May 1, 2012

EDITOR: The Co-Op joins BDS, but stays short of full boycott

On Sunday, we heard that the Co-Op, a large European network of supermarkets, as joined the boycott of settlements products, but avoids a boycott of all other Israeli products. While the boycott of the settlements is very welcome, it is based on a deep misunderstanding of Israel, its society and politics.

The settlements were NOT a result of private enterprise, ever.  The settlers have been organised, armed and financed by the Israeli governments of left and right, ever since 1968. There is not a single mainstream Israeli politician who agreed to stop the illegal process, not to mention pulling them out, as required by international law. The settlements project is the largest such project – over 12% of Jewish Israelis live in the settlements, and Israel controls the life of all Palestinians by a system of racist “Jews only” roads, checkpoints, the 800 km Apartheid wall, house demolition, extrajudicial killings, the mass uprooting of trees, illegal land confiscation, and the re-rooting of water and other resources. This is NOT a project carried out by the settlers alone – the while Israeli society, with the support of the US, EU and other countries, is breaking international law by these activities, for nearly half a century. hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have joined the Nakba victims, being forced out of their land and houses. By refusing to boycott Israel itself, the Co-Op is avoiding this thorny issue.

Of course, in comparison to other companies in Europe, not to mention North America, the Co-Op is indeed being progressive and forthright, which we should recognise and support. The next stage, however, must be the mass boycott of Israel, if the Middle East conflict between the Zionist settler state and the indigenous population of Palestine is to ever be resolved in a peaceful and just manner. Israel will not stop this illegal effort to uproot ALL Palestinians from their land, and replace them with Jewish settlers, until the world, united, acts against this as it once did in the case of South African apartheid.

Co-op boycotts exports from Israel’s West Bank settlements: Observer

UK’s largest mutual takes lead among European supermarkets
Tracy McVeigh and Harriet Sherwood
The Observer, Sunday 29 April 2012
The Co-operative Group stresses that its move is not an Israeli boycott and that it will use other suppliers in the country that do not source from illegal settlements. Photograph: Graham Turner for the Observer
The Co-operative Group has become the first major European supermarket group to end trade with companies that export produce from illegal Israeli settlements.

The UK’s fifth biggest food retailer and its largest mutual business, the Co-op took the step as an extension of its existing policy which had been not to source produce from illegal settlements that have been built on Palestinian territories in the West bank.

Now the retail and insurance giant has taken it one step further by “no longer engaging with any supplier of produce known to be sourcing from the Israeli settlements”.

The decision will hit four companies and contracts worth some £350,000. But the Co-op stresses this is not an Israeli boycott and that its contracts will go to other companies inside Israel that can guarantee they don’t export from illegal settlements.

Welcoming the move, Palestinian human rights campaigners said it was the first time a supermarket anywhere in the west had taken such a position.

The Co-op’s decision will immediately affect four suppliers, Agrexco, Arava Export Growers, Adafresh and Mehadrin, Israel’s largest agricultural export company. Other companies may be affected by the policy.

Hilary Smith, Co-op member and Boycott Israel Network (BIN) agricultural trade campaign co-ordinator, said the Co-op “has taken the lead internationally in this historic decision to hold corporations to account for complicity in Israel’s violations of Palestinian human rights We strongly urge other retailers to take similar action.”

A spokesperson for the Palestinian Union of Agricultural Work Committees, which works to improve the conditions of Palestinian agricultural communities, said: “Israeli agricultural export companies like Mehadrin profit from and are directly involved in the ongoing colonisation of occupied Palestinian land and theft of our water. Trade with such companies constitutes a major form of support for Israel’s apartheid regime over the Palestinian people, so we warmly welcome this principled decision by the Co-operative. The movement for boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it complies with international law is proving to be a truly effective form of action in support of Palestinian rights.”

Boycott campaigns against Israel are routinely denounced by Israeli officials as part of a drive to “delegitimise” the Jewish state. A law, passed last July, allows those that call for economic, cultural or academic boycotts against Israel, its institutions or areas under its control to be sued.

Major British supermarket chain announces boycott of produce made in West Bank settlements: Haaretz

Co-op, fifth biggest supermarket chain in Britain, emphasizes it will continue doing business with companies that can guarantee none of their products come from outside the Green Line.
By Anshel Pfeffer

A Palestinian man throw a product from Jewish settlements in a fire in the West Bank village of Salfit, Tuesday, May 18, 2010. Photo by: AP

One of the largest supermarket chains in Britain has announced that it intends to boycott Israeli agricultural exporters that market also produce from the West Bank settlements.
While British food retailers have for some years now been labeling products that are grown or manufactured in settlements and in some cases boycotting them entirely, this is the first move by a major company to end all dealings with companies that export products from within the Green Line and from the settlements. The main companies that will be impacted by this decision are Agrexco, Mehadrin and Arava.

The announcement came this weekend following years of campaigning by pro-Palestinian organizations in Britain that have been lobbying for boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) of Israel. Co-op, the fifth biggest supermarket chain in Britain has emphasized that this is not a boycott of Israel and that it will continue doing business with companies that can guarantee none of their products originate from outside the Green Line.

The attempts to limit the export of settlement produce to Europe were led in the past by the European Union and the British government. In 2009, the British government, at the express instructions of former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, issued guidelines to retailers on clear labeling of produce made in settlements, differentiating it from Palestinian produce and products that were made within the Green Line. These guidelines followed Israeli refusals to label settlement products before being exported to the EU. The issue of labeling settlement produce was a major bone of contention between the British and Israeli governments at the time.

In recent years, the BDS movement has targeted companies such as Agrexco, an export cooperative that serves thousands of farmers, kibbutzim and small agricultural companies in Israel that has continued to export settlement produce.

Hilary Smith, of the Boycott Israel Network welcomed the the Co-op’s decision saying that the chain “has taken the lead internationally in this historic decision to hold corporations to account for complicity in Israel’s violations of Palestinian human rights. We strongly urge other retailers to follow suit and take similar action.”

The Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem responded saying that “it is a pity to see some, who ostensibly pretend to contribute to peace and reconciliation, advance a negative agenda of boycotts, inject an atmosphere of confrontation and widen the distance between the parties involved. It would be prudent to seek a more positive approach to conflict resolution.”

Israeli negotiation expert has NHS workshop cancelled after union protests: Guardian

Unison says it objects to lessons in conflict resolution by Professor Moty Cristal as it ‘supports the Palestinian people’
Harriet Sherwood in Jerusalem
Children wave a Palestinian flag in the Gaza Strip – Unison said it was its official policy to support the people of Palestine. Photograph: Ali Ali/EPA
A National Health Service workshop due to be led by an Israeli expert on negotiation, conflict resolution and crisis intervention has been cancelled after union objections.

Children wave a Palestinian flag in the Gaza Strip – Unison said it was its official policy to support the people of Palestine. Photograph: Ali Ali/EPA

Professor Moty Cristal had been invited to lead a session for managers and union officials in Manchester next week, entitled The Role of Negotiation in Dealing With Conflict, run by the Manchester Mental Health and Social Care Trust. But on Friday he received an email from the workshop organisers cancelling the event after pressure from the trade union Unison.

The session was cancelled, said the email, “on the grounds that it is Unison’s policy and also that of the Trades Union Congress to support the Palestinian people”.

Cristal is chief executive of Nest Consulting, an Israeli firm that advises and trains companies and organisations in the private and public sectors in crisis management and complex negotiation. Its clients are based in Europe, the US, Russia and south-east Asia as well as Israel. Union-management relations are one of Cristal’s specialisms.

“I’m furious from a professional point of view and deeply disappointed from a national point of view,” he told the Guardian.

“I have always been perceived first and foremost as an expert, rather than an Israeli. But here people didn’t have the wisdom to look behind the Israeli flag to my professional contribution.”

It was ironic, he added, that in his lectures he stressed the “importance of having dialogue between people with different ideas. This is what conflict resolution is all about.” He and his company had worked with Palestinian and civil action organisations, he said.

A spokeswoman for Unison confirmed that its members had requested that Cristal’s invitation be withdrawn. The union’s policy was to support a boycott of goods and services from illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank rather than “a direct boycott of all Israeli people”, she said.

But, she added, “we are supportive of people in Palestine. The trade union movement has a long history of international solidarity. Our members would find it difficult to be lectured in conflict resolution by someone from Israel.”

Unison members in Manchester were also concerned about the inappropriateness of the trust inviting a lecturer from abroad in a time of austerity, and objected to the notion that union-management relations within the trust needed “conflict resolution”, she said.

In a statement, the trust said: “Moty Cristal’s name was originally put forward by a third party organisation … subsequently, however, Unison representatives informed the [trust] that participation by its members would be in direct conflict with the union’s official policy stance. This position was corroborated by Unison’s full-time regional officer, at the trust’s request. Given the … likelihood that large numbers of staff would not attend, the [trust] took the decision to cancel the event.”

The move follows a decision at the weekend by the UK’s fifth biggest food retailer, the Co-operative Group, to end trade with companies that export produce from illegal Israeli settlements. It announced it would no longer be “engaging with any supplier of produce known to be sourcing from the Israeli settlements”. The decision will affect contracts worth around £350,000.

There is a distinction among campaigners between those who favour boycotting goods and services emanating from or associated with West Bank settlements, and those who argue for a more general boycott of Israeli produce and individuals such as visiting academics, artists and athletes.

Yigal Palmor, a spokesman for Israel’s foreign ministry, said: “Boycotting someone because of their citizenship is tantamount to racism. It’s particularly ironic that Professor Cristal was supposed to participate in a workshop on conflict resolution. It looks like those who cancelled it are in urgent need of such training.”

EDITOR: To bomb or not to bomb, that is the question…

Israel’s argument in support of bombing Iran in order to stop it from producing a nuclear bomb has never made any sense, of course. The corollary would be to bomb Israel, because it already HAS nuclear weapons. Israel’s pair of demagogues, Netanyahu and Barak, both war criminals with pedigree, have spent a number of years working on this theme, with Israel’s massive propaganda machine serving this aim, as well as the full support of Israel’s smaller partner, the US… President Obama has become a senior official of the Israeli administration, despite having a full time job already, and has himself argued in line with his senior colleagues in the Israeli government.

But this neat plan started unraveling some weeks ago, reaching a screeching crescendo this week, with more and more voices in the Israeli public arena calling the plan nothing short of madness.For once, one is forced to agree with them. Two senior intelligence chiefs, the serving chief of Staff of the IOF, and many politicians are all lining up against this criminal madness prepared by Barak and Netanyahu, whi should instead be preparing their defense portfolios for the International Criminal Court, in the wake of the latest and ground-breaking indictment of the war criminal Taylor, last week.

No doubt, the growing furor about their insane plan of attack will not resrain them, as long as Obama and other western leaders are behind them, and these should likewise think of their own appearance before the ICC court… one wonders if this criminal folly can still go ahead, in the face of growing opposition inside Israel’s army and intelligence community; if only some of this opposition was voiced outside of Israel…

Ehud Barak restates case for military strike on Iran’s nuclear programme: Guardian

Israel’s defence minister dismissed criticism that political leaders were misleading the public over the consequences of action
Harriet Sherwood in Jerusalem
Israel’s defence minister Ehud Barak speaks of the Iranian nuclear threat to the Foreign Press Association in a hotel in Jerusalem. Photograph: Jim Hollander/EPA
Israel’s defence minister Ehud Barak restated the case for a military strike on Iran’s nuclear programme before it reaches the “immunity zone”, dismissing criticism from the country’s former intelligence chief that political leaders were misleading the public over the consequences of action.

Israel's defence minister Ehud Barak speaks of the Iranian nuclear threat to the Foreign Press Association in a hotel in Jerusalem. Photograph: Jim Hollander/EPA

“I believe it is well understood in Washington, as well as in Jerusalem, that as long as there is an existential threat to our people, all options to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons should remain on the table,” Barak told a meeting of the Foreign Press Association.

But in a clear reference to former Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin’s comments, he added: “Parts of the world, including some politically motivated Israeli figures, prefer to bury their heads in the sand.”

In an explosive speech to a community meeting on Friday, Diskin said he had no faith in Israel’s “messianic” political leaders to conduct a war. Barak and prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu were “not the people whom I would truly want to be at the helm when we set out on an endeavour of that sort.” He cited expert opinion that a military strike was likely to accelerate Iran’s programme.

Barak conceded that a military option “would be complicated with certain associated risks. But a radical Islamic Republic of Iran with nuclear weapons would be far more dangerous both for the region and, indeed, the world.”

Defence officials believe that once Iran’s nuclear programme reaches what it terms the “zone of immunity”, the option of Israeli or US military action will be closed off. The zone was defined as the point when it would become impractical to “surgically attack” Iranian nuclear sites because of their number, location, degree of protection and the amount of uranium being enriched.

Because Israel’s military capability is more limited than that of the US, it has a greater sense of urgency. “For us, the clock is ticking faster,” said one official.

Other prominent Israeli political figures tried to tone down the impact of Diskin’s comments by countering the rhetoric from Barak and Netanyahu. Former prime minister Ehud Olmert told Israel’s Channel 10 that “there is no reason at this time not to talk about a military effort, but definitely not to initiate an Israeli military strike.”

And former military chief Gabi Ashkenazi told a conference in New York that economic sanctions needed to be given time to work. “I think we still have the time. [The time for action] is not tomorrow morning.”

Israeli government aides attempt to draw sting of former spy chief’s attack: Guardian

Officials dismiss criticism as act of resentment but some observers believe it is further evidence of divisions on Iran policy
Harriet Sherwood in Jerusalem
Former Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin criticises Netanyahu and Barak over Iran. Source: Reuters Link to this video
A stinging attack on Israel’s political leadership by a former head of Shin Bet, the security agency, continued to reverberate on Sunday despite high-level efforts to discredit the former spy chief’s motives.

Yuval Diskin said the prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, and defence minister, Ehud Barak – the principal advocates of military action against Iran’s nuclear programme – were unfit to lead the country and could not be trusted to conduct a war. The “messianic” pair were misleading the public on the merits of an attack.

“I’ve seen them from up close. They are not messiahs, either of them, and they are not people whom I, on a personal level, trust to lead the state of Israel into an event of that scale. They are not the people whom I would truly want to be at the helm when we set out on an endeavour of that sort,” Diskin told a community meeting on Friday.

Opposition leader Shaul Mofaz seized on the attack, which was considered by most commentators to be calculated rather than spontaneous, telling Army Radio: “To me, Diskin’s words are a warning sign to be taken seriously.”

Neither Netanyahu nor Barak responded personally, but aides dismissed the salvo as the act of a man frustrated not to have been offered the job of director of Israel’s external intelligence agency, the Mossad.

“It’s surprising and strange,” a government official told the Guardian. “Why did he seek to become head of the Mossad under the present government if he thought so little of it?”

However, some commentators praised Diskin for speaking out. Writing in Yedioth Ahronoth, the columnist Nahum Barnea said: “Yuval Diskin is a thug. He is brusque, lashes out and is lacking in any political correctness … His style is inappropriate, his words are unacceptable. Only one thing can be said to his credit: he is telling the truth. A troubling truth, an annoying truth, but the truth nevertheless. Diskin is the man who took upon himself the role of the boy who cries out: ‘The emperor has no clothes’.”

Diskin’s comments echoed criticism by Meir Dagan, former head of the Mossad, who has said attacking Iran was “the stupidest idea I have ever heard”. Last week, Israel’s chief of staff, Benny Gantz, said the Iranian regime was rational and Israel must make its decision about whether to attack “without hysteria”.

The comments have fuelled the belief among some observers that there is a clear gap over the issue of Iran between Israel’s political leaders and its security establishment.

The former Shin Bet chief did not confine his comments to Iran. On peace negotiations with the Palestinians, he said: “Forget all about the stories they’re selling you in the media about how we want to talk but [Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas] doesn’t, and so forth. I’m telling you, we’re not talking with the Palestinians because this government has no interest in talking with the Palestinians … I know from up close what is going on in that area.”

Netanyahu, he said, feared that even “the smallest step forward on this issue” would cause his coalition to collapse.

He warned against growing Israeli extremism, saying there were people “willing to use guns against their fellow Jews” in the event of the evacuation of settlements in the West Bank.

The country was becoming more aggressive and racist, he said. “The youth in Israel has become over the past 10 to 15 years more and more racist. Racism against Arabs and against foreigners, against those who are different.”

Most Israeli citizens don’t want a war with Iran: Guardian

Binyamin Netanyahu and western hawks who seek an early strike are ignoring Israel’s security experts and people

Mehdi Hasan

The Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, takes a belligerent stance on Iran. Photograph: Ronen Zvulun/AFP/Getty Images

Time for a quiz question. Last week, who said Binyamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak – Israel’s prime minister and defence minister – “are misleading the public on the Iran issue” and making decisions “based on messianic feelings”? Was it (a) Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad; (b) the Stop the War Coalition president, Tony Benn; or (c) the former Israeli spymaster Yuval Diskin?

It was (c). At a public meeting on Friday Diskin, former head of Shin Bet (Israel’s MI5), described Netanyahu and Barak as “not fit to hold the steering wheel of power”. He went on: “I have observed them from up close … They are not people who I, on a personal level, trust to lead Israel to an event on that scale and carry it off … They tell the public that if Israel acts, Iran won’t have a nuclear bomb. This is misleading. Actually, many experts say that an Israeli attack would accelerate the Iranian nuclear race.”

Diskin joins a long list of eminent members of the Israeli security establishment who have publicly voiced criticism of, and opposition to, their government’s ultra-hawkish line on Iran. In fact, his astonishing attack on his former bosses came just 48 hours after the head of Israel’s military, Lieutenant General Benny Gantz, declared that the Iranian leadership had not yet made a decision to build nuclear weapons, that it was unlikely to go this “extra mile”, and was composed of “very rational people”. “Decisions must be made carefully out of historic responsibility but without hysteria,” added Gantz in a not-too-subtle dig at his political masters.

illustration by Andrzej Krauze

Last month, in an unprecedented move, Meir Dagan, the former head of the Mossad – Israel’s foreign intelligence service – took to the airwaves in the US, using an interview with CBS to tell his American audience how a war with Iran would be “devastating” for Israelis because it would “ignite, at least from my point of view, a regional war”. (He had earlier described an Israeli attack on Iran as “the stupidest idea I’ve ever heard”.)

Meanwhile, Dagan’s predecessor, Efraim Halevy, has said “it is not in the power of Iran to destroy the state of Israel”, and that “the growing Haredi radicalisation poses a bigger risk than Ahmadinejad”. Then there is the current head of the Mossad, Tamir Pardo, who is said to have told an audience of Israeli diplomats in December that a nuclear-armed Iran would not constitute an “existential threat” to Israel.

But this isn’t just about spymasters or generals. There is no consensus favouring military action against Iran within Israel’s political establishment either. Recent media reports have suggested Netanyahu and Barak are isolated within their own cabinet; Daniel Ben-Simon, a Labour party member of the Israeli parliament, has called them “a two-man show” – or, as a recent headline in the New York Times put it, “Two Israeli leaders make the Iran issue their own”.

Shaul Mofaz, the opposition leader – of the Kadima party and a former head of the Israeli army – has objected to Netanyahu’s obsession with attacking Iran. “The greatest threat to the state of Israel is not nuclear Iran,” Mofaz said in an interview earlier this month, citing the unresolved conflict with the Palestinians as a much more pressing issue. The Israeli president, Shimon Peres, told CNN in November that he preferred a “moral” attack on Iran, not a military one.

Oh, and guess what? The Israeli public is far from gung-ho. According to a poll released last month by the Israeli Democracy Institute and Tel Aviv University, 63% of Israelis oppose a unilateral Israeli strike on Iranian nuclear facilities. An earlier poll, for the University of Maryland in February, revealed only a fifth of Israelis favoured a strike on Iran without the support of the United States.

There is an important lesson here for the west’s hawks and doves alike. The hawks in the Commons and Congress who invoke Israel’s national security as the chief justification for a pre-emptive attack on Iran are ignoring the expert opinions of Israel’s own military and intelligence chiefs, both past and present. Meanwhile, the doves who take to the streets with anti-war placards that blame the Jewish state for exaggerating the threat from Iran should consider replacing the word “Israel” with “Netanyahu”.

It is the cynical and belligerent “Bibi” who takes every opportunity to fear-monger about a Nazi-like threat from Iran. In a speech this month to mark the Holocaust, he proclaimed: “People who refuse to see the Iranian threat have learned nothing from the Shoah [Holocaust].” And last month in the US, he compared bombing Iran to bombing Auschwitz.

But Netanyahu isn’t Israel – a nation of 7.8 million people, including 1.6 million Arabs. Those of us opposed to another catastrophic conflict in the Middle East should not allow his alarmist and messianic rhetoric to drown out the voices of Israel’s doves: those critics of military action, who, ironically, are far more numerous and outspoken than the doves on Capitol Hill or in Westminster, and have far better credentials.

Just as it is wrong to reduce Iran to Ahmadinejad, or the US to George Bush, it is wrong, and counter-productive, to reduce Israel to Netanyahu. Its ordinary citizens don’t want war with Iran, and the country’s top spooks and soldiers are queueing up to tell us why.

Tzipi Livni quits Knesset, says Israel’s leaders put country at existential risk: Haaretz

Former Kadima chief, who lost her party’s chair in March to Shaul Mofaz, says she is leaving the Knesset, but cares too much about the State of Israel to retire from public life.
Former Kadima leader Tzipi Livni resigned from the Knesset on Tuesday, warning in her resignation address that Israel’s leaders are putting the country’s existence at risk by choosing to ignore the mounting impatience on the part of the international community.

Tzipi Livni announcing her resignation from the Knesset, May 1, 2012. Photo by: Emil Salman

Livni submitted her resignation to Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, in a meeting that put an end to the wide spread speculation that she would resign following a decisive loss to Shaul Mofaz at the Kadima primary in March.

Speaking to the press after her meeting with Rivlin, Livni said she had “the honor of leading Kadima in an election, and receiving the public’s trust, granting it 28 [Knesset seats]. And Kadima is today Israel’s largest party.”

The former Kadima leader also hinted at the possibility of her return to politics through different avenues, that she was “leaving the Knesset at this point, but I’m not retiring from public life,” saying that Israel was “too dear to me.”

In her speech, Livni warned of an existential threat Israel faced under its current leadership, saying that “Israel is on a volcano, the international clock is ticking, and the existence of a Jewish, democratic state is in mortal danger.”

“The real danger is a politics that buries its head in the sand,” Livni said, adding that it didn’t “take a Shin Bet chief to know that” – an apparent reference to recent comments made by the former chief of the security service Yuval Diskin, critical of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s policies on Iran and Middle East peace.

Livni said she didn’t regret the decisions that may have brought on her political downfall, saying she wasn’t “sorry for not backing down in the face of political blackmail, even when the price was staying outside the government, and for not willing to sell the country to the ultra-Orthodox.

“And I’m definitely not sorry for the main issue I promoted – even if the Israeli-Palestinian conflict isn’t in vogue right now, there’s an urgent need to reach a permanent agreement with the Palestinians as well as with the Arab world,” she added.

Obama doesn’t need Israeli ex-officials to know Netanyahu doesn’t want peace: Haaretz

Former Shin Bet chief Diskin wanted the whole world to note that contrary to the international campaign Israel is conducting the one who is refusing is Benjamin Netanyahu.

By Akiva Eldar
True, it would very much benefit Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to hold the election as early as possible, before Kadima chairman MK Shaul Mofaz gains altitude and former media personality Yair Lapid manages to convince people that his nascent party really does have a future. Indeed, Netanyahu would benefit from summoning voters to the ballot boxes before the 2013 budget compels the next government to plunge its hands deep into their pockets.

He also has another reason, perhaps the most important of all, to hold the election in 2012. It is lurking in the margins of former Shin Bet security service chief Yuval Diskin’s restaurant performance, after the bit about Iran and the messiahs from the Akirov Towers and the villa in Caesarea. In the paragraph on the Palestinians Diskin ripped the camouflage from the most guarded secret in the country.

The man who for four years had in his possession the finest collection of data in the world about what happens in the Muqata in Ramallah revealed that there is no partner for the two-state solution. Diskin wanted the whole world to note that contrary to the international campaign Israel is conducting – the one according to which Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is the one who is refusing to negotiate – the one who is refusing is Benjamin Netanyahu.

United States President Barack Obama did not need Diskin’s services in order to know which of the two dignitaries rejected his formulation – two states in the 1967 borders, with agreed and mutual boundary adjustments. One can guess what the American president’s opinion is of the shopping list of 21 meaningless items envoy Isaac Molho presented to the Palestinians instead of meaningful positions on the issues of borders and security. Netanyahu did not need the service of diplomatic commentators in order to know that when he arrives for his next visit to the White House empty-handed on the Palestinian issue, he’d better have a fresh and upgraded mandate.

And with respect to his Iranian project, too, Netanyahu would do well to lead the Israeli public to an election at a time when the American president is a lame duck. Facing a president whom the Americans will elect at the beginning of November, Netanyahu will have a difficult time making Popeye noises and threatening to bomb Iran even without the great power’s consent. And who knows, if Netanyahu waits too long, the forum of six countries is liable to reach an agreement with the Iranians and the historian’s orphan will have to give up the comparison to the Holocaust. The last thing he needs is to be stuck with only the Palestinian problem and the social protest.

If Netanyahu goes to Washington at the beginning of the fall, when every Jewish vote and Jewish dollar will be worth its weight in gold, the American candidates will fall at his feet. After presenting to the president his new ministers – Shaul Mofaz, Shelly Yacimovich of the Labor Party and Yari Lapid (Meretz is the only Zionist party that has pledged not to join a Netanyahu-led government ) – Netanyahu will turn to scolding the host: “What are you pestering me about the Palestinian state for? The citizens of the only democracy in the Middle East aren’t stupid. Most of my nation wants a leader who is nuts about settlers.”

So if it is possible to call an election when the polls are smiling on him, why should Netanyahu take the risk that Obama will scowl at him or that his conservative buddy, Mitt Romney, will be elected president and find out that what you see from the Oval Office is different from what you see from outside. (That is how President Gerald Ford, a Republican, explained to Yitzhak Rabin his denial of his promise to move the United States Embassy to Jerusalem ).

A fatherless leader

With the death of Prof. Benzion Netanyahu we have lost not only an important historian of the Jewish people but also a source of information for understanding the Israeli reality. In interviews the elder Netanyahu was kind enough to grant the press from time to time, he revealed the face the younger Netanyahu did not want us to know. Thus, in one of his last interviews, Prof. Netanyahu was asked his opinion of the Bar-Ilan University speech in which his son promised to advance the idea of the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside the State of Israel.

“He doesn’t support that,” said the father, who was 100 years old at the time, to Channel 2 reporter Amit Segal. “He supports [a Palestinian state] under conditions that will never be accepted.”

A few months earlier Netanyahu Sr., who stuck to his Revisionist beliefs until his last breath, told the daily Maariv that his son was aiming for the same goals but was keeping to himself the ways to achieve them, and if that were not the case he would reveal them publicly. The aged professor explained that this was just a tactic aimed at concealing positions that people with other ideologies were liable to reject. In that same interview Netanyahu the father said that although there is no hope of making peace with the Palestinians, they will maintain quiet as long as they understand that doing anything else will cause them great pain.

In his new book, “The Crisis of Zionism,” Peter Beinart found an interesting resemblance between the father’s “Iron Curtain” perception and the son’s observation that if the Palestinians realize that Israel “won’t give them” an independent state, they will agree to content themselves with autonomy.

Netanyahu has expressed reservations about the spirit of the father hovering over him. It is natural that a prime minister would want to be considered a big boy. But with his resignation from Ariel Sharon’s government in the wake of its approval of the disengagement from the Gaza Strip, Netanyahu did not hold it in and declared:”I have learned from you, Father.”

Will the release from the fear of the historian father engender a more realistic Netanyahu, or is fear of the Inquisition a part of his family’s DNA?

 WATCH / U.S. students walk out of Israeli ambassador’s lecture: Haaretz

Students at George Washington University disrupt talk by Michael Oren, hold up signs reading ‘Oren supports colonialism,’ and ‘What are you going to do with 30 billion?’
By Natasha Mozgovaya
Students at George Washington University, in Washington D.C. walked out on a lecture by Israeli Ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, on Monday night.

As Ambassador Oren’s lecture “Ultimate Allies: Israel and the United States,” started, about 30 students raised signs, got up, and left the auditorium in silence. Oren suggested they stay and conduct a dialog, but none of the protesting students changed their mind and stayed.

Outside they were met by more protesters, holding signs reading “Oren supports colonialism,” “What are you going to do with 30 billion?” (U.S. military aid to Israel over the next decade), and “What is the best way to stop terrorism? Stop committing it!”

In February 2010, a lecture Oren gave at the University of California, Irvine was disrupted by a group of student hecklers, shouting anti-Israel slogans. Ten out of the 11 Muslim students arrested in the incident, the so called “Irvine 11,” were found guilty on two counts of misdemeanors and sentenced to three years probation.

Since this incident Oren’s lectures are periodically disrupted by protests – but these are mostly silent, at least inside the auditorium.

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