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Comments in 2012 and 2011



Two tough Zionists for peace with Palestinians

This contains three articles from Ha’aretz, one by Mick Davis and two by Barak Ravid, plus there is an insert from Al Jazeera on Naftali Bennett’s call for annexation of the West Bank..

Rejecting two states means endangering Israel – and the Diaspora

Does Naftali Bennett really want to go down in history as the politician who devastated Israel, its future as a Jewish state and the identity and support of Diaspora Jewry?

Mick Davis in 2009 as bullish CEO of mining company Xstrata, the Chairman of UJIA and newly appointed as the first Chairman of the Jewish Leadership Council’s Executive Committee. “His ambition and physical bulk earned him the nickname “Big Mick” – and it was rarely meant in a ‘gentle giant’ way” said the FT. He ‘sent shockwaves through the communityin 2010 when, as UJIA leader  he called for more open, critical discussion on Israel if Anglo-Zionists were to have a future. (Jewish Chronicle, November 2010)

By Mick Davis, Ha’aretz
January 03, 2014

Israel and its Diaspora Jewish supporters face two monumental but very different challenges: Iran and the John Kerry-led peace talks with the Palestinians. On Iran, Israeli leaders have spoken out at every available forum. They haven’t been bashful in urging Diaspora leaders to push for a commitment to the sanctions regime. The tragedy for us in the Diaspora is that the same effort is not being made by Israeli leaders for the peace process.

Just before the signing of the Geneva agreement between Iran and the P5+1 countries, Minister Naftali Bennett wrote to Diaspora Jewish organizations urging them to lobby their governments against lifting sanctions. I had already spoken to very senior levels of the British government, cautioning them against relaxing sanctions without substantial Iranian reciprocation. However much Mr. Bennett and Prime Minister Netanyahu are right to be distrustful of the Iranian regime, even they suggest that a diplomatic solution is both a possible and the most desirable outcome. We join with them in hoping that Geneva does not snatch defeat from the jaws of potential success.

Then came former Shin Bet head Yuval Diskin’s remarks about Israel’s approach to the Kerry talks. With a marked urgency, Diskin warned that the current failure to articulate a credible Israeli vision for a settlement with the Palestinians opens a whole new dimension of risk different to, but just as potent as, the Iranian threat. “We need an agreement now, before we get to a point of no return, after which a two-state solution will be impossible. … I want a homeland that does not require the occupation of another people in order to maintain itself. … The [current] situation [with both Palestinians and Arab Israelis] is very tense, and can explode at any moment.”

Mick Davis today, bounced out of Xstrata (with a a $22 million golden goodbye package) and, with a softer, smaller persona, urging Israel to make peace with Palestinians. He says BDS will continue to make headway if there is not an agreement.Photo by Gianluca Colla/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The rebuttal from the Israeli government was swift and revealing: it set up a “straw man” – claiming that Diskin was “disconnected from reality” for setting the Palestinian issue above the threat posed by a potentially nuclear Iran, despite this not being Diskin’s position. Suggesting he was making a false equation is easier than addressing the core premise of his argument: that the Palestinian issue cannot be sidelined.

Like Diskin, but from the perspective of a Diaspora Jew, I also want to talk about the dangers of failure in the current talks with the Palestinians. In this regard, the address for my conversation is not the British government. I rather want to talk to you, Mr. Bennett, and your colleagues who are responsible for managing this process.

The Kerry initiative creates a moment of paradox. It has the potential to deliver massive opportunity but also presents huge risk.

Whatever the outcome, the implications will be enormous. Most of us have no inkling about what is happening inside the negotiating room. But when I read of new settlement construction announcements, I worry. When I read Netanyahu’s latest Bar-Ilan speech, a masterful account of Palestinian rejectionism and Nazi collaboration, but no vision of the future, I am anxious. When I read that senior figures in Israel’s governing parties dismiss the two-state solution and allude to annexing the West Bank, I am deeply troubled. When Diskin flags the risk of a Palestinian “Arab Spring” uprising by a people whose only frame of reference is the occupation, and who have little credible hope for a Palestinian state, I am profoundly concerned.

The long-term survival of the Jewish state requires a settlement with the Palestinians. If current talks falter we could see Palestinian unilateralism, violence and the intensification of the assault upon Israel’s legitimacy. I fear the possible consequences of that, including BDS and other punitive measures.

My fears and concerns about the direction of Israel’s leadership are rooted in Zionist and Jewish values. The BDS movement is set upon isolating Israel and its supporters and seeking to drive a wedge between Diaspora Jews and Israel. If the window on a two-state solution slams shut, there will be devastating consequences for Israel and its economy, its future as a Jewish state and for the identity of Diaspora Jewry. This threat should be mitigated by the prime minister articulating a credible, courageous and viable approach to peace with the Palestinians rather than dwelling on their historical shortcomings.

If talks succeed, it will, rightly, be the citizens of Israel who make the final decision via a referendum on any agreement. In tandem, the Jewish people as a whole will need to get behind its implementation while enhancing Jewish peoplehood and unity. This prize will mute the corrosive voices of those who question Israel’s legitimacy and provide for an open and secure set of regional alliances to effectively combat the forces of Iran, Hezbollah and the Salafists in Syria and Egypt, reducing the existential threat to Israel and the Jewish people.

The prize on offer just received a major boost with the EU announcement of a “peace dividend” comprising enhancements to political, economic and security collaboration coupled with upgraded bilateral relations. For some time, I have pressed the U.K. government to encourage the European Union to adopt this type of “carrot” rather than “stick”-based approach – on the basis that sanctions designed to isolate Israel create a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The EU development creates an even starker choice. Blame, boycotts and isolation on one hand. Opportunity, potential to move beyond the conflict and the possibility to stop the “delegitimizers” in their tracks on the other.

To mitigate the risk of the former and grab the opportunities presented by the latter is a strategic imperative for Israel’s future. Such a course would be a reaffirmation of the values of Jewish nationhood, which are the bedrock of modern Israel and the Zionist world. Which way, Mr Bennett?

Mick Davis is chairman of the Board of Trustees of the U.K.’s Jewish Leadership Council.

Foreign Minister Lieberman and U.S. counterpart John Kerry meet in Jerusalem, Jan 3, 2014. Photo by Noam Moskovitz, Foreign Ministry

Lieberman: Israel must give Kerry’s peace efforts a chance

The foreign minister views his American counterpart’s efforts as the most genuine any U.S. administration has made to forge a final-status deal since former President Bill Clinton convened the Camp David summit in 2000.

By Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz
January 1, 2014

Several people who have met with Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman in recent weeks were very surprised by his positive statements about U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. Two of them, a senior Israeli official and a Western diplomat, said that Lieberman spent several minutes praising Kerry and saying that Israel needs to give his efforts to forge an Israeli-Palestinian deal a chance.

Kerry will meet with Netanyahu this evening and again on Friday afternoon. He will then meet with Mahmoud Abbas on Friday evening, and again on Saturday morning. Saturday night, he will return to Jerusalem for another meeting with Netanyahu, and he may hold additional separate meetings with both Abbas and Netanyahu on Sunday before heading to Jordan.

Senior American and Israeli officials both said that despite the intensive talks Kerry will hold, no breakthrough is expected during this trip and no framework agreement is expected to be finalized. But Kerry is planning to return to the region a week later for yet another round of shuttle diplomacy.

Lieberman’s positive statements about Kerry are partly due to his efforts to turn over a new leaf with the U.S. administration, after his first term as foreign minister was marked by considerable tension with Washington. Leiberman’s first meeting after returning to the Foreign Ministry in November was with U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro; his first speech was devoted to urging the government to tone down its dispute with Washington over Iran’s nuclear program; and his first working trip abroad was to Washington.

But his positive statements are also due to a significant change in Washington’s attitude toward him since his return as foreign minister. A month ago, Kerry hosted Lieberman at a breakfast in Washington. Senior American and Israeli officials who attended the event said it was an excellent meeting – perhaps the best Lieberman has ever had with a senior American official.

Lieberman knows Kerry fairly well from his first term as foreign minister. Kerry was chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations at that time, and the two met four or five times. Their personal chemistry was immeasurably better than the acid relationship between Lieberman and Kerry’s predecessor as secretary of state, Hillary Clinton.

Kerry used their breakfast meeting last month to give Lieberman a detailed briefing on his efforts to mediate between Israel and the Palestinians. He briefed Lieberman on the results of the 20 previous rounds of talks between the parties since negotiations resumed in late July and told him of his plan to draft a framework agreement and present it to the parties in late January or early February.

Lieberman’s conclusion from this meeting was that Kerry is extremely determined to advance an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal. He views his American counterpart’s efforts as the most genuine and serious effort any U.S. administration has made to forge a final-status deal since former President Bill Clinton convened the Camp David summit in 2000.

Lieberman is still skeptical of the chances of reaching a peace agreement, and he still doubts that Abbas has either the will or the ability to make the necessary compromises. But he doesn’t rule out the possibility that Kerry’s goodwill, energy and persistence, combined with the difficulty Abbas would have in saying no to an American initiative, could ultimately produce a diplomatic breakthrough.

In 2009, when Lieberman, then a brand-new foreign minister, met for the first time with George Mitchell, then America’s special envoy to the peace process, he emphasized that he disagreed with the U.S. approach to the Palestinian issue, but said he didn’t intend to play the spoiler.

In 2014, Lieberman is willing to extend a credit line to Kerry’s efforts. Surprisingly, he is currently one of the more dovish members of the diplomatic-security cabinet: His views of the American peace initiative are closer to those of Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, who is leading the talks with the Palestinians, than to those of its most outspoken opponents, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and Economy Minister Naftali Bennett.

Two days after his scheduled meeting with Kerry on Friday, Lieberman will address the opening session of the annual conference of Israeli ambassadors at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem. If he uses this speech to voice public backing for Kerry’s move, that will be excellent news for the U.S. secretary of state.

Naftali Bennett proposes annexing the whole of the West Bank and ridiculed the US-brokered peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Photo by EPA.

Israel minister: Annex West Bank settlements

Economy minister calls for full Israeli sovereignty in Jewish settlement areas in occupied Palestinian territory.

Al Jazeera, December 8th 2013

Economy Minister Naftali Bennett has proposed that Israel annex parts of the occupied West Bank where most Jewish settlers live. The area is already under its full military control.

“I favour implementation of Israeli sovereignty over the zone where 400,000 [settlers] live and only 70,000 Arabs,” said the head of the far-right Jewish Home religious party on Sunday.

The settlements, in occupied Palestinian territory, are deemed illegal under international law.

Bennett also ridiculed the US-brokered peace talks between Israel and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, whose writ covers the West Bank but not the Gaza Strip, which is ruled by Hamas.

“This is all a joke. It’s as if we’re discussing the purchase of a car with only half of its owners,” he told public radio.

In another negative Israeli assessment of the peace process, Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon said on Saturday: “There is no partner on the Palestinian side to reach a two-state solution for two peoples.”

Their views contrasted with a statement by US Secretary of State John Kerry on Friday at the end of his latest mission to Israel and the Palestinian territories.

“I believe we are closer than we have been in years to bringing about the peace and the prosperity and the security that all of the people of this region deserve,” Kerry told reporters.

Direct negotiations were launched in late July, but have made little apparent progress as they approach the half-way mark of a targeted nine months.

Lieberman praises Kerry’s peace efforts, warns of day after deal

Foreign minister warns of violence that could ensue should Arab states wish to transfer Palestinian refugees to future state.

By Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz
January 3, 2014

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman met with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry Friday morning to discuss efforts at formulating a framework agreement that would present principles for solving the core issues of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Lieberman told Kerry that he greatly appreciates the great efforts he is investing in brokering a solution to the conflict and promoting calm in the region, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement. “Continued dialogue with the Palestinians is of great importance,” Lieberman told Kerry, according to the statement.

The foreign minister also told Kerry that an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians must be based on solid foundations of security for Israel and a stable economy for the Palestinians.

Lieberman underscored that even if all problems and disputes are resolved, there are still issues regarding the day after a peace agreement is signed. “These should be dealt with already at this stage,” he said.

After a deal is reached, said Lieberman, Arab countries in the region may wish to transfer the Palestinian refugees currently living in their lands to the territories under Palestinian control.

“The significance of this,” he said, “is that in addition to the Palestinians currently living in the territories and those in Judea and Samaria, a further 3 million refugees will be added, creating a severe humanitarian problem that will provoke more frustration, violence and a deterioration of security,” Lieberman said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Kerry at noon Friday. The meeting is scheduled to continue until sundown. Justice Minister and chief Israeli negotiator Tzipi Livni, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and Israeli negotiator Yitzhak Molcho were also present.

A  recent demand by MKs to annex the Jordan Valley is reported by Al Jazeera in an inset in
Why Israel really wants the Jordan valley.  Frequent demands to annex the whole of the West Bank, or Area C, have been made over the years by right-wing Israeli politicians.

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