November 9, 2009 - A Depressing State of Affairs

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A Daily Analysis
By Marc Schulman

November 9, 2009 - A Depressing State of Affairs

Okay, now I am officially depressed at the current state of affairs. My depression set in after reading the Goldstone report (well, not all 600 plus pages, but a good 400 pages) and observing the state of American Israeli relations, as the Iranian centrifuges continue to turn just over the horizon.

This evening the meeting between PM Netanyahu and President Obama finally took place. Based on the "readout" of the meeting from the White House it was an uneventful meeting. For reasons that are not clear, Netanyahu insisted on having the meeting with President Obama. While not willing to deny Netanyahu an audience, Obama waited until the last minute and scheduled the meeting at an unprecedented evening time. This gesture made it clear Obama is not interested in meeting Netanyahu to hear new excuses. The Obama administration is clearly blaming Netanyahu for the failure of its M.E. program to gain traction. Rightly or not, they expected the Israeli government to go along with their proposed settlement freeze. Of course, it shows how little the Obama Administration understands Israeli politics.

Those close to Netanyahu bemoan the childishness of the Obama administration. They comment on how Israel has friends beyond Obama: "the real US begins 50 miles west of the Hudson and ends East of California" are silly. Are these people fools? Do they think their derogatory comments are not going to get back to Obama? They may not respect Obama, but he is the President of the USA, and most likely will remain so for 7 more years.

The Israeli media discussed a column from yesterday's New York Times by Thomas Friedman, called Call White House, Ask For Barack In the above-mentioned article, Friedman effectively calls for a US disengagement from the Peace Process efforts. Friedman posited that Netanyahu wants negotiations without peace, and the Palestinians want peace without negotiations. Israeli TV reported tonight that Thomas Friedman's views represent the views of the Obama administration. Not surprising... since Friedman is a frequent golfing partner of President Obama. Whether Friedman's views represent those of the administration or his own, they clearly effect the administration, and should be taken seriously.

All of this 'diplomacy" or lack there of might not be that bad if it was not for the Iranian time bomb clicking away. Today’s New York Times reports that Obama is trying desperately to salvage his outreach plan to Iran. It is a plan that has not gone anywhere. Yet, Obama is willing to give the Iranians until the end of the year to respond to a proposal that will only have a modest impact on stopping the Iranians-- even in the event the plan is accepted. The end of this year will conclude one year of President Obama's tenure, which is coincidentally one more year that the Iranians have been working at building their bomb.

Finally, to the Goldstone report. I intend to devote a full update to discussing it, as the report is really much worse than reported. First, the report did not limit itself to the Gaza War. The report attacked the fence, Israel’s detaining of political prisoners and almost every other aspect of Israeli actions in the last few years. Furthermore, in discussing the report and having some knowledge of the laws of warfare, it was often not clear to me how they were claiming to criminalize a number of Israeli actions. Much to my surprise, I discovered that the Goldstone commission took a rather broad view of its mandate to investigate Israeli crimes. In affect, Goldstone looked at all forms of international law and applied the broadest brush to Israeli's actions in a number of cases. For example, they used the "Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women", which requires state parties to guarantee to women "adequate nutrition during pregnancy and lactation" as a basis to charge Israel with crimes. In many cases the commission used the terms it found the testimony of the Palestinians testifying to various actions by Israel as credible and based on that testimony claimed crimes had been committed.

After reading the report I have no doubt there is a kernel of truth in some of the claims. I have first hand knowledge from my military experience in Gaza 30 years ago. Then, while crimes were not taking place, the actions were repugnant enough that I always believed in the Sharon plan of unilateral withdrawal. However, those actions are far removed from many of the crimes individual Israeli soldiers are accused of, and certainly do not justify the almost passing criticism of Hamas, and the pages and pages of accusation leveled by Goldstone against Israel, many of which are clearly libelous.

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