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On July 23rd, a "Dear Colleague" letter was written by Senators Evan Bayh (D,IN) and James Risch (R,ID) urging President Obama to press Arab nations to take dramatic steps to normalize relations with the people and the government of Israel.  This letter, which has the support of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), has been circulated through the Senate since last Friday.  While there certainly are many positive ideas in this letter, it appears to be one-sided.  According to Americans For Peace Now's (APN), Lara Friedman:

The letter, which is the top item on the "Take Action" page on the AIPAC website, focuses exclusively on President Obama’s call for Arab states to take steps to normalize relations with Israel, making no mention of the president’s call for Israel to stop settlement activity (and implying that steps Israel has already taken - like removing some checkpoints and PM Netanyahu’s belated support for the two-state solution - are sufficient demonstration of Israel’s commitment to the peace process).

Due to this imbalance, APN has written to Senators urging them not to sign the letter until it has been changed to include the steps that President Obama has asked Israel to take.

The Bayh-Risch letter, available through the  AIPAC Action Alert page:

Dear Mr. President:

We write in support of your efforts to encourage Arab states to normalize relations with the State of Israel.  In your June 4th address to the Muslim world, you highlighted the key role that Arab states can play in furthering the peace process and called on them to openly recognize Israel’s legitimacy.  Secretary Clinton underscored these remarks when she stated that Arab countries "have a responsibility to support the Palestinian Authority with words and deeds, to take steps to improve relations with Israel and to prepare their publics to embrace peace and accept Israel’s place in the region."  We applaud these comments and agree with you and Secretary Clinton that Arab states must do more to end their isolation of Israel.

Over the past few months Israel has taken concrete measures to reaffirm its commitment to advancing the peace process.  Notably, Prime Minister Netanyahu has publically expressed support for the two-state solution and called for the immediate resumption of peace negotiations.  We have also been encouraged by Israeli efforts to improve the daily lives of Palestinians, through measures such as removing roadblocks, assisting with economic development in the West Bank, and supporting the training of professional Palestinian Authority security personnel.  These actions have demonstrated that Israel is willing to back up its words with concrete actions, even in the face of continuing threats to its security.

We encourage Arab leaders to take similar tangible steps to demonstrate their commitment to the peace process.  Such steps could include ending the Arab League boycott of Israel, meeting openly with Israeli officials, establishing open trade relations with Israel, issuing visas to Israeli citizens, and inviting Israelis to participate in academic and professional conferences and sporting events.  We also believe that Arab states must immediately and permanently end official propaganda campaigns which demonize Israel and Jews.

Given these facts, we would like to understand what steps you are urging Arab states to take and what your expectations are from Arab states in the coming weeks and months.  We also hope that you will continue to press Arab leaders to consider dramatic gestures toward Israel similar to those taken previously by brave leaders like King Hussein of Jordan and Anwar El-Sadat of Egypt.  Such gestures would send a powerful signal that Arab nations are committed to the peace process and could help usher in a new era of peace and security in the Middle East.

Excerpt from letter written by Lara Friedman, Director of Policy And Government Relations of Americans For Peace Now:

On its face, the letter seems to make a straightforward and reasonable demand for the Arab world to normalize relations with Israel.  As strong supporters of Israel who believe that Israeli-Palestinian and Israeli-Arab peace are critical to the viability and prosperity of the state of Israel, we would like to see this happen, and see a day when Israelis and Arabs can travel freely throughout the region and enjoy normal, good relations.

The subtext of the letter, however, directly contradicts and undermines the efforts of President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and Special Middle East Envoy George Mitchell to promote Middle East peace.

President Obama, Secretary Clinton, and Special Envoy Mitchell are investing a huge amount of energy and political capital in trying to create a dynamic with Israel, the Palestinians and the Arab states, asking all to take tangible steps that can create confidence in the peace process and help build momentum toward Middle East peace.  This is a promising effort -- one that holds out real hope for achieving Israeli-Palestinian and Israeli-Arab peace and, along with it, real normalization of Arab-Israeli relations.

They are pressing Arab states to demonstrate good faith by taking a range of steps toward normalization of relations with Israel, in the context of meaningful steps taken by Israel toward peace. This is an effort that Congress should support.

They are pressing the Palestinians to improve and expand on the positive actions already taken on security, to act forcefully against incitement, and to refrain from any action that would make meaningful negotiations less likely. This is an effort that Congress should support.

With respect to Israel, as everyone knows, they are pressing on one main issue: for Israel to stop settlement activity. This position is consistent with longstanding US policy and with promises Israel has made, repeatedly, to past US administrations. It is also consistent with Israel’s own best interests: settlements represent an economic, political and security liability for Israel. Settlements also erode the confidence, even among Israel’s friends and supporters, that Israel is truly interested in peace, and make the eventual resolution of the conflict more difficult and more costly for Israel to carry out. This effort to get Israel to stop settlement activity is something Congress should also support.

The Bayh/Risch letter conspicuously ignores Israel’s continued refusal to stop settlement activity and its recent decision to "up the ante" by approving a highly controversial settlement project in the heart of a Palestinian neighborhood of East Jerusalem - a project that has been on hold for more than 20 years.

Indeed, the Bayh/Risch letter never once even mentions the word "settlements."

President Obama, Secretary Clinton, and Special Envoy Mitchell are right to be pressing Arab states to match positive Israeli steps with positive steps of their own, and it is right for Congress to echo this message.   But this letter sends a different message altogether:  that signers of the letter do not support President Obama in his efforts to achieve peace for Israel and bring security, stability, and normalcy to the region.  It sends a message that signers consider settlements more important than peace.

We look forward with longing to the day when there is real peace and full normalization of relations between Israel and the entire Arab world.  We strongly believe that the Obama Administration’s approach offers the best opportunity to achieve this goal.  

We urge all Senators to support President Obama in his efforts, and to refrain from signing this unhelpful letter, unless and until it is amended to also reflect the real steps needed to achieve peace that President Obama has asked Israel to take.

Earlier today, James Zogby, President of the Arab-American Institute discussed his concerns with Ron Kampeas of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA):

James Zogby, the president of the Arab American Institute, challenged the logic of the letter, saying it is Netanyahu’s pressing forward on expanding some settlements that has frustrated Arab willingness to make some of the gestures for which Bayh and Risch are calling.

A number of Arabs nations ready to step forward are now more reluctant in the wake of Netanyahu’s declaration last week that he will not block expanded Jewish settlement in Jerusalem, Zogby said.

Zogby said that the message from his organization to Arab governments is, "Even if this is something you are loath to do, it is not a question of supporting Benjamin Netanyahu, it is a question of supporting Barack Obama's initiative."

Additionally, Sue Swartz, Director Of Advocacy, and Deepa Domansky, Washington Liason and Advocacy Coordinator, of Brit Tzedek v'Shalom wrote this in an action alert sent to its members:

What is in the letter from Senators Bayh and Risch?  Briefly, it rightly praises Israel’s recent actions, including the dismantling of roadblocks in the West Bank and Prime Minister Netanyahu’s public support of a two-state solution. Further, it calls on Arab leaders to demonstrate their commitment to the peace process by taking concrete actions such as ending the Arab League Boycott of Israel and refusing to allow propaganda campaigns that demonize Israel and Jews.

There is nothing wrong with calling on all parties in the Middle East – Israelis, Palestinians, the Arab States, and the international community – to step up to the plate. This is, in fact, President Obama’s approach. He has, for instance, already urged the Arab states to take the specific steps in the Bayh-Risch letter in exchange for Israeli concessions.

The problem with the Bayh-Risch letter is what is intentionally left out: the need for a complete Israeli settlement freeze to help move the peace process forward. What is left out is any mention of Israel’s recent approval of a controversial settlement project in the heart of a Palestinian neighborhood of East Jerusalem, a project on hold for more than 20 years in compliance with Israel’s legal obligations.

Please call now and request that your Senator refrain from signing the letter if and until it is revised to reflect the wisdom of the Obama Administration’s approach – pressing for normalization of relations by Arab countries while simultaneously pressing Israel to move on a settlement freeze.

The authors of this Dear Colleague letter send a clear message to President Obama that they don’t agree with this balanced approach.

I urge readers to support President Obama's call for a balanced approach on Israeli settlements and normalization of relations by Arab nations.  Please contact your Senator through the Capitol toll-free switchboard,(800)828-0498 or (877)762-8762, and ask them to hold off signing the Bayh-Risch letter until it reflects this idea.  You could also e-mail them through the Senate website, Brit Tzedek v'Shalom link, or the Churces For Middle East Peace link.

h/t: Lara Friedman's Weekly Legislative Round-Up At APN--which I encourage all readers to subscribe to.

UPDATE:
I wanted to include some information from earlier today regarding this letter from J Street and Churches For Middle East Peace

From Jeremy Ben-Ami of J Street:

Late last week, Senators Evan Bayh (D-IN) and Jim Risch (R-ID) circulated a letter regarding President Obama’s efforts to encourage Arab states to normalize relations with Israel.

J Street believes that, as the letter expresses, normalization of relations between Israel and the Arab states is an important step toward "ushering in a new era of peace and security in the Middle East."  We agree with those who say that all sides to the conflict must take steps now in the direction of peace and normalization if we are to seize this moment of opportunity for progress toward resolving the conflict.  We also agree with those who believe it is unhelpful to place the onus for progress solely on one of the parties, and support the administration’s strategy of seeking compromises from all of the parties for the sake of peace.

As President Obama made clear both in his Cairo speech and at his meeting with Jewish American leaders, the Arab states, the Palestinians, and the Israelis all have important responsibilities to fulfill in order to achieve a two-state solution and a comprehensive regional peace.  This includes Arab moves toward normalization with Israel, Palestinian steps to end incitement to violence, and an Israeli settlement freeze in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

As Members of Congress consider whether to speak out publicly on the issue – as in the Bayh-Risch letter – we urge them to use language that makes clear the broad range of actors who have responsibilities to help resolve the conflict.  It is important that such language include support for the long-standing US policy of a settlement halt so that serious negotiations can begin on a real resolution.

We urge Senators to support President Obama’s balanced approach and encourage all sides to meet their responsibilities by making the difficult compromises necessary for peace.

From Churches For Middle East Peace(CMEP) Action Alert:

Tell Your Senators NOT to Sign the Bayh-Risch Letter

Senators Should Not Derail the President's Policy for Bringing Arab-Israeli Peace

Senators Bayh (D-IN) and Risch (R-ID) are asking their colleagues to join them in signing a letter to President Obama that urges Arab states to make "dramatic gestures toward Israel" without mentioning any obligation of Israel to stop the expansion of settlements in Palestinian territories. This old and unbalanced approach compromises a key element in negotiations and undercuts the President's efforts to get comprehensive talks started. Only policies of holding both sides accountable, as now pursued by the President, hold out hope for a lasting peace.

CMEP urges you to ask your Senators NOT to sign the Bayh-Risch letter, unless it is amended! Let your Senators know you support the President's efforts to take a balanced approach toward Israeli-Palestinian peace!

This week Special Middle East Envoy Mitchell is in Israel to seek an agreement on settlements, while Defense Secretary Gates and National Security Advisor James Jones are also there to build confidence and reassure Israel about firm U.S. commitment to its security. President Obama is determined to lead Israelis and Palestinians to a sustainable and lasting peace, but he needs your help!

Make your voice heard and tell your Senators that all parties must be held accountable! Let your Senators know that continued Israeli settlement expansion undermines the President's peace efforts!

The increasing professionalism and effectiveness of Palestinian security forces and the Israeli decision to remove some roadblocks and check points in the West Bank are positively changing conditions on the ground and inspiring hope that a secure Israel can one day live in peace next to a viable Palestinian state. Let's keep this valuable momentum going and urge Senators to support balanced initiatives that encourage all parties to take bold steps toward peace.

The deadline to sign this letter is Wednesday, August 5th. Contact your Senators ASAP to share your input on this important issue!

Originally posted to rbguy on Mon Jul 27, 2009 at 07:15 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Thanks for the support (15+ / 0-)

    Please contact your Senators and ask for a more balanced letter

  •  Freeze or no freeze - it doesn’t matter! (0+ / 0-)

    These negotiations about such minor issues only serve to distract from the main issue.   The only issue, that once solved, can bring peace.

    Israel is a country that denies equal rights to people based on their religion and ethnic origins.   Israel is a country that oppresses Arabs while situated in the middle of the Arab world.   Until that ugly fact is changed there will be no peace.   All this other stuff is hot air that only delays peace.   Israel will have peace when it becomes a country of equal rights!

    •  I'm all for equal rights for everyone, (9+ / 0-)

      and I'm highly critical of Israeli actions and policies in the ME, but I disagree.  Israel could grant equal rights to everyone who lives within its borders, as could every other country in the world which does not do so at the moment (which is almost all, if not all), and no, it would not have peace unless and until it dismantles the Occupation.

      •  within its borders??? (0+ / 0-)

        Are the Palestinians to accept Israel's cleansing of its unwanted Arab minority?   No, Israel will have peace when it is a country of all who live there.

        •  I have no idea what you're talking about. (7+ / 0-)

          A "country" is an entity defined by borders, as it is borders which separate one country from another country.  So for you to say that "Israel will have peace when it becomes a country of equal rights" means, by definition, that you are saying that Israel will have peace when it grants equal rights to everyone who lives within its borders.

          I'm saying that I disagree with that.  I think it would be great if Israel did that, and I think it would be great if all countries did that, but no, I do not think that that is sufficient for true peace.  And where you get your question about Palestinians is beyond me.

          •  Think you may be talking past each other (6+ / 0-)

            I think he's including the occupied territories when he discusses Israel.  

            Or maybe I misread.

            What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.

            by Alec82 on Mon Jul 27, 2009 at 09:25:33 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Could be. (6+ / 0-)

              I have no idea.  But that would make sense if he is oh so subtly arguing for a one-state solution, and is also equally oh so subtly arguing that that one state should be called Israel.  Because the subtle way he framed that oh so subtle argument would then include the occupied territories within the country he is calling Israel.

            •  He is just babbling the same message (4+ / 0-)

              over and over again. He has no idea about the subject - in fact he once said that holocaust survivors escaping Germany were terrorists. One of the better moments of I/P commentating.

              He has no idea what the issues are, how the state was formed - nothing, nada. Just unbelievable.

              Pigs are not notably aerodynamic, are they?

              by volleyboy1 on Mon Jul 27, 2009 at 09:29:42 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  You will have to reference that! (0+ / 0-)

                I did not say that holocaust survivors were terrorists.   I said that Palestine was invaded and taken over by a bunch of terrorists.   There is little dispute in that.

                You are running out of steam if you can’t quote me properly.

                •  Joe you absolutely did say that - (0+ / 0-)

                  I said that many fled the Holocaust - or people that came to Israel right after the War. A lot of these people added to the Yishuv. You in turn said that these people were terrorists. Not too mention, that you seriously have a lack of knowledge relative to the military status of the Yishuv.

                  There were terror groups on both sides. On the Jewish side there was the Irgun (led by Menachem Begin) and the Stern Gang (led by Yitzhak Shamir). Both of these groups were small players - no more than 10% of armed Yishuv forces. They were isolated and never part of the government.

                  If you are maintaining that:

                  Palestine was invaded and taken over by a bunch of terrorists.

                  and since a ton of people ran from Europe to Israel in the run up to 1948 aren't you calling those people terrorists?

                  BTW, you realize it was the Jews and the Bedouin / Jordanians(The Arab Legion) that fought on the side of the British in WWII - right? You do know that?

                  Pigs are not notably aerodynamic, are they?

                  by volleyboy1 on Tue Jul 28, 2009 at 09:04:24 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

          •  Israel is attempting to eliminate... (0+ / 0-)

            Israel is attempting to eliminate its undesired minority by forcing them from their homes and then drawing its border to exclude them.   It is what Apartheid South Africa tried with its "Homelands Policy" but the world recognized the obvious ploy.

            Why should we recognize Israel's homelands policy when we rejected it in South Africa?

            I am a supporter of "The One State Solution".   Israel should be a country of those who live there.   There should be no group given a privileged position at the top.   It should be a country of equal rights.   That is how it will find peace.

            •  Then you're not a Democrat (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Karmafish

              Because no part of the Democratic party (e.g. not a single elected official in the House, the Senate or the Executive branch) supports a one-state solution.  Don't know what you are, but kindly frolic amongst your own.

              "Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided." --Barack Obama, June, 2008

              by oldskooldem on Tue Jul 28, 2009 at 08:49:22 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  While I agree that no Democrat of any (10+ / 0-)

                prominence supports a one-state solution, there doesn't seem to be a litmus test for determining who is, and who isn't, a Democrat.

                Remember that this is the party that couldn't stop Joe Lieberman from re-signing up after leaving it to form his own party to run against the Democratic Party candidate.

              •  So Democrats are only Democrats (8+ / 0-)

                when they become elected officials?  That's news to me and to lots of other people.

                BTW, by your definition here, you yourself are not a Democrat...unless, of course, you've been elected somewhere.

                •  No Democrats are people who support (0+ / 0-)

                  Democratic party principles.  And the one state solution is supported by absolutely not a single solitary elected Democrat.  It isn't a Democratic party principle.  There are 2 Democratic Muslims in Congress.  Its not supported by them.  There are a number of Arab Congresspeople like Jeanne Shaheen and Nick Rahall.  It isn't supported by them.

                  To reiterate, it is supported by absolutely NO ONE.

                  "Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided." --Barack Obama, June, 2008

                  by oldskooldem on Tue Jul 28, 2009 at 10:01:58 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  But even that (3+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Aunt Martha, Terra Mystica, rbguy

                    doesn't make support of a two-state solution a necessary condition for being a Democrat.

                    In fact, rather the opposite is true; most Democratic Party leaders, pious blather notwithstanding, tend to support a one-state solution.  That one state is called Israel and it is a Jewish state.

                  •  And what, pray tell, is a Democratic (2+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    corvo, Alec82

                    party principle?  For example, as you well know, Democrats have very different ideas about what constitutes an appropriate health care policy.  Or an appropriate economic policy.  Or an appropriate anti-terrorism policy.

                    Are you going to go only by what's written in the platform every 4 years?  Is someone only a Democrat who agrees fully with that?  Or are you going by something else?

                    Or what about abortion?  Democrats, elected and not elected, are all over the place regarding that.  So what exactly is the Democratic party principle in that regard?

                    Never mind that your fealty to elected officials in Washington, DC, is, well, interesting.  And your notion that someone is only a Democrat if they are in 100% agreement with something or other is remarkably narrow.  So much for an open tent policy, so to speak.

              •  The Democrats support equal rights! (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                rbguy

                There was a time when the Democratic Party was the party of segregation.   That was wrong and most Democrats recognize that.   Today, the Democratic Party is the party of equal rights.   It is the moral position.

                The fact that most Democrats do not support equal rights in Israel is also wrong.   As we begin to see the reality of Israel we cannot help but change.   The US and the Democratic Party is in transition, the reality of Israel is becoming impossible to ignore.   One day we will apply our principles to Israel.

            •  You have proof that Israeli (4+ / 0-)

              Arabs - those who live inside the 1967 borders and are citizens are being forced out of their homes and into the West Bank or Gaza. This is a big story if you can prove it.

              Pigs are not notably aerodynamic, are they?

              by volleyboy1 on Tue Jul 28, 2009 at 09:55:39 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

      •  Israel needs to start livin up to its obligations (5+ / 0-)

        it agreed to.

        Insurance, Oil, Banking, and Defense corporations all have a substantial equity positions in what's supposed to be our Congress.

        by Lefty Coaster on Tue Jul 28, 2009 at 08:10:36 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks rbguy,, (16+ / 0-)

    ..great diary as usual.  I hope the Obama team holds steady on their demand that Israel freeze settlement expansion, including "natural growth" in the West Bank, and in East Jerusalem.  

    They must, or lose their momentum and credibility.

    Btw, in case you haven't seen Helena Cobban's nice referral to your work here.

    Two great new resources on Palestine

  •  Freeze? (6+ / 0-)

    How about discussing a two-year plan to EVACUATE all of the settlements positioned on illegitimate land-grabs? I'm not seeing a light at the end of the tunnel gameplan until there is no longer a valid reason for troops to be present to protect the settlers.  

    •  Because Israel will not (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      deaniac20

      engage in a brutal and bloody civil war to please the west.

      As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly. - Mr. Carlson

      by Karmafish on Mon Jul 27, 2009 at 09:37:54 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  You just acknowledged that the West Bank... (5+ / 0-)

        Settlements will NEVER be removed. Thanks.

        •  Stop with the hyperbole (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Karmafish, canadian gal

          That is not what he said. He is saying it can't be shotgunned - have some nuance bud.

          Pigs are not notably aerodynamic, are they?

          by volleyboy1 on Tue Jul 28, 2009 at 01:43:43 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Most of them will not be. (0+ / 0-)

          There are something like 400,000 settlers.

          I doubt very much that Israel will remove them by force.

          As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly. - Mr. Carlson

          by Karmafish on Tue Jul 28, 2009 at 09:19:21 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  So exactly what's to negotiate again? n/t (5+ / 0-)
            •  So, you do not want negotiations? (0+ / 0-)

              You oppose even the possibility of peace?

              The fact is that Israel will not remove those settlers because the trauma of trying to do so will be too much for such a small country.

              What Israel can do, however, is negotiate its final borders and remove the IDF to behind those borders, with any settlers on the other side living under the authority of a Palestinian state.

              But if the Palestinian leadership is uninterested in negotiations than there will be no negotiations, no Palestinian state, and no peace.

              Is that your preference?

              You want them to fight on to the last Palestinian, do you?

              As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly. - Mr. Carlson

              by Karmafish on Tue Jul 28, 2009 at 09:37:11 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  I believe (3+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                corvo, Aunt Martha, Terra Mystica

                Corvo is opposed to

                You oppose even the possibility of peace? piece-by-piece.

                "It takes two to lie. One to lie, one to hear it." Homer Simpson

                by Euroliberal on Tue Jul 28, 2009 at 09:41:53 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

              •  but that's what's already happening: (3+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                zannie, Aunt Martha, Terra Mystica

                What Israel can do, however, is negotiate its final borders and remove the IDF to behind those borders, with any settlers on the other side living under the authority of a Palestinian state

                --except for the "Palestinian state" nonsense, which Israel isn't interested in either.  (If it were, that state would be given the right to defend itself, control its borders, control its airspace, etc.)

                •  That's precisely the kind of thing (0+ / 0-)

                  to be negotiated.

                  But if the Palestinian leadership is not interested in negotiations, and if there western supporters are not interested in negotiations, then there will be none.

                  I guess that you will bravely stand behind them as they fight on to the last man, eh?

                  As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly. - Mr. Carlson

                  by Karmafish on Tue Jul 28, 2009 at 10:00:01 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  When Israel's idea of negotiations (4+ / 0-)

                    is anything beside "We're the only side in a position to demand anything," negotiations will become a worthwhile endeavor.

                    Otherwise, negotiation is nothing but dictation of the terms of surrender by one side upon the other.

                    •  Thus you oppose peace. (0+ / 0-)

                      If you oppose negotiations then you oppose peace.

                      It's as simple as that.

                      As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly. - Mr. Carlson

                      by Karmafish on Tue Jul 28, 2009 at 10:07:14 AM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  while... (2+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        Karmafish, aggregatescience

                        i cannot speak for anyone - it is true that neither side should dictate terms to the other at this point. now - lets just get everyone to the table and then work out the particulars shall we?

                        "Democracy! Bah! When I hear that word I reach for my feather Boa!" - Allen Ginsberg

                        by canadian gal on Tue Jul 28, 2009 at 10:12:06 AM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

                      •  No, I oppose surrender. (2+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        Aunt Martha, Terra Mystica

                        When Israel is serious about negotiations, I think that negotiations should by all means be pursued.

                      •  very simple indeed (3+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        corvo, Annalize5, Conure

                        you oppose peace because you refuse to negotiate the removal of any settlements.

                        It's as simple as that.

                        If you oppose negotiations then you oppose peace.

                        i'm done w/you here, you are worse than arguing w/a preteen. carry on w/your persistence in highjacking the thread.

                        •  More nonsense. (0+ / 0-)

                          I do not refuse to negotiate anything.

                          I am the one calling for no preconditions for sitting down, while you, and others, insist on preconditions.

                          You therefore stand in the way of any possible negotiated peace.

                          As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly. - Mr. Carlson

                          by Karmafish on Tue Jul 28, 2009 at 11:30:11 AM PDT

                          [ Parent ]

                        •  zannie I don't think that is true (2+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:
                          Karmafish, canadian gal

                          I know Karma - he is in favor of ending the occupation. I know this for a fact - I think we are all a little wound up including Karma.

                          I can tell you that no one except for one or two posters (Karma is not one) is for keeping the settlements expanding.

                          Everyone take a deep breath - Breathe IN - and..... OUT... In...... Out.

                          Let's start this thread again with calmer heads - we should be able to discuss this minus hyperbole on all sides.

                          Pigs are not notably aerodynamic, are they?

                          by volleyboy1 on Tue Jul 28, 2009 at 11:42:31 AM PDT

                          [ Parent ]

                          •  volley (0+ / 0-)

                            i was giving him a taste of his own medicine. those were his words in case you missed it:

                            Thus you oppose peace. (0+ / 0-)

                            If you oppose negotiations then you oppose peace.

                            It's as simple as that.

                            when he says it, it is so much less objectional don't you think?

                            as for

                            I can tell you that no one except for one or two posters (Karma is not one) is for keeping the settlements expanding.

                            well that is very interesting volley because he is certainly for letting them expand presently leading up to negotiations, and during negotiations. and in case you missed it he has already stated this:

                            Israel will not remove those settlers because the trauma of trying to do so will be too much for such a small country.

                            in my book not freezing growth means being pro growth w/the understanding no settlers will be removed ('too much for such a small country'). this is highly antagonistic to the entire process but of course you already know that.

                            it also sets lots of (facts on the ground) preconditions. it basically says israel is going into the negotiations with certain conditions it is inflexible about (like continuing to build away day after day expanding every single minute and all of that will end up in our favor because we won't be leaving we will only be negotiating the terms in which we stay hence no ethnic cleansing ESPECIALLY in EJ which cannot be negotiated!). now it is all well and good to say 'i am in favor of ending the occupation' but what exactly does that mean if every word out of your mouth is accusing your partner of opposing peace if you don't agree to the set conditions prior to negotiations? by israels standards it can just as easily say it is not occupying the WB or EJ, it is only allowing for enough 'security' to protect who is already there, for an interm period until everything has calmed down, like the next 20 years to be extended depending on facts on the ground.

                            anyway, so good of you to intercept wrt me using karmas words. my post was a snark, besides didn't i just tell him i was done with him?

                            ps, i look forward to you telling karma you know his words are not true, you know we don't oppose negotiations nor do we oppose peace. thanks!

                          •  Wow zannie I just read your two posts here (0+ / 0-)

                            I am gonna give you some volleyboy chill pills. Look I can see this whole thing got you fired up and I see you going guns blazing here but, hold your fire for a sec.

                            This comment that is getting you really pissed:

                            Israel will not remove those settlers because the trauma of trying to do so will be too much for such a small country.

                            can be read another way. I don't see Karma saying no removal of settlements here, what he is conveying is the government of Israel has followed this rationale. This is a common argument that removing the settlements will cause civil war. There is some truth to that.. it doesn't mean you don't do it but understand there are consequences to that action.

                            Now as far as my feelings. You know them - but, giving Obama a letter to take to the Israelis stressing normalization BFD. It gives him political cover. So what. I don't think that Obama should back off on the settlement freeze but, it has to be sold to the Israelis as something for them. No one negotiates out of the goodness of their hearts (well I do but that is a diff. story lol). Impress on the Israelis the economic costs, man-hours of the IDF, If Bibi is a fiscal conservative he should be looking at the settlers as a bad budget line item.

                            What is the harm in this approach? If Obama sticks to his guns on this - then let them phrase any which way as long as it leads to a settlement freeze. Look, Israel has the guns, money, and support of the American people but they don't have the feeling that they are totally secure. Let Obama coddle that feeling - it's diplomacy. His Cairo speech was brilliant - it went right to the heart of the matter and he gets the feelings on both sides.

                            Israel is not some cartoon state run by Snidely Whiplash - If they feel America is 100% in their corner they will be way more cooperative. I am telling you this because I know it.

                            As a suggestion, check out what the settlers argue and how they argue. Not from anti-Israel blogs but, from their blogs. There are some crazy ideas there but, wade through that and there is a rationale. Kind of a twisted rationale but a rationale.

                            I don't generally like the settlers, the ones I have interacted with (a fair amount) are self-righteous and generally faintly racist as well as judeo-centric. But there are other sides too. I am not trying to get you to like them - hell I don't even like them but, understanding them and their meme's is important.

                            Everyone tries to get me to look at the nuance of Hamas - ok, fine - look at the nuance of the Israeli right - both movements have more similarities than differences.

                            This has to be handled carefully that is the point he is making.

                            Plus Karma gets hot-headed and shoots off sometimes as I have seen you do and I know I do.

                            Pigs are not notably aerodynamic, are they?

                            by volleyboy1 on Tue Jul 28, 2009 at 03:42:07 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  ps (0+ / 0-)

                            i notice up(or down)thread you mentioned while you supported the president you wanted to give israel something to 'work' with. exuce my paraphrasing i am heading out the door.

                            i am just wondering how one can support 'working' with israel in the context of the topic (settlement freeze) and support the presidents proposals at the same time.

                            IOW, when one supports giving up one of the most valuable bargaining tools (normalization) without getting anything out of it (unless one consider the incredible 'gift' of israel allowing the WB to have any normal trade..) one essentially supports taking the cards right out of the presidents hand. it is diametrically opposed to supporting the president. it is going around the president and going directly to congress and asking them to basically screw over the presidents (and palestinians obviously) bargaining power by ignoring the settlement freeze.

                            at least that is how i see it. as for 'working' with israel..of course. but not if it means backing down on the settlement freeze. maybe they can come up w/something more doable and creative that does not involve cutting off the prez at the knees.

                            its a big pie. israel has already eaten over 3/4 of it. let's all guess how much more israel can eat between now and the finalization plan. no? well then stop easting the pie or there will be nothing left to negotiate except how to deal w/the starving people who got no pie because it was all eaten while people were deciding how to cut it up.

                            what? the appetite of israel is so large expecting it to curb its appetite during negotiation is a precondition! we need to work with the baby by feeding it more pie so it will know we love it.

                            there is something very rotten in denmark.

                      •  Fraud. (1+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        zannie

                        You don't want negotiations.  You want to put up demands that no group of people could or would ever meet.

                        Freedom and democracy and self-determination, unless you're an Arab.  That's the Israeli way.

                        "Words ought to be a little wild for they are the assault of thought on the unthinking." - John Maynard Keynes

                        by Drew J Jones on Tue Jul 28, 2009 at 03:00:42 PM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

                        •  Bullshit. (0+ / 0-)

                          More bullshit from Drew Jones.

                          You tell me what demands that I put up?

                          What are they?

                          Name 'em or the shut the fuck up.

                          As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly. - Mr. Carlson

                          by Karmafish on Tue Jul 28, 2009 at 03:14:36 PM PDT

                          [ Parent ]

                          •  The settlers. (2+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            zannie, callmecassandra

                            You're demanding negotiations over settlements on stolen land.

                            Now shut the fuck up.

                            "Words ought to be a little wild for they are the assault of thought on the unthinking." - John Maynard Keynes

                            by Drew J Jones on Tue Jul 28, 2009 at 03:17:34 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  I asked you (0+ / 0-)

                            what demands that I am making as a precondition for negotiations.

                            That is what you claimed.

                            So answer the question.

                            What demands am I making?

                            Name them.

                            Y'know, I do not believe for one second that you want peace, because if you did want peace you would favor negotiations, not seek to derail the possibility of discussions.

                            This makes you an enemy of both the Israelis and the Palestinians.

                            As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly. - Mr. Carlson

                            by Karmafish on Tue Jul 28, 2009 at 03:50:51 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

              •   So, you do not want negotiations? (4+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                corvo, Aunt Martha, Terra Mystica, Conure

                You oppose even the possibility of peace?

                The fact is that Israel will not remove those settlers because the trauma of trying to do so will be too much for such a small country.

                so according to you the fact is that israel will not participate in negotiating any removal of settlements.

                if the Israeli leadership is uninterested in negotiations than there will be no negotiations.

                Is that your preference?

                You want them to fight on to the last Israeli, do you?

                (how you like them apples, can you hear yourself)

  •  Ahh good the folks trying to mess up the (5+ / 0-)

    peace are here.

    rb - the one thing I would say is to highlight the positive in the AIPAC letter as you rightly point out - but, to add to it as well.

    I would send that letter AND another one calling for support of President Obama's peace initiative (settlement Freeze, normalization.....)

    Pigs are not notably aerodynamic, are they?

    by volleyboy1 on Mon Jul 27, 2009 at 07:51:01 PM PDT

    •  To be clearer (5+ / 0-)

      I would do two letters - no need to wipe out AIPAC's politically the President has enough headaches. Thus I would ask they send two letters and giving President Obama the political cover he needs yet doing what is right with regards to settlements.

      Pigs are not notably aerodynamic, are they?

      by volleyboy1 on Mon Jul 27, 2009 at 07:53:08 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Thanks, volleyboy1, for the comment (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        zannie, capelza, volleyboy1, canadian gal

        Do you think a second letter is needed?  Couldn't they find a way to retool the first letter.  A second letter may add to the confusion, plus it may gain less support which would be quite a problem for the President's goals.

        •  Well here is the thing (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          capelza, canadian gal

          While I like the idea of supporting BOTH a settlement freeze and full normalization - that is not the mainstream view. The right wing is putting the full court press on President Obama right now. Taking two letters to negotiations would give him cover that one won't. For instance he can go to the Israelis and say - "Look I have these two letters now I happen to think the second is more in line with my poliltics than the first but, I have considered this first letter as well - and I want to stress how IMPORTANT the ideas contained in this are."

          Just by doing this will take the Israeli leadership a bit out of the defensive posture they are adopting. Meanwhile the second letter is there expressing the Presidents agenda.

          Two letters would serve to emphasis the Normalization that is key to Israeli peace negotiators and always has been.

          Pigs are not notably aerodynamic, are they?

          by volleyboy1 on Mon Jul 27, 2009 at 08:18:40 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  asdf (7+ / 0-)

            "While I like the idea of supporting BOTH a settlement freeze and full normalization - that is not the mainstream view."

            Isn't it? Look, this whole business about "normalization" is a deliberate red herring. The Arab League plan offers full normalisation with Israel in the context of a regional peace settlement. To demand that the Arab states normalise relations with Israel - that is, to give up their only leverage in the negotiations - in exchange for a mere (temporary) freeze in settlement construction is absurd and, in most cases, simply demonstrates the bad faith of the people making it. As Chomsky writes,

            "The Arab League peace proposal does indeed call for normalization of relations with Israel – in the context, repeat, in the context of a two-state settlement in terms of the longstanding international consensus, which the US and Israel have blocked for over 30 years, in international isolation, and still do. The core of the Arab League proposal, as Obama and his Mideast advisers know very well, is its call for a peaceful political settlement in these terms, which are well-known, and recognized to be the only basis for the peaceful settlement to which Obama professes to be committed. The omission of that crucial fact can hardly be accidental, and signals clearly that Obama envisions no departure from US rejectionism. His call for the Arab states to act on a corollary to their proposal, while the US ignores even the existence of its central content, which is the precondition for the corollary, surpasses cynicism."

            As for two letters vs. one letter - I don't think it's that important, but I think one letter would be best. What if the AIPAC letter got more signatures than the APN one?

    •  VB, do you honestly (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      oldskooldem

      believe that most of these people actually want peace?

      I do not see it.

      If the anti-I crowd on dKos wanted peace they would favor negotiations, but they do not.

      As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly. - Mr. Carlson

      by Karmafish on Tue Jul 28, 2009 at 10:13:52 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Yes, peace in the Middle East, but - but- but- (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Karmafish, deaniac20, canadian gal

    As usual, an attempt to bring peace to the Middle East, as evidenced by the Bayh/Risch letter, is met by screams of injustice and cries for equalization.

    Yes, the settlements are important and a compromise on them must be reached on the road to a peace treaty. No, settlements cannot be allowed to overwhelm the entire peace process. Human rights must be observed, but they cannot be used as an excuse to end meaningful peace talks. Negotiations cannot proceed effectively when either side can't get beyond grievances that allow no further progress.

    Consider the Bayh/Risch letter a starting point, something to be built on, not a detour that leads to the deadend that has prevailed in the Middle East for decades.  

    •  honestly, how much "equalization" (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Karmafish

      are these people on THIS thread gonna be screaming for? Until there is no Israel?

      Bayh/Risch's letter is on the mark. Not to mention, its the second such action from the Congress in these last two months trying to get Obama to truly equalize his approach, and stop alienating Israel.

      "Like America, Israel is a strong democracy, a symbol of freedom, and an oasis of liberty, a home to the oppressed and persecuted." -President Bill Clinton

      by deaniac20 on Mon Jul 27, 2009 at 09:12:15 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I'm guessing (7+ / 0-)

        you think Bush had an 'equal' approach.

        And I'm glad you think Congress (that can't save New Orleans, can't stop an unneeded war, blamed Iran when Iraq blew up a Navy ship) is such an esteemed body of virtue that we should give a rat's ass what they say.

        •  what does this have to do with Bush? (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Karmafish

          He was not hated in the ME for his I/P policy. He was hated for his Iraq policy.

          Clinton almost got us a peace deal, and he, like other American Presidents favored Israel. The only reason we didn't get a peace deal was because Arafat wanted the destruction of Israel aka "right" of return. So no, alienating our ally to look "even-handed" which in turns off Israeli voters and thus their politicians does not help peace. Bayh has this one right.

          "Like America, Israel is a strong democracy, a symbol of freedom, and an oasis of liberty, a home to the oppressed and persecuted." -President Bill Clinton

          by deaniac20 on Mon Jul 27, 2009 at 09:54:46 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Question, please: (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    deaniac20, canadian gal

    Why are we making "settlement freeze" a pre-condition for negotiations?

    Why is the construction of a mere 20 housing units in East Jerusalem, or construction within settlements that will end up being part of Israel, anyway, used as an excuse to avoid talks?

    As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly. - Mr. Carlson

    by Karmafish on Mon Jul 27, 2009 at 09:35:18 PM PDT

    •  I guess, honesty for starters. (14+ / 0-)

      Al-Maliki stated that the Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank and East Jerusalem are the primary problems, as the prevention of settlement expansion was Israel's first and only commitment to the Palestinians during the Annapolis talks.

      link

      When Israel told the Palestinians it would stop, then didn't, it kinda put the ball back on Israel. If Israel had no intentions of a freeze, whey did they say they would?

      And the number of illegal occupiers reaches 300,000. A 2.3% increase since January! More water/land taken.

      And you think this is a non-issue?

      Here is an account of cattle ranchers vs Shephards in Texas. A simple little thing like whether some had sheep or cows lead to laws and deaths.

      There are other explanations for the cattleman's antipathy for the woolgrower. Sheepmen were closely associated with the Mexicans' consequently the cattlemen classified all sheepmen,whether Mexican or not, as the "inferior" people conquered at San Jacinto. Also cattlemen decried the presence of sheep on the same range with cattle because sheep supposedly marked thegrass with an odor so disagreeable that cattle would not feedon it. Plus those nasty animals trampled down the range with their hooves and ate the grass so low thus ruining the landfurther for the cattle—so thought the cowman. But there is yet another reason why the cowboys looked down upon the sheepman,perhaps even literally. Being mounted on a horse was considereda status symbol in those days. Since sheepherders walked on foot with their flock, they were branded socially inferior. The aristocrat of the saddle regarded the careless, dusty dress ofthe sheepherder, compared to the fancier-dressed cowboys, asanother indication of the sheepmen being a somewhat lesser species. All of these factors contributed to the ridicule harrassment and sometimes bloodshed that the sheepmen faced. As Charles Towne and Edward Wentworth describe in their Shepherd's Empire:Cowboys were always careful to outnumber the herder five or ten to one, and being mounted, they were always in a position to gain surprise, attack quickly, and withdraw from their scenes of carnage with due celerity. Their activities expressed the mob spirit in one of its most cowardly forms, (p. 190)In 1881 the Texas Legislature passed a law which made it illegal to graze sheep on land belonging to another without the owner's permission. Cattle and horses were obviously ex-cepted under the law.

      And you don't think Israel taking land and water is a big deal? It won't lead to bloodshed? Have you ever read history?

    •  Well, if everything Israel wants (6+ / 0-)

      "will end up being part of Israel, anyway," why waste time negotiating?  There's nothing to negotiate.

    •  Just a guess: (0+ / 0-)

      Because stealing people's land is generally considered unacceptable in matters of diplomacy.

      "Words ought to be a little wild for they are the assault of thought on the unthinking." - John Maynard Keynes

      by Drew J Jones on Tue Jul 28, 2009 at 03:06:29 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  This whole tragedy (19+ / 0-)

    it now appears can be resolved if this administration simply digs its heals in on settlement construction.  

    At worst it will bring down this right wing government in Israel and at the same time bring down the right wing government of Hamas in Palestine.

    It is likely to clear the way for a peace accord between Israel and the whole Arab world and with the Palestinians.

    There are really two Israels one of which is involved in expanding settlements. There is also another Israel that hates settlements and values peace.

    There are also two Palestines. The right in Palestine is strengthened by ongoing settlement expansion. hamas will simply evaporate into small groups of gangs and thugs that can be mopped  should a possibility of peace emerge.

    "As president I will recognize the Armenian genocide." Barack Obama

    by palestinian professor on Mon Jul 27, 2009 at 09:42:18 PM PDT

    •  Nah. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      deaniac20, oldskooldem, canadian gal

      Anyone who allows the building of a mere 20 apartment units in E. Jerusalem, or building within existing settlements near the green line, to get in the way of negotiations, is obviously not really interested in negotiations.

      As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly. - Mr. Carlson

      by Karmafish on Mon Jul 27, 2009 at 09:46:58 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  do you really think they could simply evaporate (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      capelza, Conure

      afterwards if they were not included in the process? what if they don't? what if by isolating them they become more solidified. wouldn't they be more likely to evaporate by absorbing them into the process prior to negotiation?

      i suppose one could apply the same standards to the settlers. who could imagine ousting them w/no accommodation for where they would end up.

      i really value your views on this issue since you are there and palestinian. i am also concerned because of gaza's future standing. i read a report from yesterday that a resident of WB was picked up and deported to gaza and the only explanation was because he was born there. and the recent talk of releasing prisoners in an exchange but israels condition was that they be dumped in gaza. i am just not convinced of the feasibility of any peace if hamas is expected to evaporate down the road at some point without a plan. 'mopping' them up? what would that look like?

  •  I fully support (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    deaniac20

    The Bayh letter, which among other things takes of Brave Arab Leaders.  When was the last time Congress made any mention of Brave Arab Leaders?

    "Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided." --Barack Obama, June, 2008

    by oldskooldem on Mon Jul 27, 2009 at 09:50:18 PM PDT

    •  it also once again shows (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      corvo, Karmafish, oldskooldem

      that being pro-Israel is a bi-partisan thing and hopefully will always be.

      "Like America, Israel is a strong democracy, a symbol of freedom, and an oasis of liberty, a home to the oppressed and persecuted." -President Bill Clinton

      by deaniac20 on Mon Jul 27, 2009 at 10:02:34 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Campaign Contributions at work!!! (0+ / 0-)

        Gotta love lobbyists!

        •  Jeebus Aldous - (4+ / 0-)

          Perhaps some people in the U.S. actually support the Bayh letter. I would bet most.

          And btw, what the hell else are lobbyists SUPPOSED TO DO. Oh wait lobby for their interest group - how amazing.....

          Look I support the settlement freeze the President is pushing but if you want the Israelis on board  you have to work with them. Just as you have to pay attention to the Palestinians needs - It's called diplomacy.

          Pigs are not notably aerodynamic, are they?

          by volleyboy1 on Tue Jul 28, 2009 at 01:42:35 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  I do love some lobbyists (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Karmafish, oldskooldem

          environmental lobbyists, womens-rights lobbyists, gay rights lobbyists, minority group lobbyists, do you have a problem with these people? Are all lobbyists evil?

          Oh, and yes, there are lobbyists who support the Jewish State of Israel (God I love that those four words!). They help protect our only ally in the ME and the only country ranked as free in the Middle East.

          "Like America, Israel is a strong democracy, a symbol of freedom, and an oasis of liberty, a home to the oppressed and persecuted." -President Bill Clinton

          by deaniac20 on Tue Jul 28, 2009 at 01:42:56 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  No one would argue the point that it (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Meteor Blades, capelza, Karmafish

        is not bi-partisan. I would bet the strong majority of both parties is pro-Israel. But being pro-Israel is not a dogmatic thing - it takes many forms. I really think many progressives are pro-Israel but at the same time want a humane solution to the Palestinian situation - I see no contradiction there.

        Pigs are not notably aerodynamic, are they?

        by volleyboy1 on Tue Jul 28, 2009 at 01:39:48 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  As always, thanks for these diaries, rbguy... (6+ / 0-)

    On the letters, it is not clear to me that a letter that does not mention settlements can be edited enough to articulate a collective and reasonable vision of what needs to occur to move forward on a resolution of the conflict.  It would seem to me, therefore being just my opinion, that you all (J Street, JVP, et. al.) should craft that clearly articulated and reasonable vision and submit it separately.  That would make it an alternative to the AIPAC vision, not an indistinguishable blending of the current power-politics view.

    Having said that, you are the practitioner here,  You know what is possible and what effect is achievable.  But the advancement of as clear an alternative as possible to AIPAC, et. al. is important to enable choices on this matter, imho.

    FWIW.

    Your diaries are very helpful and constructive.

    "Peace be the journey. Cool Runnings!"

    by Terra Mystica on Tue Jul 28, 2009 at 06:07:57 AM PDT

  •  Shrug (7+ / 0-)

    Good diary, RB, but honestly I'm not sure I care about "dear colleague" letters.  AIPAC has always been able to get these through Congress with large numbers of signers.  To some extent, this is evidence of AIPAC's broad and deep power.  However, to a larger extent it is evidence of:

    1. The fact that these letters have very little influence on the situation, and
    1. The fact, oddly, that most Congresspeople actually care very little about the issue.

    Remember, Congressmen are about as parochial as they come.  The broadminded care about their districts.  Many just care about themselves and possibly their mistresses.  Very few are actually interested in or informed on an issue as distant as Israel and Palestine.  

    That is why AIPAC is so effective.  They are, of course, old, established, experienced, very well funded, and have an incredibly outsize reputation; but mostly their power comes from people not caring.  For your average Congressman, an AIPAC letter is easy.  He can sign it and make a powerful (supposedly all-powerful) friend who can kick in a little support and who costs him absolutely nothing in his district.  Or he can refuse to sign it, and make an enemy with absolutely no benefits (political or otherwise) to himself.  It is precisely because most voters (and most Congressmen) don't care about the issue that AIPAC has such influence on it.

    Of course, the fact that AIPAC can get these letters signed easily and the moderate pro-peace folks can't is a sign of an unbalanced struggle for influence in Washington.  But on the other hand, while Obama is pushing hard for a complete settlement freeze and the best the vaunted AIPAC can manage in response is a whiny letter that will end up in the rubbish bin is also a sign of just how far their star has fallen.

    Let 'em write their silly letters.  Good for you for pushing a response, but don't imagine the letters are all that important.  Rather, they are a sign of how little influence AIPAC has within the Administration today.

  •  interesting.... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Karmafish

    but is it me? or does these preconditions before sitting down and starting the discussion seem counter productive? i mean we (and everyone else i might add) are parsing and pulling the start of a negotiation around bits and bytes.

    i am of two minds here - one which says that i understand and agree that the settlements need to stop. but the on the other hand - should their stoppage impede commencing the discussions? likewise - should to the return of a captured israeli soldier stall any talks on the israeli side?

    i mean, any final plan will include dealing with both the settlements and their inhabitants, so why are  some holding fast to preconditions to start the discussion? ultimately finalizing the details will likely take some time to plan and gather consensus amongst the parties - so stalling things seems counter-intuitive.

    "Democracy! Bah! When I hear that word I reach for my feather Boa!" - Allen Ginsberg

    by canadian gal on Tue Jul 28, 2009 at 08:00:22 AM PDT

    •  If they don't stop, what's the point? (5+ / 0-)

      Israel has in the past always been happy to continue settlement activity while negotiating (with or without irony quotes on that last word there).

      Myself, I'm amazed that we seem to have progressed from the usual Israeli precondition: "Absolute cessation of any violent act of any kind for a length of time to be determined by us" -- although the end result, in terms of meaningful negotiations, seems to be just as absent as ever.

      •  yes precisely. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Karmafish

        i agree that the settlements must stop - but they haven't in the past. in the tenuous situation that we have got here, absolute preconditions from either side seem like just another way to undermine this process.

        and wouldn't you agree that any final plan will include dealing with both the settlements and their inhabitants? so if that's the case then let's get started in an undoubtedly long and difficult process.

        "Democracy! Bah! When I hear that word I reach for my feather Boa!" - Allen Ginsberg

        by canadian gal on Tue Jul 28, 2009 at 09:20:41 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Nor will settlement stop now. (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          capelza, Aunt Martha, Conure

          So what's this "final plan" business?  There's nothing to negotiate.  The only final plan possible now is the one Israel has been implementing: that is, doing what it wants.

        •  Given that Israel has in the past (5+ / 0-)

          negotiated and continued to build settlements, the status quo of negotiations clearly does not work (and that, I would argue, is true for all sides).

          •  but... (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            zannie, capelza, volleyboy1

            its not the status quo for the fact that obama/clinton/mitchell are managing this process. wouldn't you agree that for the first time in eight years the US has a smart, politically astute and motivated representation in this regard?

            my position mostly is that the parties need to get to the table - stat!

            "Democracy! Bah! When I hear that word I reach for my feather Boa!" - Allen Ginsberg

            by canadian gal on Tue Jul 28, 2009 at 09:37:55 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Yes they do need to get to the table. (5+ / 0-)

              But the settlement freeze will need to be enforced, and it has not been in the past.  I agree that there is the possibility of change, but I'm not getting my hopes up yet.

              •  And nobody will be allowed to enforce that freeze (4+ / 0-)

                except Israel . . . which lands us back at Square Zero.

              •  no disagreement from me. (5+ / 0-)

                although perhaps i am slightly more optimistic?

                "Democracy! Bah! When I hear that word I reach for my feather Boa!" - Allen Ginsberg

                by canadian gal on Tue Jul 28, 2009 at 09:53:29 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  Yes, I think you are. (6+ / 0-)

                  But I think no less of you anyway...:)

                •  I am of three minds here and I keep (5+ / 0-)

                  bouncing around on this -

                  1. I think get this thing started now and negotiate into the settlement freeze and so forth. I think time is "a'wastin" and people need to be setting up the end of teh occupation.

                  However, I can see corvo's point of "well what's the point - the settlements are still going up - what are we finally negotiating for?"

                  There is validity to that - I don't believe Likud is going to go two state - I think they are going from a power perspective right now and that they are planning on building a new reality on the West Bank. Really, I just don't believe he is making a meaningful attempt and is going to have to be dragged kicking and screaming into it.

                  But in the final place - realistically time is against the Israelis UNLESS they decide to clear the WB of residents. The demographics and budget issues are simply not sustainable for them, and we all know that most minority run governments eventually fail particularly when the majority do not enjoy equal participation.

                  On the other hand - Israel can simply change the dynamics on the ground - if they had a superpower behind them - it could be done. It shouldn't be done and it would be long term bad but, it could happen. I doubt it will but, if the settlements continue and there is no agreement - that becomes more likely.

                  Pigs are not notably aerodynamic, are they?

                  by volleyboy1 on Tue Jul 28, 2009 at 10:15:02 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  as i said... (3+ / 0-)

                    above - the status quo is no longer for the mere fact that there is engaged US leadership on this issue. the majority of people want peace - honestly time is up for those who would oppose this. and if hamas and likud want to instead impede this process it will only serve to make them more irrelevant.

                    "Democracy! Bah! When I hear that word I reach for my feather Boa!" - Allen Ginsberg

                    by canadian gal on Tue Jul 28, 2009 at 10:20:59 AM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  While I like the idea of Hamas and Likud (5+ / 0-)

                      becoming irrelevant - I think I disagree with this. The longer this drags out the more relevant they become - both have a stake in maintaining the conflict.

                      Think of it this way - the longer this drags out benefits Hamas this way: Hamas keeps up it's "fight the power rhetoric" - the Palestinians see that compromise gets them nowhere so they figure: "fuck it - at least we go down fighting". AND as the compromises don't stop the settlements or anything else - they become seen as the only legit resitance group around.

                      For Likud: The more extreme Hamas gets the more Israel can say - "look at these crazies - you need us to keep the peace. Only we can stand up to them and fight them to win." Thus, every suicide bomb or rocket gets more Likud voters because one thing Israel doesn't do is back down from a fight.

                      It is getting to be "time is up" as you say for long term solutions where there is an Israel and a Palestine 100 years from now. The only thing that can stop this is superpower intervention and some severe re-thinking. I think that can happen with the Obama plan. I think it needs to happen before this goes critical.

                      Pigs are not notably aerodynamic, are they?

                      by volleyboy1 on Tue Jul 28, 2009 at 10:38:55 AM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  "severe rethinking" (0+ / 0-)

                        is the key here.

                        and you're right in that there are groups that thrive and flourish with conflict. and i believe that obama referenced them in his cairo speech.

                        but the whole point here is that this will be a negotiation which will require compromise and hair-pulling amongst all parties.

                        put differently, when one makes an opening offer on the purchase of a house it requires both parties engaged in the process. for those who would oppose this negotiations to begin with - that includes both sides i'm afraid -  they are effectively making themselves irrelevant.

                        "Democracy! Bah! When I hear that word I reach for my feather Boa!" - Allen Ginsberg

                        by canadian gal on Tue Jul 28, 2009 at 10:46:49 AM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

                        •  how do you think hamas is impedeing the process? (1+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:
                          capelza

                          for those who would oppose this negotiations to begin with - that includes both sides i'm afraid -  they are effectively making themselves irrelevant.

                          are you talking about likud and hamas?

                          btw British MPs want gov't to engage Hamas

                          Only around 30 MPs and peers attended the meeting, which was set up to support the position that there can be no peace in the Middle East without talking to the Islamist movement. Mashaal was unable to address the meeting when the video link failed.

                          The decision to allow a representative of Hamas, considered a terrorist organization in the UK, to speak in Parliament was condemned by Israel's ambassador to Britain as well as by the Foreign Office and an array of politicians.

                          hamas has expressed it wants to be part of the process , rbguy presented supporting evidence of this in his last diary.

                          •  a complicated question. (0+ / 0-)

                            hamas' charter and actions for the better part of their existence has largely been one big bit of incitement and moral gaps.

                            honestly - im not sure how i feel about engaging hamas. i read and rec'd rbguy's last diary as i think he made some interesting points.... but now i think before anything like this can happen, hamas must prove to all who want such proof that they are interested in peace, international opinion or even palestinian opinion.

                            and yes - the onus is on them to do so.

                            "Democracy! Bah! When I hear that word I reach for my feather Boa!" - Allen Ginsberg

                            by canadian gal on Tue Jul 28, 2009 at 02:01:15 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  i understand (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            canadian gal

                            the issues w/their charter and history and how that might be a concern for anyone.

                            hamas must prove to all who want such proof that they are interested in peace, international opinion or even palestinian opinion.

                            well.... the proof is in the pudding and lately there are positive signs. frankly the 'prove it' thing complicates matters because then it becomes a question of 'by whose standards'. it also begs the question why? because i don't see anyone asking israel to prove they are interested in peace and all signs point to the suggestion many factions have no interest if it means relinquishing hopes and dreams of a greater israel. so far many people think this delay of decades is by design. if what is good to for the goose is good for the gander neither of them has proved anything. by the standard of no place at the table without proof no one deserves a place at the table and then we are back at square one with israel holding all the cards and the palestinian taking the day to day brunt of the occupation.

                            anyway thank you for your response. ultimately i am interested in all parties having a say because i think it will bode better for a lasting enduring solution.

                    •  I don't know if time is up, (4+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      zannie, corvo, Terra Mystica, canadian gal

                      but then again you're more optimistic than I am.  I do like to think that something is changing.  But realistically, I don't think anything will change in I/P until the US completely and unequivocally commits itself to a fair and equitable end to the Occupation.

                      •  i do. (2+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        zannie, volleyboy1

                        its like the chicken/egg analogy. how can we negotiate until the occupation ends? but how can the occupation change without negotiations?

                        all these terms and complexities of the situation only serve to make people more entrenched on their position and as history has shown not proven fruitful. go and start the negotiations i say and all will be dealt with full stop.

                        and i'll add that i am not that naive to think that both sides will come out of the final plan happy campers - but at least we'll see some progress.

                        "Democracy! Bah! When I hear that word I reach for my feather Boa!" - Allen Ginsberg

                        by canadian gal on Tue Jul 28, 2009 at 10:53:40 AM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

                  •  I barely recognize you. (5+ / 0-)

                    I've been saying similar things and getting raked over the coals by some here, including you in past life!  But I basically agree with you, as you well know.  Perhaps a difference is that I think Israel can change the dynamics on the ground without a superpower behind them, if Israel truly decided that it wants a fair and equitable peace.  Sadly, I don't think it does.  At least not yet.

                    And that statement does not mean that I think the onus is all on Israel, just so everyone is clear.

                    •  Well yah - I thought for a long time even (2+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      zannie, Aunt Martha

                      Bibi would negotiate - but, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to see what he is doing. BUT - I am optimistic because of President Obama - he gets it.

                      The thing is that I still believe in the good of Israel and I still believe that one state is not an option either way - but - I see what Bibi is doing with Lieberman and his xenophobic beliefs and it is pretty clear what his intentions are.

                      Bibi is selling the Jewish people down the river for the future and I am not too happy about it.

                      Pigs are not notably aerodynamic, are they?

                      by volleyboy1 on Tue Jul 28, 2009 at 11:08:14 AM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

  •  WOW this is the little diary that could (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    capelza

    certainly a bit of acrimony but still going the second day stronger than the first - woohoo that is a good sign.

    Pigs are not notably aerodynamic, are they?

    by volleyboy1 on Tue Jul 28, 2009 at 01:40:40 PM PDT

  •  Thanks for the heads-up, rbguy! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Terra Mystica, rbguy

    I had gotten the impression from local congresscritters that some in the house leadership were going to be more hands-off about statements related to Israel (taking a wait and see attitude) on the line that setting foreign policy is the prerogative of the executive branch.  I guess some Democratic senators are not on the same page.

    "Trolling is a sad reality of internet life...Directly replying to the content of a trollish message is usually a waste of time"

    by Rusty Pipes on Tue Jul 28, 2009 at 04:31:09 PM PDT

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