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Blog: September 2009 Archives

Obama's Got it Right (on the breaking news about Iran)

Today's top story is of course the news about Iran.  The bad news is that Iran's nuclear program clearly is continuing apace, with all of the threats that program poses to US national security interests and, of course, to Israel.  The good news is that where in the past this development would have elicited a predictably one-dimensional response from the US -- outrage, denunciations, threats, saber-rattling, and statements that "Iran knows what it has to do, or else," (and perhaps even a rush to rash military action) -- President Obama has adopted a different course.  President Obama today is sending a message to Iran -- and to the Iranian people -- that this issue must be resolved, and that there is before them a real and credible opportunity to resolve it through negotiations and engagement.  To be sure, President Obama is not taking any options off the table, but by emphasizing the potential for engagement rather than for confrontation, he is adopting what APN has long argued is the most effective strategy for actually resolving the nuclear issue.


President Obama's statement, along with those of President Sarkozy and Prime Minister Brown, is as follows:


Obama Speech to the UN - Middle East-related Excerpts

THE WHITE HOUSE - Office of the Press Secretary



September 23, 2009

Remarks of President Barack Obama - As Prepared for Delivery

"Responsibility for our Common Future" - Address to the United Nations General Assembly September 23, 2009

Mr. President, Mr. Secretary-General, fellow delegates, ladies and gentleman: it is my honor to address you for the first time as the forty-fourth President of the United States. I come before you humbled by the responsibility that the American people have placed upon me; mindful of the enormous challenges of our moment in history; and determined to act boldly and collectively on behalf of justice and prosperity at home and abroad.

I have been in office for just nine months, though some days it seems a lot longer. I am well aware of the expectations that accompany my presidency around the world. These expectations are not about me. Rather, they are rooted - I believe - in a discontent with a status quo that has allowed us to be increasingly defined by our differences, and outpaced by our problems. But they are also rooted in hope - the hope that real change is possible, and the hope that America will be a leader in bringing about such change.

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: 

Mitchell Press Briefing in NYC


Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release

September 22, 2009






Press Filing Center

Waldorf Astoria

New York, New York

2:24 P.M. EDT


     MR. GIBBS:  Good afternoon.  Sorry we're running a little bit late today.  We will do a statement from, and take some questions -- our Special Envoy for Middle East Peace, former Senator George Mitchell.

     SENATOR MITCHELL:  Thank you, Robert.  Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.  I'll make a brief statement, and then I'll be pleased to respond to your questions.

     The President had direct and constructive meetings with both Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas, and then he held his first trilateral meeting with the two leaders.  As the President said, this was an important moment.  Let me first give you some brief details.

     Each of the three meetings was about 40 minutes long.  The tone was positive and determined.  The President made clear his commitment to moving forward, and the leaders shared their commitment.  In the meetings with Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas, the President was joined by Secretary Clinton, General Jones, Tom Donilon and myself.  For the trilateral meeting, the President was joined by Secretary Clinton, General Jones and myself.

Obama Statement at Beginning of Trilateral with Netanyahu and Abbas


Office of the Press Secretary



For Immediate Release  September 22, 2009







Waldorf Astoria Hotel

New York, New York


12:26 P.M. EDT


THE PRESIDENT:  Please be seated, members of the delegations.


I have just concluded frank and productive bilateral meetings with both Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas.  And I want to thank them both for appearing here today.  I am now looking forward to this opportunity to hold the first meeting among the three of us since we took office.


As I said throughout my campaign and at the beginning of my administration, the United States is committed to a just, lasting and comprehensive peace in the Middle East.  That includes a settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that results in two states, Israel and Palestine, in which both the Israeli people and the Palestinian people can live in peace and security and realize their aspirations for a better life for their children.


That is why my Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and my Special Envoy George Mitchell have worked tirelessly to create the context for permanent status negotiations.  And we have made progress since I took office in January and since Israelis -- Israel's government took office in April.  But we still have much further to go.


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


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.

Michael Sfard at Podium 186x140.jpg

Key lawyer working on behalf of Peace Now named one of the "Israelis of the year"

by Dan Izenberg , THE JERUSALEM POST

On a recent roots trip to Poland, from where his parents immigrated in 1968, Michael Sfard found a lithograph which summed up in one picture what his professional life as a human rights lawyer is all about.

The Goldstone Report & Devastation in Gaza

Reading the Israeli reactions to the Goldstone Report, I was reminded of the language APN started using following the war. In March, our Board approved a statement that included the following:

Video Contest Finalists (from Israel)

The Israeli Peace Now movement today released the three finalists from its video competition. These videos were made by Peace Now activists.

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.

Iran's Response to invitation to talks: not "No" but "Game On"

Earlier this week we released new policy language calling for a US strategy of sustained, serious engagement with Iran.  Around the same time, Iran issued its (link has expired) response to the latest international call for negotiations.  As NIAC's Patrick Disney writes in an excellent analysis of the Iranian document, " The [Iranian] proposal was somewhat disappointing, though by no means closed the door on constructive engagement.  Unfortunately, by the time the actual document was released, the media and many policymakers had already made up their minds about what the package said, based on accounts from western diplomats..." Patrick concludes his post with the following:  "..To characterize this document as a 'rejection' of negotiations, or as 'ignoring' the key issues is disingenuous and false.  Period."  For more analysis of the Iranian proposal and what it actually means (and the opportunity it represents), read the ever-brilliant Trita Parsi here.

We encourage people to actually read the Iranian (link has expired) response for themselves.  Is it everything the US had hoped for?  Of course not.  Does that mean it is proof that engagement is pointless and should be cut short?  Of course not.  What it means is that the game is on - supporting our view that the way forward is not mis-targeted sanctions and unrealistic, arbitrary deadlines.  Rather, it is smart engagement, characterized by realistic goals and expectations and a readiness to adapt as the engagement process proceeds.

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.

Engaging Iran, Promoting Peace

Iranmap(med).jpgFor those who believe in Mideast peace, Iran remains an issue of central importance, and our policy on Iran represents the only effective approach for dealing with Iran - one that looks soberly at the current situation and offers the most pragmatic, constructive, and effective way forward.

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.

Success! Berman clears the record on settlements

Last week, I sent out an Action Alert to APN activists who live in Rep. Howard Berman's district to call on him to clear the record after a media report suggested that he opposed President Barack Obama's stance on a settlement freeze.

Today, we see the fruit of our activism.

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.