Sun, 14 Apr 2013 - 6:00 PM
Fri, 05 Apr 2013 - 7:00 PM
Mon, 11 Mar 2013 - 12:01 AM
Wed, 13 Feb 2013 - 2:00 PM
Bob Carr on why talk is better than war, press release yesterday:
FOREIGN Minister Bob Carr today urged the incoming government of Israel to accord a high priority to the resumption, without preconditions, of direct negotiations with the Palestinian people on a two-state solution.
...Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, November 4 last year:
GENERALLY, I can say if (Abbas) is really serious and intends to advance peace, as far as I am concerned, we can sit together immediately . . .
But what was that about no preconditions? Barak Ravid in Haaretz newspaper, December 27 last year:
ABBAS said . . . he would be willing to renew talks with Netanyahu immediately after the election, but would demand that Israel
- freeze construction in the territories for the duration of the talks,
- renew the transfer of tax proceeds that Israel collects on the PA's behalf, and
- release some 120 Palestinian prisoners who (have been) imprisoned in Israel since before the 1993 Oslo Accords...
So who's setting pre-conditions, Bob? ...are you listening, Bob?
From the State Zionist Council of Victoria, 25 Jan 2013:
On Tuesday, elections for Israel's 19thKnesset took place. Despite polls prior to the election suggesting that it would be an easy win for Israel’s Right, the results were rather surprising with a 60-60 dead-heat between the Right-wing and Centre-Left blocs. However, after the final count, which included the counting of the ballots of soldiers, patients in hospitals, prisoners, and overseas government personnel (among others), the vote managed to swing 61-59 to the Right-wing bloc’s favour (see more).
The voter turn-out was 67.7%, and while that is only 2.5% more than the turnout in 2009, what was compelling was the distribution of votes, which went as follows:
Likud Beiteinu – 31
Yesh Atid – 19
Labor – 15
Habayit Hayehudi – 12
Shas – 11
United Torah Judaism – 7
Meretz – 6
Hatnuah – 6
United Arab List – Ta’al – 4
Hadash – 4
Balad – 3
Kadima – 2
Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu ran on a joint ticket. Prior to the elections held a total of 42 seats and were expected to receive at least 45 seats so while they still received the greatest number of seats this time, the result would have been a minor disappointment to these parties.
On the other side of the spectrum, Yair Lapid, a former journalist who formed the Yesh Atid (There is a Future) party last year, looms as the rising star of the election, winning 19 seats - ahead of a projected 10. The unexpected result puts him in the position of leading the second largest party in the Knesset and makes him an important player in the coming process of coalition building.
Kadima, which won the most amount of mandates in the last election only managed to get two in this election, just scraping over the electoral threshold while its former leader, Tzipi Livni’s party, Hatnuah, managed to win six seats.
A record number of 26 women were voted in to the Knesset, with three of those being leaders of parties (Tzipi Livni, Shelly Yachimovich and Zahava Gal-On of Meretz), but Merav Michaeli, an incoming Labor MK was not impressed, stating, “Wow, what do you say, 26 out of 120? As in, 26 women and 94 men? Israel is 70thout of 138 countries with female representatives in parliament” (see more).
The Knesset also boasts 50 brand new MKs, including Yair Lapid’s entire list, who have not served in the Knesset before.
While it has been reported that the Arab voter turnout was low in these elections, between them the Arab parties garnered 11 seats (initially thought to be 12 until the final votes were included), which is up from the 10 they held in the last Knesset. Please read this pieceabout the curious case of the Arab voter in the Israeli elections. It raises some interesting points as to how Arab representation could be higher. That said, for a country that is daily accused of apartheid, a 10% representation, which does not even include Israeli-Arabs in other parties such as Labor, is still a remarkable achievement.
Ha’aretz has reported on some other election oddities. For example, in one Arab village, the northern town of Umm al-Fahm, while 96% of the vote went to one of the three Arab parties, 19 votes still went to Likud, and as was reported on Channel 2 News in Israel around 105 to Shas! In other Arab town, 109 of 3,000 votes went to Otzma Leyisrael, a party on the far right! And in the Jewish settlement of Sussia, a lone ballot was cast for the United Arab List (see more).
Now that the votes have been cast and the results are in, President Shimon Peres will be formally presented with the results and it will be up to him to select someone who he believes can build the most stable coalition to form the Government. Most likely, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will now have the opportunity to form a coalition and he is said to be talking to many parties. He declared, “I see many partners for my goals… We must form the broadest coalition possible” (see more). He listed his five priorities which was tackling the Iran threat, making responsible economic policies, seeking peace, equalising army and national service for citizens and lowering the cost of living and easing the financial burden of on middle classes (see more).
Netanyahu’s option would be to form a narrow right-wing government with Habayit Hayehudi (12), Shas (11) and United Torah Judaism (7) but this could be problematic, particularly in Israel where an unstable government could mean a swift return to the polls. Another option would be another narrow coalition with Yesh Atid and Habayit Hayehudi but this would only bring him up to 61 seats. In order to govern effectively, he would prefer a larger majority.
If the ultra-Orthodox parties joined, it could be a broader option, however it remains to be seen whether Yair Lapid would sit in a coalition with them, having run on a platform in direct opposition to the Haredi parties (see more hereandhere).
There is also the possibility that Tzipi Livni’s Hatnuah and Kadima would join the coalition, however Tzipi Livni ran on a platform of making peace with the Palestinians while Naftali Bennett, leader of Habayit Hayehudi, believes that the establishment of a Palestinian state would be “a catastrophe” (see more). Finding a way to appease all coalition partners is going to be a difficult task for Netanyahu.
In the meantime, Shelly Yachimovich, leader of the Labor party, reached out to Yair Lapid to help form a centre-left coalition. She stated that she would like to “take advantage of the political possibility opened yesterday to form a coalition of moderate, social, peace advocate and centrist forces without Benjamin Netanyahu as PM. I intend to put a great deal of effort into it” (see more). The centre-left bloc would include Yesh Atid, Labor, Hatnuah, Meretz, Kadima and the three Arab parties, but would still need to bring in more mandates to form a coalition. Even from the outset, it would seem highly unlikely, for example, that the ultra-Orthodox parties would sit in a coalition with the Arab parties.
In any event, Yair Lapid has quashed any rumours that he was looking to form a government without Netanyahu, declaring “I’ve been hearing talk about forming an obstructive bloc, so let’s clear that up right now – there will be no obstructive bloc… We will not team with (Balad MK) Zoabi to form an obstructive bloc – that is just not going to happen. The results of the election are clear and we have to work accordingly” (see more). We reported late last yearon Zoabi’s anti-Zionist sentiment, so it comes as no surprise that politicians would not want to sit in a coalition with her!
Furthermore, PM Netanyahu and Yachimovich have now been in contact, and Yachimovich has informed Netanyahu that due to “unbridgeable ideological and political gaps”, she will not be joining the coalition and will take her place on the Opposition (see more).
Our local papers have reported on the election rather fairly (for just a few examples from yesterday’s press click here, hereand here). Nevertheless, Honest Reportingnotes that many media outlets around the world seemed to form an obsession with the Israeli elections, painting it is a forgone conclusion that the Right would win by an overwhelming majority, putting a nail in the coffin of the peace process and moving Israel to an extreme place of no return. The media was working off polls, but at the same time, they were ignoring a key shift within the Centre and Left-wing movements. The way that the election actually turned out provided a difficulty for such media organisations, which seemed to then ignore the shift to the centre, and continued to focus on the “hard line” elements (see more).
With so much at stake and so many parties vying for a spot in the coalition, we will be watching to see what the next few weeks hold. Please join us for a free community post-election forum on 30 January 2013 at Beth Weizmann Community Centre, Caulfield South at 7:45pm.
For those outside of Melbourne, please register to watch the webinar by emailing email@example.com. The event will feature a live hook-up via the web with well-known Israeli journalist Ehud Ya’ari and Or Avi-Guy, an AIJAC policy analyst, who will join us in the auditorium. This is an event not to be missed! Contact Josh on 9272 5618 for more information.
Media and Advocacy Director
Zionist Federation of Australia
(03) 9272 5507
After US Jews scrapped a Jewish-Christian roundtable over an anti-Israel letter to Congress, visiting Protestant minister bemoans ‘Goliath’ of religious anti-Semitism
‘The problem isn’t political, the problem isn’t sociological, the problem isn’t about lack of education or lack of dialogue. The problem is a spiritual one’
From The Australian, 21 January 2013, by Gideon Haigh:
My friend Luke Foley recently made a pilgrimage to Plot D50 in the eucalypt-fringed cemetery at Beersheba: the grave of Albert ‘Tibby’ Cotter, the only Australian Test cricketer to be killed in action during the Great War, in October 1917. Cotter was a member of Australia’s prestigious 12th Light Horse, although not a glorious cavalryman. Ironically for a cricketer, his eyesight was too poor to justify his bearing a weapon; he was instead a stretcher bearer. Nor did he fall in the storied charge. The authors of an excellent recent monograph, Max Bonnell and Andrew Sproul, present a persuasive case that he was the victim of ‘perfidy’: shot by a Turk purporting to surrender. Whatever the case, he died of wounds in the same month as his older brother was blown to atoms on the Western Front.
Tibby Cotter: Fast Bowler, Larrikin, Anzac gives us as much information as we are ever likely to get about this legendary figure, including the argument that he was Test cricket’s ‘first modern fast bowler’. They quibble a little harshly, I think, in disputing that Cotter’s low slinging action was an anticipation of Jeff Thomson’s mighty javelin throw: ‘Probably it is fair to say that Thomson demonstrated how devastating a bowler Cotter might have been if he had remedied the basic flaws in his action.’ After all, Lasith Malinga’s round-arm sling and skiddy bouncer have proven more than handful for Australia in the Commonwealth Bank Series. But they are right to present Cotter as an Australian original: ‘He was the first to bowl to a full slips cordon, the first to rely on the hands of the slips and wicketkeeper for a high proportion of his wickets, and the first to use the bouncer frequently as an intimidatory weapon. He was an unlikely pioneer, who never really understood that the path he was treading was a fresh one. But, simply by doing what came naturally to him, he changed forever the way Test cricket was played.’
The ‘larrikin’ part of the title of Tibby Cotter appears to have been well-earned. Cotter pleaded guilty to a charge of assaulting a policeman after hours in a game against England in December 1907; empirical and circumstantial evidence suggests that he knocked up a pretty barmaid on the 1909 Ashes tour; he was ‘young and fast and pretty’, to quote Ali, and ‘never going to make old bones’, to quote my grandmother. When his young bones were interred, an eyewitness reported: ‘Dust and terrible wind the next morning…The men on the lines were very busy and short-handed burying horses and cleaning up the mess. A party volunteered to dig graves in a plantation of Australian red gum saplings on the outskirts of Beersheba….I then went on to the funeral. There was a large gathering of troopers from regiments of the brigade and a firing party. About thirty men were buried with one service for them all. Very impressive. Everyone was deeply moved when the firing party shots rang out and a trumpeter played the Last Post. It was a sight I shall never forget.’ Nearly a century later, Luke attests, the sight still is.
Bob Carr should note this*
1. Upon Israel’s taking control of the area in 1967, the 1907 Hague Rules on Land Warfare and the Fourth Geneva Convention (1949) were not considered applicable to the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) territory, as the Kingdom of Jordan, prior to 1967, was never the prior legal sovereign, and in any event has since renounced any claim to sovereign rights via a vis the territory.
2. Israel, as administering power pending a negotiated final determination as to the fate of the territory, nevertheless chose to implement the humanitarian provisions of the Geneva convention and other norms of international humanitarian law in order to ensure the basic day-to-day rights of the local population as well as Israel’s own rights to protect its forces and to utilize those parts of land that were not under local private ownership.
3. Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, prohibiting the mass transfer of population into occupied territory as practiced by Germany during the second world war, was neither relevant nor was ever intended to apply to Israelis choosing to reside in Judea and Samaria.
4. Accordingly, claims by the UN, European capitals, organizations and individuals that Israeli settlement activity is in violation of international law therefore have no legal basis whatsoever.
5. Similarly, the oft-used term “occupied Palestinian territories” is totally inaccurate and false. The territories are neither occupied nor Palestinian. No legal instrument has ever determined that the Palestinians have sovereignty or that the territories belong to them
6. The territories of Judea and Samaria remain in dispute between Israel and the Palestinians, subject only to the outcome of permanent status negotiations between them.
7. The legality of the presence of Israel’s communities in the area stems from the historic, indigenous and legal rights of the Jewish people to settle in the area, granted pursuant to valid and binding international legal instruments recognized and accepted by the international community. These rights cannot be denied or placed in question.
8. The Palestinian leadership, in the still valid 1995 Interim Agreement (Oslo 2), agreed to, and accepted Israel’s continued presence in Judea and Samaria pending the outcome of the permanent status negotiations, without any restriction on either side regarding planning, zoning or construction of homes and communities. Hence, claims that Israel’s presence in the area is illegal have no basis.
9. The Palestinian leadership undertook in the Oslo Accords, to settle all outstanding issues, including borders, settlements, security, Jerusalem and refugees, by negotiation only and not through unilateral measures. The Palestinian call for a freeze on settlement activity as a precondition for returning to negotiation is a violation of the agreements.
10. Any attempt, through the UN or otherwise, to unilaterally change the status of the territory would violate Palestinian commitments set out in the Oslo Accords and prejudice the integrity and continued validity of the various agreements with Israel, thereby opening up the situation to possible reciprocal unilateral action by Israel.
*Bob Carr should also note that important international law experts who have shared similar views to those enunciated by Baker include former International Court of Justice President Judge Stephen M. Schwebel, the great British international law specialist Sir Elihu Lauterpacht CBE QC, and Australia’s own most renowned academic expert on international law, the late Professor Julius Stone.
It is all very well for Foreign Minister Bob Carr and his British counterpart, William Hague, to demand action by the US to restart the Middle East peace process and condemn Israel over its settlements policy. But in their grandstanding, they forget that whatever influence they might have previously had in Washington and Jerusalem was undermined when both their governments took the abstention route in the UN General Assembly's vote on Palestinian representation. Senator Carr's advocacy of this option overturned Julia Gillard's better judgment. It has annoyed the Obama administration and weakened the bipartisan support for Israel that has long been central to Australian foreign policy.
The short-sighted UN vote has hardened Israel's stance on settlements, just as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned it would. That is likely to be demonstrated in the Israeli election, with voting tomorrow expected to produce an even more hawkish and pro-settler government led by Mr Netanyahu, and a big swing to the ultra-nationalist, pro-settler Jewish Home party of Naftali Bennett, who has pledged never to evict Jews from the West Bank. With the political tide running so strongly, and mounting fears about conflict over Iran, Mr Netanyahu is protecting his base when he says "the days of bulldozers flattening settlements are behind us, not in front of us". So Senator Carr and Mr Hague sermonise about settlements being illegal (a contentious view), blaming them for undermining hopes of a negotiated two-state solution, yet they say nothing on the unwillingness of Palestinians to negotiate without preconditions, or the determination of groups such as Hamas to destroy Israel. Since the 1993 Oslo Peace Accords, Israel has repeatedly offered unconditional negotiations. Mr Netanyahu did so again only a few days ago, saying "if (Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud) Abbas is willing to negotiate without preconditions, he will find me at the table". Barack Obama has been largely AWOL on restarting talks, but it is simplistic to blame Israel. Expanding settlements does not help, but they are not the cause of the conflict -- the central issue remains the stubborn rejection of negotiations by the Palestinians, and the refusal of groups such as Hamas to even accept Israel's right to exist. Predictably, the UN vote did nothing to make the Palestinians see sense.
AUSTRALIA and Britain have issued an urgent plea to US President Barack Obama to kickstart the Middle-East peace process, condemning the expanding Israeli settlements in the occupied territories as "illegal" under international law.
The strongly worded surprise declaration, released after the Australia-Britain ministerial talks in Perth yesterday, reflects a belief that time is running out for a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians without dramatic intervention from the Obama administration.
...It said neither the Israeli government nor the Palestinian Authority should create obstacles to serious discussions.
"We call on Israel to stop settlement activity. All settlements are illegal under international law and settlement activity undermines the prospects for peace. Australia and Britain expressed particular concern regarding the recent settlement announcements of the Israel government, including the proposed (E1) development."
Senator Carr said the description of Israeli settlements as illegal ...was based on the Geneva Convention, which bans occupying powers from settling people on conquered territory.
"We say all settlements are illegal under international law," Senator Carr said...
When asked whether the Prime Minister supported her Foreign Minister's stance on settlements, a spokesman for Ms Gillard said:
"The government's position is reflected in the communique."
...Labor MP Michael Danby said Australian government policy - in contrast to the British Conservatives - was for all parties to resume face to face negotiations "without preconditions".
"If Senator Carr has changed Australian government policy the rest of us don't know about it."
Australia-Israel & Jewish Affairs Council executive director Colin Rubenstein said he did not agree with the comments made about Israeli settlements but welcomed the call for Palestinians to return to the negotiating table.
"Their claims of the illegality of settlements are dubious and have been disputed, not only by Israel but by some of the world's top lawyers," he said.
...Zionist Federation of Australia president Philip Chester said the language of the communique was worrying.
*Additional reporting: Milanda Rout
Ehud Yaari addressed an Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council(AIJAC) luncheon in Melbourne on Monday 14 January 2013 on the topic of "Israel and the Middle East" touching on the following issues:
Australia and Israel, including Woodside's successful bid for developing Israel's gas reserves (begins 02:20)
Israel's Elections on Jan. 22, 2013 (begins 05:15)
Egypt and challenges for the region (begins 08:48)
Syria (begins 16:59)
Israel, the Palestinians and the Two State outcome (begins 18:53)
Iran's march towards nuclear weapons capability and American and Israeli strategy (begins 22:16)
An expert on the Middle East for almost 40 years, Yaari is an award wining political commentator for Israel's Channel 2 news. He is also an associate editor of The Jerusalem Report and the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, and the Lafer international fellow of The Washington Institute. His published work has appeared in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Foreign Affairs, and Atlantic Monthly.
Hurriyet Daily News writer Burak Bekdil is not shy about expressing his beliefs, despite the fact that he is living presently in Ankara, Turkey under AKP rule. At times, his outspokenness has gotten him into trouble, since he received an 18-month suspended sentence for insulting the Turkish judiciary in 2002. However, this has not deterred him. Bekdil is known as a frequent critique of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and despite it being unpopular in Turkey, has defended Israel on a number of occasions in his writings as well.
In one article titled “Nazi teen and the occupation of Jerusalem,” Bekdil went as far as arguing “a counter occupation is no occupation at all.” He claimed, “Now, dear Islamists, I have a “witness” whom I guess you could hardly refute. Forget my words and listen to what Turkey’s top Muslim cleric, Professor Mehmet Görmez, had to say: ...
“After the Prophet Omar conquered al-Quds he was invited to pray at a church (since there were no mosques in Jerusalem). But he politely refused because he was worried that the (conquering) Muslims could turn the church into a mosque after he prayed there.””
Bekdil continued, “Now, read that line once again, or a thousand times if you wish to: “After the Prophet Omar conquered al-Quds…” And think about why there were no mosques in Jerusalem at the time of the conquest. Still no clue? Allow me to explain:
Because Jerusalem was not a Muslim city.
And now you claim it back because it is under “Jewish occupation!” The refusal to pray at the church was very noble of the Prophet Omar. I personally do not expect you, dear Islamists, to behave as virtuously and gallantly as the prophet, but at least you can do something easier: Stop fighting for a city that belonged to other faiths before your ancestors conquered it.”
In another article, titled “Is Hamas real or a bad joke,” Bekdil wrote, “I am not sure if Hamas is unhappy or happy with Israel’s use of “disproportional force” each time the jihadists escalate indiscriminate rocket attacks against Jewish targets. I am not sure if we poor souls can ever understand the jihadists when they say “they love death more than we love life.” Hamas’ rhetoric stinks of death, nothing but death – indiscriminate death. Be it “our” death or “the enemy’s.” And it never metamorphoses into something more humane, something less nihilist.”
Bekdil also wrote a three part series of articles speaking about why he believes that Golda Meir was correct in stating that there will not be peace between the Muslim world and Israelis until the Arabs learn to love their own children more than they hate the Jewish people. He asserted that one million Muslims were killed during the Iran-Iraq War, 300,000 Muslim minorities were killed by Sadamn Hussein, 80,000 Iranians perished during the Iranian Revolution, 25,000 Muslim Palestinians were killed by the Jordanian Monarchy during Black September, and 20,000 Islamists were killed by the elder Assad in Hama.
...over 11 million Muslims have been killed since 1948 and over 90 percent of them were killed by fellow Muslims.
Bekdil furthermore criticized Erdogan for falsely claiming that Israel knows how to kill, even though Arab deaths in the Israeli-Arab conflict since 1948 only make up 0.05 percent of all deaths in all conflicts or 0.4 percent of all Arab deaths by conflict generally since 1948. He also is disturbed that Erdogan ignores the fact that the majority of Muslims that have been killed since 1948 were killed by fellow Muslims. Bekdil wrote: “Someone else could have simply asked: I am addressing Turkey’s good Muslim rulers: I do not know if you are worthy of being called good Muslims. Have you said a single thing about what happened in Sudan? […] Which religion is the perpetrator of never-ending murders in the Middle East and North Africa (including Syria)? Why do Muslims kill other Muslims en masse, then turn around and tell the entire world that ‘Muslims don’t kill?’” He sarcastically asked, “Who really knows better how to kill?”