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May 2011 Archives

MapWithGreenLine186x140.jpgAlpher answers questions about the defensibility of Israel's borders, and the security necessity of a long-term Israeli military presence along the Jordan River. 

Soon after 1967's Six Day War, Israel annexed the Palestinian parts of Jerusalem, extending Israeli law over all the city's inhabitants. In subsequent years, it became a standard part of the Israeli narrative that Jerusalem was unified that day, and that the city is Israel's "eternal and undivided capital." The annual holiday of Jerusalem Day marks that reunification, and falls this year on June 1.

What the holiday and official Israeli pronouncements gloss over is the fact that the city is, in fact, very divided -- and always has been.

Speech Isn't Enough

By Ehud Olmert

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's appearance at congress was impressive and stirred a sense of justified pride among many Israelis who are not subjugated to political rivalries and hatreds. Netanyahu is a talented orator and is particularly lucid in English. He knows how to speak to the Americans in heart-warming "American" they can understand. It was no coincidence that he received a very warm, sympathetic welcome in Congress. It was no wonder that his speech, which was aired live in Israel, elicited a similar response among the Israeli public. It was a moment of pleasure that every Israeli was entitled to enjoy and take pride in.

APN Legislative Round-Up for the Week Ending May 27, 2011

1. Bills, Resolutions and Letters 
2. GOP Campaign to Mis-Characterize Obama's Position on Borders 
3. And Some Dems Follow Suit 
4. GOP ups the ante, rejects Gaza-West Bank Link
5. APN on Bibi's Speech to Congress 
6. APN Tells Congress: Reject AIPAC-backed H. Res. 268 and S. Res. 185 
7. APN on Bibi's Speech to Congress 
8. Excerpts from 6/25/04 Round-Up (on H. Con. Res. 460 and S. Res. 393) 
9. Odds and Ends 
10. And finally, fun with Gohmert (R-TX) and Inhofe (R-OK)

Yes, Hamas is a terrorist organization, but simply asserting that fact is not a policy.

APN Briefing call with Akiva Eldar

AkivaEldar85.jpgHaaretz's chief political columnist addresses the political scene following Prime Minister Netanyahu's visit to Washington and President Obama's Mideast policy speeches.

Where Netanyahu fails himself and Israel

By Fareed Zakaria 

Conventional wisdom is fast congealing in Washington that President Obama was wrong to demarcate a shift in American policy toward Israel last week. In fact, it was Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu who broke with the past -- in one of a series of diversions and obstacles Netanyahu has come up with anytime he is pressed. He wins in the short run, but ultimately, he is turning himself into a version of Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko, "Mr. Nyet," a man who will be bypassed by history.

Saying 'no' to the world

By Orly Azoulay

He did not say it provocatively or crudely. It was a superb speech, with all the shticks that the Americans like: He joked in American, he mentioned his killed brother, and he recounted how he himself almost died near the Suez Canal during the war. Yet he said "no!"

Marching for Israel, with Love and Criticism

By Rabbi Jill Jacobs and Rabbi David Rosenn

On June 5, thousands of Jewish New Yorkers will march together in the Celebrate Israel Parade. We are thrilled that our organizations -- New Israel Fund and Rabbis for Human Rights-North America -- along with our partners, Meretz-USA and Americans for Peace Now, will march together under the banner of our shared progressive values.

There has been a lot of discussion of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu's  speech to Congress yesterday - what he said and what his words actually meant.  To aid in understanding, here is the speech, annotated to reflect what perhaps was going through the Prime Minister's mind as he gave it.  Annotations are in italics/bold.

[Disclaimers: (1) The annotations in this piece are not derived from any direct access to the Prime Minister's inner thoughts, bur reflect realistic assessments of the Prime Minister's intent; (2) This is satire, but satire is of course funny because it is true.]

Vice President Biden, Speaker Boehner, distinguished senators, members of the House, honored guests, I'm deeply moved by this warm welcome, and I'm deeply honored that you've given me the opportunity to address Congress a second time. Mr. Vice President, do you remember the time that we were the new kids in town? (Laughter, applause.) And I do see a lot of old friends here, and I see a lot of new friends of Israel here as well -- Democrats and Republicans alike. (Applause.)

Israel has no better friend than America, and America has no better friend than Israel [and don't you let Obama forget it]. (Applause.) We stand together to defend democracy [except when, like with Egypt, we have mixed feelings about it]. We stand together to advance peace [except when your president asks me to do things I don't want to do]. We stand together to fight terrorism [and anyone who suggests that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in any way provides a rallying cry for extremism, well, they are anti-Semites trying to delegitimize of Israel].

BibiCongress186x140.jpgWashington, DC - Americans for Peace Now (APN) today expressed deep disappointment with Prime Minister Netanyahu's speech to Congress. APN's President and CEO Debra DeLee said:

"Prime Minister Netanyahu was today granted a podium that few world leaders receive. He had the chance to demonstrate to the world that, contrary to many people's expectations, he grasps the urgency of the moment. Unfortunately for Israel, he did not rise to the occasion.

Got a question for James Carroll about Jerusalem?

JamesCarroll186x140.jpgJune 1st is celebrated in Israel as Jerusalem Day. This is a good opportunity for reflection on what this city means to Israelis and to Palestinians, about the role that it plays in the conflict between the two peoples, and about the relationship between the celestial and the terrestrial Jerusalem.

To address these and other questions, APN is preparing for a discussion with author, historian and journalist James Carroll of the Boston Globe, whose new book, "Jerusalem, Jerusalem" explores the multiple dualities of this fascinating city.

APN Briefing call with Robert Wexler

Robert_Wexler_85.jpgThe key Washington insider, former congressman from Florida, who is currently the President of the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace. Wexler examines the week's events, focusing on the speeches of President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu.

'Tis the season. The season when members of Congress are lobbied hard to support positions presented to them as the epitome of "pro-Israel" - but that in fact are anything but.


Proposal drafted following Itamar terror attack would cost NIS 1 billion over coming year; Peace Now says plan is proof PM not interested in real peace.

Peace Now Secretary-General Yariv Oppenheimer slammed the approval of a hearing on Har Homa construction.

"The prime minister is sacrificing relations with the US for the benefit of his loyalty to settlers and rightists in Jerusalem. This is not just miserable timing, but a miserable policy which endangers Israel's status in the world," he said. (Ronen Medzini),7340,L-4071079,00.html

Obama's Speech Was Misunderstood

By Robert Wexler and Zvika Krieger
The Wall Street Journal

The reaction to President Barack Obama's speech on Thursday has largely focused on one line: "The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states." News outlets from across the political spectrum ran headlines highlighting Mr. Obama's demand that Israel return to the "1967 borders," referring to Israel's boundaries before it took control of the West Bank and Gaza Strip after the 1967 Six Day War.

Transcript of APN's Ori Nir on 'AM NewYork' Radio

AM_NewYork.jpgAPN Spokesman Ori Nir was interviewed as part of the program "Expert Q&A: Prospects for Israeli-Palestinian peace"

Read the transcript.


Op-ed: Radical leftists, rightists both hurting two-state vision; Israel's mainstream must unite

Yariv Oppenheimer - JPost Blog Thumbnail 2.jpg

Yariv Oppenheimer is the Secretary General of Peace Now

Alpher analyses the policy statements recently made by President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu and discusses Obama's regional vision for the Middle East. 

Jerusalem Post: "PM pledges to work with Obama to renew peace talks"

Jewish Journal: "Americans for Peace Now to AIPAC: Support Obama's Two-State Push"

JTA: "From praise to anger, Jewish response to Obama's speech runs the gamut"

Arab News: "Palestine should have '67 border, says Obama"

Jewish Journal: "Obama's Middle East speech draws ire and support"

Although the approval was granted at the end of April, it was first publicized in the last few days - including by Peace Now on Sunday - as part of an overall report on settlement activity.

According to Peace Now, that 390 included: 200 in Modi'in Illit, 100 in Ariel, 40 in Ma'aleh Adumim and 50 in Kfar Eldad.

Tell Congress to get past blame

action_alert_186x140.jpgToday, Tuesday, May 24, AIPAC supporters will be on the Hill lobbying Congress to support resolutions - H. Res. 268 and S. Res. 185 - taking the Palestinians to task for seeking UN recognition and for trying to put together a new government that can govern both Gaza and the West Bank.

These resolutions will no doubt be sold as the "pro-Israel" thing for Congress to do. But, rather than promote Israel's interests or peace, the resolutions seem to be primarily about casting blame.  That's no way to support Israel.
We need your help to tell Congress not to score political points at the expense of Israeli-Palestinian peace.  

Today, APN's Director of Policy and Government Relations Lara Friedman sent the following message to every congressional office.

Dear Colleague,

Tomorrow AIPAC supporters will be on the Hill lobbying Congress to support resolutions - H. Res. 268 and S. Res. 185 - taking the Palestinians to task for seeking international recognition and for trying to achieve national reconciliation.   

APN urges members of Congress to refuse to cosponsor these resolutions and to vote "no" when they are brought to a vote.  

Legislative Round-up: Week Ending May 20, 2011

1. Bills and Resolutions
2. Members of Congress React To (and Re-Write) Obama Speech
3. Berkley-Engel Letter
4. APN Applauds Israel-Palestinian Vision in Obama's Middle East Speech
5. Additional Observations on the Very Positive Elements (and Omissions) in the Obama Speech
6. APN Slams Netanyahu for Using Settlements - Again - to Undermine Peace
7. Odds and Ends

Note: The House was not in session this week.

APN Applauds Obama's AIPAC Speech

ObamaSpeech186x140.jpgAmericans for Peace Now applauds President Obama's courageous speech at AIPAC's policy conference in Washington today.

"President Obama again demonstrated that he is a staunch friend of Israel, deeply concerned about Israel's future as a democracy and a secure Jewish state," said APN's President and CEO Debra DeLee. "The President enumerated, to great applause, the many concrete steps that his administration took to bolster Israel's security and its standing worldwide."

Yesterday President Obama stood up at a podium and said a thing or two.

To my mind, one of the most powerful take-aways from the President's now famous/infamous Middle East speech is to be found in the long list of countries he talked about well before he got to the Israel/Palestine part.

The fact is, as important as Israel/Palestine is, it is part of a much larger region, and the United States acts all across that region. Indeed, the United States is currently trying very hard to get on the right side of history as that region changes before our very eyes. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is, whether we like it or not, part of a bigger picture.
Many people are still busily parsing the text of yesterday's Obama speech to determine what they like - or don't like - about what he said. APN has already put out analysis of the things in the speech that we believe are important and constructive. Having had more time now to parse the speech, it is worth adding two more points to this analysis.

What Obama should tell Netanyahu

The following article was published today by the (link has expired) Los Angeles Jewish Journal

May 18, 2011

What Obama should tell Israeli Netanyahu when they meet in the White House Friday

by Ori Nir, Spokesperson, Americans for Peace Now

(...) Anyway, Bibi, in the past several weeks I've been working with my staff on Mideast policy speeches. So, the Middle East has been on my mind. And I've actually reached conclusions and made decisions. Now, please, hear me out. You know that this is coming from a friend and ally.
Obama State Dept320x265.jpgResponding to President Obama's Middle East speech, APN President and CEO Debra DeLee said:

"Today, President Obama signaled to the world that he is still serious about Israeli-Palestinian peace and that he is a true friend of Israel. We welcome his clear statement that the U.S. position is that a permanent status peace agreement will be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed on land swaps, and that the outcome must be secure and recognized borders, with a sovereign, contiguous Palestinian state and robust security arrangements for Israel. We also welcome his statement that such an agreement must find a way to resolve the issues of Jerusalem and refugees that is just and fair and that respects the rights and aspirations of both Israelis and Palestinians.

Netanyahu186x140.jpgResponding to news that an Israeli Ministry of Interior committee - acting with the authorization of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu - will today consider approving the construction of more than 1500 new settlement units in East Jerusalem, APN President and CEO Debra DeLee issued the following statement:

"By proceeding with settlement approvals in East Jerusalem today - precisely when Prime Minister Netanyahu is headed to Washington to meet with President Obama and address Congress, and when President Obama is about to make a major Middle East speech - Netanyahu is sending an unmistakable message: he values settlements more than peace.

Americans for Peace Now (APN), the nation's leading Jewish organization advocating for Middle East peace, has experts available to the media in the coming days to comment on President Obama's Mideast speeches, on Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu's visit to Washington, on Netanyahu's policy speeches here, and on the meeting between the two leaders. APN has been pressing the President to be more aggressive in pushing for Israeli-Palestinian peace.

Israel Day Parade

Israel Day Parade Image.jpg
Date: Sunday, June 5, 2011
Time: 11:00 am to 4:00 PM
Location: 5th Ave from 57th St. to 74th St. in New York City

Bibi and Barack, by Thomas Friedman

Reading the headlines from the Middle East these days -- Christians and Muslims clashing in Egypt, Syria attempting to crush its democracy rebellion and Palestinians climbing over fences into Israel -- you get the sense of a region where the wheels could really start to come off. 

Dov Weissglas: The Last Chance

Last Chance - by Dov Weissglas

The coming days are a final chance to stop or, at the very least to slow down, Israel's political setback. From the day that Arafat died and the Palestinian Authority desisted from terrorism, its standing in the world has only strengthened. The demand for independence, for a demilitarized state within the 1967 borders (with agreed border revisions) with East Jerusalem as its capital, is accepted by nearly all the countries of the world, and it will almost certainly win sweeping recognition by the UN General Assembly in September.

Huffpost_World_Lara_Friedman186x140.jpg"...history will show that the most pro-Israel U.S. president was not the one who provided the most weapons to Israel and vetoed the most UN Security Council resolutions, but the one who brought peace, and with it, real security, to Israel, and independence to the Palestinian people."

The World Needs More Than Words From Obama on Mideast Peace

obamaisraelflag320x265.jpgThis week President Obama will talk a lot about the Middle East. Not only will he deliver a major foreign policy address aimed at the Arab and Muslim worlds, but he will also offer remarks after meetings with King Abdullah of Jordan and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and make a speech at AIPAC.

People around the world -- and particularly in the Middle East -- will be listening closely and critically.

THE FATAL shooting Sunday of at least a dozen Palestinians who crossed into Israel from Syria and southern Lebanon reflected failures of intelligence, crowd control, and diplomacy by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government.

Continue reading

Americans for Peace Now seems to think it could be a game changer, and is concerned that Obama will miss a big opportunity if he ignores the issue in his upcoming address.

"The time has come for the President to grab the bull by the horns and take dramatic action..." Debra DeLee, APN's president, said today in a statement.


Articles on George Mitchell's Resignation

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Alpher answers questions about the resignation of Special Envoy George Mitchell, Nakba day protests, and the decision to ask Jordan and Morocco to join the Gulf Cooperation Council.

Violence filling the void?

Nakba_Protest_Collage186.jpgThe events that took place in connection with yesterday's "Nakba Day" demonstrations - in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and on Israel's borders with Syria and Lebanon - should be a wake-up call to all those who foolishly believe that Israel can indefinitely continue the occupation. They should be a wake-up call to those who believe that Israel can continue to live as a "villa in the jungle" - an expression first coined by Defense Minister Ehud Barak - immune to the regional forces that sparked and are fueling the Arab Spring.

Presidential leadership needed

George_Mitchell_w_Logo320x265.jpgThe White House just announced that George Mitchell is stepping down from his role as President Barack Obama's special Mideast peace envoy.

The news follows reports of a dispute within the administration over how aggressively President Obama should push for Israeli-Palestinian peace. Mitchell was said to be pressing for a more hands-on approach. No doubt, some will say that Mitchell's departure means that the administration is backing off the issue. But this doesn't have to be true. A shake up in the president's Mideast team could open the door for the direct personal engagement of the president himself.

Today, we need your help to show the president that Americans want him to reassert U.S. leadership.

Legislative Round-Up: Week Ending 5/13/11

APN Legislative Round-Up
     for the week ending
      May 13, 2011

1.  Bills & Resolutions
2.  Cantor/Hoyer Resolution Blasting the Palestinians (just in time for AIPAC conference)
3.  Kirk on Egypt
4.  Berkley-Engel Letter Opposing Palestinian Unity
5.  APN Warns President Obama: Don't Leave Mideast Peace Out of Your Mideast Speech
6.  As Sen. Mitchell Resigns, APN Urges Obama to Personally Lead Mideast Peace Efforts
7.  Odds & Ends

George_Mitchell_w_Logo186x140.jpgWashington, DC - Reacting to the news of Senator George Mitchell's resignation from his position as President Obama's special Middle East Envoy, Americans for Peace Now's President and CEO, Debra DeLee, today issued the following statement:

I did you a small disservice two weeks ago: I recommended Baruch Kimmerling's excellent The Palestinian People: A History, without first recommending the foundational text on Palestinian nationalism: Palestinian Identity, by Rashid Khalidi.

There's a method to my madness, though. I find it's easier to take in theory and analysis after first grappling with the facts, figures, and humanity of history - The Palestinian People is heavy on the latter; Palestinian Identity is heavy on the former. Both, however, are irreplaceable contributions to the literature on Israel/Palestine.
obama state of the union 320x265.jpgAmidst reports that President Obama will in the coming days deliver a major Middle East foreign policy speech, APN President Debra DeLee today issued the following statement:

The following article was published in Foreign Policy's Middle East Channel:
By Ori Nir, APN Spokesman

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Israel's Independence Day is a good time to revel in what such a small country has achieved in such a short time and under such trying circumstances. But it is also a time to resolve to do more.

Real Independence for Israel


On Israel's Independence Day, APN's Ori Nir looks ahead to real independence for Israel, noting that "Israel is not truly independent as long as it denies the Palestinians their independence."

Israel's Independence Day, May 10th, is a good time to revel in what such a small country has achieved in such a short time and under such trying circumstances. It's also a time to resolve to do more.

Israeli_Flags_186x140.jpgOn the eve of Israeli's 63rd Independence Day, Alpher commented on Israel's greatest strategic security concern and the challenges posed to neighboring Jordan by the "Arab Spring."

Statement on CUNY's rejection of Tony Kushner

APN President and CEO Debra DeLee responded today to the decision by the City University of New York to deny playwright Tony Kushner an honorary degree because of critical comments that Kushner has made regarding Israel:

"The decision by CUNY's trustees is troubling. Tony Kushner is a talented playwright who has contributed tremendously to American literature. He has been willing to use his enormous talent to speak out on some of the most important and painful issues of our times.

"Americans need and deserve an open, honest debate about Israel. Too often, self-proclaimed guardians of acceptable discourse on Israel try to enforce their skewed political correctness through intimidation. Such efforts are simply wrong. Worse yet, they threaten to needlessly divide Americans who are largely supportive of Israel and want to see it achieve a peace agreement with the Palestinians based on a territorial compromise."
This week's recommendation comes days before we greet Yom Atzma'ut, Israeli Independence Day, and the Palestinian Yawm al-Nakba, Day of the Catastrophe. Among supporters of Israel (regardless of our take on Palestinian nationalism and the two-state solution) it can be painful to take in that Israel's establishment is held in the hearts of Palestinians as a catastrophe - and yet if after two decades of peace efforts we've learned nothing else, we've certainly learned this: As we celebrate, others mourn.

I think this is the very fact that stands in the way of peace activism for many -  I think there comes a moment when some feel they must choose between their own joy and someone else's sorrow, and it can feel more right to focus solely on our own people's joy. I think I understand that - but I also think it gets in the way of resolving the conflict.  
But I also think it gets in the way of resolving the conflict, of finding more joy.

Legislative Round-Up: Week Ending 5/6/11

APN Legislative Round-Up
     for the week ending
      May 6, 2011

1.  Bills & Resolutions
2.  Quick Review: Current Law on Aid to Palestinian Power-Sharing Govt
3.  Congressional Reaction to Hamas-Fatah Agreement
4.  Menendez-led Senate (Democrats) letter on Fatah-Hamas deal
5.  Granger/Lowey Letter to Abbas on UN Action on Palestinian State & on Unity Govt
6.  APN on Palestinian Unity
7.  AIPAC on Palestinian Unity
8.  Ros-Lehtinen-Engel Letter on Syria
9.  Israel-Cole Turkey/Flotilla Letter
10.  Berkley-Led House letter on Goldstone (to Ban Ki-moon)
11.  Hill Briefing by Jewish Groups: "Palestinian efforts to declare unilateral independence - and what Congress can do to avert it"
12. Get Ready: AIPAC Policy Conference, May 22-24
13.  Odds & Ends

Note:  On 5/4/11 the Senate Foreign Relations Committee met to consider the nomination of Dan Shapiro as the next U.S. Ambassador to Israel.  Dan's prepared testimony is available here.    The committee has not yet voted on the issue.

Also, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is scheduled to meet with President Obama May 20.  (King Abdullah of Jordan is also expected in Washington that week).  Netanyahu will also give a speech during the AIPAC policy conference, and is expected to address a joint meeting (not a joint session) of Congress, at the invitation of House Speaker Boehner (R-OH) on May 24.

Nathan_Brown.jpgNathan J. Brown is an expert on Islamist movements, Palestinian politics, and Arab law and constitutionalism. He is a professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University, Senior Associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and has authored four well-received books on Arab politics.

Palestinians Sign Reconciliation Agreement

Palestinian_Flag_Questions3_186x140.jpgA Palestinian reconciliation agreement was signed by Fatah and Hamas in Cairo.

APN welcomed news of the deal, and called on President Obama to use this as an opportunity to push both Palestinians and Israelis towards peace. 

See below for a list of resources on the reconciliation agreement.

(Published in Yedioth Ahronoth, May 3, p. 32, by British Ambassador to Israel Matthew Gould - translation by Israel News Today)

Peace is Security

Six months is a long time in the Middle East. Since my arrival in September as Britain's ambassador to Israel, there have been some enormous upheavals in this region.  Recent weeks have seen a return of horrendous violence, including a shower of rocket attacks in southern Israel, and horrific attacks in Itamar and Jerusalem.

APN Deplores Hamas Leader's Embrace of Bin Laden

APN today issued the following statement:

May 2, 2011

Washington, DC - Americans for Peace Now (APN) today denounced Gaza Strip Hamas leader Ismail Haniya's statements condemning the killing of al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden and lauding Bin Laden as an Arab holy warrior.

APN President and CEO Debra DeLee stated: "Haniya's embrace of Bin Laden is detestable. His decision to align Hamas with a man who has the blood of literally thousands of innocent people on his hands is an affront to every American. It is also an insult to every Palestinian, whose struggle for self-determination and peace will in the eyes of many be sullied by this revolting action. President Abbas' swift move to applaud the elimination of Bin Laden is thus all the more important and commendable.

"Last week APN welcomed news of Palestinian reconciliation. We did so because we recognize that a united Palestinian polity is vital to peace, and we recognize that, no matter how much we wish it were not so, Hamas is an important player in this polity that cannot be wished, or sanctioned, into irrelevance. This remains true today, even as we deplore Haniya's decision to embrace Bin Laden."
Yossi Alpher 186x140.jpgAlpher answers questions about the Fatah-Hamas unity agreement announced last week and its potential impact on the peace process.

Yedioth Ahronoth Op-Ed: Oops, We've Been Dragged Again

(published in Yedioth Ahronoth, May 1, p. 20, by Uri Misgav - translation by Israel News Today)

Oops, We've Been Dragged Again

Look at these Palestinians: they don't miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity to coordinate their steps with Binyamin Netanyahu and Shimon Peres. It's important to them to reach the finish line of recognition of the Palestinian state united, at least outwardly. Go understand them.

It should at least be said to their credit that they had someone to learn from. Binyamin Zeev Herzl, David Ben-Gurion and Chaim Weizmann, to name a few examples. In that sense, to use a common historic phrase, Abu Mazen and Salam Fayyad are "standing on the shoulders of giants."