Mitchell Plitnick on LobeLog: Elliott Abrams’ Shell Game on Settlements

The shell game is a tried-and-true method of persuading people to give their money to the person running the game. In political terms, it’s also a reliable method of persuading people to buy into the political stance of the man running the game.

Elliott Abrams is a master of the shell game. He provides what seems like a serious and sober analysis, with just enough cherry-picking of facts and omission of detail to convince you of his point of view. That is a big reason why this man, who is responsible for some of the greatest foreign policy fiascos in American history, continues to be considered a legitimate source for foreign policy analysis.

Perhaps it’s not surprising. Despite the enormous catastrophes brought on by the neoconservative school of thought of which Abrams is a part, the philosophy, such as it is, continues to be an influential voice in the foreign policy debate in the United States. This is, however, even more reason to look at an apparent change of course from Abrams with a skeptical eye.

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Ernest Moniz in The Washington Post: A nuclear deal that offers a safer world

Ernest Moniz is U.S. energy secretary.

The recent announcement of the Lausanne framework concerning Iran’s nuclear program has stimulated a lively public and political debate. This is an important discussion that the nation deserves to have, and it must be informed by clarity on the specifics of the negotiated technical parameters for a final Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

I joined Secretary of State John F. Kerry’s negotiating team in late February, but throughout the negotiations, leading nuclear experts at the Energy Department and its national labs have been involved in the careful development and thorough evaluation of the technical proposals to help define U.S. positions.

As a result, the key parameters for the agreement that was announced April 2 in Switzerland provide a technically sound path for certifying Iran’s nuclear program as peaceful, quickly determining if it is not and providing the breathing room needed to respond appropriately.

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Articles on announcement of 450 Israeli Settlement Tenders

Kiryat_Arba_Construction2012The January 30, 2015, announcement by the Israeli Government of tenders (allowing for bids) for construction of 450 new settlement housing units in the West Bank (including Kiryat Arba, pictured) was covered extensively in the Israeli and international press.  Peace Now was prominently referenced, including from its released statement which said in part:

"After embarrassing the Obama administration with the invitation to the Congress, Netanyahu adds another slam in the face of the Americans, showing no respect to Israel's closest ally," 

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Jeffrey Goldberg in The Atlantic: The Netanyahu Disaster

The Israeli prime minister has two main tasks, and he's failing at both.

Benjamin Netanyahu believes he has just one job, and that is to stop Iran from getting hold of nuclear weapons. He might argue that this description of his mission as Israel’s prime minister is too limiting, though such an argument would not be particularly credible. Israel’s very existence, he has argued, consistently, and at times convincingly, is predicated on stopping Iran, a country ruled by a regime that seeks both Israel’s annihilation and the means to carry it out.

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Israel’s policy of perpetual occupation is already causing an increase in animosity toward the Jewish people and their state. Perpetuating this policy fosters the beginning of an anti-Israel movement – from within and without the state – that will be difficult to reverse.

Casino tycoon and right-wing political patron Sheldon Adelson has finally spoken to the existential issue of Israeli democracy absent a Palestinian state. Many observers were shocked by the multi billionaire, hard-liner's recent statement proclaiming, "Israel isn’t going to be a democratic state – so what?”

While I passionately oppose Adelson's views, his remarks provided clarity by openly acknowledging that a binational Jewish state would not be a democracy, an obvious consequence largely ignored by the Israeli right wing.

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Roger Cohen in The New York Times: What Will Israel Become?

JERUSALEM — Uneasiness inhabits Israel, a shadow beneath the polished surface. In a violent Middle Eastern neighborhood of fracturing states, that is perhaps inevitable, but Israelis are questioning their nation and its future with a particular insistence. As the campaign for March elections begins, this disquiet looks like the precursor of political change. The status quo, with its bloody and inconclusive interludes, has become less bearable. More of the same has a name: Benjamin Netanyahu, now in his third term as prime minister. The alternative, although less clear, is no longer unthinkable.

“There is a growing uneasiness, social, political, economic,” Amos Oz, the novelist, told me in an interview. “There is a growing sense that Israel is becoming an isolated ghetto, which is exactly what the founding fathers and mothers hoped to leave behind them forever when they created the state of Israel.” The author, widely viewed as the conscience of a liberal and anti-Messianic Israel, continued, “Unless there are two states — Israel next door to Palestine — and soon, there will be one state. If there will be one state, it will be an Arab state. The other option is an Israeli dictatorship, probably a religious nationalist dictatorship, suppressing the Palestinians and suppressing its Jewish opponents.”

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The New York Times: Signs of Recognition

LONDON — Parliaments across Europe — in Britain, Spain, France, Ireland and now the European Parliament — are acting to preserve the prospect of peaceful coexistence between Israelis and Palestinians. They seek recognition of Palestine on the basis of the 1967 borders as a contribution to a negotiated peace, not a substitute for it.

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A Scene of Desecration: Rabbi Yehiel Greniman on Al Mughayir’s Burned Mosque

The following post by Rabbi Yehiel Grenimann of Rabbis for Human Rights was originally posted on RHR's web site on November 14, 2014, and is reprinted here by permission from the author.


 A mosque was badly arsoned, presumably by Jewish extremists, in the early hours of November 12 2014 in the village of Al Mughayir. About a month prior, another mosque, in a different Palestinian village in the Occupied Territories, was also burned. Rabbi Yehiel Grenimann of RHR visited the mosque in Al Mughayir and writes of his shock at the severity of the arson.

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APN Board member Jo-Ann Mort in Haaretz - Shattering a Jewish American myth: Jerusalem is no Disneyland

Most American Jewish tour groups are shown a historical-religious theme park version of a nominally 'united' Jerusalem - in which the Arabic-speaking, Palestinian east of the city and its grievances is simply invisible.

Imagine this is your city.

Imagine that one of its neighborhoods is Shuafat, a walled-off refugee camp with 80,000 people and no legal order or adequate city services, where zealots who recognize the rule of a Supreme Being not a Supreme Court judge, take actions that are daily heightening tensions in the city and new tenants take over the top floor of a home under the veil of darkness and proclaim that they are "Judaizing" the street of an overwhelmingly Arab neighborhood, throwing out the belongings of the family who is living there and camping on the top floor with their children, and their guns.

Welcome to Jerusalem, yes, Jerusalem.

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More on the Generals' Letter

translation: Israel News Today

Generals’ Letter

Yedioth Ahronoth (p. B14) by Nehama Duek -- [October 31] If one were to add up all their years of service in the army, the police and the Mossad, one would reach an unbelievable number of more than 3,500 years of service in the security of the State of Israel. A total of 105 IDF major generals and brigadier generals in reserves, retired Israel Police commanders and lieutenant commanders and former Mossad directors decided to emerge together from their private comfort zones and to sign a letter calling on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu “not to join those who use threats as an excuse for inaction and to initiate a political process.”

   The signatories are neither professional petition-signers and their names are not the ones that one commonly finds penned to the bottom of petitions either in support of peace or the Greater Land of Israel. This time, the names are different. Some of them are generals who doffed their uniforms many years ago, such as the former Mossad director, Zvi Zamir, and Maj. Gen. (res.) Amiram Levine. There are other, such as generals Danny Bitton and Avi Mizrahi, who retired from the army just recently and were members of the IDF General Staff that oversaw Operation Cast Lead. They are more familiar with the situation on the ground than others. There are also three former police commissioners—Assaf Hefetz, Yaakov Turner and Herzl Shafir.

   “We, the undersigned, IDF commanders in reserves and retired police officers, who fought in Israel’s wars, are intimately familiar with the severe and painful price that war exacts,” reads the letter, which was initiated by Maj. Gen. (res.) Amnon Reshef, formerly a commander of the Armored Corps, who says he has grown fed up with the reality in which Israel has to engage in rounds of warfare every few years instead of a sincere effort being made to adopt the Saudi peace initiative. “We fought valiantly on behalf of the state in hope that our children would live here in peace,” reads the letter. “Except reality has proved us wrong, and we are once again sending our children to the battlegrounds, watching them putting on their uniforms and battle vests, and going out to fight in Operation Protective Edge… there is no question here of left and right. There is one idea here for resolving the conflict, which is not based only on bilateral negotiations with the Palestinians, which has failed time and time again… we expect of you a courageous initiative, leadership. You lead—and we will stand behind you.”

   […] Q: Ever few months a petition gets published by either the left or the right. What is different about the current one?

   Reshef: “The difference is in the message, and mainly in the quantity of signatures at the end of the letter that was addressed to the prime minister, but via him to the entire public. Read the names of the signatories. They’re all combat soldiers, major generals and brigadier generals, and my fellow combatants of the other ranks will forgive me for not having managed to get to them. I felt it was urgent. I saw how Sisi called on Israel to hold negotiations, and no one in Israel picked up the gauntlet. I saw [Israel] head into Operation Protective Edge and the sense that we’ve grown accustomed to the fact that every three years there’s another round of warfare. I felt it was urgent. I wrote the petition and I thought that I’d get 40 or 50 high-ranking officers to sign it. I was glad when one friend brought another, and hardly anyone refused. The strength that exists in those names is unique and singular.”

   Reshef: “In the letter we argue that the Yom Kippur War stemmed from political blindness. I also say that if Operation Protective Edge doesn’t have political follow-through, its casualties will have been in vain. And if so, what did the residents of the Gaza periphery suffer for and why did the entire population need to be traumatized, if we’re already talking about a second a third round. God, after all, there’s a solution that can prevent the next rounds. We have to reach an arrangement with the moderate Arab states, which have more leverage and influence over the Palestinians than we do.”

Q: Do you really believe that a comprehensive peace agreement can be reached?

   “Absolutely. To establish a Palestinian state and to reach a comprehensive agreement with the tens of Arab countries that are in the region.”

   […] Maj. Gen. (res.) Avi Mizrahi: “That’s a tricky question because everyone has their own definition of ‘comprehensive regional peace.’ Up until now, incidentally, we’ve failed when we’ve tried to talk only with the Palestinians, so maybe a comprehensive initiative will be more successful. But if you’ll permit me to take the bird’s eye view, there is a [joint] Egyptian and Israeli interest in resolving this problem. For example, Sinai is a large swathe of land that overwhelmingly is neither developed nor populated. If the Egyptians donate a few tens of square kilometers to the [Gaza] Strip, that could help the joint development of the area and produce a situation in which it isn’t just us and them in the game.”

[…] Q: Is Netanyahu made of the right stuff? Is he capable of reaching an agreement?

   Reshef: “Theoretically? He’s capable. Does he want to? I don’t have an answer to that.”

   Mizrahi: “Of course Bibi is capable. Will he listen to our letter? That’s a different question altogether.”

   Reshef: “We’re addressing him in hope that he will realize that he has an opportunity here for us to help him. If it doesn’t work, my next objective is to build an orderly system [i.e. a well-oiled machine] so that by springtime we can organize a demonstration of 200,000-300,000 people with the message [in support] of a regional arrangement that will lead to security-economic-social flourishing.”

 

Hundreds Join Generals’ Initiative

Yedioth Ahronoth (p. 24) by Nehama Duek -- In the aftermath of the report in Yedioth Ahronoth on Friday, hundreds of officers in reserves have joined the group of 105 generals who called on the prime minister to immediately adopt a political initiative [to resolve the Israeli-Arab conflict].

   Yedioth Ahronoth reported on Friday that 105 major generals and brigadier generals in reserves, as well as former Mossad directors and police commissioners, demanded that Netanyahu adopt the Saudi peace initiative as a way out of the political deadlock with the Palestinians, a deadlock that they believe is liable to produce another round of violence.

   The sponsor of the initiative, Maj. Gen. (res.) Amnon Reshef, has received hundreds of phone calls, emails and text messages in the wake of the report in Yedioth Ahronoth from veterans who have asked to join the initiative. Reshef said that a symposium on the issue would be held in the near future. 

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