Posted by Joshua on Wednesday, July 15th, 2009
Britain is behaving responsibly by cutting arms contracts with Israel to indicate its disapproval of the brutal Gaza campaign. Even if it is a symbolic act, it is important. Had the US objected to Israel’s bombing campaign — even mildly – the Obama administration might not be dealing with Netanyahu today. pusillanimous behavior during the Gaza campaign – his approval of Israel’s onslaught – doubtlessly convinced many Israelis to vote to the right. After all, if it is so easy and cost free to kill one’s opponents rather than make concessions, why not? The US, the only country that Israel depends on, voiced no disapproval. On the contrary, Obama voiced his contentment with the bombing, when he defended Israel’s behavior, explaining that Israel had the right to defend itself and that he would do the same thing. He voiced not a word of caution or restrain. If the US faces an intransigent and right wing Israel today, it is largely its own fault. Bravo Britain; better late than never.
“Frederick Hoff, President Barack Obama’s man for negotiations between Israel and Syria, began an intensive three-day visit to Israel yesterday.
It remains unknown what messages Hoff, a diplomat who specializes in resolving international conflicts, will take with him to Damascus. What is known is the outline that Hoff presented to the Israeli leadership…………
Hoff shows a rare sensitivity to the two sides’ psychological situations, including a particularly impressive in-depth analysis of the water issue and the Sea of Galilee. That element is particularly important, because at the focal point of the document is the idea of creating a “nature reserve” (or a park) that is geared first and foremost to overcome the psychological problems that have prevented the two sides from reaching an agreement to date.
It is important to understand and to bear in mind that in all the talks that have been held between Israel and Syria ever since the “deposit” that Rabin left with secretary of state Warren Christopher (including during the first Netanyahu government), the parties reached nearly complete agreement on a series of pressing issues: withdrawal and the evacuation of the settlements, security arrangements and early warning stations, demilitarizing the Golan Heights and the use of the water sources. The obstacle that stood in the way of a signed agreement was the inability of the two sides to agree on the final border that would demarcate Syrian sovereignty on the Golan Heights. The Americans’ intention to renew the talks is based on their faith in their ability to resolve that old problem.
What precisely does the “nature reserve” proposal involve?
As noted above, it is geared to provide what is mainly a psychological solution that will allow the two parties to reach an agreement and to feel that their psychological needs have been met. A variety of versions of this agreement have been circulating for the past 13 years already. Hoff mentioned it in a document ten years ago and itemized it in a detailed position paper he wrote in 2001.The ground-breaking idea is to separate sovereignty from control. In other words, not to have the line of sovereignty necessarily convey the line up until which use can be made of the area. Simply put, to reach an agreement about a certain area in the southern Golan Heights and the eastern shores of the Sea of Galilee that will formally be placed under Syrian sovereignty, but in practice will be accessible to the two parties-without them having to present passports and pass through border control.
Hoff and others suggest that a variety of civilian uses can be made of those nature reserves: hiking, touring, and perhaps even academic and agricultural activity.
One of the important things about the current Hoff document is what is absent from it. The document does not specify precisely the boundaries of the nature reserve. Officials who were in touch with Hoff in previous years said that he had taken into account comments that were presented to him after the publication of his previous document in 2001, at which point he appended an explicit and precise map of the desired nature reserve. This time he has refrained from repeating that course of action. Refraining from appending a map would seem to indicate that the Americans have concluded that it would be best to leave that issue completely open to negotiation.”
Britain Cuts Some Arms Exports To Israel Over Conduct in Gaza
(By Howard Schneider, The Washington Post) JERUSALEM, July 13
Britain has revoked five licenses for arms exports to Israel after reviewing how British-provided equipment was used during Israel’s three-week war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, officials from both nations said Monday. ….It marks the only such action to date by a foreign government against Israel over the country’s incursion into Gaza in December and January. Israeli officials said the license revocation would have no effect on the country’s military and noted that 177 British arms-export licenses remain intact.
CIA’s secret program: Paramilitary teams targeting Al Qaeda
By Greg Miller
The agency had a plan after Sept. 11 for paramilitary forces to take out Al Qaeda figures overseas. Congress was never told. ….
[Was the US attack on Syria last fall that killed eight and supposedly took down a mujahidiin facilitator connected to this CIA operation? It would explain the secrecy surrounding the operation. It would also explain why the US military never showed us photos of the dead and captured facilitator who was taken away in US helicopters. Syria claimed that the US killed only innocent farmers, women and children. The US never showed us evidence of their kill. They could have put an end to accusations that they Key Stone cops and calloused ones to boot. Perhaps the reason was that the CIA did not want to bring attention to this paramilitary team that congress knew nothing about? Who knows? Secrets stoke wild theories.]
Obama meets with Jewish leaders on Israel, Iran
Associated Press – YNET
Published: 07.14.09, 07:30 / Israel News
US president seeks to allay concern of Jewish leaders regarding US’ revamped strategy on Israeli-Palestinian conflict. ‘No one could leave that meeting with any doubt about Obama’s commitment to Israel,’ says executive director of National Jewish Democratic Council
US President Barack Obama told Jewish leaders Monday that eight years of US-Israeli unison in demanding Palestinian concessions has produced no results and asked leaders to give him time to try his tactics for a Middle East peace.
Obama assured 16 Jewish leaders that the United States remained steadfast in its commitment to Israel’s security. But during a private hour-long White House meeting, the president told guests that he was asking Israel and the Palestinians alike to take concrete steps toward restarting peace talks — and that would require sacrifices from both sides.
Obama met with the leaders, who have fretted that he is being too critical of longtime ally Israel and too lenient toward Palestinians and their Arab neighbors. They privately complained that Obama delivered a speech to the Muslim world during a trip to Cairo but skipped a stop in Jerusalem.
“I think people were very direct with the president in expressing their views. … I think the president was very candid in responding,” said Alan Solow, the chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations…..
In the NYTimes, here
“… Participants said some of the toughest questioning of Mr. Obama came from Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. Two said that Mr. Hoenlein told the president that diplomatic progress in the Middle East has traditionally occurred when there is “no light” between the positions of the United States and Israel. But Mr. Obama pushed back, citing the administration of his predecessor, George W. Bush.
“He said, ‘I disagree,’ ‘’ said Marla Gilson, director of the Washington action office of Hadassah, the women’s Zionist organization. “He said, ‘For eight years, there was no light between the United States and Israel, and nothing got accomplished.’
Jeremy Ben-Ami, Executive Director of J Street (E-Mail)
I just left an extraordinary meeting with President Barack Obama, which he called to meet with the leadership of the American Jewish community. A dozen organizations – including J Street – were at the table.
It was made clear to the President and his team the strong support that exists among American Jews and the broader public for a strong push to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, for a two-state solution, and for a regional and comprehensive approach to the peace process.
The President said such a resolution was in Israel’s interests. In the interests of the Palestinian people. And clearly in the interests of the United States.
The President expressed his gratitude, as did many of his aides, afterward for our attendance.
You should feel great. After little more than a year – and through your online advocacy and donations – J Street has arrived. We are your political voice when it comes to Israel and the Middle East – representing you in Washington and in the national political debate.
In recent days, much has been made in Jewish media of supposed concerns and reservations in the Jewish community about President Obama and his approach to the Middle East.
And today I had the opportunity to take our message of support directly to the White House – that there’s a big difference between the views expressed by a vocal minority on behalf of the Jewish community – and what that community really thinks and supports.
We’ll be in touch, Jeremy
Can Syria end the Arab cold war?
Chris Phillips, guardian, Tuesday 14 July 2009
The gradual return of international diplomats to Damascus signals a thaw in Syria’s intractable feud with Saudi Arabia.
Malcolm Kerr described the 1950s and 1960s in the Middle East as an “Arab cold war” pitting Nasser’s Egypt and allies against conservative Iraq, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. Though the actors and ideologies have changed, some form of cold war in the Arab world has remained ever since, whether Cairo’s temporary exclusion after making peace with Israel in 1979, or Syrian-Saudi-Egyptian collusion with the US against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq in 1991. Its latest embodiment is well known: Syria, Hezbollah and Hamas, under the patronage of Iran, face allies of the US in Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.
So why is Saudi, arguably the bitterest of Syria’s Arab rivals, extending a hand to end this cold conflict now? Riyadh has three priorities that promote reconciliation with Damascus….
So will these measures win over Syria and end the latest Arab cold war? Ostensibly Damascus is weak and in need of allies: Hezbollah is still reeling from electoral defeat and Iran is subdued domestically and isolated internationally. Moreover, US sanctions are starting to have an impact on the Syrian economy, and Obama’s support is crucial if the long-occupied Golan Heights are to be recovered. Surely ditching Iran and embracing the Arab moderates is the best way to ensure the dual goals of economic development and returning territory?
Yet from a position of seeming weakness Assad is proving to be increasingly shrewd in foreign relations. He has turned the Lebanese defeat to his advantage by emphasising Syria’s lack of interference – something that has won plaudits from the French president Nicolas Sarkozy among others. Similarly, a recent interview on western television has helped his British-born wife Asma present a more positive view of the country. Yet, at the same time as promoting western and Arab rapprochement, Assad has shored up the Iranian alliance by being the first leader to congratulate Ahmadinejad on his re-election.
Contrary to American and Saudi wishful thinking, it is the Iranian alliance that has given Syria its regional importance and allowed it to confront the moderate Arab states despite military and economic weakness. ……..