|Israel Resource Review
||4th November, 2008
The Palestinian Perspective on the American Election
Senior Research Policy Analyst, Center for Near East Policy Research
Posting: November 4, 2008
"A Report That Matters"
If it's not too late . . . in case it makes a difference. I had to run this.
According to YNET, Al Ahkbar, a Lebanese daily, is running the following story today:
Palestinian Authority sources are saying that Abbas and Fayyad are hoping Obama will win today because when he visited they "heard the best things they ever heard from an American president (sic)."
He said he "supports the rights of the Palestinians to east Jerusalem."
But, said the sources, he asked them to keep his position a secret. His "leanings toward Israel," they explained, were aimed at gaining the support of Israel and the American Jewish lobby.
This is hardly out of the blue, as it dovetails with considerable other evidence that Obama is an Arab-tilting phony. Would that more people would have seen it. Giving the Palestinians eastern Jerusalem, I will point out, means giving them our holy sites and setting up the Jewish residents of western Jerusalem for terrorist attacks.
Matters will fall as they will . . .
Posting: November 3, 2008
The good news here is that Likud is strengthening beyond anything that was imagined. Netanyahu is playing it incredibly smart.
I wrote yesterday about Benny Begin re-joining Likud. He's well to the right. Then there's Uzi Dayan, centrist-left, who joined recently. Miri Regev, former IDF spokesperson, joined Likud yesterday.
This has been followed by MK Effie Eitam (a religious nationalist currently with NU/NRP), who has expressed an interest in joining Likud. And word is that Dan Meridor -- formerly an MK with Likud and more centrist -- would like to be on the Likud list, just as very possibly former chief of staff Lt.-Gen (ret.) Moshe (Bogi) Ya'alon -- who was fired by Sharon for having the integrity to speak out against the disengagement -- might be.
And there may be more: Danny Seaman, a tough and principled man, has suspended himself from his post as head of the Government Press Office while he considers the possibility of running for a place on the Likud list. While Marina Slodkin, a very popular Russian who demonstrates integrity, is thinking of moving from Kadima to Likud.
And even this is not the end of those being drawn or encouraged to go with Likud.
In a handful of instances, individuals, such as Meridor, are hoping to have slots on the list reserved for them. Most will run in the Likud primary for their places on the list. After the primary, an ordered list will have been established. How many of those on the list actually make it into the Knesset depends on how many votes, proportional to all votes cast, Likud garners.
The political "star" quality of those announcing now will be a factor in pulling votes. And once the election is done, the caliber of those representing Likud promises to be elevated well over what we've seen of late in our government (which, if truth be told, isn't even saying much).
The way matters are being structured, Likud would become a wide tent, accommodating many viewpoints. Yet, the party is being viewed as centrist-right, and it seems that it would tilt right. Nothing else would be acceptable to Benny Begin, certainly, nor to Ya'alon nor Seaman nor Eitam (should they join).
Coupled with this is the announcement by National Union (consisting of the parties Moledet and Tekuma, with Ahi undecided as to participation) and the National Religious Party that they are disbanding in order to form a new right wing party. NRP is headed by a very active and outspoken Zevulun Orlev, and NU by Benny Elon, who is promoting the Israel Initiative (a plan for asserting Israeli sovereignty over the land while finding a solution for the Palestinian refugees).
The goal is to establish a party that will be a home for all nationalists, whether religious or secular -- hopefully together also to draw more votes than these two parties have in the past.
Aryeh Eldad, currently with NU and an outspoken man of great integrity, is apparently planning to resign and start a new party that he has been working on developing: Hatikvah, a secular nationalist party. I am sad about this prospect because I see it as a real possibility that the party might not pass the threshold for a seat in the Knesset and Eldad would be lost for at least an interim as an MK. He's too good a man to do without.
This activity on the right, coupled with the Likud activity, promises the possibility of taking Kadima off the political map -- something which desperately needs to be done.
The problem with all of the plans described is that we must wait three months now for elections and the horrendous administration we're enduring now can, for that interim, continue to do its damage.
I wrote recently about the destruction in the middle of the night of the Federman home (complete with all its contents) outside of Kiryat Arba, and of the campaign to vilify the "settlers." This continues on all fronts. Tough-minded residents of Judea and Samaria communities -- tired of being cast as the bad guys, as the reason why there cannot be peace -- are speaking out and fighting back.
But it's likely to get worse before it gets better.
Activists -- including members of the Kiryat Arba municipality -- had begun to rebuild the Federman house. But it has been torn down again. Although I doubt that we've seen the last of this.
And there's more coming down the road. There is the issue of Beit HaShalom -- Peace House, in Hevron, on the road, called Worshippers' Way, that leads to the Machpelah (the Tomb of the Patriarchs) from Kiryat Arba. The building, of considerable size, was purchased legally by Jews from a Palestinian some time ago. Twenty families have been living there for one and a half years now. But Arabs have protested and the government continues to challenge the right of Jewish residents to be there.
Lawyers representing the Jewish community of Hevron have presented to the High Court a recording of the man who sold the house telling his friend, while under no duress, that he had done so. It was expected to finalize matters but the Court has not delivered a ruling.
Tonight there is unease in Hevron because of observable police activity in the area and the speculation that a night time eviction of the families from Beit HaShalom may be in the offing. Word has gone out to activists to assemble there.
Why is this happening? It's about pushing back the Jews in Hevron so that there can be full Palestinian control, never mind that Hevron is the second holiest of Jewish cities.
It's what happens when Jews who have forgotten who they are govern.
And it is what makes the political activity I've described above so very important.
Arutz Sheva carried a quote from David Wilder, spokesman for the Jewish community of Hevron:
"The building is ours, and any attempt to throw us out is immoral and illegal. It is the result of the wild incitement against the Jews of Judea and Samaria, especially as heard in the government's Cabinet meeting of yesterday, and in the media as well. But we will continue to buy property here whenever we have the chance, and, to put it simply: We will not give up!"
And I say again, more power to them! Jews everywhere owe a debt of gratitude to these few who are mindful of our traditions and rights and are prepared to stand strong for them.
Posting: November 2, 2008
"Going Into the Home Stretch"
How exhausting it is -- the constant banter about McCain vs. Obama. What I have found particularly draining is my experience with pro-Obama people who simply don't/won't engage on the issues, so enchanted with their new "Hope" are they. I'm finding a saddening tendency to brush off every critique as not important, as well as an incredible amount of rationalization.
And so, for the most part, I've had my say -- with one last mention of an article below. Then, it will fall as it falls. What I've been pondering is how Obama supporters are going to feel -- if Obama does win -- when things don't play out as expected: when there is not more hope in the country, but more fear, when divisions have increased rather than being reduced, and when our enemies are emboldened.
Last week I cited from a major Jerusalem Post magazine article on Jews who knew Obama in Chicago. This past Friday there was a similar article about McCain and Jews in Arizona in the same magazine. A few short mentions are in order here.
One of McCain's earliest supporters was Sid Rosen, a Democratic political activist who came to hear McCain at the Phoenix Kiwanis Club 28 years ago, before he held office. Rosen ended up telling him he would support him in any election. Among other things in McCain's favor, said Rosen, was that "He'd laid out the most incredible pro-Israel analysis I'd ever heard." And, points out Rosen, there were exactly two Jews in this Kiwanis chapter, so this was not a statement intended to garner support, but one of conviction.
Morris Amitay, who served as AIPAC's executive director, says that McCain is 'instinctively pro-Israel." Farley Weiss, Phoenix lawyer agrees, recalling McCain's willingness to stand against his own party, criticizing President George H.W. Bush, who made disparaging remarks about Israel.
Michael Bell, also of Phoenix, says he'll be voting Republican for just the second time in his life this week, primarily because of McCain's foreign policy and defense positions. And. "he's a proven commodity with Israel."
George Weisz, a personal friend of McCain's, says he thinks McCain's affinity for Israel is connected to his own experience as a POW. He recalls McCain, after visits to Israel, talking about the "tenacity" of the population, "which shares the passion he has for freedom," and a bravery in the face of constant aggression.
Criticism centers on McCain's quick temper and his conservative stance on domestic issues.
But not a whisper of a suggestion that McCain has shifted positions to garner votes. Not so much as a hint about a McCain propensity to befriend radical Muslims or the possibility that he would be soft on terrorism.
So, you take it as you see it. For me, the differences are glaring.
I will be following the political events in Israel over the next three months, but with a cautionary word: Things change so rapidly that what happens today may have no import later.
What seems to be the case now according to a recent Jerusalem Post poll is that the next government of Israel will be right wing. While Kadima and Likud are in a dead heat, the right wing bloc as a whole -- counting as right wing Likud, Shas, Israel Beiteinu, the National Union-National Religious Party and United Torah Judaism -- would pull down 64 seats compared to the left wing bloc -- Labor, Kadima, Meretz and the Arab parties -- would garner only 56. This would mean that Netanyahu would be able to put together a coalition, while Livni would not.
This is good news: It is being reported that Benny Begin is about to return to a life of politics. He has met with Netanyahu and will be re-joining Likud, giving it enhanced credibility. Begin, the son of Menachem Begin, has a sterling reputation for integrity and honesty.
As Begin is also strongly right-wing, Netanyahu's embrace of him may be an indication of the way Likud will go.
Begin first served as an MK with Likud in 1988, but pulled out of the party in protest after Netanyahu signed over Hevron to the PA in 1997. He then tried to revitalize the Herut party of his father, joining in alliance with National Union, but resigned from politics when he found this unsuccessful. He has been working as the director of the Geological Institute, and until now resisted all pleas for him to return to politics. Clearly he sees now as a time when his presence can make a difference.
While things are coming together on the right, on the left they seem to be falling apart:
Livni has been courting Mofaz, whose support she badly needs, but so far he is resisting her. There is talk of her finding a way to place him second on the Kadima list, but his supporters are suggesting he won't take it.
Ehud Barak, of Labor, now says, after having signed a coalition agreement with Kadima, that Livni is "honest" but not fit to be the next prime minister.
Ehud Olmert is apparently proceeding with negotiations with Syria, as it's being reported that he has signaled to Damascus that the Turkish-mediated talks can continue.
MK Limor Livnat (Likud), on getting wind of this, protested to Attorney General Mazuz that Olmert should not be permitted to do this because he heads a transitional government. Mazuz has declined to intervene. This is in spite of Mazuz's earlier letter outlining the responsibilities of a transitional government, which should not be making decisions that bind the government that will succeed it. What this makes Mazuz is best left unsaid.
Livnat will be appealing to the High Court.
The negotiations with Syria, as well as being inappropriate from an internal political perspective, are perhaps best described as untimely and senseless. There has been every indication that Syria is strengthening its ties with Iran and has participated fully in the rearming of Hezbollah. What is more, the US has now taken on Syria for its open border to Iraq, through which terrorists move.
This is a time to make nice with Syria?
There's been considerable talk about a "national reconciliation" conference to bring together Hamas and Fatah, under the active sponsorship of Egypt. It has all been sweetness and light, with both sides declaring themselves pleased and on board. Until now, that is.
Hamas has now stated that it is "seriously considering" a boycott of the conference, scheduled for the 9th of this month, because of a recent PA crackdown on Hamas people in Judea and Samaria. If Hamas boycotts, there is no conference. That these tensions, which are endemic, surface, is no surprise. The question is whether they will be papered over for a bit.
Please, take a look at my just completed UNRWA report -- the latest in a series. It consolidates previous information, and updates it. If you have need of basic, documented, hard-hitting information on this agency, which promotes the "right of return" and thus fosters terrorism, this a good place to look.
So many have seen UNRWA as a benign humanitarian organization simply caught in a bad situation. Ain't so.
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Saudi Arabia: No. 1 Arms Purchaser
[The Middle East Newsline did the research for this piece]
There is no question about it: The economic power of Saudi Arabia will be a factor for the next American administration to cope with.
The United States Congressional Research Service recently ranked Saudi Arabia, the only Arab nation still in an active state of war with Israel, No.1 in arms transfer agreements and weapons acquisitions. The report of the United States Congressional Research Service stated that Saudi Arabia achieved the ranking in 2007 after years of reduced military procurement.
"In 2007, Saudi Arabia ranked first in the value of arms transfer agreements among all developing nations weapons purchasers, concluding $10.6 billion in such agreements," the U.S. report, authored by analyst Richard Grimmett, said. "India ranked second with $5 billion in such agreements."
The report, titled "Conventional Arms Transfers to Developing Nations, 2000-2007," said Saudi Arabia marked the resumption of an Arab military buildup since 2007. CRS said seven of the top weapons recipients last year were in the Middle East.
"Most recently, the position of Saudi Arabia as principal arms purchaser in the Persian Gulf region has been re-established," the report said. "In the period from 2000-2003, Saudi Arabia's total arms agreements were valued at $3.2 billion -- in current dollars -- less than the levels of the United Arab Emirates Egypt, and Israel. For the period from 2004-2007, Saudi Arabia's total arms agreements were $23.2 billion, making it the leading Near East purchaser once again."
CRS said the Middle East accounted for 46.3 percent of all developing nation arms transfer agreements from 2004 to 2007. During the period of 2000-2003, the Middle East represented 42.3 percent of military contracts by developing nations.
The report said the United States has fallen sharply from its position as the leading weapons supplier to the Middle East. During 2004-2007, CRS said the United States accounted for 32.8 percent of military contracts to the Middle East, down from 73.6 percent from 2000 to 2003. Since 2004, Britain captured 27.9 percent of the Middle East market; Russia accounted for 20.9 percent of arms transfer agreements.
"Most recently, the nations in the Near East and Asia regions have resumed large weapons purchases in contrast with arms sales activity in the earliest years of this report," the report said. "These major orders continue to be made by a select few developing nations in these regions. They have been made principally by India and China in Asia, and Saudi Arabia
and the United Arab Emirates in the Near East. These purchasing tendencies are subject to abrupt change based on the strength of either the threat assessments of individual states or the strength of their individual economies."
In other words, regardless of the continuing Saudi war with Israel, the arms trade with Saudi Arabia can be quite profitable.
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