Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Letter: Free a Spy to Help Save the Mideast Talks?

I think this is my #18 in the New York Times:

The Opinion Pages Letters

Free a Spy to Help Save the Mideast Talks?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A personal thought regarding the reported Gilad Shalit deal

The Gilad Shalit deal will force Israeli society to do something that we're really bad at: admit that things can have good and bad sides. It's undeniable that releasing terrorists will most likely result in some of them killing other Israeli civilians. This has happened before with prisoner releases and is likely this time. It's undeniably likely. On the other hand, it's undeniable that Israel has a social contract, where families (almost all) send their sons to the army, and the government has to treat each soldier like he's their son. This too is undeniable. Our challenge ahead: celebrating his release and admitting in any debate that there are sometimes big decisions to be made with undeniable trade-offs.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Text of Prime Minister Netanyahu's speech at the U.N.

Remarks by Israeli PM Netanyahu to the U.N. General Assembly

Ladies and gentlemen, Israel has extended its hand in peace from the moment it was established 63 years ago. On behalf of Israel and the Jewish people, I extend that hand again today. I extend it to the people of Egypt and Jordan, with renewed friendship for neighbors with whom we have made peace. I extend it to the people of Turkey, with respect and good will. I extend it to the people of Libya and Tunisia, with admiration for those trying to build a democratic future. I extend it to the other peoples of North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, with whom we want to forge a new beginning. I extend it to the people of Syria, Lebanon and Iran, with awe at the courage of those fighting brutal repression.

But most especially, I extend my hand to the Palestinian people, with whom we seek a just and lasting peace.

Ladies and gentlemen, in Israel our hope for peace never wanes. Our scientists, doctors, and innovators apply their genius to improve the world of tomorrow. Our artists, our writers, enrich the heritage of humanity. Now, I know that this is not exactly the image of Israel that is often portrayed in this hall. After all, it was here in 1975that the age-old yearning of my people to restore our national life in our ancient biblical homeland -- it was then that this was branded shamefully, as racism. And it was here in 1980, right here, that the historic peace agreement between Israel and Egypt wasn't praised; it was denounced! And it's here, year after year that Israel is unjustly singled out for condemnation. It's singled out for condemnation more often than all the nations of the world combined. Twenty-one out of the 27 General Assembly resolutions condemn Israel -- the one true democracy in the Middle East.

Well, this is an unfortunate part of the UN institution. It's the theater of the absurd. It doesn't only cast Israel as the villain; it often casts real villains in leading roles: Gadhafi's Libya chaired the UN Commission on Human Rights; Saddam's Iraq headed the UN Committee on Disarmament. You might say: That's the past. Well, here's what's happening now -- right now, today, Hezbollah-controlled Lebanon now presides over the UN Security Council. This means, in effect, that a terror organization presides over the body entrusted with guaranteeing the world's security.

You couldn't make this thing up.

So here in the UN, automatic majorities can decide anything. They can decide that the sun sets rises in the west. But they can also decide -- they have decided -- that the Western Wall in Jerusalem, Judaism's holiest place, is occupied Palestinian territory.

And yet even here in the General Assembly, the truth can sometimes break through. In 1984 when I was appointed Israel's ambassador to the United Nations, I visited the great rabbi of Lubavich. He said to me -- and ladies and gentlemen, I don't want any of you to be offended because from personal experience of serving here, I know there are many honorable men and women, many capable and decent people, serving their nations here -- But here's what the rebbe said to me. He said to me, you'll be serving in a house of many lies. And then he said, remember that even in the darkest place, the light of a single candle can be seen far and wide.

Today I hope that the light of truth will shine, if only for a few minutes, in a hall that for too long has been a place of darkness for my country. So as Israel's prime minister, I didn't come here to win applause. I came here to speak the truth. The truth is -- the truth is that Israel wants peace. The truth is that I want peace. The truth is that in the Middle East at all times, but especially during these turbulent days, peace must be anchored in security. The truth is that we cannot achieve peace through UN resolutions, but only through direct negotiations between the parties. The truth is that so far the Palestinians have refused to negotiate. The truth is that Israel wants peace with a Palestinian state, but the Palestinians want a state without peace. And the truth is you shouldn't let that happen.

Ladies and gentlemen, when I first came here 27 years ago, the world was divided between East and West. Since then the Cold War ended, great civilizations have risen from centuries of slumber, hundreds of millions have been lifted out of poverty, countless more are poised to follow, and the remarkable thing is that so far this monumental historic shift has largely occurred peacefully. Yet a malignancy is now growing between East and West that threatens the peace of all. It seeks not to liberate, but to enslave, not to build, but to destroy.

That malignancy is militant Islam. It cloaks itself in the mantle of a great faith, yet it murders Jews, Christians and Muslims alike with unforgiving impartiality. On September 11thit killed thousands of Americans, and it left the twin towers in smoldering ruins. Last night I laid a wreath on the 9/11 memorial. It was deeply moving. But as I was going there, one thing echoed in my mind: the outrageous words of the president of Iran on this podium yesterday. He implied that 9/11 was an American conspiracy. Some of you left this hall. All of you should have.

Since 9/11, militant Islamists slaughtered countless other innocents -- in London and Madrid, in Baghdad and Mumbai, in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, in every part of Israel. I believe that the greatest danger facing our world is that this fanaticism will arm itself with nuclear weapons. And this is precisely what Iran is trying to do.

Can you imagine that man who ranted here yesterday -- can you imagine him armed with nuclear weapons? The international community must stop Iran before it's too late. If Iran is not stopped, we will all face the specter of nuclear terrorism, and the Arab Spring could soon become an Iranian winter.

That would be a tragedy. Millions of Arabs have taken to the streets to replace tyranny with liberty, and no one would benefit more than Israel if those committed to freedom and peace would prevail.

This is my fervent hope. But as the prime minister of Israel, I cannot risk the future of the Jewish state on wishful thinking. Leaders must see reality as it is, not as it ought to be. We must do our best to shape the future, but we cannot wish away the dangers of the present.

And the world around Israelis definitely becoming more dangerous. Militant Islam has already taken over Lebanon and Gaza. It's determined to tear apart the peace treaties between Israel and Egypt and between Israel and Jordan. It's poisoned many Arab minds against Jews and Israel, against America and the West. It opposes not the policies of Israel but the existence of Israel.

Now, some argue that the spread of militant Islam, especially in these turbulent times -- if you want to slow it down, they argue, Israel must hurry to make concessions, to make territorial compromises. And this theory sounds simple. Basically it goes like this: Leave the territory, and peace will be advanced. The moderates will be strengthened, the radicals will be kept at bay. And don't worry about the pesky details of how Israel will actually defend itself; international troops will do the job.

These people say to me constantly: Just make a sweeping offer, and everything will work out. You know, there's only one problem with that theory. We've tried it and it hasn't worked. In 2000 Israel made a sweeping peace offer that met virtually all of the Palestinian demands. Arafat rejected it. The Palestinians then launched a terror attack that claimed a thousand Israeli lives.

Prime Minister Olmert afterwards made an even more sweeping offer, in 2008. President Abbas didn't even respond to it.

But Israel did more than just make sweeping offers. We actually left territory. We withdrew from Lebanon in2000 and from every square inch of Gaza in 2005. That didn't calm the Islamic storm, the militant Islamic storm that threatens us. It only brought the storm closer and made it stronger.

Hezbollah and Hamas fired thousands of rockets against our cities from the very territories we vacated. See, when Israel left Lebanon and Gaza, the moderates didn't defeat the radicals, the moderates were devoured by the radicals. And I regret to say that international troops like UNIFIL in Lebanon and EUBAM in Gaza didn't stop the radicals from attacking Israel.

We left Gaza hoping for peace.

We didn't freeze the settlements in Gaza, we uprooted them. We did exactly what the theory says: Get out, go back to the 1967 borders, dismantle the settlements.

And I don't think people remember how far we went to achieve this. We uprooted thousands of people from their homes. We pulled children out of their schools and their kindergartens. We bulldozed synagogues. We even -- we even moved loved ones from their graves. And then, having done all that, we gave the keys of Gaza to President Abbas.

Now the theory says it should all work out, and President Abbas and the Palestinian Authority now could build a peaceful state in Gaza. You can remember that the entire world applauded. They applauded our withdrawal as an act of great statesmanship. It was a bold act of peace.

But ladies and gentlemen, we didn't get peace. We got war. We got Iran, which through its proxy Hamas promptly kicked out the Palestinian Authority. The Palestinian Authority collapsed in a day -- in one day

. President Abbas just said on this podium that the Palestinians are armed only with their hopes and dreams. Yeah, hopes, dreams and 10,000 missiles and Grad rockets supplied by Iran, not to mention the river of lethal weapons now flowing into Gaza from the Sinai, from Libya, and from elsewhere.

Thousands of missiles have already rained down on our cities. So you might understand that, given all this, Israelis rightly ask: What's to prevent this from happening again in the West Bank? See, most of our major cities in the south of the country are within a few dozen kilometers from Gaza. But in the center of the country, opposite the West Bank, our cities are a few hundred meters or at most a few kilometers away from the edge of the West Bank.

So I want to ask you. Would any of you -- would any of you bring danger so close to your cities, to your families? Would you act so recklessly with the lives of your citizens? Israelis are prepared to have a Palestinian state in the West Bank, but we're not prepared to have another Gaza there. And that's why we need to have rea l security arrangements, which the Palestinians simply refuse to negotiate with us.

Israelis remember the bitter lessons of Gaza. Many of Israel's critics ignore them. They irresponsibly advise Israel to go down this same perilous path again. Your read what these people say and it's as if nothing happened -- just repeating the same advice, the same formulas as though none of this happened.

And these critics continue to press Israel to make far-reaching concessions without first assuring Israel's security. They praise those who unwittingly feed the insatiable crocodile of militant Islam as bold statesmen. They cast as enemies of peace those of us who insist that we must first erect a sturdy barrier to keep the crocodile out, or at the very least jam an iron bar between its gaping jaws.

So in the face of the labels and the libels, Israel must heed better advice. Better a bad press than a good eulogy, and better still would be a fair press whose sense of history extends beyond breakfast, and which recognizes Israel's legitimate security concerns.

I believe that in serious peace negotiations, these needs and concerns can be properly addressed, but they will not be addressed without negotiations. And the needs are many, because Israel is such a tiny country. Without Judea and Samaria, the West Bank, Israel is all of 9 miles wide.

I want to put it for you in perspective, because you're all in the city. That's about two-thirds the length of Manhattan. It's the distance between Battery Park and Columbia University. And don't forget that the people who live in Brooklyn and New Jersey are considerably nicer than some of Israel's neighbors.

So how do you -- how do you protect such a tiny country, surrounded by people sworn to its destruction and armed to the teeth by Iran? Obviously you can't defend it from within that narrow space alone. Israel needs greater strategic depth, and that's exactly why Security Council Resolution 242 didn't require Israel to leave all the territories it captured in the Six-Day War. It talked about withdrawal from territories, to secure and defensible boundaries. And to defend itself, Israel must therefore maintain a long-term Israeli military presence in critical strategic areas in the West Bank.

I explained this to President Abbas. He answered that if a Palestinian state was to be a sovereign country, it could never accept such arrangements. Why not? America has had troops in Japan, Germany and South Korea for more than a half a century. Britain has had an air base in Cyprus. France has forces in three independent African nations. None of these states claim that they're not sovereign countries.

And there are many other vital security issues that also must be addressed. Take the issue of air space. Again, Israel's small dimensions create huge security problems. America can be crossed by jet airplane in six hours. To fly across Israel, it takes three minutes. So is Israel's tiny airspace to be chopped in half and given to a Palestinian state not at peace with Israel?

Our major international airport is a few kilometers away from the West Bank. Without peace, will our planes become targets for antiaircraft missiles placed in the adjacent Palestinian state? And how will we stop the smuggling into the West Bank? It's not merely the West Bank, it's the West Bank mountains. It just dominates the coastal plain where most of Israel's population sits below. How could we prevent the smuggling into these mountains of those missiles that could be fired on our cities?

I bring up these problems because they're not theoretical problems. They're very real. And for Israelis, they're life-and- death matters. All these potential cracks in Israel's security have to be sealed in a peace agreement before a Palestinian state is declared, not afterwards, because if you leave it afterwards, they won't be sealed. And these problems will explode in our face and explode the peace.

The Palestinians should first make peace with Israel and then get their state. But I also want to tell you this. After such a peace agreement is signed, Israel will not be the last country to welcome a Palestinian state as a new member of the United Nations. We will be the first.

And there's one more thing. Hamas has been violating international law by holding our soldier Gilad Shalit captive for five years.

They haven't given even one Red Cross visit. He's held in a dungeon, in darkness, against all international norms. Gilad Shalit is the son of Aviva and Noam Shalit. He is the grandson of Zvi Shalit, who escaped the Holocaust by coming in the 1930's as a boy to the land of Israel. Gilad Shalit is the son of every Israeli family. Every nation represented here should demand his immediate release. If you want to pass a resolution about the Middle East today, that's the resolution you should pass.

Ladies and gentlemen, last year in Israel in Bar-Ilan University, this year in the Knesset and in the U.S. Congress, I laid out my vision for peace in which a demilitarized Palestinian state recognizes the Jewish state. Yes, the Jewish state. After all, this is the body that recognized the Jewish state 64 years ago. Now, don't you think it's about time that Palestinians did the same?

The Jewish state of Israel will always protect the rights of all its minorities, including the more than 1million Arab citizens of Israel. I wish I could say the same thing about a future Palestinian state, for as Palestinian officials made clear the other day-- in fact, I think they made it right here in New York -- they said the Palestinian state won't allow any Jews in it. They'll be Jew-free -- Judenrein. That's ethnic cleansing. There are laws today in Ramallah that make the selling of land to Jews punishable by death. That's racism. And you know which laws this evokes.

Israel has no intention whatsoever to change the democratic character of our state. We just don't want the Palestinians to try to change the Jewish character of our state. We want to give up -- we want them to give up the fantasy of flooding Israel with millions of Palestinians.

President Abbas just stood here, and he said that the core of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the settlements. Well, that's odd. Our conflict has been raging for -- was raging for nearly half a century before there was a single Israeli settlement in the West Bank. So if what President Abbas is saying was true, then the -- I guess that the settlements he's talking about are Tel Aviv, Haifa, Jaffa, Be'er Sheva. Maybe that's what he meant the other day when he said that Israel has been occupying Palestinian land for 63 years. He didn't say from 1967; he said from1948. I hope somebody will bother to ask him this question because it illustrates a simple truth: The core of the conflict is not the settlements.

The settlements are a result of the conflict.. The settlements have to be --it's an issue that has to be addressed and resolved in the course of negotiations. But the core of the conflict has always been and unfortunately remains the refusal of the Palestinians to recognize a Jewish state in any border.

I think it's time that the Palestinian leadership recognizes what every serious international leader has recognized, from Lord Balfour and Lloyd George in 1917, to President Truman in1948, to President Obama just two days ago right here: Israel is the Jewish state.

President Abbas, stop walking around this issue. Recognize the Jewish state, and make peace with us. In such a genuine peace, Israel is prepared to make painful compromises. We believe that the Palestinians should be neither the citizens of Israel nor its subjects. They should live in a free state of their own. But they should be ready, like us, for compromise. And we will know that they're ready for compromise and for peace when they start taking Israel's security requirements seriously and when they stop denying our historical connection to our ancient homeland.

I often hear them accuse Israel of Judaizing Jerusalem. That's like accusing America of Americanizing Washington, or the British of Anglicizing London. You know why we're called "Jews"? Because we come from Judea.

In my office in Jerusalem, there's a -- there's an ancient seal. It's a signet ring of a Jewish official from the time of the Bible. The seal was found right next to the Western Wall, and it dates back 2,700 years, to the time of King Hezekiah. Now, there's a name of the Jewish official inscribed on the ring in Hebrew. His name was Netanyahu. That's my last name. My first name, Benjamin, dates back a thousand years earlier to Benjamin -- Binyamin -- the son of Jacob, who was also known as Israel. Jacob and his 12 sons roamed these same hills of Judea and Samaria 4,000 years ago, and there's been a continuous Jewish presence in the land ever since.

And for those Jews who were exiled from our land, they never stopped dreaming of coming back: Jews in Spain, on the eve of their expulsion; Jews in the Ukraine, fleeing the pogroms; Jews fighting the Warsaw Ghetto, as the Nazis were circling around it. They never stopped praying, they never stopped yearning. They whispered: Next year in Jerusalem. Next year in the promised land.

As the prime minister of Israel, I speak for a hundred generations of Jews who were dispersed throughout the lands, who suffered every evil under the Sun, but who never gave up hope of restoring their national life in the one and only Jewish state.

Ladies and gentlemen, I continue to hope that President Abbas will be my partner in peace. I've worked hard to advance that peace. The day I came into office, I called for direct negotiations without preconditions. President Abbas didn't respond. I outlined a vision of peace of two states for two peoples. He still didn't respond. I removed hundreds of roadblocks and checkpoints, to ease freedom of movement in the Palestinian areas; this facilitated a fantastic growth in the Palestinian economy. But again -- no response. I took the unprecedented step of freezing new buildings in the settlements for 10 months. No prime minister did that before, ever. Once again -- you applaud, but there was no response. No response.

In the last few weeks, American officials have put forward ideas to restart peace talks. There were things in those ideas about borders that I didn't like. There were things thereabout the Jewish state that I'm sure the Palestinians didn't like.

But with all my reservations, I was willing to move forward on these American ideas.

President Abbas, why don't you join me? We have to stop negotiating about the negotiations. Let's just get on with it. Let's negotiate peace.

I spent years defending Israel on the battlefield. I spent decades defending Israel in the court of public opinion. President Abbas, you've dedicated your life to advancing the Palestinian cause. Must this conflict continue for generations, or will we be able our children and our grandchildren to speak in years ahead of how we found a way to end it? That's what we should aim for, and that's what I believe we can achieve.

In two and a half years, we met in Jerusalem only once, even though my door has always been open to you. If you wish, I'll come to Ramallah. Actually, I have a better suggestion. We've both just flown thousands of miles to New York. Now we're in the same city. We're in the same building. So let's meet here today in the United Nations. Who's there to stop us? What is there to stop us? If we genuinely want peace, what is there to stop us from meeting today and beginning peace negotiations?

And I suggest we talk openly and honestly. Let's listen to one another. Let's do as we say in the Middle East: Let's talk "doogri". That means straightforward. I'll tell you my needs and concerns. You'll tell me yours. And with God's help, we'll find the common ground of peace.

There's an old Arab saying that you cannot applaud with one hand. Well, the same is true of peace. I can not make peace alone. I cannot make peace without you. President Abbas, I extend my hand -- the hand of Israel -- in peace. I hope that you will grasp that hand. We are both the sons of Abraham. My people call him Avraham. Your people call him Ibrahim. We share the same patriarch. We dwell in the same land. Our destinies are intertwined. Let us realize the vision of Isaiah --(Isaiah 9:1in Hebrew) -- "The people who walk in darkness will see a great light." Let that light be the light of peace.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Letter: The Palestinian Bid for U.N. Recognition of a State (New York Times)

I think this is my 17th in the Times:


The Palestinian Bid for U.N. Recognition of a State

Published: September 19, 2011

To the Editor:

Re “Palestinians Turn to U.N., Where Partition Began” (news article, Sept. 19): For a two-state solution to lead to peace, certain facts must be acknowledged.

The world cannot ignore the fact that the Arabs in 1947 could have created a state according to the United Nations partition plan, but chose instead to go to war.

The world cannot ignore the fact that Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip, intending to jump-start Palestinian statehood, and that the Palestinians chose not to create a peaceful and productive state on that land.

The world cannot ignore the fact that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel has offered clearly to give the Palestinians land for a state, if they would live peacefully without terror, and they have not yet been willing to accept the requirement.

Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it. Only by acknowledging the Palestinians’ repeated refusal to accept peace, and forcing them to address these issues, can true peace be achieved.

Beit Shemesh, Israel, Sept. 19, 2011

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Jerusalem Post: School Daze - Beit Shemesh school controversy

Sir, – Your article missed several facts that are critical to understanding the issues in Beit Shemesh.

First, the school building in question is the second in a two building lot. The existing building is the Orot boys’ school. The Education Ministry’s plan was that the two Orot schools be together.

Second, the area in question is not in the middle of an ultra- Orthodox neighborhood. Orot would not want such a location.

The area is on the edge of Beit Shemesh, connected to several mixed-population neighborhoods and a lot of Anglo immigrants. It also abuts the ultra-Orthodox area of Ramat Beit Shemesh. But while Ramat Beit Shemesh is in many areas growing into adjacent fields, the Anglo neighborhoods of Beit Shemesh have nowhere else nearby to build a school.

Third, the general population of Beit Shemesh has not opposed the building of ultra-Orthodox schools, and many such schools have opened up in Ramat Beit Shemesh. All that is being asked is that the areas right near Beit Shemesh be used for the natural growth of the general population.

[Final line I wrote that was edited out for space:  Beit Shemesh is a city with a lot of different constituencies, and except for a few hundred extremists, all could live together in peace. We all call on the Major and City Council to stop extremism right now, and do whatever is needed to prevent violence.]

Beit Shemesh

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Killings in the West Bank

Killings in the West Bank

To the Editor:

Re “Suspecting Palestinians, Israeli Military Hunts for Killers of 5 West Bank Settlers” (news article, March 13):

Any statement that legitimizes the killing of a 3-month-old baby in her sleep because of the proximity of Israeli settlements to Palestinian towns is contributing to the problem. Such murder cannot be legitimized whatever the politics.

Thousands of Israeli Arabs live in dozens of Arab towns within Israel’s borders, and no Israelis would say that their existence legitimizes killing their children. Rather, they are minority-group citizens with representation in the Israeli Parliament.

The democratic Western world should demand that the Palestinians similarly tolerate a Jewish presence in their midst, instead of legitimizing murder of neighbors because they’re Jews.

Bruce Dov Krulwich
Beit Shemesh, Israel, March 13, 2011

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Washington Post letter: Helen Thomas's controversial voice

In today's (Thursday's) Washington Post: (second letter)

Helen Thomas's controversial voice

As a long-ago graduate of another Bethesda high school who now lives in Israel, I'm glad to hear that Helen Thomas won't speak at Walt Whitman's graduation.

Ms. Thomas's comments that Jews should leave Israel and "go home" to Poland or Germany were no different from hateful comments from others about African Americans "going home" to Africa or Hispanic Americans "going home" to other countries.

Israel was created legally by League of Nations mandate and United Nations vote. Israel has also been willing to live in peace alongside a Palestinian state as early as the 1948 partition plan and as recently as the Gaza withdrawal in 2005. If the Palestinians would accept that Jews are "home" in Israel and stop being fueled to hatred by comments such as those of Ms. Thomas, we could hope to reach peaceful coexistence.

Graduates entering the adult world need to know that freedom of speech comes with responsibility. There is too much hateful speech in our world, and such speech is not an expression of freedom but an impediment to freedom.

Dov Bruce Krulwich, Beit Shemesh, Israel

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

NY Times: The Israeli Commandos and the Flotilla


The Israeli Commandos and the Flotilla

To the Editor:

If the flotilla activists truly wanted to bring peaceful supplies to Gaza, they would have accepted the Israeli military’s offer to relay all supplies to Gaza after checking them for weapons or explosives. But the flotilla activists did not accept the offer.

If the flotilla activists truly wanted to promote peace, they would have accepted the offer of the parents of Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier held captive, to pressure the Israeli government to let the flotilla through, in return for the flotilla activists pressuring Hamas to allow letters and food packages to be delivered to Gilad Shalit. But the flotilla activists did not accept this offer either.

And if the flotilla activists really wanted to stop the three-year-old Israeli blockade of Gaza, they would push Hamas to stop the rockets that caused the blockade to be imposed. Then Gazans could return to the freedom that they had immediately after the Israeli withdrawal in 2005, when many hoped peace was on the horizon.

When activists can truly work for peace, maybe peace will come.

Bruce Dov Krulwich
Beit Shemesh, Israel, June 1, 2010

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Krauthammer: How Obama Created the Current US/Israel Problem

Charles Krauthammer in the Washington Post hit the nail on the head here:

How Obama created the Biden incident

By Charles Krauthammer Friday, March 19, 2010

Why did President Obama choose to turn a gaffe into a crisis in U.S.-Israeli relations?

And a gaffe it was: the announcement by a bureaucrat in Israel's Interior Ministry of a housing expansion in a Jewish neighborhood in north Jerusalem. The timing could not have been worse: Vice President Biden was visiting, Jerusalem is a touchy subject, and you don't bring up touchy subjects that might embarrass an honored guest.

But it was no more than a gaffe. It was certainly not a policy change, let alone a betrayal. The neighborhood is in Jerusalem, and the 2009 Netanyahu-Obama agreement was for a 10-month freeze on West Bank settlements excluding Jerusalem.

Nor was the offense intentional. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu did not know about this move -- step four in a seven-step approval process for construction that, at best, will not even start for two to three years.

Nonetheless the prime minister is responsible. He apologized to Biden for the embarrassment. When Biden left Israel on March 11, the apology appeared accepted and the issue resolved.

The next day, however, the administration went nuclear. After discussing with the president specific language she would use, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called Netanyahu to deliver a hostile and highly aggressive 45-minute message that the Biden incident had created an unprecedented crisis in U.S.-Israeli relations.

Clinton's spokesman then publicly announced that Israel was required to show in word and in deed its seriousness about peace.

Israel? Israelis have been looking for peace -- literally dying for peace -- since 1947, when they accepted the U.N. partition of Palestine into a Jewish and Arab state. (The Arabs refused and declared war. They lost.)

Israel made peace offers in 1967, 1978 and in the 1993 Oslo peace accords that Yasser Arafat tore up seven years later to launch a terror war that killed a thousand Israelis. Why, Clinton's own husband testifies to the remarkably courageous and visionary peace offer made in his presence by Ehud Barak (now Netanyahu's defense minister) at the 2000 Camp David talks. Arafat rejected it. In 2008, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert offered equally generous terms to Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas. Refused again.

In these long and bloody 63 years, the Palestinians have not once accepted an Israeli offer of permanent peace, or ever countered with anything short of terms that would destroy Israel. They insist instead on a "peace process" -- now in its 17th post-Oslo year and still offering no credible Palestinian pledge of ultimate coexistence with a Jewish state -- the point of which is to extract preemptive Israeli concessions, such as a ban on Jewish construction in parts of Jerusalem conquered by Jordan in 1948, before negotiations for a real peace have even begun.

Under Obama, Netanyahu agreed to commit his center-right coalition to acceptance of a Palestinian state; took down dozens of anti-terror roadblocks and checkpoints to ease life for the Palestinians; assisted West Bank economic development to the point where its gross domestic product is growing at an astounding 7 percent a year; and agreed to the West Bank construction moratorium, a concession that Secretary Clinton herself called "unprecedented."

What reciprocal gesture, let alone concession, has Abbas made during the Obama presidency? Not one.

Indeed, long before the Biden incident, Abbas refused even to resume direct negotiations with Israel. That's why the Obama administration has to resort to "proximity talks" -- a procedure that sets us back 35 years to before Anwar Sadat's groundbreaking visit to Jerusalem.

And Clinton demands that Israel show its seriousness about peace?

Now that's an insult.

So why this astonishing one-sidedness? Because Obama likes appeasing enemies while beating up on allies -- therefore Israel shouldn't take it personally (according to Robert Kagan)? Because Obama wants to bring down the current Israeli coalition government (according to Jeffrey Goldberg)?

Or is it because Obama fancies himself the historic redeemer whose irresistible charisma will heal the breach between Christianity and Islam or, if you will, between the post-imperial West and the Muslim world -- and has little patience for this pesky Jewish state that brazenly insists on its right to exist, and even more brazenly on permitting Jews to live in its ancient, historical and now present capital?

Who knows? Perhaps we should ask those Obama acolytes who assured the 63 percent of Americans who support Israel -- at least 97 percent of those supporters, mind you, are non-Jews -- about candidate Obama's abiding commitment to Israel.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Never know how a letter will be quoted!

I always wonder whether letters to the editor are seen and read. Now I see how one of my letters was quoted. A comment I made regarding reporting of terrorism:

Choice of terminology is a moral statement. If morally neutral terminology is used for morally repugnant acts, it reduces the sense of repugnance. And when the same terminology is used for a moral and immoral act, a moral equivalence is created.

is being quoted to defend Feng Shui and Eastern approaches in general:

Very amusing! Glad to know my letters are being read!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Full English text of Prime Minister Netanyahu's speech about a Demilitarized Palestinian State

Full English text of Netanyahu's foreign policy speech at Bar Ilan

Honored guests, citizens of Israel.

Peace was always the desire of our people. Our prophets had a vision of peace, we greet each other with peace, our prayers end with the word peace. This evening we are in the center named for two leaders who were groundbreakers for peace -Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat - and we share their vision.

Two and a half months ago, I was sworn in at the Knesset as the Prime Minister of Israel. I promised that I would establish a unity government, and so. I believed, and still believe, that we need unity now more than ever before.

We are currently facing three tremendous challenges: The Iranian threat, the financial crisis, and the promotion of peace.

The Iranian threat still is before us in full force, as it became quite clear yesterday. The greatest danger to Israel, to the Middle East, and to all of humanity, is the encounter between extremist Islam and nuclear weapons. I discussed this with President Obama on my visit to Washington, and will be discussing it next week on my visit with European leaders. I have been working tirelessly for many years to form an international front against Iran arming itself with nuclear armaments.

With the world financial crisis, we acted immediately to bring about stability to the Israeli economy. We passed a two-year budget in the government and will pass it through the Knesset very soon.

The second challenge, rather, the third, so very important challenge, facing us today, is promoting peace. I discussed this also with President Obama. I strongly support the idea of regional peace that he is advancing. I share the President of the U.S.A's desire to bring about a new era of reconciliation in our region.

I discussed this in my meetings with President Mubarak in Egypt and with King Abdullah in Jordan to obtain the assistance of these leaders in the effort to expand the circle of peace in our region.

I appeal tonight to the leaders of the Arab countries and say: Let us meet. Let us talk about peace. Let us make peace. I am willing to meet at any time, at any place, in Damascus, in Riyadh, in Beirut, and in Jerusalem as well. (Applause)

I call upon the leaders of the Arab countries to join together with the Palestinians and with us to promote economic peace. Economic peace is not a substitute for peace, but it is a very important component in achieving it. Together we can advance projects that can overcome the problems facing our region. For example, water desalinization. And we can utilize the advantages of our region, such as maximizing the use of solar energy, or utilizing its geographical advantages to lay pipelines, pipelines to Africa and Europe.

Together we can realize the initiatives that I see in the Persian Gulf, which amaze the entire world, and also amaze me. I call upon the talented entrepreneurs of the Arab world, to come and invest here, to assist the Palestinians and us, to give the economy a jump-start. Together we can develop industrial zones, we can create thousands of jobs, and foster tourism that will draw millions, people who want to walk in the footsteps of history, in Nazareth and Bethlehem, in the heights of Jericho and on the walls of Jerusalem, on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, and at the baptismal site of the Jordan. There is a huge potential for the development of tourism potential here. If you only agree to work together.

I appeal to you, our Palestinian neighbors, and to the leadership of the Palestinian Authority. Let us begin peace negotiations immediately without prior conditions. Israel is committed to international agreements, and expects all sides to fulfill their obligations.
I say to the Palestinians: We want to live with you in peace, quiet, and good neighborly relations. We want our children and your children to 'know war no more.'

We do not want parents and wives, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, to know the sorrow of bereavement. We want our children to dream of a better future for humankind. We want us and our neighbors to devote our efforts to 'plowshares and pruning hooks' and not to ?swords and spears?? I know the terror of war, I participated in battles, I lost good friends who fell [in battle], I lost a brother. I saw the pain of bereaved families from up close ? very many times. I do not want war. No one in Israel wants war. (Applause)

Let us join hands and work together in peace, together with our neighbors. There is no limit to the flourishing growth that we can achieve for both peoples - in the economy, in agriculture, in commerce, tourism, education - but, above all, in the ability to give our younger generation hope to live in a place that?s good to live in, a life of creative work, a peaceful life with much of interest, with opportunity and hope.

Friends, with the advantages of peace so clear, so obvious, we must ask ourselves why is peace still so far from us, even though our hands are extended for peace? Why has the conflict going on for over 60 years? To bring an end to it, there must be a sincere, genuine answer to the question: what is the root of the conflict? In his speech at the Zionist Congress in Basel, in speaking of his grand vision of a Jewish homeland for the Jewish People, Theodor Herzl, the visionary of the State of Israel, said: This is so big, we must talk about it only in the simplest words possible.

I now am asking that when we speak of the huge challenge of peace, we must use the simplest words possible, using person to person terms. Even with our eyes on the horizon, we must have our feet on the ground, firmly rooted in truth. The simple truth is that the root of the conflict has been ? and remains - the refusal to recognize the right of the Jewish People to its own state in its historical homeland.

In 1947 when the United Nations proposed the Partition Plan for a Jewish state and an Arab state, the entire Arab world rejected the proposal, while the Jewish community accepted it with great rejoicing and dancing. The Arabs refused any Jewish state whatsoever, with any borders whatsoever.

Whoever thinks that the continued hostility to Israel is a result of our forces in Judea, Samaria and Gaza is confusing cause and effect. The attacks on us began in the 1920s, became an overall attack in 1948 when the state was declared, continued in the 1950s with the fedaayyin attacks, and reached their climax in 1967 on the eve of the Six-Day War, with the attempt to strangle Israel. All this happened nearly 50 years before a single Israeli soldier went into Judea and Samaria.

To our joy, Egypt and Jordan left this circle of hostility. They signed peace agreements with us which ended their hostility to Israel. It brought about peace.

To our deep regret, this is not happening with the Palestinians. The closer we get to a peace agreement with them, the more they are distancing themselves from peace. They raise new demands. They are not showing us that they want to end the conflict.

A great many people are telling us that withdrawal is the key to peace with the Palestinians. But the fact is that all our withdrawals were met by huge waves of suicide bombers.

We tried withdrawal by agreement, withdrawal without an agreement, we tried partial withdrawal and full withdrawal. In 2000, and once again last year, the government of Israel, based on good will, tried a nearly complete withdrawal, in exchange for the end of the conflict, and were twice refused.

We withdrew from the Gaza Strip to the last centimeter, we uprooted dozens of settlements and turned thousands of Israelis out of their homes. In exchange, what we received were missiles raining down on our cities, our towns and our children. The argument that withdrawal would bring peace closer did not stand up to the test of reality.

With Hamas in the south and Hezbollah in the north, they keep on saying that they want to 'liberate' Ashkelon in the south and Haifa and Tiberias.

Even the moderates among the Palestinians are not ready to say the most simplest things: The State of Israel is the national homeland of the Jewish People and will remain so. (Applause)

Friends, in order to achieve peace, we need courage and integrity on the part of the leaders of both sides. I am speaking today with courage and honesty. We need courage and sincerity not only on the Israeli side: we need the Palestinian leadership to rise and say, simply "We have had enough of this conflict. We recognize the right of the Jewish People to a state its own in this Land. We will live side by side in true peace." I am looking forward to this moment.

We want them to say the simplest things, to our people and to their people. This will then open the door to solving other problems, no matter how difficult. The fundamental condition for ending the conflict is the public, binding and sincere Palestinian recognition of Israel as the national homeland of the Jewish People. (Applause)

For this to have practical meaning, we need a clear agreement to solve the Palestinian refugee problem outside of the borders of the State of Israel. For it is clear to all that the demand to settle the Palestinian refugees inside of Israel, contradicts the continued existence of the State of Israel as the state of the Jewish People. We must solve the problem of the Arab refugees. And I believe that it is possible to solve it. Because we have proven that we ourselves solved a similar problem. Tiny Israel took in the hundreds of thousands of Jewish refugees from Arab countries who were uprooted from their homes.

Therefore, justice and logic dictates that the problem of the Palestinian refugees must be solved outside the borders of the State of Israel. There is broad national agreement on this. (Applause)

I believe that with good will and international investment of we can solve this humanitarian problem once and for all.

Friends, up to now, I have been talking about the need for the Palestinians to ecognize our rights. Now I will talk about the need for us to recognize their rights.

The connection of the Jewish People to the Land has been in existence for more than 3,500 years. Judea and Samaria, the places where our forefathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob walked, our forefathers David, Solomon, Isaiah and Jeremiah ? this is not a foreign land, this is the Land of our Forefathers. (Applause)

The right of the Jewish People to a state in the Land of Israel does not arise from the series of disasters that befell the Jewish People over 2,000 years -- persecutions, expulsions, pogroms, blood libels, murders, which reached its climax in the Holocaust, an unprecedented tragedy in the history of nations. There are those who say that without the Holocaust the State would not have been established, but I say that if the State of Israel had been established in time, the Holocaust would not have taken place. (Applause) The tragedies that arose from the Jewish People?s helplessness show very sharply that we need a protective state.

The right to establish our sovereign state here, in the Land of Israel, arises from one simple fact: Eretz Israel is the birthplace of the Jewish People. (Applause)

As the first PM David Ben Gurion in the declaration of the State, the State of Israel was established here in Eretz Israel, where the People of Israel created the Book of Books, and gave it to the world.

But, friends, we must state the whole truth here. The truth is that in the area of our homeland, in the heart of our Jewish Homeland, now lives a large population of Palestinians. We do not want to rule over them. We do not want to run their lives. We do not want to force our flag and our culture on them. In my vision of peace, there are two free peoples living side by side in this small land, with good neighborly relations and mutual respect, each with its flag, anthem and government, with neither one threatening its neighbor?s security and existence.

These two facts ? our link to the Land of Israel, and the Palestinian population who live here, have created deep disagreements within Israeli society. But the truth is that we have much more unity than disagreement.

I came here tonight to talk about the agreement and security that are broad consensus within Israeli society. This is what guides our policy. This policy must take into account the international situation. We have to recognize international agreements but also principles important to the State of Israel. I spoke tonight about the first principle - recognition. Palestinians must truly recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people. The second principle is demilitarization. Any area in Palestinian hands has to be demilitarization, with solid security measures. Without this condition, there is a real fear that there will be an armed Palestinian state which will become a terrorist base against Israel, as happened in Gaza. We do not want missiles on Petah Tikva, or Grads on the Ben-Gurion international airport. We want peace. (Applause)

And, to ensure peace we don?t want them to bring in missiles or rockets or have an army, or control of airspace, or make treaties with countries like Iran, or Hizbullah. There is broad agreement on this in Israel. We cannot be expected to agree to a Palestinian state without ensuring that it is demilitarized. This is crucial to the existence of Israel ? we must provide for our security needs.

This is why we are now asking our friends in the international community, headed by the USA, for what is necessary for our security, that in any peace agreement, the Palestinian area must be demilitarized. No army, no control of air space. Real effective measures to prevent arms coming in, not what?s going on now in Gaza. The Palestinians cannot make military treaties.

Without this, sooner or later, we will have another Hamastan. We can?t agree to this. Israel must govern its own fate and security. I told President Obama in Washington, if we get a guarantee of demilitarization, and if the Palestinians recognize Israel as the Jewish state, we are ready to agree to a real peace agreement, a demilitarized Palestinian state side by side with the Jewish state. (Applause)

Whenever we discuss a permanent arrangement, Israel needs defensible borders with Jerusalem remaining the united capital of Israel. (Applause)

The territorial issues will be discussed in a permanent agreement. Till then we have no intention to build new settlements or set aside land for new settlements. But there is a need to have people live normal lives and let mothers and fathers raise their children like everyone in the world. The settlers are not enemies of peace. They are our brothers and sisters. (Applause)

Friends, unity among us is, to my view, vital, and unity will help with reconciliation with our neighbors. Reconciliation must begin now. A strong Palestinian government will strengthen peace. If they truly want peace, and educate their children for peace and stop incitement, we for our part will make every effort, allow them freedom of movement and accessibility, making their lives easier and this will help bring peace.

But above all, they must decide: the Palestinians must decide between path of peace and path of Hamas. They must overcome Hamas. Israel will not sit down at conference table with terrorist who seek to destroy it. (Applause)

Hamas are not willing to even let the Red Cross visit our abducted soldier Gilad Shalit who has been in captivity three years, cut off from his family and his country. We want to bring him back whole and well.

With help of the international community, there is no reason why we can?t have peace. With help of USA, we can do we can do the unbelievable. In 61 years, with constant threats to our existence we have achieved so much. Our microchips power the worlds computers unbelievable, we have found cures for incurable diseases. Israeli drip irrigation waters barren lands throughout the world. Israeli researchers are making worldwide breakthroughs. If our neighbors only work for peace, we can achieve peace. (Applause)

I call upon Arab leaders and Palestinian leaders: Let?s go in the path of Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat, Yitzhak Rabin and King Hussein. Let?s go in the path of Prophet Isaiah, who spoke thousands of years ago, they shall beat their swords into plowshares and know war no more.
Let us know war no more. Let us know peace

Thursday, June 04, 2009

NYT Letter #14: Obama’s Piece of the Mideast Puzzle

To the Editor:

Let’s remember that Israel is the only country that gave land to the Palestinians for their autonomous rule. Jordan and Egypt did not do so during the 19 years that they controlled the West Bank and Gaza, but Israel did so by withdrawing from Gaza four years ago. The Palestinian response was not peaceful coexistence, but missiles and terror.

Settlements are not the problem here. Israel has destroyed settlements and displaced its citizens from their homes in Gaza. But the Palestinians didn’t build peaceful towns in the settlements; they used them as missile launching pads.

The world needs to avoid distractions, like settlements and border details, and focus on Arab willingness to live in peace. Peace means no missiles, no terror, no kidnappings.

Until the Arabs are willing to accept peace, Israeli overtures will go the same way as the Gaza withdrawal.

Bruce Dov Krulwich
Beit Shemesh, Israel, June 3, 2009

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Spectator: Learning Nothing from History

From the Spectator in the UK:

Learning nothing from history

Tuesday, 12th May 2009

Leave aside for the moment the malice towards Israel that is involved, the attitude of the Obama administration towards the Middle East is well-nigh incomprehensible in its suicidal stupidity. It is trying to make Israel play the role of Czechoslovakia in 1938, when Britain under Neville Chamberlain told it that if it didn’t submit to the Nazis it would stand alone – with the result that the following year, Hitler invaded Poland. Determined to prove that history repeats itself the second time as tragedy, America is trying to force Israel to destroy its security by accepting the creation of a terrorist Iranistan on its doorstep, under the threat that otherwise the US will not help protect its security by defanging Iran (and how, precisely would it do that?). But in doing so, the Obama administration is jeopardising the security of America itself and the free world, not to mention the Arab states which have good reason to fear Iranian regional hegemony. This paper by Efraim Inbar spells out the multiple idiocies of an administration that believes that making nice with genocidal fanatics will turn them into apostles of peaceful co-existence :

Recently, we also learned that the White House is trying to make kosher the transfer of funds to a Palestinian government that includes the radical Islamist Hamas. This is another sign of strategic folly. Hamas, a recognized terrorist organization, is an Iranian proxy, with a clear Jihadist agenda. Hamas has strong ties to the Islamic opposition in Egypt that wants to replace the pro-Western Mubarak regime. Arab moderate states are alarmed by the resilience of Hamas' rule in Gaza and the last thing they want is to aid this radical organization. The struggle against Hamas, just as the quest to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power, serves American interests and those of its allies in the Middle East. It is only marginally related to Israel. Unfortunately, Obama’s Washington does not get it yet.

... In the Middle East, misguided American policies, particularly regarding Iran, may have disastrous consequences such as the fall of Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Turkey into Islamist hands. Under such a scenario, Israel would remain the only country where an American airplane could land safely in the Middle East; this is not a thought that Jerusalem relishes.

Nor, obviously, should any of us. The question ever more insistently poses itself, not just about the political neophyte Obama but all those hatchet-faced apparatchiks in senior foreign policy, defence and security posts within his administration: how can so many people in such a position be so staggeringly stupid?

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Charles Krauthammer: Israel Right to Turn Down Hamas "Peace" Overture

Israel right to turn down Hamas 'peace' overture
May 9, 2009, 5:06PM

Apart from the time restriction (a truce that lapses after 10 years) and the refusal to accept Israel’s existence, Mr. Meshal’s terms approximate the Arab League peace plan …
— Hamas peace plan, as explained by The New York Times

Apart from that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play?
— Tom Lehrer, satirist

The Times conducted a five-hour interview with Hamas leader Khaled Meshal at his Damascus headquarters. Mirabile dictu, they’re offering a peace plan with a two-state solution. Except. The offer is not a peace but a truce that expires after 10 years. Meaning that after Israel has fatally weakened itself by settling millions of hostile Arab refugees in its midst, and after a decade of Hamas arming itself within a Palestinian state that narrows Israel to eight miles wide — Hamas restarts the war against a country it remains pledged to eradicate.

There is a phrase for such a peace: the peace of the grave.

Westerners may be stupid, but Hamas is not. It sees the new American administration making overtures to Iran and Syria. It sees Europe, led by Britain, beginning to accept Hezbollah. It sees itself as next in line. And it knows what to do. Yasser Arafat wrote the playbook.

With the 1993 Oslo accords, he showed what can be achieved with a fake peace treaty with Israel — universal diplomatic recognition, billions of dollars of aid, and control of Gaza and the West Bank, which Arafat turned into an armed camp.

Meshal sees the opportunity. Not only is the Obama administration reaching out to its erstwhile enemies in the region, but it begins its term by wagging an angry finger at Israel over the Netanyahu government’s ostensible refusal to accept a two-state solution.

Of all the phony fights to pick with Israel. No Israeli government would turn down a two-state solution in which the Palestinians accepted territorial compromise and genuine peace with a Jewish state. (And any government that did would be voted out in a day.) Netanyahu’s own defense minister, Ehud Barak, offered precisely such a deal in 2000. He even offered to divide Jerusalem and expel every Jew from every settlement remaining in the new Palestine.

The Palestinian response (for those who have forgotten) was: No. And no counteroffer. Instead, nine weeks later, Arafat unleashed a savage terror war that killed 1,000 Israelis.

Netanyahu is reluctant to agree to a Palestinian state before he knows what kind of state it will be. That elementary prudence should be shared by anyone who’s been sentient the last three years. The Palestinians already have a state, an independent territory with not an Israeli settler or soldier living on it. It’s called Gaza. And what is it? A terror base, Islamist in nature, Iranian-allied, militant and aggressive, that has fired more than 10,000 rockets and mortars at Israeli civilians.

If this is what a West Bank state is going to be, it would be madness for Israel or America or Jordan or Egypt or any other moderate Arab country to accept such a two-state solution. Which is why Netanyahu insists that the Palestinian Authority first build institutions — social, economic and military — to anchor a state that could actually carry out its responsibilities to keep the peace.

Apart from being reasonable, Netanyahu’s two-state skepticism is beside the point. His predecessor, Ehud Olmert, worshiped at the shrine of a two-state solution. He made endless offers of a two-state peace to the Palestinian Authority — and got nowhere.

Why? Because the Palestinians — going back to the U.N. partition resolution of 1947 — have never accepted the idea of living side by side with a Jewish state. Those like Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who might want to entertain such a solution, have no authority to do it. And those like Hamas’ Meshal, who have authority, have no intention of ever doing it.

Meshal’s gambit to dress up perpetual war as a two-state peace is yet another iteration of the Palestinian rejectionist tragedy. In its previous incarnation, Arafat lulled Israel and the Clinton administration with talk of peace while he methodically prepared his people for war.

Arafat waited seven years to tear up his phony peace. Meshal’s innovation? Ten — then blood.

Krauthammer is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist based in Washington, D.C.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

On-the-mark video

This was a final project of a student at the Betzalel school of art:

Monday, March 09, 2009

Wall St Journal: Islam Should Prove It's a Religion of Peace

Interesting article from the Wall Street Journal...

MARCH 9, 2009
Islam Should Prove It's a Religion of Peace
Muslims can start with better Quranic scholarship.


The film "Fitna" by Dutch parliament member Geert Wilders has created an uproar around the world because it links violence committed by Islamists to Islam.

Many commentators and politicians -- including the British government, which denied him entry to the country last month -- reflexively accused Mr. Wilders of inciting hatred. The question, however, is whether the blame is with Mr. Wilders, who simply exposed Islamic radicalism, or with those who promote and engage in this religious extremism. In other words, shall we fault Mr. Wilders for raising issues like the stoning of women, or shall we fault those who actually promote and practice this crime?

Many Muslims seem to believe that it is acceptable to teach hatred and violence in the name of their religion -- while at the same time expecting the world to respect Islam as a religion of peace, love and harmony.

Scholars in the most prestigious Islamic institutes and universities continue to teach things like Jews are "pigs and monkeys," that women and men must be stoned to death for adultery, or that Muslims must fight the world to spread their religion. Isn't, then, Mr. Wilders's criticism appropriate? Instead of blaming him, we must blame the leading Islamic scholars for having failed to produce an authoritative book on Islamic jurisprudence that is accepted in the Islamic world and unambiguously rejects these violent teachings.

While many religious texts preach violence, the interpretation, modern usage and implementation of these teachings make all the difference. For example, the stoning of women exists in both the Old Testament and in the Islamic tradition, or "Sunna" -- the recorded deeds and manners of the prophet Muhammad. The difference, though, is that leading Jewish scholars agreed to discontinue these practices centuries ago, while Muslim scholars have yet to do so. Hence we do not see the stoning of women practiced or promoted in Israel, the "Jewish" state, but we see it practiced and promoted in Iran and Saudi Arabia, the "Islamic" states.

When the British government banned Geert Wilders from entering the country to present his film in the House of Lords, it made two egregious errors. The first was to suppress free speech, a canon of the civilized Western world. The second mistake was to blame the messenger -- punishing, so to speak, the witness who exposed the crime instead of punishing the criminal. Mr. Wilders did not produce the content of the violent Islamic message he showed in his film -- the Islamic world did that. Until the Islamic clerical establishment takes concrete steps to reject violence in the name of their religion, Mr. Wilders's criticism is not only permissible as "controversial" free speech but justified.

So, Islamic scholars and clerics, it is up to you to produce a Shariah book that will be accepted in the Islamic world and that teaches that Jews are not pigs and monkeys, that declaring war to spread Islam is unacceptable, and that killing apostates is a crime. Such a book would prove that Islam is a religion of peace.

Mr. Hamid, a former member of an Egyptian Islamist terrorist group, is an Islamic reformer and senior fellow at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Washington Post: A Conflict Hamas Caused

A Conflict Hamas Caused
By Richard CohenTuesday, January 6, 2009; A13

Nearly a year ago, I was in the southern Israeli city of Sderot, where, on almost any day, you could see the current war coming. "The next Middle East war may start over Sderot," I wrote back then. I came by my prescience the hard way -- in a bomb shelter. That day, three Qassam rockets had hit the city. It took no genius to see the imminence of war. It takes real stupidity to blame it on Israel.

On some days, dozens of rockets fell on Sderot. A blimp hovered over the town, and when it electronically spied an incoming rocket, the sirens went off. In Sderot, the sirens were virtually a single, long wail on some days. Everyone took shelter because shelters are everywhere -- a constant reminder of the nearness of death or, at the very least, destruction. Even a dud can bust through the roof of a house.

I get the impression that Israel is expected to put up with this. The implied message from demonstrators and some opinion columnists is that this is the price Israel is supposed to pay for being, I suppose, Israel. I am informed by a Palestinian journalist in a Post op-ed that Israel is trying to stop "amateur rockets from nagging the residents of some of its southern cities." In Sderot, I saw homes nagged to smithereens.

While I was reading the online version of the Israeli newspaper Haaretz for all the latest news about the war, a pop-up ad announced itself: "Camp Kimama, Israel, 2009 -- What childhood memories should be made of." The picture shows kids frolicking in the water. Placed next to stories about battle, it was a jarring -- but vivid -- statement of war aims: the expectation of normal life.

The CIA's World Factbook says that Israel has a population of 7,112,359. Of these, about 5,434,000 are Jews. That includes 187,000 settlers in the West Bank, about 20,000 in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights bordering Syria, and about 175,000 in East Jerusalem. It does not include, however, the approximately 750,000 Israelis living in the United States -- some for a brief amount of time, some for an extended period, some permanently. For a variety of reasons -- and often with considerable pain -- they have given up on the country of their birth.

As the leaders of Hamas understand, the war in Gaza is about Israel's incessant fight to be a normal country. Maybe that's impossible. The war between Arab and Jew predates the founding of Israel in 1948. For the Palestinians, it is a fierce fight for Arab justice, for Arab pride, for Arab myth -- for ancestral houses and orange groves that few living have ever seen. For Israel, it is so kids can swim in a lake.

Three years ago, Israel pulled out of the Gaza Strip. Good, the world said. Next, pull out of the West Bank, the world said. But then Hamas, which has vowed to destroy Israel, won the election in Gaza. Sderot soon became hell. The West Bank is controlled by Fatah, the moderate Palestinian organization, which once had control of Gaza, too. If Israel withdraws from the West Bank, will rockets come from there? If you lived in Tel Aviv, a spit from the West Bank, would you take the chance?

Anyone could have seen this war coming. The diplomats and demonstrators who are now so engaged in the problem and the process were nowhere to be found when rockets began raining down on southern Israel. The border between Gaza and Egypt is riddled with tunnels -- some for food, some for weapons. The international monitors that are so evidently needed now were just as evidently needed then.

Conventional wisdom says that when Israel went into Lebanon in 2006, it lost that war. Hezbollah stood up to the mighty Israeli army; Israel could not muzzle Hezbollah's rockets. That may not be the way Hezbollah sees things, however. After the war, its leader, Hassan Nasrallah, said he had miscalculated. He was not prepared for the fury of the Israeli attack. He apologized. Now, Hezbollah takes no role in the current war. It will be back, but it still has wounds to lick.

The horrors of war are not to be dismissed or demeaned. In 2006, Israel accidentally killed 28 civilians in the Lebanese village of Qana when it attempted to take out a nearby rocket site. In Gaza, innocent Palestinians are being killed. The suffering is great and cannot be ignored. But what has been ignored is the series of events that led to this war. Anyone could see how it was going to start. As always, though, it's a lot harder to see how it ends.

Californians, what would you do?

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Why the Gaza war is the only path to true peace

Why the Gaza war is the only path to true peace

Many years ago Golda Meir made the now-famous statement that peace would come to the Middle East when the Arabs love their children more than they hate Israel. Recent years have led me to rephrase this as follows: True peace will come to the Middle East when the Arabs can gain more from a negotiated peace than they can through terror.

Like many Israeli citizens, I have been truly concerned over the past few years that peace would never come to the region. In the past few days, however, I have come to believe that we are finally on a path that can lead to true peace.

To understand what I mean, and to truly understand the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, we need to look at two recent events that changed the entire landscape of the conflict: The negotiations between Prime Minister Barak and Yaser Arafat ten years ago and the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza three years ago.

Prime Minister Barak changed the entire dialog in Israel from the question of whether to give the Palestinians land for peace to the question of how much land to give and under what conditions. His famous offer of 98% of the West Bank and Gaza to create a Palestinian state made clear Israel's willingness to offer land for peace. Similarly, the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza changed the dialog in Israel from whether to withdraw from Israeli settlement towns to when and how to do so. It demonstrated without question that Israel was willing to do so and in fact has now done so.

At the same time, however, Prime Minister Barak's negotiations with Yasser Arafat showed the futility in negotiations in which the Palestinians believe that they can get more through terror. With an offer on the table of 98% of the West Bank and Gaza, including all areas primarily occupied by Palestinian villages, the Palestinians chose a second intifada over accepting the offer. Even more so, when the Palestinains were given full control of the Gaza strip three years ago, with promises to withdraw subsequently from the West Bank, they chose not to build a functioning and peaceful society, but rather to fire thousands of rockets at Israeli towns.

These events bring me to the simple conclusion that the Palestinians believe that terror can bring them more than negotiation. The only way to stop this impasse is for Palestinian terror to have such a high price tag that they will choose peace through negotiation.

For three years the Palestinians have been shooting rockets at Israeli towns such as Sderot. Israel has never responded, hoping against hope that world opinion would influence the Palestinians abandon terror and choose peace. But this has not happened, because there was no price tag associated with terror. Why compromise when terror might bring more, with no cost?

Now, however, Israel has attached a price tag to terror. If the Palestinians choose terror, they will pay the price instead of Israeli towns paying the price. This price tag, and only this price tag, brings the hope of a situation in which the Palestinians will choose negotiation over terror.

My hope is that when a cease fire is reached, Israel will make clear that any rockets fired at Israeli towns will bring a continuation of this response. There must be no options other than peace negotiation. Another hope is that the result will be a true two-sided compromise, not a negotiation under which Israel is presumed to give whatever the Palestinians want.

Israel has demonstrated its willingness to compromise and offer land for peace, and to withdraw from land and give it to the Palestinians. Israelis dream of a day that the Palestinians will respond by building a peaceful and productive country of their own. To realize this, terror must be given a high enough price so as not to be an option.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Wall St Journal article: Palestinians Need Israel to Win

DECEMBER 29, 2008

Palestinians Need Israel to Win
If Hamas gets away with terror once again, the peace process will be over.

A quarter century has passed since Israel last claimed to go to war in the name of peace.
"Operation Peace for Galilee" -- Israel's 1982 invasion of Lebanon -- failed to convince the international public and even many Israelis that its goal was to promote reconciliation between Israel and the Arab world. In fact, the war had precisely the opposite results, preparing the way for Yasser Arafat's disastrous return to the West Bank and Gaza, and for Hezbollah's ultimate domination of Lebanon. And yet, Israel's current operation in Gaza is essential for creating the conditions that could eventually lead to a two-state solution.

Over the past two decades, a majority of Israelis have shifted from adamant opposition to Palestinian statehood to acknowledging the need for such a state. This transformation represented a historic victory for the Israeli left, which has long advocated Palestinian self-determination. The left's victory, though, remained largely theoretical: The right won the practical argument that no amount of concessions would grant international legitimacy to Israel's right to defend itself.

That was the unavoidable lesson of the failure of the Oslo peace process, which ended in the fall of 2000 with Israel's acceptance of President Bill Clinton's proposal for near-total withdrawal from East Jerusalem and the territories. The Palestinians responded with five years of terror.


Gaza is the test case. Much more is at stake than merely the military outcome of Israel's operation. The issue, rather, is Israel's ability to restore its deterrence power and uphold the principle that its citizens cannot be targeted with impunity.

Without the assurance that they will be allowed to protect their homes and families following withdrawal, Israelis will rightly perceive a two-state solution as an existential threat. They will continue to share the left-wing vision of coexistence with a peaceful Palestinian neighbor in theory, but in reality will heed the right's warnings of Jewish powerlessness.

The Gaza crisis also has implications for Israeli-Syrian negotiations. Here, too, Israelis will be unwilling to cede strategically vital territories -- in this case on the Golan Heights -- in an international environment in which any attempt to defend themselves will be denounced as unjustified aggression. Syria's role in triggering the Gaza conflict only deepens Israeli mistrust. The Damascus office of Hamas, which operates under the aegis of the regime of Bashar al Assad, vetoed the efforts of Hamas leaders in Gaza to extend the cease-fire and insisted on escalating rocket attacks.

In the coming days, the Gaza conflict is likely to intensify with a possible incursion of Israeli ground forces. Israel must be allowed to conclude this operation with a decisive victory over Hamas; the untenable situation of intermittent rocket fire and widespread arms smuggling must not be allowed to resume. This is an opportunity to redress Israel's failure to humble Hezbollah in Lebanon in 2006, and to deal a substantial setback to another jihadist proxy of Iran.

It may also be the last chance to reassure Israelis of the viability of a two-state solution. Given the unfortunate historical resonance, Israel should refrain from calling its current operation, "Peace for Southern Israel." But without Hamas's defeat, there can be no serious progress toward a treaty that both satisfies Palestinian aspirations and allays Israel's fears. At stake in Gaza is nothing less than the future of the peace process.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Israel finally defends its citizens

Hi everyone. Here in Beit Shemesh we heard warplanes, and possibly missile explosions, today right before Shabbat lunch. As of now the news is good -- Israel appears to finally have done something right to defend its citizens against the thousands of rockets that have been fired from Gaza since Israel withdrew from Gaza.

We're all praying that the Israeli army finish its mission successfully, quickly, with as few casualties as possible.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

NY Times Letter: When Labels Carry Moral Weight

Letters to the Public Editor
Other Voices: When Labels Carry Moral Weight
Published: December 20, 2008

Re “Separating the Terror and the Terrorists” (Dec. 14):

Dear Editor,

Choice of terminology is a moral statement. If morally neutral terminology is used for morally repugnant acts, it reduces the sense of repugnance. And when the same terminology is used for a moral and immoral act, a moral equivalence is created.

The Times and other news media influence the morals of our society. Do you want readers to believe that a terrorist deliberately killing civilians in a coffee shop is morally equivalent to, for example, American soldiers attacking the Nazis to end a world war, who certainly killed some civilians accidentally?

If society is conditioned by the media to treat moral and immoral actions as equivalent regardless of intent, context and goal, the media will have failed, and society will pay the price.

Beit Shemesh, Israel, Dec. 15, 2008

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Wall St Journal: Israel's Truce With Hamas Is a Victory for Iran

From today's Wall Street Journal, a clear analysis of today's cease fire. Below is an excerpt, here's a link to the whole article...

Israel's Truce With Hamas Is a Victory for Iran
June 19, 2008; Page A13

Proponents of an Israeli-Palestinian accord are praising the cease-fire between Israel and Hamas that went into effect this morning. Yet even if the agreement suspends violence temporarily -- though dozens of Hamas rockets struck Israel yesterday -- it represents a historic accomplishment for the jihadist forces most opposed to peace, and defeat for the Palestinians who might still have been Israel's partners.

The roots of this tragedy go back to the summer of 2005 and the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza. The evacuation, intended to free Israel of Gaza's political and strategic burden, was hailed as a victory by Palestinian terrorist groups, above all Hamas.

Hamas proceeded to fire some 1,000 rocket and mortar shells into Israel. Six months later Hamas gunmen, taking advantage of an earlier cease-fire, infiltrated into Israel, killed two soldiers, and captured Cpl. Gilad Shalit.

Hamas's audacity spurred Hezbollah to mount a similar ambush against Israelis patrolling the Lebanese border, triggering a war in which Israel was once again humbled. Hamas now felt sufficiently emboldened to overthrow Gaza's Fatah-led government, and to declare itself regnant in the Strip. Subsequently, Hamas launched thousands more rocket and mortar salvos against Israel, rendering parts of the country nearly uninhabitable.

... (cut here) ...

The Olmert government will have to go vast lengths to portray this arrangement as anything other than a strategic and moral defeat. Hamas initiated a vicious war against Israel, destroyed and disrupted myriad Israeli lives, and has been rewarded with economic salvation and international prestige.

... (cut here) ...

As the primary sponsor of Hamas, Iran is the cease-fire's ultimate beneficiary. Having already surrounded Israel on three of its borders -- Gaza, Lebanon, Syria -- Iran is poised to penetrate the West Bank. By activating these fronts, Tehran can divert attention from its nuclear program and block any diplomatic effort.

The advocates of peace between Israelis and Palestinians should recognize that fact when applauding quiet at any price. The cost of this truce may well be war.

Mr. Oren, a senior fellow at the Shalem Center in Jerusalem, is the author of "Power, Faith, and Fantasy: America in the Middle East, 1776 to the Present" (Norton, 2008).

Monday, June 16, 2008

WSJ: Sharansky: Democracies can't compromise on core values

Great article by Natan Sharansky in the Wall St Journal:

Democracies Can't Compromise on Core Values
June 16, 2008

As the American president embarked on his farewell tour of Europe last week, Der Spiegel, echoing the sentiments of a number of leading newspapers on the Continent, pronounced "Europe happy to see the back of Bush." Virtually everyone seems to believe that George W. Bush's tenure has undermined trans-Atlantic ties.


But while Mr. Bush is widely seen by Europeans as a religious cowboy with a Manichean view on the world, Europe's growing rift with America predates the current occupant of the White House. When a French foreign minister, Hubert VĂ©drine, declared that his country "cannot accept a politically unipolar world, nor a culturally uniform world, nor the unilateralism of a single hyper power," President Clinton was in the seventh year of his presidency and Mr. Bush was still governor of Texas.

The trans-Atlantic rift is not the function of one president, but the product of deep ideological forces that for generations have worked to shape the divergent views of Americans and Europeans. Foremost among these are different attitudes toward identity in general, and the relationship between identity and democracy in particular.


The controversy over whether Muslims should be able to wear a veil in public schools underscores the profound difference in attitudes between America and Europe. In Europe, large majorities support a law banning the veil in public schools. In the U.S., students wear the veil in public schools or state colleges largely without controversy.

At the same time severe limits are placed on the harmless expression of identity in the public square, some European governments refuse to insist that Muslim minorities abide by basic democratic norms. They turn a blind eye toward underage marriage, genital mutilation and honor killings.

The reality is that Muslim identity has grown stronger, has become more fundamentalist, and is increasingly contemptuous of a vapid "European" identity that has little vitality. All this may help explain why studies consistently show that efforts to integrate Muslims into society are much less effective in Europe than in America, where identity is much stronger.

Regardless of who wins in November, the attitudes of Americans toward the role of identity in democratic life are unlikely to change much. Relative to Europe, Americans will surely remain deeply patriotic and much more committed to their faiths.


Mr. Sharansky, a former Soviet dissident, is chairman of the Adelson Institute for Strategic Studies at the Shalem Center in Jerusalem. He is the author, most recently, of "Defending Identity: Its Indispensable Role in Protecting Democracy" (PublicAffairs).

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

New York Times letter about Palestinian choices

Israel’s Friends and the Path to Peace
Published: May 20, 2008

To the Editor:

Re “For Israelis, an Anniversary. For Palestinians, a Nakba,” by Elias Khoury (Op-Ed, May 18):

The biggest similarity between the war in 1948 and the continuing Israeli control of Palestinian towns in the West Bank is that both were the unfortunate choice of the Palestinians.

In 1948, Israel agreed to the United Nations partition plan, and was willing to live as a neighbor to a Palestinian state, but the Arabs chose war. After the war, Arab countries chose to put the Palestinian refugees into refugee camps, while Israel integrated an equal number of Jewish refugees from Arab countries into Israeli society.

And in 2005, Israel chose to withdraw from Gaza and plan for further evacuation of the West Bank, and the Palestinians chose to use Gaza to fire missiles at Israeli civilians rather than build a productive society. Clearly, Israel cannot transfer control of more territory if that territory will be used to fire missiles at our civilians.

Bruce Dov Krulwich
Beit Shemesh, Israel, May 18, 2008

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Wall St Journal article: The Sderot Calculus

Not a letter to the editor, but an article from the Wall St Journal that needs to be read, distributed widely, and thought about. I quote excerpts below, the whole article is at:

The Sderot Calculus
February 26, 2008; Page A18

The Israeli town of Sderot lies less than a mile from the Gaza Strip. Since the beginning of the intifada seven years ago, it has borne the brunt of some 2,500 Kassam rockets fired from Gaza by Palestinian terrorists. Only about a dozen of these Kassams have proved lethal, though earlier this month brothers Osher and Rami Twito were seriously injured by one as they walked down a Sderot street on a Saturday evening. Eight-year-old Osher lost a leg.

It is no stretch to say that life in Sderot has become unendurable. Palestinians and their chorus of supporters -- including the 118 countries of the so-called Non-Aligned Movement, much of Europe, and the panoply of international aid organizations from the World Bank to the United Nations -- typically reply that life in the Gaza Strip is also unendurable, and that Palestinian casualties greatly exceed Israeli ones. But this argument is fatuous: Conditions in Gaza, in so far as they are shaped by Israel, are a function of conditions in Sderot. No Palestinian Kassams (or other forms of terrorism), no Israeli "siege."

The more vexing question, both morally and strategically, is what Israel ought to do about Gaza. The standard answer is that Israel's response to the Kassams ought to be "proportionate." What does that mean? Does the "proportion" apply to the intention of those firing the Kassams -- to wit, indiscriminate terror against civilian populations? In that case, a "proportionate" Israeli response would involve, perhaps, firing 2,500 artillery shells at random against civilian targets in Gaza.


Prudence is an important consideration of statesmanship, but self-respect is vital. And no self-respecting nation can allow the situation in Sderot to continue much longer, a point it is in every civilized country's interest to understand.

On March 9, 1916, Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa attacked the border town of Columbus, N.M., killing 18 Americans. President Woodrow Wilson ordered Gen. John J. Pershing and 10,000 soldiers into Mexico for nearly a year to hunt Villa down, in what was explicitly called a "punitive expedition." Pershing never found Villa, making the effort something of a failure. Then again, Villa's raid would be the last significant foreign attack on continental U.S. soil for 85 years, six months and two days.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Rocket fire against Sderot

This is a picture of Asher Twito, an 8 year old Israeli boy from Sderot who lost a leg in a rocket attack Saturday night. So far, as of Monday, I've seen no news coverage of the event, no indignation, noone demanding that something be done to eliminate the rocket fire from Gaza that's terrorizing Israeli civilians in Sderot and other nearby towns.

When will anyone in the world stand up and say that rocket fire against civilians has to stop? When will someone make it clear that the Palestinians have to take land that they have and create a peaceful society?

Friday, January 11, 2008

Reuters reports how Palestinians welcome President Bush

Thousands protest in Gaza against "vampire" Bush
Wed Jan 9, 2008 10:06am EST
By Nidal al-MughrabiGAZA, Jan 9 (Reuters) -

Brandishing placards showing George W. Bush as a vampire swigging Muslim blood, thousands of Hamas supporters protested in Gaza on Wednesday against the U.S. president's visit to Israel and the occupied West Bank.

Some 20,000 members of the Islamist group, shunned by the West for refusing to renounce violence, set U.S. and Israeli flags alight. Bush was a "butcher" whose first presidential visit to the Holy Land was skewed towards helping Israel, they said.

"In his first words Bush talked about Israel, its security, its democracy and the right of America and Israel to defend themselves," senior Hamas official Mahmoud al-Zahar told reporters at the rally.

"He did not talk about settlements or the assaults against our people." In Jerusalem, Jewish families waved Israeli and American flags and cheered Bush, who hopes his visit will invigorate efforts to reach an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal before he leaves office.

Protesters in Gaza, which Hamas seized in June after routing Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah forces, waved green Hamas flags as well as posters with pictures of Bush as a vampire drinking from a cup marked "Muslim blood".

Hamas said tens of thousands attended the protest while witnesses put the number at about 20,000.

Hamas refuses to recognise Israel and has vowed to undermine Abbas's efforts to make peace with the Jewish state in exchange for an independent Palestine in Gaza and the West Bank. Its control of the Gaza Strip is likely to complicate any accord.

Six weeks ago, Olmert and Abbas agreed at a conference in Annapolis, Maryland, to relaunch peace negotations but talks have been paralysed by a row over Israeli settlement activity.Many Palestinians are deeply sceptical about the chances for peace. Bush will not visit Gaza during the trip.

Israeli has stepped up raids into Gaza since Annapolis in response to rocket fire from militants. Some Hamas officials say they expect Bush to approve tougher reprisals.

Earlier, gunmen who said they were from a previously unknown Islamist group called "Army of the Nation" told a news conference they would try to kill Bush during his visit. It was unclear how much of a threat they posed.

The group said it adopted al Qaeda-style ideology but had no official ties with the group against which Bush has waged war.

(Writing by Rebecca Harrison; Editing by Robert Woodward)