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Catching up...and update

Those caught up in the debt ceiling shouting match may have missed some of the recent news on the U.S./Israel glaring match.From Jeffrey Goldberg, presumably delivering a message to PM Netanyahu from President Obama: "When informed about the Israeli decision [about building on E1], Obama...didnt even bother getting angry. He told several people that this sort of behavior on Netanyahus part is what he has come to expect, and he suggested that he has become inured to what he sees as self-defeating policies of his Israeli counterpart. In the weeks after the UN vote, Obama said privately and repeatedly, Israel doesnt know what its own best interests are. With each new settlement announcement, in Obamas view, Netanyahu is moving his country down a path toward near-total isolation."And here is Senator Chuck Schumer (D.-NY) in support of Hagel's confirmation sending a message to President Obama: "I know some will question whether Senator Hagels assurances are merely attempts to quiet critics as he seeks confirmation to this critical post, Schumer said. But I dont think so. Senator Hagel realizes the situation in the Middle East has changed, with Israel in a dramatically more endangered position than it was even five years ago. His views are genuine, and reflect this new reality.So among Obama, Hagel, and Schumer, three views of the great question, without even getting Netanyahu into this quadratic equation. Stay tuned.UPDATE: Collateral damage? "The news that Sen. Chuck Schumer will support the Hagel nomination means that Hagel will almost certainly be confirmed as Secretary of Defense. It does not mean that the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) is not opposing the appointment. It means that, at long last, it has been defeated." MJ Rosenberg.January 16: An assessment of Hagel's stance vis a vis the prevailing views in Washington: The ForwardAnd an ABC-Washington Post poll: Democrats favor him over Republicans; one-third of all respondents have no opinion. Drill down for various demographic breakdowns. 

About the Author

Margaret O'Brien Steinfels, a former editor of Commonweal, writes frequently in these pages and blogs at dotCommonweal.



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When Schumer, Boxer, Feinstein et al get accused of being more Dem than Jewish, we Dem Catholics with our extensive experince on being trashed by co-relionists will be able to console them against their detractors. (-:.

Margaret: Im not sure what point youre trying to make with the Schumer quote, but if its that Schumer recognizes that settlements have led to a more endangered Israel, Im pretty sure thats wrong. Based on everything I know about him, Schumer believes Israel is more endangered because of things like the increased rejection of Israels right to exist, as in Gaza, for instance, where Hamas is open about this rejection. Or the increased anti-Semitism in the region. Just yesterday the NYT published an article exposing new Egyptian President Morsis anti-Semitic slurs in the past, which the NYT calls virulent. See Schumer is saying that he believes Hagel recognizes these things and understands the need for continued strong U.S. support of Israel.

"The White House is not denying a report that President Obama repeatedly said that "Israel doesnt know what its own best interests are...."White House spokesman Tommy Vietor, in a statement to POLITICO on Tuesday, did not confirm or deny that Obama made the comment "or what was allegedly discussed in private meetings.""The President has been clear in stating what he believes is a realistic basis for successful negotiations, and we will continue to base our efforts on that approach," Vietor said. "He has also consistently stated that the U.S. commitment to Israels security is unwavering, and he has backed up this commitment with tangible action."

Jeff said:

Based on everything I know about him, Schumer believes Israel is more endangered because of things like the increased rejection of Israels right to exist, as in Gaza, for instance, where Hamas is open about this rejection. Or the increased anti-Semitism in the region.

You don't think that Schumer knows, as most of the rest of the world knows, that a great deal of this is because of Israeli policies and settlement activities?

unagiden: I think even you know, as most Americans know, that a great deal of this has to do with Palestinian policies and historical and continuing rejection of Israel's right to exist.

Israel and Palestine both have the right to exist. After all, they are descended from the same people.

Over at David Frum's blog, someone named Koplow is quoted as saying this, among other interesting things:"A bunch of settlers armed with rifles along with their families are simply not going to serve as the last line of defense against a horde of Arab tank battalions rolling over the border from Jordan, not to mention that such an assault is not coming. 350,000 Israelis scattered around the West Bank are also not a defense against Palestinian rockets, which dont come from the West Bank ..."In other words, the settlefx can't defend Israel, so Netanyahu's claims about why he is permitting them are bogus. Makes sense to me.

Oops -- settlers

Hagel has sent a letter to Barbara Boxer claiming that he will do all within his power to continue with the work required after the repeal of DADT, including pushing for the same benefits for LGBT couples as offered to all married couples.

And then there is this piece in the New Yorker, a profile of Naftali Bennett and the seemingly irreversible shift of Israeli politics to the intransigent right:

And here an interview with Israeli President Shimon Peres on the Obama-Netanyahu issue, plus other matters.:

unagidon: You say that Israel and Palestine both have the right to exist. It would have been nice if the Palestinians had believed that during the first 45 years of Israels existence, but of course, they unequivocally denied Israels right to exist. and they and their regional allies waged wars to prove it. And today you would have a big quarrel with Gaza, which continues to deny Israels right to exist. And as best I can tell, Hamas with its policy of rejection is also the most popular party in the West Bank or close to it. So, it seems that you have a big dispute with the Palestinians. Given that Hebrew and Arabic are from the same language group, I wouldnt be surprised if Jews and Arabs are descended from a common root now lost in the mists of time. In fact, I thought everyone always assumed that, including whoever wrote the book of Genesis. But I dont know what that has to do with anything. Unless youre invoking a kumbaya moment.

Unless youre invoking a kumbaya moment.

Here's your kumbaya moment. Palestine has the same right to exist as Israel and for the same reason. So Israel does not get to take Palestinian land and build settlements on it. It's really that simple. Israel needs to recognize the right of Palestine to exist and that Palestine has the same rights that Israel has.

unagidon: And the Palestinians didnt have the right to wage wars to destroy Israel, but they did it anyway. And they dont have the right to blow up Israeli civilians on buses, or in restaurants, or at weddings and Bar Mitzvahs, but they dont seem to care about that. And they dont have the right to launch thousands of rockets at Israeli civilians, but they do. And they dont have the right to deny Israel the opportunity to live in peace, but many of them are unalterably committed to doing just that. But none of these past and ongoing violations arouse your moral condemnation or cause you to find the Palestinian cause to be discredited even a little. Every bit of your heavy judgment is reserved for Israel. Which means its not a moral position at all.

The United States has no obligation to defend the Israeli government's seizure of territory that was never granted to it under the UN resolution that founded the state of Israel.

Margaret: You know better. Israel wasnt founded by U.N. resolution. In 1947, with the British Mandate scheduled to end on May 14, 1948, the U.N. voted by two-thirds majority to recommend a two-state solution for Palestine with proposed division of territory. The Jews accepted the recommendation and the Palestinians and surrounding Arab countries rejected it. The War for Independence began the day after the U.N. vote, when Arab snipers began killing Jewish civilians on buses outside Tel Aviv. The war between the Jews and the Palestinians raged even as the mandate wound down. On the day the mandate was to end, May 14, 1948, the provisional government of Israel proclaimed the founding of the state of Israel. The next day, Arab armies from surrounding countries invaded to destroy Israel. Thus, the Jews battled both the native Palestinians and the invading armies of these Arab countries to survive. And when it fought them to a standstill, the Arabs in 1949 agreed to a truce. Some countries recognized Israel upon its founding in May 1948, including the U.S. Others, particularly Arab countries, did not, and most Arab countries never have. Most countries did not expect Israel to survive, and the U.N. Security Council waited to see what would happen. Only in 1949, when it was clear Israel was going to survive, did the Security Council admit Israel into the U.N. The 1949 armistice agreement was between Israel, on the one hand, and Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, on the other hand. The Arabs insisted that borders not be set, because they refused to recognize Israels right to exist. Instead, mere truce lines were established based on who held what territory at the time of the truce. There was an agreement that the truce lines were not to be changed except by negotiations, but even these truce lines were blown up when Egypt, Jordan and Syria went to war against Israel in 1967 in a renewed effort to destroy it. Palestine was not a party to the 1949 armistice agreement. There was no Palestine. There never had been a Palestine. After the armistice was entered into, Jordan annexed the West Bank and Egypt annexed Gaza. Sometime after 1967, they renounced their claims. Ive forgotten when. These 1949 truce lines between Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, are what are today know as the pre-1967 lines or the green line, because they were drawn in green upon the map appended to the armistice agreement.This is how Israel was founded, how it survived, how it came to have the territory it did and how it came to be a member of the U.N.

Jeff, you make it seem that Israel is about to be over-run. Israel has 200 nuclear weapons and the best in delivery systems, and a US ally. All the Arab states put together have no nuclear weapons. and no significant allies. A negotiated peace is the ONLY solution.

Margaret: The United States CHOOSES to support Israel. By a 5-1 margin the American people sympathize more with the Israelis than they do with the Palestinians. 66% believe the United States should continue its current level of support or should provide even more support. Only 22% believe it is providing too much support. Among self-described independents, it is 63%-26%. Among self-described Democrats, it is 64%-25%. Among self-described liberal Democrats, it is 62%-29%. Among self-described Republicans, it is even higher. See the Pew Poll of January 8, 2013.

Ed, I agree that a negotiated peace is the only solution. In one of my very first comments on this blog, I set forth the terms of a settlement that I believed in. It is the standard fare, the one the U.N., the U.S., the E.U. and Russia (the "Quartet") adhere to. Here it is in a remark addressed to Ms. Steinfels: "We both know that without certain concessions on both sides the odds of peace are low. Israel must end the occupation, and withdraw the settlements in the West Bank except for certain major population centers that hug the 1949 armistice lines (the green line, or the pre-1967 line) for which there must be appropriate land swaps. And Israel must also cede East Jerusalem to the Palestinians. The Palestinians, for their part, must recognize Israels right to exist in peace as a Jewish state and normalize relations with it. They must relinquish the right of return. And they must agree upon security arrangements to be negotiated by the parties, perhaps with help from the international community. Do you agree?" [Comment of 9/24/2012 at 11:08 am in the thread entitiled "Our Closest Ally"]Ms. Steinfels never responded and I don't know whether she agrees or not. How about you? Do you agree? If not, what do you disagree with?I know that the Palestinians can't destroy Israel now, but they can kill a lot of Israelis and do a lot of damage, as they've demonstrated. Since 2000, they've killed over 1,000 Israelis, including approximately 150 children. And for the first 25 years of Israel's life, it was touch and go. Israel might have been destroyed in any one of the three wars waged against it during those early years. And its also true that a significant number of Palestinians believe that in the fullness of time, they will be able to destory Israel, and they bide their time. That is Hamas' position.

But none of these past and ongoing violations arouse your moral condemnation or cause you to find the Palestinian cause to be discredited even a little. Every bit of your heavy judgment is reserved for Israel. Which means its not a moral position at all.

It's a a very strange concept of morality that you have that requires that any criticism of Israel include a just as strong or stronger criticism of Palestine.What your discussion lacks is a politics, which makes it impossible to have a discussion with you. I can say that I support the right of Israel to exist, but that I don't like its current ultra-nationalist, apartheid loving right wing leadership and what we get from you is arguments about 1948 and 1949 and 1967 and all the grievances that Israel holds as a victim. The fact is, the main problem right now is the settlements, something that the current government of Israel has elected to pursue. They have no right to do this; no moral right and no legal right. And in choosing to build these settlements, they are alienating POLITICALLY most of the rest of the world. And they don't get to offset this with free victim points about how bad they have had it in the past.

unagidon: Gazas rejection of Israels right to exist isnt ancient, its current and ongoing. And its symptomatic of whats been going on for 65 years. And the launching of thousands of rockets at Israeli civilians isnt an ancient event, its current and probably ongoing. And its also symptomatic of whats been going on for 65 years. And Hamas strength on the West Bank isnt ancient, its current, but it is symptomatic of whats been going on for 65 years. And the terror bombing campaign against Israeli civilians that killed so many of them isnt ancient. It was only stopped a decade ago by Israeli military action, but it is symptomatic of whats been going on for 65 years. And the Palestinians refusal to enter into settlement negotiations isnt ancient, its current and ongoing, and its oh so symptomatic of what happened between Abbas and Olmert a few years ago and what happened at Camp David 13 years ago and what was going on for 50 years prior to that. So, why dont you quit pretending that Im only talking about ancient events that do not bear upon the current situation? Within about two hours of your first asking about my position on settlements and occupation, I responded to you on 11/28/2012 at 9:17 am in the thread entitled Reading for Extra Credit. I have no doubt that you would agree with me where I said Israel was wrong, and would disagree with me where I said it was justified. But you cant accuse me of ducking the issue.

What's going on in Gaza with Hamas, past or present, doesn't give Israel the right to build settlements. Maybe you are against the settlements (although you seem to be fine with some of them). But Israel's illegal settlement building by its current government is part of what is making Hamas strong, because Israel can't say they want a two state settlement and then go on annexing land as they wish.

If anyone has the right to wage war then so do the palestinians.yes they kill civilians. Give them a military to match the israeli's and they'll target the military.The israeli's also hide their military behind civilians-that's why the palestinians target civilians-they have no way to get to the military. when killing civilians was deemed in our interest we do .When israel -to get one "bad" guy bombs a house where civilians also inhabit-they cannot be said to not be targeting civilians. it can be said they don't like killing them-but they are in their target. The palestinians say the same thing-they don't like killing civilians but...All arabs including hamas and hezbollah-have said that they would accept a pre 67border israel. Yes initially they fought the creation of the zionist settler state-why would't they as they were displaced-by hook and by crook from their land and their homes? But they have all said[i heard a hamas spokesperson say it on charlie rose] that they would now accept the original borders of israel. Might does not make right. You cannot legally acquire territory through war[doesn't matter who started that 67war]. Though historically war was a means to acquire land-it no longer is legal and in 1967 it was not legal. Hence by right legally and ethically-israel is required to go back to its original borders. If today mexico were still warring against us over texas say-then yes it would be right to cede land taken from them. Saying Israel has no right to exist is not the same as saying that all israelis have no right to exist. We said the soviet union had no right to exist-it did not mean all soviet citizens should be killed. Saying that israel is illigitimate is like the native americans saying that the creation of the US was and forever will be illigitimate.It is a recognition of the injustices that created the state.Back when the UN was a colonialists' club -israel was created by settlers who displaced the people there.Hence though legal according to this colonialists' club-it is deemed unjust by the native arabs who were adversely affected by the decree of the UN.In that sense they have the right to say and believe that the creation of israel was and will always be illigitimate. But as the hamas spokes person said on charlie rose-that illigitimacy would be a moot point if israel would cease it's occupation and land annexed in the 67 war.At this point in time all arabs would accept the pre 67border israeli state.The red line for them is the land grab of the 67war which was and remains illigal as per the UN resolution and charter.You cannot gain terriroty by "winning" a war[grabbing land].Israel perhaps wants more then land-it wants to deny the arabs their viewpoint; that the creation of israel was not a noble heroic indevour but an unethical land grab it was ignoble by ony sense of fairness, right and wrong and justice. The pro zionist side wants to supress that narrative and the arabs insist it is their narative and they have a right to it.Perhaps that is the heart of the problem-israel will not negotiate with any group that takes this view-that israel the state has no moral legitimacy.The arab view that israels legitimacy is a legalism given to it back when the UN colonialists' club decreed it.The native arabs are aware that it is not about which power[ottoman or british ]contolled which area but about the fact that they lived there and had been living their while the european zionists were elsewhere.[the legalism of native americans selling manhattan to the indians comes to mind]. I would side with israel if and when after returning to the 67borders the arab still fight them. I believe that would not happen though. Give peace a chance. Try going back to the original borders-before insisting the arabs want to destroy israel and all israelis.And, also-yes there are anti semitic slurs towards jews said by arabs. There also is plenty of anti arab slurs said by israelis and their supporters.

unagidon: And I can say with equal conviction that the Palestinians cant claim to believe in the two-state solution and Israels right to exist while half of them, and probably more, deny Israels right to exist, and that the Palestinians actions are strengthening the hands of the current hard-line government in Israel. Its no accident that Likuds strongest support comes from southern Israel where all the rockets are landing.And while you acknowledge that I have addressed the settlement issue and come out against [at least some of the] settlements, I noticed that once again you refused to address, let alone condemn, Gazas rejection of Israels right to exist or all the rockets launched against Israels civilians, or the terror campaign against Israels civilians of a decade ago, or Abbas refusal to enter into settlement negotiations or any of the other issues I raised that bespeak Palestinian wrongdoing.

Wasn't the topic of this post the nomination of Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense? Once again, it has become Israel first and foremost.

Margaret: I'm just responding to what's being put to me by others, including what you posted last night at 10:49. And with the exception of my comments, I'd describe the discussion as Israel last and hindmost.

Wasnt the topic of this post the nomination of Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense? Once again, it has become Israel first and foremost.

These discussions will always slip this way. We can't talk about Israel's current government and current policies towards Palestine without someone talking about all of the wrongs done to Israel by the Palestinians. For once, in the case of the settlement expansions, Israel can't claim to be defending itself and it can't claim that it has no choice. So for once, the difference between possible governments in Israel is clear.

What the three different opinions mean is that they will work together while doing the usual politics.

For whatever it is worth, I do not believe the public statements of either Schumer or Hagel. I think that Hagel is saying what is wanted to be confirmed and Schumer needs to add the BS about Israel's insecurity to satisfy his constituency. I think Schumer knows that a NO vote would be a losing vote for him.The real question is whether BO and Hagel can move Iran into a diplomatic solution, in any case NOT to attack Iran under any conditions...because the USA wants to end being Israel's butler.

Here's what Senator Chuck Schumer said this morning on Meet The Press about the Hagel nomination and Schumer's recent meeting with Hagel: "I spent 90 minute-- minutes with him. I-- I asked him very specific questions on the things that troubled me. His answers were forthright. And they were answers that allayed my concerns. Should we keep every option on the table to prevent a nuclear Iran? Yes. I went further. I said, do you-- do you think we can tolerate a nuclear Iran. He said, no. And I said to him, well, then, if we had to use military as the only choice, would you. He said, yes. Second, I asked him is Hezbollah and Hamas, should they be labeled terrorist groups. Yes. Should Israel be forced to negotiate with them if they dont recognize Israels right to exist, if they dont renounce violence. No, absolutely. Third, sanctions. Do you support increased sanctions? Would you support unilateral sanctions? Yes. I asked him. The difference-- there were differences between those statements then and now. He said they were five, six, seven years ago. The world has changed. Even George Bush didnt have a regime against Iran at that point in time. "I told him I was going to make these remarks public. And he said, go right ahead because Im going to say the same thing at the hearings. When he-- at those hearings, hes going to allay the concerns of many people. Its sort of interesting, David, one final point. Neither AIPAC nor Anti-Defamation League nor American Jewish Committee or any of the major groups has come out against Hagel, most of the opposition to him comes-- its seems politically from the hard right."See

You mean, if Senator Schumer says so, David Gregory accepts his testimony, and NBC televises it, that settles the matter?Surely, you jest.

Margaret: What are you suggesting Schumer is not telling the truth about. Could you specify?

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