Tag Archives: Israel

Peace deal is worthy, however …

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Let’s talk briefly about a peace agreement between Israel and two neighboring Arab nations: the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

Donald Trump is hailing the agreements his administration brokered as a sea change event. Israel will open embassies in the UAE and Bahrain for the first time in the history of Israel’s existence.

Hey, it is a big deal.

However, let’s put this in a bit of context. Israel has not been at war with either country. It has gone to war with others in the region, to be sure. Jordan, Egypt and Syria come to mind immediately.

To be clear, Israel also has peace agreements with Jordan and Egypt. They were brokered years ago by preceding presidential administrations. Indeed, the Israel-Egypt peace agreement ended up costing Egyptian President Anwar Sadat his life when he was murdered by Islamic extremists while watching a military parade.

I had the privilege of spending more than a month in Israel in May-June 2009. I had a chance during that time to speak with many learned Israelis. We spoke of tensions in the region between Israel and Lebanon, Israel and Syria, Israel and the Palestinians, Israel and the Gaza Strip. No one I talked to 11 years ago ever mentioned the UAE or Bahrain as nations that Israel simply needed to forge a peace agreement.

I do not intend to denigrate the peace agreements forged between Israel and its two Arab neighboring states.

I do intend, though, to add a bit of context to the settlements. They’re important, but I don’t believe in the grand scheme they matter to nearly the extent that the Trump administration suggests.

Now, if the Trump team hammers out a peace treaty with, say, Syria and Iran … well, then we’ll have reason to celebrate.

Peace Prize? Hah!

Donald Trump’s fans and friends in the right-wing media wasted no time in suggesting that Trump should be a “frontrunner” for the Nobel Peace Prize.

How come? Because the United Arab Emirates and Israel have announced plans to establish diplomatic relations. The UAE becomes the third Arab nation to exchange ambassadors with Israel, joining Jordan and Egypt.

Is this a big deal? Well, yes. It is. Is it Nobel Peace Prize material? Not even close.

I should point out that the UAE does not border Israel, unlike Jordan and Egypt. Nor does the UAE pose a serious military threat to Israel.

A Nobel Peace Prize ought to come in this context if, for instance, a U.S. president would broker a deal that stops Hamas from lobbing rockets into Israel from the Gaza Strip. Or perhaps he could negotiate a deal that disarms Hezbollah, the terrorists who occupy Lebanon and launch attacks on Israel along the Israel-Lebanon border.

Hey, I am willing to give props to Trump for whatever role his administration played in bringing about this deal between Israel and the UAE. A Nobel Peace Prize, though, isn’t in the cards.

Mr. POTUS, doesn’t Bibi’s indictment matter?

Hey, wait a second!

Donald John Trump allegedly is so worried about corruption in Ukraine that he decided to ask the Ukrainians to investigate whether a potential political foe here at home, Joe Biden, was stained by ill deeds.

It has gotten the nation’s current president into a heap of trouble. The House of Representatives impeached him for it and the Senate is conducting a trial this very moment.

However, why isn’t our president concerned about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s indictment for — um, let’s see — oh yeah, corruption? The indictment alleges fraud, bribery and breach of trust. That’s a big deal, right?

He and Bibi stood in the White House to announce a draft Middle East peace plan. Netanyahu calls Trump the best friend Israel can possibly have.

The Israeli courts have indicted him, though, on corruption charges that one would think should rankle the world’s No. 1 corruption fighter, Donald Trump.

Wouldn’t they?

Trump tries to re-define political ‘disloyalty’

Donald Trump’s blathering about Jewish voters endorsing Democratic candidates brought to mind a nearly six-decade-old commitment stated by a previous president of the United States.

Trump’s statement has been taken by some to be an anti-Semitic utterance from someone who presumes political candidates must be “loyal” to Israel and to Israeli government policies. So the rationale — if you want to call it such — is that Jewish voters would be “disloyal” to Israel if they back candidates who might be not quite as friendly to Israeli policies as candidates from the other major political party.

This is utter hogwash, claptrap, bull corn — whatever you want to call it — from the president.

In 1960, Sen. John F. Kennedy was running for president as a practicing Catholic. There were whispers that turned into shouts about whether a Catholic president would take his marching orders from the Vatican. Sen. Kennedy sought to assuage those concerns and he did so in a most brazen manner.

He attended a Texas convention of Protestant clergy, stood before them and said categorically that he would take the oath of loyalty to the U.S. Constitution. It would be to that document that the president would adhere.

Presidents do take an oath to defend the Constitution. They do not defend the Bible, or the Torah. Their loyalty first and foremost is to the secular document crafted by the nation’s founders in the late 18th century.

Donald Trump’s abject ignorance of the very oath he took in 2017 reveals the danger we face if we return this guy to office in 2020.

POTUS is proving to be irredeemable

There can be no mistake, no misunderstanding now about the president of the United States.

Donald John Trump is without remorse. He is an irredeemable loudmouth. U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib has declined to visit Israel after the Israeli government granted her entry to visit her grandmother in the West Bank.

She said she was disappointed in Israel’s reaction to Trump’s admonition to keep her and fellow Muslim U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar out of the country. He said the two women “hate all Jews.” The Israelis heeded the president and denied them entry.

Now, though, Tlaib has said she isn’t going. Trump’s reaction? He said via Twitter that Tlaib “set up” the Israelis, who he said “acted appropriately” in granting her entry after first blocking it.

Trump’s moronic pronouncements continue to demonstrate loudly and clearly his abject unfitness for high office. He continues to sow seeds of discontent and discord. He managed with this effort to block Reps. Tlaib and Omar from entering Israel to anger AIPAC, the nation’s top pro-Israel lobby.

This man cannot be persuaded to show decorum. He continues to disgrace the country, his office and even those who continue to support him … if only they would realize they are being disgraced.

Trump defies description of low-down policies

There is almost no way any longer to measure the depths of how low Donald Trump can take his assorted presidential pronouncements.

The president’s recent tirade against two members of Congress — both of them outspoken Democrats who happen to be Muslim — simply lowers the bar to a level I cannot define.

Trump urged Israeli government officials to deny entry into Israel of Reps. Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar. They are members of Congress, duly elected to represent their districts. They intended to go Israel on “factfinding” missions. Trump said they “hate” Israel and “hate all Jews,” which of course might qualify as the mother of ad hominem attacks.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, to his utter disgrace, approved blocking their entry into Israel. The Israelis then relented on Tlaib, allowing her into the West Bank to visit her grandmother; Tlaib, though, canceled her visit because of the pall this disgraceful conduct has cast on her visit.

For the president of the United States to interfere with two federal lawmakers doing their jobs is reprehensible in the extreme. Moreover, for a foreign head of government to kowtow to this presidential idiocy is a sign of amazing weakness from a man, and a government, that purport to stand for strength in the face of hostility.

I have had a bit of exposure to Israel. I toured the country for a month in 2009 and was told time and again the same thing about that marvelous place: It is a secular state governed by the laws of humanity; and it welcomes all points of view, all forms of peaceful dissent.

Netanyahu tossed all of that aside by adhering initially to the president’s ridiculous admonition. They both should be ashamed of themselves.

I cannot speak for Netanyahu, but I am pretty sure the shameless U.S. president will feel not one bit of regret over seeking to bar two American citizens their right to travel abroad on behalf of their congressional constituents.

A ‘sign of weakness’? Seriously, Mr. President?

Donald Trump told Israeli officials that admitting two Muslim U.S. congresswomen into their country would be a “sign of weakness.” So, Israel has blocked the entry of Democrats Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib.

In doing so, Israel has allowed itself to be sucked into an ugly, messy and intemperate U.S. domestic political dispute between the Republican president and two freshmen members of the House of Representatives.

The weakness, therefore, was demonstrated when Israel succumbed to Trump’s latest Twitter tirade against these women with whom he has been waging a distasteful war of words and will.

Omar and Tlaib have been critical of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians; Tlaib is of Palestinian descent. Trump, though, accuses them of “hating Jews” and “hating Israel” and, oh yeah, of “hating” the United States of America.

Now the Israelis have become a party to this ridiculous internal dispute.

Trump’s good pal, Israelis Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would seem to want to avoid being pushed around by the U.S. president. However, the way I see it, that’s exactly what has happened here.

Disgraceful.

On the brink of conflict with Iran … or what?

Donald Trump is giving me the heebie-jeebies.

The president of the United States ordered a military strike against Iran because the Iranians shot down an unarmed drone apparently over international waters. The Iranians contend the surveillance craft had flown into their air space, which is why they knocked it out of the sky.

But then the president changed his mind and called off the strike against Iran.

I’m wondering today: Why did the president change his mind? What prompted him to order the aircraft back to their bases? Did he get a call from the mullahs? Did they admit to making the “mistake” to which he alluded earlier in the day?

Well, at this moment — but that could change in the next moment — I am glad he called off the hit against military targets in Iran. I heard something this morning about the reported threat to civilians had the strike been allowed to continue.

Let’s not be coy. Iran presents a serious threat to the entire region if we hit them hard. They hate the Saudis, and the Iranians damn sure hate Israel. The mullahs are in control of a terrorist state, which suggests to me that they can seek their vengeance against targets all around the world.

Please keep that in mind, Mr. President, as you ponder the best way to respond to the shootdown of an unmanned military asset.

Time of My Life, Part 33: Hoping it would hit the fan

My career as a print journalist allowed me to do many remarkable things, and to see many remarkable places.

Two of those career elements came together a decade ago. I now will explain.

About two or three weeks after I reported for work at the Amarillo Globe-News, my boss — publisher Garet von Netzer — informed me that someone from the Rotary Club of Amarillo would call me and invite me to join that Rotary club. “We need to have someone in that club,” von Netzer said. Thus, I was slated to join the Rotary Club of Amarillo. When Garet von Netzer said I would join, well, I had no choice.

I got the invitation from the late Basil Walker. I joined and then settled into my membership. I made a lot of new friends. More than that, though, I developed many valuable sources for potential issues I might cover as editorial page editor of the Globe-News.

Some years later, in 2008, I applied for — and received — an appointment to lead a team of young professionals to Israel as part of Rotary International’s Group Study Exchange.

That journey illustrated how my career allowed me to travel abroad. I was able to travel twice to Southeast Asia; I traveled three times to southeastern Europe; as president of the Rotary club, I was allowed to travel to Denmark and Sweden to attend Rotary International’s annual convention in 2006.

Then came this Israel adventure.

I was torn while training with my team members for this event. In late 2008 and early 2009, violence erupted in Gaza. Hamas terrorists lobbed rockets on Israeli communities. The Israelis responded with brute force, inflicting considerable damage at quite a cost in human life.

If the Israeli counteroffensive were to continue, our trip might be canceled. My Rotary mentor — with whom I was working to prepare for the trip –told me that RI was working closely with the State Department monitoring the situation in early 2009.

Israel’s potent armed forces took control. They put down the Hamas uprising. Order — if not peace — eventually was restored.

Our trip commenced in May 2009. We would spend four weeks in Israel. We stood on the doorstep of the Gaza Strip. We looked down onto the valley below the Golan Heights. We stood below a fortified fence along Israel’s northern border with Lebanon, where another terror outfit, Hezbollah, was capable of doing damage.

For the entire four weeks, I harbored a wish; it wasn’t exactly a secret, although I don’t recall sharing it with our Israeli hosts. I wanted all hell to break loose while we were there.

No, I did not want to put our team in danger. I would have hoped we could get them on the next plane out and headed for home.

However, the reporter in me wanted to be able to cover events unfolding in real time.

It didn’t happen. Our journey was spectacular, even in the absence of violence and mayhem.

Don’t misunderstand me on this. I have never, ever harbored an instant of regret over the peace and tranquility we enjoyed while traveling through one of the world’s most thrilling nations.

If it had gone the other way, though . . . I was ready.

Israelis PM seems intent on stirring conflict

As if the non-Jewish neighbors surrounding Israel need any more pretext to feel anxious about the country’s treatment of its Muslim and Christian citizens.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has asserted that Israel is a “national state” only to its “Jewish citizens.” The rest of the country, which is surprisingly diverse in its religious and ethnic makeup, doesn’t matter to the Israeli government, or so Netanyahu has implied.

Hold on a minute, Mr. Prime Minister.

Ten years ago I had the honor of visiting Israel for a month. I lived in Israeli citizens’ homes, talked to them candidly about life in that beautiful land and got to understand something I always thought was a source of pride among Israelis. It is that they treat all their citizens — Christians and Muslims as well as Jews — with respect and honor.

Netanyahu is saying something quite different.

According to National Public Radio: The prime minister’s comment set off criticism, debates over Israel’s true nature — and observations that with Israel’s legislative elections now less than a month away, Netanyahu’s provocative language might be calculated to help his Likud Party at the polls.

The Likud is considered one of the hardest of the hard-line parties in Israel. Netanyahu has come to embody Likud’s attitude toward the Palestinian Authority and its occupation of the West Bank.

In a sense, I understand and appreciate Netanyahu’s fear that non-Jewish residents might rebel. Indeed, Israeli armed forces are continually forced to put down resistance in places such as Gaza, which is governed by a party linked closely with Hamas, the infamous terrorist organization.

It is troubling to hear Netanyahu declare that Israel wants only to be the “national state” for its Jewish citizens. The implication is that the Israeli government cares much less about its Christian and Muslim citizens. That clearly is not the message I heard continually in the spring of 2009 while I toured the Holy Land.

It’s provocative. Indeed, the region needs little impetus for violence to erupt. Benjamin Netanyahu, of all people, should understand what such provocation can bring.