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

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

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.”


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.