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Postings by: Ori Nir

yaalon186x140.jpgAmericans for Peace Now (APN) urges American Jewish organizations to join it and its Israeli sister organization, Israel's Peace Now movement, in condemning Israel's Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon's offensive comments, lambasting Secretary of State John Kerry for his efforts to broker peace for Israel.

Responding to news that the Obama Administration and its international partners had reached an agreement with Iran to implement the Joint Plan of Action signed in November 2013, Americans for Peace Now (APN) is calling on Congress to support President Obama's diplomatic effort and is urging fellow American Jewish organizations to stop their campaign in support of new Iran sanctions.

Washington, DC - Washington, DC - Americans for Peace Now (APN) welcomes news that Secretary of State John Kerry will in the coming days present Israeli and Palestinian leaders with an outline for a peace deal. APN urges Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to seriously engage with Kerry's initiative, in order to achieve a breakthrough for peace.

Statement: APN Condemns New Iran Sanctions Bill in Senate

APN today issued the following statement on the introduction of new Iran sanctions legislation in the Senate on Thursday:

"We condemn in the strongest terms the introduction of new Iran sanctions legislation in the Senate (S. 1881) by Senators Menendez (D-NJ), Kirk (R-IL) and a 25 of their colleagues.  We urge Senate leaders to refuse to move this ill-timed and highly problematic legislation forward.  We likewise call on Senators from both parties to refuse to cosponsor it, and Senators who have already done so to recognize their error and retract their sponsorship.   

APN Opposes ASA's Boycott of Israeli Universities

Americans for Peace Now opposes boycotts of Israel and of Israeli institutions, such as the American Studies Association's decision to boycott Israeli universities.

We believe such campaigns are misguided and counterproductive. They target the average, innocent Israeli citizen -- who may well support an end to the occupation and a two-state solution -- rather than objectionable Israeli government policies. 

The ASA's boycott of Israeli universities underscores the merits of our position. Israeli universities are the ultimate Israeli environment in which dissent and critical thinking flourishes. Boycotting them only damages efforts to encourage internal Israeli opposition to objectionable Israeli government policies. 

Campaigns such as this have caused many Israelis and supporters of Israel -- people whose voices are vitally needed to oppose the policies that such campaigns target -- to feel compelled to defend Israel, regardless of the policies in question. 

APN has joined its Israeli sister organization, Israel's peace movement Shalom Achshav (Peace Now) in its call for boycotting products made in Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

APN believes that for their actions to be both effective and morally defensible, pro-peace activists must make clear, emphatically and unambiguously, that their target is the occupation and its manifestations - such as Israeli settlements in the West Bank - and not Israel proper or innocent Israeli civilians.

To read APN's policy on boycotts, divestment and sanctions, click here

APN recommends reading Peter Beinart's recent article on this issue

Ameicans for Peace Now (APN) today issued the following statement: "As Congress goes into its winter recess, we commend those members of Congress who stood firm and rejected efforts, both in the House and Senate, to pursue legislative initiatives that would undermine the interim agreement with Iran and threaten the chances of reaching a permanent agreement with Iran - an agreement that offers the best chance to resolve U.S. and international concerns about Iran's nuclear program and nuclear ambitions.

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We Israelis often complain that 'there is no one to talk to.' But for many young Palestinians, Israelis are a lost cause - and anti-normalization means there is less interaction than ever to prove this wrong.

By Ori Nir

I recently met with a group of about a dozen young reporters and photojournalists from the West Bank. I asked them whether they had any contacts with Israeli journalists and was shocked to hear they did not. I told them that when I covered Palestinian affairs for Haaretz in the 1980s and '90s, Palestinian journalists were my primary sources - and my good friends. Back then, journalists on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian divide sought contact with each other, first and foremost because they thought their readers needed and wanted to know about their neighbors.

kerry_briefing_186x140.jpgSecretary of State John Kerry confirmed today that General John Allen, The Obama administration's special security envoy to the Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, briefed Israeli and Palestinian leaders on the perception of the US regarding security arrangement on the way to achieving a two-state solution as well as the security regime that would characterize a future Palestinian state.

Speaking to reporters at Israel's Ben Gurion airport, before leaving the region back to the US, Kerry said that Allen's briefing was based on an analysis produced by the US security team that General Allen heads.

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Americans for Peace Now (APN) mourns the death of Nelson Mandela, an iconic leader and an inspiration for peace-seekers worldwide.

APN's President and CEO Debra DeLee said: "Nelson Mandela demonstrated that peace and reconciliation are possible even in the most intractable conflicts, even when hope for resolution seems distant. Mandela has shown that with enough resolve and courage, bold leaders can do what is the unthinkable. 

Washington, DC - Americans for Peace Now welcomes news that an interim agreement with Iran has been reached in Geneva. APN President and CEO Debra DeLee commented today:

"We are happy that an interim agreement with Iran has been concluded in Geneva. We congratulate the Obama Administration and its international partners for this important achievement and welcome this demonstration of a new Iranian readiness to seriously negotiate the future of its nuclear program. We believe that anyone who cares about U.S. national security, the security of Israel, and stability in the Middle East should likewise welcome this agreement.  

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The following article was published in the English edition of Israel's Haaretz daily on October 13, 2013

By Ori Nir 

Two recently published surveys should make the Israeli government pause and ponder the impact of its intransigent policies on its staunchest supporters, American Jews.

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Returning to Israel after a week in Washington, Israel-Palestine experts Daniel Seidemann and Dan Rothem are encouraged by the Obama administration's commitment to advance peace efforts between Israel and the Palestinians. They spoke with us at APN's office in Washington.

Press Release: APN Welcomes Obama's UN Speech

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Americans for Peace Now (APN) welcomes President Barack Obama's commitment to continue pursuing Arab-Israeli peace and to continue focusing on peacefully preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

In particular, APN endorses President Obama's focus at the United Nation's General Assembly on engagement with Iran. APN also joins the President's call on friends of Israel in the US and worldwide to "recognize that Israel's security as a Jewish and democratic state depends on the realization of a Palestinian state." 

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Americans for Peace Now's President and CEO Debra DeLee and our Chairman of the Board Jim Klutznick represented APN last night at a meeting for Jewish community leaders with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in New York.

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Americans for Peace Now (APN) joins its Israeli sister organization, Israel's Peace Now movement, in strongly condemning the killing of two Israeli soldiers in the West Bank over the Sukkot holiday weekend.

Palestinian gets close to 'other' in pro-Israel internship

The following article by APN intern Aseel Saied was published in the Northern California J Weekly on Thursday, August 15, 2013 

Stuck for an hour in the elevator on my way to my last day of interning with Americans for Peace Now, I found myself explaining to the young lady who was stuck with me, and who recognized my Palestinian-flag lapel pin, why a Palestinian student would choose to work at a pro-Israel organization in Washington.

I have to say, when I started my internship here this summer -- part of a joint internship project that APN and the American Task Force on Palestine (ATFP) have run for the past four years -- I asked myself the same question.

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Americans for Peace Now joins its Israeli sister organization, Shalom Achshav (Peace Now) in condemning the Israeli government's extension of subsidies to West Bank settlements by adding them to the "National Priority" list. 

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APN's Ori Nir was a panelist on Public Radio International's To The Point with Warren Olney on Wednesday, July 31, discussing the newly restarted Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.

Click here to listen

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Americans for Peace Now (APN) welcomes the appointment of Ambassador Martin Indyk to be Secretary Kerry's special envoy to Israeli-Palestinian peace talks and welcomes the Israeli and Palestinian negotiating teams to Washington.

Press Release: APN Welcomes Court Decision on Jerusalem

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Americans for Peace Now welcomes the ruling of the US Federal Appeals court rejecting efforts by Congress to legislate U.S. policy with respect to Jerusalem. The Court affirmed in its ruling that, as APN has long argued, this sensitive foreign policy issue constitutionally falls under the president's foreign policy prerogative. 

Americans for Peace Now (APN) today commended the 131 members of the House of Representatives who, in a remarkable show of bipartisan cooperation, came together to urge President Obama to pursue reinvigorated U.S. efforts to secure a negotiated nuclear agreement with Iran.  APN particularly commended Representatives Dent (R-PA) and Price (D-NC) for their leadership in initiating this important letter and for bringing so many of their colleagues on board.  APN was proud to support the Dent-Price letter.   We thank our nationwide network of activists who engaged energetically to ensure that members of Congress knew that their constituents wanted them to sign on. 

Press Availability in Amman, Jordan

Press Availability
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Amman, Jordan
July 19, 2013

SECRETARY KERRY: Good evening, everybody, thank you very much for your patience. I apologize for the delay. I'm just going to make a statement, and I'm not going to take any questions at this point in time.

On behalf of President Obama, I am pleased to announce that we have reached an agreement that establishes a basis for resuming direct final status negotiations between the Palestinians and the Israelis. This is a significant and welcome step forward.

The agreement is still in the process of being formalized, so we are absolutely not going to talk about any of the elements now. Any speculation or reports you may read in the media or elsewhere or here in the press are conjecture. They are not based on fact because the people who know the facts are not talking about them. The parties have agreed that I will be the only one making further comments about this.

EU published new policy on settlements

The European Union on July 19th published in its Official Journal the new guidelines on the ineligibility of Israeli entities that have activities in the Occupied Territories for EU grants.

The full text of the guidelines is available here (scroll down to page 9).

APN has welcomed the new guidelines.

Please join us for a briefing call on Monday July 22nd at 12:00 noon with The Guardian's Middle East editor Ian Black to discuss the EU's policy and other issues.

To participate, call  951-797-1058 and enter access code: 147414

Americans for Peace Now (APN) today welcomed the EU's decision to differentiate between Israel and the occupied territories in its foreign relations, and condemned anticipated new Israeli settlement approvals that came to light today.  

Americans for Peace Now (APN) wishes a full recovery to Theresa Heinz-Kerry and sends its support to Secretary of State John Kerry and his family at this difficult time. Our hearts go out to the Kerry family. 

As Secretary of State John Kerry heads to the region in his ongoing efforts to re-launch Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations,  Americans for Peace Now (APN) today called on the country's top diplomat to hold on to his sense of urgency and persevere.

Washington, DC -Americans for Peace Now (APN) is alarmed by the huge increase in West Bank settlement construction, and joins its Israeli sister organization, Peace Now, in calling on the government of Israel to immediately stop settlement construction.

APN praises its Israeli sister organization, Shalom Achshav (Peace Now) for breaking the news about this sharp increase in settlement construction, based on official Israeli government data.

Americans for Peace Now (APN) today commended Secretary of  State John Kerry for his powerful speech advocating Israeli-Palestinian peace.

Americans for Peace Now (APN) mourns the death of Senator Frank Lautenberg. 

APN's President and CEO Debra DeLee said: "It is with deep sadness that we mark the death of New Jersey's longtime Senator Frank Lautenberg. Senator Lautenberg was a strong advocate - both in the Senate and within the Jewish community - for Israeli-Palestinian peace and for U.S. leadership to achieve it. These positions were a natural extension of his abiding commitment to the U.S.-Israel relationship and of his deep concern for Israel's security and its future. Today, as we mourn his death, we honor his life and his legacy."

Peace Now Leads the Fight against New Settlements

Israel's Peace Now movement (Shalom Achshav) is leading a vociferous campaign against the Israeli government's intention to establish four new settlements in the West Bank. 

The government informed Israel's Supreme Court last week that it intends to legalize four settlement "outposts" that settlers built illegally, and which the Government of Israel has previously committed to remove. Benjamin Netanyahu's government did so in a formal response to a petition that Peace Now has filed to Israel's Supreme Court in 2007 against the creation of six illegal outposts. 

Stop Ignoring How Routine the Occupation Has Become

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By Ori Nir

Israel TV Channel 2 recently ran a lengthy report of pre-dawn arrests of Palestinian children -- rock-throwing suspects -- at a West Bank Palestinian refugee camp. The TV crew was embedded with an Israeli unit that raided the camp.

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Briefing call with Israeli political analyst Akiva Eldar on the Netanyahu government's reaction to the Obama administration's effort to revive the Israeli-Palestinian peace process .

wall-settlements186x140.jpgAccording to an Israeli radio report earlier today, Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently ordered Minister of Housing Uri Ariel not to issue new tenders for construction in settlements.

Has Netanyahu seen the light?

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Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu this week reportedly said that an agreement with the Palestinians must be reached "that will prevent Israel from becoming a bi-national state, but will provide stability and security."

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Washington, DC - Americans for Peace Now (APN) warmly welcomes the Arab League's decision to soften its peace initiative to accommodate future land-swaps between Israel and the Palestinians, as a part of an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement. APN is gratified to see that this positive development does not go unnoticed by Israel's leaders.

Washington, DC - Americans for Peace Now (APN) condemns the killing of an Israeli civilian in the West Bank by a Palestinian assailant, who has been arrested. This murder -- the first of its kind since 2011-- cannot be justified for any reason.  Such acts of violence are immoral and unjustifiable.  The victim, a 30 year-old resident of the settlement of Yitzhar, leaves behind a wife and 5 children.

Americans for Peace Now (APN) welcomes amendments made by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) to temper a problematic Iran-war resolution. The amendments to Senate Resolution 65 were adopted today at an SFRC "mark-up" meeting on Capitol Hill.

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Americans for Peace Now mourns the death of Diane (Dee) Halley, a fellow peace activist and a friend of APN.

Press Release: APN Applauds Obama's Jerusalem Speech

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Americans for Peace Now (APN) today applauded President Obama's historic speech, delivered to an audience of young Israelis in Jerusalem.

APN President and CEO Debra DeLee stated:

"Today, President Obama did what he does best: he spoke directly and honestly to the people. With compassion, courage, integrity, and a touch of humor, President Obama made the best case for peace that Israelis have ever heard, either from a U.S. president or from their own leaders. In doing so, Israelis finally got a chance to understand the depth of this president's commitment to their security, their prosperity, and their future, and to understand why this commitment is directly linked to the longstanding U.S. commitment to the achievement of peace.

President Obama's Speech to the Israeli People - Full Text

Following is the text - as prepared for delivery - of President Obama's speech in Jerusalem today, before a large crowd of young Israelis.

Shalom. It is an honor to be here with you in Jerusalem, and I am so grateful for the welcome that I have received from the people of Israel. I bring with me the support of the American people, and the friendship that binds us together.

Over the last two days, I have reaffirmed the bonds between our countries with Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Peres. I have borne witness to the ancient history of the Jewish people at the Shrine of the Book, and I have seen Israel's shining future in your scientists and entrepreneurs. This is a nation of museums and patents, timeless holy sites and ground-breaking innovation. Only in Israel could you see the Dead Sea Scrolls and the place where the technology on board the Mars Rover originated. But what I've looked forward to the most is the ability to speak directly to you, the Israeli people - especially so many young people - about the history that brought us here today, and the future that you will make in the years to come.

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On the eve of Barack Obama's first visit to Israel as President, and shortly before being sworn in, Israel's new Minister of Housing and Construction indicated over the weekend that he intends to build in West Bank settlements in a way that would make the creation of a Palestinian state impossible.

Why Textbooks Don't Matter That Much

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When I decided to major in Arabic at my West Jerusalem high school in the mid-1970s, my Arabic teacher sent me to East Jerusalem to purchase al-Munjid, the mother of all Arabic dictionaries. This behemoth encyclopedic Arabic-Arabic dictionary was imported from Beirut through Jordan for Palestinian students, and available only at two East Jerusalem book stores. The day after I bought it, I took this incredibly heavy book to school because I wanted the teacher to help me solve a mystery: Why was "The State of Israel" rubber-stamped on al-Munjid's maps, not inside the Land of Israel but rather in the Arab Peninsula, in the Atlantic Ocean, in the Egyptian desert and on the shores of western Turkey?

Washington, DC - Americans for Peace Now (APN) welcomes President Obama's commitment in yesterday's State of the Union address to "stand steadfast with Israel in pursuit of security and a lasting peace."

Although APN always seeks a clear, firm articulation of America's unequivocal support of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, we appreciate the President's inclusion of a positive reference to Israel's pursuit of peace in the State of the Union address. We strongly encourage President Obama to elaborate on last night's message of security through lasting peace during his visit to Israel, and subsequently, as his administration pursues the vital goal of resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and comprehensive Middle East peace. We encourage the President him to work with both Israel and the Palestinian Authority's leadership to create the next steps toward a lasting peace.

APN recently sent several messages to the President regarding the pursuit of peace for Israel and its neighbors during his second terms in office.

Read APN's statement welcoming Obama's planned visit to Israel

Read APN's statement welcoming the confirmation of John Kerry as Secretary of State.

Read APN's Obama inauguration statement, urging him to save the two-state solution.

Peace Now marks 30th Anniversary of Grunzweig Assassination

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Israel's Peace Now movement on Sunday marked the 30th anniversary of the assassination of Emil Grunzweig, one of the movement's leaders, at an anti-war rally in Jerusalem.

America must seize the chance to advance the peace process

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If I were the freshly re-elected prime minister of the State of Israel or the re-elected president of the United States, I would pay attention to a lovely piece of public art in downtown Ramallah. It features the ethos of a reformed Palestinian society.

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Benjamin Netanyahu Failed With His Most Pandered-To Crowd

How did Benjamin Netanyahu do in West Bank settlements?

Considering his party's pro-settlement policies and the staunch pro-settlement positions of its leading Knesset members, you'd expect Netanyahu's Likud-Beiteinu list to perform better among West Bank settlers than it did in Israel proper. It didn't.

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On February 6, Americans for Peace Now sponsored, Together with the Foundation for Middle East Peace, Just Vision, and the Telos Group, a special event on the threat that Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem are posing to the two-state solution.

APN Welcomes Obama's Planned Israel Visit

Obama_at_Western_Wall_2008_186x140.jpg Washington, DC - Americans for Peace Now (APN) today warmly welcomed President Obama's plans to visit Israel in the spring, and called on the President to use his leadership skills and his gravitas to re-accredit America's leadership role in pursuing Mideast peace and his administration's commitment to saving the two-state solution. 

(Picture: Then candidate Obama at the Western Wall in Jerusalem in 2008)

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Washington, D.C. - Americans for Peace Now (APN) today warmly welcomed the Senate's confirmation of Senator John Kerry as the next Secretary of State. APN praised Kerry's strong track record as a foreign policy leader and reiterated its call for President Obama to re-engage urgently and resolutely to save the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Book Review: Pathways to Peace

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This is the fourth in a series of reviews of new books on Middle Eastern affairs. We asked Dr. Gail Weigl, an APN volunteer and a professor of art history, to review Dan Kurtzer's new book about America's role in advancing Israeli-Palestinian peace. 

APN Welcomes Israelis' Vote for Change

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Americans for Peace Now (APN) released the following statement today from Debra DeLee, its President and CEO: 

We congratulate the people of Israel for holding free and fair elections yesterday for the 19th Knesset. With these elections, and their myriad surprises, Israelis have reminded the world of Israel's deep culture as a pluralistic democracy and have clearly rejected the status quo policies of the past four years of government led by Benjamin Netanyahu.

Israeli Election Surprise

elections2013surprise-320x265.jpg Sensation!

The results of the exit polls, published by Israeli TV channels as polling stations closed, are nothing short of a sensation.

Living in a Movie

film_spool186x140.jpg "Living in a movie" (likhyot be-seret) is a Hebrew slang expression that means being detached from reality or living in a parallel universe.

That expression came to mind when Israel yesterday celebrated - justifiably so - the nomination of two Israeli documentaries as finalists for the Academy Awards.

Press Release: APN Welcomes Hagel's Nomination

Americans for Peace Now welcomes President Obama's nomination of Senator Chuck Hagel to be America's next Secretary of Defense and urges the Senate to confirm the nomination expeditiously.

APN reaffirms its earlier statement, which strongly rejects attacks on Senator Hagel's record on Israel and Middle East-related issues. We know Senator Hagel well from his time in office. In the Senate he was a thoughtful legislator with a deep commitment to U.S. national security and a keen understanding of the full gamut of complex foreign policy issues, including the vital importance of achieving durable Israeli-Palestinian peace. He is fully committed to Israel's security and wellbeing.

Attacks on Senator Hagel for his record on Israel and the Middle East are disconnected from Hagel's actual record and his qualifications for the office of Secretary of Defense. These attacks appear to reflect, more than anything, a desire to impose a narrow ideological litmus test on senior U.S. officials - a litmus test that is in no way linked to their abilities to carry out the responsibilities of the office for which they are being considered or even to their own commitment to the vital interests of the United States. Such a litmus test serves the interests of neither the United States nor Israel.

APN Condemns Israeli Approval of New East Jerusalem Settlement

Washington, DC - Americans for Peace Now (APN) today condemned the Israeli government's approval this morning of plans for a new settlement in East Jerusalem, Givat Hamatos - the first new settlement to be established since Prime Minister Netanyahu, in his first term in office, defied the international community in the 1990s to establish Har Homa.

Jerusalem, Israel - On a tour to E-1, the corridor that extends between East Jerusalem and the West Bank settlement of Maale Adumim, Americans for Peace Now leaders on Sunday strongly condemned the government of Israel's intention to expedite settlement construction at this sensitive spot.


(Pictured: APN Study Tour Group in E-1 on Sunday, December 2, one day after the announcement of the Israeli Government)

"Your country is isolated"

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Jerusalem - Israelis woke up today to the realization of just how isolated their state is internationally. 138 members of the United Nations supported the Palestinian bid to upgrade the PLO's status in the UN, with only 9 opposed and 41 abstaining. 

After UN Vote on Palestine, Time for Credible Peace Talks

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Washington, DC - Welcoming the UN General Assembly's vote to upgrade the status of the Palestinian representation in the UN, Americans for Peace Now (APN) today urged the Palestinians, Israel, the Obama administration and the international community to use the vote as a springboard to launching credible peace negotiations.

New Poll By Peace Now Shows Israelis Reject Punitive Measure

support -pal-statehood-banner-4-186x140.jpgA new poll released today by APN's Israeli sister organization, Peace Now, shows that Israelis overwhelmingly reject the punitive measure that their foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, has advocated in response to the Palestinian bid for upgraded status in the UN's General Assembly.  Lieberman has called for Israel to take action to cause the collapse of the Palestinian Authority as retaliation for the UN move.

Interview with Mossi Raz

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Former Knesset Member Mossi Raz was also the secretary general of Peace Now and is an infantry Major (Reserve) in the IDF. He talks about the undefined goals and the still unclear political consequences of Israel's current armed conflict with Hamas.

click here to listen

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APN Resource Page on the Gaza Crisis
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Interview with Israeli Peace Activist Gershon Baskin

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In recent months, Israeli peace activist Gershon Baskin, the founder and co-chair of the Jerusalem-based Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information (IPCRI) was deeply involved in dialogue with Hamas leaders and with Israeli security officials in trying to forge a stable, ceasefire agreement. Israel's launching of the aerial war in Gaza ended his efforts, but is now - ironically - resulting in Israeli-Hamas efforts to reach exactly that kind of long-lasting ceasefire. Baskin talks about his role as a go-between, and asserts that the only way for Israel to reach a sustainable relationship with Hamas is to pursue a peace agreement with the Palestinians' pragmatic leadership in the West Bank, headed by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

click here to listen

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APN Resource Page on the Gaza Crisis
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APN Concerned about Israel-Gaza Escalation; Urges Diplomacy

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Washington, DC - Americans for Peace Now (APN) today expressed serious concern about the rapidly escalating conflict in the Gaza Strip and southern Israel. APN urges the Obama Administration to urgently engage with Israel, regional parties, and the international community to bring about an immediate halt to the hostilities.

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APN Resource Page on the Gaza Crisis
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L'hitraot (not goodbye) to Akiva Eldar

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Akiva Eldar of Haaretz, one of Israel's leading political columnists, retired today and dedicated his last column to Israel's Peace Now movement and to other organizations and individuals who work to advance peace for Israel.

APN Condemns Planned East Jerusalem Construction

Washington, DC - Americans for Peace Now (APN) joins its Israeli sister organization, Peace Now, in condemning two recent moves by the Israeli government in East Jerusalem that could severely complicate efforts to reach a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians. APN's President and CEO Debra DeLee called the moves "provocative and irresponsible."

APN to Israeli Government: Don't Adopt Levy Report

Washington, DC - Washington, DC - Americans for Peace Now (APN) today urged Israel's government to reverse its apparent intention to adopt portions of a report that seeks to legitimize Israeli settlements in the West Bank and to legalize West Bank "outposts," which were built in violation of Israeli law.
Ori Nir 186x140.jpgWASHINGTON (JTA) -- Can you imagine Israel without a free, independent, vociferous and diverse media? Can you imagine Israel without Maariv and Haaretz? Without biting commentary, investigative reporting and an open, cacophonous marketplace of views and ideas?

Israel Election Frenzy

Bibielection2012-186x140.jpgA month before the US general elections, Israel's prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, threw Israel into an election campaign frenzy when he announced his intention to dissolve the Knesset and hold early elections next January.

My Father, Reborn in Hebrew

(Cross-posted from Moment Magazine's blog)

I have never thought of my father as a revolutionary. But since his death last month, several of his colleagues depicted him as such and helped me better appreciate some of his professional accomplishments, which I had not fully appreciated before.

Shortly before he died, my father started writing a childhood memoir. "I was born twice," he wrote: once in Hamburg, Germany , in 1930, and then again in 1936, when he arrived with his mother and three-yar-old brother at the port of Haifa on a boat of halutzim, pioneers. The two children watched with admiration as the pioneers danced the hora on board and sang patriotic songs. He probably aspired to one day be just like them.

APN calls on Romney to Repudiate Anti-Israel Comments

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Washington, DC - APN released the following statement by its President and CEO, Debra DeLee:

"We call on GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney to repudiate his statements suggesting that peace is not possible and that therefore the U.S. should 'kick the ball down the field and hope that ultimately, somehow, something will happen and resolve it.' 

Statement Deploring Netanyahu's Politicization of Israel

APN condemns what can no longer be dismissed as anything other than reckless statements by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that inject Israel into the American presidential race.

L'Shanah Tovah 5773

shofar-and-book186x140.jpg Rosh Hashana dinners at my grandparents' Sephardi home in Jerusalem were as semantically amusing as they were delicious.

Economic Rioting in the West Bank

Westbank-rioting186x140.jpgLarge-scale economic protests in the West Bank, directed at Mahmoud Abbas' Palestinian Authority, are of major concern. The riots further weaken moderate and pragmatic Palestinian leaders, they threaten to boost the popularity of Hamas and other extremists, and they might spill over to ignite violent hostilities directed at Israel.

Bulgaria_Bus_Bombing_Collage186x140.jpgWashington, DC - Americans for Peace Now (APN) strongly condemns the bombing in Bulgaria today, which targeted Israeli tourists and killed seven innocent civilians.

APN extends its condolences to the families of those killed in the attack and extends its wishes for a full recovery to those who were injured. APN stands with the people of Israel.


Peace Now's Hagit Ofran targeted once again

hagit_death_threat_7-16-12-186x140.jpgPeace Now's Hagit Ofran woke up today to another death threat. Again, someone sprayed graffiti on her home in Jerusalem, saying: "Hagit you are dead." This is the third time in less than a year that hateful, threatening slogans are spray-painted at the home of Hagit, who directs Peace Now's Settlement Watch project.


Decaffinating the occupation?

Boaz Okon, a former Israeli Magistrate and District Court judge and currently the legal commentator of the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth, today published an important analysis of the Levy Committee report. The report, Okon writes, is more likely to impact the political and public discourse on settlements than the realm of Israeli jurisprudence. But on an issue that is influenced more by politicians than it is by the Court, such influence is very important too.

Here is Okon's article, as translated by Israel News Today:

Free Territories with Occupied Residents

By Boaz Okon

Yedioth Ahronoth, 11 July, 2012

Judge Edmond Levi's report about legalizing the outposts will not be able to legalize Israel's actions in the territories. The demand for the freedom of millions of Palestinians cannot be stopped by legal reports. In the end, the report will be shelved and its central contribution will be an increase in the cynicism and suspicion toward judges. In this respect it supplies us with an opportunity to recognize the limitations of our legal system.

Conclusions and recommendations of the Levy Report

We have been asked for an English translation of the Levy Report regarding West Bank settlements and illegal outposts. 

A full translation is not available yet, but the Conclusions and Recommendations portion of it is available here.

Levy_Netanyahu_Collage2.jpgWashington, DC - Americans for Peace Now (APN) today joined its Israeli sister organization, Peace Now (Shalom Achshav) in calling on the government of Israel to repudiate the findings of the commission it appointed to address the problem of illegal outposts in the West Bank. APN calls on other US Jewish groups that support the two-state solution to raise their voices in opposition to this report.

(Pictured: Committee Chairman Levy presents report to Prime Minister Netanyahu superimposed over APN's Settlement Map)

Presbyterian_Church_Assembly_Graphic2.jpgWashington, DC - Americans for Peace Now (APN) urges the plenary of the Presbyterian Church (USA) not to adopt the resolution approved yesterday by its Middle East and Peacemaking Issues Committee (Committee 15) to divest from companies, over Israel's use of their products in ways that allegedly violate Palestinian human rights.

APN Mourns the Passing of Yitzhak Shamir

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Washington, DC - Americans for Peace Now (APN) joins the people of Israel in mourning the death of Yitzhak Shamir, Israel's seventh prime minister, who died Saturday at the age of 96.

APN's president and CEO Debra DeLee said: "Prime Minister Shamir was a patriot who cared deeply about his country's security and wellbeing. We did not agree with his hardline policies on peace with the Palestinians and with Israel's neighboring Arab states, but we recognized Mr. Shamir's dedication to his country and his people and his deep sense of responsibility for Israel's security. We send our deepest condolences to the Shamir family and to the people of Israel."

 

 

Low-key Ulpana Evacuation

Ulpana_evac320x265.jpgThe evacuation of the five illegally-built houses in the West Bank settlement of Beit El was completed without any confrontations between the settlers and the police.

The 3,000 police officers who just a week ago spent an entire day in the Jordan Valley, practicing the evacuation of a violent crowd, did not stretch a muscle.

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Mosque_Burning_Collage2_320x265.jpgExtremist settlers are escalating their campaign to resist Israeli government attempts to remove five illegally built houses at the West Bank settlement of Beit El, near Ramallah. 

As government representatives seem to be inching toward an agreement with settler leader to peacefully evict the houses, some of the more militant settlers are escalating their actions and rhetoric to try to hinder the eviction.



On June 7th, APN Spokesperson Ori Nir was interviewed by Washington, D.C. Pacifica Radio-affiliate WPFW about failed attempts by Israeli extremist lawmakers to "legalize" settlement construction on privately-owned Palestinian land.

WPFW interview June 7 2012.mp3
clinton186x140.jpgAPN Board Member Letty Cottin-Pogrebin last month published an opinion piece on the Daily Beast's Open Zion blog, suggesting the appointment of former President Bill Clinton as a special presidential emissary for Israeli-Palestinian peace. 

President Barack Obama has not (yet?) appointed Clinton to the position, but Clinton did react to Letty's modest proposal and sent her a letter thanking her for her vote of confidence and committing to continue working to advance Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts. Click here to view the letter: Bill Clinton letter.pdf



APN's Lara Friedman Attends Stockholm Workshop on Iran

Lara in stockholm.jpg My colleague Lara Friedman, APN's director of policy and government relations, returned from Stockholm over the weekend after two days of discussions co-sponsored by the Swedish National Defense Research Organization (akin to the American RAND Corporation) and Princeton University's Liechtenstein Institute for Self Determination.

The topic of the discussions was U.S., Israeli, and Swedish (and European) perspectives on the Iran nuclear crisis. Participants included several prominent Israelis, former senior U.S. military officers, and members of the Swedish foreign policy and national security community. 

Lara told me that the discussions were "fascinating yet sobering, underscoring the sharp disconnect that exists between American/European views of the Iran challenge on the one hand, and the views of many in Israel, on the other hand. Lara said that the discussions "highlighted divergences with respect to both the interests and risks involved in the various options available, particularly as related to potential Israeli or U.S. military action against Iran." 

Lara closely follows US Iran policy, particularly as it plays out between the administration and Congress. She is considered one of Washington's leading experts on this issue.

APN outraged at vandalism of Oasis of Peace

Revenge_of_Chivat_Giladtext187x140.jpgNeve Shalom ("Oasis of Peace"), a small community in which Jewish and Arab Israeli citizens choose to live together, was vandalized last night, apparently by settlers or settler-sympathizers. Graffiti saying "Death to the Arabs" was sprayed on Neve Shalom's bilingual school. Several cars were vandalized with hateful graffiti. The tires of fourteen cars were punctured.

The attack on the this community of peace, halfway between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, was similar in nature to past so-called "Price Tag" attacks by extremist settlers and their sympathizers against Palestinians and Israeli peace activists such as Peace Now's Yariv Oppenheimer and Hagit Ofran.

Snippets of the Insanity That the Occupation Is

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Dear Friend of Israel,

Who would you least expect to see joining a Peace Now tour of West Bank settlements? Right, West Bank settlers.

Washington, DC - Americans for Peace Now (APN) welcomes the bipartisan letter that 71 members of the House of Representatives sent to President Obama yesterday, in support of ongoing diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis over Iran's nuclear program.

APN President and CEO Debra DeLee commented:  "At a time when bipartisanship is rarely seen on Capitol Hill, Congressmen Price and Dreier deserve credit for looking past partisan politics to initiate this constructive and timely letter in support of resolving the Iran crisis through diplomacy. We commend them for doing so and we commend all the members, from both parties, who signed on."

"Regrettably, recent actions in the House may have sent a message that House members are not wholly supportive of ongoing diplomatic efforts to deal with Iran. This letter helps correct that impression, making clear that these diplomatic efforts have strong, bipartisan congressional backing, and setting out a clearer statement regarding congressional intent regarding 'nuclear weapons capability,' consistent with the definition articulated by Rep. Berman (D-CA) last week."

APN, a Jewish, Zionist organization dedicated to enhancing Israel's security through peace, has for years been urging Washington to address Iran's nuclear quest rationally and responsibly.

 

 

APN Applauds House Committee for Clarifying that Bill doesn't not Authorize Use of Force against Iran; Urges Passage of "Iran Special Envoy" Amendment
 
Washington, DC - Last night the House began consideration of HR FY13 National Defense Authorization Act. 

Americans for Peace Now (APN) has serious concerns that Part C of the bill could be interpreted as an authorization of use of force against Iran.  APN strongly supports the amendment offered by Representatives John Conyers (D-MI), Keith Ellison (D-MN), Walter Jones (R-NC) and Ron Paul (R-TX), to "clarify that nothing in the bill shall be construed as authorizing the use of force against Iran."   


congress186x139.jpg Washington, DC - Americans for Peace Now (APN) today welcomed clarifications offered last night on the House floor regarding the intent behind H. Res. 568 (to be passed by the House later today) and called on House members to sign a congressional letter supporting diplomacy with Iran.

Israeli leading columnist explains Likud-Kadima alliance

akiva_eldar186x139.jpgAPN hosted leading Israeli political commentator, Akiva Eldar of Haaretz on May 10th, for a briefing call on the latest dramatic political developments in Israel.
elections186x140.jpgLast night's dramatic news caught everyone by surprise: following secret negotiations, the Kadima party has agreed to join Benjamin Netanyahu's government, establishing a "unity government."  On its  face, this breathtaking political development in Israel does not promise a breakthrough toward peace. But as it is with every major shakeup, the new alliance between Israel's largest parties also presents opportunities.

Peace Now's Lawyer on Israel's Illegal Outpost Policy

Michael Sfard at Podium 186x140.jpgThe Israeli Supreme Court handed another ruling, on May 7th, blasting the Israeli government's position on illegal West Bank "outposts, built on land privately owned by Palestinians. Peace Now's lawyer, Michael Sfard, talks about the case and its significance.

Read the Forward's profile of Michael Sfard here.

Bringing Israel's Peace Camp Together

Yariv186x140.jpgIsrael's Peace Now movement is sponsoring a conference that will bring together next week Israel's progressive forces - politicians, activists, pundits and simple citizens - to discuss the Peace Camp's agenda going ahead.  Peace Now's Secretary General Yariv Oppenheimer discusses the conference and the political environment in Israel.



Who's Responsibile for the Diplomatic Stalemate?

diskin-yuval186x140.jpgThe next time people tell you that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is the only one responsible for the of Israeli-Palestinian diplomatic stalemate, send them to Shimon Peres and Yuval Diskin.

Everyone knows President Peres, who has been in Israeli politics longer than any living soul, and who knows Israeli politicians better than anyone. Peres urged the international community, after Binyamin Netanyahu became prime minister three years ago to trust Netanyahu's commitment to peace with the Palestinians.

When She's Sixty-four?

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As the Master of Ceremonies at Jerusalem's Mount Herzl announced the end of Yom HaZikaron, Israel's solemn Memorial Day, and ushered in Yom Ha'Atzma'ut, Independence Day, millions of Israelis, having just ended a day of remembrance and mourning for the fallen, are sweeping the streets to celebrate their country's 64th birthday.

A Noble Gesture of Peace

During many years of covering and following Israeli-Palestinian relations, I have repeatedly observed Palestinians being pushed to the frustrating corner in which the political wall of Israeli occupation meets the wall of Israeli law. I have seldom seen Palestinians, with their back to these walls, extending their hand in peace and reconciliation.  

APN Board Elects James Klutznick as its Chair

APN_Logo_Magnifying_Glass_2012_186x140.jpgJo-Ann Mort Vice Chair; Mark Silverberg Secretary/ Treasurer; New Board Members: Rabbi Andy Bachman and Mik Moore

Washington, DC - Americans for Peace Now announced today the election of James B Klutznick of Chicago as the new Chair of its Board of Directors. In addition, APN's Board re-elected Jo-Ann Mort of New York as its Vice Chair, Mark Silverberg of Cleveland as its Secretary/Treasurer, and approved the appointment of two new Board members: Rabbi Andy Bachman of Brooklyn and Mik Moore of New York.

With Peace Now, on the Hills of the West Bank

WB SA tour ori map186x140.jpgThere was a lovely surprise at Peace Now's tour of West Bank settlements Friday. Several students from the settlement of Otniel, one of the ideological bastions of the settlement movement, boarded the bus in Jerusalem. Peace Now staffers were concerned that the young settlers and settler-sympathizers were hecklers. "We've had problems in the past with hoodlums who joined our tours only to disrupt," Peace Now's National Activities Coordinator Etai Mizrav told me. 


Not Everything that Waddles is a Duck

No Ducks186x140.jpgYusef Munayyer's essay today in Zion Square suggests that it is unhelpful and distracting to debate whether Jewish-Arab relations in the area that is under Israeli rule between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean are Apartheid-like. He goes on to argue that they actually ARE Apartheid. That assertion, somehow, is supposed to be helpful and non-distracting. 

APN to Obama: Prevent Gaza Escalation

Iron-Dome-Israel-320x265.jpgWashington, DC - Americans for Peace Now (APN) today called on the Obama Administration to work with Israel, Egypt, and Palestinian leaders to urgently advance diplomatic efforts to reach a ceasefire on the Israel-Gaza border. 

Amos Oz's Voice of Reason

Amos_Oz_Interview186x140.jpgJerusalem - Last night I watched here a hypnotizing interview with the world's favorite Israeli author, Amos Oz. He mainly spoke about the writing process, about his novels and his childhood and about his friendship with author David Grossman. Oz told Channel Two interviewer Ilana Dayan that after Grossman lost his son, Uri, during the very last hours of Israel's Second Lebanon War in 2006, he drove to Grossman's home at a Jerusalem suburb and begged him not to stop writing. Oz was anxious that losing Uri might paralyze Grossman and silence him as a writer.  

Israelis Skeptical on War with Iran

warIran320x265.jpgJerusalem - On Purim 2012, Israel does not look like a country on the verge of war. Certainly not like a country on the brink of a nuclear holocaust.
 
Tens of thousands were out on Thursday, in perfect weather, to enjoy marches and masquerades, feasts and festivals. At the entrance to the emergency room of Jerusalem's Shaare Tzedek Hospital, a covered lot that is supposed to turn into a mass triage center in case of a non-conventional war, there were groups of children dressed in colorful costumes, preparing to fan out at the large medical center and entertain the patients.
Washington, DC - Americans for Peace Now (APN) expresses concern about the deteriorating situation in Syria and urges the Obama Administration to engage urgently to end the crisis. 

APN Condemns Palestinian Mufti's Offensive Comments

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Washington, DC - Americans for Peace Now (APN) strongly condemns the belligerent anti-Jewish comments made by the Palestinian Authority's Mufti of Jerusalem at a public event in the West Bank earlier this month.

APN Concerned about Attacks on CAP

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Washington, DC -- In the context of recent attacks in the media accusing the Center for American Progress and its staff of anti-Semitism, APN's President and CEO Debra DeLee today issued the following statement:

AUDIO: Welcome Brits for Peace Now!

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Americans for Peace Now is excited to welcome a new member into the worldwide Peace Now family. Brits for Peace now. The new organization, a reincarnation of Peace Now UK, is the initiative of several young Brits who have interned with Peace Now in Israel.

One of them, Daniel Arenson, a 25-year-old parliamentary aide and the former Chair of Oxford University Jewish Society, spoke with APN about the new initiative.

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Washington, DC -- Americans for Peace Now (APN) today welcomed the Israeli-Palestinian meeting in Amman, hosted by Jordan's King Abdullah. APN called on both sides to not let this meeting be an isolated event and to re-launch serious negotiations toward a two-state solution. APN also urged the Obama administration to re-claim its role as a chief broker and as a sponsor of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

They are not "anarchists" by Yariv Oppenheimer

The State of the Anarchists 

By Yariv Oppenheimer

Maariv, 28 December, 2011

(Tanslation courtesy of Israel News Today)

In the past weeks, when the "price tag" riots peaked, right wing MKs hurried to disassociate themselves from the extremist minority and to protest against the generalizations aimed at the settler public, most of which is law-abiding. In his public response to the incidents in the Ephraim Brigade, the prime minister called the rioters "anarchists," an extremist handful that does not represent the general population in the territories.

Americans for Peace Now today sent the following letter to the Republican presidential candidates, to President Obama, to the Democratic National Committee and the Republican National Committee:

Why Peace is Possible - new piece in J. Weekly

Why peace is possible: the Hiriya garbage dump theory

Thursday, December 8, 2011 | by Ori Nir

As an Israel Defense Forces soldier in the late 1970s and early '80s, my favorite spot to hitchhike back to my home in Jerusalem was the Ganot junction near Ben Gurion Airport. I spent dozens if not hundreds of hours standing there, waiting for a ride, gazing at the jets landing and taking off.

Unfortunately, the tantalizing view of the jets' bellies came with a nauseating odor of garbage. Why garbage? Because on the other side of the junction was Hiriya, Tel Aviv's main garbage dump, literally a mountain of garbage.

Tolerance, please!

Our intern Benjamin Kasdan wrote the following piece about a disturbing experience, after helping us organize an event in Washington:

As I was leaving an event on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict sponsored by Americans for Peace Now earlier this month, an elderly man who noticed that I was carrying an APN sign approached me and asked me if I worked with APN. When I responded that I did, he called me a self-hating Jew, and told me that I should be ashamed of myself.

The encounter shocked me and has been troubling me ever since. Has our community really become that intolerant?

Peace Now responds to attacks

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In recent days, Peace Now has been facing attacks from many corners. Peace Now's Settlement Watch director received death threats, and a bomb threat was called in at their Jerusalem office. They have also been targeted by an onslaught of anti-democratic bills in the Knesset. But Peace Now refuses to be silenced.

Yariv Oppenhiemer responds to the anti-democratic Knesset measures, saying "we are the real patriots."

In the face of death threats, Hagit Ofran says "she who believes does not fear."

An anti-democratic onslaught

Peace Now is again under attack. 

Today's attackers are not rightwing terrorists but rather members of the Israeli Knesset, the very people  entrusted with protecting Israeli democracy 

The latest in an onslaught of anti-democratic bills presented to the Knesset is directed chiefly at Peace Now's litigation efforts regarding West Bank settlement construction. The bill, made public yesterday, would disallow petitions against the Israeli government to Israel's High Court by "public petitioners" such as Peace Now, unless they petition alongside a private individual who is harmed by government policies. 

APN Denounces Anti-Democratic Legislation in Israel

Bibi_at_Podium186x140.jpgYesterday an Israeli Ministerial committee voted to support two new bills that directly target Israeli democracy. See relates articles from the Washington & Jerusalem Posts.

The purpose of these bills is to quash Israeli civil society groups, including those fighting for peace, human rights and civil rights, by fatally curtailing their ability to raise funds.

Why We Have Taken a Stand with the Supreme Court

On November 7, Israel's Haaretz newspaper published an article in Hebrew by APN's President and CEO Debra DeLee explaining why we chose to submit an amicus brief to the Supreme Court regarding the authority of the Executive Branch to determine policy on sensitive foreign policy issues such as the status of Jerusalem.

Following is an English translation of the article:


Washington, DC - Americans for Peace Now calls on pro-Israel US organizations to take a stand, publicly and vociferously, against Israeli political violence and in support of democracy, tolerance and political pluralism in the Jewish State.
 
APN especially calls on fellow American Jewish organizations to condemn the attacks on Israel's Peace Now movement, which include repeated death threats, vandalizing and harassment.

Rabin Awaits You

HagitVandalism320x265.jpgIdo (Sany) Arazi is a Tel Aviv graphic artist who designs posters for Israeli Peace organizations. Last week he was working on a poster for Yitzhak Rabin's Memorial Day, which will be marked tomorrow in Israel. Sany prepared a sketch saying "Israel Awaits Murder - 16 years after Rabin's murder and a little before the next murder." He put it aside because he thought it may be too alarmist. 

Today, on his Facebook page, Sany wrote that it obviously is not. The terrorists who sprayed death threats at Hagit Ofran's Jerusalem home today left no room for doubt when they wrote:  "Hagit Ofran, Rabin awaits you." 

APN Condemns Attacks on Israel's Peace Now Movement

Washington, DC - Americans for Peace Now (APN) strongly condemns the continued threats and attacks on members of its Israeli sister organization, Peace Now.
 
Last night, someone pushed the intercom button at the Jerusalem building that houses Peace Now's office. A neighbor was told: "This building will explode in five minutes." The frightened residents and a Peace Now staff member immediately evacuated the building. Outside they found "Price Tag" graffiti. "Price Tag" is what the extremist settlers call their campaign to intimidate and silence Israelis and Palestinians who support a two-state solution to the conflict.

This building will blow up in five minutes!

JerusalemBombThreat186x140.jpgLast night, someone pushed the intercom button at the Jerusalem building that houses Peace Now's office. A neighbor was told: "This building will explode in five minutes." The frightened residents and a Peace Now staff member immediately evacuated the building. Outside they found "Price Tag" graffiti. "Price Tag" is what the extreme settlers call their campaign to intimidate and silence Israelis and Palestinians who support a two-state solution to the conflict. 

U.S. Must Not Cut off Nose to Spite its Own Face at the UN

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Washington, DC - Today members of UNESCO voted to grant the PLO full status in that organization, with 107 nations voting in favor, only 14 nations voting "no," and another 52 abstaining. APN President and CEO Debra DeLee issued the following statement about the vote:

"The decision by UNESCO members to vote overwhelmingly to admit the Palestinians - despite the strong opposition of both the U.S. and Israel and the threat of U.S. sanctions against UNESCO - sends a clear message:  the international community is no longer willing to sit on its hands and do the bidding of the United States so long as the "peace process" drags on, bereft of substance and with continued Israeli settlement policies altering the situation on the ground in ways that will soon make this two-state solution impossible.

It's Either Abbas or Hamas

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said this week that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas should leave his post soon and that "anyone who replaces (Abbas) will be better than he is." Lieberman called Abbas "an obstacle to peace."

The firebrand foreign minister was talking about the same Abbas who Prime Minister Netanyahu called "my partner in peace," the same Abbas who Israel's President Shimon Peres recently characterized as "the best (Palestinian) leader we will work with," the same Abbas who former Shin Bet director Yuval Diskin this week called a "statesman."

Rabbis Reflecting on Peace and Tolerance

APN's intern, Benjamin Kasdan, browsed several sermons that U.S. rabbis gave on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur and put together this essay. Thank you, Ben, for the thoughtful piece.

Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are a time of reflection and self- criticism for Jews all over the world.  Across America, pulpit rabbis urge their synagogue members to take stock not only of their own behavior, but also of the conduct of community as a whole. 

This year, many rabbis addressed the organized Jewish community's difficulty tolerating dissenting voices within the community, especially criticism of objectionable Israeli government policies.

Following are short excerpts from three sermons of leading US rabbis who addressed the issue during the Days of Awe.

APN Condemns Planned New East Jerusalem Settlement

Washington, DC - Americans for Peace Now (APN) today joined the Israeli Peace Now movement in condemning Israeli plans to build a new settlement in the southern part of East Jerusalem - the first new Israeli settlement in East Jerusalem in decades. APN warned that the implementation of the project could torpedo not only future peace efforts between Israel and the Palestinians but the very possibility of the two-state solution.

"Price Tag" Terrorism Crosses the Green Line

Price_Tag_Collage186x140 copy.jpgThe extremist settlers call it "Price Tag." We have always called it by its proper name: Terrorism.

Now, Israel's Shin Bet, the IDF's top brass and Israeli Cabinet members agree with us. On Monday, shortly after a mosque was torched in an Israeli-Arab village in the Galilee and "Price Tag" graffiti was found nearby, Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch, a member of the extreme right wing Yisrael Beitenu Party, told an Israel Radio reporter that he prefers not to use the perpetrators self-serving jargon. "This is an act of terrorism," he said.
Washington, DC - Americans for Peace Now (APN) has filed an amicus brief calling on the Supreme Court to uphold the Executive Branch's sole prerogative to determine U.S. foreign policy related to the recognition of sovereignty in Jerusalem. The brief specifically addresses the way in which the U.S. Department of State records the birthplace of American citizens born in Jerusalem in documents issued by the U.S. government. 

Washington, DC - Americans for Peace Now (APN) urges the leaders of Israel and the Palestinians to focus on peacemaking rather than on point scoring, and urges world leaders to help broker Israeli-Palestinian peace. 

As hostilities flare up in the West Bank today, APN expresses deep concern over a possible escalation and calls on Israelis and Palestinians to avoid violence. APN calls on Palestinians to use nonviolent means to express their grievances, and urges Israel to exercise restraint.

Obama_UN_Speech.jpgWashington, DC - Americans for Peace Now (APN) reacted with disappointment to President Obama's speech today at the United Nations General Assembly. APN President and CEO Debra DeLee commented:

"Today President Obama offered the world strong American support for the right of people across the Middle East to freedom, democracy, self-determination, security and economic opportunity. His words reflect core American values and offer hope and encouragement to millions. Regrettably, the President's words offered very little in the way of hope to Israelis and Palestinians."

APN Criticizes Attempts to Politicize Peace for Israel

Washington, DC - Americans for Peace Now (APN) today sharply criticized a reprehensible full-page ad, published in the New York Times, lambasting President Obama's record on Israel. 

The ad, published by an organization headed by Weekly Standard editor William Kristol and Christian conservative Gary Bauer, a former presidential candidate, is headlined "Tell President Obama: Enough. It's time to stand with Israel." Among other things, the ad appallingly states that the President "has pressured Israel to apologize to terrorists." 

Quo Vadis Palestine?

Mansour186x140.jpgWhat kind of UN recognition are the Palestinians seeking? What are they expecting to achieve? Are they aware of the possible repercussion? To answer these questions, APN hosted a briefing call with Ambassador Riyad Mansour, the Permanent Observer of Palestine to the United Nations. Ambassador Mansour took questions from APN Board members and major supporters. To listen to a recording of the call, click here.

Palestinian_Flag_at_UN_186x140.jpgWashington, DC - In the context of the approaching start of the United Nations General Assembly session, APN President and CEO Debra DeLee today issued the following statement:
 
"It has long been known that come September, there could be a major crisis at the UN over the issue of Palestine.  Unfortunately, that knowledge hasn't yet translated into serious efforts to avert the impending crisis.  Instead, while settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem continue to expand, efforts over the past months have focused exclusively on pushing the Palestinians to return to a negotiating process that long ago lost all credibility. 
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Washington, DC - Americans for Peace Now (APN) is alarmed by the crisis in Israel's relations with Egypt and by the deep deterioration in Israel's relations with Turkey.
 
APN is calling on the Obama administration to persist and redouble its efforts to address these crises, and to take action to prevent further deterioration in Israel's regional and international relations  caused by the Palestinian diplomatic initiative in the United Nations.

Unlikely Partners

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Over the summer, my colleagues and I at APN followed with delight the partnership between Maria Ginzburg and Mustafa Alzayyan. 

The two are unlikely partners. Maria is an Israeli, a graduate of a Jewish high school in Azerbaijan, who immigrated to Israel as an adult and is now an International Relations student at Jerusalem's Hebrew University. Mustafa comes from a refugee camp in the Gaza Strip. He taught himself English online to pursue his passion for computers. Back at home, in Israel and Gaza, these young people had no chance of meeting each other, let alone working jointly for peace and reconciliation. 

APN Upgrades Map App

app image320x265.jpgWashington, D.C. - Americans for Peace Now (APN) today announced a new round of updates for its groundbreaking Facts on the Ground map app.

These updates include a Hebrew version of the map, a mobile web version optimized for browsers that run on mobile devices and an embeddable version, which allows anyone to embed the APN Facts on the Ground interactive map directly into their website or blog.

Peace Now activists tell Glenn Beck to go home!

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Peace Now activists challenged Glenn Beck's rally in Jerusalem's Old City yesterday, and shamed the Israeli officials who permitted him to hold such a provocative event at one of the world's most sensitive sites. 

Peace Now's demonstrators carried signs saying "Glenn, take your hate back," "We have enough fanatics here," "With such friends, who needs enemies?" and "Bibi, have you run out of friends?" 

Peace Now protests Glenn Beck's Jerusalem Rally

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When Glenn Beck and his followers come to Jerusalem's Old City on Wednesday for their provocative "Restore Courage" rally they will get an earful from Peace Now activists. They will demand that Beck and his supporters stay away from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and from one of the most sensitive sites on earth. Peace Now supporters will meet on Wednesday at the Dung Gate in the Old City to tell him that he is no friend of Israel and is doing it a disservice by fanning the religious flames of Israel's conflict with the Palestinians.

APN Strongly Condemns Terror Attacks in Southern Israel

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Washington, DC - Americans for Peace Now (APN) strongly condemns the coordinated series of terrorist attacks in southern Israel today. APN sends its condolences to the families of the attacks' victims, and wishes fast and full recovery to those who were injured. APN stands with the people of Israel. 

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Washington, DC - Americans for Peace Now today joined Peace Now in criticizing the Netanyahu government for its cynical effort to use the ongoing protests in Israel as cover for expanding settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. APN called on the Obama administration to strongly challenge this effort, recognizing it for what it is: further evidence that while Netanyahu talks about wanting peace and avoiding a confrontation at the UN next month, the actions of his government demonstrate the opposite.

APN mourns the passing of Hyman Bookbinder

America's organizational Jewish community, and Americans for Peace Now with it, is today mourning the passing of Hyman Bookbinder, a pillar of the community, an advocate for Israel, and a staunch supporter of Arab-Israeli peace.

Hyman Bookbinder was one of the longest serving Washington Representative of a Jewish organization - the American Jewish Committee - and in this capacity was considered the dean of Jewish organizational representatives on Capitol Hill.

Long after his retirement in 1986, Bookbinder served as an opinion leader and as a values-based voice of reason and conscience for the Jewish community in Washington. His wisdom, his kindness and his sense of global Arvut Hadadit (shared responsibility) will be missed.

Washington, DC - As the Knesset prepares for a vote on yet another anti-democratic bill, Americans for Peace Now (APN) is calling on fellow American Jewish organizations to help protect Israeli tolerance, democracy and civil rights. 
 
Later today Israel's Knesset is set to vote on a bill that would establish McCarthy-like "parliamentary inquiry panels" to investigate human rights and social justice groups. One of the measure's chief supporters, Israel's Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, earlier this week labeled such groups "terror organizations."  This vote comes after last week's vote, in which the Knesset passed a bill that in effect outlaws calling for the boycott of products made in West Bank settlements. Many more bills targeting Israeli civil society groups, including those fighting for peace, human rights and civil rights, are awaiting Knesset approval. 
 

Likud's Benny Begin: "It is Dark Here"

Every Tuesday, members of the Israeli Knesset get a chance to make mini-speeches, one minute addresses to the plenum, on a topic of their choice.

Today, on the eve of a Knesset vote on yet another anti-democratic bill, a bill that would establish McCarthy-like "parliamentary inquiry panels" to investigate human rights and social justice groups, Minister Binyamin Begin addressed an almost empty house. He used the short speech to warn his fellow Knesset members: "it is dark here."

Begin, a Likud hawk with a strong commitment to democratic and civil values, opened his instant-speech by recognizing the Chairman of the house, Reuven Rivlin, who last week courageously sided with the minority against the controversial Boycott Law (Begin actually supported it). "I wanted to thank you, Mr. Chairman, my good neighbor and good friend, for your longtime steadfastness, to safeguard the honor of the Knesset even against the caprices of its own members."

APN Joins Peace Now's Call for Boycotting Settlements

PeaceNowBoycott186x140.jpgWashington, DC - Today the Board of Directors of Americans for Peace Now met in a special session to discuss Israel's new anti-boycott law.  In the session the board unanimously adopted the following position:  APN's Board wholeheartedly endorses Peace Now's campaign to challenge the new law and joins in their call for a boycott of products made in settlements. 

APN Deeply Concerned by New Israeli "Boycott Law"

Boycott_Law_Demonstration.jpgAPN is deeply concerned by the escalation in attacks on Israel's democracy coming from the Israeli Knesset (the parliament). 
 
On July 11, the Knesset passed a measure making it illegal to in any way call for boycotting Israel or West Bank settlements. This legislation, a flagrant attack on freedom of speech in Israel, comes on the heels of a series of bills - some of them already enacted - which aim to stifle dissent and restrict the rights of civil society organizations, including groups working to promote peace, human rights, and civil rights within Israel. 

Freedom of speech

Right now the Knesset is debating a law that would make it illegal to call for a boycott of West Bank settlements, economically, culturally, or academically.  The proposed law is a severe blow to the very foundations of Israeli democracy.

Peace Now in Israel has been organizing to defeat this measure. Peace Now held a demonstration yesterday in Jerusalem outside Israel's Justice Ministry. On Friday, the movement mailed every member of Knesset a letter urging them to oppose the bill. And if the bill becomes law, Peace Now is considering an appeal to the Israeli Supreme Court to get it overturned.

"Boycott Bill" Background

Israel's Knesset is set to vote today on a bill that would outlaw calling for any boycott of Israeli settlements - whether economically, culturally or academically.

Israel's largest circulation daily, Yedioth Ahronoth, yesterday published the following backgrounder on the bill:

Q: What does the bill stipulate?
   The boycott bill stipulates that any individual or organization that sponsors a geographically-based boycott against Israel will be liable for damages that can be sued for in a civil court by the party injured by the call for the boycott.

APN regrets irresponsible congressional resolutions

Washington, DC - Americans for Peace Now (APN) regrets that a resolution passed yesterday by the U.S. House of Representatives, along with its companion resolution passed last week in the Senate, fails to take a balanced and comprehensive approach toward resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The two resolutions urge the administration to take punitive measures against the Palestinians for pursuing national reconciliation and international recognition.
 
"House Resolution 268 and Senate Resolution 184 do a disservice to the cause of Israeli-Palestinian peace, and do not serve the national security interests of either the United States or Israel," said APN's President and Executive Director Debra DeLee.
 
"These resolutions will only exacerbate the growing U.S. and Israeli isolation on these issues, and further undermine the chances of achieving peace and security for Israel. Israeli-Palestinian peace will not be achieved through congressional grandstanding. Heavy-handed resolutions from Congress cannot stop the Palestinians' quests for national unity, international recognition of their right to a state, and independence," DeLee added.  

"It is regrettable that Congress did not choose a more pragmatic and responsible path to support Middle East peace efforts," DeLee said.

APN is a leading American Jewish organization advocating for Middle East peace. 

New APN Publication Debunks "Indefensibility" Argument

Washington, DC - Americans for Peace Now (APN) today unveiled a new publication debunking the claim that Israel would not be able to defend a negotiated eastern border line based on the 1967 "Green Line."

Taking Israelis for a Ride

Peace Now recently discovered that the government of Israel heavily subsidizes public bus fares to, from and between West Bank settlements. Yesterday, Peace Now published a comparative table showing that bus fares from, to and between settlements cost half or less than bus rides of equivalent length inside Israel.
The American Task Force on Palestine (ATFP) and Americans for Peace Now (APN) are today starting their joint summer internship program.
 
ATFP is hosting an Israeli student, and APN is hosting a Palestinian student. This is the third time that ATFP and APN, a pro-Palestinian organization and a pro-Israeli organization, are cooperating on a joint internship program, making it a tradition intended to underscore that Americans who care about Middle East peace - be they Arab or Jewish - have more in common  than what sets them apart. 

Netanyahu's "insoluble" conflict

If you want to understand why the Obama administration is so angry with Binyamin Netanyahu and his government, read what Netanyahu told Etgar Keret,  one of Israel's leading young authors.

APN at NY Israel Day Parade

Dozens of our supporters marched yesterday at the annual Israel solidarity parade in New York. Click "play" for a short presentation.

Jerusalem: Facts and Figures

A new compendium of facts and figures about Jerusalem, published by Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) on the occasion of "Jerusalem Day," a national Israeli holiday intended to celebrate the so-called "reunification" of Jerusalem, shows how this holy city is becoming poorer, less developed and more religiously zealous than other Israeli communities.

First, population figures. The overall population - Jewish and Palestinian, in West and East Jerusalem - is 789,000 (2010 numbers), of them 285,000 are Arabs (36%) and 504,000 are Jews (and other non-Arabs (a negligible number of foreign workers and other foreigners), who account for 64% of the population.

James Carroll blasts Christian right, Netanyahu

JamesCarroll186x140.jpgAPN yesterday hosted award winning novelist James Carroll for a conversation about Jerusalem on the occasion of "Jerusalem Day," a national Israeli holiday marking the so-called "reunification of Jerusalem."

Carroll had strong words about the fundamentalist Christian right's support for of the most extremist Israeli ultra-nationalists, who reject any territorial compromise with the Palestinians.

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."


What Obama should tell Netanyahu

The following article was published today by the http://www.jewishjournal.com/%20opinion/article/what_obama_should_tell_israeli_netanyahu_when_they_meet_in_the_white_house_/ (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.
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.

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.

(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."
Washington, DC - Americans for Peace Now (APN) today announced a new campaign calling on President Obama to re-focus on achieving Israeli-Palestinian peace.

APN's campaign will include engagement with the administration and Congress, public mobilization, education and advocacy in Washington, and media outreach.

The campaign is anchored in a policy statement that APN's Board of Directors approved earlier today. The policy document proposes a specific action plan for the President, including calling on the President to personally take control of his Middle East peace policy, to enunciate the clear principles on which he expects a peace agreement to be made, and to directly engage Israelis and Palestinians, in person, during a trip to the region. The document is available here.

"President Obama's first phone calls from the Oval office more than two years ago were to Palestinian President Abbas and to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. Since then, however, his personal involvement in Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking has all but dissipated. And recently, the administration's efforts on this issue seem to have shifted from conflict resolution to conflict management. This is a mistake. There is no managing this conflict. The situation can quickly escalate, as recent developments show," said Debra DeLee, APN's president and CEO.

DeLee said: "There is broad support both in the Israeli and Palestinian publics, and in the international community for a two-state solution. There is also an international consensus on what a final settlement between Israelis and Palestinians should look like."

What is lacking is leadership and political will in the White House to bring Israeli and Palestinian leaders together and help them come to an agreement. We strongly believe that President Obama can do it and should do it. We are telling him: ''Now is the time. Please, don't wait."

Tel_Aviv_Conference_3-11.jpgOver 700 people attended a first-of-its-kind peace camp conference last Friday, which Israel's Peace Now movement hosted and organized.

APN Condemns Jerusalem Bus Bombing

APN Condemns Jerusalem Bus Bombing; Calls on President Obama to Act to Prevent Escalation and Re-launch Peace Talks

Washington, DC - Americans for Peace Now strongly condemns the bombing in Jerusalem today. APN extends its condolences to the family of the woman killed in the horrendous attack and wishes fast recovery to those injured.

This latest attack - the first major terrorist attack in Jerusalem in three years, coupled with the recent attack in the settlement of Itamar and the escalating security situation between Israel and the Gaza Strip - underscores the danger posed by the current stalemate on the Israeli-Palestinian track.  APN calls on the Obama administration to engage urgently to prevent further escalation and bloodshed.

APN's President and CEO Debra DeLee said:

"Today's terrorist attack in Jerusalem is reprehensible and outrageous. Coming on the heels of last week's terrible murders in the settlement of Itamar and the recent rocket attacks from Gaza, it demonstrates the urgent need for decisive action to end the stalemate and re-launch credible Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts.

"Recent history demonstrates how quickly Palestinian terrorism and Israeli retaliation can escalate into far more intense and deadly conflict, with dire implications not only for the safety and security of civilians on both sides - already the casualties include a family massacred by terrorists in the West Bank last week, four Palestinian civilians unintentionally killed by a stray Israeli mortar shell in Gaza this week, and now today's repugnant terrorist attack.

"Clearly, President Obama and his Mideast policy staff have a lot on their plates with the US engagement in Libya and the turmoil in Bahrain, Yemen, and other parts of the region. Unfortunately, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, left unattended, will make their lives increasingly complicated and their efforts elsewhere in the region much more difficult.  Such an escalation has dire implications, too, for the unsettled political situation in countries across the region.  At this important and delicate juncture in Middle East politics, it is vital to U.S. credibility and U.S. interests that such an escalation be prevented.  The Obama Administration must be able to multi-task if it is to avoid such an eventuality.

"We call on President Obama to urgently address the situation. He must deal with this personally, engaging with Prime Minister Netanyahu and with President Abbas, and rallying regional allies like Egypt and Turkey to convince Hamas to end rocket attacks on Israel.

We reiterate our call on the Obama Administration to take dramatic action and demonstrate leadership to re-start a credible, productive peace effort - one that will restore hope among both peoples and one that will pave the way for a peace agreement in the near future."

JewishJournal.com: "Not Every Day is Purim"

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"when it comes to Israel, there are those in our US Jewish community who not only choose to live in a delusional virtual reality, but insist on dragging others into their la-la land. It is bad for Israel and bad for America."

Read the entire opinion piece by Ori Nir, APN Spokesman:


Israel's Peace Now movement is publishing this ad on Monday, March 14th in the Jerusalem Post. Similar ads in Hebrew are published in the Hebrew language Israeli press.

APN Press Release: Condemnation of Murder in Itamar


Washington, D.C - Americans for Peace Now strongly denounces the murder of an Israeli couple and their three children at the settlement of Itamar in the West Bank on Saturday. APN extends its condolences to the families of those murdered in the attack.

"This attack is horrifying. We strongly condemn it. We hope that the Israeli and Palestinian security forces will act to find the perpetrators," Said Debra DeLee, APN's president and CEO. "The leaders of the Palestinian Authority acted appropriately by immediately and unequivocally condemning the attack, and Prime Minister Netanyahu appropriately warned Israeli settlers against acts of retribution," DeLee added.

APN urges the leaders of Israel and the Palestinian Authority to fight violent extremists on both sides, while redoubling their efforts to negotiate peace.

For more information contact Ori Nir at 202-408-9898 or onir@peacenow.org.

Washington, DC - Americans for Peace Now (APN) today expressed outrage at the Israeli Knesset's decision to hold a hearing on the activities of J Street, a fellow pro-Israel organization that works in the United States to advance peace for a secure and democratic Israel.

Washington, DC - Americans for Peace Now (APN) today warmly welcomed President Barack Obama's decision to nominate Daniel B. Shapiro to serve as the US Ambassador to Israel.
 
"Dan Shapiro is an excellent candidate for this important position. He knows Israel, knows the issues, feels strongly about the importance of a strong U.S.-Israel relationship and about the importance of peace for a secure and democratic Israel," said Debra DeLee, APN's president and CEO.

What's Behind Netanyahu's "Peace Plan"

BiBiWB 186x140.jpgIsraeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is reportedly seeking an invitation to speak to both houses of Congress in the coming weeks to unveil a new political plan. Netanyahu was initially planning to present the plan at AIPAC's annual conference on May 22, but he is now reportedly planning to come to Washington earlier.

Yaakov Amidror - in his Own Words

Israel's Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has reportedly decided to appoint an ultra-hawk, one of Israel's leading national-religious icons, as his new national security adviser.

If media reports are correct, Netanyahu's new pick for the important position is Major-General (res.) Yaakov Amidror, who in the past advocated for reoccupying the Gaza Strip and staying there "for many years." Earlier this month, Amidror wrote that "negotiations with the Palestinians and even an agreement with the Palestinians (...) will not benefit Israel in any way as it faces the threats that might emerge in the future."

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Washington, DC - Americans for Peace Now (APN) today expressed disappointment at the Obama administration's veto of a UN Security Council resolution supporting the peace process and the two-state solution and condemning Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
                     
February 18, 2011                       

CONTACT:  Ori Nir
(202) 408-9898
       
onir@peacenow.org

 

Settlements Resolution Veto: Missed Opportunity for U.S. Leadership

 

Washington, DC - Americans for Peace Now (APN) today expressed disappointment at the Obama administration's veto of a UN Security Council resolution supporting the peace process and the two-state solution and condemning Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
 
Reacting to the US veto, APN's President and CEO Debra DeLee said: "President Barack Obama missed a key opportunity today to demonstrate U.S. leadership on peace. America's failure to hold both sides accountable for their actions is a contributing factor to the state of the peace process today. When America doesn't lead, developments take on a momentum of their own.

 

"We are dismayed that America, Israel, the Palestinians, and all stakeholders in Mideast peace have reached this painful and utterly avoidable moment. We would not be here today if Israel's Netanyahu government had stopped settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, as the Obama Administration begged Israel to do. And we would not be here today if President Obama had matched his policy to his rhetoric during his first two years in office.

 

"What happened today is not just about an American veto of a resolution that is consistent with longstanding U.S. policy. The fact that the Palestinians went ahead and brought the resolution to a vote demonstrates the degree to which the Palestinians and the international community have lost faith in the peace process, and in U.S. leadership of that process.

 

"This should be a wake-up call to the administration. For the sake of Israel and for the sake of U.S. interests in the region and beyond, President Obama must take dramatic action to restore faith in the peace process and in America's leadership of that process. It is not too late for the Obama administration to show real leadership, to push both sides to negotiate peace in earnest, to show the parties that intransigence comes at a price, and to submit bridging proposals or even its own plan for a final settlement of the conflict.

 

Peace Now's American Intern

Last week in Tel Aviv, APN's Israel study tour group met with Peace Now's young activists. Among these impressive young organizers was Peace Now's American intern, Lauren Eisen, a student from Madison, Wisconsin. Lauren shared with me the story of her discovering Peace Now. Click to play the short video.




Israel Study Tour, a Report from the Ground (Part II)

IsraelTourActivists186x140.jpgAPN's Israel study tour group concluded its week-long visit to Israel Friday after an exciting meeting with Peace Now's young activists. The activists, ranging in age between 16 and 36, shared with us their experiences as patriotic Israeli Zionists who fight for peace as the only way to secure Israel's Jewish and democratic future.

Read Part I

Israel Study Tour, A Report from the Ground

Study_Tour_Collage_186x140.jpgOn our first two days in Israel and West Bank, APN's study tour group saw East Jerusalem and Hebron, the two holiest towns to Judaism and, not coincidentally, the two predominantly Palestinian urban areas in which Israelis choose to settle.

The situation in both places is awful and getting worse every day. Both Jerusalem and Hebron offer a glimpse into what the future holds for all Israelis and Palestinians if they fail to reach a two state peace solution, if they allow the status quo to fester.

Egypt through Israel's Eyes, Part II

Israel_Flag_w_APN.jpgAPN's Ori Nir writes from Jerusalem as he prepares for APN's Israel Study Tour:

A week after Egyptians started demonstrating against their president, Israelis seem to come to terms with the imminent end of Hosni Mubarak era, and to realize that Mubarak's demise may not be a calamity for Israel but may be a source of hope for future peace and for healthier Middle Eastern neighborhood.



Egypt through Israel's Eyes

Israel-Egypt Flag Pin2.jpgAPN's Ori Nir writes from Jerusalem, where he is preparing for the APN Israel Study Tour

When Israeli government officials follow their prime minister's instruction to refrain from public statements on a certain issue, you know that the situation is serious. This has been the case over the weekends with regards to the developments in Egypt. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu instructed his Cabinet ministers and other senior officials not to comment on the dramatic events unfolding across the border, at Israel's chief regional ally. And official Israel indeed is silent.


What Obama should have said in his State of the Union address

obama state of the union 320x265.jpg
Originally Published in the JTA January 23, 2011 as "What Obama should say in his State of the Union address" by Ori Nir

If he wants to jump-start Israeli-Palestinian peace, President Obama should make it a priority in his State of the Union address. This is what we think he should say:

"Since my very first hours in the Oval Office, I have stated that a negotiated solution that ends the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and delivers two viable states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and with security, is a national interest of our nation.

WINEP's New Study on Future Borders

The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, arguably America's most influential Middle East think tank, today published a new study examining future options for drawing borders between Israel and the future Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

APN Extends Condolences to President Peres

Sonia_Peres_186x140.jpgOn behalf of Americans for Peace Now, President & CEO Debra DeLee sent a letter of condolences to Israel's President Shimon Peres, who lost his wife of 65 years, Sonia.

"Sonia was a noble woman, who shunned publicity, but was very active as a volunteer in her community. Rather than directing a home for disabled children, she preferred to volunteer at the institution, to feed the children and wash the floors. Together with President Peres and the people of Israel we mourn the death of Sonia Peres," said APN's Debra DeLee.

APN to Obama: Don't Veto UN Resolution on Settlements

Obama_UN_Graphic_186x140.jpgWashington, DC -- Americans for Peace Now (APN) today issued the following statement regarding the pending resolution in the United Nations Security Council supporting the peace process and the two-state solution, and condemning Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank and East Jerusalem:



Obama360x265.png
Washington, DC - Americans for Peace Now (APN) today urged President Barack Obama "to take dramatic and decisive action to reinvigorate the Israeli-Palestinian peace process."  
 
In a letter to the White House, APN argued that such US action is "the appropriate response" to the Palestinians' strategy of building international recognition for an independent Palestinian state. The letter was signed by APN's Chairman of the Board Martin I. Bresler and the organization's President and CEO Debra DeLee. 

Shepherdshotel320x265.jpg
Washington, DC - Americans for Peace Now (APN) today condemned the settlers' move to demolish the Shepherds Hotel in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah.  The demolition makes way for the first settlement construction in this Palestinian neighborhood since 1967, and dovetails with intensive efforts by settlers to target this neighborhood through evictions of Palestinian residents and takeover of their homes. 
Americans for Peace Now (APN) today condemned the settlers' move to demolish the Shepherds Hotel in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah.  The demolition makes way for the first settlement construction in this Palestinian neighborhood since 1967, and dovetails with intensive efforts by settlers to target this neighborhood through evictions of Palestinian residents and takeover of their homes.  It also parallels growing confrontations in Silwan and harassment of Silwan's residents to accommodate a growing stream of settlers into this East Jerusalem Palestinian neighborhood. All these developments are part of a concerted settler campaign, abetted by the Israeli government and Jerusalem municipality, to expand and consolidate their hold on the neighborhood at the expense of its Palestinian residents.

 

We Will Not Be Silenced!

Not_Silenced_Black_186px_version2.jpgResponding to recent developments in Israel, including comments by Knesset Member Michael Ben-Ari, who was caught on tape inciting against Peace Now and other progressive Israeli organizations; responding to news that the Israel Airports Authority was blocking Peace Now's website at Ben Gurion Airport; and responding to the decision of the Knesset to launch an investigation into funding of "left-wing" groups in Israel, APN President and CEO Debra DeLee released the following statement:


We Will Not be Silenced

Responding to recent developments in Israel, including comments by Knesset Member Michael Ben-Ari, who was caught on tape inciting against Peace Now and other progressive Israeli organizations; responding to news that the Israel Airports Authority was blocking Peace Now's website at Ben Gurion Airport; and responding to the decision of the Knesset to launch an investigation into funding of "left-wing" groups in Israel, APN President and CEO Debra DeLee released the following statement:

Peace is the Answer to Israel's Isolation

http://njjewishnews.com/article/op-eds/the-wrong-man-to-end-israels-growing-isolation

NJJNlogo.jpg

The wrong man to end Israel's growing isolation

by Ori Nir

January 5, 2011

Last week, Israel's top diplomats gathered in Jerusalem. Many flew in from across the world. They traded in their suits for black t-shirts and their diplomatic niceties for loud whistles. The senior diplomats were protesting their low wages and poor working conditions. The black t-shirts said "I am a poor diplomat." Indeed, Israel's foreign-service professionals have a point. Their salaries have eroded by some 45 percent in recent years.

"It is Dark Here"

Peace_Now_Ban_Graphic_320x265 (2).jpgThe quote of the day goes to Israel's Knesset Member Benny Begin, a Likud hawk but a liberal democrat, who is a minister without portfolio in Binyamin Netanyahu's cabinet. In an interview with Israel Radio, Begin said: "It is dark here." He was referring to yesterday's Knesset vote (not a final vote, thankfully) to investigate the funding sources of human rights organizations. The Knesset bill, by the way, for the first time explicitly singles out "left wing" organizations.

Arab Hatred of Jews Makes Peace Impossible?

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Go HERE for all installments of APN's "They Say, We Say"

They say: The Arabs' conflict with Israel has nothing to do with territory. It is all about the Arabs' hatred toward Jews. In other words, what fuels this conflict is anti-Semitism. Plain and simple. Trying to make peace with anti-Semites is futile. It will never work.

Why I "Believe" in Israel and in Peace

Ori21.jpgEarlier this month, in reaction to a fundraising letter, we received a response from a potential donor. He attached an empty envelope. "I am a great believer in Peace Now and would love to support your organization," he wrote, but, he continued, he would do so only if we answer how an organization that believes in peace can also believe in an Israel that continues to expand settlements in the West Bank, continues with its blockade on the Gaza Strip and continues to evade negotiations with the Palestinians.

He is my reply to the gentleman, whose name I would rather not share without his permission:   



Dear Friend,  

Thank you for your December 3 letter.

In it, you refer to our slogan, "Believe in Israel, Believe in Peace," and ask: (I am paraphrasing) how is it possible to believe in Israel when its government pursues policies that are antithetical to peace?

APN Welcomes Clinton's Speech; Policy Will Be Judged on Actions

Hillary Clinton at Saban Inst 12-10 320x265.jpgAPN welcomed the Obama administration's commitment - as expressed December 10th by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton - to intensify its efforts to achieve Israeli-Palestinian peace. APN warned, however, that Secretary Clinton's words will be meaningless if not backed up by resolute actions that achieve results.

TAKE ACTION
- Tell the White House to match actions with their rhetoric.


APN Mourns Death of Scores of Israelis in Deadly Fire

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Washington, DC -- Americans for Peace Now (APN) mourns the death of dozens of Israelis in the deadliest fire in Israel's history. 

The fire, already characterized by Israel's media as the deadliest disaster in the country's history, is still raging near Haifa (12/5 update: Firefighters have gained control of the fire) . Israel's emergency services are reporting scores of fatalities and many injuries. 

Washington, DC -- Americans for Peace Now (APN) today announced the
release of an updated version of its interactive map application for
the iPhone and iPad devices.

The new version updates "Facts on the Ground: APN's Map
Project," the unique interactive mapping tool that APN released in
September. The app gives anyone, anywhere, a comprehensive real-time
view of what is happening on the ground in the West Bank.

APN Condemns Violence at JVP Event

Americans for Peace Now's President and CEO Debra DeLee today commented on the violent incident that occurred at an event organized by Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) on Sunday in the San Francisco Bay Area.

"People must be able to talk about Israel in an open, safe environment. It is extremely upsetting that Sunday's JVP event was disrupted by a violent incident that involved pepper spray," DeLee said.

Netanyahu and Clinton's Friendly Meeting

A joint statement issued by Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton yesterday said: "Prime Minister Netanyahu and Secretary Clinton had a good discussion today, with a friendly and productive exchange of views on both sides."
Here is how the Israeli Daily http://www.haaretz.co.il/hasite/spages/1198208.html (link has expired) Haaretz saw the meeting:
when bibi met hillary.jpg

Yariv Oppenheimer in Maariv: Rampant Racism in Safed

Rampant Racism in Safed

Ma'ariv, November 9, 2010

by Yariv Oppenheimer

An old man rescued the lost honor of Israel's democracy, of Judaism and of the entire country this week. Despite protests, Halachic decisions and threats to burn down his house, 89-year-old Eliyahu Tzvieli, a resident of Safed, decided to rent out his apartment to two Arab students  and thus to come out with his head held high against the racism and hatred of minorities that is permeating Israeli society.
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Washington, DC - Americans for Peace Now (APN) is deeply concerned about today's announcement that Israel is moving forward with plans to build 1,300 new apartments in East Jerusalem.

"No Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement can be reached unless the parties find a way to share Jerusalem. Unilateral Israeli action that expands settlements in this area makes reaching a deal more difficult," said Debra DeLee, APN's President and CEO


Washington, DC - Americans for Peace Now today urged the leaders of the new majority in the House of Representatives, John Boehner (R-OH) and Eric Cantor (R-VA) to support peace for Israel and to "not allow support for Israel to be politicized." 


Moderates in Miami

When it comes to radical discourse on Middle East policy, American university campuses are a fertile breeding ground. Zealots from both sides typically dominate the discourse.

But it is not unusual for moderate pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian students to coalesce in constructive dialogue or to co-sponsor events on campus. In fact, as much as you find vociferous divisive, conflict-ridden discourse on American university campuses, you find constructive dialogue between young people who are trying to make sense and to infuse some sense into the discussion of Israeli-Palestinian relations.

Earlier this week, I spoke at the University of Miami, Coral Gables, together with Ghaith al-Omari of the American Task Force on Palestine. Ghaith and I often talk to students to underscore the notion that relations between Israelis and Palestinians should not be - and are not - a zero-sum game, and that a two-state peace deal between Israel and a future Palestinian state is a win-win for all.
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We found a lovely group of Jewish and Arab students, who for several years have been meeting regularly, exploring each other's national, cultural and religious narratives, and finding common ground.

We are proud to be playing a role in the creation of a new, moderate, peace-seeking discourse on the Middle East on American campuses. 


Both Israelis and Palestinians want peace; both deserve it

The absurd argument that "the Palestinians" don't want peace and don't even need it is gradually infiltrating into the collective narrative of the Israeli status-quo camp and its supporters in the United States. Last week, columnist Stephen Kramer, who publishes a weekly Israel column in the New Jersey Jewish Times, contended that "the Palestinians don't want or need peace."

This week, APN publishes a rebuttal to Kramer's rant. Here it is:

We need more NPR, not less

radio.jpgThe crisis in the media industry has been most acutely felt in the decline of international coverage. Major newspapers and TV networks have closed foreign bureaus, major news media are relying solely on wire reports for international coverage, and airtime devoted to global affairs has declined significantly. Nine years after the 9/11 attacks, with two wars that the US is fighting overseas, America's news organizations have diminished rather than enhanced their international reporting infrastructure.
Watch David Grossman on the Charlie Rose Show

One of the clearest Israeli voices in support of peace is also one of the most tragic - and optimistic. David Grossman, a literary giant, voices and personally embodies both the tragedy and the hope. He does it brilliantly in his new novel, To the End of the Land, which he is now promoting on a US tour. If you haven't had a chance to see Grossman at your JCC or synagogue - and even if you have - you should watch his interview with Charlie Rose on PBS, here. A longtime activist with Israel's Peace Now movement, Grossman talks not just about his book and about the power of literature, but also about the Israeli psyche and the importance of peace for Israel future. I found this interview deeply moving. What do you think? 

Wanted: Conspiracy Theories

While Israelis and their friends abroad are preparing commemorative events to mark the fifteenth anniversary of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin's 1995 assassination, the settlers' chief news site, Arutz Sheva (Channel 7) has come up with its own way of commemorating Rabin. The right wing site is launching a bizarre contest of conspiracy theories regarding the assassination. Readers are urged to send in their wildest theories about who is responsible for Rabin's murder. Arutz Sheva promises to publish the "most interesting" theories.

APN Backs Israeli Artists who Refuse to Perform in Settlements

APN today released the following statement:

APN Backs Israeli Artists who Refuse to Perform in Settlements

Washington, DC - Americans for Peace Now (APN) joins its Israeli sister organization Peace Now (Shalom Achshav) in backing the decision taken collectively by dozens of Israeli performers, authors, artists and scholars not to take part in performances at the new cultural center in Ariel, a settlement located in the heart of the West Bank, or in other West Bank settlements. APN also commends American performers and artists who have expressed support for their Israeli colleagues.


A measured welcome to new peace talks

You might ask why America's leading Jewish peace organization isn't triumphantly celebrating the resumption of direct peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

Americans for Peace Now's response is more measured.  

Not that we don't savor the moment. Of course we do. Even after all the failures and disappointments of the past, it's exciting to see the leaders of Israel and the Palestinians sitting down to negotiate peace, face to face, and to do so under the auspices of a US President who clearly remains committed to achieving peace.

At this time, we are less interested in celebrating the opening of talks itself, and more interested in making sure this week's Washington gathering is not merely another ceremony, but the beginning of a process that will yield real results.

AUDIO - Muasher says 'Go Regional'

Click here to listen
Marwan Muasher 186x140.jpgWhile most experts and pundits advise an incremental approach to an separate Israeli-Palestinian peace, Marwan Muasher, Jordan's former foreign minister and ambassador to Washington and Israel supports a much more ambitious regional approach, which harnesses the Arab League's Peace Initiative to the Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts. 

APN on Direct Talks: Kudos; Now Negotiate in Earnest

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Press Release
For Immediate Release
August 20 , 2010

Washington, DC - While welcoming the announcement of direct peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, Americans for Peace Now calls on the parties to negotiate in earnest. APN also urges President Obama to be prepared to press both parties to engage in the talks to see them succeed.

APN President and CEO Debra DeLee commented:

Ori Nir - WJW Graphic 186x140.jpgIsraeli soldiers last week again had to chase lawless settlers on the hills of the West Bank.

This time, it was settlers from Yitzhar and Bracha, near Nablus, who vandalized Palestinian property, blocked roads, torched fields, sabotaged Israel Defense Forces vehicles, punched, kicked Israeli police officers, cursed and harassed them and resisted arrest...

Lebanese and UN Forces at Israel Border w Caption 320px.jpgWashington, DC - Americans for Peace Now (APN) today called on the Obama Administration to act quickly and resolutely to prevent an escalation of tensions and military action on the Israel-Lebanon border and between Israel and Gaza.
 

Daniel Schorr 1916 - 2010

Like so many Americans, we at APN are mourning the death of veteran journalist Daniel Schorr, while saluting his admirable career as a principled professional who has always striven to be not only fair and accurate but also conscientious and value-driven in his reporting and commentary.

For us, Dan's death means not only a loss of a journalism giant, an icon of America's public square, but also of a friend. Schorr was deeply interested in APN's activity and views. He attended many of our events in recent years, and was a personal friend of some members of APN's Board of Directors.

We will miss you, Dan. America will sorely miss the wisdom and depth of your world affairs commentary on All Things Considered and Weekend Edition. Thank you for helping us understand America and the world a little better. Thank you for being a friend of APN and a staunch supporter of Middle East peace.

Link to Los Angeles Times obituary
Link to Washington Post obituary
 

Young Israelis and Palestinians Commit to Peace

Noam Rabinovich 320x265.jpgI just came back from an inspiring event on Capitol Hill, in which young Israeli and Palestinian peace activists told their stories and urged Americans to get involved to make Middle East peace a reality.

(pictured is Israeli student and peace activist Noam Rabinovich speaking at Capitol Hill event)

A Salute to David Twersky

David Twersky, a beacon of American Jewish journalism, a passionate activist for peace for Israel, a brilliant analyst of international affairs, an independent thinker, and a man of exemplary honor and integrity, died this weekend after a long struggle with cancer. He will be sorely missed.

I strongly recommend reading the tribute to David that JJ Goldberg published today in the Forward.

Yehi Zichro Baruch.


Stones to Strings: a Story of Hope

If you remember the first intifada, you probably remember this photo of a young Palestinian boy throwing rocks.
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It was taken in 1988 somewhere around Ramallah and became an icon. Posters of the little rock thrower were sold in the West Bank. The Palestinian Writers' Association put the photo on the cover of a poetry anthology that it published later that year, titled "Creations of the Stone."

Children like the one in the photo immediately became the heroes of the Arab world in the late 1980s. The famous Arab poet Nizar Qabbani wrote an emotional ode to the "Children of the Stone," who, as he put it, did more to advanced the Arab cause and bring pride to the Arab world than all the Arab leaders and armies had done since 1948.

But while the Arab poets and pundits gushed in exultation, Palestinian parents in the West Bank were beside themselves. Their stone-throwing children were risking their lives on the streets and alleyways of the West Bank. Palestinian children were growing up in a culture of violent struggle and brutality. And they were not going to school. In 1988, almost all West Bank schools were closed for about eight out of the nine months of the school year. Most of the 1988-1989 school year was also lost. Even when schools were open, students were often pressured to abandon their desks and go out to clash with soldiers.

APN on New York Times Blog: It's about Policy

The New York Times' Room for Debate blog is publishing an APN commentary on the Times' thorough investigative piece regarding private tax deductible US dollars that fund West Bank settlements and settlers. The thoroughness and importance of the Times' investigation notwithstanding, our point was that what matters at the end of the day regarding settlements is not private funding but public policy.

16,000 Sign Petition to Obama: Extend Settlement Freeze

APN_white_package 186x140.jpgWashington, DC -- Americans for Peace Now today delivered a petition signed by 15,962 people to President Barack Obama, urging him to press for an extension of the moratorium on construction in West Bank settlements.

(Read coverage in Ha'aretz:
Why do I get the feeling that B'nai B'rith was disappointed with the results of the public opinion poll that it commissioned to survey Israeli attitudes toward Diaspora Jewry?

Maybe because I didn't only read B'nai B'rith's press release but went on to examine the presentation that Israel's Keevoon Research put together.
APN President and CEO Debra DeLee commented: "Today's Security Council passage of a new round of sanctions against Iran sends a strong signal of international determination..., but what happens next is more important."


"Price Tag" Crosses the Green Line

Last night, extremists further escalated the settlers' campaign to terrorize Palestinians and deter Israel's law enforcement authorities from protecting the rule of law in the West Bank. After desecrating and vandalizing mosques in the West Bank, these hooligans are now attacking loyal Israeli Muslim citizens.

Israelis and American Jews want the United States to push hard for peace.

APN Statement on Israeli Raid on Gaza Aid Flotilla

APN Deeply Dismayed by Israeli Raid on Gaza Flotilla

Washington, DC -  Americans for Peace Now (APN) is deeply dismayed at the tragic results of Israel's interception of the international Gaza aid flotilla today and calls on Israel to thoroughly investigate the operation and to reassess its policy toward the Gaza Strip.

Arye Eliav, Peace Visionary, 1921-2010

Arye Eliav 186x140.jpgArye ("Lova") Eliav, an icon of the Israeli peace movement, died yesterday in Tel Aviv at 88. He was one of Israel's most admired leaders, a visionary, a man of principles, who combined his passion for peace with a passion for volunteerism and education.

Oren's Significant Step

Allow me to say a couple of good words about Israel's ambassador to Washington, Michael Oren.

Yes, a couple. No need to get carried away here, but he does deserve modest recognition for a small step in the right direction.
Ma'ariv: "What Do They Want from the Palestinians?"

By Yariv Oppenheimer, Peace Now Secretary General

Those Palestinians, what ingrates. Instead of being happy that the Israeli economy has learned to exploit the lands of Judea and Samaria and to invest inordinate sums of money to build factories and industrial zones in the territories, the Palestinian Authority announces a boycott and a ban on purchasing Israeli goods that are manufactured in the settlements. We could have expected better from the Palestinians. Since we stole their land, established industrial zones in the territories and exploited the cheap labor that they were able to supply in abundance, the least they could do in return is to buy the products that are manufactured in the territories and help the Israeli economy continue to develop on the lands of the territories.

Reaffirming APN's Mission

Peter Beinart's important article in the New York Review of Books was to me a reaffirmation that Americans for Peace Now is on the right track, that it represents hope for a better Israel, for a just, secure, and democratic Israel. It was a reaffirmation that APN should stick to its mission and provides a venue for progressive Americans who want to see the values that they hold dearly implemented in a moral, peace seeking Jewish state.
 
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"Please stand for Israel. Stand for American interests. End your involvement with this event."

This was the core message of the May 17th letter APN sent to Michael Steele, Chairman of the Republican National Committee, upon announcement of his speaking at the pro-settlement "Israel Day" Concert sponsored by Ateret Cohenim and the Hebron Fund, among others.

Washington, DC - Americans for Peace Now (APN) and the American Task Force on Palestine (ATFP) are today announcing a new joint summer internship program.
 
APN will host a Palestinian student and ATFP will host an Israeli student. The two interns are part of a group of students - Israelis and Palestinians - who are participating this summer in the first-ever Middle East program of New Story Leadership, a locally-based organization that offers young adults from both sides of the conflict a transformative leadership experience in Washington. 

Kadima's Bibi: Stop Jerusalem Sloganeering

Last Wednesday, I spoke at a synagogue in Pittsburgh. It was Yom Yerushalayim, Jerusalem Day, a national Israeli holiday in which Israeli Jews mark the unification of Jerusalem in 1967. I spoke about Jerusalem and tried to demonstrate how Israeli government policies to settle Jews in East Jerusalem - including in the heart of exclusively Palestinian neighborhood in East Jerusalem - are jeopardizing the two state solution, and therefore threatening Israel's future as a democratic and Jewish state.

About halfway through my address, a woman got up, outraged, and protested the disrespect to Jerusalem, on Yom Yerushalayim. If you are willing to give away Jerusalem, you are not Jewish she said. She was very shaken. She said some terrible things as she walked out.
Washington, DC - Americans for Peace Now (APN) today sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton congratulating her on the re-launching of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks and urging the Obama administration to stay "patient, tough and resolute" as it brokers the talks between the parties. The administration, APN wrote to Secretary Clinton, must be "ready to bring real pressure to bear on the parties if they fail to act in good faith."

Danny Seidemann Audio

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Jerusalem expert Danny Seidemann, on a visit to Washington, says it is not difficult to take measures to minimize eruptions of violence in East Jerusalem, which might jeopardize the newly resumed Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

Listen here

Another West Bank Mosque Burned

A day after another West Bank mosque went up in flames again, Israeli Television (Channel One) today reported that law enforcement authorities have zeroed in on the settlers who torched another mosque, in the West Bank village of Yasouf, in December 2009.

According to the report, the Shin-Bet and the Police know who the terrorists are, but they have not been arrested yet because of intelligence considerations - whatever that means.


Will Israeli-Palestinian negotiations soon restart?

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Reports from Israel, the Arab media and from Washington suggest that Israeli-Palestinian negotiations may in fact soon resume.

Sure, these will not be direct negotiations - not yet - but after more than a year of a diplomatic standstill, indirect talks are better than no talks.

Israeli Peace Activists' Open Letter to Wiesel

On the day Elie Wiesel published ads in major American newspapers, arguing that Jerusalem should not be negotiated until Israelis and Palestinian find a way to coexist in peace and security, APN sent Mr. Wiesel a response letter, pointing out some factual errors he made and suggesting that he take a tour of East Jerusalem with one of Peace Now's experts.

Wiesel, in an interview with Haaretz, said in response: " I'll certainly go and check it, I want to know the truth."

Now, a group of 100 Israeli peace activists and intellectuals sent a letter to Wiesel urging him to turn his attention from celestial Jerusalem to terrestrial Jerusalem, a city that is "crumbling under the weight of its own idealization."

Following is the full text of the letter. Some of the signatories are longtime Peace Now leaders and activist: 


 
Special to the Washington Jewish Week

On Monday, live on the Internet, the ceremony that ushers in Israel's Independence Day at Jerusalem's Mount Herzl took me back 24 years.

A rookie reporter for the Israeli daily Ha'aretz, I was covering the commemoration ceremony of Zafer al-Masri, the moderate mayor of Nablus, who on March 3, 1986 ‹ my very first day on the job as Ha'aretz's West Bank correspondent ‹ was assassinated by Palestinian radicals.

General Jones: the Status Quo is not Sustainable

National Security Adviser Jim Jones spoke tonight at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, mainly addressing the issues of Iran and Arab Israeli peace.

General Jones powerfully argued that the Israeli-Palestinian status quo is not sustainable. Here is the quote: "the status quo is not sustainable. It is not sustainable for Israel's identity as a secure, Jewish, and democratic state, because the demographic clock keeps ticking and will not be reversed.  The status quo is not sustainable for Palestinians who have legitimate aspirations for sovereignty and statehood.  And the status quo is not sustainable for the region because there is a struggle between those who reject Israel's existence and those who are prepared to coexist with Israel -- and the status quo strengthens the rejectionists and weakens those who would live in peace."

The speech is worth reading. It eloquently frames the administration's efforts to pursue Arab-Israeli peace and to confront the Iranian challenge as a part of a global strategy. Here it is, minus the introductions and niceties:

Herzl's Dream; Their Dream; Our Dream

As I write these lines, I am listening, live on the internet, to the ceremony that ushers in Israel's Independence Day, at Jerusalem's Mount Herzl. This ceremony always moves me.

I write these lines and my thoughts take me back twenty four years, to the spring of 1986.

APN Responds to Wiesel Ad on Jerusalem

You probably saw Elie Wiesel's ad in the Washington Post today. A similar ad ran in the Wall Street Journal.

In response to the ad, we today mailed Elie Wiesel the following letter.

We attached to the letter a map of East Jerusalem and the West Bank, which shows the entanglement of Palestinian population centers and Israeli settlements there.

Here is the text of the letter:

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke last night at the Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace, stating that the United States is pursuing "two tracks in the Middle East - negotiations between the parties aimed at reaching a two-state solution and also institution building that lays the necessary foundations for a future state."

Secretary Clinton pointed out that the Palestinian Authority is making real progress on the second track, laying the foundations for the future state in the West Bank and Gaza.

She called on Israel and the Arab governments to help create the appropriate atmosphere for the second track - peace negotiations - to start in earnest.

Clinton's speech is worth reading. Make sure you note her acknowledgment of "NGO's and civil society groups, including some who are represented here, to articulate a more complete vision of the benefits of peace."

Here is the complete text:
Washington, DC - APN today expressed serious concerns about a new Israeli military order coming into effect in the West Bank this week. Whatever the actual intent behind the order, its impact is to facilitate the arrest and deportation of an unknown number of Palestinian residents of the West Bank, as well of virtually all internationals living and working in the West Bank. 

APN Mourns the Death of Saul Stern

Americans for Peace Now mourns the death of Saul I. Stern, a Jewish activist, political activist, World War II veteran, and an enthusiastic supporter of security through peace for Israel. Saul died March 30th at Georgetown University Hospital.

Will Obama Present a US Plan to Resolve the Conflict?

The Washington Post's David Ignatius is today publishing some real news on the WaPo's op-ed page. According to the well-plugged columnist, the Obama administration is seriously weighing presenting Israel and the Palestinians with a US-made peace plan, a move that would be a reversal of Obama's Mideast peace-brokering efforts throughout his first 15 months in office.

Because it is Ignatius and because he is attributing the news to two "top" administration officials - unlike occasional speculations on this issue in past media reports - this report seems serious.

Here is Ignatius' story:


As I write this blog post, Israel's inner cabinet, the so-called "Forum of Seven," is convened in Jerusalem to hammer out a reply to the Obama administration's requests for sincere measures that would advance peace talks with the Palestinians.

How serious are the discussions? Take a look at the interview that Israel's Vice Premier Moshe (Bogi) Yaalon gave to today's Yedioth Ahronoth. All we are doing is "maneuvering" because of pressure from Peace Now and the US government, Bogi says to Yedioth.


Sad Day for US-Israel Relations

It is a sad day for US-Israel relations.

It's a sad day when an Israeli prime minister chooses to impassion a large Washington crowd by defiantly championing and re-committing to a policy that the US administration rejects.

It's a sad day when Israel's prime minister comes to Washington to give a much-anticipated speech that is almost all demagoguery, dogma and defiance rather than vision, courage and leadership.

Is AIPAC Telling the Full Story?

The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg gets it right in his criticism of AIPAC's http://www.aipac.org/about_AIPAC/Learn_About_AIPAC/2841_32748.asp (link has expired) stacking the panels of its Policy Conference with conservatives and hawks. By not exposing its activists to a broad spectrum of views on Israel, AIPAC does a disservice not only to the 7,000-odd participants but to Israel.

One of the beauties of Israel's political culture - still, despite the efforts of Israel's ultra-nationalists to squash dissent - is the diversity of views and the relative tolerance of conflicting political views. It is a democratically-harmonious, often chaotic, cacophony of opposing views, negotiated in the public arena. Goldberg correctly points out that there seems to be little of that echoing at Washington's Convention Center this week.

The title of this year's AIPAC conference is "Israel: Tell the Story." Does the makeup of the conference's panels really reflect the Israeli narrative? Does it fairly represent the makeup of the pro-Israel community in the United States? How accurate, fair and honest is the story that AIPAC is telling its activists and Israel's supporters on Capitol Hill?

Ignatius: Time to State Negotiations Principles

The current crisis in US-Israel relations regarding construction in East Jerusalem is an opportunity for the Obama administration to assert its vision for a final-status resolution to the question of Jerusalem, and perhaps for all the "core issues" that Israelis and Palestinians need to resolve.

Many foreign policy experts say that this is the time for Obama to do just that. The Washington Post's David Ignatius, on of America's chief experts on Washington's Middle East policy, advocates such a course of action. His article in Sunday's Post follows. What do you think?

APN Leadership Meets with Fayyad, Livni

Livni - Fayyad - Bresler - DeLee b 3-10 320x265.jpgA leadership delegation of Americans for Peace Now, on a fact-finding trip to Israel and the West Bank, met today in Ramallah with Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, and in Jerusalem with Israel's Opposition Chair MK Tzipi Livni.

(Pictures on left: Livni with APN's Debra DeLee & Martin Bresler; right: Fayyad with Bresler)


Biden: US will Hold Israel and Palestinians Accountable

Israel's Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas of the Palestinian Authority are well advised to take note of Vice President Joe Biden's comments in Ramallah today.

From now on, Biden said, "As we move forward, the United States will hold both sides accountable for any statements or actions that inflame tensions or prejudice the outcome of talks, as this decision did." The decision he was referring to was Israel's decision to build 1,600 new housing units in East Jerusalem. The Obama administration's reaction was swift and harsh. If it reflects the way in which the administration will hold the parties accountable to their actions from now on, it signifies a change in Washington's role as a broker.

following is the full text of Biden's comments at the photo-op, following his meeting with President Abbas:

APN Welcomes Indirect Israeli-Palestinian Talks

APN New Logo 186x140.jpgWashington, DC -- APN welcomes today's announcement that Special Envoy George Mitchell will be brokering indirect talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. APN welcomes the involvement of Arab governments in the process that lead to today's announcement.

APN Leadership Meets with Ayalon

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A leadership delegation of Americans for Peace Now, on a fact-finding trip to Israel, met today in Jerusalem with Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon.
 
APN urged Ambassador Ayalon to:
- Fully implement the settlement freeze.
- Realize the urgency of making progress toward peace and act accordingly.

A Tender Ray of Hope

The graduation ceremony of the class of 2002 at Jerusalem's Anglican International School was a heartbreaking experience.

Most of the graduates, sons and daughters of Jerusalem's diplomatic and foreign community, were on their way to Europe or the US, leaving behind Israeli and Palestinian friends engulfed in raging violence, which at the time seemed endless. The school is located on Hanevi'im Street. It connects East Jerusalem with the center of West Jerusalem. During the Second Intifada, the street was known as "suicide alley." Several Palestinian suicide bombers walked up the street to downtown West Jerusalem to blow themselves up. In one case, a suicide bomber detonated the explosives he strapped to his body just outside the neighboring French School. Body parts flew over the fence into the schoolyard.

New Campaign Against Violence and Intolerance in Israel

Washington, DC - Americans for Peace Now today launched a new campaign, urging Americans who care about Israel's future to raise their voice against political violence and intolerance in Israel.

The campaign, Stop the Violence, Stop the Hate, features a new interactive web page that combines education with activism.

It's the Policy, Stupid!

Last week, I wrote a blog post about the absurdity of drafting Israeli tourists to become "hasbara (propaganda) ambassadors" for Israel.

Yesterday, Israel's Hasbara Ministry launched a new web site, in Hebrew, to supply the Israeli traveler with ammunition against defamers of Israel abroad.

As an Israeli, I find this site offensive.

Policy and Propaganda

Israel's Ministry of Information (yes, there is such a thing - for the first time it is a full-fledged cabinet portfolio) recently commissioned a public opinion survey among Israeli Jews (yes, Jews only). Ninety-one percent, according to the poll, said that Israel has a "severe" or "very severe" image problem overseas. Eighty percent said that Israel is perceived as an "aggressive country" and 30 percent said that Israel is perceived as an "unfriendly country."
 
APN, together with six other US-based Middle East peace organizations, today sent a letter to President Obama, urging him to ask Israel to lift its Gaza closure in order to remove a "serious obstacle to restoring hope and making peace" in the region.

Following is a the full text of the letter:

APN and Peace Now Condemn Attacks on NIF

APN New Logo 186x140.jpgWashington, DC - Israel's Peace Now movement and Americans for Peace Now strongly condemn the vicious attacks on the New Israel Fund, on its Chair, Naomi Chazan, and on the NIF's grantee organizations who are quoted in the United Nations' fact-finding mission's report on last year's Gaza war. 

Peace Now and APN Condemn Attacks on NIF

Peace Now and APN very seldom issue joint statements. We took this unusual step today to react to the shocking attacks on the New Israel Fund. These attacks include newspaper and internet ads that resemble images from the darkest times in Jewish history.

The attack on NIF concerns all progressive Israelis and their supporters in the United States.

Here is the text of the press release.

Washington, DC -- Americans for Peace Now today expressed disappointment over the Senate passage of S. 2799, which includes the Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act. APN urges House-Senate conferees to amend it to make it consistent with the national interests of the United States, with President Obama's foreign policy, and with a rational approach to Iran.

Haaretz Editorial: Call It by Its Name: Terrorism!

Israel's Haaretz Daily on Wednesday documented a violent attack by West Bank settlers on defenseless Palestinians.

Today, the newspaper devoted its editorial to the ongoing and escalating violent campaign that settlers call "Price Tag." Haaretz urges us all to call it for what it is: Terrorism.

Here is the full text:

Los Angeles, CA -- Americans for Peace Now announced today the election of Martin I. Bresler as the new Chair of its Board of Directors. 

Born in Brooklyn and a life-long New Yorker, Mr. Bresler practiced law for almost forty years, most spent as a partner of Stroock & Stroock & Lavan. He holds a business degree from City College of New York (Baruch School), and a law degree from Harvard Law School. Mr. Bresler served in the United States Army before he started his career in law. In recent years, Mr. Bresler has been APN's representative to the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, of which APN is a member.

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Berman to APN: Israel in Danger of Ceasing to be a Jewish Democracy; Praises APN's Commitment to Peace

Los Angeles, CA - House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman, Rep. Howard Berman today told a group of Americans for Peace Now activists and supporters in Los Angeles that if Israel maintains its rule over the West Bank and Gaza, it will either cease to be a democracy, or will cease to be Jewish.

Israeli Media: Obama's Frustration is Israel's Loss

According to the Israeli press, there was gloating in Israel's right-wing government yesterday, when Time Magazine published President Barack Obama's words of frustration with his administration's inability to elicit bold action toward peace from the leaders of Israel and the Palestinians.

"If you promise not to reveal the name of senior Israeli officials, you can hear more than a bit of gloating at the expense of Obama and his advisers," wrote Yedioth Ahronoth's veteran diplomatic correspondent Shimon Shiffer. A senior Israeli official told Shiffer: "It took [Obama] a year to 'discover America," and "did [Obama] really believe that bowing to the Saudi king would help him harness the moderate Arab world to the negotiation wagon?"
 

The IDF in Haiti: Pride in Proportion

I wanted to take a minute to salute Israel and its military for the impressive work that the IDF is doing to help the earthquake survivors in Haiti.

Mitchell's determination deserves support

On Mondays, we at APN look for a quote -- Quote of the Week -- to feature in the Weekly Update that we send to our supporters.

This week, I looked through the extensive interview that President Obama's Special Envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell gave to PBS's Charlie Rose for good quotes.

Settler Violence Surging; APN Documenting and Cautioning


Hebron-Settlers.gifA frightened kidnapped Israeli soldier is sending a taped video message to the Israeli public. He tells who he is, assures his loved ones that his captors are treating him well. They are feeding me, he says, and adds "kosher food," as the barrel of a gun nudges his shoulder. As the camera zooms out, the viewers realize that the captors are not Hamas terrorists but rather two armed settlers. 

Nahum Barnea's weekly column in today's Yedioth Ahronoth offers some fascinating nuggets - insights into Prime Minister Netanyahu's modus operandi.
For example, the stunning fact that Bibi speaks English "to his confidants in the bureau, the people whom he truly trusts." I found it ironic. This week, Israel's Education Minister, Gideon Saar - a Netanyahu confidant - announced unveled an ambitious campaign to improve the poor Hebrew of Israel's next generation.
Of course, the influence of rich American Jews in Netanyahu's neighborhood is eye-opening.
Long, but worth reading.

Influences, Money and Appointments

by Nahum Barnea

Yedioth Ahronoth Jnuary 8, 2010

    "Are you on a landline or a cell phone?" Netanyahu demanded to know.  Netanyahu fears wiretapping of his calls.  Most prime ministers have feared wiretapping, mainly by our own forces, but he is more afraid.  Therefore, he prefers to be connected to a landline.

  

Washington Jewish Week: "No Solutionists" by APN's Ori Nir

Increasingly, you hear them at public events and symposia. You read their analyses in the press and on blogs. They are the "no-solutionists."

Ultra-skeptical, hypercynical, often giddy about their political nihilism, they typically argue something along these lines: "As a realist, I realize that there are problems in this world that simply can't be resolved. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one of them."

When I returned to Israel in the summer of 2000, following a four-year stay in the West Coast, I had two job offers. Ha'aretz offered me the Israeli-Arab beat, covering Jewish-Arab relations in Israel. And Yediot Ahronot offered me a unique beat, which would be created especially for me: the positive beat. All the time we only report bad stuff, the editor explained to me. We need good news and we need someone to proactively pursue good news, to make it his beat, the editor said.


Haaretz Editorial: Time to Talk

Important piece in today's Haaretz:

Time to talk

The peace process between Israel and the Palestinians has become an empty phrase since Israel's elections, interchangeable with the word "daydreaming." On the Israeli side, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has insisted on conditions that will prevent a renewal of the process such as Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, or not freezing construction in East Jerusalem. On the Palestinian side, President Mahmoud Abbas has insisted on freezing all Israeli construction over the Green Line, even after Washington gave Israel "discounts."


Scary stuff

yariv target.JPGI just learned that Peace Now Secretary General Yariv Oppenheimer was on Israeli terrorist Yaakov Teitel's hit list.

According to minutes from Teitel's police interrogations, which were made public today on Israeli news sites Ynet and NRG, Teitel said that he had planned to follow Yariv and possibly attack him.

Haaretz editorial: No such thing as deluxe occupation

There is no deluxe occupation

The High Court of Justice's decision, in a panel headed by Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch, to end the ban on Palestinians using Route 443 is one of the most correct and just decisions the court has made in recent years.

Deterrence does not secure peace II

Yesterday, I posted some thoughts about the impact of Israel's deterrence vis-a-vis Hamas and Hezbollah. Today, in Haaretz, Israeli political scientist Gabi Sheffer examines the issue of Israeli deterrence, and reaches the same conclusion.

Here is Sheffer's article:

Deterrence does not secure peace

Israel's secret service, the Shin Bet, today published its end of year report, showing that 2009 was one of the quietest years in Israel's security history.


For the first time in over a decade, there were no suicide bombings. Only 15 Israelis were killed by Palestinians, most of them soldiers who took part in Operation Cast Lead in January. Only 234 Israelis were injured by Palestinians, most of them (185) soldiers during the Gaza war in January.

 

The Shin Bet published its report in Hebrew only. A decent story in English on the report was published by Ynet.


Israel's firebrand Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said today that the objective of the partial moratorium on West Bank settlement construction is to allow Israel to build openly and without restriction in ten months, when the moratorium expires.

 

Lieberman spoke to a crowd of (mostly) settlers in Ariel.

 

The Israeli news sites earlier today mistranslated Lieberman. I transcribed the relevant quotes from an Israel Radio recording. Here is my translation, with some contextual comments.


Another Deplorable Act of Jewish Extremists in the West Bank

Today, as Jews worldwide commemorate the desecration of the Temple and celebrate its rededication, Jewish extremists, most likely West Bank settlers, desecrated a mosque in a Palestinian village near Nablus.

 

The mosque, in the Palestinian village of  Yasuf, was torched. Copies of the Koran were burnt. Hateful graffiti in Hebrew was sprayed at the site referring to the settlers' "Price Tag" vigilante operation to attack Palestinians and Israeli security forces to deter Israel's authorities from enforcing the law on the settlers.

 

This is not the first time that Jewish extremists intentionally desecrate a Muslim house of worship in order to foment violence. It is a deplorable tactic that should be confronted decisively by the Israeli authorities. There should be zero tolerance when it comes to such hate-crimes that might ignite violence throughout the West Bank and the region.

 

We are gratified that Israel's Peace Now movement will send a delegation to the village of Yasuf over the weekend, to express solidarity and denounce the settlers' ongoing violence. We are also happy to see that the Anti Defamation League issued a strong condemnation.

 

We urge other American Jewish groups to do the same.


On this Hanukkah, lets all think about the importance of fighting hatred and fanaticism and about the imperative of pursuing peace.

Unilateral Palestinian Statehood: Not a Good Idea - New Op-ed

 
Unilateral Palestinian statehood?

Ori Nir
Special to WJW

Twenty-one years ago, as a journalist, I was arrested in the West Bank while covering Palestinians celebrating their declaration of independence.

While I was detained for a technicality - violating a "closed military zone" order - hundreds of Palestinians were detained that day for rejoicing. The Israeli military governor of the West Bank and Gaza issued stern orders at the time, outlawing any expression of happiness. No singing. No dancing. The Israel Defense Forces imposed a curfew on almost all of the West Bank population, and cut the electricity to most Palestinian towns to prevent people from watching, on TV, the Palestinian National Council in Algiers declaring Palestinian independence.

Washington Jewish Week: "Unilateral Palestinian statehood?"

This is time for Israeli and Palestinian leaders to re-engage, to take advantage of the leadership that this committed U.S. American administration is offering and to do what it takes to bring peace to their peoples.

By Ori Nir, APN  Spokesman
Special to WJW
The proof of the Israeli government's decision on a (partial) settlement freeze will be in its implementation, and the implementation will be very difficult, said Talia Sasson, a former legal adviser to the Israeli government who perhaps knows more than anyone about the complexities of enforcing the law on Israeli settlers in the West Bank.

A Short History of Israeli Right Wing Terrorism

YaakovTeitel 186x140.jpg

Yaakov (Jack) Teitel (pictured in Israeli custody) is not the first and probably not the last Israeli terrorist to target Palestinians or Israeli supporters of peace. Furthermore, many of these Jewish terrorists came from the ranks of the West Bank settlers. Read on for a partial list of Israeli groups and individuals who took violent action to sabotage peace.

A friend who reports for a major media organization in the U.S. recently lamented the demands he routinely receives from his editors for instant analysis. "I told an editor that it's too early to tell what my breaking news story meant. He replied that this should not deter me from providing an instant analysis anyway," the reporter said.

Settlements Panel from J Street

I had the honor of moderating a fantastic panel that kicked off the first day of discussions at J Street's conference last Monday. It was an honor to moderate the panel, which Americans for Peace Now sponsored and organized, because the participants were leading authorities on the settlement enterprise and on settlement politics.

Haaretz Editorial: Pursue Peace with Syria

Today's editorial in Israel's Haaretz makes some important points regarding the dormant Israeli-Syrian peace negotiations. Worth reading:

A Lesson from the Rabin Assassination

Rabin with flag 320x265.jpgAmerican baby-boomers will always remember where they were when President Kennedy was assassinated.

Israelis, who today are marking the 14th anniversary of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin's assassination, will always remember where they were when Rabin was murdered by an Israeli religious-nationalist Jew, determined to undermine the peace efforts of Rabin's government.


Hadar Susskind, director of policy and strategy for J Street, talks about the success of the conference here in Washington and about the ongoing cooperation between J Street and APN.

Jo-Ann Mort in TPM Cafe: Whose Israel is It?

For those who have not yet read it on TPM Cafe, here is a thought provoking blog posting by our Boar member, Jo-Ann Mort:

Whose Israel is It?

By Jo-Ann Mort - October 25, 2009,

I have spent the day in Washington, first at the Americans for Peace Now board meeting, where I am an officer, and later at the J Street conference, where I am a participant. I go to sleep tonight with this sentiment dancing on my brain: the promise of Israel needs to be embraced and supported, promoted and defended--fought for. That is not the case presently in much of American political discourse.


Peace is the Answer to Israel's Increasing Isolation

Israel's deputy prime minister, Dan Meridor, spoke over the weekend in Washington about what he sees as the three chief foreign policy challenges that Israel faces today: Iran, the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and the Goldstone report.

What Arabs Think; What Arabs Do

Over the weekend, a handful of participants at the annual conference of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy were treated to a sneak peek of a new, large study of Arab behavior vis-à-vis the United States.
This excellent editorial speaks for itself...

Ha'aretz: "
Hilltop Double-talk"

While Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tries to battle the Goldstone report in the name of Israel's right to self-defense, and his envoys and the U.S. administration discuss terms for renewing negotiations with the Palestinians, his government is developing infrastructure in dozens of West Bank settlements. 

Winds of War at WINEP Panel on Iran

The second day of discussions at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy's annual conference ended with winds of war.

There was disturbing unanimity on the opening panel of the annual conference of Washington's leading Mideast think tank Friday. The Obama administration's policy in the region is failing, all three panelists concurred.

Alon Liel talks about the crisis in Israel-Turkey relations

**October 13, 2009** -Alon Liel, former director general of Israel's Foreign Ministry and former Israeli ambassador to Turkey, talks about the crisis in Israel-Turkey relations and about the Israel's need for a credible peace process with the Palestinians in order to maintain strong relations with the international community. Listen to the audio
Nobel Committee Chairman with Picture of President Obama 186x140.jpgWashington, D.C - Americans for Peace Now (APN) today congratulated President Barack Obama for winning the Nobel Peace Prize and urged him to keep pushing for Middle East peace, viewing the prize as an international expression of confidence in his policy of engagement, negotiations and multilateralism, particularly in the Middle East.

Picture: Chairman of the Nobel Peace Prize committee Thorbjorn Jagland holds a picture of President Obama.

America woke up today to a pleasant surprise: President Barack Obama is the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.

 

I rushed the following quote to the news wires: "President Obama deserves recognition and praise for making Middle East peace a top U.S. foreign policy priority from his first moments in the Oval Office. We hope that winning the prestigious prize will further energize the President and his aides to push for peace between Israel and her neighbors."

 

JTA, the Jewish news service, noted that "The first pro-Israel group to praise Obama was Americans for Peace Now."

 

**October 5, 2009** -Tension in Jerusalem is high. Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem feel threatened by what they see as Israeli attempts to exclude them from the Holy Basin, surrounding the Temple Mount and al-Aksa Mosque, the third holiest site to Islam. From Jerusalem, Peace Now's Hagit Ofran analyzes the situation on the ground and comments on its political repercussions. Listen to the audio

Letter on the impact of the occupation and in support of APN

Ori Nir 186x140.jpg

Born and raised in Jerusalem, Ori Nir is the spokesman for Americans for Peace Now.  Previously, Ori worked for Haaretz Daily, Israel's leading newspaper, where he covered Palestinian affairs and Israel's Arab minority.  He also served as Washington bureau chief for Ha'aretz and the Forward, America's largest and most influential independent national Jewish weekly newspaper.

Today's Talks with Iran: A Constructive Beginning

President Obama just made an important statement about the today's beginning of negotiations with Iran.

As I see it, President Obama's commitment to serious and meaningful engagement with Iran - including potential incentives for nuclear transparency - offers Teheran an opportunity that it did not have under the Bush administration for de-escalating its standoff with the international community.

Obama's statement regarding a constructive beginning of the talks with Iran should further prompt American friends of Israel to support the President's responsible strategy.

That's my view. I welcome your reactions.

APN Lauds Obama's Reaction to Iran Nuclear Developments

Obama at G20 on Iran 9-09 320x265.jpgWashington, D.C - Americans for Peace Now (APN) praised President Obama's comments regarding Iran's construction of a covert uranium enrichment facility near the city of Qum.

IDF Forms New West Bank Command Unit to Confront Violent Settlers

Settler violence has been on the rise in the West Bank in recent months. To confront it more effectively, the military commander of the West Bank has formed a new command unit, bringing together the various agencies that take part in law enforcement in the West Bank. Here is a story from today's edition of Ma'ariv on this issue: 

APN Applauds Obama's Continued Commitment to Middle East Peace

Washington, D.C - Americans for Peace Now (APN) today welcomed President Obama's continued commitment to achieving Middle East peace, as expressed in his statement before the trilateral meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in New York.

APN's president and CEO Debra DeLee today joined a group of American Jewish, Christian and Muslim community leaders who signed an open letter supporting  President Obama's Middle East policy.


Here is the full text:

 

Letter in Support of a Comprehensive Middle East Peace:

An American National Interest Imperative

 

 

 

We come from varied ethnic backgrounds and religious faiths that are diverse.   We are Democrats and Republicans.  We are veterans of war and of the struggle for peace.  Together, we are all Americans. 

In this New Year, Be Careful with Words

The Days of Awe have not yet started, but I am already repenting. I regret that I will not spend Rosh Hashana with my parents in Jerusalem and that I will probably not have a chance to cook the traditional dishes for the Rosh Hashana "blessings." It's a charming (and delicious) Sephardi tradition. Before the festive holiday meal, Sephardi families serve a collection of appetizers, tapas of sorts, and bless over each one.

APN Serves as Source for Newsweek Map of West Bank Settlements

APN serves as a resource for many in the media. Journalists know that we and our friends at Israel's Peace Now movement are the experts on West Bank
settlements.

 

Earlier this summer, Newsweek asked us to help construct a map of the settlements and outposts, and attach a short glossary of
settlements-related terminology.

 

The result is on page 14 of this week's Newsweek. Check it out.


Americans for Peace Now joins the Ramon family and the state of Israel in mourning the death of Assaf Ramon, an IDF fighter pilot and the son of Israel's first Astronaut and decorated fighter pilot, Ilan Ramon, who was killed in 2003 aboard the Columbia Space Shuttle.

 

Captain Assaf Ramon was killed yesterday when an F-16 fighter-jet he was piloting crashed during training.

 

"This is a terrible tragedy for the Ramon family and for Israelis who followed with pride and awe as Assaf followed in his father's footsteps," said Debra DeLee, APN's president and CEO. "We salute the memory of Ilan and Assaf Ramon," DeLee said.

 

APN takes this opportunity to wish all Israelis and their neighbors a year with no sorrow, a year of emerging peace.

 

To Israel's Muslim citizens and to Muslims across the region, APN wishes a peaceful Id al-Fitr. May this holiday mark new beginnings of peace, security and stability for the Middle East.

Did Bibi Agree to a Full Withdrawal from the Golan?

Did Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, during his first term as prime minister in the late 1990s, agree to a full Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights in exchange for a peace agreement with Syria?

Some, who were involved in the secret communications between Netanyahu and Hafez al-Assad, who was then the president of Syria, say he did. Netanyahu denies.

Washington, D.C - Americans for Peace Now (APN) today released new policy language that opposes efforts by many Jewish organizations to promote new sanctions to "cripple" Iran's economy as well as a mid-September deadline on US engagement

White House to Bibi: No More Settlement Construction

BibiObama3.jpgAides to Binyamin Netanyahu told the media on September 3rd that the Israeli prime minister will approve building hundreds of new homes in West Bank settlements before he considers a settlement freeze. Early the next day, the White House issued a stern message telling Bibi that he cannot have the cake and eat it too.

Haaretz Editorial: Tell the Settlers the Truth

Haaretz gets it right in Thursday's editorial:

Tell the settlers the truth



At a time when the Obama administration is seeking a way to impose a construction freeze in the settlements that will be acceptable to both Israelis and Palestinians, in order to pave the way for the resumption of the political process, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is seeking common ground with the settlers.


Peace Now's Effectiveness Threatens the Right

Earlier this summer, I had a thorny exchange with Zalman Shoval, a political advisor to Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and formerly Israel's ambassador to Washington.

 


The 'West-Bankization' of Israel?

From Washington Jewish Weekly
By Ori Nir

Israelis were recently appalled by reports of sadistic hazing in the Israel Defense Forces' tank corps. Israeli newspapers uncovered routine patterns of beating, lashing, severe humiliation and other forms of brutal behavior toward new recruits.

But it seems that few were truly surprised. In the eyes of many, the story was depicted as one more expression of the growing brutalization of the IDF and of Israeli society. Hardly a day goes by without a murder, a road-rage related stabbing, a heartbreaking case of domestic violence, a Mafia-style drive-by shooting or an incident of teen violence.

tamir3.jpg

The leaked cable that Israel's Consul General in Boston, Nadav Tamir, sent to his superiors in Jerusalem last week is still reverberating in Israel and the U.S.In the confidential cable, which was leaked to the Israeli media, Tamir harshly criticized the Israeli government for escalating its disagreements with Washington's regional peace initiative.

The Tamir Affair: Kill the Messenger

I sat down to write how troubling I found the reaction of Prime Minister Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Lieberman to the leaked cable sent by Israel's Consul General in Boston, Nadav Tamir.

 

I was going to write about the objectionable "kill the messenger" syndrome (see the case of the Israeli government's efforts to silence "Breaking the Silence"), about the danger to Israeli democracy and the damage to the professionalism of Israeli representatives abroad (Tamir is an outstanding professional).

Some Good News from Fatah's General Assembly

Some of the large Jewish groups were quick to cry "gevalt" at Fatah's General Assembly in Bethlehem even before the conference ended. Granted, there were inflammatory speeches and some disturbing displays of anti-Israeli sentiment.

 


  

The Sherman Solution

Last month, the Jerusalem Post reprinted an article by APN's president and CEO, Debra DeLee, in which she explained why the Obama administration is so keen on an Israeli settlement freeze and recommended that Israel's government work with President Obama to advance peace. 

The article prompted a frothing-at-the-mouth reaction by Martin Sherman, whose tagline is the "academic director of the Jerusalem Summit and lectures in security studies at Tel Aviv University."

APN podcast with the Jordanian Foreign Minister

2009-08-05-ForeignMinisterNasserJudeh_186.jpgJordan's Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh tells APN that he supports "sequential, reciprocal, concurent" measures to be taken by Israel and the Arab world in support of credible negotiations of a regional peace deal, but comments that no "unilateral action" should be taken, which might undermine peace efforts.

Foxman's Red Herring

Abe Foxman is a smart person, a responsible person, an honorable person with a strong moral core. I have known him for years and I respect him.

 

A Civil War in Israel Over the Settlements?

By Robert Freedman

      In the past few weeks as rumors of a possible US-Israeli deal for a partial West Bank settlement freeze have surfaced, opposition to such an agreement  has grown in orthodox Religious Zionist and right-wing circles in Israel. This opposition has not only threatened to exacerbate tensions between orthodox and non-orthodox  Jews in Israel and in  the United States, but also to create the conditions for a civil war in Israel.


Free Marriage Counseling

Israel and America are having one of those periodic marital spats they have had over the years, replete with "I-am-not-taking-any-more-of-your-guff" outbursts by Obama officials at American Jewish leaders, and, yes -- it wouldn't be a real Israel-U.S. dust-up without it -- Israeli accusations that Jewish Obama aides are "self-hating Jews," working out their identity crises by working over Israel. Having been to this play before, and knowing both families, I'd like to offer some free marriage counseling.


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - July 29, 2009
CONTACT:  Ori Nir - (202) 728-1893 
 

Washington, D.C. - Americans for Peace Now (APN) today joined other like-minded Jewish organizations in a statement that calls for responsibility and care in words and deeds on the situation in Jerusalem.

Following is a statement on the Obama Administration's policy on Jerusalem issued today by APN, Ameinu, Brit Tzedek v'Shalom, Meretz USA, and J Street:

Letting the Cat Guard the Cream: Elad in Silwan

In May, on a visit to Jerusalem, I spent half a day in Silwan, where an extremist settlers' group runs and profits from an archaeological site - arguably the most sensitive and most politically-charged archaeological dig in the world.

The group, Elad, is busily Judaizing Silwan, turning it into "Ir David," (the "City of David") both by turning it into a site that exclusively champions the Jewish narrative of Biblical Jerusalem and by settling extreme right-wing Jews in this vast, densely-populated Palestinian village.

How did it happen that the government of Israel officially sub-contracted to an extremist settlers' organization one of the most sensitive sites in Israel, a stone's throw from the world's most sacred site to Jews and the third most sacred site to Muslims? How did it happen that the government appointed the cat to guard the cream?

Obama Means what he Says

Israeli leaders say they're bewildered by the Obama administration's "obsession" with West Bank settlement growth. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was recently quoted asking/grumbling "what do they want from me?" His aides told reporters and American Jewish leaders that Washington's position on settlements is "childish", "stupid" and "delusional" and that the Obama team should "come to its senses."

Obama Means what he Says: New Op-Ed by Debra DeLee

BitterLemons-International today published this article by Debra DeLee, APN's President and CEO:

Obama means what he says
Debra DeLee

Israeli leaders say they're bewildered by the Obama administration's "obsession" with West Bank settlement growth. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was recently quoted asking/grumbling "what do they want from me?" His aides told reporters and American Jewish leaders that Washington's position on settlements is "childish", "stupid" and "delusional" and that the Obama team should "come to its senses."

"Normal Life" for Settlers?

Israeli diplomats were recently instructed not to use the term "natural growth" in reference to West Bank settlement expansion. Instead, Israeli spokespersons must talk about the need to provide and maintain "normal life" for the settlers.

Middle East Peace: The Urgent Need for Leadership

hands.gif

The new resolution that the Union of Reform Judaism that was just adopted by the URJ's Board of Trustees meeting in New Orleans shows just how supportive most American Jews are of President Obama's push for Mideast peace.

It is significant that the organization representing the largest Jewish denomination in the U.S. comes out with such language on Obama's regional policy, on his Cairo speech, on settlements and on settler violence.

Three Winks

by Talia Sasson

Attorney Talia Sasson filed the settlement outpost report to the Sharon government [and is now a Meretz member]

Netanyahu mentioned three points in the Bar Ilan speech with regard to the continuation of construction in the settlements: There will be no confiscations of private Palestinian land; no new Israeli settlements will be established in the West Bank; the needs of the Israeli settlers in the West Bank must be met.  What do these statements mean?


The Ultimate Chutzpah

The following was written by our intern Dan Fischer:

APN's Ori Nir told me that when he was a teenager in Israel, he used to play with his friends the "ultimate chutzpah" game. They would try to one-up each other by completing the sentence: "The ultimate chutzpah would be..."

Israel's Foreign Minister Avigdor "drown them in the Red Sea" Lieberman scored high last week when he complained to the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Security Committee that Israel has bad PR internationally.

Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu one-upped even Lieberman Tuesday.

Please check out my latest op-ed:


Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Settlers seek to thwart Palestinian state

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

by Ori Nir  Special to WJW

ABSORPTION DRIVE IN AMONA" screams the ad in the national-religious Israeli weekly Ma'ayinei Ha-Yeshu'ah, inviting Israelis to come settle in an illegal West Bank settlement-outpost near the Palestinian town of Ramallah. The colorful ad promises families a home "accommodating the family's specifications," as well as "full community services."

A new Peace Now analysis of Israel's 2009-2010 state budget shows that the Israeli government still grants West Bank settlers preferential treatment.

The new report shows that settlement local councils receive a much higher percentage of financial transfers from the government than the settlers' proportion in Israeli society and that per-capita gross investment in public construction in West Bank settlements (not including East Jerusalem) is more than triple the investment in public construction within the Green Line.

The analysis also shows that at least 16 illegal outposts enjoy support from the Agriculture Ministry's Settlement Division. It shows that Settlers who export goods to Europe receive millions of shekels to compensate for loss of tax discounts in the European Union, which does not recognize exports from as part of the Israeli-European free-trade agreement.

The report shows how the government of Israel grants settlers a variety of benefits, even though most settlers need them less than the larger proportion of low-income Israelis who reside within the state of Israel.

To view the report click here.

Ultimate Chutzpah

The following was written by our intern, Dan Fischer:

APN's Ori Nir told me that when he was a teenager in Israel, he used to play with his friends the "ultimate chutzpah" game. They would try to one-up each other by completing the sentence: "The ultimate chutzpah would be..."

Israel's Foreign Minister Avigdor "drown them in the Red Sea" Lieberman scored high last week when he complained to the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Security Committee that Israel has bad PR internationally.

Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu one-upped even Lieberman Tuesday.

Debunking Netanyahu's Statements on Settlements

Last week, my colleague Lara Friedman of APN and Peace Now's Settlement Watch Director Hagit Ofran published an excellent report debunking the common (bogus) arguments made by those who oppose a West Bank settlements freeze.

Following is an article by Talia Sasson, the author of the famous Sasson Report, pointing out the hollowness of Netanyahu's statements in his Bar Illan speech on settlements. Her article is published in today's Yedioth Ahronoth.

Together - perhaps with the addition of Dan Kurtzer recent Washington Post article debunking Netanyahu's contention that there are Israeli-American understandings about continued West Bank settlement construction - these pieces serve to solidify the Obama administration's justified, uncompromising demand for a comprehensive settlement freeze.


Now that Nethanyahu's speech is behind us, we can prepare for the upcoming Washington visit of Avigdor Lieberman, Netanyahu's foreign minister.

Lieberman is arriving Tuesday night and will meet here with Secretary Clinton (on Wednesday) National Security Advisor Jones (on Thursday) and with congressional leaders.

Lieberman is a man on a mission. His goal: to improve Israel's image abroad. Last Tuesday, I kid you not, Lieberman was quoted as telling the Knesset's Security and Foreign Affairs Committee that Israel "cannot continue with a successful foreign policy without changing the way we are perceived" internationally. He lamented: "We have a fundamental problem: we are not perceived well."

Could it be that Mr. Lieberman, Israel's number one PR agent, has something to do with this image problem?

For those who need a reminder, here is my colleague Lara Friedman's compilation of Lieberman's greatest hits:

The Speech That Bibi won't Give

[this was posted today on the Washington Post - Newsweek PostGlobal]

The Speech Netanyahu Won't Give
By Ori Nir

Here's what Benyamin Netanyahu should - but most likely won't - say in his much-anticipated policy speech on Sunday.

Biased Polls Commissioned by Israeli Right

The polls cited today in the Associated Press story (and carried by Haaretz, JTA and others) which allegedly found that most Israelis back continued settlement construction, were commissioned by a far-right Israeli organization and by the settlers' University of Ariel. The questions - surprise, surprise - are skewed accordingly.

Unfortunately, AP neglected to mention who commissioned the poll and neglected to quote the actual questions.

Yedioth Ahronoth, Israel's largest circulation newspaper, today publishes an interesting investigative piece on the state of settlement construction in the West Bank. If you closely follow Peace Now's reports on settlement construction, you are probably familiar with the data -- at least with the general trends.

Here is Yedioth's story:

West Bank settler: Settlements don't Harm Palestinians

You've got to read it to believe it: An American Jewish settler, Aaron U. Raskas, sitting at the poolside, at his settlement of Rimonim near Ramallah, marveling at the sight of little settler kids splashing water, and telling fellow Americans that West Bank settlements do no damage to Palestinians.

Responding to readers' comments

Wow! So many comments!

I would like to thank all of those who took the time to comment.

Let me briefly address some of the comments and questions.

New op-ed: Netanyahu faces stark choice

Check out my new op-ed on Prime Minister Netanyahu's coices following his meeting with President Obama, published in today's edition of the Washington Jewish Week.

Reactions are welcome

Abbas Starts Washington Visit on a Positive Note

Coming to Washington on the heels of a thorny, sour visit by Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas seemed determined today to show that he and his Palestinian Authority are not a problem but a part of the solution.

Abbas briefed a small group of Middle East policy shapers at a Washington area hotel. Attending were analysts at Washington think tanks, a couple of representatives of Arab-American groups and representatives of three pro-Israel organizations, including Americans for Peace Now.

Obama and Bibi: Disagreements in the Oval Office

Benjamin Netanyahu is known (and often mocked) for his blunt depiction of how he saw Israel's relationship with the Palestinians in the post-Oslo years of the late 1990's. "If they give, they will receive. If they don't give, they won't receive," Prime Minister Netanyahu said back then (1998), suggesting that the burden of delivery was on the Palestinians and that Israel will act on its commitments under the Oslo agreements only once the Palestinians fulfill theirs.

In the Oval Office Monday, the comeback prime minister experienced some giving and receiving Obama style. After weeks of preparations, having leaked to the media that he was bringing to Washington a new plan for Mideast peace, Netanyahu ended up giving President Obama very little with which the U.S. could work to advance peace in the Middle East. And he received very little in return.

Benjamin Netanyahu will arrive politically bruised in Washington Sunday.

His first fifty days in office have not been successful. The media criticized the manner in which he constructed his government and depicted it as too large, wasteful and poorly staffed. Then Netanyahu flip-flopped on the budget and now he is perceived as putting at risk Israel's relations with the United States - its chief national security asset.

It is unsurprising, therefore, that most Israelis are unhappy with Netanyahu's performance: 52% disapprove of his performance as prime minister according to a Friday Haaretz poll. Only 28% of those polled said they were satisfied with Netanyahu. Only 27% said they think Netanyahu is a better prime minister than his disgraced predecessor, Ehud Olmert.

Go to Hebron

Go to Hebron. Observe how several hundreds of ultra-national Israeli settlers, a minority in a Palestinian town of 160,000 - have turned the lives of its Palestinians residents into a living hell.

Go to Hebron. Look at how a small Jewish minority rules over an oppressed Arab majority and you will see why Israel needs a two-state solution in order to survive in the future as a democratic Jewish state.

Heavy Heart and Hope in Tel Aviv

In the next two weeks, Prime Minister Netanyahu will try to do the impossible: to devise a peace initiative that is substantial enough to avert a major conflict with the Obama administration, yet conservative enough to avoid the breakup of his government coalition.

Always Longing for the Proposal Recently Rejected

Jetlagged, over the weekend in Jerusalem, I had time to scan the dailies' special Independence Day supplements. There was quite a lot to read, including a retrospective re-evaluation of Israel's Declaration of Independence in Yedioth Ahronoth and a charming reportage in Maariv that focused on beautiful places and people across the country. I was especially moved by Yair Lapid's essay in Yedioth, headlined "I Have Another Dream."

Independence Day in Israel

Israel is still dressed in blue and white. Two days after Independence Day, national flags are everywhere, even on tree trunks in West Jerusalem. I don't remember so many flags on Independence Days in Jerusalem in the past, flags of so many kinds. 

Building Bridges with a Bereaved Doctor from Gaza

When two Israeli tank shells shattered Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish's Gaza home in January, killing three of his daughters and his niece, his personal tragedy turned - with the help of the Israeli and international media - into a symbol of the Gaza War. For Israelis, in particular, this disastrous incident brought home the realization of the carnage among innocent Gazan civilians.

Bibi "Partner for Peace"? Hold him to his Words!

Many have predicted in recent days that Binyamin's Netanyahu's premiership - he is expected to be sworn in shortly - means the end of the peace process. How can a prime minister who refuses to utter the phrase "two-state solution" pursue a meaningful peace process with the Palestinians, they ask.

The answer is vigorous encouragement. Encouragement from within Israeli society, which is still solidly supportive of the two-state solution, from within the American Jewish community - also solidly supportive of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, as recent polls have shown - as well as from the Obama administration and the international community.

New op-ed: The vision of Israel's new government

My new op-ed on the vision for Israel and its relations with the Palestinians was just published in the Baltimore Sun. Here it is

http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/opinion/oped/bal-op.viewpoint18mar18,0,2793131.story

baltimoresun.com

Viewpoint: Where is Abba Eban when we need him?

By Ori Nir

March 18, 2009

Remember Abba Eban?

As Benjamin Netanyahu prepares to (again) become the prime minister of Israel, as hate-monger Avigdor Lieberman prepares to be sworn in as Mr. Netanyahu's foreign minister, and as security hawk extraordinaire Moshe Yaalon prepares to take over the defense ministry, I really miss Abba Eban. I miss Israel's quintessential diplomat, who fought so eloquently and effectively to portray to the world a just, moral and peace-seeking Israel in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.

Not Every Day is Purim

(The following article has been sent for syndication by U.S. Jewish weeklies)

NOT EVERY DAY IS PURIM

By Ori Nir

A colloquial Hebrew expression says "not every day is Purim," which can loosely be translated to "you can't fool all the people all the time."

Israelis - and many in our pro-Israel community in the U.S. - in the past wanted to believe that Palestinian economic development is the path to resolving Israel's conflict with the Palestinians: If only the Palestinians have full stomachs and some cash in their pockets, they will forget about Israel's occupation of the West Bank, about their land being gradually eaten up by Israeli settlements, about their aspirations for independence and sovereignty being ignored.

New WJW op-ed: U.S. peace pursuits - finally - look serious

The following article was published today in the Washington Jewish Week.
In part, I was trying to find a way to express my outrage at Elliott Abrams' matter-of-fact comments (in his recent Weekly Standard article and in his interview with the Jerusalem Post) that throughout his term in Bush's White House, holding the Israel-Palestine portfolio and entrusted by President Bush with implementing the two-state "Bush vision," he never believed that it was either viable or desirable. He was the point-man but he never believed in his mission and admittedly was a naysayer, an obstructionist. It takes a lot of chutzpah for the person who was the chief implementer of the President's policy on this issue to admit to have poo-pooed  it all along, and then depict himself as "the resident skeptic," a "little black cloud." How cynical!
So far, at least, the Obama team seems like it really means it, like it really is trying.

Avigdor Lieberman: a national security liability for Israel

Here is my new blog posting on GlobalSecurity.org
http://sitrep.globalsecurity.org/articles/090223217-israeli.htm (link has expired)
Israel's Lieberman: Regional fear-factor by Ori Nir

Very few people in Israel posses more influence and have a broader global strategic perspective than Major General (res.) Amos Gilad, director of the Defense Ministry's Diplomatic-Security bureau. Gilad enjoys so much clout and influence that last December he was depicted by Israel's leading Haaretz Daily as "the man who is running the country."

Last week, frustrated by what he argued is the erratic way in which Israeli politicians are negotiating with Hamas through Egypt over a ceasefire agreement and over the release of a kidnapped Israeli soldier, Gilad lashed out. Extensive quotes, carried by Maariv daily on February 18, indicate the Israeli security establishment's concern over Israel's alienating existing and potential regional allies.

Bush's Resident Mideast Skeptic Talks

If you're reading this blog, you probably seldom read the Jerusalem Post, which is why you may have missed the Post's interview with Elliott Abrams, the Bush White House Mideast policy czar - his first interview since he left his position as deputy assistant to the president and deputy national security adviser for global democracy strategy.

The Post got the scoop because its reporter Ruthie Blum Leibowitz is Abrams' sister-in-law. That probably has something to do with why I find the interview so satisfying and so frustrating at the same time.

And the Loser is...Israel, Again

I am now a regular contributor to GlobalSecurity.org

My first contribution was an analysis of yesterday's Israeli elections. Here it is:

New op-ed: Two states the only hope for Gaza normalcy

JTA: The Global News Service of the Jewish People

http://jta.org/news/article/2009/01/25/1002499/op-ed-two-states-only-solution-to-gaza-lifeline

Op-Ed: Two states the only hope for Gaza normalcy

By Ori Nir · January 25, 2009

WASHINGTON (JTA) -- Last week I dug up an old, yellowing Israeli intelligence report from April 1987 headlined "The Gaza Strip toward the year 2000." It was authored by the "Civil Administration," Israel's military government, only several months before the eruption in Gaza of the first intifada.

The secret document, distributed to Israel's top security leadership, provides both a high-resolution snapshot (more than 200 pages) of Gaza and a careful forecast. Amazingly, it predicted a process of multifaceted integration of the Gaza Strip into Israel.

Reading the report, written less than 22 years ago, is like a voyage to ancient history. What the report clearly shows, however, is that policy mistakes and misunderstandings about Gaza are as old as Israel's 41-year-old occupation of the strip.

The population of Gaza in 1987 was 633,600. Today it has climbed to more than 1.5 million. The report predicted that by the year 2000, the strip's population would reach 1 million -- a "maximal forecast" depicted as "unreasonable," meaning unreasonably high. In fact, by 2000, the strip's population had mushroomed to 1.132 million. The fertility rate for 2000 was predicted to drop from 6.60 to 5.80, but it remained at 6.55 and was estimated at 5.19 in 2008.

The report did talk, casually , about the "increase in the strength" of the fundamentalist Islamist political stream, but noted that although the Islamists support Israel's destruction, they believe that their first focus ought to be "preparing the hearts and minds" within their community.

Around that time, as a reporter covering Palestinian affairs, I met with the Israeli governor of Gaza, who told me that Israel had "no problem" with the Islamists because they were not engaged in any subversive or violent activity. To the contrary: Israel's military government in Gaza, dividing and ruling as it always did, gently nurtured the Islamists as a counterweight to the Palestinian Liberation Organization during the 1980s.

The most fascinating -- and today fantastical -- chapter in the report is the one examining the social trends in the strip. It predicted the accelerated socio-political integration of the Gaza Strip into Israel, as well as "an increase in reciprocal dependency between the Gaza Strip and Israel." It predicted the "penetration of the Strip's employees into high-level professions in Israel," and even Gazans' "imitation of the Israeli life style."

So much for that. The Palestinians of Gaza rebelled against Israel's occupation months after the report was issued and have been fighting for independence for more than two decades.

The Palestinians of Gaza, just like their brethren in the West Bank, need and deserve political independence. But the Gaza Strip simply cannot live in political or economic isolation. The 22-year-old Israeli report is clear about that. Its message is that the Gaza Strip has no viability, no future, as an isolated, detached entity.

At the time there was no fence between Israel and Gaza, not even a roadblock or a checkpoint at the entrance to the strip. Today it is impossible to imagine open borders between Israel and Gaza.

Israel will not become again an economic lifeline for Gaza in the foreseeable future. Neither will Egypt, its southern neighbor. Both Israel and Egypt see Gaza as nothing but trouble.

The only real viable hope for Gaza is a link to the other Palestinian territory, the West Bank. Only a strong relationship with the West Bank, reinforced by unhindered safe passage between the two Palestinian territories, can provide the remedy for Gaza. In other words, the only real hope for Gaza lies in the two-state solution.

Israelis and Palestinians must keep in mind that a cease-fire is not an alternative to peace. Israelis and Palestinians, and the international third parties that help them advance toward peace, must remember that just as a two-state solution is the only way in which Israel can secure its long-term character as a Jewish and democratic state, so does the two-state solution provide the only hope for Gaza to reach a reasonable level of normalcy and sustainability in the long run. Only a two-state solution can provide the uninterrupted, robust lifeline to the West Bank that the Gaza Strip needs.

The war and the cease-fire that followed show yet again that only a two-state solution provides a horizon of hope for Israelis and Palestinians to reach the peace and long-term security that they so much deserve.

(Ori Nir, formerly the Palestinian Affairs correspondent for the Israeli daily Ha'aretz, is the spokesman for Americans for Peace Now, a Zionist Jewish organization supporting Peace Now, Israel's largest peace movement.)

Having recently read David Grossman's wonderful book on the biblical story of Samson, I think the lead of this piece is brilliant. One may disagree with Grossman's conclusion that Israel must speak to Hamas. But his fundamental point is so simple and so correct, so profound: Israel cannot and must not address the Palestinians only by force. It must always remember that its ultimate goal is to live in peace with its neighbors. 

This piece, in tomorrow's Haaretz, is really worth reading.

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http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1056955.html



20/01/2009

David Grossman / Israel's success in Gaza only proves it is strong, not right

By David Grossman


Like the pairs of foxes in the biblical story of Samson, tied together by their tails, a flaming torch between them, so Israel and the Palestinians - despite the imbalance of power - drag each other along. Even when we try hard to wrest ourselves free, we burn those who are tethered to us - our double, our misfortune - as well as ourselves.

And so, amidst the wave of nationalist hyperbole now sweeping the nation, it would not hurt to recall that in the final analysis, this last operation in Gaza is just another stop along a trail blazing with fire, violence and hatred.

As satisfied as Israelis are that the technical weaknesses of the Second Lebanon War were corrected, we should be paying heed to another voice - the one that says the Israel Defense Forces' successes in the confrontation with Hamas do not prove that it was right to embark on such a massive campaign, and are certainly no justification for Israel's mode of operation in the course of the fighting. These military successes merely confirm that Israel is stronger than Hamas, and that under certain conditions it can be tough and cruel in its own way.

When the guns become completely silent, and the full scope of the killing and destruction becomes known, to the point where even the most self-righteous and sophisticated of the Israeli psyche's defense mechanisms are overcome, perhaps then some kind of lesson will imprint itself on our brain. Perhaps then we will finally understand how deeply and fundamentally wrong our actions in this region have been from time immemorial - how misguided, unethical, unwise and above all, responsible, time after time, for fanning the flames that consume us.

Obviously, the Palestinians cannot be let off the hook for their crimes and mistakes. That would be tantamount to belittling and condescending to them, as if they were not mature adults with minds of their own, responsible for their own decisions and failures. The inhabitants of the Gaza Strip may have been "strangulated" in many ways by Israel, but even they have other options for protesting and drawing attention to their misery than the launching of thousands of rockets against innocent citizens in Israel.

We must not forget that. We cannot pardon the Palestinians or treat them forgivingly, as if it were obvious that whenever they feel put upon, violence will always be their sole response, the one they embrace almost automatically.

Yet even when the Palestinians act with indiscriminate violence, when they use suicide bombings and Qassam rocket fire, Israel is stronger than them, and it can have a tremendous impact on the level of violence in the conflict as a whole - and hence on calming it down and even bringing it to an end. The current confrontation has not shown that anyone in the Israeli leadership really grasps the critical significance of this aspect of the conflict in any fully conscious or responsible way.

One day, after all, we will seek to heal the wounds we inflict today. How will that day ever come if we do not understand that our military might cannot be the primary instrument for carving out a path for ourselves in this region? How will that day ever come if we fail to comprehend just how graveness is the responsibility that lies on our shoulders by dint of our complex and fateful relations, both past and future, with the Palestinians in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and the Galilee?

When the clouds of colored smoke dissipate from the politicians' claims of sweeping and decisive victory; when we discover the actual achievements of this operation, and how far they are from what we really need in order to live a normal life here; when we finally admit that a whole country eagerly hypnotized itself, because it needed so badly to believe that Gaza would cure it of Lebanon-itis - maybe then we will settle accounts with those who, time after time, incite the Israeli public, whipping them into a frenzy of arrogance and a euphoria of power. Those who have taught us over the years to scoff at belief in peace and any hope for change in our relations with the Arabs. Those who have convinced us that the Arabs understand only force, and therefore that is the only language we can use in our dealings with them.

And because we have spoken to them for so long in that language, and that language alone, we have forgotten that there are other languages for speaking to human beings, even to enemies, even bitter foes like Hamas - languages that are as much our mother tongue as the language of planes and tanks.

We must speak to the Palestinians: That is the most important conclusion from the most recent round of bloodshed. We must speak also to those who do not recognize our right to exist here. Instead of ignoring Hamas at this time, we would do better to take advantage of the new reality that has been created by beginning a dialogue with them immediately, one that would allow us to reach an accord with the whole of the Palestinian people. We must speak to them and begin to acknowledge that reality is not one hermetic story that we, and the Palestinians, too, have been telling ourselves for generations. Reality is not just the story we are locked into, a story made up, in no small measure, of fantasies, wishful thinking and nightmares.

We must speak to them, and create, within this closed-off, deaf reality, the very possibility for speech. We must create this alternative, so mocked and maligned today, which in the tempest of war has almost no place, no hope, no believers.

We must speak to them as part of a calculated strategy. We must initiate speech, insist on speech, let no one put us off. We must speak, even if dialogue seems hopeless from the start. In the long run, this stubbornness will contribute much more to our security than hundreds of planes dropping bombs on a city and its inhabitants.

We must speak out of understanding, born as we look out at the horrible devastation, as we grasp that the harm we are capable of inflicting on each other, each people in its own way, is so enormous and so destructive and so utterly senseless, that if we surrender to it and accept its logic, it will end up destroying us all.

We must speak, because what has happened in the Gaza Strip over the last few weeks sets up a mirror in which we in Israel see the reflection of our own face - a face that, if we were looking in from the outside or saw it on another people - would leave us aghast. We would see that our victory is not a genuine victory, and that the war in Gaza has not healed the spot that so badly needs a cure, but only further exposed the tragic and never-ending mistakes we have made in navigating our way.

Check out my new op-ed / analysis in the Washington Times on how Obama could leverage the Arab League's peace initiative to kick-start the peace process.

Doug Bloomfield was not the only one who called the Conference of Presidents and the Daily Alert that it sponsors on ignoring the settlers' Hebron rampage. The New York Jewish Week http://www.thejewishweek.com/viewArticle/c51_a14235/Editorial__Opinion/Editorial.html (link has expired) editorialized on it and the Forward published a news story.  Blogger Richard Silverstein's posting on this is also worth checking out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bloomfield blasts the Daily Alert

Doug Bloomfield rips the Conference of Presidents' Daily Alert in this week's Washington Jewish Week for the Conference's reluctance to even mention settler violence. Interestingly, today's Daily Alert did mention the Hebron rampage; better late than never.

...American Friends of Peace Now sent a letter to President Bush last week, urging him not to provide American funding to pay for proposed high-tech crossing points in Israel's security barrier in the West Bank.