Balancing “Change” and “Prudence” will be an arduous process for President Obama

by Alex for Syria Comment

I thought of writing “an open letter to President Obama”. But I kept remembering that he has a Ph.D. From Harvard, and I don’t. For the first time in many long years, I do not feel the urge to lecture the US president about everything that he does not seem to understand about the Middle East.

Then again, President Obama’s first comments about Gaza were not very assuring. Immediate reactions on the Arab side were of two kinds. “I knew it, he is just like Bush”, or “Give him time, the man can not upset AIPAC from day one”

During his inaugural speech President Obama said: “our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint…”.

Besides prudence and temperance, the president often promised … “change”. Yet, his approach to the Middle East until this date, clearly constrained by the obvious sensitivities of the traditional allies represented by established Washington lobby groups, does not reflect a degree of fortitude necessary to change America’s shattered foreign policy in the Middle East.

Watching and reading coverage of the events in Gaza it was clear that when it comes to the Middle East, the United States has been systematically and successfully brainwashed. Aside from the few cautious and polite exceptions, the only politically correct analysis by American politicians or journalists about Gaza had to stay focused on the importance of “Israel’s security” to the United States. If anyone felt the need to express his or her concern about the thousands of Palestinian children and mothers killed or injured, “civilian casualties on both sides” was the proper way to express concern.

The audacity to equate Israel’s 3 civilian casualties to the 1335 Palestinian ones.

Those who clearly deviated from the strict guidelines of Israel’s numerous watchdogs were mostly the 80+ year old former officials who did not care anymore about their political future in the United States … 81 year old Zbigniew Brzezinski, and 85 year old President Carter.

To understand how far President Obama needs to “change”, compare his stated position on the events in Gaza with those of respected Jewish intellectuals like Uri Avneri, Gideon Levy, Henry Siegman

Arab moderate / Arab resistance Cold war

Aside from the difficulty of taking a more balanced approach to the Arab/Israeli conflict, President Obama will also need to reevaluate his country’s position on the various conflicts in the Middle East which are complicated by an obvious cold war between two Arab camps: “Arab Moderates” such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority facing Syria’s “resistance” camp that includes popular Palestinian and Lebanese factions and is reliably backed by the two large non Arab Muslim countries in the Middle East, Turkey and Iran, in addition to many Arabs countries like Algeria and Qatar, home to the CNN of the Arab world, Aljazeera.

Mubarak gets a hug from the Israeli prime minister, while Syria's Assad turns his back

Mubarak gets a hug from Olmet, Assad turns his back

Opinion polls have shown that the resistance camp represents the feelings and aspirations of the vast majority of “the Arab street”.

Besides the very active and influential Likud lobbyist group (falsely promoted as an American Jewish lobby), there is also a number of smaller lobby groups representing the interests of “Arab Moderates” in Washington (mainly Saudi Royal family and Lebanese M14 warlords) who are still actively working with their Neocon friends to convince the new President not to speak to Syria and Iran just like they continuously, and successfully, lobbied, and constrained, his predecessor for years and years.

Although there is a welcome new humble tone from President Obama, symbolic gestures like granting his first interview to a Saudi TV station Al-Arabiya, were already tried by the Bush administration.

It is widely known that Syria wants America’s help in negotiating a settlement with Israel that includes the full return of Syria’s occupied Golan Heights. But what is not recognized by many is that a prerequisite to a genuine friendship between the United states and Syria’s resistance camp will be for the United states to recognize the right of all countries in the Middle East (and not only Israel) to exist as friends of the United States, without forcing them to become “American puppets” like America’s current set of friends in the Arab world.

Will president Obama be willing to champion such an arrangement? Is the rest of old Washington ready for this “New Middle East”?

There is probably no going back to the old Middle East. President Bush’ war in Iraq, and Israel’s two unnecessary destructive wars in Lebanon (2006) and in Gaza (2008), in addition to all the other disasters that were produced in Tel Aviv or in Washington the past eight years, led to irreversible changes in the Arab world. Israel’s actions are driving more and more Arabs to believe in resistance as the only language Israel (and its supportive friends in the “international community”) can understand and respect.

I can not publish all the emails I have been receiving from secular, Christian or Muslim, highly educated Arab friends who wrote variations of the following: “they [the Europeans and Americans] are all S.O.B.’s, … we need to forget about them and build our strength to show them we are not insects they can kill whenever they wish”.

These are the secular intellectuals. You probably can guess how the younger and angrier ones now feel.

No one respects Israel anymore (many Arabs used to). No one is afraid of Israel and its friends anymore … very few still want to have peace with Israel before that country is treated for its dangerous psychological sicknesses.

Read the comments in Arab blogs for yourself. Angry Turkish Prime minister Erdogan, and not the “moderate” Hosni Mubarak, is everyone’s hero. Israel’s many friends in the media can not control blogs, they can not control YouTube, they can not control email attachments. Online, It is not Israel versus the “Arab terrorists”, it is Israel versus 1.3 billion Muslims.

The Middle East is in motion, and leaders of the “resistance” block who have been fighting for the steering wheel for the past few years, seem to be set to take exclusive hold of it. Next time there is an Israeli led (and Moderate Arab supported) slaughter fest in Gaza or in Lebanon, Mubarak may not be able to deliver and the “international community” may not be able to save him through another well attended summit in Sharm El-Shaeikh. Many believe he is already on his way to follow the Shah of Iran and President Sadat. Both of them American allies that were promoted and supported despite increasing internal opposition.

Sharm El-Sheikh Summits

The latest summit to be held at Sharm El-Sheik, Egypt, was hurriedly organized, and attended, by only (I’ll explain later) ten Arab moderate and Europeans leaders in order to reach a convenient closure to the bloody results of Israel’s “the boss has gone mad” strategy of dealing with “Hamas”, or “Palestinian people’s resistance” as the rest of the Arab world calls it.

The other reason for holding that summit was to give Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Palestinian authority President Mahmoud Abbas the essential reinforcement they required.

How effective or necessary was the 2009 Sharm El-Sheikh Summit? Why did the leaders of Italy, Spain, England, Germany and France need to sit on that table?

Thirteen years ago, in 1996, there was an even more impressive Sharm El-Sheikh summit … 27 world leaders assembled on a short notice (after receiving last minute invitations from President Bill Clinton) to … again, support Israel against Hamas and to support Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and the head of the Palestinian authority at the time, Yasser Arafat.

When the summit ended, CNN’s reporter concluded “… at its close, some doubted whether the hastily assembled meeting had any real substance.

Syria was invited, but refused to attend the 1996 Sharm Summit.

Isn’t it about time to recognize that, the number of “Arab moderate” and world leaders assembled not withstanding, all the regional “peace” initiatives that did not respect the legitimate concerns of the the Arab people did not go anywhere?

Throw the donkey a carrot:

The notion that visits to Arab countries by American or European leaders should be used (except in emergencies) as a rewarding tool for good behavior is something that President Obama might need to reconsider if he is genuine about change.

He made it clear that he intends to talk to his enemies and his adversaries. Yet, this week, the president dispatched Mr. George Mitchell, his new envoy to the Middle East to visit Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia … but not Syria.

Is it not prudent to talk to Syria? … or is the Obama administration hoping to again use future visits as potential carrots in exchange for a change in Syria’s behavior?

The real Cost of conflict in the Middle East

Can any of you guess what is the total cost of conflicts in the Middle East? Do you know how many Iraqi children are not in school because of war and sanctions? What would be Israel’s per household yearly dividend if peace breaks out?

India’s Strategic Foresight Group, a Bombay based think tank, came out with a new report on the Cost of Conflict in the Middle East. It is the first report of its kind, with 97 parameters to measure cost, moving beyond the usual economic and political costs and looking at social, human, environmental and other areas, covering Israel-Palestine, Lebanon, Iraq, the broader Middle East region as well as a section on the costs borne by the International Community.

The report was prepared after a series of workshops with neutral agencies such as the governments of Turkey, Norway, Switzerland, and the first lady of Qatar

Here is a promotional video that shows some of the report’s depressing figures.

For those in Israel who think they are fooling the Arabs through perpetual negotiations that are designed to go nowhere, and for my Arab friends who want to wait another 50 years until they defeat Israel, the total cost of the conflicts of the Middle East since 1991 is estimated at … 12 Trillion dollars.

We all need President Obama to succeed as a peace maker. There is no other hope, but he can only succeed if he seeks peace among equals.

Comments (238)


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201. Rumyal said:

Alia,

There were a number of studies that try to prove various theories about Jews’ origins, some of which are based on maternal genetic markers and some on paternal markers. Sand talks about them in his book but as in the rest of the book his concentration is not so much on the studies’ conclusion but the motivation of the researchers, how they manipulated the results to suite their ideology etc. As far as the results of the studies themselves, to the best of my knowledge they are inconclusive. They did show some relationship between Ashkenazi Jews to Levantine populations on the paternal markers, but not so much on the maternal markers and that gave rise to all sorts of theories about (“authentic) nomadic Jewish males traveling in Eastern Europe and taking local women for wives etc. Sand also claims that a large chunk of the Jews originated from the Punic people of Northern Africa which are themselves descendants of the Phoenicians, so even if Northern African Jews show affinity to current people of the Levant you can’t tell whether it was through the original Israelites or through the Punic conversion to Judaism (of which there is great evidence).

His main point though is that it doesn’t matter… except when somebody tries to harness this as part of a political ideology…

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February 7th, 2009, 2:35 am

 

202. Alia said:

Sand also claims that a large chunk of the Jews originated from the Punic people of Northern Africa which are themselves descendants of the Phoenicians, so even if Northern African Jews show affinity to current people of the Levant you can’t tell whether it was through the original Israelites or through the Punic conversion to Judaism (of which there is great evidence).

Rumyal,

You can actually separate North African Jews between those who carry Sephardic markers and those who do not and are Jewish based on conversion during the Punic war.
There is a method of analysis of haplotype sharing and diversity within specific haplogroups (signature genetic markings) which can identify which are the more ancient.

As an example of this: in looking for traces of North African genetic markers among present day Spaniard males, researchers have been able to separate the North African markers ( present in only 10% of the studied samples) from the more ancient Sephardic markers (present in 19%) of the males. There is of course an overlap between the two in some of the males.

The trick is how these data are being used in the service of ideology – or sometimes just ignored.

I understand that Sand is speaking of the manipulation of both historical and scientific data in the service of ideology.

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February 7th, 2009, 1:18 pm

 

203. Shai said:

Rumyal,

In the end, Palestinians will have a full right of return to Palestine, and Jews will have a right of return to Phoenicia (including modern-day Lebanon)… (sorry QN) 🙂 But on a serious note, I think it’ll take a few decades before most Jews in Israel are ready to consider Sand’s theories. At the moment (this is a subjective opinion), I think they’re more ready to press the (nuclear) button, rather than accept that they may not be Jews at all, or have any rights to this land…

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February 7th, 2009, 6:42 pm

 

204. Rumyal said:

Alia,

Interesting… (I still have strong conviction that *I* am a direct descendant of King David though :-))

Shai,

The fact that this book is a bestseller shows that if these views are still unpopular it is not because (reading) people are dumb but because they are engaged in self-deception. Also, the person who is going to press on the nuclear button is not “Israel”. He represents an entrenched political and military ruling elite that has a personal vested interest in perpetuating the current state of affairs.

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February 7th, 2009, 7:08 pm

 

205. Shai said:

Rumyal,

Let’s hope no one presses “the button”. Although, at the rate Yvette Lieberman is gaining ground, he’ll soon be the 2nd strongest party… Sick!!! (and scary). People around are shocked at what’s going on. He’s getting votes from Likud, and from many Russians. Even Bibi seems to be in shock… And Barak, of course, has no morals whatsoever – and is now saying he could see himself sitting with Lieberman…

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February 7th, 2009, 7:20 pm

 

206. Alex said:

Rumyal, Alia, Shai,

I’m sure that among the studies commissioned by M14 leaders there was one that attempted to find out if the “Lebanese” carry genetic Lebanese markers compared to the very different creatures who live in “Syria” who obviously carry Syrian markers.

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February 7th, 2009, 8:15 pm

 

207. Alex said:

Talking To Tehran

America’s old Iran hands on how—and whether—to start the conversation.

Maziar Bahari and Christopher Dickey
NEWSWEEK

From the magazine issue dated Feb 16, 2009

Ever since their 444 days spent in captivity, from November 1979 to January 1981, Bruce Laingen and John Limbert’s names have been preceded by the words “Iran hostage,” a grim honorific that’s emblematic of the suffering and frustration that have marked U.S.-Iranian relations.

Laingen was the highest-ranking U.S. diplomat in Tehran when revolutionaries stormed the embassy. Limbert, a Persian speaker and former Peace Corps volunteer, was an English teacher at the time who later went on to become an ambassador.

It was all a long time ago, of course. As of this month, three decades have passed since the Shah of Iran, who had been supported by the United States as the policeman of the Persian Gulf, fled his homeland and the Ayatollah Khomeini seized power, establishing a revolutionary Islamic regime that continues to threaten, challenge, undermine and sometimes violently attack the United States and its allies, especially Israel. That same Iran is now well on its way to becoming a nuclear power, and last week it launched its first satellite into orbit, sending it high over the United States.

In all these years, no American has been posted in Tehran like Laingen, Limbert or their colleagues were; nor has any dealt officially and directly with the Iranian government beyond a few limited exchanges over Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet that might be about to change. The Obama administration has suggested starting a conversation. So we sought out Laingen and Limbert and other U.S. survivors from those fraught and frightening times three decades back, including Henry Precht, the Iran desk officer at the State Department in 1979, to ask them how and whether to talk to the ayatollahs.

On a recent Saturday afternoon, Laingen, now 87, Limbert, 65, and Precht, 76, met at a Persian restaurant in Washington, D.C. Over plates of pomegranate stew, they spoke, as they often do, about how the United States government, after years supporting the shah, got blindsided by the Iranian revolution, and what lessons might be learned. In general, they agreed the Iranians today want, and should be shown, “mutual respect.” But the Great Satan is in the details.

“We have to talk to these people to understand them,” says Laingen. “There has to be respect from both sides. But we need to hear something from the other side that makes us think they really want to talk to us.”

“If you go into negotiations thinking that the other side is irrational, crazy and violent, you definitely won’t reach any agreements,” says Limbert. To American eyes, to be sure, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad looks quaintly eccentric when he demands, as he did in late January, that the Western powers be “polite” when dealing with his country. His truculence toward Israel is inflammatory if not insane—not least because it could goad the Israelis into mounting an attack. And his response to President Barack Obama’s talk of an extended hand has hardly been encouraging. Ahmadinejad demanded that Obama first apologize for America’s many alleged crimes against the Iranian people, dating back to its support of a coup in 1953.

“When Ahmadinejad brings out this laundry list of grievances, you can go with that two ways,” says Limbert. “You can say that the guy’s crazy and can’t do anything about it. Or you can say that like many people in Iran he carries around this burden of history. And it’s a history of grievances: grievances real and grievances imagined, but they are still around.”

“Or you can move on,” says Precht.

“You have to deal with the grievances and then move on,” says Limbert.

In either case, there will not be warm handshakes any time soon, nor should there be. Talks between Washington and Tehran might begin with questions of regional security and stability, especially in Iraq and Afghanistan, both of which border Iran. There have been such successful contacts in the past. “We have to find how to make more of this,” says Limbert. “But people on both sides are doing their best to undermine it.”

“There are Iranians who think it’s nice to be mean to us,” says Precht, drinking the liquid yogurt known as doogh. “I think we should ignore all that. Keep the eye on the ball and see the negotiations as paving the way for the future.”

“Maybe,” says Laingen, opening a U.S. interests section in the Swiss Embassy in Tehran—as the Bush administration contemplated—would be “a good step.” American diplomats would staff the office. They’d be the first U.S. diplomats on the ground there since Laingen and Limbert were freed.

“I’m against that,” says Limbert. “I’m against sending colleagues right now.”

“No one is going to ask you to go over there!” says Precht, laughing.

But that’s not what Limbert’s got on his mind. “Can you imagine what our colleagues would have been subjected to during all this Gaza business?” he asks. “[The government] had a hard time containing the mobs in Tehran who wanted to attack the British and the Egyptians!”

Still, “there are relatively cost-free things we can do, like giving visas and then asking for reciprocity,” says Precht.

“But then you get a kick in the teeth: they become suspicious that we’re recruiting spies,” says Limbert. He’s not keen on a gesture like unfreezing Iran’s assets abroad either. “I’m sure they would say, ‘That’s very nice. What else can you do for us?’ ”

Yet Precht maintains that the United States must “find a way to relieve Iranians of their insecurities. We have to stop talking about regime change,” says Precht. “Obama should tell his envoy to tell Iran that we accept Iran and we’re not interested” in changing its leadership. Indeed, an assurance not to meddle in Iran’s internal affairs was part of the agreement that won the freedom of the hostages, at last, in January 1981.

As this suggests, nothing is likely to change before the rhetoric does. “Iran is the only country in the world that gathers thousands of people every week to shout ‘Death to America!’ ” says Gary Sick, who served on the National Security Council in 1979. “It’s foolish and no one takes it seriously. But what if we had a rally in Washington every week and we all shouted, ‘Death to Iran!’? What would they think about that?”

“The language has to change,” says Sick. “If Iranians want to be treated with respect, they have to behave respectfully themselves.”

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February 7th, 2009, 8:18 pm

 

208. Rumyal said:

Alex,

LOL… but like so often in life, it’s usually a case of follow-the-money: who’s donating to the genetic research faculties, funding grants, what kind of scientific outcomes are likely to make them continue their support…

So if Hariri’s buddies start investing in genetic research I’m not sure they won’t get some “proof” to whatever they want to show 🙂

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February 7th, 2009, 9:12 pm

 

209. Alex said:

Rumyal,

I won’t forget how I managed once to change one of the many assumptions in a study and very easily the results were totally different .. the way I wanted them to be (it was a project for statistics course, no harm done)

You have to believe in “Yes, we can” in research too 😉

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February 7th, 2009, 10:18 pm

 

210. Alex said:

“Whether it’s because they’re newly affordable, like the Big Island or Britain, or just plain fascinating like Alaska or Syria”

Syria is one of LA TIMES’s top ten must-see spots around the globe

Syria

Some trips you actually take; others you take only in your mind, which may be the case with Syria. The U.S. State Department says it harbors terrorist organizations and notes that it has been the scene of anti-American demonstrations.

So why does everyone I know who’s been there — including archaeologists and foreign correspondents — say that Syrians are friendly to Americans and that tourists have not been the targets of violence?

They also say it’s a Middle Eastern idyll, at the heart of the ancient cradle of civilization. Syrian cuisine, highlighted by hundreds of varieties of mezes, or appetizers, must be tasted to be believed, and the country’s souks or marketplaces teem with treasures. Best of all, isolation has left it untrammeled and intense. I don’t know how long that will last, so I want to go now.

My dream Syria tour would take in the capital Damascus with its Umayyad Mosque, one of Islam’s holiest sites; the ruins of ancient Palmyra, where legendary Queen Zenobia mounted a rebellion against Rome in the 3rd century; Aleppo, a Silk Road trading mecca with a seven-mile-long covered souk, citadel and nearby Simeon, the Stylite monastery where the ascetic early-Christian saint lived atop a pillar for 37 years.

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February 7th, 2009, 10:21 pm

 

211. Alia said:

Alex,

The tone of the Newsweek article is the same old stuff-pragmatic reasonable gentlemen who are discussing how best to deal with lunatics, while showing themselves ultra-culturally sensitive and unprejudiced: they deign to even eat in a Persian restaurant and look at them they know the names of what they are eating. And when the mention of present or old grievances from Iran comes up, their best idea is to push them under the carpet and move on.

The U.S. administration has disrespected Iran by overthrowing an elected regime and meddling in Iran’s affairs during the Shah’s reign. The Iranians can call “death to America” all they want, but it is America in fact that has caused a lot of problems in Iran internally and during the war with Iraq, and as always contributed significantly to the rise of an extremist regime and ideology. Would there have been an Ayatollah at the helm of that Republic had there not been a corrupt Shah ?

So I am really not impressed with the article or the level of understanding of the people who are giving their opinions. I have heard better analyzes from people who have never set foot in Iran.
( Please do not tell me about the PTSD of the Iran hostages)

Having listened to Mr.Obama on this subject, I am inclined to think that his attitude will be a lot more conciliatory and understanding than those people….

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February 7th, 2009, 11:46 pm

 

212. Alia said:

Alex,

You are not so far off the mark with the Lebanese gene.

Pierre Zalloua is the principal investigator on most studies tracing the Phoenician gene connection- and from what i have read the Lebanese are very eager to get their DNA tested to prove that they are Phoenicians and not anything else (Like Arab) thankfully Syrians and Palestinians are still included among the possible Phonician connection : )

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February 8th, 2009, 12:00 am

 

213. norman said:

To all of you interested in the genetic origin,

We have to remember that the Mideast is the place of many semitic civilization and the place of many occupations including the Greeks , the Romans , the mongols ,the Crusades and the Turks,

Actually few month back i send for my genetic mapping , I found that i have more people related to me in England and France than in the Mideast ,

I guess I belong to the Crusade ,

The bottom line we are all MUTTS and belong to the land we live in , so let us make it better together.

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February 8th, 2009, 4:28 am

 

214. Qifa Nabki said:

Alex said:

I’m sure that among the studies commissioned by M14 leaders there was one that attempted to find out if the “Lebanese” carry genetic Lebanese markers compared to the very different creatures who live in “Syria” who obviously carry Syrian markers.

Don’t worry Alex. The March 14 studies discovered that all Levantines carry z-7umMus bI-ta7iNi gene, remember? You have nothing to worry about.

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February 8th, 2009, 5:23 pm

 

215. Alex said:

Netanyahu: No return of Golan Heights to Syria
Israel seems to be moving rightward going into Tuesday’s national election, with polls giving the edge to former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and a tough stance on Mideast peacemaking that could lead to a collision with the new U.S. administration.
(AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)

By Mark Lavie

JERUSALEM—Benjamin Netanyahu, the front-runner in polls ahead of Israel’s election this week, declared Sunday he would not give up the strategic Golan Heights for peace with Syria, an apparent attempt to toughen his right-wing credentials after a last-minute charge by a hardline party.

Netanyahu has been leading in the polls since shortly after the Feb. 10 election was called in November, but his lead has been shrinking in recent weeks as another hawkish party, Yisrael Beitenu, or “Israel is our home,” surges with its campaign against Israel’s minority Arab citizens.

Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 war, after Syria gunners shelled northern Israeli villages for 19 years. Syria demands return of the territory as a prerequisite for peace, but many Israelis hesitate to give up such a strategic asset.

In moving further to the right, Netanyahu could be setting up a confrontation with the Obama administration if he becomes Israel’s leader. Netanyahu opposes talks on a peace treaty with the Palestinians and favors allowing Israeli settlements in the West Bank to expand, two points that are likely to clash with Washington policy.

Netanyahu’s Likud Party has been the mainstream voice of Israel’s right wing for decades, but the erosion in its support has led him to underline his hawkish positions in the final hours of campaigning.

With polls showing him holding a slim lead over Kadima, the present ruling party, and its candidate, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Netanyahu traveled to the Golan Heights on Sunday to emphasize their policy differences.

While Livni has not ruled out returning the Golan Heights in exchange for full peace, and the third candidate for premier, Defense Minister Ehud Barak of Labor, offered the Syrians that deal when he was premier in 2000, Netanyahu insisted he would say no.

“The Golan will never be divided again, the Golan will never fall again, the Golan will remain in our hands,” he declared during his campaign stop there. Netanyahu and his backers consider the strategic value of the territory as more important than a peace treaty.

Netanyahu has carefully not criticized Yisrael Beitenu or its leader, Avigdor Lieberman, who was Netanyahu’s chief aide when he was premier from 1996-1999, hoping for a partnership after the election.

Lieberman’s main campaign plank is to force Arabs, who make up about 20 percent of Israel’s population, to swear loyalty to the Jewish state or relinquish their citizenship. Some polls show Lieberman’s party approaching 20 seats in the 120-seat parliament, trailing Likud and Kadima, polling less than 30 seats each, but well ahead of Labor, with about 15. Israelis vote for parties, not candidates.

His support could catapult him into a key role in the new government, giving him a large voice in peace moves and domestic policy as well.

However, polls are notoriously inaccurate in Israel. This time the pollsters’ task is even more difficult because the gaps among the parties are relatively small, turnout is expected to be the lowest in Israel’s history and a plethora of small parties could upset the equation.

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February 8th, 2009, 7:15 pm

 

216. Alex said:

Mark Lavie wrote above:

“Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 war, after Syria gunners shelled northern Israeli villages for 19 years.”

“captured” … This is how the conflict will never end … as long as Israel’s friends continue to hide the truth from the American people, Israel will continue to be spoiled.

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February 8th, 2009, 7:21 pm

 

217. offended said:

I’ve done the test.

It turned out I belong to the homo-sapiens.

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February 8th, 2009, 7:32 pm

 

218. offended said:

It’s becoming increasingly irritating to think of BiBi as a prime minister. Granted, he wants to raise the rhetoric, but such statements makes it difficult to any one to be hopeful of peace.

He’s probably secretly preparing for a massacre as he hates to be outdone by the Laborists and the Kadmists.

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February 8th, 2009, 7:42 pm

 

219. norman said:

the only difference between Netanyahu and the others , Netanyahu tells us what he wants to dod the others tell that they want peace then they kill 1200 in Lebanon and 1300 in Gaza , proportionally that is equal to 30000 American of our 300000. population ,

Alex If Syria wants the Golan Syria should fight for it , Obama and others will not help Syria because they can not , and as long as Israel is not paying a price for being on the Golan It will not leave , Even If Syria continue to pursue peace It should prepare for war .

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February 8th, 2009, 8:06 pm

 

220. Shai said:

Offended,

Why secretly? He already promised Lieberman a “significant post” (Minister of Massacres, Minister of Racial Affairs, etc.)

As for your comment earlier regarding your anticipated spare parts, I hope you’re not including 2nd hand ones… 🙂

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February 8th, 2009, 8:11 pm

 

221. Shai said:

Norman,

I disagree. Obama has plenty of weight over Israel, should he choose to exercise it. Remember James Baker in the 1st-Bush Era. Even the “tough” Shamir couldn’t stand up to him. Threaten to cut off financial and military aid to Israel, and we’ll be whistling to the tunes of The Sound of Music while withdrawing from the Golan.

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February 8th, 2009, 8:19 pm

 

222. norman said:

Shai,

Didn’t Israel ban maier Kahana for being racist, Why can’t they do the same here to Lieberman.?.

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February 8th, 2009, 8:26 pm

 

223. Shai said:

Norman,

There have actually been rumors the past week or two that Lieberman was a member for a while in Kahana’s (outlawed) party. He denied it, but some evidence is now starting to appear suggesting otherwise. But this was years ago. As for his racist remarks, I’m not aware of any charges brought up against him. He is, however, under ongoing investigation into some heavy corruption charges. God-willing, he’ll be forced out of politics (and into jail) sooner than he can carry out any of his “plans”. As much as I dislike them, the religious party Shas told voters this week that voting for Lieberman’s party is voting for the Devil…

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February 8th, 2009, 8:33 pm

 

224. norman said:

w w w . h a a r e t z . c o m

——————————————————————————–

Last update – 04:04 08/02/2009
To the Arab world, every Israeli candidate is the same
By Zvi Bar’el

“Conventional wisdom has it that Israeli Jewish voters are more likely to vote for candidates with a reputation of taking a tough stance vis-a-vis the Palestinians. In both the popular and political lexicon, this translates into spilling Palestinian blood, destroying Palestinian homes and further narrowing Palestinian horizons,” writes Khaled Amayreh in the English language Al-Ahram Weekly.

Click here for exclusive Haaretz coverage of the elections in Israel

Amayreh isn’t airing banal claims to prove, once again, that the citizens of Arab countries should not take an interest in the Israeli elections. He is informed, he reads the Israeli press, he cites the latest public opinion polls and the statements of the prime ministerial candidates. Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who until recently was treading water in the polls, has improved his position slightly thanks to how he suggested to treat wanted Palestinian men, even when they are on the toilet.

Readers of the international Arab newspaper Asharq Alawsat might know a bit more, because the paper’s Israel correspondent has taken the trouble of informing them that Shas has promised a personal blessing from Rabbi Ovadia Yosef to anyone who recruits 10 voters for the ultra-Orthodox party. The names of Israeli politicians and parties have long since become an integral part of the news menu served up to Arab readers in the Middle East. And so, when the London-based Al-Hayat published a cartoon a week ago, with the word “Wanted” written alongside pictures of Foreign Minister Tzipi Livi, Ehud Barak, President Shimon Peres and Likud MK Benjamin Netanyahu and the caption “Elections in Israel: Coming Soon,” there was no need to explain who represented what party.

An attempt to find an opinion piece about the upcoming elections in newspapers of the Persian Gulf states, Jordan or Syria came up blank. The outcome does not interest the Arab media, since whoever becomes Israel’s new prime minister is hardly any different from the other contenders. “Israel’s foreign policy agenda is no longer a mystery to us,” explains a Jordanian columnist writing in the Al Rai newspaper. “The interest in what is happening in Israel derived from the impression that different prime ministers can set different agendas – solve the Palestinian problem, withdraw from the Golan Heights, create regional opportunities. Today everyone is using the language of violence. Everyone wants deterrence against the Palestinians and no one is talking about peace agreements.”

Three years ago, during the 2006 elections, the Arab arena was a hub of activity. The ambassadors of Egypt and Jordan met with Israeli politicians, activists and journalists in an effort to characterize the popular mood and assess the candidates. “Every day we would get a long list of questions from Cairo. Sometimes they had even read the Israeli press before we did,” an Egyptian diplomat who used to work at the embassy in Tel Aviv said on the phone. “They wanted to know every detail, to understand even the smallest anecdote about an Israeli politician.”

And nowadays? “My work focuses on another area, but out of curiosity I have been following events in Israel,” related the diplomat. “It’s boring now, because the candidates aren’t presenting a challenge to the Arab policy. It looks like Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak isn’t making any special efforts now, compared to how he acted in the previous elections.” Before the 2001 elections, Mubarak described Ariel Sharon as a danger to peace; two years later the Egyptian leader congratulated Sharon – that very same Sharon – on his electoral victory, in a well-publicized phone call that elicited harsh criticism from several Arab countries. In addition, some four months ahead of the 2006 elections, Mubarak told a Spanish newspaper that “only Sharon can bring peace.”

Such direct intervention in Israeli elections on the part of an Arab leader had been unprecedented until then – apart from Yasser Arafat, who in his heyday used to tell Israeli Arabs how to vote. Incidentally, in this electoral race, the Arab press has discerned a change in the status of Israeli Arabs. The sector, which was perceived as able to impact the make-up of the Knesset and the cabinet, has now been accorded the status of an “endangered flower.”

“Aside from reiterating the slogan about the Palestinian refugees’ right of return, it is also necessary to demand the right of ‘Israeli Arabs’ to remain on their land,” Majid al Sheikh wrote in Al Hayat last week. He was referring to the slogans of Yisrael Beiteinu MK Avigdor Lieberman, and furthermore asserted that Livni’s stance toward Israel’s Arabs is no different: Like Lieberman, she wants a Jewish state, that is – to bring about the emigration of Israeli Arabs to the Palestinian state. “The dream of [a population] transfer has been and remains the Zionist dream,” Sheikh wrote. “It changes in intensity (from candidate to candidate), but not in its essence. Livni’s center or Barak’s center is no different from Netanyahu’s.” It seems that in Sheikh’s opinion, not “only Lieberman understands Arabic” (as his electoral slogan says), but so do Livni, Barak and Netanyahu.

According to the Jordanian columnist, “In the past, before the peace agreement with Israel was signed, we would read every report about the Israeli elections. There was hope that a new government would bring with it a new initiative. Your election slogans were full of hope. We related to them as a commitment. Today, the really important election has already been held – in the United States. Now we are writing about George Mitchell and Barack Obama, about Hillary Clinton and the rift between Fatah and Hamas or between Syria and Egypt. We have already despaired of what is happening in Israel.”

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February 8th, 2009, 9:40 pm

 

225. Shai said:

Kahane won

By Gideon Levy

Rabbi Meir Kahane can rest in peace: His doctrine has won. Twenty years after his Knesset list was disqualified and 18 years after he was murdered, Kahanism has become legitimate in public discourse. If there is something that typifies Israel’s current murky, hollow election campaign, which ends the day after tomorrow, it is the transformation of racism and nationalism into accepted values.

If Kahane were alive and running for the 18th Knesset, not only would his list not be banned, it would win many votes, as Yisrael Beiteinu is expected to do. The prohibited has become permitted, the ostracized is now accepted, the destestable has become the talented – that’s the slippery slope down which Israeli society has skidded over the past two decades.

There’s no need to refer to Haaretz’s startling revelation that Yisrael Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Lieberman was a member of Kahane’s Kach party in his youth: This campaign’s dark horse was and is a Kahanist. The differences between Kach and Yisrael Beiteinu are minuscule, not fundamental and certainly not a matter of morality. The differences are in tactical nuances: Lieberman calls for a fascist “test of loyalty” as a condition for granting citizenship to Israel’s Arabs, while Kahane called for the unconditional annulment of their citizenship. One racist (Lieberman) calls for their transfer to the Palestinian state, the other (Kahane) called for their deportation.

Now the instigator of the new Israeli racism will apparently become the leader of a large party once again in the government. Benjamin Netanyahu has already pledged that Lieberman will be an “important minister” in his government. If someone like Lieberman were to join a government in Europe, Israel would sever ties with it. If anyone had predicted in Kahane’s day that a pledge to turn his successor into an important minister would one day be considered an electoral asset here, they would have been told they were having a nightmare.

But the nightmare is here and now. Kahane is alive and kicking – is he ever – in the person of his thuggish successor. This is not just a matter of disqualifying Yisrael Beiteinu; it is not even a matter of this party’s growing strength to terrifying proportions, becoming the fulcrum that will decide who becomes prime minister. This is a matter of legitimization. All society bears responsibility for it.

Kahane was ostracized; Lieberman is a welcome guest in every living room and television studio. Imagine: Ehud Barak does not rule out a coalition with him; Uzi Landau, considered a “democrat,” is now Lieberman’s number two; a former senior ambassador and a retired police major general also adorn the list. Did we know that Israel was being represented in Washington by an avowed racist in the person of Daniel Ayalon? Did we know that former Border Police chief and deputy police commissioner Yitzhak Aharonovich was one, too? They have come out of the closet, these racists, breaking out of the heart of the establishment to the despicable right, and the attitude toward them has not changed a bit.

Lieberman and his soldiers are borne on the tides of hatred for Arabs, hatred of democracy and the rule of law, and the stink of nationalism, racism and bloodthirstiness. These have turned, horrifically, into the hottest electoral assets on the market. Like all others of his political ilk, he cynically fans these base urges, particularly among the weaker classes, the rejected, the poor and the immigrants. But not just there. Many young people, among them brainwashed soldiers, will give him their vote, and no one ostracizes them. He chose an easy, relatively weak target, Israel’s Arabs, and sets his supporters on them. But his doctrine has seeped in much deeper than that.

Lieberman is the voice of the mob, and the mob craves hatred, vengeance and bloodshed. A useless war in which hundreds of children were killed was received here sympathetically, if not happily. The parties from the right and center have tried to disqualify the Arab parties; these lists are also excluded ahead of time in every political calculation. And Arab students cannot rent an apartment.

When the intifada of Israel’s Arabs breaks out here one day, we will know whom to blame – those who criminally incited against them and, no less, those who turned this incitement into something acceptable and legitimate. This cancerous growth has spread to all parts of society; it remains only to issue a desperate last call: Keep away from this abomination. Anything but Yisrael Beiteinu, lest it really become Israel, our home.

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February 9th, 2009, 4:37 am

 

226. Shai said:

Rumyal,

Check out the Left vs. New Left (“Hadash” Jewish-Arab party) clips – they’re fantastic. (Sorry, they’re in Hebrew…) http://leftvsleft.co.il/

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February 9th, 2009, 7:50 am

 

227. SimoHurtta said:

In a way it is good that Israel will finally have government which will do exactly the same which the previous governments did but without that propaganda smokescreen of negotiations and false promises. The west will finally have to face the true Israel.

With Netanyahu and Lieberman EU and USA are in a really difficult position, they have to support a openly racist, aggressive country or they do not have. With their elections promises Netanyahu and Lieberman have made achieving peace almost impossible. It will be “interesting” to see can the “West” continue the two state game in a situation where Israel is now clearly against it and Bibi promises “economic peace” (what ever that means).

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February 9th, 2009, 9:49 am

 

228. Akbar Palace said:

Ground Control to Major Tom

Actually A.P., I know that people like you are a lot more dangerous to the US than al-Qaeda.

Me? I never hijacked a plane in my life!

People like you have hijacked the congress of the US…to the point that Congressman cannot keep their posts if they even dare put the interests of the US before those of Israel.

Explain how “people like you have hijacked the congress”? In your explaination, please discuss how there can be congressmen who are anti-Israel and immune to AIPAC.

Al-Qaeda is a defined enemy so there is no fear that anyone will mix them up with friends- but when your so called-friends are actually no friends to anybody, they can and do in this case stab you in the back whenever it is in their interest to do so- without you being on guard.

You haven’t discussed the benefits of al-Queda over Israel. Do any of these actors provide any benefit to the USA?

Let’s just keep pouring trillions in the hands of the Israelis.

It is not clear that if the US throws Israel under the bus that al-Queda and other terrorist groups will suddenly end their jihad. Do you have info showing this would be the case?

ADL is just such a gem of an organisation

I agree. They counter inaccurate information defaming Israel and Joos.

I know you have good intentions, and that you believe you are doing nothing but good, and I know you care about, and defend, the United States, and even the republican Party. It is not about intentions, it is about results.

I do this as a public service and I don’t get paid. It’s a thankless job…

You know how you and your friends are among America’s worst enemies despite your good intentions?

I can’t wait to find out.

1) You feel that the United States is strong and safe .. one one can destroy the United States.

That’s relative. I don’t think any terrorist organization can bring down the US, but they can certainly hurt us (i.e. 9-11).

2) You feel that Israel is small and at risk of its “evil” neighbors trying to weaken Israel, through force or through propaganda …etc.

Mostly through force, although, like with the US, not anything that could bring down the government.

3) Therefore, you and your American “friends of Israel” are mostly focused on protecting Israel.

And protecting the US and protecting Great Britain and protecting Saudi Arabia and Kuwait and every other nation.

You know that Israel only survived because of America’s solid backing and you therefore spend all your time making sure America will ALWAYS back Israel 100%.

Pro-Israel american gentiles do a better job than I do “making sure America will always back Israel. Like AIG has said, you need to do a better job countering them.

4) You start defending Israel 100% and you become paranoid about making sure American elected officials are 100% pro Israel

I don’t bother “making sure” American elected officials are 100% pro-Israel”. I don’t have the time, and these people are too few for me to worry about. I’m more concerned that I can’t change you and Alia’s POV. It must be my delivery.

5) Israel feels very secure that no punishment is ever possible thanks to YOU securing America’s automatic veto at the UN among other things.

Sorry again. That’s my fault.

6) Israel becomes spoiled and it starts using its power in the most destructive way .. causing Muslims in Pakistan and Afghanistan to hate Israel … and to hate America.

You mean there was a time when Pakistan and Afghanistan liked Israel? Do you have a date and time when this all went away?

7) America joins Israel (and North Korea and Iran and Communist China) in being one of the most hated countries in the world.

See answer above.

Akbar … the Iraq war would not have taken place had it not been for those who think they are “Israel’s friends” adding their weight to the pro war faction int he Bush administration …

I disagree. The first Iraq war would not have taken place if Saddam didn’t enter Kuwait. The second Iraq war would not have occurred if Saddam let the UN inspector investigate without restriction.

And that cost the US much more casualties than Al-Qaeda did so far …

How much is “much more”? And what about the benefit of not having Saddam around? And what about the benefit of introducing an Arab democracy?

I don’t think you are capable of imagining the psychological damage that tens of thousands of young American soldiers will endure … for life.

I just get the impression you don’t want the US to confront ME dictators and terrorism. If we can’t defend ourselves from ME fanatics, why even bother to have an army?

You start most of the problems and you want the world to deal with your mistakes few years later.

That’s your biased opinion. Israel didn’t start 9-11, al-Queda did. Israel didn’t start the invasion of Kuwait, Iraq did. Israel didn’t start dropping missiles into Israeli population centers, Hezbollah and Hamas did.

A spoiled, nuclear powered nation and its friends in Washington who are not sure if that nation is at risk (from Hamas and Hizbollah!) or is strong enough to be able to teach the whole Arab and Islamic world one bloody lesson after another …

The key word is “spoiled”.

Every man or woman who run for congress has to talk about his support for Israel’s security … why is Nuclear Israel’s security in need for periodic statements of support from congressmen from Idaho and south Carolina?

So people know who to vote for….I think.

You have messed up American politics and corrupted them … with few exceptions, only those who are corrupt enough to accept AIPAC conditions in exchange for AIPAC support will represent the American people.

You don’t know this, but AIPAC just rented out your brain to Dick Cheney. If I were you, I’d get an MRI real fast….

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February 9th, 2009, 6:14 pm

 

229. Shai said:

In these days of Yvette Lieberman, here’s an interesting article about Theodor Herzl’s prediction for the future, made in 1902: “… he imagined that Jews could also be racists and inserted into his utopia the errant and disturbing image of a Jewish racist…” http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1062723.html

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February 9th, 2009, 8:36 pm

 

230. Akbar Palace said:

Shai,

How much longer will you live in your racist state? It must be difficult.

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February 9th, 2009, 9:39 pm

 

231. Rumyal said:

Shame on you AP you deserve to live in a racist state yourself, as a minority. You’re so [edited by admin] your only chance to learn is through first hand experience, never through empathy and introspection.

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February 9th, 2009, 10:29 pm

 

232. Akbar Palace said:

My racist state is better than your racist state

Shame on you AP you deserve to live in a racist state yourself, as a minority. You’re so [edited by admin] your only chance to learn is through first hand experience, never through empathy and introspection.

Rumyal,

Which racist state do you live in? How do you justify living there?

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February 10th, 2009, 1:16 am

 

233. norman said:

Aba Eban once asked on CNN , (( Is Israel going to survive and last in The Mideast )), He answered (( The question is not if Israel is going to survive , That is for sure , The question is what kind of Israel is going to survive )) , I am sure he is turning in his grave of what Israel turns up to be .

I think Israel lacks leaders who can think and play Chess, Playing Chess teach people how to measure their moves and the consequences of these moves.

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February 10th, 2009, 1:31 am

 

234. Akbar Palace said:

Turn, Turn, Turn

I am sure he is turning in his grave of what Israel turns up to be.

Norman –

Instead of guessing what Abba Eban is doing in his grave, here are some more of his words you may want to consider:

“Better to be disliked than pitied.”

“I think that this is the first war in history that on the morrow the victors sued for peace and the vanquished called for unconditional surrender.”

“One of the chief tasks of any dialogue with the Gentile world is to prove that the distinction between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism is not a distinction at all.”

“Time and again these governments have rejected proposals today – and longed for them tomorrow.”

“The Arabs never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.”

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February 10th, 2009, 4:17 am

 

235. Enlightened said:

Here is a more famous quote:

Ben Gurion: ” Now we are the oppressors, and they are the terrorists”

Funny how the world changes!

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February 10th, 2009, 4:55 am

 

236. Alex said:

smoking in Syria

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February 10th, 2009, 6:30 am

 

237. jad said:

I liked the Aleppine accent..WABA…LOL

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February 10th, 2009, 6:53 am

 

238. Arab moderate / Arab resistance Cold war | Uprootedpalestinians's Blog said:

[…] Balancing “Change” and “Prudence” will be an arduous process for President Obama Monday, February 2nd, 2009 by Alex for Syria Comment […]

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September 24th, 2013, 3:03 am

 

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