Actions speak louder

Palestinians must match Israel’s commitment to peace


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry

Israel took the excruciating step in late October of releasing 26 Palestinian prisoners, every one a convicted murder.

As talks with the Palestinians brokered by Secretary of State John Kerry continue — in private, where they belong — this good-faith sacrifice must soon be repaid with meaningful concessions from the other side of the table.

All the men set free from Israeli prisons — the second of four phases of a total of 104 releases — earned a full lifetime in jail cells, if not an express trip to eternity.

Damouni Saad Mohammed Ahmed was a member of a mob that stoned and burned to death Israel Defense Forces (IDF) reservist Amnon Pomerantz in 1990. Masoud Issa Rajeb slaughtered with a hatchet a South African peace activist working with Gazans in 1993.

They and many others were greeted as homecoming heroes, each outburst of joy a twist of the knife for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and families across Israel.

Urgently needed now are concrete, reciprocal acts by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who has spent years sidestepping the challenges to resolving a long-term settlement of grievances.

The Palestinian side has never convincingly demonstrated its willingness to prepare its population, a sizable portion of which remains fanatically committed to Israel’s destruction, for a future living in harmony alongside the Jewish State.

In recent weeks, Palestinian terrorism has flared again — including the killing of two IDF soldiers and the wounding of a 9-year-old girl in an Israeli settlement.

While earlier rounds of talks were derailed, in part, by leaks and loose talk, Kerry to his credit has managed to keep these discussions quiet. May that be a sign that both sides are making long-elusive progress. Israel is paying very dearly for it.

Jerusalem isn’t occupied

Leader of Bayit Yehudi (Israeli political party) says “whoever thinks our capital of 3,000 years is occupied doesn’t understand anything.”

Naftali Bennett at a Bayit Yehudi faction meeting, February 18, 2013. Photo: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post
Naftali Bennett at a Bayit Yehudi faction meeting, February 18, 2013. Photo: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post


“Succot is a very Israeli holiday. When we sit in temporary huts, we can appreciate the fact that we have a permanent country,” Economy and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett told a group of Christian legislators on Sunday. [Sukkot 2013 began in the evening of Wednesday, September 18 and ends in the evening of Wednesday, September 25.]

The lawmakers — from the U.S., European Union, Canada, Brazil, Netherlands, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Macedonia, Poland, South Africa, Guatemala, Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, and Uruguay — are attending the Israel Allies Foundation Jerusalem Chairman’s Conference.

The Israel Allies Foundation coordinates the activities of dozens of pro-Israel caucuses in parliaments around the world, which aim to increase cooperation and communication with Israel.

Speaking to the parliamentarians eating their lunch in a succa, Bennett said that “a people who lives in shacks one week a year for 3,000 years -– and I did just that with my children, for the last three nights –- are a people that will remain forever, because we remember our history.”

“Israel’s raison d’être is so the Jewish people will last for eternity,” he emphasized.

In reference to Iran and “so-called moderate President Rouhani,” Bennett said, “Israel can only rely on itself, by itself, and we don’t recommend anyone test us.”

The Bayit Yehudi leader called on the parliamentarians to “stand up and speak up. Whenever there’s an opportunity or a lie being told, don’t be silent.

“We’re being told that right behind this succa [the Old City of Jerusalem] is occupied territory, and we may be boycotted as long as we’re there.

“Whoever thinks our capital of 3,000 years is occupied doesn’t understand anything. Stop the lies,” he said.

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat reaffirmed his commitment to freedom of religion in the capital.

“We would never think of, God forbid, dividing our city,” he said. “Be ambassadors for peace and tell the truth about your visit here.”

MK David Rotem, Knesset Christian Allies Caucus co-chairman, asked the members of the European Parliament in the group to fight European Union guidelines sanctioning companies and universities connected to the West Bank.

“Our friends in the EP do a lot of good for Israel and the Jewish nation. We need to make sure they are re-elected, because they have the courage to speak up for what they believe in,” Rotem said.

On Sunday evening, the lawmakers participated in a Feast of Tabernacles ceremony at the Jerusalem International Convention Center (Binyenei Ha’uma) together with thousands of Christians.

Second IDF soldier killed, Emergency meeting called

By Tommy Mueller /

IDF soldier Hazen funeral Israel’s security cabinet held a crisis meeting on Monday. The reason: the killing of two Israeli soldiers by Palestinians since Friday.

Earlier the weekend, Tomer Hazan (20) was killed in an Arab village. (See story). He was buried on Sunday (photo). Hours later, a Palestinian sniper in Hebron shot and killed another soldier, Kobi Gal, also 20-years-old.

Gal was shot as Israeli soldiers battled a violent Palestinian mob that was hurling stones and firebombs at Jewish worshippers visiting the Tomb of the Patriarchs, burial place of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca, and Leah.

Hazan’s killer has already been taken into custody, while the sniper that killed Gal is currently being hunted by Israeli forces.

Meanwhile, the slayings are likely to have a major impact on the renewed, but faltering US-driven Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations. Israeli Housing Minister Uri Ariel is demanding that for the time being, Israel release no more Palestinian prisoners.

But Palestinian officials, who have failed to openly condemn the fresh killings, insist Israel has committed to freeing the jailed terrorists, and must fulfill that promise if the peace talks are to continue.

The White House released a statement reading: “This violence and terrorism are unacceptable. They undermine efforts to create a positive atmosphere that is necessary for progress in the peace negotiations.”

The violent deaths of the two soldiers has also overshadowed the current Feast of Tabernacles festivities in Jerusalem. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent his condolences to the two bereaved families and stressed the need to combat terror at all times.

Israel Should Annul the Oslo Accords


JERUSALEM — This month marks 20 years since the signing of the first of the Oslo Accords between the State of Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization. Two decades after Yitzhak Rabin and Yasir Arafat stood on the White House lawn with President Bill Clinton, Israelis and Palestinians are again in the midst of the umpteenth round of negotiations.

Despite these efforts, true peace seems as distant as it did before the secret talks in Oslo were revealed to the world. The government of Israel must admit that we made a mistake and declare that the Oslo process has failed.

Only by officially annulling the Oslo Accords will we have the opportunity to rethink the existing paradigm and hopefully lay the foundations for a more realistic modus vivendi between the Jews and Arabs of this region.

Despite attempts to rewrite recent history by fringe elements, the failure of the Oslo framework cannot be attributed to a lack of will and persistence by Israel. What didn’t we try? We attempted direct negotiations, third-party mediators, public conferences and back-channel talks. We staged withdrawals and unilateral disengagements, established joint Israeli-Palestinian military patrols in Gaza and deployed American-trained security forces in the West Bank. None of this worked.

The P.L.O., and later the Palestinian Authority, never truly accepted that Israel, as the national state and homeland of the Jewish people, was here to stay. No amount of impressive ceremonies, cosmetic changes to the P.L.O. charter and Palestinian doublespeak to Western media outlets about their commitment to peace was able to change this grim fact.

To understand the mind-boggling scope of Oslo’s failure, it is best to look at the statistics. According to the organization B’Tselem, during the first Palestinian intifada in 1987, six years before Mr. Rabin’s attempt to recast the archterrorist Yasir Arafat as a peacemaker, 160 Israelis were murdered in Palestinian terror attacks. In the mid- to late-1990s, as successive Israeli governments negotiated with the Palestinians, and Mr. Arafat and his cronies repeatedly swore they were doing their utmost to end terrorism, 240 Israelis were brutally killed as suicide bombs and other heinous terrorist acts targeting unarmed civilians were unleashed in every corner of our nation.

Things did not get better after Prime Minister Ehud Barak made the Palestinians an offer in 2000 that, judging by his landslide defeat in the election a few months later, was way beyond what most Israelis supported. Between then and September 2010, 1,083 Israelis were murdered by Palestinian terrorists.

The Oslo process did not bring peace; it brought increased bloodshed. We must end this farce by announcing the immediate suspension of the Accords.

Little impact would be felt by average Israelis and Palestinians. Those who would suffer most would be full-time negotiators like Martin S. Indyk and Saeb Erekat, who would find themselves out of a job after 20 years of gainful employment in the peace process industry.

What should replace Oslo’s false promise? We should implement what I have called a “three-state solution.” In the future, the final status of the Palestinians will be determined in a regional agreement involving Jordan and Egypt, when the latter has been restabilized. All the region’s states must participate in the process of creating a long-term solution for the Palestinian problem.

In the short term, the Palestinians will continue to have autonomy over their civilian lives while Israel remains in charge of security throughout Judea and Samaria, commonly referred to as the West Bank. Following an initial period, the Arab residents of Judea and Samaria could continue to develop their society as part of an agreement involving Israel and Jordan. Similarly, Gaza residents could work with Israel and Egypt to create a society that granted them full civil authority over their lives in a manner that was acceptable to all sides.

Most veterans of the peace process will mock this proposal, protesting that there is no way it would be accepted by the Palestinians. Their argument may seem convincing today, but as I often remind my critics, our region is unpredictable. Had you told any Middle East expert five years ago that two successive Egyptian presidents would be deposed and Bashar al-Assad’s regime would be in the midst of a bloody civil war, you, too, would have been mocked. Things change. We can make them change.

I am aware that even if the Palestinians accepted this plan, we would still have to deal with a fundamentalist Hamas regime in Gaza and continuing instability in Egypt. No plan for Israeli-Arab peace can be fully implemented until these issues are resolved.

In the short term, Israel’s only option is to manage this conflict by refusing to compromise when it comes to the security of Israeli citizens. At the same time, our government should take all steps possible to improve the economic well-being of the Palestinians.

The dissolution of the Oslo Accords would serve as the official act validating what we already know — that this failed framework is totally irrelevant in 2013. Once the Palestinians were ready to sit down and seriously discuss how our two peoples, through this new paradigm, could live side by side in peace and prosperity, they would find willing partners across the political spectrum in Israel.

It may not be the utopian peace promised to all of us on that sunny day in September 1993, but in the harsh realities of the Middle East, this may be the best we can hope for and the sole realistic chance for our children to grow up in a world less violent than previous generations have had to endure.

Danny Danon is a member of the Knesset and the Deputy Defense Minister of Israel.

The Chances of Peace are Zero

By Elad Benari /

The latest round of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) will fail as have past rounds, predicted Professor Avraham Diskin, a professor at the Political Science Department of the Hebrew University. He said that the reason that talks are doomed to fail is because the PA does not wish to reach an agreement.

Noting the peace agreement signed between Israel and Egypt in 1979, Professor Diskin said that in this case, both sides held serious negotiations and it was clear that both sides had the intention of reaching an agreement. The PA, however, display the opposite behavior, he added.

“Israel saved the PLO from collapsing with the Oslo Accords,” said Diskin, noting the Camp David talks in 2000, in which then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered then-PA Chairman Yasser Arafat a groundbreaking offer which Arafat refused. The same goes for talks between then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas in 2009, when Olmert offered Abbas 94% of Judea and Samaria and Abbas refused.

Diskin mentioned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s unprecedented step of freezing construction in Judea and Samaria in his last term, as well as being the first prime minister who supported the two state solution. Even these steps failed to bring the PA back to the negotiating table, bringing Diskin to conclude that the PA leadership has not missed any tricks in order to lose the opportunity for serious negotiations.

Diskin further stated that the world does not understand what is happening and prefers to be fed by anti-Israeli commentators and thus determine that Israel is to blame for the stalled negotiations.

Ex-Mossad Head: Peace Talks were Bungled

By Gil Ronen /

Ex-Mossad Head Meir Dagan
Ex-Mossad Head Meir Dagan

Meir Dagan, the former head of the Mossad intelligence agency, said in an interview on July 29 that the negotiations vis-a-vis the Palestinian Authority (PA) were poorly handled and therefore do not have much chance of succeeding.

“This should have been handled differently,” he explained. “We should have conducted secret negotiations with the Arab League, and only then begun open negotiations with the PA. The problem of Jerusalem, for instance, is not a PA problem but a problem of the entire Arab world. At least two states, like Jordan and Saudi Arabia, need to be brought on board, in order to give backing to any move.”

The PA and Israel have common reasons to want to advance the talks, Dagan opined. These include “the strengthening of Islam, the Iranian problem and the weakening of the PA. All these can give a boost, but I do not have much hope for the negotiations that began tonight [July 29].”

Regarding Syria, Dagan said that Israel need not fear “a few dozen al-Qaeda terrorists along the fence.” It is the Syrian army that gives Israel a reason to worry, he said, “and as far as Israel is concerned, Assad needs to go home as soon as possible.”

Dagan said that the military regime in Egypt is a good thing for Israel, and that Jordan is also in a good situation. “The regime is stable and strong, and the Hashemite monarchy is in full control of the kingdom.”

“At this time,” Dagan added, “Israel has no need to attack in Iran. We have not yet reached that situation. When the reality changes, western intelligence will know everything. Today, an attack means uniting the Iranian nation, which is currently disunited, against Israel – and this includes a war. At this time, it will give us nothing.”

Member of Knesset speaks against release terrorists

MK Shaked expresses frustration over prisoner release: “Why invest so many resources chasing terrorists, if they all go free in the end?”

MK Ayelet Shaked
MK Ayelet Shaked
By Gil Ronen /

In a Knesset debate on the budget, MK Ayelet Shaked (Bayit Yehudi) expressed her frustration with the government’s decision to release terrorist murderers, by proposing that the budget for the Shin Bet intelligence services, and military courts be slashed, alleging that they are unnecessary anyway.

The Shin Bet budget can be cut drastically, she said, and the military courts can just be closed down.

“Why does the state invest so many resources in chasing after, catching and trying terrorists, if they all go free in the end anyway? Why bother? Isn’t it a shame to have to waste more money in the end on the paperwork and the buses that take them back to where they are going? Instead of raising VAT, let’s just cut the defense budget,” she said sarcastically.

“We can cut hasbarah [Public Relations – ed.] budgets, too,” she continued. “It’s useless. Why do we do a lot of fancy talking and tell the world fables about fighting terror, if unlike the Americans, who refuse to even release [Jonathan] Pollard, we free 104 murderers, in exchange for the right to send [negotiator Yitzhak] Molcho to talk to a low-level Palestinian representative?”

“You deserve each other”

Shaked also condemned the popular Palestinian Arab support for convicted murderers:

“One last word, to our peace and freedom seeking cousins,” she continued.

“I see your celebrations in Ramallah, regarding the release of the murderers. I have one thing to tell you: you deserve each other.

“Take them, the murderers of children, the violators of dead bodies, the ones who burn women alive. That is what you look like: a bloodthirsty group that dances in honor of the release of 104 barbarians. That is our partner.”

Finishing with a message of defiance, she added:

“But you should know: for every murderer who is freed, dozens of new homes will be built, in our Land of the Bible, in Judea and Samaria. That is how it is, from the dawn of Zionism: we build, they kill. Each side does what it knows best.”

Kerry: Israelis, Palestinians will launch formal peace talks

By Anne Gearan and Debbi Wilgoren /

Secretary of State John F. Kerry said Tuesday that Israeli and Palestinian negotiators have agreed to launch formal peace talks within the next two weeks, in hopes of forging a comprehensive agreement over the next nine months on the creation of an independent Palestinian state.

The chief U.S. diplomat made the announcement after meetings between Israeli and Palestinian teams in Washington on Monday night and Tuesday morning. They were the first serious, face-to-face peace talks between the two governments in five years.

Kerry said all so-called final status issues — such as borders, the status of Jerusalem, and the right of return for Palestinian refugees — will be up for discussion, without preconditions. The goal, he said, is to reach a “final-status” agreement within nine months.

“The time has come for a lasting peace,” Kerry said, speaking in the State Department’s ornate Benjamin Franklin room in front of a row of Israeli, Palestinian, and American flags.

In what he described as a “new moment of possibility,” Kerry said Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Palestinian Authority envoy Saeb Erekat will meet again within the next two weeks, either in Israel or the Palestinian territories.

He said the negotiators had agreed to take on all the thorny issues that have sunk past efforts to create an independent Palestine.

Earlier Tuesday, President Obama and Vice President Biden met with the negotiators at the White House.

The teams gathered at the State Department Monday night for an iftar dinner to celebrate the end of the daily fast that marks the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Each team also met separately with Kerry.

Tuesday morning, the negotiators had talks with special envoy for Middle East peace Martin Indyk and briefly heard from the president.

“It’s no secret that this is a difficult process. If it were easy, it would have happened a long time ago,” Kerry said Monday night. He said the negotiators would seek “reasonable compromises on tough, complicated, emotional, and symbolic issues.”

Many of the core issues that the Israelis and Palestinians must address have remained unchanged for decades: how to arrange for Israel’s security needs; whether, where, and how to divide Jerusalem to create a Palestinian capital; what to do about Palestinian refugees and their desire to return home; and where to draw the borders for a future state of Palestine.

But the continued growth of Jewish settlements in the “West Bank” [Judea and Samaria] — and what to do with them if a Palestinian state is created — presents an increasingly thorny challenge. [Palestinians want the right to “return” and live in Israel, but no Jews should live in a Palestinian state?]

In the past five years, the population of Jewish settlements in the West Bank has grown by about 20 percent, and pro-settler politicians have become major players in Israel’s government.

About 340,000 to 360,000 people live in Jewish settlements in the West Bank, according to Israeli government data. An additional 300,000 Jews live in East Jerusalem, which Palestinians claim as their future capital.

Americans want increased pressure on Palestinians for peace.

(New Jersey) Star-Ledger March 21, 2013

Most Americans want President Obama to pressure Palestinians to compromise toward a Mideast peace plan, instead of Israelis. That’s a sharp increase over 2008, when the same question was asked.

Gallup poll Palestinian Pressure
Source: Gallup poll conducted February 7–10, 2013 with a margin of error of + or – 4 percentages points.
Illustration by Chris Van Es

Why There is No Peace in the Middle East–video

In order to achieve peace, each side must see the other as equal and not dehumanize them. This is the first condition for real dialogue.

Let’s see how Arabs are portrayed in Israeli media and how Jews are portrayed in Palestinian media.