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Israel and Palestine: Here We Go Again

Abdel Bari Atwan, former editor of the pan-Arab newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi, made the following observation about the outcome of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s most recent visit to the Middle East:

US Secretary of State John Kerry is currently on his sixth visit to the West Bank and Jordan since March and made optimistic noises regarding his self-declared mission to revive the peace talks with Israel. He announced on Friday (July 19, 2013) that Israel and the Palestinians had agreed on a basis for returning to peace talks.

“We’ve been here too many times before not to be slightly cynical about this news,” Mr. Bari writes.“The first question, then, is ‘why now’?”

For more, please see “Is Kerry’s Middle East diplomacy a smokescreen for another war?”

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AIPAC’s Israel Agenda For President Obama

Nathan Guttman contends in a March 3, 2013, article in The Jewish Daily Forward  that, “As President Obama prepares for his upcoming Mideast trip, [he] can get a good sense of Israeli expectations by listening in to speeches and conversations at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s annual policy conference.” See “AIPAC Offers Clues to Barack Obama as He Heads to Israel.” Mr. Guttman added:

The message is crystal clear: topping the agenda are the nuclear threat posed by Iran and turmoil in Syria and in other neighboring countries. The Israeli–Palestinian conflict is not even part of the lobby’s legislative agenda this year and in speeches the emphasis was placed on the relatively narrow issue of demanding the Palestinian return to negotiations without preconditions.
Regardless, it should be on Mr. Obama’s agenda. Every political upheaval occurring in Arab countries in North Africa and the Middle East is a daily reminder of what can happen in situations that appear hopeless. For one Palestinian perspective, see “Hamas chief evokes Arab Spring in push to lead all Palestinians”.
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The Question Israelis Don’t Want To Ask

Jerusalem Post columnist Larry Derfner raises an important question for Israelis in a December 30, 2009, post headlined “Rattling the Cage: A taboo question for Israelis.” He writes:

There's a question we Israelis won't ask ourselves about the Palestinians, especially not about Gaza. The question is taboo. Not only won't anyone ask it out loud, but very, very few people will dare ask it in the privacy of their own minds.

However, I think it's time we start asking it, privately and in public. If we don't, I think there's going to be Operation Cast Lead II, then Operation Cast Lead III, and each one is going to be worse than the last, and the consequences for Palestinians and Israelis are going to be unimaginable.

The question we have to ask ourselves is this: If anybody treated us like we're treating the people in Gaza, what would we do?

“We don't want to go there, do we?” Mr. Derfner asks. “And because we don't, we make it our business not to see, hear or think about how, indeed, we are treating the people in Gaza.”

It’s an article I think everyone should read regardless of one’s opinion on the Israeli-Palestinian question. The question could just as well apply to the U.S. role in Iraq. For example, what would we do if another country invaded the U.S. the way the U.S. invaded Iraq, without provocation or just cause. What we do if an occupier caused the deaths of thousands of Americans? Would we accept the humiliation of being occupied? I doubt it.

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There Was No One to Stop Israel’s Attack on Gaza

On January 18, 2009, Gershom Gorenberg made the following observation at Haaretz.com about Israel’s war on Gaza:

The diplomatic timing for the war looked lovely. The U.S. president who loved military action was still in power, though fading into the shadows. The new president, dynamic and popular, hadn't yet entered office. There was no one to interfere, to pressure us to stop.” See “The war as warm-up act for Obama.”

He is absolutely right. Maybe that’s why Israel decided to halt the destruction of Gaza on the eve of President-Elect Barack Obama’s swearing in as the 44th President of the United States. Did Israeli leaders fear they would be told to stop the war?

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Gaza Bloggers Do What Journalists Can’t

“The Israeli offensive in Gaza reached its 18th day with Israel continuing to block access to the region for foreign journalists,” reports The Christian Science Monitor’s Kristen Chick in a January 13, 2009, report headlined “Gaza bloggers relay crisis to outside world.” “But bloggers in Gaza are chronicling the conflict with firsthand accounts of their experiences, giving outsiders a look at the unfolding humanitarian crisis.”

Ms. Chick quotes some of the bloggers and provides links to their blogs.

This post can also be found at The Blogging Journalists.

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Did Israel Take Obama’s Statement on Gaza As A Warning?

Haaretz correspondent Aluf Benn reports in a January 7, 2009, article in the Israeli paper Haaretz headlined “Obama's warning to Israel:

Israel's governing "troika" met yesterday in order to find a way out of the conundrum Israel finds itself in, following the bombing of the school in Jabalya, where dozens of Palestinian civilians were killed. The character of the meeting had already been marked by the warning Israel received from U.S. president-elect, Barack Obama, who broke his silence on the fighting in Gaza and made it clear that he will have a great deal more to say after his inauguration.

The announcement from the Bush White House that for the time being Israel could carry on its offensive was little consolation. Obama made it clear that starting on January 20 the rules of American involvement in the region will change, and his administration will be a lot more active in pushing the diplomatic process between Israel and the Arabs forward.

Mr. Benn said, “Obama's timing, after the strike on the school, signals the direction the U.S. will turn in its attitude to the region: It will support Israel, but will oppose any harming of Palestinian civilians. This means that Israel will find it difficult to close the crossings into the Gaza Strip at will.”

A more even-handed policy would be timely and refreshing. The Bush Administration’s Middle East policy has been so 19th and 20th century, meaning colonial.

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