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Between Annapolis and Bush's Presidential Visit to Israel

This is also posted on the Huffington Post

After seven years, George W. Bush will make his first ever visit as President to Israel next month. In preparing the trip, he would do well to reflect on the meaning of an interview given by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to Israeli journalists on his departure from the recent Annapolis summit. Here is what Olmert told the Haaretz newspaper: “If the day comes when the two-state solution collapses, and we face a South African-style struggle for equal voting rights, then, as soon as that happens, the State of Israel is finished.” Defining the two state solution as nothing short of an act of survival for Israel, creates a framing whereby the benefits of keeping an extra percent or two of West Bank land, an extra settlement, can no longer be justification for collapsing negotiations. Should the negotiations sponsors in Washington choose to do so, they can interpret this message as an invitation to close a deal.

Detractors may brandish Olmert's appeal, under this interpretation, as an act of cowardice or even irresponsibility. They could not be more wrong. While a bilateral Israeli-Palestinian agreement is always preferable, under current circumstances of entrenched narratives, mutual distrust and weakness, an American-brokered and internationally-endorsed deal offers a more realistic path to success. There exists a fragile majority on both sides for a no-nonsense two-state deal in line with the proposals of former President Clinton or the Geneva Initiative. Both publics simply do not believe that the other side is ready. On the tough issues it is easier for an Israeli leader to sayOlmert and Bush yes to an American President, than to his Palestinian counterpart, and for the public to accept such an outcome.

The motives behind the Israeli Prime Minister's embrace of the peace process have been attacked from right and left. The right pillory him as a discredited leader who is trying to distract public attention from the police investigations against him and the Winograd Report into last summer's disastrous Lebanon War, due shortly. The left suspects that the lofty words of Annapolis only provide cover to further entrench the occupation. Perhaps both have a point. But Ehud Olmert's journey towards two-state-realism did not begin at Annapolis. From being a hawkish Likud parliamentarian who opposed the peace treaty with Egypt, and a pugnacious Mayor of Jerusalem, Ehud Olmert, in 2006, became the first person to stand for Prime Minister of Israel on a detailed platform explicitly outlining a significant withdrawal from the West Bank. Already in 2003, Olmert challenged his then Likud colleagues to concede their dreams of a Greater Israel, "it will lead to the loss of Israel as a Jewish State," he said.

Olmert today appears to be a convert with a sense of urgency, destiny, and, perhaps post-Annapolis, opportunity. The Arab leaders and their peace initiative may not be around forever and there are surely advantages to Israel in closing a deal before American power in the region is further eroded. Olmert's "peace or bust" message suggests that the US Administration should not content itself with supporting the bilateral talks, rather it should actively help carry the sides over the finishing line. During his visit to the Middle East, President Bush should begin to explore this option.

In that Haaretz interview the Israeli PM had a second message for another audience, the American Jewish community. Olmert stated that under the South-African style scenario (no two-state deal), "the Jewish organizations, which were our power base in America, will be the first to come out against us". The binary choice -- Israel can do no wrong or Israel can do no right -- is one with which most American Jews are not comfortable. This choice also threatens to increase alienation from both Israel and from communal organizations and to produce an increasingly divided Jewish political voice. Olmert, recognizing this fault-line, is offering a different option, an Israel that is normal, that again becomes an uncontroversial and unifying cornerstone of Jewish identity. American Jewish support for ending the occupation becomes an act of enlightened self-interest.

Achieving an Israeli-Palestinian agreement would be hugely significant even if its implementation likely necessitates a new and inclusive approach towards Hamas and more realistic expectations regarding the type of security that any Palestinian leadership can provide Israel while still under occupation.

Ehud Olmert cannot openly call for an American push, and would have to deny any such inference. He can though hint. He has now hinted. It is not every day that an American president turns to find an Israeli prime minister whose arm is outstretched displaying a Post-it sticker with the words "twist here." Of course an Administration that has been so illiterate on the Middle East may not even be able to read the small print scribbled by its closest ally. And the much-needed arm twist would not have to be particularly painful, more akin to clicking a joint in a friend's back into position again. That kind of corrective act, not the toe-curling rhetoric about World War III, would help to remove the niggling, wearing, tearing dislocation of being an occupier and would really be an act of American friendship to Israel. Can President Bush rise to the occasion? Don't hold your breathe, but January's visit will provide some clues.


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Comments (4)

By Riad Awwad

Synthetically speaking, terrorist mentality can be considered as a characteristic name given to the period following de events on September 11th. It’s not a new phenomenon in history, as it exists for a long time now, but lacking space for manifesting itself in the free democratic societies of the modern world, short of moral benches and social premises. We find though an unprecedented development of this mentality in a series of Islamic societies, formed under the burden of some corrupted Islamic dictatorial regimes.
The conflict between the terrorist organization Al-Qaida and the rest of the world is the most vivid expression of what we call terrorist mentality. It’s not about, as we sometimes may consider, a conflict between civilizations, a fight involving this organization and the human civilization in its whole, just as we do not find ourselves in front of a “clash” between the Islamic world and civilization, Muslims themselves being victims of Al-Qaida and Bin Laden`s mentality. The growing threats upon intellectuals, cultural inclined people and all the others who have the courage of not sharing the way in which the terrorist thinking interprets Islam represents a serious threat for the democratic world, which thinks that the church and the state exist to serve society and not that society was created to serve the state and the church. The sole thing that, in these democratic and free societies, can not be contested is the right to criticize and have a different opinion. In Islamic societies though, the individual finds himself constrained totally to obeying the power and religion, self-proclaimed as absolute instruments of Divinity.
In our opinion, today’s Islam needs a “surgical intervention” through which religion should be separated from the “worldly things” because, like Abraham Lincoln said, those who deny the right of others to freedom do not deserve themselves to be free. Healthy education is one of the fundaments of the human being and a social instrument through which communication and harmony amongst people is achieved and, mainly because of this, when education and culture are infested by radical perceptions, it produces lack of major discrepancies on the level of the entire social structure. An individual carrier of such viruses will only understand culture as Jihad, violence and hatred, with all the negative impact they bring on civilization and communication with other societies. In this frame, we can state that Muslims live exclusively focusing on their own universe, incapable of dialogue not only with other human communities, but also with the “insides” of the community of which they are part of and in which they are grouped in sectarian confessions, hostile one to another and in permanent challenge.
We posed a series of questions which we find suited to reproduce:
1. Why the Arabs and the Muslims left the trajectory of progress, followed by others with no interruption ?
2. What is the defining structure of these people, what makes them different or alike, from and with others ?
3. What is their religious and cultural background and to what extent has it contributed to their progress or downfall ?
4. Is the concept of “pure salafism” the factor which gives them glory and power ?
5. Which alternative is to prefer: turning to account the inherited values or the systematic brake from them ?
6. Do the Arabs and Muslims cross a cultural crisis, or are we looking at an ideological and social crisis of communities governed by totalitarian regimes ?
7. Is the oriental Islamic world capable of conciliation with the democratic world on the level of values and mechanisms, or it remains a culture as itself and for itself , grim in the dialogue with those who do not share its beliefs ?
8. Why is the main feature of the Islamic inheritance a partisan one, warlike, one of violence ? (“the sword is a better advisor than the book”)
9. Does Jihad represent a national and religious orientation, or a political one (Hezbolah, AlQaida, Hamas) ?
10. How can the modern Arabs from Europe disseminate their ideas ? Why haven’t the secularized Muslims managed to make their voices heard , remaining dependent to the despotism of Al Kawakibi, who’s book “Totalitarism” is still popular, just like Machiavelli’s “The Principe” ?

We look to answering all of these questions in the following numbers of our publication.

We shall concentrate, briefly, on the matter of human rights in the Arab – Muslim world. We will observe that man’s natural right comes from his duty to serve God and circumscribes to the strict order of Islamic canonic right(shari`a) which organizes and dominates his life and can not be submitted to critics or interpretations. In Islam, human rights are duties imposed by dogma, which have to be protected and carried to duty by the state, the community and the individual. When the majority of Islamic states are ruled by dictatorial regimes, notions like democracy and human rights becomes instruments of propaganda and sterile slogans. Democracy is absent even on the social level of the family. The man is the absolute master, and the woman has the status of absolute slave, while the children, exposed to this drama, can easily become victims of terrorist ideologies.
On the level of the state, Islamic governors consider their countries as personal tribes, inherited from their fathers, and of which they dispose freely. They are the only ones who can decides the rights and duties and who decide the future of the tribe and society. This is the environment where the terrorist mentality germinates and grows.
We consider that in the Muslim countries governed by the principles of Islamic dogma, human rights are broken in several domains:
Religious freedom: Islam imposes to one who is born in this religion or embraces it, the impossibility of ever switching from it, leaving it; lacking to do so is punished by death;
Women’s rights, which is set at a lower level than the man by Islamic precepts: she can only marry with the approval of her tutor or father; once married her husband becomes her absolute master, and marriage can only be broken by the husband by divorce; the husband has the undisputed right to be polygam. All of these facts and many others explain why a series of states refused to sign some international agreements on women’s rights.
Rights of sexual minorities: total infringement of Islamic law, a possible marriage between two man or women is punished with death.
Jihad as an obligation of fighting against the non Muslims, Today, a strong fundamentalist current is developing in the majority of Islamic states, gaining basically the dimensions of a fixation, an obsession. European states are promoters of respect for peace, the opinion of “the other” and truth, while not few of the Islamistwhich they host just fake the European values and make a mask for themselves out of them, to little preoccupied by the respect for the countries and societies that accept them and host them, giving them social and financial security. Events that took place in Madrid and London speak for themselves.
Uncensored campaigns launched by Islamist environments after the publishing of so called caricatures of the prophet in the media are nothing more than an impulsive manifestation of this extreme mentality which we were discussing.
We dare to believe that an obscure force wishes to attract Islam in an open conflict with the western civilization and we believe that Islamic regimes have the duty of approaching the relationships with the western world more cautiously. Movements and currents in the Islamic world have the duty of recognizing electoral democracy on their territories and moreover, to impose it, in the conditions that the ballot boxes are a complete blasphemy for the radical Islamists; and the sustainers of the idea are spreading like mushrooms in the Muslim world.
Unfortunately, when an Islamic state engages in electoral competition, the role of the CEB is taken by the mosque, like it happened in Algeria or in the free Palestinian territories. A disappointing alternative, because the victory of Islamic factions in ballot boxes has nothing to do with democracy or free will, or peace. An “Islamic” democracy where the women’s right, in the name of democracy, is forbidden in the parliament, in the government , in diplomatic missions, in which the society is split in men and women, Muslims and non Muslims, in first hand and second hand men.

Marie Theresa Colgan Buckno:

How can an unrighteous man with murder on his hands from the abortions he allowed, the death sentences as a Governor he allowed and his inability to tell America the truth on war and his elections possibly make any type of peace deal with ANYONE?


He does not know the bible and will never be effective in any peacemaking or peacekeeping ventures.

Israel has violated all of G-d's commandments and has no right to existence in the first place as the UN (MAN) gave them land that they wandered out of in rebellion back just as to prevent more war which never worked either.

The Jews have not repented and hence do not deserve land. They built this nation on the lives they destroyed of Christian gentiles here.


"the Jewish organizations, which were our power base in America, will be the first to come out against us". It looks like much of mainstream Jewish opinion in America has already deserted the militaristic positions held by Likud, Kadima, AIPAC, and the neocons.

So where is their support coming from? A few major donors? Does Olmert really think that they will abandon Israel, even if it officially becomes an aparteid state?

Daniel, the osteopathic arm-twisting is an interesting image. However, President Bush does not need to make is first visit while in office to the region to do that. After reflecting on this announced visit for the past several days, I still find it hard to imagine how Bush can carry it off, exactly. He cannot think about doing a repeat of Bill Clinton's visit in 1998, when even Gaza was on the itinerary. No doubt, the welcome will be warm in Israel, no matter what chiropracty goes on either publicly or privately. But can Bush even imagine a visit to the West Bank? I have been told that not one but TWO sorties may be planned. Does this mean Bush will be involved in "shuttle diplomacy"? This is mind-boggling. Maybe one of those visits will be just be a sort of pilgrimage to Bethlehem. Still, if Condoleeza Rice has received without public demonstrations (not in favor, nor against), the same is not likely to be the case for Bush. Leaving aside what "Mr. Palestine", as the Economist has now labelled him, may or may not have done regarding Palestine and Palestinians, he is also widely detested by Palestinians for his invasion and occupation of Iraq. Does he think that he will be greeted, as they say, with flowers and sweets? No, I think the population will have to be locked down...

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on December 12, 2007 12:01 AM.

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