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Blog: April 2009 Archives

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. 

Every Flag Needs a Porch!

For Israel Independence Day, Peace Now in Israel is distributing these flags with a message of peace (click on the link to read the translation of the flyer)

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.

Los Altos Hills is the location for this special program from 9:15 - 10:15 a.m.

September 9, 1993 -- the date that the PLO officially and formally recognized Israel's right to exist in peace and security, and in return Israel recognized the PLO as the representative of the Palestinian people -- is a day that stands out in my memory.   As a US Foreign Service officer serving in Jerusalem during that period, I will never forget the palpable feeling of hope and anticipation that was in the air.

What is entirely absent from my memory is the recollection of any Israeli narrative at the time saying: "Sorry Mr. Arafat, but this recognition isn't good enough.  What we actually need is your formal endorsement of Israel as a Jewish state.  If you can't do that, then your recognition of Israel doesn't count."

It is absent not because my memory is faulty, but because this narrative simply didn't exist.  Yitzhak Rabin did not say "thanks, but no thanks;" nor did Israelis.  Everyone understood that the demand of the Palestinians was and had always been: recognize Israel's right to exist (or some slight variation thereof).   The historic September 9th declaration achieved exactly that.  The demand that the Palestinians "recognize Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state" - or what hereafter will be known as "recognition-plus" - came much later.

Los Angeles area program where Dr. Abuelaish well address the audience in Hebrew
San Francisco Bay Area (Piedmont): Hear a man of peace who recently and tragically lost three daughters to war, talk about his message of hope and reconciliation
Washington, D.C.: Hear a man of peace who recently and tragically lost three daughters to war, talk about his message of hope and reconciliation

During most of the tenure of George W. Bush in the White House, it was widely understood that a formidable obstacle to Israeli-Palestinian peace resided not in the region but close at hand in the National Security Council, in the form of Elliott Abrams (who served in various roles, but always with an influence over Middle East policy). Abrams was viewed by many Washington insiders as deeply sympathetic to the Israeli right and ideologically supportive of Israel's settlement enterprise. He was viewed as in large part responsible for the Bush Administration's apparent unwillingness to hold Israel to its repeated commitments to freeze settlements, as well as for President Bush's stunning pro-settlements edict of 2004 - the letter to Sharon in which Bush declared his unilateral decision that Israel would be keeping the ever-expanding, never-officially-defined settlement blocs.

Since leaving the Administration, Mr. Abrams appears to have decided to do everything he can to show just how accurate this popular wisdom about him was. He also appears to be on a mission to undermine any actions the Obama Administration might decide to take on settlements, just as he is believed to have done - from the inside - under the Bush Administration.

Obama's Turkey Speech

Yesterday President Obama delivered a speech before the Turkish parliament. In it he articulated some general outlines of his policy regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, making clear his commitment to Israeli-Palestinian peace and making explicit that his policy will be based on both the Roadmap and the commitments made at Annapolis. His words were broadly consistent with things he said previously, both during the campaign and since he was inaugurated.

Obama's comments in Turkey on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict were not groundbreaking - representing little more than a reiteration of longstanding US policy - and under normal circumstances they would hardly have been especially newsworthy. Indeed, under normal circumstances they might have generated criticism over Obama's apparent embrace of the previous Administration's lackluster efforts in the Israeli-Palestinian arena.

However, these are not normal circumstances.