White House Chief of Staff: “We cannot simply pretend that those comments were never made”

Almost a week after early general elections in Israel on 17 March resulted in a win for Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu after one of the ugliest campaigns in recent memory — not least of which due to Netanyahu’s election-eve remarks urging his supporters to rush to the polls because “Arabs were voting in droves”, and stating that a Palestinian state will never be established while he’s in office — the White House Chief of Staff strongly reinforced President Obama’s strong message that Netanyahu’s remarks were “troubling”.

“We cannot simply pretend that those comments were never made”, Chief of Staff Denis McDonough said in an address to the JStreet.org annual conference in New York [#JSt2015].

The text of McDonough’s remarks are now posted on the White House website, here.

Here are some selected excerpts:

    “In his call to congratulate Prime Minister Netanyahu last Thursday, President Obama committed to continuing consultations on a range of regional issues, including resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The process of forming a new Israeli government is now underway, and in the coming days and weeks, we’ll see what that looks like…I’d like to share with you how President Obama sees the road ahead.

    “First, no matter who leads Israel, America’s commitment to Israel’s security will never waver. As we all know, Israel faces real dangers in a tough neighborhood. I traveled with then-Senator Obama to Israel in 2008. I will never forget our time in the holy city of Jerusalem and following behind him as he approached the Western Wall—and even in the dark hours of that very early morning, it was a place bustling with energy afforded by one’s faith. On that trip, the President toured Sderot and saw the devastation wrought by Hamas-launched rockets. He met with Israelis living under the threat of rocket attacks. And, since then, I’ve seen President Obama’s personal commitment to increasing our security cooperation with Israel to unprecedented levels.

    Today, our security, military, and intelligence cooperation is stronger than it’s ever been, and that’s not going to change. The U.S.-Israel consultative group will continue to ensure cooperation at the highest levels of our governments. Under President Obama, we’ve spent hundreds of millions helping to develop David’s Sling and the Arrow missile defense systems. I recall very clearly a call with the Israeli Ambassador at 5:00 PM on a Friday evening last July, when he requested – and shortly thereafter the President and Congress delivered – an additional $225 million for Iron Dome missiles and batteries. That on top of the nearly $1 billion we had invested in Iron Dome already, which saved so many Israeli lives during the conflict with Hamas last summer. And, next year, when we deliver the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, Israel will be the only country in the Middle East with a fifth-generation aircraft. In other words, we will continue to ensure Israel’s qualitative military edge. As the President has said so many times, we have Israel’s back.

    “Second, we continue to believe that the best way to safeguard Israel’s long-term security is to bring about a comprehensive peace between Israelis and Palestinians—two states for two peoples, living side-by-side in security and peace. To achieve this, the United States has long advocated direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. In 2009, Prime Minister Netanyahu publicly endorsed a two-state solution. Over the course of President Obama’s administration, most recently with the tireless efforts of Secretary Kerry, the United States has expended tremendous energy in pursuit of this goal. That is why the Prime Minister’s comments on the eve of the election—in which he first intimated and then made very clear in response to a follow up question that a Palestinian state will not be established while he is prime minister—were so troubling.

    “After the election, the Prime Minister said that he had not changed his position, but for many in Israel and in the international community, such contradictory comments call into question his commitment to a two-state solution, as did his suggestion that the construction of settlements has a strategic purpose of dividing Palestinian communities and his claim that conditions in the larger Middle East must be more stable before a Palestinian state can be established. We cannot simply pretend that those comments were never made, or that they don’t raise questions about the Prime Minister’s commitment to achieving peace through direct negotiations.

    “In recent days, some have suggested our reaction to this issue is a matter of personal pique. Nothing could be further from the truth. America’s commitment to a two-state solution is fundamental to U.S. foreign policy. It’s been the goal of both Republican and Democratic presidents, and it remains our goal today…

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The US says it “does not believe the ‘State of Palestine’ qualifies as a sovereign State”… re: ICC

The US Mission to the UN writes “regarding the purported accession of the ‘State of Palestine’ to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court”… that, well, the US Government just simply “does not believe the ‘State of Palestine’ qualifies as a sovereign State”…

US sends letter to UN saying it believes that Palestine is not a state – 16 Jan 2015 = CN.64.2015-Eng (1)

From a comment on Twitter

Shorter USG: #Palestine isn’t a state because we’re the United States and we say it’s not. https://treaties.un.org/doc/Publication/CN/2015/CN.64.2015-Eng.pdf … #NotKidding #ICC

 

State of Palestine postage stamp [unveiled January 2013 already]

Former Palestinian PM Fayyad unveils postage stamp for State of Palestine Jan 2013

Former Palestinian PM Fayyad unveils postage stamp for State of Palestine Jan 2013

So, there is a postage stamp…
The photo graces an article, published here by the Times of Israel, assessing the current Palestinian diplomatic moves. [Photo by Issam Rimawi-Flash90]

Today is the 97th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration…

Here it is –>

mfaj0ca10.jpg

We’ve written about this earlier, see here

The Balfour Declaration was incorporated, word for word, into the Palestine Mandate, under the jurisdiction of the League of Nations, created by the Allied victors, as a forum for the international community at the end of World War One, to “to promote international co-operation and to achieve international peace and security”…

The Palestine Mandate, significantly, gave international recognition to the Jewish people … as a people.

    The Balfour Declaration [and the Palestine Mandate] also said: “it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine”…

The Balfour Declaration and the subsequent Palestine Mandate led, 25 years later, to the Declaration of Independence, made on May 15 1948 in Tel Aviv, of the state which announced its name as Israel.

It took another 26 years after that for the Palestinian people to obtain international recognition [in the United Nations, created as successor of the defunct League of Nations] of their right, as a people, to self-determination…in UN General Assembly resolution 3236 of 22 November 1974, which

    Recalled its relevant resolutions which affirm the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination,
    Recognized “that the Palestinian people is entitled to self-determination in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations”, and
    Expressed “its grave concern that the Palestinian people has been prevented from enjoying its inalienable rights, in particular its right to self-determination”
    1. Reaffirmed the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people in Palestine, including:
    (a) The right to self-determination without external interference;
    (b) The right to national independence and sovereignty;
    2. Reaffirmed also the inalienable right of the Palestinians to return to their homes and property from which they have been displaced and uprooted, and calls for their return;
    3. Emphasized that full respect for and the realization of these inalienable rights of the Palestinian people are indispensable for the solution of the question of Palestine;
    4. Recognized that the Palestinian people is a principal party in the establishment of a just and lasting peace in the Middle East;
    5. Further recognized the right of the Palestinian people to regain its rights by all means in accordance with the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations;
    6. Appealed to all States and international organizations to extend their support to the Palestinian people in its struggle to restore its rights, in accordance with the Charter;
    7. Requested the Secretary-General to establish contacts with the Palestine Liberation Organization on all matters concerning the question of Palestine;
    8. Requested the Secretary-General to report to the General Assembly at its thirtieth session on the implementation of the present resolution;
    9. Decided to include the item entitled “Question of Palestine” in the provisional agenda of its thirtieth session.

The Palestine Mandate, awarded by a decision of the Council of the League of Nations [predecessor of the United Nations] to Britain [which had administered Palestine after defeating the Ottoman army there at the end of 1917], did not actually go into effect, formally, until Turkey finalized [in Lausanne in 1923] the Ottoman surrender after its defeat in the First World War…

The Palestine Mandate can be read in full here, among other places…

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The long-awaited Mahmoud Abbas speech to the UN General Assembly …

Well, it was very angry — but also a bit of a let down, this long-awaited and much-touted speech by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to the UN General Assembly, just before 7 pm in Ramallah or Jerusalem [but still part of the "morning" at the UN HQ/NY this Friday].

Describing the months of American-led negotiations brokered by a team assembled by US Secretary of State John Kerry, Abbas mimicked Israeli critics by saying:

“…as usual, the Israeli government did not miss the opportunity to undermine the chance for peace”…

The full text of Abbas’ speech can be consulted here.

He did not use the word “Judaization” — but he used words that describe what Palestinians mean when they do use the term:

“Throughout the months of negotiations, settlement construction, land confiscations, home demolitions, killing and arrest campaigns, and forced displacement in the West Bank continued unabated and the unjust blockade on the Gaza Strip was tightened. The occupation’s campaign specifically targeted the City of Jerusalem and its inhabitants, attempting to artificially alter the spirit, identity and character of the Holy City, focusing on A1-Aqsa Mosque, threatening grave consequences. At the same time, racist and armed gangs of settlers persisted with their crimes against the Palestinian people, the land, mosques, churches, properties and olive trees”…

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Israeli PM Shamir didn’t want to withdraw, either – he said it in 1988

An interesting blog post this week [August 25 ] by MJ Rosenberg on something that happened when he worked as “a foreign policy aide to Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI). One February day, Levin called me into his office to say that he was disturbed at a quote he saw in that day’s New York Times. An article quoted Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir saying that he rejected the idea of withdrawing from any of the land Israel captured in the 1967 war”… This blog post can be read in full here.

I highlighted the interesting points on Twitter:  @Marianhouk · NYTimes 1988: “Mr. Shamir said in a radio interview, ‘It is clear that this expression of territory for peace is not accepted by me’.”

MJ Rosenberg wrote, in his blog post, that:

“Levin instantly understood what Shamir was saying. He was repudiating U.N. Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 which provided for “withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent [1967] conflict” in exchange for peace and security. Those resolutions represented official U.S. and international policy then, and they still do.

But, in 1988, Shamir tried to declare them null and void.

Levin asked me to draft a letter to Secretary of State George Shultz stating that it was the view of the Senate that the U.N. Resolutions remained the policy of the U.S. whether Shamir liked it or not. Of course, the letter wasn’t written in that kind of language. It was more than polite. Additionally, Levin wanted it addressed to Shultz, not to Shamir, to avoid ruffling too many feathers in Israel”…

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Netanyahu rejects a Palestinian State because it would ‘violate’ Israel’s ‘security’

Where to begin? With this:

Yarden Katz, a post-doctoral fellow at Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT, has written an analysis of Israeli media coverage of the war on Gaza,  entitled ”Israel’s Iron Dome For Information”.  It’s published on the Mondoweiss website, here.  Here is an excerpt:

“The inability of the Israeli press to criticize the government in a time of war is exploited by Israeli leaders. Israeli television’s Channel 2 covered a press conference with Prime Minister Netanyahu on July 11, where Netanyahu described his goal of ‘restoring peace’ to Israeli citizens who are under rocket attack — and vowed to ‘strike Hamas’ until peace is restored. Netanyahu’s main points were not new, and were summarized in Channel 2’s report.

What went unreported, and uncontested by journalists in the room, was Netanyahu’s strong rejection of a Palestinian state. In response to a question from a journalist, Netanyahu argued that disengagement from Gaza was a mistake whose consequences are now dealt with by IDF.

Netanyahu said that Israel will not, under any condition or agreement, give up ‘security control’ of the area ‘west of the Jordan river’ (i.e., the West Bank). He warned that relinquishing this control would create another front of war, a situation of ‘twenty Gazas’ and ‘thousands of tunnels’ in the West Bank (which he referred to as the biblical ‘Judea and Samaria’). Netanyahu revealed a simple policy: Israel will not allow Palestinian autonomy in Gaza or the West Bank, much less a Palestinian state, as this would violate Israel’s ‘security’.

The English-language right-wing newspaper Times of Israel, glowing about Netanyahu’s promise to forever occupy the territories, did report this part of the press conference. But the mainstream Israeli press let Netanyahu’s most informative statement escape unnoticed…”

See more at: http://mondoweiss.net/2014/08/israels-information-dome.html#sthash.yOvv4gF8.dpuf

Was Mahmoud Abbas in a hurry to form his new “national consensus” Palestinian government ahead of Sisi’s inauguration today?

Here is a screenshot photo of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas walking into the post-inaugural reception of Egypt’s newly-installed President AbdelFattah Sisi, in Cairo today — the screenshot was Tweeted here:

Hany Rasmy ‏@hany2m — Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, arrives at Ittihadiya palace – pic.twitter.com/Firhbp1a63

President Mahmoud Abbas followed by security + by Saeb Erekat attend Sisi inaugural reception in Cairo

President Mahmoud Abbas followed by security + by Saeb Erekat attend Sisi inaugural reception in Cairo

Samer Al-Atrush @SameralAtrush · Abbas arrives at Ittihadiya with Erekat in tow [n.b. - Erekat is wearing blue shirt, walking behind security men who are behind Abbas...]

Alex Ortiz ‏@azortiz — #Egypt’s presidential palace is crowded with well-wishing Gulf monarchs. Tahrir seems to have a couple hundred #Sisi supporters celebrating.

 

Sisi’s inauguration comes just a week after Abbas’ ceremony to swear in the new Palestinian government — and it seems that having the new government [later dubbed a government of "national conciliation"] in place by the time of Sisi’s inauguration was a significant consideration in pushing it through.  That it’s also in Hamas’ higher interest — to repair damaged relations with Egypt’s govenment and to reopen Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt’s Sinai — explains why Hamas went along with Abbas’ big push, despite differences and reservations on several points of the arrangements.

Big things are expected to come out of discussions between Abbas and Sisi [and probably some of the Gulf VIPs] during these inauguration festivities in Cairo.– even though Abbas is expected at the Vatican this evening for a joint prayer for peace in the Middle East with Israel’s State President Shimon Peres, at the suggestion and invitation of Pope Francis.

In preparation for these discussions, it is being reported by Al-Quds newspaper in Jerusalem that President Abbas yesterday [Saturday] received Egypt’s Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy and the Secretary-General of the Arab League Nabil elAraby, and held discussion about the region but focussed particularly on the new Palestinian government.

These may have been two separate meetings, because Egypt’s The Daily News is reporting on Abbas’ meeting with Fahmy here

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A “top Egyptian official” says President Abbas is requested to reopen presidential HQ in Gaza

A “top Egyptian official” has reportedly told the private Palestinian Ma’an News Agency that Egypt will request President Mahmoud Abbas to re-open Palestinian presidential headquarters in Gaza.  This is reported here

The same report says that Egypt’s President-elect AbdelFattah Sisi [who will be inaugurated in Cairo on Sunday, tomorrow] + Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will also consider opening the Rafah crossing between Egypt’s Sinai and Gaza — as long as the ‘legal’ Palestinian authorities will be ‘directing’ it…

Disorder at Gaza banks as Hamas employees protest no pay as Ramallah staff getting salaries

Gaza banks have been closed after disorder broke out at banks and ATM cash machines when the idled staff of the Palestinian Government received salary deposits in their accounts, while those hired by Hamas in Gaza since the “military” and “political” coups in June 2007 received nothing…

This is a huge internal problem, which is not being addressed with the required speed or seriousness.

Meanwhile, external pressure is building for Mahmoud Abbas action to take control of the Hamas security forces in Gaza — another explosive issue, with no indication of planning or preparation yet, either…