Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Prime Minister Netanyahu on Iran

If you haven't seen Prime Minister Netanyahu's interview last Sunday on Meet The Press it really is "Must See TV", to borrow NBC's slogan. (NBC is the network that broadcasts Meet The Press in the U.S.) For those of you who prefer to read the transcript you can find it here.

A few high points:
Obviously, you see a regime that represses its own people and spreads terror far and wide. It is a regime whose real nature has been unmasked, and it's been unmasked by incredible acts of courage by Iran citizens. They go into the streets, they face bullets and, I tell you, as somebody who believes deeply in democracy, that you see the Iranian lack of democracy at work, and I think this better explains and best explains to the entire world what this regime is truly about.


Andrei Sakharov, the great Russian scientist and humanist, said that a regime that oppresses its own people sooner or later will oppress its neighbors and, certainly, Iran has been doing that. It's been calling for the denial of the Holocaust. It's threatening to wipe Israel off the map; it's pursuing nuclear weapons to that effect; it's sponsoring terror against us but throughout the world. So I think what everybody would like to see is a change of policy, both outside and inside.


I don't subscribe to the view that Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons is a status symbol. It's not. These are people who are sending thousands and thousands of missiles to their terrorist proxies, Hizbullah and Hamas, with the specific instruction to bomb civilians in Israel. They are supporting terrorists in the world. This is not a status symbol.

To have such a regime acquire nuclear weapons is to risk the fact that they might give it to terrorists or give terrorists a nuclear umbrella - that is a departure in the security of the Middle East and the world, certainly the security of my country. So I wouldn't treat the subject so lightly."

Watch the full interview:

Monday, June 15, 2009

Carter on Settlements: Gush Etzion Will Remain Israeli "Forever"

Yesterday former U.S. President Jimmy Carter visited Neveh Daniel and met with Shaul Goldstien, who leads the Gush Etzion Regional Council, in Goldstien's home. Here are some of President Carter's comments as reported by The Jerusalem Post:
This particular settlement area is not one I ever envision being abandoned or changed over into Palestinian territory."

He added that the Jewish communities in Gush Etzion are among a number of West Bank settlements "...that I think will be here forever." The former President also thanked the Gush Etzion residents he met with:
I recognize that their suffering is taking place in an area where strife and misunderstanding and animosity exists. I have been fortunate this afternoon in learning the perspective that I did not have. I explained to those listening of my long-time commitment to Israel. The most important element in my life in the last 30 years is to bring peace...

What makes this statement so important is the fact that it came from President Carter, a political leader widely considered to be strongly pro-Palestinian and who has wrongly compared Israeli policies to South African apartheid. I have been harshly critical of Mr. Carter in the past but this time he absolutely gets it right.

President Carter has come to the same realiztion that Presidents Clinton and Bush have reached: the 1949 armistice line, to so-called "pre-1967 borders" were never intended to be borders at all and simply are not defensible. Israel can never return to those "borders" and the intransigent Palestinian position of refusing to budge from the armistice line or engage in land swaps is a real obstacle to any hope of peace in the future.

Even the use of the term "settlements" is often inaccurate and misleading. Here is what I wrote about the history of the Etzion bloc in March, 2006:
Gush Etzion and pretty much the entire Etzion bloc were Jewish property and Jewish towns prior to 1948. Israeli forces had to evacuate the population when the Jordanian army conquered the area during Israel's 1948-49 War of Independence. Why does 19 years of illegal Jordanian occupation turn Israeli Jewish towns into colonies? Why was Jordan's occupation deemed somehow legitimate and Israel's subsequent control of the area for the next nearly 39 years somehow illegitimate?

The fact is that all "settlements" are not equal. They do not all have the same history and are not somehow stolen Palestinian land. President Clinton recognized this in regard to the Jewish community in Hebron as well. From the same March, 2006 piece:
...the Jewish community of Hebron lived for many centuries in peace with their Arab neighbors. It was only the violence incited by then Palestinian Arab leader Haj Amin al-Husseini, the British appointed Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, and the subsequent Hebron massacre of 1929, that drove the Jewish community out. The "settlers" in Hebron have simply reclaimed homes and property that was Jewish for centuries and restored a community in a city that is holy to the Jewish people. Hebron is, after all, the site of the Tomb of the Patriarchs, the burial place of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. President Bill Clinton recognized this, proposing at Camp David in 2000 that Palestinians lease the Jewish enclaves in the city to the Jewish inhabitants and/or Israel indefinitely. His idealistic vision was one of Jews and Palestinian Arabs once again living together in peace. Does either the terrorism and slaughter of 1929 or the Jordanian occupation of Hebron from 1948 until 1967 negate the Jewish claims in the city and centuries of continued Jewish presence there?

Sadly it does not appear that President Obama understands this history in his call for a freeze to all settlement activity. If he was calling for no further expropriation of land from the Palestinian Arabs living in Judea and Samaria I'd agree with the President. If he was talking about not expanding settlements geographically I'd agree that such expansion would be damaging to any prospects for a meaningful peace process. That isn't what the President is talking about. He is opposed even to natural growth within Jewish towns and cities on land within those communities. President Obama is critical of Israel at a time when Israeli policies have allowed for negligible settlement growth or, in some cases, actual declines in population and as the Netanyahu government forcibly evacuates illegal outposts.

It is high time President Obama stops trying to determine the outcome of peace talks in advance at a time when the Palestinian leadership seems to have little or no interest in compromise or peace. It is particularly important that the President learns more of the history of the Jewish communities in question and comes to the same realizations that President Clinton, President Bush, and now even President Carter have come to. There are Jewish communities beyond the Green Line that are legal, legitimate, and here to stay.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Iranian Opposition Arrests Are For "Traffic Violations"

I watched part of the press conference today by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinajad today. I heard his claim that the reporting of what was essentially a stolen election was "slander" by Western journalists. He claimed that the arrests and violence with riot police seen beating protesters was just the normal sort of thing that happens when people "leave a soccer stadium". I listened to him claim that everyone is equal in Iran and that the people arrested were being "fined" by the police for violating traffic laws. He repeatedly claimed that 40 million people voted in Iran and that "safeguards" the elections. He insisted that there is "no partisanship" in Iran as in the West, that everyone remains friends and nobody asks who you voted for in Iran. All of this was to justify his government's claim that President Ahmadenijad was reelected with 63% of the vote despite the fact that they have not released any vote tallies and that all polls and press reports prior to the voting indiciated a likely opposite result.

Despite President Ahmadenijad's claims to the contrary it is clear to all the world that is willing to look at Iran honestly that what exists is a theocratic totalitarian state, not a democracy in any sense of the word. This is, of course, the same President Ahmadenijad who denies the Holocaust and wants to wipe Israel off the map and says so to thunderous applause at the U.N. This is the same President Ahmadenijad who sees his country's quest for both nuclear weapons and ballistic missile technology as a "right".

Today The New York Times and The Jerusalem Post are reporting that President Obama is still determined to enter into direct talks with Iran in spite of the stolen election. This makes the previous report that that the U.S. administration is not accepting the election results ring hollow. It is time for President Obama and his administration to end their timid, almost acquiescent, approach to Iran. If the President ever needed a justification to change his policy towards Iran he has it in this stolen election. U.S. policy needs to return to one that recognizes that Iran simply will not engage in any meaninfuly negotiations and is effectively immune to diplomacy. If Iran does enter into any talks with the West in general or the United States in particular it is simply to buy time to allow the nuclear and missile programs to be completed.

Three and a half years ago I used this blog to call for U.S. military action to end the Iranian nuclear program. The point I made then is that the consequences for the U.S. and the world as a whole would be much less severe and fewer lives would be lost if the U.S. rather than Israel took such action. I still believe that is true but I also believe that the Obama administration will never do any such thing. We know that last September Israel was prepared to go ahead with such an attack. It has been widely reported that President Bush effectively vetoed the action and that Prime Minister Olmert decided not to act without American support. Earlier this month we had the spectacle of Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman assuring the Russians that Israel will not attack Iran and that this is an international problem, not an Israeli one per se. Never mind that the international community, as demonstrated in April at the U.N. Durban II conference, would be perfectly content to see Israel destroyed and that Iranian leaders have promised to do just that.

The "election" in Iran demonstrates clearly that Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is very much in charge and that Iran's President will be whomever Khamenei decides will be President. The people of Iran, whom President Ahmadenijad insists have "total freedom", have no say whatsoever. The aftermath of the election, with internet services blocked, newspapers shut down, and the opposition either arrested or under threat of arrest, signals clearly that nothing is going to change in Iran. Their desire to destroy Israel and to have a leadership that proclaims that openly has not changed.

What needs to change is the timid response by the United States and the equally timid response by Israel at America's behest. Americans need to remember that there is only one nation that the Iranian leadership hates more than Israel: the "Great Satan", the United States. With a theocratic regims that believes that an apocalyptic battle will set the stage for the return of the 12th Imam, the Islamic messiah, it would be foolish to believe that given nuclear weapons and the ability to deliver them that Iran would not use them. This sham election should serve as a reminder than nothing short of military action will prevent that. I said it three and a half years ago and I repeat it now.

At the very least President Obama needs to untie the hands of Israel's leadership. Failing that it is time that Prime Minister Netanyahu realizes that he cannot count on the United States to prevent Israel's destruction. Israel must act to safeguard her citizens and her survival with our without U.S. approval.