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Blog: September 2010 Archives

Does AIPAC rate candidates? You decide.

In this hot political season, Ben Smith over at Politico has a juicy scoop today entitled "AIPAC disputes Sestak ad."  The gist of the piece is this:  one of the campaign ads of Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA)  -- designed, it seems, to fend off criticism that he is anti-Israel, the result of a campaign being waged against him by a group called the Emergency Committee for Israel -- asserts that "According to AIPAC, Joe Sestak has a 100% pro-Israel voting record."  Smith's talked to soon-to-be-former-AIPAC spokesman Josh Block, who retorts: "Joe Sestak does not have a 100% voting record on Israel issues according to AIPAC. It couldn't be true, we don't rate or endorse candidates."

Now just to be clear, I have no idea how Sestak's record looks to AIPAC, and I don't really care.  But during a week when there has been a lot of discussion over what it means to tell the truth in the Israel advocacy world, Josh's words got my attention.  Why?  Because while AIPAC may not "rate or endorse candidates," it certainly scores their pro-Israel voting (and letter-signing) record.  This is well-known on the Hill and among Hill watchers (and is the root of an often-heard question from Hill staff, "do you know if AIPAC is scoring this?").

ACTION ALERT: "The settlement freeze ends. What about peace talks?"

settlementsHarHoma.jpgLast night the Israeli government failed to extend its ban on new settlement construction in the West Bank.

This is bad news. Israelis and Palestinians are negotiating over the future of the West Bank. Renewed settlement construction sends a dangerous message about Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's commitment to peace talks.

Send a message to President Obama.

Silwan Crisis - Not Over Yet

(Special to APN from Daniel Seidemann and Lara Friedman)

We wrote earlier today about the crisis unfolding in Silwan.  The latest Jerusalem news - that the Israeli police have withdrawn from the Temple Mount/Haram al Sharif and the barricaded worshipers have left the site - is creating the impression that this crisis is now behind us.

Such a conclusion would be dangerously premature.  There are compelling reasons to warn that this crisis may not yet be over:

Israeli playwright suspended from job for criticizing settlements

Yesterday the New York Times published an article describing a recent Peace Now flight over the West Bank.  Passengers on the flight included Members of the Knesset, journalists, and others, including a famous Israeli playwright named Joshua Sobol, who recently signed onto a letter refusing to participate in performances in settlements.  During the flight Sobol made some very harsh comments about settlements.  In response, the school where Sobol teaches in Jerusalem (a private religious film school) has suspended him from teaching. 

Commenting on his suspension, Sobol sounded regretful but stated: "Perhaps the time has come for the controversy over the settlements to come to the surface, and that is my response. And if it costs me this workplace, then I am sorry. But sometimes a person has to go with his truth to the end."

Below is the article from Yedioth Ahronoth (Hebrew print edition) detailing the story. 

Crisis in Silwan

Silwan9.22.10.jpg(Special to APN from Daniel Seidemann in Jerusalem and Lara Friedman)

As most people probably know by now, early this morning (reportedly around 4am local time) an Israeli security guard working for the Silwan settlers shot and killed a Palestinian resident of Silwan and wounded two others, one seriously (Haaretz, Ynet, Maan).

Tracking West Bank settlements just got a whole lot easier

This morning APN is releasing an interactive mapping tool that is going to change the debate about settlements forever.

I'm very excited. We've been working on this revolutionary app for close to a year. It is finally ready for you to check out online or on an iPhone or iPad.

Settlements stand in the way of peace. In the short-term, news of their expansion can derail President Barack Obama's efforts to get real peace talks going. In the long-term, unchecked settlement expansion can spell the end for Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.

But that hasn't stopped settler leaders and other talking heads from spouting empty rhetoric about how construction in settlements doesn't really matter. Their tactic is simple: take advantage of the complexity of the situation to obscure construction that undermines peace.

All of that changes today.

Glib talk about settlements harms peace efforts (Part 2)

On August 30th published my analysis of some of the glib talk that is going on these days about "compromises" on the settlement moratorium -- like Israel building "only" in settlement blocs or allowing only "vertical" construction.  Today published my follow-up analysis, which looks at another suggested compromise - the "de facto" moratorium - and makes the case that a compromise on the moratorium - while possible - is not actually necessary and is not good for Israel.

Glib talk about settlements harms peace efforts (Part II)
By Lara Friedman Tuesday, September 14, 2010 - 1:39 PM

Part I on the settlement moratorium can be found here

As Israeli and Palestinian negotiators sat down for the second round of peace talks today in Sharm el Sheikh, their meeting was overshadowed by the imminent expiration of the settlement moratorium on September 30th. Many pundits continue to argue that a compromise on the settlement moratorium -- one that permits Israel to pursue some new settlement construction -- is the only thing that can get the parties past this hurdle. Many continue to suggest, too, that a "reasonable" compromise on settlements is easy to define. They are wrong on both counts.

It also seems safe to predict that a corollary to these arguments will soon emerge, to the effect that President Abbas' continued refusal to accept a compromise proves he is weak or, more damning, not serious about making peace. The irony is that this analysis makes as much -- if not more -- sense applied to Prime Minister Netanyahu.

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.

Full text of Clinton, Netanyahu, and Obama remarks at launch of talks

Department of State | Benjamin Franklin Room | Washington, DC
September 2, 2010
Secretary Clinton's Remarks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (video available here)

SECRETARY CLINTON: Good morning and welcome to the State Department here in the Benjamin Franklin Room. I want to thank all of you for joining us today to re-launch negotiations to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I know the decision to sit at this table was not easy. We understand the suspicion and skepticism that so many feel, born out of years of conflict and frustrated hopes. The tragic act of terror on Tuesday and the terrorist shooting yesterday are yet additional reminders of the human costs of this conflict. But by being here today, you each have taken an important step toward freeing your peoples from the shackles of a history we cannot change, and moving toward a future of peace and dignity that only you can create. So, thank you. Thank you for your courage and your commitment.

The Neglected Facts within (and omitted by) the Latest Settlement Stats

Earlier this week (just in time for the start of peace talks in Washington) the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) released data (English and Hebrew) regarding construction in settlements (and inside Israel).  These include numbers for 2006-2009, the first quarter of 2010, and estimated numbers for the second quarter of 2010.  Much has been made of the fact that the data show virtually no new settlement starts in 2010, with the CBS reporting only 2 starts in the first quarter of 2010 and 3 in the second quarter.  

However, this is not tell the whole story.

The key fact missing from such analysis is this:  so much new construction was front-loaded just before the start of the moratorium that if the moratorium is not extended past Sept 26th its impact will have been minimal.

Pre-Dinner remarks: Obama, Mubarak, Abdullah, Netanyahu, and Abbas

THE WHITE HOUSE -- Office of the Press Secretary ________________________________________________________________

For Immediate Release
September 1, 2010

East Room

7:05 P.M. EDT

Remarks by the President in the Rose Garden after Bilateral Meetings

For Immediate Release | September 01, 2010 | the Rose Garden |  5:27 P.M. EDT

Remarks by the President in the Rose Garden after Bilateral Meetings with Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel, President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority, His Majesty King Abdullah of Jordan, and President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt

Readout of President Obama's Meeting with King Abdullah of Jordan

THE WHITE HOUSE - Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release -- September 1, 2010

APN's Debra DeLee on today's peace talks

Many people have asked me what I think about the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks that open today in Washington. My answer is twofold.

First, I'm excited. Today, the leaders of Israel and the Palestinians will sit down to negotiate peace, face to face. And they will do so under the auspices of President Barack Obama, who clearly is committed to achieving peace.

Make no mistake: It's a big deal that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu - head of the most hard-line coalition in Israel's history - is coming to the table to negotiate a two-state peace deal. And it is a big deal that President Mahmoud Abbas is coming to the table with the explicit backing of the entire Arab world.

This is a moment to be savored. It's a sign that our message - that negotiations are the only way to make peace for Israel - has had an impact.

Post-Obama/Abbas meeting - Report from White House pool reporter

In contrast to the Obama-Netanyahu meeting earlier this day, which was followed by statements from both leaders, there were no statements after the Obama-Abbas meeting this afternoon.  There was, however, the notably news-free report from the White House pool reporter (as posted on Time/CNN's (link has expired) The Page.)

Obama/Netanyahu remarks after today's bilateral meeting

September 1, 2010
Oval Office Colonnade
12:24 P.M. EDT


Top 10 Reasons to be Hopeful about New Peace Talks

Tomorrow marks the beginning of the first direct Israeli-Palestinian talks since President Barack Obama took office. 

There are good reasons to be skeptical that these talks will succeed, and the reasons for skepticism are clear:  the readiness and ability of both Israeli and Palestinian leaders to deliver their respective sides of a peace agreement is in doubt; President Obama has yet to demonstrate the kind of hands-on, "I-will-not-let-this-fail" engagement that will be necessary for talks to succeed; and of course, spoilers will be out in force, seeking through actions and words to provoke hatred and anger, to undermine trust, and, if possible, to destroy this new peace process.  

That said, there are also reasons to be hopeful that these talks can succeed.  With most attention these days focused on the reasons for skepticism, we think this is an important time to look seriously at these reasons for hope.

Special Envoy Mitchell's Press briefing 8/31/10

The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
August 31, 2010 (10:24 A.M. EDT)
Press Briefing by Special Envoy for Middle East Peace Senator George Mitchell

Sept 2010 Peace Summit - Schedule for 9/1/10

Sept 2010 Peace Summit - Schedule for 9/1/10

10:45 am:  The President holds a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel in the Oval Office

1:30 pm:  The President holds a bilateral meeting with President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority in the Oval Office

2:45 pm:  The President holds a bilateral meeting with King Abdullah II of Jordan in the Oval Office

4:00 pm:  The President holds a bilateral meeting with President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt in the Oval Office

5:20 pm:  The President delivers a statement to the press in the Rose Garden

7:00 pm:  The President and visiting leaders deliver statements to the press in the East Room

8:00 pm:  The President hosts a working dinner with visiting leaders in the Old Family Dining Room

SecState Clinton/Bibi Remarks, 8/31/10