees, but the love fest in Congress was over the top. Interestingly, on a recent conference call, I heard one Congresswoman characterize the speech as “masterfully written” because just reading the text clearly showed all of the applause points. As she said: “Who isn’t going to stand up for ‘mom and apple pie'”.
What follows is a topic by topic comparison of the language of the four speeches given in the five days surrounding the Israeli Prime Minister’s trip.  These are all direct quotes.

1. Obama at the State Department, May 19

2. Obama at AIPAC, May 22

3. Netanyahu at AIPAC, May 23

4. Netanyahu before Congress, May 24

TOPIC
OBAMA-STATE DEPT
OBAMA-AIPAC
NETANYAHU-AIPAC
NETANYAHU-CONGRESS
 
 
 
 
 
Borders
The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states.
The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states.
 
 
Borders The Sequel
 
By definition, it means that the parties themselves – Israelis and Palestinians – will negotiate a border that is different than the one that existed on June 4, 1967. It is a well known formula to all who have worked on this issue for a generation
 
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.
Borders III
 
It allows the parties themselves to account for the changes that have taken place over the last forty-four years, including the new demographic realities on the ground and the needs of both sides.
 
This compromise must reflect the dramatic demographic changes that have occurred since 1967.
Enough with the Borders Already
 
 
 
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.
Palestinian Right of Return
Open issue
 
 
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.
Jerusalem
Open issue
 
 
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.
Israel as a Jewish State
 
Israel as a Jewish state and the homeland for the Jewish people, and the state of Palestine as the homeland for the Palestinian people; each state enjoying self-determination, mutual recognition, and peace. [Emphasis added]
 
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.”
Self-Defense
As for security, every state has the right to self-defense, and Israel must be able to defend itself — by itself — against any threat
As for security, every state has the right to self-defense, and Israel must be able to defend itself – by itself – against any threat.
 
When we say never again, we mean never again. Israel always reserves the right to defend itself.
Security
Provisions must also be robust enough to prevent a resurgence of terrorism; to stop the infiltration of weapons; and to provide effective border security. The full and phased withdrawal of Israeli military forces should be coordinated with the assumption of Palestinian security responsibility in a sovereign, non-militarized state. The duration of this transition period must be agreed, and the effectiveness of security arrangements must be demonstrated.[Emphasis added]
Provisions must also be robust enough to prevent a resurgence of terrorism; to stop the infiltration of weapons; and to provide effective border security. The full and phased withdrawal of Israeli military forces should be coordinated with the assumption of Palestinian security responsibility in a sovereign, non-militarized state. The duration of this transition period must be agreed, and the effectiveness of security arrangements must be demonstrated.
 
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.
Obama Admin Commitment to Israel
As for Israel, our friendship is rooted deeply in a shared history and shared values. Our commitment to Israel’s security is unshakeable. And we will stand against attempts to single it out for criticism in international forums. But precisely because of our friendship, it is important that we tell the truth: the status quo is unsustainable, and Israel too must act boldly to advance a lasting peace.
 
Yesterday President Obama spoke about his ironclad commitment to Israel’s
security. He rightly said that our security cooperation is unprecedented. He
spoke of that commitment in front of AIPAC. He spoke about it in two
speeches heard throughout the Arab world. And he has backed those words
with deeds.
 
Security Cooperation
 
It’s why we’ve increased cooperation between our militaries to unprecedented levels.
He rightly said that our security cooperation is unprecedented
 
Advanced                        Technologies
 
It’s why we’re making our most advanced technologies available to our Israeli allies
 
 
Military $$
 
And it’s why, despite tough fiscal times, we’ve increased foreign military financing to record levels.
I know these are tough economic times. So I want to thank the president and
Congress for providing Israel with vital assistance so that Israel can
defend itself by itself
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.
Iron Dome
 
That includes additional support – beyond regular military aid – for the Iron Dome anti-rocket system. This is a powerful example of American-Israel cooperation which has already intercepted rockets from Gaza and helped saved innocent Israeli lives. … make no mistake, we will maintain Israel’s qualitative military edge.
I want to thank you all for supporting the Iron
Dome missile defense system
 
Agreement Must Be Between the Two Parties
 
These are the facts. I firmly believe, and repeated on Thursday, that peace cannot be imposed on the parties to the conflict.
 
 
Delegitimization
For the Palestinians, efforts to delegitimize Israel will end in failure. Symbolic actions to isolate Israel at the United Nations in September won’t create an independent state.
You also see our commitment to Israel’s security in our steadfast opposition to any attempt to de-legitimize the State of Israel. As I said at the United Nation’s last year, “Israel’s existence must not be a subject for debate,” and “efforts to chip away at Israel’s legitimacy will only be met by the unshakeable opposition of the United States.”…No vote at the United Nations will ever create an independent Palestinian state. And the United States will stand up against efforts to single Israel out at the UN or in any international forum. Because Israel’s legitimacy is not a matter for debate.
 
 
Hamas As a Partner
Palestinian leaders will not achieve peace or prosperity if Hamas insists on a path of terror and rejection.
Moreover, we know that peace demands a partner – which is why I said that Israel cannot be expected to negotiate with Palestinians who do not recognize its right to exist, and we will hold the Palestinians accountable for their actions and their rhetoric.
 
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.
Hamas-Fatah Unification
the recent announcement of an agreement between Fatah and Hamas raises profound and legitimate questions for Israel — how can one negotiate with a party that has shown itself unwilling to recognize your right to exist. In the weeks and months to come, Palestinian leaders will have to provide a credible answer to that question.
And I indicated on Thursday that the recent agreement between Fatah and Hamas poses an enormous obstacle to peace. No country can be expected to negotiate with a terrorist organization sworn to its destruction. We will continue to demand that Hamas accept the basic responsibilities of peace: recognizing Israel’s right to exist, rejecting violence, and adhering to all existing agreements
 
 
Israel’s Right to Exist
And Palestinians will never realize their independence by denying the right of Israel to exist.
 
 
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.”
Gilad Shalit
 
And we once again call on Hamas to release Gilad Shalit, who has been kept from his family for five long years.
And you’ve joined
President Obama and me in denouncing Hamas and demanding that it release our captive soldier, Gilad Shalit
 
New Proposals?
 
There was nothing particularly original in my proposal; this basic framework for negotiations has long been the basis for discussions among the parties, including previous U.S. Administrations.…By definition, it means that the parties themselves – Israelis and Palestinians – will negotiate a border that is different than the one that existed on June 4, 1967. It is a well known formula to all who have worked on this issue for a generation If there’s a controversy, then, it’s not based in substance. What I did on Thursday was to say publicly what has long been acknowledged privately. [Emphasis added]
 
 
Palestinian intransigence
 
 
 
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.
Iran
 
See below
 
A nuclear-armed Iran would ignite a nuclear arms race in the Middle East…This is why I ask you to continue to send an unequivocal message: That America will never permit Iran to develop nuclear weapons.
Obama’s Actions Against Iran
 
You also see our commitment to our shared security in our determination to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Here in the U.S., we’ve imposed the toughest sanctions ever on the Iranian regime. At the United Nations, we’ve secured the most comprehensive international sanctions on the regime, which have been joined by allies and partners around the world. Today, Iran is virtually cut off from large parts of the international financial system, and we are going to keep up the pressure. So let me be absolutely clear – we remain committed to preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
 
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.
Arab Teaching Hatred
For Israelis, it has meant living with the fear that their children could get blown up on a bus or by rockets fired at their homes, as well as the pain of knowing that other children in the region are taught to hate them.
 
 
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.
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Former AIPAC-er Keith Weissman Talks About AIPAC’s Influence on U.S. Policy for PBS’ Frontline

June 12, 2011 Comments off
American Israel Public Affairs Committee logo

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In a just released interview by Robert Dreyfuss for Frontline’s Tehran Bureau, Keith Weissman talks about his stint at AIPAC.  Weissman and fellow staffer Steve Rosen were indicted for espionage for allegedly passing documents to Israeli intelligence officers.  These charges were eventually dropped – and the whole incident appears to be nothing more than the usual Inside The Beltway exchange of information that goes on 24 hours a day.

In the interview, Weissman paints a very flattering picture of himself and his influence within AIPAC.  The most interesting details concern Iran – his personal point of view along with AIPAC’s: 

The reason why I want to tell this story now is, we may be going down a path, helped along by the American Jewish community, and maybe even Israel, that is going to be worse even than the one we’re on now – some sort of military confrontation with Iran. That worries me. Because they will be able to blame [it] on the Jews, to a great extent,” says Weissman, who worked at AIPAC from 1993 until 2005, much of that time as the group’s deputy director of foreign policy. Though Weissman disagrees sharply with those who say that AIPAC played a critical role in pushing for the 2003 U.S. decision to invade Iraq, he believes a war with Iran — which he says “would be the stupidest thing I ever heard of” — might well be blamed on AIPAC’s leaders and their constituents. “What the Jews’ war will be is Iran,” he says. “Not Iraq.”:

Most of the rest of the information that he reveals isn’t necessary anything new – but does  lend credence to what many observers have already presumed.  One of the most interesting assertions is that following the Oslo peace process, AIPAC moved away from the Rabin government because they did not agree with his movement towards peace:

“Because of AIPAC, with the assistance of the right-wing in Israel, who — even though they weren’t the majority in Israel then — they’d come over and have very close contacts with AIPAC’s leaders, prominent financiers, and donors, in order to influence policy…. It was all because of the money that would go from the American Jewish community to politicians in the United States. The pro-Israel bloc in Congress has nothing to do with parties. It had to do with friendship and loyalty. I learned this over time. This is the secret of AIPAC’s power, its ability to fund campaigns. When people got together, they’d find ways, even if they’d given a ton of money to AIPAC, they’d still find ways to get money to candidates, Republican or Democrat.”

Though the advent of Oslo raised hopes among Israelis and Palestinians alike that a peace accord might work, inside AIPAC there was strong discontent with Oslo and its implications, and a lot of sympathy for hardliners in Israel, including Benjamin Netanyahu, the bitterest opponent of Oslo and its backers, including Yitzhak Rabin, the prime minister. As M. J. Rosenberg, a former AIPAC official, has documented, AIPAC moved steadily to the right from the 1980s onward. According to Weissman, that happened mostly because the group’s biggest donors were right-wing American Jews who identified with Likud rather than the Labor Party and other liberal Israelis. Many of its donors and some its staff split from AIPAC during the Rabin-Oslo era to work with more right-wing groups such as the Zionist Organization of America, says Weissman. After Rabin was assassinated by an Israeli extremist opposed to giving up the occupied territories, an increasingly right-leaning Israel and AIPAC moved more and more into sync. As Weissman tells the story:

“So Rabin is shot. I mean, he won Oslo in the Knesset by one vote! You could imagine that in America there was similar opposition [to Oslo]…. AIPAC had spent the last 15 years helping the Likud, so you’ve got people there that were sucking at the teat of Likud, that was how they viewed things. That’s why so many people left AIPAC. A lot of them went to join ZOA and a lot of them also contributed to the work of Daniel Pipes. When Rabin came in, they had taken their money and left, and there was a lot of turmoil. At the time, I remember, they’d send me around the country, to fundraisers, with a lot of older people, and I would be yelled and screamed at, ‘I can’t believe you’re doing this!’ Donors were leaving, taking the money, and that’s really their bread and butter, the lay leadership. AIPAC’s donors were very active in the organization. Very. They were major elements in making policy, in determining the agenda, who the leadership was.

[…]

“I tried my best to sell the peace process. But I tried to sell it in the context of what AIPAC was, that this was the way that Israel could become a permanent Middle East country. But the ideological war inside the Israel lobby, collectively, was extremely bitter — and very close, you know, the tally of votes was very close. I would argue that while most American Jews are probably center-left, the rich ones, the ones who give to organizations, the ones who are involved in politics, tend to be more to the right. Those are the ones who were close to the Israeli government when it was run by the Likud.”

Rabin, in his last years, was angry at AIPAC’s obstructionism, says Weissman. (According to M. J. Rosenberg, in New York Rabin met with liberal Jewish donors and asked them to help finance what become the Israel Policy Forum as a very small but not ineffective counterweight to AIPAC.)

“Because of AIPAC, with the assistance of the right-wing in Israel, who — even though they weren’t the majority in Israel then — they’d come over and have very close contacts with AIPAC’s leaders, prominent financiers, and donors, in order to influence policy…. It was all because of the money that would go from the American Jewish community to politicians in the United States. The pro-Israel bloc in Congress has nothing to do with parties. It had to do with friendship and loyalty. I learned this over time. This is the secret of AIPAC’s power, its ability to fund campaigns. When people got together, they’d find ways, even if they’d given a ton of money to AIPAC, they’d still find ways to get money to candidates, Republican or Democrat.”

Read the entire story: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/tehranbureau/2011/06/aipac-from-the-inside-1-isolating-iran.html

Is President Obama Pro-Israel? Yes, According to AIPAC President Lee Rosenberg

June 7, 2011 Comments off

There have been a lot of arrows slung at President Obama in the last ten days from both sides of the political aisle.  But there is one person, a very unlikely person some would say, who actually lays out the facts about what Barack Obama has done for the State of Israel while he has been in office – the President of AIPAC, Lee Rosenberg (better known as “Rosy”).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JS3aQJUtpyQ&feature=player_embedded

It is very curious to me that the the media, members of Congress, and apparently many members of AIPAC have seemingly ignored Rosy’s very eloquent review of the President’s pro-Israel record:

  • Enhanced military co-operation between the two countries
  • Maintenance of aid to Israel at current levels of a little over $3B per year
  • Request for additional funding of $200M+ for the successful Iron Dome missile defense system
  • Obtaining international support for the most stringent sanctions on Iran to-date (which by the way, despite what many critics have been saying, may be beginning to work – although WSJ front page article on June 2 points to internal domestic political issues, implicitly it would seem that Ahmadinijad’s taking over the Oil Ministry is likely related to issues caused by both oil and financial sanctions)
  • Veto of UN resolution regarding settlements (albeit with alot of hesitation)

Despite this record, the President is being attacked from all sides for making explicit what has been the understood basis for negotiations by virtually everyone directly associated with the current peace process:  “1967 borders with mutually agreed swaps“.  Note: those words form a single phrase.  That was true listening to the speech as well as reading the transcript.  Anyone who claims that he suggested “1967 borders” alone, is simply being deceptive.  This deception is now being used to make Israel a partisan issue.  See Rep. Joe Walsh laughingly outrageous rant in the Daily Caller last week and Bret Stephens similar contentions in the Wall Street Journal.

The real problem is that this masked some actual new content in the speech.  Specifically, this paragraph was virtually ignored:

As for security, every state has the right to self-defense, and Israel must be able to defend itself – by itself – against any threat. Provisions must also be robust enough to prevent a resurgence of terrorism; to stop the infiltration of weapons; and to provide effective border security. The full and phased withdrawal of Israeli military forces should be coordinated with the assumption of Palestinian security responsibility in a sovereign, non-militarized state. The duration of this transition period must be agreed, and the effectiveness of security arrangements must be demonstrated.

Note these very clear statements:

  1. Reaffirms Israel’s right to defend itself, i.e., not having to trust international or UN troops to provide defense
  2. Reaffirms Israel’s need to prevent weapon smuggling and to secure its borders
  3. Although he does call for “full” withdrawal of Israeli troops, it is within the context of a “phased” withdrawal, and for what I believe is the first time, calls for the Palestinian state to be “non-militarized”
  4. Recognizes that the security arrangements must be effective

These undeniably strong pro-Israel statements are loud and clear.  Why has everyone – Netanyahu, the US Congress, the press, and most importantly, a large portion of the American Jewish Community – ignored them?

I Think That There Are Actually People Out There Trying To Paint President Obama As Anti-Israel!

May 26, 2011 2 comments
A political map of the en:Near East in 1135 CE...

SECRET MAP OF PRESIDENT OBAMA’S PROPOSED BORDERS

Far be it from me to speculate what the motivations would be for people to want to mischaracterize the President’s positions and actions towards Israel, but it certainly appears that there are indeed folks out their who are claiming that, based upon the speeches which Mr. Obama made over the past week, he is the most “Anti-Israel President ” ever.  (Shockingly, some of these comments have even been heard from those who are normally fair and balanced).  What is even more upsetting is that if I am wrong (which I am known to be occasionally) and those people are correct in saying that he is insidiously anti-Israel, we have a bigger problem.  Because that would mean, since their veiwpoints are so closely tied as you will see,  that Prime Minister Netanyahu would be the most anti-Israel Prime Minister that Israel has ever had!  And somebody had better wake up the Israelis ASAP so that they can drum this guy out of office because things are tough enough without having their country run by an imposter who is clearly as anti-Israel as this Obama no-goodnik.

Why do I say this, you might ask?  Because I have actually gone through the transcripts of the four speeches given since last Thursday and discovered something that really is surprising.  When you strip away the audiences and all those standing ovations, when you look at the texts of these speeches, not only are each of their positions virtually identical, but they even use almost exactly the same themesAnd, everyone talks about the importance of there being “no daylight” between the US and Israel, and I’ve got to tell you, when I compare the differences between Barrack and Bibi’s positions, I am surely not being blinded by the light. 

Although a lot was made of the “1967 borders” issue, anyone who listened to the speech or even read the transcript had to understand that “1967 borders with mutually agreed land swaps” was all part of a single phrase which should never have been parsed out separately.  Also, as the President said in his speech to AIPAC, anyone who has spent any time at all following the current status of the peace process knows that virutally everyone agrees that any agreement will almost certainly involve just that:  1967 borders plus swaps.  And when you actually read the details of what Bibi and Barrack both said about this, they really didn’t disagree.

As to the Right of Return and Jerusalem, granted Obama did not agree with Bibi.  On the other hand, he didn’t disagree either.  What he was doing, it is clear, was trying to bring the parties together using the two issues that various reports (including Bernard Avishai’s NYT Magazine article about Olmert and Abbas negotiations) indicated they were close on: Borders and Security.  The idea was that if they could show some progress on these issues, it could build trust and goodwill before moving on to the even more intransigent issues. 

So, my only conclusion, as difficult as it is for me to believe, is that there are actually people out there that want to misrepresent Obama’s stand towards Israel.  And, heaven forbid, they may even be doing it for political purposes!

Finally, I believe so strongly that the content spoken by Obama and Netanyahu is almost exactly the same (with the partial exception of the Right of Return & Jerusalem issues as stated above), that I challenge anyone out there to prove me wrong.  If you can come up with some valid evidence using direct language from these speeches showing me where I have missed significant disagreements, then I have a crisp $100 bill here that I am prepared to give to Magen David Adom.  Let me know.  I’m up for the challenge.  Either way, it’s win-win.  Kind of like a peace agreement might be…

Below is a topic-by-topic comparison of selections from the four speeches:

1. Obama at the State Department, May 19

2. Obama at AIPAC, May 22

3. Netanyahu at AIPAC, May 23

4. Netanyahu before Congress, May 24

TOPIC

OBAMA-STATE DEPT

OBAMA-AIPAC

NETANYAHU-AIPAC

NETANYAHU-CONGRESS

         
Borders The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states. The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states.    
Borders The Sequel   By definition, it means that the parties themselves – Israelis and Palestinians – will negotiate a border that is different than the one that existed on June 4, 1967. It is a well known formula to all who have worked on this issue for a generation   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.
Borders III   It allows the parties themselves to account for the changes that have taken place over the last forty-four years, including the new demographic realities on the ground and the needs of both sides.   This compromise must reflect the dramatic demographic changes that have occurred since 1967.
Enough with the Borders Already       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.
Palestinian Right of Return Open issue     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.
Jerusalem Open issue     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.
Israel as a Jewish State   Israel as a Jewish state and the homeland for the Jewish people, and the state of Palestine as the homeland for the Palestinian people; each state enjoying self-determination, mutual recognition, and peace. [Emphasis added]   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.”
Self-Defense As for security, every state has the right to self-defense, and Israel must be able to defend itself — by itself — against any threat As for security, every state has the right to self-defense, and Israel must be able to defend itself – by itself – against any threat.   When we say never again, we mean never again. Israel always reserves the right to defend itself.
Security Provisions must also be robust enough to prevent a resurgence of terrorism; to stop the infiltration of weapons; and to provide effective border security. The full and phased withdrawal of Israeli military forces should be coordinated with the assumption of Palestinian security responsibility in a sovereign, non-militarized state. The duration of this transition period must be agreed, and the effectiveness of security arrangements must be demonstrated.[Emphasis added] Provisions must also be robust enough to prevent a resurgence of terrorism; to stop the infiltration of weapons; and to provide effective border security. The full and phased withdrawal of Israeli military forces should be coordinated with the assumption of Palestinian security responsibility in a sovereign, non-militarized state. The duration of this transition period must be agreed, and the effectiveness of security arrangements must be demonstrated.   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.
Obama Admin Commitment to Israel As for Israel, our friendship is rooted deeply in a shared history and shared values. Our commitment to Israel’s security is unshakeable. And we will stand against attempts to single it out for criticism in international forums. But precisely because of our friendship, it is important that we tell the truth: the status quo is unsustainable, and Israel too must act boldly to advance a lasting peace.   Yesterday President Obama spoke about his ironclad commitment to Israel’s
security. He rightly said that our security cooperation is unprecedented. He
spoke of that commitment in front of AIPAC. He spoke about it in two
speeches heard throughout the Arab world. And he has backed those words
with deeds.
 
Security Cooperation   It’s why we’ve increased cooperation between our militaries to unprecedented levels. He rightly said that our security cooperation is unprecedented  
Advanced                        Technologies   It’s why we’re making our most advanced technologies available to our Israeli allies    
Military $$   And it’s why, despite tough fiscal times, we’ve increased foreign military financing to record levels. I know these are tough economic times. So I want to thank the president and
Congress for providing Israel with vital assistance so that Israel can
defend itself by itself
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.
Iron Dome   That includes additional support – beyond regular military aid – for the Iron Dome anti-rocket system. This is a powerful example of American-Israel cooperation which has already intercepted rockets from Gaza and helped saved innocent Israeli lives. … make no mistake, we will maintain Israel’s qualitative military edge. I want to thank you all for supporting the Iron
Dome missile defense system
 
Agreement Must Be Between the Two Parties   These are the facts. I firmly believe, and repeated on Thursday, that peace cannot be imposed on the parties to the conflict.    
Delegitimization For the Palestinians, efforts to delegitimize Israel will end in failure. Symbolic actions to isolate Israel at the United Nations in September won’t create an independent state. You also see our commitment to Israel’s security in our steadfast opposition to any attempt to de-legitimize the State of Israel. As I said at the United Nation’s last year, “Israel’s existence must not be a subject for debate,” and “efforts to chip away at Israel’s legitimacy will only be met by the unshakeable opposition of the United States.”…No vote at the United Nations will ever create an independent Palestinian state. And the United States will stand up against efforts to single Israel out at the UN or in any international forum. Because Israel’s legitimacy is not a matter for debate.    
Hamas As a Partner Palestinian leaders will not achieve peace or prosperity if Hamas insists on a path of terror and rejection. Moreover, we know that peace demands a partner – which is why I said that Israel cannot be expected to negotiate with Palestinians who do not recognize its right to exist, and we will hold the Palestinians accountable for their actions and their rhetoric.   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.
Hamas-Fatah Unification the recent announcement of an agreement between Fatah and Hamas raises profound and legitimate questions for Israel — how can one negotiate with a party that has shown itself unwilling to recognize your right to exist. In the weeks and months to come, Palestinian leaders will have to provide a credible answer to that question. And I indicated on Thursday that the recent agreement between Fatah and Hamas poses an enormous obstacle to peace. No country can be expected to negotiate with a terrorist organization sworn to its destruction. We will continue to demand that Hamas accept the basic responsibilities of peace: recognizing Israel’s right to exist, rejecting violence, and adhering to all existing agreements    
Israel’s Right to Exist And Palestinians will never realize their independence by denying the right of Israel to exist.     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.”
Gilad Shalit   And we once again call on Hamas to release Gilad Shalit, who has been kept from his family for five long years. And you’ve joined
President Obama and me in denouncing Hamas and demanding that it release our captive soldier, Gilad Shalit
 
New Proposals?   There was nothing particularly original in my proposal; this basic framework for negotiations has long been the basis for discussions among the parties, including previous U.S. Administrations.…By definition, it means that the parties themselves – Israelis and Palestinians – will negotiate a border that is different than the one that existed on June 4, 1967. It is a well known formula to all who have worked on this issue for a generation If there’s a controversy, then, it’s not based in substance. What I did on Thursday was to say publicly what has long been acknowledged privately. [Emphasis added]    
Palestinian intransigence       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.
Iran   See below   A nuclear-armed Iran would ignite a nuclear arms race in the Middle East…This is why I ask you to continue to send an unequivocal message: That America will never permit Iran to develop nuclear weapons.
Obama’s Actions Against Iran   You also see our commitment to our shared security in our determination to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Here in the U.S., we’ve imposed the toughest sanctions ever on the Iranian regime. At the United Nations, we’ve secured the most comprehensive international sanctions on the regime, which have been joined by allies and partners around the world. Today, Iran is virtually cut off from large parts of the international financial system, and we are going to keep up the pressure. So let me be absolutely clear – we remain committed to preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.   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.
Arab Teaching Hatred For Israelis, it has meant living with the fear that their children could get blown up on a bus or by rockets fired at their homes, as well as the pain of knowing that other children in the region are taught to hate them.     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.
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