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World reacts to resumption of direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations

August 20, 2010 Leave a comment

Quartet calls on Israelis, Palestinians to exercise restraint as talks proceed

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Press Release)–The following statement was issued today by the Middle East Quartet (United Nations, Russian Federation, United States, and European Union).

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The representatives of the Quartet reaffirm their strong support for direct negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians to resolve all final status issues. The Quartet reaffirms its full commitment to its previous statements, including in Trieste on 26 June 2009, in New York on 24 September 2009, and its statement in Moscow on 19 March 2010 which provides that direct, bilateral negotiations that resolve all final status issues should “lead to a settlement, negotiated between the parties, that ends the occupation which began in 1967 and results in the emergence of an independent, democratic, and viable Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with Israel and its other neighbors.”

The Quartet expresses its determination to support the parties throughout the negotiations, which can be completed within one year, and the implementation of an agreement. The Quartet again calls on both sides to observe calm and restraint, and to refrain from provocative actions and inflammatory rhetoric. Welcoming the result of the Arab Peace Initiative Committee in Cairo on July 29, the Quartet notes that success will require sustained regional and international support for the negotiations and the parallel process of Palestinian state-building and the pursuit of a just, lasting and comprehensive regional peace as envisaged in the Madrid terms of reference, Security Council resolutions and the Arab Peace Initiative. The Quartet Principals intend to meet with their colleagues from the Arab League in September in New York to review the situation. Accordingly, the Quartet calls on the Israelis and the Palestinians to join in launching direct negotiations on September 2 in Washington, D.C. to resolve all final status issues and fulfill the aspirations of both parties.

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Preceding provided by U.S. Department of State

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J-Street welcomes talks, Urges U.S. to stay involved

WASHINGTON, D.C. —  Hadar Susskind, J Street’s Vice President for Policy and Strategy, released the following statement upon the announcement of direct talks between the Israeli Government and the Palestinian Authority:

J Street welcomes today’s announcement of direct talks between the Government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority, with the United States closely shepherding the process. We applaud President Obama’s leadership and the work of Secretary Clinton and Senator Mitchell in bringing the parties to the table.

But bringing the parties together is only the starting line on a difficult road that will demand real political leadership and courage from the parties and from the United States and the international community.  President Obama has said before that talks and process are not the goal – the goal is two states living side-by-side in peace and security, with defined borders and an end to the conflict. We urge President Obama and his team to continue to actively lead the way toward that destination.

J Street is pleased by the announcement of a one year timeline for talks and by the assurances given by U.S. officials that the United States will be actively engaged in the process, helping the parties close gaps and keep moving forward.

The United States and the broader international community – including the Quartet and the Arab League – will have to help the parties to overcome the many obstacles and challenges they will face. We hope that this will include taking an approach that is regional and comprehensive in nature, placing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict into a regional framework that attempts to end the Arab-Israeli conflict as a whole.

The window of opportunity for progress is brief and closing. This could well be the last opportunity to save the two-state solution. We believe that Israel’s future as a Jewish, democratic home, not to mention vital American interests in the region, hang in the balance.

We urge the United States, Israel, the Palestinians, and the greater Arab world to approach these negotiations with a seriousness of purpose suited to the urgency of the moment. The stakes are high, and the status quo unsustainable.

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Preceding provided by J Street
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ADL warns violence by others could sabotage peace talks

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NEW YORK — The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) on Friday welcomed the announcement that Israel-Palestinian direct talks will resume in September.   

Robert G. Sugarman, ADL National Chair and Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director issued the following statement:

“Today’s announcement that Israel and the Palestinians will begin direct talks is a welcome development. Progress in Israeli-Palestinian relations has always only resulted from direct face-to-face negotiations.
 
“The Government of Israel has made clear its commitment to a negotiated agreement, and has made numerous gestures to the Palestinians in order to bring them to the table, including the current freeze on settlement expansion. 
 
“We wish the parties well as they embark on these negotiations. Certainly, no one is under the illusion these talks will be easy or that success is guaranteed.   Both sides will need to make difficult and painful compromises in order to realize the hopes for peace and reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians.   There continue to be those who wish to undermine this development through the use of violence, such as Hamas, Hezbollah and others, and it will be up to the international community to ensure this doesn’t happen.
 
“We express our appreciation to the Obama Administration for its tireless efforts in facilitating the beginning of these talks.” 
 
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Preceding provided by Anti-Defamation League

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NJDC credits President Obama for moving process forward

WASHINGTON, DC (Press Release)- National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC) President and CEO David A. Harris issued the following statement in response to the announcement that direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians are set to begin in early September:

“Today’s announcement of direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians is an important step forward, and we applaud President Barack Obama’s leadership in working to foster these negotiations.

As an extension of this President’s constant commitment to Israel’s security, he has been tireless in his pursuit of the lasting peace that all Israelis yearn for — working towards the direct talks that Prime Minister Benjamin Nentanyahu has welcomed all along. More recently, President Obama’s persistence in pressing President Mahmoud Abbas has helped to finally get us to these direct talks, and we all owe President Obama and his team a tremendous debt of gratitude for their pursuit of this most worthy cause.”

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Preceding provided by National Jewish Democratic Council

NEW YORK (Press Release) — The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations welcomed today’s announcement of direct talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority that will begin on September 2nd, in Washington, D.C. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and U.S. Special Envoy former Senator George Mitchell made the announcement noting that the talks would convene without preconditions and with a goal of completion within one year.

“We welcome the beginning of direct, face-to-face negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority that will address the complicated and difficult issues in the hope of bringing about an end to the long-standing conflict. History shows that only an agreement arrived at by the parties involved can succeed. Even as goals are set to expedite this process, there should be no artificial deadlines. The talks should be allowed to take their course while all parties are held accountable to their commitments.

“We hope the atmosphere and commitment to these direct talks will be conducive to meaningful negotiations that will meet the needs of all parties. To achieve this, it is essential that there be an end to incitement, including in the media, mosques, classrooms and public pronouncements. We note that Israel has made many significant gestures including removing hundreds of roadblocks, releasing many prisoners, aiding economic development and working with Palestinian Authority security forces to improve the security cooperation in the West Bank.

“We appreciate the effort led by the U.S. to broker these direct talks, which we hope will bring a just and lasting peace in the region,” said Conference of Presidents Chairman Alan Solow and Executive Vice Chairman Malcolm Hoenlein.

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Preceding provided by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

Arab League backs direct talks between Palestinians and Israel

July 30, 2010 Leave a comment

CAIRO (WJC)–In a surprise decision the foreign ministers of the Arab League on Thursday authorized the Palestinian Authority to enter into direct negotiations with Israel, but left it up to President Mahmoud Abbas to decide on the timing. The Israeli government welcomed the decision, taken at a meeting in Cairo, with Prime Minister Netanyahu issuing a statement saying he was “prepared to begin direct and honest discussions with the Palestinian Authority in the coming days.”

The US, which has been urging Abbas to switch from the current “proximity” talks to direct talks, also praised the move, and said it would seek to convene the direct talks “as soon as possible.” Netanyahu added that it would be possible through direct negotiations to soon reach an accord “between the two peoples.”

Defense Minister Ehud Barak, currently in Washington, also welcome the Arab League’s decision, saying that only direct negotiations would lead to two states for two peoples. He added that the negotiations would require “difficult and courageous” decisions from both sides, and that he hoped the Palestinians “also realize that.”

The foreign minister of Qatar, Hamad bin Jassem al-Thani, said his counterparts in the Arab League had decided to send a letter to US President Barack Obama explaining the Arab position on the peace process in the Middle East.

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Preceding provided by World Jewish Congress.

Ahmadinejad enacts boycott law against ‘Jewish’ corporations

July 5, 2010 Leave a comment

(WJC)–Iran has banned ‘’ Zionist companies‘ from doing business in Iran, Israel’s ‘Army Radio’ has  reported. The blacklist, approved by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is made up of supposedly “Jewish-owned” international companies like IBM, Intel, Coca-Cola and Nestlé. The blacklist is made up of international companies, mainly American, or that operate branches in Israel. The boycott is seen as a reaction to UN sanctions against Iran passed recently.

The amendment was added to a new law passed in reaction to the Gaza flotilla incident. It is entitled “The ‘Palestinian Support Law’ and seeks to isolate Israel, according to the report. Ahmadinejad also signed a new law forbidding Iranian broadcasters from airing ads for ‘ Zionist companies’. The law was ratified by the Iranian Parliament earlier in June.

The Foreign Ministry in Tehran is responsible for ensuring that the boycott is implemented. Ahmadinejad also announced that he planned to propose similar laws in international forums, such as the United Nations and the Arab League.

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Preceding provided by World Jewish Congress.

Palestinians will be disappointed by hope U.S. or Arab League can deliver Israeli concessions

May 3, 2010 Leave a comment

By Ira Sharkansky

Ira Sharkansky

JERUSALEM–The wet dream of the Palestinians is that someone else will solve their problems by forcing Israel to do what is right. They are told time and again by their leaders that it is only they who have suffered, and only they whose claims are just.

To their own harm, much of the world has signed onto some or all of their narrative. It is common to demand that Israel go back to where it was in 1967. Well-to-do countries pour resources into Palestine, either via UNRWA, or as direct grants to the Palestine National Authority.

The Arab League has adopted the Palestinian baby as its own, and can be counted upon to weigh in with its demands on Israel and others. The League has approved indirect talks between Palestinians and Israelis, and insists on the right to decide if the talks can move into a direct mode.

Now the Palestinians seem to have the American White House in their corner. It is thanks to President Obama that there is about to be another round of negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis.

This is a time for great expectations and speculation. Is there a Palestinian State in the offing? Or will the Palestinians miss another opportunity?

Being modest in the extreme, I will avoid the big questions, and confine myself to comments on the value of all that help the Palestinians have received.

One of my views is that the Palestinians are suffering from the world’s worst case of welfare dependence. Another is that there are too many cooks in this kitchen to produce a good broth.

Welfare kills, at least in the quantity that it has come to Palestinians. If any of their officials have had the skill or the will to join Israelis in formulating a decent proposal for dividing what is available, that has been emasculated by six generations of feeding at someone else’s table and demanding one or another great power to solve their problems.

This may be the Palestinians last chance to work with Israel, rather than with Americans, the UN, Europeans, the Arab League, Third World or non-governmental allies.
It is only Israeli authorities who can agree to something that most Israelis want to achieve: a reasonable division of the land, in light of what has happened to it up until today. If the Palestinians do not make that effort this time, Israelis might gobble up so much of what remains that Palestinians will go the way of the Dodo bird, or all those American Indian tribes that used to be.

The active engagement of the White House, the Arab League, and other hangers-on does not bode well for negotiations. They will reinforce Palestinian dependence on others, and Palestinian insistence on the full mantra of their standard demands.
Palestinians would be better off working with Israel to define an accommodation that appeals to both parties.

That will not be easy. One problem for the Palestinians will come from the insistence of the Arab League and others in behalf of the standard demands. Another is the composition of the Israeli government. It is not a Palestine-friendly collection of individuals and political parties. 

President Obama might help the Palestinians with his rhetoric, but they should remember that he is an American, and not an Arab president. That means he is in a position to lead public opinion at home and abroad, but is dependent on others in political arrangements that may be the most multi-faceted and complex in the world. Congress and the Democratic Party do not make foreign policy, but they provide leverage on the president for American voters, opinion leaders, interest groups, campaign donors, and fund raisers.

We saw some of this at work in the recent moderation of a White House-Israel squabble. It came after a number of prominent Americans expressed the view that the President was too attentive to Palestinian, and not sufficiently concerned with Israeli interests.

Barack Obama likes accomplishments. Like a pragmatic politician in the way of western democracies, he may be more concerned with getting a deal than bothering with all the details.

Will the Palestinians find themselves caught between the insistence of the Arab League and other enthusiasts, their own fascination with a long-serving narrative, a stubborn Israeli government, and an American President pushing for a deal? And what if the American President decides that he cannot go against Israelis and Americans turned off, once again, by Palestinian insistence?

This is not a time for detailed predictions, and it is not my style in any case.

In the remote possibility that any of my words may get to the Palestinians who are involved in this process, I would urge them to stop dreaming, wake up, and take their future into their own hands. 
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Sharkansky is professor emeritus of political science at Hebrew University

Mideast proximity peace talks to start up again

May 1, 2010 Leave a comment

 

By Ira Sharkansky

Ira Sharkansky

JERUSALEM–Here we go again. Maybe.

The stage is set for the beginning of indirect talks between Israel and the abbreviated Palestine National Authority (West Bank without Gaza). The Arab League has provided its endorsement. Palestinian leaders carried that decision on the basis of “assurances” received from the Americans. They are warning that the  building of one new apartment for Jews in East Jerusalem or the destruction of one Arab’s apartment can derail the process. The Arab League is insisting on its authority to monitor the talks, and to judge their progress before agreeing to a shift from indirect to direct talks.

Like other things we are hearing about these negotiations, the appropriate posture is, “Who knows?”

Israelis are participating in the doublespeak. The Prime Minister asserts there has been no concession with respect to building in Jerusalem, but the working people who actually do the planning and issue the permits indicate that things haven’t been moving. The Prime Minister may have given assurances to Americans that he will cool things, but the Interior Minister (SHAS) has ordered his underlings to do their work.

It’s way too early to celebrate a breakthrough, or to decide that essential Israeli or Palestinian interests will be preserved, bargained away, or compromised for the sake of peace.

The big picture includes these ingredients:

Palestinians at the top of their heap in the West Bank appear to be the most pragmatic and least inclined to violence that we have ever seen. Below them, however, are religious extremists and nationalist ideologues inclined to upset any hint of sacrificing their wildest dreams. Those people control Gaza, are well represented in the West Bank population, and can make trouble via their allies in Iran, Syria, and Lebanon.

The American President is more concerned than any of his predecessors. He continues to push despite the problems that he recognizes. He, and people claiming to speak for him, mention even greater involvement if the parties do not show signs of progress according to an American timetable.

As we saw in the health reform he wrung from Congress, President Obama gives higher priority to reaching an achievement than to the quality of its details. Israeli pessimists may be reading the headlines and hoping that reports of an old romance will turn into something real and embarrassing, that Greek, Portuguese, Spanish, or Irish finance, problems in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, or Somalia, or oil in the Gulf of Mexico will cause the White House to invest less energy in Israel-Palestine. Yet the President’s energy seems as expansive as his rhetoric. It is best to assume his continued involvement.
The Israeli government may be the most conservative with respect to issues of Palestine since the 1980s, and perhaps before then. Its composition features a Prime Minister who seems genetically right wing, major partners from the assertive segment of right wing Russian immigrants and religious parties holding the sensitive positions of Foreign Minister and Interior Minister, along with a Defense Minister from the right side of the Labor Party. Their power reflects the virtual disappearance of the Israeli left, which itself comes from frustration with Palestinian violence and rejectionism.

The violence that began in 2000, and that which came out of Gaza after the Israeli withdrawal, as well as the bluster of Hizbollah and the madness of Iran may cause Israel to dig in its heels against whatever may be the readiness of Palestinian moderates and the passions of the American White House.

Against this, however, we should remember that it was Menachem Begin, an iconic father of the Israeli right, who agreed to the complete withdrawal from the Sinai for the sake of agreement with Egypt.

It ain’t over until it’s over.
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Sharkansky is professor emeritus of political science at Hebrew University

Clinton calls on Israel, Palestinians to negotiate a peace

April 16, 2010 Leave a comment

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke extensively on Thursday, April 15, on prospects for Israeli-Palestinian peace during the dedication of the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace  in the American capital city.  Here is a transcript of her comments following her introduction:

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I should just quit while I’m ahead at least. (Laughter.) My goodness, those were wonderful words from my dear friend Danny and from the former congressman (Robert Wexler)  but certainly now the president of this extraordinary center, and bringing so much energy and commitment to this cause. There are so many longtime friends and people whom I admire here in this audience that I can’t possibly go down the line. I know that Sara Ehrman acknowledged so many of the members of the Diplomatic Corps and other distinguished participants, and I echo everything that Sara said. Sara has been a friend of mine for a very considerable length of time. (Laughter.) And Sara, you don’t know this, but when you were standing up here, it was one of those Queen Elizabeth moments, because from where I was sitting, we could only see your eyes. (Laughter.) It was a priceless –

MS. EHRMAN: No respect. (Laughter.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: It’s wonderful being with Sara and Danny because they always put you in your place. (Laughter.)

I am very pleased to have this occasion. Danny has not only written a book called Peace is Possible, he wrote his autobiography which is titled Everything is Possible. I know Danny spent a number of years living in Israel and there wasn’t a more enthusiastic, dedicated citizen of Israel during the time that Danny was there. And he’s often talked to many of us how his passion for Middle East peace is rooted, as Robert said, in his devotion to Israel and in his commitment to Israel’s future and Israel’s security.

 And if you read his autobiography, you can’t bet against Danny Abraham. And I am one of those people who does believe that peace is possible, not out of any misplaced idealism or whatever remnants of naiveté may still pulse somewhere in one or two cells left in my body – (laughter) – but because it has to happen. It has to happen. And I think it’s that meeting of the passion and the love and the devotion with the hard-headed reality and clear-eyed view of the future that Danny Abraham so well embodies. 

He has worked for decades along with his great friend, the late Congressman Wayne Owens, and I am so pleased that his son and granddaughter are here, because Danny and Wayne started on a journey long before many people even anticipated that such a moment could ever be a reality. And whether you’re in Washington or Jerusalem or Cairo or Riyadh, people call Danny a friend, they call him a confidante, and they do call him a visionary.

 Now, this is the second time Danny has asked me to help dedicate a new center. And the last time was at Princeton, which I deeply enjoyed, and I’m pleased that the dean of the Woodrow Wilson School, my friend and great colleague at the State Department, Anne-Marie Slaughter, is here, because that was a memorable event as well. But I love the way Danny does these things. He came to see me at the State Department and he goes, you know, we’re going to have this little thing, you just come, cut a ribbon – (laughter) – and we’ll have a new center with a new president.

Well, this is a testament to the cause of his life and the cause of the lives of so many of you here, Arab and Israeli, Palestinian, American – everyone in this room shares this cause. And the United States and President Obama share it as well. We have long recognized that a strong, secure, and successful Israel is our common goal, but it is also vital to America’s strategic interests. Our countries and our peoples are bound together by our shared values: freedom, equality, democracy, the right to live free from fear, and our common aspirations for a future of peace, security, and prosperity. 

 This week we are commemorating the 65th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camps. Rob mentioned that in addition to everything else, Danny is a World War II veteran. And with every passing year, fewer survivors and fewer liberators are still with us, but their stories remain as powerful and compelling as ever. Each one is a reminder of why a secure homeland for the Jewish people is not an abstraction, not a wish, but a necessity. And next week will be Israel’s Independence Day, when once again Israelis and those who support Israel will renew our commitment to ensure that Israel will always remain independent, secure, free, and flourishing.

Now, for President Obama, whose grandfather marched in Patton’s Army – and I sometimes look at the President when I’m with him and talking about some issue or another, and think about a grandfather who marched in Patton’s Army and a great-uncle who helped to liberate Buchenwald. And I know how rock solid and unwavering his commitment is to Israel’s security and Israel’s future. And from our first day in office, we have made the pursuit of a comprehensive peace a top priority because we are convinced that Israel’s long-term future as a secure and democratic Jewish state depends upon it.

The lack of peace between Israel and the Palestinians threatens that future, holds back the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people, and destabilizes the region and beyond.

I told some of you this, that one of the striking experiences that I had becoming Secretary of State and now having traveled something on the order of 300,000 miles in the last 15 months and going to dozens and dozens of countries, is that when I compare that to my experience as First Lady, where I was also privileged to travel around the world, back in the ‘90s when I went to Asia or Africa or Europe or Latin America, it was rare that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was raised. Now it is the first, second, or third item on nearly every agenda of every country I visit.

What does that mean? Well, it means that this conflict has assumed a role in the global geostrategic environment that carries great weight. And it also means that there is a yearning on the part of people who have never been to Israel and never met a Palestinian that somehow, some way, we create the circumstances for this to finally be resolved.

As Rob said, last month at AIPAC’s national conference, I spoke about the challenge that Israel faces. And tonight I want to focus on how a struggle despite the difficulty to achieve comprehensive peace is critical, not just to Israel and not just to the Palestinians and not just to the United States, but to the future of this world we share.

And what I worry about is that a failure to act now when there are changed circumstances, including the Arab Peace Initiative, including the very broadly shared fear of Iran’s intentions and actions, will not just set us back, but may irreversibly prevent us from going forward. The failure to pursue a comprehensive peace takes place in an ideological struggle for the future of the Middle East. Because make no mistake about it: Those in the region most hostile to peace, those in the region most opposed to compromise and coexistence, are those who do not have Israel’s best interests at heart and do not have the Palestinians’ best interests at heart.

There are so many actors right now who are willing to make commitments and take actions that would have been unthinkable one, two, three, four years ago. I see my friend the foreign minister of Jordan, Nasser Judeh. He and I talk all the time about the imperative of moving this forward. And yet we know that those who benefit from our failure of leadership traffic in hate and violence, and give strength to Iran’s anti-Semitic president and extremists like Hamas and Hezbollah.

Every step back from the peace table and every flare-up in violence undermines the positive players across the region who seek to turn the page and focus on building a more hopeful and prosperous Middle East. It undercuts the reformers attempting to develop functioning institutions and accountable governments, the entrepreneurs and economists trying to foster broad-based growth, the civil society organizers and activists working for common ground and mutual understanding, and all the mothers and fathers who hope for peace for their children and grandchildren.

 So all of us do have a stake in the outcome, but there are only two peoples who can make the decisions. Danny Abraham can’t want this more than the leaders of Israel and of the Palestinians. President Obama can’t work harder than the people of Israel and the Palestinian territories. The goal of a comprehensive peace and all the benefits that we believe that would bring hangs in the balance. Because peace and progress must be driven from both above and below. They require leaders – yes – willing to take risks, populations that demand results, and institutions that can deliver tangible benefits for people’s lives. That is why the United States supports two tracks in the Middle East – negotiations between the parties aimed at reaching a two-state solution and institution building that lays the necessary foundation for a future state for the Palestinians and security guarantees that provide for the security of the state of Israel. But none of these efforts, no matter how sincerely pursued, can be successful if extremists win the argument. 

 Now, this struggle plays out starkly among the Palestinians themselves. For nearly 20 years, Fatah and Hamas have vied for the right to chart the future for the Palestinian people. And today they articulate opposing arguments for how best to realize Palestinians aspirations. To those disillusioned by a peace process that has delivered too little, Hamas peddles the false hope that a Palestinian state can somehow be achieved through violence and uncompromising resistance. And across the divide, President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad and the Palestinian Authority argue for the two-track approach of pursuing a political settlement and institution building.

Hamas claims any failure of the peace process as vindication of their rejectionist view. The Palestinian Authority has the harder job: to convince a skeptical people that peace is not just possible, but the surest route to bettering their lives and achieving their aspirations.

And the results of these competing approaches can be seen every day in Palestinian streets and neighborhoods, sharpening the choices that confronts the Palestinian people and answering those who suggest there is little difference between the two.

 In Gaza, Hamas presides over a crumbling enclave of terror and despair. It stockpiles rockets intended for Israeli cities while the people of Gaza fall deeper into poverty.

Unemployment runs as high as 38 percent – and even higher among young people – yet Hamas impedes international assistance and the work of humanitarian NGOs, and does little to promote sustainable economic growth. Hamas has revealed itself as uninterested in development, institution building, peace, or progress.

 Hamas claims to seek peace, prosperity, and a state for its people, but it refuses to take the first necessary steps: renunciation of violence, recognition of Israel, and acceptance of previous agreements. Those are the building blocks for a viable, independent, and contiguous Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with Israel – and we urge Hamas to embrace those steps. And I will repeat what I have said many times before: Gilad Shalit must be released immediately and returned to his family. That is unfinished business that must be accomplished.

But unfortunately, Hamas appears set on continued conflict with Israel with little regard for what that will mean for the Palestinian people. Only by exploiting the frustration and hostility created by the conflict can Hamas hope to distract its people from its failure to govern.
 
President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad have produced very different results in a relatively short period of time.

The PLO has emerged as a credible partner for peace. It has rejected violence, improved security, made progress on combating incitement, and accepted Israel’s right to exist. 

The Palestinian Authority’s two-year plan envisions a state that is based on pluralism, equality, religious tolerance, and the rule of law, created through a negotiated settlement with Israel, and capable of meeting the needs of its citizens and supporting a lasting peace. Under the leadership of President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad, the PA is addressing a history of corruption and building transparent and accountable institutions. The United States has partnered with the PA to improve the effectiveness of its security forces, and General Dayton is here this evening and I want personally and publicly to thank him for his efforts. (Applause.)

Reforms have increased public confidence in the courts – last year they handled 67 percent more cases than in 2008. The PA is building schools and hospitals and training teachers and medical staff, and even developing a national health insurance program. (Laughter.)

Sound fiscal policies, support from the international community – including hundreds of millions of dollars this year alone from the United States, which continues to be the PA’s largest bilateral donor – and improving security and rule of law have led to significant economic growth. More and more Palestinians in the West Bank are finding jobs, starting businesses, and reversing the economic stagnation that followed the outbreak of the Intifada in 2000. The number of new business licenses issued in the West Bank in the fourth quarter of 2009 was 50 percent higher than in the same period in 2008. And three new venture capital funds are set to launch this year with the support of American, Arab, and European investors.

Now, considerable work remains. The PA must redouble its efforts to put an end to incitement and violence, crack down on corruption, and ingrain a culture of peace and tolerance among Palestinians. The leadership should refrain from using international organizations, particularly the United Nations, as platforms for inflammatory rhetoric. And we strongly encourage President Abbas and his government to join negotiations with Israel now. Because Israelis must see as well, that pursuing the path of progress and diplomacy can and will lead to peace and security. But there is no doubt that, so far, the progress we are seeing in the West Bank is encouraging.

Last year I visited a classroom in Ramallah where Palestinian students were learning English through a U.S.-sponsored program that has taught thousands of Palestinian young people. I happened to be there when they were studying Women’s History Month and Sally Ride, the first woman astronaut, was the subject. The students, especially the girls, were captivated by her story. And when I asked for a single word to describe Sally and her accomplishments, one student responded: “hopeful.”

Well, today hope is stirring in the West Bank because of strong leadership and hard work. And people are beginning to see differences in their daily lives which enables them then to imagine a different future for their children.

But this progress is tenuous. Without increased support from the international community, including from the Arab states, without larger, steadier, and more predictable financial support, the Palestinian Authority’s efforts to build institutions and spur growth could run out of steam. Because if the PA cannot overcome corruption and smuggling, development will fall short. And if it fails to control violence, progress will slow to a halt.

Extending and sustaining this positive development also requires Israel to be a partner. The Netanyahu government has lifted roadblocks and eased movements throughout the West Bank. These also are encouraging moves that will improve the quality of life, but Israel can and should do more to support the Palestinian Authority’s efforts to build credible institutions and deliver results. Both sides would benefit from a real partnership that fosters long-term growth and opportunity.

Because ultimately the fate of these efforts hinges on the peace process. In contrast to Hamas, the Palestinian Authority has staked its credibility on a path of peaceful coexistence. Even more than economic opportunities, that path for the Palestinians must lead to a state of their own, for the dignity that all people deserve, and the right to chart their own destiny. If President Abbas cannot deliver on those aspirations, there’s no doubt his support will fade and Palestinians will turn to alternatives – including Hamas. And that way leads only to more conflict.

Now, I’ve had friends of mine – Israelis – say, but you know we can’t determine what happens and we just have to hold firm to the positions we hold. As I said in my AIPAC speech, there are three problems with that position: demography, ideology, and technology.

So for Israel, accepting concrete steps toward peace – both through the peace process and in the bottoms-up institutions building I have described – are the best weapons against Hamas and other extremists. Prime Minister Netanyahu has embraced the vision of the two-state solution. But easing up on access and movement in the West Bank, in response to credible Palestinian security performance, is not sufficient to prove to the Palestinians that this embrace is sincere. So we encourage Israel to continue building momentum toward a comprehensive peace by demonstrating respect for the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinians, stopping settlement activity, and addressing the humanitarian needs in Gaza, and to refrain from unilateral statements and actions that could undermine trust or risk prejudicing the outcome of talks.

Now, Israel has worked hard to improve security. And along with the increased capacity and commitment of Palestinian security forces and the construction of the wall, which I have defended as a senator and I defend as the Secretary of State, the number of suicide bombings – thankfully – has dropped significantly. And as a result, some in Israel have come to believe that they are protected by walls, buoyed by a dynamic economy, and can avoid having to do anything right now. Because these are hard choices that they are confronting.

But that would mean continuing an impasse that not only carries tragic human costs and denies Palestinians their legitimate aspirations, but which threatens Israel’s long-term future as a secure and democratic Jewish state. Israelis and Palestinians alike must confront the reality that the status quo has not produced long-term security or served their interests, and accept their share of responsibility for reaching a comprehensive peace that will benefit both sides.

So too must the Arab states, many of whom are represented here tonight, who worry about the destabilizing impact of extremists like Hamas but don’t do enough to bolster the efforts of the Palestinian Authority. It is also in the interest of Arab states to advance the Arab Peace Initiative with actions, not just rhetoric, make it easier for the Palestinians to pursue negotiations and achieve an agreement. If the Arab Peace Initiative is indeed, as Rob said, the genuine offer it appears to be, we should not face threats by certain Arab states that it will be “taken off the table” each time there is a setback. We look forward to a deeper conversation about implementing the Initiative and the concrete results it would bring to the people of the region. And we are very encouraged by the work of a number of NGOs and civil society groups, including some who are represented here, to articulate a more complete vision of those benefits of peace.

Now, for our part, the United States understands the need to support the reforms of the Palestinian Authority and continue efforts to restart substantive negotiations. We not only know we cannot force a solution, we have no interest in forcing a solution. The parties themselves are the only ones who can resolve their differences. (Applause.) But as a good friend, we believe that through good-faith negotiations, the parties can mutually agree to an outcome which ends the conflict and reconciles the Palestinian goal of an independent and viable state based on the ‘67 lines, with agreed swaps, and Israel’s goal of a Jewish state with secure and recognized borders that reflect subsequent developments and meet Israel’s security requirements.

This will require all parties to make difficult but necessary choices. And it will take leadership. Now, we’ve seen this before. We’ve seen it over the last years from the time when Sadat and Begin extended a hand of peace because they knew it would make their people stronger.

Reflecting on one of his many conversations with Egyptian President Mubarak, Danny once observed that, “There is no question that… many of the leading figures in the Arab world know what benefits a full peace with Israel will bring to their countries, but they also know that in the prevailing political climate it is dangerous to state such a truth.”

Changing that climate is up to each and every one of us. And it requires the mobilizing of a broad constituency for peace that provides a political counterweight to the forces of division and destruction. There is an ever-more pressing imperative to make the case for peace clearly and publicly. And the most compelling arguments are the benefits that Israelis and Palestinians will see.

I often think about a friend to many of us, Yitzhak Rabin. He wondered how deeply the support for peace ran among his people, because he understood that agreements between leaders are the beginning, not the end of anything. Whether peace takes hold depends upon it becoming a habit of the heart. In order for it to be real, people have to learn to live and work and go to school together. Peace must grow in homes and communities, not just in national capitals. It needs to be nurtured and then passed on to the next generation.

So, Danny, you’re right; peace is possible in the Middle East. But whether it comes to pass depends on us. This center is so well-named today for you, because despite the setbacks, the twists and the turns, you have never given up on your belief and conviction in peace. The worst thing can happen and the phone will ring, Rob. We are all familiar with that. (Laughter.) I don’t know how many times Danny called my husband in the 1990s or how many times he called and said he had to come see me in the Senate or come see me in the State Department. But the message is always the same: You must persist; peace requires you to persist.

And so, Danny, we are here to say we do believe with you that peace is possible. And like you, we will do everything we can to see it happen. And we want you to know that when it finally does come kicking and screaming across the finish line, it’s going to be because you never gave up. And for that, we love you. (Applause.)

*
Preceding provided by U.S. State Department

The Jews Down Under~Roundup of Australian Jewish News

February 5, 2010 Leave a comment

Compiled by Garry Fabian 

Cooking duo eyes $100,000 prize

MELBOURNE,  3 February – Forget the stereotype of  the Jewish grandmother slaving away over bubbling  chicken soup and kneidlach in the kitchen,

Australia’s newest Jewish super chefs are Clint Yudelman and Noah Rose.

The culinary duo are the Victorian contestants on  Australia’s newest reality TV cooking show, My Kitchen Rules.

It took some organising to catch  up with  Yudelman in his family’s home in Caulfield North
to talk about the show and the prospect of fame and fortune.

The quiet but confident Mount Scopus Memorial  College graduate said he had found his way onto the cooking show after a friend applied to be a contestant.

Following phone and face-to-face interviews, the  24-year-old cooked a dish of seared tuna with Asian greens and Japanese sauce in 15 minutes to wow the casting agents.

And wow them he did, with Yudelman and Rose, 23,  selected as the only Victorians on the Channel  Seven show which premiered on February 1. In the  show five pairs travel to each others’ dinner  parties under the watchful eyes of celebrity chefs, and My Kitchen Rules judges, Peter Evans and Manu Feildel.

“It was a great opportunity to travel the country,” Yudelman said.

The pair ate at homes in Sydney, Adelaide,  Brisbane and Perth — where they stayed a few
extra days to surf and discover the culinary  delights of the Margaret River region.

After the initial dinner parties, the show moved  into a commercial kitchen, where contestants  pitted their abilities against each other.

“It was daunting and hard to be natural,”  Yudelman said of his first television experience.
“You had to pretend [the camera was] not there.”

He explained that the pair teamed up in the  kitchen because they both used to be vegetarians.

“We couldn’t eat salads all the time, so we had to get creative,” he said.

Rose agreed: “You need to be creative or it just  becomes boring being vegetarian. But it did
expose me to many different vegetables and spices.”

Eventually, however, they both returned to eating  meat, and Yudelman — who graduated as a vet last  year and has just begun practising in Brisbane —  joked that he is familiar with animals “from paddock to plate”.

Somewhat surprisingly for a couple of Jewish  boys, they list their favourite ingredient as fresh seafood. Rose opts for scallops, which he likes to serve  seared with seasonal produce. Yudelman’s  signature dish, meanwhile, is pan-fried Wagyu beef eye fillet finished in the oven, on lightly  sauteed snow peas with caramelised shallots,  sweet potato puree, red wine sauce and mushroom duxelle.

On a more Jewish note, though, Yudelman’s “dream  dinner party guests” are mostly members of the  tribe — the three lead men from the hit TV  comedy Seinfeld, Albert Einstein and Woody Allen.  Rose would also invite Jerry Seinfeld, as well as  Napoleon Bonaparte, Oscar Wilde and Tiger Woods.

It is not celebrities, however, who the boys will  have to impress to be crowned kings of the
kitchen, but their fellow contestants. And with a  $100,000 prize up for grabs, the winning chefs will certainly get their just desserts.

*
New Jewish School opens up in Sydney’s west

SYDNEY< 3 February – A new Jewish school, ­ the  B’nai Yakov School, ­ has opened in Sydney’s western suburbs.

Located at the Parramatta and District Synagogue,  the B’nai Yakov School is registered with the NSW  Board of Studies and will cater to children in years K-6.

Inaugural principal, Rabbi Yoseph Wernick, said:  “Although the Parramatta Jewish community has  always been small with around 100 families, it  has always been a vibrant and youthful community.

“For many years, families wishing to provide  their children with a Jewish day school education  would have to travel to Sydney’s larger Jewish  communities. Now that has changed.”

Rabbi Wernick said the school is integrating  Jewish and general studies in order to provide a Jewish knowledge base, while at the same time meeting all the requirements of the NSW Board of Studies.

It caters to students of all academic levels and  offers sports and physical education,
extra-curricular and social activities, as well  as enrichment and extension programs for gifted students.

The school is named after the synagogue’s former  minister, Rabbi Gerald (Yacov) Blaivas, who  served the Jewish community as a sofer (scribe)  and as rabbi of Illawarra Synagogue before  heading to Parramatta. He was also an advocate for Jewish children in court.

Rabbi Wernick said: “His dedication to the youth  in general, and to Jewish education in particular, is legendary.”

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Countdown begins for Maccabi Games

SYDNEY, 3 February –  Maccabi Australia has  appointed Ellana Aarons to head Australia’s team  management at the second Maccabi Australia  International Games (MAIGs), to be held in December 2010 and January 2011 in Sydney.

With the tournament set to attract a healthy contingent of international competition, Aarons  said her challenge is to “better that and get  quality Australian teams on the field”.

In a bid to build the profile of the MAIGs and encourage Australian Jewry to support the event,  Aarons plans to “keep costs to a bare minimum” to entice local participation.

Aarons’ vision is for the MAIGs to not only be a  fierce international competition, but to attract  such local numbers that interstate Australian  rivalry can be rekindled at senior level by  fielding separate sides from NSW, Victoria and  Western Australia in major sports, such as basketball, football and netball.

“We would hope if there are quality athletes that would allow us to have two teams in a sport, we will be doing that,” Aarons said.

“We need to keep in mind it’s an international  competition, but in many ways for us, because we  won’t be able to get together [for training camps], our state-based sides will be stronger
anyway. Then you’re coming with mates, you’re  going to have a good time, it’s not ripping teams  apart to create new teams . it’s an opportunity to re-ignite state rivalry.”

The long-time Maccabi player and administrator’s  first task is to assemble a management committee,  before player nominations open in mid-April.

Meanwhile, MAIG’s chairman Jeff Houseman said  that 13 countries have confirmed their
attendance, with further details to be formalised  when he attends a meeting in Israel in May.

The Games will be officially launched on February 14 with a gala function at the IMAX theatre’s  Star Room, in Darling Harbour, Sydney.

Heads of delegation from the US, Canada, and  possibly South Africa and Brazil, will join
Maccabi Australia in launching the MAIGs, and  Houseman has implored Sydney Maccabi clubs and players to support the event.

While it is still early days, Houseman has  declared that preparations are “going well”.

“The sports are going extremely well,” he assessed. “It’s just a matter of countries
putting their hand up and hopefully we’ll have a better idea after the meeting. Cycling [which was not on the original list] has come on big time, which is just incredible.

“The rugby club has asked for rugby to be put on, and we’re seeing if there is any interest. If
countries put up their hands, Australia has to as well.”

*
Rabbi Apple reflects on a lifetime of issues

SYDNEY, 4 February – Rabbi Raymond Apple says he  is “not a great believer in people writing  autobiographies unless they’ve had a very  exciting and dramatic life, which I really haven’t.”

So, in shaping his memoir, he resisted the idea of writing a standard autobiography.

“But to amuse myself, I started writing a series  of reflective chapters about the involvements and  commitments that have been part of my life. And  it ended being around 100 such chapters,” said  the emeritus rabbi of Sydney’s The Great Synagogue.

Sorted alphabetically, these essays, from  Aborigines to Zionism, give a thematic view of
the issues that have mattered to him ­ among  them, social justice, Jewish history, the arts,
his rabbinic colleagues and sport ­ rather than a chronology of events.

“If you want to know what I did in a particular  year, you won’t find it, but if you want to know  the sort of person I am, you’ll get the impression by looking at the book,” the
Australian rabbinic doyen, who now makes his home in Israel, he said.

The book, To Be Continued, will be launched by Professor Alan Crown and the Australian Jewish  Historical Society at The University of Sydney on February 8.

Both Prof Crown and Rabbi Apple are honorary  masters of the university’s Mandelbaum House, where the event will take place.

Describing his writing style as “light-hearted  and almost self-deprecating,” Rabbi Apple
declared: “I think it’s important almost to be able to laugh at yourself.”

Rabbi Apple was educated in Melbourne, attained  his s’micha in London, and took up his post with The Great in 1972.

An Australian interfaith pioneer, he was a  founding member and joint president of the
Australian Council of Christians and Jews, and  has spoken out on social justice issues.

As suggested by the memoir’s title, Rabbi Apple  saw his departure from The Great as a chance for continuity.

Living in Jerusalem with his wife Marian, and  writing there, has inspired the rabbi, who said
he spent a lifetime enhancing others’ religiosity “to work on my own soul.”

*
A taste of Kosher comes to town

MELBOURNE, 5 February – Kosher foodies will have  the opportunity to sample the latest products and innovations later this month.

Eskal KosherFest Australia 2010, Australian  kashrut’s trade fair, will take place on Sunday,
February 14 at St Kilda Town Hall, with  organisers expecting around 5000 people to pass through the doors.

The exhibitors will include Australian manufacturers, importers and retailers of kosher foods and beverages.

Josh Bartak, head of the exhibition’s organising  committee, said the event allows those in the  industry to use their stands to demonstrate and  explain the development of a particular product or company.

“KosherFest gives manufacturers, importers,  distributors and retailers of kosher products the  opportunity to showcase their goods in a fun, family-friendly environment.”

Organisers have added rides to entertain children, while parents and grandparents can
enjoy food samples and live cooking demonstrations, Bartak said.

Organisers are emphasising the broad appeal of  kosher products beyond the Jewish community, and  quote figures from the Israel Trade Commission  showing that the potential market for kosher  foods in Australia is more than one million people.

Kosher products have attracted interest from  Hindu, Muslim and Buddhist communities, as well  as vegetarians, vegans and those with special dietary needs.

“This year, there is also a cheese and wine bar  for consumers to rest and kibitz [chat],” Bartak said.

Among a diverse spread of 27 exhibitors this year  are Fisher & Paykel, Yumi’s, Coles, the City of  Port Phillip and health foods retailer Bodhi Kitchen.

*
New Australian ambassador to Israel

CANBERRA, 5 February – Australia will have a new ambassador to Israel with Andrea Faulkner set to  take over from James Larsen in March.

Faulkner, a diplomat who has previously spent  time in Tel Aviv, has extensive experience in the  Australian foreign service. She recently served  as assistant secretary of the Department of  Foreign Affairs and Trade’s Africa branch.

She represented Australia in Vietnam, as  second-in-command of the embassy in Hanoi. She
has also worked in Paris and had a previous stint in the Tel Aviv embassy.

In announcing Faulkner’s appointment, Foreign  Minister Stephen Smith spoke highly of Australia and Israel’s relationship.

“Australia and Israel’s longstanding and warm  friendship is based on Australia’s historical
support for Israel and our shared commitment to  freedom, security and democracy,” Smith said.

Larsen leaves Israel after more than three years in the job.

*
Arab Bully Boy tactic threatens  UN aspiration

CANBERRA,  5 February – The Jewish community is  calling on the Australian Government to stick to  its guns in its support for Israel, despite Arab  representatives attempting to blackmail the country into changing its views or lose the  chance of a United Nations (UN) seat.

As reported in The Australian this week, Arab  League representative Hashem Yousseff, who is  currently in the country, said Australia’s  staunch support for the Jewish State will be
“taken into consideration” when Arab nations vote  on whether Australia should take a temporary UN  Security Council seat in 2013-14.

The Israeli embassy in Canberra issued a statement rejecting Yousseff’s logic.

“Any nation considering their support for a vote  on a Security Council seat should first reflect on the merits of the nominee and the contribution  that they may make to international affairs,  before considering their own self-interest,” it declared.

“Australia has illustrated its dedication to  upholding its values in the international sphere.”

Israel has already offered its support for  Australia’s bid at a seat on the UN’s most influential body.

“We believe Australia is a nation of principle  and dedication to the betterment of worldwide citizens,” the statement read.

Meanwhile, Executive Council of Australian Jewry  (ECAJ) president Robert Goot accused the 22-nation Arab League of using bullying tactics.

“He [Yousseff] should know that Australians do  not succumb to standover behaviour,” Goot said.

“It would be a good thing for Australia to have a  seat on the UN Security Council, but not if the price for obtaining it is to abandon our principles and bow to bully-boy threats.”

Goot put his confidence in the Australian Government, saying he believes Australia’s  leadership “has the moral fibre” to continue  supporting Israel, a two-state solution and peace in the Middle East.

Dr Colin Rubenstein from the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council argued Yousseff’s comments were unsurprising considering his organisation’s track record.

“Unfortunately, the Arab League has rarely  displayed any inclination to be a constructive
force for Middle East peace and their  traditionally retrograde and unhelpful strategy
of focusing on boycotts and diplomatic posturing  to isolate, condemn and debunk Israel was again  on display in Mr Yousseff’s statements,” Dr Rubenstein said.

Australia, together with the United States,  Canada and a number of micro-states, consistently opposes anti-Israel motions in the UN General Assembly.

Since the Rudd Government won its term, Australia  has changed its decision on three unbinding votes pertaining to Israel, but it remained one of only a handful of nations last year to reject the  adoption of the controversial Goldstone report on the Gaza war.

*
Welcome mat pulled from Israeli academic

MELBOURNE, 5 February – An invitation to an  Israeli academic to speak in Melbourne has been  cancelled  because she heads an organisation that  aided a UN report critical of Israel’s conduct during last year’s war in Gaza.

Professor Naomi Chazan, who was a member of the  Israeli parliament from 1992 to 2003, was to  address a fund-raiser at Beth Weizmann Community  Centre next week. But her invitation by the Union of Progessive Judaism was withdrawn after it  emerged that the New Israel Fund, of which she is  president, has given millions of dollars in  grants to Israeli non-government organistions  that had spoken to a UN investigation team, led by Justice Richard Goldstone.

The president of the Zionist Council of Victoria,  Dr Danny Lamm said that the invitation to
Professor Chazan was extended by an affiliate  member of his organisation.. But he said that her  association with the  New Israel Fund was “intolerable.”

“When I became aware of the  New Israel Fund’s  activities with regard to the Goldstone report, I  withdrew our participation. Organisations that  they have funded have done damage to Israel and  as a consequence we don’t want to have anything
to do with the New Israel Fund,”  Lamm added.

*
Fabian is Australia bureau chief for San Diego Jewish World