The New Mandela

Uri Avnery
Uri Avnery

Uri Avnery

MARWAN BARGHOUTI has spoken up. After a long silence, he has sent a message from prison.

In Israeli ears, this message does not sound pleasant. But for Palestinians, and for Arabs in general, it makes sense.

His message may well become the new program of the Palestinian liberation movement.

I FIRST met Marwan in the heyday of post-Oslo optimism. He was emerging as a leader of the new Palestinian generation, the home-grown young activists, men and women, who had matured in the first Intifada.

He is a man of small physical stature and large personality. When I met him, he was already the leader of Tanzim (“organization”), the youth group of the Fatah movement. Continue reading

One Eyed Men in the World of the Blind

Dr. Lawrence Davidson

One-Eyed Men In The World Of The Blind – An Analysis (11 September 2011)

 

Dr. Lawrence Davidson


There is an interesting phenomenon which we can call “the political retiree’s confession.” I don’t mean all those hyped memoirs, ghost written for all manner of high ranking ex-officials. Here I refer to statements by important political leaders and bureaucrats, either out of office or about to vacate their positions, publically describing what really needs to be done. For instance, what really needs to be done to obtain peace, or accurately pointing fingers at those obstructing peace. These statements can be shocking in their honesty, but curiously enough, are never made, much less acted upon, while the truth sayer is in a position of power. They come to us only with retirement or pending retirement.

For example, take former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Olmert was Prime Minister from 2006 (replacing Ariel Sharon who had suffered a debilitating stroke) till early 2009. A few months before leaving office Olmert told the newspaper Yediot Aharonot that, in the end, Israel would have to return “almost all” of the West Bank to the Palestinians, including East Jerusalem. There was no other way to achieve peace with the Arab world. Olmert went on, “the decision we are going to have to make is the decision we have been refusing for 40 years to look at open-eyed….The time has come to say these things. The time has come to put them on the table.” Of course “the time” oddly coincided with a period when the Prime Minister could not move this insight from theory into practice.

Now we have another example of this strange phenomenon. This time from the United States. According to Jeffrey Goldberg, the national correspondent for The Atlantic magazine, former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, “in a meeting of the National Security Council Principals Committee held shortly before his retirement this summer [2011]” gave his expert opinion that the Israeli government was ungrateful for United States assistance. That despite all the Obama administration had done for Jerusalem, “access to top-quality weapons, assistance developing missile defense systems, high-level intelligence sharing….the U.S. has received nothing in return.” On top of that, in Gates’s estimation Prime Minister Netanyahu is “endangering his country by refusing to grapple with Israel’s growing isolation…” No one at the high level meeting disagreed with this analysis.

Gates’s publically revealed anger is nice to hear about but, like Olmert’s epiphany, it means little in practice. Netanyahu has been rude, duplicitous and downright nasty to President Obama in what was actually a replay of the behavior of Menachem Begin toward Jimmy Carter in the late 1970s. Carter’s National Security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski learned to distrust the Israeli leadership and would later, after he was no longer in office, advocate an increasing hard line toward Jerusalem. Indeed, he once suggested military confrontation with Israel if that country’s leaders risked a regional war by attacking Iranian nuclear development sites (he suggested the U.S. Air Force shoot down the Israeli planes). This was a reasonable suggestion given the stakes but, of course, it was made when Brzezinski had no position of influence.

Getting back to the article on Gates’s negative opinion of Netanyahu and his government, Jeffrey Goldberg writes, that the former Defense Secretary actually “articulated bluntly what so many people in the administration seem to believe.” OK. So what are they doing about this? Absolutely nothing. They will all wait until they no longer have positions of influence to come out and vent. The situation is disgusting. And it is disgusting because in both the U.S. and Israel (and no doubt in many other countries as well) there are leaders and advisers who know what needs to be done in Israel-Palestine to make the world more secure and stable, and yet they stand by and twiddle their thumbs.

Why do these leaders do nothing about matters of such importance? Here are two interconnected reasons:

1. In his book Victims of Groupthink (1972) Irving L. Janis shows how governing political elites create self-reinforcing decision making circles that insulate themselves from serious challenge. It is rare that anyone within these circles “thinks outside the box.” However, it turns out that the “box” must always be able to accommodate the demands and interests of other groups whose money and power support the “circle’s” political viability. This is a system that must produce frustration and sense of powerlessness among (the rare) officials who can see even a little more clearly than their peers. By the way it is not a problem unique to political elites. It surely exists in most organizational structures. It is just that when it comes to government the stakes are so much higher for all of us.

2. Enmeshed as they are in a system of national interest group politics that dictate the fate of their various political parties and their own careers, those who might suspect a world outside the box will stay silent. The narrow fate of party and career is, apparently, worth more than world peace. It is worth more than the lives of millions of doomed civilians and soldiers. It is worth more than justice for nations and peoples. Only when free of this debilitating system do some of these people find their tongues. But by then all they have are impotent words. This is what we are seeing in the belated surfacing of rational criticism and analysis from unexpected sources such as Olmert and Gates.

Conclusion

How often do we read about individuals and groups who, witnessing an accident or a crime just stand by and do nothing? These people do not want to “get involved.” Afterwards, such folks are usually very quiet and meek. They don’t want their neighbors to know that they stood by and did nothing. But the position of these confessing political retirees is quite different. They were already involved. And now, after the fact, these one-eyed men in the world of the blind want us all to know they have seen the light. Great. Now you tell us!

 

Dr. Lawrence Davidson

Dr. Lawrence Davidson

 

Dr. Lawrence Davidson is professor of history at West Chester University. He is the author of numerous books, including Islamic Fundamentalism and America’s Palestine: Popular and Official Perceptions from Balfour to Israeli Statehood.

The author is a regular contributor to RamallahOnline.com.More articles can be found on RamallahOnline.com, Logos Journal, and Dr. Davidson also maintains an online blog, you can find it at http://www.tothepointanalyses.com

Avigdor Lieberman to Be Indicted

Stephen Lendman

Stephen Lendman, 12 April 2011

A previous article profiled him in-depth, accessed through the following link:

http://sjlendman.blogspot.com/2010/10/avigdor-lieberman-profile-in.html

It explained he represents the worst of Israel’s lunatic fringe, sort of a combination Dick Cheney/John McCain/Joe Lieberman, too extremist to be entrusted with power, but he’s got it.

Robert Fisk once said he “out-Sharons even Ariel Sharon. (He’s) talked of drowning Palestinians in the Dead Sea or executing Israeli Palestinians who talked to Hamas. (His) incendiary language (promotes) executions….drownings….hell and loyalty oaths,” perfect for the role he assumed, allied with Israel’s most extremist ever Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who also out-Sharons Sharon, no easy feat by any means.

Israel under Netanyahu/Lieberman institutionalized racism in its worst form – potential expulsion or extermination. Gideon Levy called him a “nightmare (who’s) here and now. (Extremist Rabbi Meir) Kahane is alive and kicking – is he ever – in the person of his thuggish successor.”

He promotes “hatred for Arabs, hatred of democracy and the rule of law, and the stink of nationalism, racism and bloodthirstiness. (He’s) the voice of the mob, and the mob craves hatred, vengeance and bloodshed.”

He’s a malignancy on the body politic, a “cancerous growth (throughout) society, (a dangerous, embarrassing) abomination,” one step removed from being Prime Minister.

An unnamed Meretz party member once said “If you liked Mussolini, if you were missing Stalin, you’ll love Lieberman.”

Others call him offensive to basic ethics and morality, and a threat to the rule of law and democratic freedoms. In a word, he’s bad news for Israel, Palestinians, the region, humanity, and Judaic values he defiles with impunity.

Deploring peace, he says those for it “should prepare for war and be strong.” He also believes “tensions within the Muslim world are 95 to 98 percent of all the problems of the Middle East, (the) Israeli-Palestinian conflict account(ing) for two percent.”

In 2006, malfeasance investigations began. On August 2, 2009, police gave prosecutors evidence of fraud, accepting a bribe, money laundering, embezzlement, and obstruction of justice, recommending he be indicted.

Others agree he’s corrupt. On May 24, 2010, Israeli police also recommended charging him with Breach of Trust for receiving classified information about his criminal investigation.

Earlier, on September 24, 2001, in Jerusalem District Court, he admitted attacking a 12-year old boy in December 1999 in the Nokdim settlement who’d hit his son. Charged with assaulting and threatening him, he was convicted, but copped a plea for a fine to avoid harsher punishment.

Several times, he said publicly he’ll resign as Foreign Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, and Israeli Beiteinu leader, but only after a hearing if he agrees to one.

On April 11, Jerusalem Post writer Ron Friedman headlined, “Lieberman indictment expected by end of week,” saying:

“Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein was expected to” indict him for fraud, breach of trust, money laundering, and obstruction of justice.

The same day, Haaretz writer Amir Oren headlined, “Liebeman to be served draft indictment for graft in next 24 hours,” saying:

He’ll be indicted on the above charges and “be granted (the) right to a hearing before” charges are filed. If he chooses one, he won’t have to resign his posts. However, if he doesn’t “to prevent exposing his line of defense….an indictment will be served against him which may bear serious consequences to his role” in government.

Since police investigations and intelligence division head Yoav Segalovich recommended indictment, his case continued for over 18 months. Segalovich wants him charged with bribery, fraud, money laundering, breach of trust, witness harassment, and obstruction of justice.

Police believe he got over ten million New Israeli Shekels (NIS) in bribes from Martin Schlaff, Michael Chernoy, and other businessmen. He then laundered the money through shell companies and fictitious overseas bank accounts.

Police also recommended he be accused of breach of trust, relating to Israel’s former ambassador to Belarus, Ze’ev Ben Aryeh, who showed him “secret documents from the investigation against” him.

In negotiations with Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein, bribery accusations may have been dropped, what’s not known for sure until indictment specifics are announced. However, for money laundering alone, he can receive 10 years in prison, plus more if convicted on all charges. For one of Israel’s worst, life without parole would be too lenient.

Stephen Lendman

Stephen Lendman

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour/.

Israel’s other ‘peace’ plan

Jonathan Cook

Jonathan Cook in Nazareth, 11 Oct 2010

A ghost haunted the meeting of the Arab League in Libya at the weekend, as its foreign ministers decided to give a little more time to the peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

That ghost was the Camp David talks of summer 2000, when US President Bill Clinton publicly held Yasser Arafat, the then-Palestinian leader, responsible for the breakdown of the negotiations, despite an earlier promise to blame neither side if they failed.

Mr Clinton’s finger-pointing breathed life into the accusation from Ehud Barak, Israel’s prime minister, that there was “no Palestinian partner for peace”; brought about the collapse of the Israeli peace movement, and ultimately sanctioned the decision of Mr Barak’s successor, Ariel Sharon, to invade the Palestinian-controlled areas of the West Bank.

A decade later, the Arab League ministers did not want to expose Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, to a similar charge from Barack Obama.

They therefore played the safest hand possible: they offered Washington another month’s breathing space to persuade Israel to renew a freeze on settlement building, while also supporting Mr Abbas’s decision to break off direct talks until the freeze was back in place.

The decision’s dual purpose was to throw the spotlight squarely back on Israel as the recalcitrant party, and allow the White House to continue to pretend the talks are still on track.

The League’s new deadline was chosen precisely to appease Washington. Mr Obama’s most pressing concern is shoring up his Democratic Party’s vote at the congressional midterm elections in early November. Neither Israel nor the Palestinians wants to be seen walking away from the president’s peace initiative before then.

Instead the Palestinians and Israelis concentrated on the blame game, thereby highlighting the fact that both think the talks are doomed. The Camp David talks lasted two weeks before collapsing; these negotiations have been on life support since they began more than a month ago.

“The Israeli government was given the choice between peace and settlements, and it has chosen settlements,” the chief Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat, said last Friday.

Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, spun events the other way, arguing implausibly that the Palestinians should have engaged more decisively in talks during the 10-month partial freeze on settlement growth, which expired two weeks ago. “The questions need to be directed to the Palestinians: why are you abandoning the talks?” Mr Netanyhau said last Thursday.

Rather than investing wasted energy in doomed talks, the two sides appear to be adopting the same alternative strategy: cutting a deal directly with Washington that circumvents the other party.

At the weekend it was reported that Mr Abbas had told Arab leaders he was considering asking the US president to recognise a unilaterally declared Palestinian state in the whole of the West Bank.

Mr Erekat told Reuters another option might be a request for a United Nations Security Council resolution calling on member states to “recognise the state of Palestine on the 1967 borders”.

In the past, Washington has greeted such Palestinian proposals unenthusiastically. But threats by Mr Abbas to resign if the Israeli settlement freeze is not renewed – leaving no obvious successor – are intended to add to the pressure on the White House.

Mr Netanyahu, meanwhile, is reported to be working on a counter-offensive he hopes will win Washington’s approval. Michael Oren, the Israeli ambassador to the United States, officially confirmed to The Washington Post last week that the Obama administration had offered Israel a range of generous diplomatic, security and financial “incentives” to secure a few months’ extension of the partial moratorium on settlement building.

Mr Netanyahu is reported to have turned down the offer but only, it appears, because he believes he can win a more valuable concession. His real aim, the Israeli media reported last week, is to persuade the White House to reaffirm a promise made in a 2004 letter from Mr Obama’s predecessor, George W Bush, that Israel will not be required to withdraw to the pre-1967 borders in a peace deal.

Israeli officials understood that to mean the Americans would approve the annexation of the main settlements to Israel, allowing most of the half-million settlers to remain in place. The Obama administration has until now denied the pledge was ever made.

In exchange for Mr Obama’s endorsement of the promise, Mr Netanyahu might be willing to reimpose a short-term settlement freeze, arguing to his ministers that soon it would no longer apply to most of the settlements.

Ari Shavit, a columnist with Israel’s Haaretz newspaper, argued last week that arm-twisting the White House to honour Mr Bush’s commitment was “a win-win formula” for Mr Netanyahu.

Either Washington would be committed to Israel’s key demands in the talks or “US credibility” would be damaged. “Instead of Netanyahu being the dissenter, Obama will be the dissenter,” he wrote.

Mr Netanyahu, however, is stuck unless he can overcome opposition to a deal on a settlement freeze within his own cabinet, led by Avigdor Lieberman, the far-right foreign minister.

According to senior officials in the Labor Party, ostensibly the most dovish of Mr Netanyahu’s coalition partners, that explains the timing of his move to placate Mr Lieberman by backing a loyalty oath for non-Jews applying for citizenship.

Jonathan Cook

Jonathan Cook

Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. His latest books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His website is www.jkcook.net.

A version of this article originally appeared in The National (www.thenational.ae), published in Abu Dhabi.

Avigdor Lieberman: A Profile in Ultranationalist Extremism

Stephen Lendman

Stephen Lendman, 10 Oct 2010

Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Lieberman represents the worst of Israel’s lunatic fringe, sort of a combination Dick Cheney/John McCain/Joe Lieberman, too extremist to be entrusted with power, but he’s got it.

On March 18, 2008 in the London Independent, Robert Fisk headlined, “Why Avigdor Lieberman is the worst thing that could happen to the Middle East,” saying:

“….Israelis have exalted a man….who out-Sharons even Ariel Sharon. A few Palestinians (said) the West will see the ‘true face’ of Israel. (He’s) talked of drowning Palestinians in the Dead Sea or executing Israeli Palestinians who talked to Hamas. (His) incendiary language (promotes) executions….drownings….hell and loyalty oaths,” perfect for the role he’s assumed, allied with Israel’s most extremist ever Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who also out-Sharons Sharon, no easy feat by any means.

On September 20, Haaretz writer Akiva Eldar headlined, “Freeze Lieberman,” referring to his opposition to a settlement freeze, telling Israeli Radio that his party (Yisrael Beiteinu) has enough power to stop it and much more, including obstructing meaningful peace talks.

Eldar’s conclusion – “There is no excuse for Netanyahu to keep the man and his party” as part of his coalition government. He’s an embarrassment, but for that matter, so is Netanyahu and Israel’s most extremist ever Knesset, a topic earlier writing addressed.

On August 2, 2009, Haaretz writer Gideon Levy headlined, “Kahane won,” referring to extremist Rabbi Meir Kanane and his racist Kach Party, banned by Israel in 1988 under a law passed to disqualify him and his zealots. Later in 1994, after the Cave of the Patriachs massacre (committed by Kach member Baruch Goldstein), it was the first Jewish organization in more than 40 years to be called a “threat to security” and outlawed.

Levy said he “can rest in peace.” He’s been resurrected. “His doctrine has won….Kahanism has become legitimate in public discourse….racism and nationalism (have been transformed) into accepted values.”

If Kahane ran for office today, “not only would (he and others in his party) not be banned, (they’d) win many votes….the ostracized is now accepted, the detestable has become the talented – that’s the slippery slope down which Israeli society has skidded over the past two decades.”

In his youth, Lieberman was a Kach party member. He “was and is a Kahanist. The differences between Kach and Yisrael Beiteinu are miniscule, not fundamental and certainly not a matter of morality.”

For example, Lieberman demands Israeli Arabs declare loyalty to a “Jewish, Zionist, and democratic state,” its emblems and values, and to perform military or equivalent service as a condition for a national identity card signifying citizenship. Kahana wanted unconditional annulment. Lieberman wants them transfered to a “Palestinian state.” Kahane wanted them deported.

Israel under Netanyahu/Lieberman institutionalized racism in its worst form – potential expulsion or extermination, a “nightmare (that’s) here and now. Kahane is alive and kicking – is he ever – in the person of his thuggish successor.”

His extremism promotes “hatred for Arabs, hatred of democracy and the rule of law, and the stink of nationalism, racism and bloodthirstiness. (He’s) the voice of the mob, and the mob craves hatred, vengeance and bloodshed.” He’s a malignancy on the body politic, a “cancerous growth (throughout) society, (a dangerous, embarrassing) abomination,” one step removed from being Prime Minister.

Who Is Avigdor Lieberman?

Hebrew University Professor Yitzhak Brudny said his “model is not very democratic. He doesn’t like balancing government with checks and balances. He wants a kind of imperial presiden(cy), an executive authority. This is why he is dangerous.”

Hebrew University Professor Zeev Sternhell calls him “perhaps the most dangerous politician in the history of the state of Israel.”

Rabbi Eric Yoffie, President of the Union for Reform Judaism, describes him as “outrageous, abominable, hate-filled, (and) brimming with incitement that, if left unchecked, could lead Israel to the gates of hell.”

David A. Harris, the American Jewish Committee’s Executive Director, says he “define(s) an entire class of Israelis as suspected traitors,” a fifth column.

Der Spiegel’s Christoph Schult called him a “virulent racist,” and for the Guardian’s Daphna Baram an “arch” one.

An unnamed Meretz party member said “If you liked Mussolini, if you were missing Stalin, you’ll love Lieberman.” During the 2009 political campaign, Meretz released an internal memo comparing him to “Jean-Marie Le Pen in France, (Jorg) Haider in Austria, and (Vladimir) Zhirinovsky in Russia.”

Known for racism, bullying and belligerence, Le Pen’s views were hard-right. So were Haider’s for praising Nazism and Zhirinovsky’s ultranationalism.

Even ultra-Zionist peace process critic Martin Peretz, editor-in-chief of The New Republic, called Lieberman “neo-fascist….a certified gangster….the Israeli equivalent of Jorg Haider.”

Others call him offensive to basic ethics and morality, and a threat to the rule of law and democratic freedoms. In a word, he’s bad news for Israel, Palestinians, and the region.

Lieberman’s Roots and Background

Born Evet Lvovich Lieberman in Moldova (a former Soviet Republic) in 1958, he studied at a local agricultural institute, worked as a nightclub bouncer, and later as a Baku, Azerbaijan broadcaster, before moving to Israel with his parents in 1978.

He got a Hebrew University social science degree, served as an IDF corporal, then began a political career. In the 1980s, he helped found the Zionist Forum for Soviet Jewry, and was also a member of the Board of the Jerusalem Economic Corporation and Secretary of the Jerusalem branch of Israel’s “national workers union,” the Histadrut Ovdim Le’umit.

From 1993 – 1997, he was Director General for the Likud party and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s chief of staff during his first term. In 1999, he established the far-right, ultranationalist Israel Beiteinu Party (Israel is Our Home), the same year he became a MK. He’s also held other positions, including Minister of National Infrastructure, Minister of Transportation, and is currently Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister.

Across the board, his positions are over the top to put it mildly. On September 5, he called peace with the Palestinians unattainable, “not next year and not for the next generation….Our proposal is: No to unilateral concessions, no to continuing the settlement freeze (a fake moratorium, in fact, never frozen, and), yes to serious negotiations and mutual gestures of good faith,” though he offers none of his own.

“The peace process,” he said “is based on three false basic assumptions. That the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the main fact of instability in the Middle East, that the conflict is territorial and not ideological, and that the establishment of a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders will end the conflict.”

On the contrary, he says. Give up some land and they’ll demand more. Never mind that all of it belongs to them. For over 43 years, Israel has been an illegal occupier, what Lieberman other Israeli politicians omit from their rhetoric, important truths too disturbing to admit.

Deploring peace, he says those for it “should prepare for war and be strong.” He also believes “tensions within the Muslim world are 95 to 98 percent of all the problems of the Middle East, (the) Israeli-Palestinian conflict account(ing) for two percent.”

He, his party, and the Netanyahu government want all valued West Bank and Jerusalem Judaized, confining Palestinians to isolated, resource poor cantons, surrounded by hostile settlers, free to commit violence with impunity.

Conflict for him is “about values and vision, and is part of a world wide collision between the West or the free world, and the radical Islamic world. Israel represents the free world, and the Palestinian Authority and Hamas represent the Islamic radical world.”

His solution – “separation, like in the Balkans. The best model is Cyprus: before 1974, Greeks and Turks lived together and there was friction and terror.” After separation, “we haven’t seen a peace agreement, but there is security. The same we must see in our region.”

His racist extremism is also well known. Besides demanding a “loyalty oath” as a condition of citizenship, he wants a separate Palestinian entity, excluded from majority Jewish areas, what Americans enacted 1960s civil rights legislation to ban.

In February 2007, he said “Israel is under a dual terrorist attack, from within and from without. And terrorism from within is always more dangerous (than) from without.” Earlier in the Knesset, he wanted Palestinian MKs hanged as collaborators, saying:

“World War II ended with the Nuremberg trials. The heads of the Nazi regime, along with their collaborators, were executed. I hope this will be the fate of the (Arab MK and other) collaborators.”

In March 2002, he said:

“I would not hesitate to send the Israeli army into all of Area A (under PA control) for 48 hours. Destroy the foundations of all the authority’s military infrastructure and all of the police buildings, the arsenals, all the posts of the security forces….not leav(ing) one stone on another. Destroy everything.”

He also wanted air strikes on all Palestinian commercial areas and other parts of its civilian economy. In 2003, when Sharon (for political, not magnanimous, reasons) suggested 350 Palestinian prisoners get amnesty, he responded:

“It would be better to drown these prisoners in the Dead Sea if possible, since that’s the lowest point in the world,” adding his willingness, as Transportation Minister, to load up busses and take them there.

In January 2009, he compared Cast Lead to America’s 1940s war in the Pacific, saying Gaza should be “treated like Chechnya,” and Israel “must continue to fight Hamas just like the United States did with the Japanese in World War II,” suggesting ending it the same way with weapons of mass destruction.

He also believes pandering to international opinion is a mistake, showing weakness, not strength. He’s so ultranationalist and hard-right, many call him fascist. Under investigation for alleged fraud, accepting a bribe, money laundering, embezzlement, and obstruction of justice, others say he’s corrupt. In addition, on May 24, 2010, Israeli police recommended indicting him for Breach of Trust for receiving classified information about his criminal investigation.

Earlier, on September 24, 2001, in Jerusalem District Court, he admitted attacking a 12-year old boy in December 1999 in the Nokdim settlement who’d hit his son. Charged with assaulting and threatening him, he was convicted, but copped a plea to pay a fine and avoid harsher punishment.

Jamal Zahalka, an Arab MK Balad Party head, says Israel lurched to the right after Yitzhak Rabin’s 1995 assassination. The 2000 Camp David failure, followed by the second Intifada, Hamas’ January 2006 election, the Lebanon summer 2006 war, and Cast Lead solidified hardline views. “Lieberman didn’t suddenly appear like Minerva from the head of Jupiter. He rode the wave and he’s not alone.”

Hassan Jabareen, founder and director of the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, agrees, saying:

“He didn’t establish racism in Israel….This product wasn’t shaped by him. He just got the fruits of the others,” using them for his own advantage. Israel is in crisis, he believes, caused by a lurch to the right. “They try to suppress our identity. But the state won’t be more Jewish if we stop commemorating the Nakba (or) stop criticizing Zionism. When segregation becomes ideology, (it) has only one place to be translated – (into) law. Here in Israel, segregation (has become) ideology. The Jews want to live alone without Arabs.”

Lieberman is their most prominent spokesman. He’s not a traditional “Greater Israel” right-winger. He’s more pragmatic, opportunist, and secular, but unbending in his views like Netanyahu. As long as they’re in power, Palestinians and Israeli Arabs face persecution of the worst kind short of total expulsion or outright extermination. But those possibilities can’t be ruled out.

Stephen Lendman

Stephen Lendman

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour/

Olmert’s Speech, and Two Fingers

Uri Avnery

Uri Avnery – Israel

Ehud Olmert raised his hands before his face, two fingertips almost touching: ‘We were that close!’

He was talking about the negotiation he had conducted personally with Mahmoud Abbas, just before he himself was forced to vacate the Prime Minister’s office.

That was the climax of the speech he made last week at a meeting of the “Geneva Initiative”. Before analyzing it, a few words about the host and about the speaker.

The Geneva Initiative rose like a meteor and fell like a meteor in the early 2000s.

At its center was a serious effort to draft a full and final peace agreement with the Palestinian people. It came after a draft prepared by Gush Shalom and resembled it in many ways. But there were two big differences: the Geneva Initiative had an identified Palestinian partner, and it was far more detailed. While the Gush Shalom draft only laid out the principles, the Geneva draft went into detail and covered 423 pages, plus maps.

When this draft was unveiled in an impressive ceremony in Geneva, in the presence of senior international personalities (and in the absence of the “radical” Israeli peace camp, which had been boycotted by the initiators in order to stress their “mainstream” character), it was an international event.

For some months, the initiative was at the center of world attention. Many governments found it interesting. I, too, was active on its behalf, in spite of the fact that I had not been involved. I spoke about it with several statesmen, including the President of Germany and the German Foreign Minister. Everywhere I found a very positive attitude. Everybody appreciated the initiative and was eager to help.

And then it disappeared, as rapidly as it had risen. The coup de grace was delivered by Ariel Sharon, the Prime Minister, who drew from his hat the rabbit called separation. Its implementation was accompanied with much drama and melodrama, and the world forgot about Geneva.

What remains is a group of supporters, one peace association among many, who publish ads from time to time and convene the occasional meeting. Olmert’s speech was made at such a meeting.

In the meantime, something strange has happened to the Initiative. Its spiritual father was Yossi Beilin, a person with a fertile – some say, over-fertile – mind. Beilin started his chequered career in the Labor Party, as an assistant to Shimon Peres. When he did not make their Knesset list, he joined Meretz, became its leader and led it to disastrous election results.

Recently, a bizarre situation has arisen. Beilin is still the chairman of the Geneva Initiative, but now he opposes the idea of a full peace agreement that would put an end to the conflict. He claims that such an agreement is impossible, and that the aim should therefore be an interim agreement – the very opposite of the Geneva Initiative.

The Oslo agreement has shown that an interim agreement is but the continuation of the conflict by other means – not a precursor to a final agreement, but a mechanism for its prevention. The initiator of the initiative has become its undertaker.

From the host to the speaker. Ehud Olmert is the most unpopular politician in the country today (quite an achievement, given the competition).

Right from the beginning of his political career, a cloud of suspicions has hovered over his head, and in the course of time it has become thicker and thicker. As of now, half a dozen criminal trials and police investigation are in progress against him, concerning bribes, fraud, forgery and more. Quite possibly he may end up in prison, to be greeted by several of his colleagues, including his finance minister.

As if this were not enough, Olmert is conducting a bitter campaign against his former ministers, and especially Ehud Barak, hurling at them a barrage of accusations. One of the most serious (in his eyes): that Barak had tried to shorten the Cast Lead operation.

Amid all this clamor, Olmert has found the time and the energy for the speech at the Geneva Initiative meeting, in which he described in detail his efforts to achieve peace with the Palestinians. With the help of his two forefingers, he asserted that peace had been very close, and that a full and final agreement could be achieved now. Thus he adopted a position that is far to the left of that renowned leftist, Yossi Beilin.

From the practical political point of view, the speech carries little weight. The public is much more interested in his forged accounts and the dollar-stuffed envelopes that he received. The part of his speech in which he belabored Barak (“Ehud vs. Ehud”) completely overshadowed the part devoted to peace.

Yet it is worth taking notice of what he had to say. Especially since it comes from a person who grew up in a right-wing home and who has spent his whole career in right-wing parties.

For half an hour, speaking fluently without recourse to notes, Olmert dealt with the core issues of the negotiations with the Palestinians.

As far as the borders are concerned, Olmert argued, agreement had been almost reached. The border would be based on the (pre-1967) Green Line, with exchanges of territory that would leave the large settlement blocs in Israel.

In this matter, it seems, a consensus has gradually come into being. But only in principle, because two large boulders block the way to an agreement.

The settlements hard on the border should not pose too much difficulty. The Etzion Bloc, Modi’in-Illit and Alfei Menashe are located almost on the border, and can be exchanged for Israeli land.

But two settlements that are located deep in Palestinian territory – Ariel and Ma’aleh Adumim – pose quite different problems. Ariel is located 20 km from the Green Line, near the spine of the West Bank (the Nablus-Jerusalem road). Together with the road that connects it to Israel proper, Ariel cuts up the Palestinian territory.

If Ma’aleh Adumim were to be connected with Jerusalem by an extension of Israeli territory, this, too, would almost cut the West Bank into two. Traffic between Nablus and Hebron would be forced to take a wide detour.

The evacuation of these two big settlements would pose a huge problem. Their continued existence would pose an even bigger one. Perhaps creative solutions can be found: staying there under Palestinian sovereignty, or remaining as small enclaves inside the Palestinian state. Some think of connections such as tunnels, bridges or special roads, like the one that once connected West Berlin with West Germany.

The solution will largely depend on the nature of the border between Israel and Palestine. If it is an open border, with the free movement of people, everything will be easier. Much as traffic will move freely between Gaza and Hebron through Israeli territory, it may move from Ariel to Kfar Sava through Palestinian territory. However, it is uncertain whether the Palestinians would agree.

According to Olmert, the Jerusalem problem can be solved along the lines laid down by President Bill Clinton: what is Jewish will go to Israel, what is Arab will go to Palestine.

This will necessitate a further big concession on the part of the Palestinians, since some Jewish neighborhoods have been built as settlements beyond the Green Line. For their readiness to allow them to be joined to Israel, the Palestinians would have to receive very large compensation.

But the main thing is that Olmert has finally laid to rest “Jerusalem reunited, the eternal capital of Israel”. He has put the partition of Jerusalem squarely on the table, without subterfuges like Barak at Camp David and without Beilin-style creative tricks.

But the most important breakthrough in Olmert’s speech was on the refugee front.

Olmert agreed that Israel should admit its part in the creation of the problem, and proposed to Abbas a comprehensive plan for the re-settlement of all refugees, including the return of some tens of thousands to Israel.

The importance of this point cannot be exaggerated. The refugee problem has profound emotional ramifications. It touches the very roots of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Until now, all Israeli governments have denied our responsibility and refused to discuss the return of even one refugee (except some miserly “family reunion” cases).

To my mind, the number proposed by Olmert is less important than his agreement to allow the return of refugees at all. As the joke goes, after the respectable lady agreed to sleep with the gentleman for a million dollars, “now that we have agreed on the principle, we must discus the price.”

If the negotiations are no longer about “whether” refugees will come back, but about “how many”, no doubt agreement can be reached. (Gush Shalom proposed 50 thousand a year for ten years. The Geneva Initiative proposes a complicated formula which boils down to the return of some tens of thousands.)

Why is this important? With Olmert’s popularity approaching zero, does it really matter what he says at all?

Olmert is an optimist and has a lot of self-confidence. He believes that he will get out of his troubles somehow and return to the political arena. He really believes that he can become Prime Minister again.

No one denies that he has very sharp political instincts. If a person with such ambitions proposes an agreement, it means that he is convinced that these positions are now accepted by the great majority.

That’s the reason I suggest taking a good look at Olmert’s fingertips.