Tag Archives: Middle East peace

Jerusalem or Tel Aviv? Peace might hang in the balance

Donald John Trump reportedly is about to announce a policy that will move the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

What are the stakes? Oh, let’s see. Perhaps it’s the prospect of obtaining a lasting peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, which also happens to claim Jerusalem as its own.

How I wish the president would rethink what I understand is about to occur.

I spent more than a month in Israel just a few years ago. I got an up-close look at the proximity — the tight quarters — in which Israel must exist with its Palestinian neighbors; indeed, Israel is home to many people of Palestinian descent.

Jerusalem is walled off from the Palestinian Authority because of intense security concerns caused by terrorists who have rained havoc onto Israelis for centuries.

Meanwhile, U.S. diplomats and their staffs have been ensconced in Tel Aviv, which isn’t all that far from Jerusalem, but far enough to avoid many of the direct threats posed to those who live in the holy city.

And in the midst of all this we have the still-remote prospect of a peace agreement that could be struck between Israel and the PA. What in the world might this blatantly aggressive move by the United States to do muck up that effort?

I have little faith that any talks — spearheaded on the U.S. side by Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner — is going to advance even under the best of circumstances. Kushner has zero diplomatic experience and for the life of me I cannot grasp why the president would entrust this hyper-sensitive negotiation to someone only because he is married to a member of the First Family.

Indeed, I am trying to think of any worse move the United States could make that could throw a serious dirt clod into the quest for peace in the region. I keep coming back to a potential decision to place our nation’s embassy in a city that Israel’s sworn enemy claims for itself.

Good grief, Mr. President. Keep our embassy in Tel Aviv. It’s doesn’t take long to drive there from Jerusalem.

Biden: U.S., Israel 'love each other'

Vice President Joe Biden wants to set the record straight.

The United States and Israel are like “family.” The nations argue with each other, he said, but when the chips are down they “protect each other.”

http://www.politico.com/story/2015/04/joe-biden-israel-relationship-117313.html?hp=b1_r2

The vice president sought to tamp down the heated rhetoric of recent months over differences between President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. His remarks came at a ceremony marking the 67th anniversary of Israel’s independence.

Has the U.S.-Israel partnership been spat free over those six-plus decades? Hardly. Indeed, the differences pre-date the Obama administration. President Carter had difficulty negotiating the Israeli-Egypt peace agreement when he visited played host in 1978 to Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat at Camp David. Carter’s nemesis was Begin. But the deal got done.

Israelis know that the United States stands with them in critical moments. They know their principal ally will not forsake them when they face a direct threat from the neighbors.

“Sometimes we drive each other crazy, but we love each other — and we protect each other,” Biden said.

Isn’t that enough?

Hamas testing the limits of hope

The fighting in Gaza between Israel and the Hamas terrorist organization that has picked a serious fight with our nation’s strongest Middle East ally is testing my once-unshakeable optimism that there can be a peaceful solution to this ancient conflict.

It’s Hamas’s fault.

http://online.wsj.com/articles/israel-warns-gazans-of-new-attack-1405406785?tesla=y&mod=WSJ_hpp_LEFTTopStories

Hamas has rejected an effort led by Egypt to broker a ceasefire. It has fired more rockets into Israeli neighborhoods, killing an Israeli resident overnight. Israel has responded with more air attacks. It is threatening now to invade Gaza with ground troops and armor.

It baffles me beyond my belief that Hamas would pick this fight. I am acutely aware of the ancient tensions and the dispute that goes back almost to the dawn of recorded history between Arabs and Jews in the region.

While other Arab nations and political groups have declared a sort of peace with Israel, Hamas and some others have continued to insist that Israel has no place in the region. They are fundamentally wrong in both a political and historical sense.

I don’t proclaim to be an expert on Israel, but I’ve had the high honor of spending five weeks in that country. I have spoken with dozens of Israelis about this on-going war with Arab terrorists. The only conclusion I can draw is that Israelis — on the left and the right — simply want to live in peace with their neighbors.

Hamas sees it differently. They want Israel wiped out. They contend the land occupied by Israel is Arab land. Hamas wants it for Arabs and will fight for it.

I won’t argue here what I understand to be God’s view of who belongs in the region.

Israelis and Arabs can live side by side in this place. Indeed, they do so within Israel’s territorial borders. Nazareth, one of the holiest cities in the Holy Land, is now 80 percent Muslim. Mosques and churches stand next to each other, on the same block as synagogues.

Yet the fighting continues. It has flared again because Hamas has launched rockets into Israeli neighborhoods.

The Israelis say they’ll do whatever it takes to put down this violence, even if it takes more violence. That’s the nature of the place they call home.

My hope for an eventual peace remains. However, it’s getting a little shaky.

Obama got Syria 'right'

Once in a blue moon, politicians get praise from the most unlikely of sources.

Such as when an Israeli prime minister known for his hawkish views relating to anything involving highly hostile neighbors heaps praise on you for not using military force in a crisis.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — the hawk’s hawk — said President Obama was right to back away from his “red line” threat to use force against Syria when it became known that the Syrian government had used poison gas on its citizens.

http://www.bloombergview.com/articles/2014-05-22/netanyahu-says-obama-got-syria-right

In an expansive interview with Bloomberg News, Netanyahu said President Obama offered “the one ray of light in a very dark region” when he backed off the threat of force. What happened next, of course, was when the Russians brokered a deal to get the Syrians to turn over their stockpile of chemical weapons.

“We are concerned that they may not have declared all of their capacity. But what has been removed has been removed. We’re talking about 90 percent. We appreciate the effort that has been made and the results that have been achieved,” Netanyahu told Bloomberg’s Jeffrey Goldberg.

Goldberg makes it clear in the interview that Netanyahu and Obama haven’t yet healed the deep rifts between the men, who he writes have a “famously contentious relationship.”

It’s intriguing, though, to hear Netanyahu offer words of encouragement for the use of diplomacy over military action, which is the course sought by Obama in trying to find a path to peace in the Middle East.

Indeed, when someone with Netanyahu’s experience battling next-door enemies who swear to eradicate his country speaks of the virtues of diplomacy, there ought to be lessons learned by other critics who have far less skin in this game. I refer, of course, to Obama’s critics at home who continue to harp on the need to employ “the military option” to solve foreign crises.

The Israeli leader has many issues yet to settle with the United States. For example, Netanyahu wants to continue building Israeli settlements on land taken during the 1967 Six-Day War, something the United States opposes.

However, the cause for diplomacy has chalked up an important ally who has an up-close stake in finding peace in one of the world’s most violent regions.

'Apartheid state'? Israel?

What in the name of all that is sensible was Secretary of State John Kerry thinking?

He was speaking in a closed-door event and then suggested Israel was in danger of becoming “an apartheid state” if it doesn’t work out a two-state peace treaty solution with the Palestinian Authority.

I heard it today and am shocked beyond belief at what he said. Should he resign, as some congressional and media critics have suggested? Not just yet. But he’d better have a clear explanation of what precisely he meant.

http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2014/04/28/kerry-under-fire-for-reported-apartheid-remarks-about-israel/?hpt=hp_t2

The term “apartheid” is as highly charged and offensive as they come. It was the long-standing racial separation policy used in South Africa to deny blacks any rights of full citizenship in a country in which they comprised the overwhelming majority. Only upon the release from prison of the late Nelson Mandela and the country’s first fully free and fair election in 1994 would bring an end to that heinous policy.

Now, to suggest Israel could become something similar if it doesn’t make peace with the Palestinians goes far beyond anything reasonable.

Kerry followed up his statement, recorded by The Daily Beast, with this: “… I have been around long enough to also know the power of words to create a misimpression, even when unintentional, and if I could rewind the tape, I would have chosen a different word to describe my firm belief that the only way in the long term to have a Jewish state and two nations and two peoples living side by side in peace and security is through a two state solution.”

Kerry has made a Middle East peace agreement his No. 1 priority since becoming secretary of state in 2013. He has worked hard to bring Israel and the Palestinians to the negotiating table. Then this past week, the Palestinian Authority announced a unity government agreement with Hamas, the notorious terrorist group that wants to eradicate Israel. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, understandably angry with the PA, suspended the talks.

The secretary of state has harmed the peace process further by using such inflammatory language. If there is a model of government diversity and democracy in the Middle East, it is Israel. The nation has a significant Muslim minority; its government has installed Muslims in key positions; it remains a bastion of freedom in a region governed by tyrants.

Yes, John Kerry should have chosen his words more carefully. If he cannot make it right — and soon — with Israel, then he should consider resigning.