Gagging itself is choking the Left

February 6, 2014
Sarah Benton

Isaac Herzog, elected chairman of Israel’s Labor party last November, gives a speech following the announcement of his victory. From the start he has been urged to create a broad coalition of the left. Photo by Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images.

Israel’s left must shout, not whisper, its support for Kerry

The dream of Israel’s peace camp is coming true: Strong foreign support pushing Israel to end the occupation. Its leaders must not leave the field to the religious right’s rejectionism.

By David Landau, Haaretz
February 03, 2014

The sad sport that has swept the Left in Israel in recent years has been identifying the cause of the Left’s steady drop in popularity. Leftist leaders compete with each other in bemoaning their movement’s failures and inadequacies.

One thing, though, they do not say, at any rate in public. They do not dare to say it publicly because the Right has captured the power to delineate the rules of public debate and the proprieties of political usage. “Zionism”, “Judaism”, and above all “patriotism” are at the mercy of the Right, chiefly the Religious Right, for their definition. The Left does not therefore rehearse in public their most yearned-for and most oft-repeated (in private) wish: That friendly foreign governments summon up the political will to force Israel to end the occupation at last, in the interests of its own future as well as in the interests of world peace.

The Left came to the conclusion long ago that, left to its own devices, Israel under rightist governments will just leave the present situation in place, even though more and more Israelis appreciate the dangers that the occupation holds out to the democratic and Jewish character of the state.

The Left also concluded, correctly, that to be seen or heard encouraging friendly foreign governments to take tough positions against the occupation – threatening, for instance, economic boycotts – would draw down domestic condemnation, because the public is fairly brain-washed by the usage and definitions of the Right. Privately expressed support for boycotting settler produce by both Israelis and by foreign friends has remained privately expressed and has not become part of the public debate. (Recent legislation, mirabile dictu, also outlaws it.)

But it is increasingly clear that this double standard of political debate, reflecting as it does a certain pusillanimity, drastically weakens the Left, psychologically as much as politically. Gagging itself is choking the Left. Members of the peace camp would naturally love to shout out their agreement and their thanks to U.S. Secretary of State for stating last weekend in unvarnished terms exactly where Israel is headed – strategically, economically and morally – if an end-of-occupation accord is not adopted.

But the Left hesitates, and they drop their voices, because of the domination of the religious Right over political correctness in this semi-theocratic, colonialist democracy. The vote-catching assertion, proclaimed or hinted by spokesmen of the religious-Right, is that Kerry is anti-Semitic (and so is President Obama). The religious-Right in Israel and in the Diaspora has appropriated anti-Semitism for its brainwashing purposes, as it also plays fast and loose with language (“delegitimization”) to pursue those purposes. Thus, the religious-Right arbitrarily determines that to boycott West Bank settler companies is tantamount to ‘delegitimization’ of the existence of the Zionist state and rejection of the Jews’ right to nationhood.

(The essence of this tactic, it should be noted, is classic Netanyahu spin. The prime minister always spreads and widens the import of Israel’s critics’ rhetoric so as to mobilize as many Israelis and overseas Jews as possible to actively oppose it and so as to shift the focus of the international debate on the Middle East away from Israel’s pragmatic need to end the occupation toward the broad, emotional but cloudy issues of national self-determination.)

But self-gagging, though uncomfortable and energy-sapping, is not the most enfeebling element of the peace camp’s conduct. The utter, ultimate weakening is caused by the constant need to hope and pray that Israel’s foreign friends will step in and rescue her at last, effectively imposing the peace camp’s policy on her, because the peace camp cannot seriously hope to win power in Israel based on that policy. It is that acquiescence, that reliance on others, that despair of domestic voters, which takes all the wind out of a political movement’s sails.

Perhaps, though, things can change now. Having acknowledged the causes of its own painful paralysis, the peace camp would do well to seize upon Secretary Kerry’s warnings as the moment when its dream of foreign support begins to come true and when domestic and international public debate can be pushed back into pragmatic parameters.

Naftali Bennett and Moshe Ya’alon each swooped down sordidly on the indefatigable American minister. They cast all inhibition, indeed all decent manners, aside. Their purpose: Each to bolster his standing among the Religious Right.

The peace campers, who whisper the truth among themselves, would do well to emanate that casting aside of inhibition. As Mr Kerry said, “Today’s status quo absolutely, to a certainty, I promise you 100 percent cannot be maintained… It’s illusionary.”

Heard that before? Yes, from the whispering Israeli peace camp, for forty years. It is time their leaders (the latest being Isaac Herzog) behaved like leaders.

Bennett lights fire under coalition

By Anshel Pfeffer, Jewish Chronicle
February 06, 2014

Israel’s governing coalition has cracked and teetered in recent weeks but somehow remained intact.

This week, however, Economics Minister Naftali Bennett issued his strongest threat so far to leave the government.

Speaking on Tuesday about the US “framework” agreement due to form the starting point of the peace talks, he said: “I have told the prime minister — bring any document and we will judge it. If it doesn’t fit with our values, we won’t remain in the government.”

Two weeks ago, Habayit Hayehudi leader Mr Bennett was forced to apologise after attacking a proposal by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Israeli settlers could be allowed to remain in the West Bank under Palestinian sovereignty.

In response, Mr Netanyahu threatened to fire him from his cabinet. The departure of Habayit Hayehudi’s 12 MKs would leave the Netanyahu government without a parliamentary majority and force the prime minister to invite either Labour or Shas to join the coalition.

Such a move could also spark a split within Likud between the more right-wing elements of the party and those prepared to support the conditions for continued negotiations with the PA.

Mr Bennett  [above]— who is due to visit London next week — was speaking in the wake of an angry exchange of words between Jerusalem and Washington, precipitated by remarks by US Secretary of State John Kerry at the Munich security conference on Saturday.

Mr Kerry warned of “an increasing delegitimisation campaign that has been building up” against Israel and “talk of boycotts and other kinds of things”.

Despite his spokeswoman’s attempt to clarify that his “only reference to a boycott was a description of actions undertaken by others that he has always opposed”, Israeli ministers responded angrily.

Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz said on Sunday that the Secretary of State’s remark was “offensive, unreasonable and unacceptable” and that he was trying to force Israel to negotiate “with a gun to its head”.

Mr Bennett accused Mr Kerry of serving as “a mouthpiece” for antisemitic threats and his party colleague, Construction Minister Uri Ariel, said that most Israelis no longer saw Mr Kerry as a “fair mediator”.

Mr Netanyahu said at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting that the boycott attempts were “immoral, unjustified and will not achieve their objective”. However, he refrained from mentioning Mr Kerry, neither criticising nor defending him.
The Obama administration mainly remonstrated with its Israeli counterparts in private but on Tuesday, White House National Security Advisor Susan Rice rebuked the Israelis on Twitter saying that “personal attacks in Israel” against Mr Kerry were “totally unfounded and unacceptable”.

For now it does not seem that the diplomatic tension between the US and Israel will escalate into a full-blown crisis and Mr Netanyahu is still expected to meet President Barack Obama early next month when he visits Washington for an Aipac conference.

Mr Kerry is scheduled to arrive in the region in a couple of weeks in what will be his 11th visit since becoming Secretary of State a year ago.

In his visit, he is expected to present to both sides, Israelis and Palestinians, with the “framework” agreement for a two-state solution that will serve as the basis for negotiations in the coming months.

A rare supporter of Mr Kerry in the Israeli establishment this week was President Shimon Peres.

On Tuesday he said: “The state secretary has harnessed himself to the labour of peace, with both sides’ approval. We thank him for his efforts and strengthen his hands, expecting positive results. Kerry is not coming here to struggle with us.”

Kerry: I won’t be intimidated by Israeli attacks against me

In interview to CNN, U.S. secretary of state comes out against Israeli critics, but reiterates his support of Israel.

By Barak Ravid, Haaretz
February 5, 2014

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry responded decisively on Wednesday to dismissive comments made by top Israeli officials regarding his attempts to push forward the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

“I’m not going to be intimidated and back down,” Kerry said in an interview to CNN. “I’ve been attacked before by people using real bullets, not words… No one should distort what we are saying because they are opposed to the peace process.”

Kerry was responding to a barrage of attacks issued by top Israeli officials – among them Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, who have in recent days painted his Mideast mission as messianic and obsessive.

“Unfortunately, there are some people in Israel and in Palestine […] who don’t support the peace process. There are specifically some people that don’t support two states. There are some people who don’t want any restraint on settlements whatsoever. What is important is to look at the positive side of this which is that the majority of people in Israel and Palestine believe in peace.”

Kerry reiterated his support of Israel, saying Israelis should know that the U.S. “will always stand by Israel’s security needs.”

Here’s John Kerry’s Proposal to Israelis and Palestinians

Inside the framework for a two-state solution

By John B. Judis, New Republic
January 31, 2014

Secretary of State Kerry held talks earlier this week with interfaith leaders, and yesterday his chief Israel-Palestine negotiator Martin Indyk talked on the phone with Jewish leaders. What emerged from those discussions was an outline of what the United States is going to propose to Israeli and Palestinian negotiators as a framework for a two-state solution. Some details of the Indyk’s talk appeared in the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. I can add a few more.

When Kerry first announced the negotiations last summer, he proposed that by April the two sides come to a “final status agreement” for the two states. He rejected another “framework” or “transitional” agreement. But by last December, he had backed away from this timetable and was beginning to talk of another “framework” agreement that would leave the final details open. That’s indeed what has happened.

In several weeks. Kerry hopes to win the backing of Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to another “framework” agreement. The Israeli and Palestinian leaders will also be able to accept the agreement with specific reservations, but the United States will at the same say what it thinks the outcome of negotiations on these reservations should be. And the framework agreement will specify that the negotiators have to reach a “final status” agreement by the year’s end.

Here is how it will deal with some of the most contentious issues. The agreement would permit between 75 and 80 percent of Israeli settlers in the West Bank through land swaps. What settlements would remain, and what Israel would cede was not discussed in the briefings, but it’s likely that large settlements like Maale Adumim, where the controversial Soda Stream is produced, will become part of Israel under the agreement.

A security zone would be established along the Jordan River. That’s different from a security zone inside the Jordan Valley. A security zone along the river could be a mile or two wide, and would consist of electrified fences and unmanned aerial vehicles of some kind. The Israel Defense Force would be part of the armed forces policing this zone, but only for a specified time. Abbas has mentioned three years. The Israelis have talked about ten years.

Palestinian refugees would receive some kind of compensation, but so would Jewish refugees who fled, and in many cases were forced to flee, places like Iraq Syria, and Egypt after 1947. (Estimates are that about 500,000 of these refugees settled in Israel between 1947 and 1972.) That provision, one of the Jewish leaders commented, was meant as a “sweetener” to the Israelis. The Palestinians would recognize Israel as the nation of the Jewish people, and the Israelis would recognize Palestine as the nation of the Palestinian people. But one critical issue was left vague and unresolved. The framework will not propose a way of dealing with the future of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and Palestine. “That’s the biggie,” one person involved in the calls commented.

Indyk warned that for the United States the deal would be extremely expensive. The United States would have to help pay for refugee resettlement, the redeployment of the Israeli Defense Forces, the security zone itself, the new Palestinian state. “You name it,” Indyk said. Kerry and his staff have reportedly briefed some members of Congress on these details.

People who have followed these negotiations believe that Abbas would accept with reservations this kind of framework agreement, but that Netanyahu will have difficulty doing so. Naftali Bennett’s Jewish Home party and part of Netanyahu’s own Likud party would likely leave the government. Netanyahu would have to reconstitute his majority by bringing in the Labor Party and probably the ultra-orthodox Shas party. If he does that, Netanyahu will have hitched his future to the framework proposals and to the provision that the Israelis and Palestinians reach a final status agreement. It would not appear to make sense for Netanyahu to blow up his stable majority in order spend the rest of the year equivocating over details and throwing up new obstacles. So a big decision from the Israeli prime minister is in the offing, one that could determine whether there will be a two-state solution.

Indyk: Framework deal to include compensation for Arabs, Jewish refugees

US peace mediator Indyk spills beans on US-led framework agreement, saying deal to include mutual recognition, security arrangements, Israeli sovereignty for roughly 75% of settlers and compensation for both Jews and Arab refuges from 1948

By Yitzhak Benhorin and Itamar Eichner, Ynet news
January 31, 2014

The US Mideast peace envoy adumbrated the framework agreement being negotiated before US Jewish leaders Thursday, and said that a solid majority of settlers will remain under Israeli sovereignty.

Martin Indyk told a conference of Jewish organizations that the framework agreement between Israelis and Palestinians will include compensation for Palestinian refugees, and will also reference the right to compensation for Jews who were forced to flee Arab countries on the eve of Israel’s formation.

Indyk noted that roughly 75%-85% of Jewish settlers will be allowed to remain in their West Bank homes as part of land swaps between Israel and the Palestinians, which will be based on the June 4, 1967 Green-Line.

Indyk denied stating any specific numbers in regards to ongoing negotiations when asked by Yedioth Aharonoth.

According to those present, Indyk added that the question of whether settlers will be allowed to remain under Palestinian sovereignty will be postponed until a final status – as opposed to framework – agreement. According to Indyk, the Palestinian leadership has no intention of forming a Palestinian state “clean of Jews”.

The framework deal will be presented by the Americans in the coming weeks, and will also reportedly include recognition of “Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people and Palestine as the nation state of the Palestinian people.”

The deal will also include security arrangements that will govern the formation of a buffer-zone between Jordan and the West Bank with new fences, sensors and remote piloted vehicles, which will be footed by the US as part of their donation to enforcing the peace deal.

During the meeting with Jewish leaders, Indyk said there would be “no surprises” regarding the details of the agreement being hatched out by the Palestinians and the Israelis. They agreed to the deal’s details, but will not have to sign any agreement and will even be allowed to publicly voice their grievances about its politically problematic aspects.

The Americans want the complete final peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians by the end of 2014.

Weeks away…
A number of those present at the meeting with Indyk, said the envoy sounded “calm and optimistic,” and noted that he claimed that “we are weeks, not months, from a framework agreement,” the details of which have been agreed on but “without (the sides) having to sign.”

Regarding the deal’s final details, Indyk stressed it is contingent on the progress currently being made by the two sides.

“There may be things we need to say because they can’t say them yet,” Indyk stressed.

The envoy noted that sides are making good progress in the peace talks, and US Secretary of State John Kerry is in constant – sometimes daily – contact with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Indyk sent a clear message according to which skeptics must start treating talks seriously – a hint that coalition tensions might be strained to a breaking point.

Talks are also focusing on compensation for Palestinian refugees from 1948, but for the first time, talks also include compensation for Jews who were forced to leave their homes in Arab nations on the eve of Israel’s formation.

The framework deal will also reportedly include an article stipulating an end to Palestinian incitement and include peace-oriented educational program for Palestinians youths.

In comparison, a final status agreement will formally deal with mutual recognition, security, land swaps and borders, Jerusalem, refugees and an end to claims and the conflict. Regarding sensitive issues like Jerusalem, the agreement will remain purposefully vague.

21 February 2014 15:15:00

Hampstead Garden Suburb Synagogue presents MK Naftali Bennett

Following the Friday Evening Kabbalat Shabbat Service on the 21st February 2014
we are delighted to welcome MK NAFTALI BENNETT – the Israeli Minister for Jerusalem & Diaspora Affairs, who will address our community

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Hampstead Garden Suburb Synagogue – Norrice Lea
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