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Blog: July 2010 Archives

Obama, Abbas, and calling the 'direct talks' bluff

obamaabbasnetanyahu.pngBy Lara Friedman  
Yesterday's decision by the Arab League to endorse direct Israeli-Palestinian talks -- an endorsement that apparently is not, as some have reported, conditioned on additional concrete assurances from the Obama administration -- increases the chances that President Abbas will at last test the resolve of his counterpart regarding direct Israeli-Palestinian talks.

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

A Personal Journey

Intern Event Group 186x140.jpgLyndsi Sherman, a junior at San Diego State University, participated in APN's joint internship program with the American Task Force on Palestine this summer. She prepared this reflection on what she learned through her experience here.

On my first day of interning in DC, I naturally made the smart decision of leaving my phone at home. Not only did I have no form of communication, but it also happened to hold the address, directions, and phone numbers of the APN office...

Defending Israel's democracy

The Peace Now leader penned an op-ed published on July 21st in Ma'ariv about the threat posed to Israel's democracy by some of the legislation that is moving forward in the Israeli parliament.

Yariv_Oppenheimer Peace Now Secretary General 186x140.jpg"The Elkin Bills" by Yariv Oppenheimer

   The Knesset summer session has finally ended.  We can only hope that a majority of the Knesset members will take long vacations and let Israeli democracy lick its wounds and try to recover from the severe blows that it suffered from almost all the Knesset factions.

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)

The Extremist Settler's Guide to Getting Away with Terror

Last week news broke in the Israeli press of the arrest of an Israeli settler, Haim Pearlman, on charges of murdering 4 Palestinians and committing many other attacks over the past twelve years.  The Pearlman Affair reminds many, of course, of the November 2009 case of Jack Teitel, the American citizen settler accused of a 12-year terror spree that included the murder of at least 2 Palestinians and many other attacks.

The fact that both Pearlman and Teitel are accused of terror sprees that lasted more than a decade has aroused some comment.  The time it took for Israeli authorities to act against the two seems to be in stark contrast to what is seen when an Israeli is murdered by a Palestinian.  For example, today the Shin Bet announced that it had caught the Hamas cell in Hebron responsible for the murder of an Israeli policeman - a murder that took place almost exactly 1 month ago. 

Indeed, the Israeli press has focused a great deal in recent days on the difficulty Israeli officials seem to have in dealing with extremist settler law-breakers, focusing, in particular, on the lengths that extremist settler leaders are going to in order to turn the tables on Israeli intelligence officials in order to embarrass the State of Israel and thwart its efforts to impose any semblance of the rule of law on them.

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.

Jail time for settler lawbreakers?

Kiryat Netafim Sign2 320x265.jpgThe Israeli government opened a criminal investigation against a group of settlers who expanded their settlement in violation of Israeli law. 

This was disclosed in a statement the Israeli government provided the Israeli High Court on Sunday in proceedings on a Peace Now petition.

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.
ramzi abu radwan.jpg
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.

Enough already with the "Obama-caved-to-Bibi" Spin

It is Day 3 of the "Obama-caved-to-Bibi" editorializing.  Enough already.  

Yes, it would have great if during this week's visit Obama has made explicit his expectation that the settlement moratorium should be extended past September 26th.  And yes, many of us would have liked to hear him press Bibi on issues related to Jerusalem, Gaza, and Bibi's readiness to discuss all final status issues in negotiations and achieve a peace agreement to realize the two-state solution.  

But we all knew in advance that the goal of this visit - for both Obama and Bibi, each for his own reasons - was a clear public statement that relations between the two are fine.  And barring some 11th hour Israeli provocation - an outrage on par with the Ramat Shlomo embarrassment during the Biden visit, or the announcement of building permits for Shepherds Hotel the same day Bibi was set to meet Obama on his last visit - that was always what this was going to be.  The point being: nobody should be surprised that both Bibi and Obama were content to rhetorically avoid or gloss over any disagreements.

Turning No into Yes on a Two-State Solution

Coauthored by Lara Friedman, Director of Policy and Government Relations for Americans for Peace Now, and Isaac Luria, Vice President for Communications and New Media at J Street.

We hear far too many "Nos!" in the American Jewish and pro-Israel communities about why we can't ever achieve any reasonable compromise to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

We're turning these "Nos!" into "Yeses!" with the following short, rational responses.

APN on US tax-exempt funding of settlements

John Hagee at Pro-Israel Rally 186.jpgFor years settlers have openly fund-raised in the United States - including in synagogues, on booze cruises, in churches and at gala dinners. Over time, millions of dollars have flowed, tax-exempt, to settlers and settlement-related causes, including to support settler extremists in Hebron and East Jerusalem, (cont.)

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.
UPDATE 7/4/10:  The Ministerial Committee for Legislation voted this morning to not move the bill (discussed below) to the Knesset for a vote.  This is a positive development, though how positive will depend on what happens during and after the meeting with Obama this Tuesday.  It is not at all certain that Netanyahu's reported pressure on ministers to oppose the bill discloses a real readiness to extend the settlement moratorium (in its current form, not with new loopholes), or whether this is all just political theater (as discussed below).  It also remains to be seen if Bibi's pressure on Knesset members was less about the substance of the bill than the timing -- with Netanyahu trying to avoid sticking a finger in Obama's eye the day before his visit to Washington (similar to what happened this weekend in Jerusalem, where Israel's public security minister intervened to convince settlers to delay - not cancel - plans to throw Palestinians families out of another settler-targeted property in Silwan).   

Maariv is reporting today (July 2) that on Sunday (July 4), the Knesset's Ministerial Committee for Legislation will be taking up a bill that would require the government to bring any decision to freeze settlements - even for a short time - to the Knesset for a vote. (The Jerusalem Post reported the same thing, in less detail, a few days ago).

Given the current political coloration of the Knesset, if this bill is passed into law it will make it nearly impossible for Netanyahu to extend the current settlement moratorium - or impose another one in the future.

Poor Bibi.

Today's Middle East Channel published my post (copied below) looking at the latest dust-up over something Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren said (or what he says he didn't really say) earlier this week in a private meeting about the US-Israel relationship.  According to sources in the meeting, Oren said there was a tectonic "rift" developing between Israel and the US.  He later denied saying this, clarifying that the word he used was "shift" not "rift."  Rhyming words are often the source of confusion, right?  Which brings to mind this classic Sesame Street sketch, with roving reporter Kermit the Frog in London, searching for the London fog, and finding instead the London frog, the London log, the London hog, etc... But I digress.

Michael Oren's curious understanding of friendship

Posted By Lara Friedman Thursday, July 1, 2010

Earlier this week Israel's Ambassador to the US, Michael Oren, reportedly said that relations between Israel and the US "...are in the state of a tectonic rift in which continents are drifting apart." The implication being that there has been a shift in the US approach to Israel, led by a president who unlike his predecessors is "not motivated by historical-ideological sentiments toward Israel but [instead] by cold interests and considerations."

With Netanyahu due in Washington next week for a visit whose ostensible purpose is to demonstrate that relations between the two governments are good, these comments have raised some eyebrows.

Solow and Rosenberg Get it Wrong

Earlier this week AIPAC President Lee Rosenberg and Conference of Presidents Chairman Alan Solow published an op-ed in the JTA entitled "Only Israel [is] making the effort toward peace."  

Solow and Rosenberg get their facts wrong (more on that in a second). But more importantly, their thesis suggests that there is little that Israel or America's leaders can do to make progress towards peace. That is a dangerous line of thinking, one that ignores how important progress towards peace is for the security of Israelis and for Israel's long-term viability as a Jewish and democratic state.

Time to extend the settlement freeze


President Obama will meet with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu at the White House on Tuesday. This meeting is an opportunity for Obama to push Netanyahu to act for peace by stopping construction in West Bank settlements.

Israel announced a moratorium on new settlement construction last year, but that freeze has yet to result in a discernible slowdown in construction. And the settlement freeze is set to expire in three months. If it is not extended, peace talks may collapse.