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Yediot’s Plocker: Thank you Mossad for removing Iranian bomb distraction. Can we move on now?

January 10, 2011 10 comments

Netanyahu and Dagan

On Sunday (January 9 2011), Yediot’s Itamar Eichner reported [emphasis mine; full translation here]:

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is furious with outgoing Mossad Director Meir Dagan because of the briefing Dagan gave journalists last Thursday. In the course of that briefing, Dagan shared with the reporters the Mossad’s assessment that the Iranians would be unable to develop a nuclear bomb before 2015.

Yedioth Ahronoth has learned that Dagan’s statements infuriated Netanyahu, who advocates taking an aggressive approach vis-à-vis Iran. According to a high-ranking political official, Netanyahu reprimanded Dagan and said that his statements had undermined Israel’s efforts to fight against the Iranian nuclear program by means of the international community.

In an op-ed published on the same day, Sever Plocker, a senior editor at the paper, expresses wonder at the scant attention Dagan’s statement recieved [full translation and Hebrew original at the bottom of this post]:

One of the most historically important statements to have been made in the past ten years in the State of Israel made headlines in the Israeli media on Friday for a single day. It elicited a few reactions and a few brief analyses — and disappeared.

Plocker, hardly a knee-jerk leftist (see this recent critique of the Israeli left and the prospects for peace with the Palestinians, for example,) explains the drama [emphasis mine]:

Dagan, a suspicious super-cautious individual who routinely prefers to err on the side of pessimism…The Iranian nuclear threat died. It keeled over. Because, if the director of the State of Israel’s Mossad is prepared to risk saying that Iran won’t have even a single nuclear bomb “at least until 2015,” that means that Iran is not going to have a nuclear bomb. Period.

He also helps us understand Netanyahu’s is fury [emphasis mine]:

For more than a decade, Israel has been living under the thickening cloud of the Iranian nuclear bomb. The military, economic and even the social agendas in Israel have been directly influenced by it. The election of Netanyahu as prime minister (and Barak’s joining the coalition) were explained by the need to place at the head of the state and the security establishment people who would be capable of leading the people and the army in this decisive year in dealing with Iran. From time to time, in light of the foolish things that the two of them have done, public opinion was asked to be forgiving of them because of the weight of the Iranian threat that lay on their shoulders.

The op-ed ends with a call to move on:

Dagan’s statement about the lifting of the Iranian nuclear threat frees Israel from the clutches of a nightmare that we were either conscious of or not, but which cast a giant black shadow over all of us. Farewell, Iranian bomb. In your absence, the time has ripened to place other issues at the top of our agenda. And there is no lack of other issues.

Indeed, Israel’s diplomatic isolation and the rapid evaporation of what remains of its democracy would be a good place to start.

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The day there is no bomb

Op-ed, Sever Plocker, Yediot, January 9 2010 [Hebrew original here and at the bottom of this post]

One of the most historically important statements to have been made in the past ten years in the State of Israel made headlines in the Israeli media on Friday for a single day. It elicited a few reactions and a few brief analyses — and disappeared. The statement was ascribed to (and was not subsequently denied by) the outgoing Mossad director, Meir Dagan.

Dagan, a suspicious super-cautious individual who routinely prefers to err on the side of pessimism, was quoted as having said: “Iran will not have nuclear military capability at least until 2015.” The reason cited for this:  technical difficulties and malfunctions, which have stymied Tehran’s efforts to get its military nuclear program off the ground. For the sake of accuracy, and the Mossad relies on accuracy, the above-cited “technical difficulties and malfunctions” have already caused that initiative a few years’ worth of setbacks.

Read more…

Categories: Diplomacy

“Rejectionist front”: Maariv details Netanyahu’s refusal to directly negotiate with PA

January 3, 2011 14 comments

Netanyahu

As Israel’s diplomatic position erodes and the Palestinian Authority’s campaign for the unilateral recognition of a state in the 1967 borders gains ground, the demand for “direct negotiations” has become a central talking point of  Israeli government spokespeople. Here’s the latest example, from a January 2 Associated Press report:

He [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu] said he was ready to sit with Abbas, also known as Abu Mazen, for “continuous direct one-on-one negotiations until white smoke is wafting,” an allusion to the Vatican’s custom for announcing a new pope.

“If Abu Mazen agrees to my proposal of directly discussing all the core issues, we will know very quickly if we can reach an agreement,” he said.

This morning’s [January 3] Maariv questions the sincerity of this proposal [full translation at the bottom of this post]:

In the past weeks, Israeli representatives, including Netanyahu, have repeatedly rejected official documents that their Palestinian counterparts have tried to submit to them, with details of the Palestinian positions on all the core issues.  The Israeli representatives are completely unwilling to discuss, read or touch these documents, not to speak of submitting an equivalent Israeli document with the Israeli positions…This completely contradicts the Israeli position, according to which everything is open for negotiation, and Netanyahu is willing to talk about all the core issues and go into a room with Abu Mazen in order to come out of it with an arrangement.  If this is the case, there is no reason for the Israelis not to willingly accept a review of the Palestinian positions in order to present counter-papers that will make it possible to start bridging the gaps.

Of the examples cited by diplomatic affairs analyst Ben Caspit, one is unambiguously “direct”:

in a meeting that was held between Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Abu Mazen, in the prime minister’s official residence in Jerusalem.  It has now become apparent that in this meeting, Abu Mazen brought an official Palestinian document for Netanyahu, consisting of two printed pages, with the proposed Palestinian solution on the two issues that the sides were supposed to discuss at the first stage: Security arrangements and borders.  Netanyahu refused to read or discuss the document.  Abu Mazen is said to have left the document at the Prime Minister’s Residence (so that Netanyahu could read it later).

Another, more recent, incident reveals something of the motivation for the Israeli rejections [emphasis mine]:

in the latest meeting that was held between the two negotiators, Dr. Saeb Erekat from the Palestinian side and Attorney Yitzhak Molcho from the Israeli side.  The meeting was held in Washington a few weeks ago, in the presence of the American mediators.  During the meeting, Erekat surprised Molcho, took an official booklet out of his briefcase bearing the logo of the Palestinian Authority and tried to hand it to Molcho.  When the Israeli inquired as to the content of the booklet, Erekat said that this was, in effect, the detailed and updated Palestinian peace plan, with the detailed Palestinian positions on all the core issues.  Molcho refused to take the booklet or examine it.  According to sources who are informed about what took place there, he said to Erekat, and to the Americans, that he could not touch the Palestinian booklet, read it or take it, because as soon as he would do so, “the government will fall.”

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Rejectionist front

Ben Caspit, Maariv, January 3 2010 [front-page; Hebrew original here]

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu announced yesterday that he was willing to discuss all the core issues with Abu Mazen in closed meetings, and said that if he were to go into the room with the Palestinian leader he would sit down and discuss all the issues with him “until white smoke rises.”  Ma’ariv has found that in reality, the situation is the complete opposite: In the past weeks, Israeli representatives, including Netanyahu, have repeatedly rejected official documents that their Palestinian counterparts have tried to submit to them, with details of the Palestinian positions on all the core issues.  The Israeli representatives are completely unwilling to discuss, read or touch these documents, not to speak of submitting an equivalent Israeli document with the Israeli positions.

Read more…

Categories: Diplomacy, Hasbara

Maariv: How to build another nuclear reactor without signing the NPT

December 12, 2010 1 comment

Dimona nuclear reactor Dome

Like most of the world, Israel is facing a major energy crisis. Our population is growing and per-capita energy consumption is on the rise.

Nuclear energy is emerging as the solution favored by the government, as reported in a December 8 2010 Maariv feature [full translation at the bottom of this post]:

Israel’s efforts to build a nuclear power plant are the result of a report prepared by a large international energy company, which was submitted to the Infrastructure Ministry.  The report states that a nuclear plant is the best solution, given the energy situation in Israel — both in economic terms and in terms of ensuring Israel’s energy supply.

According to the report, Israel is not capable of carrying out such a project on its own — and therefore it would have to purchase a reactor as an “off-the-shelf product” from one of the prominent manufacturers in the market, such as the French company AREVA or the American company Westinghouse.

But there’s a snag.

Until now, Israel has encountered strong opposition by the world — mainly on the part of the United States — to manufacturing electricity from a nuclear plant in Israel, since it is not a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Our leaders, however, always have a “creative solution” (most Israelis would call it a “combina”) up their sleeves.

However, the Infrastructure Ministry, with the support of the prime minister, is examining a creative possibility for circumventing the international opposition: To declare the site of the power plant that will be built as an ex-territorial area to the State of Israel.  This means that a foreign company, French or American, will build the reactor and also own the land upon which it is located.  Senior Infrastructure Ministry officials say that this means that the land will not be under Israeli sovereignty, and it will be possible to bypass the obstacle in this manner.

What if the Americans don’t share our enthusiasm for the “combina”? One of our leading scientists thinks that threatening them with suicide will yield acquiescence:

Another problem discussed [at a recent conference] is the unwillingness of countries to sell Israel off-the-shelf reactors. Professor [Arie] Dubi [of the Department of Nuclear Engineering at Ben Gurion University] offered a solution: “Israel should publish a tender, oriented towards the Russians and Chinese, for purchase of the knowledge necessary to plan and build a nuclear reactor. Then the Americans will run after us — because the Russian and Chinese reactors are less safe.”

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Foreign nuclear plant may be built in Israel is em

Ronit Morgenstern, Maariv, December 8 2010 [Hebrew original here]

Has the Israeli government found a creative way to build a nuclear power plant?  Until now, Israel has encountered strong opposition by the world — mainly on the part of the United States — to manufacturing electricity from a nuclear plant in Israel, since it is not a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

However, the Infrastructure Ministry, with the support of the prime minister, is examining a creative possibility for circumventing the international opposition: To declare the site of the power plant that will be built as an ex-territorial area to the State of Israel.  This means that a foreign company, French or American, will build the reactor and also own the land upon which it is located.  Senior Infrastructure Ministry officials say that this means that the land will not be under Israeli sovereignty, and it will be possible to bypass the obstacle in this manner.

Israel’s efforts to build a nuclear power plant are the result of a report prepared by a large international energy company, which was submitted to the Infrastructure Ministry.  The report states that a nuclear plant is the best solution, given the energy situation in Israel — both in economic terms and in terms of ensuring Israel’s energy supply.

According to the report, Israel is not capable of carrying out such a project on its own — and therefore it would have to purchase a reactor as an “off-the-shelf product” from one of the prominent manufacturers in the market, such as the French company AREVA or the American company Westinghouse.

The Infrastructure Ministry and Israel Electric Corporation are already preparing to build a nuclear power plant: The Israel Atomic Energy Commission is currently conducting, together with the Infrastructure Ministry, a joint feasibility study for building nuclear reactors for producing electricity in Israel.  The results of the study are due to be published at the start of 2011, and will address all the aspects related to nuclear power plants: Safety, economic profitability, new technologies in the field and geopolitical aspects.

Read more…

Categories: Diplomacy

Maariv “exclusive”: Israel and Brazil sign major security cooperation agreement

December 2, 2010 14 comments

This appears to be a major agreement:

Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Chief of Security in the Defense Ministry Amir Kain signed the historic agreement for security cooperation between the two countries a few days ago.  Brazil’s intelligence affairs minister signed the agreement on the Brazilian side.  Israeli sources report that “the defense industries will make a massive effort to enter the Brazilian market following the agreement.”

Yet it received little publicity and the source of for the article appears to be Israel Aerospace Industries. Perhaps this passage hints at the reason:

Due to the high sensitivity of Brazil, some of whose allies are countries such as Turkey, Iran and Syria, which are considered states that are in confrontation with Israel or enemy states — Brazil demanded that in case of any differences of opinion, Israel would not turn to an arbitrator or third party state in order to resolve disputes that might arise.  In the agreement, it was determined that the chief of security in the Defense Ministry and his Brazilian counterpart would be responsible for resolving such disputes.

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Exclusive: Defense industries take Brazil

Eli Bardenstein, Maariv, December 1 2010 [Hebrew original here]

A market valued at billions of dollars has opened up to the defense industries, after a first agreement of its kind was signed for cooperation between Israel and Brazil.  There are already several giant deals on the table between Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), Elbit and Rafael with Brazil.

Read more…

Categories: Diplomacy

Maariv: Turkish FM says he envisions one Israeli-Palestinian state under Ankara’s protection

November 28, 2010 6 comments

The sourcing, as is usual in the Israeli media, is poor. It appears that Maariv’s Eli Bardenstein was on some sort of government junket in Turkey. Over the past few days, other Israeli journalists posted status updates from Istanbul.

The full translation of his report is at the bottom of the post, along with the Hebrew original. Here’s the important section, though it’s difficult to diifferentiate between reporting and analysis.

Israel will not be able to remain over time an independent country, and a bi-national state will be established on all of the area between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River in which Jews and Palestinians will live,” said Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu in a number of meetings that he held with journalists and academics, including a number of Israeli academics.  Davutoglu’s vision, which he revisited a number of times, is for Turkey to become a dominant force in the Middle East and further, that it will be the protector state of the above-cited bi-national state within a number of years.

Davutoglu, a professor of international relations, is considered to be the principal ideologue of the AKP, the party that is headed by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. In the course of the meetings with academics and journalists, which were held prior to the eruption of the recent crisis between Turkey and Israel in the aftermath of the flotilla to the Gaza Strip and the killing of nine Turkish nationals on board the Mavi Marmara, Davutoglu said he did not believe that Israel would be able to sign peace agreements with its neighbors, including the state that is to be formed in the area of the Palestinian Authority.

The central idea that was put forward by Davutoglu, which he has been trying to promote by means of a number of journalists and Turkish government officials, is that Israel as an independent state is illegitimate in the region and, as such, is destined to disappear. That assessment is rooted in a deeper ideology that aspires to restore to Turkey the historic influence it wielded during the era of the Ottoman empire, which ruled the Middle East for close to 400 years. Davutoglu said on a number of occasions that he believed that peace would be restored to the Middle East only in the wake of deep and substantial Turkish intervention.

In other words, Davutoglu and Erdogan aspire to set a new regional order — Erdogan by means of populist rhetoric and closer ties with Turkey’s neighbors, Syria and Iran; Davutoglu by means of promulgating the ideological basis. This new order, as noted, has no room for Israel as an independent state. Both Erdogan and Davutoglu have been advancing a policy that promotes closer ties with Syria and Iran, and moves away from the West. Davutoglu added in his meetings with the journalists and academics that the historic powers, (Britain and France) which conquered the Middle East from the Ottomans, are the ones that are responsible for the difficult situation that currently reigns in the Middle East, since they drew the borders in a way that suited their own political and military interests, without taking into account the demographic affiliation of the region’s residents.

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Turkish Foreign Minister: “Israel will disappear as an independent country”

Eli Bardenstein, Maariv, November 28 2010 [Hebrew original here and at bottom of this post]

Turkey – “Israel will not be able to remain over time an independent country, and a bi-national state will be established on all of the area between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River in which Jews and Palestinians will live,” said Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu in a number of meetings that he held with journalists and academics, including a number of Israeli academics.  Davutoglu’s vision, which he revisited a number of times, is for Turkey to become a dominant force in the Middle East and further, that it will be the protector state of the above-cited bi-national state within a number of years.

Read more…

Yediot’s defense analyst on the looming US-Israel ’security catastrophe’

November 26, 2010 3 comments

Read this one in full.

Alex Fishman is Yediot’s veteran defense analyst. Besides providing a detailed post-mortem of the latest fiasco in US-Israeli diplomacy, he makes a very blunt allegation: Netanyahu is selling out the IDF’s self-defined strategic interests and the good will of the US administration in order to buy political time.

In the economic jargon that Netanyahu loves to use, this would be called paying for recurrent expenditures with the proceeds from the sale of national assets.

Fishman concludes with a warning:

And so the time passes. In the meantime, there is no talk about a crisis in Israel-US relations, but rather a malfunction. If this goes on, the malfunction is liable to turn into a diplomatic catastrophe, if not a security catastrophe.

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No (more) free gifts

Column, Alex Fishman, Yediot Friday Political Supplement, November 26 2010

People in the Ministry of Defense are worried. The National Security Council, headed by Uzi Arad, department officials were informed, is quietly preparing a position paper on a uniquely sensitive subject: an Israeli proposal for a strategic defense alliance with the United States. It turns out that the IDF is really not interested in the deal, which would mean among other things significant limitations on Israel’s independent ability to act against threats near and far.

But this is not the only reason that department officials are suspicious of Arad’s secret document. For many months, together with the Americans, they have been crafting a basket of security guarantees for the coming 20 years, to the tune of USD 20 billion. All of a sudden unnecessary, discordant plans are being shoved at them — coming from the direction of the prime minister —that talk about a defense alliance that does not link up with any clear and consistent policy which also has some sort of goal at the end.

The strange story about the alliance that is being cooked up in the Prime Minister’s Bureau is reminiscent of another strange story: the strange connection between the deal for F-35 aircraft that is scheduled to come to fruition in 2017 (!) and Israel’s agreement to freeze building in the territories for another three months. What possible connection is there between the defense deal, which is part of America’s traditional commitment to retaining Israel’s military superiority, and the building freeze? That’s it, there is no connection.

Both of these strange stories have one common denominator. The person behind them knows full well that creating a defense alliance would require a very problematic and complicated political process in the United States, including approval by both houses of Congress, and the chances of such a proposal ever being actualized are not terribly high. Just like he knows that President Obama’s commitment to give Israel a present of 20 planes, at a cost of more than USD 2 billion on top of Israel’s annual aid package, is essentially impossible in today’s economic climate. The president will have to explain to his constituents exactly why he is distributing presents abroad at a time when factories are closing in Detroit. It’s almost an invitation for political suicide.

And the fellow who prepared this trap for him — the prime minister of Israel — knew exactly what he was doing. Netanyahu is doing everything he can to buy time, to postpone the end and to get out of making a decision about the future of the process with the Palestinians.

Price of scorn

So Netanyahu promised the public that if there are no gifts — there will be no negotiations; the Americans don’t know what gifts he’s talking about, and now Israelis are racking their brains trying to figure out how to word a statement that will get the prime minister out of the trap he got himself into. So they are talking about the possibility that the Americans will give a grant that will cover part of the cost of 20 aircraft, with the rest to come out of Israel’s foreign aid package. In any event we are only talking about 2017. In the meantime, Israel-Palestinian talks are frozen.

How did Israel get itself into this dangerous jam, which links the basic American commitment to Israel’s security to negotiations with the Palestinians?

It turns out that eight months ago, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General James E. Cartwright, met with Director of the IDF Planning Branch Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel. Around the same time, senior IDF officials visited the Pentagon. The goal of the intensive meetings was to map out Israel’s security needs and to create a joint package that would answer the threats Israel is likely to face in the coming 20 years.

Read more…

Categories: Diplomacy

Israeli media provides a glimpse of how spin drives Israeli diplomacy

November 21, 2010 1 comment

On the front page of this morning’s Maariv, senior columnist Ben Caspit reports [full translation at the bottom of the post; Hebrew original here]:

At least three top Likud figures who were briefed recently by officials very close to Netanyahu on the talks with the Americans, on the letter that has not (yet) been written, on the promises that were not made and the stealth bombers that stole away, say that the prevalent view in the Prime Minister’s Bureau about the US administration is that it is “not a credible administration.” That is the reason, these sources say, for Netanyahu’s insistence on receiving the promises in writing. And that is the reason, say these sources, that some of the promises that Netanyahu heard from the Americans evaporated shortly afterwards.

Caspit agrees with the analysis but is astounded that the Prime Minister’s Bureau should actually say express it, pouring “oil” instead of “water” on the fires of the Israeli-American relationship when it’s “at an unprecedented nadir.”

The ‘moratorium extension deal‘ has created a rare agreement between Maariv and it’s arch-rival Yediot: Netanyahu’s government is diplomatically incompetent. In his Friday column, Nahum Barnea, explains how the deal morphed from an achievement into an embarrassment. as a result of creative communications at the Prime Minister’s Bureau [full translation at bottom of post]:

Netanyahu’s bureau has an original technique for marketing its messages: Briefings are emailed every few hours to reporters and commentators.  The condition is that the information not be attributed to Netanyahu, his advisers, his “surroundings” or his “associates.”  This way, the Prime Minister’s Bureau achieves broad circulation for its messages without having to answer questions and without taking responsibility for the facts.  It is a wonderfully convenient technique.

The problem is that in the absence of a father, the facts tend to run wild.  The impression that was created upon Netanyahu’s return from the United States was that he had obtained a commitment from the administration to accept Israeli construction in East Jerusalem.  It later became apparent that there was no such agreement.  The impression that was created was that after a 90-day freeze, construction would be resumed everywhere, with the blessing of the US administration.  Such an agreement was not reached.  The impression that was created was that the administration consented to support the continued Israeli control of the Jordan Valley.  Such consent was not reached.

The speed with which the list of American commitments shrank is reminiscent of the classic story about the Jew who wished to send a telegram to his relative in America.  The cost of the telegram was based on a charge per word.  Each word cost a fortune.  The man decided to omit every unnecessary word from the telegram.  By the time he reached the mail counter, his telegram had no words left.

Against this background, attacking Obama’s credibility is the logical next step. One spin creates problem A, which a second spin attempts to solve, creating problem B. If short-term image issues, compounded by media amateurism, guides management of the ’strategic relationship’. We can only hope that’s not the case when decisions are made on if and when to go to war. Just in case, it might be a good idea for pundits to stop making fun of Netanyahu over Iran.

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A matter of credibility

Ben Caspit, Maariv, November 21 2010 [page 6 with front-page teaser; Hebrew original here and below this translation]

National Security Adviser Uzi Arad sat in the “Meet the Press” studio and handed out grades to the Americans. Obama’s administration, Arad said, began its battle against the Iranian nuclear program with a “policy of smiles” and believed the Iranians’ talk, “but then sobered up.” In principle, Arad is right. In practice, he isn’t supposed to say that on television. After all, even without this, the Americans don’t much like us.

International diplomacy is built on lies and half truths and in the delicate relationship between Israel and the US this week, there was no reason to give the Americans another reason to get annoyed at us. But every time that it seems to us that we’ve reached the bottom of the barrel, something happens and proves that we’ve still a long way to go before we get there. This something was the decision yesterday to send Arad to the studio. Perhaps because there was nobody else left to send.

Read more…

Categories: Diplomacy

Danny Ayalon to Norway: Why can’t you keep your artists under control?

November 16, 2010 4 comments

Ayalon

The Israeli government reaction to the homegrown cultural boycott of the West Bank settlement of Ariel was forceful and blunt: Threaten funding, establish a “Zionist Art Prize” and de-legitimize whoever takes part as fifth-columnists. This should not have been a surprise, coming from a government that has overseen an unprecedented assault on domestic freedom of expression and association. The campaign has been so successful locally that the Foreign Ministry is now trying it on the international stage.

Here’s how the Israeli Embassy in Santiago dealt with reporting about a Chilean tourist beaten half to death in Jerusalem because he resembled a Palestinian:

“The incident has been blown up here out of all proportion also by members of parliament of Palestinian extraction who took advantage of it to accuse Israel of racism after it was reported that he might have been attacked because of an Arab appearence,” [Ambassador David] Dadon told Haaretz yesterday [November 10 2010]. “Following our swift and tough response, the matter was immediately removed from the media’s agenda.”

Deputy Minister Danny Ayalon expects foreign governments to adopt the Israeli standard in its entirety, at least on all things Palestinian. This morning’s [November 15 2010] Yediot reports [full translation at bottom of post; Hebrew original here]:

A severe diplomatic crisis has erupted between Israel and the Norwegian authorities. Israel has accused the Norwegian government of financing and promoting blatant anti-Israel incitement.

The article then lists a series of of Norwegian of cultural projects funded by the Norwegian government that the Foreign Ministry doesn’t like. This has been going on for a while. What brought on the “severe diplomatic crisis”? Hutzpah, apparently. Not only did the Norwegians refuse the Israeli dictate, they had the gall to cite democratic principles:

The Norwegians informed Israel in response that this was a matter of freedom of speech and that the government did not meddle in artistic content.

One can hardly blame the Deputy Minister. In Israel, suppression of information and opinions at odds with government policy has become normative. Ayalon probably thought the Norwegians were sandbagging him.

Apparently, the trigger for the Israeli diplomatic assault was this sinister piece of propaganda:

According to reports that have reached the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, the city of Trondheim, Norway, is paying for a trip to New York by a group of high school pupils who are taking part in a play called Gaza Monologues. The play deals with “the suffering of children in Palestine as a result of the Israeli occupation.” The play, which was written by a Palestinian man from Gaza, will be performed in the UN building.

The play’s website lists EED, Evangelischer Entwicklungsdienst — Church Development Service, a government-funded association of the Protestant Churches in Germany. The government of Germany is also directly involved in funding the play through DED, the German development service. If Israel’s ire in the case of Norway was sparked by a municipality sponsoring a few kids trip to New York, what can the Germans expect when Ayalon’s staffers discover that the federal government is behind the play?

Read more…

Lieberman says Israel’s borders “imperialist” and “arbitrary”

November 15, 2010 5 comments

Lieberman

“Anti-Zionism” can be found in surprising places. Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman was up in the Golan Heights on Thursday. The settlement of Katzrin awarded him “honorary citizenship of the city.”

The Israeli media provided superficial reporting of Lieberman’s acceptance speech, with only generalities regarding his hard-line positions diplomatic issues coming through.  IBA Radio’s diplomatic correspondent, Shmulik Tal, a diligent government stenographer, was more thorough, relaying other elements of the acceptance speech.

Without Tal’s discipline, this little scrap of insight might have been lost [Evening Newsmagazine, November 11 2010 17:11; recording here]:

[...] Shmulik Tal: The Foreign Minister said in Katzrin that the Golan Heights’ annexation [sic] to Syria was incidental and that it was a mistake. This mistake was made 94 years ago, but today the Golan Heights’ are Israeli territory and that is how they will remain. Lieberman: It was an imperialist agreement, between Sykes and Picot, between England and France. In 1916 the Golan was transferred to Syria. It was something arbitrary and that’s why I think that, from every perspective, the Golan must stay, must be the entry gate [sic] to Israel. [...]

If the name Sykes-Picot doesn’t ring a bell for you, then you probably didn’t go to an Israeli high-school in the ’80s. I did and there is no chance that I will ever forget the names of these two obscure diplomats. The history curriculum was heavily focused on the origins and development of Zionism. To make it successfully through matriculation, one had to remember an awful lot of details from the early 20th century.

If you’re a poor memorizer like me, systems are important. Regarding diplomatic history, I had a simply structured chain, resembling the verse of a Dry Bones song.  The establishment of the State in 1948 was the “head bone”  and everything started in 1916 with the “toe bone” — the Sykes-Picot Agreement, which carved up the Ottoman Empire between Britain and France.

Now the Israeli Foreign Minister was calling “arbitrary” an agreement that I was taught to believe underpinned, along with another “imperialist” document, the Balfour Declaration, the official narrative of Israel’s international legitimacy. Had things changed that much in the space of 25 years? Not according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website. Paragraphs 4-5 of its translation of the Declaration of Independence look like this:

In the year 5657 (1897), at the summons of the spiritual father of the Jewish State, Theodore Herzl, the First Zionist Congress convened and proclaimed the right of the Jewish people to national rebirth in its own country. This right was recognized in the Balfour Declaration of the 2nd November, 1917, and re-affirmed in the Mandate of the League of Nations which, in particular, gave international sanction to the historic connection between the Jewish people and Eretz-Israel and to the right of the Jewish people to rebuild its National Home.

Those are the only two hyperlinks in the document and they both lead to Foreign Ministry renditions. With slight modifications, the Sykes-Picot Agreement drew the map of the British Mandate. Destruction of internationally recognized borders has become a characteristic of de facto Israeli foreign policy. The 1967 borders, recognized by UNSC 242, the Algiers Declaration and the Arab Peace Initiative, have all but disappeared under the weight of the settlements and the separation barrier. That line is also being wiped away by the reopening of 1948 in places like Sheikh Jarrah and Ajami.

Still, to a layman, Lieberman’s latest revisionism appears to be exceptional. When Israel annexed the Golan Heights, Prime Minister Begin cited recent events. Even the “Jordan is Palestine” idea is premised on the Mandate borders. It seems that previous generations of Israeli leaders understood that de-legitimization of the “arbitrary” Sykes-Picot Agreement is a two-way street. The Israeli-Lebanese border, for example, is obviously “a mistake.” Demography suggests a route further to the south, topography — one further to the north.

But that’s not the least of it. When was the last time you heard a Zionist use the term “imperialist”? You probably haven’t, because over much of recent history anti-Zionism has been closely associated with anti-imperialism.

I’m increasingly hesitant to position myself or others in relation to Zionism because it has become a very ambiguous term. Lieberman, however, is clearly an anti-Zionist, at least as generations of Israelis were taught to understand the term.

“Combating de-legitimization” is the flavor of the year in pro-Israel advocacy. Abe Foxman of the Anti Defamation League is leading the charge in the US. But who is a bigger “de-legitimization” threat: Israel’s radical Foreign Minister, or one of his favorite targets, an organization of young Jewish-Americans protesting the occupation?

Categories: Diplomacy

Yediot: NIS 9 million for settlement “tourism”, including 2 million for “City of David” in Silwan

September 20, 2010 9 comments

The fact that these grants will fund highly politicized and inflammatory projects is best exemplified by the NIS 2 million slated for the “City of David” project in Silwan. This East Jerusalem settlement in the guise of an “archeological park” is at the cutting edge of efforts to insert Israelis in Palestinian communities around the Old City basin.

Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov [Israel Beiteinu] provides a policy-oriented explanation for the funding:

“The Tourism Ministry attaches great importance to developing tourism in Judea and Samaria, which is the basis for [the] ‘Every Jew’s Story’ [campaign] and is located in the very heart of the State of Israel,” the minister wrote.  “The historical heritage serves as a significant drawing point both for internal tourism and for tourism from abroad.”

It would be a stretch, however, to think that he actually believes this claptrap. Misezhnikov is a politician using his position to dole out pork to allies.

Last week Haaretz reported on a new domestic campaign, which aims to re-brand the West Bank settlements as pastoral tourist attractions. The settlers running it appear to actually believe that they are exposing an obscured reality, restoring the objectively positive image stolen from them. Samaria Regional Council head Gershon Masika:

Settlement’s biggest enemy is ignorance. That’s the place where prejudice takes hold, fertile ground for hatred and blood libels against us. We can change this situation through these tours.

From a narrow Israeli perspective, maybe they’re right. Within our Orwellian public debate, it’s often hard discern which perception of reality is upside-down.

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Tourism Minister establishing facts on the ground in territories

Yuval Karni, Yediot, September 20 2010 [page 6; Hebrew original here and at bottom of post]

While the Americans are struggling to arrange a continued construction freeze in the territories, there are those in Israel who are already preparing vigorously for the next stage.  Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov intends to transfer in the near future millions of shekels to settlements in Judea and Samaria for the purpose of developing tourist sites and attractions in the territories.

An internal Tourism Ministry document shows that in total, over NIS 9 million will be transferred to Judea and Samaria and East Jerusalem.  Minister Misezhnikov, who is strongly opposed to the freeze, wishes to let the local authorities develop the tourism branch within their boundaries.

Many areas in Judea and Samaria will enjoy the benefit of the large budgets that the ministry stands to transfer.  The Samaria Regional Council will receive NIS 300,000 for tourism projects within its jurisdiction (signs in the Reihan forest, paving bicycle trails in the Shaked forest), the Binyamin Regional Council will receive NIS 100,000 for putting up signs in tourist sites, the Southern Hebron Hills Regional Council will receive NIS 100,000 to develop the Susya historical site, the share of the Karnei Shomron Regional Council will be NIS 100,000 for developing bicycle trails in Nahal Kaneh, and the Kiryat Arba Local Council will receive NIS 40,000 for planning tourism projects.

The big money will be given to the Etzion Bloc, the Jordan Valley and East Jerusalem.  The Tourism Ministry will transfer NIS 1.5 million for renovation and upgrading of the Herodion site within the boundaries of the Etzion Bloc Regional Council, about NIS 2 million to the Kasr al-Yahud baptism site in the Jordan Valley, and about NIS 5 million for developing projects in East Jerusalem: NIS 2 million for the City of David, NIS 1.5 million for Zedekiah’s Cave and NIS 1.5 million for tourism infrastructure in the Old City.

Tourism Minister Misezhnikov sent letters yesterday to mayors in Judea and Samaria and explained that he considered this a Jewish-Zionist necessity.  “The Tourism Ministry attaches great importance to developing tourism in Judea and Samaria, which is the basis for ‘Every Jew’s Story’ and is located in the very heart of the State of Israel,” the minister wrote.  “The historical heritage serves as a significant drawing point both for internal tourism and for tourism from abroad.”

In the letter, the tourism minister notes that upon the expiration of the security cabinet’s decision to suspend construction in Judea and Samaria, “I have decided to budget infrastructure, tourism and public projects throughout Judea and Samaria.”  The minister also instructed the settler leaders to turn to Tourism Ministry Deputy Director General for Infrastructure and Investments Shai Weiner in order to receive a commitment for promoting projects in the territories.

Read more…

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