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PAGE4A -- HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, NOVEMBER 22, 2013 I On Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Obama Administration is spineless By Ben Cohen JNS,org Here, in a nutshell, are the principles driving the Obama Administration's Middle East policy. Screw the Syrians. Don't upset the Iranians. And stop those damn Israelis from wrecking Israeli-Patestinian conflict negotiations. We are coming to the end of year marked by shameful climb-downs in the face of our enemies and utterly unreasonable demands made of our allies. In Syria, Obama tempo- rarily toyed with the idea of launching air strikes against the regime of Bashar al-Assad, before being seduced by a Russian proposal to have that same regime dismantle its own weapons of mass destruction. There were lots of good reasons to attack Assad, for example his military reliance on the Iranian regime and the terrorists of Hezbollah, as well as the moral imperative of combating the sheer evil of chemical weapons, but Obama, buoyed by isolationists on right and left, placed his faith in Vladimir Putin instead. On Iran, the Geneva talks bringing together the mullahs and the P5+1 (the five members of the U.N. Security Council alongwith Germany) are a massive boost to the faux moderates around President Hassan Rouhani. The whole spectacle, frankly, was pathetic: as Iranian state television aired a video that depicted an imaginary missile strike against Israeli cities like Tel Aviv and Dimona, western negotiators were busily figuring out how to ease the sanc- tions on the Iranian regime. But it's on the front of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that this Administration's lack of backbone really shines through. Step forward Secretary of State John Kerry, who had the temerity to visit Israel this week in order to lecture Israeli voters about their government's supposed lack of commitment to negotiations with the Palestinian Authority. It's worth revisiting what Kerry said. "If we do not find a way to find peace, there will be an increasing isolation of Israel and an increasing campaign of delegitimization of Israel," Kerry declared in a joint interview with Israeli and Palestinian broadcasters. "If we don't end the "presence of Israeli soldiers perpetually within the West Bank, then there will be an increas- ing feeling that if we cannot get peace with a leadership that is committed to non-violence, you may wind up with leadership that is com- mitted to violence." This is such arrant nonsense that it's hard to know where to begin. For one thing, it's news to me that the Palestinian leadership is committed to non-violence..Hamas, which rules Gaza and is absohtely a part of the fractured Palestinian leadership, is not only committed to violence, but to violence with the sole purpose of destroying Israel. As for Mahmoud Abbas and the PA, they continue to glorify violence in their statements, refuse to abandon the so-called "right of return," and are actively fanning conspiracy theories around the death of Yasser Arafat, perhaps in order to trigger a third intifada that Kerry says Israelis should be worried about. Even more absurdly offensive is the idea that Israeli policies are to blame for the dele- gitimization campaign against Israel. Yes, Mr. Hawking and Mohammed By David Suissa There was so much Jewish outrage in the wake of professor Steven Hawkirg's decision to join the academic boycott against Israel, it's hard to know where to start. The"l-nost dramatic expression of that out- rage could be found in the many commentaries and Facebook posts suggesting that if Hawking is going to boycott Israel, then why not also boycott the Israeli computer chip that enables him to communicate despite his severely handicapped state? As Rabbi Shmuley Boteach wrote on JPost: "Why would one of the world's leading aca- demic minds condemn the only democracy in the Middle East? Why would he attack a country, situated in a region of such deep misogyny, that celebrates wdmen succeeding in every area of academic, professional and political life?" Hawking's decision was problematic on many levels. Here is the world's best-known scientist, a widely respected light of academia, adding his name to a vicious and discrimina- tory ampaign to single out and delegitimize the Jewish state. Who did he think he was helping with his boycott, besides those hell bent on undermin- ing Israel? Even well-known Israeli peacenik Aliva E1- dar called the decision "stupid"'and "shallow," noting that the global boycott movement "is in opposition to Israel per se, and not against the occupation or against the settlements constructed beyond Israel's formal boundar- ies..." and that it "advocates an economic, cultural and academic boycott, the withdrawal of all investments, and the implementation of sanctions against Israel, with no distinction made between the two sides of the Green Line." Israel has made its share of mistakes over the ears, and, like many countries (including the economic opportunities than anywhere else in the region. On top of that, it has become one of the world's leading centers for scientific and medi- cal innovation, contributing more scientific advances than all 22 countries of the Middle East combined. This kind of Jewish success can inspire a lot of jealousy and resentment, especially if you've been taught since early childhood to hate the Jews because they're the "sons of dogs." No doubt, in my view, this has been a motivat- ing force behind the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement: If you can't emulate the Jewish state, then delegitimize it. It is this dark movement Hawking has en- dorsed with his ill-advised decision: Instead of going after brutal dictatorships, where in- nocents are murdered and women are stoned to death, he picked on the little country that is consistently and unfairly singled out--srael. I have to confess, though, it's hard for me to muster any negative feelings for someone who has lived his whole life as Hawking has. When I see pictur.es of him slumped in his wheelchair, I can't help being moved b how one human being can overcome such over- whelming hardship for so long. So, instead of getting upset at Hawking, I would ratherwe invite him to visit the Edmond and Lily Safra Children's Hospital at the Sheba ]'HE VIEWS EXPRESSED ON THIS PAGE ARE NOT NECESSARILY THE VIEWS OF HERITAGE MANAGEMENT.   CENTRAL FLORIDA'SINDEPENDENTJEWISHVOICE   ISSN 0199-0721 Winner of 43 press Awards HERITAGE Florida Jewish News (ISN 0199-0721) is published weekly for $37.95 per year to Florida ad- dresses ($46.95 for the rest of the U.S.) by HERITAGE Central Florida Jewish News, Inc., 207 O'Brien Road, Suite 101, Fern Park, FL 32730. Periodicals postage paid at Fern Park and additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes and other correspondence to: HERITAGE, P.O. Box 300742, Fern Park, FL 32730. MAILING ADDRESS PHONE NUMBER P.O. Box 300742 (407) 834-8787 Fern P;irk, FL 32730 FAX (407) 831-0507 emaih news@rlandheritage'cm Secretary, if only the Israelis would dismantle West Bank settlements, everything would be fine and dandy. Never mind the century-old Arab war against the Zionist movement. Never mind that these same Arab countries gave refuge to Nazi war criminals while promoting Holocaust denial ad ethnically cleansing their own Jewish populations. Never mind that the efforts of your predecessors to deliver a solution were routinely frustrated by the Palestinian refusal to concede that Israel tins a legal and moral right to live in peace. Kerry's statements remind me of a famous poem by Berthoit Brecht, entitled"Die L6sung" ("The Solution"). In it, Brecht sarcastically asked the communist leaders of East Germany, given their disappointment that the people "had forfeited the confidence of the government," whether they should "dissolve the people and elect another?" In Kerry's view, the Israelis are stubbornly refusing to accept his version of reality, and therefore they must either change accordingly or accept what's coming to them. There's another, more persuasive version of reality out there.A recent poll conducted by the Israel Democracy Institute reveals that 73 per- cent of Israelis do not believe Israeli-Palestinian conflict negotiations will lead to peace. Another poll, conducted among Palestinians by Arab World for Research and Development, shows that 40 percent of residents in both the West Bank and Gaza don't feel their leadership has given them sufficient information about the current round of negotiations. If the ObamaAdministration had any cour- age, it would use these sobering statistics as the starting point of its approach. But as we know only too well, it doesn't, and that's why its increasingly bitter entreaties are doomed to fail. Ben Cohen is the Shillman analyst for JNS. org. His writings on Jewish affairs and Middle Eastern politics have been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the New York Post, Ha'aretz, Mosaic, and many other publications. I Letter from Israel With friends like these... By Ira Sharkansky Israelis and Americans are going through a couple of bad patches with Barack Obama. The two issues are as different as they could be, but are united in reinforcing distrust of duplicity at the top. Americans' problems are currently focus- ing on the limping roll out of what is linked directly to the president via its popular label of Obamacare. In particular, lots are remem- bering a presidential promise that they could keep their present insurance if they liked it, as they read the letters of cancellation received from their insurance companies. One horror story has come.to my mail box fxom a couple with one child whose policy was cancelled, and found that the best deal United States), it can get quite heavy-handed and nasty when it feels threatened. This is no wimpy country. It is a tough nation hardened by the sobering fact of living its whole existence surrounded by unstable and hostile neighbors. Still, despite this chronic hostility, Israel has managed to create a civil society that is, while far from 'perfect, the freest and most dignified in the Middle East--a society where available would cost them $10,000 for the an- ArabshaVe more freedom, human rights and .nUn1 premiuml ith a $10,000 annual family deductible. To be sure, health is expensive, and in a country of private hospital rooms and profit-making health insurance companies it is widely known to be more expensive than anywhere else. Israelis who want to be fully insured may find that they pay something like that American premium, but with tiny deductibles and virtu- ally no paper wars with insurance companies. All in our experience has been done with the swipe of the plastic HMO membership card, and co-payments in the range of $5 for a visit to a specialist or an exam with a sophisticated device. No co-pay for a visit to a family physi- cian or blood tests. Our problems with the Obama-Kerry team focus on what appear to be dire threats about Palestinians, and duplicity with respect to Iran. Kerry predicted a third intifada and intoler- able international isolation if Israel continues construction in the settlements and does not eXhibit greater flexibility toward the Palestin- ians. That irks on several dimensions. Both Americans and Palestinians heard that Israel would continue building in Jewish neighbor- hoods of Jerusalem and other West Bank areas beyond the 1967 lines, as part of the prisoner release that was the Palestinians' price for coming to the table. Neither Americans nor Palestinians may have signed on formally to Sut$$a on page" 18A such a deal, but in a diplomatic context they heard and implicitly accepted the linkage between construction and prisoners. Now the Obamans are returning to their posture--more assertively antagonistic than Editor/Publisher those of previous administrations--that Is- Jeffrey Gaeser raeli construction in Jewish neighborhoods Of Editor Emeritus Associate Editor Assistant Editor Jerusalem are among the "settlements" that Gene Starn Kim Fischer Chris DeSouza are illegal and a barrier to peace. Kerry's threat of greater international SocielyEditor Bookkeeping isolation suggests that his administration Gloria Yousha Paulette Alfonso will join the isolation, or at least not oppose Account Executives it. Perhaps Obama himself sees merit in the Barbara do Carmo * Marci Gaeser Palestinian campaign of boycotts, disvestment and sanctions. Contributing Columnists An explicit charge of duplicity focuses on Jim Shipley * Ira Sharkansky DavidBornstein * EdZiegler Iran. We're hearing and not believing for the nth time the presidential promise that Production Department Iran will never be allowed to acquire nuclear David Lehman * Joyce Gore weapons. Now we're also hearing that Obama Elaine Schooping Gil Dombrosky and Kerry described for Israeli officials the tough demands they would make of the Ira- nians, and that there would be no lessening of sanctions without an appropriate Iranian action. However, they had already offered the Iranians much softer terms and had begun to lessen the administration of sanctions before the onset of negotiations. Weekend meetings between Kerry and Netanyahu ended with descriptions that they were "very tough." The participants did not slam the door to the meeting roorff as they left it, but they were pointed in avoiding any photo op or description of what had happened. Unnamed ranking Israelis came as close as they ever had to saying that the Americans lied to them. Netanyahu has been explicit is saying time and again that what the Americans are offering to Iran is "very bad.., a very, very bad deal," and that "Israel would not consider itself bound to such an agreement."' Would Israel actually tip over the table with a massive attack while talks are still ongoing? The threat is out there. Perhaps the failure of this round of talks--despite predictions of imminent success--reflects the role of Netan- yahu as bad cop on American and/or European governments. No Israeli is actually in the room where negotiations occur, but repeated threats toward Israel by key Iranians gives Netanyahu something like the status of an observer who might become active. Saudi Arabia has jumped in on the side of its Israeli ally, warning western governments that they will pay a heavy price if they do not sober up to the Iranian reality. France insisted on a hard posture toward Iran, showing that Israel has i'oom to ma- neuver among western governments. Obama weakened his authority by waffling toward the Russians on Syria, and now has to convince Israelis that he did not lie to them about Iran. He also has to convince Americans that he did not lie to them about health insurance. At this unhappy time, Israel's policymaking cadre is about to change. Remember Avigdor Lieberman? The tough talking Jew with a heavy Russian accent is about to return to the position of Foreign Minister, with obvious roles in dealing with Iran and Palestine. Among the possibilities---Will Lieberman be his old self, substantially to the right of Benyamin Netanyahu? Or has he gone through a transforming trauma, associated with years of police investigations and months of a criminal trial? How should we view his willingness to align with SHAS leader Ariyeh Deri? Does thismean that Lieberman is abandon- ing his Russian constituency and his promises about easing conversion and civil union for hundreds of thousands having problems with their claims of being Jewish? Or does it mean that Deri is maneuvering, now free from Rabbi Ovadia Yosel of blessed memory, and moving toward the secular center of the political spectrum? Send your expectations. After an appropriate time for testing, should we still be alive and kicking, we can judge one another's wisdom. Ira Sharkansky is professor (Emeritus) in the department of political science at Hebrew University of Jerusalem.