Viser arkivet for stikkord barackobama

Uri Avnery's opinion of the Nobel Peace Prize

Uri Avnery
10.10.09

The Other Israel

YESTERDAY, OUR table celebrated with Ada Yonath.

This “table” just had its 50th anniversary. It started by accident in “California”, the Café established at the time by Abie Nathan, who later became famous as the Peace Pilot. Afterwards, we met for many years at the legendary Artists’ Café Cassith. Since that place was closed down – like many other Tel Aviv landmarks – the table wandered to several other places and became known as the “Cassith exiles’ table”. The “House of Lords” one newspaper nicknamed it.

The habitués of the table come from very different walks of life. There is a former director of the Israel Broadcasting Authority, several senior journalists, a linguist and Bible expert, a film producer, a professor of medicine, a psychiatrist, a town planner, an industrialist, a translator of literature, a radio program producer and a scientist.

The table is not political. But all its habitués tend, as it so happens, to lean towards the left.

For years, Ada Yonath has been our candidate for the Nobel Prize. Nine years ago, she invited us to look at her historic discovery. As far as chemistry – or any other science, for that matter – is concerned, I am a total idiot. So I did not really understand what it is all about: the structure and function of the ribosome, one of the building blocks of life. Not by accident was this discovery made in Israel – Ada had a stroke of genius when she chose for her experiments a microbe found in the Dead Sea, the lowest place on earth, unique in the world.

Throughout the years she has entertained us with amusing stories about the frequent scientific conferences she has attended all over the world, and also about the hair-raising intrigues at the very top of the scientific world. Some very senior scientists tried to expropriate her discovery for themselves. I learned that Ada’s discoveries are immensely significant, far more than many that have been crowned with the prize throughout the years. They concern the fundamentals of life and its creation and are as momentous as the unraveling of the human genome. They may open the door to completely new ways of healing diseases.

I RECOUNT all this not only in order to boast about the fact that Ada “belongs to us”, and not only in order to take part in Ada’s joy, but in order to point to a fact that is often forgotten in the debates about our wars and the occupation: that there is another Israel.

This year there were three Israelis among the acknowledged contenders for the Nobel Prizes who made it to the finals: besides Ada Yonath there were also the physicist Yakir Aharonov and the writer Amos Oz.

For a small country like Israel, that is an impressive feat

Ada Yonath is as Israeli as can be: a Sabra (native of the country), born in Jerusalem, who received all her education in Israeli schools. Her character traits are those considered typical for Israelis: a direct approach, simple manners, a hatred of formality, a readiness to laugh at oneself. There is not an ounce of arrogance or vanity, but an incredible power of persistence.

A stranger who follows the daily news about Israel could not even guess at the existence of this Israel, the Israel Ada belongs to. This week, too, the news was dominated by the occupation, the brutality, the coarseness of the official Israel.

The news about Ada’s prize was like an oasis in the desert. Almost all the other news on TV and radio and in the newspapers dealt with blood and riots. The battle for the Temple Mount (Haram al-Sharif), the clashes between the police and protesters in the Arab quarters of Jerusalem, side by side with ordinary criminal news about murders, drunken youngsters stabbing each other to death, an old man killing his sleeping wife with a hammer, a group of boys robbing and raping a middle-aged women in broad daylight.

And over everything there still hovers the Goldstone report about crimes committed during the Gaza War, which the Israeli government almost succeeded in squashing, with the generous assistance of Mahmoud Abbas.

THE SUBJECT dominating this week’s news was Jerusalem.

Everything happened “suddenly”. Suddenly the flames broke out on the Temple Mount, after the month of Ramadan had passed relatively quietly. Suddenly the Islamic Movement in Israel called upon the Arab citizens to rush and save the al-Aqsa mosque. Suddenly, senior Islamic preachers all over the Muslim world urged the one and a half billion Muslims to rise to the defense of the holy shrines. (Nothing happened.)

The police chief in Jerusalem has a ready explanation: the Muslims are “ungrateful”. To wit: we have “allowed them” to pray safely all through Ramadan, and that is how they repay us. This colonial arrogance infuriated the Arabs even more.

According to the Israeli authorities, nothing has happened that could justify this “sudden” upheaval. Meaning: it is an Arab provocation, a vile effort to create a conflict out of nothing.

But in Arab – and not only Arab – eyes it looks very different. For years now, the Arab community in Jerusalem has been under siege. Since Binyamin Netanyahu became Prime Minister, and since Nir Barkat became mayor of Jerusalem, the sense of siege increased many fold. Both men belong to the radical Right, and both are leading towards ethnic cleansing.

This finds its foremost expression in the systematic building of Jewish neighborhoods in the heart of the Arab quarters in the annexed Eastern part of the city, which is supposed to become the capital of the Palestinian state and whose final status is still to be decided by negotiation. The execution is entrusted to a group of extreme Rightists called Ateret Cohanim (“the crown of priests”), financed by the American Bingo king Irwin Moskowitz. After winning a resounding victory in shaving Jebel Abu-Ghneim (“Har Homa”) and building a fortress-like settlement there, they are now establishing Jewish neighborhoods in the heart of Sheikh Jarrah, Silwan, Ras al-Amud and Abu Dis, not to mention the Muslim Quarter of the Old City itself. At the same time, they are trying to fill up the E1 area between Jerusalem and the giant settlement Ma’aleh Adumim.

Seemingly, these are all sporadic actions, initiated by respect-hungry billionaires and power-drunk settlers. But that is an illusion: behind all this feverish activity there lurks a government plan with a well defined strategic goal. It is enough to look at a map in order to understand its purpose: to encircle the Arab quarters and cut them off from the West Bank. And beyond: to enlarge Jerusalem to the East up to the approaches of Jericho, thus cutting the West Bank into two, with the Northern part (Ramallah, Nablus, Jenin, Tulkarm) cut off from the Southern part (Hebron, Bethlehem).

And, of course: to make the life of the Arab inhabitants of Jerusalem impossible, until they “voluntarily” leave the “United City, Israel’s Capital in all Eternity”.

IN THIS strategy, a central role is played by the thing called “archeology”.

For a hundred years, Jewish archeology has sought, in vain, to prove the existence of David’s kingdom, in order to establish once and for all our historic right to the city. Not a shred of evidence has been found to prove that King David ever existed, not to mention his huge empire stretching from Egypt to Hamath in Syria. There is no evidence for the Exodus from Egypt, the Conquest of Canaan, David and his son Solomon. On the contrary, there is no little evidence, especially in ancient Egyptian records, that seem to show that all this never happened.

For this desperate search, archeological diggings took off the strata pertaining to the last 2000 years in the country’s life – the periods of the Byzantine empire, the Islamic conquest, the Mamelukes and the Ottomans. The search has a manifest political purpose, and most Israeli archeologists consider themselves soldiers in the service of the national struggle.

The scandal that is taking place now at the foot of al-Aqsa is a part of this story. Something unprecedented is happening there: the digging in “David’s Town” (clearly a propaganda appellation) has been turned over to the same ultra-nationalist religious association, Ateret Cohanim, that is building the provocative Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem and around it. The Israeli government, quite officially, has entrusted this scientific task to a political group. Not just any political group, but an ultra-radical one. The digging itself is being conducted by archeologists who accept their authority.

Israeli archeologists who care for the integrity of their profession (there still are some) protested this week that the digging is proceeding in a thoroughly unprofessional way: the work is done in an unscientific hurry, artifacts found are not examined properly and systematically, the sole aim is to uncover evidence as quickly as possible to support the Jewish claim to the Temple Mount.

Many Arabs believe that the aim is even more sinister: to dig under the al-Aqsa mosque in order to bring about its collapse. These fears were reinforced by the disclosure in Haaretz this week, that the digging is undermining Arab houses and threatens to bring them down.

Israeli spokesmen are upset. What vile slanders! Who can even imagine such things?! But it is no secret that in the eyes of many nationalist-religious fanatics, the very existence of the two mosques there – al-Aqsa and the Dome of the Rock – is an abomination. Years ago, members of a Jewish underground organization planned to blow up the Dome of the Rock, but were caught in time and sent to prison. Recently, a religious website wrote: ”Today there stands there an evil thing, a great witch that must be taken off. The Temple will stand in place of this pustule topped with yellow pus, and everybody knows what to do about a pustule, one has to empty it of the pus. That is our aim, and with God’s help we shall do it.” Already, sheep are being raised for sacrificial purposes in the Temple.

One can ridicule these outpourings and assert, as always, that they come from the lunatic fringe. That is what they said about the murder of Yitzhak Rabin. But for Arabs, who see with their own eyes the daily effort to “Judaize” the Eastern city and to push them out, this is no joke. Their fear is genuine.

Since the millions of inhabitants of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip have no access to the Temple Mount – contrary to all the talk about “religious freedom” – the Islamic Movement in Israel proper has assumed the role of guardian of the two shrines. This week, the call went up to outlaw the movement and to put its leader, Sheikh Ra’ed Salah, in prison.

Sheikh Ra’ed is a charismatic leader. I met him 16 years ago, when we both lived for 45 days and nights in a protest tent opposite the prime minister’s office, after Rabin had deported 415 Islamic activists to the Lebanese border. The sheikh was, at the time, a friendly person, pleasant to be with, full of humor, who treated Rachel, too, with utmost friendliness (but without taking her hand, much like our own Orthodox rabbis). I learned from him a lot about Islam, and answered as well as I could his questions about Judaism. Nowadays he is much more tough and uncompromising.

THERE IS something symbolic about the proximity in time of the awarding of the Nobel Prize and the Temple Mount happenings. The two events represent the two options facing Israel.

We have to decide what we are: the Israel of Ada Yonath or the Israel of Ateret Cohanim. An Israel that cherishes its culture, science, high-tech, literature, medicine and agriculture, which marches in the first row of progressive human society towards a better future, or an Israel of wars, occupation and settlements, a fundamentalist state that looks to the past.

Contrary to the prophets of doom, I believe that this battle is not yet decided. Israel is far from being the monolithic body that appears in the caricatures. It is a varied, multifaceted society with many possibilities, one of which leads to war and the other towards peace and reconciliation.

The winner of the Nobel peace prize, Barack Obama, can have a lot of influence on the choice. After all, wasn’t the prize awarded to him as a down payment for deeds to come?

Uri Avnerys Easter reflections

Uri Avnery
11.4.09

“Rest has Come to the Weary…”

PASSOVER Week is a time for outings. News programs on radio and television start with words like: “The masses of the House of Israel spent the day in the national parks…”

It is also a feast of homeland songs. On television one sees groups of white-haired oldsters surrounded by their children and grandchildren fervently singing the songs of their youth, the words of which they know by heart.

“Rest has come to the weary / And repose to the toiler / A pale night spreads / Over the fields of the Valley of Jezreel / Dew below and the moon above / From Beit-Alfa to Nahalal…” The camera focuses on the furrowed face of a grandmother with wet eyes, and it is not hard to imagine her as the beautiful girl she once was. It is easy to see her in a Jezreel kibbutz, with short pants and a long braid swinging behind her, smiling, bowed over tomato plants in the communal vegetable garden.

Nostalgia is having a field-day.

I ADMIT that I am not free from this nostalgia. Something happens to me, too, when I hear the songs, and I join in them involuntarily.

Like many others, I am suffering from “cognitive dissonance”. The heart and the head are not coordinated. They operate on different wavelengths. In other words: my head knows that the Zionist enterprise has imposed a historic injustice on the people who lived in this land. But my heart remembers what we felt in those days.

At the age of 10, a few weeks after our flight from Nazi Germany and arrival in this country, my parents sent me to Nahalal, the first Moshav (communal village). I lived with a family of “peasants” – there were not yet known as “agriculturists” – in order to get “acclimatized” and learn Hebrew.

What was Nahalal like in those days? 75 families, their small white houses arranged in a perfect circle, who worked from sunrise to sunset. In the winter, the village became a sea of mud, which stuck to your rubber boots and felt as heavy as lead. In summer, the temperature was often around blood heat. We, the children, went out to work with the adults, and sometimes it was almost unbearable.

Everyone lived in indescribable poverty. A small glass of home-made wine on Friday night was the height of luxury. Money was measured in piasters (dimes). When the mother of the family, at long last, got a Singer sewing machine and could make the family new clothes, it was a cause for celebration.

When the poet Nathan Alterman wrote about the “rest for the weary”, it was not a poetic phrase. He was talking about real people.

These people were the sons and daughters of the St. Petersburg and Kiev bourgeoisie, spoilt children of well-to-do parents, who came here to “build the country”, walking with open eyes into a life of abject poverty and back-breaking work, learning a foreign language and giving up their mother tongue forever. During the first years they worked hard to drain the swamp on their land. I can’t imagine that after a day’s work any of them had the energy left to read Tolstoy or Dostoyevsky.

They knew, of course, that there were Arabs around. On the road from Nahalal to Haifa they went past Arab villages. They saw fellaheen working in the fields. But they were from another world. That year – 1934 – was still tranquil, the quiet before the storm of the 1936 “disturbances”. They had no contact with Arabs, did not understand their language, had no idea at all about what went on in their heads when they saw the Jews tending their fields.

What they knew was that the fields of the Jezreel Valley, many of which had been swamps, had been bought with good money from an Arab landowner. Nobody thought about the peasants who had lived on this land and derived from it their daily bread for generations, and who were evicted when the rich absentee landowner sold it to the Jewish National Fund.

NOSTALGIA IS a human emotion. In every generation, old people remember their youth, and mostly it appears to them as an age of purity and happiness.

This natural, personal nostalgia is joined in our case by another feeling, which causes the old songs to flood us with longing for the innocence of those days, the virtue, the belief in “the rightness of the way”, when everything looked so simple.

We felt then that we were taking part in an unprecedented heroic undertaking, creating a new world, a new society, a new human being, a new culture, a new language. We remembered where we came from – from a Europe that was turning into a hell for the Jews. We knew that it was our duty to build a safe haven for millions of Jews who were living in growing danger (even though nobody could yet imagine the Holocaust) and who had nowhere to escape to.

There was a spirit of togetherness, of belonging, of idealism. The new songs expressed it. We all sang them in the youth movements, at Kibbutz evenings, during trips around the country, even in the diverse underground organizations, and of course at school.

When the “disturbances” started in April 1936, we did not see them as an “Arab Revolt”. Like the “pogrom” of 1921 and the “massacre” of 1929, they looked to us like a British plot to incite the ignorant Arabs against us in order to continue to rule the country. The “incited” Arab crowds attacked us because they did not understand how good we were for them. They did not grasp that we were bringing to the country progress, modern agriculture, health care, socialism, workers’ solidarity. Their leaders, the rich “Effendis” (Turkish for noblemen) were inciting them because they were afraid that they would learn from us to demand higher wages. And there were, of course, those who believed that the Arabs were murdering for the sake of murdering, that murder was their nature and the essence of Islam.

These were not cynical excuses. Zionism was not cynical. The entire Yishuv (the new Hebrew society) believed in this doctrine. In retrospect one can say: this belief was necessary in order to keep up the idealist spirit while ignoring the other side of the coin.

Vladimir Ze’ev Jabotinsky, who lived abroad and had no part in the pioneer endeavor of (the socialist) “Working Eretz Israel”, looked at things from afar and saw them as they were: already in the 1920s he stated that the Palestinian Arabs were behaving as any people would if they saw strangers coming to their country with the intent of turning it into their own homeland. But only a few listened to him.

On the Zionist Left there were always some groups and individuals who tried to find a compromise between Zionism and the people of the land, which would not hinder the Zionists from settling all over the country. It was 1946 before there came into being the first group (of which I was one of the founders) which recognized the Palestinian – and the general Arab – National Movement and proposed striking an alliance with it.

IN 1948, the songs of the War of Independence joined the pioneer songs. Regarding them, too, not a few among us suffer from cognitive dissonance. On the one side – what we felt then. On the other – the truth as we know it now.

For the fighters – as for the entire Yishuv – it was, quite simply, an existential war. The slogan was “There is No Alternative”, and all of us believed in it completely. We were fighting with our backs to the wall, the lives of our families hanging in the balance. The enemy was all around us. We believed that we, the few, the very few, almost without arms, were standing up against a sea of Arabs. In the first half of the war, the Arab fighters (known to us as “the gangs”) indeed dominated all the roads, and in the second half, the regular Arab armies approached the centers of the Hebrew population, surrounding Hebrew Jerusalem and coming close to Tel-Aviv. The Yishuv lost 6000 young people out of a population of some 635 thousand. Whole year-groups were decimated. Innumerable heroic acts were performed.

The idealism of the fighters found its expression in the songs. Most of them are imbued with faith in victory, and, of course, total conviction of the justness of our cause. We did not leave Arabs behind our lines, nor did the Arabs leave any Jews behind theirs. It looked in those circumstances like a simple military necessity. The fighters did not think then about “ethnic cleansing” – a term not yet invented.

We had no understanding about the real balance of power between us and the other side. The Arabs looked to us like a huge force. We did not know that the Palestinians were quarreling with each other, unable to unite and to create a country-wide defense force, that they had a severe shortage of modern arms. Later, when the Arab armies joined the fray, we did not know that they were unable to cooperate with each other, that it was more important for them to compete with each other than to defeat us.

Today, a growing number of Israelis have started to understand the full significance of the “Nakba”, the great tragedy of the Palestinian people and all the individuals who lost their homes and most of their homeland. But the songs come and remind us of what we felt at the time, when the things happened. An abyss yawns between the emotional reality of those days and the historical truth as we know it now.

Some see the entire 1948 war as a conspiracy of the Zionist leadership which intended right from the beginning to expel the Palestinians from the country in order to turn it into a Jewish State. According to this view, the soldiers of 1948 were war criminals who implemented a vicious policy, much as the pioneers of the preceding generation were land robbers, knights of ethnic cleansing by expulsion and expropriation.

They are strengthened in this view by today’s settlers, who are driving the Palestinians from what remains of their land. By their actions they blacken the pioneer past. Religious fanatics and fascist hooligans, who claim to be the heirs of the pioneers, obliterate the real intentions of that generation

HOW CAN one overcome the contradiction between the intentions and emotions of the actors and their many magnificent achievements in building a new nation, and the dark side of their actions and the consequences?

How to sing about the hopes and dreams of our youth and at the same time admit to the terrible injustice of many of our actions? Sing with full heart the pioneer songs and the 1948 war songs (one of which I wrote, of which I am far from proud), without denying the terrible tragedy we imposed on the Palestinian people?

Barack Obama told the Turkish people this week that they must come to grips with the massacre of the Armenians committed by their fathers, while at the same time reminding the Americans that they must confront the genocide of the Native Americans and the black slavery exploited by their own forefathers.

I believe we can do this regarding the catastrophe that we have caused the Palestinians. I am convinced that this is important, indeed essential, for our own national mental health, as well as a first step toward eventual reconciliation. We must acknowledge and recognize the consequences of our deeds and repair what can be repaired – without rejecting our past and the songs that express the innocence of our youth.

We must live with this contradiction, because it is the truth of our lives.

Published with the permission of Uri Avnery.

Uri Avnery: The new government of Israel

Uri Avnery
28.3.09

Biberman & Co

IS THIS the government of Biberman (Bibi Netanyahu and Avigdor Liberman) or perhaps of Bibarak (Bibi and Ehud Barak)?

Neither. It is the government of Bibiyahu.

Binyamin Netanyahu has proven that he is a consummate politician. He has realized the dream of every politician (and theatergoer): a good place in the middle. In his new government he can play off the fascists on the right against the socialists on the left, Liberman’s secularists against the orthodox of Shas. An ideal situation.

The coalition is large enough to be immune from blackmail by any of its component parties. If some Labor members break coalition discipline, Netanyahu will still command a majority. Or if the rightists make trouble. Or if the orthodox try to stick a knife in his back.

This government is committed to nothing. Its written “Basic Guidelines” – a document signed by all partners of a new Israeli government – are completely nebulous. (And anyhow, Basic Guidelines are worthless. All Israeli governments have broken their agreed Basic Guidelines without batting an eyelid. They always prove to be rubber checks.)

All this was acquired by Netanyahu on the cheap – a few billions of economic promises that he would not dream of fulfilling. The treasury is empty. As one of his predecessors in the Prime Minister’s office, Levy Eshkol, famously said: “I promised, but I did not promise to keep my promises.”

He also bestowed ministries on all and sundry. This little country will have 27 ministers and six deputy ministers. So what? If necessary, Netanyahu would have given a ministerial chair to each of the 74 members of the coalition.

THE PINNACLE of his achievement was the acquisition of the Labor party for his government.

In one stroke he turned a government of lepers, which would have been viewed by the whole world as a crazy bunch of ultra-nationalists, racists and fascists, into a sane and balanced government of the center. All this without changing its character in the least.

The most ardent supporter of this feat was Liberman, the new Foreign Minister of Israel. This extreme racist, this spiritual brother of the French Jean-Marie Le Pen and the Austrian Joerg Haider (I hope both, the living and the dead, will not feel insulted), was very anxious about what was awaiting him. In his imagination he saw himself extending his hand to Hillary Clinton and being left with his arm dangling in the air. Leaning forward to kiss Angela Merkel only to see her draw back in horror. Unpleasant.

The addition of the Labor Party solves everybody’s problem. If the social democrats are joining the government, all this talk of fascism must be nonsense. Obviously, Liberman has been misunderstood. He has been misrepresented. He is not a fascist at all, God forbid. He is not a racist. He is just a traditional right-wing demagogue who exploits the primitive emotions of the masses to garner votes. Which elected politician could object to that?

Indeed, the whole government has been given a kosher certificate by Ehud Barak. He continues the glorious Labor Party tradition of political prostitution. In 1977, Moshe Dayan entered the new government of Menachem Begin and gave it a kosher certificate, when the entire world considered Begin a dangerous nationalist adventurer. In 2001, Shimon Peres entered the new government of Ariel Sharon and gave him a kosher certificate, when the entire world saw in Sharon the man responsible for the Sabra and Shatila massacre.

WHY DID Barak do this? And why did the majority of the Labor Party support him?

Labor is a government party. It has never been anything else. As early as 1933 it took over the Zionist movement, and since than it ruled the Yishuv (the pre-1948 Jewish community in Palestine) and the state without interruption until Begin’s ascent to power in 1977. For 44 consecutive years it held unchallenged power over the economy, the army, the police, the security services, the education system, the health system and the Histadrut, the then all-powerful labor federation.

Power is encoded in the party’s DNA. It’s much more than a political matter – it’s its whole character, its mentality, its world view. The party is unable to be an opposition. It does not know what that is, and even less what to do with it.

I observed the Labor members in the Knesset, during the short periods they were stuck in opposition. They were downcast and mournful. Dozens of them were wandering forlornly around the corridors, like phantoms, lost souls. When they went up to the rostrum, they sounded like government spokesmen.

The Likud suffers from the opposite syndrome. Their predecessors were in opposition throughout the days of the Yishuv and during the first 29 years of the state. Opposition is in the blood of Likudniks. Even now, after many years (with interruptions) in government, they behave like an opposition. They are the eternal discriminated-against, miserable and bitter, people from the outside looking in, full of hate and envy.

Ehud Barak personifies the syndrome of his party. Everything is owed to him. Power is owed to him, the Ministry of Defense is owed to him. I would not have been surprised if he had insisted on a clause in the coalition agreement appointing him Minister of Defense for life (and his yeoman, Shalom Simchon, Minister of Agriculture for life). Governments come and governments go, but Ehud Barak must be the Minister of Defense – be the government rightist or leftist, fascist or communist, atheist or theocratic. It does not matter how he functions in his job – his appraisal can be nothing less than perfect.

SO WHAT will this government do? What can it do?

As far as the most important matter is concerned, there is complete unanimity. Liberman, Netanyahu, Barak, Ellie Yishai of Shas and Danny Hershkovitz of the “Jewish Home” party are in total agreement about the Palestinians. All of them agree on the need to prevent the establishment of a real Palestinian state. All of them agree not to talk with Hamas. All of them support the settlement enterprise. During Barak’s stint as Prime Minister, the settlements grew even faster than during Netanyahu’s tenure. Liberman is himself a settler, Hershkovitz’s party represents the settlers. All of them believe that there is no need for peace, that peace is bad for us. (After all, it was Barak, not Netanyahu or Liberman, who coined the phrase “We Have No Partner for Peace”.)

So what will be the real platform of this government?

In four words: Deception for the fatherland.

ON THIS government’s chosen path there lies a huge rock: the United States of America.

While Israel made a big leap to the right, the US has made a big leap to the left. One can hardly imagine a greater contrast than that between Binyamin Netanyahu and Barack Obama. Or between the two Bara©ks – Barack Obama and Ehud Barak

Netanyahu is conscious of this problem, perhaps more than any other Israeli leader. He grew up in the US, after his father, a history professor in Jerusalem, felt himself deprived of his rightful place in academia because of his extreme right-wing views and went to America. There Binyamin attended high-school and university. He speaks the fluent American English of a traveling salesman.

If there is one thing that unites practically all Israelis, from right to left, it is the conviction that the relationship between Israel and the US is critical for the security of the state. Netanyahu’s main concern is, therefore, to prevent a serious break between the two countries.

Barak was admitted to the government precisely in order to avoid such a clash. Netanyahu wants to visit the White House with Barak, not Liberman, at his side.

The clash seems inevitable. Obama wants to create a new order in the Middle East. He knows that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict poisons the atmosphere against America in the Arab, and indeed in the entire Muslim world. He wants a solution to the conflict – exactly what Netanyahu and his partners want to prevent at any price, except the price of a breach with the US.

How to do this?

The solution is written in the Bible (Proverbs 24:6): “For by ruses thou shalt make thy war.”

(In the King James version, the Hebrew word Takhbulot is translated as “wise counsel”. In Modern Hebrew it means ruses, tricks, ploys – and that is the way it is understood by all Hebrew-speakers today.)

FROM THE beginnings of Zionism, its leaders have known that their vision necessitates a large measure of make-belief. It is impossible to take over a country inhabited by another people without disguising the aim, diverting attention, hiding the acts on the ground behind a screen of flowery words.

All states lie, of course. 400 years ago, a British diplomat, Sir Henry Wotton, observed: “An ambassador is an honest man sent to lie abroad for the good of his country.” Because of the special circumstances of their enterprise, the Zionists have had to use deceit perhaps a bit more than usual.

Now the task is to present to the world, and especially the US and Europe, a false picture, pretending that our new government is yearning for peace, acting for peace, indeed turning every stone in search of peace – while doing the exact opposite. The world will be submerged by a deluge of declarations and promises, accompanied by lots of meaningless gestures, conferences and meetings.

People with good ears are already hearing Netanyahu, Liberman and Barak starting to play around with the “Arab Peace Initiative”. They will talk about it, interpret it, accept it ostensibly while attaching conditions that empty it of all content.

The great advantage of this initiative is that it does not come from the Palestinians, and therefore does not require negotiations with the Palestinians. Like the deceased “Jordanian Option” and others of its kind, it serves as a substitute for a dialogue with the Palestinians. The Arab League includes 22 governments, some of which cooperate on the sly with the Israeli leadership. They can be relied on not to agree among themselves on anything practical.

BUT DECEIVING, like dancing the tango, takes two: one who deceives and one who wants to be deceived.

Netanyahu believes that Obama will want to be deceived. Why would he want to quarrel with Israel, confront the mighty pro-Israel lobby and the US Congress, when he can settle for soothing words from Net\anyahu? Not to mention Europe, divided and ridden by Holocaust guilt, and the pathetic Tony Blair moving around like a restless ghost.

Is Obama ready to play, like most of his predecessors, the role of the deceived lover?

The Biberman/Bibarak/Bibiyahu government believes that the answer is a resounding yes. I hope that it will be a resounding No.

Published with the permission of Uri Avnery.

Avnery on the first test of the Obama administration

Uri Avnery
14.3.09

The Rape of Washington

RETURNING HOME from a very short visit to London, I found the country in the grip of uncontrollable emotions.

No, it was not about the looming danger of the radical right gaining control. It is now almost certain that the next government will consist of an assorted bunch of settlers, explicit racists and perhaps even outright fascists. But that does not evoke any excitement.

Nor was there much excitement about yet another interrogation of the (still) incumbent Prime Minister in his various corruption affairs. That is hardly news anymore.

All the excitement was about a “press conference” given by the former President of Israel, Moshe Katsav, after the Attorney General announced that he might be indicted for rape.

Katsav, it may be remembered by those who remember such things, was accused by several of his female staff of persistent sexual harassment and at least one case of rape. He had to resign.

An Iranian-born immigrant and a protégé of Menachem Begin, Katsav had made a career based on a kind of affirmative action. Begin believed that, for the sake of integration, promising young immigrants from Oriental countries should be promoted to positions of responsibility. Katsav, a rather nondescript right-wing politician with all the customary right-wing opinions, became Minister of Tourism and then was elected by the Knesset to the ceremonial post of President, mainly to spite the rival candidate, Shimon Peres. Wags said that the Knesset was reluctant to spoil Peres’ (then) unbroken record of lost elections.

Since his abdication two years ago, the Katsav affair has dragged on and on, almost to the point of farce. Revelations were leaked by the police, several women disclosed lurid details, the ex-President made a plea agreement admitting to lesser offences, he then revoked the deal, the Attorney General procrastinated and now he seems to have made up his mind about the indictment.

So Katsav called a press-conference in his remote home-town, Kiryat Malakhi (the former Arab village of Qastina, now within reach of the Qassams). It was an unprecedented performance. The ex-President spoke solo for nearly three hours, airing his grievances against the police, the Attorney-General, the media, the politicians and almost everybody else. All this was, incredibly, broadcast live on all three of Israel’s TV channels, as if it had been a State of the Union address. Katsav rambled on and on, repeating himself again and again. No questions were allowed. Respected journalists, hungry for scoops, were evicted if they dared to interrupt.

So when I came back yesterday morning, I found this feat dominating the front pages of all our newspapers. Everything else was banished to the back pages.

BECAUSE OF this, Charles Freeman got hardly a mention. Yet his affair was a thousand-fold more important than all the sexual activities of our ex-President.

Freeman was called by Barack Obama’s newly-appointed Chief of National Intelligence, Admiral Dennis Blair, to the post of Chairman of the National Intelligence Council. In this position, he would have been in charge of the National intelligence Estimates (NIE), summarizing the reports of all the 16 US intelligence agencies, which employ some 100,000 people at an annual cost of 50 billion dollars, and composing the estimates that are put before the President.

In Israel, this is the job of the Directorate of Military Intelligence, and the officer in charge has a huge influence on government policy. In October 1973, the then intelligence chief disregarded all reports to the contrary and informed the government that there was only a “low probability” of an Egyptian attack. A few days later the Egyptian army crossed the canal.

Throughout the 1990’s, the man in charge of intelligence estimates, Amos Gilad, deliberately misled the government into believing that Yasser Arafat was deceiving them and was actually plotting the destruction of Israel. Gilad was later openly accused by his subordinates of suppressing their expert reports and submitting estimates of his own, which were not based on any intelligence whatsoever. Later, as the guru of Prime Minister Ehud Barak, Gilad coined the phrase “We have no Palestinian partner for peace”.

In the US, the intelligence chiefs famously supplied President George W. Bush with the (false) intelligence he needed to justify his invasion of Iraq.

All this shows how vitally important it is to have an estimates chief of intellectual integrity and wide experience and knowledge. Admiral Blair could not have chosen a better person than Charles Freeman, a man of sterling character and uncontested expertise, especially about China and the Arab world.

And that was his undoing.

AS A former ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Freeman is an expert on the Arab world and the Israeli-Arab conflict. He has strong opinions about American policy in the Middle East, and makes no secret of them.
In a 2005 speech, he criticized Israel’s “high-handed and self-defeating policies” originating in the “occupation and settlement of Arab lands,” which he described as “inherently violent.”
In a 2007 speech he said that the US had “embraced Israel’s enemies as our own” and that Arabs had “responded by equating Americans with Israelis as their enemies.” Charging the US with backing Israel’s “efforts to pacify its captive and increasingly ghettoized Arab populations” and to “seize ever more Arab land for its colonists,” he added that "Israel no longer even pretends to seek peace with the Palestinians.”
Another conclusion is his belief that the terrorism the United States confronts is due largely to “the brutal oppression of the Palestinians by an Israeli occupation that has lasted over 40 years and shows no signs of ending.”
Naturally, the appointment of such a person was viewed with great alarm by the pro-Israel lobby in Washington. They decided on an all-out attack. No subtle behind-the-scenes intervention, no discreet protestations, but a full-scale demonstration of their might right at the beginning of the Obama era.
Public denunciations were composed, senators and congressmen pressed into action, media people mobilized. Freeman’s integrity was called into question, shady connections with Arab and Chinese financial interests “disclosed” by the docile press. Admiral Blair came to his appointee’s defense, but in vain. Freeman had no choice but to withdraw.

THE FULL meaning of this episode should not escape anyone.
It was the first test of strength of the lobby in the new Obama era. And in this test, the lobby came out with flying (blue-and-white) colors. The administration was publicly humiliated.
The White House did not even try to hide its abject surrender. It declared that the appointment had not been cleared with the President, that Obama had no hand in it and did not even know about it. Meaning: of course he would have objected to the appointment of any official who was not fully acceptable to the lobby. The portrayal of the power of the lobby by Professors John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, has been fully vindicated.

THIS HAS a significance which goes far beyond the already far-reaching implications of the affair itself.
Many people in Israel, who view the establishment of the new rightist government with apprehension, cite as their main fear the danger of a clash with the new Obama administration. Such a clash, they believe, could be fatal for Israel’s security. But the rightists deride such arguments. They assert that no American president would ever dare to confront the Israeli lobby. The captive congressmen and senators, as well as the supporters of the Israeli government in the media and even in the White House itself, would sink on sight any American policy opposed by even the most extreme right-wing government in Israel.
Now the first skirmish has taken place, and the President of the United States has blinked first. Perhaps one should not rush to conclusions, perhaps Obama needs more time to find his bearings, but the signs are ominous for any Israeli interested in peace.
It may be too early to call this episode the Rape of Washington, but it is certainly vastly more important than Katsav’s sexual escapades.
BY THE WAY, or not by the way, a word about my trip to London.
I went there to lend support to a group of Jewish personalities, well-known in academic and other circles, who have set up an organization called “Independent Jewish Voices”.
Recently they published a book called “A Time To Speak Out”, in which several of them contributed to the debate about Israel, human rights and Jewish ethics. The views expressed are very close to those current in the Israeli peace camp. But when they offered their book for presentation in the Jewish Book Week, they were rudely rejected. In protest, they convened an event of their own, and that’s where I spoke.
I believe that it is of utmost importance that such Jewish voices be heard. In several countries, including the US, groups of brave Jews are trying to stand up to the Jewish establishment that unconditionally supports the Israeli Right. In the US, several such groups have sprung up, some quite recently. One of them, called “J Street”, is trying to compete with the formidable and notorious AIPAC.
It is important for governments and peoples to know that the unconditional support for the Israeli Right does not represent the majority of Jews in the US, the UK and other countries. The Jewish public is far from monolithic. The majority is liberal and believes in peace and human rights. Until now this was a silent majority, out of fear of a repressive establishment. It is indeed “a time to speak out”.
I believe that it is in the interest of Israel to support these groups – and that their activities are somewhat more important than Mr. Katsav’s exploits.

Published with the permission of Uri Avnery

Uri Avnery on the post election process in Israel

Uri Avnery
14.2.09
Ms Tantalus

TANTALUS IS punished by the Gods for reasons that are not entirely clear. He is hungry and thirsty, but the water in which he stands recedes when he bends down to drink from it and the fruit above his head continually evades his hand.

Tzipi Livni is now undergoing a similar torture. After winning an impressive personal victory at the polls, the political fruit keeps slipping from her grasp when she stretches out her hand.

Why should she deserve that? What has she done, after all? Supported the war, called for a boycott of Hamas, played around with empty negotiations with the Palestinian Authority? OK, she has indeed.. But such a terrible punishment?

HOWEVER, THE results of the elections are not as clear as they might seem. The victory of the Right is not so unambiguous.

Central to the election campaign was the personal competition between the two contenders for the Prime Minister’s office: Livni and Netanyahu (or, as they call themselves, as if they were still at kindergarten, Tzipi and Bibi.)

Contrary to all expectations and all polls, Livni beat Netanyahu. Several factors were involved in this. Among others: the masses of the Left were terrified by the possibility of Netanyahu winning, and flocked to Livni’s camp in order to “Stop Bibi!” Also, Livni – who was never identified with feminism – remembered at the last moment to call Israel’s women to her banner, and they hearkened to her call.

But it is impossible to ignore the main significance of this choice: Netanyahu symbolizes total opposition to peace, opposition to giving back the occupied territories, to the freezing of the settlements and to a Palestinian state. Livni, on the other hand, has declared more than once her total support for the “Two-Nation-States” solution. Her voters opted for the more moderate line.

True, the big winner in the elections was Avigdor Liberman. But his triumph is far from the fateful breakthrough everyone foresaw. He did not win the 20 seats he had promised. His ascent from 11 to 15 seats is not so dramatic. His party is indeed now the third largest in the Knesset, but that is less due to its own rise than to the collapse of Labor, which fell from 19 to 13. By the way, not one of the parties won even 25% of the vote. Israeli democracy is now very fragile indeed.

The Liberman phenomenon is ominous, but not (yet?) disastrous.

HOWEVER, THERE is no way to deny the most significant message of these elections: the Israeli public has moved to the right. From Likud to the right there are now 65 seats, from Kadima to the left only 55. One cannot argue with numbers.

What has caused this shift?

There are several explanations, all of them valid.

One can consider it as a passing phase after the war. A war arouses strong emotions – nationalist intoxication, hatred of the enemy, fear of the Other, longing for unity and for revenge. All these naturally serve the Right – a lesson sometimes forgotten by the left when it starts a war.

Others see in it a continuation of a historical process: the Zionist-Palestinian confrontation is becoming wider and more complex, and such a situation feeds the Right.

And then there is, of course, the demographic factor. The rightist bloc attracts the votes of three sectors: the Oriental Jews (a majority of whom vote for Likud), the religious (who mostly vote for the fundamentalists) and the Russians (most of whom vote for Liberman). This is a group vote, almost automatic.

Two sectors in Israel have an especially high birth-rate: the religious Jews and the Arabs. The religious vote almost unanimously for the Right. True, the Orthodox and the National-Religious parties have not increased their strength in the elections, probably because many of their natural voters chose Likud, Liberman or the even more extreme National Union. The Arab citizens almost completely abstained from voting for Jewish parties, as many of them used to in the past, and the three Arab parties together gained one more seat.

The demographic development is ominous. Kadima, Labor and Meretz are identified with the old-established Ashkenazi sector, whose demographic strength is in steady decline. Also, many young Ashkenazis gave their votes – at least four seats worth – to Liberman, who preaches a secular fascism. They hate the Arabs, but they also hate the religious Jews.

The conclusion is quite clear: if the “center-left” does not succeed in breaking out of its elitist ghetto and striking roots within the Oriental and Russian sectors, its decline will continue from election to election.

NOW MS TANTALUS must choose between two bitter options: to retire to the desert where there is neither water nor fruit, or to serve as a fig-leaf for an obnoxious coalition.

Option No. 1: to refuse to join Netanyahu’s coalition and to go into opposition. That is not so simple. The Kadima party came into being when Ariel Sharon promised its members – refugees from right and left – power. It will be very hard for Livni to hold the lot together in opposition, far from the seat of power, far from the posh ministers’ offices and from luxurious official cars.

That would give us a rightist government which includes open fascists, pupils of Meir Kahane (whose party was banned because of his racist teachings), the advocates of ethnic cleansing, of the expulsion of Israel’s Arab citizens and the liquidation of any chance for peace. Such a government would inevitably find itself in confrontation with the United States and in worldwide isolation.

Some people say: that’s good. Such a government will necessarily fall soon and break apart. Thus the public will be persuaded that there is no viable rightist option. Kadima, Labor and Meretz will stew in opposition, and perhaps a real center-left alternative will come into being.

Others say: Too risky. There is no limit to the disasters that a Netanyahu-Liberman-Kahanist government can bring upon the state, from the enlargement of the settlements that will torpedo any future peace, to outright war. We can’t stake everything on one card, when the chip is the State of Israel.

Livni’s option No. 2: To swallow the bitter pill, give in and join the Netanyahu government as a second, third or fourth wheel. In that case, she must decide at once, before Netanyahu establishes a fait accompli with an extreme-right coalition which Livni would then be invited to join as a junior partner.

I shall not be surprised if president Shimon Peres takes the initiative unofficially and promotes this option – before starting, in a week’s time, the official process of consulting with the Knesset factions and entrusting one of the candidates with the task of forming a government.

Could such a government move towards peace? Conduct real negotiations? Agree to the dismantling of settlements? Accept a Palestinian state? Recognize a Palestinian unity government that includes Hamas?

Hard to imagine. In the best case, it will go on with the charade of meaningless negotiations, quietly enlarge the settlements, lead Barack Obama by the nose and mobilize the pro-Israel lobby in order to obstruct any real American moves towards peace. What was will be.

CAN ISRAEL change course? Can a real peace-oriented alternative arise?

The two “Zionist Left” parties have been decisively beaten. Both Labor and Meretz have collapsed. Their two leaders who called for the Gaza War and supported it – Ehud Barak of Labor and Haim Oron of Meretz – have received the punishment they richly deserve. In a normal democracy, both would have resigned the day after the elections. But our democracy is not normal, and both leaders insist on staying on and leading their party to the next disaster.

Labor is a walking corpse – the only “social-democratic” party in the world whose leader’s sole aim is to stay on as war minister. When Barak spread the mantra “there is no one to talk with” he overlooked the logical conclusion “therefore we don’t need anyone to talk with them”.

The Labor Party has no party, no members, no political program, no alternative leadership. It will fail in opposition as it failed in government. Barring a miracle, it will end up in the junkyard of history.

It will find Meretz already there. A socialist party that lost its way a long time ago: a party without any roots in the classes at the foot of the socioeconomic ladder, a party that has supported all our wars.

Some believe in easy solutions: a union of Labor and Meretz, for example. That is a union of the lame and the blind. No reason to expect that they would win the race.

THE REAL task is far more difficult. A completely new building must be erected in place of the one which has collapsed.

The need is for a new Left that will include new leaders from the sectors that have been discriminated against: the Orientals, the Russians and the Arabs. A new Left that will express the ideals of a new generation, people of peace, advocates of social change, feminists and greens, who will all understand that one cannot realize one ideal without realizing all of them. There can be no social justice in a military state; no one is interested in the environment while the cannons are roaring, feminism is incompatible with a society of machos riding on tanks, there can be no respect for Oriental Jews in a society that despises the culture of the Orient.

The Arab citizens will have to leave the ghetto in which they are confined and start to talk with the Jewish public, and the Jewish public must talk with the Arabs on equal terms. The Liberman slogan “No Citizenship Without Loyalty” must be turned around: “No Loyalty Without Real Citizenship”.

As Obama has done in the US, a new language, a new lexicon must be created, to replace the old and tired phrases.

Much, much must be changed if we want to save the state.

AS FOR Ms. Tantalus: she can contribute to this process of change, or her torture will continue.

Echoing Pyrrhus, king of Epirus and Macedon, she can well say: Another such victory and we are undone.

Published with the permission of Uri Avnery.

War crimes in Palestine

Uri Avnery
31.1.09

A SPANISH JUDGE has instituted a judicial inquiry against seven Israeli political and military personalities on suspicion of war crimes and crimes against humanity. The case: the 2002 dropping of a one ton bomb on the home of Hamas leader Salah Shehade. Apart from the intended victim, 14 people, most of them children, were killed.

For those who have forgotten: the then commander of the Israeli Air Force, Dan Halutz, was asked at the time what he feels when he drops a bomb on a residential building. His unforgettable answer: “A slight bump to the wing.” When we in Gush Shalom accused him of a war crime, he demanded that we be put on trial for high treason. He was joined by the Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, who accused us of wanting to “turn over Israeli army officers to the enemy”. The Attorney General notified us officially that he did not intend to open an investigation against those responsible for the bombing.

I should be happy, therefore, that at long last somebody is ready to put that action to a judicial test (even if he seems to have been thwarted by political pressure.) But I am sorry that this has happened in Spain, not in Israel.

ISRAELI TV VIEWERS have lately been exposed to a bizarre sight: army officers appearing with their faces hidden, as usual for criminals when the court prohibits their identification. Pedophiles, for example, or attackers of old women.

On the orders of the military censors, this applies to all officers, from battalion commanders down, who have been involved in the Gaza war. Since the faces of brigade commanders and above are generally known, the order does not apply to them.

Immediately after the cease-fire, the Minister of Defense, Ehud Barak, promoted a special law that would give unlimited backing by the state to all officers and soldiers who took part in the Gaza war and who might be accused abroad of war crimes. This seems to confirm the Hebrew adage: “On the head of the thief, the hat is burning”.

I DO NOT object to trials abroad. The main thing is that war criminals, like pirates, should be brought to justice. It is not so important where they are caught. (This rule was applied by the State of Israel when it abducted Adolf Eichmann in Argentina and hanged him in Israel for heinous crimes committed outside the territory of Israel and, indeed, before the state even existed.)

But as an Israeli patriot, I would prefer suspected Israeli war criminals to be put on trial in Israel. That is necessary for the country, for all decent officers and soldiers of the Israeli army, for the education of future generations of citizens and soldiers.

There is no need to rely on international law alone. There are Israeli laws against war crimes. Enough to mention the immortal phrase coined by Justice Binyamin Halevy, serving as a military judge, in the trial of the border policemen who were responsible for the 1956 massacre in Kafr Kassem, when dozens of children, women and men were mown down for violating a curfew which they did not even know about.

The judge announced that even in wartime, there are orders over which flies “the black flag of illegality”. These are orders which are “manifestly” illegal – that is to say, orders which every normal person can tell are illegal, without having to consult a lawyer.

War criminals dishonor the army whose uniform they wear – whether they are generals or common soldiers. As a combat soldier on the day the Israeli Defense Army was officially created, I am ashamed of them and demand that they be cast out and be put on trial in Israel.

My list of suspects includes politicians, soldiers, rabbis and lawyers.

THERE IS not the slightest doubt that in the Gaza war, crimes were committed. The question is to what extent and by whom.

Example: the soldiers call on the residents of a house to leave it. A woman and her four children come out, waving white handkerchiefs. It is absolutely clear that they are not armed fighters. A soldier in a near-by tank stands up, points his rifle and shoots them dead at short range. According to testimonies that seem to be beyond doubt, this happened more than once.

Another example: the shelling of the United Nations school full of refugees, from which there was no shooting – as admitted by the army, after the original pretexts were disproved.

These are ”simple” cases. But the spectrum of cases is far wider. A serious judicial investigation has to start right from the top: the politicians and senior officers who decided on the war and confirmed its plans must be investigated about their decisions. In Nuremberg it was laid down that the starting of a war of aggression is a crime.

An objective investigation has to find out whether the decision to start the war was justified, or if there existed another way of stopping the launching of rockets against Israeli territory. Without doubt, no country can or should tolerate the bombing of its towns and villages from beyond the border. But could this be prevented by talking with the Gaza authorities? Was our government’s decision to boycott Hamas, the winner of the democratic Palestinian elections, the real cause of this war? Did the imposition of the blockade on a million and a half Gaza Strip inhabitants contribute to the launching of the Qassams? In brief: were the alternatives considered before it was decided to start a deadly war?

The war plan included a massive attack on the civilian population of the Strip. The real aims of a war can be understood less from the official declarations of its initiators, than from their actions. If in this war some 1300 men, women and children were killed, the great majority of whom were not fighters; if about 5000 people were injured, most of them children; if some 2500 homes were partly or wholly destroyed; if the infrastructure of life was totally demolished – all this clearly could not have happened accidentally. It must have been a part of the war plan.

The things said during the war by politicians and officers make it clear that the plan had at least two aims, which might be considered war crimes: (1) To cause widespread killing and destruction, in order to “fix a price tag”. “to burn into their consciousness”, “to reinforce deterrence”, and most of all – to get the population to rise up against Hamas and overthrow their government. Clearly this affects mainly the civilian population. (2) To avoid casualties to our army at (literally) any price by destroying any building and killing any human being in the area into which our troops were about to move, including destroying homes over the heads of their inhabitants, preventing medical teams from reaching the victims, killing people indiscriminately. In certain cases, inhabitants were warned that they must flee, but this was mainly an alibi-action: there was nowhere to flee to, and often fire was opened on people trying to escape.

An independent court will have to decide whether such a war-plan is in accordance with national and international law, or whether it was ab initio a crime against humanity and a war-crime.

This was a war of a regular army with huge capabilities against a guerrilla force. In such a war, too, not everything is permissible. Arguments like “The Hamas terrorists were hiding within the civilian population” and “They used the population as human shields” may be effective as propaganda but are irrelevant: that is true for every guerrilla war. It must be taken into account when a decision to start such a war is being considered.

In a democratic state, the military takes its orders from the political establishment. Good. But that does not include “manifestly” illegal orders, over which the black flag of illegality is waving. Since the Nuremberg trials, there is no more room for the excuse that “I was only obeying orders”.

Therefore, the personal responsibility of all involved – from the Chief of Staff, the Front Commander and the Division Commander right down to the last soldier – must be examined. From the statements of soldiers one must deduce that many believed that their job was “to kill as many Arabs as possible”. Meaning: no distinction between fighters and non-fighters. That is a completely illegal order, whether given explicitly or by a wink and a nudge. The soldiers understood this to be “the spirit of the commander”.

AMONG THOSE suspected of war crimes, the rabbis have a place of honor.

Those who incite to war crimes and call upon soldiers, directly or indirectly, to commit war crimes may be guilty of a war crime themselves.

When one speaks of “rabbis”, one thinks of old men with long white beards and big hats, who give tongue to venerable wisdom. But the rabbis who accompanied the troops are a very different species.

In the last decades, the state-financed religious educational system has churned out “rabbis” who are more like medieval Christian priests than the Jewish sages of Poland or Morocco. This system indoctrinates its pupils with a violent tribal cult, totally ethnocentric, which sees in the whole of world history nothing but an endless story of Jewish victimhood. This is a religion of a Chosen People, indifferent to others, a religion without compassion for anyone who is not Jewish, which glorifies the God-decreed genocide described in the Biblical book of Joshua.

The products of this education are now the “rabbis” who instruct the religious youths. With their encouragement, a systematic effort has been made to take over the Israeli army from within. Kippa-wearing officers have replaced the Kibbutzniks, who not so long ago were dominant in the army. Many of the lower and middle-ranking officers now belong to this group.

The most outstanding example is the “Chief Army Rabbi”, Colonel Avichai Ronsky, who has declared that his job is to reinforce the “fighting spirit” of the soldiers. He is a man of the extreme right, not far from the spirit of the late Rabbi Meir Kahane, whose party was outlawed in Israel for its fascist ideology. Under the auspices of the army rabbinate, religious-fascist brochures of the ultra-right “rabbis” were distributed to the soldiers.

This material includes political incitement, such as the statement that the Jewish religion prohibits “giving up even one millimeter of Eretz Israel”, that the Palestinians, like the Biblical Philistines (from whom the name Palestine derives), are a foreign people who invaded the country, and that any compromise (such as indicated in the official government program) is a mortal sin. The distribution of political propaganda violates, of course, army law.

The rabbis openly called upon the soldiers to be cruel and merciless towards the Arabs. To treat them mercifully, they stated, is a “terrible, awful immorality”. When such material is distributed to religious soldiers going into war, it is easy to see why things happened the way they did.

THE PLANNERS of this war knew that the shadow of war crimes was hovering over the planned operation. Witness: the Attorney General (whose official title is “Legal Advisor to the Government”) was a partner to the planning. This week the Chief Army Attorney, Colonel Avichai Mandelblut, disclosed that his officers were attached throughout the war to all the commanders, from the Chief of Staff down to the Division Commander.

All this together leads to the inescapable conclusion that the legal advisors bear direct responsibility for the decisions taken and implemented, from the massacre of the civilian police recruits at their graduating ceremony to the shelling of the UN installations. Every attorney who was a partner to the deliberations before an order was given is responsible for its consequences, unless he can prove that he objected to it.

The Chief Army Attorney, who is supposed to give the army professional and objective advice, speaks about “the monstrous enemy” and tries to justify the actions of the army by saying that it was fighting against “an unbridled enemy, who declared that he ‘loves death’ and finds shelter behind the backs of women and children”. Such language is, perhaps, pardonable in a pep-talk of a war-drunk combat commander, like the battalion chief who ordered his soldiers to commit suicide rather than be captured, but totally unacceptable when it comes from the chief legal officer of the army.

WE MUST pursue all the legal processes in Israel and call for an independent investigation and the indictment of suspected perpetrators. We must demand this even if the chances of it happening are slim indeed.

If these efforts fail, nobody will be able to object to trials abroad, either in an international court or in the courts of those nations that respect human rights and international law.

Until then, the black flag will still be waving.

On the wrong side of history

Uri Avnery
24.1.09

On The Wrong Side

OF ALL the beautiful phrases in Barack Obama’s inauguration speech, these are the words that stuck in my mind: “You are on the wrong side of history.”

He was talking about the tyrannical regimes of the world. But we, too, should ponder these words

In the last few days I have heard a lot of declarations from Ehud Barak, Tzipi Livni, Binyamin Netanyahu and Ehud Olmert. And every time, these eight words came back to haunt me: “You are on the wrong side of history!”

Obama was speaking as a man of the 21st century. Our leaders speak the language of the 19th century. They resemble the dinosaurs which once terrorized their neighborhood and were quite unaware of the fact that their time had already passed.

DURING THE rousing celebrations, again and again the multicolored patchwork of the new president’s family was mentioned.

All the preceding 43 presidents were white Protestants, except John Kennedy, who was a white Catholic. 38 of them were the descendants of immigrants from the British isles. Of the other five, three were of Dutch ancestry (Theodor and Franklin D. Roosevelt , as well as Martin van Buren) and two of German descent (Herbert Hoover and Dwight Eisenhower.)

The face of Obama’s family is quite different. The extended family includes whites and the descendents of black slaves, Africans from Kenya, Indonesians, Chinese from Canada, Christians, Muslims and even one Jew (a converted African-American). The two first names of the president himself, Barack Hussein, are Arabic.

This is the face of the new American nation – a mixture of races, religions, countries of origin and skin-colors, an open and diverse society, all of whose members are supposed to be equal and to identify themselves with the ”founding fathers”. The American Barack Hussein Obama, whose father was born in a Kenyan village, can speak with pride of “George Washington, the father of our nation”, of the “American Revolution” (the war of independence against the British), and hold up the example of “our ancestors”, who include both the white pioneers and the black slaves who “endured the lash of the whip”. That is the perception of a modern nation, multi-cultural and multi-racial: a person joins it by acquiring citizenship, and from this moment on is the heir to all its history.

Israel is the product of the narrow nationalism of the 19th century, a nationalism that was closed and exclusive, based on race and ethnic origin, blood and earth. Israel is a “Jewish State”, and a Jew is a person born Jewish or converted according to Jewish religious law (Halakha). Like Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, it is a state whose mental world is to a large extent conditioned by religion, race and ethnic origin.

When Ehud Barak speaks about the future, he speaks the language of past centuries, in terms of brute force and brutal threats, with armies providing the solution to all problems. That was also the language of George W. Bush who last week slinked out of Washington, a language that already sounds to the Western ear like an echo from the distant past.

The words of the new president are ringing in the air: “Our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please.” The key words were “humility and restraint”.

Our leaders are now boasting about their part in the Gaza War, in which unbridled military force was unleashed intentionally against a civilian population, men, women and children, with the declared aim of “creating deterrence”. In the era that began last Tuesday, such expressions can only arouse shudders.

BETWEEN Israel and the United States a gap has opened this week, a narrow gap, almost invisible – but it may widen into an abyss.

The first signs are small. In his inaugural speech, Obama proclaimed that “We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus – and nonbelievers.” Since when? Since when do the Muslims precede the Jews? What has happened to the “Judeo-Christian Heritage”? (A completely false term to start with, since Judaism is much closer to Islam than to Christianity. For example: neither Judaism nor Islam supports the separation of religion and state.)

The very next morning, Obama phoned a number of Middle East leaders. He decided to make a quite unique gesture: placing the first call to Mahmoud Abbas, and only the next to Olmert. The Israeli media could not stomach that. Haaretz, for example, consciously falsified the record by writing – not once but twice in the same issue – that Obama had called “Olmert, Abbas, Mubarak and King Abdallah” (in that order).

Instead of the group of American Jews who had been in charge of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict during both the Clinton and Bush administrations, Obama, on his very first day in office, appointed an Arab-American, George Mitchell, whose mother had come to America from Lebanon at age 18, and who himself, orphaned from his Irish father, was brought up in a Maronite Christian Lebanese family.

These are not good tidings for the Israeli leaders. For the last 42 years, they have pursued a policy of expansion, occupation and settlements in close cooperation with Washington. They have relied on unlimited American support, from the massive supply of money and arms to the use of the veto in the Security Council. This support was essential to their policy. This support may now be reaching its limits.

It will happen, of course, gradually. The pro-Israel lobby in Washington will continue to put the fear of God into Congress. A huge ship like the United States can change course only very slowly, in a gentle curve. But the turn-around started already on the first day of the Obama administration.

This could not have happened, if America itself had not changed. That is not a political change alone. It is a change in the world-view, in mental outlook, in values. A certain American myth, which is very similar to the Zionist myth, has been replaced by another American myth. Not by accident did Obama devote to this so large a part of his speech (in which, by the way, there was not a single word about the extermination of the Native Americans).

The Gaza War, during which tens of millions of Americans saw the horrible carnage in the Strip (even if rigorous self-censorship cut out all but a tiny part), has hastened the process of drifting apart. Israel, the brave little sister, the loyal ally in Bush’s “War on Terror”, has turned into the violent Israel, the mad monster, which has no compassion for women and children, the wounded and the sick. And when winds like these are blowing, the Lobby loses height.

The leaders of official Israel do not notice it. They do not feel, as Obama put it in another context, that “the ground has shifted beneath them”. They think that this is no more than a temporary political problem that can be set right with the help of the Lobby and the servile members of Congress.

Our leaders are still intoxicated with war and drunk with violence. They have re-phrased the famous saying of the Prussian general, Carl von Clausewitz into: “War is but a continuation of an election campaign by other means.” They compete with each other with vainglorious swagger for their share of the “credit”. Tzipi Livni, who cannot compete with the men for the crown of warlord, tries to outdo them in toughness, in bellicosity, in hard-heartedness.

The most brutal is Ehud Barak. Once I called him a “peace criminal”, because he brought about the failure of the 2000 Camp David conference and shattered the Israeli peace camp. Now I must call him a “war criminal”, as the person who planned the Gaza War knowing that it would murder masses of civilians.

In his own eyes, and in the eyes of a large section of the public, this is a military operation which deserves all praise. His advisors also thought that it would bring him success in the elections. The Labor party, which had been the largest party in the Knesset for decades, had shrunk in the polls to 12, even 9 seats out of 120. With the help of the Gaza atrocity it has now gone up to 16 or so. That’s not a landslide, and there’s no guarantee that it will not sink again.

What was Barak’s mistake? Very simply: every war helps the Right. War, by its very nature, arouses in the population the most primitive emotions – hate and fear, fear and hate. These are the emotions on which the Right has been riding for centuries. Even when it’s the ”Left” that starts a war, it’s still the Right that profits from it. In a state of war, the population prefers an honest-to-goodness Rightist to a phony Leftist.

This is happening to Barak for the second time. When, in 2000, he spread the mantra “I have turned every stone on the way to peace, / I have made the Palestinians unprecedented offers, / They have rejected everything, / There is no one to talk with” – he succeeded not only in blowing the Left to smithereens, but also in paving the way for the ascent of Ariel Sharon in the 2001 elections. Now he is paving the way for Binyamin Netanyahu (hoping, quite openly, to become his minister of defense).

And not only for him. The real victor of the war is a man who had no part in it at all: Avigdor Liberman. His party, which in any normal country would be called fascist, is steadily rising in the polls. Why? Liberman looks and sounds like an Israeli Mussolini, he is an unbridled Arab-hater, a man of the most brutal force. Compared to him, even Netanyahu looks like a softie. A large part of the young generation, nurtured on years of occupation, killing and destruction, after two atrocious wars, considers him a worthy leader.

WHILE THE US has made a giant jump to the left, Israel is about to jump even further to the right.

Anyone who saw the millions milling around Washington on inauguration day knows that Obama was not speaking only for himself. He was expressing the aspirations of his people, the Zeitgeist.

Between the mental world of Obama and the mental world of Liberman and Netanyahu there is no bridge. Between Obama and Barak and Livni, too, there yawns an abyss. Post-election Israel may find itself on a collision course with post-election America.

Where are the American Jews? The overwhelming majority of them voted for Obama. They will be between the hammer and the anvil – between their government and their natural adherence to Israel. It is reasonable to assume that this will exert pressure from below on the “leaders” of American Jewry, who have incidentally never been elected by anyone, and on organizations like AIPAC. The sturdy stick, on which Israeli leaders are used to lean in times of trouble, may prove to be a broken reed.

Europe, too, is not untouched by the new winds. True, at the end of the war we saw the leaders of Europe – Sarkozy, Merkel, Browne and Zapatero – sitting like schoolchildren behind a desk in class, respectfully listening to the most loathsome arrogant posturing from Ehud Olmert, reciting his text after him. They seemed to approve the atrocities of the war, speaking of the Qassams and forgetting about the occupation, the blockade and the settlements. Probably they will not hang this picture on their office walls.

But during this war masses of Europeans poured into the streets to demonstrate against the horrible events. The same masses saluted Obama on the day of his inauguration.

This is the new world. Perhaps our leaders are now dreaming of the slogan: “Stop the world, I want to get off!” But there is no other world.

YES, WE ARE NOW on the wrong side of history.

Fortunately, there is also another Israel. It is not in the limelight, and its voice is heard only by those who listen out for it. This is a sane, rational Israel, with its face to the future, to progress and peace. In these coming elections, its voice will barely be heard, because all the old parties are standing with their two feet squarely in the world of yesterday.

But what has happened in the United States will have a profound influence on what happens in Israel. The huge majority of Israelis know that we cannot exist without close ties with the US. Obama is now the leader of the world, and we live in this world. When he promises to work “aggressively” for peace between us and the Palestinians, that is a marching order for us.

We want to be on the right side of history. That will take months or years, but I am sure that we shall get there. The time to start is now.

A Middle East memo for Obama

MEMO FOR OBAMA

06/12/08

For: the President-Elect, Mr. Barack Obama.

From: Uri Avnery, Israel.

The following humble suggestions are based on my 70 years of experience as an underground fighter, special forces soldier in the 1948 war, editor-in-chief of a newsmagazine, member of the Knesset and founding member of a peace movement:

1 As far as Israeli-Arab peace is concerned, you should act from Day One.

2 Israeli elections are due to take place in February 2009. You can have an indirect but important and constructive impact on the outcome, by announcing your unequivocal determination to achieve Israeli-Palestinian, Israeli-Syrian and Israeli-all-Arab peace in 2009.

3 Unfortunately, all your predecessors since 1967 have played a double game. While paying lip service to peace, and sometimes going through the motions of making some effort for peace, they have in practice supported our governments in moving in the very opposite direction. In particular, they have given tacit approval to the building and enlargement of Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian and Syrian territories, each of which is a land mine on the road to peace.

4 All the settlements are illegal in international law. The distinction sometimes made between “illegal” outposts and the other settlements is a propaganda ploy designed to obscure this simple truth.

5 All the settlements since 1967 have been built with the express purpose of making a Palestinian state – and hence peace – impossible, by cutting the territory of the prospective State of Palestine into ribbons. Practically all our government departments and the army have openly or secretly helped to build, consolidate and enlarge the settlements – as confirmed by the 2005 report prepared for the government (!) by Lawyer Talia Sasson.

6 By now, the number of settlers in the West Bank has reached some 250,000 (apart from the 200,000 settlers in the Greater Jerusalem area, whose status is somewhat different.) They are politically isolated, and sometimes detested by the majority of the Israel public, but enjoy significant support in the army and government ministries.

7 No Israeli government would dare to confront the concentrated political and material might of the settlers. Such a confrontation would need very strong leadership and the unstinting support of the President of the United States to have any chance of success.

8 Lacking these, all “peace negotiations” are a sham. The Israeli government and its US backers have done everything possible to prevent the negotiations with both the Palestinians and the Syrians from reaching any conclusion, for fear of provoking a confrontation with the settlers and their supporters. The present “Annapolis” negotiations are as hollow as all the preceding ones, each side keeping up the pretense for its own political interests.

9 The Clinton administration, and even more so the Bush administration, allowed the Israeli government to keep up this pretense. It is therefore imperative to prevent members of these administrations from diverting your Middle Eastern policy into the old channels.

10 It is important for you to make a complete new start, and to state this publicly. Discredited ideas and failed initiatives – such as the Bush “vision”, the Road Map, Annapolis and the like – should by thrown into the junkyard of history.

11 To make a new start, the aim of American policy should be stated clearly and succinctly. This should be: to achieve a peace based on the Two-State Solution within a defined time-span (say by the end of 2009).

12 It should be pointed out that this aim is based on a reassessment of the American national interest, in order to extract the poison from American-Arab and American-Muslim relations, strengthen peace-oriented regimes, defeat al-Qaeda-type terrorism, end the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and achieve a viable accommodation with Iran.

13 The terms of Israeli-Palestinian peace are clear. They have been crystallized in thousands of hours of negotiations, conferences, meetings and conversations. They are:

13.1 A sovereign and viable State of Palestine will be established side by side with the State of Israel. 13.2 The border between the two states will be based on the pre-1967 Armistice Line (the “Green Line”). Insubstantial alterations can be arrived at by mutual agreement on an exchange of territories on a 1:1 basis. 13.3 East Jerusalem, including the Haram-al-Sharif (“Temple Mount”) and all Arab neighborhoods will serve as the capital of Palestine. West Jerusalem, including the Western Wall and all Jewish neighborhoods, will serve as the capital of Israel. A joint municipal authority, based on equality, may be established by mutual consent to administer the city as one territorial unit. 13.4 All Israeli settlements – except any which might be joined to Israel in the framework of a mutually agreed exchange of territories – will be evacuated (see 15 below). 13.5 Israel will recognize in principle the right of the refugees to return. A Joint Commission for Truth and Reconciliation, composed of Palestinian, Israeli and international historians, will examine the events of 1948 and 1967 and determine who was responsible for what. Each individual refugee will be given the choice between (1) repatriation to the State of Palestine, (2) remaining where he/she is living now and receiving generous compensation, (3) returning to Israel and being resettled, (4) emigrating to any other country, with generous compensation. The number of refugees who will return to Israeli territory will be fixed by mutual agreement, it being understood that nothing will be done that materially alters the demographic composition of the Israeli population. The large funds needed for the implementation of this solution must be provided by the international community in the interest of world peace. This will save much of the money spent today on military expenditure and direct grants from the US. 13.6 The West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip constitute one national unit. An extraterritorial connection (road, railway, tunnel or bridge) will connect the West Bank with the Gaza Strip. 13.7 Israel and Syria will sign a peace agreement. Israel will withdraw to the pre-1967 line and all settlements on the Golan Heights will be dismantled. Syria will cease all anti-Israeli activities conducted directly or by proxy. The two parties will establish normal relations between them. 13.8 In accordance with the Saudi Peace Initiative, all member states of the Arab League will recognize Israel and establish normal relations with it. Talks about a future Middle Eastern Union, on the model of the EU, possibly to include Turkey and Iran, may be considered.

14 Palestinian unity is essential for peace. Peace made with only one section of the people is worthless. The US will facilitate Palestinian reconciliation and the unification of Palestinian structures. To this end, the US will end its boycott of Hamas, which won the last elections, start a political dialogue with the movement and encourage Israel to do the same. The US will respect any result of democratic Palestinian elections.

15 The US will aid the government of Israel in confronting the settlement problem. As from now, settlers will be given one year to leave the occupied territories voluntarily in return for compensation that will allow them to build their homes in Israel proper. After that, all settlements – except those within any areas to be joined to Israel under the peace agreement – will be evacuated.

16 I suggest that you, as President of the United States, come to Israel and address the Israeli people personally, not only from the rostrum of the Knesset but also at a mass rally in Tel-Aviv’s Rabin Square. President Anwar Sadat of Egypt came to Israel in 1977, and, by addressing the Israeli people directly, completely changed their attitude towards peace with Egypt. At present, most Israelis feel insecure, uncertain and afraid of any daring peace initiative, partly because of a deep distrust of anything coming from the Arab side. Your personal intervention, at the critical moment, could literally do wonders in creating the psychological basis for peace.

This article was published in the current issue of the progressive Jewish-American monthly TIKKUN.

Uri Avnery’s Column
This Week’s Message
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אמת מול אמת

Published in cooperation with the writer.

Lederstrid i Israel

Med landets forrige statsminister Ariel Sharon kunstig i live, og den nåværende Ehud Olmert suspendert på grunn av korrupsjon, raser en intens maktkamp om hvem som skal overta.

Israels største parti Kadima, får utenriksminister og fungerende statsminister Tzipi Livni (50) til ny leder. I går vant hun avstemmingen blant partiets medlemmer. Hun fikk 43,1 prosent. Shaul Mofaz, en general mistenkt for krigsforbrytelser, fikk 42,0 prosent. Det skilte fattige 431 stemmer mellom dem.

Med over førti prosent er det klart at Israels skandaliserte, ikkefungerende statsminister og Kadimas nåværende leder Ehud Olmert, trekker seg. Når, er uklart. Han har vært uten autoritet siden krigen mot Libanon sommeren 2006. Han løyet og bedratt egen befolkning og andre lands ledere. Men han klamret seg til makten, og ble sittende fordi ingen var i posisjon til å erstatte ham. Før nå.

Den gamle garden av israelske generaler er bekymret over Livni. Hun har som utenriksminister møtt mange med kritiske oppfatninger om Israels terror mot palestinerne, brudd på folkeretten, egenrådighet og maktmisbruk. Jens Stoltenberg (Ap) og Jonas Gahr Støre (Ap) har møtt henne. Særlig hvis Livni møter Barack Obama som nyvalgt amerikansk president kan Israel endre kurs. Da er det risiko for at intelligensen endelig kan overta for de militære rovdyrinstinktene som har dominert politikken i Midtøsten siden 1913.

Mange jødiske velgere har forventninger til Tzipi Livni. Men den israelske fredsbevegelsen, den arabiske minoriteten i Israel og folket i de områdene Israel okkuperer i Jerusalem, Gaza og på Vestbredden, har opplevd for mange skuffelser. De er uten illusjoner og uten forventninger. Den siste jødiske politikeren de hadde tro på, Yizhak Rabin fra Arbeiderpartiet, ble skutt av en jødisk ekstremist i 1995. Siden har skiftende israelske regjeringer terrorisert befolkningen i de okkuperte områdene og gjort Israel til et parialand i verdens øyne.

Men Tzipi møter utfordringer det ikke er gitt at hun vil takle. Den første blir å bygge en regjeringsdyktig koalisjon. Det arbeidet begynner i dag. Hun har 42 dager på seg.

Som fungerende statsminister i den tiden hennes forgjenger Ehud Olmert har blitt etterforsket for korrupsjon, er hun i utgangspunktet godt posisjonert for å videreføre den nåværende koalisjonen, eller eventuelt bygge en ny. Israels forrige kvinnelig statsminister var Norges-vennen Golda Meir, som gikk av i 1974. Som Meir, har Tzipi Livni bakgrunn fra den israelske etterretningen.

Hvis Tzipi Livni mislykkes i å lage en regjeringsdyktig koalisjon, blir det nyvalg, trolig tidlig neste år. Da kan alt skje. Men av de tre tenkelige statsministerkandidatene, er Tzipi Livni den minst håpløse og den mest spennende. Krigeren, generalen og krigshelten Ehud Barak fra Arbeiderpartiet og høyreekstremisten Benjamin Nethanjahu fra Likud er bare mer av det som har ført Midtøsten fra vondt til verre siden 1995.

Selv Israels regjering trosser Bush

Selv den israelske regjeringen trosser nå USAs upopulære president George Bush.

Da USAs president George Bush besøkte Israel for å feire landets 60 års jubileum tidligere i måneden, benyttet han muligheten til å angripe Barack Obama, som ser ut til å bli Demokratenes presidentkandidat.

Bush kritiserte Obama for å føye seg for terrorister, ved å gå inn for at USA skal gå i dialog med Syria og Iran. Begge står på presidentens lange liste over onde imperier som USAs venner ikke skal få lov å snakke med. Barack Obama var raskt ute med å svare på kritikken, og kritiserte Bush for å ha ført en politikk som i virkeligheten øker Irans handlefrihet, og ikke begrenser den.

Etter at president Bush dro hjem igjen fra Israel, viser det seg at hans kritikk mot Obama for hans anbefaling av samtaler med alle partene i Midtøsten, også traff den israelske regjeringen. Den har lenge ført hemmelige samtaler med den syriske regjeringen, og har ikke avvist muligheten for å gi fra seg Golanhøydene, som Israel okkuperte i 1967 og ennå ikke har gitt fra seg igjen. Bush kjente til disse samtalene.

Uten USAs politiske, økonomiske og militære støtte, ville Israel trolig ikke lenger ha eksistert som statsdannelse. Israel har også andre stormaktsvenner, blant dem Storbritannia og Tyskland. Men mediene og folkemeningen i Europa er i langt større grad enn i USA villige til også å se konfliktene i Midtøsten fra palestinernes og de arabiske landenes synsvinkel. Maken til den uforbeholdne støtten de skiftende israelske regjeringene har fått de siste åtte årene med Bush som president, ville de aldri ha fått fra noe land i Europa. Det er derfor oppsiktsvekkende at Israel fører samtaler med Syria, på tross av kritikken fra president Bush.

Men Israels samtaler med Syria er selvsagt åpenbart klok politikk, nesten uansett utgangspunkt. Det er selvsagt også de ikke lenger hemmelige samtalene Israel fører med Hamas i Egypt. En fredsløsning i Midtøsten som innebærer at viktige land eller folkegrupper ikke skal få delta, er selvsagt ingen fredsløsning i det hele tatt. Derfor må selvsagt også Hizbollah og Iran inkluderes i samtalene.

Dersom Barack Obama blir valgt til amerikansk president, tyder hans uttalelser i valgkampen på at han vil sette USAs formidable makt inn for å forbedre mulighetene for en fredsløsning mellom Israel og Syria.

George Bush kan fortsatt rekke å gjøre mye skade før han går av som president. Så å si alt han har tatt av politiske initiativ i åtte år har blitt til fiasko. Først når Bush og hans administrasjon har forlatt Det hvite hus kan vi begynne å få den fulle oversikten over alle hans katastrofalt ukloke politiske beslutninger.

Enten det blir en av demokratene Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton eller republikaneren John McCain som overtar i januar neste år, vedkommende får en omfattende jobb med å reparere skadevirkningene etter den politiske klossmajoren George Bush.