Monthly Archives: November 2009

Talking With McGovern in a Time of Palin and Israel’s Settlements

by James M. Wall I was fed up with the ugliness of American political dialogue. I knew it was time to call George McGovern. I found him on St. Thomas Island, where he was attending  the funeral of an old … Continue reading

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Mired In Political Purgatory by Israel Lobby, Abbas Halts Election

He sees the mainstream churches at least as often foolish as they are wise. He believes that the Century, and liberal Protestants generally, must shift from pious approval of their churches to a more realistic and vigorous appraisal. Concludes Wall: “What we have to say about the church and the world will be gutsy and robust.”

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Abbas Ends His Two State Dream; Bibi Takes His DC Victory Lap

The picture above, of Mahmoud Abbas, is by Rina Castelnuovo for The New York Times. It was taken on November 11, in Ramallah at a rally on the 5th Anniversary of the death of Yasir Arafat.

Administration’s peace efforts, and relentless Israeli colonization of the occupied West Bank, the reality is dawning rapidly that the two-state solution is no more than a slogan that has no chance of being implemented or altering the reality of a de facto binational state in Palestine/Israel.

This places an obligation on all who care about the future of Palestine/Israel to seriously consider the democratic alternatives. I have long argued that the systems in post-apartheid South Africa (a unitary democratic state), and Northern Ireland (consociational democracy) — offer hopeful, real-life models.

Mr. Netanyahu didn’t offer any new commitment about Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem — which the Palestinians have demanded be fully stopped as a precondition for peace talks — or list any specific terms for holding new negotiations.

Without a unified Palestinian government, there is no two state solution. Israel’s long pretense of wanting a “partner for peace” is over. The hope vested in President Obama has been dashed against an iron wall of Israeli intransigence.

In 1948, some 600,000 Jews, their backs against the sea, fended off the assault of much larger enemies sworn to our destruction. We were aided by many of our fellow American Jews. You gave money, arms, and most important, tremendous moral support.

You helped Israel absorb waves of immigrants, you spearheaded the historic struggle to free Soviet Jewry and you have tirelessly worked to strengthen the American-Israeli alliance which is a cornerstone of Israel?s security.

Jewish Federations of North America GA

Haaretz Correspondent Barak Ravid

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was set to tell U.S. President Barack Obama that he was “very serious” about wanting to advance peace talks with the Palestinians during the two leaders’ scheduled meeting on Monday.

The last-minute scheduling of Netanyahu’s White House meeting, after Israeli officials said over the past several weeks that Netanyahu hoped to see Obama, was widely seen as a sign of strained relations between the two leaders.

“We mean business,” Netanyahu planned to tell the American president, and add that Israel was ready to be “generous” in scaling back the construction in West Bank settlements.
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House Condemns Goldstone 344-36, Clinton Caves on Settlements

Rep. Baird

Tony Karon

Abdeljalil Bounhar / AP.jpg

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who has called for Palestinian elections in late January, has been losing support in the region because of the perception that he yields to pressure from Israel and the US. With the January election looming, this was not a good time for the US to deliver twin blows to Abbas’ public image before and after he met with Secretary of State Clinton in Abu Dhabi, just before her meeting with Netanyahu in Jerusalem.

The first blow came from what Politico’s Lauren Rozen described as the “US flip-flop on the settlements freeze issue”. That blow was coupled with the public humiliation Abbas suffered after he initially blocked further consideration by the UN Human Rights Council of the Goldstone Report.

By not standing with Hamas and the Gazans who had suffered great losses in life and property, Abbas was immediately subjected to swift and angry reaction from the Palestinian public. This reaction forced him to reverse the Goldstone decision and endorse its further consideration.

Rozen quotes one Middle East authority (unnamed), who told her that “There is no strong, capable person navigating this ship. It all seems unprofessional, a policy drifting in different directions, thus projecting weakness to a savvy and cynical region that studies and looks for signs of strength and weakness. Very dangerous and full of implications for Iran and Af-Pak policy.”

This is a harsh criticism which most likely comes from a “Middle East authority” who is unfriendly to both Obama and Clinton. But the point is undeniable that “signs of strength and weakness” are watched closely in the region. The Obama-Clinton team has been no help in recent weeks to a battered President Abbas.

The Obama Administration’s bid to relaunch an Israeli-Palestinian peace process is falling apart faster than you can say settlement freeze — in no small part because President Obama began his effort by saying “settlement freeze.” . . . .

Asking the Arab states to accept Israel’s offer to simply slow down construction in the West Bank and its refusal to stop building and demolishing Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem — after President Obama publicly and repeatedly demanded it — has battered the Administration’s credibility in Arab capitals.

Congressman Brian Baird (D-Washington) will be one of those courageous members of the House who will vote against the resolution. Baird is one of the few members of the House who have, as he puts it, “actually been in Gaza”.

On his Web site, he asked his colleagues,

MARRAKESH, Morocco — For the last seven months, the Obama administration has labored in vain to bring the Israelis and the Palestinians together, pushing for a loose quid pro quo under which Israel would freeze construction of Jewish settlements while its Arab neighbors undertook diplomatic steps to bolster Israel’s confidence in its security.

Now, in the latest acknowledgment that its policy has failed, at least for the moment, Secretary of StateHillary Rodham Clinton has begun setting the stage for a new phase of Middle East diplomacy, with a more modest goal. She is trying to get the parties talking at any level to avoid a dangerous vacuum until a Plan B emerges.

Mrs. Clinton began sketching out this approach Tuesday in a speech and in meetings with Arab foreign ministers during a conference of Arab and Western nations in this city of pink sandstone buildings. She flew to Cairo later to hold talks with the Egyptian leader, Hosni Mubarak.

Making it clear that the Israeli government would not agree to President Obama’s call for a complete halt to settlement construction, Mrs. Clinton promoted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s offer as a reasonable compromise that could still form the basis for progress. Mr. Netanyahu

Clinton’s scaled down goals

Why are we bringing this resolution to the floor without ever giving former South African Constitutional Court Justice Richard Goldstone a hearing to explain his findings? Have those who will vote on H.Res. 867 actually read the resolution? Have they read the Goldstone report? Are they aware that Justice Goldstone has issued a paragraph by paragraph response, available on my Web site at, to H.Res. 867 pointing out that many of its assertions are factually inaccurate or deeply misleading?

On his Web site, Rep. Baird continues:

What will it say about this Congress and our country if we so readily seek to block “any further consideration” of a human rights investigation produced by one of the most respected jurists in the world today, a man who led the investigations of abuses in South Africa, the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Kosovo and worked to identify and prosecute Nazi war criminals as a member of the Panel of the Commission of Enquiry into the Activities of Nazism in Argentina?

The resolution, co-sponsored by the two senior members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Howard L. Berman (D-Calif.) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), charges that the report by South African jurist Richard Goldstone for the U.N. Human Rights Council is “irredeemably biased and unworthy of further consideration or legitimacy,” in part because it was based on “a flawed and biased mandate,” and that the militant group Hamas was able to “significantly shape the findings of the investigation.” Lawmakers expect it to win easy approval under a fast-track procedure that allows for no amendments.

“Even before I was a Democrat, I was a Zionist.” Berman told the Jewish publication, Forward, when he became chairman of Foreign Affairs. He was first elected to Congress in 1982. Continue reading

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