Monday, March 31, 2014

Politics – March 2014

Support is sought to facilitate the work of the Middle East Study Group. Information at

I also welcome promoting the two-state solution. See

Honesty is a very expensive gift. Don’t expect it from cheap people.

      ~Warren Buffett

When I have a conversation with Bibi, that’s the essence of my conversation: If not now, when? And if not you, Mr. Prime Minister, then who? How does this get resolved?

      ~ Barack Obama

You cannot be serious about peace if you continue playing the blame game.
Peace is not about one side winning and the other losing. It is about compromise and sharing.

Peace constitutes a win-win situation for both parties.

I wish Abu Mazen recognizes Israel as the Jewish state. And then what would Netanyahu say on the small matters of borders, settlements, Jerusalem and refugees? What will he give in return?

      ~Raphael Cohen-Almagor

The world has been watching the events in Crimea. Putin’s Russia has aspirations beyond its geographic boundaries. The world lacks effective police power to restrain such aggression. The world includes Beijing. Sooner or later, there will be a pretext for Chinese expansion over nearby territory/ies. There will be outcry. There will be threats. There will be sanctions. Nothing that China cannot handle. Unless the leader of the free world will do something now. The appropriate starting point is the UN. After all, this is why the UN was established. The world must have an effective mechanisms to restrain expansionist aspirations of all powers, great and smaller. It is simply a must for maintain world peace and security.
In Israel, exchange of fire yet again between Palestinian militants and the IDF. The border is warm. With the changes in Cairo, Egypt is no longer a credible mediator between Israel and Hamas. There is a vacuum to fill.

And Minister of Defence Yaalon is becoming a serial apologetic. In Hebrew we say: Syag lechochma – shtika (wisdom dictates silence). It is better to think of the consequences of words prior uttering them, if you do not wish to continue being a serial apologetic.

Reflections on February Newsletter Exchange with Tim Friedman
Obama-Netanyahu Meeting
Obama-Abbas Meeting
President Obama on the Peace Process
Netanyahu at AIPAC
AIPAC and J Street
David Cameron in the Knesset
Settlements, More Settlements
2013 Human Rights Report Israel/Palestine
Poll: Three quarters of Israeli Jews would accept peace deal
Sari Revkin Was Awarded the “Women Change-Maker” Prize
Bombing the Syrian Nuclear Plant
Capital Punishment Worldwide
Visit to Antwerp
Book Review of Amos N. Guiora, “Legitimate Target”
New Books
My Mom and Dad
Monthly Poems 

Light Side

Reflections on February Newsletter

Bob O
wrote from Sydney:

Dear Rafi,

Many thanks for your Politics piece! Sally and I had a good laugh over your Light Side - what a marvellous series of notices!

But the section on the Holocaust brings us back to earth. That was a very poignant description of your family circle watching the television when you were only eleven years old. And it is great that you did all that research in the following seven years. There is just so much that is very complicated that has to be unravelled in tracing the development of anti-Semitism.

You mention anti-Semitism in Germany. Accepting that there are some 20% of Germans who are latent anti Semites, I have found that the situation is worse in Austria than in Germany. I have not been able to do any thorough surveys of course but  I have found the virulence of anti-Semitic remarks by Austrians, especially in Vienna, to be worse than anything I have encountered in Germany.

Best wishes for your peace research book. You are so right in emphasising the primary importance of a two-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian problem. It will take a long time to achieve but there has to be eventually a friendly relationship between Israel and Palestine - and both can be of real help to each other. But it is not going very well at the moment and both governments and public opinion need encouragement and also thought on what might happen if there is no two-state solution.

All the best to you and your family. 


Dr Marvin Feuer wrote from Washington:

Hi Rafi –

Not a big deal, but if you look back at earlier State of the Union addresses I think you will find that they provide similar or less treatment of the peace process than this address by President Obama.

Hope you are well.


Thanks, Marvin.

You may be right. I did not check all his Union addresses. Can be an interesting thing to do. Certainly there is a change between what he said this year about Israel and Palestine to what he said in 2012. Then, there was no reference to Palestine, and his reference to Israel was:

Our ironclad commitment -- and I mean ironclad -- to Israel’s security has meant the closest military cooperation between our two countries in history.

Best wishes


Exchange with Tim Friedman

Tim Friedman wrote from Leeds:

Hi Rafi

Thanks for your Newsletter, interesting and informative as usual !

I am presently staying with a friend with whom I have many discussions about the Middle East over many years! He has been critical of the failure of the Israel governments to move towards peace and I have been trying to explain how difficult it is for Israel to negotiate with her neighbours in any meaningful way.

On my arrival, he confronted me with two books he had purchased, suggesting he understood some of the practicalities rather better - "Why we want to kill you" by Walid Shoebat and "Islam and the Jews " by Mark A Gabriel. Each author started life as a Muslim hating Jews and therefore Israel and each became an active Jihadist but each is now Christian and has explained his original and his current views on Islam and on Jews/Israel in their books

Each says that Islamists do not want peace with Israel at any price; that this applies even to most "moderates"; that all undertakings of peaceful coexistence were in the early part of the Koran (the Mecca section) and were superseded by the later part (the Medina section) actually advocating Jihad which they explain as warfare with the non Muslims

As Zionists who want to live peacefully side by side with our neighbours, how should we react, and how do you personally react to such messages ? Further, if we can take such testimony as having even some validity, how can and should we expect the international community to factor in the underlying and fundamental refusal to regard any Israel claims as legitimate ?

Would not it make the peace process more likely to succeed if the inbuilt hostility of Muslims towards non Muslims - if such it is - were understood and addressed by the international community, the European section of which was the subject of another book my host provided on my last visit about the profound inroads into society the active Islamists are making entitled "Whilst Europe slept"

Tim Friedman

Hi Tim

Thank you for your letter.

Israel signed peace treaties with two Arab countries, Egypt and Jordan. It is possible to overcome prejudice and hatred. I do not believe in monolithic characterization of people, of nations, of religions. I think portraying all Muslims, and Islam, as radical fundamentalists who are religiously engineered to hate Jews and Israel is factually wrong. Fortunately, human nature is far more complex.

Governments act according to interests, not according to sentiments. I believe that peace with the Palestinians is possible. For such a momentous achievement of resolving a deep, entrenched conflict, three things are essential:

  • An Israeli leader who is committed to bring peace to his people and is willing to pay the necessary price;
  • A Palestinian leader who is committed to bring peace to his people and is willing to pay the necessary price;
  • Shared belief by both leaders that the time is ripe for peace. By “time is ripe” it is meant that both leaders believe that enough blood was shed, that they need to seize the moment because things might worsened for their people, and that they have the ability to lead their respective people to accept the peace agreement and change reality for the better.
There are no angles in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Both sides have made many mistakes. Both sides have valid and just claims. Both sides have been locked into a vicious cycle of violence. There is too much bad blood on both sides. Trust is scarce on both sides. We are still on the learning curve, knowing and understanding each other.

You know, Tim, that what you think of them they think of us. The statement that I hear from both Israelis and Palestinians are almost identical. “They are the enemy”. “They understand only force”. “They do not want peace”. “They want our land”. “They want to destroy us”. “They do not understand us”. “They do not appreciate our culture”. “They are evil”. “They are not to be trusted”, etc.

We must give peace a chance, otherwise we are doomed to live in unending cycle of violence. I know that you care greatly for the future of Israel. So am I. Peace is the key for Israel’s security and its survival in the Middle East.

You ask me how I personally react to hate messages. My name is Almagor. I was not born Almagor. I added this name to my original surname, Cohen, when I got married. Almagor in Hebrew means No Fear. I believe fear is a bad guide for action. I believe in peace.

Israel is by far the stronger side compared to the Palestinians. If peace won’t work, Israel can reconsider its position and act accordingly. There is nothing to be afraid of. Peace is a win-win situation for both Israelis and Palestinians. Without peace, Israeli democracy will not be sustained. I agree with President Obama, below.

Best wishes, Shabbat Shalom


Thanks, Rafi

I think that the matter we are discussing is of the greatest possible importance as a successful conclusion would greatly assist the Middle East peace process.

There is much in your response with which no-one of goodwill could disagree but first I am concerned with its practicality and then I fear there is one crucial element which you have not mentioned.

Accepting that hatred of Jews is not a totally unchangeable concept , as you suggest,  the fact remains that Muslims are brought up with this belief as a basis of how to deal with Jews and other non-Muslims, which is set out in the Koran, their holiest of books. A fundamental religious tenet cannot easily be sidelined or compromised, particularly for observant believers but essentially for all. Further, whilst we can argue the percentages, it is clear that many, probably most, Muslims support many of the extremists' aims passively, if not actively.

I just do not believe that Jews feel about Muslims in a similar, hateful way. For most Jews, I think that there would be nothing they would like better than to have normal, friendly relations with their Muslim counterparts.

Whilst strongly in support of trying to change existing negative attitudes, I am very disappointed to admit that I cannot see how it could happen in practice. The only chink of light would be if the rest of the world sought to persuade the Muslim leaders that antisemitic - and anti-Christian - attitudes were unacceptable. All that the world has done to date, with a few notable exceptions, has suggested that there is little chance of that !

There is a repeated backing off by Western governments instead of full-blown criticism of all extremist behaviour and views - even where fellow religionists have been brutally treated and in some cases murdered. What, then, do you see as the catalyst that would cause the moderates to convince the rest that a basic part of the Koran - and the ill-treatment of non-Muslims is such a part - should be shelved? The moderate Muslims that I meet (and I have had extended discussions with a number) are not the voices which prevail - and indeed, they have to be very careful about what they say in public should it vary in any way from the extremist agenda.
Tim Friedman

Obama-Netanyahu Meeting

On March 3, 2014, Prime Minister Netanyahu met President Obama in the Oval Office. Obama praised Netanyahu for participating in “very lengthy, painstaking negotiations” over the course of eight months, and recognized that Israel would not accept a peace accord that failed to recognize its strategic security needs.

“It’s my belief that ultimately it is still possible to create two states, a Jewish state of Israel and a state of Palestine in which people are living side by side in peace and security. But it’s difficult and it requires compromise on all sides. And I just want to publicly again commend the prime minister for the seriousness with which he’s taken these discussions,” said Obama.

“The time frame that we have set up for completing these negotiations is coming near and some tough decisions are going to have to be made. But I know that, regardless of the outcome, the prime minister will make those decisions based on his absolute commitment to Israel’s security and his recognition that ultimately Israel’s security will be enhanced by peace with his neighbors.”

According to the NY Times, Obama pressed Netanyahu to accept the Kerry framework, which would set out general terms on issues like Israel’s security and the borders of a future Palestinian state, and allow the eight-month-old negotiations to be extended. Obama tried to convince Netanyahu that the framework agreement requires concessions from both sides, and that it has enough in it for Israel to support it.


Obama-Abbas Meeting

On March 17 President Obama met with President Mahmoud Abbas. Obama exerted pressure on the Palestinian president to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. Abbas has flatly refused, saying: “Since 1988, we have recognized international legitimacy resolutions” on Israel, “And in 1993, we recognized the State of Israel.” But Prime Minister Netanyahu continues to insist that the Palestinians go further and recognize Israel as a nation-state for the Jewish people in order to get a peace deal.

The frustration of months of fruitless talks has begun to show in Mr. Kerry. He said, quite rightly: “I think it’s a mistake for some people to be raising it again and again as the critical decider of their attitude toward the possibility of a state and peace”.

Israel IS a Jewish state. Its raison d'ĂȘtre being a home for the Jewish people, the only home for the Jewish people in the whole world. The fact that it is a Jewish state does not mean that it is only a place for Jews. Israel is a multicultural democracy. Twenty percent of its population is comprised of minorities. President Abbas can ask for clarifications and strive to get the right wording that would compromise between his concerns and Israel’s concerns. But to flatly refuse is simply not prudent. This issue can be a bargaining chip in order to receive something, more tangible, from Israel on issues such as borders and settlements.


President Obama on the Peace Process

On March 2, President Obama granted a candid interview to Jeffrey Goldberg in which he explained his view on the peace process. Let me summarize the main points.

Obama thinks that it is in the interest of the Israelis and the Palestinians, but also in the interest of the United States and the world, to arrive at a framework for negotiations that can actually bring about a two-state solution that provides Israel the security it needs -- peace with its neighbors -- at a time when the neighborhood has gotten more volatile, and gives Palestinians the dignity of a state.

He said the negotiations are difficult, and he voiced appreciation to both Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas for taking them very seriously. “There have been very intense, detailed and difficult conversations on both sides”. Obama maintained that in the next “couple of months” the parties will have to make some decisions about how they move forward.

On Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen):

President Obama explained that Israel should close a deal with Abu Mazen (Abbas), as we do not know who is successor will be. This is what Obama thinks of the Palestinian president:

“Abbas is getting older, and I think nobody would dispute that whatever disagreements you may have with him, he has proven himself to be somebody who has been committed to nonviolence and diplomatic efforts to resolve this issue”.

Obama maintained: “I believe that President Abbas is sincere about his willingness to recognize Israel and its right to exist, to recognize Israel’s legitimate security needs, to shun violence, to resolve these issues in a diplomatic fashion that meets the concerns of the people of Israel. And I think that this is a rare quality not just within the Palestinian territories, but in the Middle East generally. For us not to seize that opportunity would be a mistake”.

On Benjamin Netanyahu:

President Obama was asked about his opinion of the Israeli prime minister. This is what he had to say:

“What is absolutely true is Prime Minister Netanyahu is smart. He is tough. He is a great communicator. He is obviously a very skilled politician. And I take him at his word when he says that he sees the necessity of resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I think he genuinely believes that”.

Later in the interview, President Obama said he believes “that Bibi is strong enough that if he decided this was the right thing to do for Israel, that he could do it. If he does not believe that a peace deal with the Palestinians is the right thing to do for Israel, then he needs to articulate an alternative approach. And as I said before, it’s hard to come up with one that’s plausible”.

President Obama voiced his sympathy for the Israeli predicament but the situation will not improve or resolve itself. This is not a situation where you wait and the problem simply disappears. “There are going to be more Palestinians, not fewer Palestinians, as time goes on. There are going to be more Arab-Israelis, not fewer Arab-Israelis, as time goes on”.

“And for Bibi to seize the moment in a way that perhaps only he can, precisely because of the political tradition that he comes out of and the credibility he has with the right inside of Israel, for him to seize this moment is perhaps the greatest gift he could give to future generations of Israelis. But it’s hard. And as somebody who occupies a fairly tough job himself, I’m always sympathetic to somebody else’s politics”.

On the need for a two-state solution:

And then President Obama said the most important thing which, for me, is the crux of the matter. In a few sentences, President Obama summarized the absolute need for a two-state solution, and the present Israeli government stance on the situation. I have heard such frustrating statements myself from many Israeli politicians. I do not wish such future for any kids.

President Obama said:
“I have not yet heard, however, a persuasive vision of how Israel survives as a democracy and a Jewish state at peace with its neighbors in the absence of a peace deal with the Palestinians and a two-state solution. Nobody has presented me a credible scenario.

The only thing that I’ve heard is, "We’ll just keep on doing what we’re doing, and deal with problems as they arise. And we'll build settlements where we can. And where there are problems in the West Bank, we will deal with them forcefully. We’ll cooperate or co-opt the Palestinian Authority." And yet, at no point do you ever see an actual resolution to the problem”.

Enduring vicious and repeated cycles of violence is not a promising prospect for any people.

If not?

President Obama acknowledged that peace requires tough decisions, but leaving the situation as is, and simply endure, would entail no less tough decision for the future of Israel as a democracy, appreciated and liked in the West, and for its ability to sustain itself internally and externally. “My assessment”, President Obama said, “is there comes a point where you can’t manage this anymore, and then you start having to make very difficult choices. Do you resign yourself to what amounts to a permanent occupation of the West Bank? Is that the character of Israel as a state for a long period of time? Do you perpetuate, over the course of a decade or two decades, more and more restrictive policies in terms of Palestinian movement? Do you place restrictions on Arab-Israelis in ways that run counter to Israel’s traditions?”

President Obama spoke of the growing Israeli isolation as a result of its policies. He explicitly commended President Abbas while he voiced no parallel positive adjectives for Netanyahu. Read carefully:

“We don’t know exactly what would happen. What we know is that it gets harder by the day. What we also know is that Israel has become more isolated internationally. We had to stand up in the Security Council in ways that 20 years ago would have involved far more European support, far more support from other parts of the world when it comes to Israel’s position. And that’s a reflection of a genuine sense on the part of a lot of countries out there that this issue continues to fester, is not getting resolved, and that nobody is willing to take the leap to bring it to closure.

In that kind of environment, where you’ve got a partner on the other side who is prepared to negotiate seriously, who does not engage in some of the wild rhetoric that so often you see in the Arab world when it comes to Israel, who has shown himself committed to maintaining order within the West Bank and the Palestinian Authority and to cooperate with Israelis around their security concerns -- for us to not seize this moment I think would be a great mistake. I’ve said directly to Prime Minister Netanyahu he has an opportunity to solidify, to lock in, a democratic, Jewish state of Israel that is at peace with its neighbors”.

President Obama observed that Hamas would be greatly damaged by the prospect of real peace. And the key question, the legitimate question for Israel, would be making sure that their core security needs are still met as a framework for negotiations led to an actual peace deal.

President Obama said that one of the major issues Kerry has tried to tackle is Israel’s security, making sure that the prospect of peace, with the sacrifices it entails, will not damage Israel’s security. He explained that John Kerry has consulted General John Allen, the former commander in Afghanistan, and they have devised a plan “for how you would deal with the Jordan Valley, how you would deal with potential threats to Israel that are unprecedented in detail, unprecedented in scope. And as long as those security needs were met, then testing Abbas ends up being the right thing to do”.

While voicing US “rock-solid” commitment to Israel’s security, President Obama maintained that “if you see no peace deal and continued aggressive settlement construction -- and we have seen more aggressive settlement construction over the last couple years than we’ve seen in a very long time -- if Palestinians come to believe that the possibility of a contiguous sovereign Palestinian state is no longer within reach, then our ability to manage the international fallout is going to be limited”. And that has consequences.

President Obama explained that “in today’s world, where power is much more diffuse, where the threats that any state or peoples face can come from non-state actors and asymmetrical threats, and where international cooperation is needed in order to deal with those threats, the absence of international goodwill makes you less safe. The condemnation of the international community can translate into a lack of cooperation when it comes to key security interests. It means reduced influence for us, the United States, in issues that are of interest to Israel. It’s survivable, but it is not preferable”.

The warnings are on the wall.

Source: Jeffrey Goldberg, “Obama to Israel -- Time Is Running Out”, BloombergView (March 2, 2014),

See also NY Times


Netanyahu at AIPAC

I have good memories from my AIPAC conference in 2008. It is a nice feeling to be surrounded with people who love and care for Israel, who wish Israel only good and who stand by it. Understandably, Israeli leaders love to come to AIPAC and to be embraced by the unequivocal warmth and love for the country. I presume Prime Minister Netanyahu feels more at ease among the AIPAC supporters than in the Oval Office.

Prime Minister Netanyahu emphasized three issues in his speech. First, he called upon President Abbas to recognize the Jewish state. “Recognize it. No excuses. No delays. It’s time,” he told the audience. “The Palestinians need to stop denying history.”

I wish Abbas will recognize Israel as what it is. It is as easy as to recognize that a horse is a horse, a tractor a tractor, and Ireland is the country of the Irish people. Then it will be possible to move on to tackle other issues: Jerusalem, refugees, borders, settlements. Some may argue that these issues are no less difficult than the recognition of Israel as a Jewish state.

Netanyahu speaking at AIPAC 2014 Photo: screenshot

Netanyahu spent the bulk of his speech addressing the Iranian threat, especially in relation to the crisis in Syria. “Iran continues to stand unabashedly on the wrong side of the moral divide,” Netanyahu said. He reiterated his call for America to keep the economic pressure on with sanctions until Iran dismantles its nuclear program.

Iran has been the prime concern of a number of AIPAC conferences now. Iran causes many sleepless nights in many homes in Israel and abroad. Israel should take the Iranian threat very seriously. We should always listen to, and believe our enemies. Nuclear Iran is a threat not only to Israel, but to world peace and security.

Finally, Netanyahu bashed the anti-Israel boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, saying it stood with Iran on the “wrong side of the moral divide,” and that “in this knowledge-based century, Israel’s best economic days are ahead of it.

“Those who wear the BDS label should be treated exactly as we treat any other anti-Semite and bigot,” he said, receiving a standing ovation. “BDS is bad for peace and it is just plain wrong. It is morally wrong.”


AIPAC and J Street

Parents love their children and want the best for them; but they may have different philosophies regarding their education. Mother might be tough, unyielding and unforgiving. Father might be soft, caring and believe in unconditional love, or vice versa. But both parents love their children dearly and want only the best for them. This is how I see AIPAC and J Street. Both care passionately for Israel. Both want Israel's best interest. But they have different philosophies as to how to achieve those best interests. Both organizations are doing great things for Israel. Both should be thanked and appreciated. I certainly am most appreciative.

David Cameron in the Knesset

On Wednesday March 12, 2014 Prime Minister David Cameron addressed the Knesset. Speaking with great warmth to the Israeli legislature, Cameron said: “My Jewish ancestry is relatively limited but I do feel just some sense of connection. From the lexicon of my great, great grandfather Emile Levita, a Jewish man who came from Germany to Britain 150 years ago to the story of my forefather Elijah Levita who wrote what is thought to have been the first ever Yiddish novel”.

PM Cameron maintained he has “learnt to understand something of Jewish values and character and I have grown to appreciate the extraordinary contribution of the Jewish people to my country and to the world. That sense of understanding has shaped my determination to remember the past, my commitment to Israel in the present and my hopes for Israel’s future”.

PM Cameron pledged: “with me, you have a British Prime Minister whose belief in Israel is unbreakable and whose commitment to Israel’s security will always be rock solid.”

Cameron said that Britain removed over 26 thousand pieces of illegal terrorist content from the internet. It worked with the police and with universities “to stop extremists spreading their divisive messages on our university campuses and we’ve excluded more foreign preachers of hate on the basis of our strategy for preventing extremism than ever before”.

PM Cameron issued a passionate call for peace and for a two-state solution:

“Imagine what this land would be like if a two state solution was actually achieved."
“Think of all the aspects of life that would change."
“Israel’s relationships with the world. Its security its long-term prosperity and the quality of life for all its people."
“On Israel’s relationships, imagine, as John Kerry put it: “mutual recognition of the nation state of the Palestinian people and the nation state of the Jewish people”
“Let’s be clear what that means."
“An end to the outrageous lectures on human rights that Israel receives at the United Nations from the likes of Iran and North Korea."
“An end to the ridiculous situation where last year the United Nations General Assembly passed three times as many resolutions on Israel as on Syria, Iran and North Korea put
“No more excuses for the 32 countries in the United Nations who refuse to recognise Israel."
“And for the Arab League, how many of those States today yearn for a different relationship with Israel – which the peace agreement would enable them to deliver?"
“Think of the capitals in the Arab world where Israelis could travel, do business, and build a future."
“Imagine Israel – like any other democratic nation – finally treated fairly and normally by all."
“On security, imagine a peace deal that would leave Israel more secure, not less secure."
“Not a temporary deal, broken by Hamas firing rockets at you or Iranian proxies smuggling weapons through the Jordan Valley."
“But a proper lasting peace that allows a strong moderate Palestinian government to end the fears of a failed state on Israel’s border."
“A deal that means an end of all claims – and an end of all conflict."
“Israelis and Palestinians no longer each other’s enemy, but actually working together to maintain security against those who would seek to harm us all."
“On prosperity, the possibilities of peace are extraordinary."

Source: David Cameron’s Speech to the Knesset,

Settlements, More Settlements

That’s the thing. Netanyahu says he is serious about peace. He blames for the Palestinians for the failure of the talks; yet he builds more and more settlements.

This government is a right wing government. One of its major components is Jewish Home, headed by Naftali Bennett. Bennet does not believe in peace. He believes in the holy trinity of Am Yisrael, Eretz Yisrael, Torat Yisrael (Jewish people, Land of Israel, Jewish Bible). A senior member of his party is Construction and Housing Minister Uri Ariel. Ariel was secretary general of the Amana settlement movement and of the Yesha Council. Ariel is a doer. He comes to work. He is in charge of one of the most powerful ministries in Israel, and he is making the most of his power.

The number of new housing starts in West Bank settlements shot up by 123.7 percent in 2013, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics.

The data showed that the number of settler housing starts grew from 1,133 units in 2012 to 2,534 units in 2013.

The number of Jewish homes in Judea and Samaria completed last year grew from 1,271 homes in 2012 to 1,365 finished units in 2013.

In 2008, during the Annapolis peace process, ground was broken for 2,324 new settler homes, according to the report. That number held steady into 2009, when new building came to a halt at the end of November with the mandated 10-month moratorium on such projects.

After that, there was a dramatic drop to 737 housing starts in 2010, after the resumption of new building at the end of September of that year. The numbers remained low, with 1,110 new starts in 2011 and 1,133 starts in 2012.

“It’s official – the Netanyahu government is committed to only one thing: building settlements. It shows the lack of commitment to negotiations and other issues like the housing shortage inside Israel. The state has focused its resources on construction beyond the Green Line,” Peace Now said.

It noted in particular the massive jump in public housing construction in the settlements, from 113 starts in 2012 to 1,161 in 2013.

Labor Party chairman MK Isaac Herzog said, “While Netanyahu is sitting with Obama, the truth about his government has been revealed in all its glory with a jump of more than twice the settlements. We go one step forward and several steps back, only now time is running out.”

“Congratulations to Netanyahu – he can win the prize for best actor Oscar,” Herzog said. He then continued with that metaphor, referencing the movie 12 Years a Slave, which won an Oscar in the US on Sunday night for the best film of 2013. “Twelve years of slavery is needed to buy an apartment in Israel, unless you live beyond the Green Line. This is not a movie, it’s reality,” he said.

In the Knesset plenum, Michal Rozin of Meretz asked if the government wanted to arrive at a diplomatic solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or to increase settlement building.

“And is the Construction and Housing Ministry leaving young adults with no choice but to relocate over the Green Line?” she asked.

Uri Ariel, I trust, is resolved to build more. The West Bank is an integral part of Eretz Yisrael. It should be settled with hundreds of thousands of Jews.

Source: Tovah Lazaroff, “Settler housing starts up by 124% in 2013”, The Jerusalem Post, March 3, 2014,

2013 Human Rights Report Israel/Palestine

Palestinian Authority
Complaints of torture and ill-treatment by West Bank PA security services increased compared to the same period last year, with the ICHR reporting 142 complaints as of October 31, as opposed to 112 complaints for all of 2011. In May and September, PA security services arbitrarily arrested scores of men without charge in the Jenin, Nablus, and Tubas districts, and allegedly tortured dozens on suspicion of support for Hamas or attacks against the PA. In some cases, PA military courts continued to exercise jurisdiction over civilians.

The PA security services, and men in civilian clothes identified as security employees, violently dispersed peaceful protests, and assaulted and arbitrarily detained protesters and journalists. In several cases, security officials arrested and abused Palestinians who had posted criticisms of the PA online, including on their Facebook pages.

Palestinian courts in the West Bank have not found any security officers responsible for torture, arbitrary detention, or prior cases of unlawful deaths in custody. The PA did not publish any information indicating that it took disciplinary measures against or prosecuted individual officers whom witnesses and a government-commissioned report identified as responsible for brutally beating demonstrators and journalists in Ramallah’s main square on June 30 and July 1.

Palestinian civilians injured 43 settlers in the West Bank as of November 27, the UN reported.

Hamas and Palestinian Armed Groups
Hamas and Palestinian armed groups launched more than 1,800 rockets toward Israeli population centers in 2012 as of November 21, compared with 293 rockets in 2011. Israel’s anti-rocket system shot down at least 400 rockets headed towards Israeli population centers. A rocket that hit a residential building in Kiryat Malachi on November 15 killed three Israeli civilians. A mortar fired from Gaza on November 20 killed a civilian in the Bedouin village of Rejwan in Israel.

Rocket attacks from Gaza seriously wounded at least four Israeli civilians in March and November. A bus bombing in Tel Aviv on November 21 injured more than 20 civilians, one seriously; no group has taken responsibility for the attack.

The Hamas Ministry of Interior carried out six judicial death sentences. On July 17, Hamas executed by hanging Na’el Doghmosh following his conviction for murder. The appeals court increased his sentence from life imprisonment to death, in violation of Palestinian law, and did not address allegations that security forces had tortured him. Courts in Gaza have repeatedly accepted coerced confessions as evidence of guilt in other capital cases.

In November, Hamas’s armed wing extrajudicially executed seven men for allegedly collaborating with Israel. At least six of them had been sentenced to death, but were appealing their sentences when armed men took them from a detention center and killed them.

The internal security agency and Hamas police tortured or ill-treated 121 people as of October 31, according to complaints received by the Independent Commission for Human Rights (ICHR), a Palestinian rights body. The ICHR received 102 such complaints in all of 2011.

Hamas security forces assaulted, arbitrarily detained, and allegedly tortured civil society activists and peaceful protesters who had called for an end to the political split between Hamas and its rival, Fatah.

Hamas continued to ban three newspapers from Gaza printed in the West Bank.

Hamas security forces destroyed scores of homes, leaving hundreds of people homeless, without due process and with inadequate or no compensation, and in some cases using excessive force against protesters. In February, the Israel Land Administration demolished dozens of homes to widen a road in the Izbet Hamamiya neighborhood. In July, it evicted 132 families from the al-Rimal neighborhood, claiming that the homes were built illegally on “state land.” A court appeal was pending at the time of the demolitions.

West Bank

The IDF in the West Bank killed at least two Palestinian civilians in circumstances that suggest the killings may have been unlawful. In July, Israeli forces at the al-Zayim checkpoint near East Jerusalem shot at a vehicle attempting to take Palestinian workers without permits to their jobs inside Israel, killing the driver as he attempted to flee the checkpoint, B’Tselem reported. In November, Israeli forces fatally shot Rashdi Tamimi, 31, with rubber bullets and one round of live ammunition at close distance during a demonstration in Nabi Saleh village.

Israeli authorities took inadequate action against Israeli settlers who injured Palestinians and destroyed or damaged Palestinian mosques, homes, olive trees, cars, and other property. As of September 31, the UN reported 247 such attacks in 2012. In a positive step, police promptly arrested Israeli suspects in two high-profile cases, including a firebomb attack on a Palestinian taxi that burned six people, including five members of one family, and the severe beating of a Palestinian youth.

Settlement Building and Discriminatory Home Demolitions
In June 2012, Israeli media reported that the number of settlers had increased by 15,579 in the previous 12 months. In April, the government officially “authorized” three previously unrecognized settlements. In July, a committee established by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu concluded that Israel is not an occupying power in the West Bank and settlements do not violate international law, an opinion not shared by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) or any other government.

As of November 27, Israeli authorities had demolished 568 Palestinian homes and other buildings in the West Bank (including East Jerusalem), displacing 1,014 people.

Building permits are difficult or impossible for Palestinians to obtain in East Jerusalem or in the 60 percent of the West Bank under exclusive Israeli control (Area C), whereas a separate planning process readily granted settlers new construction permits. Israel approved donor-funded construction of 14 schools and 5 clinics for Palestinians in Area C, but threatened entire Palestinian communities with demolition, such as 8 villages in an area designated as a military training zone.

Settlers continued to take over Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem, based in part on discriminatory laws that recognize Jewish ownership claims there from before 1948, but bar Palestinian ownership claims from that period in West Jerusalem.

Freedom of Movement
Israel maintained onerous restrictions on the movement of Palestinians in the West Bank, including checkpoints, closure obstacles, and the separation barrier. Settlement-related movement restrictions forced around 190,000 Palestinians to take time-consuming detours rather than the most direct route to nearby cities, the UN reported.

Israel continued construction of the separation barrier around East Jerusalem. Some 85 percent of the barrier's route falls within the West Bank, isolating 11,000 Palestinians who are barred from traveling to Israel and who must cross the barrier to access livelihoods and services in the West Bank, and separated Palestinian farmers and landowners in 150 communities from their lands, the UN reported.

Arbitrary Detention and Detention of Children
Israeli military authorities detained Palestinians who advocated non-violent protest against Israeli settlements and the route of the separation barrier. In May, an Israeli military court sentenced Palestinian activist Bassem Tamimi to 13 months in prison for leading demonstrations against land confiscation, in violation of his right to peaceful assembly, and for urging children to throw stones. The conviction on the latter charge was based primarily on a child's coerced statement.

Israeli authorities continued to arrest children suspected of criminal offences, usually stone-throwing, in their homes at night, at gunpoint, question them without a family member or a lawyer present, and coerce them to sign confessions in Hebrew, which they did not understand.

Israel allowed detainees from Gaza to have family visits, which it had suspended in 2007. As of October 31 Israel held 156 Palestinian administrative detainees without charge or trial on the basis of secret evidence.

Bedouin citizens of Israel who live in “unrecognized” villages suffered discriminatory home demolitions on the basis that their homes were built illegally. Israeli authorities refused to prepare plans for the communities and to approve construction permits, and rejected plans submitted by the communities themselves, but have retroactively legalized Jewish-owned private farms and planned new Jewish communities in the same areas. In 2012, the Israel Land Administration demolished 47 Bedouin structures as of September, not including tents erected by villagers from al-Arakib, which Israeli authorities have demolished 39 times the Bedouin-rights group Dukium reported.

There are an estimated 200,000 migrant workers in Israel. Most are indebted to recruiting agencies, beholden to a single employer for their livelihood, and unable to change jobs without their employer's consent. Government policies restrict migrant workers from forming families. The Ministry of Interior deports migrants who marry other migrants while in Israel, or who have children there, on the basis that these events indicate an intent to settle permanently in violation of their temporary work visas.

Israel continued to deny asylum seekers who entered the country irregularly from Egypt the right to a fair asylum process. In June, the Ministry of Interior began to implement the “anti-infiltration law,” which provides for the indefinite detention of all border-crossers without access to lawyers, without exception for asylum seekers, and allows the military the discretion to prosecute them for the crime of “infiltration.” Israeli forces repeatedly refused to allow groups of migrants who had reached a newly constructed border fence to enter the country or present asylum claims, and detained and forcibly returned other groups to Egyptian custody without considering their asylum application. Most of the asylum-seekers come from countries other than Egypt—predominately Eritrea and Sudan—but Egypt has not proven a safe or fair venue for adjudicating their claims.

Key International Actors
Israel has been the largest overall recipient of foreign aid from the US since World War II, receiving US$3 billion in military aid in 2012. In 2012, the US provided $100 million in assistance to Palestinian security forces and $396 million in economic support to the PA.

In April 2012, the International Criminal Court (ICC) Office of the Prosecutor closed its consideration of a 2009 Palestinian declaration seeking to accept ICC jurisdiction, stating it did not have the authority to determine whether Palestine was a “state” for the purposes of the ICC treaty.

On November 29, the UN General Assembly voted to recognize Palestine as a non-member observer state. Prior to the vote, Israel and the UK pressured Palestinian leaders not to join the ICC. It is unclear at this writing what effect the observer-state determination will have on the 2009 Palestinian declaration with the ICC.

The EU allocated €300 million (about $390,000,000) to the Palestinian territory for 2012, including €100 million (about $130,000,000) of 2011 credits to be spent in 2012.

Source: WORLD REPORT 2013,

Poll: Three quarters of Israeli Jews would accept peace deal

More than 50% define themselves as right wing and don’t trust the Palestinians, yet would vote for a new Netanyahu-led centrist party

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas promotes the Arab Peace Initiative during a speech at the World Economic Forum on the Middle East and North Africa in Jordan, May 26, 2013 (photo credit: AP/Jim Young)

Three quarters of Hebrew-speaking Israelis would support a peace agreement with the Palestinians based on the Arab Peace Initiative, and more than half would vote for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu if he were to leave the Likud and create a new party.

According to the survey, 76 percent of respondents said they are “sure” or “think” that they would be willing to support an agreement after they were told about nine different elements of the deal, all based on the Arab Peace Initiative, presented to them in a way that made them seem beneficial to Israel. More than 60 percent of respondents said they would likely support a regional peace treaty even before any components of it were discussed.

“The significance of this poll shows that a) Israelis indeed hold right-wing views, b) they don’t believe the Palestinians, c) they will accept a far-reaching deal based on the Arab Peace Initiative if presented properly to them and d), that they will support Bibi Netanyahu if he does make such a heroic decision,” said Koby Huberman. Fifty-six percent said they would vote for him if he broke away from the Likud — most of whose senior members are opposed to a two-state deal with the Palestinians — and were to create a new centrist party.

More than half of the poll’s respondents said they consider themselves either “extreme right wing” (28 percent) or “soft right” (24 percent). About 30 percent define their political position as centrist and 16 percent as either “soft left” or “extreme left.”

Seventy-two percent of respondents believed that Israelis are interested in signing a peace treaty to end the conflict. However, 77 percent are convinced that the Palestinians are not interested in reaching such an agreement.

Source: Poll: Three quarters of Israeli Jews would accept peace deal | The Times of Israel
BY RAPHAEL AHREN February 27, 2014,

Sari Revkin Was Awarded the “Women Change-Maker” Prize

On March 17, 2014, Sari Revkin was awarded the “Women Change-Maker” Prize by The Rappaport Family Trust and La’Isha Magazine who decided to award a substantial, unique prize to a woman whose actions have created change in the public, social, or economic sphere in Israel.

The panel of judges decided to award the 120 thousand NIS prize to Ms. Revkin for her dedicated activities and the changes she generated as the founder and executive director of YEDID. Under her leadership, YEDID has assisted thousands of families from low-income and other vulnerable populations to break free from the cycle of poverty, access their rights, and secure their futures in Israel. For the past thirty years Sari Revkin has been developing ways to help women and men from disadvantaged and impoverished societies understand and access their rights.

For more information or donations by Checks please contact Wendy Brodokin
American Supporters of YEDID
US Tax Exempt # 20-042-6364
Tel: 551 486-6915 ; Email:
492c Cedar Lane #335, Teaneck NJ 07666

Bombing the Syrian Nuclear Plant

34 minutes in Hebrew that tell the story of the September 2007 attack inside Syria.

I thank Roby for the link.

Capital Punishment Worldwide

USA is in excellent company with China, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Somalia; must be very proud.


Visit to Antwerp

On 22-25 April I am invited to deliver lectures in Antwerp. I’d be happy to see colleagues and friends.

Book Review of Amos N. Guiora, “Legitimate Target” (NY: Oxford University Press, 2013), Democracy and Security, Vol. 10, Issue 1 (2014), pp. 101-104.

This concise book (102 pages long) has very practical objectives: to explain what is the essence of targeted killing and to outline its standards. The author is concerned that the concept of targeted killing is employed far too loosely nowadays; consequently, targets are not mapped as carefully as they should, and collateral damage is tolerated and enlarged in scope. Far too many innocent people are killed as a result. Guiora is set to explain and offer a targeted killing paradigm.

Guiora states at the outset that he is a proponent of targeted killing but only when it is subject to rigorous criteria, standards and guidelines.[1] Data shows that the Obama administration has implemented targeted killing far more frequently than the Bush administration in order to minimize military confrontations and loss of soldiers’ lives. While between 2004 and 2007 the United States carried out 9 drone strikes in Pakistan, in 2010 alone it launched 118 strikes.[2] However, concerns were raised regarding the lawfulness, morality and effectiveness of those attacks. Guiora suspects that too often targeting decisions are standard-less, bordering on group affiliation and not on individual actions that justify the drone attack.

Indeed, in this book Guiora is specifically concerned with the American employments of drones. He suggests that the use of drones is warranted when a target has made significant steps directly contributing to a planned act of terrorism, when the target is actively involved in future acts of terrorism, beyond verbal threats.[3] After answering these questions and concluding that the terrorist should be killed, he needs to be identified accurately and reliably, and the extent of the anticipated collateral damage has to be reasonable in scale. Having good intelligence is, of course, crucial.

Guiora emphasises that any use of force under the self-defence paradigm must meet the following criteria: (1) The threat must be imminent; (2) The target must pose an imminent threat, i.e., there is military necessity to avert danger; (3) The force used must be proportionate to the threat posed; (4) Collateral damage must be minimal; and (5) Viable alternatives to the use of deadly force are not available.[4]

Guiora explains the difference between targeted killing and assassination,[5] what does “exploring alternatives” mean,[6] what are “collateral damage”, “effectiveness”, “legitimate targets”,[7] “military necessity”, “proportionality”, “threat” [8] and “self-defence”.[9] These and other concepts are crucial for the decision whether targeted killing is justified. Guiora discusses the Geneva Conventions and explains when customary international law permits a state to respond to a threat and infringe on the territorial sovereignty of another nation.[10] He notes that Article 51 of the UN Charter refers to self-defense in the context of conflict between nation-states rather than between nation-states and non-state actors.[11] It is about time for the UN to draft a specific article on rules of war between nations and non-state entities. This lacuna should be filled and not left open to interpretation of convenience.

Guiora, presently a law professor at the University of Utah, is acutely aware of the problematic nature of such practice. For him, this issue is not only academic. Before arriving at Utah, Guiora had 20-year career in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps, Israel Defense Forces (IDF). He had practical involvement in authorizing targeted killings. He was required to furnish decisions quickly, and under pressure. Guiora explains the sharp contrast between criminal law and operational counterterrorism.[12] Targeted killing is devoid of external control and judicial review. The target cannot defend itself. The decision to eliminate him is not taken in his presence. Unlike a criminal suspect, the target is afforded neither protection nor privileges under the law.

Guiora briefly relates to the Israeli Operation Cast Lead.[13] Between 2000 and 2008, Israel was bombarded by some 12,000 rockets and mortar shells. Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza in August 2005 did not relax the situation and the attacks continued. In 2008, Hamas intensified its terror, firing some 3,000 rockets and mortar shells. Since 2004, 92% of Sderot residents (a town of 20,000 inhabitants) have experienced a Qassam rocket falling on their or an adjacent street. 17 Israelis were killed by Qassam rockets fired from Gaza and hundreds were injured and maimed. Furthermore, the rocket terror gravely affected, for worse, some million civilians whose lives were put at risk on a daily basis. In December 2008, Israel’s patience was exhausted. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert wished to re-establish Israel’s deterrence by being resolute, determined and extremely harsh. Olmert said: "The government's position was from the outset that if there is shooting at the residents of the south, there will be a harsh Israeli response that will be disproportionate".[14]

Guiora argues that to effectively prevent the firing of “Qassam and Grad missiles, aggressive self-defense justified broadening the definition of legitimate targets to more effectively protect the civilian population”.[15] Guiora articulates the four categories defined as legitimate targets by the IDF in Operation Cast Lead:

  1. Individuals involved in making missiles.
  2. Individuals involved in smuggling missiles from Egypt through tunnels leading to the Gaza Strip.
  3. Individuals involved in firing missiles into Israel.
  4. Individuals providing support to Hamas, including the willing use of their land for purpose of missile firing.[16]
The fourth category was most problematic as it essentially made many Gazan civilians, who were not directly involved in terror, legitimate targets. The IDF joined Hamas efforts to blur the important and instrumental distinction between combatants and civilians. The IDF had violated criteria (3)(4) and (5) that Guiora stipulates under the self-defence paradigm: The force used was not proportionate to the threat posed; collateral damage was not minimal, and viable alternatives to the use of deadly force were not sought. The IDF resorted to the easy solution of avoiding engagement with the enemy and using heavy artillery against civilian houses.

Consider the following: An armed man installs a rocket launcher on your roof. He does not ask for your permission or consent. He simply does it. Suppose you protest. He refuses to listen or, worse, points a gun at you and coerces you to accept the fact. Does this make you a “provider of support” to terrorism or “passive supporter” for terrorism? By introducing the fourth category, the IDF employed disproportional violence and inflicted vast collateral damage that cannot be justified. According to the Gaza-based Palestinian Center for Human Rights, which documents Palestinian casualties on a regular basis, some 1,300 people, of them two-third civilians, were killed in the operation. 288 children and 121 women were among the civilians who died.[17]

Throughout the book Guiora provides real-life examples of the concrete dilemmas that commanders on the ground are facing today in the bloody battle against terror. This is an important book on a timely and very significant topic. It is not an easy topic. Indeed, targeted killing is rife with complex considerations -- practical as well as moral. I trust that each and every one of us has an opinion about the ethics and usefulness of targeted killings.[18] This book provides much food for thought. It should be of interest to academic, judges, army officers and politicians.

New Books

Russell Duncan and Joseph Goddard, Contemporary America (NY: Palgrave-Macmillan 2013), 4th ed.

I enjoyed reading this book. It is lucid, succinct, full of important and valuable information on American history, culture, society, economy and politics.

Each chapter is important and up-to-date, from the first chapter that discusses American history from 1492 until the Bush Jr. Administration, until the last chapter that projects future prospects. Other chapters relate to Land and People, Government, the political system, society, religion, education and social policy, culture, economy and foreign policy. The last two chapters on foreign policy and future prospects bring the discussion to the Obama administration, analysing its policies as compared to the previous administration.

This book is a valuable resource on any course relating to contemporary American sociology and politics. Its clarity makes it accessible to undergraduate and graduate students alike.

I thank Palgrave-Macmillan for a copy of this book.

My Mom and Dad

My wife’s father, Zvi Skladman, found this newspaper notice from Hatzofeh 1956, which says that my mom and dad registered to be married.

Thank you, Zvi!

Monthly Poems

Sometimes I think I dream too much. The odds are high, obstacles formidable, leaders have different priorities. But I keep dreaming, hanging on, reminding myself of people like Martin Luther King, Aiby Nathan, Shimon Peres. Eternal optimists who continue to believe. After all, how can I continue living without hope? Why should we settle for life without peace, without the joy of tranquility? Why should we allow our children to suffer?

We all deserve peace and quiet. This includes the people of Israel and Palestine as well.

Believe in Dreams
Believe in dreams when you`re alone,
When nothing makes your soul smile,
If you don`t want to speak by phone
And read by own written file.
Believe in dreams when tears are falling down,
When people hate you for unusual thought.
Believe in dreams if you`re a funny clown,
Believe like all philosophers were taught.
Believe in dreams and sun will shine so bright,
You`ll get miracles from a friendly hand.
Believe in dreams, you shouldn`t go and fight,
You`ll go with me on this way till the end.
Believe my friend in clumsy, noisy mind,
In each love story you have got inside.
Believe in me and stand in angel`s side,
You`ll see my light is wonderful and bright.
(Ekaterina Polischuk)

Moonlight Walks
A moolight walk guided by the stars
Two lost souls searching for peace
Caught in a single moment captured
By the touch of each other
Untied by a gentle kiss
(Brittney Pennington)

Light Side

The following was told by a lawyer:

One bright day, Heaven received two new residents: the former Pope and a lawyer. The Heaven guard first takes the lawyer to his new home. It is a mansion: seven large rooms; a swimming pool; three bathrooms; palm trees; sculptures; art on the walls. Beautiful.

Then the guard takes the Pope to his new home: 2.5 room-apartment, very modest, with one bathroom, limited furniture and one small picture of horses in nature. Very unpretentious.

The Pope exclaims: How come that you put the lawyer in that lovely mansion and me in this very meek accommodation?

The guard replied calmly: My dear Pope. We have many Popes here, but this was our very first lawyer ever!

Peace and love.

Yours as ever,


My last communications are available on
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[1]              Amos N. Guiora, Legitimate Target (NY: Oxford University Press, 2013), 1.
[2]               Ibid., 19.
[3]               Ibid., xi.
[4]               Ibid., xii.
[5]               Ibid., 14.
[6]               Ibid., 19.
[7]               Ibid., 20.
[8]               Ibid., 21.
[9]               Ibid., 32.
[10]             Ibid., 33.
[11]             Ibid., 84.
[12]             Ibid., 49.
[13]             Ibid., 59-62.
[14]             New York Times (February 1, 2009) (italics mine, RCA).
[15]             Amos N. Guiora, Legitimate Target, 60.
[16]             Ibid.
[17]             Ethan Bronner, “Soldiers’ Accounts of Gaza Killings Raise Furor in Israel”, New York Times (March 19, 2009),
[18]             See the exchange in Raphael Cohen-Almagor, "Targeting assassination," Washington Post (Sunday, April 25, 2004), Outlook, p. B4.