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Blog: April 2010 Archives

Re-Writing History to Avoid Taking Action on Illegal Outposts

I've been out of the loop the past two days taking Israeli military/security expert Yossi Alpher around town for meetings, so I am still digging out from two days worth of missed news articles.  One article which I just pulled up left me flabbergasted, both at the chutzpah of Israeli officials who it appears will go to any lengths, including blatantly re-writing history, to avoid taking action - as required of Israel under the Roadmap - to remove settlement outposts that even Israel recognizes are illegal - and at the way that the statements of these officials seem to go utterly unchallenged.

"Israel's Palestinian Opportunity" by Peace Now Secretary General Yariv Oppenheimer

Anyone who continues to question whether Israel has a responsible and strong Palestinian partner who has the capacity to sign a peace agreement with us received a clear answer on Sunday on Channel Two News: there is a government in Ramallah, there is a leader in the mukataa, and there is a palpable possibility of ending the peace process with a final status arrangement.

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: 


Danny Seidemann responds to Elie Wiesel (in Foreign Policy)

My dear friend and colleague, Jerusalem guru Danny Seidemann, has published a brilliant response to the bizarre Elie Wiesel-authored/signed ads about Jerusalem that recently ran in a number of major paper.  His response should be required reading for anyone who claims to actually care about Jerusalem -- a city that Danny and I - and so many others - love and are fighting to save.

Redeeming Jerusalem by truth, not hollow slogans
By Daniel Seidemann Monday, April 26, 2010

In recent full page ads in the New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal, renowned author and Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel argued that Jerusalem is "above politics." But the portrait of the city Wiesel painted is so factually inaccurate and so morally specious as to leave no room for doubt: Wiesel's false innocence and moral posturing over Jerusalem is an example of politics par excellence, with Wiesel willingly becoming a tool of Israel's extreme right in its desperate efforts to block Obama's peace efforts.

A review of the facts is in order

APN Weighs in on BDS, Criticism of Israel

In the context of surging efforts to promote -- and block -- boycott/divestment/sanctions efforts, and in the context of a serious debate within Israel and the Jewish community about how to deal with growing international criticism of Israel, we believe it is important to make clear what APN does, and does not, support.

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.

APN on Criticism of Israel and BDS - New Policy Language

APN today released new policy language on the recently increasing growing public criticism of Israel, including the efforts to boycott Israel, divest from it and sanction it (known as the BDS movement).  The purpose of the new document is to clarify the often foggy discussion over this issue in America's pro-Israel community and to make clear what APN supports and opposes.  the full text of the policy is included after the break.

Today the House appointed representatives to the House-Senate conference on HR 2194 (which is now carrying the Senate-given name -- the "Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability and Divestment Act of 2009".)  This comes more than a month after the Senate amended the text of HR 2194 on March 11th - deleting the entire House text and inserting their own (the text of S. 2799) - and appointed its own conferees. 

While House appointees were formally appointed only today, it is well-known that over the past month House and Senate staff have been working to reconcile the bills.  It is also well-known that Administration officials have been weighing in to try to convince key members to accept what the Administration considers to be the minimum changes necessary to ensure the bill does not directly conflict with the President's Iran strategy and efforts.

Now that House conferees have been appointed, it is anticipated that the conference will formally conclude its work quickly - as indicated by House Committee on Foreign Affairs Chairman Howard Berman (D-CA), who (link has expired) stated recently that he wanted Congress to pass the final version of the bill before the end of April.  UPDATED:  The motion to instruct that accompanied the appointment of House conferees stated that conferees were "to complete their work and present a conference report and joint explanatory statement by no later than May 28, 2010" -- potentially indicating that there will still be significant work completed in conference.

In response to today's events, APN sent a message to every conferee (House and Senate) - the message and the list of conferees is after the break.

Room to maneuver on Jerusalem

The revelation in today's print edition of Ma'ariv that Shas' spiritual leader, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, backs a settlement construction freeze in East Jerusalem shows that the Israeli body politic understands that East Jerusalem is central to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and therefore must be treated differently that the rest of Israel.

Moreover, it shows that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has a great deal of wiggle room. The Shas party is a major power broker within Netanyahu's governing coalition and Yosef has been the moving force behind the party since its inception.

The following is an excerpt from the article:

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:

APN tells House: Israel shouldn't be a political pawn

This morning APN sent the following message to all House offices:

Dear [        ],

This week Members of Congress are being pressed to cosponsor H. Con. Res. 260 - a resolution whose ostensible purpose is to recognize the 62nd anniversary of the founding of the state of Israel. 

Americans for Peace Now proudly celebrates the anniversary of Israel's founding and we support Congress in doing so.  However, given the crass exploitation of this current resolution for other purposes, this year we take the extraordinary step of urging members of Congress to refuse to support this resolution unless it is amended.

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.

Israelis raise the peace flag - See Pictures

Flying Flags 186x140.jpgOur colleagues in the Israeli Peace Now movement produced Israeli flags with the word "peace" written on them and offered them to the Israeli public in advance of Israel's Independence Day.

Thousands were distributed to be hung from balconies and flagpoles throughout the country.

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:

Ron Lauder Doesn't Speak for the Jews

Today World Jewish Congress President Ron Lauder published an open letter taking President Obama to task over his Middle East policy.    Which is his prerogative - everyone is entitled to their opinion.  But Lauder goes a step too far when he claims to speak not only for himself but for Jews everywhere.  Lauder - as a Republican American Jew - is by definition part of a small minority of American Jews (the vast majority of American Jews are Democrats and voted for Obama), and part of an even smaller number of Jews the world over (who are not invested in American partisan politics).  

Lauder all but accuses Obama of being anti-Israel - of acting in ways that have caused the "deterioration of diplomatic relations" between Israel and the US.  But that's not all.  Lauder, still speaking on behalf of Jews everywhere, demands answers.  

What chutzpah!

With new IDF order, what is Israel thinking?

With all the talk lately about concerns that there is some kind of well-organized, well-funded campaign afoot to delegitimize Israel, you'd think that even if Israeli officials are not particularly worried about the health of Israeli democracy and Israel's respect for the rule of law, someone in Israeli officialdom would be conscious of the political optics of Israeli decisions.  But apparently not.

The latest example is the decision (also see here) to amend a 1969 military order pertaining to "infiltrators" who might come into the West Bank.  The original order was aimed at people entering the territory from countries with which Israel was in a state of war, and who might therefore threaten Israel's security.  Now, Israeli officials have taken the extraordinary step of "updating" the order so that it can be applied to a potentially huge number of Palestinians and virtually all internationals living or working in the West Bank - in effect applying to them the same order that was originally intended to apply to Lebanese and Syrian commando forces that might try to infiltrate the West Bank to do evil unto Israel.

Raise the Peace Flag for Israel

Our colleagues from the Israeli Peace Now movement -- in preparation for Israel's Independence Day (which will be celebrated Monday) -- are distributing Israeli flags with the Hebrew word Shalom on it.

They are demonstrating that supporting Israel means supporting peace.

The demand for these flags is huge. Thousands of flags are now being packed up by Peace Now's staff and volunteers to be sent throughout the country to supporters in time for Independence Day.

As Israel's Independence Day approaches, join us in making the statement that you care about Israel and care about peace.

Click here for a "Twibbon" that can be added to your Facebook or Twitter account.

Livni throws down a gauntlet

Today's Yedioth Ahronoth features an article by Kadima Party chief Tzippi Livni, in which she airs a series of criticisms of Netanyahu's approach to peace. This is the most clear and substantive such critique by Livni that I can remember in some time.

Here are some noteworthy highlights:

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:

Summer Internships at Americans for Peace Now

APN is accepting applications for its Summer 2010 intern cycle. We are looking for a few bright, dynamic individuals who are excited and ready to get involved in Middle East peace advocacy.