JBuzz Musings October 12, 2014: Bible Lands Museum oldest siddur on display despite mystery surrounding the book

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Bible Lands Museum oldest siddur on display despite mystery surrounding the book

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Until Oct. 18, 2014, the public can have the opportunity to view what is being touted as the oldest known surviving siddur, Jewish prayer book. This 9th century medieval manuscript is currently on display at the Bible…READ MORE
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Full Text Israel Political Brief September 23, 2014: PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s Rosh Hashana Greeting to Jewish Communities Around the World — Transcript

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Rosh Hashana Greeting to Jewish Communities Around the World

Source: PMO, 9-23-14
יום שלישי כ”ח אלול תשע”ד

“My friends,
As Jews celebrate the New Year around the world, we can take pride in all that unites us. The Jewish people indeed always unite when faced with great challenges, and the past year was no exception.
Over the past few months, three of our teenagers were kidnapped and brutally murdered, thousands of rockets were fired at our country and too many of our bravest young men and their families made the most painful of sacrifices in Operation Protective Edge.
Throughout all that, we witnessed tremendous support for Israel from Jewish communities everywhere. And at the same time, we in Israel know that it has been a difficult period for many of your Jewish communities. You face increasingly virulent and…

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JBuzz News September 19, 2014: Oldest Jewish Prayer Book on Display for the First Time at Bible Lands Museum Jerusalem

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Oldest Jewish Prayer Book on Display for the First Time

Source: PMO, 9-18-14
יום חמישי כ”ג אלול תשע”ד

 

Photo by Haim Zah, GPO

Prime Minister Netanyahu upon receiving the prayer book: “It is a connection between our past and present and that is something of great value.”…READ MORE

Full Text JBuzz Transcripts April 27, 2014: PM Benjamin Netanyahu Speech at Yad Vashem on Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day

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Address by PM Netanyahu at Yad Vashem

Source: PMO, 4-27-14

יום ראשון כ”ז ניסן תשע”ד

Photo by  GPO

The last time I visited Yad Vashem I accompanied the Prime Minister of Canada Stephen Harper, a great friend of Israel and the Jewish people. We went through the exhibition rooms which present heartbreaking documentation of the destruction of European Jewry.

Today in my office, I met Fela, an 82 year old Holocaust survivor. It was important for her to tell me on this day of her memories as a child of seven who was forced to leave her two year old sister. Those memories are always with her. She told me, “I don’t remember what happened yesterday or the day before that, but as is the way of memories at my age, I remember the sad, tearful eyes of my two year old sister whom I left behind to die”.

I met Shalom, an 89 year old Holocaust survivor who told me how, aged 13, he left home at Mila 18 in the Warsaw Ghetto. Conditions in the ghetto were deteriorating. So he, a young boy, decided to leave. He said, “Mother objected and wailed but Father was quiet. He stood up, put his hands on my head, blessed me and told me to save myself”.

All the exhibition rooms here are filled with such heart-wrenching stories.

When we left Yad Vashem, I told the Prime Minister of Canada that my supreme duty as the Prime Minister of Israel is to ensure that there will be no more memorial sites like this, that there will never be another Holocaust.

I have said here many times that we must identify an existential threat in time and take action against it in time.

Tonight, on the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day, I ask: Why, in the years preceding the Holocaust, did the overwhelming majority of world leaders and Jewish leaders fail to detect the danger in time?

In retrospect, all the warning signs were there: the strengthening of the Nazi regime year after year; the horrific anti-Semitic propaganda which grew stronger with each passing month; and the murderous attacks on Jews which began as spurts and became a giant wave.

In retrospect, a direct line connects the racial laws and the gas chambers.

Few world leaders, notably Churchill, understood the enormity of the threat to humanity posed by Nazism. Few among our leaders, primarily Jabotinsky, warned against the imminent destruction facing our people. But they were widely criticized, their warnings disregarded and dismissed as the rantings of doomsayers and warmongers.

How is it possible that so many people failed to understand reality? The bitter, tragic truth is this: It is not that they did not see. They did not want to see.

And why did they choose not to see the truth? Because they did not want to face the consequences of that truth.

During the 1930s, when the Nazis were gaining momentum, the trauma of the First World War was still fresh. Twenty years earlier, the people of the West experienced a terrible trench war, which claimed the lives of 16 million people. The leaders of the West therefore operated on the basis of one axiom: Avoid another confrontation at any cost. Thus they laid the ground for the most horrible war in history.

This axiom of avoiding conflict at any cost was adopted not only by the leaders. It was shared by the peoples themselves, and primarily by the educated elites.

In 1933, for example, the year Hitler rose to power, a meeting was held by the students of Oxford University, an institution which produced generations of British leaders. Following a heated debate, the students voted for a resolution stating that they “would under no circumstances fight for their King and Country”.

This resolution passed by an overwhelming majority a mere ten days after Hitler entered the Chancellor’s office in Germany. The message reverberated in Berlin.

This example illustrates the West’s feeble response to the rise of Nazism.

Month after month, year after year, more and more information was received in London, Paris and Washington about Nazi capabilities and intentions. The picture gradually became clear for everyone to see.

But they had eyes and could not see, they had ears but could not hear.

When you refuse to accept reality as it is, you can deny it.

This is precisely what the leaders of the West did. They dismissed the murderous Nazi rhetoric as internal German politics; they downplayed the seriousness of the danger of the Nazi military build-up, claiming that it was the result of the natural will of a proud nation that should be recognized and accepted.

The reality was clear, but it was enveloped in a bubble of illusions. This bubble burst when the Nazis launched their blitzkrieg on Europe and Africa.

The price of illusion and wishful thinking was very steep. By the time the leaders of the West finally acted, their peoples paid a terrible price. World War II claimed the lives not of 16 million people, the horrific number of victims during World War I, but of 60 million, including one third of our people, who were butchered by the Nazi beast.

Citizens of Israel, my brothers and sisters,

Has the world learned the mistakes of the past?

Today we again face clear facts and a tangible threat. Iran calls for our destruction. It is developing nuclear weapons.

This is the reason it is building underground bunkers for enriching uranium. This is why it is constructing a heavy water facility to produce plutonium. This is the reason it continues to develop inter-continental ballistic missiles that can carry nuclear warheads which will threaten the entire world.

Today, like then, there are those who dismiss Iran’s extreme rhetoric as serving domestic purposes. Today, like then, there are those who view Iran’s nuclear ambitions as the result of the natural will of a proud nation, a will that should be accepted.

And today, like then, those who make such claims are deluding themselves. They are making an historic mistake.

Fateful talks are currently being held between Iran and the world powers. This time too, the truth is evident to all: Iran seeks an agreement that will lift the sanctions and leave it as a nuclear threshold state with the capability to manufacture nuclear weapons within several months at most.

Iran wants a deal that will eliminate the sanctions and leave its capabilities intact.

A deal which enables Iran to be a nuclear threshold state will bring the entire world to the threshold of an abyss.

I hope that the lessons of the past have been learned, and that the desire to avoid confrontation at any cost will not lead to a deal that will exact a much heavier price in the future.

I call on the leaders of the world powers to insist that Iran fully dismantle its capacity to manufacture nuclear weapons, and to persist until this goal is achieved.

In any event, the people of Israel stand strong. Faced with an existential threat, our situation today is entirely different than it was during the Holocaust.

Today, we have a sovereign Jewish state. As Prime Minister of Israel, I do not hesitate to speak the truth to the world, even when faced with blind eyes and deaf ears. It is not only my right, it is my duty. I am always mindful of this duty, never more so than on this day, in this place.

On the eve of the Holocaust, some Jews avoided speaking out to the world’s nations, fearing that the struggle against Nazism would become “a Jewish problem”. Others believed that if they kept silent, the danger would pass.

They kept silent, and disaster struck.

Today, we are unafraid to speak the truth to world leaders. As is written in the Bible: “I will speak of your testimonies before kings, and I will not be ashamed… listen, for I will speak the truth.”

Unlike the Holocaust, when the Jewish people were like a wind-tossed leaf and utterly defenseless, we now have great power to defend ourselves, and it is ready for any mission.

This power rests on the courage and ingenuity of the soldiers of the IDF and the men and women of our security forces. It is this power that enabled us, against all odds, to build the State of Israel.

Look at the remarkable achievements we have made in the 66 years of our independence. All of us – scientists, writers, teachers, doctors, entrepreneurs, employees, artists, farmers – the entire people of Israel, each one in their own field –  together we have built a glorious state. The spirit of the people of Israel is sublime, our accomplishments tremendous. Seven decades after the destruction of the Holocaust, the State of Israel is a wonder of the world.

On this day, on behalf of the Jewish people, I say to all those who sought to destroy us, and to all those who still seek to destroy us: You have failed, and you will fail again.

The State of Israel is stronger than ever. It is a state that seeks peace with all its neighbors and it pulsates with an iron will to ensure the future of our people.

“The people will arise like a lion cub and raise itself like a lion…and Judea will dwell securely”. (Numbers 23:24; Jeremiah 23:6).

 

 

JBuzz Musings November 10, 2013: World political and religious leaders mark the 75th anniversary of Kristallnacht

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World political and religious leaders mark the 75th anniversary of Kristallnacht

By Bonnie K. Goodman

This Saturday evening, Nov. 9 overnight into Sunday, Nov 10, 2013 marks the 75th anniversary of Kristallnacht, the “night of broken glass” in 1938, which was the official start to the physical and systematic persecution of the Jews…READ MORE

JBuzz Musings July 29, 2013: After elections for Israel’s chief rabbis calls for reform, inclusion linger

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After elections for Israel’s chief rabbis calls for reform, inclusion linger (Video)

By Bonnie K. Goodman

This past Wednesday, July 24, 2013 Israel’s long and bitterly fought race to elect the next chief rabbis ended with the election Rabbi David Lau, 47 as the Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi and Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, 61 as the Sephardic Chief Rabbi…READ MORE

JBuzz News June 13, 2013: Exhibition at Auschwitz-Birkenau Honors Children of Holocaust

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Exhibition at Auschwitz-Birkenau Honors Children of Holocaust

Janek Skarzynski/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel found the name of Judith, the twin sister of his father-in-law, among the Book of Names exhibit at Auschwitz-Birkenau on Thursday.

Source: NYT, 6-13-13

A multimedia exhibition that tries to push visitors beyond their knowledge of the facts of the Nazis’ Final Solution was dedicated on Thursday….READ MORE

JBuzz News May 13, 2013: PM Benjamin Netanyahu Receives First Fruits for Shavuot Holiday

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PM Netanyahu Receives First Fruits for Shavuot Holiday

Source: Arutz Sheva, 5-13-13

“First fruits” had to be one of the seven species that the Bible lists as Israel’s best crops – wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates and each year’s “first fruits” would be brought to the Temple from the holiday of Shavuot….READ MORE

Full Text Israel Political Brief March 20-22, 2013: US President Barack Obama, PM Benjamin Netanyahu & President Shimon Peres’s Speeches & President Obama’s Israel Trip Highlights

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PM Netanyahu’s Remarks at the Conclusion of the Visit to Yad Vashem

Source: PMO, 3-22-13
יום שישי י”א ניסן תשע”ג

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, this morning made the following remarks at the conclusion of the visit to Yad Vashem:

“During the Holocaust the Jewish People were helpless and its rescuers came too late. Today, the Jewish People have a state and an army and it can defend itself by itself against any foe.”

דברי ראש הממשלה נתניהו בסיום הביקור ביד ושם

Source: PMO, 3-22-13

יום שישי י”א ניסן תשע”ג

ראש הממשלה בנימין נתניהו בסיום הביקור ביד ושם:

“בשואה העם היהודי היה חסר ישע ומציליו הגיעו מאוחר מדי. היום יש לעם היהודי מדינה וצבא והוא יכול להגן על עצמו בכוחות עצמו מול כל איום”.

Remarks by US President Barack Obama at Yad Vashem

Source: PMO, 3-22-13

יום שישי י”א ניסן תשע”ג

Photo by GPO

Transcription

“Unto them I will give my house and within my walls memorial and a name; an everlasting name that shall not be cut off.”

President Peres,
Prime Minister Netanyahu,
Chairman Shalev,
Rabbi Lau,

Thank you for sharing this house, this memorial with me today.

Thank you to the people of Israel for preserving the names of the millions taken from us, of blessed memory, names that shall never be forgotten.

This is my second visit to this living memorial, since then I’ve walked among the barbed wire and guard towers of Buchenwald. Rabbi Lau told me of his time there and we reminisced about our good friend Eli Wiesel and the memories that he shared with me.

I’ve stood in the old Warsaw Ghetto with survivors who would not go quietly. But nothing equals the wrenching power of this sacred place where the totality of the Shoah is told.

We have come here a thousand times and each time our hearts would break for here we see the depravity to which man can sink, the barbarism that unfolds when we begin to see our fellow human beings as somehow less than us, less worthy of dignity and of life. We see how evil can for a moment in time triumph when good people do nothing, and how silence abetted a crime unique in human history.

Here we see their faces and we hear their voices. We look upon the objects of their lives, the art that they created, the prayer books that they carried.

We see that even as they had hate etched into their arms, they were not numbers. They were men and women and children – so many children – sent to their deaths because of who they were, how they prayed and who they loved.

And yet here alongside man’s capacity for evil, we also are reminded of man’s capacity for good.
The rescuers, the Righteous Among Nations who refused to be bystanders, and in their noble acts of courage, we see how this place, this accounting of horror, is in the end a source of hope. For here we learn that we are never powerless.

In our lives we always have choices: to succumb to our worst instincts, or to summon the better angles of our nature; to be indifferent to suffering wherever it may be, whoever it may be visited upon, or to display empathy that is at the core of our humanity.

We have the choice to acquiesce to evil or make real our solemn vow: Never Again.

We have the choice to ignore what happens to others or to act on behalf of others and to continually examine in ourselves whatever dark places there may be that might lead to such actions or inactions.

This is our obligation – not simply to bear witness, but to act.

For us, in our time, this means confronting bigotry and hatred in all of its forms, racism – especially anti-Semitism. None of that has a place in the civilized world – not in the classrooms of children, not in the corridors of power. And let us never forget the link between the two.

For our sons and daughter are not born to hate, they are taught to hate. So let’s fill their young hearts with the same understanding and compassion that we hope others have for them.

Here we hope, because after you walk through these halls, after you pass through the darkness, there is light – the glorious view of the Jerusalem Forest with the sun shining over the historic homeland of the Jewish people, a fulfillment of the prophecy “You shall live again upon your own soil.”

Here on your ancient land, let it be said for all the world to hear: the State of Israel does not exist because of the Holocaust, but with the survival of a strong Jewish State of Israel, such a Holocaust will never happen again.

Here we pray that we all can be better, that we can all grow, like the sapling near the Children’s Memorial, a sapling from a chestnut tree that Anne Frank could see from her window.

The last time she described it in her diary, she wrote: “Our chestnut tree is in full bloom; it’s covered with leaves and is even more beautiful than last year.”

That’s a reminder of who we can be. But we have to work for it. We have to work for it here in Israel; we have to work for it in America; we have to work for it around the world, to tend the light and the brightness as opposed to our worst instincts.

So may God bless the memory of the millions, may their souls be bound up in the bond of eternal life, and may each spring bring a full bloom, even more beautiful than last.

נאום נשיא ארה”ב ברק אובמה בביקור ביד ושם

Source: PMO, 3-22-13

יום שישי י”א ניסן תשע”ג

Photo by GPO

תרגום

“ונתתי להם בביתי ובחומותיי יד ושם טוב מבנים ומבנות שם עולם אתן לו אשר לא יכרת”.

הנשיא פרס,
ראש הממשלה נתניהו,
היו”ר שלו,
הרב לאו,

תודה לכם על שאתם חולקים את הבית הזה, את מצבת הזיכרון הזו, יחד איתי היום. ותודה לעם ישראל על שימור שמותיהם של המיליונים שנלקחו מאיתנו – יהי זכרם ברוך – שמות שלעולם לא יישכחו.

זהו ביקורי השני במצבת זיכרון חיה זאת. מאז הספקתי לצעוד לאורך גדרות התיל ומגדלי השמירה של בוכנוואלד, שם סיפר לי הרב לאו על שהותו שם ושיתפנו זה את זה בחוויות על ידידנו היקר אלי ויזל והזיכרונות שהוא חלק עמי. ניצבתי בגטו ורשה הישן לצדם של ניצולים שלא הסכימו ללכת בשקט אל מותם. אולם דבר אינו משתווה לעוצמתו המצמררת של מקום מקודש זה, המספר את סיפורה של השואה בכללותו.

הגענו לכאן אלפי פעמים ובכל פעם לבנו נשבר, שכן כאן אנו עדים לתהומות אליהם אדם יכול לשקוע  ולברבריות שיכולה לפרוץ כשאנו מתחילים לראות את זולתנו כבני אדם נחותים מאיתנו, זכאים פחות לכבוד ולחיים. אנו רואים כיצד הרשע יכול לרגע אחד לגבור כאשר אנשים טובים עומדים מנגד ומחרישים, וכיצד עצם השתיקה הייתה בגדר סיוע לפשע שאין לו אח ורע בהיסטוריה האנושית.

כאן אנו רואים את פניהם ושומעים את קולם, אנו מביטים על הפיסות שהרכיבו את חייהם, על האמנות שיצרו ועל ספרי התפילה שנשאו. אנו רואים שאפילו שעה שהייתה השנאה חקוקה על זרועם, הם לא היו מספר. הם היו גברים, נשים וילדים – ילדים רבים כל כך – שנשלחו אל מותם בגלל מי שהם היו, האופן בו הם התפללו ומי שהם אהבו.

ועם זאת, לצד הרשע שמסוגל לו האדם, אנו נזכרים גם בטוב האדם. המצילים, חסידי אומות העולם שסירבו לעמוד מנגד, אלה שמעשי גבורתם האציליים מראים לנו כיצד מקום זה, גלעד זה של זוועות, יכול בסופו של דבר לשמש מקור של תקווה. שכן כאן אנו לומדים שאנו לעולם איננו חסרי אונים. בחיינו יש לנו תמיד את הבחירה – להיכנע לדחפינו הגרועים ביותר או לפנות אל הטוב שבקרבנו; להיות אדישים לסבל באשר הוא ולאנשים שהסבל הוא מנת חלקם או להפגין את אותה חמלה העומדת בבסיס אנושיותנו. יש לנו את הבחירה להשלים עם הרוע או לקיים את שבועתנו המקודשת: לעולם לא עוד. יש לנו את הבחירה להתעלם ממה שקורה לזולת או לפעול למען הזולת ולבחון כל העת את אותם מקומות חשוכים בתוכנו שעלולים להוביל למעשים או למחדלים כגון אלה.

זוהי מחויבותנו – לא רק להיות עדים, אלא לפעול.

שכן עבורנו, בימינו אלה, פירוש הדבר הוא התמודדות עם דעות קדומות ושנאה על כל צורותיה, עם גזענות ובייחוד אנטישמיות. לאף אחת מהתופעות הללו אין מקום בעולם התרבותי. לא בכיתות הלימוד של ילדינו, לא במסדרונות הכוח.

ובל נשכח לעולם את הקשר בין השניים. שכן בנינו ובנותינו אינם נולדים לשנוא; הם לומדים לשנוא. אז הבה נמלא את לבבותיהם הצעירים באותה הבנה וחמלה שאנו מקווים שאחרים יפגינו כלפיהם.

כאן אנו מקווים, שכן אחרי שצועדים בין הקירות הללו ועוברים באפילה, רואים את האור – הנוף המופלא של יער ירושלים והשמש המאירה על מולדתו עתיקת היומין של העם היהודי, התגשמות הנבואה: “והנחתי אתכם על אדמתכם”.

כאן על אדמתכם העתיקה, הבה נאמר באופן שבו כל העולם ישמע: מדינת ישראל אינה מתקיימת בגלל השואה, כי אם בזכות קיומה של מדינה יהודית חזקה, שואה כזאת לא תתרחש עוד לעולם.

כאן אנו מתפללים שנוכל כולנו להיות טובים יותר, שנוכל כולנו לצמוח, כמו השתיל ליד מצבת הזיכרון לילדים, שתיל מעץ הערמונים שניבט מחלונה של אנה פרנק. בפעם האחרונה שהיא תיארה אותו ביומנה, היא כתבה: “עץ הערמונים שלנו בפריחה מלאה, הוא מכוסה בעלים והוא אפילו יפה יותר מכפי שהיה בשנה שעברה”.

זאת תזכורת למי שאנו יכולים להיות. אולם עלינו לעבוד לשם כך. עלינו לעבוד לשם כך כאן בישראל, עלינו לעבוד לשם כך באמריקה, עלינו לעבוד לשם כך ברחבי העולם, לטפח את האור ואת התקווה ולא את דחפינו הנמוכים ביותר.

יברך השם את זכרם של המיליונים; מי ייתן ותהיה נפשם צרורה בצרור החיים, ומי ייתן וכל אביב יביא איתו פריחה מלאה, יפה יותר מקודמתה.

US President Barack Obama Visits Mt. Herzl and Lays Wreaths on Herzl’s Grave and on Rabin’s Grave

Source: PMO, 3-22-13

יום שישי י”א ניסן תשע”ג

US President Barack Obama, President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, this morning visited Mt. Herzl. President Obama laid wreaths on the grave of Theodor (Binyamin Zeev) Herzl and on the grave of Yitzhak Rabin, accompanied by members of the Rabin family. On Rabin’s grave, President Obama laid a stone that he brought with him from the grave of the Rev. Martin Luther King.

Prime Minister Netanyahu told President Obama that Herzl’s grave is the site of the traditional annual ceremony marking the transition from Remembrance Day for the Fallen of Israel’s Wars to Independence Day.

President Obama wrote in the Mt. Herzl guestbook: “It is humbling and inspiring to visit and remember the visionary who began the remarkable establishment of the State of Israel. May our two countries possess the same vision and will to secure peace and prosperity for future generations.”

הנשיא אובמה יניח זרים על קברי הרצל ורבין בהר הרצל ויבקר במוזיאון “יד ושם”

Source: PMO, 3-22-13

יום שישי י”א ניסן תשע”ג

הבוקר יגיע נשיא ארה”ב ברק אובמה להר הרצל, וישתתף בטקסי הנחת זרים על קברו של חוזה המדינה בנימין זאב הרצל ועל קברו של ראש הממשלה יצחק רבין ז”ל.
לאחר מכן יבקר הנשיא במוזיאון “יד ושם”.

הר הרצל

הר הרצל מתנשא לגובה של 834 מטר מעל פני הים, ממוקם במערב ירושלים וגובל ביער ירושלים ובשכונות העיר.

ההר נקרא על שמו של חוזה המדינה בנימין זאב הרצל. בהר נמצאים מספר מוסדות לאומיים, בהם חלקת קברו של בנימין זאב הרצל, בית הקברות הצבאי הראשי של מדינת ישראל, חלקת גדולי האומה בה נקברים מנהיגי המדינה, חלקה מיוחדת עבור זאב ז’בוטינסקי ובני משפחתו, חלקת ראשי התנועה הציונית ומשפחת הרצל, חלקת המעפילים שנספו בדרכם אל הארץ ולוחמי מחתרות שנהרגו טרם הקמת המדינה. בנוסף מתוכנן להיבנות בו היכל הזיכרון הלאומי שבו יונצחו כל הנופלים בהגנה על הארץ.‏

קבר הרצל

ב-3 ביולי 1904 הלך לעולמו בנימין זאב הרצל, חוזה מדינת היהודים. בצוואתו ביקש להיקבר בארץ ישראל. בקשתו נענתה 45 שנים מאוחר יותר לאחר הקמת המדינה, כאשר באוגוסט 1949 הועלו לארץ עצמותיו והרצל נקבר מחדש בשיאה של הפסגה הגבוהה ביותר במערב ירושלים. כיאה לצוואתו, עצמות בני משפחתו הועלו גם כן לישראל ונקברו לצידו בחלקה מיוחדת.

בטקס הקבורה הונחה מעל קברו של הרצל מצבה זמנית, ורק בשנת 1960 נערך טקס גילוי המצבה הייחודית המוכרת כיום. המצבה הייחודית שנחצבה בגליל, היא למעשה אבן אחת במשקל 16 טון שנחצבה ולוטשה במשך שלושה חודשים. לאחר קבורתו של הרצל נסללה רחבה גדולה לפני קברו של הרצל, רחבה המארחת מדי שנה מאז 1950 את טקס הדלקת המשואות וחגיגות יום העצמאות. העובדה שעל גבי המצבה חקוק שם משפחתו של חוזה המדינה בלבד מבקשת להדגיש את מרכזיותו של הרצל בתולדות האומה.

קבר רבין

ראש הממשלה יצחק רבין ז”ל נרצח במוצ”ש, 4 בנובמבר 1995, י”ב בחשוון התשנ”ו, בתום עצרת תמיכה בהסכמי אוסלו שנערכה בכיכר מלכי ישראל בתל אביב. טקס האשכבה נערך בהר הרצל, ברחבה הסמוכה לקברו של בנימין זאב הרצל, בנוכחותם של עשרות מנהיגים מהעולם שביקשו לחלוק לו כבוד. נשיא ארה”ב ביל קלינטון, אשר עמד בראש משלחת בת 39 אנשים ובה הנשיאים לשעבר ג’ימי קרטר וג’ורג’ בוש האב, נשא נאום הספד. בסיום טקס האשכבה, נישא ארונו של רבין אל חלקת גדולי האומה הממוקמת בצידו המערבי של הר הרצל. מצבותיהם של רבין ושל אשתו המנוחה לאה, שנפטרה חמש שנים אחריו וקבורה לצדו, עוצבו מאבני שיש ובזלת שחורה אשר יוצרות יחד חצי עיגול שבמרכזו לפיד “אש תמיד”.

קברו של יצחק רבין עוצב על ידי האדריכל משה ספדיה.

מוזיאון “יד ושם”

היכל השמות  היכל השמות ב”יד ושם” בנוי משני קונוסים הפוכים זה מעל זה.

בתקרת ההיכל שמתנוססת בגובה של עשרה מטרים מוצגים תצלומים וקטעים של דפי עד. אלו מייצגים  חלק משישה מיליוני הגברים, הנשים והילדים בני העם היהודי שנרצחו בשואה. פניהם של הקורבנות משתקפים במים שנמצאים בבסיסו של הקונוס הנגדי החצוב לעומק בתוך סלע ההר.

מאז היווסדו, לפני 60 שנה, אוסף “יד ושם” שמות מהציבור הרחב על גבי דפי עד – אותם דפי עדות ובהם שמותיהם ופרטיהם האישיים של הנספים שממלאים קרוביהם או מכריהם. עד היום, נאספו מעל ל- 4.2 מיליון שמות במיליוני דפי העד ששמורים בהיכל השמות. הגנזך בחלל העגול המרכזי בהיכל השמות כולל את דפי העד שנאספו עד כה, אך שמור בו מקום לשישה מיליון דפי עד.

המדפים הריקים משמשים עדות למיליוני הקרבנות שעדיין לא הונצח זכרם. המאגר המקוון של שמות קרבנות השואה זמין בשפות אנגלית, רוסית, גרמנית, ספרדית ועברית ב- http://www.yadvashem.org

אוהל יזכור

נחנך ב”יד ושם” ב- 1961, והוא המבנה הראשון להנצחת השואה שהקים “יד ושם” בהר הזיכרון.

אוהל יזכור משמש מקום התכנסות מרכזי שבו מתקיימים טקסי הזיכרון לזכרם של הנרצחים בשואה. זהו מבנה מרשים בעל צורת אוהל שקירותיו עשויים סלעי בזלת ענקיים שהובאו מאזור הכינרת. על רצפתו חרוטים שמותיהם של 22 מחנות ריכוז והשמדה, גאיות הריגה ומחנות מעבר ידועים לשמצה מקרב מאות אתרי ההשמדה שהוקמו באירופה.

מוזיאון לאומנות השואה

המוזיאון לאומנות השואה מציג מבחר של יצירות מתוך האוסף הגדול בעולם של אמנות השמור ביד ושם.

ייחודו של המוזיאון בהצגת אמנות שנוצרה בתקופת השואה תחת הכיבוש הנאצי, במקומות ובזמן בהם עצם היצירה היה כמעט בלתי אפשרי כגון: גטאות, מחנות ומקומות מסתור. במוזיאון מוצגות כ- 164 יצירות אמנות. בביקור במוזיאון לאמנות יציגו לנשיא אובמה יצירות של האמנית שרלוטה סלומון ( 1917-1943) שנרצחה בשואה.

יד לילד

יד לילד הינו אתר הנצחה ייחודי המנציח את זכרם של 1.5 מיליון ילדים שנספו בשואה. האתר נחנך בשנת 1987.

אתר ההנצחה המיוחד במינו נחצב כמערה תת-קרקעית ומהווה גל-עד לזכרם של כמיליון וחצי ילדים יהודים שנספו בשואה. אורם של נרות הזיכרון – כמנהג המסורת היהודית להעלאת זכרם של המתים – משתקף אין ספור פעמים בחלל החשוך ויוצר תחושה של רבבות כוכבים ברקיע. שמותיהם של ילדים שנרצחו, גילם וארצות מולדתם מושמעים ברקע יחד עם מנגינה שהולחנה על ידי המלחין פול הורן.

PM Netanyahu Thanks US President Obama for his Unreserved Support for the State of Israel

Source: PMO, 3-21-13

יום חמישי י’ ניסן תשע”ג

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanks US President Barack Obama for his unreserved support for the State of Israel.

Prime Minister Netanyahu shares President Obama’s view regarding the need to advance a peace that ensures the security of Israel’s citizens.

Prime Minister Netanyahu also agrees with President Obama that we have an eretz nehederet (literally “wonderful country”; also the name of a popular Israeli satirical TV program).

ראש הממשלה נתניהו מודה לנשיא אובמה על התמיכה הבלתי מסוייגת במדינת ישראל

Source: PMO, 3-21-13

יום חמישי י’ ניסן תשע”ג

ראש הממשלה בנימין נתניהו מודה לנשיא ארה״ב ברק אובמה על התמיכה הבלתי מסוייגת במדינת ישראל.

ראש הממשלה נתניהו שותף לדעתו של הנשיא אובמה שצריך לקדם שלום שמבטיח את ביטחונם של כל אזרחי ישראל.

ראש הממשלה נתניהו גם מסכים עם הנשיא אובמה שיש לנו ארץ נהדרת.

State Dinner at the Residence of President Shimon Peres

Source: PMO, 3-21-13

יום חמישי י’ ניסן תשע”ג

In the framework of the state dinner, President Shimon Peres will award President Obama with the Presidential Medal of Distinction for his unique contribution to the security of the State of Israel. This will be the first time in the history of bilateral relations that an Israeli President will award the medal to a serving US President. The Presidential Medal of Distinction award ceremony will be held during a state dinner at the President’s Residence that will be attended by the Prime Minister and his wife, Israeli public figures and senior US administration officials. President Peres will bestow the Medal on President Obama and deliver a special speech to mark the occasion. The decision to award President Obama the medal was taken by President Peres following the recommendations of the Presidential Medal of Distinction advisory committee which includes – inter alia – retired Supreme Court President Meir Shamgar and former President Yitzhak Navon.

Remarks by President Barak Obama at the State Dinner Hosted by President of the State of Israel Shimon Peres

Source: PMO, 3-21-13
יום חמישי י’ ניסן תשע”ג

Photo by GPO

Transcription

Thank you so much.  Thank you.  Thank you very much.

President Peres,
Prime Minister Netanyahu and First Lady Sara,
Distinguished Guests and Friends,

This is an extraordinary honor for me, and I could not be more deeply moved.  But I have to say, after the incredible welcome I have received over the past two days and the warmth of the Israeli people, the tribute from President Peres, the honor of this medal – I mean, as you say, dayenu [it would have been enough].

Now I’m told that the Talmud teaches that you shouldn’t pronounce all the praises of a person in their presence, and Mr. President, if I praised all the chapters of your remarkable life, then we would be here all night.  So let me simply say this about our gracious host: Mr. President, the State of Israel has been the cause of your life through bitter wars and fragile peace, through hardship and prosperity.  You’ve built her; you’ve cared for her; you’ve strengthened her; you’ve nurtured the next generation who will inherit her.

Ben-Gurion, Meir, Begin, Rabin – these giants have left us.  Only you are with us still, the founding father in our midst.  We are so grateful for your vision, your friendship, but most of all, for your example, including the example of your extraordinary vitality.  Every time I see your president, I ask him who his doctor is.  We all want to know the secret, so with gratitude for your life and your service, and as you prepare to celebrate your 90th birthday this summer, and since I’m starting to get pretty good at Hebrew, let me propose a toast even though you’ve taken away my wine – come on, bring another one.  So, a toast – ad mea ve’esrim [may you live until your 120th birthday].  L’Chaim [to life]!  That’s good wine.  Actually, we should probably get this out of the photograph.  All these people will say I’m having too much fun in Israel.

Just a few more words, Mr. President.  You mentioned that this medal is presented in recognition of progress towards the ideals of equality and opportunity and justice, but I am mindful that I stand here tonight because of so many others, including the example and the sacrifices of the Jewish people.  In a few days, as we do at every Seder, we’ll break and hide a piece of matzo.  It’s a great way to entertain the kids.  Malia and Sasha, even though they’re getting older, they still enjoy it, and there are a lot of good places to hide it in the White House.

But on a much deeper level, it speaks to the scope of our human experience, how parts of our lives can be broken while other parts can be elusive, how we can never give up searching for the things that make us whole.  Few know this better than the Jewish people.  After slavery and decades in the wilderness and with Moses gone, the future of the Israelites was in doubt.  But with Joshua as their guide, they pushed on to victory.

After the First Temple was destroyed, it seemed Jerusalem was lost, but with courage and resolve, the Second Temple reestablished the Jewish presence.  After centuries of persecution and intolerance, the Shoah aimed to eliminate the entire Jewish people.  But the gates of the camps flew open.  There emerged the ultimate rebuke to hate and to ignorance: survivors would live and love again.  When the moment of Israel’s independence was met by aggression on all sides, it was unclear whether this nation would survive, but with heroism and sacrifice, the State of Israel not only endured, but thrived.  And during six days in June and Yom Kippur one October, it seemed as though all you had built might be lost, but when the guns fell silent, it was clear the nation of Israel lives.

As I said in my speech earlier today, this story – from slavery to salvation, of overcoming even the most overwhelming odds – is a message that has inspired the world, and that includes Jewish-Americans, but also African-Americans who have so often had to deal with their own challenges, but with whom you have stood shoulder to shoulder.  African-Americans and Jewish-Americans marched together at Selma and Montgomery with rabbis carrying the Torah as they walked.  They boarded buses for freedom rides together.  They bled together.  They gave their lives together.  Jewish-Americans like Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, alongside African-American James Chaney.  Because of their sacrifice, because of the struggle of generations in both our countries, we can come together tonight in freedom and in security.

So if I can paraphrase the psalm: they turned our mourning into dancing; they changed our sackcloths into robes of joy.  And this evening I would like to close with the words of two leaders who brought us some of this joy.  Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel was born in Poland and lost his mother and sister to the Nazis.  He came to America.  He raised his voice for social justice.  He marched with Martin Luther King.  And he spoke of the State of Israel in words that could well describe the struggle for equality in America:”Our very existence is a witness that man must live towards redemption,” he said, and that “history is not always made by man alone”.

Rabbi Joachim Prinz was born in Germany, expelled by the Nazis and found refuge in America where he built support for the new State of Israel, and on that August day in 1963, he joined Dr. King at the March on Washington, and this is what Rabbi Prinz said to the crowd: “In the realm of the spirit, our Father has taught us thousands of years ago that when G-d created men, he created them as everybody’s neighbor.  Neighbor is not a geographic concept; it is a moral concept.  It means our collective responsibility for the preservation of man’s dignity and integrity”.

President Peres,
Prime Minister Netanyahu,
Friends,

Our very existence, our presence here tonight, is a testament that all things are possible, even those things that, in moments of darkness and doubt, may seem elusive.  And the stories of our peoples teach us to never stop searching for the things – the justice and the peace – that make us whole.  And so as we go forward together with confidence, we will know that while our countries may be separated by a great ocean, in the realm of the spirit, we will always be neighbors and friends.

I very humbly accept this award, understanding that I’m accepting it on behalf of the American people who are joined together with you.  May G-d bless you and may he watch over our two great nations.

Thank you very much.

ארוחת ערב ממלכתית במשכן נשיא המדינה שמעון פרס

Source: PMO, 3-21-13

יום חמישי י’ ניסן תשע”ג

במסגרת ארוחת הערב הממלכתית יעניק נשיא המדינה לנשיא ארה”ב את “עיטור הנשיא”, על תרומתו הייחודית לביטחון מדינת ישראל. מדובר בפעם הראשונה בהיסטורית היחסים בין ישראל לארה”ב, בה יוענק עיטור כבוד על ידי נשיא ישראלי לנשיא אמריקני מכהן.

טקס הענקת עיטור הנשיא יתקיים במהלך ארוחת ערב ממלכתית במשכן הנשיא, בהשתתפות ראש הממשלה ורעייתו, נציגי ציבור ישראלים ובכירי הממשל האמריקני. במהלך הארוחה יתקיים טקס חגיגי בו יענוד הנשיא פרס על צווארו של הנשיא אובמה את עיטור הכבוד ויישא נאום שבו יציג את נימוקי הענקת העיטור. ההחלטה להעניק את העיטור לנשיא אובמה התקבלה על-ידי הנשיא פרס, בהמלצת חברי הוועדה המייעצת לנשיא, בראשותו של נשיא בית המשפט העליון (בדימוס), מר מאיר שמגר, ונשיאה החמישי של מדינת ישראל, יצחק נבון.

Remarks of U.S. President Obama To the Israeli Students

Source: PMO, 3-21-13

יום חמישי י’ ניסן תשע”ג

Photo by GPO

Thank you. Thank you so much. Well, it is a great honor to be with you here in Jerusalem, and I’m so grateful for the welcome that I’ve received from the people of Israel.  Thank you. I bring with me the support of the American people and the friendship that binds us together.

Over the last two days, I’ve reaffirmed the bonds between our countries with Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Peres. I’ve borne witness to the ancient history of the Jewish people at the Shrine of the Book, and I’ve seen Israel’s shining future in your scientists and your entrepreneurs.  This is a nation of museums and patents, timeless holy sites and ground-breaking innovation.  Only in Israel could you see the Dead Sea Scrolls and the place where the technology on board the Mars Rover originated at the same time.

But what I’ve most looked forward to is the ability to speak directly to you, the Israeli people — especially so many young people who are here today to talk about the history that brought us here today, and the future that you will make in the years to come.

Now, I know that in Israel’s vibrant democracy, every word, every gesture is carefully scrutinized. But I want to clear something up just so you know — any drama between me and my friend, Bibi, over the years was just a plot to create material for Eretz Nehederet. That’s the only thing that was going on.  We just wanted to make sure the writers had good material.

I also know that I come to Israel on the eve of a sacred holiday — the celebration of Passover.  And that is where I would like to begin today.

Just a few days from now, Jews here in Israel and around the world will sit with family and friends at the Seder table, and celebrate with songs, wine and symbolic foods.  After enjoying Seders with family and friends in Chicago and on the campaign trail, I’m proud that I’ve now brought this tradition into the White House.  I did so because I wanted my daughters to experience the Haggadah, and the story at the center of Passover that makes this time of year so powerful.

It’s a story of centuries of slavery, and years of wandering in the desert; a story of perseverance amidst persecution, and faith in God and the Torah.  It’s a story about finding freedom in your own land.  And for the Jewish people, this story is central to who you’ve become.  But it’s also a story that holds within it the universal human experience, with all of its suffering, but also all of its salvation.

It’s a part of the three great religions — Judaism, Christianity, and Islam — that trace their origins to Abraham, and see Jerusalem as sacred.  And it’s a story that’s inspired communities across the globe, including me and my fellow Americans.

In the United States — a nation made up of people who crossed oceans to start anew — we’re naturally drawn to the idea of finding freedom in our land.  To African Americans, the story of the Exodus was perhaps the central story, the most powerful image about emerging from the grip of bondage to reach for liberty and human dignity — a tale that was carried from slavery through the Civil Rights Movement into today.

For generations, this promise helped people weather poverty and persecution, while holding on to the hope that a better day was on the horizon.  For me, personally, growing up in far-flung parts of the world and without firm roots, the story spoke to a yearning within every human being for a home.

Of course, even as we draw strength from the story of God’s will and His gift of freedom expressed on Passover, we also know that here on Earth we must bear our responsibilities in an imperfect world.  That means accepting our measure of sacrifice and struggle, just like previous generations.  It means us working through generation after generation on behalf of that ideal of freedom.

As Dr. Martin Luther King said on the day before he was killed, “I may not get there with you.  But I want you to know that we, as a people, will get to the promised land.” So just as Joshua carried on after Moses, the work goes on for all of you, the Joshua Generation, for justice and dignity; for opportunity and freedom.

For the Jewish people, the journey to the promise of the State of Israel wound through countless generations.  It involved centuries of suffering and exile, prejudice and pogroms and even genocide.  Through it all, the Jewish people sustained their unique identity and traditions, as well as a longing to return home.  And while Jews achieved extraordinary success in many parts of the world, the dream of true freedom finally found its full expression in the Zionist idea — to be a free people in your homeland.  That’s why I believe that Israel is rooted not just in history and tradition, but also in a simple and profound idea — the idea that people deserve to be free in a land of their own.

Over the last 65 years, when Israel has been at its best, Israelis have demonstrated that responsibility does not end when you reach the promised land, it only begins.  And so Israel has been a refuge for the diaspora — welcoming Jews from Europe, from the former Soviet Union, from Ethiopia, from North Africa.

Israel has built a prosperous nation — through kibbutzeem that made the desert bloom, business that broadened the middle class, innovators who reached new frontiers, from the smallest microchip to the orbits of space.  Israel has established a thriving democracy, with a spirited civil society and proud political parties, and a tireless free press, and a lively public debate -– “lively” may even be an understatement.

And Israel has achieved all this even as it’s overcome relentless threats to its security — through the courage of the Israel Defense Forces, and the citizenry that is so resilient in the face of terror.

This is the story of Israel.  This is the work that has brought the dreams of so many generations to life.  And every step of the way, Israel has built unbreakable bonds of friendship with my country, the United States of America.

Those ties began only 11 minutes after Israeli independence, when the United States was the first nation to recognize the State of Israel. As President Truman said in explaining his decision to recognize Israel, he said, “I believe it has a glorious future before it not just as another sovereign nation, but as an embodiment of the great ideals of our civilization.”  And since then, we’ve built a friendship that advances our shared interests.

Together, we share a commitment to security for our citizens and the stability of the Middle East and North Africa.  Together, we share a focus on advancing economic growth around the globe, and strengthening the middle class within our own countries.  Together, we share a stake in the success of democracy.

But the source of our friendship extends beyond mere interests, just as it has transcended political parties and individual leaders.  America is a nation of immigrants.  America is strengthened by diversity.  America is enriched by faith.  We are governed not simply by men and women, but by laws.  We’re fueled by entrepreneurship and innovation, and we are defined by a democratic discourse that allows each generation to reimagine and renew our union once more.  So in Israel, we see values that we share, even as we recognize what makes us different.  That is an essential part of our bond.

Now, I stand here today mindful that for both our nations, these are some complicated times.  We have difficult issues to work through within our own countries, and we face dangers and upheaval around the world.  And when I look at young people within the United States, I think about the choices that they must make in their lives to define who we’ll be as a nation in this 21st century, particularly as we emerge from two wars and the worst recession since the Great Depression.  But part of the reason I like talking to young people is because no matter how great the challenges are, their idealism, their energy, their ambition always gives me hope.

And I see the same spirit in the young people here today. I believe that you will shape our future.  And given the ties between our countries, I believe your future is bound to ours.

No, no — this is part of the lively debate that we talked about. This is good.  You know, I have to say we actually arranged for that, because it made me feel at home. I wouldn’t feel comfortable if I didn’t have at least one heckler.

I’d like to focus on how we — and when I say “we,” in particular young people — can work together to make progress in three areas that will define our times — security, peace and prosperity.

Let me begin with security.  I’m proud that the security relationship between the United States and Israel has never been stronger.  Never. More exercises between our militaries; more exchanges among our political and military and intelligence officials than ever before; the largest program to date to help you retain your qualitative military edge.  These are the facts.  These aren’t my opinions, these are facts.  But, to me, this is not simply measured on a balance sheet.  I know that here, in Israel, security is something personal.

Here’s what I think about when I consider these issues.  When I consider Israel’s security, I think about children like Osher Twito, who I met in Sderot children the same age as my own daughters who went to bed at night fearful that a rocket would land in their bedroom simply because of who they are and where they live.

That reality is why we’ve invested in the Iron Dome system to save countless lives — because those children deserve to sleep better at night. That’s why we’ve made it clear, time and again, that Israel cannot accept rocket attacks from Gaza, and we have stood up for Israel’s right to defend itself. And that’s why Israel has a right to expect Hamas to renounce violence and recognize Israel’s right to exist.

When I think about Israel’s security, I think about five Israelis who boarded a bus in Bulgaria, who were blown up because of where they came from; robbed of the ability to live, and love, and raise families.  That’s why every country that values justice should call Hizbollah what it truly is — a terrorist organization. Because the world cannot tolerate an organization that murders innocent civilians, stockpiles rockets to shoot at cities, and supports the massacre of men and women and children in Syria right now.

The fact that Hizbollah’s ally — the Assad regime — has stockpiles of chemical weapons only heightens the urgency.  We will continue to cooperate closely to guard against that danger. I’ve made it clear to Bashar al-Assad and all who follow his orders:  We will not tolerate the use of chemical weapons against the Syrian people, or the transfer of those weapons to terrorists.  The world is watching; we will hold you accountable.

The Syrian people have the right to be freed from the grip of a dictator who would rather kill his own people than relinquish power. Assad must go so that Syria’s future can begin.  Because true stability in Syria depends upon establishing a government that is responsible to its people — one that protects all communities within its borders, while making peace with countries beyond them.

These are the things I think about when I think about Israel’s security.  When I consider Israel’s security, I also think about a people who have a living memory of the Holocaust, faced with the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iranian government that has called for Israel’s destruction.  It’s no wonder Israelis view this as an existential threat.  But this is not simply a challenge for Israel — it is a danger for the entire world, including the United States.  A nuclear-armed Iran would raise the risk of nuclear terrorism.  It would undermine the non-proliferation regime.  It would spark an arms race in a volatile region.  And it would embolden a government that has shown no respect for the rights of its own people or the responsibilities of nations.

That’s why America has built a coalition to increase the cost to Iran of failing to meet their obligations.  The Iranian government is now under more pressure than ever before, and that pressure is increasing.  It is isolated.  Its economy is in dire straits.  Its leadership is divided.  And its position — in the region, and the world — has only grown weaker.

I do believe that all of us have an interest in resolving this issue peacefully. Strong and principled diplomacy is the best way to ensure that the Iranian government forsakes nuclear weapons. Peace is far more preferable to war.  And the inevitable costs, the unintended consequences that would come with war means that we have to do everything we can to try to resolve this diplomatically.  Because of the cooperation between our governments, we know that there remains time to pursue a diplomatic resolution.  That’s what America will do, with clear eyes — working with a world that’s united, and with the sense of urgency that’s required.

But Iran must know this time is not unlimited.  And I’ve made the position of the United States of America clear:  Iran must not get a nuclear weapon.  This is not a danger that can be contained, and as President, I’ve said all options are on the table for achieving our objectives.  America will do what we must to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran.

For young Israelis, I know that these issues of security are rooted in an experience that is even more fundamental than the pressing threat of the day.  You live in a neighborhood where many of your neighbors have rejected the right of your nation to exist.  Your grandparents had to risk their lives and all that they had to make a place for themselves in this world.  Your parents lived through war after war to ensure the survival of the Jewish state.  Your children grow up knowing that people they’ve never met may hate them because of who they are, in a region that is full of turmoil and changing underneath your feet.

So that’s what I think about when Israel is faced with these challenges –- that sense of an Israel that is surrounded by many in this region who still reject it, and many in the world who refuse to accept it.  And that’s why the security of the Jewish people in Israel is so important.  It cannot be taken for granted.

But make no mistake — those who adhere to the ideology of rejecting Israel’s right to exist, they might as well reject the earth beneath them or the sky above, because Israel is not going anywhere. And today, I want to tell you — particularly the young people — so that there’s no mistake here, so long as there is a United States of America — Atem lo levad. You are not alone.

The question is what kind of future Israel will look forward to.  Israel is not going anywhere — but especially for the young people in this audience, the question is what does its future hold?  And that brings me to the subject of peace.

I know Israel has taken risks for peace.  Brave leaders — Menachem Begin, Yitzhak Rabin — reached treaties with two of your neighbors.  You made credible proposals to the Palestinians at Annapolis.  You withdrew from Gaza and Lebanon, and then faced terror and rockets.  Across the region, you’ve extended a hand of friendship and all too often you’ve been confronted with rejection and, in some cases, the ugly reality of anti-Semitism. So I believe that the Israeli people do want peace, and I also understand why too many Israelis — maybe an increasing number, maybe a lot of young people here today — are skeptical that it can be achieved.

But today, Israel is at a crossroads.  It can be tempting to put aside the frustrations and sacrifices that come with the pursuit of peace, particularly when Iron Dome repels rockets, barriers keep out suicide bombers.  There’s so many other pressing issues that demand your attention.  And I know that only Israelis can make the fundamental decisions about your country’s future. I recognize that.

I also know, by the way, that not everyone in this hall will agree with what I have to say about peace.  I recognize that there are those who are not simply skeptical about peace, but question its underlying premise, have a different vision for Israel’s future.  And that’s part of a democracy.  That’s part of the discourse between our two countries.  I recognize that.  But I also believe it’s important to be open and honest, especially with your friends.  I also believe that.

Politically, given the strong bipartisan support for Israel in America, the easiest thing for me to do would be to put this issue aside — just express unconditional support for whatever Israel decides to do — that would be the easiest political path. But I want you to know that I speak to you as a friend who is deeply concerned and committed to your future, and I ask you to consider three points.

First, peace is necessary. I believe that.  I believe that peace is the only path to true security. You have the opportunity to be the generation that permanently secures the Zionist dream, or you can face a growing challenge to its future.  Given the demographics west of the Jordan River, the only way for Israel to endure and thrive as a Jewish and democratic state is through the realization of an independent and viable Palestine.  That is true.

There are other factors involved.  Given the frustration in the international community about this conflict, Israel needs to reverse an undertow of isolation.  And given the march of technology, the only way to truly protect the Israeli people over the long term is through the absence of war.  Because no wall is high enough and no Iron Dome is strong enough or perfect enough to stop every enemy that is intent on doing so from inflicting harm.

And this truth is more pronounced given the changes sweeping the Arab world.  I understand that with the uncertainty in the region — people in the streets, changes in leadership, the rise of non-secular parties in politics — it’s tempting to turn inward, because the situation outside of Israel seems so chaotic. But this is precisely the time to respond to the wave of revolution with a resolve and commitment for peace. Because as more governments respond to popular will, the days when Israel could seek peace simply with a handful of autocratic leaders, those days are over.  Peace will have to be made among peoples, not just governments.

No one — no single step can change overnight what lies in the hearts and minds of millions.  No single step is going to erase years of history and propaganda.  But progress with the Palestinians is a powerful way to begin, while sidelining extremists who thrive on conflict and thrive on division.  It would make a difference.

So peace is necessary.  But peace is also just.  Peace is also just.  There is no question that Israel has faced Palestinian factions who turned to terror, leaders who missed historic opportunities.  That is all true.  And that’s why security must be at the center of any agreement.  And there is no question that the only path to peace is through negotiations — which is why, despite the criticism we’ve received, the United States will oppose unilateral efforts to bypass negotiations through the United Nations.  It has to be done by the parties.    But the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination, their right to justice, must also be recognized.

Put yourself in their shoes.  Look at the world through their eyes.  It is not fair that a Palestinian child cannot grow up in a state of their own. Living their entire lives with the presence of a foreign army that controls the movements not just of those young people but their parents, their grandparents, every single day.  It’s not just when settler violence against Palestinians goes unpunished. It’s not right to prevent Palestinians from farming their lands; or restricting a student’s ability to move around the West Bank; or displace Palestinian families from their homes. Neither occupation nor expulsion is the answer. Just as Israelis built a state in their homeland, Palestinians have a right to be a free people in their own land.

I’m going off script here for a second, but before I came here, I met with a group of young Palestinians from the age of 15 to 22.  And talking to them, they weren’t that different from my daughters.  They weren’t that different from your daughters or sons.  I honestly believe that if any Israeli parent sat down with those kids, they’d say, I want these kids to succeed; I want them to prosper. I want them to have opportunities just like my kids do.  I believe that’s what Israeli parents would want for these kids if they had a chance to listen to them and talk to them. I believe that.

Now, only you can determine what kind of democracy you will have.  But remember that as you make these decisions, you will define not simply the future of your relationship with the Palestinians — you will define the future of Israel as well.

As Ariel Sharon said — I’m quoting him — “It is impossible to have a Jewish democratic state, at the same time to control all of Eretz Israel.  If we insist on fulfilling the dream in its entirety, we are liable to lose it all.” Or, from a different perspective, I think of what the novelist David Grossman said shortly after losing his son, as he described the necessity of peace — “A peace of no choice” he said, “must be approached with the same determination and creativity as one approaches a war of no choice.”

Now, Israel cannot be expected to negotiate with anyone who is dedicated to its destruction. But while I know you have had differences with the Palestinian Authority, I genuinely believe that you do have a true partner in President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad. I believe that.  And they have a track record to prove it.  Over the last few years, they have built institutions and maintained security on the West Bank in ways that few could have imagined just a few years ago.  So many Palestinians — including young people — have rejected violence as a means of achieving their aspirations.

There is an opportunity there, there’s a window — which brings me to my third point:  Peace is possible.  It is possible. I’m not saying it’s guaranteed.  I can’t even say that it is more likely than not.  But it is possible.  I know it doesn’t seem that way.  There are always going to be reasons to avoid risk.  There are costs for failure.  There will always be extremists who provide an excuse not to act.

I know there must be something exhausting about endless talks about talks, and daily controversies, and just the grinding status quo.  And I’m sure there’s a temptation just to say, “Ah, enough.  Let me focus on my small corner of the world and my family and my job and what I can control.”  But it’s possible.

Negotiations will be necessary, but there’s little secret about where they must lead — two states for two peoples.  Two states for two peoples.

There will be differences about how to get there.  There are going to be hard choices along the way.  Arab states must adapt to a world that has changed.  The days when they could condemn Israel to distract their people from a lack of opportunity, or government corruption or mismanagement — those days need to be over.   Now is the time for the Arab world to take steps toward normalizing relations with Israel.

Meanwhile, Palestinians must recognize that Israel will be a Jewish state and that Israelis have the right to insist upon their security. Israelis must recognize that continued settlement activity is counterproductive to the cause of peace, and that an independent Palestine must be viable with real borders that have to be drawn.

I’ve suggested principles on territory and security that I believe can be the basis for these talks.  But for the moment, put aside the plans and the process.  I ask you, instead, to think about what can be done to build trust between people.

Four years ago, I stood in Cairo in front of an audience of young people — politically, religiously, they must seem a world away.  But the things they want, they’re not so different from what the young people here want.  They want the ability to make their own decisions and to get an education, get a good job; to worship God in their own way; to get married; to raise a family. The same is true of those young Palestinians that I met with this morning.  The same is true for young Palestinians who yearn for a better life in Gaza.

That’s where peace begins — not just in the plans of leaders, but in the hearts of people.  Not just in some carefully designed process, but in the daily connections — that sense of empathy that takes place among those who live together in this land and in this sacred city of Jerusalem.

And let me say this as a politician — I can promise you this, political leaders will never take risks if the people do not push them to take some risks.  You must create the change that you want to see. Ordinary people can accomplish extraordinary things.

I know this is possible.  Look to the bridges being built in business and civil society by some of you here today.  Look at the young people who’ve not yet learned a reason to mistrust, or those young people who’ve learned to overcome a legacy of mistrust that they inherited from their parents, because they simply recognize that we hold more hopes in common than fears that drive us apart.  Your voices must be louder than those who would drown out hope.  Your hopes must light the way forward.

Look to a future in which Jews and Muslims and Christians can all live in peace and greater prosperity in this Holy Land. Believe in that.  And most of all, look to the future that you want for your own children — a future in which a Jewish, democratic, vibrant state is protected and accepted for this time and for all time.

There will be many who say this change is not possible, but remember this — Israel is the most powerful country in this region.  Israel has the unshakeable support of the most powerful country in the world. Israel is not going anywhere. Israel has the wisdom to see the world as it is, but — this is in your nature — Israel also has the courage to see the world as it should be.

Ben Gurion once said, “In Israel, in order to be a realist you must believe in miracles.”  Sometimes, the greatest miracle is recognizing that the world can change.  That’s a lesson that the world has learned from the Jewish people.

And that brings me to the final area that I’ll focus on: prosperity, and Israel’s broader role in the world.  I know that all the talk about security and peace can sometimes seem to dominate the headlines, but that’s not where people live.  And every day, even amidst the threats that you face, Israelis are defining themselves by the opportunities that you’re creating.
Through talent and hard work, Israelis have put this small country at the forefront of the global economy.

Israelis understand the value of education and have produced 10 Nobel laureates. Israelis understand the power of invention, and your universities educate engineers and inventors.  And that spirit has led to economic growth and human progress — solar power and electric cars, bandages and prosthetic limbs that save lives, stem cell research and new drugs that treat disease, cell phones and computer technology that changed the way people around the world live.

So if people want to see the future of the world economy, they should look at Tel Aviv, home to hundreds of start-ups and research centers. Israelis are so active on social media that every day seemed to bring a different Facebook campaign about where I should give this speech.

That innovation is just as important to the relationship between the United States and Israel as our security cooperation. Our first free trade agreement in the world was reached with Israel, nearly three decades ago.    Today the trade between our two countries is at $40 billion every year. More importantly, that partnership is creating new products and medical treatments; it’s pushing new frontiers of science and exploration.

That’s the kind of relationship that Israel should have — and could have — with every country in the world.  Already, we see how that innovation could reshape this region.  There’s a program here in Jerusalem that brings together young Israelis and Palestinians to learn vital skills in technology and business.  An Israeli and Palestinian have started a venture capital fund to finance Palestinian start-ups.  Over 100 high-tech companies have found a home on the West Bank — which speaks to the talent and entrepreneurial spirit of the Palestinian people.

One of the great ironies of what’s happening in the broader region is that so much of what people are yearning for — education, entrepreneurship, the ability to start a business without paying a bribe, the ability to connect to the global economy — those are things that can be found here in Israel. This should be a hub for thriving regional trade, and an engine for opportunity.

Israel is already a center for innovation that helps power the global economy.  And I believe that all of that potential for prosperity can be enhanced with greater security, enhanced with lasting peace.

Here, in this small strip of land that has been the center of so much of the world’s history, so much triumph and so much tragedy, Israelis have built something that few could have imagined 65 years ago.  Tomorrow, I will pay tribute to that history — at the grave of Herzl, a man who had the foresight to see the future of the Jewish people had to be reconnected to their past; at the grave of Rabin, who understood that Israel’s victories in war had to be followed by the battles for peace; at Yad Vashem, where the world is reminded of the cloud of evil that can descend on the Jewish people and all of humanity if we ever fail to be vigilant.

We bear all that history on our shoulders.  We carry all that history in our hearts.  Today, as we face the twilight of Israel’s founding generation, you — the young people of Israel
— must now claim its future.  It falls to you to write the next chapter in the great story of this great nation.

And as the President of a country that you can count on as your greatest friend I am confident that you can help us find the promise in the days that lie ahead.  And as a man who’s been inspired in my own life by that timeless calling within the Jewish experience — tikkun olam — I am hopeful that we can draw upon what’s best in ourselves to meet the challenges that will come; to win the battles for peace in the wake of so much war; and to do the work of repairing this world. That’s your job.  That’s my job.  That’s the task of all of us.

May God bless you.  May God bless Israel.  May God bless the United States of America.  Toda raba.  Thank you.

נאום נשיא ארה”ב אובמה בפני סטודנטים בבנייני האומה

Source: PMO, 3-21-13

יום חמישי י’ ניסן תשע”ג

צילום: לע”מ

תרגום

תודה רבה, זה כבוד להיות פה איתכם בירושלים, ואני אסיר תודה לכם על קבלת הפנים שקיבלתי מאזרחי ישראל.

אני מביא עימי את תמיכתו של העם האמריקאי, ואת הידידות שקושרת אותנו ביחד.

ביומיים האחרונים, שבתי והוכחתי את הקשר שבין שתי האומות, יחד עם ראש הממשלה ועם הנשיא פרס, ראיתי בעיני את ההיסטוריה העתיקה של העם היהודי בהיכל הספר, וראיתי, במדענים ויזמים שלכם, את העתיד המזהיר של ישראל. זוהי אומה של מוזיאונים ופטנטים, אתרים קדושים על-זמניים, ויזמוּת פורצת דרך.

רק בישראל אפשר לראות את המגילות הגנוזות של ים המלח יחד עם המקום שממנו יצאה הטכנולוגיה שעל הגששית שעל המאדים.

אבל מה שציפיתי לו יותר מכל היא האפשרות לדבר ישירות אליכם, העם בישראל, ובמיוחד אנשים צעירים רבים כל כך, על ההיסטוריה שהביאה אותנו לכאן היום ועל העתיד שאותו תעצבו בשנים הבאות.

אני יודע שבדמוקרטיה הישראלית התוססת, כל מילה וכל מחווה נבחנת בקפידה. אבל רק שתדעו, כל הדרמה שהייתה ביני ובין ידידי ביבי במשך השנים, הייתה בסך הכל מזימה לייצר תוכן עבור “ארץ נהדרת”.

אני יודע גם שאני בא לישראל בערב של חג קדוש, חג הפסח, ובזה אני רוצה להתחיל היום. בעוד מספר ימים, יישבו יהודים כאן בישראל ומסביב לעולם עם חברים ומשפחה בשולחן הסדר ויחגגו עם שירים, יין ואוכל סימבולי. לאחר שנהניתי מלילות סדר עם חברים ומשפחה בשיקאגו ובמסעות הקמפיין, אני גאה שהבאתי את המסורת הזו לתוך הבית הלבן. עשיתי זאת כי רציתי שבנותיי יחוו את קריאת ההגדה, ויכירו את הסיפור שבמרכז חג הפסח, שהופך את התקופה הזו בשנה כל כך עוצמתית.

זה סיפור של מאות שנים של עבדות, שנים של נדידה במדבר; סיפור של עמידה בפני רדיפה; ואמונה באל ובתורה. זהו סיפור על מציאת חירות בארצך.

לעם היהודי סיפור זה הוא מרכיב מרכזי במי שאתם היום. אך הוא גם סיפור שמתאר את החוויה האנושית האויברסלית, על כל הסבל והגאולה. הוא חלק משלוש הדתות הגדולות – היהדות, הנצרות והאסלאם שרואות את מקורן באברהם ורואות בירושלים מקום קדוש. הסיפור שאופף קהילות בכל העולם כולל אותי ואת האמריקאים.

ארה”ב – מדינה של אנשים שחצו אוקיינוסים כדי להתחיל בחיים חדשים – אנו נמשכים לרעיון של מציאת חירות בארצינו. בשביל האפרו-אמריקאים, סיפור יציאת מצרים היה סיפור על שחרור מהכבלים ומציאת חירות וכבוד האדם, סיפור שליווה אותם מעבדות אל תוך תנועת זכויות האזרח.

במשך דורות, הבטחה זו עזרה לאנשים להתץגבר על עוני ורדיפה, ולשמר את התקווה שיבוא יום טוב יותר בעתיד. לי, אישית, שגדלתי במקומות שונים ורחוקים ברחבי העולם, ללא שורשים יציבים, הוא התחבר לכיסופים של כל אדם לבית.

ברור שגם כשאנחנו שואפים כוח מסיפור רצונו של האל וממתנת החירות שנתן לנו שאותו אנו חוגגים בפסח, אנו יודעים, שכאן, על כדור הארץ, עלינו לעמוד באחריויות שלנו בעולם שאינו מושלם. זאת אומרת שעלינו לקבל עלינו מידה מסויימת של הקרבה ומאבק, ולעבוד, דור אחרי דור, בשם אידיאל החירות. כפי שאמר מרטין לותר קינג יום לפני שהוא נרצח – יתכן שלא אביא אתכם לשם, אך אני רוצה שתגדעו… שאנו, כעם, נגיע אל הארץ המובטחת.

כמו שיהושע המשיך את דרכו של משה, העבודה נמשכת למען צדק וכבוד, למען הזדמנות, וחופש.

בשביל היהודים, המסע אל עבר ההבטחה של מדינת ישראל עברה לאורך דורות רבים. הוא עבר דרך מאות שנים של רדיפות וגלות, דעות קדומות, פוגרומים, ואפילו רצח עם. במהלך כל התקופה הזאת היהודים שימרו את הייחודיות הלאומית שלהם ואת המסורות שלהם כמו את הכמיהה שלהם לשוב הביתה. ובזמן  שהיהודים הגיעו להצלחות אדירות במקומות רבים בעולם, החלום הזה, של חירות אמיתית מצא את ביטויו המלא ברעיון הציוני – להיות עם חופשי בארצו.

ולכן אני מאמין שישראל מבוססת לא רק על הסטוריה ומסורת, אך גם על רעיון מהותי אך פשוט: הרעיון שלאנשים מגיע להיות חופשיים  במדינה של עצמם. וב-65 השנים האחרונות, כשישראל במיטבה, הישראלים הראו שהאחריות שלהם לא מסתיימת כשמגיעים לארץ המובטחת – היא רק מתחילה שם.

ישראל הפכה להיות מקום מפלט לגלות, וקיבלה יהודים מאירופה, מברית המועצות, מאתיופיה ומצפון אפריקה.

ישראל בנתה אומה משגשגת – קיבוצים שהפריכו את השממה, עסקים שהרחיבו את המעמד הבינוני ויזמים שהגיעו לתחומים חדשניים, מהשבבים  הזעירים ביותר עד לחלל.

ישראל הקימה דמוקרטיה משגשגת עם חברה אזרחית בעלת שאר רוח, מפלגות פוליטיות גאות, עיתונות חופשית בלתי נלאית ופולמוס ציבורי סוער, סוער אולי בלשון המעטה.

וישראל השיגה את כל זה בעודה מתגברת על איומים בלתי פוסקים לביטחונה, באמצעות אומץ הלב של צה”ל וכוחות הביטחון וציבור אזרחי שעומד איתן אל מול הטרור.

זה סיפורה של ישראל. זאת העבודה שהגשימה את חלומותיהם של דורות רבים כל כך. ובכל שלב בדרך ביססה ישראל קשרים איתנים של ידידות עם ארצות הברית של אמריקה.

קשרים אלה נחנכו רק 11 דקות אחרי הצהרת העצמאות של ישראל, כשארה”ב הייתה המדינה הראשונה שהכירה במדינת ישראל. כפי שאמר הנשיא טרומן כשהסביר את החלטתו להכיר בישראל, “אני מאמין שצפוי לה עתיד מזהיר, לא רק בתור עוד מדינה ריבונית, אלא גם כמדינה המגלמת את האידיאלים הנעלים של הציוויליזציה שלנו”.

מאז, ביססנו ידידות שמקדמת את האינטרסים המשותפים לנו. יחד אנחנו שותפים למחויבות לביטחון של אזרחינו וליציבות במזרח התיכון ובצפון אפריקה. יחד אנו מתמקדים בקידום הצמיחה הכלכלית בעולם כולו וחיזוק מעמד הביניים במדינותינו. אנחנו שותפים לחתירה להצלחתה של הדמוקרטיה.

אבל מקור ידידותנו אינו רק אינטרסים משותפים, ממש כשם שהוא אינו כרוך רק במפלגתיות או במנהיגים מסוימים. אמריקה היא ארץ של מהגרים. השונות בארצנו מחזקת אותנו. האמונות שלנו מעשירות אותנו. לא נשים וגברים מושלים בנו – חוקים מושלים בנו. חדשנות ויזמות מעצימות אותנו ושיח דמוקרטי מגדיר אותנו, שיח שמאפשר לכל דור ודור לדמיין שוב ולחדש  את הקשר בינינו שוב ושוב. לכן אנחנו מוצאים בישראל ערכים שהם גם הערכים שלנו, הגם שאנחנו מכירים בשוני בין שתי המדינות.

ועם זאת, אני עומד פה היום בהכירי בכך שלשתי המדינות שלנו מדובר בתקופה מורכבת.  יש לנו בעיות קשות לעבוד עליהן בתוך המדינות שלנו, ואנחנו עומדים בפני סכנות ותהפוכות בעולם כולו. כשאני מביט באנשים צעירים בארה”ב , אני חושב על ההחלטות שעליהם לקבל בחייהם שיגדירו מי נהיה כאומה במאה ה-21, בייחוד כשאנחנו עכשיו יוצאים משתי מלחמות וממיתון קשה. לא משנה כמה מאתגרים קשיים אלה, האידיאליזם שלהם, האנרגיות שלהם והשאיפות שלהם נותנות לי תמיד תקווה.

אני רואה את אותה רוח אצל הצעירים כאן היום. ובהינתן הקשרים בין שתי המדינות שלנו אני מאמין שהעתיד שלכם קשור לשלנו.

אני רוצה להתמקד בדרך שבה עלינו לעבוד יחד ליצור קדמה בשלושה תחומים: ביטחון, שלום ושגשוג.

נתחיל בביטחון. אני גאה לומר שיחסי הביטחון בין ארה”ב לישראל מעולם לא היו כל כך הדוקים. מקיימים יותר תרגילים בין הצבאות שלנו, יותר מפגשים בין הבכירים מהעולם הפוליטי, הצבאי והמודיעין. אלה העובדות. אולם לדידי זה לא נמדד לא רק בדפי נתונים.

אני יודע שכאן בישראל ביטחון זה דבר אישי. הרשו לי לומר לכם על מה אני חושב כאשר אני שוקל את הנושאים האלה.

כשאני חושב על ביטחון ישראל אני חושב על ילדים כמו אושר טוויטו שפגשתי בשדרות. ילדים בגיל של הבנות שלי, שהלכו לישון בלילה מפוחדים שיפול טיל על חדר השינה שלהם, רק בגלל מי שהם והמקום שבו הם גרים.

בגלל זה השקענו במערכת כיפת ברזל, שהצילה חיים רבים כל כך, כי לילדים האלה מגיע לישון טוב יותר בלילה. זאת הסיבה שהבהרנו שוב ושוב שישראל לא יכולה לקבל מתקפות טילים מעזה, ואנחנו תומכים בזכותה של ישראל להגן על עצמה. וזאת הסיבה שלישראל יש את הזכות לדרוש שחמאס יעזוב את דרך האלימות ויכיר בזכותה של ישראל להתקיים.

אני חושב על חמישה ישראלים שעלו על האוטובוס בבולגריה שהתפוצצו בגלל שמקום שממנו הם באו. אנשים שהיכולת לחיות, לאהוב, להקים משפחות נגזלה מהם. ולכן כל משינה שמכירה בערך הצדק צריכה לכנות את חיזבאללה מה שהם באמת – ארגון טרור. משום שהעולם אינו יכול לקבל ארגון שרוצח אזרחים חפים מפשע, שאוגר טילים שישוגרו לעבר ערים, שתומך בהרג של גברים, נשים וילדים בסוריה.

העובדה שלבעל הברית של חיזבאללה, משטר אסד, יש מצבורים של נשק כימי, רק מעצימה את הדחיפות. אנחנו נמשיך לשתף פעולה באופן הדוק כדי להגן מול הסכנה הזאת. הבהרתי לבשאר אל-אסד  וכל מי שמציית לפקודותיו: אנחנו לא נסבול שימוש בנשק כימי נגד הסורים או העברת הנשקים האלה לחיזבאללה. העולם עוקב אחריך ואתה תישא באחריות.

אמריקה גם תתעקש על זכותו של העם הסורי להשתחרר מלפיתת הדיקטטור שמעדיף להרוג את אנשיו שלו ולא לוותר על השילטון. אסד מוכרח ללכת כדי שהעתיד של סוריה יתחיל. כיון שיציבות אמיתי בסוריה תלויה בהקמת ממשלה שנענית לעם שלה. ממשלה תגן על כל הקהילות בתוך גבולותיה בזמן שתעשה שלום עם המדינות מעברם השני של גבולותיה.

יציבות אמתית בסוריה מחייבת הקמת ממשלה שהיא קשובה לעמיה – ממשלה שמגינה על כל הקהילות בגבולותיה בזמן שהיא עושה שלום עם המדינות מעבר לגבולותיה.

כאשר אני חושב על ביטחונה של ישראל, אני גם חושב על אנשים שזוכרים את השואה שעומדים בפני האפשרות של ממשלה איראנית שמחזיקה בנשק גרעיני ושקוראת להרס ישראל.  מובן מאוד מדוע ישראלים רואים בזה איום קיומי. אבל זה לא רק אתגר לישראל, אלא סכנה לכל העולם, כולל ארצות הברית. איראן גרעינית תעלה את הסיכון לטרור גרעיני, תערער על משטר האי-הפצה, תצית מירוץ חימוש באזור לא יציב, ותחזק ממשלה שלא מכבדת את הזכויות של אזרחיה ולא מכבדת את האחריות של אומות.

משום כך, ארצות הברית  בנתה קואליציה  כדי להעצים את המחיר כשאיראן לא ממלאה את התחייבותיה.  מופעל לחץ על ממשלת איראן שמעולם לא הופעל והלחץ הזה הולך וגובר. איראן מבודדת. הכלכלה שלה במצב נואש. ההנהגה שלה מפולגת.  והמעמד שלה – באזור ובעולם כולו – רק הולך ונחלש.

לכולנו יש אינטרס לפתור את המצב הזה בדרכי שלום. דיפלומטיה חזקה ועקרונית היא הדרך הטובה ביותר לכך שממשלת איראן תזנח את כוונתה לנשק גרעיני.  יתרה משאת,שלום רצוי יותר ממלחמה ומהמחיר הבלתי נמנע – והתוצאות הבלתי ניתנות לצפייה – של מלחמה. כתוצאה משיתוף הפעולה בין ממשלותינו, ידוע לנו שנשאר זמן כדי להמשיך ולנסות למצוא פתרון דיפלומטי. ואמריקה תעשה זאת – עם עיניים פקוחות – ונעבוד יחד עם עולם מלוכד ועם תחושת הדחיפות הנדרשת.

אבל על איראן לדעת שהזמן הזה הוא לא בלתי מוגבל, והבהרתי את עמדתה של אמריקה: אסור שאיראן תשיג נשק גרעיני.  אין זאת סכנה שאפשר להכיל. כנשיא, אמרתי לעולם שכל האופציות על השולחן כדי להגשים את מטרותינו. ארה”ב תעשה כל מה שצריך כדי למנוע איראן גרעינית.

לגבי הצעירים הישראלים, אני יודע שענייני הביטחון הללו נובעים מתוך חוויה שהיא עוד יותר בסיסית מהאיום הדחוק הנוכחי. אתם חיים באזור שבו רוב השכנים שלכם שללו את זכותכם להתקיים. הסבים שלכם נאלצו לסכן את חייהם ואת כל מה שהיה להם כדי לבנות לעצמם מקום בעולם. הוריכם עברו מלחמה אחרי מלחמה כדי להבטיח את קיומה של מדינת ישראל. ילדיכם גדלים בידיעה שאנשים שלעולם לא נפגשו שונאים אותם בגלל היותם מי שהם, באזור שמשתנה מתחת לרגליכם.

אלה הדברים שאני חושב עליהם כשישראל ניצבת מול האתגרים הללו – התחושה שישראל מוקפת ברבים מאזור זה שעדיין דוחים אותה,ורבים בעולם מסרבים לקבלה. בגלל זה, ביטחון העם היהודי בישראל הוא חשוב כל כך – משום שאסור שזה יהיה מובן מאליו.אולם על תטעו: אלה שממשיכים באידיאולוגיה של דחיית זכות קיומה של מדינת ישראל יכולים באותה צורה להגיד שהם דוחים את האדמה שמתחתיהם והשמיים מעליהם משום שישראל לא הולכת לשום מקום. היום, ברצוני לומר לכם – במיוחד לצעירים – ככל שארה”ב קיימת, אתם לא לבד.

לכן השאלה היא לאיזה עתיד ישראל נושאת את עיניה. וזה מביא אותי לנושא השלום.

אני יודע שישראל לקחה סיכונים בשביל שלום. מנהיגים אמיצים – מנחם בגין ויצחק רבין – הגיעו להסכמים עם שתיים משכנותיכם. הצעתם הצעות אמינות לפלסטינים באנאפוליס. נסוגתם מעזה ומלבנון וקיבלתם טרור ורקטות. הושטתם יד של ידידות בכל האזור ובמקרים רבים מדי נתקלתם במציאות המכוערת של האנטי-שמיות. אני מאמין שהעם בישראל רוצה שלום,ויש לכם כל זכות להיות סקפטיים באשר לאפשרות להגיע לזה.

אבל ישראל נמצאת היום בצומת דרכים. מפתה מאוד לשים בצד את התסכולים וההחרבות שהם חלק מהשאיפה לשלום – במיוחד שקיים כיפת ברזל לסכל התקפות של רקטות, שמחסומים מרחיקים את המחבלים המתאבדים וכשיש נושאים דחופים רבים כל כך שדורשים את תשומת לבכם.  וידוע לי שרק ישראליים יכולים לקבל את ההחלטות הבסיסיות לגבי עתיד מדינתכם.

אני יודע שגם לא כולם פה מסכימים עם מה שיש לי לומר לגבי השלום.  אני מכיר בכך שיש כאלה שהם לא רק ספקנים לגבי השלום, אלא הם מטילים ספק בהנחת היסוד הבסיסית שלה, וזה חלק מדמוקרטיה ומהדיון בין שני העמים שלנו. אבל חשוב להיות פתוח וכן אחד עם השני, בייחוד עם חברים. מבחינה פוליטית באמריקה, לאור התמיכה האיתנה משתי המפלגות לישראל בארה”ב, הדבר הפשוט ביותר עבורי היה לשים את הנושא הזה בצד,ולהצהיר על תמיכתי המוחלטת בכל מה שישראל תחליט לעשות. אבל חשוב לי שתדעו שאני פונה עליכם כחבר שמודאג מאוד ומחויב לעתידכם, ולכן אני מבקש מכם לשקול שלוש נקודות.

קודם כל, השלום הוא נחוץ. אני מאמין שהשלום הוא המתווה היחיד לביטחון אמיתי. תוכלו להיות הדור שמבטיח את החלום הציוני לצמיתות, או תצטרכו לעמוד בפני מול אתגר הולך וגובר לעתידו. בהתחשב בדמוגרפיה מערבה לנהר הירדן, הדרך היחידה לישראל להמשיך ולשגשג כמדינה יהודית ודמוקרטית, היא להגשים את הקמת מדינה פלסטינית עצמאית ובת קיימא. לאור התסכול בקהילה הבינלאומית, על ישראל להפוך את סחף הבדידות.  ולאור התקדמות הטכנולוגית, הדרך היחידה להגן על העם בישראל באמת היא באמצעות היעדר מלחמה – מפני שאף גדר אינה גבוהה מספיק, ושום כיפת ברזל אינה חזקה מספיק כדי לעצור כל אויב שמבקש לפגוע.

האמת באה יותר לידי ביטוי בהתחשב לשינויים שסוחפים את העולם הערבי. אני מבין שהעמימות באזור – אנשים ברחובות, שינוי הנהגה, עליית מפלגות לא חילוניות בפוליטיקה – מגדילה את הפיתוי להסתגר. אבל זה בדיוק הזמן להגיב לגל המהפכות עם נחישות לשלום. ככל שיותר ממשלות מגיבות לרצון העם, הימים שבהם ישראל יכולה להגיע לשלום עם קומץ שליטי יחיד מסתיימים. שלום צריך לעשות בין עמים, לא רק בין ממשלות. אין מהלך יחידי שיוכל לשנות בין לילה את מה שנמצא בלבם ובשכלם של מיליונים. אבל התקדמות עם הפלסטינים היא נקודת התחלה רבת עוצמה, לצד דחיקתם לשוליים של הקיצוניים שמשגשגים בעתות ויכוח ומחלוקת.

שנית, השלום הוא צודק. אין עוררין על כך שישראל נדרשה להתמודד עם פלגים פלסטינים שפנו לדרך הטרור, ועם מנהיגים שהחמיצו הזדמנויות היסטוריות. זאת הסיבה לכך שהביטחון חייב להיות מצוי בליבה של כל הסכם. ואין עוררין על כך שהדרך היחידה לשלום היא דרך מו”מ. זאת הסיבה שלמרות הביקורת שנמתחה עלינו, ארה”ב תתנגד למאמצים חד צדדים לעקוף את המו”מ דרך האו”ם.

אבל חייבים להכיר בזכותו של העם הפלסטיני להגדרה עצמית ולצדק. שימו את עצמכם בנעליהם – תסתכלו על העולם דרך העיניים שלהם. לא הוגן שילדה פלסטינית לא יכולה לגדול במדינה משלה, וצריכה לחיות עם נוכחות של צבא זר ששולט בתנועות של הוריה מדי יום ביומו. אין זה צודק כשאלימות של מתנחלים נגד פלסטינים עוברת בלי עונש. אין זה צודק למנוע מפלסטינים לעבד את אדמותיהם, להגביל את יכולתו של סטודנט לנוע ברחבי הגדה המערבית, או לעקור משפחות פלסטיניות מבתיהן. הן כיבוש והן גירוש אינם מהווים תשובה. בדיוק כשם שישראלים בנו מדינה על מולדתם, לפלסטינים יש זכות להיות עם חופשי בארץ משלהם.

לפני שבאתי לפה פגשתי כמה ילדים צעירים בני 22-15, פלסטינים. דיברתי איתם, הם לא היו שונים מהילדות שלי או מהילדות והילדים שלכם.

אני באמת מאמין שאם איזשהו הורה ישראלי היה יושב עם הילדים הפלסטינים האלה הוא היה אומר, “אני רוצה שהם יצליחו. אני רוצה שהם ישגשגו. אני רוצה שיהיו להם הזדמנויות ממש כמו לילדים שלי” – זה מה שהורים ישראלים היו רוצים בשביל הילדים האלה, אם הייתה להם ההזדמנות לדבר איתם, אני מאמין בזה.

רק אתם יכולים לקבוע איזה סוג של דמוקרטיה יהיה לכם. אבל זיכרו שכאשר אתם מקבלים את ההחלטות האלה אתם מגדירים לא רק מה יהיה עתיד יחסיכם עם הפלסטינים – אתם מגדירים גם מה יהיה עתידה של ישראל. כפי שאריאל שרון אמר – “בלתי אפשרי לקיים מדינה יהודית ודמוקרטית ובה בעת לשלוט על ארץ ישראל השלמה. אם נתעקש על הגשמת החלום בשלמותו, סביר שנאבד הכל”. או מזווית ראייה אחרת, תחשבו על מה שדוד גרוסמן אמר זמן קצר לאחר ששכל את בנו, כשתיאר את נחיצותו של השלום: “לשלום אין ברירה”, הוא אמר, “יש לגשת באותה נחישות ובאותה יצירתיות שבהן ניגשים למלחמת אין-ברירה”.

מובן שאי אפשר לצפות שישראל תישא ותיתן עם מי שנחושים להשמידה. אבל, הגם שאני יודע כי היו לכם חילוקי דעות עם הרשות הפלסטינית, אני מאמין שהנשיא עבאס וראש הממשלה פיאד הם פרטנרים אמיתיים. בשנים האחרונות הם הקימו מוסדות ושמרו על הביטחון בגדה המערבית ברמה שמעטים חלמו עליה לפני עשור. פלסטינים רבים כל כך, ובהם צעירים, פנו עורף לאלימות כאמצעי להגשמת שאיפותיהם.

וזה מביא אותי לנקודה השלישית שרציתי לדבר עליה – השלום אפשרי! אני יודע שזה לא נראה ככה, תמיד תהיה סיבה להימנע מלקיחת סיכונים, ויש מחיר לכישלון. תמיד יהיו קיצוניים המספקים תירוץ לחוסר פעולה. יש משהו מעייף בדיבורים על הדיבורים, המחלוקות היומיומיות והסטטוס קוו השוחק.

המו”מ יהיו חיוני, אבל אין שום סימן שאלה לגבי הכיוון שאליו הוא חייב להוביל: שתי מדינות לשני עמים. יהיו חילוקי דעות איך להגיע לשם והחלטות קשות לקבל בדרך. מדינות ערב יצטרכו להסתגל לעולם שהשתנה. עברו הימים שבהם יכלו לגנות את ישראל כדי להסיח את דעת אנשיהם מחוסר הזדמנויות. עכשיו הזמן שהעולם הערבי ינקוט צעדים לקראת נרמול היחסים עם ישראל. בינתיים צריכים הפלסטינים להבין שמדינת ישראל תהיה מדינה יהודית ולישראלים יש את הזכות לדרוש ביטחון.

הישראלים צריכים להבין שהמשך הפעילות בהתחלויות אינו מועיל לשלום, ושמדינת פלסטין חייבת להיות בת קיימא – ושיהיה צורך במתיחת גבולות אמיתיים.

הצעתי עקרונות על שטחים וביטחון שאני מאמין שיכולים להיות בסיס לשיחות. אבל בואו לרגע נשים בצד את כל התכניות והתהליך. אני מבקש מכם, במקום זאת, לחשוב על מה אפשר לעשות כדי לבנות אמון בין שני העמים.

לפני ארבע שנים, דיברתי בקהיר בפני קהל צעיר. פוליטית, דתית, הם כאילו מעולם שונה לגמרי. אבל הדברים שהם רוצים הם לא שונים כל כך ממה שאתם רוצים: היכולת לקבל החלטות בעצמם, לקבל השכלה, למצוא עבודה, לעבוד את אלוהיהם בדרכם, להתחתן ולהקים משפחה. אותו דבר נכון לגבי הצעירים הפלסטיניים שפגשתי הבוקר ברמאללה, והצעירים הפלסטינים שמשתוקקים לחיים טובים יותר בעזה.

שם מתחיל השלום – לא רק בתכניותיהם של המנהיגים, אלא בלב האנשים; לא רק בתהליך המתוכנן היטב, אך בקשרים היומיים שמתרחשים בין אלה שחיים יחד בארץ הזאת ובעיר הזאת הקדושה – ירושלים.

כפוליטיקאי אני יכול להבטיח לכם זאת: מנהיגים פוליטיים לא ייקחו סיכונים אם העם לא ידרוש שיעשו זאת. עליכם ליצור את השינוי שאותו אתם רוצים לראות. אנשים פשוטים יכולים להשיג הישגים מדהימים, אני יודע שזה אפשרי.

תסתכלו על הגשרים העסקיים והחברתיים שנבנים בין חלקכם פה היום. הביטו בצעירים לטרם למדו את הסיבות לחוסר אמון, ואלה שלמדו להתגבר על מורשת חוסר האמון שירשו מהוריהם בגלל ההכרה הפשוטה שיש לנו יותר תקוות משותפות מאשר הפחד שמפריד בינינו. הקולות שלכם צריכים להישמע חזקים יותר מהקולות של הקיצוניים, התקוות שלכם חייבות להתוות את הדרך קדימה, להסתכל אל עבר עתיד שבו יהודים, מוסלמים ונוצרים יוכלו לחיות בשלום ובשגשוג רב יותר בארץ הקודש. תסתכלו על העתיד שאתם רוצים לילדיכם, העתיד של מדינה יהודית, דמוקרטית בטוחה ומקובלת, עכשיו ולתמיד.

קולות רבים יאמרו ששינוי כזה בלתי אפשרי, אבל תזכרו – ישראל היא המדינה החזקה ביותר באזור. לישראל יש את התמיכה הבלתי מעורערת של המדינה הכי חזקה בעולם. ישראל לא הולכת לשום מקום. לישראל יש את החוכמה לראות את העולם כפי שהוא, אך גם את האומץ לראות את העולם כפי שהוא צריך להיות. בן גוריון אמר, “בישראל, כדי להיות ריאליסט, צריך להאמין בנסים”. לפעמים הנס הגדול ביותר הוא ההבנה שהעולם יכול להשתנות. בסופו של דבר, זהו השיעור שהעולם למד מהעם היהודי.

זה מוביל אותי אל הנקודה האחרונה שלי – השגשוג והתפקיד הרחב יותר של ישראל בעולם. הדיבורים על ביטחון ושלום יכולים לשלוט בכותרות, ויכול להיות שזה לא נראה קשור לחייכם היומיומיים ולדאגות היומיומיות. ובכל יום, גם לנוכח הסכנות שבפניהם את עומדים, הישראלים מגדירים את עצמם בהזדמנויות שהם יוצרים.

בעזרת כישרון ועבודה קשה, הציבו הישראלים את המדינה הקטנה הזאת בקדמת הכלכלה העולמית. הישראלים מבינים את ערכו של השכלה והוציאה עשרה זוכי פרס נובל. ישראלים מבינים את הכוח של ההמצאה, והאוניברסיטאות שלכם מחנכים מהנדסים וממציאים. הרוח הזאת הביאה לצמיחה כלכלית וקדמה אנושית: אנרגיה סלולארית, מכוניות חשמליות, תחבושות וגפיים פרוסטטיות, מחקר בתאי גזע, ותרופות חדשות לריפוי מחלות, טלפונים סלולריים וטכנולוגית מחשבים. כל אלה משנים את הדרך שבה אנחנו חיים.

אנשים שרוצים לראות את עתיד הכלכלה העולמית, הם צריכים להסתכל על תל אביב: ביתם של מאות חברות הזנק ומרכזי מחקר. והישראלים כל כך פעילים במדיה החברתית שכל יום ראיתי בפייסבוק קמפיין אחר איפה אני צריך לשאת את הנאום הזה.

החדשנות הזאת חשובה לקשרים בין  ארה”ב לישראל לא פחות משיתוף הפעולה הבטחוני. הסכם הסחר החופשי הראשון שלנו הושג בין ארה”ב וישראל לפני כשלושה עשורים וכיום, המסחר בין שתי המדינות שלנו עומדת על 40 מילארד דולר כל שנה. ויותר חשוב מזה, השותפות בינינו מייצרת מוצרים חדשים וטיפולים רפואיים חדשים ופורצת גבולות חדשים בתחומי המדע והמחקר.

זה סוג היחסים שלישראל צריכים להיות ויכולים להיות עם כל מדינה בעולם. אנחנו רואים כבר איך החדשנות יכולה לעצב מחדש את האיזור. יש תוכנית כאן בירושלים, תוכנית שמביאה ישראלים ופלסטינים ללימוד מיומנויות חיוניות לטכנולוגיה ולעסקים. ישראלי ופלסטיני הקימו קרן הון סיכון למימון חברות סטארט-אפ פלסטינים. יותר ממאה חברות סטארט-אפ פועלות בגדה המערבית, מה שמצביע על הכישרון ורוח היזמות של העם הפלסטיני.

אחד הדברים האירוניים במה שקורה באיזור הוא שכל כך הרבה מהדברים שאנשים משתוקקים אליהם – השכלה ויזמות, היכולת לפתוח עסק בלי לשלם שוחד, להתחבר לכלכלה העולמית – את הדברים האלה אפשר למצוא בישראל. ישראל צריכה להיות צומת למסחר אזורי שוקק ומנוע להזדמנויות. כבר עכשיו ישראל היא מרכז לפיתוחים חדשניים שמסייע להניע את הכלכלה העולמית.

אני מאמין שניתן להעצים את פוטנציאל השגשוג בעזרת ביטחון רב יותר ושלום בר קיימא.

פה, ברצועת האדמה הקטנה הזאת שעמדה במוקד של טרגדיות גדולות ושל ניצחונות גדולים, בנו הישראלים דבר שמעטים יכלו לדמיין בעיני רוחם לפני 65 שנה. מחר אני אחלוק כבוד להיסטוריה הזאת בקברו של הרצל, אדם שהיה לו החזון להבין שאת עתידו של העם היהודי צריך לקשור מחדש לעברו; בקבר של רבין, שהבין כי אחרי ניצחונותיה של ישראל צריכות לבוא המלחמות למען השלום; וביד ושם, שם מזכירים לעולם את עננת הרשע שעלולה לפקוד את העם היהודי ואת האנושות כולה אם לא נעמוד על המשמר.

אנחנו נושאים את ההיסטוריה הזאת על כתפינו, אנחנו נושאים אותה בלבבותינו.

היום, כשדור המייסדים של ישראל הולך ונעלם, אתם, צעירי ישראל, צריכים לתבוע עכשיו חזקה על העתיד. עליכם מוטל לכתוב את הפרק הבא בסיפורה של אומה דגולה זו.

בתור נשיאה של מדינה שאתם יכולים לסמוך עליה שתהיה ידידתכם הגדולה ביותר, אני בטוח שאתם יכולים לעזור לנו למצוא את ההבטחה בימים שעוד נכונו לנו. ובתור אדם שבחיים האישיים שאב השראה מן הקריאה העל-זמנית לתיקון עולם בחוויה היהודית, אני מלא תקווה שיהיה ביכולתנו לשאוב מכל מה שטוב בנו, על-מנת להתמודד עם האתגרים שעוד נכונו לנו – לנצח בקרבות למען השלום אחרי מלחמות רבות כל כך ולעמול כדי לתקן את העולם הזה.

ברכת האל עליכם, מי ייתן שאלוהים יברך את ישראל ואת ארה”ב של אמריקה.

תודה רבה.

US President Obama and PM Netanyahu Visit the Israel Museum

Source: PMO, 3-21-13

יום חמישי י’ ניסן תשע”ג


Photo by GPO

US President Barack Obama, today (Thursday, 21 March 2013), US President Barack Obama, visited the Israel Museum, where he visited the Shrine of the Book, home of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Upon meeting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the President said, “We had a great evening last night.”

Later, at the entrance to the technology exhibit, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked Dudu Fisher, who was present, to sing “He who Makes Peace on High” for President Obama. The Prime Minister explained that this is what the Jewish People pray for and that the song symbolizes the deep link between the long history of the Jewish People and the Land of Israel.

Prime Minister Netanyahu showed President Obama a series of technological products of the Israeli high-tech industries, in the framework of a special exhibit that was opened in his honor and which shows the technological face of the State of Israel. The Prime Minister noted that Israel was recently ranked first in the world in research and development intensity and said, “R&D is our DNA.”

The products that were chosen are in the fields of renewable energy, the war on traffic accidents, medicine, search and rescue, and robotics, and were selected from among proposals presented by Israel’s universities in keeping with their degree of innovation, impact on humanity and presentability.

They were chosen by a professional committee headed by Prime Minister’s Office National Economic Council Chairman Prof. Eugene Kandel. Also on the committee were Science and Technology Ministry Director General Menachem Greenbloom; Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry Chief Scientist Dr. Avi Chason and Prime Minister’s Office communications Unit Head Rafi Shamir.

The chosen products:

In the field of energy alternatives – Phinergy

In the field of the struggle against traffic accidents – Mobileye

In the field of medicine – BNA technology by ElMindA

In the field of search and rescue – robot snake

In the field of medicine – Rewalk

In the field of medicine – MiniDesktop

סיור הנשיא אובמה במוזיאון ישראל: תצוגת המגילות הגנוזות בהיכל הספר ותערוכת הטכנולוגיה

Source: PMO, 3-21-13

יום חמישי י’ ניסן תשע”ג

הבוקר יסייר הנשיא אובמה במוזיאון ישראל יחד עם ראש הממשלה נתניהו.

רקע על מוזיאון ישראל:

מוזיאון ישראל בירושלים הוא מוסד התרבות הגדול ביותר במדינת ישראל ונמנה עם המוזיאונים לאמנות וארכיאולוגיה המובילים בעולם.

האוסף האנציקלופדי של המוזיאון מוצג בארבעה אגפים: אגף בצלאל לאמנות, אגף ברונפמן לארכיאולוגיה, אגף מנדל לאמנות ותרבות יהודית ואגף הנוער לחינוך לאמנות.

מוזיאון ישראל נוסד בשנת 1965, ובעזרת תמיכתו של חוג פטרונים מכל רחבי העולם ותרומות רבות הצליח ב-45 שנות קיומו לבנות אוסף נרחב ומגוון ובו כחצי מיליון פריטים המשקפים את מלוא המגוון של התרבות החומרית.

בקיץ 2010, נשלם מיזם בן שלוש שנים של חידוש, שדרוג והרחבה, הגדול מסוגו בתולדותיו של המוזיאון שהתפרש על פני כל שמונים הדונמים של קריית המוזיאון.

היכל הספר והמגילות הגנוזות:

היכל הספר הוא המשכן למוצגים שהם מן החשובים ביותר במוזיאון ומן התגליות הארכיאולוגיות החשובות ביותר:  מגילות מדבר יהודה. המגילות  הן כתבי היד המקראיים העתיקים ביותר בעולם, והן  נכתבו החל במאה ה-2 לפני הספירה ועד למאה ה-1 לספירה.

את משכנן, היכל הספר, תכננו האדריכלים פרידריך קיסלר וארמנד ברטוס והבניין זכה למוניטין עולמיים בזכות עצמו. בסמיכות להיכל נמצאת אחת התוספות החדשות והמרתקות ביותר למוזיאון: דגם ירושלים בימי הבית השני, שמשחזר את אופייה הטופוגרפי והארכיטקטוני של העיר בשנת 66 לספירה.

מגילות מדבר יהודה:

המגילות, מהמאה השלישית לפני הספירה ועד למאה הראשונה לספירה, מספקות הצצה נדירה להיסטוריה היהודית ולהקשר ההיסטורי שממנו צמחה הנצרות.

המגילות מתחלקות לשלוש קבוצות עיקריות: ספרות המקרא, ספרות חיצונית וספרות כיתתית.
בין המגילות כ-200 עותקים של כל ספרי המקרא, והן העדות הקדומה ביותר בעולם לטקסטים מקראיים. המגילות השייכות לספרות הכיתתית נכתבו במגוון סגנונות ספרותיים, ובכללם פרשנות מקרא, כתבי משפט והלכה וטקסטים ליטורגיים. מן הספרים החיצוניים נתגלו חיבורים, שהיו מוכרים קודם לכן רק בתרגום, וכן חיבורים חדשים לגמרי.

מגילות מדבר יהודה נמצאו בחפירות במערות קומראן שבמדבר יהודה בשנת 1947, הן כתבי היד המקראיים העתיקים ביותר בעולם ורואים בהן את הנכס התרבותי החשוב ביותר שבידי מדינת ישראל. גילוין של המגילות שימש נקודת מפנה בחקר תולדותיו של העם היהודי בעת העתיקה ושפך אור על אוצר בלום של ספרות המקרא.

תערוכת הטכנולוגיה המיוחדת: “ISRAEL TECHNOLOGY FOR A BETTER WORLD” – “הטכנולוגיה הישראלית לעולם טוב יותר”

ראש הממשלה בנימין נתניהו יציג לנשיא ארצות-הברית ברק אובמה שורת פיתוחים טכנולוגיים של תעשיית ההיי-טק הישראלית במסגרת תערוכה מיוחדת שתוקם לכבוד ביקורו של הנשיא האמריקני.

בביקור צפוי ראש הממשלה לציין בפני הנשיא כי ישראל דורגה לאחרונה במקום הראשון בעולם בתחום מחקר ופיתוח מבין 200 מדינות חדשניות בעולם (דו”ח בלומברג מפברואר 2013).

בתערוכה יציג ראש הממשלה נתניהו לנשיא ארה”ב אובמה שבעה פיתוחים שנבחרו על ידי ועדה מקצועית בראשות ראש המועצה הלאומית לכלכלה במשרד ראש הממשלה, פרופ’ יוג’ין קנדל. בוועדה היו חברים גם מנכ”ל משרד המדע מנחם גרינבלום, המדען הראשי במשרד התמ”ת ד”ר אבי חסון ור’ מערך התקשורת והדוברות במשרד רה”מ רפי שמיר.

הפיתוחים נבחרו מבין כלל ההצעות שהגישו האוניברסיטאות בישראל בהתאם למידת החדשנות שבהן, ההשפעה שלהן על האנושות ויכולת ההצגה שלהן. הפיתוחים שנבחרו הם בתחומי תחליפי האנרגיה, מאבק בתאונות דרכים, רפואה, חילוץ והצלה, ורובוטיקה.  את המלצותיה הגישה הוועדה לראש לשכת ראש הממשלה, גיל שפר.

Dinner at the Prime Minister’s Residence

Source: PMO, 3-20-13

יום רביעי ט’ ניסן תשע”ג

Chef Shalom Kadosh has been chosen to prepare the dinner that will be held for US President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the latter’s Jerusalem residence next week. Chef Kadosh has previously cooked for presidents Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.

The items on the menu will be prepared from Israeli products.

Menu:

First course
Ravioli filled with comfit of Jerusalem artichokes; filet of red mullet tossed with green soybeans

Pink grapefruit and pomegranate sorbet to refresh the palate

Main course
Roast fillet of beef in aromatic spices with a selection of spring vegetables

Dessert
Apple crumble mixed with red fruits; Gewurztraminer zabaglione with citrus honey Fig and date

petits
fours with caramelized green almonds; coffee/tea.

US President Obama’s Felicitations in the Guestbook at PM Netanyahu’s Residence

Source: PMO, 3-20-13

יום רביעי ט’ ניסן תשע”ג

Photo by GPO

Following is the entry that US President Barack Obama wrote in the guestbook at President Shimon Peres’ Residence:

“It is a great honour to reaffirm the extraordinary bonds between our two countries. By every measure, from security to our economy, our cooperation has never been greater and this in part is because of the strong commitment of Prime Minister Netanyahu. May our bonds continue to grow.
On behalf of our people and prosperity for all people.”

נוסח הברכה שכתב הנשיא אובמה בספר האורחים במעון ראש הממשלה

Source: PMO, 3-20-13

יום רביעי ט’ ניסן תשע”ג

צילום: לע”מ

הנוסח בשפה העברית:
לכבוד לי לאשר מחדש את הקשרים היחודיים בין שתי מדינותינו. בכל מובן, מביטחון ועד הכלכלה שלנו, שיתוף הפעולה שלנו מעולם לא היה חזק יותר וזאת, בין היתר, הודות למחויבות העמוקה של ראש הממשלה נתניהו.
מי יתן והקשרים שלנו ימשיכו לצמוח, בשם העמים שלנו ולמען שגשוג וכל עמי העולם.

הנוסח המקורי בשפה האנגלית:
It is a great honor to reaffirm the extraordinary bonds between our two countries. By every measure, from security to our economy, our cooperation has never been greater and this in part is because of the strong commitment of Prime Minister Netanyahu.
May our bonds  continue to grow .
On behalf of our people and prosperity for all people.

Gifts that the Prime Minister’s Wife will Give to the Obama Family

Source: PMO, 3-19-13

יום שלישי ח’ ניסן תשע”ג

After hundreds of suggestions were received on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Facebook page, Sara Netanyahu has chosen the gifts that she will give to US First Lady Michelle Obama, to Sasha and Malia Obama and even to the presidential dog Bo.

Ms. Netanyahu will give Michelle Obama a silver Passover seder plate that could be used at the traditional Passover seder that is held at the White House annually. To Sasha and Malia Obama, Ms. Netanyahu will give chains with silver medallions in the form of David’s harp set with Roman glass. Ms. Netanyahu will give Bo a rubber hamburger toy.

Additionally, singer Idan Raichel has been chosen to appear at the dinner that Prime Minister and Sara Netanyahu will host in honor of US President Barack Obama at their residence tomorrow evening, Wednesday, 20 March 2013. Raichel will appear with several members of the Idan Raichel Project, including Maya Avraham and Kabra Kasai. They will sing “Mima’amakim” and “Min Nhar Li Mshiti”, and play an instrumental selection

Press Conference with PM Netanyahu and US President Obama at the PM’s Residence

Source: PMO, 3-20-13

יום רביעי ט’ ניסן תשע”ג
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Transcription

Press Conference with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and United States President Barack Obama at the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem

Prime Minister Netanyahu:  Mr. President, Barack, it’s a great pleasure for me to host you here in Jerusalem. You’ve graciously hosted me many times in Washington, so I’m very pleased to have this opportunity to reciprocate. I hope that the good will and warmth of the people of Israel has already made you feel at home.

President Obama:  Very much so.

PM:  We had an opportunity today to begin discussing the wide range of issues that are critical to both our countries, and foremost among these is Iran’s relentless pursuit of nuclear weapons.

Mr. President, you have made it clear that you are determined to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. I appreciate your forthright position on this point. I also appreciate that you have noted, that you have acted, to thwart this threat, both through determined diplomacy and strong sanctions that are getting stronger yet.

Notwithstanding our joint efforts and your great success in mobilizing the international community, diplomacy and sanctions so far have not stopped Iran’s nuclear program. And as you know, my view is that in order to stop Iran’s nuclear programs peacefully, diplomacy and sanctions must be augmented by a clear and credible threat of military action.

In this regard, Mr. President, I want to thank you once again for always making clear that Israel must be able to defend itself by itself against any threat. I deeply appreciate those words because they speak to the great transformation that has occurred in the life of the Jewish people with the rebirth of the Jewish state. The Jewish people only two generations ago were once a powerless people, defenseless against those who sought our destruction. Today we have both the right and the capability to defend ourselves. As you said earlier today, the essence of the State of Israel, the essence of the rebirth of the Jewish state, is the fulfillment of the age-old dream of the Jewish people: to be masters of our fate in our own state, and I think that was a wonderful line that I will cherish, because it really gets down to the essence of what this state is about.

That is why I know that you appreciate that Israel can never cede the right to defend ourselves to others, even to the greatest of our friends, and Israel has no better friend than the United States of America.

So I look forward to continue to work with you to address what is an existential threat to Israel, and a great threat to the peace and security of the world.

Mr. President, we discussed today the situation in Syria. We share the goal of seeing a stable and peaceful Syria emerge from the carnage that we have witnessed over the last two years. That carnage has already resulted in the deaths of over 70,000 people and the suffering of millions. We also share a determination to prevent the deadly arsenal of weapons within Syria from falling into the hands of terrorists. And I have no doubt that the best way to do that is to work closely with the United States and other countries in the region to address this challenge; and that is what we intend to do.

Finally, Mr. President, your visit gave us an opportunity to try to find a way to advance peace between Israelis and Palestinians. My new government was sworn in two days ago. I know there have been questions regarding what the policy of the new government will be towards peace with the Palestinians. So let me be clear: Israel remains fully committed to peace and to the solution of two states for two peoples. We extend our hands in peace and in friendship to the Palestinian people. I hope that your visit, along with the visit of Secretary of State Kerry will help us turn a page in our relations with the Palestinians. Let us sit down at the negotiating table. Let us put aside all preconditions. Let us work together to achieve the historic compromise that will end our conflict once and for all.

Let me conclude, Mr. President, on a personal note: I know how valuable the time and the energies of the American president, of yourself. This is the tenth time that we have met since you became President and since I became Prime Minister. You’ve chosen Israel as your first venue in your foreign visits in your second term. I want to thank you for the investment you have made in our relationship, and in strengthening the friendship and alliance between our two countries. It is deeply, deeply appreciated.

You have come here on the eve of Passover. I’ve always considered it as our most cherished holiday. It celebrates the Jewish people’s passage from slavery to freedom. Through the ages, it has also inspired people struggling for freedom, including the founding fathers of the United States. So it’s a profound honor to host you, the leader of the free world, at this historic time in our ancient capital.

Mr. President, welcome to Israel, welcome to Jerusalem.

President Obama:  Well, thank you Prime Minister Netanyahu for your kind words and for your wonderful welcome here today. And I want to express a special thanks to Sara, as well as your two sons, for their warmth and hospitality. It was wonderful to see them. I did inform the Prime Minister that they are very good looking young men who clearly got their looks from their mother.

PM:  Well, I could say the same of your daughters.

Pres.:  This is true. Our goal is to improve our gene pool by marrying women who are better than we are.

Mr. Prime Minister, I want to begin by congratulating you on the formation of your new government. In the United States, we work hard to find agreement between our two major parties. Here in Israel you have to find consensus among many more. And few legislatures can compete with the intensity of the Knesset. But all of this reflects the thriving nature of Israel’s democracy.

As Bibi mentioned, this is our tenth meeting. We have spent more time together, working together, than I have with any leader. And this speaks to the closeness of our two nations, the interests and the values that we share and the depth and breadth of the ties between our two peoples.

As leaders, our most solemn responsibility is the security of our people. That’s job number one. My job as President of the United States, first and foremost, is to keep the American people safe. Bibi, as Prime Minister, your first task is to keep the people of Israel safe. And Israel’s security needs are truly unique, as I’ve seen myself.

In past trips I’ve visited villages near the Blue Line; I’ve walked through Israeli homes devastated by Hezbollah rockets; I’ve stood in Sderot and met with children who simply want to grow up free from fear; and flying in today, I saw again how Israel’s security can be measured in mere miles and minutes.

As President, I have therefore made it clear America’s commitment to the security of the State of Israel is a solemn obligation, and the security of Israel is non-negotiable. Today our military and intelligence personnel cooperate more closely than ever before; we conduct more joint exercises and training than ever before; we’re providing more security assistance and advanced technology to Israel than ever before. That includes more support for the missile defenses, like Iron Dome, which I saw today and which has saved so many Israeli lives.

In short, and I don’t think this is just my opinion, I think, Bibi you would share this, America’s support for Israel’s security is unprecedented and the alliance between our nations has never been stronger. That’s the sturdy foundation we built on today as we addressed a range of shared challenges.

As part of our long-term commitment to Israel’s security, the Prime Minister and I agreed to begin discussions on extending military assistance to Israel. Our current agreement lasts through 2017, and we’ve directed our teams to start working on extending it for the years beyond.

I’m also pleased to announce that we will take steps to ensure that there is no interruption of funding for Iron Dome. As a result of decisions that I made last year, Israel will receive approximately 200 million dollars this fiscal year, and we will continue to work with Congress on future funding of Iron Dome. These are further reminders that we will help to preserve Israel’s qualitative military edge so that Israel can defend itself by itself against any threat.

We also discussed the way forward to a two-state solution between Israelis and Palestinians, and I very much welcomed Bibi’s words before I spoke. I’ll be meeting with President Abbas tomorrow, and I will have more to say on this topic in the speech that I deliver to the Israeli people tomorrow. But for now, let me just reiterate that a central element of a lasting peace must be a strong and secure Jewish state, where Israel’s security concerns are met, alongside a sovereign and independent Palestinian state.

In this regard, I’d note that last year was a milestone: the first year in four decades when not a single Israeli citizen lost their life because of terrorism emanating from the West Bank. It’s a reminder that Israel has a profound interest in a strong and effective Palestinian Authority. And as the Prime Minister’s new government begins its work, we’ll continue to look for steps that both Palestinians and Israelis can take to build trust and confidence upon which lasting peace will depend.

We also reaffirm the importance of ensuring Israel’s security given the changes and uncertainty in the region. As the United States supports the Egyptian people and their historic transition to democracy, we continue to underscore the necessity of Egypt contributing to regional security: preventing Hamas from rearming and upholding its peace treaty with Israel.

With respect to Syria, the United States continues to work with allies and friends and the Syrian opposition to hasten the end of Assad’s rule, to stop the violence against the Syrian people, and begin a transition towards a new government that respects the rights of all its people. Assad has lost his legitimacy to lead by attacking the Syrian people with almost every conventional weapon in his arsenal, including Scud missiles.

We have been clear that the use of chemical weapons against the Syrian people would be a serious and tragic mistake. We also share Israel’s grave concern about the transfer of chemical or other weapons systems to terrorists, such as Hezbollah, that might be used against Israel. The Assad regime must understand that they will be held accountable for the use of chemical weapons or their transfer to terrorists.

And finally we continued our close consultation on Iran. We agree that a nuclear armed Iran would be a threat to the region, a threat to the world and potentially an existential threat to Israel. We agree on our goal. We do not have a policy of containment when it comes to a nuclear Iran. Our policy is to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. We prefer to resolve this diplomatically, and there is still time to do so. Iran’s leaders must understand however that they have to meet their international obligations. And meanwhile, the international community will continue to increase the pressure on the Iranian government. The United States will continue to consult closely with Israel on next steps, and I will repeat: all options are on the table; we will do what is necessary from prevent Iran from getting the world’s worst weapons.

Meeting none of these challenges will be easy. It will demand the same courage and resolve as those who have preceded us. On Friday I’ll be honored to visit Mount Herzl and pay tribute to the leaders and soldiers who have laid down their lives for Israel. One of them was Yoni Netanyahu. In one of his letters home, he wrote to his family, “Don’t forget: strength, justice and staunch resolution are on our side and that is a great deal”.

Mr. Prime Minister, like families across Israel, you and your family have served and sacrificed to defend your country and to pass it safe and strong to your children, just as it was passed on to you. Standing here today I can say with confidence that Israel’s security is guaranteed because it has a great deal on its side, including the unwavering support of the United States of America.

Mark Regev:  First question, Israel Channel Two, Udi Segal.

Udi Segal:  Mr. President, may I ask you about Syria?  A practical question and a moral one. Morally, how is it possible that for the last two years, tens of thousands of innocent civilians are being massacred, and no one – the world, the United States and you – are doing anything to stop it, immediately. On a practical level, you have said today and also in the past that the use of chemical weapons would be a crossing of a red line. It seems that this line was crossed yesterday. What specifically do you intend to do about it?

Pres.: I’ll answer the question in reverse order, if you don’t mind. I’ll talk about the chemical weapons first, and then the larger question. With respect to chemical weapons, we intend to investigate thoroughly exactly what happened. Obviously in Syria right now, you’ve got a war zone. You have information that’s filtered out, but we have to make sure that we know exactly what happened, what was the nature of the incident, what can we document, what can we prove. So I’ve instructed my teams to work closely with all other countries in the region and international organizations and institutions to find out precisely whether or not this red line was crossed.

I will note, without at this point having all the facts before me, that we know the Syrian government has the capacity to carry out chemical weapon attacks; we know that there are those in the Syrian government who expressed a willingness to use chemical weapons if necessary to protect themselves. I am deeply skeptical of any claim that, in fact, it was the opposition that used chemical weapons. Everybody who knows the facts of the chemical weapon stockpiles inside of Syria, as well as the Syrian government’s capabilities, I think would question those claims, but I know that they’re floating out there right now.

The broader point is that once we establish the facts, I have made clear that the use of chemical weapons is a game changer, and I won’t make an announcement today about next steps because I think we have to gather the facts. But I do think that, when you start seeing weapons that can cause potential devastation and mass casualties and you let that genie out of the bottle, then you are looking potentially at even more horrific scenes then we’ve already seen in Syria, and the international community has to act on that additional information. But, as is always the case when it comes to issues of war and peace, I think having the facts before you act is very important.

More broadly, as I said in my opening statement, I believe that the Assad regime has lost all credibility and legitimacy, and I think Assad must go and I believe he will go. It is incorrect for you to say that we have done nothing. We have helped to mobilize the isolation of the Assad regime internationally; we have supported and recognized the opposition; we have provided hundreds of millions of dollars in support for humanitarian aid; we have worked diligently with other countries in the region to provide additional tools to move towards a political transition within Syria.

If your suggestion is that I have not acted unilaterally militarily inside of Syria, well, the response has been or my response would be that, to the extent possible, I want to make sure that we’re working as an international community to deal with this problem because I think it’s a world problem, not simply a United States problem or an Israel problem or a Turkish problem. It’s a world problem when tens of thousands of people are being slaughtered, including innocent women and children. And so we will continue to work in an international framework to try to bring about the kind of change that’s necessary in Syria. Secretary Kerry has been working nonstop since he came into his current position to try to help mobilize and organize our overall efforts and we will continue to push every lever that we have to try to bring about a resolution inside of Syria that respects the rights and the safety and security of all people, regardless of whatever sectarian lines currently divide Syria.

The last point I’ll make, which is probably obvious, is this is not easy. When you start seeing a civil war that has sectarian elements to it and you’ve got a repressive government that is intent on maintaining power and you have mistrust that has broken out along sectarian lines and you have an opposition that has not had the opportunity or time to organize itself both politically as well as militarily, then you end up seeing some of the devastation that you’ve been seeing. And we’re going to do everything we can to continue to prevent it, and I know that the vast majority of our international partners feel the same way.

White House Press Secretary:   From the White House Press Corps, Matt Spetalnick of Reuters.

Matt Spetalnick:  Yes, thank you. There was some friendly banter between you two gentlemen on the tarmac today about red lines, and I’m wondering how much of a serious matter that actually became in your talks, and will be in your talks to come tonight?  President Obama has said it will take Iran at least a year to build a bomb. That’s months longer than the Prime Minister believes. Mr. President, are you asking the Prime Minister to be more patient, to hold off for at least a year on any kind of military action against Iran?  Mr. Prime Minister, has President Obama’s words, have they convinced you that he is putting forth the credible military threat that you have repeatedly asked for or does he need to go further?

Pres.:  Bibi, why don’t you go?  Take the first swing at this.

PM:  Well, first of all, there are so many strips of different colors on the tarmac that we did have a joke about that, but obviously this matter is no joke. It relates to our very existence and to something also that the President correctly identified as a grave, strategic threat to the United States and to the peace and security of the world. I’m absolutely convinced that the President is determined to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons. I appreciate that. And I also appreciate something that he said, which I mentioned in my opening remarks: that the Jewish people have come back to their own country to be the masters of their own fate. And I appreciate the fact that the President has reaffirmed, more than any other President, Israel’s right and duty to defend itself by itself against any threat.

We just heard those important words now, and I think that sums up our, I would say our common view: Iran is a grave threat to Israel, a grave threat to the world – a nuclear Iran. The United States is committed to deal with it. Israel is committed to deal with it. We have different vulnerabilities, obviously, and different capabilities. We take that into account, but what we do maintain, and the President, I think, is the first to do so, is that Israel has a right to independently defend itself against any threat, including the Iranian threat.

Pres.:  I think the only thing I would add is that our intelligence cooperation on this issue, the consultation between our militaries, our intelligence, is unprecedented, and there is not a lot of daylight between our countries’ assessments in terms of where Iran is right now. I think that what Bibi alluded to, which is absolutely correct, is each country has to make its own decisions when it comes to the awesome decision to engage in any kind of military action, and Israel is differently situated than the United States. And I would not expect that the Prime Minister would make a decision about his country’s security and defer that to any other country, any more than the United States would defer our decisions about what was important for our national security.

I have shared with Bibi, as I’ve said to the entire world, as I’ve said to the Iranian people and Iranian leaders, that I think there is time to resolve this issue diplomatically. The question is: will Iranian leadership seize that opportunity? Will they walk through that door?  And it would be in everybody’s interests, not just Israel’s interests, not just the United States’ interests – it would be in the interests of the Iranian people if this gets resolved diplomatically. Because the truth of the matter is that the most permanent solution to the Iranian situation is ultimately going to be their decision that it is not worth it for them to pursue nuclear weapons. That’ll be the lasting change. If we can get that, that’s good for everybody, including Iran, because it would allow them to break out of the isolation that has hampered their society and their economic development for many years.

But I don’t know whether they’re going to be willing to take that step, and obviously their past behavior indicates that, in a play on words on what Ronald Reagan said: we can’t even trust yet, much less verify. But we do have to test the proposition that this can be resolved diplomatically, and if it can’t, then I’ve repeated to Bibi what I’ve said publicly, and that is that we will leave all options on the table in resolving it.

Mark Regev:  From Channel One Israel, Ayala Hasson.

Ayala Hasson:  Thank you. Welcome, Mr. President. On your way back to Washington on Friday, what will you consider a successful visit?  Convincing the Israeli leaders that they can rely on you on the Iranian issue, especially that I learned that there are differences between Israel and the United States concerning the enrichment of the uranium?  Or convincing both sides, Israelis and Palestinians, to revive the floundering negotiations, reviving the floundering peace process?

Pres.:  Well, my main goal on this trip has been to have an opportunity to speak directly to the Israeli people at a time when, obviously, what was already a pretty tough neighborhood has gotten tougher, and let them know that they’ve got a friend in the United States, that we have your back, that we consider Israel’s security of extraordinary importance to us, not just because of the bonds between our peoples, but also because of our own national security interests. In that context, what I have also sought to achieve here is further consultations, building on what we’ve already discussed – as Bibi has just formed a new government, as I am entering my second term – that we continue to have close consultation around some of these shared interests that we’ve already discussed, Iran being obviously a prominent shared concern.

I want to make sure that the Israeli people and the Israeli government consistently understand my thinking and how I’m approaching this problem. And I want to understand how the Israeli government and the Prime Minister is approaching these problems – to make sure that there are no misunderstandings there.

With respect to the peace process, as I said, I’ll have more to say about this tomorrow, but I think you are absolutely right that over the last year, year and a half, two years, two and a half years, we haven’t gone forward. We haven’t seen the kind of progress that we would like to see. There are some elements of good news. I mean, the fact of the matter is that even with all that’s been happening in the region, the Palestinian Authority has worked effectively in cooperation with the international community, in part because of some of the training that we the United States provided, to do its part in maintaining security in the West Bank. We have seen some progress when it comes to economic development and opportunity for the Palestinian people. But the truth of the matter is, trying to bring this to some sort of clear settlement, a solution that would allow Israelis to feel as if they’ve broken out of the current isolation that they’re in in this region, that would allow the incredible economic growth that’s taking place inside this country to be a model for trade and commerce and development throughout the region at a time when all these other countries need technology and commerce and jobs for their young people; for Palestinians to feel a sense that they too are masters of their own fate; for Israel to feel that the possibilities of rockets raining down on their families has diminished.

That kind of solution we have not yet seen, and so what I want to do is listen, hear from Prime Minister Netanyahu. Tomorrow I’ll have a chance to hear from Abu Mazen. To get a sense from them, how do they see this process moving forward?  What are the possibilities and what are the constraints, and how can the United States be helpful?  And I purposely did not want to come here and make some big announcement that might not match up with what the reality is and possibilities on the ground are. I wanted to spend some time listening before I talked, which my mother always taught me was a good idea. And so hopefully, I’ll consider the success if when I go back on Friday, I’m able to say to myself: I have a better understanding of what the constraints are, what the interests of the various parties are, and how the United States can play a constructive role in bringing about a lasting peace and two states living side by side in peace and security.

Thank you.

White House Press Secretary:  Chuck Todd, from NBC.

Chuck Todd:  Thank you, Mr. President, Mr. Prime Minister. Mr. President, I want to follow up a little bit on the peace process. You began your first term, big fanfare, the Cairo speech to talk to the Muslim world, the decision to have a Middle East Envoy early. You said you weren’t going to let this slip to your second term. We’re in your second term with the Mideast peace process. What went wrong?  Why are we further away from a two state solution?   I know you said you want to talk more about this tomorrow, by I am curious: what do you believe went wrong?  Did you push Israel too hard?  What do you wish you would have done differently?

And Mr. Prime Minister, I want to help out my colleague over here, and the follow up that he had which had to do with: do you accept the President’s understanding that Iran is a year away when it comes to nuclear weapons?  And then another question I had for you is why do you…?

Pres.:  Chuck, how many… yeah. Do you guys do this in the Israeli press?  You say you get one question, and then you add like five?

Todd:  Well, I’m helping him.  I’m helping him with his follow up.

Pres.:  You see how the young lady from Channel One, she had one question. She was very well-behaved, Chuck.

Todd:  I’ve got one for you, and…

PM:  These are Talmudic questions. They have reiterations, yeah.

Todd:  Apparently. I thought I had four questions. Passover starts in a couple of days; I get four questions, right?

PM:  Look, this is not a kosher question, but don’t hog it.

Todd:  I guess my question to you was going to be: why do believe the Israeli people have not embraced President Obama the same way they embraced our last two U.S. presidents?  Thank you.

Pres.:  So you had to get a polling question in there right in the end, huh?  Chuck, I mean, you’re just incorrigible.

Well, look, the opening premise to your question was that, having failed to achieve peace in the Middle East in my first term, that I must have screwed up somehow. And I will tell you, I hope I’m a better president now than when I first came into office, but my commitment was not to achieve a peace deal in my first year, or in my second year, or my third year. That would have been nice. What I said was I was not going to wait to start on the issue until my second term because I thought it was too important. And that’s exactly what I did.

I’m absolutely sure that there are a host of things that I could have done that would have been more deft and would have created better optics, but ultimately this is a really hard problem. It’s been lingering for over six decades, and the parties involved have some profound interests that you can’t spin, you can’t smooth over, and it is a hard slog to work through all of these issues.

I will add that both parties also have politics just like we do back home. There are a whole bunch of things that I’d like to do back in the United States that I didn’t get done in my first term. And I’m sure I could have been more deft there as well, but some of it’s just because it’s hard, and people disagree and it takes, I think, a confluence of both good diplomatic work, but also timing, serendipity, things falling into place at the right time, the right players feeling that this is the moment to seize it. And my goal here is just to make sure that the United States is a positive force in trying to create those opportunities as frequently as possible, and to be as clear as possible as to why we think that this is an important priority. Not only because of some Pollyannaish views about, “Can’t we all get along and hold hands and sing ‘Kumbaya'”, but because I actually believe that Israel’s security will be enhanced with a resolution to this issue. I believe that Palestinians will prosper and can channel their extraordinary energies and entrepreneurship in more positive ways with a resolution to this issue. The entire region, I think, will be healthier with a resolution to this issue.

So I’m going to keep on making that argument, and I will admit that, frankly, sometimes it would be easier not to make the argument and to avoid the question precisely because it’s hard. That’s not the approach that I’ve tried to take, and there have probably been times where, when I’ve made statements about what I think needs to happen, the way it gets filtered through our press, it may be interpreted in ways that get Israelis nervous, just like there are folks back home who sometimes get nervous about areas where they aren’t sure exactly where I stand on things. That’s why I always like the opportunity to talk directly to you guys. Hopefully, you’ll show the live film as opposed to the edited version.

With that, I think you’ve got four questions to answer, Bibi.

PM:  I think that there’s a misunderstanding about time. If Iran decides to go for a nuclear weapon, that is to actually manufacture the weapon, then it probably will take them about a year. I think that’s correct. They could defer that a long time but still get through the enrichment process. That is, to make a weapon you need two things: you need enriched uranium of a critical amount; and then you need a weapon. You can’t have the weapon without the enriched uranium, but you can have the enriched uranium without the weapon.

Iran, right now, is enriching uranium. It’s pursuing it. It hasn’t yet reached the red line that I had described in my speech at the UN. They’re getting closer though. The question of manufacturing the weapon is a different thing. The President said correctly that we have, on these issues that are a little arcane, they sound a little detailed to you, but on these matters, we share information and we have a common assessment.  We have a common assessment.

In any case, Iran gets to an immunity zone when they get through the enrichment process, in our view. Whatever time is left, there’s not a lot of time. And every day that passes, diminishes it. But we do have a common assessment on these schedules, on intelligence. We share that intelligence and we don’t have any argument about it. I think it’s important to state that clearly.

I think that people should get to know President Obama the way I’ve gotten to know him, and I think you’ve just heard something that is very meaningful. It may have escaped you but it hasn’t escaped me, and that is the President announced that, in addition to all the aid that his Administration has provided, including Iron Dome, including defense funding for Israel during very difficult times, he has announced that we are going to begin talks on another ten-year process arrangement to ensure American military assistance to Israel.

I think this is very significant. And I want to express my thanks for everything that you have done and I want to thank you also for that statement you just made. I think it’s very, very important.

So I think Israelis will judge this by the unfolding events and by what is happening, what is actually taking place. And for this, you know, there’s a very simple answer to your question – the gentleman from NBC, right?

For this you need, you see, a second term as President and a third term as Prime Minister. That really fixes things.

Pres.: All right. Thank you very much everybody

מסיבת עיתונאים של ראש הממשלה נתניהו עם נשיא ארה”ב אובמה

Source: PMO, 3-20-13

יום רביעי ט’ ניסן תשע”ג

צילום: לע”מ

ראש הממשלה נתניהו:

אדוני הנשיא, ברק. לעונג רב הוא לי לארח אותך כאן בירושלים. אתה אירחת אותי באדיבות פעמים רבות בוושינגטון, ואני שמח מאוד על ההזדמנות לגמול לך לטובה. אני מקווה שהרצון הטוב והחום של העם בישראל גרמו לך כבר להרגיש בבית.

הנשיא אובמה:

בהחלט כן.

ראש הממשלה נתניהו:

הייתה לנו ההזדמנות היום להתחיל בשיחות על מגוון רחב של סוגיות בעלות חשיבות קריטית לשתי מדינותינו, בראש ובראשונה חתירתה הבלתי נלאית של איראן לנשק גרעיני. אדוני הנשיא, אתה הבהרת את נחישותך למנוע מאיראן פיתוח נשק גרעיני. אני מעריך את עמדתך הישירה בסוגיה זו. אני גם מעריך את העובדה שפעלת לסיכול איום זה, הן באמצעות דיפלומטיה נחושה והן באמצעות סנקציות נוקשות ההולכות ומתהדקות.

חרף מאמצינו המשותפים והצלחתך הרבה בגיוס הקהילה הבינלאומית, הדיפלומטיה והסנקציות לא עצרו עד כה את תכניתה הגרעינית של איראן. כפי שאתה יודע, עמדתי היא שעל מנת לעצור את תכניותיה הגרעיניות של איראן בדרכי שלום, הדיפלומטיה והסנקציות חייבות להיות מלוות באיום ברור ואמין בפעולה צבאית.

בהקשר זה, אדוני הנשיא, אני מבקש להודות לך שוב על כך שהבהרת פעם אחר פעם כי לישראל הזכות להגן על עצמה בכוחות עצמה אל מול כל איום. אני מעריך מאוד את המילים הללו כיוון שהן נוגעות ישירות למהפך האדיר שהתחולל בחיי העם היהודי עם תקומתה מחדש של המדינה היהודית. העם היהודי היה עד לפני כמה עשורים עם חסר ישע, חסר אונים אל מול אלה שביקשו להשמידו. היום יש לנו הן את הזכות והן את היכולת להגן על עצמנו. כפי שציינת מוקדם יותר היום, עצם מהותה של מדינת ישראל, מהות תקומתה של המדינה היהודית, היא מימוש חלומו עתיק היומין של העם היהודי, להיות אדון לגורלו במדינתנו, ומילותיך אלה היו נפלאות ואני אנצור אותן כיוון שהן נוגעות לעצם מהותה של המדינה הזאת.

זו הסיבה שאני יודע שאתה מבין שישראל לעולם לא תשאיר לאחרים את משימת מימוש זכותה להגנה עצמית, גם לא לגדולה בידידותיה, ואין לישראל ידידה גדולה יותר מארה”ב של אמריקה.

כולי ציפייה להמשיך ולעבוד יחד איתך כדי להתמודד על מה שהוא בגדר איום קיומי לישראל ואיום גדול לשלום וביטחון העולם.

אדוני הנשיא, שוחחנו היום על המצב בסוריה. שנינו מקווים כי מתוך הטבח שאנו עדים לו בשנתיים האחרונות תצמח סוריה יציבה ושקטה. טבח זה גבה כבר את חייהם של למעלה מ-70,000 בני אדם והמיט סבל על מיליונים. אנו גם חולקים את אותה נחישות למנוע ממאגר כלי הנשק הקטלניים של סוריה ליפול לידיהם של ארגוני הטרור. אין לי כל ספק כי הדרך הטובה ביותר לעשות זאת היא לפעול יחד עם ארה”ב ועם מדינות אחרות באזור כדי להתמודד עם אתגר זה, וזה מה שבכוונתנו לעשות.

ולבסוף, אדוני הנשיא, ביקורך העניק לנו הזדמנות לנסות ולמצוא דרך לקדם את השלום בין ישראלים לפלסטינים. ממשלתי החדשה הושבעה לפני יומיים. אני יודע כי היו שאלות לגבי מה תהיה מדיניותה של הממשלה החדשה בסוגיית השלום עם הפלסטינים. הרשה לי להבהיר: ישראל הייתה ונותרה מחויבת לחלוטין לפתרון של שתי מדינות לשני עמים. אנו מושיטים את ידנו לשלום וידידות לעם הפלסטיני. אני מקווה כי ביקורך, לצד ביקורו של מזכיר המדינה קרי, יסייע לנו להפוך דף ביחסינו עם הפלסטינים. הבה נשב לשולחן המו”מ. הבה נניח בצד את כל התנאים המוקדמים. הבה נעבוד יחד כדי להגיע לפשרה היסטורית שתסיים את הסכסוך בינינו אחת ולתמיד.

הרשה לי לסיים, אדוני הנשיא, בנימה אישית: אני יודע עד כמה יקרים הם הזמן והאנרגיות של נשיא ארה”ב, שלך. זוהי הפעם העשירית שאנו נפגשים מאז שנכנסת לתפקידך כנשיא ואני כראש ממשלה. בחרת בישראל כיעד הראשון בביקוריך בעולם בכהונתך השנייה. אני מבקש להודות לך על ההשקעה ביחסים בינינו ועל חיזוק הידידות והברית בין שתי מדינותינו. אני מעריך זאת עמוקות.

אתה הגעת לכאן ערב חג הפסח. פסח תמיד היה בעיניי החג היקר ביותר, בו אנו מציינים את המעבר של העם היהודי מעבדות לחירות. לאורך השנים, הוא גם שימש השראה לאנשים שנאבקו למען חירותם, לרבות אבותיה המייסדים של ארה”ב. ולכן זהו כבוד עצום לארח אותך, מנהיג העולם החופשי, בשעה היסטורית זו בבירתנו העתיקה.

אדוני הנשיא, ברוך הבא לישראל, ברוך הבא לירושלים.

הנשיא אובמה:

תודה לך, ראש הממשלה נתניהו, על מילותיך החמות ועל קבלת הפנים הנפלאה היום. אני מבקש להביע תודה מיוחדת לשרה וגם לשני בניך, על החום וקבלת הפנים. היה נהדר לראות אותם. אמרתי לראש הממשלה שהם בחורים נאים מאוד, וברור שהם ירשו את היופי מאמם.

ראש הממשלה נתניהו:

אני יכול לומר את אותו דבר על בנותיך.

הנשיא אובמה:

זה נכון. המטרה שלנו הייתה להשביח את הגנים שלנו באמצעות נישואין עם נשים שהן טובות מאיתנו.

אדוני ראש הממשלה, אני מבקש לברך אותך על הקמת הממשלה החדשה. בארה”ב, אנו עמלים קשה כדי להגיע להסכמה בין שתי מפלגות גדולות. כאן בישראל עליך להגיע להסכמה בקרב מספר רב של מפלגות. מעט מאוד פרלמנטים יכולים להתחרות באינטנסיביות של הכנסת. אבל כל זה משקף את אופייה התוסס של הדמוקרטיה הישראלית.

כפי שביבי ציין, זוהי פגישתנו העשירית. ביליתי יחד איתו בעבודה משותפת יותר משעשיתי עם כל מנהיג אחר. הדבר מעיד על מידת הקרבה בין שתי מדינותינו, על האינטרסים והערכים שאנו חולקים ועל עומק והיקף הקשרים בין עמינו.

כמנהיגים, אחריותנו העליונה היא לביטחון אזרחינו. זוהי משימה מספר אחת. תפקידי כנשיא ארה”ב היא בראש ובראשונה לדאוג לביטחונו של העם האמריקני. ביבי, כראש ממשלה, משימתך הראשונה היא לדאוג לביטחונו של עם ישראל. צרכי הביטחון של ישראל הם אכן ייחודיים, כפי שנוכחתי לדעת בעצמי.

בביקורים קודמים ביקרתי ביישובים ליד הקו הירוק, ביקרתי בבתי ישראלים שנהרסו מהתקפות חיזבאללה, ביקרתי בשדרות ונפגשתי עם אנשים שבסך הכל רוצים לגדול ללא תחושת אימה, ראיתי כיצד ביטחונה של ישראל יכול להימדד בקילומטרים ובדקות ספורים. כנשיא, הבהרתי שמחויבותה של אמריקה לביטחון ישראל היא מחויבות איתנה, וביטחונה של ישראל אינו עומד למשא ומתן.

כיום, אנשי הצבא והמודיעין שלנו משתפים פעולה בצורה הדוקה יותר מאי פעם. אנו עורכים תרגילים ואימונים משותפים יותר מאי פעם, אנו מעניקים סיוע ביטחוני וטכנולוגיה מתקדמת לישראל יותר מאי פעם. הדבר כולל סיוע נוסף להגנות מפני טילים כמו כיפת ברזל שראיתי היום ושהצילה את חייהם של ישראלים רבים כל כך.

בקצרה, ואינני חושב שזאת דעתי בלבד – ביבי, אתה שותף לכך – תמיכתה של אמריקה בביטחון ישראל היא חסרת תקדים והברית בין מדינותינו מעולם לא הייתה חזקה יותר. זהו הבסיס האיתן עליו נשענו היום בשעה ששוחחנו על מגוון אתגרים משותפים.

כחלק ממחויבותנו רבת השנים לביטחון ישראל, ראש הממשלה ואני הסכמנו לפתוח בדיונים על הגדלת הסיוע הצבאי לישראל. ההסכם הנוכחי בינינו הוא עד 2017, ואנו הורינו לצוותינו להתחיל לפעול כדי להמשיכו לשנים שלאחר מכן.

אני גם שמח להצהיר כי בכוונתנו לנקוט צעדים כדי להבטיח שלא תהיה כל הפרעה במימון כיפת ברזל. כתוצאה מההחלטות שקיבלתי בשנה שעברה, ישראל תקבל כ-200 מיליון דולרים בשנת הכספים הנוכחית ונמשיך לפעול יחד עם הקונגרס על מימון עתידי של כיפת ברזל.

אלה הן תזכורות נוספות לכך שאנו נסייע לישראל לשמר את יתרונה הצבאי האיכותי על מנת שתוכל להגן על עצמה בכוחות עצמה מול כל איום.

דנו גם בדרך להתקדם לפתרון שתי המדינות בין ישראל לפלסטינים, ואני מברך על דבריו של ביבי קודם.

מחר אפגוש את הנשיא עבאס, ויהיו לי דברים נוספים לומר בנושא זה בנאומי לעם ישראל מחר. לעת עתה, הרשו לי רק לחזור על כך שמרכיב מרכזי בשלום בר קיימא חייב להיות מדינה יהודית חזקה ובטוחה, שתיתן מענה לדאגותיה הביטחוניות של ישראל, לצד מדינה פלסטינית ריבונית ועצמאית.

אני חייב לציין בהקשר זה שהשנה שעברה הייתה בגדר ציון דרך. זו הייתה השנה הראשונה מזה ארבעה עשורים שבה אף אזרח ישראלי לא קיפח את חייו כתוצאה מטרור מהגדה המערבית. זוהי תזכורת לכך שלישראל יש אינטרס אמיתי ברשות פלסטינית חזקה ואפקטיבית. שעה שממשלתו החדשה של ראש הממשלה מתחילה לעבוד, נמשיך לחפש צעדים שהן הפלסטינים והן הישראלים יוכלו לנקוט בהם כדי לבנות את האמון הנדרש להשגת שלום בר קיימא.

אנו מאשרים גם את החשיבות של הבטחת ביטחון ישראל לאור התמורות ואי הוודאות באזור. שעה שארה”ב תומכת בעם המצרי ובמעברו ההיסטורי לדמוקרטיה, אנו ממשיכים להדגיש את ההכרח שמצרים תתרום לביטחון האזור, תמנע את התחמשותו של החמאס ותאכוף את הסכם השלום שלה עם ישראל.

בנוגע לסוריה, ארה”ב ממשיכה לפעול עם בנות בריתה וידידותיה ועם האופוזיציה הסורית כדי להחיש את קץ משטרו של אסד, להביא לסוף האלימות נגד העם הסורי, ולהתחיל במעבר לקראת ממשלה חדשה שתכבד את זכויות כל אזרחיה. אסד איבד את הלגיטימיות שלו להמשיך ולהנהיג בכך שתקף את העם הסורי בכל נשק קונבנציונלי שיש באמתחתו, לרבות טילי סקאד.

הבהרנו שהשימוש בנשק כימי נגד העם הסורי יהיה בגדר טעות חמורה וטרגית. אנו גם שותפים לדאגתה העמוקה של ישראל מהעברתם של מערכות נשק כימי וכלי נשק אחרים לטרוריסטים כמו חיזבאללה, שעלולים לעשות בו שימוש נגד ישראל.

משטר אסד חייב להבין שהוא יידרש לתת דין וחשבון על השימוש בנשק כימי או על העברתו לטרוריסטים.

לבסוף, המשכנו בהתייעצות הקרובה שלנו בנושא איראן. אנו מסכימים שאיראן גרעינית תהווה איום על האזור, איום על העולם ופוטנציאלית איום קיומי על ישראל. אנו מסכימים על היעד. אין לנו מדיניות הכלה בכל הקשור לאיראן גרעינית. המדיניות שלנו היא למנוע מאיראן השגת נשק גרעיני. אנו מעדיפים לפתור זאת באופן דיפלומטי ויש עדיין זמן לעשות זאת.

מנהיגיה של איראן חייבים להבין שעליהם לעמוד בהתחייבויותיהם הבינלאומיות. בינתיים, הקהילה הבינלאומית תמשיך להגביר את הלחץ על ממשלת איראן.

ארה”ב תמשיך בהתייעצויות קרובות עם ישראל על הצעדים הבאים, ואני חוזר ואומר: כל האופציות מונחות על השולחן, נעשה את מה שנדרש כדי למנוע מאיראן להשיג את הנשק הנורא ביותר בעולם.

אף לא אחד מהאתגרים הללו יהיה קל. אנו נידרש לגלות אומץ לב ונחישות.

ביום שישי יהיה לי הכבוד לבקר בהר הרצל ולהביע הוקרה למנהיגים וחיילים שהקריבו את חייהם למען ישראל. אחד מהם היה יוני נתניהו. באחד ממכתביו הביתה הוא כתב למשפחתו: אל תשכחו, עוצמה, צדק ונחישות איתנה הם לצדנו, וזה הרבה.

אדוני ראש הממשלה, כמו משפחות רבות ברחבי ישראל, אתה ומשפחתך סבלתם והקרבתם למען ביטחון מדינתך וכדי שתוכל למסור מדינה בטוחה וחזקה לילדיך, בדיוק כפי שהיא נמסרה לך.

בעומדי כאן היום אני יכול לומר בביטחון שביטחון ישראל מובטח כיוון שדברים רבים עומדים לצידה, כולל תמיכתה הבלתי מעורערת של ארה”ב של אמריקה.

שאלות ותשובות

שאלה:

אדוני הנשיא, אני מבקש לשאול אותך שאלה על סוריה, מבחינה מעשית ומוסרית. מוסרית, כיצד ייתכן שבשנתיים האחרונות, עשרות אלפי אזרחים חפים מפשע נטבחים, ואיש בעולם, לא ארה”ב ולא אתה, אינו נוקף אצבע כדי לעצור זאת לאלתר? ברמה המעשית, אמרת היום וגם בעבר שהשימוש בנשק כימי הוא בבחינת חציית קו אדום. נראה כי קו אדום זה נחצה אתמול. מה בדיוק בכוונתך לעשות בנדון?

הנשיא אובמה:

אשיב על השאלה בסדר הפוך, ברשותך. אדבר קודם על הנשק הכימי ואז על השאלה הרחבה יותר.

ביחס לנשק הכימי, בכוונתנו לחקור לעומק מה בדיוק קרה. סוריה היא כעת אזור מלחמה, המידע ממשיך לחלחל משם, אולם עלינו לוודא כי אנו יודעים בדיוק מה קרה, מה היה אופי התקרית, מה ניתן לתעד ומה ניתן להוכיח. לכן הנחיתי את הצוותים שלי לפעול יחד עם כל המדינות האחרות באזור ועם הארגונים והמוסדות הבינלאומיים כדי לגלות האם אכן נחצה קו אדום זה. אני חייב לציין, מבלי שיש בפניי כרגע את כל העובדות, שאני מטיל ספק רציני בטענה שהאופוזיציה היא זו שעשתה שימוש בנשק כימי. לדעתי, כל מי שמכיר את העובדות הנוגעות למאגרי הנשק הכימי בסוריה ואת יכולותיו של המשטר הסורי יפקפק בטענות הללו, אבל אני יודע שהן מסתובבות כרגע. הנקודה הרחבה יותר היא שברגע שהעובדות יתבהרו, אני כבר הבהרתי שהשימוש בנשק כימי הוא בגדר שינוי כללי המשחק, ואין בכוונתי לצאת היום בהצהרות לגבי הצעדים הבאים מכיוון שאני חושב שאנו צריכים לאסוף את העובדות. אולם אני כן חושב שכשאתה מתחיל לראות כלי נשק העלולים באופן פוטנציאלי לזרוע הרס וחורבן ולגרום להמוני נפגעים ואתה משחרר את השד מהבקבוק, אתה עלול להיות עד למחזות מזוויעים אף יותר מאלה שכבר ראינו בסוריה, והקהילה הבינלאומית חייבת לפעול על סמך מידע זה.

אולם כמו תמיד, בעניינים הנוגעים למלחמה ושלום, אני חושב שידיעת העובדות לפני נקיטת פעולה היא מאוד חשובה. באופן כללי, כפי שאמרתי בהצהרת הפתיחה שלי, אני מאמין שמשטרו של אסד איבד את כל הלגיטימציה והאמינות שלו ואני חושב שאסד חייב ללכת ואני מאמין שהוא אכן ילך.

זה לא נכון לומר שלא עשינו דבר. סייענו בבידודו של משטר אסד בזירה הבינלאומית, תמכנו והכרנו באופוזיציה, הענקנו סיוע הומניטרי בסך מאות מיליוני דולרים, פעלנו בנחרצות עם מדינות אחרות באזור כדי להעניק כלים נוספים שיביאו לשינוי פוליטי בתוך סוריה. אם טענתך היא שלא פעלתי צבאית באופן חד-צדדי בתוך סוריה, תגובתי היא שאני רוצה לוודא, עד כמה שניתן, שאנו פועלים יחד כקהילה בינלאומית כדי להתמודד עם הבעיה הזאת כיוון שאני חושב שזאת בעיה עולמית. זו לא רק בעיה של ארה”ב או של ישראל או של טורקיה. זו בעיה עולמית כאשר עשרות אלפי אנשים נטבחים, ביניהם נשים וילדים חפים מפשע. ולכן בכוונתנו להמשיך ולפעול במסגרת בינלאומית כדי לנסות ולהביא לשינוי הנדרש בסוריה. מזכיר המדינה קרי פועל ללא לאות מאז כניסתו לתפקיד כדי לגייס ולארגן מאמץ כולל, ובכוונתנו להפעיל את כל המנופים במטרה להביא פתרון בסוריה המכבד את זכויותיהם ואת ביטחונם של האזרחים כולם, ללא קשר לזרמים העדתיים המפלגים כעת את סוריה.

הנקודה האחרונה שאני מבקש להבהיר, שהיא ככל הנראה מובנת מאליה, היא שזה לא קל. כאשר אתה מתחיל לראות מלחמת אזרחים בעלת מאפיינים עדתיים ויש לך משטר מדכא הנחוש לשמור על שלטונו וישנו חוסר אמון בין אותם זרמים עדתיים ויש לך אופוזיציה שלא הייתה לה עדיין הזדמנות או זמן להתארגן הן מבחינה פוליטית והן מבחינה צבאית, אז רואים את התוצאות ההרסניות שאנו רואים כיום. בכוונתנו לעשות כל שביכולתנו כדי למנוע זאת, ואני יודע שהרוב המכריע של שותפינו הבינלאומיים רואים זאת כך.

שאלה:

היו ביניכם התלוצצויות היום על השטיח האדום לגבי קווים אדומים, ואני תוהה עד כמה זה היה עניין רציני בשיחות שהיו ביניכם ועוד יהיו ביניכם הלילה. הנשיא אובמה אמר שייקח לאיראן לפחות שנה לייצר פצצה. זה כמה חודשים יותר ממה שחושב ראש הממשלה. אדוני הנשיא, האם אתה מבקש מראש הממשלה לגלות סבלנות ולהמתין לפחות שנה עם כל סוג של פעולה צבאית נגד איראן? אדוני ראש הממשלה, האם דבריו של הנשיא אובמה שכנעו אותך שהוא אכן מציב את אותו איום צבאי אמין שאותו ביקשת שוב ושוב או האם עליו לקחת את זה צעד נוסף קדימה?

ראש הממשלה:

ראשית כל, היו כל כך הרבה צבעים שונים על השטיח היום ואכן התלוצצנו על זה, אבל כמובן שזאת לא בדיחה. הדבר נוגע לעצם קיומנו ולדבר נוסף שהנשיא זיהה נכונה כאיום אסטרטגי חמור על ארה”ב ועל שלום וביטחון העולם. אני משוכנע לחלוטין שהנשיא נחוש למנוע מאיראן השגת נשק גרעיני. אני מעריך זאת, ואני מעריך גם דבר נוסף שהוא אמר ושהזכרתי בדברי הפתיחה שלי: שהעם היהודי שב לארצו כדי להיות אדון לגורלו, ואני מעריך את העובדה שהנשיא, יותר מכל נשיא אחר, אישר את זכותה ואת חובתה של ישראל להגן על עצמה בכוחות עצמה מול כל איום.

שמענו את המילים החשובות הללו כעת, ואני חושב שהדבר מסכם את עמדתנו המשותפת: איראן גרעינית היא איום חמור לישראל, איום חמור לעולם. ארה”ב מחויבת להתמודד איתו. ישראל מחויבת להתמודד איתו. מידת הפגיעות שלנו היא שונה כמובן וגם היכולות שלנו הן שונות. אנו לוקחים זאת בחשבון. אולם הדבר שאנו עומדים עליו, והנשיא הוא הראשון לעשות זאת, הוא שלישראל יש את הזכות להגן על עצמה באופן עצמאי מול כל איום, לרבות האיום האיראני.

הנשיא אובמה:

הדבר היחיד שאומר הוא ששיתוף הפעולה המודיעיני בינינו בסוגיה זו, השותפות בין הצבאות שלנו והמודיעין שלנו, הם חסרי תקדים, ואין פער גדול בין הערכותיהן של שתי המדינות בכל הקשור לנקודה בה איראן נמצאת היום. אני חושב שביבי אמר דבר נכון לחלוטין והוא שכל מדינה צריכה לקבל בעצמה את ההחלטה כבדת המשקל לנקוט בפעולה צבאית מכל סוג שהוא, ומצבה של ישראל שונה מזה של ארה”ב. אינני מצפה מראש הממשלה שישאיר לאחרים את ההחלטות לגבי ביטחון המדינה שלו, בדיוק כפי שארה”ב לא הייתה משאירה לאחרים את ההחלטה מה חשוב לביטחון הלאומי שלה.

אמרתי לביבי, כפי שאמרתי לעם האיראני ולמנהיגי איראן, שאני חושב שיש עדיין זמן לפתור את הסוגיה הזאת באופן דיפלומטי. השאלה היא האם ההנהגה של איראן תנצל את ההזדמנות הזאת. זה האינטרס של כולם, לא רק של ישראל, לא רק של ארה”ב, אלא גם של העם האיראני, שהעניין ייפתר באופן דיפלומטי. כי האמת היא שהפתרון הקבוע ביותר למצב באיראן הוא בסופו של דבר ההחלטה שלהם האם שווה להם להמשיך ולחתור לנשק גרעיני. זה מה שיקבע. אם נוכל להגיע לשם, זה יהיה טוב לכולם, לרבות איראן, כיוון שזה יאפשר להם לפרוץ את הבידוד שמכביד על החברה שלהם ועל הכלכלה שלהם שנים כה רבות.

אבל אינני יודע אם הם אכן יסכימו לקחת את הצעד הזה, ואם להסתמך על התנהגותם בעבר – בפרפראזה על דבריו של רונלד רייגן – איננו יכולים לא לסמוך ובוודאי שלא לאמת. אולם עלינו לבחון את האפשרות שניתן לפתור את העניין באופן דיפלומטי, ואם לא נוכל, אמרתי לביבי מה שאמרתי באופן פומבי, וזה שנשאיר את כל האופציות על השולחן כדי לפתור זאת.

שאלה:

תודה. ברוך הבא, אדוני הנשיא. בדרכך חזרה לוושינגטון ביום שישי, מה ייחשב בעיניך ביקור מוצלח? לשכנע את מנהיגי ישראל שהם יכולים לסמוך עליך בסוגיה האיראנית, בייחוד לאור העבודה שישנם חילוקי דעות בין ישראל לארה”ב בסוגיית העשרת האורניום, או לשכנע את שני הצדדים, הישראלים והפלסטינים, לחדש את המו”מ המקרטע, תהליך השלום המקרטע?

הנשיא אובמה:

מטרתי העיקרית בביקורי זה היא שתהיה לי ההזדמנות לדבר ישירות עם העם בישראל בעידן שבו מה שהיה מלכתחילה אזור מאוד בעייתי הפך בעייתי אף יותר, ולהבהיר להם שיש להם ידיד בארה”ב, שאנו עומדים מאחוריכם, שביטחון ישראל הוא בעל חשיבות עצומה עבורנו, לא רק בגלל הקשרים בין עמינו, אלא גם בגלל האינטרסים הנוגעים לביטחוננו הלאומי. בהקשר זה, רציתי להביא להתייעצויות נוספות, נוסף על הדיונים שכבר היו לנו – כיוון שביבי רק עכשיו הרכיב ממשלה חדשה, ואני מתחיל בכהונתי השנייה – שנמשיך בהתייעצויות קרובות בנושא אותם אינטרסים משותפים בהם דנו כבר, כאשר איראן היא כמובן דאגה מרכזית משותפת.

אני מבקש לוודא שהעם בישראל וממשלת ישראל יבינו את החשיבה שלי ואת גישתי לבעיה הזאת. ואני רוצה להבין כיצד ממשלת ישראל וראש הממשלה ניגשים לבעיה הזאת, להבטיח שלא תהיינה אי הבנות.

בנוגע לתהליך השלום, כפי שאמרתי, יהיה לי יותר מה לומר בנושא מחר, אבל אני חושב שאת צודקת בהחלט שבשנתיים וחצי האחרונות לא הייתה התקדמות. לא הייתה את אותה התקדמות שהיינו רוצים לראות. ישנן גם חדשות טובות. העובדה היא שאפילו לאור כל מה שקרה באזור, הרשות הפלסטינית פועלת באפקטיביות ובשיתוף פעולה עם הקהילה הבינלאומית, בין היתר כתוצאה מהאימונים עם ארה”ב, כדי לתרום את חלקה לשמירת הביטחון בגדה המערבית. ראינו התקדמות כלשהי בכל הקשור לפיתוח הכלכלי ולהזדמנויות עבור העם הפלסטיני. אבל הניסיון הוא להגיע לאיזשהו סוג של הסדר, פתרון שיעניק לישראלים דרך החוצה מהבידוד הנוכחי בו הם שרויים באזור, שיאפשר לצמיחה הכלכלית האדירה במדינה הזו לשמש מודל לסחר ופיתוח באזור כולו שעה שכל המדינות האחרות הללו זקוקות לטכנולוגיה ולמסחר ולמקומות עבודה עבור הצעירים שלהן, ושהפלסטינים יחושו שגם הם אדונים לעצמם, ושישראל תחוש יותר ביטחון מפני ירי של טילים.

פתרון כזה עדיין לא ראינו, ולכן מה שאני רוצה לעשות הוא להקשיב, לשמוע מראש הממשלה נתניהו. מחר תהיה לי ההזדמנות לשמוע מאבו-מאזן, לשמוע כיצד הם רואים את התקדמות התהליך. מהן האפשרויות ומהן המגבלות, וכיצד תוכל ארה”ב לסייע. לא רציתי להגיע לכאן ולצאת בהצהרות גדולות שאולי לא יעלו בקנה אחד עם המציאות ועם האפשרויות בשטח. רציתי להקשיב לפני שאני מדבר, כפי שאמא שלי לימדה אותי. בעיניי זאת תהיה הצלחה אם ביום שישי אוכל לומר לעצמי שיש לי הבנה טובה יותר של המגבלות והאינטרסים של הצדדים השונים, וכיצד ארה”ב תוכל למלא תפקיד קונסטרוקטיבי בהבאת שלום בר קיימא והשגת שתי מדינות המתקיימות זו לצד זו בשלום ובביטחון.

תודה.

שאלה:

אדוני הנשיא, אדוני ראש הממשלה, אני רוצה להמשיך קצת בנושא תהליך השלום. התחלת את כהונתך הראשונה בתרועות רמות, עם נאום קהיר שנועד לדבר אל העולם המוסלמי ועם ההחלטה למנות שליח למזרח התיכון בשלב מוקדם. אמרת שאינך מתכוון לתת לנושא לגלוש לכהונתך השנייה. אנו נמצאים בכהונתך השנייה בכל הנוגע לתהליך השלום במזה”ת. מה השתבש? למה אנו רחוקים יותר מפתרון של שתי מדינות? אני יודע שאמרת שאתה רוצה לדבר על זה יותר מחר, אבל אני רוצה לדעת מה לדעתך השתבש. האם לחצת על ישראל חזק מדי? מה אתה חושב שהיית צריך לעשות אחרת?

ואדוני ראש הממשלה, האם אתה מקבל את הערכתו של הנשיא שאיראן נמצאת במרחק שנה מייצור נשק גרעיני? כמו כן, למה לדעתך העם בישראל לא חיבק את הנשיא אובמה כפי שהוא חיבק את שני הנשיאים האמריקנים לפניו? תודה.

אובמה: היית חייב להכניס לשם שאלת סקר? צ’אק, אתה פשוט חסר תקנה.

ובכן, הנחת היסוד שלך היא שאם נכשלתי להביא שלום למזרח התיכון בתקופת כהונתי הראשונה, זאת אומרת שכנראה שפישלתי איפשהו. אומר לך שאני מקווה שאני נשיא טוב יותר עכשיו מאשר הייתי כשרק התחלתי את כהונתי הראשונה. אך לא התחייבתי להשיג שלום בשנה הראשונה, או בשנה השנייה או בשנה השלישית. זה היה נחמד אם כן, אך מה שאמרתי הוא שלא אמתין להתחיל לפעול בעניין רק בכהונתי השנייה כיון שחשבתי שהנושא חשוב מדי. וזה בדיוק מה שעשיתי.

אני בטוח לחלוטין שיש דברים רבים שהייתי יכול לעשות טוב יותר שהיו מועילים יותר ונותנים לנו תמונה טובה יותר, אך בסופו של דבר, זוהי בעיה קשה ביותר. היא נמשכת כבר למעלה מששה עשורים, ולצדדים המעורבים יש אינטרסים ברורים שאי אפשר לעגל בהם פינות. זאת משימה קשה, להתגבר על כל הנושאים האלה.

אוסיף גם שלשני הצדדים יש גם פוליטיקה, כמו שלנו יש בבית. יש דברים רבים שהייתי רוצה לעשות בארצות הברית שלא עשיתי בתקופת כהונתי הראשונה. אני בטוח שהייתי יכול לפעול ביתר מיומנות גם בנושאים אלה, אבל זה קשה, ויש אנשים שאינם מסכימים. לדעתי צריך שילוב של עבודת דיפלומטיה טובה אך גם תזמון, מזל, שהחתיכות יפלו למקום הנכון בזמן הנכון, שהשחקנים הנכונים ירגישו שזה הזמן הנכון ויפעלו. המטרה שלי כאן היא לוודא שארצות הברית תהיה גורם חיובי בניסיון ליצור את ההזדמנויות האלה כמה שיותר, ולהיות ברורים ככל האפשר לגבי הסיבות שבגללן אנו חושבים שאלה הזדמנויות חשובות. וזה אינו רק בגלל רעיונות “פוליאנאיות” שאומרות שעלינו להחזיק ידיים ולשיר יחד קומבאיה, אלא כיון שאני באמת מאמין שבטחונה של ישראל תשתפר אם נמצא פתרון לעניין זה. אני מאמין שהפלסטינים ישגשגו ויוכלו לתעל את האנרגיות ויכולות היזמות המצוינות שלהם למקומות חיוביים יותר עם יהיה פתרון בנושא. האזור כולו, לדעתי, יהיה בריא יותר עם יהיה פתרון בנושא זה.

אז אמשיך לטעון את הטענה הזאת, ואודה שלמען האמת, לעיתים הדרך הקלה יותר היא לא לומר את זה ולהימנע מהשאלה דווקא בגלל שהיא שאלה קשה. זאת לא הגישה שבה ניסיתי לנקוט, ובוודאי שהיו זמנים שהצהרתי מה אני חושב שצריך לקרות. בעקבות הדרך שבה הדברים עוברים דרך התקשורת שלנו, יתכן שהדברים התפרשו בצורה שגרמה לישראלים לדאוג, בדיוק כפי שיש אנשים בבית שלפעמים דואגים לגבי תחומים שבהם הם אינם בטוחים בדיוק מה עמדתי. ולכן אני אוהב לנצל הזדמנויות לדבר איתכם ישירות. אני מקווה שתראו את הסרט המלא ולא רק גרסה ערוכה שלה.

ועכשיו, נדמה לי שיש לך ארבע שאלות לענות עליהן, ביבי.

נתניהו: אני חושב שיש פה חוסר הבנה לגבי הזמנים. אם איראן תחליט להשיג נשק גרעיני, כלומר לייצר ממש את הנשק, יקח להם כשנה. אני חושב שזה נכון. הם יכולים לעכב את זה לזמן ממושך ועדיין לסיים את תהליך ההעשרה. כדי לייצר נשק נדרשים שני דברים. צריך אורניום מועשר בכמות קריטית, וצריך נשק. אי אפשר שיהיה נשק ללא אורניום מועשר, אך אפשר שיהיה אורניום מועשר ללא הנשק.

איראן עכשיו מעשירה אורניום. היא חותרת לכיוון. היא טרם הגיעה לקו האדום שאותו תיארתי בנאומי באו”ם, אך הם מתקרבים לשם. שאלת ייצור הנשק הוא נושא אחר. הנשיא אמר, ובצדק, שיש לנו, בנושאים אלה שנשמעים קצת עמומים ומפורטים, אך בנושאים אלה אנו משתפים במידע ויש לנו הערכות משותפות.

בכל מקרה, לדעתנו איראן תהיה חסינה כשתסיים את תהליך ההעשרה. לא נותר עוד זמן רב, והוא הולך ומתמעט עם כל יום שחולף. אך יש לנו הערכות משותפות בנוגע ללוחות הזמנים האלה, ועל מודיעין. אנו חולקים מודיעין ואין לנו ויכוחים על כך. אני חושב שחשוב להבהיר את זה.

אני חושב שאנשים צריכים ללמוד להכיר את הנשיא אובמה כפי שאני הכרתי אותו. שמעתם עכשיו משהו שהוא אמר שהוא מאוד משמעותי. יתכן שלא שמתם לב לכך, אבל אני כן שמתי לב. הנשיא אמר שבנוסף לכל הידוע שהממשל סיפק לנו, כולל כיפת ברזל, וכולל מימון להגנה על ישראל בזמנים קשים מאוד, הוא הצהיר שנתחיל בשיחות על הסכם לתהליך לעשר שנים נוספות כדי להבטיח סיוע צבאי אמריקאי לישראל.

לדעתי זה משמעותי. ואני רוצה להביע את תודתי על כל מה שאתה עושה, וגם להודות לך על ההצהרה שעכשיו מסרת. אני חושב שזה חשוב מאוד.

אני חושב שהישראלים יבחנו את זה לפי האירועים שיתרחשו ומה שקורה דה פקטו. ובשביל זה, יש תשובה פשוטה מאוד לשאלתך, האדון מ-NBC, נכון?
בשביל זה צריך כהונה שנייה כנשיא, וכהונה שלישית כראש ממשלה. זה מסדר את העניינים.

אובמה: תודה רבה לכולכם.

הפגישה עם נשיא המדינה שמעון פרס

Source: PMO, 3-20-13

יום רביעי ט’ ניסן תשע”ג

נשיא המדינה שמעון פרס יקבל את נשיא ארה”ב ברק אובמה ברחבת הטקסים הרשמית של בית הנשיא בטקס אזרחי חגיגי, בהשתתפות נציגות של ילדי ישראל אשר יקבלו את הנשיא האמריקני בדגלי ישראל וארצות הברית. שני הנשיאים יצעדו יחד אל אולם בית הנשיא, שם יחתום הנשיא אובמה על ספר האורחים הרשמי. על במת הכבוד יחכו לשני הנשיאים שלושה נציגי ילדי ישראל: ילד מיישובי עוטף עזה שהתמודד עם אימת הטילים והטרור ויודה לנשיא על תמיכתה של ארצות הברית בפרויקט “כיפת ברזל”. נערה המשתתפת בתוכנית המדעים על שם אילן רמון ז”ל, האסטרונאוט הישראלי הראשון, שתייצג את שאיפתה של ישראל לקידום המחקר, המדע והשלום בעולם ונערה ערביה תושבת יפו אשר תקדיש את השיר “מחר”, שיבוצע באנגלית, עברית וערבית.

מיד בתום הטקס תיערך פגישה מדינית מצומצמת בין שני הנשיאים בטרקלין הפגישות המדיניות בבית הנשיא. בפגישה המדינית ידונו בדרכים למנוע מאיראן המשך התחמשות בנשק גרעיני, הפסקת שפיכות הדמים בסוריה, הדרכים לקידום המשא ומתן והמשך תהליך השלום מול הפלסטינים וחיזוק היחסים האסטרטגיים בין מדינת ישראל לארצות הברית.

נשיא ארצות הברית ברק אובמה נחת בישראל

Source: PMO, 3-20-13

יום רביעי ט’ ניסן תשע”ג

נשיא ארצות הברית ברק אובמה נחת לפני זמן קצר בישראל והתקבל בטקס ממלכתי בנמל התעופה בן-גוריון.

Arrival of US President Barack Obama in Israel

Source: PMO, 3-20-13

יום רביעי ט’ ניסן תשע”ג

Air Force One

President Obama will arrive on Air Force One.  Technically, Air Force One is the call sign of any Air Force aircraft carrying the President. In practice, however, Air Force One is used to refer to one of two highly customized Boeing 747-200B series aircraft. Capable of refueling midair, Air Force One has unlimited range and can carry the President wherever he needs to travel. Inside, the President and his travel companions enjoy 4,000 square feet of floor space on three levels, including an extensive suite for the President that features a large office, lavatory, and conference room. Air Force One includes a medical suite that can function as an operating room, and a doctor is permanently on board.

Marine One

President Obama will fly to Jerusalem in Marine One. While Marine One is the call sign of any United States Marine Corps aircraft carrying the President of the United States, it usually denotes a helicopter, either the large VH-3D Sea King or the newer, smaller VH-60N “WhiteHawk”. The presidential helicopter squadron includes various helicopters for use by the President and the White House staff when Air Force One is either not necessary or is ill-suited to the task at hand.

Ben-Gurion International Airport

US President Barack Obama will land at Ben-Gurion International Airport. BGI Airport is the largest international airport in Israel and serves as its main aerial gateway. The airport is named after Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion. It was originally built by the British in the 1930’s during the British Mandate. Even as the Airports Authority and the airport itself prepare for the US President’s visit, approximately 1,017,166 passengers and around 6,500 planes are expected to pass through the airport during the month in which Passover falls, between 12 March and 10 April 2013.

Ben-Gurion International Airport Welcoming Ceremony

US President Barack Obama’s honor guard will include soldiers from the ground forces, navy and air force of the IDF: 22 naval cadets, 22 Air Force pilot cadets, 22 ground forces officer cadets, 22 women from the Military Police and flag-bearers who will carry the following flags: The national flag, the IDF flag, the ground forces flag, the air force flag, the navy flag, the intelligence corps flag, the personnel branch flag, the technology and logistics branch flag, the signal corps flag, the central command flag, the northern command flag, the southern command flag and the home front command flag. Lt.-Col. Oded Nahari, the head of the Ceremonies Dept. at the IDF Personnel Branch, will command the honor guard. The honor guard will be accompanied by the IDF orchestra, staffed by approximately 50 soldiers in compulsory service, which will play the Israeli and US national anthems. President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will greet President Obama.
Following the ceremony, President Obama will inspect a presentation of the State of Israel’s multi-layer defense system composed of Iron Dome, Magic Wand, Arrow 2 and Arrow 3.

Presentation of the Multi-Layer Defense System

In the past decade, over 10,000 missiles and rockets have been fired into Israeli territory, over 4,000 of them during the Second Lebanon War and approximately 2,000 from Gaza in 2012.
The State of israel’s multi-layer defense system is composed of the following four defensive layers:

* Iron Dome, which is the only operational system of its kind in the world for intercepting short-range rockets, constitutes the first layer of defense.
* Magic Wand, which is currently under development, will provide a response to short- and intermediate-range missiles and rockets and – in the future – against cruise missiles as well.
* Arrow 2, which became the world’s first operational system in the early 2000’s, is designed to provide a response to long-range missiles such as those possessed by Iran. The Arrow system has been substantially upgraded in recent years and was tested last year with great success in the AC12 exercise with American forces.
* Arrow 3, which is currently under development, is designed to strengthen the layer of defense against long-range missiles such as those possessed by Iran.

Iron Dome

Status: Operational Iron Dome, which was developed by the State of Israel, is the first and only operational system of its kind in the world for intercepting short-range rockets.

* Intercept data and success rate: Since becoming operational in 2011 (following three years of development) and up until today, the system has successfully intercepted over 350 rockets that have been fired at Israel. Each of the 350 rockets that has been intercepted by Iron Dome until today was due to hit populated areas and cause substantial damage and loss of life.
* Iron Dome has proven its ability to save lives among the millions of residents in southern and central Israel and to prevent severe damage. The system also creates deterrence and increases the political echelon’s ability to maneuver.
* The Iron Dome project, which includes many technological breakthroughs, was completed very quickly and set a record for development time (from the initiative and concept stages through the realization) and low cost, which were unprecedented for a project of such magnitude.

Magic Wand

Status: Under development

Magic Wand is designed to provide the State of Israel with an additional layer of defense against short- and intermediate-range missiles and thus reinforce its protection against the threat of missiles and rockets. Magic Wand will provide a response to the threat of short- and intermediate-range missiles and rockets and, in the future, against cruise missiles as well.
* The development of Magic Wand began in 2006 as a joint project of the Defense Ministry Research and Development Directorate, Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, and the US Defense Dept. Missile Defense Agency.
* A preliminary series of development tests was recently completed for Magic Wand, including a successful intercept. Data from the tests will assist in the continued development of Magic Wand, as well as the continuation of the necessary development tests until the system becomes operational.

Arrow 2

Status: Operational Arrow 2 was declared operational in 2002 and has been part of the Air Force’s air defense network ever since.

* Arrow 2, which was developed by the Defense Ministry Research and Development Directorate and the US Defense Dept. Missile Defense Agency, is designed to provide a top layer of defense against long-range ballistic missiles.
* Since becoming operational, Arrow 2 has undergone a series of improvements. The latest of these was successfully tested and was integrated into the system during 2012.

Arrow 3

Status: Under development

Arrow 3 is designed to provide an additional top layer of defense against missiles. It will add interception opportunities to the Arrow 2 and thus reinforce the State of Israel’s defenses against the threat of long-range missiles.
* Arrow 3 is considered an innovative and revolutionary system. Its capabilities will allow the existing components of Arrow 2, which are already operational, to deal more efficiently with future threats against the State of Israel.
* In recent weeks, the Arrow 3 interceptor was successfully tested in flight (five years after the start of development). The successful test constitutes an important milestone in the operational ability of the State of Israel to defend itself against expected threats in the area.
* Israel Aerospace Industries’ Systems Missiles and Space Group is the main contractor in the development of the Arrow family of weapons and interceptors, in cooperation with Boeing.

הגעת נשיא ארה”ב לישראל

Source: PMO, 3-20-13

יום רביעי ט’ ניסן תשע”ג

לפ”מ

המטוס הנשיאותי האמריקני – “Air Force One”

נשיא ארה”ב ברק אובמה יגיע במטוס הנשיאותי המכונה “אייר פורס 1” – על שם אות הקריאה שלו ברשת הקשר של חיל האוויר האמריקני. מדובר בכלי טיס מדגם B747-200 תוצרת בואינג (Boeing) השייך לחיל האוויר האמריקני. משימתו הבלעדית היא לספק תחבורה אווירית לנשיא. צי המטוסים המיוחד של הנשיא כולל שני מטוסים בתצורה ייחודית. ההבדלים העיקריים בינם לבין מטוס Boeing-747 סטנדרטי הם ביכולות הניווט, הטכנולוגיה והתקשורת. מטוס “Air Force One” יכול לשהות באוויר ככל שיידרש כיוון שלמטוס ישנו חיבור מיוחד לתדלוק בזמן טיסה. המטוס גם מכיל את הכלים הדרושים להעמסת מטען באופן עצמאי.

מתחם הנשיא במטוס כולל חדר שינה, חדר אמבטיה ומשרד עבודה.  המסוק הנשיאותי האמריקני – “Marine One” המסוק האמריקני הנשיאותי שבו יטוס נשיא ארה”ב אובמה במהלך ביקורו בישראל נקרא “Marine One” על שם אות הקריאה שלו ברשת הקשר כשנשיא ארה”ב נמצא בו.
צי המסוקים הנשיאותי כולל מספר כלים שונים המיועדים לתחבורה אווירית של הנשיא ואנשי הבית הלבן במשימות בהן אין צורך במטוס ה”אייר פורס 1”.

מל התעופה הבינלאומי ע”ש דוד בן-גוריון נשיא ארה”ב ינחת בנמל התעופה בן-גוריון (נתב”ג). נתב”ג הוא נמל התעופה הבינלאומי הגדול בישראל, ומשמש כשער הכניסה האווירי הראשי שלה. שדה התעופה קרוי על שמו של ראש ממשלת ישראל הראשון דוד בן-גוריון ז”ל. הנמל הוקם ע”י הבריטים בזמן המנדט הבריטי בשנות ה-30 של המאה ה-20.   במקביל להכנות של רשות שדות התעופה ונמל התעופה לקראת ביקור נשיא ארה”ב, צפויים לעבור בשדה התעופה למעלה ממיליון נוסעים 1,017,166 בכ- 6,500 תנועות מטוסים במהלך חודש חג הפסח השנה (בין התאריכים 14.3 – 11.4).

טקס קבלת הפנים בנתב”ג

משמר הכבוד במשמר הכבוד לנשיא ארה”ב ברק אובמה ייקחו חלק חיילים מזרוע היבשה, חיל הים וחיל האוויר של צה”ל: 22 צוערי קורס חובלים של חיל הים, 22 פרחי טיס של חיל האוויר, 22 צוערי בה”ד 1 של זרוע היבשה, 22 שוטרות צבאיות של אגף כוח האדם ודגלנים אשר יישאו את הדגלים הבאים: דגל המדינה, דגל צה”ל, דגל זרוע היבשה, דגל חיל האוויר, דגל חיל הים, דגל אגף המודיעין, דגל אגף כוח האדם, דגל אגף טכנולוגיה ולוגיסטיקה, דגל חיל התקשוב, דגל פיקוד המרכז, דגל פיקוד הצפון, דגל פיקוד הדרום ודגל פיקוד העורף. מפקד משמר הכבוד הינו רמ”ד טקסים באגף כוח האדם של צה”ל, סגן- אלוף עודד נהרי. את משמר הכבוד תלווה תזמורת צה”ל בהרכב סדיר מלא של כ- 50 חיילים סדירים, שתנגן את המנוני ישראל וארה”ב. את פניו של נשיא ארה”ב ברק אובמה יקבלו נשיא המדינה שמעון פרס וראש הממשלה בנימין נתניהו.   לאחר טקס קבלת הפנים בנתב”ג, נשיא ארה”ב יעבור לתצוגת מערכת ההגנה הרב-שכבתית של מדינת ישראל המורכבת מ”כיפת ברזל”, מערכת “שרביט קסמים” ומערכות “חץ 2″ ו”חץ 3”.

תצוגת מערכת ההגנה הרב-שכבתית

בעשור האחרון נורו יותר מ-10,000 טילים ורקטות לתוך שטח ישראל, יותר מ-4000 מהם במלחמת לבנון השנייה וכ-2000 בשנת 2012 מעזה.   מערך ההגנה הרב שכבתית של מדינת ישראל מורכב מ-4 שכבות הגנה:
מערכת “כיפת ברזל” המערכת המבצעית היחידה מסוגה בעולם ליירוט רקטות קצרות טווח, שמהווה את שכבת ההגנה הראשונה.  מערכת “שרביט קסמים” נמצאת בימים אלה בפיתוח כדי לספק מענה לטילים ורקטות מטווח קצר ובינוני, ובעתיד גם נגד טילי שיוט. מערכת “חץ 2” שהפכה למערכת המבצעית הראשונה בעולם בתחילת שנות ה-2000 ותפקידה לספק מענה לטילים ארוכי טווח כמו אלה שנמצאים ברשות איראן. מערך החץ עבר שדרוג משמעותי בשנים האחרונות, ובשנה האחרונה תורגל בהצלחה רבה בתרגיל AC12  עם הכוחות האמריקאיים. מערכת “חץ 3” נמצאת בימים אלה בפיתוח כדי לעבות את שכבת ההגנה נגד טילים ארוכי טווח כמו אלה שנמצאים ברשות איראן.

מערכת “כיפת ברזל”:

סטטוס: מבצעית מערכת “כיפת ברזל” שפותחה על ידי מדינת ישראל, היא המערכת המבצעית הראשונה והיחידה מסוגה בעולם ליירוט רקטות קצרות טווח:

נתוני יירוטים ואחוזי הצלחה: מאז הפכה מערכת”כיפת ברזל” למבצעית בשנת 2011 (בתום שלוש שנות פיתוח) ועד היום, יירטה המערכת בהצלחה למעלה מ- 350 רקטות ששוגרו לעבר ישראל. כל אחת מ-350 הרקטות שיורטו על ידי מערכת “כיפת ברזל” עד היום, הייתה אמורה ליפול בשטחים מיושבים ולגרום לנזק רב בנפש וברכוש. מערכת “כיפת ברזל” הוכיחה את יכולתה בהצלת חיים של מיליוני תושבים בדרום ובמרכז הארץ, ובמניעת נזקים חמורים. בנוסף מייצרת המערכת הרתעה ומרחיבה את יכולת התמרון של הדרג המדיני.   פרויקט “כיפת ברזל” הכולל מספר רב של פריצות דרך טכנולוגיות, הסתיים תוך זמן קצר ביותר והוא מהווה שיא של זמן פיתוח (משלב הייזום, הנבטת הרעיון ועד המימוש), ובעלויות נמוכות וחסרות תקדים בפרויקט בסדר גודל כזה.

מערכת “שרביט קסמים”:

סטטוס: בפיתוח

מערכת “שרביט קסמים” נועדה להעניק למדינת ישראל שכבת הגנה נוספת מפני טילים לטווח קצר ובינוני ובכך לאפשר עיבוי מערך ההגנה על מדינת ישראל מפני איומי הטילים והרקטות. “שרביט קסמים” תספק מענה לאיום טילים ורקטות מטווח בינוני וקצר, ובעתיד גם נגד טילי שיוט.

פיתוח מערכת “שרביט קסמים” החל בשנת 2006, כפרויקט משותף למנהלת “חומה”, הפועלת במסגרת המנהל למחקר, פיתוח אמל”ח ותשתית טכנולוגית (מפא”ת) של משרד הביטחון הישראלי, לחברת רפאל ולסוכנות האמריקנית להגנה בפני טילים האמריקאית (MDA). באחרונה הושלם סבב ניסויי הפיתוח הראשוני של מערכת “שרביט קסמים”, בביצוע ניסוי יירוט מוצלח ראשון בשדה ניסויים. נתוני הניסוי יאפשרו את המשך הפיתוח של מערכת שרביט קסמים, ואת המשך ניסויי הפיתוח הדרושים עד להבשלה מבצעית של המערכת בעתיד.

מערכת “חץ 2”:

סטטוס: מבצעית מערכת “חץ 2” הוכרזה כמבצעית כבר בשנת 2002, ומאז נמצאת בשירות מערך ההגנה האווירית של חיל האוויר.

מערכת “חץ 2”, שפותחה במשותף ע”י מנהלת חומה במפא”ת, משרד הביטחון והסוכנות האמריקנית להגנה מפני טילים (MDA) נועדה לספק שכבת הגנה עליונה מפני טילים בליסטיים ארוכי טווח. מאז הפיכתה למבצעית, בוצעו במערכת “חץ 2” שורה של שיפורים. האחרון שבהם, עדכון הגרסה “בלוק 4” נוסה בהצלחה והוטמע במערכת במהלך שנת 2012.

מערכת “חץ 3”:

סטטוס: בפיתוח

מערכת “חץ 3” נועדה להעניק שכבת הגנה עליונה נוספת מפני טילים. להוסיף הזדמנויות יירוט למערכת ה”חץ 2” ובכך לעבות את מערך ההגנה על מדינת ישראל מפני איומי הטילים ארוכי הטווח.  מערכת “חץ 3” נחשבת למערכת חדשנית ומהפכנית. יכולותיה יאפשרו למרכיבים הקיימים של מערכת “חץ 2” שכבר מבצעית כיום, להתמודד ביעילות רבה יותר עם איומים עתידיים על מדינת ישראל. בשבועות האחרונים בוצע ניסוי טיסה מוצלח של מיירט “חץ 3” (5 שנים לאחר תחילת הפיתוח).  הצלחת הניסוי מהווה אבן דרך חשובה ביכולת המבצעית של מדינת ישראל להגן על עצמה נגד האיומים הצפויים בזירה.   הקבלן הראשי לפיתוח מערכת הנשק ומיירטי משפחת ה”חץ” הינו מפעל מל”מ של התעשייה האווירית, אשר פועל בשיתוף עם חברת בואינג.

JBuzz News April 30, 2012: Benzion Netanyahu: Noted historian father of Israel’s prime minister, dies at 102

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JEWISH ACADEMIC & UNIVERSITY NEWS

Noted historian Benzion Netanyahu, father of Israel’s prime minister, dies at 102

Source: JTA, 4-30-12

Benzion Netanyahu, a noted Jewish historian and Zionist thinker, and the father of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has died.

Netanyahu died early Monday morning at his home in Jerusalem. He was 102.

Benjamin Netanyahu visited his father for the last time on Sunday evening, according to a statement issued Monday from the Prime Minister’s Office.

Netanyahu was born Benzion Mileikowsky in Warsaw in 1910, and immigrated to Mandatory Palestine in 1920.

Netanyahu studied at the David Yellin Teachers’ College and later at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. His research focused on the history of the medieval Spanish Jewish community and the history of Zionism. Among his books are a biography of Don Isaac Abravanel; a history of the Spanish Marranos; and his major work, “The Origins of the Inquisition in Fifteenth Century Spain.” He also authored “The Founding Fathers of Zionism,” about the lives of the founders of political Zionism — Leon Pinsker, Theodor Herzl, Max Nordau, Israel Zangwill and Ze’ev Jabotinsky.

Netanyahu was the editor in chief of the Hebrew Encyclopedia for more than a decade beginning in the 1950s. He served as a professor of Jewish studies at various universities in the United States, concluding his academic career as professor emeritus at Cornell University.

From his time as a student in Jerusalem, he was involved in public Zionist activities. Netanyahu was a supporter of Ze’ev Jabotinsky and edited a newspaper that also featured Joseph Klausner and poet Uri Tzvi Greenberg on its staff…READ MORE

Canadian Reversal: Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird backs Obama’s 1967-border proposal for Israel

In apparent reversal, Baird backs Obama’s 1967-border proposal

Source: Globe & Mail, 6-2-11

Canada wants Israel to use its 1967 borders as the starting point for negotiations with Palestinians seeking independence, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said Wednesday, just days after Prime Minister Stephen Harper is said to have prevented such language from being included in a G8 statement on the matter.

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, right, and Prime Minister Stephen Harper are seen at the G8 summit in Deauville, France, May 26, 2011. - Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, right, and Prime Minister Stephen Harper are seen at the G8 summit in Deauville, France, May 26, 2011. | Andrew Winning/ReutersSpeaking to reporters on Parliament Hill, Mr. Baird backed U.S. President Barack Obama’s call for Israel to either return East Jerusalem to the Palestinians and dismantle settlements in the West Bank or hand over other territory in compensation as part of the creation of an independent Palestinian state.

“We support, obviously, that that solution has to be based on the ’67 border, with mutually agreed upon swaps, as President Obama said,” Mr. Baird said.

Although such a solution is widely accepted among the international community and the United Nations, the Israeli government has no desire to share Jerusalem with an independent Palestine. It has continued a process of moving Israeli settlers into Palestinian territory. When Mr. Obama affirmed his support for the 1967 border, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu roundly rejected it.

Politicians in North America have also steered clear of references to the 1967 borders, wary of upsetting the Israeli community. Mr. Harper, a staunch supporter of Israel, refused to support Mr. Obama’s words previously, even though they reflected Canada’s official position. As recently as last week, he stuck to the position at the G8 summit, diplomats said….

Mr. Baird said his statement was not an about-face in Tory policy, but he appeared not to be familiar with Resolution 242, the 1967 UN declaration calling on Israel to pull its troops back.

Interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae, who has an interest in foreign affairs, demonstrated his knowledge of the issue with a casual reference to 242.

“Go back to President Nixon, Mr. Kissinger, all that, all the efforts, the Madrid process, the Oslo process, all the events, the Annapolis process, more recently the effort that President Obama began. All these efforts since what, 40 years, are based on 242.”

Gil Troy: Dueling diplomacy: Bibi’s boo-boo triggered Barack’s backlash

By Gil Troy, Jerusalem Post, 5-24-11

In the latest diplomatic slap down pitting the President of the United States against the Prime Minister of Israel, Israel lost – as did both leaders. Barack Obama looked like an amateurish bungler, roiling a region which needs calm while once again pouring cement onto three Palestinian positions which need softening– the 1967 borders, the “right” of return and the continuing refusal to negotiate. Binyamin Netanyahu may have looked less foolish – and looked less petulant in their dueling White House soliloquies – but he did more harm. This debacle was avoidable, but Bibi’s boo-boo triggered Barack’s backlash.

Watching Obama’s State Department speech was like reading a bad undergraduate paper. The first part, regarding the Arab spring, was too vague. The second part, on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, was too specific. Obama seemed unprepared. He did not sound ready to articulate an Obama Doctrine that can guide American action as the Arab world changes. Beyond endorsing democracy and peace, Obama neither explained his previous reactions nor offered clear guidelines for future actions. Meanwhile Obama’s Dictate for Israeli-Palestinian progress felt rushed, not properly previewed to prevent squabbles, struggles, then backpedals. The brouhaha over his endorsing 1967 borders with swaps, and the fear he fed the Palestinian delusion that the “right” of return is achievable, were both avoidable. But, like a harried undergraduate producing a pointless paper just to be on time, Obama had his own deadline. He hurried to pre-empt Netanyahu’s Address to a Joint Session of Congress.

The Republican Speaker of the House must be delighted with the trap he sprang on the Democratic president – using Bibi as bait. John Boehner drew the President into this mess, which probably alienated more Democratic donors, forced Obama to massage his Thursday remarks on Sunday, and sparked a distracting firestorm which can only damage the President.

When Republican leaders invited him to address Congress, Netanyahu probably considered this a great coup. Bibi would have one of the world’s greatest stage sets to show off his oratorical talents, while outmaneuvering Obama and fellow Israel-skeptics before pro-Israel Republicans.

But Netanyahu overlooked the defining rule of gravity in Israel-America relations – in any confrontation between the President and the Prime Minister, Israel loses. With the United States the superpower and Israel the lonely little guy, Israel’s dependence on American friendship is too great. An Israeli Prime Minster may succeed in tweaking a particular policy, but only by draining the reservoir of presidential goodwill. So when, as happened Thursday, an Israeli Prime Minister yells at the American Secretary of State, just before a major presidential address, Israel loses. When the Prime Minister denounces presidential proposals before visiting the President, Israel loses. When the President stews as the Prime Minister lectures him, albeit eloquently and indirectly, Israel loses. And when the President sits at a joint press appearance, with his hand placed protectively over his body and under his chin, telegraphing mistrust of the Prime Minister, Israel loses.

Once Obama said what he said, Bibi had to say what he said. But Obama said what he said because Bibi was going to say what he wanted to say to Congress. With a president like Obama, who instinctively blames Israel as the obstacle to peace, the less attention he pays to the region, the better. Netanyahu made his ritualistic visit to AIPAC a big deal by accepting the Congressional invitation. Predictably, the New York Times headline “OBAMA PRESSES ISRAEL TO MAKE ‘HARD CHOICES’,” resulted.

Not all exchanges hurt Israel. Obama disapproved of delegitimizing Israel and said the Palestinians must explain how to work for peace while working with Hamas, whose charter advocates Israel’s destruction. And there is value in the vigorous debate that erupted about what peace can look like, and how to use history as a helpful guideline, not an incendiary device.

Barack Obama believes that to support Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, he must free Israelis from today’s status quo prison, reinforced by comfortable complacency and existential fears. That goal explains why he focuses on the millions of Palestinians living under Israeli control, yearning for real statehood and full civil liberties. But as America’s most pro-Palestinian president since Jimmy Carter, Obama also must free the Palestinians from their nostalgic prison reinforced by lingering longings and deadly hatreds. He must tell them that time does not stand still, that they must dream more about their future state rather than deliriously demanding or violently planning a return to 1967 or 1947. Yet, somehow, Obama’s finger points more easily and wags more vigorously at Israeli caution than Palestinian obstructionism, rejectionism, and violence.

The logical starting point in advocating a two-state solution comes by acknowledging that borders shifted and populations moved, particularly in historic Palestine. Only fools or fanatics claim that borders were ever perma-marked. We cannot undo history. We must move forward, from 2011, trying to minimize disruptions to populations while maximizing satisfaction on both sides. Rather than trying to freeze one random moment in historical time, demography and the current status quo should be our guides, tempered by sensitivity, creativity, and some history, but not too much. And being realistic entails dealing with the current president effectively. In assessing this week’s errors, hopefully Bibi Netanyahu will learn that not to provoke the President, and that scoring debating points only goes so far.

When Israelis and Americans squabble, Palestinian rejectionists rejoice. This spring’s great outrages are not Obama’s proposals or Netanyahu’s hesitations, but Fatah’s new friend in Hamas, Egypt’s new unreliability as a peace partner, Iran’s continuing rush to nuclear power, and the Arab world’s continuing war against Israel’s existence, aided by the left’s useful idiots. These common enemies, along with enduring common values, should keep America’s President and Israel’s Prime Minister cooperating, whatever tactical quibbles may arise.

Gil Troy is Professor of History at McGill University and a Shalom Hartman Research Fellow in Jerusalem. The author of “Why I Am a Zionist: Israel, Jewish Identity and the Challenges of Today,” his latest book is “The Reagan Revolution: A Very Short Introduction.”

giltroy@gmail.com

Israel Political Brief May 24, 2011: Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu Gives Speech to Joint Meeting of US Congress

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings and JBuzz. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in Jewish Studies at Concordia University.

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF: ISRAEL NEWS

Stephen Crowley/The New York Times — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel spoke to a joint meeting of Congress in Washington on Tuesday.

IN FOCUS

  • FACT CHECK: Netanyahu speech brushes over conflicting views of Mideast realityWaPo, 5-24-11

THE HEADLINES….

  • To Friendly Crowd, Netanyahu Repeats Criteria for Peace: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu capped off a turbulent visit to Washington on Tuesday with a speech to a more sympathetic audience in Congress than he found at the White House, promising peace negotiations aimed at “a far-reaching compromise” with the Palestinians but setting several significant limits on what Israel would accept.
    He said that to reach a deal, Palestinians must agree to live with a Jewish state that would include areas in the suburbs of Jerusalem and around Tel Aviv.
    Jerusalem, he said, “will never be divided,” and Israel’s army would remain along the Jordan River.
    While some land where Israelis have settled would lie outside its final borders, he said, the borders would not be identical to those of 1967 and before, which he once again called indefensible. Palestinian refugees and their descendants, he said, would have to find their homes outside these borders, limiting their right of return to old homelands — long a sticking point.
    “I am willing to make painful compromises to achieve this historic peace,” he said, adding that it would not be easy, because “in a genuine peace, we will be required to give up parts of the ancestral Jewish homeland.”… – NYT, 5-24-11
  • Netanyahu Gives No Ground in Congress Speech: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, broadly laying out the Israeli response to President Obama’s peace proposals, called on the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, on Tuesday to accept what Mr. Netanyahu framed as a tenet: that Palestinians will not get a right of return to Israel. In so doing, he made clear that he was giving no ground on the major stumbling blocks to a peace agreement.
    “I stood before my people and said that I will accept a Palestinian state; it’s time for President Abbas to stand up before his people and say, ‘I will accept a Jewish state,’ ” Mr. Netanyahu said to cheers from a hugely friendly crowd of Democratic and Republican lawmakers gathered in the House chamber of the Capitol.
    “Those six words will change history,” Mr. Netanyahu said. “With those six words, the Israeli people will be prepared to make a far-reaching compromise. I will be prepared to make a far-reaching compromise.”… – NYT, 5-25-11
  • Netanyahu’s speech sets high bar for resumption of peace talks: Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu invited Palestinians back to the bargaining table Tuesday with a speech before Congress that promised “painful” Israeli concessions in exchange for peace but also outlined a tough negotiating stance that was immediately rejected by key Palestinian officials.
    One aide to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas called Netanyahu’s proposals a “declaration of war against the Palestinians.”
    Netanyahu’s vision for Middle East peace drew thunderous ovations from U.S. lawmakers who cheered his prescription for a two-state solution that he said would lead to a “viable, independent and prosperous” Palestinian state. The speech culminated a dramatic several days in U.S.-Israeli relations, including a major speech on the Mideast by President Obama on Thursday, a charged visit between the two presidents on Friday and numerous quieter contacts between officials of the two nations.
    Netanyahu, one of a handful of foreign leaders to appear twice before joint sessions of Congress, laid out a vision for a peace agreement with the Palestinians that he said would include a “far-reaching compromise” and generous land concessions by Israel… – WaPo, 5-25-11
  • Netanyahu addresses Congress in historic speech: PM willing to give up parts of Israel but ‘Jerusalem must never be divided. Jerusalem must remain the united capital of Israel.’
    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the United States Congress Tuesday in a much-anticipated speech following a turbulent visit to Washington.
    While the PM spoke about various issues, the focus of his address was clearly on the Israeli-Palestinian peace plan, especially the security.
    “We must find a way to forge a lasting peace with the Palestinian people,” said Netanyahu who lauded Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority (PA) as a viable partner in peace, but not under the current conditions of their pact with Hamas.
    “Hamas is not a partner for peace. Hamas remains committed to Israel’s destruction,” Netanyahu stated. “Israel will not negotiate with a Palestinian government backed by the Palestinian version of al-Qaeda.”
    Should the opportunity to negotiate peace with the PA arise, Netanyahu made it clear that “Israel will be generous with the size of the Palestinian state” but will not sacrifice security. “Israel will not return to the indefensible boundaries of 1967,” he said adamantly before adding, that it needs “unique security arrangements because of its unique size.”
    Netanyahu repeated what he told the AIPAC conference earlier in the day, that the State of Israel is not the root of the Middle East’s problem.
    “Israel’s not what’s wrong with the Middle East. Israel is what’s right about the Middle East,” he said to a cheering audience.
    “Israel has no better friend than America and America has no better friend than Israel,” he said while also thanking Obama for his great commitment to the security of Israel.
    “The Jewish people are not foreign occupiers. We’re not the British in India, or the Belgians in the Congo. This is the land of our forefathers… no distortion of history will deny the 4,000 year-old bond between the Jewish people and the Jewish land.”
    Netanyahu did not waste this opportunity to take a jab at the United Nations during this public address, saying that, should a peace agreement be reached “Israel will be the first country to welcome a Palestinian state as a member of the United Nation.” Shalom Life, 5-24-11
  • Netanyahu at Congress: Jerusalem Must Remain Undivided: Israel is the only country that has guaranteed freedom of all faiths in Jerusalem, which must remain undivided, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told Congress Tuesday.
    Interrupted by repeated by standing ovations, he also thanked the United States for helping Israel reach its defense capabilities despite the “tough” economy.
    There is no need for the United States to send troops to Israel because “we defend ourselves,” Prime Minister Netanyahu said.
    Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu noted in his opening remarks that the “ground is still shifting” in the Middle East and that the uprisings in the Muslim countries represent people’s demands for liberty. He said that of 300 million Arabs, the only ones who are “truly free” are citizens of Israel.
    He continued, “Israel is not what is wrong about the Middle East. Israel is what is right about the Middle East.”
    After one person interrupted his speech briefly, the Prime Minister said that the United States is a “real democracy” unlike “farcical” regimes of Iran and elsewhere.
    He was welcomed with a standing ovation and three minutes of applause…. – Virtual Jerusalem, 5-24-11
  • PM Netanyahu Calls Congressional Leaders “Steadfast Friends” of Israel: Following his address to the joint meeting of Congress today, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked the Congressional leadership for the invitation to come to the Capitol, and called the bipartisan quartet of leaders “steadfast friends” of Israel.
    “I’ve known these friends of Israel a long time. They’re true, steadfast friends,” Netanyahu told reporters of Sens. Harry Reid, Mitch McConnell and Reps. John Boehner, Nancy Pelosi and Eric Cantor. “I think you got that impression, I got that impression in the [House Chamber] where we’ve just come from, and I was delighted to see these anchors of the Israel-American alliance and the new faces that have been added. It’s heartwarming.”
    “We have a different feeling about the world, about our potential, about our defenses, when we have this solid American support from all parts of the American people. America supports us in our quest for peace; America helps our security; America wants a genuine peace; America opposes Hamas,” he added. “America joins us in demanding that Hamas’s criminal organization release Gilad Shalit. Imagine, they’re keeping our captive soldier in a dungeon for five years, and they’re not letting the Red Cross visit him even once. America stands with us in our just demands to release our soldier; to stop terrorism; to have a real, durable and defensible peace. This is a great day for us.”… – ABC News, 5-24-11
  • Netanyahu to Congress: Ready to make painful compromises, but Jerusalem will not be divided: The prime minister was welcomed to the U.S. Congress by a long standing ovation, after which he praised the U.S. for their strong ties and shared values with Israel…. – Haaretz, 5-24-11
  • Netanyahu: Militant Islam threatening the world: Israel’s prime minister, in an address to Congress on Tuesday, held out the threat of a military strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities, saying the only time Iran halted its nuclear program was when it feared such an attack.
    Benjamin Netanyahu did not go so far as to say Israel would carry out such an assault. But he told Congress that militant Islam was threatening the world and urged the U.S. never to allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons.
    “The more Iran believes that all options are on the table, the less the chance of confrontation,” Netanyahu said.
    Netanyahu has said before that Iran won’t curb its nuclear ambitions unless it thinks it is threatened with military action…. – AP, 5-24-11
  • Netanyahu receives warm reception in Congress: Lawmakers from both sides of the American political divide are giving Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a rapturous congressional reception, with frequent and sustained standing ovations.
    In his speech to a joint session of Congress, Netanyahu congratulated the United States for killing Osama bin Laden, wishing the al-Qaida leader “good riddance” and making the case that America and Israel are paragons of democracy. He dismissed early shouts from a female protester as evidence that freedom of speech is alive and well and respected in both countries, while it is punished in Arab states now going through upheaval…. – AP, 5-24-11
  • Why such a warm reception for Benjamin Netanyahu at US Congress?: Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu drew a line in the sand Tuesday during his speech to the US Congress, regarding future borders with any new Palestinian state. The applause was enthusiastic.
    The moment many US lawmakers were waiting for came toward the end of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech Tuesday to a joint session of Congress. “Israel will not return to the indefensible boundaries of 1967,” he said, to a vigorous burst of cheers and applause.
    With that, Mr. Netanyahu may have demonstrated that the American Congress stands with Israel, and not with President Obama, on the matter of a starting point for resuming peace talks with the Palestinians – if and when such negotiations ever do resume.
    That, perhaps, does not come as a huge surprise, given the shared Judeo-Christian tradition and shared democratic values. But there’s also the pro-Israel lobby, long one of the most effective on Capitol Hill. Since 1990, pro-Israel groups have contributed more than $97 million to congressional candidates – 67 percent to Democrats and 33 percent to Republicans, according to the Center for Responsive Politics in Washington. Some 38 lobbyists are registered on pro-Israel campaigns, spending more than $8.6 million to lobby Congress and the White House since Mr. Obama took office…. – CS Monitor, 5-24-11
  • U.S. Jewish groups united in support of Netanyahu’s speech to Congress: In speech before a joint meeting of Congress, Netanyahu stresses strong U.S.-Israel ties and their joint interests of protecting democracy and peace.
    Jewish American groups were overwhelmingly united in their praise for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech before the joint meeting of Congress on Tuesday, stressing their support for his clear call for Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish State and commitment to peace…. – Haaretz, 5-24-11
  • Congress gives Netanyahu enthusiastic support down the line: Addressing an enthusiastic joint session of Congress, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday that he was willing to make “painful compromises” to reach a comprehensive peace with Palestinian Arabs, but only if they agreed to live with a Jewish state whose territory included the suburbs of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.
    In a 45-minute speech punctuated by 29 standing ovations — an unusually high number for a foreign leader before Congress — Netanyahu repeated his assertion that “Israel will not return to the indefensible boundaries of 1967,” which President Barack Obama said in a major speech last week should be the starting point of peace negotiations.
    The spirit of Obama’s remarks reflected the positions of former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton. But Obama’s overt call for using the 1967 lines — adjusted by mutually agreed land swaps — was controversial, especially when Netanyahu publicly upbraided Obama in the White House Oval Office the next day. On Tuesday, Netanyahu repeated his stand, but this time in front of a warm, appreciative bipartisan audience of American lawmakers.
    After the speech, congressional leaders of both parties made it clear that they were firmly allied with Israel’s prime minister…. – McClatchy Newspapers 5-24-11
  • Netanyahu’s make-or-break speech to Congress: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, long criticized for being passive and reactionary, is under pressure to exhibit the Zionist legacy of risk-taking and initiative in his address to Congress today….
    Four days after publicly spurning President Obama’s vision for ending the Israeli-Arab conflict, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is under pressure from supporters and critics alike to present an alternative plan for peace as he addresses a joint session of US Congress.
    In the shadow of regional change, Mr. Netanyahu has been attacked for taking a passive, reactive stance that favors his own political survival over meaningful progress with the Palestinians. Now, with Palestinians gaining momentum on a United Nations vote to establish a Palestinian state without Israel’s approval, his country faces a growing threat of isolation and attacks on its legitimacy.
    Many see Netanyahu’s speech today as an opportunity to take the diplomatic initiative, tapping into an Israeli legacy of risk-taking, initiative, and creativity that stretches from the country’s founding fathers to today’s technology entrepreneurs. That spirit – summed up in Zionist leader Theodore Herzl’s phrase, “If you will it, it is no dream” – has been seen in everything from preemptive military attacks to a unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip…. – CS Monitor, 5-24-11
  • Conn. rabbi to give opening prayer at US House session; was invited by Conn. Rep. Himes: A Connecticut rabbi will be visiting Capitol Hill to give the opening prayer before a U.S. House of Representatives session.
    Jeremy Wierderhorn is scheduled to deliver the invocation Tuesday at the invitation of U.S. Rep. Jim Himes, a Democrat from Greenwich. Wierderhorn is rabbi of The Conservative Synagogue of Westport, Weston and Wilton.
    His prayer to open the House session takes place on the same day that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is scheduled to address a joint session of Congress.
    Wierderhorn has been rabbi at The Conservative Synagogue since 2008, and previously was rabbi of a temple in Henderson, Nevada…. – AP, 5-24-11

QUOTES

  • Full Text: Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Address to a Joint Meeting of the United States CongressTranscript, 5-24-11
  • Bibi to Congress: No compromise on Jerusalem, refugees or Jordan River presence: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that any peace deal with the Palestinians must grant Israel a military presence along the Jordan River, exclude repatriation of Palestinian refugees to Israel and leave Jerusalem as Israel’s united capital.
    However, the Israeli leader said in his address to a joint meeting of Congress on Tuesday, some Jewish settlements in the West Bank would fall outside Israel’s borders in a final peace deal.
    Netanyahu did not appear to offer anything new by way of substance for his vision of peace with the Palestinians, saying Israel “would be very generous” about the size of the Palestinian state but providing few details.
    “Israel needs unique security arrangements, because of its unique size,” Netanyahu said.
    On the dispute over Jerusalem, which he vowed would remain Israel’s undivided capital city, he said, “With creativity and with good will, a solution can be found.”
    “Palestinians from around the world should have the right to immigrate, if they so choose, to the Palestinian state,” he said. “The Palestinian refugee problem will be resolved outside the borders of Israel.”
    “It’s absolutely vital that a Palestinian state be demilitarized,” Netanyahu said, “and it’s absolutely vital that Israel maintain a long-term military presence along the Jordan River.”
    The Israeli prime minister had an informal delivery, cracking several jokes and twice turning around to address Vice President Joe Biden. When a heckler interrupted Netanyahu at one point, Congress tried to drown her out with a standing ovation, much as the pro-Israel crowd at the annual banquet of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee did for the prime minister the previous evening.
    “This is real democracy,” Netanyahu said after the heckler had been removed from the chamber of the U.S. House of Representatives.
    Netanyahu repeated some lines from the night before, when most of Congress joined the crowd at the AIPAC gala. “Israel is not what is wrong about the Middle East,” Netanyahu said both days. “Israel is what is right about the Middle East.”
    On the Palestinian issue, Netanyahu said, “I’m willing to make painful compromises to achieve this historic peace.” He called the West Bank the Palestinians’ homeland, but rejected the notion that it belongs to them alone.
    “In Judea and Samaria, the Jewish people are not foreign occupiers,” Netanyahu said, referring to the West Bank. “This is the land of our forefathers, the land of Israel to which Abraham brought the idea of one God.”
    “Our conflict has never been about the establishment of a Palestinian state,” Netanyahu said. “It’s always been about the existence of a Jewish state. That’s what this conflict is about.”
    “I stood before my people and said I will accept a Palestinian state,” Netanyahu said. “It’s time for President Abbas to stand before his people and say: I will accept a Jewish state.”
    As for the contours of a future Palestinian state, Netanyahu indicated that large settlement blocs would become part of Israel, along with “other areas of critical strategic and national importance,” but that, “in any real peace agreement, in any peace agreement that ends the conflict, some settlements will end up beyond Israel’s borders.”
    He said, “We recognize that a Palestinian state must be big enough to be viable, to be independent, to be prosperous.”
    “Israel will not return to the indefensible boundaries of 1967,” Netanyahu said…. – JTA, 5-24-11
  • Netanyahu to Congress: Ready to make painful compromises, but Jerusalem will not be divided: The prime minister was welcomed to the U.S. Congress by a long standing ovation, after which he praised the U.S. for their strong ties and shared values with Israel.
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu opened his speech at the United States Congress on Tuesday by reiterating Israel’s strong ties with the U.S., saying “Israel has no better friend than the U.S. and the U.S. has no better friend than Israel.”
    The prime minister’s speech was briefly disrupted by a heckler, who was quickly escorted out by security. Netanyahu said about the heckler, “I appreciate that protesting is allowed” adding “this is the real democracy.”
    Netanyahu rejected those that call Israel a “foreign occupier”, saying that no one could deny the “4,000 year old bond between the Jewish people and the Jewish land.”
    “Why has peace eluded us?” the prime minister posed as he began to discuss the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. “Because so far, the Palestinians have been unwilling to accept a Palestinian state if it meant accepting a Jewish state alongside it.”
    “I am willing to make painful compromises to achieve this historical peace. As the leader of Israel, it is my responsibility,” he said.
    “Now, this is not easy for me. It’s not easy, because I recognize that in a genuine peace we will be required to give up parts of the ancestral Jewish homeland,” he said.
    Netanyahu said that Israel “will not return to the indefensible borders of 1967.” “Israel will be generous on the size of a Palestinian state, but will be very firm on where we put the border with it,” Netanyahu said.
    “It’s time for President Abbas to stand before his people and say, ‘I will accept a Jewish state’,” Netanyahu said to applause.
    “Those six words will change history. They will make it clear to the Palestinians that this conflict will come to an end,” he said. “And those six words will convince the people of Israel that they have a true partner for peace.”
    “Tear up your pact with Hamas and sit down and negotiate, make peace with the Jewish state,” he said. “The Palestinian attempt to impose a settlement through the United Nations will not bring peace, it should be forcefully opposed by all those who want to see this conflict end,” he said. “Peace cannot be imposed, it must be negotiated.”… – Haaretz, 5-24-11
  • House Speaker John Boehner: “We live in a time of instability in the Middle East and around the world, but the United States has no stronger ally than Israel. Our long-standing alliance is built on trust, and it’s based on shared values of freedom and democracy. America has a critical leadership role to play in the Middle East, to advance freedom and democracy in the entire region. That is our historic and moral responsibility as a great and free nation, and we should never retreat from that role, and today we stand shoulder to shoulder with Israel and once again renew our historic partnership. The work of achieving a safe and secure Israel has never been easy, but the cause is right.”
  • House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi: It was “an honor…to join my colleagues in the leadership of the Congress to welcome you once again to the Capitol of the United States” and said that judging by the response to the prime minister’s speech, that Members on “both sides of the aisle, both sides of the Capitol believe that you advance the cause of peace.”
  • House Majority Leader Eric Cantor: Netanyahu singled out House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, the lone Jewish House Republican. “May I say that I was remiss in not mentioning an extraordinary friend of Israel and an extraordinary public servant, Eric Cantor,” Netanyahu said. “It’s good to see you here, too, Eric, and thank you for that invitation.”
    Cantor, R-Va., said the U.S. lawmakers all “heard today the tremendous challenges that the people of Israel face, the existential threat that they face, as do we, in the Middle East,” but noted that the speech amplified “the resounding bipartisan support for the U.S.-Israel relationship remains strong and will continue.”
  • Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.): Participated in a meeting featuring Netanyahu and Jewish lawmakers after the Israeli’s speech to Congress, said that making Israel a partisan issue would only damage the Jewish state in the end. He credited Netanyahu for “dialing back” the tension in his speeches, noting his praise in his speech to Congress for bipartisan support of Israel.
    “He tried to bring it back and get this thing off the table as a football,” Ackerman told JTA. “This should not be a wedge issue; there are huge consequences.”
  • Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee: Obama had created an opportunity by staking out Middle East policy that so clearly differentiated from Netanyahu’s.
    “It’s in our strategic interest as Americans to support Israel, and deviations from that position do not square with voters in our country. That’s what we’re going to be singing from the mountaintops for the next 17 months. We’re going to be making a strong play for Jewish voters in 2012, I can tell you that. We just did an eight-city tour in Florida, and we’re going to go back to Florida — we’re not going to let any stone unturned.” –
  • Bibi in Congress: The “wave” and the critical extemporization: There were more than two dozen standing ovations, but not all standing ovations are the same. Most of the ovations brought the entire House to its feet, immediately.
    A few, though, operated like waves: One party would rise and applaud and hoot and holler, and the other party would have a “might as well” reaction and –a little more slowly — also rise and applaud.
    (Republicans, from Netanyahu’s perspective, were on the left side of the chamber, and Democrats were on the right.)
    Here’s an example of a line that prompted GOP-to-Democrat wave (i.e., the Republicans were more enthusiastic)… – JTA, 5-24-11
  • Text of Rabbi Wiederhorn’s Prayer:
    Following is the text of the prayer delivered today by Rabbi Jeremy Wiederhorn of The Conservative Synagogue of Westport, Weston, and Wilton, before the U.S. House of Representatives:
    Dear God, source of all strength, compassion and peace.
    We know that our time on this earth is preciously short, so please, open our eyes to the beauty of the world around us.
    Remind us that each person we encounter is created in your image. Provide us with the integrity, wisdom, and patience to listen to those with whom we do not agree and learn from those who we might otherwise not hear.
    Protect the courageous men and women who put their lives in danger each day so that our children can live safely and without fear.
    Comfort us today as we mourn with the people of Missouri following the tragic loss of life brought upon by the devastating forces of nature.
    And, finally, bless our leaders and advisers, including the dedicated men and women of this United States Congress, who assiduously seek to protect our sacred democratic values at home and abroad.
    May you grant them the vision to look ahead to our future without forgetting the lessons of our past.
    Amen. –
    Westport Now, 5-24-11

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

  • GOP wooing Jewish voters, donors in wake of Obama’s Israel border: GOP activists are confident that they’ll gain additional votes and donations from the Jewish community following President Barack Obama’s call for Israel to retreat to territory along its pre-1967 border, with “mutually agreed swaps,” in any final peace settlement with Palestinian Arabs.
    “My friends in the Republican Jewish Coalition are ecstatic at the crossover they’re having from independent-minded Jews,” GOP consultant Karl Rove told The Daily Caller.
    “Most Jews are Democrats because they vote on the basis of domestic policies,” said Ari Fleischer, a former press secretary for George W. Bush. But, he added, “those who are more inclined to vote on international affairs are more likely to be independent and they tend to vote Republican,” he said. They’re also the people who are more likely to be alarmed by Obama’s new stance, he said. “That’s where the damage was done,” he said.
    The GOP’s share of the Jewish community’s vote in presidential elections rose steadily from the 1990s until 2008, when Obama pushed the GOP’s share back down to 21 percent. The GOP pulled only 9 percent of the community’s vote in 1992, 16 percent in 1996, and 25 percent in 2004.
    These shares of the national vote are important in swing-state Florida, which has an unusually large Jewish community, Fleischer said. In 2012, “if Republicans get only 20 percent [of the vote], it is harder to win Florida, but if Republicans get 25 percent of the Jewish vote, it is likely they’ll win Florida,” he said…. – Daily Caller, 5-25-11
  • Democrats join Republicans in questioning Obama’s policy on Israel: Top Democrats have joined a number of Republicans in challenging President Obama’s policy toward Israel, further exposing rifts that the White House and its allies will seek to mend before next year’s election.
    The differences, on display as senior lawmakers addressed a pro-Israel group late Monday and Tuesday, stem from Obama’s calls in recent days for any peace deal between Israel and Palestinians to be based on boundaries that existed before the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, combined with “mutually agreed swaps” of territory.
    Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (Nev.), House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer (Md.) and other Democrats appeared to reject the president’s reference to the 1967 lines in his latest attempt to nudge along peace talks, thinking that he was giving away too much, too soon.
    White House officials say Obama’s assertion did not reflect a shift in U.S. policy. But the president’s comments touched a nerve among pro-Israel activists, drew a rare Oval Office rebuke from Is­raeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and instantly became a litmus test in domestic American politics.
    Now Obama — whom critics often accuse of employing a play-it-safe governing style in which he waits for others to take the lead — is largely isolated politically in raising the issue of boundaries…. – WaPo, 5-24-11
  • Ed Koch: The Difference Between Obama’s and Bush’s Positions on Israel: The issues in all of the discussions on peace between the Israelis and Palestinians have revolved around three major controversial matters: Jerusalem, with the Palestinians demanding their capital be in that city; demanding a return of all Palestinian refugees and their descendants now numbering 4.5 million to the state of Israel; and the lines of the new state.
    The two pre-Netanyahu prime ministers offered to share the capital of Jerusalem, giving to the Palestinian state that part of East Jerusalem in which Muslims now live, retaining for Israel that part of East Jerusalem in which 250,000 Jews now live and retaining about three percent of the West Bank in which about 300,000 Jews live. And most critical, requiring all Palestinian refugees seeking to return to be resettled in the new state of Palestine. The Palestinian leaders, Yasser Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas, turned down the offers on every occasion. Also, neither Arab leader has been willing to state that they would recognize Israel as a Jewish state — they having a Muslim state — if and when an agreement creating two states was entered into.
    And that is the nub of the disagreement in my opinion. In my opinion, Palestinians and their Arab allies have no intention of ever accepting a Jewish state in their midst. Many in the Muslim world believe that every square inch of Israel belongs to Islam and will someday be theirs; they have no intention of accepting the existence of a Jewish state. At best, they will accept a temporary truce with an entity called Israel which they will whittle away at, later overwhelm and absorb in the future.
    There are those who will say, how does President Obama’s reference to boundaries in his statement of May 19, 2011 differ from that proposed by President Bush. Both referred to the 1967 lines. President Bush added language referring to the facts on the ground, a reference to the 250,000 Jews living in East Jerusalem and 300,000 living on the West Bank. As the Times of January 11, 2008 reported, “By endorsing compensation for refugees, Mr. Bush sided, at least indirectly, with an Israeli view that the return of Palestinians to Israel was unacceptable since it would change the identity of Israel as a Jewish state. Similarly, he endorsed the notion of Israel as ‘a homeland for the Jewish people,’ and ‘Palestine as a homeland for the Palestinian people.'”… – Huff Post, 5-24-11
  • For Obama, Bibi tensions subside, political problems begin: That Israel problem President Obama had with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu? Old news. That Israel problem Obama has with Congress? And with his party? That’s just beginning.
    In two successive speeches — one to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee on Monday and another to a joint meeting of Congress the following day, Netanyahu had nothing but praise for the U.S. president.
    The friendly notes struck by the prime minister were all the more remarkable in light of how Republicans — and even some Democrats — were rushing to emphasize their differences with Obama on Israel policy…. – JTA, 5-24-11
  • Obama’s undue pressure on Israel?: Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is scheduled to speak to Congress at a time when his policies are more popular there than at the White House, POLITICO reports this morning.
    Members of both parties of Senate and the House, have criticized President Obama’s call for the borders of Israel return to that from before the Six-Day War of 1967, with mutually agreed upon land swaps with the Palestinians. Last night, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid rebuked Obama’s use of his Middle East speech to address possible aspects of a deal, saying “the place where negotiating will happen must be at the negotiating table – and nowhere else.”
    Is the Obama administration putting too much undue pressure on Israel? – Politico Arena, 5-24-11
  • Tevi Troy Senior Fellow, the Hudson Institute; Former Deputy HHS secretary: Majority Leader Reid’s pro-Israel speech at AIPAC, followed immediately by Speaker John Boehner’s equally supportive statement, shows that Obama’s position on Israel is unpopular in both parties and on both sides of the Capitol. The joint rebukes should encourage Obama to rethink how to approach the pursuit of peace between Israel and the Palestinians. – Politico Arena, 5-24-11
  • Tevi Troy: Bibi 4, Obama 1: Cliff May is right about the Netanyahu speech. It was a strong speech, and Congress warmly, even rapturously received Netanyahu, with 30 standing ovations by my count sitting in the House Gallery. The recent disagreement with the White House over President Obama’s Thursday speech if anything made the congressional welcome even friendlier than it would have been otherwise.
    Netanyahu’s speech was the capstone on the complex five-act play that took place in Washington this past week, one in which Netanyahu scored a decisive 4–1 victory. Act One took place last Thursday, in the form of Obama’s speech at the State Department. If Obama was expecting huzzahs from the Arab world for his speech, he certainly didn’t get them, and the president himself seemed to have been caught by surprise by the strong negative reaction from the pro-Israel side. Still, the Obama speech hit Netanyahu & Co. hard, and has to be seen as a loss for Netanyahu.
    But Obama inexplicably chose to give the speech on the eve of Netanyahu’s visit to Washington, which gave Netanyahu an opportunity to reply at their joint press appearance on Friday. In the tense, on-camera exchange of views, Netanyahu seemed to take Obama on a visit to Hebrew school, telling him the basic realities of existence in the tough neighborhood of the Middle East…. – National Review, 5-24-11
  • Alex Joffe: Say no to right of return Op-ed: Bibi challenges Obama to tell Palestinians forthrightly that right of return won’t happen: In the escalating crisis between the US and Israel, the issues of borders has gotten the most attention. By adopting the 1967 borders with territorial swaps as the starting point for negotiations, US President Barack Obama has explicitly shifted US policy. Previous presidents have recognized that the 1967 borders were untenable for Israel and that adjustments would be made, especially the incorporation of settlement blocs.
    Now, by specifying both the starting point for border adjustments and the precise size of Israel that will result from negotiations, Obama has adopted part of the Palestinian position.
    But while the borders issue has rightly outraged most Israeli commentators, in his public statement to the press after his meeting with Obama, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lobbed a grenade directly at the American role in the Middle East “peace process.” He made it clear that Palestinian “refugees” will never exercise their mythical “right of return” to previous places of residence in Israel, but added, “I think it’s time to tell the Palestinians forthrightly it’s not going to happen.”
    This was a challenge issued directly to President Obama who in his own remarks explicitly stated that the refugee issue would come, along with Jerusalem, at the end of the negotiations. Instead, Netanyahu demanded that Obama tell Palestinians that one of their most cherished myths will never come to pass. The statement must have struck fear into the hearts of Palestinian leaders but appears to have passed over the heads of Obama and his Middle Eastern advisors, as well as most pundits. But now that Netanyahu has put the issue front and center, in Obama’s presence, sooner or later someone will ask him or his administration about Palestinian ‘refugees.” What will he tell them?
    If Israelis are enraged about the issues of borders on purely pragmatic terms, namely the indefensibility of the 1949 armistice lines that left Israel a mere nine miles wide, the “right of return” is part of the central ethos of Palestinian society. A week does not go by when a Palestinian leader, from Fatah or Hamas, does not loudly promise Palestinians that they will be able to undo 63 years of history and return to what is now Israel…. – YNet News, 5-24-11

Tevi Troy: Bibi 4, Obama 1

Cliff May is right about the Netanyahu speech. It was a strong speech, and Congress warmly, even rapturously received Netanyahu, with 30 standing ovations by my count sitting in the House Gallery. The recent disagreement with the White House over President Obama’s Thursday speech if anything made the congressional welcome even friendlier than it would have been otherwise.

Netanyahu’s speech was the capstone on the complex five-act play that took place in Washington this past week, one in which Netanyahu scored a decisive 4–1 victory. Act One took place last Thursday, in the form of Obama’s speech at the State Department. If Obama was expecting huzzahs from the Arab world for his speech, he certainly didn’t get them, and the president himself seemed to have been caught by surprise by the strong negative reaction from the pro-Israel side. Still, the Obama speech hit Netanyahu & Co. hard, and has to be seen as a loss for Netanyahu.

But Obama inexplicably chose to give the speech on the eve of Netanyahu’s visit to Washington, which gave Netanyahu an opportunity to reply at their joint press appearance on Friday. In the tense, on-camera exchange of views, Netanyahu seemed to take Obama on a visit to Hebrew school, telling him the basic realities of existence in the tough neighborhood of the Middle East.

On Sunday, Obama spoke to the pro-Israel group AIPAC, and while he did not quite walk back his remarks, he clearly tailored them to avoid restating his most controversial points in order to forestall the very real possibility that he would be booed. He was not, but the cheers were not quite at the level that a president who won almost 80 percent of the Jewish vote would expect. Furthermore, the fact that he appeared to have softened things for the AIPAC audience was a sign of weakness in his apparent effort to stage a confrontation with Israel.

Monday night, both Senate Majority Leader Reid and House Speaker John Boehner gave forceful pro-Israel remarks to 12,000 people at AIPAC, and Politico characterized Reid’s speech as an intraparty “rebuke” to the president. The two speeches constituted a bipartisan statement that Obama is out of step with both parties and with both houses of Congress on this issue.

And then this morning came Netanyahu’s impressive speech to a joint assembly of Congress. Unlike Obama, he did not wiggle or waver, but instead gave a powerful defense of Israel as a vibrant democracy and steadfast ally of the U.S. Even an interruption from a Jewish, pro-Palestinian protester gave Netanyahu a chance to shine, as he noted that such protests are allowed in free countries like Israel or the U.S., in contrast to what he called the “farcical parliaments in Tehran or Tripoli.” The ad-lib earned him another one of his many standing ovations.

All of this should have been fairly predictable to the Obama administration when they started this process last week. They knew Netanyahu was coming; that Obama would have to speak to a potentially skeptical if not hostile crowd at AIPAC; and that Netanyahu would likely hit it out of the park in front of the friendly audience in Congress. The only potentially unpredictable element was the Reid speech, as the Senate majority leader might have had some hesitation about rebuking his party’s leader. But even without Reid’s reproach, the events were not aligned in President Obama’s favor as he embarked upon this course of action with last Thursday’s speech. There was no action-forcing event dictating that he give that kind of speech right before Netanyahu’s arrival. Presumably his own State Department would have invited him whenever he wanted to appear.

The policy Obama laid out last Thursday remains worrisome. But the lack of strategic sense that led him to give the speech when he did is truly baffling

Full Text: Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Address to a Joint Session of the United States Congress

Speech by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to a Joint Meeting of the United States Congress

May 24, 2011

ראש הממשלה בנימין נתניהו נואם בפני הקונגרס האמריקאי בוושינגטון. צילום: אבי אוחיון לע”מ

I am deeply honored by your warm welcome. And I am deeply honored that you have given me the opportunity to address Congress a second time.

Mr. Vice President, do you remember the time we were the new kids in town?

And I do see a lot of old friends here. And I do see a lot of new friends of Israel here. Democrats and Republicans alike.

Israel has no better friend than America. And America has no better friend than Israel. We stand together to defend democracy. We stand together to advance peace. We stand together to fight terrorism. Congratulations America, Congratulations, Mr. President. You got bin Laden. Good riddance!

In an unstable Middle East, Israel is the one anchor of stability. In a region of shifting alliances, Israel is America’s unwavering ally. Israel has always been pro-American. Israel will always be pro-American.

My friends, you don’t need to do nation building in Israel. We’re already built. You don’t need to export democracy to Israel. We’ve already got it. You don’t need to send American troops to defend Israel. We defend ourselves. You’ve been very generous in giving us tools to do the job of defending Israel on our own. Thank you all, and thank you President Obama, for your steadfast commitment to Israel’s security. I know economic times are tough. I deeply appreciate this.

Support for Israel’s security is a wise investment in our common future. For an epic battle is now unfolding in the Middle East, between tyranny and freedom. A great convulsion is shaking the earth from the Khyber Pass to the Straits of Gibraltar. The tremors have shattered states and toppled governments. And we can all see that the ground is still shifting. Now this historic moment holds the promise of a new dawn of freedom and opportunity. Millions of young people are determined to change their future. We all look at them. They muster courage. They risk their lives. They demand dignity. They desire liberty.

These extraordinary scenes in Tunis and Cairo, evoke those of Berlin and Prague in 1989. Yet as we share their hopes, but we also must also remember that those hopes could be snuffed out as they were in Tehran in 1979. You remember what happened then. The brief democratic spring in Iran was cut short by a ferocious and unforgiving tyranny. This same tyranny smothered Lebanon’s democratic Cedar Revolution, and inflicted on that long-suffering country, the medieval rule of Hezbollah.

So today, the Middle East stands at a fateful crossroads. Like all of you, I pray

that the peoples of the region choose the path less traveled, the path of liberty. No one knows what this path consists of better than you. This path is not paved by elections alone. It is paved when governments permit protests in town squares, when limits are placed on the powers of rulers, when judges are beholden to laws and not men, and when human rights cannot be crushed by tribal loyalties or mob rule.

Israel has always embraced this path, in the Middle East has long rejected it. In a region where women are stoned, gays are hanged, Christians are persecuted, Israel stands out. It is different.

As the great English writer George Eliot predicted over a century ago, that once established, the Jewish state will “shine like a bright star of freedom amid the despotisms of the East.” Well, she was right. We have a free press, independent courts, an open economy, rambunctious parliamentary debates. You think you guys are tough on one another in Congress? Come spend a day in the Knesset. Be my guest.

Courageous Arab protesters, are now struggling to secure these very same rights for their peoples, for their societies. We’re proud that over one million Arab citizens of Israel have been enjoying these rights for decades. Of the 300 million Arabs in the Middle East and North Africa, only Israel’s Arab citizens enjoy real democratic rights. I want you to stop for a second and think about that. Of those 300 million Arabs, less than one-half of one-percent are truly free, and they’re all citizens of Israel!

This startling fact reveals a basic truth: Israel is not what is wrong about the Middle East. Israel is what is right about the Middle East.

Israel fully supports the desire of Arab peoples in our region to live freely. We long for the day when Israel will be one of many real democracies in the Middle East.

Fifteen years ago, I stood at this very podium, and said that democracy must start to take root in the Arab World. Well, it’s begun to take root. This beginning holds the promise of a brilliant future of peace and prosperity. For I believe that a Middle East that is genuinely democratic will be a Middle East truly at peace.

But while we hope and work for the best, we must also recognize that powerful forces oppose this future. They oppose modernity. They oppose democracy. They oppose peace.

Foremost among these forces is Iran. The tyranny in Tehran brutalizes its own people. It supports attacks against American troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. It subjugates Lebanon and Gaza. It sponsors terror worldwide.

When I last stood here, I spoke of the dire consequences of Iran developing nuclear weapons. Now time is running out, and the hinge of history may soon turn. For the greatest danger facing humanity could soon be upon us: A militant Islamic regime armed with nuclear weapons.

Militant Islam threatens the world. It threatens Islam. I have no doubt that it will ultimately be defeated. It will eventually succumb to the forces of freedom and progress. But like other fanaticisms that were doomed to fail, militant Islam could exact a horrific price from all of us before its inevitable demise.

A nuclear-armed Iran would ignite a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. It would give terrorists a nuclear umbrella. It would make the nightmare of nuclear terrorism a clear and present danger throughout the world. I want you to understand what this means. They could put the bomb anywhere. They could put it on a missile. It could be on a container ship in a port, or in a suitcase on a subway.

Now the threat to my country cannot be overstated. Those who dismiss it are sticking their heads in the sand. Less than seven decades after six million Jews were murdered, Iran’s leaders deny the Holocaust of the Jewish people, while calling for the annihilation of the Jewish state.

Leaders who spew such venom, should be banned from every respectable forum on the planet. But there is something that makes the outrage even greater: The lack of outrage. In much of the international community, the calls for our destruction are met with utter silence. It is even worse because there are many who rush to condemn Israel for defending itself against Iran’s terror proxies.

But not you. Not America. You have acted differently. You’ve condemned the Iranian regime for its genocidal aims. You’ve passed tough sanctions against Iran. History will salute you America.

President Obama has said that the United States is determined to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. He successfully led the Security Council to adopt sanctions against Iran. You in Congress passed even tougher sanctions. These words and deeds are vitally important.

Yet the Ayatollah regime briefly suspended its nuclear program only once, in 2003, when it feared the possibility of military action. That same year, Muammar Qadaffi gave up his nuclear weapons program, and for the same reason. The more Iran believes that all options are on the table, the less the chance of confrontation. This is why I ask you to continue to send an unequivocal message: That America will never permit Iran to develop nuclear weapons.

As for Israel, if history has taught the Jewish people anything, it is that we must take calls for our destruction seriously. We are a nation that rose from the ashes of the Holocaust. When we say never again, we mean never again. Israel always reserves the right to defend itself.

My friends, while Israel will be ever vigilant in its defense, we will never give up on our quest for peace. I guess we’ll give it up when we achieve it. Israel wants peace. Israel needs peace. We’ve achieved historic peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan that have held up for decades.

I remember what it was like before we had peace. I was nearly killed in a firefight inside the Suez Canal. I mean that literally. I battled terrorists along both banks of the Jordan River. Too many Israelis have lost loved ones. I know their grief. I lost my brother.

So no one in Israel wants a return to those terrible days. The peace with Egypt and Jordan has long served as an anchor of stability and peace in the heart of the Middle East.

This peace should be bolstered by economic and political support to all those who remain committed to peace.

The peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan are vital. But they’re not enough. We must also find a way to forge a lasting peace with the Palestinians. Two years ago, I publicly committed to a solution of two states for two peoples: A Palestinian state alongside the Jewish state.

I am willing to make painful compromises to achieve this historic peace. As the leader of Israel, it is my responsibility to lead my people to peace.

This is not easy for me. I recognize that in a genuine peace, we will be required to give up parts of the Jewish homeland. In Judea and Samaria, the Jewish people are not foreign occupiers. We are not the British in India. We are not the Belgians in the Congo.

This is the land of our forefathers, the Land of Israel, to which Abraham brought the idea of one God, where David set out to confront Goliath, and where Isaiah saw a vision of eternal peace. No distortion of history can deny the four thousand year old bond, between the Jewish people and the Jewish land.

But there is another truth: The Palestinians share this small land with us. We seek a peace in which they will be neither Israel’s subjects nor its citizens. They should enjoy a national life of dignity as a free, viable and independent people in their own state. They should enjoy a prosperous economy, where their creativity and initiative can flourish.

We’ve already seen the beginnings of what is possible. In the last two years,

the Palestinians have begun to build a better life for themselves. Prime Minister Fayad has led this effort. I wish him a speedy recovery from his recent operation.

We’ve helped the Palestinian economy by removing hundreds of barriers and roadblocks to the free flow of goods and people. The results have been nothing short of remarkable. The Palestinian economy is booming. It’s growing by more than 10% a year.

Palestinian cities look very different today than they did just a few years ago. They have shopping malls, movie theaters, restaurants, banks. They even have e-businesses. This is all happening without peace. Imagine what could happen with peace. Peace would herald a new day for both peoples. It would make the dream of a broader Arab-Israeli peace a realistic possibility.

So now here is the question. You have to ask it. If the benefits of peace with the Palestinians are so clear, why has peace eluded us? Because all six Israeli Prime Ministers since the signing of Oslo accords agreed to establish a Palestinian state. Myself included. So why has peace not been achieved? Because so far, the Palestinians have been unwilling to accept a Palestinian state, if it meant accepting a Jewish state alongside it.

You see, our conflict has never been about the establishment of a Palestinian state. It has always been about the existence of the Jewish state. This is what this conflict is about. In 1947, the United Nations voted to partition the land into a Jewish state and an Arab state. The Jews said yes. The Palestinians said no. In recent years, the Palestinians twice refused generous offers by Israeli Prime Ministers, to establish a Palestinian state on virtually all the territory won by Israel in the Six Day War.

They were simply unwilling to end the conflict. And I regret to say this: They continue to educate their children to hate. They continue to name public squares after terrorists. And worst of all, they continue to perpetuate the fantasy that Israel will one day be flooded by the descendants of Palestinian refugees.

My friends, this must come to an end. President Abbas must do what I have done. I stood before my people, and I told you it wasn’t easy for me, and I said… “I will accept a Palestinian state.” It is time for President Abbas to stand before his people and say… “I will accept a Jewish state.”

Those six words will change history. They will make clear to the Palestinians that this conflict must come to an end. That they are not building a state to continue the conflict with Israel, but to end it. They will convince the people of Israel that they have a true partner for peace. With such a partner, the people of Israel will be prepared to make a far reaching compromise. I will be prepared to make a far reaching compromise.

This compromise must reflect the dramatic demographic changes that have occurred since 1967. The vast majority of the 650,000 Israelis who live beyond the 1967 lines, reside in neighborhoods and suburbs of Jerusalem and Greater Tel Aviv.

These areas are densely populated but geographically quite small. Under any realistic peace agreement, these areas, as well as other places of critical strategic and national importance, will be incorporated into the final borders of Israel.

The status of the settlements will be decided only in negotiations. But we must also be honest. So I am saying today something that should be said publicly by anyone serious about peace. In any peace agreement that ends the conflict, some settlements will end up beyond Israel’s borders. The precise delineation of those borders must be negotiated. We will be very generous on the size of a future Palestinian state. But as President Obama said, the border will be different than the one that existed on June 4, 1967. Israel will not return to the indefensible lines of 1967.

We recognize that a Palestinian state must be big enough to be viable, independent and prosperous. President Obama rightly referred to Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people, just as he referred to the future Palestinian state as the homeland of the Palestinian people. Jews from around the world have a right to immigrate to the Jewish state. Palestinians from around the world should have a right to immigrate, if they so choose, to a Palestinian state. This means that the Palestinian refugee problem will be resolved outside the borders of Israel.

As for Jerusalem, only a democratic Israel has protected freedom of worship for all faiths in the city. Jerusalem must never again be divided. Jerusalem must remain the united capital of Israel. I know that this is a difficult issue for Palestinians. But I believe with creativity and goodwill a solution can be found.

This is the peace I plan to forge with a Palestinian partner committed to peace. But you know very well, that in the Middle East, the only peace that will hold is a peace you can defend.

So peace must be anchored in security. In recent years, Israel withdrew from South Lebanon and Gaza. But we didn’t get peace. Instead, we got 12,000 thousand rockets fired from those areas on our cities, on our children, by Hezbollah and Hamas. The UN peacekeepers in Lebanon failed to prevent the smuggling of this weaponry. The European observers in Gaza evaporated overnight. So if Israel simply walked out of the territories, the flow of weapons into a future Palestinian state would be unchecked. Missiles fired from it could reach virtually every home in Israel in less than a minute. I want you to think about that too. Imagine that right now we all had less than 60 seconds to find shelter from an incoming rocket. Would you live that way? Would anyone live that way? Well, we aren’t going to live that way either.

The truth is that Israel needs unique security arrangements because of its unique size. Israel is one of the smallest countries in the world. Mr. Vice President, I’ll grant you this. It’s bigger than Delaware. It’s even bigger than Rhode Island. But that’s about it. Israel on the 1967 lines would be half the width of the Washington Beltway.

Now here’s a bit of nostalgia. I first came to Washington thirty years ago as a young diplomat. It took me a while, but I finally figured it out: There is an America beyond the Beltway. But Israel on the 1967 lines would be only nine miles wide. So much for strategic depth.

So it is therefore absolutely vital for Israel’s security that a Palestinian state be fully demilitarized. And it is vital that Israel maintain a long-term military presence along the Jordan River. Solid security arrangements on the ground are necessary not only to protect the peace, they are necessary to protect Israel in case the peace unravels. For in our unstable region, no one can guarantee that our peace partners today will be there tomorrow.

And when I say tomorrow, I don’t mean some distant time in the future. I mean — tomorrow. Peace can be achieved only around the negotiating table. The Palestinian attempt to impose a settlement through the United Nations will not bring peace. It should be forcefully opposed by all those who want to see this conflict end.

I appreciate the President’s clear position on this issue. Peace cannot be imposed. It must be negotiated. But it can only be negotiated with partners committed to peace.

And Hamas is not a partner for peace. Hamas remains committed to Israel’s destruction and to terrorism. They have a charter. That charter not only calls for the obliteration of Israel, but says ‘kill the Jews wherever you find them’. Hamas’ leader condemned the killing of Osama bin Laden and praised him as a holy warrior. Now again I want to make this clear. Israel is prepared to sit down today and negotiate peace with the Palestinian Authority. I believe we can fashion a brilliant future of peace for our children. But Israel will not negotiate with a Palestinian government backed by the Palestinian version of Al Qaeda.

So I say to President Abbas: Tear up your pact with Hamas! Sit down and negotiate! Make peace with the Jewish state! And if you do, I promise you this. Israel will not be the last country to welcome a Palestinian state as a new member of the United Nations. It will be the first to do so.

My friends, the momentous trials of the last century, and the unfolding events of this century, attest to the decisive role of the United States in advancing peace and defending freedom. Providence entrusted the United States to be the guardian of liberty. All peoples who cherish freedom owe a profound debt of gratitude to your great nation. Among the most grateful nations is my nation, the people of Israel, who have fought for their liberty and survival against impossible odds, in ancient and modern times alike.

I speak on behalf of the Jewish people and the Jewish state when I say to you, representatives of America, Thank you. Thank you for your unwavering support for Israel. Thank you for ensuring that the flame of freedom burns bright throughout the world. May God bless all of you. And may God forever bless the United States of America.

Israel Political Brief May 23, 2011: Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu Gives Speech at AIPAC — AIPAC Roundup

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings and JBuzz. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in Jewish Studies at Concordia University.

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF: ISRAEL NEWS

IN FOCUS

  • Reporters’ Notebook: AIPAC 2011: The centerpiece of AIPAC’s annual conference, the gala banquet, is a little like the Oscars: The room is full of celebrities, speeches are interspersed with emotional video montages, the highlight that everyone’s waiting for comes at the end, and the main event is followed by exclusive after-parties.
    There are a few differences, too, of course. Instead of Hollywood’s elite, it’s the political elite that shows up. This year, 67 members of the U.S. Senate and 286 members of the House of Representatives came, along with a smattering of Obama administration officials, Knesset members and diplomats from around the world. Former NBA All-Star Allan Houston helped emcee the evening.
    At the after-parties, instead of inebriated celebs showing off their evening gowns, or what’s under them, Newt Gingrich, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) hosted parties in conference rooms with kosher brownies and chocolate chip cookies, and the buzz was about the next presidential election.
    And unlike the Oscars, the AIPAC dinner is a little less exclusive: As long as you pay your registration fee, you get a seat at a table. This year as every year, the dinner for 10,000 — approximately 1,500 of whom were bumped to a satellite ballroom — marked the world’s largest single kosher meal. The menu? Stuffed Cornish hen…. – JTA, 5-24-11

THE HEADLINES….

  • Netanyahu to Present Vision for Peace to Congress: Israel’s prime minister said he will present his vision for a secure Israeli-Palestinian peace when he addresses a joint meeting of Congress on Tuesday morning.
    Speaking at the annual banquet dinner of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee late netanyahu youtubeMonday night in Washington, Benjamin Netanyahu told the crowd of 10,000, “Peace between Israelis and Palestinians is a vital need for us. Peace would be the realization of a powerful and eternal dream. But it is not a panacea for the endemic problems of the Middle East.”
    Netanyahu blamed the Palestinians for the failure to realize peace, saying, “This conflict has raged for nearly a century because the Palestinians refuse to end it. They refuse to accept the Jewish state.”
    While other speakers at Monday’s gala dinner referenced President Obama’s call last week and Sunday for the pre-1967 lines to serve as the basis for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, Netanyahu did not address that issue. Rather, he stressed some of the points Obama noted in his own speech to AIPAC on Sunday that were welcomed by the largely Jewish audience, including the president’s “ironclad” commitment to Israel’s security.
    “He spoke of that commitment not just in front of AIPAC, but in two speeches heard throughout the Arab world,” Netanyahu said of Obama. “And President Obama has backed those words with deeds. I know these are tough economic times. So I want to thank the president and Congress for providing Israel with vital assistance so that Israel can defend itself by itself.”… – Virtual Jerusalem Post, 5-24-11
  • Netanyahu: Israel cannot return to 1967 borders: Israel’s prime minister promised to present his vision for an Israeli-Palestinian peace in a speech before U.S. lawmakers on Tuesday, but vowed his country would not return to mid-1967 borders that he termed “indefensible.”
    Benjamin Netanyahu made this pledge in an address Monday to thousands of pro-Israel American Jews and U.S. lawmakers. His speech drew roaring cheers and standing ovations, a sign of the powerful backing he enjoys in the U.S. as the White House pressures him to do more to renew stalled Mideast peacemaking.
    The warm reception Netanyahu enjoyed at the gala dinner of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee contrasted sharply with the contentious quality of some of his recent exchanges with President Barack Obama precisely over border issues…. – AP, 5-24-11
  • Left-wing hecklers interrupt Netanyahu’s speech to AIPAC: Activists interrupt the prime minister’s address to the pro-Israel advocacy group and criticize his policies toward the Palestinians.
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee in Washington, D.C. on Monday night was interrupted by left-wing protesters who heckled him and criticized his policies toward the Palestinians.
    Protesters from the group Move Over AIPAC, at least some of whom say they are Jewish, stood up, held up banners and made statements criticizing Israeli defense policies…. – Haaretz, 5-24-11
  • Netanyahu Says Israel Will Not Return To 1967 Borders: Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu says his government will not agree to return Israel to the borders it held before 1967’s Six Day War.
    In a speech to pro-Israel lobbyists for the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) in Washington on May 23, Netanyahu repeated his position that such territorial lines are “indefensible” for current-day Israel. He said he would make this clear in a speech to the U.S. Congress on May 24.
    “Tomorrow, in Congress, I will describe what a peace between a Palestinian state and the Jewish state could look like,” Netanyahu said. “But I want to assure you of one thing: It must leave Israel with security, and therefore Israel cannot return to the indefensible 1967 lines.”… – Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty, 5-24-11
  • Netanyahu gets his turn to talk to American pro-Israel lobby: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gets his chance Monday night to address the main U.S. Jewish lobby when he speaks to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in the wake of U.S. President Barack Obama’s remarks to the group the day before.
    Obama on Sunday sought to tamp down any controversy over his remarks last week that Israeli- Palestinian negotiations should start from pre-1967 borders and include land swaps. The proposal, a longstanding formulation in peace talks that Obama for the first time expressed as official U.S. policy, was immediately rejected by Netanyahu as unrealistic and prompted criticism from political opponents back home.
    Now Netanyahu will have the final word on the issue, at least for now. He sounded more conciliatory toward Obama after the U.S. president sought to reassure the vital U.S. Jewish lobby on Sunday of his administration’s commitment to Israel’s security while also making clear his desire to kick-start the stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace talks at a time when the entire Middle East landscape is changing amid the so-called Arab Spring demonstrations…. – CNN, 5-23-11
  • Netanyahu speech eyed for sign of U.S.-Israel rift: When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses Congress on Tuesday, many will be watching to see whether he escalates a war of words with the White House over how to make peace in the Middle East.
    Netanyahu has a mostly sympathetic ear in Congress, where few lawmakers in either party speak up for the Palestinians, hewing to decades of close U.S.-Israeli ties.
    But the Israeli prime minister has had a rocky relationship with President Barack Obama, and last week said the president’s vision of a Palestinian state based on the borders of 1967 could leave Israel “indefensible.”
    Obama articulated that vision on Thursday in a major policy speech on the Middle East. His position essentially embraced the Palestinians’ view that the state they seek in the West Bank and Gaza should largely be drawn along lines that existed before the 1967 war in which Israel captured those territories and East Jerusalem.
    On Sunday Obama seemed to ease Israeli anger somewhat when he made clear that the Jewish state would likely be able to negotiate keeping some settlements as part of a land swap in any final deal with the Palestinians.
    Netanyahu voiced appreciation for those comments, and some analysts think Netanyahu will not further escalate the quarrel with Obama in his remarks to Congress on Tuesday.
    “Netanyahu will most likely try to tone down any perceived differences between his position and the president’s, because his disagreements with President Obama have become counterproductive for both and ultimately undermine Israel’s own interests,” said Haim Malka, of the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
    But Republicans in Congress, including House leaders, are not about to drop their criticism of the Democratic president’s newly articulated Mideast vision.
    House Republican Leader Eric Cantor said Monday that Obama’s comments on Middle East borders left “most Americans … just questioning what kind of strategy there is. It doesn’t make sense to force a democratic ally of ours into negotiating with now a terrorist organization” about land swaps…. – Reuters, 5-23-11
  • Bibi present, Jewish groups debate partisanship: A bipartisan meeting with Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at Blair House today included moments of sharply partisan tension, sources in the room said.
    As Jewish Democrats stressed the need for a united, bi-partisan American conversation on Israel, the chief of a Jewish Republican group reserved the right to attack Democrats who stray from the pro-Israel line in an unusually frank exchange before a foreign leader.
    “The [Republican Jewish Coalition] and [National Jewish Democratic Council] argued between them,” Israeli Embassy spokesman Jonathan Peled said. “The Prime Minister stressed bipartisanship … and the importance of keeping Israel a bipartisan issue, as has always been the case.”…
    But the meeting came at a moment of high tension between Netanyahu — and his American Republican alies — and President Barack Obama, with many Republicans in no mood to cede political ground on the charged question of Israel. Obama this week sought to lay out an American baseline for future negotiations…. “Several people in the room, on both sides of the aisle, discussed that Israel cannot become a partisan political issue, that if it becomes so then no one wins and Israel loses,” said Jonathan Beeton, Wasserman Schultz’s communications director. – Politico, 5-23-11
  • Benjamin Netanyahu Has Private Sit Down With Bipartisan Group Of Israel Advocates, Lawmakers: In a relatively rare sign of bipartisan collaboration on the Israel-Palestine conflict, a group of Democratic and Republican advocates and several lawmakers sat down with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday for a midday briefing.
    The meeting — which was planned nearly a week ago but remained unknown to the press — featured officials with both the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) and the National Democratic Jewish Council (NJDC), two groups often at polar ends of the debate over U.S. policy in the the Middle East. Additionally, an aide familiar with the meeting told The Huffington Post that Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel — two of the highest-ranking Jewish members of Congress — were present. Wasserman Schultz’s office confirmed her attendance.
    “It’s safe to say that the conversation taking place in the room is about the bi-partisan support for Israel,” said the aide.
    “While we don’t see eye to eye with the leadership of the Republican Jewish Coalition on many domestic policies, when it comes to the need for a powerfully strong U.S.-Israel relationship, on this we agree,” read a statement from Marc R. Stanley, chairman of the NJDC and David A. Harris, president and CEO of the NJDC. “We welcome this opportunity to place partisanship aside and discuss ways we can work together to help our close ally Israel — just as we strive every day to keep Israel from being used as a partisan wedge issue in the political arena. As we’ve said repeatedly, the stakes are too high for such antics.”… – Huff Post, 5-23-11
  • At AIPAC, effort to shift focus back to agenda: Iran, foreign aid, Capitol Hill relationships: Let’s get past this U.S.-Israel relationship thing, so we can get on with important stuff, like the U.S.-Israel relationship.
    That seemed to be the message this week at the annual policy conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.
    With a record 10,000 people and both the U.S. and Israeli leaders in attendance — plus 67 U.S. senators and 286 members of the U.S. House of Representatives at the gala dinner on Monday night — this AIPAC parley was the biggest and in many ways the most impressive ever.
    After the bickering last week between President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, AIPAC leaders were keen to focus on what they had hoped would be the headline-makers for this conference: Yanking the public’s attention back to Iran after months of distraction by the so-called Arab Spring, and bludgeoning the Palestinian Authority with the threat of isolation if it presses forward with its inclusion of Hamas and its quest for statehood recognition at the United Nations in September.
    The other agenda item for the AIPAC crowd was trying to make sense of how to foster support for Israel in a U.S. electorate that is changing more rapidly and dramatically than it has in generations…. – JTA, 5-23-11
  • Palestinian Vote at U.N. Looms Over U.S.-Israel Rift: Though Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu publicly clashed with President Barack Obama on Friday, the Israeli leader still needs American help on a looming test: a proposed United Nations vote on a resolution to recognize Palestinian statehood.
    The vote at September’s U.N. General Assembly, would be mostly symbolic, and carry little legal weight. But passage—which is expected if the resolution proceeds to a vote—would be a very visible show of Israel’s isolation on the international stage.
    It could also undercut the dormant Israeli-Palestinian peace process—a focus of Mr. Obama’s foreign policy—by removing the promise of statehood as a motivating force. And it would give the Palestinians more leverage if talks do resume.
    Mr. Netanyahu told Mr. Obama, in front of the media in the Oval Office on Friday, that the president’s call for peace talks based on Israel’s borders before it gained new territory in 1967, with negotiated land swaps, was a nonstarter.
    Mr. Netanyahu’s stance and combative tone won praise from his hard-line political supporters in Israel, who had been unnerved by a speech this month in which Mr. Netanyahu articulated a more moderate view of a peace settlement. Many in Israel, who see the wave of Arab revolutions empowering new parties hostile to their country, say now isn’t the time for concessions.
    Yet as Mr. Obama began a six-day European tour Monday, some critics said Mr. Netanyahu’s aggressive stance could undermine the Obama administration’s efforts to lobby European leaders to vote against Palestinian statehood.
    “There is panic in Israeli government political circles about the U.N. resolution in September and the U.N. is an arena where Israel has almost zero influence,” said Yossi Alpher, a former Mossad officer who was an adviser to former Prime Minister Ehud Barak. “Netanyahu and his aides have got to be saying to themselves, ‘Can I depend on American support after lecturing the U.S. president in the Oval Office?'”… – WSJ, 5-23-11
  • Bibi and Sara take DC PM leads wife on romantic sunset stroll through US capital ahead of Congress, AIPAC speeches: After meeting with leaders of the American Jewish community Sunday evening, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara, clad in sportive attire, went on a sunset stroll through Washington DC.
    The Prime Minister’s Office stated that during the one hour and a half outing, the couple walked by historical landmarks that include Former US Presidents Lincoln and Jefferson Memorial sites and the Korean War Veterans Memorial.
    “The prime minister and his wife discussed the history of the United States during their stroll, and from time to time stopped to look at the scenery and the river. When they reached the Jefferson Memorial, the prime minister recited by heart the US Declaration of Independence,” the Prime Minister’s Office wrote in a statement…. – YNet News, 5-23-11
  • US-Israel lobby ‘hopeful’ but wary of Arab Spring: The head of US-Israel lobby AIPAC hailed Monday the “green shoots of democracy” pushing out Arab autocrats, but Israel’s American supporters remain wary of the impacts of uncertain popular uprisings.
    Howard Kohr, executive director of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, told thousands of delegates that while recent months have brought the most dramatic change in the region since the Jewish state’s founding in 1948, they are also jeopardizing Israel’s entire security framework.
    “The fact is, this most hopeful time of change in the region is at the same time one of the most challenging periods in Israel’s history.”
    For decades, he said, Israel has been the region’s lone democracy “in a sea of dictatorships,” with peace and war constantly in the balance.
    This year, the AIPAC Policy Conference — which drew US President Barack Obama as keynote speaker Sunday and will host Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu later Monday — gathers “at a moment of great transition and hopeful anticipation.”
    “We should all celebrate the genuine green shoots of democracy in the Arab world,” Kohr said…. – AP, 5-23-11
  • Is Obama charting a new course on Israeli-Palestinian issues?: President Obama knew he had some damage control to do when he took the podium before thousands of Israel supporters on Sunday morning at the opening plenary of the annual AIPAC conference.
    But he wasn’t offering any apologies for his speech three days earlier that called for “1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps” to serve as the basis for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
    Rather, Obama offered mostly reassurances and clarifications. He also issued a blunt warning that doing nothing undermines U.S. efforts to fend off Israel’s diplomatic isolation and the Palestinians’ plan to obtain recognition of statehood at the United Nations in September.
    It’s unclear if Obama’s maneuvering will do anything to stanch the Palestinian statehood effort or the campaign to isolate Israel. But either way, Obama said, Israel and its supporters should not be alarmed by his remarks about the 1967 lines: All he did was go public with a well-established formula, he said, one that “by definition” means “the parties themselves — Israelis and Palestinians — will negotiate” a new border taking into account “new demographic realities on the ground and the needs of both sides.”
    However, a close reading of what Obama said and left unsaid in his two recent speeches hints at a few significant ways that Obama’s approach to resolving the conflict may differ from that of his predecessors. But scant on details, his remarks also raise more questions than they answer…. – JTA, 5-23-11
  • Israelis Protest Against Obama: Israeli protesters demonstrated against President Obama’s recent statements on Israel and the Palestinians in front of the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv.israelis protest obama
    Donning symbolic nooses around their necks and holding banners reading “Israel Won’t Commit Suicide,” some 100 protesters from My Israel, an organization representing settlers and hard-line groups, gathered Sunday outside the embassy to protest Obama’s recent declarations on his vision for a future Palestinian state.
    The protesters gathered at the same time that Obama addressed AIPAC in Washington at the pro-Israel lobby’s annual conference.
    “We support America, but we can say to you Obama, you are wrong,” Ayelet Shaked, one of the event’s organizers, told the crowd…. – Virtual Jerusalem, 5-23-11
  • Israelis protest Obama policies at embassy in Tel Aviv: Israeli protesters demonstrated against President Obama’s recent statements on Israel and the Palestinians in front of the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv.
    Donning symbolic nooses around their necks and holding banners reading “Israel Won’t Commit Suicide” some 100 protestors from My Israel, an organization representing settlers and hard-line groups, gathered outside the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv Sunday to protest President Obama’s recent declarations on his vision for a future Palestinian state.
    The protesters gathered at the same time Obama addressed AIPAC.
    “We support America, but we can say to you, Obama you are wrong,” Ayelet Shaked, one of the event’s organizers, told the crowd.
    “In your speech you abandoned a friend. You betrayed the only true democracy in the Middle East (and) America’s only friend and ally, Israel,” she said, referring to the president’s new Mideast policy speech delivered at the U.S. State Department on May 19 in which he outlined a future Palestinian state according to pre-1967 lines combined with mutually-agreed upon land swaps.
    In a statement, the My Israel group described Obama’s new policy as requiring “exaggerated concessions from Israel without requesting Palestinians give up the right of return.” – JTA, 5-23-11
  • Netanyahu ‘pleased’ with Obama’s AIPAC address:
    PM’s aides describe speech as ‘befitting,’ say Obama’s clarifications about 1967 borders particularly pleasing. ‘I’m determined to work with president Obama to find a way to reignite the peace process,’ Netanyahu says
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s associates were satisfied by US President Barack Obama’s clarifications during his address to pro-Israel lobby AIPAC in Washington, Sunday. Netanyahu and his aides reportedly watched Obama’s AIPAC speech at Blair House – the president’s official guest house….
    “I share the President’s wish to promote peace and I appreciate his past and present efforts to achieve this goal. I am determined to work with President Obama in order to find ways to resume the peace negotiations. Peace is a vital necessity for us all,” Netanyahu said.
    Opposition Chairwoman Tzipi Livni, who was present at the AIPAC speech, said that the two-state solution was first and foremost an Israeli interest. “Israel must lead in partnership with the US… the world looks up to the US’ relationship with Israel, so the message coming out of Washington these days is very important,” she said. – YNet News, 5-22-11
  • Netanyahu says he’s determined to work with Obama on peace: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he “appreciated” President Obama’s speech to AIPAC and that he is “determined to work together” with the president to advance peace.
    “I join in the president’s desire to advance peace, and I appreciate his past and present efforts to achieve this goal,” Netanyahu said in a statement issued after Obama addressed the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee policy conference.
    “I am determined to act together with President Obama to find ways to renew the peace negotiations,” he said. “Peace is a fundamental need for us all.”…. – JTA, 5-22-11
  • Canada Rejects ’67 Intervention, Unless Israel Agrees: Canada refuses to join the United States in calling for Israel to return to 1949 Armistice borders, the Ottawa Globe and Mail reported Monday.canda israel support
    At a briefing ahead of the G8 summit that is about to begin in France, federal Canadian officials said the basis for the negotiations must be mutually agreed upon by Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
    “What the government of Canada supports is basically a two-state solution that is negotiated,” a senior federal official said. “If it’s [the] border, if it’s other issues, it has to be negotiated, it cannot be unilateral action.”
    When the officials were “pressed by reporters,” the Globe and Mail said, they explained that “both the Israelis and the Palestinians have to decide on their bottom lines, which the Israelis have said will not include a return to the 1967 border.”
    An official who spoke on condition of anonymity said: “If the two parties are of the view that this is a starting point, that is fine for them.”
    Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s director of communications, Dimitri Soudas, added that Canada’s position continues to be the search for a two-state solution. “No solution, ultimately, is possible without both parties sitting down, negotiating and agreeing on what that final outcome will look like,” he said…. – Virtual Jerusalem, 5-23-11

QUOTES

  • Full Text: Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Speech at AIPAC 2011: …Let me stress one thing. Peace between Israelis and Palestinians is a vital interest for us. It would be the realization of a powerful and eternal dream. But it is not a panacea for the endemic problems of the Middle East. It will not give women in some Arab countries the right to drive a car. It will not prevent churches from being bombed. It will not keep journalists out of jail.
    What will change this? One word: Democracy – real, genuine democracy. And by democracy, I don’t just mean elections. I mean freedom of speech, freedom of press, freedom of assembly, the rights for women, for gays, for minorities, for everyone. What the people of Israel want is for the people of the Middle East to have what you have in America, what we have in Israel – democracy. So it’s time to recognize this basic truth. Israel is not what’s wrong with the Middle East. Israel is what’s right about the Middle East.
    My friends, we want peace because we know the pain of terror and we know the agony of war. We want peace because we know the blessings peace could bring – what it could bring to us and to our Palestinian neighbors. But if we hope to advance peace with the Palestinians, then it’s time that we admitted another truth. This conflict has raged for nearly a century because the Palestinians refuse to end it. They refuse to accept the Jewish state.
    Now, this is what this conflict has always been about. There are many issues linked to this conflict that must be resolved between Israelis and Palestinians. We can, we must, resolve them. But I repeat: We can only make peace with the Palestinians if they’re prepared to make peace with the Jewish state…. – Transcript, 5-23-11
  • Livni: 2-state solution good for Israel: Israel’s opposition leader tells AIPAC two-state solution vital for Jewish State, not anti-Israeli. Only way to avert clash between Israel’s Jewishness, democracy is to ensure Jewish majority, she says
    Give peace a chance: The two-state solution is good for Israel and is the only way to maintain a state that is both Jewish and democratic, Opposition Chairwoman Tzipi Livni told the AIPAC conference in Washington Monday.
    “It is not an anti-Israeli policy – it is vital for Israel’s interests,” she said.
    The “only way” to avert a clash between Israel’s Jewishness and democracy is to maintain a Jewish majority in the country, the opposition leader stressed, urging the government to take action to that effect.
    “Inaction is not an option,” Livni stressed, adding that when Israel speaks clearly, the world “hears our voice.”
    “If we won’t shape our future – others will do it for us,” she warned.
    She also noted that peace with Hamas would be impossible to achieve, as the group represents “religious ideology and there is no way to solve religious conflict.” – YNet, 5-24-11
  • Speaker Boehner Reaffirms U.S. Support for “Safe and Secure Israel,” Calls for Well-Defined U.S. Nat’l Security Goals: On the eve of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s address to the joint meeting of Congress Tuesday morning, House Speaker John Boehner is set to deliver an address to AIPAC Monday night, where he will reaffirm America’s support for a “safe and secure” Israel, while rejecting the notion that the U.S. is “too pro-Israel,” calling that suggestion an obstacle to peace in the region.
    “The work of achieving a safe and secure Israel has never been easy, but the cause is right, and let me tell you—that cause has my one hundred percent support,” Boehner, R-Ohio, pledges according to a copy of his prepared remarks obtained by ABC News. “Israel has demonstrated time and again it seeks nothing more than peace with its neighbor. In a negotiation, both sides need to make serious compromises. And like every prime minister before him, Prime Minister Netanyahu knows this and accepts it.”
    Boehner will also call on the White House and Congress to provide a better understanding of U.S. national security policies and goals in order to alleviate any concern from allies about where America’s priorities stand.
    “Some people complain that the United States is too pro-Israel. Let me tell you what I think: Doubts about what America stands for – and who America stands with – slow the search for peace and stability,” Boehner is set to say. “The president and the Congress should work together so that the American people –and our friends, and yes, our enemies– understand our national security policies and our goals. And so that our allies, allies like Israel, have no cause to doubt that we will be with them through thick and thin.”
    Boehner also will speak to the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran, noting that Iranian officials have undoubtedly “taken notice of how the United States has responded to Libya –versus how it has responded to North Korea,” and suggesting that anyone who doubts the Iranian regime’s quest for nuclear weapons is “awfully optimistic.”
    According to Boehner, the top solution to the Iranian threat is a political uprising by the people of Iran, similar to those taking place across the region the past few months.
    “Looming over the entire region is, of course, the Iranian regime and the threat it poses to the there and in the wider world,” Boehner warns. “The best remedy for that threat to the world is if the people of Iran rise up and replace that regime, just as the regimes in Tunisia and Egypt have been replaced—and as we all hope those in Libya and Syria will be as well, so that the peoples of those countries can escape from tyranny into freedom.”
    “We should make it clear—clearer than it has been for the last two years—that America is on the side of those who yearn and struggle for their freedom,” Boehner adds. “That is our historic and moral responsibility as a great and free Nation and we should never apologize or be ashamed of that role.”
    Boehner says that the Arab Spring marks “an overdue rejection of corruption and police states” while the people “battle for the region’s political identity.”
    “Will they now build governments that respect human life and dignity, that uphold human rights, and where the people rule?” Boehner asks, “Or will we see women and religious minorities repressed and fundamental rights abridged.”… – ABC News, 5-23-11
  • Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), the Senate majority leader: Did not mince words in rejecting Obama’s prescription for negotiations based on the 1967 lines with swaps. “No one should set premature parameters about the borders, about building, about anything else,” he said in his speech to AIPAC.
  • AIPAC chief: Obama should not be even-handed toward Israel and Palestinians: Day after U.S. president clarifies vision of Palestinian state within 1967 borders, director of pro-Israel lobby urges Jerusalem and Washington to avoid any public display of diplomatic crisis, as it would likely be exploited by Israel’s enemies.
    AIPAC Executive Director Howard Kohr said Monday that U.S. President Barack Obama should not take an even-handed approach to the Middle East conflict, as it puts Israel at a disadvantage.
    “Part of being an honest broker is being honest,” Kohr said in an address to AIPAC, a day after Obama spoke to the pro-Israel lobby and clarified his remarks regarding his vision for a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders, adding “that honesty “should not be confused with even-handedness”.
    “In a world which is demonstrably on the side of the Palestinians and Arabs – where Israel stands virtually alone – the United States has a special role to play,” said the AIPAC director. “When the United States is even-handed, Israel is automatically at a disadvantage, tilting the diplomatic playing field overwhelmingly toward the Palestinians and Arabs.”
    The AIPAC leader also said that no settlement imposed on the Palestinians or on Israel could succeed. “When neither party owns the plan or has responsibility to accept it, that plan is doomed to fail,” he added….
    “If Israel’s foes come to believe that there is diplomatic daylight between the United States and Israel, they will have every incentive to try to exploit those differences and shun peace with the Jewish state,” warned the AIPAC director.
    He also said that Netanyahu was “ready and willing” to negotiate for peace with the Palestinians, but that it was up to the other side to make a positive step forward.
    “There is still time for a Palestinian leader to be bold and creative: to turn back from the current dead end; to reject Hamas; to reject the international path; to reject the road to unilateral recognition at the United Nations and instead to embrace the chance to sit down with Israel to negotiate a real peace,” said Kohr.
    “To say to those who profess to stand for peace: There can be no end to strife for the Palestinian people unless their leaders pursue a partnership in peace with Israel,” he added. – Haaretz, 5-23-11
  • Sarah Palin: Barack Obama’s Disregard for Ally’s Security Begs Clarity: As I noted on Judge Jeanine Pirro’s show this weekend, I reject President Obama’s idea that Israel must cede back its territories to the 1967 line. Will we now be in the habit of telling our allies what their borders should be? Should Prime Minister Netanyahu suggest we return to our 1845 borders before the annexation of the southwest of the United States during the Mexican-American War? Should we give back parts of Texas, New Mexico, and California?
    But the problem is even deeper. In both his State Department speech and his speech yesterday at AIPAC, President Obama made some seemingly specific comments about the Palestinian state that he wants to see created. He either misspoke or he has even more dangerous plans for our friends in Israel than he is publicly admitting.
    In the State Department speech, President Obama said that he wants the borders of Palestine and Israel to “be based on the 1967 lines” (in other words, with both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as part of the new Palestinian state) and that he wants a Palestine that is a “sovereign and contiguous state” (emphasis added). The Merriam–Webster dictionary defines “contiguous” as “being in actual contact: touching along a boundary or at a point; of angles, adjacent; next or near in time or sequence; touching or connected throughout in an unbroken sequence,” like the “contiguous United States” which obviously excludes Alaska and Hawaii.
    But the 1967 lines do not include a “contiguous” Palestine. (See the map here.) So what does he mean? The President proposes “mutually agreed [land] swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states.” Is linking Gaza and the West Bank with a road the “secured border” he has in mind? Or is he suggesting something more? Is it not possible he’s suggesting that the only way you can create a “contiguous” Palestinian state with “secured” borders is by carving Israel in half? Clarification on this point is of paramount importance, Mr. President.
    In fact, that leads me to another even bigger geographic problem with the President’s remarks. As the British newspaper The Independent points out, there is further confusion because President Obama said, “The United States believes that negotiations should result in two states, with permanent Palestinian borders with Israel, Jordan, and Egypt, and permanent Israeli borders with Palestine.” As The Independent asks: “How does that square with the pre-1967 borders? Was the President implying that the new improved Israel will border neither Jordan nor Egypt, as it does now? Would Palestine’s contiguous territory come at the expense of Israel’s? Would Israel get the Gaza Strip and the Mediterranean and Palestine get the Negev and a Red Sea port?”
    Is that what you have in mind, Mr. President? Do you not want an Israeli border with Egypt? You need to clarify what you mean. Diplomacy requires precision and you are causing enormous anxiety for some and making commitments to others that you might not be able to keep.
    It has long been the dream of radicals like Noam Chomsky to create a “contiguous Palestine.” True, President George W. Bush spoke ambiguously of a “contiguous” Palestinian state, but he never defined it geographically with borders the way President Obama has, and he had the security of our ally Israel in mind more than our current President. President Obama has in essence boxed Israel in without regard for the facts on the ground and without appreciating the fact that Israel looks across the negotiating table and sees the terrorist organization Hamas in alliance with Fatah. Israel has demonstrated in the past that it is willing to negotiate fairly with a genuine partner in peace. Just look at the treaty it maintains to this day with Egypt. All of this should have been considered and the President’s words should have been carefully measured so as to help and not hinder the peace process. Unfortunately, his words have caused confusion and distressed our ally. – Sarah Palin, Facebook, 5-23-11
  • Miri Regev: Land of Israel is ours: Knesset Member Miri Regev offers Netanyahu her version of speech for Congress… – YNet News, 5-24-11
  • Lieberman: Netanyahu’s stance on 1967 borders reflects viewpoint of most Israelis: During a Yisrael Beiteinu party meet, the foreign minister says that negotiating for the Palestinian right of return means the de facto elimination of Israel.
    Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman voiced support for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s stance expressed during his trip to the United States, saying on Monday that Netanyahu’s viewpoints “reflect those of most of Israeli society.”
    In comments to the press in the U.S. on Friday, the prime minister told U.S. President Barack Obama that Israel cannot go back to the “indefensible’ 1967 borders, claiming they are not feasible in light of today’s security and demographic reality.
    “There is no need to turn every disagreement into drama.” He added, referring to the apparent tension, that the situation wasn’t “the apocalypse.”
    “Israel is ready to conduct peace negotiations at any given moment, but without pre-conditions” Lieberman said about stalled talks with the Palestinians.
    “Anyone who wants to conduct negotiations with us is welcome,” the foreign minister said. “All those who defend the Palestinian right of return needs to know consciously or unconsciously, that the intention is the de facto elimination of Israel.”
    Lieberman continued to emphasize that there would be no negotiations on the Palestinian right of return, “not even one refugee.”…. – Haaretz, 5-23-11
  • AIPAC likes Obama’s clarification on ’67 lines: The American Israel Public Affairs Committee said it “appreciated” President Obama’s clarification that he did not expect Israel to return to its 1967 lines.
    “In particular, we appreciate his statement that the U.S. does not expect Israel to withdraw to the boundaries that existed between Israel and Jordan in 1967 before the Six-Day War,” the pro-Israel lobby said in a statement released after Obama delivered a speech Sunday to its annual policy conference.
    Some pro-Israel groups such as the Anti-Defamation League and American Jewish Committee praised the May 19 speech for its pro-Israel remarks, while others like the Zionist Organization of America and the Simon Wiesenthal Center condemned the reference to 1967 lines. AIPAC was notably silent. In its statement after his speech to the group Sunday, AIPAC also said it appreciated Obama’s posture on Hamas and Iran.
    “We also commend President Obama for his explicit condemnation of Hamas as a terrorist organization and his recognition that Israel cannot be expected to negotiate with a group that denies its fundamental right to exist,” AIPAC said. “We also welcome the president’s reaffirmation of his longstanding commitment to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.”… – JTA, 5-22-11
  • Gene Simmons Slams Obama, the UN: KISS rock star, Israeli-born Gene Simmons, tells the CNBC Christian network that U.S. President Barack Obama “has no idea of what the world is like.” He also calls the United Nations “the most pathetic body on the face of the earth.”
    Jane Wells interviewed Simmons on CNBC and asked him what he thinks of President Obama, for whom Simmons voted and now regrets it. He answered, “If you have never been to the moon, you can’t issue policy about the moon. For the president to be sitting in Washington D.C. and saying, ‘Go back to your ’67 borders in Israel’ – how abut you live there and try to defend an indefensible border – nine miles wide?”
    “On one side, you got hundreds of millions of people who hate your guts. On the other side you got the Mediterranean. Unless you control the Golan Heights, it is an indefensible position. it is a nice idea, [but] when you grow up, you find out that life is not the way you imagine it.
    “President Obama means well – I think he actually is a good guy, He has no idea of what the world is like because he does not have to live there.”… – Virtual Jerusalem, 5-23-11
  • Obama pre-1967 borders remark recalls Carter-Rabin kerfuffle: President Obama gave an internationally televised speech yesterday outlining United States Middle East policy. The address was largely lauded by American Jewish institutions, but raised some eyebrows while addressing the future borders of a Palestinian state, especially from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is in Washington today, and had responded that the pre-1967 lines are “indefensible.”
    In 1977, while U.S. attention was focussed on Israel’s borders with several Arab nations — though not about Palestinian state — a similar exchange over borders took place between the leaders of Israel and the U.S. –  JTA, 5-23-11

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

  • Gary Rosenblatt: An Insider’s Look At AIPAC Conference: Just Me And 10,000 Other Attendees: …My mantra, and futile complaint about Jewish public events, is “less is more.” But it never works that way. And truth to tell, the AIPAC conference is not geared to pleasing the media, nor should it be. It’s aimed at its delegates and does a terrific job of educating them about the issues through a variety of speakers at breakout sessions and of firing them up to be passionate, effective lobbyists – in Washington and back home.
    As for the prime minister’s remarks, I wrote about them in my column this week.
    I would just add that the crowd responded very effectively when five people heckled him – one at a time and a few minutes apart. Each time someone shouted out against Israeli policy, the delegates rose to their feet in applause of the prime minister, drowning out the protester. (Note to planners of this fall’s General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America.)
    What leaves me worried, though, was the mood of anger and fear among AIPAC delegates stemming from President Obama’s State Department speech – particularly the line about the pre-1967 war boundaries being a starting point for negotiations – and revved up by Prime Minister Netanyahu’s repeated insistence that those borders are “indefensible.”
    It seemed like Netanyahu purposefully responded in a confrontational way, initially and again Monday night. So it was not surprising to see some pro-Israel groups labeling Obama “the new Arafat” and putting out ads asserting that the President had called for Israel to “retreat” to the pre-`67 lines.
    It’s an emotional and dangerous over-reaction that could undermine the very theme of the AIPAC conference: “Best Together” in referring to the U.S. and Israel…. – The NY Jewish Week, 5-24-11
  • Obama’s Israel anorexia Op-ed: Just like anorexics, will US president realize error of his ways only after it’s too late?: I hate the fact that Israel’s appearance has been manipulated to that of the occupier, of the oppressor, the warmonger. None of that is true. Israel was created to be the homeland and safe haven for Jews in a world that has consistently and historically tried to destroy us. I am not happy with my knowledge, that the ultimate goal of our enemies is the destruction of Israel, the Jewish people, and afterward Western society. But unfortunately it is true, even if it’s not politically correct to say in today’s world….
    I would love to have the world applaud Israel’s bold steps for peace. Ignoring that the bold steps already taken at Oslo, in Lebanon, and Gaza did not get accolades, only further criticism on Israel and two wars, with the reality of two more coming soon.
    How long after a pullout to the 1967 borders will the Arabs, and soon after the world, insist on ending the “occupation” in other “territories” like Jaffa and Haifa? And how soon will we be told that there cannot be peace until the Palestinian country can defend itself with an army and defensive weapons? Of course, transporting weapons freely between Gaza and “mainland” Palestine is a basic right.
    I wonder, in the not so far off doomsday scenario, after Israel no longer exists; or maybe after Europe is Judenrein, will Obama, Blair and other lovers of peace realize that the goal was never about peace? Maybe after several more attacks on the US and the West will it become clear?
    The satisfaction of getting Obama to admit from deep in his protective bunker that he was mistaken is insignificant beyond belief compared to the cost. Of course, it is irreversible….
    Until there is a time when there is a real partner in peace and co-existence, Israel will have to suffer as the cruel, inflexible, unreasonable, uncompromising nation we are being portrayed as.
    We do not have the luxury of proving we are right. But maybe we can survive long enough until there is a real cure…. – YNet News, 5-24-11
  • Will Obama’s Israel stance really cost him Jewish support?: …There is one crucial difference between 2008 and 2012, of course: This time around, the eventual GOP nominee won’t be dumb enough to pick someone like Sarah Palin as Veep. The pick of Palin, observers concluded, drove older, swing-voting Jewish voters into the Obama camp and limited any damage he risked among that constituency.
    But even lacking a Palin factor, it’s hard to believe that Obama’s Israel stance will really cost him a meaningful level of Jewish support. I don’t doubt that in the wake of Obama’s speech, Democratic operatives are “scrambling to mollify the Jewish community,” as Reuters reports. It would be folly for Dems to take Jewish support for granted. But my bet is is that the vast majority of Jews will reject the line that Obama’s position is somehow an existential threat to Israel and will side with people like Abraham Foxman and Jeffrey Goldberg, who see Obama’s stance as an articulation of longtime U.S. policy and even see his overall approach as pro-Israel. Stay tuned for the next polling and the next financial disclosure reports. Should be very interesting. – WaPo, 5-23-11

Israel Political Brief May 22, 2011: Obama Addresses AIPAC — Reaffirms His Position on Israel’s 1967 Borders — Canada Objects, Palin, & Gingrich Criticize

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings and JBuzz. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in Jewish Studies at Concordia University.

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF: ISRAEL NEWS

THE HEADLINES….

  • Obama to AIPAC: Israelis, Palestinians should negotiate a new border: President Obama said his call for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations based on the pre-1967 lines did not mean the future state of Palestine would have those exact borders.
    “By definition, it means that the parties themselves – Israelis and Palestinians – will negotiate a border that is different than the one that existed on June 4, 1967,” Obama said on Sunday morning to the annual policy conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. “It is a well-known formula to all who have worked on this issue for a generation. It allows the parties themselves to account for the changes that have taken place over the last 44 years, including the new demographic realities on the ground and the needs of both sides.”
    Last week, Obama said Israeli-Palestinian peace talks should be based on the pre-’67 lines, with mutually agreed swaps. He also said the difficult issues of Jerusalem and the right of return for Palestinian refugees should be deferred for later. In response, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called such borders “indefensible.”
    “If there is a controversy, it’s not based on substance,” Obama said Sunday. “What I did on Thursday was to say publicly what has long been acknowledged privately.”… – JTA, 5-22-11
  • Obama Challenges Israel to Make Hard Choices: President Obama struck back at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel in a speech to a pro-Israel lobbying group on Sunday, defending his stance that talks over a Palestinian state should be focused on Israel’s pre-1967 borders, along with negotiated land swaps, and challenging Israel to “make the hard choices” necessary to bring about a stable peace.
    Mr. Obama, speaking before a conference of the influential American Israel Public Affairs Committee, offered familiar assurances that the United States’ commitment to Israel’s long-term security was “ironclad.” But citing the rising political upheaval near Israel’s borders, he presented his peace plan as the best chance Israel has to avoid growing isolation.
    “We cannot afford to wait another decade, or another two decades, or another three decades, to achieve peace,” Mr. Obama said. The world, he said, “is moving too fast.”
    Administration officials said it would be up to Mr. Obama, during an economic summit in Paris next weekend, to try to talk his European counterparts out of endorsing Palestinian statehood in a coming United Nations vote, a prospect that would deeply embarrass Israel. Some French officials have already indicated that they are leaning toward such an endorsement.
    “He basically said, ‘I can continue defending you to the hilt, but if you give me nothing to work with, even America can’t save you,’ ” said Daniel Levy, a former Israeli peace negotiator and a fellow at the New America Foundation, a nonpartisan research group.
    The appearance by Mr. Obama on Sunday punctuated a tense week in which he and Mr. Netanyahu made their separate cases about Palestinian statehood to American audiences. Mr. Netanyahu will address the same group on Monday and will speak before Congress on Tuesday at the invitation of Republican lawmakers…. – NYT, 5-22-11
  • Obama seeks to reassure Israel on Mideast policy in speech at AIPAC conference: President Obama sought to reassure Israel and its supporters of “ironclad” U.S. support Sunday in a speech to a Jewish lobbying group that also warned that time could be running out for a peace accord with Palestinians.
    Obama, wading afresh into a topic that evoked anger from Israeli leaders last week, insisted again that 1967 boundary lines should be the starting point for talks on a new Palestinian state. But he allowed that the dividing line would be negotiated to accommodate Israeli settlements and security needs.
    “Israelis and Palestinians will negotiate a border that is different than the one that existed on June 4, 1967,” Obama told the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) at its annual conference in Washington.
    While sticking to the views he outlined in a Middle East policy speech Thursday, Obama more clearly aligned his position on borders to one espoused by the George W. Bush administration in 2004. The Bush White House had concluded that a return to the precise boundaries that existed before the 1967 Arab-Israeli War was “not realistic,” because of the presence of large Jewish settlements in the West Bank.
    Acknowledging that Israel faced “hard choices” and security risks, Obama argued that stalling on peace negotiations posed even greater dangers for the country’s survival. The Arab Spring movement and changing demographic forces — including growing numbers of Palestinians west of the Jordan River — present long-term challenges to Israel that will be resolved only by the creation of separate homelands for Jews and Palestinians, he said.
    “No matter how hard it may be to start meaningful negotiations under current circumstances, we must acknowledge that a failure to try is not an option,” he said. “The status quo is unsustainable.”
    “No country can be expected to negotiate with a terrorist organization sworn to its destruction,” he said.
    Obama said he was not surprised by the uproar over his Thursday speech but added that “if there is controversy, it is not based on substance.”
    “What I did on Thursday was to say publicly what has long been acknowledged privately,” he said. “I’ve done so because we can’t afford to wait another decade, or another two decades, or another three decades to achieve peace. The world is moving too fast. The extraordinary challenges facing Israel will only grow. Delay will undermine Israel’s security and the peace that the Israeli people deserve.:”… – WaPo, 5-22-11
  • Obama to AIPAC: I won’t back down on Israel-Palestine border issue: Speaking to AIPAC Sunday, President Obama repeated his position that Israel-Palestine peace negotiations must acknowledge the 1967 borders as a starting point. But he also emphasized that US commitment to Israel’s security is ‘ironclad.’
    President Obama is not backing down on how to solve the Israel-Palestine border issue in achieving peace in the Middle East.
    Speaking Sunday to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee – which identifies itself as America’s leading pro-Israel lobby – Obama reiterated his stance: Any negotiation has to begin by acknowledging the 1967 borders before the Six-Day War in which Israel occupied land in Jordan, Syria, and Egypt.
    Speaking to AIPAC Sunday, Obama sought to clarify what he had meant on Thursday regarding the 1967 borders.
    “By definition, it means that the parties themselves – Israelis and Palestinians – will negotiate a border that is different than the one that existed on June 4, 1967,” Obama said. “It allows the parties themselves to account for the changes that have taken place over the last 44 years. It allows the parties themselves to take account of those changes, including the new demographic realities on the ground, and the needs of both sides.”
    “The ultimate goal is two states for two people,” he said, “Israel as a Jewish state and the homeland for the Jewish people – and the State of Palestine as the homeland for the Palestinian people – each state in joined self-determination, mutual recognition, and peace.”… – CS Monitor, 5-22-11
  • Mideast Obama restates call for ‘1967 lines’ in Israeli-Palestinian talks: Unwilling to retreat from Benjamin Netanyahu’s angry outbursts, Barack Obama warned thousands of ardent pro-Israelis that finding a lasting peace with Palestinians begins with Israel’s pre-1967 frontiers.
    The U.S. President’s tone was soothing and his speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee placatory, but he didn’t budge from his statement last week that has sparked a furor and the remarkable spectacle of an Israeli prime minister publicly disputing an American president in the Oval Office.
    As Mr. Obama reiterated Sunday, it remains the obvious – if not explicitly stated position by any previous president – that negotiating boundaries for a Palestinian state begins with Israel’s frontiers before the lightning war of June 1967, when Israel defeated Egypt, Syria and Jordan, seizing and occupying the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, the Golan Heights and the revered walled city of old Jerusalem.
    “If there is a controversy, then, it’s not based in substance,” Mr. Obama said, added that he has said nothing new or startling, although his reference to “1967 lines” drew scattered boos from the audience that has been explicitly told to respectively receive speakers, even if they disagree.
    “It was my reference to the 1967 lines – with mutually agreed swaps – that received the lion’s share of the attention, including just now,” Mr. Obama said. He said his position has been “misrepresented” although he didn’t call out Mr. Netanyahu – who will deliver his own version of the way forward Monday to the 10,000-plus AIPAC at the most powerful pro-Israeli group’s annual convention. (The blunt-speaking Israeli leader – whose relationship with Mr. Obama has ranged from distant to frosty – will give a speech Tuesday to a joint session of Congress.)
    “What I did on Thursday was to say publicly what has long been acknowledged privately,” Mr. Obama said. “I’ve done so because we can’t afford to wait another decade, or another two decades, or another three decades to achieve peace.” “Delay will undermine security,” he added…. – The Globe & Mail, 5-22-11
  • Obama Quotes Talmud at AIPAC, Tells Hamas “Release Shalit”: In an address aimed at placating his disgruntled Jewish supporters, President Barack Obama told his audience of over 10,000 at the annual AIPAC policy conference in Washington, D.C. on Sunday that “a strong and secure Israel is in the interest of the United States and the bond between our two vibrant democracies must be nurtured.”
    He maintained that he did not say anything fundamentally new in his Thursday speech, when he mentioned the “1967 borders” as a basis for future peace
    Taking intense criticism from pro-Israel supporters since then, when he called for Israel to negotiate a future Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders, he sought to heal wounds by enumerating actions taken by the US to foster Israel’s security…. – Virtual Jerusalem Post, 5-22-11
  • Obama, at AIPAC, takes on the 1967 borders issue: An interesting morning at the AIPAC policy conference. Then again, how could it not be with President Barack Obama addressing more than 10,000 participants only days after giving a major policy address on the Middle East?
    I half expected a purely political speech, reaffirming his strong support for Israel, using key slogans like Israel’s qualitative military edge and banging away at Iran, and avoiding his call the other day for peace negotiations kith the Palestinians based on the 1967, with negotiated land swaps.
    In an almost stern tone, he referred to how his comments have been “misrepresented” – presumably by those pro-Israel activists who say he called for a return to the exact borders of 1967, which polite critics call “indefensible” and less polite ones call “Auschwitz borders.”
    He said that “1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps” means that “the parties themselves – Israelis and Palestinians – will negotiate a border that is different than the one that existed on June 4, 1967. It is a well known formula to all who have worked on this issue for a generation. It allows the parties themselves to account for the changes that have taken place over the last forty-four years, including the new demographic realities on the ground and the needs of both sides. The ultimate goal is two states for two peoples. Israel as a Jewish state and the homeland for the Jewish people, and the state of Palestine as the homeland for the Palestinian people; each state enjoying self-determination, mutual recognition, and peace.”
    Then, an almost chiding tone: “If there’s a controversy, then, it’s not based in substance. What I did on Thursday was to say publicly what has long been acknowledged privately. I have done so because we cannot afford to wait another decade, or another two decades, or another three decades, to achieve peace. The world is moving too fast. The extraordinary challenges facing Israel would only grow. Delay will undermine Israel’s security and the peace that the Israeli people deserve.”
    His core argument: with the winds of change sweeping across the Arab world, with growing attempts to delegitimize Israel – which he promised his administration would “steadfastly” oppose – and with the Palestinian effort to bypass direct negotiations with its UN General Assembly gambit, the “status quo is unsustainable” and time is running out…. – The NY Jewish Week, 5-22-11
  • Protests Break Out at AIPAC During Obama’s Speech: KnightNews.com has a crew in Washington D.C. where protests against Israeli and US foreign policy are breaking out outside the AIPAC convention.
    KnightNews.com ilive streamed video of the protests, and we have concluded the live stream to go inside the conference and get video interviews with the other side. An updated video story with both sides will be posted as soon as possible. The protests came before, during and after US President Barack Obama spoke at the conference…. – Knight News, 5-22-11
  • ’67 lines not top Mideast peace hurdle: US lawmaker: Palestinian refusal to accept Israel’s right to exist remains the primary impasse for Mideast peace, and not the recently revised dispute over territorial lines, the Republican US House majority leader said Sunday.
    Representative Eric Cantor, the most senior Jewish member in House history, also told the powerful American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s annual policy conference that it was time for the Arab world and Palestinians in particular to stop “scapegoating” Israel and to earn their statehood by renouncing violence.
    A Palestinian “culture infused with resentment and hatred” over the Jewish state is stymieing the peace process, which has all but frozen in recent months, and whose future is in turmoil with the Palestinian Authority recently signing a unity pact with Hamas, which Washington considers a terrorist group.
    “It is this culture that underlies the Palestinians’ and the broader Arab world’s refusal to accept Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state,” Cantor said told some 10,000 delegates at AIPAC’s annual policy conference.
    “This is the root of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. It is not about the ’67 lines,” he said to a rousing standing ovation.
    “And until Israel’s enemies come to terms with this reality, a true peace will be impossible.”… – AFP, 5-22-11
  • Several GOP presidential hopefuls to attend AIPAC Conference: As President Barack Obama’s Mideast speech this week came under fire from many in the Republican Party for not being supportive enough of Israel, several GOP prospective presidential candidates will be appearing this week at a major event sponsored by a key American Israeli lobbying organization.
    Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Rep. Michele Bachmann, businessman Herman Cain and former U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman will attend a policy conference of the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee, Ari Goldberg, a spokesman for the group, confirmed to CNN.
    Obama will be making his first appearance as president before an AIPAC event when he addresses the conference Sunday morning. Several leading members of Congress are also scheduled to speak at the event…. – CNN, 5-21-11
  • Palin slams Obama, supports Israel: Former Alaska governor says US should defend Israel against enemies, adds her primary goal is to make sure Obama not reelected
    Former Alaska Governor and vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin slammed Barack Obama’s Mideast policy speech, saying that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “does not need to be lectured by President Obama on the importance of peace. He understands it.”
    In an interview for Fox News on Saturday, Palin went on to speak in support of the Jewish state: “Anyone who studies history, studies the Old Testament, studies geography understands that Israel now is surrounded by enemies at all times,” she said. “It should be now that America takes a stand in defending our enemies in Israel.
    “More than ever we should be standing strong with Israel and saying ‘No, you don’t have to divide Jerusalem, you don’t have to divide your capital city,’” she added.
    She continued to attack Obama, saying his foreign policy “really makes no sense.”
    “I’m going to call him our temporary leader because my goal is to make sure that President Obama is not reelected in 2012,” she said.
    Palin, who has yet to decide whether to run for president in the coming elections, wasn’t the only Republican to express disapproval of Obama following his tense weekend meeting with Netanyahu.
    Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts and a prominent contender for the Republican presidential nomination, said that Obama “threw Israel under the bus.”
    “He has disrespected Israel and undermined its ability to negotiate peace,” Romney said.
    Tim Pawlenty, another Republican presidential hopeful, called Obama’s demand for Israel to return to 1967 borders a “disaster waiting to happen.”… – YNet News, 5-22-11
  • Ottawa won’t back Obama’s Mideast peace proposal: The Harper government is refusing to join the United States in calling for a return to 1967 borders as a starting point for Mideast peace, a position that has drawn sharp criticism from Canada’s staunch ally Israel.
    At a briefing ahead of the upcoming G8 summit in France, federal officials said the basis for the negotiations must be mutually agreed upon.
    Israel quickly rejected U.S. President Barack Obama’s proposal for the talks to be guided by the 1967 borders, with mutually agreed land swaps.
    “What the government of Canada supports is basically a two-state solution that is negotiated,” a senior federal official said. “If it’s border, if it’s others issues, it has to be negotiated, it cannot be unilateral action.”
    Pressed by reporters, federal officials said both the Israelis and the Palestinians have to decide on their bottom lines, which the Israelis have said will not include a return to the 1967 border.
    “If the two parties are of the view that this is a starting point, that is fine for them,” said the federal official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
    The Prime Minister’s director of communications, Dimitri Soudas, added that Canada’s position continues to be the search for a two-state solution.
    “No solution, ultimately, is possible without both parties sitting down, negotiating and agreeing on what that final outcome will look like,” he said…. – The Globe & Mail, 5-22-11
  • Israel ‘approves new West Bank settler homes’: Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak has approved the construction of 294 new homes in Beitar Ilit settlement on the occupied West Bank, anti-settlement NGO Peace Now reported on Sunday.
    It also said that work had started on more than 2,000 settler homes since the end in September of Israel’s 10-month freeze on Jewish construction on Palestinian land.
    Peace Now made its announcement as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was in Washington preparing to address the US Congress and a powerful pro-Israel lobby, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).
    It said Barak has also approved building of homes for the elderly and a shopping centre in the settlement of Efrat…. – AFP, 5-22-11

QUOTES

  • Remarks by the President at the AIPAC Policy Conference 2011 Walter E. Washington Convention Center Washington, D.C.: THE PRESIDENT: ….Now, I’m not here to subject you to a long policy speech. I gave one on Thursday in which I said that the United States sees the historic changes sweeping the Middle East and North Africa as a moment of great challenge, but also a moment of opportunity for greater peace and security for the entire region, including the State of Israel.
    On Friday, I was joined at the White House by Prime Minister Netanyahu, and we reaffirmed — (applause) — we reaffirmed that fundamental truth that has guided our presidents and prime ministers for more than 60 years — that even while we may at times disagree, as friends sometimes will, the bonds between the United States and Israel are unbreakable — (applause) — and the commitment of the United States to the security of Israel is ironclad. (Applause.)
    A strong and secure Israel is in the national security interest of the United States not simply because we share strategic interests, although we do both seek a region where families and children can live free from the threat of violence. It’s not simply because we face common dangers, although there can be no denying that terrorism and the spread of nuclear weapons are grave threats to both our nations.
    America’s commitment to Israel’s security flows from a deeper place — and that’s the values we share. As two people who struggled to win our freedom against overwhelming odds, we understand that preserving the security for which our forefathers — and foremothers — fought must be the work of every generation. As two vibrant democracies, we recognize that the liberties and freedoms we cherish must be constantly nurtured. And as the nation that recognized the State of Israel moments after its independence, we have a profound commitment to its survival as a strong, secure homeland for the Jewish people. (Applause.)
    We also know how difficult that search for security can be, especially for a small nation like Israel living in a very tough neighborhood. I’ve seen it firsthand. When I touched my hand against the Western Wall and placed my prayer between its ancient stones, I thought of all the centuries that the children of Israel had longed to return to their ancient homeland. When I went to Sderot and saw the daily struggle to survive in the eyes of an eight-year-old boy who lost his leg to a Hamas rocket, and when I walked among the Hall of Names at Yad Vashem, I was reminded of the existential fear of Israelis when a modern dictator seeks nuclear weapons and threatens to wipe Israel off the face of the map — face of the Earth.
    Because we understand the challenges Israel faces, I and my administration have made the security of Israel a priority. It’s why we’ve increased cooperation between our militaries to unprecedented levels. It’s why we’re making our most advanced technologies available to our Israeli allies. (Applause.) It’s why, despite tough fiscal times, we’ve increased foreign military financing to record levels. (Applause.) And that includes additional support –- beyond regular military aid -– for the Iron Dome anti-rocket system. (Applause.) A powerful example of American-Israeli cooperation — a powerful example of American-Israeli cooperation which has already intercepted rockets from Gaza and helped saved Israeli lives. So make no mistake, we will maintain Israel’s qualitative military edge. (Applause.)
    You also see our commitment to our shared security in our determination to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. (Applause.) Here in the United States, we’ve imposed the toughest sanctions ever on the Iranian regime. (Applause.) At the United Nations, under our leadership, we’ve secured the most comprehensive international sanctions on the regime, which have been joined by allies and partners around the world. Today, Iran is virtually cut off from large parts of the international financial system, and we’re going to keep up the pressure. So let me be absolutely clear –- we remain committed to preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. (Applause.)
    Its illicit nuclear program is just one challenge that Iran poses. As I said on Thursday, the Iranian government has shown its hypocrisy by claiming to support the rights of protesters while treating its own people with brutality. Moreover, Iran continues to support terrorism across the region, including providing weapons and funds to terrorist organizations. So we will continue to work to prevent these actions, and we will stand up to groups like Hezbollah, who exercise political assassination and seek to impose their will through rockets and car bombs.
    You also see our commitment to Israel’s security in our steadfast opposition to any attempt to de-legitimize the State of Israel. (Applause.) As I said at the United Nations last year, “Israel’s existence must not be a subject for debate,” and “efforts to chip away at Israel’s legitimacy will only be met by the unshakeable opposition of the United States.” (Applause.)
    So when the Durban Review Conference advanced anti-Israel sentiment, we withdrew. In the wake of the Goldstone Report, we stood up strongly for Israel’s right to defend itself. (Applause.) When an effort was made to insert the United Nations into matters that should be resolved through direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, we vetoed it. (Applause.)
    And so, in both word and deed, we have been unwavering in our support of Israel’s security. (Applause.) And it is precisely because of our commitment to Israel’s long-term security that we have worked to advance peace between Israelis and Palestinians. (Applause.)
    Now, I have said repeatedly that core issues can only be negotiated in direct talks between the parties. (Applause.) And I indicated on Thursday that the recent agreement between Fatah and Hamas poses an enormous obstacle to peace. (Applause.) No country can be expected to negotiate with a terrorist organization sworn to its destruction. (Applause.) And we will continue to demand that Hamas accept the basic responsibilities of peace, including recognizing Israel’s right to exist and rejecting violence and adhering to all existing agreements. (Applause.) And we once again call on Hamas to release Gilad Shalit, who has been kept from his family for five long years. (Applause.)
    And yet, no matter how hard it may be to start meaningful negotiations under current circumstances, we must acknowledge that a failure to try is not an option. The status quo is unsustainable. And that is why on Thursday I stated publicly the principles that the United States believes can provide a foundation for negotiations toward an agreement to end the conflict and all claims — the broad outlines of which have been known for many years, and have been the template for discussions between the United States, Israel, and the Palestinians since at least the Clinton administration.
    I know that stating these principles — on the issues of territory and security — generated some controversy over the past few days. (Laughter.) I wasn’t surprised. I know very well that the easy thing to do, particularly for a President preparing for reelection, is to avoid any controversy. I don’t need Rahm to tell me that. Don’t need Axelrod to tell me that. But I said to Prime Minister Netanyahu, I believe that the current situation in the Middle East does not allow for procrastination. I also believe that real friends talk openly and honestly with one another. (Applause.) So I want to share with you some of what I said to the Prime Minister.
    Here are the facts we all must confront. First, the number of Palestinians living west of the Jordan River is growing rapidly and fundamentally reshaping the demographic realities of both Israel and the Palestinian Territories. This will make it harder and harder — without a peace deal — to maintain Israel as both a Jewish state and a democratic state.
    Second, technology will make it harder for Israel to defend itself in the absence of a genuine peace.
    Third, a new generation of Arabs is reshaping the region. A just and lasting peace can no longer be forged with one or two Arab leaders. Going forward, millions of Arab citizens have to see that peace is possible for that peace to be sustained.
    And just as the context has changed in the Middle East, so too has it been changing in the international community over the last several years. There’s a reason why the Palestinians are pursuing their interests at the United Nations. They recognize that there is an impatience with the peace process, or the absence of one, not just in the Arab World — in Latin America, in Asia, and in Europe. And that impatience is growing, and it’s already manifesting itself in capitals around the world.
    And those are the facts. I firmly believe, and I repeated on Thursday, that peace cannot be imposed on the parties to the conflict. No vote at the United Nations will ever create an independent Palestinian state. And the United States will stand up against efforts to single Israel out at the United Nations or in any international forum. (Applause.) Israel’s legitimacy is not a matter for debate. That is my commitment; that is my pledge to all of you. (Applause.)
    Moreover, we know that peace demands a partner –- which is why I said that Israel cannot be expected to negotiate with Palestinians who do not recognize its right to exist. (Applause.) And we will hold the Palestinians accountable for their actions and for their rhetoric. (Applause.)
    But the march to isolate Israel internationally — and the impulse of the Palestinians to abandon negotiations –- will continue to gain momentum in the absence of a credible peace process and alternative. And for us to have leverage with the Palestinians, to have leverage with the Arab States and with the international community, the basis for negotiations has to hold out the prospect of success. And so, in advance of a five-day trip to Europe in which the Middle East will be a topic of acute interest, I chose to speak about what peace will require.
    There was nothing particularly original in my proposal; this basic framework for negotiations has long been the basis for discussions among the parties, including previous U.S. administrations. Since questions have been raised, let me repeat what I actually said on Thursday — not what I was reported to have said.
    I said that the United States believes that negotiations should result in two states, with permanent Palestinian borders with Israel, Jordan, and Egypt, and permanent Israeli borders with Palestine. The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps — (applause) — so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states. The Palestinian people must have the right to govern themselves, and reach their potential, in a sovereign and contiguous state.
    As for security, every state has the right to self-defense, and Israel must be able to defend itself –- by itself -– against any threat. (Applause.) Provisions must also be robust enough to prevent a resurgence of terrorism, to stop the infiltration of weapons, and to provide effective border security. (Applause.) And a full and phased withdrawal of Israeli military forces should be coordinated with the assumption of Palestinian security responsibility in a sovereign and non-militarized state. (Applause.) And the duration of this transition period must be agreed, and the effectiveness of security arrangements must be demonstrated. (Applause.)
    Now, that is what I said. And it was my reference to the 1967 lines — with mutually agreed swaps — that received the lion’s share of the attention, including just now. And since my position has been misrepresented several times, let me reaffirm what “1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps” means.
    By definition, it means that the parties themselves -– Israelis and Palestinians -– will negotiate a border that is different than the one that existed on June 4, 1967. (Applause.) That’s what mutually agreed-upon swaps means. It is a well-known formula to all who have worked on this issue for a generation. It allows the parties themselves to account for the changes that have taken place over the last 44 years. (Applause.) It allows the parties themselves to take account of those changes, including the new demographic realities on the ground, and the needs of both sides. The ultimate goal is two states for two people: Israel as a Jewish state and the homeland for the Jewish people — (applause) — and the State of Palestine as the homeland for the Palestinian people — each state in joined self-determination, mutual recognition, and peace. (Applause.)
    If there is a controversy, then, it’s not based in substance. What I did on Thursday was to say publicly what has long been acknowledged privately. I’ve done so because we can’t afford to wait another decade, or another two decades, or another three decades to achieve peace. (Applause.) The world is moving too fast. The world is moving too fast. The extraordinary challenges facing Israel will only grow. Delay will undermine Israel’s security and the peace that the Israeli people deserve.
    Now, I know that some of you will disagree with this assessment. I respect that. And as fellow Americans and friends of Israel, I know we can have this discussion.
    Ultimately, it is the right and the responsibility of the Israeli government to make the hard choices that are necessary to protect a Jewish and democratic state for which so many generations have sacrificed. (Applause.) And as a friend of Israel, I’m committed to doing our part to see that this goal is realized. And I will call not just on Israel, but on the Palestinians, on the Arab States, and the international community to join us in this effort, because the burden of making hard choices must not be Israel’s alone. (Applause.)
    But even as we do all that’s necessary to ensure Israel’s security, even as we are clear-eyed about the difficult challenges before us, and even as we pledge to stand by Israel through whatever tough days lie ahead, I hope we do not give up on that vision of peace. For if history teaches us anything, if the story of Israel teaches us anything, it is that with courage and resolve, progress is possible. Peace is possible.
    The Talmud teaches us that, “So long as a person still has life, they should never abandon faith.” And that lesson seems especially fitting today.
    For so long as there are those across the Middle East and beyond who are standing up for the legitimate rights and freedoms which have been denied by their governments, the United States will never abandon our support for those rights that are universal.
    And so long as there are those who long for a better future, we will never abandon our pursuit of a just and lasting peace that ends this conflict with two states living side by side in peace and security. This is not idealism; it is not naïveté. It is a hard-headed recognition that a genuine peace is the only path that will ultimately provide for a peaceful Palestine as the homeland of the Palestinian people and a Jewish state of Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people. (Applause.) That is my goal, and I look forward to continuing to work with AIPAC to achieve that goal.
    Thank you. God bless you. God bless Israel, and God bless the United States of America. (Applause.) Thank you. – Transcript
  • Gene Simmons Slams President Obama’s Israel Policy: ‘He Has No F-Ing Idea What The World Is Like’Breitbart, 5-22-11
  • Sarah Palin Criticizes Obama on Israel; Calls Him ‘Temporary Leader’: In an interview with Fox News’ Judge Jeanine on Saturday, Palin spoke in support of the Jewish state, saying, “Anyone who studies history, studies the Old Testament, studies geography understands that Israel now is surrounded by enemies at all times.
    “It should be now that America takes a stand in defending our friends in Israel.”
    Obama has been drawing fire from Republicans after delivering a major speech on Thursday. In it, he stated, “The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states.”
    Also rejecting Obama’s stance, Palin stated on Fox, “To tell Israel that now they have to pull back from their homeland, that they have to concede even more, and that they have to negotiate with terrorists, with Hamas, having been a part now joining in the unity government under Palestinian authority, we’re flirting with disaster under President Obama’s very clouded, very murky foreign policy as it applies to Israel.”
    What the U.S. should be doing more than ever is “standing strong with Israel and saying, ‘No, you don’t have to divide Jerusalem, you don’t have to divide your capital city,’” she continued.
    Palin commented, “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu does not need to be lectured by President Obama on the importance of peace. He understands it.”
    “I’m going to call him a temporary leader, because my goal is to make sure that President Obama is not reelected in 2012,” she said on Fox.
    “We the people need to rise up, saying we’ll take a stand for Israel. We’ll be on their side, no matter if our ‘temporary leader’ sides with terrorists and demands Israel negotiate with terrorists.
    “Until President Obama is replaced by a president who understands the importance of treating our friends right and being strong against our enemies – until that happens – it’s ‘We the People’ who have to rise up and make sure that Israel knows they have friends here.”… – Christian Post, 5-21-11
  • Newt Gingrich Leads Criticism on Obama’s Israel-Palestine Remarks: Republican presidential hopeful and Catholic convert Newt Gingrich has labeled President Obama’s Israeli-Palestinian policy a “disaster” during Sunday’s CBS program “Face the Nation.”
    Outspoken Gingrich said Obama’s remarks were “extraordinarily dangerous,” and further stated that “a president who can’t control his own border probably shouldn’t lecture Israel about their border.”
    Gingrich was referring to Obama’s comments this week that Israeli-Palestinian negotiations be based on border demarcations from before the six-day war in 1967, in which Israel seized the West Bank, Gaza Strip among other territories. Furthermore, he stated that potential agreements should include land swap deals to reflect changes over recent decades.
    Gingrich said on “Face the Nation:” “I think that defining the 1967 border would be an act of suicide for Israel. They are totally non-defensible.
    “You have Hamas, which is a terrorist organization whose stated goal is the destruction of Israel. The idea that somehow we’re supposed to be neutral between Hamas and Israel is fundamentally flawed and I do not believe that we should have any pressure on Israel as long as Hamas’ policy is the destruction of Israel and as long as missiles are being fired into Israel and terrorists are preparing to try to kill Israelis.”
    Gingrich is not the only one condemning Obama’s stance towards Israel; Congressman Ron Paul has also issued a blistering critique of Obama’s recent proposals.
    “Unlike this President, I do not believe it is our place to dictate how Israel runs her affairs,” the Texas Republican said in a press statement.
    “There can only be peace in the region if those sides work out their differences among one another. We should respect Israel’s sovereignty and not try to dictate her policy from Washington,” he added…. – Christian Post, 5-22-11
  • MK Katz Warns AIPAC, ‘Obama Put a Gun to Israel’s Head’: “Don’t fall for U.S. President Barack Obama’s magical oratory. He put a gun to Israel’s head and asked it to commit suicide,” National Union chairman and Knesset Member Yaakov (Ketzaleh) Katz MK wrote the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Sunday.
    The legislator continued, “I urge you not to be captured by his magic tongue because he actually is asking you for your votes and your money.”
    MK Katz wrote to AIPAC committee members, “The People of Israel, in the Diaspora for 2,000 years, developed a sense of who loves us and who hates us. President Obama knows very well that former Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban described the 1967 borders as ‘Auschwitz borders.'”
    “The People of Israel will not fall for the false charm of posters, slogans, cellophane wrappers of sweetened drugs of death”, he concluded. – Israel National News, 5-22-11
  • Livni on Obama speech: US and Israel have shared interests: Opposition leader Tzipi Livni on Sunday commented on US President Barack Obama’s speech to AIPAC earlier, saying “The principle of Israel’s security and the need to arrive at a two-state solution, one of which is the State of Israel, is first of all an Israeli interest. Therefore, we need to be going in this direction in our partnership with the US.”
    “It’s important to understand that the entire world looks at the relationship between Israel and the United States, especially those who still do not accept our existence here. And part of Israel’s deterrence capability comes from the understanding that we are working together [with the US]. Therefore, there is a very important message coming from Washington these days,” Livni said.
    She stressed, “The things that Obama mentioned represent a long-standing American policy. We have shared interests. This is very important to Israel, so that it can once and for all advance the process to prevent unilateral moves at the United Nations.” – JPost, 5-22-11
  • Eric Cantor: Israel is America’s Most Loyal Ally: Republican Eric Cantor, the GOP majority leader in the House of Representatives, addressed the attendees of the annual AIPAC policy conference in Washington, D.C. on Sunday.
    Speaking of his immigrant roots and of his pride of being Jewish, Cantor told the audience that “America needs Israel as it is our most stable and loyal ally,” adding that “America must do everything in its power to protect Israel. It is okay to vilify Israel but it is not okay to scapegoat Israel.”
    He addressed the conflict between Israelis and Arabs and said that the root of the conflict is not the so-called 1967 lines (the 1949 armistice lines which defense experts have said would be indefensible), but rather the refusal of the Palestinian Authority to recognize Israel. Israel wants to live in peace, said Cantor, but PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has to stop promoting hate and should come to the negotiating table. Until that happens, noted Cantor, there can be no peace, particularly with Hamas being part of the PA government…. Israel National News, 5-22-11

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

  • Gil Troy: Despite the talk about “Obama’s Mideast speech” Thursday, I actually heard two separate addresses. In the first, President Barack Obama offered vague nostrums about the “Arab spring,” best summarized in three words: Democracy is good. Obama transitioned awkwardly to the second speech, about Israelis and Palestinians, saying: “Let me conclude by talking about another cornerstone of our approach to the region, and that relates to the pursuit of peace.” In this section, the professorial president turned from airy abstractions to problematic particulars. Although it was impossible to predict America’s next move in the Arab world from the speech’s first part, we now know exactly how an Israel-Palestine peace treaty would look if Obama could dictate it and those annoying people who live there would just follow….
    Even more problematic was his call for “the borders of Israel and Palestine” to “be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps.” These words not only seem to contradict George W. Bush’s vow to Ariel Sharon based on decades of American policy, but the deification of 1967 boundaries lacks historical nuance in a region obsessed with nuance and history.
    The logical starting point in advocating a two-state solution comes by acknowledging that in the region particular borders shifted and populations moved. Anyone who talks about people frozen in place for centuries or borders as if they were permamarked on a map is either a fool or a fanatic. Bible-based Israelis must admit that the boundaries of Biblical land of Israel, varied, just as passionate Palestinians must admit that the boundaries of Palestine-Israel in the twentieth-century alone shifted repeatedly.
    We cannot undo history and we must move forward, from 2011, trying to minimize disruptions to populations while maximizing satisfaction on both sides. Rather than trying to freeze one random moment in historical time, demography and the current status quo should be our guides, tempered by sensitivity, creativity, and a touch but not too much historicity. Obama’s overlooked line about the “growing number of Palestinians [who] live west of the Jordan River,” explains why each of the two clashing people should have a state. Peace will work if it passes the test of what Obama called populism, working logically for many people today, not at some random point from the past.
    Obama did speak beautifully about “a choice between hate and hope; between the shackles of the past and the promise of the future.” Alas, this speech did not do enough to buttress the forces of hope over hate, and by feeding the 1967 obsession, Obama himself was too shackled to one unhelpful perspective on the past.

Gil Troy: Obama Offered Two Speeches in One — Neither Worked

By Gil Troy

Despite the talk about “Obama’s Mideast speech” Thursday, I actually heard two separate addresses. In the first, President Barack Obama offered vague nostrums about the “Arab spring,” best summarized in three words:  Democracy is good. Obama transitioned awkwardly to the second speech, about Israelis and Palestinians, saying: “Let me conclude by talking about another cornerstone of our approach to the region, and that relates to the pursuit of peace.” In this section, the professorial president turned from airy abstractions to problematic particulars. Although it was impossible to predict America’s next move in the Arab world from the speech’s first part, we now know exactly how an Israel-Palestine peace treaty would look if Obama could dictate it and those annoying people who live there would just follow.

Sophisticated cinema buffs will have identified the inspiration for the “Democracy is good” quotation – that frat house classic, “Animal House.” In the fictitious campus where the movie’s hijinks occur, the founder’s statue features the empty motto “Knowledge is good.” Of course it is, and so is democracy – for many of the reasons Obama identified. But I defy anyone, based on that speech, to explain why Obama abandoned Hosni Mubarak in Egypt rather quickly, attacked Muhammar Qaddafi very definitively, and dithered with Bashar al-Assad, only abandoning him quite recently. Moreover, can anyone predict Obama’s next move based on this speech or identify just what principles will guide him?

Having failed the tests of consistency and retroactivity, Obama’s words also lacked clarity. The biggest conundrum he faces as various Arab allies face popular revolts, and as other Arab countries potentially face Islamist revolts, is how he balances America’s interest and ideals. Obama identified “core interests,” including “countering terrorism and stopping the spread of nuclear weapons; securing the free flow of commerce and safe-guarding the security of the region; standing up for Israel’s security and pursuing Arab-Israeli peace.” He endorsed finding “mutual interests and mutual respect.” But how to balance all those factors is difficult. I have no idea how to do that, which is why I am happy not to be president. But, as a voter, I have no idea how Obama plans to do it either.

Finally, and surprisingly, Obama’s words lacked legs. Not one phrase seems likely to resonate. And judging by the Franklin Roosevelt majestic, memorable, “four freedoms” standard, Obama’s “universal rights” are mushy and forgettable.  Compare Roosevelt: freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, freedom from fear – with Obama – “And these rights include free speech, the freedom of peaceful assembly, the freedom of religion, equality for men and women under the rule of law, and the right to choose your own leaders -– whether you live in Baghdad or Damascus, Sanaa or Tehran.” The “Yes We Can” poet of 2008, has become the technocratic cataloguer of 2011, forgetting basic rules like the power of parallelism in rhetoric.

Not surprisingly, Obama’s more specific and pointed Israel-Palestine peace plan has attracted the most attention – and controversy. Here, by being too specific, Obama once again complicated future negotiations. As President of the United States, dealing with understandably nervous allies in an explosive region, he had a moral obligation to reconcile his proposal with his predecessor’s plans, acknowledging if he was deviating from an earlier consensus while upholding commitments earlier Presidents have made.

Yet, in discussing Hamas, Obama ignored the conditions the Quartet of the European Union, the United States, Russia and the United Nations embraced – requiring the Palestinian government to recognize Israel, renounce violence and honor past agreements.  Asking Palestinians to find a “credible answer to the question … How can one negotiate with a party that has shown itself unwilling to recognize your right to exist” is a start – but lacks the specifics Obama’s predecessor and allies endorsed.

Even more problematic was his call for “the borders of Israel and Palestine” to “be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps.” These words not only seem to contradict George W. Bush’s vow to Ariel Sharon based on decades of American policy, but the deification of 1967 boundaries lacks historical nuance in a region obsessed with nuance and history.

The logical starting point in advocating a two-state solution comes by acknowledging that in the region particular borders shifted and populations moved. Anyone who talks about people frozen in place for centuries or borders as if they were permamarked on a map is either a fool or a fanatic. Bible-based Israelis must admit that the boundaries of  Biblical land of Israel, varied, just as passionate Palestinians must admit that the boundaries of Palestine-Israel in the twentieth-century alone shifted repeatedly.

We cannot undo history and we must move forward, from 2011, trying to minimize disruptions to populations while maximizing satisfaction on both sides. Rather than trying to freeze one random moment in historical time, demography and the current status quo should be our guides, tempered by sensitivity, creativity, and a touch but not too much historicity. Obama’s overlooked line about the “growing number of Palestinians [who] live west of the Jordan River,” explains why each of the two clashing people should have a state. Peace will work if it passes the test of what Obama called populism, working logically for many people today, not at some random point from the past.

Obama did speak beautifully about “a choice between hate and hope; between the shackles of the past and the promise of the future.” Alas, this speech did not do enough to buttress the forces of hope over hate, and by feeding the 1967 obsession, Obama himself was too shackled to one unhelpful perspective on the past.

Full Text: US President Barack Obama & Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Joint Press Conference

Remarks by President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel After Bilateral Meeting

President Barack Obama meets with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, in the Oval Office, May 20, 2011. (by Pete Souza)

Oval Office

1:35 P.M. EDT

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Well, let me, first of all, welcome again Prime Minister Netanyahu, who I think has now been here seven times during the course of my presidency.  And I want to indicate that the frequency of these meetings is an indication of the extraordinary bonds between our two countries, as is the opportunity for the Prime Minister to address Congress during his visit here.  I know that’s an honor that’s reserved for those who have always shown themselves to be a great friend of the United States and is indicative of the friendship between our countries.

We just completed a prolonged and extremely useful conversation touching on a wide range of issues.  We discussed, first of all, the changes that are sweeping the region and what has been happening in places like Egypt and Syria and how they affect the interests and security of the United States and Israel, as well as the opportunity for prosperity, growth and development in the Arab world.

We agreed that there is a moment of opportunity that can be seized as a consequence of the Arab Spring, but also acknowledge that there’s significant perils as well, and that it’s going to be important for the United States and Israel to consult closely as we see developments unfold.

I outlined for the Prime Minister some of the issues that I discussed in my speech yesterday — how important it was going to be for the United States to support political reform, support human rights, support freedom of speech, religious tolerance and economic development, particularly in Egypt, as the largest Arab country, as well as Tunisia, the country that first started this revolutionary movement that’s taking place throughout the Middle East and North Africa.

We also discussed the situation in Syria, which is obviously of acute concern to Israel, given its shared border.  And I gave more details to the Prime Minister about the significant steps that we are taking to try to pressure Syria and the Assad regime to reform, including the sanctions that we placed directly on President Assad.

We continue to share our deep concerns about Iran, not only the threat that it poses to Israel but also the threat that it poses to the region and the world if it were to develop a nuclear weapon.  We updated our strategy to continue to apply pressure, both through sanctions and our other diplomatic work.  And I reiterated my belief that it is unacceptable for Iran to possess a nuclear weapon.

We also discussed the hypocrisy of Iran suggesting that it somehow supports democratization in the Middle East when, in fact, they first showed the repressive nature of that regime when they responded to the own peaceful protests that took place inside Iran almost two years ago.

Finally, we discussed the issue of a prospective peace between Israelis and Palestinians.  And I reiterated and we discussed in depth the principles that I laid out yesterday — the belief that our ultimate goal has to be a secure Israeli state, a Jewish state, living side by side in peace and security with a contiguous, functioning and effective Palestinian state.

Obviously there are some differences between us in the precise formulations and language, and that’s going to happen between friends.  But what we are in complete accord about is that a true peace can only occur if the ultimate resolution allows Israel to defend itself against threats, and that Israel’s security will remain paramount in U.S. evaluations of any prospective peace deal.

I said that yesterday in the speech, and I continue to believe it.  And I think that it is possible for us to shape a deal that allows Israel to secure itself, not to be vulnerable, but also allows it to resolve what has obviously been a wrenching issue for both peoples for decades now.

I also pointed out, as I said in the speech yesterday, that it is very difficult for Israel to be expected to negotiate in a serious way with a party that refuses to acknowledge its right to exist.  And so for that reason I think the Palestinians are going to have to answer some very difficult questions about this agreement that’s been made between Fatah and Hamas.  Hamas has been and is an organization that has resorted to terror; that has refused to acknowledge Israel’s rights to exist.  It is not a partner for a significant, realistic peace process.  And so, as I said yesterday during the speech, the Palestinians are going to have to explain how they can credibly engage in serious peace negotiations in the absence of observing the Quartet principles that have been put forward previously.

So, overall, I thought this was an extremely constructive discussion.  And coming out of this discussion, I once again can reaffirm that the extraordinarily close relationship between the United States and Israel is sound and will continue, and that together, hopefully we are going to be able to work to usher in a new period of peace and prosperity in a region that is going to be going through some very profound transformations in the coming weeks, months and years.

So, Mr. Prime Minister.

PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU:  Thank you, Mr. President.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Thank you very much.

PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU:  Mr. President, first I want to thank you and the First Lady for the gracious hospitality that you’ve shown me, my wife, and our entire delegation.  We have an enduring bond of friendship between our two countries, and I appreciate the opportunity to have this meeting with you after your important speech yesterday.

We share your hope and your vision for the spread of democracy in the Middle East.  I appreciate the fact that you reaffirmed once again now, and in our conversation, and in actual deed the commitment to Israel’s security.  We value your efforts to advance the peace process.

This is something that we want to have accomplished.  Israel wants peace.  I want peace.  What we all want is a peace that will be genuine, that will hold, that will endure.  And I think that the — we both agree that a peace based on illusions will crash eventually on the rocks of Middle Eastern reality, and that the only peace that will endure is one that is based on reality, on unshakeable facts.

I think for there to be peace, the Palestinians will have to accept some basic realities.  The first is that while Israel is prepared to make generous compromises for peace, it cannot go back to the 1967 lines — because these lines are indefensible; because they don’t take into account certain changes that have taken place on the ground, demographic changes that have taken place over the last 44 years.

Remember that, before 1967, Israel was all of nine miles wide.  It was half the width of the Washington Beltway.  And these were not the boundaries of peace; they were the boundaries of repeated wars, because the attack on Israel was so attractive.

So we can’t go back to those indefensible lines, and we’re going to have to have a long-term military presence along the Jordan.  I discussed this with the President and I think that we understand that Israel has certain security requirements that will have to come into place in any deal that we make.

The second is — echoes something the President just said, and that is that Israel cannot negotiate with a Palestinian government that is backed by Hamas.  Hamas, as the President said, is a terrorist organization committed to Israel’s destruction.  It’s fired thousands of rockets on our cities, on our children.  It’s recently fired an anti-tank rocket at a yellow school bus, killing a 16-year-old boy.  And Hamas has just attacked you, Mr. President, and the United States for ridding the world of bin Laden.

So Israel obviously cannot be asked to negotiate with a government that is backed by the Palestinian version of al Qaeda.

I think President Abbas has a simple choice.  He has to decide if he negotiates or keeps his pact with Hamas, or makes peace with Israel.  And I can only express what I said to you just now, that I hope he makes the choice, the right choice, in choosing peace with Israel.

The third reality is that the Palestinian refugee problem will have to be resolved in the context of a Palestinian state, but certainly not in the borders of Israel.

The Arab attack in 1948 on Israel resulted in two refugee problems — Palestinian refugee problem and Jewish refugees, roughly the same number, who were expelled from Arab lands.  Now, tiny Israel absorbed the Jewish refugees, but the vast Arab world refused to absorb the Palestinian refugees.  Now, 63 years later, the Palestinians come to us and they say to Israel, accept the grandchildren, really, and the great grandchildren of these refugees, thereby wiping out Israel’s future as a Jewish state.

So it’s not going to happen.  Everybody knows it’s not going to happen.  And I think it’s time to tell the Palestinians forthrightly it’s not going to happen.  The Palestinian refugee problem has to be resolved.  It can be resolved, and it will be resolved if the Palestinians choose to do so in a Palestinian state.  So that’s a real possibility.  But it’s not going to be resolved within the Jewish state.

The President and I discussed all these issues and I think we may have differences here and there, but I think there’s an overall direction that we wish to work together to pursue a real, genuine peace between Israel and its Palestinian neighbors; a peace that is defensible.

Mr. President, you’re the — you’re the leader of a great people, the American people.  And I’m the leader of a much smaller people, the —

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  A great people.

PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU:  It’s a great people, too.  It’s the ancient nation of Israel.  And, you know, we’ve been around for almost 4,000 years.  We’ve experienced struggle and suffering like no other people.  We’ve gone through expulsions and pogroms and massacres and the murder of millions.  But I can say that even at the dearth of — even at the nadir of the valley of death, we never lost hope and we never lost our dream of reestablishing a sovereign state in our ancient homeland, the land of Israel.

And now it falls on my shoulders as the Prime Minister of Israel, at a time of extraordinary instability and uncertainty in the Middle East, to work with you to fashion a peace that will ensure Israel’s security and will not jeopardize its survival.  I take this responsibility with pride but with great humility, because, as I told you in our conversation, we don’t have a lot of margin for error.  And because, Mr. President, history will not give the Jewish people another chance.

So in the coming days and weeks and months, I intend to work with you to seek a peace that will address our security concerns, seek a genuine recognition that we wish from our Palestinian neighbors to give a better future for Israel and for the entire region.

And I thank you for the opportunity to exchange our views and to work together for this common end.  Thank you, Mr. President.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Thank you.

END 1:51 P.M. EDT

President Obama & Prime Minister Netanyahu: “The Common Goal is Peace”

Watch the entire press conference below:

Israel Political Brief May 19, 2011: President Obama’s Speech on the Middle East Advocates Israel Returning to Pre-1967 Borders

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings and JBuzz. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in Jewish Studies at Concordia University.

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF: ISRAEL NEWS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

Doug Mills/The New York Times

IN FOCUS

  • Obama Backs Mideast Plan Based on 1967 Borders: Declaring that “the dream of a Jewish and democratic state cannot be fulfilled with permanent occupation,” President Obama said that a settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict must embody two sovereign states based on pre-1967 borders.

THE HEADLINES….

  • As Obama Endorses ’67 Borders, Netanyahu Objects: President Obama’s endorsement on Thursday of a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute based on the 1967 borders — the first time an American president has explicitly endorsed those borders as the baseline for negotiations over a Palestinian state — prompted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel to push back and the Palestinian leadership to call an urgent meeting.
    Mr. Netanyahu said in a statement just before boarding a plane to Washington that while he appreciated Mr. Obama’s commitment to peace, he “expects to hear a reaffirmation from President Obama of American commitments made to Israel in 2004 which were overwhelmingly supported by both houses of Congress.”
    Those commitments came in a letter from President George W. Bush that stated, among other things, that “it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949,” which was another way of describing the 1967 boundaries…. – NYT, 5-19-11
  • Obama Endorses 1967 Borders for Israel: Seeking to harness the seismic political change still unfolding in the Arab world, President Obama for the first time on Thursday publicly called for a settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that would create a non-militarized Palestinian state on the basis of Israel’s borders before 1967.
    “At a time when the people of the Middle East and North Africa are casting off the burdens of the past, the drive for a lasting peace that ends the conflict and resolves all claims is more urgent that ever,” he said.
    Although Mr. Obama said that “the core issues” dividing Israelis and Palestinians remain to be negotiated, including the searing questions of Jerusalem and the fate of Palestinian refugees, he spoke with striking frustration that efforts to support an agreement had so far failed. “The international community is tired of an endless process that never produces an outcome,” he said.
    The outline for an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement came in what the president called “a moment of opportunity” following six months of political upheaval that has at times left the administration scrambling to keep up. The speech was an attempt to articulate a cohesive American policy to an Arab Spring that took a dark turn as the euphoria of popular revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt gave way to violent crackdowns in Bahrain and Syria, a civil war in Libya and political stalemate in Yemen…. – NYT, 5-19-11
  • Obama Speech Backlash on Call to Reinstate 1967 Mideast Borders: President Obama’s call this afternoon for Israel and Palestine to redraw boundaries based on 1967 lines has already generated backlash.
    “The dream of a Jewish and democratic state cannot be fulfilled with permanent occupation,” the president said in a wide-ranging, Mideast speech at the State Department.
    “The United States believes that negotiations should result in two states, with permanent Palestinian borders with Israel, Jordan, and Egypt, and permanent Israeli borders with Palestine. The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states.”
    The suggestion landed with a thud in Israel, where some skeptics worry that such a border makes the country less secure. The country will object to any “indefensible” borders, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement.
    “The viability of a Palestinian state cannot come at the expense of Israel’s existence,” said Netanyahu, who is expected to arrive here in Washington Friday.
    Netanyahu’s office tweeted its clear disapproval of the president’s reference to the 1967 borders.
    “Prime Minister Netanyahu expects to hear a reaffirmation from President Obama of U.S. commitments made to Israel in 2004, which were overwhelmingly supported by both Houses of Congress,” the office wrote on Twitter. “Among other things, those commitments relate to Israel not having to withdraw to the 1967 lines which are both indefensible and which would leave major Israeli population centers in Judea and Samaria beyond those lines.”… – ABC News, 5-19-11
  • Obama pledges new aid to Mideast nations embracing democracy: Under pressure from key allies to act more decisively on several volatile issues in the Middle East and North Africa, President Obama on Thursday promised new U.S. aid to nations that embrace democracy while he also condemned attacks on demonstrators, notably in Syria.
    Saying that the future of the United States is bound to the region in a number of ways, Obama said he was focused on “how we can respond in a way that advances our values and strengthens our security.”
    In what was billed as a major speech meant to define U.S. interests in the region amid the wave of change known as the Arab Spring, Obama was unveiling a series of economic initiatives to encourage democracy there, including aid for Tunisia and a total of $2 billion in debt relief and loan guarantees for Egypt’s fledgling government.
    Speaking at the State Department before an audience of U.S. diplomats, administration officials and foreign envoys, Obama made his first broad attempt to place the region’s wave of popular uprisings, which have swept away autocrats in Tunisia and Egypt and threatened several others, in the context of American interests and values. Aides said he felt it was importrant to address the armed rebellion in Libya, the uprising in Syria and the moribund peace process between Israel and the Palestinians.
    The speech was aimed in part at reassuring allies alarmed by what they perceive as drift in Obama’s policy in the rapidly changing region, after weeks when Osama bin Laden’s killing and a domestic debate over the national debt took center stage…. – WaPo, 5-19-11
  • Obama Lays Out U.S. Policy on Arab World Amid Uprisings: With a backdrop of continuing anti-government protests in the Arab world and criticism from some corners over a perceived uneven U.S. response, President Obama said in a major policy speech Thursday that the U.S. would use its influence and economic power to support the region’s transitions to democracy.
    “Our message is simple: if you take the risks that reform entails, you will have the full support of the United States,” he said.
    The president said that for decades, the United States has pursued a set of interests, including countering terrorism, stopping the spread of nuclear weapons, securing the flow of commerce and security in the region, and standing up for Israel’s security along with pursuing Arab-Israeli peace.
    And while the U.S. would continue to do these things, “we must acknowledge that a strategy based solely upon the narrow pursuit of these interests will not fill an empty stomach or allow someone to speak their mind,” he said.
    President Obama also acknowledged that “we have learned from our experience in Iraq just how costly and difficult it is to impose regime change by force — no matter how well-intended it may be.”… – PBS Newshour, 5-19-11
  • Barack Obama throws full US support behind Middle East uprisings: • President unveils shift in US policy towards Arab countries
    • ‘Status quo not sustainable,’ he warns region’s autocracies
    • Sets out two-state solution to Israeli-Palestinian conflict
    • Tells Syria’s Assad to lead transition or ‘get out of way’
    Barack Obama has sought to realign US policy on the Middle East, promising to shift from the long-held American backing for autocratic regimes to support for pro-democracy movements – and pledging to set out the shape of an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal.
    “The status quo is not sustainable,” Obama said in a major speech at the state department in Washington on Thursday, the first on the Middle East since he spoke in Cairo in 2009.
    In a speech dubbed Cairo 2, he threw US weight behind the protesters, saying: “We face a historic opportunity. We have embraced the chance to show that America values the dignity of the street vendor in Tunisia more than the raw power of the dictator … After decades of accepting the world as it is in the region, we have a chance to pursue the world as it should be.”
    He was addressing criticism that America has moved too slowly in response to the pro-democracy movements sweeping the region.
    As well as support for the newly emerging democracies in Egypt and Tunisia, he criticised long-term US allies such as Bahrain, where America has a large naval base, for its suppression of democracy movements…. – Guardian UK, 5-19-11
  • President Obama has message for Mideast regimes: We’ll give you aid, if you promote reform: President Obama proposed billions in economic aid Thursday to reward Mideast regimes that reform, delivering a much-hyped speech on U.S. policy toward a region rocked by upheaval.
    “Square by square, town by town, the people have risen up to demand their basic human rights,” Obama told an audience at the U.S. State Department. “And though these countries may be a great distance from our shores, we know our own future is bound to this region by the forces of economics, security, by history, by faith.”
    Obama embraced the sea change triggered in Tunisia and vowed to support the growing freedom movement across the Arab world.
    “We have a stake not just in the stability of nations, but in the self-determination of individuals,” Obama said.
    “The status quo is not sustainable. Societies held together by fear and repression may offer the illusion of stability for a time, but they’re built upon fault lines that will eventually tear asunder.”… – NY Daily News, 5-19-11
  • Obama Addresses ‘Extraordinary Change’ in Middle East, North Africa: ‘In Libya, we had a mandate to take action,’ says President Obama. ‘Syrian government must stop unjustified arrests of protesters.’
    U.S. President Barack Obama has welcomed the “extraordinary change” taking place in the Middle East and North Africa, but said too many countries have met the calls for change with violence.
    Mr. Obama, speaking Thursday at the State Department, said the most extreme example is Libya, where he said Moammar Gadhafi launched a war against his own people. He said thousands of people would have been killed in Libya if the United States and its partners did not act.
    He said Syria has also chosen the “path of murder and mass arrests.” Mr. Obama called on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to either lead a transition to democracy or “get out the way.” He called on the Syrian government to stop shooting protestors, allow peaceful protests and stop unjust arrests.
    Mr. Obama noted that in the last six months two leaders have been replaced in the Middle East and North Africa, and he said “more may follow” as people rise up to demand their basic rights.
    He said it will be the policy of the United States to promote reform across the region and support a transition to democracy. He said that effort begins in Egypt and Tunisia…. – VOA, 5-19-11
  • Obama: Israel must act boldly: In major policy speech, President Obama says ‘Israel must act boldly to advance lasting peace,’ stresses status quo ‘unsustainable.’ Border between Israel, Palestinians to be based on 1967 lines, he says
    Israel must act boldly in order to advance a peace agreement with the Palestinians, President Barack Obama said in his highly anticipated Mideast policy speech Thursday, presenting his vision for future negotiations.
    “The dream of a Jewish and democratic state cannot be fulfilled with permanent occupation,” he said.
    “There are those who argue that with all the change and uncertainty in the region, it is simply not possible to move forward (on peace,)” Obama said. “I disagree… the drive for a lasting peace that ends the conflict and resolves all claims is more urgent than ever.”
    Obama blamed both Israel and the Palestinians for failing to meet expectations in their pursuit of peace thus far.
    “Israeli settlement activity continues. Palestinians have walked away from talks,” he said.
    Turning his attention to the Jewish State, the president stressed that America’s friendship with Israel “is rooted deeply in a shared history and shared values.”
    Obama noted that America’s committed to Israel’s security is “unshakable,” but added that “precisely because of our friendship, it is important that we tell the truth: the status quo is unsustainable, and Israel too must act boldly to advance a lasting peace.”… – YNet News, 5-19-11
  • Obama: 1967 borders with swaps should serve as basis for negotiations: President Obama said the future state of Palestine should be based on the pre-1967 border with mutually agreed land swaps with Israel.
    In his address Thursday afternoon on U.S. policy in the Middle East, Obama told an audience at the State Department that the borders of a “sovereign, nonmilitarized” Palestinian state “should be based on 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps.”
    Negotiations should focus first on territory and security, and then the difficult issues of the status of Jerusalem and what to do about the rights of Palestinian refugees can be breached, Obama said.
    “Recognizing that negotiations need to begin with the issues of territory and secuertiy does not mean it will be easy to come back to the table,” Obama said, noting the new unity deal between Fatah and Hamas, a group foreswarn to Israel’s destruction.
    “How can one negotiate with a party that shows itself unwilling to recognize your right to exist?” Obama said. “Palestinians have to provide a credible answer to that question.”
    The U.S. president did not announce a specific initiative to bring Palestinians and Israelis back to the negotiating table.
    The speech, which focused mostly on the Arab democracy movements in Egypt, Tunisia, Syria and elsewhere in the Arab world, marked the first time Obama formally declared that the pre-Six Day War borders should form the basis of negotiations. – JTA, 5-19-11
  • Obama: Israel-Palestine Borders Should Be on 1967 Lines: In his speech on Thursday morning regarding Middle East policy, American President Barack Obama declared that a two-state solution is imperative to the security of the middle east, and that the borders must be based on the 1967 borders of the state of Israel with agreed upon territorial exchange. This, the president claims will provide “security” for both sides.
    “The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states. The Palestinian people must have the right to govern themselves, and reach their potential, in a sovereign and contiguous state.
    As for security, every state has the right to self-defense, and Israel must be able to defend itself – by itself – against any threat. Provisions must also be robust enough to prevent a resurgence of terrorism; to stop the infiltration of weapons; and to provide effective border security. The full and phased withdrawal of Israeli military forces should be coordinated with the assumption of Palestinian security responsibility in a sovereign, non-militarized state.”
    The President also stated that nothing can go forward without full Palestinian recognition of the state of Israel on the side of the Palestinians, as well as full cooperation and change of policy from Hamas. Hamas recently signed a formal accord with its opposing party Fatah, and while no leader has yet been named to head this new party, it is clear that this new marriage of Palestinian leaders is not in Israel’s best interest as Hamas has declared repeatedly that all Jews should be killed and Israel does not actually exist.
    Recently, a Hamas official stated that while Hamas is willing to accept a Palestinian state within 1967 borders, it will not agree to recognize Israel formally as the “future generations” must be given the opportunity to “liberate the lands.”
    Briefly addressing the upcoming declaration of a unilateral Palestinian state by the United Nations in September, President Obama reiterated American support of Israel multiple times. “For the Palestinians, efforts to delegitimize Israel will end in failure. Symbolic actions to isolate Israel at the United Nations in September won’t create an independent state. Palestinian leaders will not achieve peace or prosperity if Hamas insists on a path of terror and rejection… Our commitment to Israel’s security is unshakeable. And we will stand against attempts to single it out for criticism in international forums.” – Virtual Jerusalem, 5-19-11
  • Obama: Israel, Palestine borders must be based on 1967 lines: Obama says status quo in Mideast and North Africa is not sustainable, stresses U.S. opposes use of violence, oppression against people of the region.
    President Barack Obama said Thursday that the U.S. endorses the Palestinians’ demand for their future state to be based on the borders that existed before the 1967 Middle East war.
    “The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states. The Palestinian people must have the right to govern themselves, and reach their potential, in a sovereign and contiguous state. ”
    U.S. President Barack Obama urged Palestinians and Israelis to renew peace talks on Thursday, and stressed that the Palestinians’ efforts to delegitimize Israel will fail.
    “For the Palestinians, efforts to delegitimize Israel will end in failure. Symbolic actions to isolate Israel at the United Nations in September won’t create an independent state,” Obama said. “Palestinian leaders will not achieve peace or prosperity if Hamas insists on a path of terror and rejection. And Palestinians will never realize their independence by denying the right of Israel to exist.”
    “As for Israel, our friendship is rooted deeply in a shared history and shared values. Our commitment to Israel’s security is unshakeable. And we will stand against attempts to single it out for criticism in international forums. But precisely because of our friendship, it is important that we tell the truth: the status quo is unsustainable, and Israel too must act boldly to advance a lasting peace.”… – Haaretz, 5-19-11
  • Obama: America’s future bound to Middle East: President Barack Obama says the future of the U.S. is bound to the Middle East and North Africa by the forces of economics, security, history and fate.
    Obama opened a major speech on U.S. policy in the region by trying to tell Americans why it matters to them even though the countries “may be a great distance from our shores.”
    He made the comments at the State Department Thursday in speech meant as his first comprehensive response to revolts sweeping the Arab world. It was aimed at audiences in the U.S. and the Middle East and North Africa, where the State Department was providing simultaneous translation in Arabic, Farsi and Hebrew.
    In his remarks, Mr. Obama addressed the Israel-Palestine conflict, and, in a move that will likely infuriate Israel, endorsed the Palestinians’ demand for their future state to be based on the borders that existed before the 1967 Middle East war. Israel says the borders of Palestinian state have to be determined through negotiations.
    Mr. Obama sided with the Palestinians’ opening position a day ahead of a visit to Washington by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Netanyahu is vehemently opposed to referring to the 1967 borders.
    Until Thursday, the U.S. position had been that the Palestinian goal of a state based on the 1967 borders, with agreed land swaps, should be reconciled with Israel’s desire for a secure Jewish state through negotiations…. – CBS News, 5-19-11
  • What Arabs want to hear (or not hear) from Obama speech: In contrast with Obama’s major speech two years ago in Cairo, today’s address on the Middle East has generated little interest in Egypt. But Libyans and Syrians have higher hopes…. – CS Monitor, 5-19-11
  • Obama’s Middle East Speech Has Many American Audiences: Thursday’s speech by President Obama on the upheaval in the Middle East is aimed at a global audience. But it will also play out in a domestic — and political — context as Mr. Obama seeks a second term in the White House.
    Since taking office, Mr. Obama has sought to strike a balance between reaching out to the Muslim world while also combating terrorism and pushing for progress toward peace between Israel and the Palestinians. The as-yet unfulfilled promise of that approach, which he described in a speech in Cairo in 2009, helped win him the Nobel Peace Prize early in his presidency.
    But the effort to construct a cohesive narrative for American voters about his administration’s efforts in the region has proved more difficult. The peace process has been largely halted. The move away from Bush-era terrorism policies has gone more slowly than expected. And the uprisings in the Arab world have forced case-by-case decisions that sometimes appear contradictory…. – NYT, 5-19-11
  • Obama’s Middle East speech — how far will he go?: We know many of the topics President Obama will discuss in this morning’s Middle East speech. The question is: How far will he go?
    For example, we suspect Obama will talk about the sanctions his government slapped yesterday on Syrian President Bashar Assad. But will he call on Assad to step aside in light of his government’s attacks on pro-democracy protesters?
    Obama is also expected to call for revived peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians, despite recent clashes between the two. But how much pressure will he put on either side, especially with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu coming to town for a presidential meeting on Friday?
    We know that Obama will announce plans for new economic aid to Tunisia and Egypt, countries that actually threw off authoritarian governments earlier this year; but how much money does that involve?… – USA Today, 5-19-11
  • Obama Speech to Test Extent of U.S. Influence: When President Barack Obama outlines his vision of U.S. policy in the Middle East today, his challenge will be to get people in the region to care.
    The excitement generated by Obama’s call two years ago for a “new beginning” in U.S.-Arab relations evaporated as people waited for changes that haven’t come, said Robert Danin of the Council on Foreign Relations and others who study the region.
    As protests have swept the Arab world, toppling some leaders and challenging others, U.S. influence has been diminished by a response seen as cautious and inconsistent, Danin and other analysts said. And the U.S. has suffered some very public diplomatic setbacks in dealing with Bahrain, Yemen, Syria, and the Israelis and Palestinians.
    “It’s not clear what the United States says right now matters to the people of the Middle East,” Danin said. “The people of the Arab world are more interested in seeing what the United States does, not what it has to say.”… – Bloomberg, 5-19-11
  • Focus Is on Obama as Tensions Soar Across Mideast: Few game-changing proposals are emerging to defuse tensions in the Middle East as a busy week of diplomacy unfolds with President Obama’s address to the region and his meeting with Israel’s prime minister.
    Against the backdrop of Middle East uprisings that have intensified animus toward Israel and growing momentum for global recognition of a Palestinian state, American and Israeli officials are struggling to balance national security interests against the need to adapt to a transformative movement in the Arab world.
    The White House unveiled a $2 billion multiyear economic aid package for Egypt, which officials say would largely shift existing funds. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel prepared to arrive in Washington with a package that he hoped would shift the burden of restarting the peace process to the Palestinians.
    Mr. Obama, who is set to address Americans — and, more significantly, Muslims around the world — from the State Department on Thursday morning, may yet have something surprising up his sleeve. One administration official said that there remained debate about whether Mr. Obama would formally endorse Israel’s pre-1967 borders as the starting point for negotiations over a Palestinian state, a move that would send an oratorical signal that the United States expected Israel to make concessions…. – NYT, 5-18-11

QUOTES

President Barack Obama delivers a policy address on events in the Middle East at the State Department in Washington, Thursday, May 19, 2011

Photo: AP

President Barack Obama delivers a policy address on events in the Middle East at the State Department in Washington, Thursday, May 19, 2011

  • TEXT: Obama’s Mideast Speech: Following is a text of President Obama’s prepared speech on the Middle East, delivered on Thursday in Washington, as released by the White House:
    I want to thank Hillary Clinton, who has traveled so much these last six months that she is approaching a new landmark – one million frequent flyer miles. I count on Hillary every day, and I believe that she will go down as of the finest Secretaries of State in our nation’s history.
    The State Department is a fitting venue to mark a new chapter in American diplomacy. For six months, we have witnessed an extraordinary change take place in the Middle East and North Africa. Square by square; town by town; country by country; the people have risen up to demand their basic human rights. Two leaders have stepped aside. More may follow. And though these countries may be a great distance from our shores, we know that our own future is bound to this region by the forces of economics and security; history and faith.
    Today, I would like to talk about this change – the forces that are driving it, and how we can respond in a way that advances our values and strengthens our security. Already, we have done much to shift our foreign policy following a decade defined by two costly conflicts. After years of war in Iraq, we have removed 100,000 American troops and ended our combat mission there. In Afghanistan, we have broken the Taliban’s momentum, and this July we will begin to bring our troops home and continue transition to Afghan lead. And after years of war against al Qaeda and its affiliates, we have dealt al Qaeda a huge blow by killing its leader – Osama bin Laden.
    Bin Laden was no martyr. He was a mass murderer who offered a message of hate – an insistence that Muslims had to take up arms against the West, and that violence against men, women and children was the only path to change. He rejected democracy and individual rights for Muslims in favor of violent extremism; his agenda focused on what he could destroy – not what he could build.
    Bin Laden and his murderous vision won some adherents. But even before his death, al Qaeda was losing its struggle for relevance, as the overwhelming majority of people saw that the slaughter of innocents did not answer their cries for a better life. By the time we found bin Laden, al Qaeda’s agenda had come to be seen by the vast majority of the region as a dead end, and the people of the Middle East and North Africa had taken their future into their own hands…. – NYT, 5-19-11
  • Clinton introduces Obama address, says US vital in Mideast: Opening US President Barak Obama’s Middle East speech on Thursday, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton said that the “president’s clear vision, and pure principles” show the “indispensable role [the US] must play in the Middle East.”
    Clinton said “America’s leadership is more essential than ever,” and that the “US must lead in a new and innovative way.” She thanked the State Department, where Obama was speaking, for doing work “engaging with citizens in the streets and through social networks as [Middle East citizens] move from protests to politics.”… – JPost, 5-19-11
  • Netanyahu’s Office Tweets Disapproving Response to President Obama’s Speech: Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Office twitter account — run by Dr. Eitan Eliram, new media director of the prime minister’s office –- sent out a rapid succession of tweets stating clear disapproval with the president’s reference to the 1967 borders:
    “Israel appreciates President Obama’s commitment to peace. Israel believes that for peace to endure between Israelis and Palestinians, the viability of a Palestinian state… cannot come at the expense of the viability of the one and only Jewish state,” the tweets state. “That is why Prime Minister Netanyahu expects to hear a reaffirmation from President Obama of U.S. commitments made to Israel in 2004, which were overwhelmingly supported by both Houses of Congress. Among other things, those commitments relate to Israel not having to withdraw to the 1967 lines which are both indefensible and which would leave major Israeli population centers in Judea and Samaria beyond those lines. Those commitments also ensure Israel’s well-being as a Jewish state by making clear that Palestinian refugees will settle in a future Palestinian state rather than in Israel. Without a solution to the Palestinian refugee problem outside the borders of Israel, no territorial concession will bring peace. Equally, the Palestinians, and not just the United States, must recognize Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people, and any peace agreement with them must end all claims against Israel. Prime Minister Netanyahu will make clear that the defense of Israel requires an Israeli military presence along the Jordan River.”… – ABC News, 5-19-11
  • Mitt Romney: Obama threw Israel ‘under the bus’ in speech: President Obama “has thrown Israel under the bus,” potential rival Mitt Romney said in a statement responding to the president’s speech on Middle East policy Thursday
    The former Massachusetts governor criticizes Obama for endorsing a call for Israel to withdraw to borders that were in place before the 1967 war in the interests of achieving peace.
    “He has disrespected Israel and undermined its ability to negotiate peace,” Romney said. “He has also violated a first principle of American foreign policy, which is to stand firm by our friends.”… – LAT, 5-19-11
  • Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum (R), another candidate seeking to challenge Obama, later reacted more broadly to the policy Obama outlined for the region: “No speech can make up for the lost time and opportunity President Obama has squandered,” he said. “The current administration needs to come to terms with its confused and dangerous foreign policy soon, as clarity and security are the necessary conditions of any serious and coherent American set of policies.”
  • President Obama’s Suicide Speech for Israel: McCotter’s Statement re President Obama’s Middle East Speech: In response to President Obama’s address on the Middle East and North Africa, U.S. Representative Thaddeus G. McCotter (MI) has issued the following statement:
    In his latest lecture to the Middle East, an ideologically purblind President Obama has again failed to acknowledge the facts on the ground, much to the detriment of American and Israeli strategic interests.
    …Such strategic celerity, though, is lacking in the Obama Administration. For, as is becoming abundantly clear, its missteps and missed opportunities stem from the President’s inconstant commitment to the strategic partnership that founds America’s Middle Eastern policies for our national security and regional peace: the American-Israeli alliance.
    Israel is a market-based, liberal democracy that protects the lives and property of its people, including its minorities.
    Israel is America’s key strategic ally in the region. Israel enhances our defense capabilities; provides us a secure foothold in the strategically important and turbulent Middle East; and has supported our soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan by sharing its military technology and its intelligence on hostile forces.
    Israel is under a constant and increasing threat from terrorist forces, such as Hamas and Hezbollah; instability on its borders; and the hatred of hostile nations, notably Iran and Syria, that seek our ally’s demise.
    Already, due to the Obama administration’s bungling, radical political forces in Egypt are promising to press for the abrogation of the Camp David accords with Israel, both as a matter of law and a matter of fact.
    Inexcusably, the President’s opining and overtures have caused America’s and Israel’s shared strategic interests to decline in the Arab world – as has, not ironically, America’s popularity.
    Now must end the Obama Administration’s pressure upon our ally to make dangerous strategic concessions, which the President has done since entering office. Indeed, from day one the President has misunderstood and mangled the peace process, demanding concessions on Israeli settlements that the Palestinians had never made a precondition in negotiations. In return, all the President has reaped is the Palestinian National Authority pulling out of negotiations and endeavoring to have the United Nations foist a Palestinian state upon Israel without any direct negotiations. Moreover, the President’s “policies” have done nothing to stem the Palestinian national authority allying with the terrorists of Hamas, who are pledged to Israel’s destruction.
    Today’s speech repeats the injurious canards of forcing unilateral concessions on Israel; and claiming Hamas is becoming “moderate”. This is naïve at best, and, in reality, a foolish and dangerous misreading of a terrorist group that is America’s and Israel’s enemy. Instead, The President should have made clear that, if the Palestinian Authority chooses Hamas, it has turned its back on peace and forfeited American support, aid and assistance.
    Bluntly, a continued destabilization of Israel’s security is a strategic sellout of the highest order, and a breaking of our solemn promise to our ally.
    Mideast peace will not result from arbitrarily and unilaterally imposed solutions that will, in consequence, only further destabilize the region. Peace will come when the Palestinians and the Arab nations accept Israel as a Jewish state, abandon their dreams of eradicating it; stop demonizing Israel; cease teaching their children to hate it; and, conversely, tolerate and protect the minorities in their midst. When this happens, the Israelis will have a true partner in peace, one with whom they can mutually work for liberty, prosperity and security in that long troubled land.
    Thus, to do otherwise in our strategic partnership with Israel, however unwittingly, would reveal President Obama’s failure to acknowledge President Kennedy’s sage advice: “The surest path to war is the path of weakness and disunity.”
    No, in the interests of peace and American and Israeli security, the President must acknowledge the truths underpinning our alliance; recognize those facts on the ground endangering our alliance; and, so doing, commence strengthening the foundations of the American-Israeli alliance; and the very hopes for Middle East peace. – The Hill, 5-19-11
  • Republican Jewish Committee: JC Executive Director Matt Brooks: RJC Concerned about Obama’s Call for Israel to Return to 1967 borders: Today the President called for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict based “on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps.” Those borders, actually the 1949 armistice lines, are physically indefensible, as numerous military experts have plainly stated. Asking Israel to return to those borders is unacceptable and places Israel in a vulnerable and dangerous position.
    President Bush, in his 2004 letter to then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon memorializing the position of the United States, made it clear that, “In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli populations centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949, and all previous efforts to negotiate a two-state solution have reached the same conclusion. It is realistic to expect that any final status agreement will only be achieved on the basis of mutually agreed changes that reflect these realities.”
    President Bush spoke often about Israel’s need for secure and defensible borders and recognized Israel’s legitimate claim to certain high-population Jewish areas, such as the immediate suburbs of Jerusalem, which are beyond the 1949 armistice line. In contrast, President Obama has consistently condemned even the building of housing in municipal Jerusalem itself. It is, in fact, President Obama’s insistence on a settlement freeze as a pre-condition to negotiations, more than anything else, that doomed his administration’s peace-making efforts. That stand emboldened Palestinian extremists, damaged the PA’s ability to negotiate, and forced Israelis to question the sincerity of the administration’s friendship.
    With that immediate history in mind, we are concerned that when President Obama speaks of “the 1967 borders,” he means borders for Israel that are much less secure and defensible and that put Israel at risk. – RJCHQ, 5-19-11
  • B’nai B’rith International commends and critiques: B’nai B’rith International commends President Obama for clearly reiterating U.S. support for Israel. The president noted the relationship between the United States and Israel is rooted in shared history and values and he strongly asserted that the commitment to Israel’s security is unshakable, while he affirmed that Israel is a Jewish state.
    It was also encouraging that the president spoke against unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood, a measure the Palestinians are planning to bring before the United Nations in September….
    B’nai B’rith is concerned that the president is prejudging the outcome of the peace process by publicly calling for pre-1967 borders as a basis for a Palestinian state, with land swaps. Discussion about this difficult issue should be reserved for direct negotiations between the parties.
    Though he noted the issue of Palestinian refugees, B’nai B’rith is disappointed that the president failed to mention the one million Jewish refugees created at the same time. The issue of Jewish refugees from Arab lands is often overlooked. JTA, 5-19-11

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

  • Politico Arena: Did Obama lay out cohesive Middle East policy?Politico, 5-19-11
  • President Obama Rewards Hamas: President Obama delivered an unprecedented rebuke of the Israeli people by an American president today. In words that were designed to reach more Muslim citizens than United States citizens, Obama called Israel’s legitimate West Bank settlements an “occupation”; and by calling for a return to the 1967 borders, he is calling for a divided Jerusalem. He continued to press Israel to negotiate with the Palestinian Authority (PA) and, subsequently, with the “unity government” the PA has formed with the terrorist group, Hamas.
    It’s extremely troubling that President Obama would side with the Palestinian Authority in an effort to jump-start peace talks in the Middle East. President Obama is not the negotiator-in-chief for the Middle East and to make sweeping demands and characterizations not only hurts the peace process but also damages U.S.-Israeli relations.
    For decades, Israel has been our most important ally in the region. Sadly, with the President’s remarks, and decision to side with the Palestinian Authority, it appears he no longer believes that is the case. By endorsing the “unity government” he has rewarded Hamas – a terrorist organization that calls for the elimination of the Jews…. – Liberty Alerts, American Center for Law and Justice, 5-19-11
  • Obama speech greeted with skepticism, apathy in Mideast: President Obama’s vow that the United States will “stand squarely on the side of those who are reaching for their rights” in the Middle East was received with a mix of apathy and skepticism by people in the region who watched the speech Thursday night.
    Some said they saw little news or any discernible shift in policy from an administration that has struggled to formulate a coherent response to the wave of popular uprisings roiling the region this spring.
    “My hope was for an unqualified apology” for Obama’s perceived support of dictators, said Hossam Bahgat, a Cairo human rights activist who was among a handful of people who got up from his table to watch the speech at a popular downtown cafe. “And I thought only Obama could do that.”
    Baghat said he was expecting stronger words from a president who delivered a speech at Cairo University two years ago that left many in the Middle East feeling that the United States was backing away from its commitment to support democratic reform in the region.
    “The overwhelming sense was one of deja vu,” Bahgat said. “I kept waiting for Cairo II, but all I heard was Cairo I.”… – WaPo, 5-19-11
  • DANNY DANON: Making the Land of Israel Whole: OVER the past few months, analysts in Israel and abroad have warned that Israel will face what Defense Minister Ehud Barak has termed a “diplomatic tsunami.” In September, the Palestinian Authority plans to bring the recognition of a Palestinian state based on the 1967 boundary to the United Nations General Assembly for a vote. The Palestinians’ request will almost certainly be approved.
    While most voices in the Israeli and international news media are calling on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to grant major concessions to the Palestinians to forestall such a move, he should in fact do the opposite: he should annex the Jewish communities of the West Bank, or as Israelis prefer to refer to our historic heartland, Judea and Samaria.
    In 1995, as part of the Oslo accords, Israel and the Palestinians agreed that “neither side shall initiate or take any step that will change the status of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip pending the outcome of the permanent status negotiations.” If the president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, and prime minister, Salam Fayyad, decide to disregard this section of the accords by seeking United Nations recognition of statehood, it would mean that Israel, too, is no longer bound by its contents and is freed to take unilateral action.
    The first immediate implication would be that all of the diplomatic and security assistance that Israel provides to the Palestinians would be halted, and the transfer of tax revenues — upward of $1 billion per year — would end permanently. This alone could threaten the very existence of the Palestinian Authority.
    Second, a United Nations vote on Palestinian statehood would give Israel an opportunity to rectify the mistake we made in 1967 by failing to annex all of the West Bank (as we did the eastern half of Jerusalem). We could then extend full Israeli jurisdiction to the Jewish communities and uninhabited lands of the West Bank. This would put an end to a legal limbo that has existed for 44 years.
    In addition to its obvious ideological and symbolic significance, legalizing our hold on the West Bank would also increase the security of all Israelis by depriving terrorists of a base and creating a buffer against threats from the east. Moreover, we would be well within our rights to assert, as we did in Gaza after our disengagement in 2005, that we are no longer responsible for the Palestinian residents of the West Bank, who would continue to live in their own — unannexed — towns.
    These Palestinians would not have the option to become Israeli citizens, therefore averting the threat to the Jewish and democratic status of Israel by a growing Palestinian population.
    While naysayers will no doubt warn us of the dire consequences and international condemnation that are sure to follow such a move by Israel, this would not be the first time that Israel has made such controversial decisions…. – NYT, 5-19-11
  • Deciphering Obama’s mideast speech: President Obama’s speech on the Middle East this morning is an attempt to put the Arab Spring into context– and also, in effect, to hit the “reset button” on U.S. policy in the region. Administration officials say they have tried to tackle each uprising in a deliberate fashion, with a response tailored to the situation in each particular country. But the administration in many ways has reaped the worst of all possible outcomes from its approach. Many reports from the region suggest that ordinary Arabs are disappointed in the U.S. response to the uprisings, and believe Obama was too slow to abandon autocrats such as Hosni Mubarak…. – WaPo, 5-19-11
  • Obama’s Middle East speech: Good but irrelevant: President Obama’s Middle East speech at the State Department today is likely to be positively received in Washington. Middle Easterners, however, will probably find it disappointing, or worse, irrelevant… – CS Monitor, 5-19-11
  • Obama’s Middle East Speech Has Many American Audiences: “They need to make the case for why all of this stuff matters to Americans and give some narrative that makes sense for all the different things we are doing,” said Marc Lynch, the director of the Institute for Middle East Studies at George Washington University.
    Mr. Obama’s decision to launch the raid in Pakistan that killed Osama bin Laden has clearly helped to define for Americans a new Obama story in the region. Thursday’s speech will give the president the opportunity to put those actions in a broader context, Mr. Lynch said.
    “Pivoting into presidential campaign season, they are going to want to have in place a robust story to tell,” said Mr. Lynch, who writes the Middle East blog for Foreign Policy magazine. “The more that they can choose a few clear themes that fit together into a clear story, the better.” – NYT, 5-19-11
  • Obama’s Arab-Israeli Options: The Arab uprisings that have swept the Middle East touched Israel directly for the first time, as an unprecedented wave of Palestinian protesters charged toward Israel’s borders from four directions on Sunday.
    With President Obama set to give a major speech on the Middle East on Thursday and with the departure of George Mitchell, the chief United States envoy to the Israelis and Palestinians, the White House is facing new challenges on both sides in dealing with the impasse in peace talks .
    In a speech on Monday, in advance of a trip to Washington, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Israel is willing to show more flexibility on territory, but his position is far from what any Palestinian leader will accept.
    Should the White House play a more active role in pushing both sides toward compromise? Or will more involvement simply raise expectations that cannot be met, as has occurred in the past? What should the White House strategy be?… – NYT, 5-17-11
    Yossi Klein Halevi: An Imposed Deal Will Fail
    Rime Allaf: Don’t Bother
    Aaron David Miller: Right Now, the U.S. Is Irrelevant
    Shibley Telhami: Only Washington Can Lead
    Michele Dunne: First, Obama Needs a Strategy
    Menachem Klein: We Need a Game Change
    Daniel Levy: From Illusions to Solutions
    Rashid Khalidi: An End to the Status Quo

Sirens bring Israel to standstill on Holocaust Day

Source: AP, 5-2-11

Israel came to a standstill Monday morning with a two-minute siren heard across the country as Israelis paid tribute to the 6 million Jews who perished during the Nazi Holocaust.

Pedestrians froze in their tracks, buses stopped on busy streets and cars pulled over on major highways — their drivers standing on the roads with their heads bowed — in the annual ritual marking Holocaust Memorial Day.

In keeping with tradition, media carried somber music and numerous tales from the dwindling number of Holocaust survivors that included some 200,000 elderly Israelis. But the melancholy nature of the day was leavened by news that U.S. forces had killed Osama bin Laden just hours before.

“This successful operation sends the important message that terror and evil will find no permanent shelter and will eventually be destroyed, just as the Nazis decades before,” Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said.

The Holocaust ended in 1945 with the Allied defeat of Nazi Germany. But the Nazi extermination of nearly a third of the world’s Jewish population remains a strong undercurrent in Israel.

Benjamin Netanyahu: World must stop those wishing to destroy the Jewish people

Speaking at Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony in Jerusalem’s Yad Vashem memorial, Prime Minister says Israel must be prepared to defend itself modern enemies, such as Iran and its proxies Hezbollah and Hamas.

Source: Haaretz, 5-1-11

The threats Israel faces to its existence are real, not theoretical ones, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said during the ceremony opening Holocaust Remembrance Day in Jerusalem on Sunday, urging the world not to ignore the threat posed by Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

Speaking of the three main lessons Israel must learn in the Holocaust’s wake, Netanyahu spoke first of the danger which lies in ignoring the threats of those “wishing to annihilate us,” saying Israelis “mustn’t bury our heads in the sand.

“Has the world learned this lesson? I doubt it. Have we learned it? I believe we have,” Netanyahu said, adding, however, that “we must admit that “in the history of the Jewish people we have not always excelled in anticipating the future, sometimes repressing the bleak reality before us.”

Referring further on the ability to anticipate coming catastrophes, Netanyahu said that while “many in the world, at least in the enlightened world, treat the memory of the Holocaust respectfully and seriously,” that attitude, however, “recalls generals preparing for the previous war.”

“It seems easier for the world to discuss the lessons of the past than implement those to the present and the future,” the premier said, adding that “the Jewish people mustn’t ignore the Holocaust’s lessons today.”

“Because today, new enemies are rising, and as they deny the Holocaust, call for the destruction of our people,” the PM said, adding that “Iran, and its proxies Hezbollah and Hamas are openly working to destroy the Jewish state.”

Speaking of the world’s response to such an effort, Netanyahu said that all “cultured citizens of the world, those who say they are implementing the lessons of the Holocaust, should denounce in no uncertain terms those wishing to destroy the Jewish state, and even arming themselves with nuclear weapons in order to realize those ambitions.”

“The threat to our existence isn’t a theoretical one, it cannot be minimized, it stands before us, before all of humanity, and it must be stopped,” he said.

The second lesson, according to the premier, “stems from the fact that attacks on our people were always preceded by waves of hatred which prepared the ground for those attacks,” insisting on the need “to expose the true face of the hate against our people.”

“Today too there are people who charge the Jewish state with responsibility for all of the world’s ills, from rising gas prices to regional instability,” Netanyahu said.

The third and final lesson the premier discussed in his speech was the need for the Jewish people to take its defense in its own hands, saying: “We cannot hand over our fate to the hands of others.”

“Our ties with the various countries are very important to us. But if we cannot defend ourselves, the world will not do it for us. Israel is a peace-loving country, a cultured country, developed, a sea of progress in a region devoid of progress. We will stand tall against those who wish to kill us.”

“It should be said here on this day to all our enemies that they should know one thing about the Jewish people – it has overcome the greatest evil humanity has ever known, and that when the people of Israel and the Israel Defense Forces say ‘Never Again’ they mean every word.”

Jason Epstein: Personal History The eminent publisher on his teacher, friend, and political opposite, Benzion Netanyahu

Source: Tablet Mag, 7-6-10

Benzion Netanyahu and his son Benjamin, then Likud party leader, meeting in Benzion’s Jerusalem home on election day, February 8, 2009.

Michal Fattal/Likud via Getty Images

There can be few friendships stranger than Benzion Netanyahu’s and mine, for on the urgent question of Israel’s security we could not be more opposed. Benzion, a disciple and former secretary of Ze’ev Jabotinsky and to this day an uncompromising Zionist Revisionist, believes that the State of Israel should occupy both banks of the Jordan, presumably by force. At the time of the Oslo Accords, when my wife and I visited Benzion, surrounded by his books in his comfortable Jerusalem home, he denounced the accords as “the beginning of the end of the Jewish State” and admonished his son Bibi, then as now prime minister, for having relinquished Hebron to the Palestine Authority under the agreement. For me, on the other hand, Oslo promised an end to a futile quarrel in which both sides stood to lose their homes and their souls. The predictable collapse of Oslo proved both of us wrong, me in my hopefulness, Benzion in his prophecy of doom. It was Benzion’s Revisionist tenacity that led Menachim Begin of all people to accuse him of right-wing extremism. Unmoved by this criticism, Benzion scorned Begin in a conversation with me as a weakling, a compromiser. Yitzak Shamir was beneath his contempt. Yet my admiration for Benzion is akin to love, and I like to think these feelings are to some degree reciprocated.

For Benzion, the Arabs are implacable enemies. For me, they are indispensable partners who with their Jewish counterparts might once have created—and perhaps still may find the wisdom to create—a flourishing bi-national state, an exemplary multiethnic enclave within a stable Middle East or, failing that, a two-state solution. If my position underestimates the dark side of human nature, Benzion’s ignores the futility and horror—the sadness—of a military solution. Since our immovable polarity is understood by both of us our discussions of Middle East politics tend to be brief. Our affection flourishes on different ground….READ MORE

Israel: Flotillas aim to get weapons to Gaza

Source: AP, 6-23-10

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu charged Wednesday that the real motivation behind plans to send blockade-busting ships toward Gaza is to allow free flow of weapons into the Palestinian territory.

Netanyahu spoke as preparations were under way to send several ships carrying aid and pro-Palestinian activists toward Gaza, setting up potential confrontations at sea. He said Iran and the Lebanese Hezbollah, enemies of Israel, are behind the new efforts to send boats…. READ MORE