Opinion: A ‘nightmarish’ scenario for the Jewish State

When I visited Israel in the summer of 2012 and the American Presidential campaign was in full swing, my group met with an anonymous source who told us that the highest levels of the Netanyahu government, possibly including the Prime Minister himself, considered an Obama victory to be “a nightmarish scenario” for the Jewish State. Now, that nightmare has become a reality.

The P5 + 1 reached an interim agreement last week with the Iranian government, whose leader Khameini recently said, “Zionist officials cannot be called humans, they are like animals, some of them…the Israeli regime is doomed to failure and annihilation.” This deal will not dismantle Iran’s nuclear weapons program, and will only slow down its race to the bomb by a couple months, according to most estimates, as the Mullah’s will maintain their capability to enrich uranium. In return, the Iranians are getting major sanctions relief in the form of at least $13 billion now available to them. The tough sanctions regime, which took decades of tough diplomacy to build up, will now be shattered.

The Mullah’s in Iran are rejoicing. Iranian President Rouhani has proclaimed: “The results of these talks is that the 5+1…have officially recognized Iran's nuclear rights… the right to enrich [uranium] on Iranian soil is the right of the Iranian nation, and everyone can interpret it as they wish… The text states explicitly that Iran will continue to enrich [uranium], and for this reason I say to the Iranian nation that the uranium enrichment activity in Iran will continue as in the past… In this six-month agreement, our [uranium enrichment] facilities at Natanz, Fordo, the Arak [plutonium reactor], [the uranium conversion facility at] Isfahan, and Bandar Abbas [i.e. the Bushehr reactor] will continue their activity.” Supreme Leader Khameini added, “The absolute achievements of this initial agreement are official recognition of Iran's nuclear rights, and preservation of the nuclear achievements of the sons of this nation.” It has just come to light that Iran is planning to construct a second nuclear reactor in the province of Bushehr.

Former ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton calls this deal an “abject surrender” for the United States. Wall Street Journal writer Bret Stephens calls it, “Worse Than Munich.” Prime Minister Netanyahu calls it “an historic mistake…this agreement has made the world a much more dangerous place.” Naftali Bennett, Chairman of the Jewish Home Party in Israel warns, “If a nuclear suitcase blows up five years from now in New York or Madrid, it will be because of the deal signed this morning.” Even Israeli left-leaning Tzipi Livni said, “This is a terrible deal that will threaten not only us [Israel], but the entire world.” At ZOA, we believe this deal is our eras “Munich” and Obama and Kerry the new “Chamberlain.”

It is important to note that an Iranian nuclear weapon is not just a threat to Israel, but to the United States and the rest of the world. U.S. intelligence states Iran will have ICBMs (Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles) that can reach our homeland by 2015. Furthermore, Iran already has operational missile sites in Venezuela, virtually in the United State’s backyard.

For those of us who are politically sober and realistic, we saw this day coming, the capitulation of America to Iran. The Obama administration has proven time and again that it is not serious about preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. As ZOA National President Morton Klein stated: “President Obama has not laid down any red lines beyond which the U.S. will not permit Iran to advance in its quest for nuclear weapons. This open-ended policy suggests that there is in fact no point at which President Obama would act militarily to stop Iran developing a weapon. Such suspicions can only be compounded by President Obama’s recent failure to act militarily on a red line that he actually did lay down, that is, the use of chemical or biological weapons by Syria against its own people.”

There are many Jewish and pro-Israel groups who are expressing dismay at the Iranian nuclear deal, but frankly, they are a little late to the party. The ZOA has been warning about this administration’s weakness for years.

Where were the myriad Jewish and pro-Israel organizations when the President chose notorious Israel hater and proponent of containing Iran, Chuck Hagel, to be Secretary of Defense? After all, Hagel’s selection, and subsequent confirmation by the Senate, and the Jewish communities general apathy, laid the groundwork for America’s appeasement of the Mullahs in Iran last week. The overwhelming silence of the Jewish community at the Hagel pick gave tacit approval to his anti-Israel, pro-containment views on Iran, which gave the administration an opening to pursue the disastrous deal reached last week.

Secretary of State John Kerry still maintains that there is “no daylight” between the United States and Israel. Who is he kidding?

In light of last week's news, American Jews should ask themselves if the Jewish and pro-Israel groups they belong to are truly serving their interests.

Sam Levine is the Executive Director of ZOA West Coast.

Jordan’s king backs Palestinian leader

King Abdullah of Jordan made a rare trip to the West Bank on Monday to display support for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who is seeking to make peace with his Islamist rivals Hamas, and push for a resumption of peace talks with Israel.

In his first visit to the area in over 10 years, Abdullah took a short helicopter ride from Jordan over to Ramallah to see the Palestinian leader, who also maintains a residence in Jordan’s capital, Amman.

Abbas hosted U.S. peace envoy William Burns on Sunday and Burns saw Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday to discuss restarting direct Middle East peace negotiations that have been suspended for over a year.

There was no indication from Ramallah of a breakthrough in the deadlock between Netanyahu and Abbas over Israeli settlement building in the West Bank. The Palestinian leader refuses to relaunch talks unless construction is halted.

Jordan’s foreign minister, Naser Jouda, told reporters that the deadlock over settlements could be overcome by focusing on an agreement on the approximate borders of a future Palestinian state alongside Israel.

“Direct negotiation … is the goal we want to get to and this will eventually secure the establishment of the state through a comprehensive treatment of all final settlement issues,” he said.

“Speeding up negotiations over the two issues of security and borders should in the future put an end to settlement inside the borders to be agreed upon (for) the Palestinian independent state.”

Abbas repeated that there would be no direct talks until settlement is explicitly halted by Netanyahu.

“If Israel stops settlement and recognise the international references, we will be ready to return to negotiation. These are not pre-conditions but commitments and agreements that were reached between us and the Israelis,” he said.

“When they accept this, we will be ready (but) so far there is no indication of an imminent resumption of negotiations.”

Abbas is due to hold talks in Cairo on Wednesday with Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal, who opposes a permanent peace treaty with Israel and is expected to visit Jordan in the coming weeks.

“King Abdullah’s visit comes in support of Abbas ahead of Meshaal’s trip to Jordan,” said Palestinian analyst Hani el Masri. “This trip reassures Abbas that King Abdullah’s upcoming meeting with Khaled Meshaal will not affect his relationship with Abbas.”

Abbas faces a political challenge from Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip. The division between them weakens the Palestinian national movement and Abbas says it must be overcome.

His talks with Meshaal will focus on reconciling the Islamists with his own, mainly secular, Fatah group.

Abbas wants Meshaal’s agreement to form a unity government that would prepare the West Bank and Gaza for long overdue presidential and general elections, now slated for 2012.

“The division hurts our cause and our struggle and it serves the Israeli occupation first and last,” Abbas said last week, pledging to do all he could to bridge the gap.

Abdullah and Abbas also discussed developments in the region, currently dominated by the slide towards civil war in Syria and mounting unrest in Egypt.

Jordan shares a border with Syria, and Abdullah has called on its president Bashar al Assad to end his crackdown on opponents and step down to avoid further bloodshed.

Additional reporting by Suleiman al-Khalidi in Amman and Jihan Abdalla in Ramallah; writing by Douglas Hamilton; editing by Philippa Fletcher

Saying “Amen” to Life

When my husband and I put our 2-year-old to bed, we help him with the usual array of activities: changing into pajamas, reading a book, drinking milk, singing songs
and — most beloved to me — chanting the Shema and Ve’ahavta.

Each evening at the conclusion of the nighttime Shema, my son says something he reserves for this prayer and no other. Taking a breath and a pause from his bottle, he shouts out: “Amen to that!” and then goes back to drinking.

My son’s nightly affirmation informs my reading of Parshat Mishpatim this year. In this week’s Torah portion, the Children of Israel respond fervently to words of Torah, repeated by Moses: “All the people answered in one voice, saying, ‘All the things that Adonai has commanded, we will do!'” (Exodus 24:3).

Moses then puts the commandments in writing and reads them aloud, and the people confirm their commitment: “All that Adonai has spoken we will faithfully do” (Exodus 24:7).

It raises the question: How do we respond to God’s words and Torah’s laws? It’s hard to imagine contemporary Jews embracing Law and Covenant as our ancestors did. Most of us are too impatient to tolerate the repetition, too ambivalent for such unbridled enthusiasm. Unconditional, all-inclusive agreement may seem foolhardy to us. Do we really mean that “all Adonai has spoken, we will faithfully do”?

“We will faithfully do” is a translation of the famous Hebrew phrase na’aseh venishma, which could also be translated as: “we will do and obey” or “we will do and harken.” The verse is classically interpreted to mean: “first we will do or practice these commandments, and only then, thereby, we will come to understand them.” The root ‘sh.m.’ allows for all these renditions, because it can mean listen, harken, obey, do or understand.

“Na’aseh venishmah” — like “Amen to that!” — is a way of saying “yes!” to life. We are so used to saying, “yes, but …” that it might seem normal, wise or at least prudent to do so. This week’s parsha encourages us to cultivate radical agreement and enthusiasm. “Yes” to life and to God — no ifs, ands or buts. “Yes” to Torah, even if we don’t understand it all yet. “Yes” to wherever it leads us. Caveat-free covenant.

Some things — in fact, some of the most important things in life — cannot be fully understood before they are assented to. While you can select a partner wisely, you can never know what marriage will be like before you say, “I do.”

(Checklists and cost-benefit analyses are inadequate, if not irrelevant.) No amount of research or weekend babysitting can prepare you for what it means to have a child. These relationships, like our relationships with God or Torah, can’t be neatly mapped or easily explained; they must be experienced. Life’s biggest decisions are leaps of faith and, in Abraham Joshua Heschel’s phrase, “leaps of action,” too. If you wait until you are completely ready, until you have all the knowledge and tools to “do” them, you will wait forever. Covenant — whether under the chuppah or at Mount Sinai — is not a single event or decision; it is ongoing discovery, awakening and growth. The journey starts with a committed “yes.”

Covenant, radical agreement, “na’aseh venishma,” “amen to that” — all these phrases mean “love without a net.” A profound and daring “yes” should not be offered lightly or blindly. The cause and stakes and partner must be worthy. When they are, unreserved commitment fosters not just love and generosity but also freedom and security. There is power in “yes.” Strength comes with and from this kind of commitment. Doors and possibilities open for “yes” that will never open for “maybe.”

It may feel safer to weigh your options than to measure your growth against a declared goal, but actually, quite quickly, it is less safe. Staying undecided saps you and distances you from your purpose. The prophet Elijah challenged the people of Israel, “How long will you straddle [or hobble between] two opinions?” (I Kings 18:21).

Imagine what we could do collectively with all the time and energy we now spend in ambivalence about holy causes. It would be nothing short of miraculous.
At the end of this week’s Torah portion, the Elders indeed experience a miracle as a result of their radical assent: “They saw the God of Israel and under His feet there was the likeness of sapphire pavement, like the very sky for purity…. They beheld God.” (Exodus 24:10-11).

Following this vision, Moses ascends the mountain to receive the tablets, the inscription of God’s words by God’s own hand. Only we, humanity, have the power to say “yes!” and “amen!” to that. Again this year, we are called. How shall we answer?

Rabbi Debra Orenstein, editor of “Lifecycles 2: Jewish Women on Biblical Themes in Contemporary Life” (Jewish Lights), is spiritual leader of Makom Ohr Shalom synagogue in Tarzana. More of her writings can be found at www.makom.org.

A meaningful peace plan

While attending a Muslim American conference in Doha, Qatar, in 2005, an Arab leader asked me at the dinner table: “Tell me, why didn’t Israelis accept the Saudi
peace proposal of 2002? In fact, they did not even respond to it. Did it not offer them everything that they ever wished for: peace, recognition, security, you name it?”

I looked at him with amusement.

“Do you know what Israelis see when they read a peace proposal in the newspaper?” I asked.

“They skip the text about peace, recognition and security and seek the one word that counts: ‘refugees.’ The rest is trivial. If that word is embedded in ‘right of return’ or ‘a just solution’ or ‘Resolution 194’ or some other euphemism for dismantling Israel, the proposal is automatically deemed a nonstarter.”

“What did the Saudi proposal say about the refugee problem?” he asked.

“Like you, I don’t have the precise language,” I said. “But like most Israelis, I distinctly recall the words ‘just solution,’ which should settle your question right there.”

“Interesting,” my Arab colleague said. “I have always assumed that if we build trust and solve the land problem, some solution will eventually be found for the refugees’ problem.”

“Yes, many Israelis made this assumption during the Oslo period,” I said. “But no more.”

I was reminded of this conversation last week, when I read President Jimmy Carter’s book, “Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid,” and found the following passage on Page 211: “The Delphic wording of this statement [the Saudi proposal] was deliberate, in Arabic as well as in Hebrew and English, but the Arabs defend it by saying it is there to be explored by the Israelis and others and that, in any case, it is a more positive and clear commitment to international law than anything now coming from Israel.”

I recalled how the Delphic wording of the Oslo agreement was deliberate, too, and how, in the aftermath of the Oslo breakdown, leaders of the shattered Israeli peace camp confessed in public that they had been fooled and betrayed by their Palestinian comrades. Specifically, sworn promises to prepare the Palestinian public for compromises on the refugee problem were never acted on (Haim Shur, Maariv, June 2001).

This inaction, according to Israeli analysts, was the main reason for the outbreak of the second intifada. Yasser Arafat could simply not face his people with “an end to the conflict” after decades of promising them a return to Haifa and Jaffa.

But more than six years have passed since the breakdown of the Oslo process, and memory is short. People tend to forget that leaving the hard problems to resolve themselves exacts a heavy toll.

Last month saw renewed calls from both Israelis and Palestinians to revitalize the Saudi proposal (e.g., Collett Avital, Jerusalem Post, Jan. 23), and I was a bit concerned that another case of “hard problems later” would be looming in front of our eyes.

I was pleasantly mistaken. Israeli peace activists seem to remember the Oslo lesson vividly and painfully. In his third exchange with Palestinian analyst Salameh Nematt, published simultaneously in Hebrew, Arabic and English, Israeli peace activist Akiva Eldar wrote: “….We, the Israelis, need to be convinced that there is a solution to the refugee problem. Nothing is more likely to deter Israelis than the expression ‘right of return.’ In their eyes, these words are a synonym for the destruction of the Jewish state.

“Politicians on both sides know that it is inconceivable to strip a sovereign state, such as Israel, from its authority to decide whom to accept as its citizens. New cities have been built on the villages in which the refugees lived. Children and grandchildren of Jewish refugees from Europe were born in houses that remained standing.

“Anyone in his right mind knows that the solution to the Palestinian refugee problem is not to create a Jewish refugee problem. The solution can be found in a peace process that is based on two states and the absorption of most of the Palestinian refugees in their new state.”

But suppose the Palestinians do sign a peace agreement with the provision that most refugees will be absorbed into their new state. How does one ensure that after Israel withdraws from most of the territories and makes room for a Palestinian state, Palestinian refugees will not continue to be kept in their wretched camps as a source of anger and uncontrolled militancy against Israel?
After all, Israel cannot be asked to make irrevocable concessions in land and security while the Arabs are merely signing reversible promises to settle the refugees.

Here comes my humble suggestion, resting again on Saudi wisdom and good will. Instead of drawing fancy peace proposals, the Saudis, together with other oil-rich countries, should immediately launch a “Palestinian Marshall Plan” to build permanent housing for Palestinian refugees in the West Bank.
Israel would monitor the plan and lift the embargo on foreign aid in stages. Each month’s allotment would be proportional to the number of housing units completed.

We are constantly being told that the ball of peace lies entirely in Israel’s court, because Palestinians have no control over their destiny and Israel’s economy is so much stronger. It ain’t necessarily so. Here is a peace proposal that depends entirely on Arab good will and peaceful Palestinian intentions. It should start today.

Judea Pearl is a UCLA professor and president of the Daniel Pearl Foundation Storyopolis Art Gallery & Bookstore

A Palestinian Verdict: Terror Worked

The question on the Palestinian street now is who will successfully claim credit for expelling Israel from Gaza and northern Samaria – Hamas, an organization that carries out terrorist attacks, or Fatah, the official Palestinian ruling party?

Whatever the answer turns out to be, one thing is certain. Both factions are presenting Israel’s withdrawal of settlers and troops from Gaza and the northern West Bank as a Palestinian military victory.

The Arabic word indihar is being used these days by Palestinians who view the pullout as a victory for the al-Aksa intifada, which erupted in September 2000. And there appears to be a growing number of Palestinians who are convinced that the withdrawal is nothing but an Israeli retreat achieved through the blood of thousands of shahids, or martyrs.

Still, many also consider the disengagement strategy of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon as a conspiracy designed to tighten Israel’s grip on the West Bank and Jerusalem.

The “Hans Wehr Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic” translates indihar as “banishment and defeat.” Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaders in the Gaza Strip were the first to refer to the disengagement as a “fruit of the resistance attacks” against Israel over the past few years. In recent days, even senior Palestinian officials, who are likely to play a role in peace negotiations, have begun labeling the pullout as an Israeli defeat.

On the streets of Ramallah and other West Bank cities, Palestinians across the political spectrum were unanimous this week in defining the disengagement as a retreat in the face of rocket and suicide attacks. Only a few said they regarded the move as a direct result of the peace process and international pressure on Israel.

“Of course this is a victory for the blessed intifada,” said Samir Tahayneh, a 22-year-old university student who describes himself as a Fatah supporter. “Had it not been for the Kassam rockets and suicide bombings, Israel would never have thought of running away from our lands. The disengagement proves that the only way to liberate our lands is through the resistance, and not at the negotiating table.”

Scores of people interviewed over the past week in various parts of the West Bank echoed those sentiments.

“We have always said that the only language the Jews understand is force,” commented Ala Abu Jbarra, a 30-year-old shopkeeper. “The Oslo process did not give us as much as the second intifada. By God’s will, we will pursue the struggle until we liberate the rest of our lands.”

A survey conducted by the Hamas-affiliated Palestine Information Center Web site reported that more than 94 percent of Palestinians see the Israeli indihar in the Gaza Strip as an “achievement for the Palestinian resistance.”

Less than 6 percent of the 2,551 respondents said they viewed the withdrawal as a result of political negotiations and international pressure.

It follows that the political battle on the Palestinian street is over who gets credit. The faction that prevails in this propaganda contest will get an edge in its bid for power. Both Hamas and the ruling Fatah party are separately preparing mass celebrations in the “liberated” areas with the hope that each can claim responsibility for driving Israel out of the Palestinian territories.

In an attempt to circumvent Hamas, Fatah leaders earlier this week kicked off celebrations by holding two mass rallies in the Gaza Strip. The message was that the disengagement is the result of the “sacrifices” made by Fatah fighters during the intifada. At another rally in Ramallah, organized by the Palestinian Authority’s Political Guidance Commission, Palestinian leaders hailed the disengagement as a significant victory for the “resistance.”

Col. Ribhi Mahmoud, acting director of the Political Guidance Commission, welcomed the Israeli indihar as a first step toward liberating Jerusalem. He and several spokesmen who addressed the rally drew parallels between the disengagement and the Israel Defense Forces “retreat” from Lebanon in May 2000.

“Palestinian blood has defeated the mighty sword of Israeli occupation,” declared Sheikh Hassan Youssef, the de facto Hamas leader in the West Bank. “Our blood has forced Israel to abandon its strategy of occupation, just as the Lebanese did.”

Qais Abdel Karim, a top leader of the Marxist-Leninist Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, told the crowd that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was forced to take the decision to leave the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank because of stiff Palestinian resistance.

“Sharon was forced to announce the so-called disengagement under the pressure of Palestinian steadfastness and resistance,” he said, drawing thunderous applause. “This is the first time that Israel is forced to dismantle Jewish settlements established on Palestinian lands.”

Abdullah al-Ifranji, a senior Fatah activist in the Gaza Strip, said the majority of Palestinians view the withdrawal as a “fruit of four years of the second intifada.” But, he added, the disengagement is also seen as the result of “tremendous political efforts” made by Yasser Arafat and his successor, Mahmoud Abbas.

Ifranji admitted that his party was engaged in a competition with Hamas over post-disengagement celebrations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

“In the past six months, Hamas has prepared 40,000 military uniforms, 70,000 green flags and 100,000 hats,” he said. “They have also bought dozens of jeeps and painted them in Hamas’ color — green. They want to appear as if they were the ones who liberated the Gaza Strip.”

On the other hand, Fatah has prepared only Palestinian flags that will be distributed to Palestinians celebrating the disengagement. However, various Fatah members in the Gaza Strip have already announced that they will hold paramilitary marches in the settlements after they are evacuated.

Hamas officials claim that the Palestinian Authority has allocated millions of dollars for the Fatah-orchestrated celebrations, with most of the money coming from European donors. According to a senior Hamas official in the Gaza Strip, the European Union has decided to finance the Fatah celebrations with the hope that the message to the Palestinian public would be that the disengagement is a victory for the peace process, not terrorism.

“Of course the Palestinian people are not naive and no one will buy this argument,” said the Hamas official. “Even Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] knows deep inside that the withdrawal is the result of the resistance operations, but he can’t say this in public.”

Many Palestinians are worried that the presence of thousands of Hamas and Fatah gunmen in the emptied settlements after the disengagement, along with some 20,000 Palestinian policemen, will lead to violent clashes. Hence Abbas’ repeated calls to the Palestinians over the past few days for calm during and after the pullout.

Aware that the Palestinian security forces would not be able to stop Hamas supporters from reaching the Gaza settlements, Abbas met this week with the Islamic movement’s leaders and implored them to restrain their men. The two sides agreed to set up joint committees to oversee the celebrations and avoid internecine fighting.

Yet Abbas, like many Palestinians, has to know that a confrontation of some sort with Hamas is almost inevitable.

His agreement to form joint committees with Hamas is seen as capitulation to demands set by the movement. Until last week, Abbas had adamantly refused even to talk about such coordination with Hamas.

“We in Fatah are not seeking a clash with Hamas,” said Ifranji, the Fatah leader from the Gaza Strip. “We are saying that Palestinian blood is a red line that should not be crossed. On the other hand, we won’t accept a situation where Hamas would try to harm or undermine the Palestinian Authority.”

The fact that so many Palestinians see disengagement as a reward for violence and as indihar has many Palestinian officials in Ramallah and Gaza City extremely worried.

“I’m afraid that the disengagement, which is not being carried out as a result of peace talks, will weaken the moderate camp among the Palestinians,” a top Abbas aide said. “That’s why we need to work together with Israel and the international community to make this move appear as if it were part of the peace process.”

Khaled Abu Toameh, an Israeli Arab, is the West Bank and Gaza correspondent for the Jerusalem Post and U.S. News and World Report.


Grim Faces, Tense Words at Summit


As photo-ops go, this one didn’t develop quite as expected.

The meeting Monday between Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and President Bush at Bush’s vast Texas ranch was to have affirmed the special U.S.-Israel relationship and paved the way forward in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process — a triumphant summit between two friends, farmers and statesmen.

Instead, what emerged between the tense lines the two men delivered as a stiff Texas breeze ruffled their scripts were profound differences over how Sharon and Bush perceive Israeli and Palestinian obligations and the future of the peace process.

Bush made his position clear: Israel’s settlement expansion in the West Bank must stop.

“I told the prime minister of my concern that Israel not undertake any activity that contravenes ‘road map’ obligations or prejudices final-status negotiations,” Bush said, referring to the “road map” peace plan his administration launched three years ago. “Therefore, Israel should remove unauthorized outposts and meet its road map obligations regarding settlements in the West Bank.”

That was just the first of three emphatic calls by Bush to end settlement expansion.

Just as emphatically, Sharon reserved the right to build in major settlements that Israel plans to keep in any final agreement.

“It is the Israeli position that the major Israeli population centers will remain in Israel’s hands under any future final-status agreement, with all related consequences,” Sharon said.

The only thing keeping a lid on the tensions was the joint commitment to the success of Sharon’s planned evacuation of settlements in the Gaza Strip and part of the West Bank, scheduled to begin July 20.

Bush urged Israelis and Palestinians to coordinate the pullout.

“By working together, Israelis and Palestinians can lay the groundwork for a peaceful transition,” he said.

At the heart of the dispute were conflicting visions of the road map. Bush sees it as under way; Sharon believes the plan will go into effect only when the Palestinian Authority meets its initial obligations to eradicate terrorism, dismantle terrorist groups and end anti-Israel incitement.

Until that happens, he made clear Israel will not begin considering its settlement obligations under the plan.

“Only after the Palestinians fulfill their obligations, primarily a real fight against terrorism and the dismantling of its infrastructure, can we proceed toward negotiations based on the road map,” Sharon said.

Sharon was even more emphatic later, in a meeting with Hebrew-speaking reporters.

“We are not at the road map, we are before the road map,” he said. “As long as the Palestinians don’t take the necessary steps, the road map is not under way.”

Sharon acknowledged that P.A. President Mahmoud Abbas has made some progress in maintaining quiet since his January election, but argued that Israel has no simultaneous obligations — at least when it comes to settlements, which Sharon believes should be addressed only in the final stage of negotiations.

Sharon recalled Israel’s historic commitment to settlement building, a commitment he helped advance as a minister during the rapid settlement expansion in the first Menachem Begin government, from 1977 to 1981. The United States, he said, historically opposed the settlements, but Israel forged ahead because of its strategic interests; the bilateral relationship never suffered.

The history lesson was Sharon’s way of chiding Israeli reporters who asked whether his tense joint appearance with Bush was evidence of a “crisis.”

Even if there were a crisis, Sharon said, “not every crisis needs to lead to a revolution of the soul.”

Translation: Sharon, the visionary of the settlement movement, hadn’t given up on his dreams of expanding Israel’s narrow waist and offering the country a bit of strategic depth.

It was clear even before it began that there would be tensions, and the visit might not go as well as originally had been expected. Sharon spent Sunday night at a hotel in Waco, 30 miles away, while virtually every other world leader accorded the privilege of an overnight stay in central Texas has slept in the Crawford ranch’s guest house.

A preparatory meeting Sunday night between Sharon, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Stephen Hadley, Bush’s national security adviser, at a dimly lit Waco bar-and-rib joint, stretched to two hours as Secret Service agents kept locals seeking refreshments at bay. Participants finally emerged grim-faced.

The grim looks reappeared when the negotiators stood outside Bush’s office building, watching the two leaders deliver their statements. Almost all of the negotiators adhered to a White House-imposed dress code meant to suggest unanimity — dark blue jacket, open-necked shirts the color of the Texas bluebonnets dotting the Bush ranch, and khaki trousers — but the Israelis stood to one side, the Americans to the other.

Hadley is to visit Israel next week to resume the conversation.

Bush got no relief on the specific issue that helped precipitate the recent tension: Israel’s decision to add 3,500 apartments in Ma’aleh Adumim, a major West Bank settlement and Jerusalem bedroom community that Israel intends to keep in any final peace agreement.

The development would choke off a major north-south West Bank artery. Palestinians claim this would affect the territorial contiguity of the state they hope to build, something Bush regards as critical to the success of the peace process.

Sharon turned the contiguity question around.

“We are very much interested that it will be contiguity between Ma’aleh Adumim and Jerusalem,” he said, standing alongside Bush.

There were areas of substantial agreement: Bush restated his historic concession, made last year, that Israel’s major settlements are “facts on the ground” that must be taken into account in any final peace deal.

He also agreed to consider U.S. assistance in developing the Negev and Galilee, regions of Israel that are expected to absorb thousands of evacuated settlers. A senior Israeli Treasury official is to visit Washington next week to discuss the parameters of such assistance.

Bush is biding his time until the Gaza withdrawal. Sharon laughingly told Israeli reporters that U.S. admonishments about settlement expansion took the mild parental tone of “we’ll discuss this later.”

In his recent dealings with the United States, Sharon repeatedly has stressed that he must placate a restive Israeli right wing before the settlement evacuation this summer. He spoke Monday of a “civil-war atmosphere” in Israel.

That’s something Bush appreciates, but he has his own political constraints. Bush is trying to mend alliances with Europe and the Arab world that were fractured by the Iraq War, and he believes that substantial progress on the

Israeli-Palestinian front would heal many wounds. Bush also believes that the death last year of Abbas’ predecessor, Yasser Arafat, removed the principal obstacle to progress.

Bush expects Sharon to change his mind once the trauma of evacuating Gaza is past. Delaying any Israeli action until the Palestinians have fulfilled all their commitments, he said, suggests “a rather pessimistic point of view.”

He glanced over at Sharon and continued, “I just suspect that if there is success in Gaza, in other words, if there’s a state that’s emerging, the prime minister will have a different attitude about whether or not it makes sense to continue the process.”


Accord Was to Ensure Jewish Majority

The Oslo agreement was the first agreement ever signed between the Israeli government and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), intended to put an end to the national struggle that is the heart of the larger Arab-Israeli conflict.

The Olso agreement was the natural continuation of the framework agreements signed at the 1978 Camp David summit between Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, which also provided the basis for the 1991 Madrid Conference.

But, the talks that I initiated in Oslo contained two unique elements: For the first time, the Palestinian partner was clearly identified as the PLO, and the idea was proposed to transfer to Palestinian control most of the Gaza Strip and the Jericho area, even before elections were held for the Palestinian Authority’s legislative council and leadership.

The Oslo process was intended to save the Zionist enterprise before Israel would control an area where the majority of residents would be Palestinian. Anyone who believes that Israel must be a Jewish and democratic state must support the establishment of a border between Israel and the Palestinian side — preferably by consent rather than by unilateral measures.

Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin understood this and gave his support to the Oslo process. He faced opposition from a right-wing camp that presented itself as nationalist but did not propose any solution that would guarantee a Jewish and democratic future for Israel.

The interim measures did not accomplish their goal — that is, a final peace agreement — because of efforts by elements on both sides.

On the Palestinian side, the extremist religious organizations understood that Israeli-Palestinian peace would be the end of the road for them, and they acted to undermine the process through violence. The more difficult the conditions became in the areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority, the more public support these organizations gained.

On the Israeli side, it was the right wing — in particular, extremist settlers — who did whatever they could to foil a final status settlement that would divide the Land of Israel.

Attempts to attribute the past three years of violence to the Oslo agreement are characteristic of people who did not believe in the agreement in the first place and who believe that any agreement with the enemy is a surrender that ultimately will engender more violence.

I am not saying that the Oslo agreement was free of flaws. But those flaws were not the result of an innocent belief that the five-year interim period would build such confidence and esteem between Israelis and Palestinians that it would be easy to reach a final status settlement.

In my opinion, there were two flaws in the Oslo Agreement and its implementation:

First, the fact that no reference was made to the freezing of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip — the Palestinians accepted Rabin’s personal commitment to halt the construction of new settlements — created an opening that a subsequent right-wing government used to build new settlements, though it clearly was not the original intent of the agreement.

Second, Israel did not give sufficient importance to incitement in the Palestinian media, thinking it was a trend that would pass when the final status agreement was signed. This incitement played a significant role in the Palestinians’ return to violence in 2000.

Both sides blame the other for the process’ failure, though the Palestinians’ choice of violence means they have the greater share of blame.

But our future does not lie in reciprocal blaming. If we want to secure the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, we must do it before there is a Palestinian majority under Israeli control.

If the Palestinians want a state with a secular and pragmatic leadership, they must do it before Hamas and Islamic Jihad conquer the hearts of the people.

We have no time. The only effective way to do this is to complete the Oslo process and reach the final status agreement as quickly as possible.

Yossi Bellin was minister of justice in Ehud Barak’s government and one of the architects of the Oslo agreement.

Your Letters

Regally Blonde

Just read your review of Queen Noor’s book (“Regally Blonde,” May 9). That really needed to be said. Keep up the good work.

Dr. Charles Rosenberg, Newport Beach

Queen Noor chooses very conveniently to forget Jordanian “Black September.” I’m sure the families of the thousands of dead Palestinians remember that date.

Margaret Zetoony-Gan, Los Angeles

‘Road Map’

After more than 30 months of the intifada, it is clear that the parties are not capable on their own of curtailing violence and reaching the goals that the president outlined in his June 24 speech (Cover Story, May 9). [President Bush] should push for the implementation of the “road map” as soon as possible, and he must resist the stalling tactics of opponents of peace, who are trying to bog down the road map with amendments and preconditions.

Jennifer Gandin, Santa Monica

I’ve read the three articles on the “road map” very carefully. The introduction of Mahmoud Abbas as prime minister of the Palestinian Authority doesn’t give much confidence. William Bennett, in his latest presentation at the Universal Amphitheater, stated that Abbas wrote his doctoral thesis on “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” — hardly an encouraging sign for us.

Raphael Confortes, Los Angeles

‘Leasing’ of Peace

I have not read anything about the usually despairing peace issue between Israel and the Palestinians that makes so much sense as Reuven Firestone’s article (“‘Leasing’ of Peace Could Be Best Move,” May 9). To judge from popular responses of Palestinians and Muslims shown on Arab TV (as well as Sharon’s evasions) the “road map” has not much chance to be implemented, and it will fail just as all the other previous offers did. However, Firestone’s idea of leasing peace for every 10 years, rather than a permanent historical one, may just accomplish the hitherto impossible, for the very fact that it is not a final and binding “historical” agreement.

Yona Sabar, Professor of Hebrew and Aramaic UCLA

Too Jewish

Just as he did in his article on professional-lay relations, Gary Wexler addresses another issue no one in the organized Jewish community ever talks about or would admit exists. “When Jewish Is Too Jewish” (May 9) will resonate with lots of young (and not so young) people but will never be discussed in an open forum.

I don’t know if, in the long run, total immersion in “Jewish” is the best way to build continuity. Are we trying to build shtetls without walls? However, constantly looking at the world through one lens creates a narrowness which cannot best serve the individual and/or the community.

Ilene Olansky, Studio City

America and Israel

I want to commend Amy Klein for her recent editorials about the relationship between American Jews and Israel nowadays (“On the Road,” April 25, and “Whose Loss Is It Anyway?” May 2). She is very perceptive. Thanks for showing the “naked king.”

For me, a Jewish educator, the obligation is to respond to the reality you are describing and make sure the special connection between the communities is maintained.

Rivka Dori, Director of Hebrew Studies HUC-JIR and USC

We are writing to applaud Amy Klein’s editorial urging American Jews to journey to Israel. We went with our young children to Israel for Pesach. While our decision to go was fraught with uncertainty, we were propelled by the hagaddah’s injunction, “Next year in Jerusalem.” The war with Iraq increased our uncertainty. But that injunction played on, and our need to show more than financial support for Israel intensified.

We flew El Al. Many Israelis were going home for the holiday; unfortunately, very few Americans were onboard. It was not that we were unmindful of the risk involved, we just believed and continue to believe that showing support for Israel outweighs the danger. Moreover, as Jews in the Diaspora, we must reciprocate the comfort and security Israel provides us.

Alice Garfield and Daniel Romano, Los Angeles

Health Care Funds

Your great articles in the May 2 issue calling attention to the crisis in Medi-Cal funding were right on target (“Care Programs Face State Funds Loss” and “Press Fight for Care Funds). Jewish Family Service’s Adult Day Health Care Centers’ (ADHC) participants are at risk if Medi-Cal payments are cut.

The firsthand reports by [Bill] Boyarsky and [Marc] Ballon of The Journal staff conveyed the problems ahead should the cuts be made. The ADHC participants were thrilled by their interaction with both reporters when they visited the center. They felt not only were they being heard by the Jewish community, but that through their personal stories they might be able to influence decision-makers. Their hope is to make a difference for the thousands of other families throughout California who are also at risk if the proposed Medi-Cal cuts are enacted.

The Journal has become an advocate by reporting this matter. By doing so, impacted families know that their concerns are important not only to them, but to the rest of the community as well.

Just for the record, the entire Valley Storefront is not in jeopardy of being closed — thank God — only the Adult Day Health Care Center. That is bad news enough for the hundreds of families, like the Bridges, who depend on Jewish Family Service. Thank you again for telling our story.

Marcia F. Volpert, President Jewish Family Service

Run for the Roses

“Trainer Saddles Up to Run for the Roses” (May 2) was well-written and covered the essence of the man who, almost without question, is the single most successful thoroughbred trainer in America

Nathaniel J. Friedman, Beverly Hills

Jewish Killer

The article on familial dysautonomia published in the May 2 Jewish Journal (“Foundations Try to Stop a Jewish Killer”) was an example of the best journalism can offer: education and awareness which lead to the potential of saving a life. Kudos to the author, Michael Aushenker.

Rabbi Morley T. Feinstein, University Synagogue


In “A Double Mitzvah” (May 9), the bar mitzvah took place at Temple Beth El.

Can the Road Map Be a Path to Peace?

Question: How is the Middle East road map, which President Bush will submit to Israelis and Palestinians next month, be helpful to the United States and Israel?

Answer: The United States is in the midst of a difficult war, in which U.S. objectives are likely to be compromised unless it can build support — or at least, reduce hostility — in the Arab world. Both the governments of Jordan and Egypt, states at peace with Israel, are insistent that the United States address the Israeli-Palestinian question, otherwise, the United States risks regime change, resulting from overwhelming domestic unrest, in these longtime allies, and the United States will need assistance in Iraqi reconstruction.

While the United States should not cave in to pressure, supporting the road map is the right thing to do. Israel needs the road map, because, as Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said recently, the Israeli economy is on the brink of collapse and can only be rescued through an agreement with the Palestinians.

Q: Doesn’t the road map put most of the obligations on Israel, rather than on the Palestinians?

A: On the contrary, most of the obligations in the critical Phase I are on the Palestinians. They must first end all violence against Israel. Verification will be by the CIA.

The Palestinians must also restate their commitment to live in peace with Israel. In return, Israel will return to the positions held before the outbreak of the intifada, end punitive measures against Palestinians and freeze settlements.

None of the requirements on Israel will take effect until the Palestinians end violence. Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell have both made that clear.

Only when the Palestinians have proven by their performance and political reform that they are ready for negotiations will any moves toward a Palestinian state be considered. Even then, the United States will be there to guarantee Israeli security throughout.

Q: The road map was drafted by the so-called Quartet: the United States, European Union, United Nations and Russia. How can we trust them to be fair and impartial?

A: They drafted the road map but, as the road map makes explicit, the United States will be the arbiter and will determine what constitutes compliance by either side. One does not have to trust the Europeans to be fair to Israel; one has to trust Bush. For example, changes in the draft of the road map made thus far by the United States have been favorable to Israel.

Q: What about Palestinian reform and Arafat?

A: Arafat is losing his position of unquestioned leadership in the Palestinian Authority. The election of Abu Mazen as prime minister was a significant setback for Arafat and indicates this. Both the Bush and Sharon governments welcomed Mazen’s election (Sharon entertained him at his ranch early this month).

Both governments say that Palestinian reform is moving ahead in a number of areas, most notably in the Finance Ministry, where genuine accountability and transparency has been implemented by Finance Minister Salam Fayed.

Q: What is the attitude in Israel toward the road map?

A: The recent polls in Israel all indicate strong support for achieving peace through territorial compromise with the Palestinians. Like the Israeli government, the Israeli people are watching to see if Mazen is the partner for whom they have been waiting.

Despite the violence of the past two years, Israelis overwhelmingly are ready to give up settlements and return most of the territories gained in 1967, in return for a binding peace that will guarantee their security. The road map offers that.

Israelis are very mindful of the fact that more than 750 Israelis have been killed in acts of terror since the Oslo process collapsed after the failure to reach an agreement at Camp David in 2000. This contrasts with less than a dozen killed in the three years leading up to Camp David.

That disparity was the result of Israeli-Palestinian security cooperation, which the road map would reinstate and strengthen, with further guarantees for Israel to protect against the collapse, which occurred with the onset of the intifada.

M.J. Rosenberg is director of policy analysis for Israel Policy Forum and a longtime Capitol Hill staffer.

Community Briefs

Protest Against French

About 40 protesters lined up in front of the French consulate in Westwood on April 12 and 19 to protest anti-Semitism in France. The group, led by StandWithUs, the same organization that helped arrange recent pro-Israel rallies in Los Angeles, presented a French government representative with a declaration urging the government to denounce incitement and anti-Semitism against France’s 500,000 population Jewish community.

“We are aware that there have been between 350 and 450 attacks against Jewish institutions and Jewish individuals. This level of anti-Semitism in France has not been as severe since the rise of German extremism in the late 1930s,” the declaration stated.

David Elbaz of Betar, David Suissa on behalf of Olam and Jews for Truth Now, and Roz Rothstein, a representative of StandWithUs, met with French consulate representatives, including Deputy Consul General Michel Charbonnier and press attaché Valerie Luebken-Martinache.

Rothstein said the French representatives blamed the situation in France on tensions in the Middle East. “I reminded them what this country did after Sept. 11,” Rothstein said. “We protected our Muslims, and that’s what a country has to do with its citizens.”

Luebken-Martinache described the meeting as “a dialogue. I understand that there are problems in France, but I don’t agree with that, that my country is anti-Semitic.”

StandWithUs will picket in front of the French consulate every Friday, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., until the situation improves, Rothstein said, adding that similar demonstrations will be staged in New York and other cities. — Michael Aushenker, Staff Writer

California- Israel Pact

California and Israel signed a cultural cooperation agreement at a reception at the Beverly Hills Hotel celebrating Israeli Independence Day.

Gov. Gray Davis and L.A. Israeli Consul General Yuval Rotem signed an agreement creating the California-Israel Cultural Cooperation Commission, the goal of which is to “promote a deeper understanding of shared values through the arts and cultural affairs.” The cultural agreement is the first of its kind for California. Israel has similar agreements with New York, Ohio, Tennessee and North Carolina. — Staff Report

Muslim-Jewish Discord Debated

Two of the keenest American academic minds on the politics of the Middle East — one Jewish, the other Arab — debated the present and future of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict Monday evening, and reached agreement on at least three points.

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat is inept and unpopular with the great majority of his people.

The American media, especially CNN, are doing a terrible job of covering the conflict and are thoroughly biased. However, the perceived bias is in favor of Palestinian “terrorists” in Jewish eyes, and is partial to Israeli “oppressors” from the Arab view.

Israelis and Palestinians regard each other with deep suspicion and hostility, but their mutual interests dictate that they ultimately reach an understanding.

Facing each other and more than 200 listeners at the UCLA Hillel Forum were political scientist Steven Spiegel of UCLA, an early Clinton adviser on the Middle East, and historian Rashid Khalidi of the University of Chicago, who was an advisor to the Palestinian delegation at the 1991 Madrid conference.

Both professors are leaders of international relations centers at their respective universities and have written authoritative books in their fields.

The event was the last of six in a lecture series on “Muslim-Jewish Relations: Harmony & Discord Throughout History,” sponsored by Hillel and various Jewish, Arab and academic organizations.

In a generally pessimistic survey of the current situation, Spiegel saw some hope in the newly proposed report of an international commission, headed by former U.S. Senate Democratic leader, George J. Mitchell.

The report calls for an immediate halt in violence, followed by a cooling-off period, a complete stop to the expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and denunciation of terrorism and apprehension of terrorists by the Palestinian authority.

Khalidi said that these points were not enough to satisfy Palestinian demands. In his criticism of Israeli and American peace plans, he argued that even the presumed and widely hailed concessions by then Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak at Camp David last year would leave Palestinians with a series of disconnected “Bantustans,” or slices, in its territory and East Jerusalem.

Pessimism ran deepest on the Palestinian demand for the right of return of some 3.7 million Arab refugees to Israel, which is two to three times the number who lived in Palestine in 1948. The refugee issue is seen as a basic existential issue for both sides, and presents an even more complex problem than the future status of Jerusalem, the speakers agreed.

Spiegel said he regretted in particular the many opportunities lost by Palestinian leaders in reaching peaceful solutions.

The UCLA professor designated an indecisive Arafat as the primary culprit in the failure of recent peace efforts, asking, “Where is the Palestinian Nelson Mandela?”

Khalidi, while not accepting this appraisal, cited a change in Palestinian leadership as one of the requirements of a possible peace, along with U.S. pressure on Israel and a change in Israeli public opinion. Spiegel said that one sorrowful aspect of the second intifada over the last six months has been to destroy the peace camp in Israel and to elect, in effect, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

He added,”Sadly, both sides have lost their sense of interdependence, but they will either fall together, or triumph together.”

Loyola law professor Laurie Levenson and student Adam Rosenthal moderated the intense but civil two-hour debate.