Waltzing With Ariel: Will Obama, Too, Indulge Israeli Rejectionism?

Ariel Sharon still sleeps peacefully on life-support three years after suffering a massive stroke, but you could be forgiven for thinking he was still at the helm in Israel — because today, the Israeli government appears to have only tactics to fight the next battle, but no strategy beyond an improvisational combination of expanding the occupation of the West Bank, cynically chanting the benedictions of a two-state divorce that will come, one day (like the moshiach) while getting on with the “iron wall” business of creating expansive “facts on the ground” and trying to crush Palestinian resistance. There’s no “peace process” at work in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, nor as there been for the past eight years.

Perhaps Benjamin Netanyahu’s victory in next weekend’s Israeli election will provide what George W. Bush liked to call a “moment of clarity”, by making it unmistakably clear that Israel’s leaders are not, in any meaningful sense, a “partner” for a credible two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. (Then again, you’re more likely to hear more wishful spin about how Bibi, precisely because he’s so hawkish, is a better bet for making peace — which sort of dodges the inconvenient truth that Bibi has no intention of doing so.)

As I wrote in the National this week,

What do we call leaders who reject a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, whose manifestos deny their adversary the right to sovereign statehood, and who oppose a final agreement, instead offering only long-term truces? Rejectionists… if they’re Palestinian… If they’re Israeli, they’re more likely to be called “Mr Prime Minister”.

Consider Benjamin Netanyahu, who looks likely to head the next Israeli government after the elections on February 10. “Bibi” has made clear that he won’t be bound by any undertakings given by his predecessor, Ehud Olmert, to the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The basis of his government, Bibi says, will be no sharing of Jerusalem, and no return to the 1967 borders: ie, a rejection of the Arab Peace Plan praised last week by President Barack Obama, and of the generally accepted terms of a two-state solution.

“The Government of Israel flatly rejects the establishment of a Palestinian Arab state west of the Jordan river,” says the Likud election literature party platform. “The Palestinians can run their lives freely in the framework of self-rule, but not as an independent and sovereign state. Thus, for example, in matters of foreign affairs, security, immigration and ecology, their activity shall be limited in accordance with imperatives of Israel’s existence, security and national needs.”

Having been told for years that Israel “has no partner” for a two-state peace, President Obama may soon discover that Israel is no partner either.

Netanyahu makes no bones about his rejection of even the charade of “talks-about-final status talks” that Bush insisted Olmert undertake with Mahmoud Abbas. For the Likud leader, there’s no possibility of a final status agreement; instead, he offers to cooperate with Abbas to help him build up the Palestinian economy in the fenced-in enclaves to which Israel’s settlements and their vastly expansive security infrastructure have confined the Palestinians. “Economic peace,” it’s called — forget about your rights to your land, just get on with turning your little Bantustan into a Semitic Singapore…

Whereas Ariel Sharon saw the need to humor the Americans by indulging the rituals of Bush’s two-state vision, Netanyahu never bothered. In fact, it was Netanyahu’s rejection of Sharon’s tactical move to evacuate Gaza in order to tighten Israel’s grip on the West Bank that led to the Likud split that created the Kadima Party. Netanyahu isn’t stupid — even though right now there’s a good chance that he’d be able to build a ruling coalition only with blatantly rejectionist parties, he’ll make space for Kadima and Labor, hoping that he can stir the Pollyannaish hopes in Washington that their presence signals a “willingness” to make a peace agreement. Not that Netanyahu has any intention of doing so. Nor did Olmert, or Sharon.

Ariel Sharon campaigned furiously against Oslo, urging the settlers to “grab more hills” and making clear his own intention to stop the process. Sharon’s problem with Camp David was not that Arafat rejected what Barak’s “generous offer” (which even Barak’s chief negotiator, Shlomo Ben-Ami, later said he, too, would have rejected if he’d been Palestinian); it was that the offer had been made at all. That was why Sharon marched up the Temple Mount and onto the sanctuary around the Al-Aqsa mosque with a security detail of some 200 men, in the event that triggered the protests that mushroomed into the Second Intifada. And as soon as the fires were raging, Sharon triumphantly declared, “The Oslo Agreement is finished. It is null and void.”

Sharon’s view, explicitly set out in his interview with Ari Shavit in mid-2001, was that the 1948 war had never ended, and that Israel was still fighting to establish its borders by creating facts on the ground. Time was on Israel’s side, Sharon said, because the Arab world was in decline, and the war of attrition would ultimately force the Palestinians to accept Israel’s terms. There was no prospect for a peace agreement in this generation, he insisted; Israel should think only in terms of long-term cease-fires. (Remarkably similar perspective to that of Hamas, actually.)

Again from my National piece:

Still, President Bush proclaimed Mr Sharon “a man of peace”, and the Israeli leader obliged by negotiating – but not with the Palestinians. Instead, whether it was about the route of his West Bank “wall” or his unilateral pullout from Gaza, he negotiated only with the Bush administration.

Ze’ev Jabotinsky, founding father of the Revisionist wing of the Zionist movement, from which Likud emerged, argued that the state of Israel could be created and maintained only by a military defeat of the Palestinian Arabs, and protected by an “iron wall of Jewish bayonets”. When the Palestinians had lost all hope of reversing their dispossession, they would eventually accept Israel’s terms for peace. The inheritors of Mr Jabotinsky’s legacy are Mr Netanyahu and Mr Sharon, each of whom, as prime minister, kept his portrait on the wall of their office.

Asked in 2001 if he could offer Israelis any hope of living in peace, Mr Sharon answered: “In another 10 or 15 years the Arab world will have less ability to strike at Israel than it has today. That is because Israel will be a country with a flourishing economy, whereas the Arab world may be on the decline… time is not working against us and therefore it is important to achieve solutions that will take place across a lengthy period.” Deferring, delaying, playing for time was all part of the game, because time, Mr Sharon believed, was on Israel’s side. Likud rejectionism is, in fact, the mirror image of that political current within Hamas that believes military attrition will ultimately break the adversary’s will.

The election of a rejectionist government in Israel will place a question mark over President Obama’s efforts to restart the peace process. Until now, US policy has been designed for a dead man – Yitzhak Rabin, the murdered Israeli leader who signed the Oslo Accords. It was during Mr Rabin’s time that the Clinton administration adopted the approach of allowing the Israeli government to determine the direction, content and timing of the peace process. But for most of the past decade, the party of Mr Rabin has been an ineffective loyal opposition, and it may be marginalised even further on February 10. Israel, quite simply, is not going to choose voluntarily to implement a viable two-state solution.

The basic premise of the Jabotinsky-Sharon-Olmert-Netanyahu approach to achieving peace with the Palestinians is that, as Jabotinsky himself wrote, Israel can’t hope to achieve a satisfactory agreement with a Palestinian people that remained strong and united; the Palestinians would only accept Israel’s terms when they had lost all hope and had accepted their utter defeat. When Sharon or Netanyahu search for a Palestinian “partner”, what they mean is a weak and feeble leader with whom they can converse while getting on with the business of destroying the Palestinian national movement. That’s the thinking that explains the bizarre twists in relation to Hamas, Arafat, Abu Mazen and Hamas again in Israeli thinking, or even the concept of “economic peace” – raise the economic rewards for quiescence even as you mount a counterinsurgency war against the Palestinian national movement.

Sharon perfected an important latterday addition to the “iron wall”, which took account of new strategic realities — the need to humor the Americans. Give them something to work with; chant the mantras of two-state-ism; let them believe that by supporting your counterinsurgency efforts they are, in fact, advancing some kind of peace agenda, no matter how plainly absurd that connection may be. The most palpable example of this Israeli deceit and American self-deceit is the settlements, Exhibit A of Israel’s bad faith throughout the negotiation process: Throughout the Oslo years, Israel steadily expanded its occupation of the West Bank. Its leaders routinely mouthed promises to Washington about freezing settlement activity and so on, but the reality is, as Haaretz revealed last week, not only a massive expansion of these colonies, but also a blatant misrepresentation of the fact that much of that expansion is occurring on privately owned Palestinian land, which is being stolen with a nod and a wink from the Israeli government (whose own database proves it) even as it insists publicly that no private Palestinian land is settled by Israelis.

Understanding the priority of destroying the Palestinian national movement makes sense of the zig-zagging of Israeli policies over the past three decades, and the dance through which the Israelis led the Bush Administration.

Hamas, as is well known in Israel, was consciously and actively cultivated by the Israeli military authorities in the West Bank and Gaza in the 1980s, in the belief that the Islamists would undermine the power of Fatah and the PLO. Rabin, of course, did not subscribe to the “iron wall” mindset, and was negotiating with the PLO, and urging it to crack down on Hamas, which was now launching terror attacks to oppose the peace process. But Sharon, when he came to power, still identified Fatah and the PLO, and the personality cult leadership of Yasser Arafat, as the primary threat

Sharon’s priority, then, was to convince the Americans to break with Arafat, even though Colin Powell could see that he was the only hope for reviving the process started at Oslo — but that, of course, was never Sharon’s intention, as he made abundantly clear. Powell was sidelined, and Washington drank the Kool Aid on the idea that the main obstacle to peace was Arafat’s “incorrigible rejectionism”. So, the U.S. translated this into a push to democratize the Palestinian Authority. Arafat’s personality-cult authoritarianism was unacceptable; the PA had to be governed by democracy, laws and transparency. Control over funds, and over security forces, had to be moved from Arafat’s own hands into a democratically accountable government, headed by a prime minister chosen by a democratically elected legislature. Power had to be wrested from President Arafat and transferred to the newly appointed prime minister, Mahmoud Abbas.

Then, Arafat died, and Abbas became the president. Now, Israel’s argument changed. Where Arafat had been too strong, the problem with Abbas was that he was too weak, and therefore unable to serve as Israel’s partner (for a dance that it had no intention of doing…). Sharon was happy to indulge President Bush by appearing in photographs with Abbas, but he wasn’t prepared to engage in any peace process with the new Palestinian president. Instead, Sharon simply kept on negotiating with Washington. Whether it was on the question of Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza or the route of Israel’s West Bank wall, Sharon saw no purpose in talking to Abbas; he spoke only to Washington. After all, he wasn’t moving out of Gaza to advance any peace process; on the contrary, as his chief political aide Dov Weissglass put it, “the disengagement [from Gaza] is actually formaldehyde. It supplies the amount of formaldehyde that is necessary so that there will be no political process with the Palestinians.” And so why bother to strengthen Mahmoud Abbas? So what if Hamas would eventually claim credit for liberating Gaza? That would simply reinforce the case against a peace process.

Having insisted on democracy in the Palestinian Authority (even if for cynical reasons, originally, i.e. to weaken Arafat) the Bush Administration then watched in horror as Hamas won the 2006 election by a landslide as Palestinian voters jumped at the chance to rid themselves of the corrupt Fatah overlords and rebuke their failed strategy of waiting for the U.S. to press Israel to end the occupation. And let’s be very, very clear about something that’s often forgotten these days: Hamas won not only in Gaza, but in the West Bank, as well. Even today, it remains the elected ruling party of the Palestinian Authority’s government.

Predictably, perhaps, rather than recognize the opportunity and engage with the reality, the Bush Administration simply did a spectacular 180-degree turnabout on the question of Palestinian governance — having spent years trying to break down Arafat’s authoritarian regime, they now set about resurrecting it. Having demanded that Palestinian Authority finances be handled transparently through democratically accountable institutions, Washington now demanded that they be placed under Abbas’ personal control. Having demanded that Palestinian Authority security forces be accountable to the elected civilian government rather than under the personal control of Arafat and his favorite warlords, Washington now insisted that the security forces remain answerable only to Abbas, and even pushed him to appoint Bush’s own favorite warlord, Mohammed Dahlan, as his security chief. With Arafat dead, the Bush Administration was now trying desperately to reinvent him. And Washington and Israel also imposed sanctions to punish the Palestinian electorate for its choice.

When the Saudis, recognizing the dysfunctional state of affairs, brokered a unity government between Abbas and Hamas, the U.S. went in and tore it apart, metaphorically dragging Abbas out by the scruff of his neck and warning him to stay away from those his people had chosen to represent them. And then, when the sanctions had failed to dislodge Hamas, the U.S. backed a coup attempt by Dahlan — which resulted in the expulsion of his security forces from Gaza.

Israel still controlled the West Bank, and so systematically suppressed Hamas, arresting its legislators and cabinet members as Abbas cheered them on, and tightening the siege of Gaza. Even then, it offered the fiction of a “peace process” for Mahmoud Abbas, while waging war on Hamas. In reality, of course, the occupation is as entrenched as ever, and Abbas has consigned himself to political oblivion. Indeed, the savage folly of Israel’s Operation Cast Lead was the bloody denouement of the failed strategy for ousting Hamas, and it acheived the opposite effect. Having failed to militarily eliminate Hamas, Israel has now made it painfully obvious that no peace process is possible without the organization.

But, of course, with Netanyahu about to be elected, the question of a peace process may be moot.

Obama’s Administration could argue that the U.S. may have its preferences, but it can’t choose Israel’s leaders; it has to work with whomever Israel elects. Indeed. But the same is true for the Palestinians. And a major reason for the steady deterioration of the Israeli-Palestinian situation over the past eight years has been Washington’s efforts to choose the Palestinians’ leaders for them, with increasingly disastrous effects.

The first premise of a credible peacemaking initiative by the U.S. must be the recognition that each side gets to choose its own leaders. And that means accepting the reality that even now, Hamas is, in fact, the dominant party in the Palestinian Authority by virtue of its control of the legislature. Mahmoud Abbas’ term as president expired on January 9, and Salaam Fayyad, competent administrator though he may be, was not appointed prime minister by any Palestinian legislative body; he was essentially installed by Condi Rice. Were free and fair presidential elections held in the West Bank and Gaza right now, Abbas would almost certainly be ousted. The Palestinian side at the negotiating table will necessarily have to carry a mandate and approval from Hamas.

But what peace process is possible between Hamas and Likud?

Well, that’s where the second key premise of credible Obama peacemaking comes in: The Israelis and Palestinians will have to be presented with an international consensus on where the borders between them are to be drawn and how issues ranging from Jerusalem to the fate of settlements and refugees is to be settled. If there is to be a viable two-state solution to the conflict in the foreseeable future (something that is hard to see, quite frankly), it will have to be imposed — not on the basis of what the Israel lobby in Washington can persuade the U.S. government to put forward, but on the basis of the existing international political and legal consensus based on U.N. Resolutions 242 and 338, the Arab peace plan, etc.

As much as Israel likes to present itself as just another Western democracy minding its own business and being targeted by deranged foreign terrorists. This is nonsense, of course. Israel couldn’t become a member of NATO, for example, even if a majority of members were politically inclined to include it — because NATO’s rules deny membership to states involved in border disputes, and Israel’s borders have never been finalized. Sharon is not wrong when he says Israel is still fighting the 1948 war, which, after all, was over just how a nascent Israel and the Palestinian Arabs will share the Holy Land. They couldn’t agree then, and they can’t agree now.

I share Sandy Tolan’s well-argued skepticism over whether a two-state solution remain plausible, but I’m absolutely certain that no such solution is possible if it’s simply left up to Israel’s elected government to conclude one with the elected leadership of the Palestinians. If Obama is to save the two-state solution — and save Israel from itself — he’s going to have to be willing to apply the tough love.

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36 Responses to Waltzing With Ariel: Will Obama, Too, Indulge Israeli Rejectionism?

  1. …look at the palestinians house…..complete and total disaray….if bibi wins…maybe then …lets have a real war…crush iran with atomic weapons if nec.,,,syria..lebanon,,,powder the palestinians….then maybe there can be peace for a little while at least…

  2. Tony says:

    Apropos Johnny and his “powder the Palestinians” shtick, I don’t understand why a Jewish Nazi is even bothering to read this site.

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  4. Gene says:

    Whether it’s one-state or two-state, the settlers are going to be a problem. I think Cobban is right when she says that problems arising from a two-state solution will be more manageable than those arising from a one-state.

  5. Shlomo says:

    In the past fifteen years, Israel has gained in RELATIVE strength as compared to the Palestinians. In this sense, Sharon was correct. But RELATIVE strength is not what’s important when discussing nonstate actors. ABSOLUTE strength is important, and the absolute strength of every neighboring Islamist group has increased in the past 15 years, along with their bombing radius.

    Israel can not win this way.

  6. Matthew says:

    Tony: The fact that “johnny bensen” isn’t embarrassed to post here says alot about the depth of the rot. He probably goes to strip center “church” and believes in “prophesy.”

  7. Rupa Shah says:

    After reading both articles, I just have to wonder whether Israeli leadership ( and now the population also, which approved Gaza operation with massive majority )REALLY WANTS PEACE ( one state/two state becomes irrelevant). Also, after hearing Sec Clinton yesterday, repeating like a broken record, “Hamas has to stop firing rockets” and “any nation under attack has a right to defend itself”, I do not see any change in the mindset of her state dept. The only solution is for USA to tell Israel to go it alone as Mr Williams wrote in his CiF yesterday…
    Of course, it is questionable whether Obama administration is ready for it!

  8. delia ruhe says:

    You just have to marvel at how beautifully Israel’s leaders have played the US–“Uncle Sucker,” as Steve Walt called it this morning.

    Personally, I think Obama will do whatever is practical–and he may just decide that peace in the Middle East is more trouble than its worth. There are other ways of winning a few Arab hearts and minds.

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  10. Arie Brand says:

    I fear it is not just a matter of a “few Arab hearts and minds”. Israel is widely unpopular in other Moslem states. Malaysians have,for instance, the explicit provision in their passports forbidding them to visit Israel.

    According to a prominent commentator on Asian affairs, Michael Backman, this has nothing to do with Malaysia not recognizing Israel’s “right to exist”. When he asked a Malaysian minister when this provision would be withdrawn the latter answered when the Israelis start to treat the Palestinians better. Backman inquired how he would know this and the Minister said: when the Palestinians tell us.

  11. bob kay says:


    Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan administered a little tough love to Shimon Peres in Davos.

    “You are older than me and your voice is very loud. The reason for your raising your voice is the psychology of guilt. I will not raise my voice that much. When it comes to killing, you know very well how to kill. I know very well how you hit and killed children on the beaches.”

    The people of Islam are crossing a psychological barrier. They see there will be no peace with the psychopathic deviants and war criminals who rule Israel in occupied Palestine.

    Islam is accepting the iron law of war—a battle to the death of Zionist Israel is inevitable. The Zionists cannot compromise.
    They only lie and keep killing. It is the genetics of the Zionist ideology.

    Erdogan’s public refusal to tolerate Shimon Peres’s hypocritical lies and bully tactics is the harbinger of the
    winds of change. Hamas and Hezbollah have pointed the way to the defeat of the world threatening Zionist Agenda.

  12. Patrick Cummins says:

    Certainly a strong case can be made that the Likud faction has never had any interest in the ‘peace process’ or the two-state solution.

    But consider this statement that Shimon Peres made to the UK parliament in November: “Israel will find it difficult to evacuate the settlements without a civil war.”


    When even ostensible supporters of the two-state solution like Peres express such misgivings, one has to question whether there is any significant component of the Israeli leadership can be expected to give real support (as opposed to lip service) to the peace process.

    Perhaps Peres’ statement should be read as a plea to western powers not to demand that Israel abided by a viable two-solution.

  13. Patrick Cummins says:

    With typos corrected (my apologies) the last sentence should read:

    Perhaps Peres’ statement should be read as a plea to western powers not to demand that Israel abide by a viable two-state solution.

  14. Y. Ben-David says:

    As one who pretty much agrees with what Tony says was Sharon’s long-term view of the Arab-Israeli conflict, I would like to ask exactly how “tough-love” would work.
    The fact is that American public opinion is solidly pro-Israel and it remained so during the recent Gaza War? This goes far beyond suppport within the American Jewish community. It is important to recall that an early, proto-Zionism was well developed in the United States by the 1830’s and 1840’s. President Lincoln came out in support of a Jewish state and this was when the Jewish community in the US was miniscule and had no political clout. Both the Republican and Democratic Party platforms in the 1944 elections had pro-Zionist planks, and this was before the creation of the state of Israel. So given this, would how could “tough love” consisting, say, of threats of punitive sanctions against Israel work? Most Americans view Israel as an ally of the United States and a country with shared values. On the other hand, the Palestinian have leadership which is identified (particularly HAMAS, but not only) with America’s adversaries. Thus, a President who decides to threaten Israel, particularly that could endanger the country’s security, would be taking a major political risk. President Bush I went out of his way to distance himself from Israel and he lost his re-election campaign (obviously this wasn’t the only reason but his opponents did use it in the campaign and it did contribute to his defeat).

    Now, on the Arab side, we must also ask what leverage would the President have to “tough-love” them into making the concessions necessary. For example, there is the famous Palestinian demand for “the Right of Return” of the refugees. Although people like Yossi Beilin and others talk about a “symbolic return” of “only” 50 thousand, 100 thousand or 200 thousand refugees, the Palestinians have never indicated they would accept such low numbers. Their spokesmen have stated “first you acknowledge the ‘right of return’, then we’ll negotiate the terms of implementation”. Leftist columnist Aivrama Golan in the Israeli Leftist newpaper “Ha’aretz” a couple of days ago wrote that although she supports deJudaization of Israel, changing the national anthem, recognition of the Naqba and the such in order to make the Israeli Arabs feel better about themselves, she said Israel MUST reject the Arab claim that Israel first recognize the “right of return” because it would mean open ended demands that would permanently block any chance for a real peace agreement. This is representative of the position of the Israeli “peace camp”, which is a minority in Israel. The Center-Right majority in Israel would be even more vehement in rejecting any acceptance of the “right of return”.

    Now, if we assume that President Obama thinks it is reasonable for the Palestinians give up the right of return in return for Israel agreeing to a complete withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines (something the Left in Israel may accept) then how can he “tough-love” them to accept it. Don’t forget there are the rejectionists like Iran, Syria, HAMAS and others breathing down their neck saying it would be treason to give it up. I believe Arafat told Clinton at Camp David he would be assassinated if he compromised on this matter. So how can Obama get them to give it up? Again, could he use punitive sanctions. Any threat to cut aid which the Palestinian Authority is totally dependent on (over half the operating budget of the PA comes from handouts from the US and EU) would bring the response “sure, go ahead and cut the aid…all that will do is bring HAMAS to power. Do you want that”? So there goes one of the most important forms of leverage the US has.

    If it were true that the Arab side was really prepared to make peace with Israel on reasonable terms, then something like “tough-love” might work. But that is not the situation. The Arab side rejects peace with Israel. Alon Liel, a Left (pro-MERETZ) former official in the Israeli Foreign Ministry and close associate of Yossi Beilin says that Egypt ADAMANTLY opposes any peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians because they view this as strengthening Israel and thus weakening their own position. The Arabs view the Arab-Israel conflict as a Zero-Sum Game….i.e. what is good for one side is bad for the other. One can argue that this is a counter-productive attitude, but it accurately expressed the situation.
    Sure there are things like the “Saudi peace plan” but this was proposed in 2002, shortly after 9/11 in order to try to shed the image of being a primary generator and exporter of international Islamic terror. But careful reading of it shows the same insistence on the “Right of Return”, which I have pointed out is a non-starter.

    Thus, forget about “tough-love”. It won’t work. There is no chance of a contractual peace agreement ending the Arab-Israeli conflict. The Arab side would rather it continue, even if it means continued expansion of Israeli settlements, rather than exposing themselves to the danger of being considered sell-outs. The important thing is to try to minimize the violence which can come by the US emphasizing its support for Israel. De Gaulle openly stated in the period before the 1967 Six-Day War that he was cutting Israel loose. Nasser interpreted this as a go-ahead for war, so he escalated his rhetoric and talked about ending the “Zionist problem” once and for all. I hope everyone learned their lesson and do not repeat this mistake.

  15. Edwn Standing says:

    They see there will be no peace with the psychopathic deviants and war criminals who rule Israel in occupied Palestine…Bob Kay, 2009

    “Europe cannot find peace until the Jewish question has been solved. …One thing I should like to say on this day [the sixth anniversary of his being appointed Chancellor of the Reich] which may be memorable for others as well as for us Germans. In the course of my life I have very often been a prophet and have usually been ridiculed for it. … Today I will once more be a prophet: if the international Jewish financiers in and outside Europe should succeed in plunging the nations once more into a world war, then the result will not be the Bolshivization of the earth, and thus the victory of Jewry, but the annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe.”…Hitler’s Speech to the Reichstag, 30 January, 1939

    Bob-you are entitled to your opinions, but pls acknowledge your sources

  16. kassandra says:

    There is no Jewish “left” left. Look at the numbers. Almost a unanimity of both Israeli Jews and those in the US both favored the Gaza massacre and favor the deportation of Palestinians from the Jews self-described “God-given” land — something like 94% of Israeli Jews. Those numbers would do both Hitler and Stalin proud. The only thing that keeps that apartheid, racist state afloat is US largesse and the ignorance of the US taxpayer.

    As there is no interest in a peace process in Israel, so is there no interest in reporting the truth. BBC World has for days been spinning the line about Hamas police stealing “thousands of blankets and food parcels” as per the UN. There was an interview with the UN official in question of EuroNews. According to the UN official, “masked men” took 350 blankets and 400 food parcels. No mention of Hamas by the UN. No “thousands”. See for yourself:

  17. Joshua says:

    Simple answer Tony: Yes. He is still bombing Pakistan. Nothing really has changed.

  18. gianni says:

    America could help create space for peace just by taking responsibility for its own role in perpetuating the conflict. By recognizing the consequences of its actions and inactions on itself. What are the effects on America of its hatching the Dayton plan? Of supplying Israel with white phosphorous from Pine Bluff, Arkansas? Of not enforcing the Arms Export Control Act over and over? Of not supporting an immediate ceasefire in Gaza even for the most elemental, human reasons. America’s enabling behavior toward Israel is a symptom of its lack of a benign sustainable economy and its disconnected views of the world. It would be enough to defuse the cycles of violence to create breathing space for something different to happen. And America could contribute a lot to that just by really tending to its own intentions and actions.

  19. Arie Brand says:

    Y Ben-David wrote:

    “Sure there are things like the “Saudi peace plan” but this was proposed in 2002, shortly after 9/11 in order to try to shed the image of being a primary generator and exporter of international Islamic terror.”

    I see this as a deliberate belittling of this peace plan, the kind of thing Israel has always been very good at.

    First of all, even though there were deliberate attempts in the early days to identify the plan as the proposal of just one man, then Prince Abdullah, it came in fact from all 22 members of the Arab League (including Egypt).

    Secondly, it was not just an initiative to soften the negative pr. impact of 9/11, as Ben-David asserts. The proposal was in fact reconfirmed at the Riyadh Summit in 2007. During the now notorious recent session in Davos with that altercation between Erdogan and Peres the Secretary General of the Arab League was also present. In a strong speech he reminded Peres of the Arab League Peace Initiative and complained that there never had been any positive reaction from Israel. He more or less implied that if nothing was forthcoming in 2009 the thing would be off the table. That is at any case what I read into his words.

    Peres only reacted by mumbling something about the matter being so very complicated. Yes, by now we know that one. Things were not that complicated in the direct aftermath of the Six Day War. It was Israel that complicated things by immediately devising settlement schemes (even before the “three no’s of Khartoum” that it always comes up with in this context).

    Finally, it is new to me that Egypt no longer supports this Arab Peace Initiative. Should we take the words of an Israeli ex-Foreign Ministry official as an authoritative source of information here?

    According to an Angus Reid Global Monitoring Poll performed in 2008 39 % of Israelis and 67 % of Palestinians support the plan. The Palestinian Authority is strongly supportive. And in March last year Mishal intimated that Hamas might go along with a recognition of Israel within its 1967 borders (one of the basic pillars of the plan). He recently stated this again in an interview with a French Jewish author (see my posts under the previous thread).
    He stated this just before the Israeli onslaught on Gaza and Finkelstein has surmised that this peace overture reinforced the Israeli decision to reopen violence. Israel does not want peace that has as its pre-condition a return to the 1967 borders. It made this clear in the aftermath of the Six Day War and it has shown this ever since.

    The Arab Peace Initiative is of course largely along the lines of UNSC 242 to which Israel is a party but to which it has dreamed up its own idiosyncratic interpretation.

  20. Sigi says:

    “Time was on Israel’s side, Sharon said, because the Arab world was in decline, and the war of attrition would ultimately force the Palestinians to accept Israel’s terms.”

    The folly of the Israeli hardliners in all its folly. Nothing will ever change the geographical fact that Israel is located in a sea of Arab countries. To permanently antagonize their people with the establishment of a Palestinian Bantu-state or the ‘transfer’ of Palestinians from the West Bank to Jordan means a permanent radioactive relationship with these neighbours.

    What Sharon and his ideological followers appears to overlook completely is that while the Arabs may be weak now and Israel may be strong, the Arabs can afford that. But in a fervently hostile environment of overwhelming size, Israel needs to be weak only once and it may well be gone.

    Israel’s future lies in a mutually agreed arrangement with its neighbours. Otherwise it is not likely that there will be a future, at least not a long term one for a Jewish state. Long term, those who believe that they can only live by the sword are liable to die by it.

  21. Sigi says:

    Sorry, that should have been “The folly of the Israeli hardliners in all its beauty.”

  22. Y. Ben-David says:

    But Sigi-
    If the Arabs read what you wrote, they will say “you see, Sigi says we are eventually going to be more powerful than Israel, so why should we endanger ourselves by getting a stigma of being “sellouts” (remember what happened to Sadat?) by making compromises now, when Sigi guarantees us that we will get everything in the future WITHOUT making any dangerous compromises?”

  23. Sigi says:

    Y. Ben-David,
    First of all, I didn’t guarantee anything to anybody, what I stated was my understanding of history that when there is a large body of people and a significantly smaller body and they have an antagonistic relationship, the smaller body may prevail for a given period, but in the long term its chances of doing so are not that great. That is why I think that the position of Israeli hardliners is folly. And I doubt that Arab leaders will need my ‘wisdom’ to see that as well.

    Secondly, you are making a substantive point on the dangers of making compromizes. I can see the huge challenge that comes with. However, it does not change my view, namely that the way out of the current deathly quagmire is to work for a situation in which the vast majorities on both sides conclude that they have more to lose from eternally continuing the conflict than to live peacfully side by side.

    Germany and France have fought each other for centuries over areas on their mutual border. I don’t think there is much support to return to that on either side. Why is that?

    Again, I am not saying the situation in Israel/Palestine is easy. But given the fact that Israel is in a way stronger position than the Palestinians and can act from that postition of strength, I see it under the stronger obligation to undertake meaningful steps. What I doubt, is that electing Nethanyahu is such a step.

  24. Pingback: Say ‘goodbye to Israel’, say, ‘I never cried for you anyway’, say ‘the freedom will be great’ - updated « Divining the News (DTN)

  25. Noach Weinberg says:

    Please have in mind that your study of “48 Ways to Wisdom” is in the merit of Rabbi Noah Weinberg, the beloved founder and dean of Aish HaTorah — Yisrael Noach ben Yitzhak Mattisyahu.

    To receive “48 Ways to Wisdom” as a weekly email, enter your email address in the orange box on the right.


    Imagine you’re stuck in traffic, and another driver is taking dollar bills and throwing them out the window. You can’t believe it. The guy is whacko. Every five minutes, another dollar flies out the window!

    You probably never saw this. But you have seen someone throwing five minutes out the window.

    Maybe you even did it yourself. The bus takes off and you’re really enjoying the scenery: “Oh, a hill… look at that store… and there’s a park!”

    It’s not so bad for the first few minutes. But then the cash register starts ringing up more wasted time. Ding! Ding!

    To become a great human being requires applying your mind constantly, until it pervades every fiber of your being.

    It all begins with a decision, a commitment. Try saying aloud: “Life is an opportunity. I want to use my mind, and be constantly moving toward my goal.”

    You may notice some resistance as a little voice protests inside: “No way! All work and no play will make Jack a dull boy. C’mon, let’s space out and watch TV!”

    Does this mean being an obsessive workaholic? Of course not — you still need to sleep!

    Let’s understand. “Constant striving” means that when you sleep in order to be more productive, then the sleep becomes part of your overall goal. It’s the same with eating and exercise.

    So what about relaxing?

    Of course it’s okay to relax. But relaxing means “changing gears.” Your relaxation should be purposeful and directed. Think of something else that’s not as exerting, but is still meaningful. For example, shift your focus to nature, music or art. Sometimes, even a simple change of scenery, a cold drink, or a breathe of fresh air is enough to recharge your batteries.

    But don’t space out.

    We do this, because it is painful to be constantly aware, to be constantly “on.”

    To break through that pain, focus instead on the pay-off. When you are constantly aware, every experience becomes a lesson in life. For example, if you are in a dentist’s office, you could use that time to reach any number of crucial insights:

    – I’m lucky to have teeth. A toothless life would be much less pleasurable.

    – If there is such a thing as dental hygiene, there must be a concept of spiritual hygiene, too. I wonder what it is.

    – Without the pain of the drill, my teeth would fall out. Perhaps some other difficulties in life also help me accomplish good things.

    – The human body is so intricate. The integration of teeth, gums, tongue and saliva is an incredible feat of anatomical and physiological design. How did it all come about?

    Whatever you are doing at any given moment — watching the news, working on a business deal, talking to a friend, reading this article — give it your full attention. Decide that you are willing to take the pain of thinking, of being aware, all day long.

    * * *


    Whenever you pursue a specific goal, it should be without interruption. It’s actually better to study for one hour straight, than for two hours with interruptions. Interruptions break our train of thought and limit our ability to retain information. They take the power out of learning.

    Set aside a certain time when you block everything else out, where you will not budge from the activity you’re focusing on. Don’t sit down and then get up to open the window. Then get up to fetch a Coke. And get up again to close the window. And get up to turn on the radio.

    Make up your mind: “I am going to do ‘X’ for one hour straight. No bouncing up and down!” For an entire 15 minutes, don’t stop. Not to change your seat, not to get a drink, not for anything that isn’t life-threatening!

    You can practice this while riding on the bus, or waiting at the dentist’s office. Set yourself a goal of 15 minutes to focus exclusively on one subject. It may be a problem you’re having at work, a personal goal, or an issue in a relationship. For example, you might say to yourself, “The next 15 minutes I am going to devote to thinking about my family, how I can help them, why I love them, my pleasure in them.”

    Or try devoting 15 minutes a day to be aware of every aspect of life around you — from the blood coursing through your veins to keep every cell alive, to the ant crawling across the ground under your feet. For that 15 minutes, you are totally attuned to the miracle of being alive.

    Then, at the end of these 15 minutes, appreciate how the time was well spent. Time that otherwise would have been wasted…

    Little by little, increase your time. First 15 minutes, then 30 minutes, then one hour, then two hours. Once you hit four hours, you’re sailing.

    The Vilna Gaon, the great 18th century Jewish scholar, said that the first three hours and 59 minutes is stoking the furnace. By the fourth hour, the pot is boiling.

    And don’t stop. Because if you take the pot off the fire — even for a few minutes — you have to reboil it all over again.

    * * *


    To really get into gear, you need to find your rhythm.

    The human body loves patterns. Even the most daunting tasks become fluid when set into a schedule. This means doing the activity in the same place, at the same time, and in the same way (as much as reasonably possible).

    That’s why Judaism has certain pre-set activities every day. When waking up, for example, we say: “Thank God I’m alive.” It’s a moment of conscious appreciation for getting another chance, another day. This awareness gets us up on the right side of the bed, starting our day on a high note.

    When it comes to any goal, make a certain time of the day “holy.” For however much or little time, make a commitment and be consistent every day. There is power in that commitment. You know you are going to change. Your life will be different.

    Try it. Commit yourself 365 days a year, for the rest of your life: When you wake up in the morning, appreciate being alive.

    * * *


    Life is not one-dimensional. It must be studied from every side and turned upside down.

    Study the same subject for a long period of time. Don’t bounce around superficially from one topic to the next. Choose a topic you love and become an expert in at least one aspect of life. Become engrossed.

    Whatever subject you choose, there is always more to learn. Even as you move to other areas of knowledge, be alert to pick up information pertinent to previous topics. This allows for cross-referencing, and ultimately, a deeper understanding.

    Whatever you learn, make sure you don’t forget. How many times has an insight struck you with astonishing clarity — and then slipped out of your mind the next day? The insight is fleeting if you don’t capture it in some way. It has to sink into your bones and permeate your mind.

    This means constant review of one’s learning in some form or another.

    Verbal repetition is powerful. It clarifies an idea and brings it into reality. That’s why we repeat the Shema twice a day, and why we review the Torah year after year. The Sages of the Talmud would repeat any new insight 40 times — and repeat an especially vital idea 101 times.

    It’s kind of like “Remember the Alamo!” Of course, you may forget the Alamo, but you can remember this article in a catch-phrase like “Make Every Second Count” or “Live to the Max.” Whatever moves you and gets you energized, repeat it again, again and again. Make it your refrain, your background music. When you wear out one phrase, get yourself another. Whatever works has power. * * *


    Imagine someone asking you, “What do you do?” You answer, “I’m a lawyer,” or “I’m an engineer,” or “I’m an accountant.”

    Wrong! Wrong! Wrong!

    Suppose you see someone going to sleep, and you say to him, “What do you do?”

    He says, “I’m a sleeper.”

    “You’re a sleeper? How do you make a living doing that? Who pays you to sleep?!”

    That’s my point exactly. When you add up the hours over a lifetime, you spend more time sleeping than being a lawyer.

    The essential you is not the lawyer. It is the thinker, the seeker, the living, breathing human being who loves, who is continually growing, who desires greatness, who hungers to know more. Identify with this. It is who you really are.

    Ask a woman with four children: “Who are you?” She answers: “A mother.” But that’s only one aspect of who she is (albeit an important one). She’s also a friend, a community volunteer, an educator, a chef, a nurse, a child psychologist, a thinker, an information gatherer, a pursuer of truth, and more.

    Unfortunately, we develop this identity problem early in life. Every child is asked: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” This question has subtle implications that can damage a developing personality. The child is thinking: “What’s wrong with being ‘me?’ Is ‘me’ so terrible that I have to ‘become’ something different when I grow up?”

    The Sages say: “Make the study of life your main occupation, and your profession secondary.” The question is not “what are you doing for a living,” but rather “what do you do for life?” If you see yourself as a “thinker,” then thinking becomes a priority. So update your self-definition. Learn your whole reason for living and live it fully.

    * * *


    The bottom line is you have to decide: Is life good or not?

    This comes down to a more basic question: Does life have purpose? If it doesn’t, then there’s no reason not to waste time, because nothing really matters anyway. But if you believe there is a purpose to life, why would you want to waste any bit of it? You’ll want to understand every aspect of life, to do the most with the limited time you have.

    Jewish consciousness says that the worst crime is murder.

    – The worst murder is premeditated.
    – The worst premeditated is of family.
    – Even worse is murder of self — i.e. suicide.
    – Spiritual suicide is worse than physical suicide.
    – Killing time is spiritual suicide.

    Human beings were created for pleasure. Adam and Eve were placed in the Garden of Eden. In Hebrew, Eden means “pleasure.”

    When you commit yourself to what a human being was destined for — a life of pleasure — you will go out searching for the highest pleasures. Along the way, you’ll make distinctions between pleasure and comfort, between necessary pain and needless suffering. And through the process, you’ll discover the true meaning of life.

    The Torah says: “Abraham was old and he came with his days.” Many people can become old without their days, because they may only experience growth over a year. But Abraham and Sarah had daily growth spurts. They got as much out of living as possible.

    Make the commitment to discover life’s deeper pleasures. It could be the difference between a useful life and a wasted one.

    * * *


    1) Plan out what you want to accomplish. If you know what you’re after, you’ll pursue it with more vitality.

    2) Plan in the evening how you’ll get up in the morning. Don’t let the snooze button control your life.

    3) To start off on the right foot, get up 10 minutes early and say the Shema.

    4) Review your day. See what the obstacles were. Strategize how to avoid them in the future. Review what you learned in the past 24 hours.

    5) Catch yourself day dreaming at least once a day and examine: “What am I doing right now, and how could I use this moment more effectively?”

    6) Become a student of life. Study wherever you are. Have books, thoughts, etc. ready to keep your mind growing. (No staring out the window like a zombie.)

    7) Memorize pieces of wisdom. It will give you something to learn as you walk down the street or wait in line at the supermarket.

    8) Pick appealing catch-phrases, to inspire yourself on the spot, and to wake yourself up when you feel like drifting off.

    9) Frequently ponder the question: What is the purpose of life? What am I doing on this planet?

    10) Plan ahead now. What do you want to study? What do you need to realize your ambitions? How do you want to grow?

    Everyone says that “time is money.” But which is more important: five minutes or a dollar? Time is the greatest opportunity of your life. Don’t waste a minute of it

  26. Arie Brand says:

    Thanks for your advice Noach. You wasted quite a lot of your (and our) time on giving it.

  27. Henry Kim says:

    The fundamental problem with the notion of “economic peace,” it seems to me, is that it still leaves the Palestinians with nothing: everything would remain under Israel’s ultimate control, however much the Palestinian “partner” might be dressed up to appear independent. Whenever Israel feels like it, it would be able to redefine the terms of the deal to suit its needs, convenience, or whim. In other words, Palestinians could only be beggars dependent entirely on Israel government for their three beans a day–and even that would not be necessarily assured.

    I suppose that does coincide with the notion of destroying any hope that the Palestinians might have…so that they would accept Israeli terms. The central problem with this logic, it strikes me, is that there would be any credible “terms” Israel can offer that Palestinians would accept, if things get carried so far. Because of the disparity in strength, Israel has no obligation to honor the terms it offers. So, anything Israel offers is potentially fraudulent–revokable whenever Israeli government feels like it. Unless Palestinians can be assured that the Israelis can’t go back, there is no deal they would accept–however desperate their situation might be. On the other hand, not accepting Israel’s offers–and resisting–provides some chance that the Palestinians might actually “win” somehow, someday–whatever that might mean (perhaps as equal citizens in a unified Judeo-Arab Palestinian state? who knows?).

    So, in that sense, rightist Israelis are right: there is no one on the Palestinian side they can negotiate with. But that is precisely because there is no offer that Israel can make that is credible enough for any Palestinians to accept–in any binding manner. So fraud, in a manner of speaking, begets more fraud. Both sides deal with the other in bad faith. Everyone can blame the other–but that won’t make offers any more credible.

  28. zealot says:

    Arie, you Do realise that wasting your time was the point? And he didn’t waste his, it’s a cut and paste stink bomb he just put on here, and got paid for it.

    If you want to keep this site clean of such rubbish, now that they started targetting it professionaly, Tony will have to censor the messages that show up here.

    I realise he would then probably remove mine, but so be it. I write what I believe to be true.

    And here it is:

    If you want to actually win the argument with these guys, you will have to find them in person and deal with them directly.

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