“The Israelis are Coming! The Israelis are Coming!”

August 4, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Geoffrey Cook, TMO

San Francisco–July 28th–Before your narrator begins his tale, he would like to unequivocally state that he supports the now overwhelmingly Islamic Palestinian (sub-) nationality within their seized State.  Your reporter like the grand majority of the people there and most of us support a two-State solution, but time is ticking, and the ball is in Tel Aviv’ court.  The issue has gained an increasing pungency with the bid of the Palestinians for recognition of their statehood status at the United Nation (U.N.’s) headquarters in New York City this coming September.

J Street, who invited your scribe to this event, is pro-Israel with a progressive vision, but at the same time is strongly in favor of a two-State solution.  (Of course, our reasoning is different their “whys” rom ours, but they are not so far away from our aspirations that we could not negotiate with them towards a middle ground.)   J Street was the sponsor of this evening as part of their national (U.S.)tours targeted at their Jewish-American constituency of (retired) political officials, diplomats, and (that even included four) military generals, who disapprove of their current government’s out-of-hand rejection of the (U.S.) Obama’s Administration proposals to base future negotiations  between the two contentious  sides over the pre-1967 borders with agreed swaps.   In the sponsor’s words:  “…increased tensions in the region [which is] undergoing rapid transformation [i.e., the ‘Arab Spring’]…is a critical time” for Israel, too.

I am urging my colleague in the Southland (that’s what we call Southern California from the North to balance my reporting with hers dedicated to the Palestinian perspective) whose cause she has so fervently espoused! 

The (former) Israeli Ambassador to South Africa, Ilan Baruch, resigned from his nation’s Foreign Service early from his post as the Ambassador there.  (Formerly, he was Tel Aviv’ representative in Manila.) His action was prompted because of his inability to argue his nation’s policies to an international audience with whom his homeland was becoming ever more isolated and looked down upon as a pariah entity.

Ambassador Baruch served in the Israeli Foreign Ministry for more than thirty years.  Besides his exalted duties as Israel’s (former) Ambassador to the Philippines and South Africa, he worked in their embassies in London, Copenhagen and Singapore.   He, also, led the Bureau for Middle Eastern Economic Affairs and was the Deputy Head of the Peace Process within the Middle East Department and founded and served as first Director of the Palestinian Autonomy Division within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in which position he became acquainted and worked with the (now) President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas.  They bounded as life-long friends.  They make regular personal contact over the phone, and Ilan recently visited him at his home (fifteen minutes away!).  Such integral relationships are central to resolution of the enmeshed friction between these two neighbors.

Baruck is one of most conspicuous of the high-ranking former members within previous Israeli Administrations who have come forward in opposition to the Netanyahu regime’s policies – especially in regards to the peace process.

His Excellency’s presentation, which was largely fielding questions, took part at a Synagogue within this Pacific-rim City.

J Streets’ Northwest’s Regional Director, Gordon Gladstone, began by stating that 57% of American Jews support the two-State resolution.  Strategic opinion holds to Obama’s proposals to negotiate along the lines of the pre-1967 boundaries with agreed land swaps are defensible (counter to their Prime Minister [PM’s] protests). 

Baruch noted that to be an Ambassador did not allow you to express your own opinion within hearing:  It is “…a total project” in and of itself.  His rather dramatic public resignation was made as a matter of principle.  Therefore, he emphasized that his words at the end of last month in no way represented the positions of his PM’s government.  His views are from the opposing side of the Israeli Establishment and their Society, but they represent a good deal of Civil Society’s unvoiced body political there opining.  

The contemporary Hebrew State is more complex than is apparent to its observers in the West. 

Baruch unequivocally uttered that “I am not with government [now], but have created governmental policy in the past.”  Unfortunately, the last several Israeli regimes “have been right-wing …[reflections] of their societies [electorates].”  The present, alas, does represent the will of the people, but often they merely have become e a voice for the Settlers at that. 

To a Jewish-American audience, he reiterates that so much of West Jerusalem’s security resides within their relationship with the United States.  Your relator’s audience would be pleased to hear that he believes much of this relationship is eroding away (because of his admin’s mismanagement).

The principle of “Land for Peace” means [succinctly]the end of…the Occupation…with Occupation we cannot achieve peace,” but Netanyahu disagrees.  Thus, there is no trust by the other side (us) to negotiate.  

The Netanyahu reign demands Israel remain as a Jewish State.  Also, the Palestinians look upon the West Bank and Gaza together as one (potential) State wherein Tel Aviv perceives them as separate.  This could become an issue with the current or similar-minded future Hebrew governments.     

In questioning, he fell into the standard Israeli (and American) position that the Gazans were at fault for the token scud attacks upon Israeli soil from the micro-“State’s” territory that led to Israel’s disproportionate reaction of Operation Cast Iron (December 2008-Januay 2009) when in fact it was instituted by non-State actors that Gaza City could not or would not control.  This refusal to acknowledge a popular uprising there and blame the State(s) instead (that they had set up as supposed puppets nonetheless) and punish their innocent citizens for the actions of others that their elected governments were not able to contain, must cease if there is ever to be peace.   He, then, asserted that the principle of “Land for Peace” cannot work without commitment, (but, conversely, commitment has been so poorly lacking by those series of Tel Aviv’ right-wing governments that he mentioned previously above).

It is sheer ideology that is driving Netanyahu.  The Prime Minister knows what the right thing to do is, but he does not possess the courage to do it!

The Ambassador believes that (Palestine)Statehood will be vetoed (by the American States, but that is only if it goes directly to the Security Council before the General Assembly [GA].  There are complicated legal questions if the Palestinian bid is accepted by the one and not the other.)  There is a long-standing legal differentiation between a “disputed” and an “occupied” territory that is being argued domestically within Israel herself at the moment.

Baruch pointed out that Kadima, a Centrist/Liberal (Party) within their Knesset (Parliament), towards whom he appears to lean, and who holds the largest block of seats there.  Yet they were forced from the present coalition – still, they have the greatest chance of forming a future Israeli government, deems that it is necessary to allow a neighboring State of Palestine to be formed as soon as possible.

In summation, Palestinians – largely Islamic with a vibrant Christian minority therein – have common interest with liberal political elements within Israel herself as well with a majority in the American Jewish community and others over the West. 

The American government should be cultivating these elements within the  Israeli military and their Civil Society to pressure their Middle Eastern “ally” to accept President Barrack Hussein Obama’s Administration’s proposals for bi-lateral dialog towards peace.  Influential former members of past Tel Aviv governments support our hopes and aspirations for peace in our mutual Abrahamic homeland. 

Not all Israelis or Jews are our enemies.  We should, subsequently, embrace those whom we can as friends and allies, and ask how we can work together for our common good!

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The General and the Lawyer

June 9, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Geoffrey Cook, TMO

Let us continue our discussion with The IDF (Israeli Defense Force’s) Retired General and their Ministry Of Justice Official

Last week (May 30th-June June 5th), the Yemeni unrest has broken out into a full-fledged civil war with tribal groups on one side opposing the government in Sana’s Army seriously wounding the nation’s President.  Today (124 Yemeni Army personal were reported as casualties of the battle while the NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organization) perceives the situation with alarm because of the large concentration of Al-Qaeda on the southern coast of the Arabian Peninsula.  While in Libya the consternation still converges, with NATO’s overwhelming air forces backing the rebels in Benghazi a resolution to the clash looks far away.  The Arab “Spring” has degenerated into an ugly Middle Eastern / North African clash of wills.

Let us continue with the IDF (Israeli Defense Force) Retired General Sharoni and Ms. Taras Hassan of her nation’s Ministry of Justice Department reaction to (U.S.) President Obama’s speech of a fortnight ago on establishing a basis for negotiations between Israel and Palestine based on (U.S.) President Barrack Obama’s proposals for peace dialogues.

Jeremy Ben-Ami, who is domiciled here in Washington, is the Executive Director of J-Street joined the conversation by the miracles of the Internet.  Both the two influential progressive Israelis and a liberal Jewish-American thinker shared an alternative vision for Tel Aviv’ State which includes an independent Palestinian State on their borders: A vision that would guarantee their country as a majority Jewish entity, but with better integration into the Middle Eastern environment.  Such individuals are the only hope for that nation’s survival since their citizen’s are threatened by their government’s policy of “Eternal War” which cannot be kept up indefinitely without eventual disaster. A progressively political Israeli government could be trusted to confer trustfully and honestly with the opposing side.    

Your writer is always interested in the comments of a military man like the general.  If you remember this author wrote several pieces on these pages regarding the retired American Marine Corps General Anthony Zini.  Because he was no longer on active duty, he was free to criticize (his) President Bush’s morality and his Administration conduct of the Iraq War.  Sharoni is in the exact same position in respect to his (Israeli) Prime Minister (P.M’s) policy towards the suppression of the Palestinian’s rightful desire for nationhood.  After all, unlike the Judaic ultra-Orthodox, who are not required to serve because of their long curled hair; yet, they are among the most conservative within the Hebrew body politic. (Strange, because the Sikhs, who have a reputation for being among the best soldiers in the world — are required by their religion never to cut any of their body hair; nevertheless, they have consistently served honorably, and are considered among the best soldiers in the world.  Sometimes being “shoot at” will encourage one to settle social conflicts short of war if possible.)  General Sharoni had an honorable career as a man of arms often risking his own life throughout his career.

The two people, who were in Jerusalem — contrary to their Prime Minister, were advocates, along with (U.S.) President Barrack Obama, that the basis of negotiation should begin at the acceptance of the pre-1967 borders with certain mutually concurred land exchanges resolved between the two parties through bargaining amongst themselves.  This is necessary because of the pattern of the Settlements.

(The United States or any other third foreign delegation should not impose its own will upon the principal actors, but should be there to aid the two groups to find a middle ground between them.)

The upcoming U.N. (United Nations’) vote to decide upon Palestine independence is on the Israeli liberals “radar.”  Several progressive Israeli organizations support and have already made a public endorsements in favor of this vote in favor of the Palestinians. In fact, on the fourth, a major demonstration of 5,000 residents was held in Tel Aviv in favor of Obama’s peace proposals.

The retired Major-General Sharoni is of the opinion that the only way to keep the “democratic” Motherland for the Jews is the two-State solution.  (Your author, of course, is of a slightly different opinion.  I envision a multi-sectarian State upon the territory of the present-day Israel.  The ultra-conservative Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman proposal to genetically cleanse the Hebrew State – mainly of the Palestinian Arabs — is not a positive sign for the peace process to proceed nor is the P.M.’s rejection of the (U.S.’) proposition.  Your commentator would not object to non-coercive policies to keep Israel a Jewish Majority State, though.)  The General, differing, presumes it is of the utmost urgency that Israel must remain an ethnic nation-state for Jewry.  Therefore, to assure its Jadishness, he reasons this terrain on the Mediterranean should continue as a nation-state for the Jews, and the best way to ensure this is to create a homeland for the Palestinians on their borders.  Further, that this will be advantageous to the Arabs there, too.  (What he does not factor is that Palestine is a bi-sectarian body.  In pre-Partition Palestine, the Christians were the largest congregate.  Now, they represent a mere 7% of the population, and the Muslims overwhelmingly make up most of the remaining populace.  If, the right of return is recognized the percentage of Christians should go up, but Islam would still dominate the State.)

Ms. Abbas of the Justice department reasons that there is flexibility amongst the Israelis.  It must become a de-militarized – (especially its nuclear arsenal should be reduced to the threat that is present.)  On the other hand, she believes it will be hard for the Arab’s to be flexible, whatever.

We are coming to the end of the column inches dedicated to your contributor for this week, and the comments within this international phone conversation are very rich, indeed; therefore, your evaluator will continue with his evaluation of this encounter in future segments of this study.

Especially, while writing, this piece, a sizeable Palestinian demonstration was held at the Israeli–Syrian Hebrew border on the sixth a large group of Palestinian citizens marched to Syria’s border with Israel on the Golan Heights, but were driven back with deadly force leaving twenty-three dead Arabs dead.

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Lunch with the “Devil”

June 2, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Geoffrey Cook, TMO

Jerusalem—May 19th—Your scribe has cultivated a collegial relationship with a progressive American Jewish group, J-Street, who advocate a strong Israel next to a viable independent Palestinian State.  They wish to be able to communicate with American Muslims as natural allies, too, towards concluding a mutual peace throughout the Levant. 

On the date above, Jeremy Ben-Ami of J-Street in Washington invited me to be on a Conference call with Major General Nat Sharoni (retired) of the IDF (Israeli Defense Force); now Director of the  Council for Peace and Security and with  Taras Hassan, a ranking member of Tel Aviv’ Justice (sic!) department.

Your essayist’s stance is close to theirs, curiously enough.  Therefore, although not Jewish by religion, I support their position, and, thus, consider myself as a “fellow traveler.”

Admittedly, it is a “Disaster,” though, that the Jewish State (20% of its population are not Jews) was established in this profusely populated region in the Middle East even though Stalin, only as an example of another possible alternative, had a functioning (Jewish nation) within Central Asia at the time of the latter State’s establishment (1948) built upon the Foundation of the British (Palestinian Arab) Mandate.

If you remember your writer’s study of the Hindu M.K. Gandhi upon the founding of Israel which was published on these pages a bit over a year ago, your researcher was of the opinion that, if the Zionist faction, would have seriously contemplated Gandhi’s propositions, Israel could have emerged as an admirable multi-sectarian( Middle Eastern) entity.

Just last week (May 16th – 21st), as your columnist, was preparing this week’s column, your reviewer received a request out of the University of Bethlehem by a group of impressive Palestinian intellectuals to sign onto a call for a one-State solution.  Your commentator did not, even though I had proposed a Constitutional schema to resolve such an eventuality last year in reply to a memo to the Chair of an assemblage who desired such a resolution to the conflict.    

It is true a one-State solution would destroy Tel Aviv as the Center of a Jewish State.  Instead Israel-Palestine would revert back to the acceptable cultural constitution of the multi-sectarian Ottoman Province and the similar structural mix of the later pre-Partition British Mandate.  

Such leading personalities as Judge Richard Goldstone himself, the lead author of the Goldstone Report on the IDF (Israeli Defense Force’s) aggression against Gaza, and Richard Falk, the former U.N (United Nations’) Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories during the incursion (Operation Cast Lead) from the middle of December 2008 until end of January 2009, believe that a One State solution is the only possible endgame, unfortunately, due to the Settlers’ illegal theft of land from its rightful residents.  Also, a similar posture — based upon dissimilar rationale — is held by leading Palestinian thinkers as, curiously, by some right-wing Jewish individuals.  (The latter consider it to be the only way they could – in any way — ultimately be able to hold onto those settlements.)

This past week the Libyan Civil War, further, raged while NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organization) continued its ferocious intervention.  In Yemen one of the major tribes is in open revolt against the government.    Syria is close, too, to an out and out civil conflict.  The rest of the lands around the Southern shores of the Mediterranean Sea are at different levels of upheavals or crises.

The Key to the success or failure of the Arab “Spring” lies here within non-Arab Jerusalem.  Whatever reaction Israel might make, very well will determine the success or failure of the “Spring,” and this past week has been a momentous one for the United States, Israel and Palestine (the “Occupied Territories”). 

The U.S. President’s Special Envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell, resigned while on the Palestinian side their two violently competing parties, Fatah and Hamas, reconciled to the trepidation of Tel Aviv.  The Israeli Prime Minister Netanayhu came to Washington to address the combined houses of Congress after the U.S. President made an important address on Holy Land peace, also.  The conversation, which will be described in future sections of this extended article, occurred shortly after the latter’s speech.

That middle week of last month was an important period for those from the three above mentioned countries – individuals within them who are striving for a bi-national conclusion to the Arab-Israeli conundrum of the past sixty-three years.  Furthermore, all progressive peoples in these three lands are preparing for this September’s upcoming scheduled crucial vote in the United Nations (U.N.) for Palestinian independence.

Within the Hebrew-speaking populace a twofold homeland outcome is becoming ever more accepted and apparent.     

The American President Barrack Hussein Obama proposed an amazingly even-handed practical basis for negotiation, but the Hebrew Prime Minister instantly — with a politically tactless rebuff – insulted the President’s proffered rational peace principles.   In effect, the latter man rejected any possible proactive participation toward solving the problem; and, thereby, any possibility of a peaceable co-existence between the two populations soon.  In essence, Netanyahu ensured that no motion towards the cessation of hostilities will be made while the current government in Tel Aviv remains.  Furthermore, it is unlikely that there will be a better time than now to begin to reconcile the two sides with the most even-handed American Presidency in Washington since the Nakba (of 1948). 

It was a bad week for all who desire peace.  Most of all, it was a bad meeting for the Israelis for it will guarantee that their “Eternal War” will continue which can only conclude in an unimaginable violent end to their national ambitions at its current pace.  Fortunately, there are high ranking dissidents in the Jewish State whose propositions would be more acceptable to the Palestinian parties, and in future segments of this study you will be able to listen to those.   

The Obama Administration’s central plan to begin the dialogue was that the borders for a new State of Palestine would be based on the pre-1967 borders.  Prime Minister Netanyahu’s repudiation of that request was that those borders were indefensible for Israel, but some of his best military advisors disagree with him, and your reporter will bring influential high-ranking Israelis’ arguments against their P.M. (Prime Minister) in future sections of this extended article.

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