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Mitchell: Mideast talks ‘serious and substantive’

September 15, 2010 Leave a comment

JERUSALEM (Press Release) — U.S. Middle East Envoy George Mitchell met with journalists on Wednesday, September 15, in Jerusalem, and provided the following information:

MITCHELL: Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. I apologize for the delay, but it’s the result of the fact that a serious and substantive discussion is well underway. The trilateral discussion this evening lasted for about two hours. Present were Prime Minister Netanyahu, President Abbas, Secretary Clinton, and myself. We’re grateful to the prime minister and to the Government of Israel for hosting the meeting.

Prior to the trilateral, Secretary Clinton and Prime Minister Netanyahu met bilaterally. She will have a separate bilateral meeting with President Abbas tomorrow in Ramallah. Earlier today, the Secretary also met with Israeli President Peres, Foreign Minister Lieberman, Defense Minister Barak, and Palestinian Prime Minister Fayyad. Her discussions were productive and focused on ways to support the complementary political and institution-building tracks that are both necessary to achieve a just and lasting Israeli-Palestinian peace. Read more…

Why I just disinherited my alma mater

August 27, 2010 2 comments

By Bruce Kesler

Bruce Kesler

ENCINITAS, California–I just updated my will and trust and, with heavy heart, cut out what was a significant bequest to my alma mater, Brooklyn College.

What caused the disinheritance is that all incoming freshmen and transfer students are given a copy of a book to read, and no other, to create their “common experience.” This same book is one of the readings in their required English course. The author is a radical pro-Palestinian professor there.

When I attended in the 1960s, Brooklyn College – then rated one of the tops in the country — was, like most campuses, quite liberal. But, there was no official policy to inculcate students with a political viewpoint. Now there is.  That is unacceptable.

The book is How Does It Feel To Be A Problem?: Being Young and Arab in America It is interviews with seven Arab-Americans in their 20s about their experiences and difficulties in the US. There’s appreciation of freedoms in the US, and deep resentment at feeling or being discriminated against post-9/11.

The seven are not a representative sample. Six are Moslem and one Christian. According to the Arab American Institute, 63% of Arab-Americans are Christian, 24% Muslim. The author chose those interviewed and those included in the book. 

The title of the book is drawn from communist WEB DuBois’ same question in 1903 in his treatise The Souls of Black Folk. The current book consciously draws a parallel, ridiculous on its face, between the horrible and pervasive discrimination and injustices that Blacks were subjected to a century ago and Arab-Americans today.

The author asserts “The core issue [of Middle East turbulence] remains the rights of the Palestinian people to self-determination,” that the post-1967 history of the entire area is essentially that of “imperialism American-style,” and that the US government “limits the speech of Arab Americans in order to cement United States policy on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” Again, preposterous.

The author is Moustafa Bayoumi. He is called an “Exalted Islamic Grievance Peddler” with the following summary of his background:

“The second featured speaker at WCU’s forum was Moustafa Bayoumi, an associate professor of English at Brooklyn College and co-editor of The Edward Said Reader. Bayoumi contends that in the aftermath of 9/11, armed INS officials, U.S. Marshals, and FBI agents routinely roused Muslims from their beds ‘in the middle of the night’—indiscriminately arresting, shackling, and investigating them for possible terrorist connections.”

In September 2002, a year after 9/11, Bayoumi lamented that “an upswing in hate crimes [against American Muslims] has already begun.” As proof, he cited statistics, which would be thoroughly discredited, put forth by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). He then pointed to CAIR’s claim that “57 percent of American Muslims report that they have experienced bias or discrimination since Sept. 11,” and that “48 percent of [Muslim] respondents believe their lives have changed for the worse since the attacks.” “This is hardly surprising,” Bayoumi reasoned. “For the past year, Muslims have endured a daily barrage of demagoguery, distortions and outright lies about their faith. Never well understood in this country, Islam is now routinely caricatured.”

In March 2006, Bayoumi took up this theme again, asserting that “Muslim-bashing has become socially acceptable in the United States.” In 2008 he wrote: “It’s been seven years after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, and many young American Muslims are convinced that much of American society views them with growing hostility. They’re right.”

The theme of Muslim victimhood is by no means restricted solely to Bayoumi’s view of the United States. Indeed, he depicts Palestinian suicide bombings as little more than desperate reactions to “a brutal [Israeli] military occupation that has been strangling the Palestinian people for decades.”

Most recently, Bayoumi edited a book, Midnight on the Mavi Marmara: The Attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla and How It Changed the Course of the Israel/Palestinian Conflict, defending it and calling it Israel’s Selma, Alabama, the focal point for US civil rights struggles in the 1960s.

Online I found two professors who protested to the college president. One, retired from Brooklyn College, said:  This is wholly inappropriate.  It smacks of indoctrination. It will intimidate incoming students who have a different point of view (or have formed no point of view), sending the message that only one side will be approved on this College campus. It can certainly intimidate untenured faculty as well.”

Another, currently on the faculty, said: While our community of learning is committed to freedom of speech and expression, does that require that we must expose new students to the anti-American and anti-Israeli preachings of this professor? At the least, do not our students deserve a balanced presentation?

Another retired professor living in Brooklyn, protested and received back from a Dean:

Each year professors in the English Department and I select a common reading for our entering students. We choose memoirs (a genre familiar to students) set in New York City, often reflecting an immigrant experience, and written by authors who are available to visit campus. Students in freshman composition respond to the common reading by writing about their own experiences, many of them published in Telling Our Stories; Sharing our Lives’. This year we selected How Does It Feel to be a Problem: Being Young and Arab in America by one of our own faculty members, Professor Moustafa Bayoumi, because it is a well-written collection of stories by and about young Arab Brooklynites whose experiences may be familiar to our students, their neighbors, or the students with whom they will study and work at Brooklyn College. We appreciate your concerns. Rest assured that Brooklyn College values tolerance, diversity, and respect for differing points of view in all that we do.”

The professor tells us what happened next: 

“S I wrote to her again, and again, and then again once more, suggesting that she provide some balance to Bayoumi’s book, that she provide additional authors and additional speakers. I even suggested another author, Paul Berman, also resident in Brooklyn, also writing on Arab themes, also willing (I would assume) to speak to her students. And what did Dean Wilson reply to these repeated suggestions of mine ? You guessed it, she did not deign to reply at all.

Another professor’s unpublished letter (which I verified with him; I’ve verified the others also) to the college president said: “Anyone who has taught at a university during the past quarter-century and more knows that the slogan of ‘diversity’ generally alludes to its opposite (i.e., imposed uniformity of thought camouflaged by diversity of physical appearance) and also foretells mischief.”

I will always appreciate the excellent liberal arts education I received at Brooklyn College, and the critical thinking that has caused me to disinherit it.

A Board member tells me the 55,000-member Scholars for Peace in the Middle East is now considering its next move.

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Kesler, a freelance writer based in Encinitas, also published this article on the Maggie’s Farm website.

Violence flares in Silwan neighborhood of Jerusalem

August 26, 2010 Leave a comment

JERUSALEM (WJC)–Muslim protestors set ablaze half a dozen vehicles in the eastern part of Jerusalem on Thursday and threw stones and firebombs at Israeli police after Jewish settlers approached a mosque, local residents and police said. There were no reported injuries in the incident in the Silwan neighborhood, where tensions have flared between Palestinians and a small group of settlers who have moved there in the past two decades.

Local residents said settlers tried to reach a spring, which religious Jews view as a biblical site, by crossing through a mosque courtyard. Israeli police said Palestinians then took to the streets in violent demonstrations, throwing rocks and firebombs at police and vehicles, burning six cars.

“At three a.m., four settlers arrived and asked to open the gate so they could take a shortcut to a spring,” Mahmoud Karin, a resident of the neighborhood, told the ‘Haaretz’ newspaper. “One of the [Muslim] worshippers saw them and yelled to them to find out what they were doing and they fled,” he was quoted as saying. The settlers involved in the incident denied the Palestinian allegations, saying that “the story with the gate is completely unfamiliar to us.”
 
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Preceding provided by World Jewish Congress

There’s a pro-Israel ‘BIG RIG’ coming down the highway of public opinion

August 26, 2010 Leave a comment

By Roz Rothstein and Roberta Seid

LOS ANGELES — Anti-Israel activists are now putting all their energy into their Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions campaign (BDS). Their goal is to portray Israel and Israelis as pariahs that should be excluded from all international spheres—diplomatic, political, economic, social, and cultural.
 
Jews have been victims of such policies before.  In the millennia of anti-Semitism in Europe and the Middle East, they have been singled out, demonized, and excluded, as they were, for example, in 13th century England and 1930’s Europe. The Jewish State, too, has experienced such policies since its founding when Arab nations implemented strict exclusion and boycotts against Israel, most of which are still in place. The current global BDS campaign began in 2001 and grew after 2005, when Israel effectively defeated the terrorist campaign known as the Second Intifada. Today, hard core anti-Israel activists around the world are feverishly lobbying artists, universities, churches, retailers, unions, municipalities, and other institutions to adopt BDS.
 
Any public figures, retailers, institutions or organizations that adopt or defer to BDS policies should themselves be boycotted.

They should be boycotted because they advocate destructive rather than constructive, measures. BDS is anti-coexistence, undermines peace efforts, and does nothing to help Palestinians begin state building, improve their lives, or move toward reconciliation.
 
They should be boycotted because BDS policies are fundamentally anti-Semitic even though some of the movement’s advocates are Jews. The campaign uses the propaganda techniques and imagery of classical anti-Semitism now applied not to individual Jews, but to the world’s largest Jewish community and its only Jewish State. Boycott activists strip away all context for Israel’s actions, such as ongoing terrorism and the virulent ideology that propels it, in order to depict Israel as motivated by sheer malice in what are often simply modern blood libels. They obsessively put a microscope on Israel to detect its flaws, and expect it to live up to standards they do not expect of any other nation.  They never call for BDS against nations that do systematically commit war crimes and human rights abuses, such as Ahmadinejad’s Iran, Bashir’s Sudan, Lebanon’s apartheid practices against Palestinians, or Turkey’s occupation of northern Cyprus and violent repression of its Kurdish minority.
 
They should be boycotted because of their hypocrisy.  Where was the outrage of the boycotters, who claim to be champions of social justice and human rights, when the Palestinian suicide bombing campaign targeted innocent Jewish men, women, and children, and Hamas fired thousands of rockets from Gaza into Israeli communities, murdering toddlers and turning daily life into a lethal game of Russian roulette?  Where were they when Ahmadinejad denied the Holocaust even as he called for genocide against Jews?  Where is their protest against the Judeophobic incitement that dominates the Middle East?  Their callous indifference and implicit support of murdering Jews is both morally perverse and anti-Semitic.
 
Above all, they should be boycotted because they endorse the agendas of the dictatorial regimes and radical Islamist groups who share their hatred of the Jewish State and who are also enemies of human rights, social justice values, tolerance, and modernity. These states and groups like Hamas oppress women, persecute religious and other minorities, and oppress their own citizens. Those who adopt BDS should be exposed and pay the price for supporting and enabling the intransigent enemies of humanitarian and liberal values.
 
Boycotting those who comply with BDS means that any university that does not unequivocally denounce campus divestment campaigns should not receive another nickel from donors who care about fairness, the survival of Israel, and modern liberal values.  Recording artists who refuse to perform in Israel should be labeled as extremists for the regressive, anti-Semitic values they endorse. Fair-minded people should stop buying their records and attending their concerts.  Consumers should boycott any retailers who refuse to stock Israeli products, and support the new StandWithUs campaign, “BIG” and “RIG,” acronyms for “Buy Israeli Goods” and “Request Israeli Goods.”
 
It is time to expose the distorted values that drive the BDS movement, and its alliance with the most repressive and dangerous forces in the world today.  It is time to unequivocally say no to this BDS movement and to all who would consider complying with it.

Roz Rothstein is CEO of StandWithUs.  Roberta Seid, PhD is Education Director, StandWithUs.  This article also appeared in the Jewish Journal of Los Angeles

The Jews Down Under~Roundup of Australian Jewish News

August 23, 2010 Leave a comment

Garry Fabian

Compiled by Garry Fabian

Christians, Jews meet on boycott

SYDNEY,   20 August – Australian Jewish and Christian leaders have met in Sydney to heal the wounds caused by a call last month for Australians to boycott Israeli goods made in occupied Palestinian territories.

The National Council of Churches in Australia  called for Australians to consider the boycott at the request of Middle Eastern churches, but the Jewish community was outraged.

Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ)  president Robert Goot wrote to the council that the resolution was a “most unpleasant surprise… we feel that we have been badly let down by people we have long thought of as our friends”.

Last week senior members from both councils – including heads of the Australian Catholic and Anglican Churches, Archbishops Phillip Wilson of Adelaide and Phillip Aspinal of Brisbane – met to restore good relations. Yesterday both council released a joint statement saying there had been
a “serious exchange of views” which helped Christian leaders better understand Jewish concerns and Jewish leaders better understand why
the resolution had been adopted.

But the resolution- which called for an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestine and to all acts of terrorism, and suggested churches
consider a boycott of Israeli goods from the occupied territories – remain in place.

Representatives of both groups will meet again to work on a “more comprehensive” statement for the Christian council to consider at its next meeting in November.

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The race for the Jewish vote

MELBOURNE, 20 August – As the election race enters itS last days, all political parties try to offer something for everybody. The Opposition Liberal Party’s go-to man this election campaign took time out of his busy schedule on Monday to drop by Adass Israel School.

Goldstein MP Andrew Robb, the shadow minister for finance and the party’s campaign spokesperson, visited the school to officially confirm the Coalition would also commit $15 million to securing Jewish schools.

He was joined by the local Liberal candidate Kevin Ekendahl, the Liberal incumbent in Higgins  Kelly O’Dwyer and Kooyong Liberal hopeful Josh Frydenberg.

Earlier in the campaign, the ALP announced it would add $15 million to the Secure Schools Program, which it introduced in 2007 to protect
vulnerable schools from serious security threats.

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Jewish Group calls for partial boycott

MELBOURNE, 19 August – The Australian Jewish Democratic Society (AJDS) has defended its new policy to support partial boycotts of Israel,
posting on its website that it has become “the first community-affiliated Jewish organisation” to call for divestment from Israel.

But its support of limited boycotts and its emphasis on communal affiliation to underscore its position have triggered a strong reaction from the Jewish community.

An August 13, the AJDS website stated while not supporting full boycotts, it “envisages boycotting specific Israeli academics openly supportive of the occupation” and other sanctions, but would consider each case on its merits.

AJDS executive member Tom Wolkenberg said the shift follows a 12-month review, which culminated in a special meeting of the organisation on August 8 where the new policy was adopted.

Asked if embracing a partial boycott was the first step, he said: “I don’t think it can at all be seen as the thin edge of the wedge.

“It’s looking purely at the occupation and how a very limited BDS [Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions] policy could in some way be a lever to change the situation with the occupation.”

Wolkenberg also defended the AJDS decision to invite Australian-Palestinian activist Samah Sabawi to the special meeting, saying, “It was
more to try and be provocative and let all issues, everything, be on the table”.

Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV) president John Searle said the AJDS “has placed itself clearly outside the prevailing views of
Victoria’s Jewish community” and called on the group to reverse its stance.

“The fact that the AJDS has sought to legitimate its views by describing itself as a community-affiliated Jewish organisation, claiming credibility by associating itself with the JCCV, is reproachable.

“While the AJDS is an affiliate of the JCCV, this is a tribute to the latter’s inclusive nature rather than an acceptance of the AJDS’ views.”

The Executive Council of Australian Jewry also voiced its concern, with executive director Peter Wertheim slamming the AJDS position as “naïve” and comparing it to “the global assault on Israel’s legitimacy”.
Zionist Federation of Australia president Philip Chester described the BDS campaign as “nothing more than a deliberate and concerted campaign to delegitimise” Israel.

“This decision by the AJDS is completely at odds with the position of every responsible organisation in our community and deserves the most severe condemnation.”
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Extremists move against Dreyfus

MELBOURNE, 20 August – Voters in the Melbourne seat of Isaacs are being urged not to vote for ALP candidate Mark Dreyfus ( who is Jewish) due to his support for Israel.

An advertisement, endorsed by the Australian Muslim Palestine Committee, appeared last week in The Dandenong Leader, saying “When voting put Dreyfus last. No more support for Israel.”

Meanwhile, Australian Muslim Palestine Committee president Asem Judeh wrote this month in Muslim newspaper The Crescent Times, “It is well known that the Israeli state has sponsored murderous and terrorist acts, and that it has systematically deprived Palestinians of their land and basic rights.

“One reason the Israeli lobby is so organised and aggressive is because it has to ensure that Israel is above criticism.”

Judeh then continued, “The Zionist influence is growing. There are two Zionist Jews [sic] Labor MPs, Michael Danby and Mark Dreyfus. After this election, another Australian Jew will become Liberal MP.

“Those MPs are the organised lobby representatives. Their job is to silence any MPs who dare to criticise Israel in the Parliament. They use parliamentary committees to defend Zionism and attack those who dare to criticise Israel.”

Dreyfus, who is Jewish and represents a very multicultural community that includes many Muslim families, condemned the campaign.

“These ads taken out against me are misleading and an affront to how parliamentary democracy is practised in this country,” the QC said. “I am confident that the local community recognises this hate campaign for what it is, and will reject a campaign that prejudges me for my
religious faith, not on my record of working for my local community.

“No Australian, politician or otherwise, should be prejudged or vilified for their religious belief.”

Dreyfus added that he has worked hard with the Muslim community and appreciated the support he had received in return.

“The response from local Muslim community leaders has been heartfelt and touching,” he said.

“A group of local Muslim community leaders came to my office last week to condemn this campaign and assure me that this campaign does not reflect the views of the local Muslim community.”

Muslim politician Adem Somyurek, a member in Victoria’s Upper House, also threw his support behind Dreyfus, drawing parallels between the
campaign and anti-Muslim comments made by disendorsed Liberal candidate for Chifley, David Barker.

“This advertisement . does two things: first, it seeks to question the candidate’s loyalty to Australia; and second, it publicly identifies the
candidate as a member of a minority faith and in doing so has as its objective electoral backlash by bigots, in this case anti-Semites in the community,” he said.

O’Connor pledges more funds to protect Jewish schools

SYDNEY. 19 August – Minister for Home Affairs Brendan O’Connor re-affirmed that Labor would put another $15 million into the Secure Schools Program when he visited The Emanuel School last Thursday.

O’Connor, who was joined by Minister for Environment Protection, Heritage and Arts and Kingsford Smith MP Peter Garrett, had earlier
made the same pledge in Melbourne.

Also at the announcement was Wentworth Labor candidate Steven Lewis.

This week, the Coalition, led by shadow education minister Christopher Pyne and shadow attorney-general Senator George Brandis, also
pledged its support for the additional $15 million commitment.

The program, which provides schools with fences, closed circuit TV and other infrastructure, is designed to protect students and teachers from
terrorist threats. It was first introduced by the Rudd Government in 2007.

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The Age’s ‘anti-Israel bias’ condemned by Jewish leaders

MELBOURNE, 20 August==Jewish Community Council of Victoria President John Searle and Zionist Council of Victoria President Dr Danny Lamm have again strongly criticised Melbourne broadsheet The Age for its ongoing anti-Israel bias over a number of years.

The leaders of Victoria’s peak Jewish bodies jointly observed that during the tenure of Andrew Jaspan and particularly that of his successor
Paul Ramadge, The Age had increasingly engaged in a war of words against Israel.  Apart from steering its readership to a more anti-Israel
position, Searle and Lamm consider that The Age’s strident line had also had the hopefully unintended by-product of legitimising antisemitism in this country.

“There is no particular reporting or opinion piece that has prompted our criticism at this time.  Frankly, our community has simply just had
enough of The Age’s lack of balance”, Searle noted. “Despite our best efforts to present Israel’s case, there have been too many instances
of anti-Israel statements to count, ranging from the blatant such as Michael Backman’s ugly smear job in 2009 to the more subtle and insidious”, Searle continued. “An example of the latter includes a recent article reprinted from The UK’s The Daily Telegraph which stated “Netanyahu will come under fierce pressure from Obama to extend a
10-month freeze on Jewish settlements in the West Bank”. The Age’s version made the following insertions “illegal Jewish settlements in the
occupied West Bank” (The Age, 070710). Such changes make a world of difference.”

“We make this statement with regret”, Lamm continued.  “However we have spoken to Mr Ramadge on a number of occasions, both privately and in public forums.  While he is adept at making the right noises about The Age’s impartiality, his follow through leaves a great deal to be
desired.  We believe that The Age’s record speaks for itself.  Quite simply The Age is not a friend of our community.”

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Australia faces hung Parliament

CANBERRA, August 23 – The Australian Federal elections produced an outcome, or more accurately non-outcome, with both The Australian Labor Party, the current government, or the Liberal/National Party Opposition gaining an outright majority of seats. While some seats are
still in the balance, due to postal and absentee votes still to be counted, the balance of power is still in the hands of four independents and one seat won by The Greens.

What will be the impact on the Jewish Community?.

While on the domestic scene it will not change very much, one of the worrying developments is that in the Senate (The Upper House) The Greens will have the balanced of power. The Greens, while until now have not been in a position to influence Government decisions,
This is now changed with them holding the balance of power and having a strong impact on Government policy, irrespective if when the dust settles, Labour or the Conservatives will form Government.

The issue on the mind of the Jewish community is that The Greens have taken an anti-Israel, pro-Palestinian stand for a number of years in
the past, and now that they in a real position to influence Government policy, how will this play out in the future?  It presents a scenario that
has serious implications, both Labor and Conservatives having been very supportive of Israel over a long period.

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Jewish Battlegrounds decided at Election

CANBERRA, August 23 – While the next government is yet to be decided, a number of Jewish MPs were successful on polling day.

Despite a strong swing to The Greens in Melbourne  Ports, home to around 20,000 Jewish voters, Labor’s Michael Danby held on for the fifth time.

In Wentworth, with a similar number of Jewish voters, Liberal Malcolm Turnbull was given a resounding endorsement to continue as the local member.

In the leafy inner-eastern Melbourne seat of Kooyong, Josh Frydenberg made history by becoming the first Jewish Liberal MP in Canberra.
Declaring his win before an audience of hundreds of friends and party faithful, Frydenberg said he was proud to have been elected as only the
seventh ever member of the 110 year-old seat.

“We have won Kooyong and we can win  government tonight,” he said, after thanking his family and campaign team for their support.

Labor incumbent Mark Dreyfus increased his support in the Melbourne southern bayside seat of Isaacs.

“Regardless of the final decision tonight, the people of Melbourne Ports can be assured we will stand up for them in Canberra,” Danby said.

“We have our own opinions here, we stand for a more cosmopolitan and pluralist Australia,” he said, referring to the strong national swing that saw Labor lose many seats.

“I don’t care what bogans and rednecks think elsewhere we stand up for it here and our opinions count as much as their’s.”

His Liberal opponent Kevin Ekendahl saw his party’s primary vote reduced in the seat.

Ekendahl had one message for Danby: “stop being complacent”

“Get out into the electorate. Start working hard,” Ekendahl said.

In the Sydney seat with the most Jewish voters, Wentworth, Liberal Malcolm Turnbull increased his majority by a whopping 11.5 per cent.

His opponent Jewish lawyer Steven Lewis said despite the defeat he had enjoyed the campaign.

“It was a great campaign. We fell short today but we had great enjoyment in what we did, we threw everything into it,” he said.

“Everyone said it was going to be a big ask, but we did the best we could given the facilities that we had.”

Lewis declined to say whether he would consider running again in the future.

“We’ll take it one day at a time,” he said. “It’s a bit too early to speculate on that right now, we’re still waiting for the [rest of the] results to come in here today.”

But he was full of thanks with those who had assisted with his campaign.

“I’ve been working with a great group of people, volunteers who have come in to help us, day in and day out. I’m surrounded by some fantastic people in the party and we’re just grateful that we did the best job we could.”

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Fabian is Australia bureau chief for San Diego Jewish World

Palestinian and Israeli visitors ponder business together

August 22, 2010 1 comment

Emad Nuseibeh and Amir Gur-Lavie (Photo: Bonnie Stewart)

By Donald H. Harrison 

Donald H. Harrison

LA MESA, California – Emad Ahmed Fuad Nuseibeh, a major Palestinian grower of vegetables and herbs, and Amir Gur-Lavie, an owner of Zeta, a large distributor of Israeli olive oil, cheerfully agreed to pose together following a dinner at Vine Ripe Market here. Nuseibeh and Gur-Lavie smiled warmly like old friends, whereas, in fact, they had only met a few days before. 

The market and restaurant is part of a chain co-founded by Ali Baba Abdallah, a Palestinian refugee who had lived in Jordan and Lebanon before immigrating in 1982 to the United States, where he built a successful career as a grower and marketer.  

The two men were among a group of Palestinians and Israeli Jews brought together through the combined efforts of the Peres Peace Center in Jaffa, Arab businessman Sam Husseini of Jerusalem, and the Hansen Institute for World Peace at San Diego State University.   They and others met to discuss and to refine an idea that the Peres and Hansen groups have been developing over several years now: creating a blended olive oil made from Israeli and Palestinian olives to be sold as a “peace product” in U.S. stores. 

Ali-Baba Abdallah (Photo: Bonnie Stewart)

 If the project comes to fruition, the new brand may have a ready customer in Abdallah, whose store specializes in foods from the Middle East, both Arab and Jewish.  Abdallah explained that in San Diego there are many immigrant communities who hunger for foods from home, and he makes it his business to satisfy their tastes.  The chance for Arabs and Jews to peacefully mingle together as customers in his store is a side benefit paralleling the joint goals of the Peres Peace Center, the Hansen Institute and Husseini’s Lion Heart business development company, a new partner in the peace consortium. 

As Abdallah had tray after tray of Middle Eastern appetizers, salads and entrees brought to the long table in a patio area alongside his market on Fletcher Parkway, the meeting was one for socializing amid the familiar tastes and aromas of the guests’ Middle Eastern homes.   

The Palestinian and Israeli business people on that day had toured such markets as Ralphs, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Henry’s and now Vine Ripe, to gain an insight into California food consumer tastes.  The tour followed days of lectures and panels at San Diego State University on trends in the American food industry, as well as a visit to the Temecula Olive Oil groves in Aguanga, California.  The group also had some recreational outings together, including the San Diego Zoo, Old Town San Diego State Historic Park, La Jolla and on the following day would visit the Star of India at the Embarcadero. 

When the meal was done, Nuseibeh and Gur-Lavie both agreed to share their impressions with this reporter. 

Like the other Palestinians at the meeting, Nuseibeh lives in East Jerusalem, now claimed by Israel  but which could possibly  become the capital of a new Palestinian state, depending on how direct peace talks between Israeli and Palestinian officials —scheduled to begin next month—settle the volatile question.  Nuseibeh also owns a large farm near Jericho, where he grows various desert produce, and another where he produces herbs sold directly to the U.S. market. 

The San Diego trip “was a great experience for me,” said Nuseibeh.  “We have met great people who in fact are our neighbors but we didn’t know them until we reached here in the States.   I hope that, after knowing them, how they are thinking and what kind of businesses they have, that we can do some business together, in order to cut, or break the obstacles that have prevented us from working together.” 

Asked about creating special olive oils, that might blend Israeli and Palestinian varieties, and maybe even some of Nuseibeh’s herbs, Nuseibeh responded: 

“I think it is a good idea to start a business together, but there are a lot of obstacles, a lot of problems,” that must be resolved first, he said. “We have to do things here in the States, a lot of work, a lot of research, and I don’t think at this moment that we as Israeli and Palestinian business people can  come up with the money.  I hope we can find a source for finance, and I think that with these ideas that we have—to work with good-willed people—we will be able to succeed.” 

The Nuseibeh Agricultural Co. for Marketing and Production (NAMP) has for over a half century exported oranges to the United Kingdom, as well as a variety of citrus and bananas to Jordan and to the Gulf countries.  When exports to Jordan slowed down, Nuseibeh developed herb products, which he sold to the Israeli market.  Initially, sales to the U.S. market went through Israel, but now NAMP is shipping about $1 million annually in herbs directly to the United States. 

The joint meeting in San Diego with Israeli agriculturalists was not limited to olives, Nuseibeh said.  

“We are thinking of ways to combine the Israeli produce and the Palestinian produce,” and to devise “new ideas in order to work together for their benefit and our benefit,” he said.  “At the end, it is business.  So we are trying hard to find new things, new ideas.  It may not be in olives, or vegetables, or herbs; maybe it is a new idea that could succeed.” 

Indicating other Palestinians and Israelis seated at the table,  Nuseibeh added:  “Everyone has their own experience. Some of us have experience in marketing or in finding finance; others have experience in growing and having good, high quality produce, and so the thing is we have to find something that can work in order to succeed in this.” 

Whatever products are eventually developed, Nuseibeh said the meetings are a harbinger of what real peace between Israelis and Palestinians might mean.  “We need it for both of us, the Israelis and the Palestinians,” he declared.  It is a need, it is a must.  And when we are doing this, maybe it is a small step, but everyone profits, the Israelis and the Palestinians.  You are going toward the same light at the end of the tunnel.  Maybe what we are doing is a small step, but at the end, Palestinians and Israelis are people who want to reach that same light and to get to the end of this mess we have.  It might help, this thing we are doing. We are not going against anyone.  The peace process is going on; maybe it (the San Diego meeting) is a mile out of the million, but it is a mile.” 

Gur-Lavie is the owner of Zeta in the Galilean town of Mitzpe Hila – known throughout Israel as the hometown of Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier who has been held in captivity for several years by the Hamas government in Gaza.  Besides owning the company which produces three million bottles a year of olive oil, Gur-Lavie serves on a committee with Shalit’s parents trying to keep the issue of ending Shalit’s captivity before the world. 

About the San Diego meetings, Gur-Lavie said: “I don’t know what will be the result, but the main goal we have already reached.  It was wonderful. We (Palestinians and Israelis) had the possibility to sit together and to think together, and anyhow we have new friends, and we hope also to have new products for the grocery market.  We need to find the way to do it.  I am sure that we will find the way to do something—perhaps small, perhaps big—but actually the biggest thing, we already have done. 

Bentzi Elisha, who is the chief executive officer of Zeta, added.  “Sometimes we have to come to the States to find that we can be together and talk about everything, and laugh about the same things – really, because we became friends.” 

The Hansen Institute has been quietly bringing Arabs and Israelis together—even in the absence of diplomatic relations between their countries – since the time following the Camp David accords between Israel and Egypt during Jimmy Carter’s presidency.  

Bonnie Stewart, the executive director, has witnessed a process many times in which the Arabs and Israelis first regarded each other with suspicion and had to air out some of their political differences before getting down to business discussions. 

Not so this meeting, commented Gur-Lavie.  “We had heard this would happen… but we didn’t feel that, even at the airport.  We started with friendship.   Look, we also talk very openly about the problems. We know we can’t avoid the problems but we think that with friendship we are able to talk about it … We know that is from business that maybe we will be able to make the peace sooner. If we wait for the conflict to be solved, and then talk about business, maybe it will take 100 years.” 

While creating a peace product is a relatively new idea, Gur-Lavie said that his company has been bottling both Israeli and Palestinian olive oils for years.  Noting that his company recently won four Gold Medals in an international olive oil competition, he expressed confidence that something “unique and of a very high quality” eventually can be created and marketed. 

Both Gur-Lavie and Nuseibeh had praise for San Diego State and the Hansen Institute specifically, and for San Diego generally. 

Said the Israeli of San Diego: “It is a very nice and pleasant place to be.  I have been in many places in America, but such a nice hospitality!  All the Americans we are with from the Hansen Institute and the University are doing an excellent job.  They believe that it is important to help us bring the peace, and I really just want to say thank you.” 

Nuseibeh concurred, saying: “People in the Middle East know Americans in two or three things, in their bullets, in their bombs that say ‘made in the U.S.A.,’  and in their vetoes in the U.N.  They don’t know the people, but this time and my last visit to the U.S., I met a lot of people and I found something else.  I found people  who want to help, people…who need to know how they can make the people in front of them as happy as they are…. If someone here is convinced by a cause, he will devote his life, money, fortune and time to the cause.  And it doesn’t matter how much effort it will take.   There are many people in the Middle East who do not know the Americans well; they should see the people, the American people.” 

Besides Nuseibeh and Sam Husseini, other members of the Palestinian delegation included Abdel Muti Qutob, whose businesses include agriculture produce in the Auja region near Jericho, as well as real estate development elsewhere; and Rami Assali, financial and administrative manager for Search for Common Ground, a non-governmental agency in Jerusalem.

Israelis in addition to Gur-Lavi and Elisha included Ofer Ensher, managing director of Hefer Systems & Controls, which is a large company in the fields of water and waste water processes; and the following staff members of the Peres Center for Peace: Roi Dai, the finance director; Oren Blonder, director,  and Moran Diment, manager, in the agriculture, water and environment department. 

Numerous Americans interacted with the two delegations.  Among those who participated in seminars with them were  Stewart, the director of the Hansen Institute; Sanford Ehrlich, Qualcomm Executive Director of Entrepreneurship at SDSU’s Entrepreneurial Management Center (EMC);  Alex DeNoble, chair of the Management department of SDSU’s College of Business Administration;  Bernard Schroeder, director of EMC programs; Evan Schlessinger, president of the Springboard Company, which helps bring new products and innovations to market,  and Marvin Spira, president of Marketing Consultants, International, which specializes in the marketing of food products. 

Harrison is editor of San Diego Jewish World.

Direct peace talks will share Israeli dinner conversations with those about IDF, extremist rabbis and errant academics

August 21, 2010 Leave a comment
By Ira Sharkansky

Ira Sharkansky

JERUSALEM–While the big news of the day is the impending start of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, to open with a blessing by Barack Obama, the news that has held Israel in its grip for two weeks is a document purported to influence the selection of the next commander of the IDF.

The document became public when trumpeted on one of the commercial television channels with a taste for yellow journalism. While I have not been able to locate the text of the document, there has been no end of commentary about it. Moralists condemn the appearance of a plot claiming to be the work of a professional public relations firm, laying out plans to influence the public, governmental officials, and key military officers in order to affect the selection of the next commander. 
The document may be a parody of the maneuvering that typically surrounds those occasions every four or five years when it is necessary to appoint the next commander of the IDF or the head of the national police. The obvious candidates, and individuals who feel themselves close to them and perhaps hoping for an eventual boost to their own careers, line up potential supporters in order to influence the government ministers with responsibility for nominating their chosen candidate to the entire government for the formal selection.

Both the IDF and the national police are led by a collection of Alpha Males with the talent and the elbows to get where they have gotten, and who aspire to go further.

Parody: a work created to mock or make fun by means of humorous, satiric or ironic imitation. 
Commentators have not been able to agree whether the figure prominently mentioned in the document is the person meant to be selected, or if the campaign is really meant to tarnish his reputation and render him unfit for selection. 
If the document it is a parody or a serious attempt at strategy, it has stepped on sensitive toes. The IDF is as close to the principal icon of civic religion as can be found in this hotbed of cynicism. The lieutenant colonel who has been identified as the likely source of the document is currently on vacation overseas. If and when he returns home, he can expect to be brought to the police station from the airport for questioning. 
Two other hiccups in the national culture have also occupied us.
One is a rabbi’s publication of a treatise that is said to identify the conditions when it is permissible according to religious law to kill a non-Jew. The police have summoned the rabbi for an investigation under the heading of incitement to racism, while a number of prominent rabbis have supported his refusal to appear. The debates are a bit murky to outsiders. Most of the rabbis who have spoken up distance themselves from the book in question. Some say that they regret its publication. However, they stand along with the author for his right to express his view of religious law, which he reaches according to conventional rabbinical exegesis. They are willing to let him play in his corner of the rabbinical garden, while letting the rest of us know that he is an outlier and should not be taken seriously. 
The problem is that Yigal Amir learned a bit of religious law and tradition in the yeshiva of Bar Ilan University, and extrapolated his understanding to a justification for killing Yitzhak Rabin. 
Two centuries before Christ, ancient rabbis had already neutralized “eye for an eye,”  death penalties, and other draconian provisions that can be found in the Hebrew Bible. Jesus preached what they ruled, and the early Christians who wrote the New Testament gave him credit for what they called new doctrines that they used to contrast with, and demonize Judaism.
The Talmud documents the rabbinic modifications and cancellations of what appears in Torah, but there are some who have not accepted the message.. There is enough that is dangerous in the attic of Judaism to be wary of fanaticism. The rabbi who published the book justifying the killing of non-Jews under certain circumstances presents the impression of a scholarly impotent, but the words he has written may stimulate those inclined to madness.
The other hiccup in these dog days of August appears elsewhere on the ideological spectrum, A movement from  the right has taken aim at university departments of sociology (at Tel Aviv University) and political science (at Ben Gurion University) for being under the control of anti-Israeli leftists. They have demanded that university administrators fire the ideologues, and threaten to urge donors to avoid contributing to any university that fails to purge the errant. In response, every university president interviewed on the subject has stood fast on academic freedom, emphasizing the professional criteria employed in selecting and promoting individuals through the academic ranks.
One suspects that this will blow over, along with the other issues. People will return from vacations in time for the start of school on September 1, and the country will go back to something approaching the Israeli normal.
No doubt that there are extremists in the universities as well as among the rabbis of Israel. However, a purge of either community led by outsiders is not in the cards. Just as leading rabbis have condemned their colleague while arguing for his right to write as he wishes, so university personnel know how to deal with individuals who go over the edge of good sense. There are islands of madness in Israeli universities, just as there are islands of madness exist in other academic centers. Religious and academic madness are among the prices paid for religious and academic freedom. Both allow the mad the freedom to demonstrate peculiarities to their colleagues and students. Occasionally there is damage, sometimes a tragedy like the assassination of Rabin, but more often there is a recognition of those who are extreme and their isolation by ridicule or silence.
The big news of impending negotiations between Israel and Palestine has produced yawns, shrugs, and doubts from a wide range of commentators. According to a prominent article in the New York Times:

The American invitation on Friday to the Israelis and Palestinians to start direct peace talks in two weeks in Washington was immediately accepted by both governments. But just below the surface there was an almost audible shrug. There is little confidence — close to none — on either side that the Obama administration’s goal of reaching a comprehensive deal in one year can be met.  
Just to mention a few of the knottiest of issues: Palestinian adherence to the pre-1967 armistice lines and the rights of refugees, along with their extremists who insist that those are illegitimate concessions, against Israelis who are not sure about what to do with 50,000 Jews scattered throughout the West Bank, intense distrust of Palestinians, and insistence that any Palestinian state be de-militarized and that Israel control the Jordan Valley.

It will take a miracle equivalent to the parting of the Red Sea or virgin birth to deal with these issues, even beyond the year that the Obama White House has alloted to the process. One should never say never in this land that has claimed great events in the past, but one can guess that a year and more from now commentators will be arguing as to who should be assigned the greater fault for the failure of the talks, or for making the Middle East even more dangerous than it was earlier. Already one can expect who will assign responsibility to the Palestinians, who to the Israelis, and who to the Americans.
On the other hand, the place that saw the reincarnation of Jesus, Mohammed’s ascent to heaven, and the rebirth of Israel may yet have something else to show the world. 
*
Sharkansky is professor emeritus of political science at Hebrew University.

Peace talks 10 years ago led to an Intifada

August 20, 2010 Leave a comment

By Shoshana Bryen

Shoshana Bryen

WASHINGTON, D.C. –The announcement has been made that Prime Minister Netanyahu and Abu Mazen will come to Washington for “face to face negotiations.” It is worth remembering that precisely 10 years ago President Clinton invited then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Yasser Arafat to a summit at Camp David.

Mr. Barak was bringing a very far-reaching proposal – so much so that in fact that he wasn’t sure he could sell to the Israeli public if Arafat accepted it. But after what appeared to be an ill-planned and hasty IDF departure from the Lebanese “Security Zone,” he hoped to bring home an agreement with the Palestinians. 
 
In a moment of wisdom, or at least of extreme practicality, Yasser Arafat tried mightily to get out of attending. It wasn’t the right time, he said. He objected to holding a meeting of the principals (Clinton, Barak and himself) when there was no guarantee of success. The time to hold a summit, he opined, was when everything had already been done, and it hadn’t been done.  And he was, for once, right.
 
The crucial issues in 2000 were:

Jerusalem; The Palestinian demand for a “right of return” for refugees and their descendants to places in Israel from which the original refugees claim to have come; Territorial compromise, and; Agreement on the legitimacy of Israel’s sovereignty in the region, which was also called an “end to the war” and termination of future claims.

The result of the failure at Camp David was the so-called “second intifada,” the Palestinian war against Israel. For the next three years, Israelis were subjected to suicide bombings in buses and in cafes and other acts of violence, including the shooting of an infant in her father’s arms, the massacre of patrons in a Jerusalem pizza parlor, the murder of two toddlers in their beds, the death of a pregnant woman who had been the only child of Holocaust survivors, and a car bombing that killed worshippers at a Passover Seder. Israeli children ride public buses to school; many parents sent siblings on separate buses. More than 1,000 Israelis died (the equivalent of 42,000 Americans) and thousands more were maimed both physically and psychologically.  
 
Israel ended the Palestinian war by going to the sources of terrorist organization and operation – by entering Palestinian cities and retaking security control of the West Bank (it is worth remembering that the war promulgated not from Gaza by Hamas, but by the “relatively moderate” PLO). The IDF took the war to the Palestinian Authority, closed the Orient House in Jerusalem, and built the security fence.
 
Terrorism emanating from the West Bank dropped precipitously, not because the Palestinians stopped trying, but because the Israelis got better at prevention. Only after that, after Arafat’s death, and after the bloody Palestinian civil war that evicted Fatah leadership from Gaza, did Israelis and Palestinians on the West Bank come to a relatively constructive modus vivendi based on Fatah’s fear of Hamas and Israel’s belief that economic progress for the Palestinians would lower the appeal of radicalism.
 
In accepting President Obama’s summons, Prime Minister Netanyahu and Abu Mazen know they will, necessarily, be discussing the same four issues that were on the table in 2000. So, as President Obama pushes Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and Abu Mazen, the questions are:

If Yasser Arafat could not accept any compromise then, why would President Obama think Abu Mazen, whose legitimate term of office ended in January 2009 and who controls far less territory and far fewer Palestinians, can compromise? 

What will the President do if the talks fail and increased violence is again the result?
 
*
Bryen is senior director for security policy for the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs. Since Sept. 21, 2008, Waxie Sanitary Supply has sponsored her column in San Diego Jewish World in memory of Morris Wax, who had been a national board member of JINSA.

Mubarak, King Abdullah invited to help launch Israeli-Palestinian peace talks

August 20, 2010 Leave a comment

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Press Release)–Following is a transcript of the news conference at which Secretary of STate Hillary Clinton and George Mitchell outlined the agreement between Palestinians and Israelis to directly negotiate for peace.  The news conference was moderated by Assistant Secretary of State Philip Crowley:

MR. CROWLEY: Good morning and welcome to the Department of State. We have Secretary of State Hillary Clinton here along with our Special Envoy George Mitchell to tell you about the most recent developments in our pursuit of Middle East peace. The Secretary will begin with a brief statement. George Mitchell will stay behind to answer your questions. And we are joined today by your colleagues in the White House Press Corps up in Martha’s Vineyard and we’ll be sharing the – they’ll be sharing the Q&A duties with you.

But we’ll start with Secretary Clinton.

QUESTION: I don’t like that idea. They’re in Martha’s Vineyard. (Laughter.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: I will appoint a negotiator to deal with that. (Laughter.)

Since the beginning of this Administration, we have worked with the Israelis and Palestinians and our international partners to advance the cause of comprehensive peace in the Middle East, including a two-state solution which ensures security and dignity for Israelis and Palestinians. The President and I are encouraged by the leadership of Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas and fully share their commitment to the goal of two states – Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security.

After proximity talks and consultations with both sides, on behalf of the United States Government, I’ve invited Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Abbas to meet on September 2nd in Washington, D.C. to re-launch direct negotiations to resolve all final status issues, which we believe can be completed within one year.

President Obama has invited President Mubarak of Egypt and King Abdullah of Jordan to attend in view of their critical role in this effort. Their continued leadership and commitment to peace will be essential to our success. The President will hold bilateral meetings with the four leaders followed by a dinner with them on September 1st. The Quartet Representative Tony Blair has also been invited to the dinner in view of his important work to help Palestinians build the institutions of their future state, an effort which must continue during the negotiations. I’ve invited Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas to join me here at the State Department on the following day for a trilateral meeting to re-launch direct negotiations.

As we move forward, it is important that actions by all sides help to advance our effort, not hinder it. There have been difficulties in the past; there will be difficulties ahead. Without a doubt, we will hit more obstacles. The enemies of peace will keep trying to defeat us and to derail these talks. But I ask the parties to persevere, to keep moving forward even through difficult times, and to continue working to achieve a just and lasting peace in the region.

As we have said before, these negotiations should take place without preconditions and be characterized by good faith and a commitment to their success, which will bring a better future to all of the people of the region.

George. Thank you all.

QUESTION: Madam Secretary, are you traveling to Pakistan (inaudible) concern, Madam? Thank you, Madam.

MR. MITCHELL: I’ll be pleased to respond to any of your questions.

QUESTION: As tempted as I am to ask you about Roger Clemens, I’d rather – or P.J. perhaps. (Laughter.)

MR. CROWLEY: I predicted that.

QUESTION: Can you tell us what was the turning point here? What was it that got the – that overcame the final snags to get them to come back to direct talks?

MR. MITCHELL: We believe it’s the recognition by the parties themselves, by their leaders – Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas – that the best outcome is an agreement which results in two states living side by side in peace and security, and that the only way that can be achieved is through direct negotiations between the parties in which the United States will be an active and sustained participant, and with the full support of our many friends and allies around the world, including, of course, specifically, the Quartet.

QUESTION: But what was it that got them to – I mean, you’ve been trying to do this for months now.

MR. MITCHELL: Yeah.

QUESTION: And why – so why – how is it that today, you’ve gotten to this point, whereas three days ago, you weren’t at this point?

MR. MITCHELL: Yeah. I think it’s the cumulative result of the efforts made over that time and the recognition by the parties that this is the right time. We will be active participants and there is broad support, as you know, by members of the Quartet and others around the world. But in the end, these decisions will be made by the parties themselves.

MR. CROWLEY: And (inaudible) Senator Mitchell —

QUESTION: Senator Mitchell, could you —

MR. MITCHELL: I’ll let – why don’t I let P.J. —

QUESTION: Could you talk about the sequencing of the talks? Will they discuss territory, refugees, or Jerusalem first, or will this all be in parallel?

MR. MITCHELL: All permanent status issues will be on the table. It will be for the parties themselves to decide the manner by which they should be addressed.

QUESTION: Senator Mitchell —

QUESTION: Yes. Madam Secretary mentioned without doubt there will be more – without doubt, there will be more obstacles. What will these obstacles be? What are the main sticking points that are going to be going forward?

MR. MITCHELL: We are all well aware that there remains mistrust between the parties, a residue of hostility developed over many decades of conflict, many previous efforts that have been made to resolve the conflict that had not succeeded, all of which takes a very heavy toll on both societies and their leaders. In addition, we all know that, as with all societies, there are differences of opinion on both sides on how best to proceed, and as a result, this conflict has remained unresolved over many decades and through many efforts. We don’t expect all of those differences to disappear when talks begin. Indeed, we expect that they will be presented, debated, discussed, and that differences are not going to be resolved immediately.

But we do believe that peace in the Middle East, comprehensive peace, including, but not limited to, an end to the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, is very much in the interests of Israelis and Palestinians, of all people in the region; it’s in the national security interests of the United States, and therefore, we are going to continue to pursue that objective with patience, perseverance, and determination. We know that will be difficult. We know, as the Secretary said, there will be obstacles. But we’re going to proceed, as I said, with patience, perseverance, and determination.

MR. CROWLEY: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Senator Mitchell, sir, the Palestinians, the Israelis, and the United States have been down that road many times before. Now, what is in your opinion, sir, this time around that engenders – or should engender hope and optimism to get these talks into its intended end? And what kind of incentive did you offer President Abbas to entice him into the direct talks?

MR. MITCHELL: I don’t want to repeat everything I said in response to prior questions, but I will say that I believe that it is very much in the interest of people in both societies that there be an end to this conflict enabling both to live in peace and security. And I believe that their leaders believe and understand that, and therefore, notwithstanding the many difficulties that they face – and we recognize those difficulties – this is the best course for them.

On the question of past efforts in failing and succeeding, I’ll return, if I might, to my experience in Northern Ireland. I chaired three separate sets of discussions in Northern Ireland, spanning a period overall of five years. The main negotiation lasted for 22 months. During that time, the effort was repeatedly branded a failure. I was asked at least dozens, perhaps hundreds, of times when I was leaving because the effort had failed.

And of course, if the objective is to achieve a peace agreement, until you do achieve one, you have failed to do so. In a sense, in Northern Ireland, we had about 700 days of failure and one day of success. And we approach this task with the same determination to succeed notwithstanding the difficulties and notwithstanding the inability to get a final result so far, including past efforts. But past efforts at peace that did not succeed cannot deter us from trying again, because the cause is noble and just and right for all concerned.

MR. CROWLEY: Let’s take Michele and then Kirit and then we’ll go up to Martha’s Vineyard and come back.

Michele.

QUESTION: I wanted to get a sense of this timeline, this 12 months that the Secretary talked about. Do you see that as a deadline or is that – or is it looser than that? And also, just following up on this other question. I mean, what makes this peace process any different from all other peace processes?

MR. MITCHELL: We will only know the answer to your second question when it is completed. But I believe that, as I said in response to the previous question, that the cause is so important, so right, so just, that our continued effort is the right thing to do, and we are going to pursue it with determination. I believe that the two leaders themselves, President Abbas and Prime Minister Netanyahu, are sincere and serious and believe that it can be done, and we will do everything humanly possible to help them see that it is done.

With respect to your first question, Prime Minister Netanyahu said in a public appearance in this country on his most recent visit to Washington that he believed it could be done within a year. President Abbas has expressed similar sentiments to me, and I hold strongly to that belief, having now been involved for some time in the region. So, we believe it can be done within a year and that is our objective.

QUESTION: But it’s not a deadline then?

MR. CROWLEY: Kirit, one more and then we’ll go up to Martha’s Vineyard.

QUESTION: It took you about nine months to get to the point where these guys were willing to sit down and talk to each other. What makes you think that you can get them to agree to peace in one year? At what point during this process is the U.S. willing to put its own ideas on the table to help move this forward? And after the initial set of talks here in D.C., where do you expect the talks to take place?

MR. MITCHELL: I’ll take your questions in reverse order. One of the subjects to be discussed in the meeting on September 1st and 2nd, and also in preparatory meetings that have been occurring on a regular basis and will continue between now and then, will be the timing and location of subsequent meetings, and we certainly expect some of those meetings to occur in the region.

With respect to the timing and nature, how long it took to get here and how long will it take to get in, I don’t think one is a necessary determinant of the other. It’s – I liken it to the first time I owned a house and had it painted. It took the painters seemingly forever to prime the building and the walls. I kept asking myself, “When are they going to start painting? We’re paying by the hour and we want some progress.” (Laughter.) And after this seemingly endless priming, they painted it very quickly.

Now, I don’t want to suggest one year is quickly, but I don’t think that events leading up to the negotiations are themselves decisive in terms of the negotiations themselves. We believe that the statements by the prime minister regarding within one year are credible and appropriate. We believe that President Abbas shares a similar view, as do we. And that’s what we’re going to pursue.

QUESTION: And at what point does the U.S. put its own ideas on the table in this process?

MR. MITCHELL: We will be active and sustained partners, although we recognize that this is a bilateral negotiation and we have indicated to both parties that, as necessary and appropriate, we will offer bridging proposals. But I repeat: This is a direct bilateral negotiation between the parties with our assistance and with the assistance of our friends and allies. And although nobody has asked it, I do want to take a moment to acknowledge and recognize the enormous support and assistance we have received from many of our friends and allies: Egypt, under President Mubarak; Jordan, under King Abdullah; many of the other Arab states; the other members of the Quartet; the United Nations under Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who has been extremely helpful in this process; the European Union, with Lady Ashton as the foreign minister; and the – Russia, with Foreign Minister Lavrov, have all been active and very helpful along with other European states.

So it’s important to understand that while the United States is playing an important and active and sustained role, we do so with full participation, full input, full consultation, full discussion, and we hope full support, from a wide variety of allies whose efforts have been extremely important getting us to this phase and will be extremely important in reaching a conclusion. 

MR. CROWLEY: Operator, we’ll go to take two or three questions from White House press corps.

OPERATOR: Thank you. Our first question comes from Philip Hartley with Washington Today. Please ask one question.

QUESTION: Good morning. Actually, it’s two; I apologize. Have all the invited parties accepted the United States’ invitation to weigh in next month? And the Secretary had mentioned references to peace in the world, and as an envoy of peace, I wanted to know what your thoughts are on whether the proposed mosque be built at the Ground Zero site.

MR. MITCHELL: I’m sorry, I didn’t understand.

MR. CROWLEY: We’re not here to talk about that latter subject. We’ll take the next question. What was the question?

QUESTION: Wait —

QUESTION: The first part was —

MR. CROWLEY: Have they accepted.

MR. MITCHELL: What was the first question?

MR. CROWLEY: Have they accepted the invitation?

MR. MITCHELL: We have been in consultation with both. We expect to hear from them shortly, but it will be their decisions on whether to accept.

MR. CROWLEY: We’ll take the next question, Operator.

OPERATOR: Thank you. Our next question is from Jonathan Broder with Congressional Quarterly.

QUESTION: Yeah. Do both parties have to ask for the U.S. to step in with its bridging proposals, or is it enough for one party to ask for that bridging proposal?

MR. MITCHELL: We’re getting a little bit ahead of the game now to be speculating on what may or may not occur well into the process. As I stated earlier, this is a direct bilateral negotiation with the active and sustained support of the United States. And we will make bridging proposals at such time as we deem necessary and appropriate. But I don’t want anyone to have the impression that we are somehow going to supplant or displace the roles of the parties themselves, nor do we have any view other than that this must, in the end, be an agreement by the parties themselves.

MR. CROWLEY: We’ll take one more, Operator, then we’ll come back here to this.

OPERATOR: Thank you. Ron Kampeas with JTA.

QUESTION: Thank you. One technical question and then a real question. On September the 2nd – is that – are they actually – are you actually launching direct talks on September the 2nd, or are the leaders getting together with the Secretary to discuss the re-launching of direct talks? And the other thing: What role, if any, does Hamas have in this process?

MR. MITCHELL: The first question is yes, we are launching direct negotiations beginning on September 2nd. And the second question is: None.

QUESTION: Senator, is re-launching the direct negotiations without preconditions means that we are re-launching the direct negotiations without terms and references?

MR. MITCHELL: Only the parties can determine terms of reference and basis for negotiations, and they will do so when they meet and discuss these matters. As you know, both we and the Quartet have previously said that the negotiations should be without preconditions.

QUESTION: Thank you. Can you tell us whether they’re going to start from scratch, or will they build on what talks that – during the Olmert period? And the second question is whether Israel is expected to continue the freeze. Do you think that they’ll continue the freeze? Do you think the Palestinians will continue their boycott of settler goods?

MR. MITCHELL: The parties themselves will determine the basis on which they will proceed in the discussions, in response to your first question. In response to the second, our position on settlements is well-known and remains unchanged. We’ve always made clear that the parties should promote an environment that is conducive to negotiations. And as the Secretary said in her statement a few moments ago, it’s important that actions by all sides help to advance our effort, not hinder it.

MR. CROWLEY: Charlie.

QUESTION: Senator, just to follow up on that and a previous question, your position is well-known on settlements, but the Israelis, when they’ve chosen to, have ignored it and gone ahead with settlement construction as they’ve seen fit to do. Do you have any understanding from them that they will not do that this time?

And referring to the earlier question on Hamas and your quick answer that they will have no role, how do you get around the fact, even in the best of all circumstances that you negotiate an agreement, how do you get around the fact that Hamas is playing a huge role in Gaza?

MR. MITCHELL: With respect to the first question, let’s be clear that the declaration of the moratorium itself last November was a significant action, which has had a significant effect on new housing construction starts in the West Bank. And as I said, our position on settlements is well-known, remains unchanged, and we expect both parties to promote an environment conducive to negotiations.

With respect to Hamas, let’s be clear. Hamas won a legislative election. They acknowledge the continued executive authority of President Abbas and his team, and it is entirely appropriate that we negotiate with the executive head of that government. When Democrats regained control of the Congress in 2006, that didn’t end President Bush’s tenure as president, and others who wanted to negotiate with the United States negotiated with the legally elected and then-chief of our executive branch of government. And that is the situation here.

QUESTION: So you expect Hamas to accept any decision made by President Abbas at these negotiations?

MR. MITCHELL: It is not for me to make decisions for others.

MR. CROWLEY: We’ll take one more here, then we’ll go back up to the phones.

QUESTION: Senator Mitchell, is it your understanding that this would be a shelf agreement, something to take effect at a later date when political conditions in the Palestinian territories allow, or is it your understanding that this is something that would take effect in a very short period after it was agreed?

MR. MITCHELL: That’s obviously subject to the results of the negotiations. We are not creating limitations or restraints upon what the parties may agree to. Our hope is that there will be an agreement that will end the conflict for all time and will result in the establishment of a viable, democratic, and independent state of Palestine living side by side in peace and security with Israel.

MR. CROWLEY: Operator, we’ll take one or two more from the phones.

OPERATOR: Thank you. Our next question on the phone is Margaret Talev with McClatchy newspapers.

QUESTION: Hi, thanks for taking our questions. The Palestinian press has reported that the U.S. put the harshest pressure to date on the Palestinians to get them into the talks. What I want to know is why did the U.S. feel that this was the time, in the Palestinians’ view, to bully the Palestinians into talking, considering the politics of the Israeli administration right now?

MR. MITCHELL: The United States position has been well-known from the time that this administration entered office. We have and we do favor direct negotiation between the parties to resolve the conflict and to produce an agreement that results in two states living side by side in peace and security. We have encouraged the two parties to enter into such negotiations and they have now agreed. And we are – we believe it’s the right thing to do, we think that both of the leaders believe it’s the right thing to do, and we believe it’s in the best interests of the people they represent.

MR. CROWLEY: We’ll take one more, Operator, from the phone.

OPERATOR: Thank you. Susan Garraty with News Talk Radio.

QUESTION: Hello, Senator Mitchell. You harkened back to the Northern Ireland peace process, and as you certainly recall, the President then played a very intimate role in that. Considering that many Americans themselves are even confused about President Obama’s religious affiliation, do you feel like the people of the Middle East on both sides of this issue will see President Obama as an honest broker and someone that they can actually reach out to in that same intimate fashion?

MR. MITCHELL: Yes, I do believe that they do and will continue to regard President Obama in that fashion. I will say that from the outset, both he and the Secretary of State have played an important, indeed critical, role in this effort. Both are deeply involved on a regular basis and deeply, personally committed to the cause of a comprehensive peace in the Middle East. I think that is not only widely recognized throughout the region and the world, but very much appreciated, and in particular, throughout the region.

MR. CROWLEY: We’ll take a couple of wrap-ups. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Yes. Senator Mitchell.

MR. CROWLEY: Yes.

QUESTION: The total settlement freeze never happened, so I was wondering, how can these talks be considered authentic in the region when that demand was never met?

MR. MITCHELL: We believe that there is a basis for proceeding and achieving a successful result, and we’re going to pursue that. We do not take the position that if you don’t get everything you want the first time you ask for it, you pack up your bags and go home. If that had been the standard applied in South Africa, there would never have been peace there; in Northern Ireland, there would never have been peace there; in Bosnia, there would never have been peace there.

It takes patience, persistence, a willingness to go back again and again, to not take the first no as a final no, to not take the 50th no as the final no or the 100th no. We are patient, we are persevering, and we are determined, and we believe there is a basis for concluding a peace agreement in the region, and that’s what we’re going to pursue.

MR. CROWLEY: Samir.

QUESTION: Senator, do you understand that – you expect Abbas to accept entering these talks without preconditions?

MR. MITCHELL: Both the United States and the Quartet have said that we believe there should be direct talks without preconditions. And we also have said many times that we think that these talks should be conducted in a positive atmosphere in which the parties refrain from taking any steps that are not conducive to making progress in the discussions, that negotiate seriously and in good faith. And in all of these respects, we think that there is a basis for making progress.

QUESTION: So the talks won’t be based on the Quartet statement of March 19?

MR. MITCHELL: The parties are the only ones who can determine what the basis of their discussions are, and that is the case.

QUESTION: Yes, thank you. Senator, so many Palestinians, as you know, and Arabs believe peace with the actual Israeli Government is practically impossible because of its nature, past statement regarding refugees, Jerusalem, et cetera. Aren’t you concerned that by setting this one-year deadline, you’ll probably be raising expectations just like a la Camp David and all what happened after that?

MR. MITCHELL: The reality is, of course, that there are some in both societies who do not believe that the other side is serious, who do not trust the other side, who do not wish to proceed with the other side. And if we accept the premise that because some in one or both societies hold these views that we cannot proceed, then of course, what we are doing is consigning all of those people to never-ending conflict, never-ending difficulties. We simply don’t believe that’s a proper basis for any country, and certainly not ours, the United States, on which to base its policy.

We believe that the best course of action is the direct negotiations that result in a peace agreement ending this conflict and resulting in two states living side by side in peace and security. We believe the only way to achieve that is through direct negotiations. We believe that if those negotiations are conducted seriously and in good faith, they can produce such an agreement within 12 months. And that is our objective. We acknowledge, we recognize, as you have just stated, that there are many who don’t believe that, many who don’t want that, many who will act to prevent that.

But their lack of belief, their contrary views, their contrary actions cannot serve to prevent us from trying to deal with this conflict, nor can it prevent the leaders of those countries who both recognize that the interests of their people, the future of their societies rests upon resolving this conflict and achieving the kind of peace and stability and security from which they will all benefit.

MR. CROWLEY: Last question, Mark Landler.

QUESTION: Senator, this Administration believed from the early days that its Middle East strategy and its Iran strategy were linked in the sense that if you could make progress in one, you might help make progress in another and vice versa. You now are moving into a period of less engagement and more confrontation with Iran. I’m wondering whether you think that is an added hurdle to a peace agreement or is it something that could actually help in the sense that the Israelis may feel that the U.S. is going to be tough on Iran and it allays their fears somewhat in that regard.

MR. MITCHELL: That extends somewhat beyond the area of my involvement in this process, and so I would defer for a more full and thoughtful answer to those who are directly engaged on the broader issues. I will simply say that if you look at the Middle East and review its history over just the past half century, never mind several millennia, you will conclude that there is no really, quote, “right time” to do this, that there always have been and always will be issues external to the immediate parties that have an effect upon what is occurring.

And in my judgment, what is occurring in the – throughout the region, not just in Iran but in other areas, all add compelling, cumulative evidence to the need to act with respect to this conflict. That is to say, whether or not the circumstance you describe produces the result you describe, it still remains a compelling argument that it is very much in the national security interest of the United States, in terms of dealing with other conflicts, to assist, to do all we can with the help and support of our allies, to bring about a resolution of this conflict. It helps in so many ways, and most importantly, it’s the best thing for the Palestinian people and for the people of Israel. And it is in our national security interest and in that of others.

Thank you all very much. It’s been a pleasure to be with you.

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Preceding provided by the U.S. State Department

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