News Round Up (March 19, 2010)

All indications are that Obama and Netanyahu will try to patch up conditions for resuming proximity talks (which are a farce – read this) and smooth over their disagreements in anticipation of the AIPAC meeting this weekend, however, the larger issue of settlement expansion remains unresolved. Has the US agreed that Israel can build in East Jerusalem? Should Washington follow a policy of “Don’t ask and Don’t Tell” on settlement expansion as it does on Israeli nuclear weapons? These issues will fester – but for the first time, the US military took a stand, blaming some of its difficulties in advancing US policy on Iran, Afghanistan, Iraq and the War al-Qaida, on Israeli intransigence and the ill will it stirs up among Arabs and Muslims. Will the AIPAC leaders still be able to focus the meeting on the Iran issue, as was they intended? Oh, and by the way, the US Department of Justice has been formally asked to begin regulating the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) as the foreign agent of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The Quartet of four nations that monitors the Arab-Israeli peace process, has come out with a somewhat fuzzy statement on Jerusalem, although it leans toward consensus on condemning Israeli expansion.  It does, however, make a firm statement on upholding international law and the two state solution. It is hard to see how Israel will get around this legal issue to scuttle the two state solution.  With the divestment movement showing some life after the Berkeley student vote and the EU’s decision to consider products manufactured on occupied territory to be  non-Israeli and excluded from import agreements, the legal problems for Israel become more complicated. This problem is bound to grow in the future as Israel contravenes more international laws, pursues policies detrimental to the US, and faces the “rise of the rest.”

Israel supporters and Obama detractors are out in force, trying to blame him for the diplomatic flap. Their talking points – Obama chose to make in issue of Jerusalem expansion which is legal and which previous administrations (Bush) recognized as permissible; Obama isn’t hard on dictators, but is hard on its only Mid East friend, Israel.  I quote a few below.

Finally, Fawaz Gerges has an excellent article on the Iraqi election results, arguing that fragmentation based on sect trumps party platforms and nation. It is doubtlessly informed by his experience as a Lebanese. Lebanon has proven that democracy cannot always solve national fragmentation – particularly when the fragmentation is re-enforced by religious differences that harden communal identities, when societies have only superficially adopted enlightenment concepts of secularism and division between church and state, and when neighboring states and great powers have penetrated society and political parties deeply, helping to preserve the fragmentation. This is perhaps the leading reason that Lebanese society has been obliged to accepted an overlord or Sultan through much of its history – an overlord that can keep the squabbling sectarian differences from expanding into civil war and total chaos.  Gerges’ article raises the question of whether Iraq will be able to emerge as a viable nation with a power-sharing solution or whether it will settle into a Lebanese pattern and be forced to accept an overlord. Of course, Iraq, like Lebanon, is in a key strategic position and will tempt its neighbors to challenge each other for over-lordship. The sects and the divisions between them will be their playground. This reality of fragmentation and national weakness makes authoritarianism rational. It seems better than civil war and marginally less humiliating for its citizens than being subjugated by a foreign power. Is this why Middle Easterners challenge their kings and presidents in such small numbers?

Obama should table a Middle East peace plan
By Philip Stephens
March 18 2010,

Enough of charades. The Israeli government of Benjamin Netanyahu is not interested in two-state solutions. For all his expressed eagerness to negotiate, Mr Netanyahu is unwilling to countenance a viable Palestinian state. His administration wants process, not substance – talks instead of a deal.

If any good is to come from the public humiliation of Joe Biden, the US vice-president, during his recent visit to Israel, it resides in the removal of residual doubts about Mr Netanyahu’s objectives. The Israeli prime minister has clarified things. ….Mr Netanyahu’s administration is fast closing down the already slim chance of a two-state solution. The expansion of settlements will soon make the difficult impossible. Mr Obama may have one last chance to advance the cause of peace. To grasp it he must present his own plan.

The Quartet Statement on Palestine
Washington, DC
March 19, 2010

…..The Quartet reiterates its call on Israel and the Palestinians to act on the basis of international law and on their previous agreements and obligations – in particular adherence to the Roadmap, irrespective of reciprocity – to promote an environment conducive to successful negotiations and re-affirms that unilateral actions taken by either party cannot prejudge the outcome of negotiations and will not be recognized by the international community. The Quartet urges the government of Israel to freeze all settlement activity, including natural growth, to dismantle outposts erected since March 2001, and to refrain from demolitions and evictions in East Jerusalem. The Quartet also calls on both sides to observe calm and restraint and to refrain from provocative actions and inflammatory rhetoric especially in areas of cultural and religious sensitivity. Noting the significant progress on security achieved by the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, the Quartet calls on the Palestinian Authority to continue to make every effort to improve law and order, to fight violent extremism and to end incitement. The Quartet emphasizes the need to assist the Palestinian Authority in building its law enforcement capacity.

Recalling that the annexation of East Jerusalem is not recognized by the international community, the Quartet underscores that the status of Jerusalem is a permanent status issue that must be resolved through negotiations between the parties and condemns the decision by the government of Israel to advance planning for new housing units in East Jerusalem…..

Recognizing the significance of the Arab Peace Initiative, the Quartet looks forward to closer cooperation with the parties and the Arab League and urgers regional governments to support publicly the resumption of bilateral negotiations, ….

2nd mystery ‘hit’
2010-03-19, New York Post:

In a possible sequel to the Dubai assassination, Israeli spy planes flew uninvited and unannounced over Budapest the same day a Syrian man was shot to death in his car, Hungarian media reported yesterday. Two Israeli air force Gulfstream V-type …

The Biden Incident
by Charles Krauthammer

Why did President Obama choose to turn a gaffe into a crisis in U.S.-Israeli relations?

And a gaffe it was: the announcement by a bureaucrat in Israel’s Interior Ministry of a housing expansion in a Jewish neighborhood in north Jerusalem. The timing could not have been worse: Vice President Biden was visiting, Jerusalem is a touchy subject, and you don’t bring up touchy subjects that might embarrass an honored guest.

But it was no more than a gaffe. It was certainly not a policy change, let alone a betrayal. The neighborhood is in Jerusalem, and the 2009 Netanyahu-Obama agreement was for a 10-month freeze on West Bank settlements excluding Jerusalem.

World Citizen: Is Obama Anti-Israel?
By: Frida Ghitis | World Politics Review

Does President Barack Obama harbor anti-Israel sentiments? The question has gnawed at supporters of Israel ever since then-Sen. Obama became a credible presidential candidate.

LA Times [Reg]: No way to treat a friend
2010-03-19

It is nice to see a real display of emotion from the normally dispassionate Obama administration. Unfortunately, if predictably, its ire is directed not against America’s enemies but against one of our closest friends. Vice President Joe Biden, in …

“Off with his head” says the Red Queen ….Politico Thanks FLC

“…. Looks to me like the dog’s being walked back, veteran Middle East peace negotiator Aaron David Miller writes. “The administration is keeping its powder dry (for now). They will push Bibi hard when it comes to the issue of an agreement — which is a decent strategy,” he said. “Unless he has given her a real nothingburger of a response in the call yesterday. Unless they want …regime change instead of behavior modification, this could be the smartest thing (the live to fight another day strategy) that they’ve done on this issue.”

The Israeli media is giving Netanyahu a very hard time over the answers he provided Clinton, an Israeli reader said. “He is taking [Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak [to Washington Sunday] with him to ensure that A) He gets some meetings and B) to possibly avoid a new round of hostilities with the administration. In their [Israeli media] words, he again is all about buying some time for no apparent reason or objective.”

Iran’s Opposition Seeks More Help in Cyberwar With Government
By NAZILA FATHI, NYTimes, March 18, 2010

At a time when the Obama administration is pressing for harsher sanctions against Iran for its nuclear program, democracy advocates in Iran have been celebrating the recent decision by the United States to lift sanctions on various online services, which they say only helped Tehran to suppress the opposition.

But it is still a long way from the activists’ goal of lifting all restrictions on trade in Internet services, which opposition leaders say is vital to maintaining the open communications that have underpinned the protests that erupted last summer after the disputed presidential election. In recent months the government has carried out cyberwarfare against the opposition, eliminating virtually all sources of independent news and information and shutting down social networking services.

The sanctions against online services — provided through free software like Google Chat or Yahoo Messenger — were intended to restrict Iran’s ability to develop nuclear technology, but democracy advocates say they ended up helping the government repress its people. “The policies were contradictory,” said Ali Akbar Moussavi Khoini, a former member of Parliament who now lives in Washington, where he pressed for the change.

The new measure will enable users in Iran to download the latest circumvention software to help defeat the government’s efforts to block Web sites, and to stop relying on pirated copies that can be far more easily hacked by the government.

But the government’s opponents say they need still more help in getting around the government’s information roadblocks.

“The Islamic Republic is very efficient in limiting people’s access to these sources, and Iranian people need major help,” said Mehdi Yahyanejad, the founder of one of the largest Persian-language social networking Web sites, the United States-based Balatarin. “We need some 50 percent of people to be able to access independent news sources other than the state-controlled media.” ….

Iraq’s fragmented democracy
Far from a triumph, Iraq’s national elections have created a constitutional and leadership vacuum as sectarianism prevails
Fawaz Gerges in Guardian

Sect, ethnicity, and tribe trumpeted other loyalties, including the nation.

For the foreseeable future, Iraqi politics will be toxically fragmented along sectarian, ethnic, and personality lines, though fear of all-out civil war is unwarranted. A week after the balloting, prime minister Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law coalition and the cross-sectarian Iraqiya coalition, headed by ex-premier Iyad Allawi, were projected to win roughly the same number of seats – about 87 each – in Iraq’s 325-member parliament.

The Iraqi National Alliance (INA), a grouping of Shia religious parties closely linked to Iran, is set to come a close third with 67 seats, while the powerful main Kurdistan alliance of President Jalal Barzani and Massoud Talabani led as expected in Erbil, the autonomous Kurdish region, with 38.

Far from a triumph for democracy, the results threaten to plunge Iraq into a constitutional and leadership vacuum. With Maliki and his main rival, Allawi, falling short of the 163 seats needed to govern alone, they will probably need to ally with one or two blocs to form a coalition government – a complicated negotiating process fraught with security risks and that might last months, putting sectarian leaders back in the driving seat.

After the last parliamentary poll in 2005, sectarian violence erupted as political leaders clashed for more than five months in an effort to form a government. Tens of thousands of civilians were killed, plunging the country to the brink of all-out civil war.

Although the security situation has improved today, the next few weeks will test Iraq’s fragile institutions to breaking point. Unless Iraqi political leaders build a reformist, cross-sectarian government, they could squander precious security gains made over the last three years.

Early signs are not reassuring…..By honouring its commitment to withdraw American troops from Iraq, the Obama administration will begin the process of repairing the damage done by its predecessor and building a new relationship based on mutual interests, not domination. Iraqis must take ownership of their country, security and their future.

Women’s Wear Daily

START PACKIN’: Anna Sui will be off to Syria Friday with her friend Keith Johnson for an upcoming episode of his Sundance Channel show “Man Shops Globe.” The pair plan to scour the grand souks in Aleppo and Damascus, which are supposed to be “more untouched” than those in Istanbul and Cairo, Sui said. Keen as the designer is to visit the land of “Lawrence of Arabia” creator T.E. Lawrence, she also has a few things on her wish list. “Dream items? I remember in the Iris Apfel show, she had some harem jewelry from the 19th century with parts that trembled. There were a lot of rococo pieces with hand-set diamonds. I like it when diamonds are not perfect — when they are hand-chipped,” Sui said. “I think Iris got them in Turkey, but maybe they have them there.” — Rosemary Feitelberg

Comments (13)


1. offended said:

President Assad reiterated his doubts about achieving peace since there is no partner on the Israeli side. He warned against the perpetuation of the status quo. And called on EU to participate in finding plausible solutions for the issues in the region.

He said: “the current israeli government can’t be relied upon as a partner for peace, as long as it continues policies like settlements, changing identity of east Jerusalem and violation of Holy Sites”, he stressed that “Syria is serious about achieving just and comprehensive peace based on UN resolutions and indirect negotiations through the Turkish mediator”

About his talks with the Italian president, he said:
“we’ve discussed the peace process and agreed that peace in the middle east will reflect on the EU and the entire world in terms of peace and stability. I’ve warned against the conditions staying as they are, and I’ve called on Italy and European country–given their geographical proximity, historical relations and their understanding of the region affairs– to participate in looking for solutions for regional issues”, he also stated that the catastrophic living conditions the Palestinian people are suffering from were the core issue of discussion: “I’ve called on the EU to intensify their efforts to lift the oppressive siege off the Palestinians, and to exert pressure on Israel to end its occupation of Arab lands that had been occupied in 1967, and to remove settlements…”, he stressed that settlements and occupation “present a real impediment to peace and push the region towards more tension and wars…”

http://www.aawsat.com/details.asp?section=4&article=561649&issueno=11434

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March 19th, 2010, 10:27 pm

 

2. Amir in Tel Aviv said:

Akbar,

Yes, I’m a socialist. Not the Soviets Union style, but more like it is done in today’s Scandinavia. You blame those who have no insurance; you say that they don’t want to be insured, or that they’re too lazy to register. Come on Akbar…
I don’t like your system (the American System) of dog eats dog and man eats man. It’s a terrible thing to have to worry about how to pay for health. It’s cruel and inhuman. Health matters should be a part of the public common responsibility, and should be payed by taxes. To put one’s health (the American citizen) against someone’s wealth (the insurance companies), is a bad thing to do.

GHAT ALBIRD
Here’s a Polish proverb for you: Pocaluj mnie w dupe ty z kurwej syn.
.

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March 20th, 2010, 2:51 am

 

3. Akbar Palace said:

You blame those who have no insurance; you say that they don’t want to be insured, or that they’re too lazy to register. Come on Akbar…
I don’t like your system (the American System) of dog eats dog and man eats man. It’s a terrible thing to have to worry about how to pay for health. It’s cruel and inhuman. Health matters should be a part of the public common responsibility, and should be payed by taxes. To put one’s health (the American citizen) against someone’s wealth (the insurance companies), is a bad thing to do.

Amir,

Sorry you’re a socialist. That is why the standard of living in Israel is stunted, why everyone works such long hours, and still have little to show for it.

America’s helath care is the best in the world. Here’s a pie chart showing how much of the US budget (2008, under the evil GWB) goes to the disadvantaged. It’s about 55% of the budget.

$608 billion (+4.5%) – Social Security
$386 billion (+5.2%) – Medicare
$209 billion (+5.6%) – Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP)
$324 billion (+1.8%) – Unemployment/Welfare/Other

The only problem is, we can’t pay for it. So our genius president is going to spend much more, even when he doesn’t have to, and certain, when he doesn’t have the money …

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2008_United_States_federal_budget

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March 20th, 2010, 12:58 pm

 

4. Ghat Albird said:

To: AMIR IN TEL AVIV;

Back at you in Polish.

Typowe odpowiedzi od syna kurwa
.

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March 20th, 2010, 1:50 pm

 

5. Amir in Tel Aviv said:

Akbar,

I agree with you that the American HC system is one of the best in the world.
The problem isn’t about it’s quality, but about the accessibility to it’s services.
My knowledge about the American system is limited, so I will not argue with you about the details, which you’re more informed about.
The budget chart you linked to, show the American absurd. You pay more and get less.

Generally speaking, there are two ways to deal with health. Prevention and compensation. Here’s an example.

Lets take 2 people, an American and an Israeli; both with low income. Both had a domestic accident, and now both have an injured right hand finger. In the hospital, they are told that there are two options for them: US$ 60,000 operation which with save their finger, or US$ 6,000 operation to amputate it.
The low income American dude will have no choice but to amputate, while in Israel, the state (or the people with our taxes) will invest 60,000 to save the man’s finger.

The disabled American will cost the American tax payer for the rest of his life, while the Israeli will go back to work, and return our investment in him, with taxes he continues to pay.
You see? You Americans choose the compensation, and you find yourselves pay more.
.

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March 20th, 2010, 4:05 pm

 

6. Akbar Palace said:

The New American Kibbutz

Amir,

The bottom line is that about 8 million Americans are uninsured because they haven’t bothered applying even though they are qualified.

Moreover, several million Americans aren’t insured because they’d prefer to pay out of pocket or they think they won’t get sick.

It is all quite accessible. The remaining issues are illegal aliens, getting everyone eligible to sign up for health care, combating fraud, and tort reform.

Obama and the liberals have always wanted to control large segments of society to ensure a liberal democrat strangle-hold on the country. It’s a power grab, and when the economy is bad, the Dems come to the “rescue” just like Robin Hood. Why bother working if the goverment will take care of you cradle-to-grave? That’s socialism.

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March 20th, 2010, 4:41 pm

 

7. majedkhaldoun said:

The argument about health care reform is late since it is done deal,tomorrow the vote will end it ,Democrat has 217 vote,all what is needed is 216.
What I say about it either the goverment has full control of health care,or it come out of it completely,for example;
Doctors must have liability insurance to practice medicine,the goverment mandate this,this will add 60,000 dollar a year to the surgeon to practice,this will increase the cost of health care.Punitive damages,this is expenses more than the patient suffer.paper work,it is a burden on the hospital and doctors forcing them to hire more people,goverment requirements of small surgical center,non funded goverment mandates,requiring a physician assistant to work with a doctor,and so many other things.
some argue that these things are needed,then I say the goverment should control health care altogather.
I may add the republicans has no concrete ideas to cut down on health care cost,what they are suggesting will not cut cost.

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March 20th, 2010, 6:27 pm

 

8. norman said:

Majid ,
Look at this , but i like to give a plan later to save the health care system in the US ,

This is for you Shai,

James Baker’s advice for Obama on forging Middle East peace

By Akiva Eldar

Tags: Israel news

Benjamin Netanyahu has been in this scenario before. The last time an American president reminded an Israeli prime minister who’s in charge, 18 years ago, the ending was not bad at all: President George H.W. Bush and his secretary of state James Baker knocked out Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Shamir, and paved the way for Netanyahu, a former deputy foreign minister, to take over Likud. Four years later, Netanyahu evicted Shimon Peres from the Prime Minister’s Office.

Now honorary chair of the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University in Houston, Texas, Baker is closely following the peace initiative he launched at the Madrid Conference in October 1991. In an interview published last month in the National Journal, Baker gave President Barack Obama a lesson in how to fight a settlement-loving Israeli government. He suggested the president go beyond making reprimands. (Tom Pickering, U.S. ambassador to Israel in the 1980s, once said to me, “The problem with you Israelis is that you don’t understand nuances.”)

Baker also mentioned the story of the guarantees, the first and last time the U.S. administration set a price for Israel’s settlement policy: $10 billion in guarantees for funds to absorb Soviet immigrants, or construction in the settlements.
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Baker told the interviewer that he doesn’t regret the decision to use “the leverage of U.S. aid” to pressure Israel to freeze the settlements.

“I would also stress that United States taxpayers are giving Israel roughly $3 billion each year, which amounts to something like $1,000 for every Israeli citizen, at a time when our own economy is in bad shape and a lot of Americans would appreciate that kind of helping hand from their own government. Given that fact, it is not unreasonable to ask the Israeli leadership to respect U.S. policy on settlements,” said Baker.

Back in the day, Washington was a more comfortable political arena for fights against a “hostile administration”: There was a Republican president, versus a Democratic Congress and the Jewish community. Meanwhile, there was the Christian right, which finances quite a few conservative congressmen. Netanyahu and several of his friends at the embassy in Washington convinced Shamir that he could receive the guarantees while welcoming Baker to the region with new settlements.

“Israeli leaders told us they would just get the money from the U.S. Congress,” recalled Baker. “Our reply was, ‘We’ll see you on Capitol Hill.’ And we eventually won the vote on that bill.”

The crisis with the U.S. paved Yitzhak Rabin’s path to power, and from there to the Oslo Accords.

Baker is convinced today that without this, the Madrid Conference would not have taken place. “I don’t fault President Obama for making settlements an issue, but I do fault him for caving in. You can’t take a position that is consistent with U.S. policy going back many years, and the minute you get push-back you soften your position,” he said. “When you are dealing with foreign leaders, they can smell that kind of weakness a thousand miles away.”

High stakes

Edward Djerejian, the director of the Baker Institute, was Baker’s assistant secretary for Near Eastern and South Asian affairs. Before that he was ambassador to Syria, and afterward, ambassador to Israel.

“When faced with a similar situation concerning Israeli settlement activity in 1991, President George H.W. Bush and secretary James A. Baker III stopped an additional $10 billion in housing loan guarantees to the Israeli government headed by Likud Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir. The stakes are equally high today,” he told Haaretz by phone.

“If the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations are stalemated, the prospects for violence and instability in the region will be enhanced. The Obama administration should urge both the Israelis and the Palestinians to live up to their obligations in facilitating the onset of direct negotiations on the substantive issues. The sooner, the better.

“Our Baker Institute report shows that with strong United States leadership in an effective honest broker role, the parties can be brought together to narrow their differences on the territorial component of peace,” he added.

“Obama cannot remove himself from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict because this issue affects the United States’ core national security interests,” continued Djerejian. “The Arab-Israeli conflict, and especially the Palestinian issue, remains one of the most contentious and sensitive issues in the entire Muslim world. Osama bin Laden exploits the plight of the Palestinians, as does [Iranian President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad … This has a direct influence on the United States, which is expending its blood and treasure fighting insurgencies in overwhelmingly Muslim Iraq and Afghanistan.

“We would be naive to think that resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will eliminate the problems of terrorism and radicalization in the Islamic world, but it will go a long way toward draining the swamp of issues that extremists exploit for their own ends.”

Djerejian said that Obama’s decision to appoint George Mitchell as a special presidential envoy within his first few days in the White House proves that he has placed the peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians at the top of his agenda.

“Obama drew the lessons of engaging too late in a presidential term from the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations. Unfortunately, the discussions got mired in the secondary issue of an Israeli settlements freeze, and much political capital and time was expended on that issue rather than addressing the core issues of the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations,” he noted.

In any event, Djerejian refuses to lose hope: A paper prepared by a task force he headed, which included former ministers and Israeli, Palestinian and American experts, proposes solutions for the territorial issue. The paper was sent a few weeks ago to special envoy Mitchell, to the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem and to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. It recommends that Obama choose among three options for an exchange of territory between the West Bank and Israel (based on a one-to-one ratio). The first option gives Israel 4 percent of the West Bank (251 square kilometers); the second, 3.4 percent (212 square kilometers); the third, 4.4 percent (274 square kilometers). Under the various proposals, there are currently between 100,000 and 200,000 settlers living on land that would be transferred to the Palestinians.

Djerejian said their position paper demonstrates that with the help of determined American leadership and mediation, the sides can bridge the gaps on the territorial issue. But he added that without active American involvement, direct negotiations will not solve the problem. The Netanyahu government is based on a narrow right-wing coalition, whereas the Palestinians are split between the PA government in the West Bank and the Hamas government in Gaza. Obama will have to invest a great deal of political capital in order for them to reject the internal pressures and to advance to an agreement, Djerejian stressed.

Baker also maintains a degree of optimism. “I’ve dealt with Bibi Netanyahu personally [Netanyahu was a senior member of the Israeli delegation at the Madrid Conference], and I think underneath it all he would like to be the prime minister who brings peace to his people. He’s more pragmatic than a lot of people think. Remember, in the run-up to the Madrid Conference, I was dealing with a very hard-line Israeli leader in [former Prime Minister Yitzhak] Shamir, who used to say that Bibi was too soft,” he said.

“I actually wouldn’t be surprised to see Netanyahu negotiate a peace deal with Syria, though that will be easier to accomplish than a deal with the Palestinians … The reason I mentioned a possible peace deal with Syria, however, is because the headquarters for Hamas is in Damascus, and Syria has great influence over the group.

“If you reach a peace deal between Israel and Syria, you will probably find a negotiating partner on the Palestinian issue. We confronted a similar situation in the 1980s and 1990s with the [Palestine Liberation Organization], which was considered a terrorist organization. To get around the problem, we found Palestinians in the occupied territories who were not PLO officials, and we used them as interlocutors. That cutout allowed us to have indirect discussions with the people calling the shots in the PLO.”

Baker and Djerejian seemed to agree that, as in the case of the Camp David Accords between Israel and Egypt, the Madrid Conference, and the peace treaty between Israel and Jordan, the key to the two-state solution is a proper diplomatic initiative from Washington, but first and foremost strong political will in Jerusalem and Ramallah.

“Before the Madrid Conference,” recalled Baker, “there was a point where our peacemaking efforts just collapsed. And I told both the Arabs and the Israelis at the time, ‘When you get serious about peace, give us a call. Here is our number.’ And guess what? They got the message. Both sides called, and after that they were more willing to compromise for peace.”

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March 20th, 2010, 8:24 pm

 

9. norman said:

Majid ,

the US government would have been better off allowing people and businesses to buy into Medicare and yes Tort reform , allowing private insurances to sell across state lines , having young people in Medicare will infuse the system with money from young people who do not use the system , that will save Medicare ,

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March 21st, 2010, 2:01 am

 

10. majedkhaldoun said:

My friend Norman;
buying into medicare is exactly as public option,buying insurance accross state line will not decrease cost,tort reform is needed
You may suggest lowering medicare age to 60,with people over 60 can buy into medicare, later on reduce the age to 55,also I suggest unifying the charges for those who have insurance and those who do not have insurance,I had lab test they charged $426,BCBS allow only $16.5,the lab accepted and discounted the rest.
For CEO of Aetna to get salary of $25 million a year I think it is excessive,the shareholder must know and approve or disapprove the CEO salaries,and the board must be punished by firing them.
the best way to cut on cost is to be serious about fighting FRAUD,where people charge for sevices that was not given,this will save 20%,ther is a doctor who have patients wait in long line to refill RX and charge medicare.or doctors have the pt. come back monthly,mostly for social visit, and charge the maximum.
Physician assistant charge the same as doctor,those who work for gastroenterologist they tell the patient you need gastroscopy before they see the patient,to generate income for their boss,health care is becoming generator of income rather than good clinical practice.I could go on for lomg.

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March 21st, 2010, 3:22 am

 

11. norman said:

DO NOT HATE SOMETHING , IT MIGHT BE GOOD FOR YOU ,THAT APPLIES TO SYRIA IN 2005 ,
Everybody should read this especially QN ,

Syria’s quiet revolution-To understand the real impact of Lebanon’s 2005 Cedar Revolution, look across the border at neighbouring Syria

Sakhr al-Makhadhi guardian.co.uk, Sunday 21 March 2010 11.00 GMT larger | smaller Article history Five years after the Cedar Revolution promised to change Lebanon forever, the country is back to its old ways. The political earthquake that followed the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri may have left Lebanon looking almost untouched, but in neighbouring Syria it has had profound, and unexpected, effects.

One million people marched through the streets of Beirut, in the biggest demonstration Lebanon had ever seen. It was 14 March 2005 – the date which gave its name to the anti-Syrian political movement founded in its wake. But five years on, many of March 14’s founding politicians have disowned the group and switched sides, and some of those who remain have apologised for their earlier angry statements.

This U-turn of an entire political class has left today’s Lebanon looking almost identical to the Lebanon of 2005. Syrian troops may no longer be on the streets (they left the capital Beirut years before their complete withdrawal in 2005), but little else has changed. A Syria-friendly member of the Hariri family is back in power, Rafiq’s son Sa’ad, who visited Damascus in December to make his peace with President Bashar al-Assad. And the Hizbollah-led opposition is back in government.

If you want to understand the real impact of the events of March 14, look across the border at Syria. Lebanon’s neighbour is changing more every month than it did in an entire year back in the 1990s.

As George Bush almost immediately sought to blame Assad for the 2005 killing, many were predicting the fall of the regime in Damascus within months. Later that year the interior minister committed suicide, and the vice-president defected.

Five years on, those expecting regime implosions have been proven wrong. Assad is stronger now than he has been at any point during in his 10 years in power. Socially and economically, though, Syria is almost unrecognisable.

Syria is now officially a “social market economy”, ending decades of socialism. Private banks have started appearing on the Syrian streets, many offering credit cards for the first time. Institutions from neighbouring countries dominate, although a recent decision to allow foreign companies to hold a majority share in their Syrian subsidiaries may encourage large western banks to enter the Syrian market. Imports now flow in freely, and the long-awaited stock market is finally (albeit very slowly) getting off the ground.

The results of this economic revolution are astonishing. While the global economy contracts, Syria expands. Real GDP was up 4% last year, according to the IMF. And inflation halved, from 14.5% in 2008 to 7.5% last year.

The US is realising it has failed to hold back this Syrian gold-rush. It imposed an economic embargo in the wake of the Hariri assassination, which looks like it could finally be eased this summer. Assistant secretary of state Jeffrey Feltman admitted: “So you ended up at a point when we isolate – we were the ones isolated. It was no longer Syria being isolated. It was the United States that was being isolated.” Remarkable words from the man who was George Bush’s ambassador to Beirut at the time of the Cedar Revolution.

The EU, too, knows it can no longer ignore Syria’s emerging economy. In 2004 it was about to sign an association agreement with Syria. This would have allowed a degree of free trade between the two economies. But as international political pressure on Syria mounted, it put the deal on hold, infuriating Syria. Last October, the EU suddenly offered to finalise the agreement but an economically emboldened Syria says it wants to wait and see.

Five years ago, doors were being closed in the faces of Syrian businessmen. Now, Arab states, America and finally the EU are trying to get their hands on this untapped market. But those Damascene entrepreneurs aren’t so sure they want foreigners to have easy access to their home territory. They are already struggling to compete against cheaper, higher-quality imports from Turkey, following a free-trade deal with Ankara. The EU association agreement would mean handing a bigger chunk of their market over to foreigners.

But not all foreigners are bad for Syrian business. The country is awash with tourists, even a few Americans, following the New York Times’s decision to name Damascus as one of its top 10 destinations for 2010. The country, whose economy has traditionally been dependent on tourism, received another boost when the US lifted its warning against travel to Syria last month. To cater for the influx of western visitors, around 70 traditional courtyard houses have been converted into hotels, breathing new life into the Old City of Damascus, which was on the verge of collapse earlier in the decade.

In January, Syria’s First Lady, Asma al-Assad, announced that she wanted civil society to play a bigger role in Syria. NGOs, she said, would be given more freedom, and even legal protection. The president’s London-born wife was speaking at a conference that itself would have been unthinkable five years ago. Former British foreign office minster Lord Malloch-Brown was one of the keynote speakers at the event where some local NGO leaders dared to get on stage and publicly challenge the government to do more.

This new social and economic optimism is drawing back thousands of Syrian expats. The length of military service has been reduced, and it is easier for Syrians born abroad to gain exemption. There’s a Beirutisation of parts of Damascus, with the English language more common than Arabic on the upmarket streets of Shaalan. Private universities have been established, and they’re teaching – for the first time – in English.

It wasn’t Lebanon that changed following the so-called Cedar Revolution, it was Syria.

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March 21st, 2010, 1:35 pm

 

12. Amir in Tel Aviv said:

you live in a parallel universe, Akbar.

Any way, if I was an American, I would have definitely **NOT** been a Republican.
A bunch of hypocrites morons, who are obsessed with abortions.
What comedians. They care so much about not yet born children,
but what about existing children with preconditions, who their
parents are being denied health-insurance? Any logic in this madness?

Congratulations America.
.

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March 22nd, 2010, 3:33 am

 

13. Akbar Palace said:

Socialism or Bust

Any way, if I was an American, I would have definitely **NOT** been a Republican.

Amir,

Since we last wrote each other, the House of Representatives voted in favor of the Healthcare Amendment. I look forward to hearing more complaints and crying about how expensive healthcare will be now that we working Americans will be forced to purchase healthcare as well as pay for the extra 30 million Americans and illegal immigrants who will get it for free.

BTW – I hope this healthcare bill won’t allow the American healthcare system to slip down to the Israeli level, but it probably will…

http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3866291,00.html

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March 22nd, 2010, 11:16 am

 

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